Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ed News, Friday, May 19, 2017 Edition

 The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“When it comes to learning, there are no boundaries and restrictions literally; 
all you have to do is to start it where you are.” 

Charter Backers Win Both LAUSD Board Seats

Charter proponents Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez won their LAUSD school board races on Tuesday over incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer and Imelda Padilla, respectively.  The victories give charter school backers a 4-3 majority on the district’s governing body for the first time in history.  An article appeared early on Wednesday on the L.A. Times website with the results of the contentious battles.  Another story posted on the Times website early Wednesday morning reviews the results and what it means for the future of the LAUSD.  “The charter school movement has long been a major force in Los Angeles school circles.  But the victory Tuesday night by pro-charter forces — who dramatically outspent rivals in what was the most expensive election in school board history — gives them the opportunity to reshape the district.  The election marks a defeat for teacher union forces,” it reports, “who have long been a power center in L.A. school politics.  With their new majority, charter school backers can press their campaign to expand such schools across the city.  Charter forces have long been critical of how the LAUSD is run.  Now they will have to show they can steer the massive, often frustrating, bureaucracy better.”   Here are the unofficial final election results from  the L.A. City Clerk’s website.
 
****** LAUSD OFFICES *****
VOTES PERCENT
MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF ED, DIST NO. 4
NICK MELVOIN

30,696

57.41

STEVEN ZIMMER

22,766

42.58

MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF ED, DIST NO. 6
IMELDA PADILLA

12,331

48.52

KELLY FITZPATRICK-GONEZ

13,079

51.47

 
Now that the LAUSD school board elections are over the post-mortems are rolling in.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times had 4 separate items on the races and what they will possibly mean for the future of the nation’s second largest school district.  First, is a front-page story speculating about what the new pro-charter 4-3 majority on the board will portend for a district that already has the most number of charter campuses and students in charters of any in the country.  The headline in the print edition is “A Pro-Charter Majority at LAUSD; Now What?”  “A day after the election,” it reports, “the outcome was still sending tremors through the region’s education community.  Many skeptics wondered if, after years of suing the school district and rallying parents to protest at board meetings, charter school advocates and the candidates they backed are prepared to lead the nation’s second-largest school district.”  Second, an editorial comments on the shift in power on the board from the teachers union to charter proponents.  “The Times has consistently urged both pro-reform and pro-union board members to come out of their ideological silos, stop viewing the world in black-and-white, right-and-wrong terms, and instead to think independently, on behalf of students.  That challenge now rests especially with the board’s newest members,” it concludes, “who have an opportunity to reject labels that divide but do not serve the district.”  Third, 2 letters lamented the millions of dollars poured into the Melvoin campaign by mostly outside billionaires to defeat incumbent Pres. Steve Zimmer.  “If the $14 million spent to elect Nick Melvoin to the school board,”  the second one laments, “ had been put toward smaller classes higher salaries to attract creative, bright young teachers, and after-school programs, our children would be better off.”  Fourth, to get an idea of what the future might look like under the new pro-charter majority on the LAUSD board, two Times  reporters visited Daniel Webster Middle School near where the 10 and 405 freeways cross in West L.A.  The campus contains both a traditional public school and a charter, Magnolia Science Academy 4, and a second charter, Citizens of the World Charter Mar Vista, is slated to open on the grounds next year.  “A charter-majority school board would most likely put up less resistance to new charter schools and could make it easier for existing charters to have their five-year operating agreements renewed.  Charters also could get increased access to district-owned classrooms,” the item reports, “such as the ones at Webster and to school construction money controlled by L.A. Unified. . . . Because of a California law requiring school districts to rent empty classroom space to charters, traditional public schools and charters often are forced together.  That’s the case with Magnolia and Webster in the middle of L.A. Unified’s Board District 4, where charter supporter Nick Melvoin ousted union-backed incumbent Steve Zimmer on Tuesday night.”                  Occidental College professor Peter Dreier, writing on the HUFFINGTON POST, offers his analysis of Nick Melvoin’s victory over Steve Zimmer for the District 4 seat on the LAUSD school board.  Dreier believes the main reason Zimmer lost was the MILLIONS of DOLLARS spent by his opponent to defeat him.  Plain and simple.  “The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call ‘school reform.’  What they’re really after is not ‘reform’ (improving our schools for the sake of students) but ‘privatization’ (business control of public education).  They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget,” he spells out, “as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education. . . .  Now the billionaires and their charter school operators will have a majority on the school board.  LA will become the epicenter of a major experiment in expanding charter schools – with the school children as the guinea pigs.  Pundits will have a field day pontificating about the LAUSD election, but in the end it’s about how Big Money hijacked democracy in LA.”               The post-election examinations continue in today’s L.A. Times.  A front-page story looks at the stunning defeat absorbed by UTLA, the LAUSD teachers union, in the two school board races .  What lies in store for the union as charter-backers now hold a 4-3 majority on the board?  “The election losses amount to more than just the back and forth of politics, with one party on top now and another later, where ground lost today can be made up tomorrow, according to observers from various perspectives.  It is unclear whether the union can recover the territory,” the story speculates.  “One widely expected outcome is that charter schools will continue to grow in number and influence.  That could benefit students and families looking for alternatives to their local public schools.  But because most charter schools are not unionized, their growth threatens the teachers union — and possibly other local public-employee unions.”
 
School Privatization
Jennifer Berkshire reports on the evangelical and religious roots of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers who want to transform public education into a market-based industry with the promise of huge profits to be earned by their disciples.  Her commentary appears on the Jacobin website and is titled “The Privatization Prophets.”  “The ultimate aim of the project [the privatization of the public schools] of which DeVos is now the most visible face is to remove education from the public system.  Those ‘buildings’ of which she speaks so disdainfully, the disparaging ‘status quo’ never far behind, represent the entire architecture of public education, and more importantly, its democratic control.  Diminishing this is key to reaching the promised land of privatization.  Stodgy school boards are standing in the way of getting there; so are superintendents and parent teacher associations and teachers unions — above all, the teachers unions.”
 

Vouchers & Charters

Diane Ravitch’s blog features a new report from the AASA (the School Superintendents Association) and ITEP (the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy) that looks at the adverse consequences of the proposed federal voucher plan on traditional public schools.  Ravitch reprints the Press Release from the AASA regarding the study.  “The report . . . . describes how boosting resources for private schools while simultaneously providing tax breaks for wealthy taxpayers and corporations will greatly undermine public education.  The expanded voucher tax shelter proposal under consideration,” the statement notes, “would allow the federal government to reimburse wealthy taxpayers (with tax credits) in return for providing funding to private schools on the government’s behalf.  Further, the report says the legislation would ‘starve’ public education of critical funding at a time when available federal resources are already limited.”  You can find the full report (14 pages) titled “Public Loss Private Gain:  How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education” by clicking here.               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, sees very little difference between charters and vouchers.  Where they do diverge, in his belief, is with the political groups that seem to be coalescing around each and how they are funded.  He divides his column into “The Differences” and “The Similarities” between these two types of school “choice.”  “Not only is Trump’s voucher plan deeply unpopular, but the public has already begun to associate any kind of school privatization with a doomed President,” Singer suggests.  “So like cockroaches, neoliberals have begun to skitter to one type of privatization over another.  Fake Democrats hide beneath unfettered charter school expansion.  Bought-and-sold Republicans cling to the idea that we should spend taxpayer dollars on private and parochial schools.”  Read what he has to say and see what you think.               2 letters in today’s L.A. Times react to an editorial in Sunday’s paper about 3 bills in the California legislature that would check the growth of charters in the state (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  The first one is from the president and chief executive of Green Dot Public (Charter) Schools California.                 The former head of a now shuttered South L.A. charter school was arrested on charges of mismanagement and fraud for channeling over $200,000 from the school to a business she owned, according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Kendra Okonkwo, 51, was charged with misappropriation of public funds, grand theft by embezzlement, money laundering and keeping a false account, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.  Her son,” it reports, “29-year-old Jason Okonkwo, is accused of approving fake invoices to further the plot and faces the same charges, prosecutors said.  Kendra Okonkwo founded the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists near the Watts neighborhood in 2006, but the school quickly became a target of regulators and lost its charter in 2016.”                Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at CSU Sacramento, uses the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores to compare students in charters versus traditional public schools.  He lavishly illustrates his research with a number of bar graphs to bolster his point that charters are badly outperformed by the public schools.  He “scores” the results: “National Public Schools 23, Charters 4.”  His findings appear on his Cloaking Inequity blog.  “One would most likely suspect from the current positive public discourse about charter schools that they would display higher national and large city NAEP performance when compared to non-charter neighborhood schools, however,” he writes, “this is not actually the case when examining achievement data at the school level.  Out of the 28 total comparison tests run, only 4 times did charters produce higher composite score averages than non-charter neighborhood public schools— 8th grade reading and math in the years 2013 and 2015.  There was a tie in the large city comparison for 4th grade reading in the year 2013 as charter schools and non-charter neighborhood public schools displayed the same average composite scale scores.  In the other 23 cases charter schools produced lower average composite scores on the NAEP (math, reading, science) than non-charter neighborhood public schools.”               The debate of school vouchers rages on and will only intensify as the Trump administration unveils its plan for a federal program and attempts to get it through both houses of Congress.  Two segments of the “Morning Edition” program from NPR that aired last week explored “The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers.”  They zero in on the voucher program in Indiana, which began in 2011 and now has the country’s largest voucher program and which just so happened to be expanded by then Gov. Mike Pence.  It also reviews the pros and cons of vouchers.  You can listen to both segments (6:59 minutes, 7:56 minutes) and/or read an extended report on the issue by clicking here.  A third segment (4:53 minutes) of the NPR series on vouchers (see above) is narrated by Anya Kamenetz, an ALOED Book Club author, who explores the problematic issue of how voucher schools deal with students with special needs.  It’s titled “For Families With Special Needs, Vouchers Bring Choices, Not Guarantees.”  Kamenetz discovers a mixed bag when it comes to parents using vouchers for special needs children.  A few campuses accept them but many do not whereas the public schools are required by law to provide services to these students. 
 
California’s Exemplary ELL Programs
The guest author of this piece for the “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK believes the Golden State could set a good example for the rest of the country on how to teacher English Language Learners.  Vickie Ramos Harris is the Associate Director of Education Policy at Advancement Project California and she outlines a number of innovative programs being utilized or in the development stages for schools working with ELLs.  Harris believes they could serve as excellent models for other states with non-English speaking students.  “Because English Learners comprise 9% of the public school population in the United States, their education is an important issue for every school system in the country.  California’s leadership in this area is critical.  In fact,” she writes, “California is uniquely positioned to lead the nation on English Learner education as nearly a quarter (22%) of the state’s public school students are English Learners, and nearly 60% of children birth to age five live in a home where English is not their primary language.”
 
VAMs Questioned
The “Ed News” has often highlighted Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, who has researched and written extensively on the misuse of value-added models (VAMs) for evaluating teachers on her VAMboozled blog.  You can now add Cathy O’Neil to that list of skeptics.  She’s a mathematician and author of the book “Weapons of Math Destruction.”  Her piece for Bloomberg News is titled “Don”t Grade Teachers With A Bad Algorithm, The Value-Added Model Has Done More to Confuse and Oppress Than to Motivate.”  O’Neil actually mentions Amrein-Beardsley in her story and references a recent court ruling in Houston and a lawsuit in New York against the use of VAMs to evaluate teachers (both highlighted in earlier edition of the “Ed News”).  Under presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, “Many states went for VAM, sometimes with bonuses and firings attached to the results. Fundamental problems immediately arose,” O’Neil points out.  “Inconsistency was the most notable, statistically speaking: The same person teaching the same course in the same way to similar students could get wildly different scores from year to year.  Teachers sometimes received scores for classes they hadn’t taught, or lost their jobs due to mistakes in code.  Some cheated to raise their students’ test scores, creating false baselines that could lead to the firing of subsequent teachers (assuming they didn’t cheat, too).”
 
Trump and Education
There is no doubt that the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate is a big fan of school “choice” with policies that heavily favor charters and vouchers.  One way to dismantle the traditional public school system is through the budgeting process.  Starve the public schools of funding and then complain that they are “failing” so you can promote the charters and vouchers where you have lavished federal dollars.  Don’t believe that scenario?  Check out the specifics of Trump’s first federal budget plan which includes major cuts to essential public school programs and big boosts to favored charter and voucher plans.  Still not convinced?  A story in The Washington Post dissects the latest details of Trump’s first spending plan.  “Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan,” it details, “to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.  The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice.  It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.”  The rest of the article sets forth some of the other specifics of the draft proposed budget which has yet to be submitted to Congress.               Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post goes into greater detail about which education programs are being cut in Pres. Trump’s proposed budget (see above) and provides a rationale for their elimination.  “Mental health services.  Civics and arts programs.  International education and language studies.  Anti-bullying activities.  Gifted and talented initiatives.  Full-service community schools.  These are some of the K-12 education programs,” she leads off, “that President Trump is proposing be eliminated in his first full budget, as explained in a story [in The Washington Post].”  Just more proof, if any was needed, that this administration could care less about assisting the traditional public school system in this country.  
 
