Monthly Archives: June 2017

Ed News, Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The Independence Day holiday is next Tuesday, July 4.
The United States will be 241 years old.
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[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break to enjoy the holiday. 
Look for the next issue on Friday, July 7.]
 
And now to the news.
“There is no nobler profession, nor no greater calling, 
than to be among those unheralded many who gave and give their lives 
to the preservation of human knowledge, passed with commitment and care 
from one generation to the next.”
Montebello USD Awards Questionable Painting Contract
A investigative piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times raises some questions about the awarding of a $2.5 million painting contract last year by the Montebello Unified School District to a company that didn’t submit the lowest bid.  “An internal document obtained by The Times,” it reveals, “shows that a district finance manager had become alarmed by what he saw as pressure to reward certain companies in the contract bidding. Kevin Lee wrote in notes of a meeting with other officials that he told them they were ‘very close to breaking the law’ as they discussed ways to structure the bid so Castlerock Environmental Inc. and another company would get the work.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Gail Collins is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.  She recently conducted a reader poll to discover the “worst Trump cabinet member.”  The results are in.  The envelop please.  And the winner is  . . . . none other than the Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos [ wild applause].  “DeVos really hates public schools — something you don’t find often in a secretary of education,” Collins points out.  “Her goal seems to be replacing them with charter schools, none of which will need much oversight because, you know, the choice thing.  Many readers noted that our secretary of education does not seem to be … all that bright.”  Collins includes a number of remarks from readers about their various choices. Most are hilarious.  [Ed. note:  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending this out to all the Discussion Group participants.  I added this item for people who read the “Ed News” on the internet.]               Jennifer Berkshire turns her HAVE YOU HEARD blog over to Alicia, an educator who assists students at different levels to become better writers and consumers of information.  Alicia, interestingly, blames herself for the appointment of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Dept. of Education.  Her rationale for that position is rather intriguing.  “How are you or I responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  It was President Trump who picked her, which makes sense, as his own for-profit education company defrauded thousands of students.  But you and I also helped DeVos get to her position,” Alicia suggests.  “We’re implicated too, despite our protest of the selection of a woman who has used her financial and social capital to undermine public education.  My contribution to Betsy DeVos’ appointment is that I consistently failed to pay attention to what was occurring in public education.”  She goes on to further explain why she places the blame for DeVos’ appointment on herself. 34 Democratic U.S. Senators have serious concerns about how Betsy DeVos may or may not enforce civil rights policies in her Dept. of Education.  They’ve sent her a strongly worded letter expressing their apprehensions.  The Politics K-12″ column for EDUCATION WEEK discusses the note.  “The Democratic lawmakers point to recent actions taken by DeVos’ department.  Those include,” the story mentions, “a new policy surrounding Office of Civil Rights investigations announced by acting assistant secretary for civil rights Candice Jackson.  That policy, announced in an internal memo first obtained by ProPublica, calls for a lot less emphasis on examining individual complaints for evidence of  systemic discrimination.”  You can find a full copy of the 6-page letter by clicking here. Both California senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris signed the letter.
 
Health Care and Education
Last week, Senate Republicans made public their secret health care bill.  How will it impact education if passed in its current form?  That question is tackled by the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  It discusses several areas where the legislation could have a direct effect on education policies and issues including special education funding, teacher health plans and mental health coverage.  “The Trump administration and congressional Republicans,” it begins, “are in the midst of trying to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—better known as ‘Obamacare’—with big implications for the nation’s schools when it come to special education funding, teacher benefits, and more.”
 
Gov. Christie Removes State Board of Ed. Pres. and VP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be out of office due to term limits after the Nov., 2017, gubernatorial election.  Ahead of that event he removed the president and vice president of the State Board of Education.  Observers interpreted this action as an attempt to keep control of the board after Christie leaves office according to a story on the NJ Advance Media website.  “The controversial moves on Monday and Thursday [last week] come as Christie attempts to remake the board with a flurry of nominations,” it reports, “before he leaves office, a tactic that has raised concerns about transparency and confounded the board’s former leaders. . . .  The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, accused Christie of attempting to ‘stack the board’ before he leaves office.”
 
Acute Teacher Shortage Plagues Arizona
An analysis by the Arizona Republic finds that 22% of teachers in Arizona lack the proper qualifications.  The problem is a severe teacher shortage that is causing many states to fill classroom positions with unqualified candidates.  “Many in that 22 percent did have a college education and teacher training, but had less than two years in the classroom, a time frame when they don’t qualify for the state’s full credential — a standard certificate.   Many others lacked even more basic qualifications,” it notes.  “Nearly 2,000 had no formal teacher training.  Dozens lacked a college degree.  Parents, educators and advocates argue the proliferation of teachers with less than full credentials harms student performance.”  The story describes one principal’s futile attempt to recruit qualified candidates and also profiles problems faced by a small rural school district.  
 
Vouchers
An opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report makes the argument to avoid investing taxpayer dollars in vouchers and instead direct the money to the public schools in order to improve education for all students in this country.  The author, Scott Sargrad, is the managing director for K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization.  The op-ed is simply titled “Don’t Gamble on Vouchers.”  “The argument that policymakers should continue to experiment with vouchers is also a dangerous one.  While some studies have found some benefits for some groups of students,” he writes, “the most recent high-quality research has shown that vouchers have clear – and large – negative impacts on students.  From Indiana, to Ohio, to Louisiana, to the District of Columbia, voucher schemes have, on balance, harmed students – not helped them.”  Sargrad proceeds to review the research into voucher programs in those states and the District of Columbia.
 
Jay Mathews Admits Errors in His High School Rankings
Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post, has been compiling his “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” list for almost 20 years.  But Carol Burris, a former high school principal in New York and current executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), pointed out some errors in the data supplied by the IDEA Public Schools charter network in Texas that had boosted their ratings on Mathews’ list.  Burris’ findings ware highlighted  in the “Ed News.”  Matthews issues a mea culpa for the misinformation and explains how it all came about in his column for the Post, giving proper credit for the sleuthing Burris did to uncover the inaccuracies.  “The IDEA Public Schools charter network in Texas told me it provided incorrect numbers of Advanced Placement tests at six of its schools for the 2017 list published in May,” he writes.  “As a result, the five IDEA schools that were in the top 10 have dropped several places on the corrected list.  ‘We messed up,’ said IDEA founder and chief executive Tom Torkelson.”     A blogger who writes under the moniker “Democracy” agrees with Carol Burris’ criticisms of Jay Matthews’ high school rankings (see above) but reckons she didn’t go far enough. He believes that using AP classes and test results is not a true indicator of high school excellence.  “Democracy’s” essay appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  He dissects the content and quality of AP courses and questions the academic level of the exams.  “The primary reason many students take AP is not to ‘learn’ or to gain ‘college readiness,’ but to game the admissions process,” he suggests.  “Students feel like they have to put AP on their transcripts or they won’t get into the college of their choice. It’s all about ‘looking good,’ and boosting the grade point average.”
  
New Study Compares Charters and Traditional Schools
There are things for both sides in the debate between charters and traditional schools to hang their hats on in a new study about both types of schools in Oakland.  The findings were produced by Education Research Strategies out of Massachusetts based on data from the 2014-15 school year.  An article about the survey appears in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The research commissioned by a coalition of educational and philanthropic organizations focused on charter schools in Oakland.  It determined that they have received less public funding than Oakland’s traditional public schools,” the article suggests, “but that traditional schools have had a more challenging student population to educate.”  [Ed. note: The article in the print edition is much more detailed than my link to what appears on the paper’s website. I’m not quite sure why.]
How Are Schools Dealing With Students’ Social Media?
A short item on the “Ed Week Video” column for EDUCATION WEEK provides 2 videos (the first runs 8:09 minutes and deals with high school pupils.  The second lasts 2:03 minutes and talks with 2 middle school students) on how schools are monitoring their students’ social media posts without infringing on free speech and privacy rights.
Supreme Court Rules in Church-State Case
In a highly anticipated ruling regarding the 1st Amendment and the separation of church and state, The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, the final day of its 2016-17 term, on a 7-2 vote decided in favor of a Missouri church.   The church wanted state funding to resurface its school playground.  The “Ed News” has closely followed this case and its possible ramifications for church-state relations.  The “Courts & Law” column for The Washington Post provides the details of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.  “Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., brought the case because it was excluded from a state program that reimburses the cost of rubberizing the surface of playgrounds.  The church scored high in the grant process,” it explains, “but Missouri’s state constitution, like those in about three dozen states, forbade government from spending public money on ‘any church, sect, or denomination of religion.’” The article includes a video (3:54 minutes) reviewing the decision.               For additional analysis, the “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK also reports on the key U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued yesterday regarding the separation of church and state (see above).  It’s titled “Supreme Court Issues Narrow Ruling in Case With Voucher Implications.”  “The court decided the case on relatively narrow grounds,” it suggests, “that left the implications for state barriers to religious school vouchers and other school choice measures unclear.  The farther-reaching question underlying the case was whether state constitutional provisions that strictly bar government aid to religion violate religious freedom protections in the First Amendment.  Those state-level measures are considered among the last legal barriers to expanding vouchers and tax credits for use at private religious schools.”   Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented in the ruling.               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, weighs in on the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (see items above) as it relates to vouchers.  “Supporters of school voucher programs,” she points out, “are already cheering the decision as boding well for the expansion of school choice.  They are looking for that opportunity in a Colorado case the justices may agree to hear, Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District.  In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a school voucher program, saying it violated  . . . . the state constitution.”               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times supports the Supreme Court ruling in the church-state case (see 3 pieces above) and was glad it was a narrow decision.  The item is titled “The Supreme Court Rules a Playground Isn’t a Pulpit.”  “On Monday, the Supreme Court decided a case that despite its mundane subject matter — the resurfacing of a preschool playground — was viewed by some conservatives as an opportunity for the court to radically redefine the constitutional relationship between church and state.  Fortunately,” it begins, “the court did no such thing.  That’s good news at a time when the culture wars over the role of religion in public life have become inflamed.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, offers his analysis of the court decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.  He headlines his commentary “Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall.”  He reviews some of the language contained in the opinions and discusses the implications of the decision for vouchers and other policies.  ” The Supremes just punched a huge hole in the wall and a bunch of voucher-loving religious private schools are about to start sucking up public tax money through that breach.  A bunch of public tax money is about to disappear into a black hole,” he laments, “and we won’t know where it went or how it was used.  Education, religion, law, and American society will all be a little bit worse for it.”               Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, has doubts whether the court’s decision regarding the use of public funds to help pave a church’s preschool playground (refer to items above) will open the door to vouchers or similar programs.  She believes the narrowness of the ruling could prevent such an outcome and she quotes from a footnote [#3] of the court’s ruling to support her case in her commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “In a 7-2 ruling, the justices ruled that while Missouri could not refuse a playground grant to a church solely due to the fact that the church is a religious institution,” she writes, “the court was not ‘address[ing] religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.’  In other words, the ruling was not a green light for school vouchers.”  You can read the entire opinion (53 pages) in the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case by clicking here.  Footnote #3 is found on p. 14 of the main opinion (p. 18 of the complete document).               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a different perspective on the significance of the key U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the separation of church and state.  He makes the plausible argument that if churches can accept taxpayer money for various reasons, that could open the door to taxing church property, let’s say, or controlling what’s taught in church schools.  Think about it.  The court’s decision in the case could cut both ways as he clearly explains.  “Now that the state has been shown to be responsible to support the church, the reverse has also been proven: the church has responsibilities to support the state.  That’s right.  No more tax free status for houses of worship. . . .  What conservatives seem to forget,” he reminds readers, “is that the wall of separation between church and state wasn’t erected just to protect the state from influence by religion.  It also was set up to protect religion from the state.  Once you have money flowing from one to the other, regulations are soon to follow.”
 
