Ed News, Tuesday, July 11, 2017



 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Education lifts a people to greater ability and achievement.” 
Betsy DeVos
18 states, including California, and the District of Columbia are not going to take Betsy DeVos’ policies sitting down.  They’ve filed suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., against her recent delay of regulations implemented by the Obama administration and set to take effect July 1, that would protect college students from predatory loan practices.  Several consumer groups filed a separate suit on similar issues.  POLITICO provides the details.  “Both lawsuits argue that DeVos’ delay of the rules violates the Administrative Procedure Act,” it explains, “and ask a federal court to order the administration to enforce the rules.”               An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times takes DeVos to task for delaying regulations from the Obama administration that would protect students at for-profit colleges from fraudulent and unfair loan policies (see above).  It wonders why she is protecting the interests (and profits) of private companies over those of students.  Of course DeVos has always seemed to favor those private profits over consumer protections.  “Even the leaders of a wholly dysfunctional administration must recognize that fraud is fraud.  Out-and-out cheating, lying to potential customers, isn’t just unethical,” the piece reminds readers.  “It’s illegal.  And the worst fraud in the higher education world during recent decades has been perpetrated by for-profit colleges that grossly overstate their graduates’ ability to land good jobs, that talked students into applying for loans they would almost certainly be unable to repay and that bamboozled them into signing away their right to sue should they discover how dishonestly they had been treated.”                Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has an analysis of the lawsuit filed against DeVos regarding the delay of regulations pertaining to predatory student loan practices (see first item above).   Schneider has several excerpts from the suit brought by the Attorney’s General of the 18 states and the District of Columbia and a breakdown of the key points.  “And so, as is par for the course in corporate ed reform,” she concludes, “America once again waits to hear from the court.  As for Betsy DeVos: She would rather put money in the crooked corporate pocket than enforce any sensible legislation regulating corporate greed.”             DeVos is planning to take a hard line on the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) that was signed into law by Pres. Obama in Dec., 2015.  A story in The New York Times is titled “DeVos’ Hard Line on New Education Law Surprises States.”  “In the Education Department’s feedback to states about their plans to put the new law into effect,” it notes, “it applied strict interpretations of statutes, required extensive detail and even deemed some state education goals lackluster. . . .  After more than a decade of strict federal education standards and standardized testing regimes, the Every Student Succeeds Act was to return latitude to the states to come up with plans to improve student achievement and hold schools accountable for student performance.”                   MAD magazine (how many of you out there remember MAD magazine?) has a “Betsy DeVos Poster We’d Like to See.”  Check it out; print it off; share it with your friends and colleagues and post it in a prominent place.
The Teaching Profession
What’s the best way for principals to fairly and honestly evaluate the teachers on their staff?  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK takes on that question by reviewing a recent report on the topic that studied how 100 principals in Miami-Dade County schools rated their teachers.  One key finding: remove the high stakes that are attached to so many evaluation systems.
School Choice and Vouchers
It’s no secret that the Trump administration strongly favors school “choice” and vouchers.  How would those policies effect rural schools?  Simple answer?  They could be devastating as a video segment (3:14 minutes) from CBS News demonstrates using Kentucky as an example.  Interestingly, Trump got much of his support in the election from voters who would be impacted the most.                The billionaire Koch brothers are throwing their substantial financial and political clout into a battle for school “choice” and vouchers in Colorado.  An article in The Denver Post describes the Koch’s influence and what it could mean in the Centennial State and beyond.  “Five states currently offer [education savings] accounts as a school-choice option,” it points out, “according to the bipartisan Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.  The program allows parents to use taxpayer dollars for private school tuition, online learning programs, books or tutoring.  And Colorado, which doesn’t yet offer ESAs, is one of five states where the Koch network is looking to expand or establish the program through legislation or a ballot measure.”               Emmanuel Felton, an African-American who, as a student, came from a relatively well off family in New Orleans that could afford to send him to private schools and pay full tuition, wonders what a federal voucher program like the one promoted by the Trump administration will to do the communities that students leave behind.  What happens to the traditional public education system if some of the most highly motivated families pull their children out in order to send them to a private or religious school in a different neighborhood?  He’s not particularly encouraged by what he foresees.  His commentary appears in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  Felton revisits his hometown of New Orleans and also reports on the impact of vouchers in Milwaukee.  “School choice by its very nature,” he points out, “uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.”
KIPP High School In New York City Submitted Suspicious Data
A couple of previous editions of the “Ed News” reported on the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of the “Best High Schools in America.”  They also included two items from Gary Rubinstein’s Blog that noticed some discrepancies and suspicious data regarding AP test results submitted by one KIPP high school in New York.  U.S. News must have reviewed Rubinstein’s findings because they have removed the offending school from their most recent ratings.  Several publications touted the “success” of this particular KIPP school.  “In my years of blogging and uncovering things like this,” Rubinstein writes, “this is a nice tangible ‘victory.’   I’m pretty sure that if I had never discovered this discrepancy, this correction would have not happened.  KIPP had done the same thing with this school for a few years and have surely been using it in fund raising materials and maybe even grants.  In the scheme of things it is a pretty small victory but still worth feeling good about. “
Teacher-Written Blogs vs Corporate Media