Betsy DeVos
A number of pundits and reporters were focused on Pres. Trump’s first 100 days in office.  Wednesday happened to be Betsy DeVos’ 100th day as the U.S. Sec. of Education.  So, how has she done so far?  A team of journalists from THE HECHINGER REPORT sat down for a conversation on that topic and what might we expect from the head of the Dept. of Education in the future.  They discuss some of the best and worst days of her tenure thus far.  
 
The Teaching Profession
As a History major at Occidental College (class of ’71) and a secondary Social Studies teacher (History, Government, Economics, Geography) with the LAUSD for 37 years (retired in 2009) this next story has got to hurt.  It’s titled “Why So Many Students Hate History–and What To Do About It” and it appears on Valerie Strauss’  blog for The Washington Post.  She leads off with the precipitous decline in History majors over the past decade and concludes with an excerpt from a brand new book titled “Rebooting Social Studies: Strategies for Reimagining History Classes” by Greg Milo, who taught high school Social Studies for 13 years.  “As Social Studies teachers,” he writes, “we want students to get involved in their community and their education.  We want the experience to be real and valuable for them. We want them to take the skills they learn in our classes to their next class, or even better, to college and their future career.”  At least he has an upbeat feeling for the future of Social Studies.                Most teachers find student cellphones in their classrooms to be a nuisance and a major distraction.  However, Curtis White, who has been teaching high school math, science, Bible, and computers for over 10 years at Abundant Life Christian School in Madison, Wisconsin, puts those “hand-held computers” most students are carrying around to good use in his classroom.  He discusses some techniques for utilizing those devices to expedite student learning in an article for EDUCATION WEEK.  “As teachers, we want to use every tool available to create an environment that helps students leverage the many learning techniques technology has to offer.  We don’t need to use cellphones all the time in class; they won’t always help students learn effectively,” White maintains.  “But we also shouldn’t be afraid of them.  This is what it means to be an educator: to develop the best techniques to help the most students grow the deepest understanding they can of the world around them.”
 
Deadliest School Attack in U.S. History
Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the deadliest school attack in American History.  [Ed. note: I was a teacher and an historian and I must admit I’d never run across this event until now.]  Interestingly, it was not a shooting but two deadly bombings at the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Township, Michigan, a little northeast of Lansing, that killed 45 people including 38 children and the bomber, Andrew Kehoe, a disgruntled school board member.  A brief but fascinating item appears on the “Rules for Engagement” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes links to several interviews with some survivors of the tragedy.  You can view a picture of the historical marker erected to commemorate the event by clicking here.
 
Seat Belts on School Buses
The PBS NEWSHOUR series “Making the Grade” tackles the question “Should Seat Belts on School Buses Be Required?”  Every day, millions of parents put their children on buses for the trip to school,” it begins.  “Statistically, buses remain the safest way to make that trip. But fatal accidents do happen.  Just yesterday [Monday], an 11-year-old boy died in East Texas when the bus he was riding on collided with another vehicle and rolled over.”  Are safety issues outweighed by the costs?  You can view the program (7:22 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read a full transcript by clicking here.
 
Learning to Collaborate
And finally, children, apparently, need to learn how to work collaboratively according to some new research featured in EDUCATION WEEK.  It reports on several new studies on what collaborative skills consist of and how they need to be taught to children.  “. . . . researchers and educators are working to understand how to help students gain the skills needed to learn and work in groups. . . .  The ability to collaborate with others,” the article suggests, “has become one of the most sought-after skills in both education and the workplace.”
 
                                                     Enjoy this warm (hot?) weekend.
 
                                                                                                                                              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, May 16, 2017 Edition

 The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“As long as high schools strive to list the number of Ivy League schools 
their graduates attend and teachers pile on work without being trained 
to identify stress-related symptoms, I fear for our children’s health. 
I am not mollified by the alums of my daughter’s school who return to tell everyone 
that the rigor of high school prepared them for college, making their first year easier than they’d anticipated.  If they make it that far.”
LAUSD School Board Races
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items regarding the 2 critical LAUSD school board races.  They mostly focused on the inordinate amount of donations, most of it from outside sources, that have flooded the campaigns making them some the most expensive school board contests ever.  By the time you read this edition the polls have already be closed (8 pm) for today’s election.  An article in Saturday’s L.A. Times zeroes in on the contentious issues that have split the candidates into two warring camps.  The headline in the print edition of the paper pretty much sums it up: “L.A. School Board Races are a War of Ideologies.”  The sub headline reads: “Charter Backers and Unions Have Waged Brutal Campaign for Two Seats, With Control of the Panel at Stake.”  “The nastiness leading up to the May 16 runoff election has been generated by independent campaigns set up on behalf of the candidates because of the election’s importance.  Charter school partisans and unions had spent about $13 million combined through Friday,” the story points out.  “The candidates themselves had spent another $1.5 million.  If the charter-backed candidates prevail, charter advocates will win their first governing majority on the seven-member body.  If the election goes entirely the other way, unions will strengthen their influence on a board that leans pro-labor.  In that scenario, the board would be more likely to limit the growth of charters in the nation’s second-largest school system, which has more charters and more charter students than any other school district.”  Those are extremely significant outcomes which certainly explains the gobs of campaign cash being donated and spent.               In urging a “yes” vote for LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer, the redqueeninla describes the nastiness and negativity of the campaign between Zimmer and challenger Nick Melvoin for the District 4 board seat, which has become the most expensive school board race in history.  “Mostly, the fourth board district school board race has been one of incessant negativity and lies,” she laments.  “Why do we permit this uncivilized behavior?  I can tell you in walking my neighborhood I am met with deep weariness, wariness and hostility.  This is the legacy of democracy abused.  This race has been nothing if not about Big Lies and electoral abuse, and that’s a lesson being bought – and paid for – dearly.”               Peter Dreier,  professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, has an analysis of the outside billionaires who are fueling the campaign to defeat LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer in Tuesday’s election (see 2 items above).  Dreier’s commentary appears courtesy of the HUFFPOST.  “Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system but Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way,” Dreier maintains,  “So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him.  No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on ‘The Sopranos.’  He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.  The so-called ‘Independent’ campaign for Melvoin — funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires — has included astonishingly ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer. . . .  As a result, the race for the District 4 seat — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — is ground zero in the battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of next Tuesday’s (May 16) election has national implications in terms of the billionaires’ battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold.”   Dreier discusses Zimmer’s background and his accomplishments since joining the LAUSD board in 2009, and provides a list of those out-of-town billionaires who are bankrolling his opponent and why they are doing it.               Having a little trouble wrapping your head around the LARGE sums of money flowing into the Zimmer/Melvoin LAUSD school board race?  The redqueeninla has created a couple of graphics to illustrate the situation, money wise, as of Friday.  She titles her contribution “Count The Money! (Think of the Kids).”                An LAUSD parent responds to a letter she received  from Eli Broad [Ed. note: I also live in District 4 and got the same letter.] urging her to vote for Zimmer’s opponent Nick Melvoin for school board.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints the letter from Tracy Bartley.  Here’s one of the points she makes in her “Dear Eli” note:  “– I struggle with the ‘Nick is a teacher’ bit I’m afraid.  I don’t feel 2 years a teacher makes.  My mom was a teacher.  I should say IS – because I think it is a calling rather than a profession 95% of the time.  Steve Zimmer IS a teacher,” she argues.  “I’ve witnessed his past students interacting with him at events.  I’ve seen how he greets students at our community schools.  It is very much who he is.  I don’t get that from Mr. Melvoin.”                 Today’s L.A. Times provides a final preview of the 2 critical LAUSD school board races in the form of a Q & A.  It discusses the personalities involved, the issues in the races and the implications for the future of the LAUSD.  “A barrage of campaign mailers, online videos and TV ads signals that Tuesday’s Los Angeles school board elections matter to people.  If they win the two runoff races,” the introduction to the piece lays out, “candidates funded by charter school advocates would claim their first-ever majority of seats on the seven-member board of the nation’s second-largest school system.  This possibility has fueled record spending, more of it by pro-charter groups, but a lot by unions as well.  Unions, especially the teachers union, want to limit the influence of charter backers on a board that leans pro-union.”
 
The Teaching Profession 
As the 2016-17 school year rapidly draws to a close, educators around the country will be reflecting on what they’ve accomplished and how they can improve for the next year.  Justin Minkel, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher in Arkansas and that state’s 2007 Teacher of the Year, offers 5 questions to ask yourself as the year ends.  His commentary appears in EDUCATION WEEK.  Here’s one from his list: 3. What have you done well? Teachers tend to be hard on ourselves.  Don’t gloss over your strengths and successes, large or small.”                Is this another nail in the coffin of teacher disrespect and contempt for the profession?  Just another way to deprofessionalize the job teachers do?  You decide. Valerie Strauss reports on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post that Arizona will now hire teachers with “absolutely no training in how to teach.”  You’ll have to read her column to believe what Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law.  “The Arizona law is part of a disturbing trend nationwide to allow teachers without certification or even any teacher preparation,” Strauss laments, “to be hired and put immediately to work in the classroom in large part to help close persistent teacher shortages. It plays into a misconception that anyone can teach if they know a particular subject and that it is not really necessary to first learn about curriculum, classroom management and instruction.”  Oklahoma and Utah have recently passed similar laws.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles about the teacher shortage plaguing the nation but this is NOT a viable solution.  Thanks to ALOED member Don Hagen for sharing his concern about this situation and sending Strauss’ column along.               Most educators would agree that they are underpaid based on the importance of what they do and the difficult working conditions many of them face.  Would you believe that teacher salaries in Miami-Dade County are lower today, adjusted for inflation, than they were 10 years ago?  Why”  Part of the reason is that Miami-Dade transitioned from a traditional step salary schedule to one based on performance which has translated into lower pay for many veteran teachers.  The author of the Kafkateach website is a current high school Social Studies teacher in Florida and does some research on teacher pay in her/his state over the past decade.    Check out the salary schedules the blogger provides and ask yourself why the district implemented this system.  Where is the money going that should be budgeted for teacher salaries?               Low salaries and reducing or eliminating the training new teachers receive is NOT a long-term solution to the current teacher shortage (see 2 items above).  Teacher residency programs may offer a much better alternative according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  Unfortunately, there aren’t that many programs in existence right now and they don’t turn out enough teachers to make a major dent in the shortages facing school districts today. “Only about 50 programs nationwide use comprehensive teacher residencies,” the piece explains, “in which universities partner with local school districts to provide long-term student-teaching in exchange for teachers agreeing to work in the district for a period of time.  Each of those residencies only produces from five to 100 new teachers a year—not enough to fill gaps in teacher pools nationwide.”  The article goes into detail about how the residencies work and profiles a couple of specific ones including the San Francisco Teacher Residency.
 
Charters & School “Choice”
THE CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY, a left leaning, nonprofit advocacy organization, has a report out this month that finds charter schools are particularly vulnerable to fraud and abuse.  That is, in fact, part of the title: “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse–Federal Charter School Spending, Insufficient Authorizer Oversight, and Poor State & Local Oversight Leads to Growing Fraud Problems in Charter Schools.”  “This report offers further evidence that the money we know has been misused is just the tip of the iceberg.  With the new alleged and confirmed cases reported here,” the Executive Summary states, “the financial impact of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools has reached over $223 million since our first report [in 2014].  Public funding for charter schools (including local, state, and federal expenditures) has reached over $40 billion annually.  Yet despite this tremendous ongoing investment of public dollars in charter schools, all levels of government have failed to implement systems to proactively monitor charter schools for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.”   Check out p. 4-5 of the report which chronicles some examples of charter waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in California.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, looks at some of the recent articles and reports about school “choice” and asks “What is the Purpose of School Choice?”  He references several items that you’ve seen highlighted in the “Ed News.”  “Another week, another round of evidence that providing parents with more ‘school choice,’ especially the kind that lets them opt out of public schools,” he begins, “is not a very effective vehicle for ensuring students improve academically or that taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely.”               A lengthy editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times reviews 3 bills before the state legislature that would reform certain charter school practices.  The “Ed News” has highlighted those proposals in several previous editions.  The paper favors 2 of them.  One  that would promote more oversight and accountability and a second that would ensure charter enrollment is open to every student.  The Times editorial board was against SB 808 which would only allow local school districts to approve charters within their boundaries, thus taking away that authority from county boards or the State Board of Education.  These 3 bills are “merely a start.  What’s missing is comprehensive legislation to make sure that charter schools operate fairly and fulfill their promise of superior public education,” the editorial concludes, “with proper oversight that itself needs to be regulated so that it is both effective and just.  It’s been a quarter of a century since the Legislature passed the bill that gave charter schools their start in California.  Back then, few could have foreseen the complications that would arise.  But arise they did, and Sacramento has been allowing them to fester for too long.”     The California State Board of Education chose not to vote on the renewal of a charter for the Oxford Preparatory Academy in Chino.  That action means the campus will have to close its doors on June 30th of this year.  The Inland Valley (San Bernadino) Daily Bulletin newspaper described why the Board acted the way it did and what it means for the students, faculty and staff of the school.  “Board members grappled over the fate of the high-performing school,” it reports, “that might be fatally encumbered with unknown debts accrued by its ousted founder, who is under investigation by district attorneys in two counties for alleged fraud.”                What happens when a charter campus unravels and descends into turmoil?  An extensive investigative piece in the Palm Beach Post describes just such a situation that took place at the Eagle Arts Academy in Palm Beach County.  It’s not a pretty picture.  Everything looked and sounded rosy when the arts themed school opened in 2014.  “But when school started in August [of last year], many classrooms had no textbooks.  The principal resigned abruptly in the first week.  The second principal was gone a few weeks later.  The third one left two weeks after that.  Soon,” the article describes, “teachers were being fired or leaving in droves.  Mothers complained that their children were not being enrolled in art classes.  And then a fed-up parent put together an online petition to remove the school’s director, who responded by calling police.”  The situation at the school spiraled down from there as the story relates.
 