Michigan’s Achievement District to Close
Michigan’s 6-year experiment with a state-run district for low achieving schools will close down at the end of the current school year due to  unproductive results.  The 15 campuses in the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) will revert back to the Detroit Public School Community District according to a report from Michigan Radio, part of the NPR digital network.  “The EAA was created in 2011 to turn around Detroit’s lowest performing schools,” it describes.  “But, according to Michigan State University education professor David Arsen, it fell far short of that goal.   ‘The EAA could fairly be regarded as a train wreck of educational policy,’ Arsen said.   Arsen says a rushed policy process, plus a lack of state investment, meant the EAA had little chance of turning around Detroit’s failing schools.   In the state’s latest rankings, two-thirds of the EAA’s schools were in the bottom five percent.”  So much for that failed corporate “reform” undertaking.  Tennessee, Nevada and a few other states have similar state-controlled achievement districts.
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, which state in the union is doing the best job of destroying public education within its boundaries and  deprofessionalizing the job of teaching?  Stuart Egan, on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog, makes the case for North Carolina.  He talks about the latest transgressions from the Republican controlled legislature, making veteran teachers extinct, by way of policies that are aimed at reducing salaries and benefits to the point that long-time teachers are pretty much forced to leave the profession.  “In the last four years, new teachers entering the profession in North Carolina,” Egan explains, “have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the ‘average”’ salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers, those pay ‘increases’ do plateau at about Year 15 in a teacher’s career.  Afterwards, nothing really happens.  Teachers in that position may have to make career-ending decisions.”               What happens when first and second-year teachers are provided with a mentor?  Well, for one thing their students’ outcomes in math and English Language Arts improve considerably according to a new study.  A story in the “Teaching NOW” column for EDUCATION WEEK features the report from SRI Education, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in Menlo Park, California.  “In the evaluation, SRI studied teacher and student outcomes over a three-year period (2013-14 to 2015-16).  Researchers compared a group of teachers who received NTC [New Teacher Center] induction mentoring to a group of teachers who received the usual new-teacher supports provided by the district.   Both groups of teachers,” the piece explains, “had similar retention rates and ratings on instructional effectiveness.  The major difference was their students’ achievement—the students in grades 4-8 of teachers who received NTC mentoring for two years outperformed their peers in both English/language arts and mathematics.  Those students performed better than expected on state standardized tests, representing gains of about two to three-and-a-half additional months of learning in ELA, and two to four-and-a-half months in math, depending on the student’s grade level.”
                                                                                                                                              http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

.                                                                          

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

 

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Ed News, Friday, June 23, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 Summer officially arrived at 9:24 pm,
PDT, on Tuesday
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And now to the news.

“The more I learn, the more doors of information and opportunity are open to me.” 

LAUSD Approves New Budget        

The LAUSD board on Tuesday approved a $7.5 billion budget for the 2017-18 school year.  Although no teachers are scheduled to receive pink slips, library aides, clerks and other support staff are slated for lay-offs.  Approximately 150 central office administrative positions are also slated to be let go.  Due to seniority, many of them could bump down into school site administrative or classroom jobs.  The district’s enrollment is projected to continue to decline because of continuing inroads being made by charter schools population loss and other factors according to a story in Wednesday’s LA. Times “The budget, [Supt. Michelle] King said, puts more money into early learning, such as transitional kindergarten,” it notes, “and restorative justice, which seeks to end suspensions and expulsions through counseling.  Arts education also retains its funding levels, she said.” Check out the graph at the end of this item with enrollment figures for district and charter schools from 2010 to 2019 (projected).
Ed Tech
How is technology impacting the nation’s classrooms?  A short item in EDUCATION WEEK make use of 5 charts to illustrate the effect.  There’s no doubt ed tech is much more pervasive in schools than it was 5 or 10 years ago.  However, the article identifies 2 disturbing trends according to a survey of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress by the Education Week Research Center.  “Despite the promise of building ’21st century skills,’ such as creativity and problem-solving,” it suggests in pinpointing the 2 negative developments, “students report using computers in school most often for activities that involve rote practice.  And even as their classrooms have been inundated with new devices and software, the percent of students with teachers who say they’ve received training on how to effectively use such technology has remained flat, with a persistent divide between high- and low-poverty schools.”              The story above is part of a series from ED WEEK titled “Technology Counts 2017: Classroom Tech: Where Schools Stand.”  You can see an annotated list, with links, of all the articles in the series by clicking here.               Here’s another piece from the EDUCATION WEEK Ed Tech series (see 2 items above):  It’s a Q & A with 5 tech experts and what they see as “The Future of Classroom Technology.”  In response to a question about what tech will look like in the future, one expert remarked: “A key difference you’ll see is that right now we’re still largely using technology to deliver content.  It’s largely about presenting information.  It’s high-quality information and interactive—we’re doing some good stuff.  But a shift you’ll see down the road,” he continues, “is that tech will be used less for presenting content and more as a tool to design and create and explore and connect to other learners, to experts around the world.  It will be much more of a tool to enable new types of learning than it will be a tool for distributing content.”  Check out what the other experts have to say on the subject.  Their answers are quite interesting.
Charter Schools and Vouchers
Another charter school founder is accused of financial irregularities.  [Ed. note: Reporting on this stuff is getting tiring.  But I’ll keep doing it!]  This time the mischief is taking place in Florida.  The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union has the discouraging details.  “Prosecutors say Marcus May, owner of Newpoint Education Partners, is accused of misusing and co-mingling charter school money,” it explains, “as well as taking excessive payments and ‘kickback’ fees, and spending the proceeds on such things as cruises, numerous trips to foreign countries, plastic surgery, home mortgages and a personal watercraft.”  Diane Ravitch asks in regards to this story: “When will the citizens of Florida say ‘Enough is enough’?  When will taxpayers stop subsidizing frauds who open charter schools?”              Can anyone figure this next one out?  Stephen Dyer is a practicing attorney and the Education Policy Fellow at Innovation Ohio.  He writes, on his 10th Period blog, that vouchers in Ohio are “failing” and yet the state legislature has proposed expanding them to an even larger number of students in the Buckeye state.  Does that make any sense?  If something is demonstrably not working (Dyer provides ample evidence) why would anyone want to increase it?  Beats me!  “The Ohio Senate and House are considering bills that would expand voucher eligibility to 75 percent of Ohio’s school children, despite the overwhelming evidence these vouchers aren’t helping,” he contends incredulously.  “And, of course, current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a huge voucher supporter, and President Trump’s initial budget calls for a $1.4 billion voucher expansion, with plans to move that up to $20 billion shortly.”              The ELC (EDUCATION LAW CENTER) and a prominent law firm are launching “Voucher Watch” to keep a close eye  on and oppose state and federal plans to create and/or expand voucher programs.  It’s key goal is to prevent the use of public, taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.  “Voucher Watch, located on the ELC website, will track voucher proposals in state legislatures and from the federal government,” the announcement states, “provide details on existing state voucher programs, and compile research on the impact of vouchers on student outcomes.”               Here’s a major surprise.  Newly elected pro-charter LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin tells EdSource that his main task is not to expand charter schools in the nation’s second largest school district.  Are the billionaire charter proponents who bankrolled his recent victory over incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer aware of this position?  What do they thing about it?  Buyers remorse, maybe?  The story has a Q & A with Melvoin in which he discusses his priorities for his new job.               There is no doubt that the Trump/Pence/DeVos team is pro-charter, pro-voucher and pro-“choice” and they love to talk up those policies whenever the opportunity presents itself.  However, as Carol Burris points out on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, there are a number of detrimental characteristics about charters that they’ll never mention.  Last summer the NAACP took a principled stand against the expansion of charters, calling for a moratorium until 4 key issues were addressed.  Burris revisits those 4 concerns and details how they are currently playing out.  Here are the four: (1) “Transparency and Accountability” (2) “Public funds diverted from public schools to charter schools” (3) “Student expulsion, suspensions and push-outs and (4) “De facto segregation.”               A charter school in New Jersey that was ordered to shut down on June 30, by the State Department of Education due to poor standardized test scores decided to stiff teachers for 2 months worth of pay.  Teachers at the Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark work a 10-month schedule and have their pay spread out over 12 months.  Although the educators are not unionized they appealed to the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey for assistance in the matter according to a story on the NJ Advance Media website.  “Merit Prep opened in 2012,” it mentions, “and has about 381 students in grades 6-9, according to state data.  It employed about 40-45 teachers at the start of this school year, according to the AFT-NJ. . . .  The case underscores a lack of accountability in charter schools run by outside management companies, said Nat Bender, the AFT-NJ’s spokesman.”  How often does something like this happen at traditional public schools? Just asking.               Jeff Bryant, on the Educational Opportunity NETWORK reviews some recent stories about some of the “bad stuff” charters schools do because they seem to be able to get away with it.  He gets quite specific in citing examples!  Here’s one illustration from California:  “In Oakland, California, a state-based news outlet reports charter school enrollment practices ensure charter schools get an advantage over district schools when academic performance comparisons are made.  The advantage comes from charters,” he points out, “being able to enroll students who are more ‘academically prepared’ than students who attend district-run schools.  Oakland charters, when compared to public schools, also tend to enroll fewer students with special needs and fewer students who enter the school year late and are, thus, often academically behind.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Can anyone explain why the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) AND a number of charter schools in the nation’s capital seem to have high attrition rates among teachers?  Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent who pens the educationdc blog, did some digging into the numbers and offers several reasons for the disturbing statistics.  “While we have DC city leaders lining up to express concern about DCPS teacher attrition . . . . maybe somebody in DC’s leadership circles,” she urges, “will work up a head of steam about the (apparently worse) teacher attrition in charter schools–you know, the schools that educate almost half of DC’s students?               Is the “war on teachers” heating up?  Nancy Flanagan, who writes the “Teacher in a Strange Land” column for EDUCATION WEEK, wasn’t sure until she ran across a survey put out by a parents union group in California that invited respondents to describe “poor” teaching they were familiar with and even to name individual “terrible” teachers who should be fired.  “I would argue that we have genuinely reached a tipping point, one where we’re struggling to get young people to go into teaching as professional career (as opposed to two-year adventure before law school).  Our state legislators are openly declaring that teaching is now a short-term technical job, not a career, and thus public school educators don’t really need a stable state pension.  That’s not only a war on individual teachers,” she protests, “but a war on teaching itself.”               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies like to stress that schools need to be run more like businesses and collect and analyze reams of data.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, titles his commentary “Teachers Don’t Want All This Useless Data.”  “I always thought the purpose behind student data was to help the teacher teach,” he reminds readers.  “But it has become an end to itself. . . .  The point is not the data.  It is what the data reveals.  However, some people have become so seduced by the cult of data that they’re blind to what’s right in front of their eyes. . . .  The skill is no longer important.  It is the assessment of the skill.
 
