Ed News, Friday, June 16, 2017 Edition


 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.


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

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