Betsy DeVos
Besides charters, vouchers and school “choice,” what other kinds of teaching and workforce issues has Betsy DeVos favored?  What are her positions, as best they can be ascertained at this time, regarding teacher pay, tenure, collective bargaining and teacher evaluations?  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK provides some answers to that question and a possible guide to what to expect in the future.  “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is best known as a school choice cheerleader.  But she’s had plenty to say,” it notes, “over the years about the importance of paying the best teachers more—and getting rid of teachers who aren’t effective.  And organizations that she’s helped fund and found in Michigan have been players in efforts to make it easier to fire teachers, and whittling down benefits that public sector workers, including teachers, receive.”               Nancy Bailey thinks its high time for Betsy DeVos to resign.  Bailey was a long-time special ed teacher and has a Ph.D. in education leadership from Florida State University.  She blogs on her NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION WEBSITE.  What sparked Bailey’s call was the reception DeVos received when she spoke last week at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach , Florida (see Friday’s “Ed News”).  Students booed her commencement address and protesters paraded with anti-DeVos signs outside the event.  “At Bethune-Cookman a great historically black university,” Bailey writes, “students who have worked hard, who gained acceptance to their university, arrive at their graduation as success stories. They’ve managed to do all the right things, pass all the tests.  And who shows up to speak to them?  Betsy DeVos, a woman who hypes their university as a ‘choice’ school because she is all about that.”                  Since she became Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos has visited charter, private, military, parochial and one or two  public schools.  On Monday she met with representatives of the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a brief item from Politico Morning Education. “DeVos has previously expressed support for homeschooling,” it mentions, “and the group backed her during her Senate confirmation process.”                Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, suggests “This Is the New Betsy DeVos Speech Everyone Should Read.”  It was delivered last week in Salt Lake City at an annual tech and innovation conference sponsored by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley.  Strauss quotes a couple of points DeVos made specifically about education and parses what they mean and adds the full text of DeVos’ talk at the end of her column.  “The audience, a friendly one of entrepreneurs, probably expected [DeVos] to talk exclusively about educational technology.  What she talked mostly about, though, is what she always talks about — school choice — and she renewed previous attacks she has made on the value of government and public schools.  If anybody thought that having the responsibility of running the entire Education Department would broaden her scope,” Strauss warns, “this speech should disabuse them of that.”
 
Testing and Opt-Out
Groups are more and more taking to social media to spread the word against high stakes standardized tests.  They are creating short, to-the-point videos describing the abuses of the exams and hoping they will go viral.  The NPE (Network for Public Education) is one such organization and Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog explains how they go about creating their films and disseminate them widely.  “It is not easy to create a video that spreads like wildfire across social media,” Cody suggests.  “The message must be clear, the voice authentic, the speaker eloquent.  Viewers have to not only watch it, but be motivated to share.  For these reasons, creating a successful video of this sort is like catching lightning in a jar.  The Network for Public Education has a project underway that hopes to do just that.”
 
New School Evaluations Under ESSA
The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by Pres. Obama in Dec., 2015, takes the place of the unpopular No Child Left Behind.  One of the things it does is require states to develop new systems for evaluating schools besides simply using standardized test scores.  The Dept. of Education set a spring, 2017, preliminary deadline for states to submit their plans for peer review and approval.  The District of Columbia and 16 states (not including California) met the deadline.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, invites Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (aka FairTest), to review and comment on these first submissions as they relate to testing and accountability.  Neill singles out Maryland as a state that appears to be on the right track.  Their plan isn’t ideal in his opinion but it’s a good start. “Seventeen plans have been referred by the Department of Education for peer review and approval; two others are partially submitted.  Most states,” he relates, “will not submit their ESSA plans until September.  That means assessment reform activists still have time to influence them.  Even completed plans can be overhauled in the future.  The challenge for testing reformers across the nation is how to follow Maryland’s lead in mobilizing the grassroots and building the powerful coalitions needed to win meaningful assessment and accountability reforms.”
 
Technology and Education
For a couple of dominant technology companies, Google, Microsoft and Apple, the link between tech and education is a marriage made in heaven.  The New York Times has run several lengthy investigative stories about how those giants have offered their products and services to a growing number of classrooms and in return they have made some impressive profits and a lot of customers for life.  The series is titled “Education Disrupted, A series examining how Silicon Valley is gaining influence in public schools.”  The latest story profiles how Google has become involved extensively in the ed business and how it effects their bottom line now and in the future. It uses a 6th grade classroom in Chicago as a case study.  “Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest school district in the United States, with about 381,000 students, is at the forefront of a profound shift in American education: the Googlification of the classroom.  In the space of just five years,” the article discovers, “Google has helped upend the sales methods companies use to place their products in classrooms.  It has enlisted teachers and administrators to promote Google’s products to other schools.  It has directly reached out to educators to test its products — effectively bypassing senior district officials.  And it has outmaneuvered Apple and Microsoft with a powerful combination of low-cost laptops, called Chromebooks, and free classroom apps.”  At the end of this story you’ll find links to previous items in the series.
Trump and Education
More fake news and alternative facts, this time from the president himself?  Pres. Trump recently touted a a 98% (!) graduation rate from the voucher schools in Washington, D.C. That certainly turned heads and raised some questions.  The program itself claimed an 82% rate which would still be pretty dramatic.  Diane Ravitch’s blog invited William Mathis of the National Education Policy Center to analyze those figures.  His findings are titled “Pres. Trump’s Phantom 98% Voucher Graduation Rate.”  “While Trump argues for billions in new tax breaks for voucher schemes, there is no evidence that they are an effective reform strategy.  To the contrary, the segregative effects could be quite harmful. Large-scale voucher studies in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio also show negative numbers.  So in light of these facts,” Mathis summarizes his findings, “what did the federal government do?  They prohibited further studies of the program and called for greater federal support of voucher programs.”
 
Student Privacy
You may or may not be aware of the kinds of personal data schools collect on individual students and the ways that information is distributed to governments, vendors, for-profit companies and other entities, mostly without parental consent.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, discusses that critical issue along with the 2 co-founders of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, which has put together a “Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy.”  “The personal data collected from children,” they divulge, “may include students’ names, email addresses, grades, test scores, disability status and health records, suspension and discipline data, country of birth, family background, and more.  Other digital data collected may include internet search history, videos watched, survey questions, lunch items purchased, heart rate and other biometric information measured during gym class, and even classroom behavior, such as being off-task or speaking out of turn.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Is the corporate “reform” movement beginning to fizzle out?  “Will Corporate Reformers Ever Admit They Were Wrong?” is the question asked by John Thompson on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  He believes the movement is splitting into 2 warring camps.  “It’s sure fun to watch corporate school reformers forming a circular firing squad,” Thompson chortles.  “For a generation, conservative and neoliberal reformers sang from the same hymnal, even as they privately suppressed their many internal disagreements.  Now, accountability-driven, charter-driven neoliberal micromanagers are openly attacking their former allies who were primarily devoted to a market-driven agenda.”
 
Brown v. Board of Education
And finally, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education celebrates its 63rd anniversary tomorrow.  The case ordered the desegregation of the nation’s public schools.  Richard Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and author of several books, writes on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post, about the history of the decision and whether it’s been successful over these 6+ decades.  “In 1954, a few hours after Brown was announced, Thurgood Marshall, leader of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, told reporters that it would take, at most, five years for schools to desegregate nationwide,” Rothstein explains.  “He didn’t anticipate the massive resistance of Southern states to the decision, yet that’s no longer the most important factor impeding integration.  Rather, schools remain segregated mostly because their neighborhoods are segregated.  Had civil rights lawyers been able to attack neighborhood rather than school segregation, they would have accomplished more for educational equality than by focusing on schools directly.”
 
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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, May 12, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“You’re never going to learn something as profoundly
as when it’s purely out of curiosity.”

LAUSD Reinforces Protections for Undocumented Families 

The LAUSD board on Tuesday approved some additional policies to offer protections for undocumented families.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reviews the school board’s actions.  “Among the safeguards in the sweeping set of guidelines: No immigration officers will be allowed on campus without clearance from the superintendent of schools,” it points out, “who will consult with district lawyers. Until that happens, they won’t be let in, even if they arrive with a legally valid subpoena.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes apart a recent speech delivered by Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos that was highly critical of traditional public education.  DeVos’ solution for the problems she identifies as plaguing public schools–more school “choice,” of course.  We’ve heard all this before.  Greene titles his essay “DeVos: Boldly Trampling Pubic Education.”  “It may be worth it to hold your nose and read the whole speech, because it is shaping up to be a good capsule of the DeVos manifesto for education.  It’s an ugly, anti-democracy, ill-informed, anti-public education song,” he complains, “but I’m afraid we’ll be listening to it for a while.”               On Wednesday, Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, an historically black school in Florida.  Her reception was less than cordial.  Graduates attempted to drown out her speech with boos, despite being threatened by the president of the school.  A number of students and a few faculty members turned their backs as she was speaking.  A group of protesters held signs outside the ceremony decrying DeVos’s appearance on the campus in Daytona Beach.  An item from the HUFFPOST provides additional details of this latest expression of disdain for the Sec. of Ed.  “DeVos’ speech ignited immediate controversy when it was announced earlier this month, and students criticized the school for selecting her,” it reports, “after she downplayed the role of racism in the creation of historically black colleges and universities.  Protesters on Tuesday delivered petitions to the school’s leaders, calling on them to cancel DeVos’ speech due to her ignorance of HBCUs and lack of support for student loan borrowers.  Organizers said they had collected 50,000 signatures.”               Betsy DeVos was invited back in February to address the annual convention of the Education Writers Association taking place between May 31 and June 2.  The EWA got no response despite renewing the offer several times. Late last month a representative of the Dept. of Education called to decline the invitation due to conflicts with DeVos’s schedule.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for THE WASHINGTON POST has a brief story on the situation.   “DeVos has not made herself easily available — or available at all — to reporters who are covering her,” Strauss complains, “and the Education Department does not always respond to questions posed by education journalists.  Now she is declining an opportunity to address the journalists who cover her.  Some would call that a missed opportunity.”  Strauss reprints a statement from the EWA and a tweet from Joy Resmovits, education reporter for the L.A. Times, both expressing their disappointment that DeVos couldn’t see fit to address the gathering.  SAD!
 
The Teaching Profession
How would you rate the professional development at your school?  Thumbs up or thumbs down?  Linda Yaron, a National-Board certified teacher in Los Angeles, applies the 5 journalistic Ws. who, what, when, where and why, to the presenting of “quality professional development.”  Her lesson appears on the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to both create and participate in PD that has fundamentally changed my teaching practice and made me a better teacher. I’ve also experienced PD that had little or even negative impact,” she relates,  “These drastically different experiences have left me thinking more deeply about how we can create meaningful and purposeful opportunities for educators to enhance their classroom practice.”  Yaron offers a list of things “quality PD isn’t” and then applies the 5 Ws to some guiding principles for excellent PD.                The Schools of Opportunity program singles out exemplary schools based on various characteristics.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post has been featuring some of the gold and silver winners of the 2015-16 year.  Guest bloggers have named the schools and described why they were selected.  Kevin Welner, co-founder of the Schools of Opportunity program and Linda Molner Kelly, co-director of the project, describe two silver winners who treat teachers like professionals, a rather rare occurrence these days.  The 2 campuses?  Urbana High School in Urbana, Illinois and Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland.  This is the twelfth in a series of columns Strauss has presented on the award winners.  “Teachers are the backbone of any school, but it is not unusual to hear them lament the lack of support and opportunities they receive,” Welner and Kelley write, “as they shoulder the responsibility for student success.  This is because we rarely treat teachers like other professionals who, as an integral part of their work, receive regular opportunities to participate in specialized learning to enhance their repertoires as they stay on top of the newest developments in their fields.”               National Teacher Appreciation Week wraps up today.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, thinks it’s a good idea to “appreciate” teachers but it should last all year–not just during one week.  He’s not real enthusiastic about how attitudes towards educators are playing out these days.  You could probably tell that from the title of his commentary: “Teacher Appreciation Week is a Pathetic Joke!”  “If we really appreciated teachers, we’d hire more of them.  We wouldn’t demand they do more with less.  When we were deciding school policy at any level – federal, state or local – we’d include them in the process – in fact, they’d be the deciding factor!. . . .  If we really appreciated teachers,” he suggests, “we’d respect them as professionals, and we’d pay them accordingly.  We’d respect their rights to a positive working environment both for themselves and for our own children.”                As National Teacher Appreciation Week ends today (see above), veteran teachers in New Orleans who were in the system both before and after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city are feeling a bit unappreciated .  After the storm, the Queen City became a guinea pig for the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies who transformed the district into a nearly 100% charter experiment.   How are teachers feeling about all this?  Andrea Gabor’s blog explores this intriguing topic through data from a newly released poll by the Educational Research Alliance (ERA) at Tulane University.  “In New Orleans, with a teacher cadre plagued by high turnover and sparse classroom experience,” she derives from the study’s findings, “veteran teachers should be treasured.  That so many say they have less job satisfaction than during the pre-Katrina years, suggests that they are not, which is surely a failing with implications far beyond just teacher morale.  Gabor includes a link to the full survey (7 pages) titled “Teachers’ Perspectives on Learning and Work Environments Under the New Orleans School Reforms.”               George Skelton’s “Capitol Journal” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses a bill in the California Assembly that would extend the time before teachers in the state would be granted tenure to 3 or as many as 5 years.  Skelton also profiles the author of the legislation, Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), whose father moved the family when she was 3 from a Jim Crow Arkansas to Los Angeles in 1951 in order to avoid being lynched.  “Weber is pushing a bill, AB 1220, that would extend a new teacher’s probationary period from two years to at least three and possibly up to five.  Currently,” Skelton points out, “a school must decide whether to grant permanent status — tenure — or cut the teacher loose after two years.  Weber’s bill would allow the school three years for teacher evaluation.  It could extend probation another year or two, but would have to provide the teacher professional help, such as a mentor.”  Thanks to ALOED member Don Hagen for sending this along.               Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled blog, references a judge’s ruling against value-added models (VAMs) in a Houston case (see the May 5th “Ed News).  She also testified against the use of VAMs in a Nevada case and lists “The Top 10 Research-based Reasons Why Large-Scale, Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers.”  Her scholarly list makes some excellent points.
 