Appointed School Boards?
Here’s another prime example of why billionaires should NOT be allowed to make education policy.  Does the name Reed Hastings ring a bell?  He’s the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Netflix.  You have to hand it to him, he certainly knows how to create and run an entertainment company.  But does that make him and his fellow wealthy philanthropists experts on schools?  He thinks so.  His latest “bright” idea?  Do away with elected school boards and  just appoint the members.  I’d be willing to bet he’d be first in line to pick who gets to sit on a school board.  And oh, by the way, whatever happened to that important concept we call democracy?  I guess it’s not relevant in this situation.  It should also be pointed out that Hastings has no problem funding pro-charter candidates for school board seats chosen by election.  Hastings delivered a talk to 4,500 enthusiastic attendees at the annual conference of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools held recently in Washington, D.C.  He suggested, in his remarks, that school boards be appointed like they are for most charter schools.  His speech and the ideas contained in it are reviewed on the EdSource website.  “Hastings . . . .says that school boards are the single biggest impediment to educational improvement in the United States,” the article notes.  “Elected boards, he said, are prone to instability and frequent change, upsetting educational progress in the pursuit of  short-term political agendas.  He holds up self-appointed boards like those governing nonprofit charter schools as a far better model.”
 
Betsy DeVos
And finally, does this just beat all?  Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos just appointed A. Wayne Johnson, the CEO of a private student loan company, to head the student loan division of her Dept. of Education.  Talk about the wolf guarding the hen house!  And to top it all off, why was that key bit of information about his current job cleansed from his résumé when his new position was announced?  Probably just a simple oversight!  I’m sure he’ll be able to clean up the student loan mess and reign in those unscrupulous for-profit schools that are taking advantage of unsuspecting students through predatory loan practices. BuzzFeedNews has this latest astounding bit of news.  “What wasn’t noted [in the DoE’s announcement] was Johnson is currently the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services,” it mentions, “a detail confirmed by a company representative reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon.  Reunion originates and services private student loans, and offers refinancing and consolidation for existing loans.”
 
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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The worth of a book is infinite.” 
Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos and the Dept. of Education (DoE) are at it again!  Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about how she was “delaying” (ending?) two Obama era regulations that would have curtailed abuses of student by for-profit colleges.  Now she’s announcing she’ll be cutting back civil rights enforcement at the nation’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.  I guess civil rights are no longer a problem in this country according to Sec. DeVos.  The New York Times has the disappointing details about this latest action.  “The new directives are the first steps taken under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos,” it reports, “to reshape her agency’s approach to civil rights enforcement, which was bolstered while President Barack Obama was in office.  The efforts during Mr. Obama’s administration resulted in far-reaching investigations and resolutions that required schools and colleges to overhaul policies addressing a number of civil rights concerns.”  The announcement of this new direction came in a memo first published by ProPublica, which the Times reprints.               The Civil Rights Commission recently announced it will be looking into the civil rights practices of several federal agencies under the Trump administration including the DoE.  Maybe they could see what was coming (see above).  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK describes this latest development.  “The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent agency charged with advising Congress and the President,” it begins, “has launched a two-year investigation into civil rights practices at several federal agencies under the Trump administration, including the U.S. Department of Education. . . .  The panel is particularly concerned that the Trump administration is seeking to cut the budgets of the civil rights arms of these agencies.  And it is bothered by statements by some cabinet officials, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, that the commission says may demonstrate that the Trump administration isn’t going to take civil rights enforcement seriously.  (DeVos is, in fact, the only cabinet official the statement mentions by name).”  [Ed. note: This article references the story from the N.Y. Times (see above).]               There’s lots not to like about Betsy DeVos and her education policies, but she’s having a positive impact on one area: more and more Democrats are joining progressive organizations and mentioning her name can be a boon for fundraising or signing petitions for certain groups.  The full story from POLITICO, titled “DeVos Becomes Digital Lighting Rod for Democrats,” requires a paid subscription but you can read the beginning of it by clicking here.  “First it was Karl Rove.  Then it was the Koch brothers.  Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken over as Senate Democrats’ top online bogeyman,” it begins.  “POLITICO’s Maggie Severns reports that anti-DeVos statements, petitions and especially fundraising emails have become a staple of Democratic digital campaigns in 2017.  Emails citing DeVos are raising money at a faster clip than others and driving engagement from supporters.”
School “Choice” and Vouchers
School “choice” doesn’t seem to be the solution in the Detroit Public Schools, according to Nancy Kaffer, columnist for The Detroit Free Press.  She uses as an example one charter school from the city.  ” Detroit is home to some excellent schools.  This city’s children are as bright,” she concludes, “and hardworking as any in Michigan. And every parent in this city loves his or her children as much as you love yours.  Those teachers, parents and kids need all the help they can get.  School choice?  Not helping.” Be sure to check out the cartoon video (1:11 minutes) about Betsy DeVos and her security detail that leads off the piece.  It’s a hoot!               Christopher Lubienski is a professor of education policy at the University of Indiana and Sarah Theule Lubienski is a professor of mathematics education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  They co-authored an interesting book titled “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools” in 2013.  They’ve written a piece for EDUCATION WEEK discussing why vouchers aren’t working and they cite a number of research studies to buttress their premise.  “There is a disturbing disconnect between the predictable, negative effects that vouchers are having on students,” they maintain, “and the continued enthusiasm policymakers show for these programs despite the growing consensus that they are causing harm.  Do we, as parents, taxpayers, and voters, want to fund programs that elevate choice, but lead to detrimental outcomes for children?  Is choice a means or an end?  Do we want choice for its own sake, or do we want it to improve achievement for all children?”
 
PBS Airs One-Sided “School Inc.”
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a couple of items about the biased pro-privatization, pro-charter, pro-school choice 3-part series on PBS titled “School Inc.”  The janresseger blog comments on the program and discusses a number of other reviews of this unbalanced documentary.  “The Public Broadcasting System has been airing a three part documentary, School Inc., on the local PBS stations that have chosen to pick up the program.  It is a piece of libertarian propaganda,” she complains, “and makes no attempt to balance its advocacy for privatized and unregulated schooling.  The film was created and is narrated by Andrew Coulson, who, for ten years before his premature death of brain cancer at age 48, served as director of the  libertarian, Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.”               If you are so inclined, the DAILY KOS has put together a petition that you can sign demanding that PBS air two additional programs in response to their airing of “School Inc” (see above). “I am outraged that PBS would air a right-wing propaganda video like Schools Inc. that attacks public education,” the petition is worded.  “If you are going ahead with this airing, please broadcast Assistant Education Secretary Diane Ravitch’s response to the film—and air the documentary ‘Backpack Full of Cash.'”  [Ed. note:  The ALOED Educational Film Series is trying to arrange a screening of “Backpack Full of Cash” on the Occidental College campus in the near future.  It tells the story of the how the corporate “reformers” are making a major effort to privatize the public school system.  You can find more information about the film on the official website by clicking here.  Click on “See the Film” to view the trailer (2:24 minutes).]  Add you signature to the petition.  I did.               Amy Shuffelton, Associate Professor of Cultural and Educational Policy Studies at Loyola University, Chicago, has a scholarly review of the propaganda piece “School Inc.” and wonders why PBS would run such a series.  Her commentary appears on the Phi Delta Kappan website.  “The series breezes past evidence and arguments,” she concludes, “that contradict its commitment to unfettered free markets in schooling.  Valuable though it is for PBS viewers to encounter a wide range of ideas, it also matters that arguments take account of all the available evidence.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Some 1000 teachers at 32 charter campuses in Chicago voted to merge their organization with the militant CTU (Chicago Teachers Union) which represents teachers in the Chicago Public Schools.  An additional vote by CTU members will need to take place in the fall before the planned association can be finalized, according to an item from IN THESE TIMES.  “The decision to formally merge the two locals came in response to the election of Donald Trump.  Realizing that education and workers’ rights were under threat,” one union leader suggested, “leaders and activists from both locals felt it was the right time to pursue a formal merger.”                 Nationwide, 18% of teachers are nonwhite.  Just over 50% of students are in that category.  11 states have committed to reach parity between the percentage of nonwhite teachers and students by 2040.  California is not among them.  The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issue and wonders if that goal is realistic.  “A recent study found that low-income black students are more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college if they have just one black teacher in elementary school.  Another study,” it indicates, “found that black students are less likely to be suspended, expelled, or placed in detention by black teachers.”
 
