Ed News, Friday, June 9, 2017 Edition


 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.”
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.


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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s