Classroom App for Mindfulness Training
THE HECHINGER REPORT describes a new app for classroom and home use that can aid teachers and parents in demonstrating mindfulness training for their students or children.  The article focuses on one first-grade teacher in Delaware and how she uses the app, ClassDojo, and how it functions.  “The ClassDojo app helps teachers reinforce their own in-person lessons, and track a child’s classroom behavior,” it explains.  “Colorful cartoon characters act out scenes that children watch – at home, in school or a combination of the two. The app also helps teachers communicate with parents, using it to send text messages, pictures and videos of what’s happening during the day. The app is used by millions of teachers in the United States, thus allowing the wide distribution of lessons like the mindfulness project.”
 
LAUSD Board Delays Vote on Unified Enrollment System
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a proposal before the LAUSD board to create a Unified Enrollment System (UES),  a one-stop, simplified enrollment form for students and their families that put charter schools on an equal footing with the traditional public schools in the district.  At their regular board meeting on Tuesday, an approval vote on the first part of the new system was delayed when it appeared Supt. Michelle King didn’t have enough votes to pass the measure.  An article in today’s L.A. Times details the board’s action or lack thereof.  “The apparent problem was that Supt. Michelle King didn’t have a solid majority on the Board of Education,” it points out, “to approve the purchase of the necessary technology.  As a result, officials quietly removed a vote on the $24-million budget item from the agenda of the Tuesday board meeting at the last minute.”
The Opt-Out Movement
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a measure this week that would have made it easier for parents in the state to opt their children out of standardized tests.  Diane Ravitch’s blog points out a rather blatant case of hypocrisy in the action.  The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, in this case Gov. Deal, constantly use of the refrain school “choice” when they push charters and vouchers and other policies.  However, when it comes to a parent’s choice to opt his or her child out of standardized exams, choice is not part of the mix. Ravitch reprints an article from POLTICOPRO (it requires a rather hefty subscription) describing Deal’s response to the legislation.  “House Bill 425 included provisions discouraging disciplinary action against those students who do not participate in federal, state or locally mandated standardized assessments,” it describes.  “Additionally, it would have allowed students to complete the exams using paper and pencil, instead of a computer.”  The item includes some quotes from Gov. Deal explaining his reasons for rejecting the bill.
 
Fidget Spinners
Remember the item in the May 2nd edition of the “Ed News” about Fidget Spinners?  No?  Remember what a Fidget Spinner is?  No again?  No worries!  The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK answers the second question and presents a new one: “Do Fidget Spinners Belong in the Classroom?  Teachers are Divided.”  “Fidgets spinners are supposed to help students sit still and focus.  But many teachers are saying it’s having the exact opposite effect,” the item notes.  “Meant to help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety, or other conditions relieve tension and focus better, fidget spinners have become a popular toy among children.  But some teachers say they have been causing classroom disruptions, prompting bans and confiscations.   For teachers who haven’t seen the recent spinner craze hit their classrooms yet, fidget spinners are small handheld toys that Forbes is calling a ‘cure for nervous or bored energy.’  The small toy spins in your hand as you twirl the blades.”  The ED WEEK story explains how some schools and districts are banning the devices while, at the same time, some teachers are using them to enhance their lessons.
 
LAUSD School Board Races
By now it’s no surprise that millions of dollars have been poured into the 2 LAUSD school board races.  Most of it from billionaire donors from outside of the district.  The L.A. municipal general election is Tuesday.  Incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer is being challenged by charter proponent Nick Melvoin in District 4, which  runs from the Westside to the  west San Fernando Valley.  Imelda Padilla is facing pro-charter advocate Kelly Gonez for the District 6 seat, which covers the east San Fernando Valley and is being vacated by Monica Ratliff.  For 2 seemingly inconsequential school board seats, we are not talking chump change here.  The outcome of the elections could have serious ramifications for the future direction of the LAUSD.  If both Melvoin and Gonez win, charter supporters would have a 4-3 edge on the board for the first time in history and thus the huge campaign contributions.  A investigative piece in today’s L.A. Times has the names, numbers and  huge dollar amounts involved.  “If the Los Angeles school board elections were a movie,” it reveals, “then the nominee for best supporting actor might go to an individual who so far has received little attention: Reed Hastings.  Based on documents reviewed by The Times, the co-founder of Netflix has contributed close to $5 million since last September to California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, a major conduit of funds for school board candidates backed by charter school supporters. His most recent contribution was $1 million on Tuesday.”  Check out the other names and amounts involved on both sides in these highly contentious races.  Surprised?
 
Do Parents See Math as ‘Less Useful” Than Reading?
That’s the headline of an article in EDUCATION WEEK that features some new research from a poll by the Overdeck and Simmons foundations.  The survey found parents ranking math lower in importance than reading.  “A survey last month of more than 2,500 parents,” the story reports, “found that they generally rank math and science as lower in importance and relevance to their children’s lives than reading.  Moreover, 38 percent of parents, including half the fathers surveyed, agreed with the statement ‘Skills in math are mostly useful for those that have careers related to math, so average Americans do not have much need for math skills,’ according to the survey.”
 
Charter Schools
The California State Board of Education voted to close 2 of 6 L.A. charter campuses run by the troubled Celerity Education Group, according to a front-page story in today’s L.A. Times.  The “Ed News” has highlighted several items in the past about problems plaguing the nonprofit charter management organization, which is under a federal investigation as well one from the LAUSD inspector general’s office,.  “Some parents and teachers at the schools cried through their testimony at an emotional hearing,” it reports, “which ended with the board declining to renew the charter petitions for the Celerity Dyad Charter School in South Los Angeles and the Celerity Troika Charter School in Eagle Rock.  Explaining their vote, board members said they had lost confidence in the Celerity Educational Group, the organization that manages the schools, and expressed growing concerns about its governance structure and finances, as well as the potential for conflicts of interest.
 
Getting Rid of a Poor Superintendent
And finally, want to get rid of a poorly performing or inadequate school superintendent?  Why not offer the person a sizable severance package and be rid of them?  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK looks at some recent cases and wonders if taxpayers are getting fleeced by some outsized payouts by school boards in a hurry to rid themselves, for various reasons, of their superintendent.  “Eye-popping parachute packages are not uncommon in the corporate world,” it suggests, “where CEOs and top executives snag multimillion-dollar payouts as they walk out the door.  But school districts—where officials are charged with being responsible stewards of public money and in charge of managing resources within very constrained budgets—have also been giving out hefty severance packages to superintendents for them to go away early.”
 

                                      .                                                                      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, May 9, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Today is National Teacher Day,
Part of Teacher Appreciation Week.
                 Inline image 1
“Look within yourself and ask yourself honestly what you want to be. 
Throw away the idea that school is the only way to get educated. Anything can educate you.
Understand this and look through all the possibilities.”

Massive School Closures in Puerto Rico

If you think public education is threatened in the U.S., wait until you see what’s taking place in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.  Facing an enormous debt crisis the Caribbean commonwealth recently declared bankruptcy and, as a result of that action, the closing of 184 public schools.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times has the devastating details and what they mean for students, teachers and staff.  “Roughly 27,000 students — mostly from kindergarten through fourth grade — and 2,700 teachers will be affected by the closures,” it distressingly reports, “which are set to take place before next school year. . . .  The financial trouble has deepened as many people have left for the U.S. mainland in search of better jobs.  Consequently, the population of school children has been in steep decline, making the education system an inviting target for cuts.  Between 2010 and 2015, Puerto Rico closed 150 schools, according to the Associated Press.  This new round will be the largest in Puerto Rico’s history.”
 
Is A Unified Enrollment System in the Cards for the LAUSD?
The LAUSD board has been looking into creating a Unified Enrollment System at an estimated cost of $24 million.  What is a UES, you ask?  Briefly, it’s a one-stop, simplified enrollment system for students and their families that put charter schools on an equal footing with the traditional public schools in the district.  What’s wrong with that?  The cost, number one; the fact that the idea is being pushed by the charter industry, number 2; and, number 3, several district insiders who are helping to develop the plan have links to charter proponents.  The entire process of bringing the enrollment system to fruition has been questioned, particularly since the LAUSD is still recovering from its “iPad-for-all” fiasco and the troubled roll-out of its My Integrated Student Information System (MiSiS). That’s not much of a track record for new technology initiatives.  Local parent activist Karen Wolfe, on her PSconnect blog, has been investigating the UES scheme.  She wrote 3 posts on the topic at the end of April. The first looks at the research into similar systems in New Orleans and Denver.  The second, uncovers the process of secret meetings with board members and slick presentations made to them and other district officials. Her third effort looks at some of the district personnel involved in creating the program and their relationships to the Walton and Broad foundations.  Taken together, it all smells a little fishy. “In this [third] post, as promised, we’ll introduce the privatizers who have infiltrated the school district to advance the interests of the charter lobby.  Conspiracy theory? Hardly.  This just looks like the new business model,” she worries.  “Since the iPad scandal, privatizers have had to find new ways to move their agenda.  The scandal made direct corporate lobbying behind the scenes too risky.  But there’s no need, if you have managed to plant your sales force inside the school system itself.  The District personnel pitching the Unified Enrollment scheme are not just any LAUSD employees.  They are Broad and Walton acolytes, trained and placed in the school system to move the corporate reform agenda forward from the inside.”  Wolfe’s third article contains links to the first 2.               Peter Greene picked up on Wolfe’s investigations into the LAUSD’s development of a Unified Enrollment System (see above) and wrote about them for his CURMUDGUCATIONblog.  “What Unified Enrollment does is generate a database of potential students,” he explains, “all the easier for a charter’s computer to sort and sift.  It is a great tool to have if you believe that ‘school choice’ really means ‘school’s choice.’  Proponents keep claiming UE is the great mixing bowl, when it fact it works as more of a giant sorting hat.”
 
Battle Over School Budget Caps in California
It’s a (very) complicated issue but one that has important ramifications for school spending.  Some school districts in California were hoping to save money in a reserve fund for when times were tight.  However, in 2014, Gov. Brown, with the support of the California Teachers Association, pushed through a provision that placed a cap on the amount that districts could keep in that reserve fund.  That may all be changing under new legislation introduced in the California Senate and Assembly according to the “Political Road Map” column in Sunday’s L.A. Times which attempts to sort the issue out for you.
  
Charter Schools & Choice
How does the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) maintain its considerable clout?  There’s no question it is a powerful force regarding education policy in the Golden State.  According to a detailed item from EdSource, the CCSA is able to distribute LOTS of campaign donations and energize a lot of people power, when necessary, in order to get what it wants.  “Buttressed by its roughly $18 million in political spending in 2015 and 2016 by its political action arms, the California Charter Schools Association is a rising political force in California,” it points out, “that’s challenging the teachers unions’ prowess in shaping local and state education law, at least when it comes to anything affecting the future of charter school growth.  The group has flexed its strength with campaign cash, legislative hustle and a sophisticated ground game to score major wins for charter schools.”               Adam Bessie has written and Erik Thurman has illustrated an eye-opening graphic essay on the impact of school “choice” and how it has affected students with disabilities in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  They particularly single out Betsy DeVos for her role.  Their commentary is titled “Betsy DeVos’ ‘School Choice’ Movement Isn’t Social Justice.  It’s a Return to Segregation” and it appears on the FUSION website.  Check it out for its unique medium that you don’t see too often in the “Ed News” as it tells the story of Antoine who has a learning disability.  “I recommend that you see it,” Diane Ravitch urges.  “It illustrates the adage that a picture is worth 1,000 words.”
 