La Cañada High Shifts Start of School Day
Students at La Cañada High School will be able to get 45 additional minutes of sleep when the new school year begins in the fall.  The La Cañada USD board voted to delay the start of school from 7:45 am to 8:30 am as a 1-year experiment.  A short story in Saturday’s L.A. Times about the action will not put you to sleep.  “The decision to try the schedule change for one year was made last month,” it reports, “in a special meeting to let board members review data from a survey of district parents and students.  Responses indicated overwhelming support for pushing back the schedule to allow teens more brain-nourishing sleep, according to board member Brent Kuszyk.”
 
LAUSD Closed Down Two Charters So They Changed Names and REOPENED
The LAUSD board voted not to renew the charters of two Celerity Education Group Schools for questionable financial dealings and the dubious use of school credit cards.  They will close on June 30, but presto, change-o, they will REOPEN on July 1 in the same buildings, with the same principals and with most of the same students.  How did they do that?  THEY CHANGED THE NAMES OF THE SCHOOLS!!!  Neat trick.  The author of the School Data Nerd blog is “a classroom teacher with experience in LAUSD and Charter Schools” and she/he tells this incredible tale.  “The charter management organization that oversees several schools in Los Angeles has been dogged by controversy, primarily surrounding their finances and board structure,” the author reminds readers.  “In October, the LAUSD board voted to deny the charter renewal for two of their schools: Celerity Dyad and Celerity Troika. Then, in January, Federal agents raided their offices.  And finally, in May, the state board refused to accept the appeal to keep those two schools open, meaning they will close down for good at the end of this month.  But celerity, after all, means quickness.  [Ed. note: It actually does.  I looked it up.  Surprise].  And the leaders of Celerity sure are quick on their feet to fill this hole.  While those two schools will close down, Celerity will open two new schools on July 1, which were approved by the state board before all of this bad press.”   Check out the sidebar timeline which lays out for you how all this played out over the past 8 months.  UNBELIEVABLE!!!
 
Testing
Here’s a great example why standardized test results should NEVER be used for any high stakes reasons.  Educational materials and testing giant Pearson really messed up some test scores in Mississippi for about 1,000 high school seniors.  Things got so screwed up that some students were able to graduate even though their scores didn’t warrant them doing so and other students failed to graduate even though they scored high enough to earn a diploma.  This is not the first time Pearson mucked up Mississippi’s testing protocols so the state’s Department of Education promptly cancelled its contract with the company.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, provides the troubling details of this fiasco.  
 
Teach for America
Just what exactly is Teach for America telling its new recruits about the state of public education today?  Gary Rubinstein, who went through the TFA program shortly after it began, writing on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, is rather skeptical of the message.  His essay is titled “What TFA Tells the New Recruits About ‘The System.'”  He critiques some of the training new cohort members receive.  He finds it of questionable value and lacking a measure of reality.  “To me these messages are not the sorts of things that are productive for new TFA corps members to be told to believe in their first days of institute.  I don’t think they should start with the premise that the system is broken,” he complains, “and a-la-Betsy Devos, it can’t get much worse, and then that the TFA teacher’s role is to somehow single handedly undo the deliberate decisions that have led to this.  Instead I’d rather they were told that teaching is very hard and that teachers all over the country are working very hard despite limited resources and that TFA teachers are going to fight alongside these other teachers and try to learn from them and hope that they can quickly become like those experienced teachers so they won’t increase educational inequity for their own students.”
 
Vision Impaired Students Take Part in National Competition
With so much negative news floating around the field of education these days, here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart.  50 low-vision and blind student finalists from around the country and Canada, including 5 from California, gathered at USC on Saturday to participate in the Braille Challenge national competition for kids aged 6 to 19.  A great story in Sunday’s L.A. Times describes their experiences.  “During the day, students — divided into five age groups — proofread passages, interpreted charts and graphs, answered questions about selected readings, and transcribed other selections as quickly and accurately as possible. The younger age groups also completed a spelling test. . . .  To get to Los Angeles, the students first had to qualify in preliminary rounds, held January through March. In total, students from 22 states and two Canadian provinces competed in the finals Saturday.”
 
An Excellent Education
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, discusses an interesting distinction.  He believes we are now trying to guarantee every student the CHANCE at an excellent education when we should really be guaranteeing them an EXCELLENT education, period.  “Imagine if, instead, we started from this proposition: every child in America will be provided with an excellent education,” Singer suggests.  “Sound impossible?  Maybe. But it’s certainly a better goal than the one we’re using.”  He explains what’s wrong with the current system and offers some hints how to attain his objective.
Charter Schools
Virtual, online charters have a poor reputation even from some charter advocates.  In South Carolina the online charters are a $350 million industry but more and more people are questioning just what kind of bang South Carolinians are getting for their buck.  An investigative piece in the Charleston Post and Courier discovers “disappointing returns” from the cyber charters in the state.  “Today, the state has five virtual charter schools that together enroll roughly 10,000 students, up dramatically from about 2,100 students nine years ago when the state’s first cyber schools opened.  A 2007 bipartisan bill fueled their growth by authorizing the state’s virtual schools program, and since then, taxpayers have footed the bill to the tune of more than $350 million.  Despite this hefty investment,” it points out, “online charter schools have produced dismal results on almost all academic metrics, according to state and district data.  On average, less than half of their students graduate on time.  At one cyber school, nearly a third of students dropped out last school year. Data from the S.C Public Charter School District, which oversees these schools, shows just one in two virtual students enroll for a full year. . . .  On almost every measure of student achievement, virtual schools lag behind their brick-and-mortar counterparts.”  That’s not much of a track record for an over third of a billion dollar taxpayer investment.  Keep in mind the online charter folks are the same “reformers” who want schools to be run like businesses.  If a private business was getting results that poor it would have been shuddered long ago.               A charter school in Washington, D.C., recently voted to become the first charter in the nation’s capital to unionize.  As the author of this article ironically points out, Cesar Chavez Public Charter School is named after the California champion of farm worker unionization.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog relates the latest developments.  “When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that for all these years, there’s been schools named after the renowned union leader, Cesar Chavez, that resisted unionization and collective bargaining rights for teachers.  Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Charter School was unionized back in 2013.  I’m remembering back 10 years ago,” Klonsky recalls, “debating with anti-union charter school backers and ‘choice’ advocates.  I pointed out back then, the hypocrisy of naming a charter school after a great union organizer like Chavez, where teachers were working without a contract, without a real voice in educational decisions, or without union representation.”
 
An Idea for College Rankings
Karin Klein, an editorial board writer for the L.A. Times who specializes in education issues, has an op-ed in yesterday’s paper with some suggestions for how to improve those college rankings in order to make them more user friendly and precise.  Her commentary features a recent Gallup poll with results from 95,000 college dropouts to people who earned PhDs who reflect on their post-secondary experiences.  “Colleges should poll their own students and alumni about their educational experiences on a regular basis.  And so that the results can be compared from one school to another,” Klein recommends, “the questions and methodologies should be standardized across schools.  Fewer cash-strapped students would attend private schools if they knew they were about as likely to be satisfied with a public university at less than half the price.”  You at least have to check out the photo, at the outset of the piece, of the message a student added to her/his mortarboard during graduation from CSU Sacramento.  It’s a classic!
Steve Zimmer Reflects
And finally, Steve Zimmer’s 8-year, two-term stint on the LAUSD school board will come to an end on June 30.  He spent the last couple of years as president of the board and is also an instructor in the Urban Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.  He was defeated in a run-off election in May by charter proponent Nick Melvoin.  He sent out an email to friends and supporters reflecting on his service to the LAUSD and his painful defeat in the election.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints his ruminations.  “This was no ordinary election.  We did lose and we did lose badly.  And the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and their wealthy funders won and won big.  But they did not win fairly and they did not win honestly,” he observes bitterly.  “The CCSA effort was precise in its science and its analytics.  They recruited or encouraged a group of the right candidates to keep me just under 50% in the March primary and then they waged a vicious negative campaign during the run-off.  It was the most expensive school board race in the history of the nation.  CCSA had a singularly unique mix of unlimited money, unbridled ambition and the complete absence of any moral or ethical code.  It was a perfect electoral storm.”
                                                                                                                                              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 

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

Ed News, Friday, June 16, 2017 Edition

 The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“If you can read, write and think, you have liberated yourself 
from any darkness into the wonderful light.” 
Corporate “Reform” Series on PBS
WARNING: The Public Broadcasting Service (yes, PBS) ran a 3-part series titled “School, Inc.” that Diane Ravitch’s blog describes as “an error-ridden attack on public education.”  She was interviewed on the ‘METROFOCUS” program on the PBS affiliate, Channel 13, in New York City. about the pro-charter, pro-choice, pro-market based slant of the program.  You can view the Q & A (11:19 minutes by clicking here.  “It is puzzling that PBS would accept millions of dollars for this lavish and one-sided production from a group of foundations with a singular devotion to the privatization of public services,” she writes on her blog about the series.  “The PBS decision to air this series is even stranger when you stop to consider that these kinds of anti-government political foundations are likely to advocate for the elimination of public funding for PBS.  After all, in a free market of television, where there are so many choices available, why should the federal government pay for a television channel?”               The NPE (Network for Public Education) invites you to send an email (link provided) to the PBS  and contact you local station protesting the one-sided nature of the program “School Inc.” (see above) and suggesting some alternative programming the stations can offer to provide some balance.  “This month the Public Broadcasting System is showing a ‘documentary’ that tells a one-sided story of school privatization as told by Libertarian Andrew Coulson,” the NPE announcement states.  “This three-hour broadcast, called  ‘School, Inc.,’  airs nationwide in three PBS broadcasts.  It can be best described as anti-public education propaganda.”
 
School Board Elections
L.A. just experienced the most expensive school board race in the nation’s history as Nick Melvoin defeated incumbent LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer.  Was that an anomaly or something that we are apt to see more of in the future?  Co-hosts Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider interview Rebecca Jacobsen, associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State, about the growing role of big money in school board elections.  The Q & A appears as a podcast (31:37 minutes), titled “Buying Influence: Big Money and School Board Election,” on the HAVE YOU HEARD website.  “I think I’m just constantly astounded at just how much is being spent,” Jacobsen responded to one question at the outset of the interview.  “You opened with the recent LA election, and the LA Times reported that $144 was spent for every vote cast on the reform side, and then on the union side it was $81 for every vote received by the teacher union backed candidate.  And I just think about how much money that is, you know I would have never dreamt that there would be a 15 million dollar school board election.  And so I think that’s probably one of the things that I find most surprising.
 