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, has a bone to pick with the corporate media.  For various reasons, which he delineates, he doesn’t believe they can fairly and accurately report on education issues.  Who does he think can do a better job?  Teacher-written blogs from people who are in the classroom now or in the past.  [Ed. note:  That describes me 100%!]  Singer believes the corporate media is too beholden to the bottom line.  “These are the reasons why teacher-written education blogs are superior to the competition.  They aren’t beholden to corporate money or influence,” he maintains.  “They have first-hand experience of the subject.  Journalists have a hard job and they deserve our respect. But they can’t compare to the expertise of practicing educators.  If editors included our voices more, perhaps the mainstream media wouldn’t be so skewed towards corporate interests.”
New LAUSD Board Majority
2 letters in Sunday’s L.A. Times reacted to the story in Friday’s paper about the new pro-charter majority on the LAUSD  board.  The first was encouraged by that situation, the second, a current district teacher, was disheartened.  “It’s outrageous that the pro-charter school board members,” the author of the second letter deplores, “would suddenly ask for unity and to turn away from the divisive politics of yesterday when they themselves have been so truculently divisive.”
Charter School “Scandal of the Day”
This one is beyond comprehension.  Lori Bergeron, a convicted felon (for arson, fraud and writing bad checks), was selected as the board president of Manatee School of Arts and Sciences, a small elementary charter in Bradenton, Florida, and now she’s headed back to prison for stealing over $27,500 from the school.  This is the kind of story you find in a fictional Hollywood movie but this one is pure fact.  One has to truly ask how this could happen.  These are the kinds of events that take place when certain types of schools lack accountability and transparency, which most charters seem to insist on.  The Bradenton Herald has all the shocking details about Ms. Bergeron.  “Bergeron is a convicted felon with multiple arrests in her history.  She spent close to four years in prison from 2003 to 2007 after pleading no contest to charges of grand theft and arson, according to the state department of corrections.  She was ordered to pay $100,171 restitution in the grand theft case. . . .  The school district provided a background check on Bergeron to previous school administrators, but she was allowed to serve on the board anyway.”  She sounds like the perfect person to head the board of a charter school.  I don’t know about you, but this kind of news make me sick to my stomach.  
More Money for LAUSD’s Neediest Students
The LAUSD board approved a settlement of a lawsuit that will send more funds to the district’s low-income students.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses the board’s action.  “Community Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, filed a complaint with the California Department of Education and sued the district in 2015 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union,” it explains, “alleging that the district was misspending up to $450 million meant for low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”
Roy Turrentine, a current teacher who frequently comments on Diane Ravitch’s blog, has a concise response to why standardized testing is so bad for kids.  Be sure to read the even briefer comment from SomeDam poet at the end of the piece titled “What Testing Destroys.”  “Why is it so impossible,” he asks plaintively, “to convince some of our leaders of the deleterious effects of testing?”
Segregation Returning to Southern Schools
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s, the schools in the South were the most segregated in the U.S.  For a time after these 2 events integration arrived in the South and their schools were no longer the most segregated in the country.  Now, it seems, all that is changing once again and it’s not for the better.  An interesting article on The BITTER SOUTHERNER website discusses the resegregation of southern classrooms and asks “Are These the Schools Southerners Want?”  “Within the current political and cultural climate, there looms a growing sense of separation, where private interests replace democratic interests,” it laments, “and the rich and powerful profit while the poor and underserved continue to struggle.  You might think we were living in the 1930s or 1940s.  This is, however, 2017, and the resegregation of public schools is increasing at an alarming rate.”  Diane Ravitch calls this “a soul-searching article.”
Few Foreign Language Classes Found in K-12
The number of foreign language classes in the U.S. in K-12 education can be summed up like this: few and far between.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK describes the state of foreign language instruction in this country.  It features surveys by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Councils for International Education.  Their reports found only about 1 in 5 students enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15.  What languages are those students learning? The top 3 were Spanish (69%), French (12%) and German (3%).  “Researchers say the shortcomings are most glaring in so-called critical-need languages, such as Arabic, that are considered crucial to national security, but are among the least commonly taught and also considered the most difficult to learn. . . .  Arabic is also the second-most spoken home language for English-language learners in the nation’s K-12 public schools,” it surprisingly notes, “trailing only Spanish, according to 2013-14 federal data.  That adds up to nearly 110,000 students in the nation’s classrooms who report Arabic as their home language.”  Links to the two papers are included in the ED WEEK article.
What’s It Like to be the Parent of a Special Needs Child?
Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it may not be possible to understand what it means to be the parent of a special needs child.  Teaches sometimes have a special needs student in their classroom but what is it like to be the parent of that child?  Melissa Tomlinson, writing on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website, offers some observations about her experience with her young son Jharid.  “Special needs parenting is highly emotional and highly complicated,” Tomlinson begins.  “We have to develop really thick skin.  At home, our kids are normal.  In the street, it sometimes surprises us how different our babies are.”
LAUSD Board Members Get HUGE Pay Increase
And finally, members of the LAUSD school board will be getting up to a 174% pay increase in 60 days.  A little-known city commission voted on Monday to give the 7 elected officials the pay increase.  Salaries for board members had not been raised since 2007 according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Board members who have no other outside employment will see their pay increase to $125,000 a year from $45,637.  Board members who receive any salary or honorarium elsewhere,” it reports, “will receive $50,000 a year, compared with the old figure of $26,437.  Under the city charter, Board of Education compensation is set every five years by the LAUSD Board of Education Compensation Review Committee.  The seven-member body is appointed by local officials outside the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Mayor Eric Garcetti has two appointees, as does City Council President Herb Wesson.”  Question: In light of this news, LAUSD teachers should be in line for a substantial increase also, yes/no?
Hope everyone is surviving our scorching temperatures!


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

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