Low Income High School Senior Accepted at Some Top Colleges
Steve Lopez’s Sunday column in the L.A. Times tells the inspiring story of Noe Martinon, a senior at the Santee Education Complex (LAUSD) south of downtown L.A., whose parents came from Mexico, but who was accepted at an impressive number of prestigious colleges and universities.  Martinon completed a number of AP classes at his school and scored a perfect 5 on his AP Spanish test. Out of 163,000 students who took the challenging exam worldwide, he was one of only 108 to get a perfect score.  “Between February and the end of March, Noe’s mailbag was filled with acceptance letters and offers of grants —paying up to 90% of his education — from elite schools big and small.  Connecticut College wanted him,” Lopez writes, “as did Williams, Hamilton, Whitman, Grinnell, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and on and on.  Of the 20 schools he applied to, 17 accepted him.  He got into two Ivy League schools, Cornell and Dartmouth, and the latter flew him to the campus two weeks ago for a visit that was Noe’s first trip to the East Coast.”  Read the column for more information about a remarkable young man and find out which school he has decided to attend.  
 
LAUSD School Board Elections
The battle for 2 seats on the LAUSD board is heating up between charter opponents and their supporters.  The May 16th General Municipal Election is down to the wire.  It’s an off-year exclusively local vote with no marquee races for president, governor or mayor and thus turnout is expected to be (very) low.  Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed board Pres. Steve Zimmer, in his race against Nick Melvoin, and Imelda Padilla as she faces off against Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez.  Melvoin and Fitzpatrick-Gonez are supported by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, in this case former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan who donated $1 million to their campaigns.  Should the charter backers win both seats they would hold  a 4-3 edge on the board and a majority for the first time in history.   TheUTLA website has the details of the Sanders endorsement.               Not surprisingly, since they took the same stance in the March primary, an editorial in today’s L.A. Times endorses LAUSD school board charter proponents Nick Melvoin in District 4 which covers the Westside and west San Fernando Valley and Kelly Gonez in District 6 covering the east San Fernando Valley (see above).               According to a fascinating exposé on the HEDGE CLIPPERS website, over $4 million has been channeled via the CCSA (California Charter Schools Association) and its various iterations into the LAUSD school board races of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez (see both items above).  It provides lists and names names of the millionaires and billionaires, many from out of the city and state, who are supporting those pro-charter candidates.  “Since the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United we’ve seen an explosion in hidden money (so-called ‘dark money’) pouring into political races,” it maintains, “fueled by corporate self-interest, a desire for the super wealthy to lower their taxes and/or to privatize the functions of government.  These races have typically been big races for the control of the House, Senate, Governor’s mansion or the presidency.  In Los Angeles, we’re now watching a flood of billionaire dollars into two district school board races. . . .  What we do know, from available reporting on contributions to independent expenditure committees and contributions made directly to the campaigns of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, is that the network of super wealthy donors from outside of Los Angeles who have been pouring money into these two school board races includes many donors with ties to Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.”
Why is California Administering An Outdated Science Test?
California is trying out the new Next Generation Science Standards but because of a quirk in a federal law the Obama administration would not grant a waiver from the old standardized assessment until the new one is ready.  Accordingly, students in the Golden State are taking two different science tests, one that is not aligned to the standards they are learning and one that is.  An article in Sunday’s L.A. Times tries to make sense of this situation.  “State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson asked the Obama administration to let California out of this double-testing requirement, arguing that it wastes students’ time and the state’s money.  The administration said no, more than once,” it reports.  “That’s because the new test’s scores won’t be counted at first and the federal government wouldn’t accept years without valid science test scores.  Now the state is making the request again, to the new administration.”
 
Current Research on Student Absenteeism
The “Inside School Research” column for EDUCATION WEEK features 3 recent studies on student absenteeism “For improving achievement, boosting student attendance seems like the lowest of the the low-hanging fruit: If you can’t get the kids to school, nothing else you do matters.  But new research on chronic absenteeism,” it begins, “reveals surprising details that can make a difference in whether students make it to class.”  One study found that having students ride a school bus to their classes actually cut down on the number of absences as opposed to coming to school with their parents, walking, biking or using public transportation.  That information might be used by districts to justify not cutting back on school transportation budgets.
 
How is Australia Faring With its National Standardized Assessments?
Are there any lessons to be learned from Australia’s plunge into national standardized tests which were introduced in 2008 in response to what was taking place in the U.S. under No Child Left Behind?  The Aussie system is called NAPLAN (National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy).  Phil Cullen, on his The Treehorn Express blog looks at the steady decline in test scores in Australia over the near decade since NAPLAN was implemented.  He titles this piece “NAPLAN Maintaining Mediocrity.” “At this time of the year NAPLAN preparation dominates the schooling landscape.  The wholesome, holistic curriculum is shelved,  time-tables are adjusted, homework is test-based and unexciting, parents panic and each child’s mental compass gets screwed.  It’s not the kind of education system,” he complains, “that we once envisaged for the 21st Century.  Schooling in Australia has lost its way.”  Sound at all familiar?  
 
California Moves One Step Closer to Eliminating Its High School Exit Exam
With the passage of AB 830 by the Assembly last week, California moves another step closer to eliminating its high school exit exam as a graduation requirement.  If the bill passes the state Senate it will proceed to Gov. Brown’s desk for his approval.  A short article in the “High School & Beyond” column for EDUCATION WEEK provides the latest details.  “Known as CAHSEE, the test has been the target of increasing criticism in recent years,” it mentions, “as the state moved toward a system of judging schools and students that puts less emphasis on a single test. . . . If approved, AB 830 will make permanent a change the legislature already enshrined in law in 2015.  By approving Senate Bill 172, lawmakers dropped the CAHSEE as a graduation requirement for the high school classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018.  They directed school districts to award diplomas to any student who graduated after 2004 and fulfilled all requirements except passing the CAHSEE.  The law also set up an advisory committee to make recommendations about the future of CAHSEE, or a replacement exit exam.”  That panel recommended in September that the state drop the exit exams completely.  
A Positive Vision for Public Education
Are there progressive schools and educators who have a positive image of what our traditional public schools should look like?  Check out this TED talk by Dr. Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island in New York for some concrete ideas on the subject.  Instead of pouring millions of dollars into charters, vouchers and school “choice” why aren’t we directing our scarce resources into programs like he suggest?.  His talk (18:39 minutes) appears on YouTube and was delivered in March of this year.  It’s titled “Why PEAS Are the Keys to a Successful Education.”  Watch the program and he will explain what the PEAS are.               Why do we continue to group students in classrooms by age?  Does every child learn at the same rate so that they should be grouped together solely by age?  An interesting article from THE HECHINGER REPORT is titled “Multiage Classrooms Put Child Development at the Center” and it discusses that strategy using a high school in Massachusetts as a case study.  “Multiage education is not a return to the one-room schoolhouse of yore,” it explains, “in which students of all ages learned different subjects in one space.  Instead, students from (typically) two grades learn together in an environment that, advocates say, encourages cooperation and mentoring while allowing struggling students enough time to master material.”  The story goes into extensive detail about how multiage classrooms work and why they are a good approach to 21st century education.
 
The Teaching Profession
Is Wisconsin the first state to “declare war on teachers” by allowing unlicensed and unqualified people into its classrooms as a solution to the problem of teacher shortages?  The Bust-Ed pencils website takes a peek into the possible dystopian future of the teaching profession.  Be sure to read the comment posted at the bottom of this piece from Lloyd Lofthouse from CSU, Fresno.  
 
Teacher Appreciation Week
And finally, EDUCATION WEEK appropriately has a feature on Teacher Appreciation Week.  The “Teaching Now” column leads off with some sad statistics from a recent Gallup K-12 poll that reveals“Only 29 percent of K-12 teachers strongly agree that they have received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days, according to a Gallup blog post that analyzes research done in 2013.  This is especially troubling considering the benefits of feeling valued: When teachers receive regular recognition and praise, they are more likely to be productive and engaged, according to Gallup research. Consistent recognition,” it continues, “can promote teacher retention and also result in higher satisfaction reported by parents and students.” The article proceeds to list some groups and organizations that are making an effort to appreciate the hard work teachers are doing.
                                      .                                                                      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, May 5, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Teaching is the best way to learn. Never stop learning.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Charter Schools
Former Sacramento mayor and one-time NBA player Kevin Johnson is the founder of a chain of 4 charter schools in the Golden State’s capital.  The teachers are attempting to unionize at those campuses according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.   “Teachers at a network of Sacramento charter schools founded by former Mayor Kevin Johnson are trying to unionize,” it begins, “citing growing discontent over the schools’ management and high staff turnover.  The four schools, which are operated by St. Hope Public Schools, are a desirable target for a union for political and strategic reasons.  Although Johnson no longer oversees them, his wife, Michelle Rhee, is the chairwoman of the organization’s governing board.  As the former schools chancellor in Washington, D.C., Rhee was one of the most public faces of a campaign to change how public schools are run and a favorite target of teachers unions.”               There is no question that the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate is a strong proponent of charters, “choice” and vouchers.  So how do thoseDemocrats who support similar policies distinguish themselves from the GOP?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK calls this “The Democrats’ Dilemma on Charter Schools” and he explains how they are attempting to wiggle out of the delicate position they are in and how they got there in the first place.  He references a recent column in The New York Times about charters and choice that Jennifer Berkshire briefly reviews in her HAVE YOU HEARD column (see the “Poverty and Education” headline below).  “It’s important to understand the source of the school choice schism in the Democratic party goes back 25 years, Jeffrey Henig explains in Education Week,” Bryant writes, “when proponents of school choice came up with two different ways to achieve their goals: school vouchers and charter schools.  While conservatives favored vouchers, which were a creation of free-market economist Milton Friedman, political centrists and some left-leaning people became infatuated with charters because they were birthed by ‘business-oriented moderates and technocrats’ who became the predominant force in the Democratic party during Bill Clinton’s presidential administration.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, has a little sympathy for how Betsy DeVos is perceived but only up to a point.  Despite that, have no fear that he’s gone over to the dark side.  He believes that some of her more controversial comments have been misunderstood but that shouldn’t take away from her overall agenda which is pretty clearly destructive of the public school system.  “As I said– any shred of sympathy I might have felt for DeVos is pretty much shredded when she starts talking.  Is she occasionally criticized unfairly?  Yes, I think she is.  But is she misunderstood, with her policy goals unfairly maligned and misrepresented?  I think not.  We have a person in charge of our nation’s public education system,” he concludes, “who does not value that system and would happily preside over its destruction, a dismantling she has worked for her entire adult life and never disavowed.  DeVos may feel that we just aren’t seeing and hearing her properly, or she may just be experiencing some frustration because her attempts to control the narrative are being thrown off by, you know, facts and accurate perceptions and people not being dopes.  We do see and hear her, and I think we see and hear her pretty clearly and accurately, and she is pretty clearly an enemy of pubic education.”
 
Opt-Out
New York State continues to be a hotbed for the opt-out movement and Long Island could be considered the epicenter.  Latest figures from Long Island Newsday indicate that up to 50% of students at Long Island schools opted out of this year’s standardized math exams which concluded this week.  Statewide, the numbers could approach 20% as they have been for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the original article requires a paid subscription, but Diane Ravitch’s blog thankfully provides a copy of it.   “This is the fifth consecutive year of boycotts of the Common Core tests.  On Long Island,” it reports, “the number of refusals mushroomed to about half of all eligible students both last year and in 2015, according to Newsday surveys of the 124 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties at the time.  On Tuesday, figures from the 100 responding districts showed 32,239 students in Nassau and 47,541 in Suffolk opted out of the exams.  Newsday’s survey showed a broad range: In the Plainedge district, for example, 79 percent of students refused to take the test, while in Hempstead, less than 7 percent opted out.”               James D. Kirylo, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina and a parent of a 3rd and 5th grader was “intimidated” by local police after he informed their school  that his two children would opt-out of the standardized tests.  An overzealous administrator forced the 5th grader to take the test so Kirylo stated in a phone conversation with the administrator his intention to come to school to discuss the situation.  “When I arrived at the school, I saw two police patrol cars in front.  They were there for me,” he acknowledges.  “Two uniformed police officers hovered around the office area, evidently thinking that I was a threat simply because I openly expressed my displeasure at the school.”   His harrowing tale is reprinted in Mercedes Schneider’s “EduBlog” at deutsch29.   There’s every reason to believe his story.  I did not MAKE IT UP.   
 
Teacher Appreciation Week
This year, May 8-12 is designated as National “Teacher Appreciation Week” and Tuesday, May 9, is “National Teacher Day.” TheNational PTA website contains some information and materials for the two events which you can access here.  “Since 1984, National PTA has designated one week in May,”  it explains, “as a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating our children.  PTA events at the national, state and local levels celebrate the outstanding contributions teachers make.  We are also proud to recognize teachers and administrators with awards and grants.  National PTA also serves on the selection committees for the National Teacher of the Year Program.”  This year’s theme is “Teachers Deliver.”
 