Betsy DeVos
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” mentioned that Betsy DeVos would be delivering a speech to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools on Tuesday of this week.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, offers an analysis of what she said.  Greene draws an interesting distinction between backers of charters and those who support vouchers.  I must admit I hadn’t really considered the fact those two camps are often at cross purposes.  He believes that if you look carefully at that speech she gave this week, she has come down firmly in support of the charter proponents.  He titles his commentary “DeVos Doctrine Reaches Out to Charter Fans.”  Interesting.  Leave it to Greene to ascertain that dichotomy.               Are Betsy DeVos and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) BFFs?  ALEC is the organization of conservative state legislators and business representatives that meets to draft model bills for state legislatures.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBog” at deutsch29, reports on ALEC’s invitation to have DeVos speak at their Denver conference next month and what it means.  “In Betsy DeVos,” Schneider suggests, “ALEC has a woman more than willing to deregulate a wide path leading from USDOE [Dept. of Education] to the corporate-profiteering doorstep.”              For-profit colleges have a poor track record of over-charging students who run up huge student loan debt and under-providing marketable academic and career skills.  The Obama administration issued a number of regulations to reign in the most serious abuses.  So. what does Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos do?  She is delaying a couple of the key rules that were set to take effect July 1, according to a story in the “Business” section of today’s L.A. Times. “The changes came as critics complained that for-profit colleges,” it reports, “which expanded aggressively starting in 2000, over-promised their ability to give graduates the skills that would land good jobs. Those students, often minorities or those with low incomes, in many cases were loaded up with federally backed and private student loans.”  [Ed. note: I wonder if this policy delay has anything to do with the fact that Pres. Trump ran the for-profit Trump University until it closed for alleged fraud?  Just asking.]
 
The Teaching Profession
Besides being a classroom teacher, have you ever contemplated becoming a teacher leader?  The “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a piece titled: “Here Are Four Things Every Teacher Can Do to Become a Teacher Leader.”  Author Carl Draeger is a National Board-certified math teacher from Illinois who’s taught at the high school and community college level.  “With the growing political divide, a less than perfect public image of the teaching profession, and the financial realities facing our schools, numerous pressures have converged to raise challenges for educators across the nation.  As these and other pressures mount,” he begins, “there has never been a better time for teachers to insert themselves into the change equation by becoming teacher leaders.”
  
Charter Schools
With 4 charter schools closing in the Detroit area, guess who came to the rescue of these newly displaced students and their families?  You’ll never guess!  It’s the traditional Detroit Public Schools.  New DPS Supt. Nikolai Vitti is taking an aggressive approach (turnaround is fair play, as they say) to drawing back wayward students who left the district in the first place.  Chalkbeat Detroit has the details of this back-and-forth.  “Vitti personally visited an enrollment fair Tuesday at the closing Woodward Academy,” it reports, “in hopes of drawing parents to the district.  Lawn signs have popped up at city intersections asking parents: ‘Is your charter school closing?’ with a phone number urging them to call the district.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, discusses the differences between for-profit and nonprofit charter schools.  He also references the speech Betsy DeVos delivered last week (see the “Betsy DeVos” section above) in which she seemed to support charter backers over those pushing for vouchers and the discord between those two groups.               Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy Charter School network in New York City is involved in another controversy.  This time it involves a 4th grade mother’s use of the word “damn” in front of some students.  Latasha Battle was banned from entering the school and she feared she’d be unable to attend her child’s 4th grade graduation unless she issued a formal apology.  A letter from the principal demanding the apology also hinted that she could withdraw her child from the school.  The New York Daily News picks up the story and its aftermath.  “The exile began a few weeks back when Battle and other parents and children were stuck standing outside the school in a downpour,” it relates, “because the school doesn’t open the building until 7:35 a.m. sharp.  When the doors finally opened, she admits that she angrily said, ‘It’s a damn shame the school made these kids stand in the pouring rain.’  That apparently infuriated Principal Brittany Davis-Roberti, who within hours fired off a caustic letter to Battle with the tone of an adult chiding a child.”               Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott has signed a $419 million K-12 education bill that could do serious harm to the state’s traditional public schools.  To make matters worse, he held the signing ceremony at a private Catholic school in Orlando.  Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post tells the tale.   “The measure, popular among many but not all Republicans and pro-school choice forces,” she writes, “sparked a tsunami of opposition from parents, school boards, district superintendents and unions.  They have argued that it will harm traditional public school districts, threaten services for students who live in poverty and curb local control of education while promoting charter schools and a state-funded voucher program.”  Strauss reprints a letter from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents to Gov. Scott explaining the problems they perceive in the law.  
 
The Basic Idea of an Education
Arthur H. Camins, science educator and education policy writer, explains “Why We Should Care About the Education of Other People’s Children” in a thought provoking piece for the HUFFPOST.  “It is time to care about the education of other people’s children,” he urges.  “Other people’s children are or will be our neighbors.  Other people’s children – from almost anywhere in the United States and beyond – could end up as our coworkers.  Other people’s children are tomorrow’s potential voters.  How, what, and with whom they learn impacts us all.  That is why we have public schools, paid for with pooled taxes.  They are designed to serve the public good, not just to suit individual parent’s desires.”
 
LAUSD Board Extends Supt. King’s Contract
With just 2 weeks to go before 2 charter proponents take their seats on the LAUSD school board, tipping the balance in their favor 4-3, the old board engineered a 2-year contract extension for Supt. Michelle King to run until the end of June, 2020.  A front-page story in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews the political calculations involved in the decision.  “But before [the new members] could take office, the current board majority, which has concerns about unlimited charter growth, had one or two last chances to get things done.  The most daring move Tuesday,” it suggests, “was King’s contract extension.”
 
Personalized Learning
Would you like a peek at what computer-based, personalized (aka blended) learning looks like?  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes you on a tour of the Carpe Diem schools which began in Arizona in 2012 and have since expanded to Texas, Ohio and Indiana.  This week, one of the campuses in the latter state closed amid growing problems with the whole concept.  “One of the key weaknesses was how central the technology was at Carpe Diem.  Teachers didn’t have enough power over the learning.  And too little attention was paid to how students are motivated by the ability to pursue their own interests.  Others possible flaws,” the article recounts, “included a lack of flexibility for teachers (who had a tightly scripted day), too small a budget for in-person instruction, over-reliance on computers, a lack of extracurricular activities and a call-center-style layout that left students clicking away at screens alone for much of the day.”  It all sounds pretty unappealing if you’re a student or a teacher.  The photo of the classroom that accompanies the story is quite revealing of how education takes place.               Did the NEA (National Education Association), the nation’s largest union, just endorse personalized learning (see above)?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is aghast at an article the organization published on its website (link included) about how more schools are adopting the computer-based blended learning approach.  “This is not merely an examination of changing teaching practices.  It is a movement by tech giants,” he complains, “to further standardize and privatize America’s public schools.  This isn’t to say that technology can’t enhance learning.  But classroom teachers with any kind of experience know that simply plopping a child in front of a computer screen is a terrible way to do it.  It’s the equivalent of having all your questions answered by an automated voice on the telephone versus being able to ask questions of a living, breathing person.  And they have the gall to call it ‘personalized learning’ as if it were meeting all the needs of students one-on-one. It isn’t.”  Be sure to check out the “No Teacher Left Behind” cartoon at the bottom of Singer’s piece that illustrates his concern that a national TEACHERS union is promoting a technique that would make most teaching jobs redundant.
Billionaires and Education
The “Ed News” has recently highlighted several articles about the impact certain billionaires and philanthropists are having on school board elections.  Why are they so enamored of corporate “reform” and privatization of the traditional public school system?  Wayne Gersen, on his Network Schools blog, offers an intriguing answer.  If those billionaires and wealthy philanthropists can succeed in privatizing public education that would reduce the taxes needed to be collected to pay for that system and they would have to pay substantially less.  So it boils down to this simple formula: eliminate the public school system = much lower taxes for those billionaires and wealthy philanthropists.  Pretty straightforward, huh?  Interestingly, Gersen references several of the articles that previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted for you.
LAUSD Board Moves Closer to a ‘One-Stop” Enrollment Plan
The LAUSD board on Tuesday took steps to implement a more easily negotiated enrollment process for parents looking to select the best school for their child.  The new system carries a price tag of $24 million according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “During a six-week window, parents should be able to fill out a single online application,” it explains, “to apply to three options for the 2018-19 school year: magnet programs, dual-language programs and a small permit program that allows minority students to attend a school in another part of the district if their enrollment would promote racial integration.  Other district options are supposed to be added over the following two years.”
 
School Closing Impacts Community
And finally, “Arkansas Community Shrinks After Its Schools Shut Down” reads the headline in a story for EDUCATION WEEK.  The elementary and secondary schools in Hughes, Ark., were closed in 2012 by the Arkansas education department for declining enrollment.  “Hughes’ former schools are among the hundreds of schools nationwide that close for a variety of reasons,”  it points out.  “But research suggests that such closures sometimes have a disparate—and disruptive—effect on communities.”  The article proceeds to describe the effect on the community that had a population of 1,441 based on the 2010 census.  The closures tend to impact low-income and minority towns more often than not.  The story features a study from the University of Arkansas that looked into what happens to communities in the Natural State when schools are closed.
Stay cool this weekend and into next week as extreme heat
is predicted for most areas of southern California.
                                                                                                                                              http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

.                                                                          

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

Ed News, Tuesday, June 13, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“If you are still breathing, do not stop learning.”

― Lailah Gifty Akita

 
Graduation Rates Questioned
Tom Ultican, a public high school physics and math teacher in San Diego, questions the use of credit recovery courses to boost districts’ graduation rates.  He argues, on his TULTICAN blog, “These record setting numbers are the result of knuckleheaded political policy, cheating and credit recovery.”  Ultican believes that this policy achieves its goal of raising graduation rates but at a rather steep cost.  “Credit recovery has introduced a corruption into public education.  Online learning,” he complains, “is only better than no other alternative. It is lifeless and dull.  Some people claim there are ways to make it better, but I seriously doubt that it will ever match a classroom with a teacher to stimulate supervised dialog as a learning vehicle.  The push for credit recovery is a blatant scheme to impose privatized online learning.”  Diane Ravitch writes: “This is one of those brilliant posts that I am honored to share with you.”
 
The Teaching Profession
You may have seen this viral video already.  If not, check it out.  It has already received nearly 19.5 million views as of yesterday afternoon.  High school English teacher Trevor Muir shares with the world why “Teaching is Tiring! (And Worth it).”  The brief film (2:24 minutes) is dedicated to every past, present and future teacher.  It appears courtesy of the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  Enjoy!  
 
