Ed News, Friday, June 23, 2017 Edition


 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 Summer officially arrived at 9:24 pm,
PDT, on Tuesday
               Inline image 1

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.”


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

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