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Here are some similar materials and ideas regarding National Teacher Appreciation Week from the California State PTA.
 
Latest Graduation Rates Confirmed
When the latest graduation rates for the 2014-15 school year were announced last October, they were greeted with some amount of skepticism.  Some critics felt they were inaccurate or inflated.  A new report, released Wednesday, featured in the “High School & Beyond ” column for EDUCATION WEEK, finds the numbers to be both correct and encouraging.  “A unique feature of this year’s report is its attempt to address doubts about the validity of the country’s high graduation rate,” it points out.  “Even though states are now required to use the same method to calculate graduation rates—the ‘adjusted cohort graduation rate,’ which tracks the percentage of 9th graders who earn diplomas four years later—states have wiggle room that can affect their calculations.”  The article addresses some of the questions raised about the graduation rate and includes a link to the full study (82 pages) titled “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates.” 
 
Trump and Education
Speaking of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” Pres. Trump and Vice Pres. Pence were lauding the federal voucher program in Washington, D.C., despite a new report that found it ineffective and seriously flawed.  The event took place Wednesday at the White House during National Charter Schools Week.  Students from both public and private schools in the capital, along with family members were there to meet the Veep and Sec. Betsy DeVos when the president dropped in and made his comments.  Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post mentions the gathering and the president’s oversight regarding the report about the voucher program in the District.  “[Trump] took the opportunity to slam D.C. public schools while talking up the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally funded school voucher program in the country. . . .  The study,” she writes, “released by the Education Department’s research division, found that students in the program performed worse on standardized tests within a year after entering D.C. private schools than peers who did not participate.”  Strauss includes quotes from the remarks delivered by Trump and Pence and a short segment from the report.     The Trump administration in word and deed has promised a crackdown on undocumented people in this country.  That impacts both students and teachers who don’t have legal status.  The PBS Newshour series “Making the Grade” examines the issue.  Their correspondent visits Los Angeles and speaks with several undocumented students and teachers about what they are currently experiencing and their fears for the future.  The piece includes a short written introduction to the video (7:35 minutes) which was originally broadcast on April 25.  
 
Questions Raised Concerning Current Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item that raised some serious questions about copycat behavior by some elementary and middle school students after watching the provocative Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” about a teenage girl’s suicide that also contained other issues regarding cutting and self-harm.  The PBS Newshour program “Making the Grade” explores the program and the impact it is having on students with the head of psychological services for the Montgomery County (Maryland) schools and a TV critic for “Variety.”  You can watch the segment (12:24 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read a full transcript by clicking here.  The piece is titled “13 Reasons Why is Provocative and Devastating.  Is it Also Dangerous?”  “’13 Reasons Why’ tells the fictional story of Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old high school student,” the PBS correspondent describes, “who takes her own life. Hannah leaves behind 13 cassette tapes, where she narrates the events leading up to her suicide.”
 
School “Choice”
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, in this case the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate, like to tout school “choice” as the panacea for everything that ails K-12 education today.  They never mention under funding and the poor support the public schools receive.  Carol Burris, writing on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post, discusses “Three Big Problems With School ‘Choice’ That Supporters Don’t Like to Talk About.”  Burris draws a nuanced distinction between public and privatized school choice and identifies “3 consequences for taxpayers” when the latter programs are implemented.  Here’s one of her examples: “1. Privatized school choice will inevitably reduce funding for your local neighborhood public schools.”                The New York City schools have hada school “choice” program for 14 years.  So, how is it working out?  You can probably tell from a story in The New York Times, titled “The Broken Promises of Choice in New York City Schools,” what the answer to that question is.  “Under a system created during Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, eighth graders can apply anywhere in the city,” it points out, “in theory unshackling them from failing, segregated neighborhood schools. Students select up to 12 schools and get matched to one by a special algorithm.  This process was part of a package of Bloomberg-era reforms intended to improve education in the city and diminish entrenched inequities. . . .  But school choice has not delivered on a central promise: to give every student a real chance to attend a good school.”  The extensive article is lavishly illustrated with pictures, graphs and maps.
 
What Health Care Repeal Means for Education  😓
House Republicans were able to pass the Obamacare repeal and replace bill yesterday by a vote of 217-213.  (No Democrats voted in favor and 20 Republicans cast ballots against).
The legislation now goes to the Senate.  If the bill is eventually signed into law what could it mean for education?  It’s not well know but the effect will be significant for certain segments of the population.  An article in The New York Times, published the day before the vote speculates on the impact on one particularly vulnerable group–special education.  “With all the sweeping changes the Republican bill would impose, little attention has been paid to its potential impact on education.  School districts rely on Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor,” it carefully points out, “to provide costly services to millions of students with disabilities across the country.  For nearly 30 years, Medicaid has helped school systems cover costs for special education services and equipment, from physical therapists to feeding tubes.  The money is also used to provide preventive care, such as vision and hearing screenings, for other Medicaid-eligible children. . . .  The new law would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a ‘per-capita cap’ on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly — a dramatic change that would convert Medicaid from an entitlement designed to cover any costs incurred to a more limited program.”   [Ed. note:  I wonder how the Republicans will justify this?   REALLY SAD!]
The Teaching Profession
When was the last time you applied for a teaching position?  The author of this item, Tom Rademacher, is the 2015 Minnesota State Teacher of the Year and he just lost his job.  He describes the ideal conditions for his next position in the form of a personal ad.  His commentary appears on the “Teacher-Leader Voices” column for EDUCATION WEEK.   Here’s one of the things he’d like his next school to have:“Maintain a commitment to social justice and racial equity.”  He explains what that means.  Check out what else he includes on his list.  Know anybody who’s hiring?               What is the effect of those corporate “reforms” like charters and school “choice” on an urban traditional public school?  Ryan Heisinger, a high school English teacher in Newark, New Jersey, provides a disheartening view of the burden of those changes.  He’s taught at both a charter and at public schools so far during his 4-year career.  His insightful observations appear on Jennifer Berkshire’s HAVE YOU HEARD blog and are titled “Chaos by Design.”  “These concerns are relatively new, the products of an alarming trend in urban education,” he perceptively writes, “through which public school systems have become increasingly unstable as charter schools continue to take up a greater share of students in cities.”                A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has issued a ruling tossing out the teacher evaluation system in the Houston Independent School District because of its over reliance on a highly suspect value-added model (VAM).  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, a fierce and authoritative critic of VAMs, titles her commentary “A Big Victory in Court in Houston.”  It appears on her scholarly VAMboozled blog,  She includes several quotes from Judge Stephen Wm. Smith’s decision and also reprints a Press Release from the AFT commenting on the case and its significance.
 
New York Principal Accused of “Communist Organizing.  Is this the 1950s?
A combined middle and high school in Brooklyn has been rocked by allegations that the principal was engaged in “Communist organizing?”  If you are wondering if this story is a leftover April Fools joke, you are forgiven.  Jill Bloomberg became the head of Park Slope Collegiate, a grade 6-12 secondary school, in 2014.  She learned of the action against her in early March of this year.  A story inThe New York Times reads like a throwback to the McCarthy period during the early Cold War era, only it’s NOT.  It smacks of that time in our history when Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) was making wild charges against thousands of people in the government who, he claimed, were communists or communist sympathizers.  Many reputations and careers were ruined before he was finally censured by the Senate.  This story has many of the elements of that bygone time–unnamed accusers, an activist charged with “Communist Organizing” although the charges against Bloomberg have not been officially made public, investigations, lawsuits, injunctions, denials of a “witchhunt” taking place and finger pointing all around.  “Over the years, Ms. Bloomberg has become one of the most outspoken and visible critics of New York City’s public schools, regularly castigating the Education Department’s leadership at forums and in the news media.  Most of her criticism,” the article suggests, “is aimed at actions that she says perpetuate a segregated and unequal educational system and that penalize black and Latino students.  Through the years, she has helped organize protests and assemblies to push for integration and equal resources and treatment for her almost entirely black and Latino student body.”  Check out a note of support for Ms. Bloomberg from the PARK LANE COLLEGIATE website by clicking here.
 
Inline image 1
Jill Bloomberg, principal of Park Slope Collegiate
 
Poverty and Education
Why do some people think education is the key to ending poverty?  Because that way you can take the focus off other factors they’d rather not address. You’ve probably heard that stress on education as the answer before but Jennifer Berkshire, on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog, interviews historian Harvey Kantor who believes that idea is dangerously overstated.  Their Q & A is titled “Education Can’t Fix Poverty.  So Why Keep Insisting that it Can?”  “In response to a question about why so much emphasis is put on education to end poverty, Kantor responds: “If we really want to address issues of inequality and economic insecurity, there are a lot of other policies that we have to pursue besides or at least in addition to education policies, and that part of the debate has been totally lost.  Raising the minimum wage, or providing a guaranteed income,” he continues, “which the last time we talked seriously about that was in the late 1960’s, increasing workers’ bargaining power, making tax policies more progressive—things like that are going to be much more effective at addressing inequality and economic security than education policies.”  Diane Ravitch describes this as a “fascinating discussion.”
 
LAUSD to Ignore New Trump Administration School Nutrition Standards
The USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) under the Trump Administration has loosened some Obama-era regulations regarding school nutrition.  They have to do with the amounts of sodium allowed, the use of whole grains and what type of milk can be served.  The “Q & A” feature in today’s L.A. Times looks at how these new guidelines will effect the LAUSD and other districts in L.A. county.  Here’s one example from the piece: Where does L.A. Unified stand on nutrition standards?    L.A. Unified has been a national leader in improving nutritional standards.  But it has encountered some of the same problems that other school systems are complaining about, which include persuading students to eat healthier meals.”
 
Educating Immigrant Students
Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post, offers the tenth in a series of articles featuring the winners of the 2015-16 Schools of Opportunity contest.  Guest writer Kevin Welner, one of the co-founders of the Schools of Opportunity project and  director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, profiles 3 schools that are doing an exemplary job of educating immigrant students.  One is in Ossining, New York,  a second is in St. Paul, Minnesota and the third is Oakland International High School in Oakland, California.  “Oakland International High School (OIHS) is the first high school in Oakland designed to meet the needs of newly arrived immigrants. It’s a small public high school created in 2007,” Welner writes, “and all of the students at OIHS are English Language Learners who have immigrated to the United States within the last four years.  Every student’s culture and first language is valued at OIHS, as demonstrated by the school’s tradition of holding what are called Community Walks.  Each October, groups of students lead teachers through their communities, introducing them to the places, the agencies, and the people in their lives outside of school.”
 
The “Ed News” Reaches a Milestone
And finally, sometime on Wednesday, the “Ed News” surpassed 2,500 page views.  If that were achieved in a couple of months or a year it might be something to really crow about but, in fact, it took 5 years.  I am nowhere near the level of a Diane Ravitch who collected over 30 million page views in almost the same amount of time.  However, we both support the same things: a strong and vibrant public school system, teachers, unions, ending the misuse of standardized testing,  exposing vouchers, charters and school “choice” for what they are, etc..  Her clout is far and away bigger than mine will ever be.  As long as you, the readers, continue to follow the “Ed News,” in whatever numbers, I, the editor, will continue to produce it.  THANKS FOR READING!
                                      .                                                                      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, May 2, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The only way to educate oneself is by making books a life companion.”
 
Celerity Charter Could Lose Accreditation
Celerity Education Group currently manages 7 campuses in the LAUSD.  The charter network has been under an internal inquiry by the district’s inspector general for misuse of public funds and a federal investigation into fiscal irregularities and possible mismanagement.  Now comes word that they could lose their accreditation.  WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a major accrediting agency, recently informed the organization of that possibility according to a story in Saturdays L.A. Times.  “In its letter to Celerity,”  it reports, “WASC criticized the network for not alerting the association to the federal raid and investigation in a ‘timely’ manner.  The association’s policies require schools to report any “’substantive changes’ within 30 days.  It also questioned the organization’s ethics and its commitment to fully disclosing information about its operations.  Included in WASC’s letter was a list of requests for detailed information about Celerity’s finances and [founder Velka] McFarlane’s involvement in the charter school network.  It called on Celerity to have an independent audit done to determine if the organization is financially stable and following state and federal laws.”
 
SBAC Lines Up New Management
The SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), one of the two major groups that designed Common Core-aligned materials and assessments, has found new management.  UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies announced it was not renewing its 3-year contract with SBAC that will conclude on June 30 of this year.  The new home for SBAC?  UC Santa Cruz’s Silicon Valley Extension.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a statement from POLITICOPRO (it requires a paid subscription) about the change.   “Smarter Balanced is a public agency that developed a Common Core-aligned test used in 15 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and by the Bureau of Indian Education.”the item explains.  “It, along with PARCC, was one of two testing consortia started with the help of federal funds.  Both have lost support from some states in recent years amid political discourse over the Common Core standards and standardized testing.”  [Ed. note: California is part of the SBAC.]               EDUCATION WEEK has a story in its “High School & Beyond” column about the change in management at SBAC (see above) AND PARCC, the other consortium.  You can access it by clicking here.  It’s more concentrated on the PARCC switch.
 