Profile of Nick Melvoin
Newly elected charter proponent Nick Melvoin will assume his seat on the LAUSD school board on July 1.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times profiles Melvoin, one of 2 new members on the board giving pro-charter forces a 4-3 majority.  Melvoin discusses his ideas for education reform of the district and the article includes a separate piece with “The Top 5 Items on His To-Do List.”  Here’s one example: “5. A process that would put all schools under an accountability system similar to charters, which are supposed to show every five years that they are academically strong and financially sound.”
 
Betsy DeVos
DeVos seemed a bit muddled in her knowledge of federal education law during her confirmation hearing and now on her own positions on key political issues.  Last week she supported Pres. Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the pivotal Paris climate agreement but she didn’t appear to understand much about the matter.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, attempts to delve into the mind of our confused Sec. of Education to see if she can discern just what DeVos’ beliefs are.  Good luck in that endeavor!  Strauss reprints a letter to DeVos from 4 Democratic Senators attempting to get clarification of her stance on climate change and why the Heartland Institute is sending climate denial materials and lessons to the nations’ science educators and another letter from a single Senator to science teachers and their national organization.               A story in The New York Times suggests you can get some insights into what motivates Betsy DeVos by looking at how she was educated and where.  DeVos graduated from Holland Christian High School in 1975 (be sure to check out the yearbook photo of her during her junior year, included in the article).  The reporter for the story drops in on Holland Christian to discover what type of education it provided to a teenaged Betsy DeVos.  “Holland Christian is one of several western Michigan nonpublic schools that have helped shape Ms. DeVos’s views of elementary and secondary education,” the item describes, “and that her critics fear she will draw from to upend the nation’s public schools.  The private Christian school that she attended, another that she sent her children to and a hardscrabble private religious school that she has long supported have dominated her time, money and attention.”               Betsy DeVos delivered an address today to the annual convention of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the nation’s biggest charter group.  Her reception by the organization may not be as positive as you might imagine.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK offers some things to look for prior to the actual speech.  While the charter community favors the Trump administration’s push for charters and school “choice” they will be affected by a number of the budget cuts Trump has proposed making to the Dept. of Education (see the Trump and Education section below) and they are not happy about that.  The article outlines several other areas of contention between charter proponents and the Trump/DeVos team.  
 
Charter Schools
After undergoing an audit ordered  by the Alameda County Office of Education,  2 Livermore, California, charter schools have been accused of misappropriating public funds.  The article in the EAST BAY TIMES says Bill Bachelor, former CEO of the charters’ management company, is the key culprit in the case.  “Analysis shows that the Tri-Valley Learning Corporation,” the piece relates, “which oversees the charter schools: Failed to disclose numerous conflict-of-interest relationships; diverted, commingled and/or misappropriated public funds, including tax-exempt public bonds totaling over $67 million with various private entities; and contributed to an environment of significantly deficient internal controls, according to a county statement. . . .  The audit states that internal controls were ‘so weak’ that Batchelor was able to divert $2.7 million of public charter school funds without any supporting documents, covering a span of five years.”  This is another prime example of why charters need much more accountability and transparency.  As a postscript, TVLC, the management company, announced last week it was closing the 2 charters before the end of this school year when a loan bailout failed to materialize.  Once again, students, parents, teachers and staff end up paying the price of someone else’s greed.  When are the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies going to come to their senses?  For the Press Release about the audit from ACOE and a link to the full report (287 pages) click here.  Yeah it’s pretty long but if you are on summer vacation or about to be, it makes for some enlightening reading about what some charters are getting away with, at least until they are caught.               If you think California’s charter system is messed up, try reading about what’s going down in New Jersey.  The members of the school board of Clifton, NJ, have been against the opening of a charter in their district.  So what happens?  The New Jersey Dept. of Education forces Clifton to fund the school anyway and shoves it down the community’s throat.  And to make matters worse, the charter school belongs to a network that’s being investigated for allegations of fraud!  You can’t make this stuff up, folks!  That’s how democracy is practiced in the Garden state according to Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman.  “And so it continues with New Jersey’s insane charter authorizing system: Trenton [the state capital] mandates a school district must give up funds,” Weber complains, “to support a charter school that the district had no say in approving.  Worse, the district cannot exercise any oversight authority over the charter. . . .  It’s worth pointing out that, according to data from the Education Law Center, Clifton has suffered from persistent underfunding of state education aid under the Christie administration: cumulatively $73.8 million since 2010.  And yet the same administration mandates that Clifton taxpayers put up millions of dollars every year for a charter school the community may not even want.”  UNBELIEVABLE what charters can get away with these days.               Eva Moscowitz’s controversial Success Academy charter network in New York City won the 2017 Broad Prize for charter schools.  One has to wonder about the award given some of the conflicts made public about the schools.  The “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “A little over a year ago, the network was the focus of two New York Times exposés,” it points out.  “In the first, a school principal drew up a list of ‘got-to-go’ students which was leaked to the Times.  A few months later, a video that showed a teacher harshly disciplining a young student was provided to the Times.  Around the same time, a group of parents filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights against the network, claiming that it was violating the rights of students with disabilities.”
 
High School Reform
Should a high school diploma be based on credits earned or skills acquired?  Good question.  Maine is beginning an interesting experiment in “proficiency-based education” established by a state law passed in 2012.  THE HECHINGER REPORT describes what’s taking place.  “The law requires that by 2021, students graduating from Maine high schools must show they have mastered specific skills to earn a high school diploma,” it points out.  “Maine is the first state to pass such a law, though the idea of valuing skills over credits is increasingly popular around the country.  ‘Maine is the pioneer,’ said Chris Sturgis, co-founder of CompetencyWorks, a national organization that advocates for the approach in K-12 schools.”  The article profiles one 9th grade student at a regional high school in Maine and how she’s meeting the new requirements.
 
Trump and Education
Two members of Pres. Trump’s transition team that reviewed the Dept. of Education for the incoming president attempt to make the case that “Trump’s Education Cuts Aren’t ‘Devastating,’ They’re Smart,” in an op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  They mention several programs that are “ineffective” and scheduled for elimination.  What’s left unsaid is that the administration would like to channel the money saved into federal vouchers which have proved to be equally ineffective.  “Cutting costly, ineffective government programs isn’t the end of the world,” the authors claim.  It’s part of ‘[our] moral duty… to make our government leaner and more accountable,’ as Trump stated during a budget meeting in February.  His budgetary effort to cut waste includes the Education Department for good reason.”  I wonder if that same justification will be applied to “ineffective” voucher programs and charter schools that lack accountability and transparency?               Did Pres. Trump really say that?  While former FBI Director James Comey was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Pres. Trump was delivering a speech before a group of religious conservatives.  His comments regarding religion and schools are particularly troubling in light of the 1st Amendment and the president’s apparent ignorance of what it contains.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, also has a problem with what he said.  Strauss conveniently provides a video of the entire speech(34:47 minutes) so you can review Trump’s comments for yourself.
 
Teach For America
Gary Rubinstein’s Blog reveals that Teach for America is training a group of its prospective corps members at a “failing” school in Houston.  The J. W. Robinson Jr. Elementary School earned a “D” on Texas’ rating system and ranked 720th out of 1000 campuses.  It’s principal happens to be a TFA alum, as well.  “I’m not writing about this to trash this school,” he wants to clarify.  “I want the corps members who are working there and who are admiring this school to understand, though, that the bogus rating system that makes Robinson ‘failing’ is the same kind of rating system that is being used by all the supporters of TFA who want to declare a large percent of schools, like Robinson, failing.   It’s lies like this that have fueled the growth of TFA.  Without this growth, most TFA CMs wouldn’t even be in the program right now as it would be a much smaller program than it is.”
 
LAUSD Budget Unveiled
And finally, LAUSD Supt. Michelle King presented her proposed 2017-18 $7.9 billion district budget to the school board at their regular meeting today.  A story in today’s L.A. Times offers “Five Things to Know About L.A.’s School Budget.”  It addresses topics including future enrollment projections, possible budget deficits down the road, rising pension and benefit obligations and others.  The board plans to vote on the plan next week.
                                                                                                                                              http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

.                                                                          

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

Ed News, Friday, June 9, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[ALOED Summer Book Club ReminderThe next ALOED Book discussion features Kristina Rizga’s “Mission High.”  The event takes place on Tuesday, June. 13, 6-8 pm, at the Samuelson Alumni Center on the campus of Occidental College and includes dinner (provided by ALOED).  For good food and stimulating conversation (you don’t even have to read the book to join us) click here for all the details and to RSVP.  Please be sure to RSVP so we know how much food to provide.  As an added bonus, I’ll be leading the discussion.  I’d love to meet as many of you as possible in person, so please join us.]  

 

 
And now to the news.

“In 1778, Jefferson presented to the Virginia legislature ‘A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,’
in which he argued that all forms of government could degenerate into tyranny. The best way of preventing this, 
he wrote, is ‘to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large.’ 
The study of history could serve as an especially effective bulwark, 
allowing the people to learn how to defeat tyranny from past examples. 
Jefferson would return again and again to the importance of education in a democracy.” 

― Fareed ZakariaIn Defense of a Liberal Education*

The Teaching Profession
Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, has a delightful profile of Jeff Horton, who will be wrapping up a 40-year career with the LAUSD at the end of this school year.  He was a social studies teacher at Crenshaw High and at LACES (L.A. Center for Enriched Studies, a highly regarded district magnet school) and sandwiched those jobs around two terms on the school board from 1991-1999.  “While Horton may be disappointed in the current direction of public education after 40 years in the business, he’s had the luxury of spending most of his career in the sanctuary of the classroom.  There,” Lopez points out to his readers, “ it all comes down to respect for students and the noble profession of inspiring them, and a good teacher can make magical things happen.”                What are the best countries to teach in based on salary?  How does the U.S. compare? Interesting questions.  A story in BUSINESS INSIDER features some new research from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).  Luxembourg, Switzerland and Germany earn the top 3 slots for high school and elementary teachers.  The U.S. ranks in the top 10.  The worst countries?  Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. “The OECD’s full data set reveals a yawning gap between the highest and lowest paid teachers around the world.  When converted to US dollars,” the piece points out, “many of the salaries fall well short of the average American teacher, who makes $44,000 starting out and approximately $67,000 at the upper end.”  A series of graphs accompanying the item also break down the numbers by gender.  You can find the full report (510 pages) titled “Education at a Glance 2016, OECD Indicators” by clicking here.  It obviously contains numbers and statistics for many other categories besides salary.               The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK has an intriguing article titled “The ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ Teachers, According to Reddit.”  “The portrayal of teachers in books and movies suggests that our view of teachers ranges anywhere from heroic to tragically inept.  But what does social media have to say about our perceptions of teachers?  Two education researchers turned to the online discussion platform Reddit in an attempt to piece together an honest picture of how the public really views those who spend day in and day out schooling young people in reading, writing, math, and everything in between. . . .  The authors’ examined Reddit discussion threads posted between 2009 and 2015 in which commenters reflected on their ‘best’ and ‘worst’ teachers.  They sorted through the posts, choosing 300 ‘best’ memories and 300 ‘worst’ memories for analysis.”  You may be a little skeptical about the validity of this “study,” but read it anyway (it’s short) and see what you think.
 