A Peek Behind the Curtains About Those AP Exams
How much do you know about those highly touted AP exams?  David Krisofferson, former teacher and current math and science tutor for high school students, looks at what those passing scores (3, 4, 5) on the AP tests really indicate, comments on an issue in regards to cheating on the exams and some other concerns .  He titles the essay on his EduIssues website “It’s AP Ex(scam) Time Again!” 
 
Betsy DeVos
Jennifer Berkshire, FKA the “EduShyster,” now blogs at the HAVE YOU HEARD website.  She managed to shadow the visit by Betsy DeVos and AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to the tiny public school district in rural Van Wert, Ohio (see the April 21st and 25th editions of the “Ed News”).  Berkshire reports on what the three of them experienced as they travelled to several stops in the district.  “The divide between Weingarten vs. DeVos is about more than just unions or vouchers, school funding or learning options,” she writes.  “It’s about whether the state should protect us from the excesses of the free market.  DeVos’ answer to this is an emphatic ‘not.’  It’s why her Education Department moved so quickly to roll back protections for student loan borrowers.  And it’s why she holds up as a model a Florida voucher program that strips parents, or ‘buyers,’ of the rights and protections that the public system guarantees.”               Was Betsy DeVos chosen to head the U.S. Department of Education in order to demonstrate that it is no longer needed?  That’s the interesting hypothesis posited by Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  The Republicans have been trying to do away with the DoE ever since it was created by Pres. Carter in 1979.  This may be their best chance.  Singer believes the agency plays an important role and needs to be fixed.  “It’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem.  It’s what we’ve done to it.  The department has a vital and important role to play,” he suggests, “in making sure our system of public education serves everyone.  Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.”  Singer goes into detail about each of those key functions and concludes with a very sound argument for retaining and improving the DoE.                Pres. Trump reached his first 100 days in office on Saturday.  Comedian Andy Borowitz couldn’t pass up the opportunity to poke fun at Betsy DeVosas the benchmark passed.  His satirical column appears regularly in THE NEW YORKER.  His posts are always very short and can be read in under a minute.  Take the time.  It should make you at least chuckle.  He headlines this one “BETSY DEVOS SAYS MEDIA SHOULDN’T EMPHASIZE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS BECAUSE ‘IT’S SO HARD TO COUNT TO A HUNDRED.’”  Go ahead, read it.  If it doesn’t make you laugh, I’ll refund your subscription to the “Ed News.”                 DeVos was scheduled to visit the CHIME Institute’s Schwarzenegger Community (charter) School in Woodland Hills yesterday.  It was suddenly cancelled.  Diane Ravitch’s blogspeculates on some reasons why and reprints the very brief press release from the Dept. of Ed. announcing an “unforeseen scheduling conflict.”                The “Education Watch” feature in today’s L.A. Times talks about the planned “now it’s on–now it’s off” visit by Betsy DeVos yesterday to a special needs charter in the San Fernando Valley (see above).  “Parents’ reactions were complicated, as has often been the case as DeVos makes herself known to America’s schools.  On her first visit to a public school in Washington, D.C.,” it notes, “protesters all but chased her off the premises — though she eventually made her way into the campus.  Meanwhile, embarrassing video of her reception made the rounds on the Internet. . . .  Four parents interviewed by The Times said they assumed the visit was called off out of fear of protests — though protesters are more or less a constant for DeVos.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog has a follow-up to her item (see above) about DeVos cancelling her visit to the school in Woodland Hills citing an “unforeseen scheduling conflict.”  Ravitch perused the DoE’s schedule for DeVos yesterday and discovered she was in Los Angeles meeting with some VIPs at 12:15 and 2:30.  Apparently, they were more important to the Secretary than some special needs kids!
 
Charter Schools and Vouchers
The April 25th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted 3 bills in the California legislature that would promote more transparency,accountability for the state’s charters and open access to them for the all students.  The CTA (California Teachers Association) has assembled a wide-ranging group of legislators, parents, community activists and educators to support the legislation.  The group’s press release reviews each of the bills and explains why they are needed.  You can read that statement from the CTA website by clicking here.  “Research by In The Public Interest,” it notes, “shows Californians overwhelmingly favor proposals to reform charter schools—proposals that include strengthening charter school accountability and transparency, improving teacher training and qualifications, preventing fraud, returning money to taxpayers when charter schools close, and ensuring that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.”  The Press Release includes links to the full text of each of the bills.               More questions about the veracity of the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the top high schools in the nation.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted Gary Rubinstein’s discovery of some shady numbers for the  KIPP Academy Charter School in New York City which was ranked #29 in the nation and #4 in New York by U.S. News.  In a follow-up blog on his Gary Rubinstein’s blog he believes the campus DOESN’T EVEN EXIST!!!  “Based on what I’ve found, and it is pretty confusing actually, I believe I’ve uncovered a pretty big scandal,” he alleges.  Check out his latest investigation (it includes a link to his previous effort in case you missed it or see Friday’s “Ed News”).  “Read Gary’s analysis,” Diane Ravitch urges.  “One thing is clear: the U.S. News & World Report ranking of high schools is phony.  A fraud.  Meaningless. They rank high schools to sell magazines.  They don’t fact-check.  They set themselves up as the arbiters of which are the best high schools in the nation, based on flawed data, and they are not qualified to do this work,” she complains.  “Of what value is their product?” Gary Rubinstein isn’t the only blogger looking into the value of the top high school ratings published yearly by U.S. News & World Report (see item above).   Mercedes Schneider’s “EduBlog” at deutsch29 decided to scrutinize the number 1 school on the list, BASIS Charter School in Scottsdale, Arizona.  She discovered a heavy emphasis on AP exams which is one of the key indicators of the U.S. News rankings.  In addition, she did some very deep digging into the BASIS network’s tax filings and financial disclosure forms and discovered a serious debt problem developing.  Schneider titles her piece “Which is Higher at BASIS Schools: Its AP Scores, or it’s Debt?”  It’s long and quite detailed but, in the end, very revealing.  “The BASIS enterprise is headed toward a fiscal crisis,” she submits.  “This is trouble, folks.  No amount of US News and World Report recognition can remedy the BASIS Schools debt sinkhole.  Shiny AP scores cannot fix this debt issue.”               Since some form of voucher plan is a big education goal of the Trump administration, how versed are you on what it is?  Julian Vasquez-Heilig, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at CSU Sacramento, poses and answers 8 questions about vouchers that he doubts Betsy DeVos could answer correctly.  His article appears on TheProgressive website.  “In a recent article [highlighted in the April 21st “Ed News”], Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado specializing in education policy and law, reported that conventional voucher policies now exist in 16 states,” Vasquez Heilig reviews, “producing about 175,000 vouchers annually.  Education Savings Accounts are in 17 states and generate about 250,000 vouchers every year.”               A California state appellate court ruled in favor of allowing parents to invoke the “parent-trigger law” to convert their local elementary school in Anaheim into a charter despite questions concerning whether the law is still relevant.  The school in question is Palm Lane Elementary (Anaheim Elementary School District) in a case that dates to early 2015 when parents first submitted a petition under the parent-trigger provisions to transition their “low performing” campus into a charter.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details on this latest development.  “Until the ruling, there was doubt on both sides about whether the parent-trigger law still was in effect in California,” it notes.  “That’s because the law, which is predicated on a school’s poor performance, originated under a different school-rating system.  The state has revised its academic standards, state tests and accountability system, and it hasn’t updated which schools, if any, would now be vulnerable to the parent-trigger law.  Formerly, one trigger requirement was that a school score less than 800 on the state’s Academic Performance Index.  That index no longer exists, and there is now no single number or grade used to rank a school.”               An article in today’s Times has both good news and bad news for charter schools.  The good news: The LAUSD will foot half the bill for construction of some new classrooms at the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima replacing some very old portables.  The bad news: An L.A. Superior Court judge recently ruled that the district could spend $200 million less on classroom construction for charters based on her ruling regarding Measure Q which was passed by voters in 2008.
 
Former Head of Chicago Public Schools Sentenced to Prison
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s pick to lead the nation’s third largest school district starting in 2012, was sentenced Friday to 54 months in prison.  Byrd-Bennett was indicted in Oct., 2015 and later pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud.  The Chicago Tribune has the details. “U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang sentenced Byrd-Bennett to 4 1/2 years in prison for scheming to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks,” it notes, “in return for steering lucrative contracts to SUPES Academy, an education consulting firm where she had formerly worked. . . .  In handing down the sentence, Chang said he needed to send a message to other public officials and corrupt vendors that they face significant time behind bars if they’re caught defrauding the public for their own financial gain. It’s a message that so far has not gotten through, the judge said.”
 
Questions Raised Concerning Current Netflix Series About a Teen’s Suicide
Have you been watching the current Netflix series “13 Reasons Why?”  How about your children, grandchildren or students?  Briefly, it’s about a 17-year-old girl who takes her own life and also covers topics like cutting and other at-risk behaviors.  It’s based on a young adult novel published in 2007.  The program prompted a Florida school superintendent to sent home a letter to parents noting a rapid increase in such behaviors at his elementary and middle schools since the series began airing March 31.  Valerie Strauss, on her Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post discusses concerns being raised about student viewing of “13 Reasons Why” and reprints the letter from Robert M. Avossa, the Palm Beach County Schools head, along with a note from the National Association of School Psychologists with tips for educators on how to guide discussion about the program and a list of resources for parents, students and teachers.  “In a brief interview,” Strauss mentions, “Avossa texted that officials at schools in his district have learned about at least a dozen episodes over a brief period involving young people who have either harmed themselves or threatened to do so, and cited the show when discussing their behavior.”
 
What’s a “Fidget Spinner?”
Quick question-of-the-day:  What’s a “Fidget Spinner?”  I had no idea until I read Dr. Michael Flanagan’s “A Teacher’s Thoughts on Fidget Spinners” on the BATs (Badass Teaches Association) website.  “The Fidget Spinner is the latest fad spreading throughout America’s classrooms.” he explains right off the bat.  “It is a plastic pinwheel constructed with ball bearings that can spin between the thumb and forefinger, or on top of a desk.  The difference between this craze and past ones such as Tamagotchis, Silly String, or Pokemon Go is that this one is billed as the panacea for distracted students. Fidget Spinners are touted– mostly by the producers of the product– as being able to alleviate anxiety, stress, and ADHD.  They keep students focused, alright, but not on what you are trying to teach them.”  Flanagan proceeds to describe how they and previous classroom disruptions, bees and farts are what he mentions, can ruin even the best classroom lesson for a good part of the rest of the day.  If you haven’t seen a Fidget Spinner or aren’t sure what it is, he leads off his article with a picture of one.
 
Trump and Education
Over the weekend Congressional negotiators reached a tentative agreement on a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30th that will avert a possible government shutdown.  Interestingly, it ignores many of the education-related cuts requested by Pres. Trump.  The latest agreement’s impact on education funding is the subject of a “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Lawmakers appear to be sending early signals of independence from the Trump administration on education budget issues,” it points out.  “For example, in the fiscal 2018 budget proposal Trump released several weeks ago, the president also sought to eliminate just over $1 billion in support for 21st Century Community Learning Centers in fiscal 2018.  However, this budget deal for fiscal 2017 would give the program a relatively small boost of $25 million up to nearly $1.2 billion.  Trump had also wanted to cut Title II funding in half in fiscal 2017, far more than this agreement, before eliminating it entirely in fiscal 2018. . . .  The budget deal doesn’t appear to include a new federal school choice program, a top K-12 priority for the Trump administration, although Trump’s request for such a program appears in his fiscal 2018 proposal and not his fiscal 2017 blueprint.”               Yesterday Pres. Trump asked some puzzling questions and raised some baffling issues about the U.S. Civil War and Pres. Andrew Jackson. Humorist Andy Borowitz is at it again about this latest lack of historical knowledge exhibited by our current president.  Writing on his “Borowitz Report” in THE NEW YORKER, this one is headlined “Fourth-Grade Class Touring White House Answers Trump’s Questions About the Civil War.”  Just a reminder, it’s very short and it is TOTALLY satire.  For some background on just what Trump said/Tweeted, see Dan Rather’s comments on THE HILL website, which you can find by clicking here.  Rather refers to Trump’s observations as “sheer craziness.”
 