Charter Schools and Vouchers
Do all charter schools do a good job of educating their students?  Well, not exactly.  The “Ed News” has provided examples of low performing charters on a fairly regular basis.  Georgia is the latest example of a state education system that is questioning its under-performing charters according to a story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  “Several of the state’s low-performing charter schools met with their authorizer, the State Charter Schools Commission, Wednesday to explain what they’re doing wrong and how they can improve,” it explains.  “A half dozen schools were scheduled for performance reviews with the commission, which granted the charters and can take them away.”               Most charter schools are run as non-profit entities but a fair number of them are for-profit enterprises.  California Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (D-Sacramento) and Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, co-author an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee titled “How For-Profit Charter Schools Are Ripping Off California Taxpayers.”  It discusses new legislation introduced in the State Assembly by McCarthy, AB 406, that would prohibit for-profit companies from running charter schools in the state “In California, 34 charter schools operated by five for-profit education management organizations enroll about 25,000 students.  These for-profit charter schools siphon hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money,” McCarthy and Pechthalt point out, “away from students to generate massive corporate profits, and in many cases provide an inferior education.  They exploit loopholes in California’s charter school law allowing them to cheat our students and reap huge profits at taxpayer expense. . . .  It is estimated that California taxpayers provide these companies with more than $225 million a year with little public transparency or accountability.”               Is this how it’s supposed to work and might work under an expanded federal voucher plan?  The Indiana State Board of Education just approved 4 low-performing private schools to be able to accept students with vouchers in the Hoosier State.  WFYI, Indianapolis’ NPR and PBS stations provides the details of this questionable action.  “The schools had lost their ability to enroll new students in the Choice Scholarship Program,” it notes, “because they had been rated a D or F on the state’s accountability system for at least two consecutive years.  A law recently signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb allows private schools in this situation to seek a one-year waiver from the standard rules that require years of academic improvements to again become eligible for vouchers.”               And if that’s not bad enough (see previous item), we have this bit of news from Arkansas.  Covenant Keepers, a 9-year old charter school in Little Rock that has NEVER met proficiency standards in the state just had its charter renewed despite a strong recommendation from a panel of state employees that it be denied.  A column in the ARKANSAS TIMES explains this equally questionable action.  This is all  in light of the fact the state board took over the Little Rock School District 2 years ago for low performance!  How does this happen?  In Arkansas, the answer is simple: THE WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION.  “This is the new mantra of the Billionaire Boys Club school ‘choice’ campaign.  Choice is good, no matter how bad the school.  The new theme is required,” the author writes, “because studies of charter and voucher schools have demonstrated little edge, sometime even damage, for alternatives to real public schools.  Covenant Keepers, in the best possible light, MIGHT be on a par with the worst Little Rock schools.  Covenant Keepers remains in business.  The Little Rock School District remains in state control.  Billionaires have the resources to play the long game.  Their man is now governor and his appointees control the state Board of Education.  That’s bad news for Little Rock schools.  Charter schools?  They never have to say they’re sorry. Even if they are.”  Diane Ravitch describes this as “a shocking story.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, looks at the dollars and cents of vouchers and the sleight-of-hand being foisted on taxpayers by the pro-voucher crowd.  He explains how they are proposing to spend PUBLIC, taxpayer dollars for students to attend PRIVATE schools.  It takes a bit of magic for them to pull this trick off.  “Lawmakers want to give away a huge bundle of your cash to religious schools, but they can’t because of that pesky old First Amendment.  The establishment clause sets up a distinct separation between church and state.  It explicitly forbids public money,” Singer relates, “being spent on any specific religion.  So these lawmakers do a bit of magic.  They take that money, wave their hands over it, mumble a few secret words and Voilà!  It’s no longer public; it’s private.  And private money can be spent any way you want – even on religion.”
 
Pearson
What is the British-based publishing giant Pearson Education really aiming for?  Alan Singer, social studies educator at Hofstra University, believes they have a plan of action that they hope will yield global dominance and earn their shareholders HUGE profits through market-based strategies that aim to eliminate public education systems around the world.  His commentary appears on the HUFFPOST. “Pearson’s business strategy,” Singer writes, “is to turn education from a social good and essential public service into a marketable for-profit commodity.”  Singer includes a link to the full report on Pearson (28 pages) that he co-authored with a colleague at Hofstra, titled “Pearson and the Neo-Liberal Global Assault on Public Education.”
Trump and Education
More and more students are invoking Pres. Trump’s name and verbiage to bully their fellow classmates according to a disturbing piece from BuzzFeed NEWS.  It details a number of incidents of such behavior during the past school year and the struggles some districts are having handling the incidents.  “Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying,” it begins, “with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates.  In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.”  The article includes a map showing cities that have experienced such behavior.  7 in California registered some type of Trump-related bullying including Manhattan Beach, Brea and San Diego in the southern part of the state.  The story very briefly mentions 2 of them.
 
Betsy DeVos
How does Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos see her role?  Is she just a shill for the school “choice” and privatization movement or does she carry out her responsibilities to protect the civil rights of all students?  Based on her responses to some questions at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is a bit bewildered.  “She held firm to her position that it is not her job as Secretary of Education to fight for students’ civil rights.  That is the responsibility of Congress and the courts,” he writes about her testimony.  “But she’s wrong.  The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is part of the Department of Education.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is also worried about DeVos support for students’ civil rights, or lack thereof, as head of the Dept. of Education (see above).  He recounts some of her comments before the Senate subcommittee this week and is additionally concerned about some of her recent appointments to fill key positions in the DoE.  “Her remarks are cloaked in such ambiguity,” Bryant maintains, “it’s hard to predict what DeVos will do to protect students from discrimination and where, and for whom, her department would enforce protections.  However, based on some of her personnel decisions, there is a great deal of cause for concern.”
 
LAUSD Board Election Postmortem
Karen Wolfe, parent activist in L.A., looks back at the defeat of LAUSD school board Pres. Steve Zimmer by his pro-charter opponent Nick Melvoin.  She looks at the huge amount of funds contributed to Melvoin and how the two campaigns were run.  Her commentary appears on her PS Connect blog.  Zimmer was able to turn back a similar challenge 4 years ago and Wolfe asks “What Changed” in the interim?  “That’s an important question to anyone hoping to beat the deep pocketed privatizers in future elections.  Los Angeles is the biggest school district in the country,” she responds, “that still elects its school board.  That makes it harder to control by so-called education reformers, who seek to dismantle the public school system in order to create a marketplace of school choices, shifting billions of dollars in public moneys into private hands.  Investment in elections here can pay huge dividends. But the lessons to learn from Zimmer’s defeat and the sweeping takeover of the LAUSD school board by charter school backers can apply anywhere.”               After Steve Zimmer lost his reelection bid in May to the LAUSD board to Nick Melvoin, Diane Ravitch had some criticisms of how he ran his campaign.  Claudia Vizcarra, Zimmer’s chief of staff, responds to what Ravitch wrote in a post on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “In my opinion, Steve made a valiant effort to make a case for public education.  He authored and supported countless resolutions detailing the many elements that make our District schools the best choice in some communities,” Vizcarra offers in defense of Zimmer, “and supported the District in making the improvements needed to make sure they are the best choice in the communities where parents don’t find them to be so.”
 
Free Speech Protections for Student Journalists
And finally, freedom of speech and the press are enshrined in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution but those rights don’t automatically extend to K-12 students and those in colleges and universities.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK describes proposed  bills in several states that would broaden those protections to student journalists and their teacher advisors.  It acquaints readers with the New Voices movement led by the Student Press Law Center that is spearheading much of the legislation being introduced in various states.  “In addition to the newly signed law in Vermont, legislation has passed this year in Nevada, and bills are moving through the legislatures in New Jersey and Rhode Island,” the article mentions.  “Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said bills are also on the runway in New York and Wisconsin, and once again in Michigan, Missouri, Washington, Texas and Indiana for next year’s legislative sessions. . . .  While only 11 states have student press-freedom laws, LoMonte estimates that one-third of high school students have New Voices protections, thanks to the large populations of states like California.”  For more information about student press freedoms check out the New Voices USA website by clicking here.  Be sure to click on the “State Tracker” which allows you to check out the status of student press freedoms on a state-by-state basis.
*In Defense of a Liberal Education” was a recent ALOED Book Club selection.
                                                                                                                                              http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

.                                                                          

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

Ed News, Tuesday, June 6, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “We humans can never learn everything. The purpose of human life 
 is not to learn everything. Rather it is to learn from every single walk of life 
and put that knowledge into practice in the pursuit of making human life a little better.” 
National Spelling Bee
Ananya Vinay, a 12-year-old girl from Fresno, won the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee held in Maryland last week.  It took 37 grueling rounds for the sixth grader to win the prestigious competition.  In an interview afterwards on the “New Day” program on CNN she was asked to spell “covfefe,” Pres. Trump’s nonsense word that he tweeted in the middle of the night last week.  She spelled it “cofefe.”  “Good enough” and “Close, you win,” the co-anchors goodnaturedly responded.  A story from The New York Times, with two videos from ESPN and CNN, has the delightful details.  “As national champion, [Ananya] won $40,000, a $2,500 savings bond, reference books and a Kindle e-reader,” it describes.  “The bee began on Tuesday with 291 contestants who were among the top .000026 percent of more than 11 million students who competed in classrooms, schools and local events around the country, according to contest organizers.”
 
The Teaching Profession
What are “The Best Cities to Live in if You’re a Teacher?”  Interesting question.  A new study from the group GoodCall has some intriguing answers.  “Analysts crunched the numbers for 689 cities,” the report states regarding its methodology, “and ranked them based on nine metrics in three overall themes:  Job availability and pay, How the area values education and Livability.”  The number one city is Bentonville, Arkansas (home of Walmart).  Top ranked in California is Laguna Niguel at #34.  The article includes 2 interactive maps of the “Top 100” and “Bottom 100” cities and a link to the full data list.  [Ed. note: I taught for 26 years, but did not LIVE, in Huntington Park, ranked #667.]         The teaching profession is becoming less and less desirable according to a commencement address delivered to graduates of the M.A. in Teaching Program at St. Mary’s College in Maryland.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, comments on and then reprints the talk given by Elias Vlanton.  It’s not a complete downer, as he does take some time to describe why the profession is still one worth entering, despite all the drawbacks, many of which he details.  “Vlanton, who taught social studies in Prince George’s County Public Schools for 16 years,” Strauss writes by way of introduction, “talked not just about the joys of teaching, but he also presented the unvarnished truth about the hardships educators must confront.”               The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) are back in the film making business.  This time they turn their ire towards Teach for America (TFA) and the harm the group is doing to students, unions and the teaching profession.  The short video (1:14 minutes), in the form of a fairy tale, comes courtesy of Steven Singer’s Twitter feed.
Charter Schools
When charter backers can’t win the verbal debate with their critics over the efficacy of their schools,they resort to trying to discredit them.  That’s exactly what happened to Rutgers University professor Julia Sass Rubin who published some of her critical research on charter schools back in 2014 and found herself the target of ethics violations from the New Jersey Charter School Association.  They couldn’t challenge her findings so they resorted to attacking the emissary.  The state ethics board and the university looked into the charges against Rubin and after an extensive review, she was absolved of all allegations according to a piece from NPQ (NONPROFIT QUARTERLY).  “Rather than dispute the findings with data of their own and allow the dialogue to go on based on the strength of the results,” it relates, “the charter association chose to attack the messenger.  They formally charged that by publishing her work, testifying before public bodies based on her findings and speaking as an advocate for public schools, she had violated ‘the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law, the Uniform Ethics Code, [and the] Rutgers Code of Ethics and Rutgers’s policies’ and should be sanctioned.”  Diane Ravitch had this to say about the situation: “This is a sordid story with a happy ending.  It tells how the deep-pocketed charter industry tried to silence and discredit a scholar who disagreed with them.”
 
Vouchers and School “Choice”
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to tout vouchers as a true form of democratic school “choice.”  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, notes a bit of hyperbole in that notion since they are being pushed by a billionaire president and businessman and a billionaire Sec. of Education.  She references an op-ed in the L.A. Times by Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman that was highly critical of vouchers for basically being anti-democratic (see Friday’s “Ed News”).  In addition, Schneider reviews the early history of how vouchers were used to circumvent integration orders in the South the the 1950s and 60s.  “Note that the history of vouchers in the USA often involved closing the public schools and sending students to private schools using public money in order for states to avoid integrating the public schools.  In other words,” she writes, “vouchers to private schools not only did not help the public schools; it also reinforced the reality that private school choice is an easy vehicle for reinforcing segregation.  In the case of 1960s Louisiana, even though all parents in theory were ’empowered’ by receiving private school vouchers, the schools themselves had the final ‘choice’ as to whether or not a student was allowed to enroll.  Don’t think it cannot happen in 2017.”               2 letters appear in Sunday’s L.A. Times in reaction to the op-ed the paper ran on Wednesday from Randi Weingarten and Jonah Edelman (see Friday’s “Ed News”) arguing that vouchers are anti-democratic.  The first one isn’t buying their assertion and the second comments on Sec. DeVos’s lack of a commitment to making sure that schools that receive vouchers don’t discriminate against certain types of students.               Is this what voucher programs are intended to do?  An extensive investigative piece for ProPublica discovers that some families living in small towns in Vermont are using taxpayer money to send their children to expensive, exclusive, elite prep schools outside of the Green Mountain State.  “Vermont’s voucher program is a microcosm of what could happen across the country,” it explains, “if school-choice advocates such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos achieve their vision.  By subsidizing part of the cost of private schools in or out of state, it broadens options for some Vermonters while diverting students from public education and disproportionately benefiting wealthier families.”  The article also describes similar voucher programs in Indiana and Arizona which could serve as models for the proposed federal plan.                If a federal voucher program is approved and taxpayer money can be used for private schools, what protections will there be against those schools discriminating against certain types of students?  Very good question.  If any lessons can be learned from existing state programs, the answer is not particularly encouraging, according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  Federal anti-discrimination laws do not extend to private groups, organizations or schools which are free to discriminate against students based on their religion, race, ethnicity, disability, sex or sexual orientation.  “How far can private schools that take taxpayer-funded vouchers go in selecting students without running afoul of civil rights and antidiscrimination laws?  The answer is complicated—and less than reassuring,” the item maintains, “to those concerned about the rights of students of color, LGBT students, and children with disabilities.”
 
Betsy DeVos
DeVos is among a number of members of the Trump administration who are quite adept at not answering direct questions posed to them.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, offers a few examples from the Sec. of Education related to climate change, school discipline policies and vouchers.  “You might think that it would be a matter of course for the education secretary to provide direct answers to direct questions about education or education policy.  As it turns out,” Strauss begins, “that is often not the case with Betsy DeVos.”               DeVos appeared before a Senate education appropriations subcommittee this morning to testify about Pres. Trump’s proposed budget as it related to education.  She was grilled extensively by members of both parties about the steep cuts contained in the plan and the proposal to divert a good size chunk of money earmarked for the Dept. of Education into a federal voucher program.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews her testimony and the rough reception she got from several members of the committee.  “Republican and Democratic senators on the Senate education appropriations subcommittee expressed skepticism about cuts and eliminated programs in the budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education,”  it describes.  “And Democrats sparred with DeVos over how the spending blueprint for fiscal 2018 handles Title I spending on disadvantaged students, and how a voucher proposal would handle issues of discrimination.”
 
Trump and Education
Diane Ravitch has a piece in The New York Review of Books about the proposed Trump/DeVos budget titled “The Demolition of American Education.”  She zeroes in on its impact on various education policies and the Dept. of Education and offers a litany of programs that are scheduled for big cuts or elimination.  “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget for the US Department of Education is a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students,” Ravitch laments.  “They want to cut federal spending on education by 13.6 percent.  Some programs would be eliminated completely; others would face deep reductions.  They want to cut $10.6 billion from existing programs and divert $1.4 billion to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools.  This budget reflects Trump and DeVos’s deep hostility to public education and their desire to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely.”
 
Teacher Evaluations
Dr. Mitchell Robinson has “Some Unpopular Thoughts About Teacher Evaluations” on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website.  He looks at the state of teacher evaluations today and is not happy with what he sees.  “With respect to teacher evaluation: I’ve been working on teacher eval for most of my career as a teacher, administrator, and teacher educator, and all I can say is that the current system is the worst I’ve ever seen,” he complains.  “If its goal was to get rid of the ‘bad teachers’ it has been spectacularly ineffective.  Every form of teacher eval winds up identifying between 1-3% of teachers as ‘ineffective’–yet we continue to spend precious money and time in the vain attempt to purge the system of these ‘bad teachers’.”  Robinson offers a couple of remedies to rectify the situation.                 The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is not real clear on what constitutes an “ineffective teacher” and offers little guidance on whether state or local officials should be involved in making that determination.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK delves into the issues involved.  It indicates that the chair of California’s state board of education is most likely to defer those key decisions to the state legislature.  “ESSA, which goes into effect this fall, does away with the ‘highly qualified teacher’ mandates under its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act.  It also bans the U.S. secretary of education from dictating the ways in which states grade their teachers,” the article explains, “a sore spot under the NCLB law.  At the same time, ESSA requires states to provide a single definition of ‘ineffective teachers’ in the plans they submit to the federal government and then describe how they will ensure that poor and minority students aren’t being taught by a disproportionate number of them.”  Be sure to check out the sidebar titled “Tracking Teacher Quality” which provides a concise comparison between NCLB and ESSA regarding how to evaluate teachers.
 
Climate Science Debate
An engaging story in The New York Times tells about a high school in Wellston, Ohio,a small, rural, pro-Trump town where a group of students challenged their science teacher who was presenting them  with lessons on global warming.  It broadens the topic to discuss how climate science is being taught in the nation’s schools using the quandary in Wellston as a case study.  “As more of the nation’s teachers seek to integrate climate science into the curriculum, many of them are reckoning with students for whom suspicion of the subject is deeply rooted.  In rural Wellston, a former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act, rejecting the key findings of climate science can seem like a matter of loyalty to a way of life already under siege.  Originally tied, perhaps, to economic self-interest, climate skepticism has itself become a proxy for conservative ideals of hard work, small government and what people here call ‘self-sustainability.'”  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending the article along with this comment: “Scary in many ways, but I love every word of this  story.  What a great teacher. What a great (as in well-written/well-told) story.”
 
Testing
As the standardized testing season and the school year draw to a close, a long-time elementary teacher in New Jersey, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, has a number of objections to the over-use of standardized testing in her state and, by extension in most other states, as well.  Her biggest objection is the huge chunks of time the assessments and the preparation for them take away that could be much better allocated to student learning.  “The public school testing frenzy is at an all-time high,” she complains, “and it is robbing our students of time to learn.  Take it from me, an elementary school teacher from New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience.  In an effort to be ready for the state-mandated PARCC tests, we are hurting the very students we most wish to help.  School administrators and teachers are tasked with ensuring that state-mandated tests are properly administered.  But the time it takes to plan and administer these tests takes away precious instructional time.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
And finally, Diane Ravitch, in her book “The Life and Death of the Great American School System,” has a chapter titled “The Billionaire Boys’ Club” in which she details some of the billionaire entrepreneurs and philanthropists from around the county who are proponents of market-based education strategies to remake (eliminate?) the traditional public school system.  A story in The New York Times titled “The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s School” brings the names closer to home.  “In the space of just a few years,” the reporter relates, “technology giants have begun remaking the very nature of schooling on a vast scale, using some of the same techniques that have made their companies linchpins of the American economy.  Through their philanthropy, they are influencing the subjects that schools teach, the classroom tools that teachers choose and fundamental approaches to learning.”
                                                                                                                                              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.