K-12 Sexual Assaults a Hidden Problem
And finally, the AP (Associated Press) has uncovered a hidden problem concerning sexual assaults on the nation’s K-12 campuses.  The number of incidents they discovered was much higher than some previous studies had reported.  EDUCATION WEEK features the latest statistics.   “Relying on state education records, supplemented by federal crime data,” the article relates, “a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015.  Though that figure represents the most complete tally yet of sexual assaults among the nation’s 50 million K-12 students, it does not fully capture the problem because such attacks are greatly under-reported, some states don’t track them, and those that do vary widely in how they classify and catalog sexual violence.  A number of academic estimates range sharply higher.”  The ED WEEK item follows the story of one 12-year old boy who was raped by several classmates at his middle school in Maine and what teachers, administrators, counselors and the police did and did not do in response.    In a companion piece to the one above, ED WEEK provides a state-by-state break down of student sexual assaults and what is required by law to be reported.   It notes that 32 states, including California, and the District of Columbia require that information on sexual assaults be maintained although the thoroughness of that data varies from state to state.  18 states have no reporting requirements.  Here’s what the story says about the Golden State: “CALIFORNIA     The state required every public school to report any offense by a student involving sexual assault or sexual battery, regardless of whether it led to suspension or expulsion.  The state defined those offenses broadly to include any forcible oral, anal or vaginal penetration, lewd behavior with someone 15 or younger, and unwanted intimate touching through or under clothes for arousal or gratification.  California reported 4,630 such student offenses over the four-year period [fall 2011 to spring 2015].”
                                      .                                                                      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, April 28, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Knowledge itself is power” 
California Graduation Rates Questioned
An extended editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times is laudatory of California’s increased high school graduation rates but questions how some districts achieved their numbers.  It’s titled “What’s That Diploma Worth?”  “How much of the increase indicates real educational improvement, and how much of it was attained through shortcuts that allowed districts to boost their numbers without teaching young people the skills expected of a high school graduate?” it asks.  “There have been disconcerting signs that too much of the latter has been going on in California, and to be fair, across the nation.”
The Teaching Profession
School districts around the nation are revamping how they offer professional development in light of some new wording in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  EDUCATION WEEK has a new special report on the topic titled “Smart Strategies for Teacher Professional Development.”  You can find a link to it with a list of articles exploring the subject by clicking here.  “Professional development has the potential to not only improve teacher practice, but to make a real difference for students. But too often,” the introduction to the report relates, “professional development has been criticized as unfocused and irrelevant.  But many school systems are overhauling their PD programs to tie them closely to teacher needs and to districtwide academic goals.”               In the past, the “Ed News” has highlighted several stories about teacher-powered schools.  EDUCATION WEEK describes how one school in Minnesota and others around the country are teacher-created and teacher-led.  “A reported 115 teacher-powered, or teacher-led, schools are operating in 18 states, and advocates suspect that the real number is much higher. . . .  Minnesota is one of the centers of the movement—it has 24 teacher-powered schools,” it points out, “more than any other state except California.  Teacher-powered schools have been around since the 1970s, but supporters sense they’re in a moment now.”  The article explains how these schools get started and how they work.  For more information about this growing phenomenon check out the teacher-powered schools website by clicking here.               Many states now require that their teacher credential candidates pass the edTPA (education Teacher Performance Assessment) before earning their certificates.  The edTPA is a Pearson created handbook and exam that purports to determine teacher readiness for success in the classroom.  (According the edTPA website “California has had a requirement for teacher performance assessment in place since 2008 and is currently considering edTPA as an additional assessment option available to preparation programs for that purpose.”)  Pearson has taken a lot of criticism for its Common Core aligned exams and materials so how are future teachers reacting to the edTPA?  Alexandra Miletta is a teacher educator at Mercy College in New York City and an author.  She turns over her Alexandra Miletta blog to one of her current student teachers, Melina Melanovic, who has some thoughts about her experience with the edTPA.  Melanovic shares several concerns about the entire process and concludes: “You are like a robot that is programmed to only one way of teaching, the edTPA way.  I would suggest using any resources that are available to you,” she urges, “in order to help you during this process, and take it seriously!  Be as explicit as that handbook tells you to be because it seems like that is what they are looking for. Also, remember that teachers are creative. There is always room for creativity, which can be beneficial for both your students and you.”                 A 9th grade humanities teacher at a Boston charter was selected as the National Teacher of the Year for 2017 last week.  An item in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK profiles the latest winner, Sydney Chaffee.  “Chaffee, who has taught for 10 years, was announced as the 66th winner of the national prize [April 20th] on CBS This Morning,” it details.  “A humanities teacher hasn’t won the contest since 1998, and there hasn’t been a National Teacher of the Year from Massachusetts in the awards’ 65-year history.”  One of the other 3 finalists for the award was a special education teacher from Del Norte High School in the Poway Unified School District (San Diego County).
 
Charter Schools and Vouchers
Is Minneapolis the next city in the cross hairs of the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies?  Is the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) behind the move?  An extended exposé, lavishly illustrated with several charts, graphs and maps on the edhivemn(dot)com website, details the plan by a group called Minnesota Comeback to add 30,000 charter seats in the next 8 years to the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, which have a combined student enrollment of only 36,000,  That would divert 84% of the students in both district into charters.  The item is titled “Free to Choose a Walmart School–Poverty Academies, Segregation Academies and a Foundation Plan to Destroy the Minneapolis Public School District.”  “30,000 new ‘seats’ in a district that has a student population of about 36,000 students is essentially a plan to kill that public school district,” the author writes.  “As Alejandra Matos wrote in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune a year ago, some Minneapolis education officials ‘…suspect Minnesota Comeback is out to undermine the traditional public school system by replacing it with a vast network of charter schools, like in New Orleans or Washington, D.C.'”               Here’s an unusual twist (bribe?) for attracting corporations to invest in new charter schools.  A couple of bills introduced in the North Carolina legislature would offer some enticing perks for companies who donate land, buildings or equipment to a charter school.  Yep, you read that right!  The [Raleigh] News & Observer has the [sordid?] details about this proposed legislation.  The story is headlined “Should Charter School Enrollment be a Corporate Employee Perk?”  “The state House is considering a collection of bills that would change who can start a charter,” it notes, “and how quickly the schools can grow. Corporations would be able to reserve spaces in schools for their employees’ children, and two towns would be able to set up charter schools for their residents.  Under current law, charters are open to any student in the state, although schools can give preference to siblings and school employees’ children.”  The article describes how the other bills would favor corporate donors.  Yeah, it all sounds pretty elitist to me, too!               North Carolina teacher and blogger, Stuart Egan, on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog, rails at one of the bills (House Bill 800) before the North Carolina legislature (see above).  Egan believes it reveals again how public taxpayer money is being diverted in support of the privatization of public schools through charters.  Egan quotes one member of the North Carolina House as saying this bill “really pushes us down the road to privatization that we resisted on charter schools.  This allows you to set up the equivalent of a company store, but it’s a company school.”
Still not convinced that some charter networks are replete with fraud, mismanagement and other scandals?  ProgressOhio has a handy-dandy chronological list of the latest charter wrongdoings.  Unfortunately, it only covers a 2-year period from 2013-15.  A full inventory would probably require a phone book length volume.  The article is titled “An Incomplete (Yet Totally Terrifying) Ohio Charter School Scandal Chronology.”  Here’s one example: “June 15, 2015    Ohio Auditor David Yost, a Republican, releases findings showing that a recently closed Dayton charter defrauded taxpayers out of about $1.2 million by billing them for students who did not attend school.  Some students had moved, gone to prison or never showed up in the first place.”               For the seventh year-in-a -row Tennessee (Tennessee!) legislators failed to pass a voucher bill.  Proponents of the bill limited the proposed program to Memphis in a attempt to garner more support.  Even that tactic failed to amass enough votes according to a story from Chalkbeat Tennessee.  “It’s an anticlimactic ending,” it notes, “after months of debate and hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars spent to boost legislation allowing public money to be spent on private school tuition. . . .  But in the end, disagreements over how private schools should be held accountable for academic results — as well as legislators’ exhaustion after passing a hotly debated gasoline tax — caused the measure to stall.”               Are you aware that there already exists a federally funded voucher program, similar in scope, although much smaller in scale , to the one being proposed by Pres. Trump?  If not, you need to read up on the program in the nation’s capital that is authorized by the U.S. Congress and is paid for with federal taxpayer money.  One small problem: the vouchers appear to be having “a negative impact on achievement” according to a new study from the IES, the Institute for Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Dept. of Education.  The “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEKfeatures the study.  “President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are major supporters of the D.C. voucher program, and school choice in general,” it relates.  “And legislation reauthorizing the voucher program is pending in Congress, which is controlled by Republicans.  Congressional critics of the program were quick to cite the report in explaining why the D.C. vouchers shouldn’t be renewed, as well as to throw cold water on the Trump administration’s school choice agenda.   The report comes on the heels of other evaluations of voucher programs in Louisiana and elsewhere showing negative impacts on student achievement.”               At a recent hearing convened by the NAACP, parents and students in the New Orleans charter schools system had some serious complaints about the segregated nature and unequal education being provided to the district’s Black students.  The “Ed News” has pointed out, on a number of occasions, that after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005 the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies embarked on the nation’s biggest district transformation by converting almost all the schools in the city into charters.  CommonDreams has a story titled “Everything Wrong With Charters on Display in New Orleans” which includes a litany of troubles plaguing the system and a seeming lack of interest in dealing with them.  “In summary, the NAACP heard that they charter system remains highly segregated by race and economic status.   Students have significantly longer commutes to and from school.  The percentage of African American teachers has declined dramatically,” it identifies, “leaving less experienced teachers who are less likely to be accredited and less likely to remain in the system.  The costs of administration have gone up while resources for teaching have declined.  Several special select schools have their own admission process which results in racially and economically different student bodies.  The top administrator of one K-12 system of three schools is paid over a quarter of a million dollars.  Students with disabilities have been ill served.  Fraud and mismanagement, which certainly predated the conversion to charter schools, continue to occur.  Thousands of students are in below average schools.  Students and parents feel disempowered and ignored by the system.”  The article includes a link to a video of the full hearing (189:59 minutes.  To find it, scroll down to the very end of the link).
 
Pres. Trump and Education 
Pres. Trump recently signed an executive order directing Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos to study how the federal government has overstepped its jurisdiction pertaining to education policy and determine ways it can be returned to state and local control.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK gives a rundown of this latest action and its impact.  “In response to the executive order,” it points out, “a task force at the department, led by Robert Eitel, a senior adviser to the secretary, will take a hard look at all of the K-12 regulations put out by the past administration and decide which step on local control, Rob Goad, a senior U.S. Department of Education aide, said.  After 300 days, the department will release a report on its findings.”  The ED WEEK piece includes a link to the official executive order which was signed by Pres. Trump on Wednesday.               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG,is a might befuddled by some contradictory education policy statements from Pres. Trump.  I’ll let Singer explain what’s bothering him: “Donald Trump is talking out of both sides of his mouth.  Again,” he exasperatedly begins.  “This time he’s signing an executive order demanding the Department of Education study how the federal government oversteps its legal authority with regard to K-12 schools.  Yet he still proposes bribing states with $20 billion in federal funds to enact school vouchers.  Well which is it, Oh Orange One?  Are you for limiting the federal role in education or for coercing states to do your bidding?  Because you can’t be for both.”  Singer believes one reason why Pres.Trump is doing this is to cover up for a lack of any concrete achievements during his first 100 days in office which arrives tomorrow.  Singer has some other imaginative reasons for Trump’s actions.             Pres. Trump met with the 2017 Teachers of the Year on Wednesday.  It’s a customary event that goes back to the Truman administration but this year things went a little differently, as explained by Valerie Strauss on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  She titles her commentary “Trump’s Rather Weird Meeting With the 2017 Teachers of the Year.”  “Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office,” Strauss relates for starters, “where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk.  In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.”  Strauss also describes how Presidents Obama and George W. Bush conducted their meetings with the honored educators.  The article leads off with a short video (2:17 minutes) with some brief remarks by Trump.  
 
Public Schools 
Why do the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies persist in referring to the traditional public schools as “dropout factories?”  They seem to come up with the most pejorative terms in order to make their agenda for school “choice” sound better.  NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION WEBSITE goes after that negative framing in a piece called “‘Dropout Factories:’ The Disparaging & Hypocritical Reference to America’s Public Schools and Teachers.”  The author was a veteran special ed teacher with a Ph.D. in education leadership from Florida St. University.  This blog has, for a long time, referred to our public school system as under funded and poorly supported.  Bailey provides a list of research-based strategies for helping those often high poverty schools.  Here’s one of her solutions for helping curb school dropouts: “3. School-based after-school programs and school psychologists. Not only should the President not end after-school programs, according to Davies and Peltz, (2012), it would be a good idea,” she suggests, “to add school psychologists to the mix. We know that at-risk youth tend to feel better-connected and will feel more inclined to stay in school if they have an after-school program they can attend.  School psychologists can help students better work out their difficulties.”  Diane Ravitch calls this “A valuable and informative post.”
Questions About the U.S. News & World Report’s High School Rankings
And finally, every year U.S. News & World Report comes out with its highly anticipated ranking of the “best” high schools in the country.  Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s blog, reviews this year’s ratings and explains how they are shaped.  [Ed. notes: His school, the highly selective Stuyvesant High in New York City,  ranked 71st.]  He was rather curious why 34 charters made the top 100 list and decided to do some investigating.  Voilà!  He believes one charter network, KIPP, may have manipulated the results in order to gain a higher rating for one of its campuses and he explains how that was accomplished.  Interesting findings.  Diane Ravitch writes “What he discovered might surprise you.  If nothing else, it will persuade you–as it did me–that the U.S. News rankings are baloney.”
Enjoy this unseasonably warm Spring weekend!
                                      .                                                                      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.