Ed News, Tuesday, March 21 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

        Final ALOED Event Reminder: You only have a couple of days left to sign up for ALOED’s spring Book Club to be held this Saturday in the Samuelson Alumni Center on the Occidental College Campus. The book to be discussed is Vicki Abeles’ “Beyond Measure” which is a follow-up to her documentary film “Race to Nowhere.” Brunch will be provided by ALOED so please be sure to RSVP so they know how much food to order.  It will be served at 11 am followed by a stimulating conversation about the book at noon.  You don’t have to read the book to participate.  If nothing else, come for the food.  For all the details and to RSVP click here.  Hope to see you on Saturday.
 
And now to the news.
“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know.
It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.”

― Anatole France

Trump and Education
Want a preview of what the Trump/Pence/DeVos national voucher plan might look like?  Gander no farther than the program in Florida.  The “Back Story” feature in the March 12 L.A. Times offers a “primer, ” in the form of a Q & A, on what the private school choice program looks like in the Sunshine state.  Here’s one question and the response from the article: “How does the Florida tax credit scholarship work?  Companies get dollar-for-dollar tax credits for their contributions to nonprofit scholarship organizations. Depending on the type of tax, they can get credit for between 50% and 100% of their tax liabilities through the program.  Parents apply for scholarships by submitting pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents.  If eligible, they can get up to $5,886 per student and apply that money toward tuition at a set list of private K-12 schools.  The average cost of private school in Florida this year is $7,864.”                A story in the Times early this month about the Trump administration’s plan to provide taxpayer funded vouchers for students to attend private or religious schools sparked a single letter-to-the-editor in Friday’s paper.  The author was “beyond outraged” at the idea.                Pres. Trump unveiled his proposed 2018 fiscal year budget Thursday and it contains some massive cuts for the Department of Education  among a number of other agencies.  The DoE has been slated for a whopping 13% cut including some very popular and critical programs.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the depressing details.  “The federal spending plans still need to go through Congress for approval, and cuts of this magnitude will almost certainly be a tough political lift.  And it could be months before lawmakers decide which of these cuts to accept or reject.  The proposal would set spending levels for federal fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1 and generally impacts the 2018-19 school year.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacts (as you can guess) rather antagonistically towards Pres. Trump’s proposed budget as it relates to education (see above).  His essay is titled “Trump Budgets More Money to Kill Kids in Yemen Than Educate Kids in the USA” and it excoriates Trump for his spending priorities.  [Parental warning: In his anger, Singer drops a number of F-bombs in his piece.]  “While boosting the military by $54 billion in his 2018 budget, he slashes spending at the U.S. Department of Education by $9.2 billion – the largest cut in the department’s history,” he complains.  “This sad excuse for a man actually proposes that guns and tanks are more important than school children.  Perhaps his motto should be ‘Save the guns!  F— the children!’”               What specific U.S. DoE programs could face the budget knife under Pres. Trump’s proposed budget?  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK, in a follow-up to its article above, attempts to read the tea leaves as to which face reductions.  “President Donald Trump’s budget plan for education has singled out several programs to be slimmed down or eliminated.  But all we know right know is based on a mere two pages in a 62-page ‘skinny’ federal budget the administration released last week.  It doesn’t necessarily detail,” it suggests, “all or even most of the cuts and additions Trump’s team wants to make.  Once the administration releases a more-detailed budget proposal for Congress to consider—and it might be several weeks before this is released—we’ll know a lot more about what Trump wants to do for public school spending.”               Andre Perry, columnist for THE HECHINGER REPORT, is critical of the Trump administration’s proposed budget and its steep cuts to education programs.  It’s titled “In the America-First Budget, Schools Come Last.”  The author finds a couple of contradictions in the spending blueprint and lists some specific items targeted for steep reductions.  “The only logic Trump’s budget follows is across-the-board cuts, which lack internal consistency.  It’s as if Trump said increase defense spending and make up for it by reducing everything else.  This isn’t sensible or effective budgeting.  A budget that puts America first,”  he concludes, “would first and foremost invest in the next generation of Americans.”              THE HECHINGER REPORT hosts its first ever “chat” on the impact of Trump’s proposed budget on students and Trump voters and what the figures reveal about the administration’s priorities regarding education.  Participants in the conversation include members of The Hechinger news team.                  Pres. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia last February.  If the jurist is confirmed by the Senate, what might that mean for education policy?  The “School Law” blog for EDUCATION WEEK has a commentary titled “5 Things for Educators to Consider About Neil Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearing.”  Gorsuch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning yesterday.  Here’s one of the points the author raises: “4. Progressive groups have focused some of their criticism of Gorsuch on his rulings in the areas of special education and disability discrimination.”               What kind of fight might be in store as the Trump administration attempts topromote federal legislation to push charters, choice and voucher programs?  A battle taking place in Iowa might offer a precursor, according to a story in The New York Times.  “Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature,” it points out, “proposals to significantly expand school choice programs in Iowa are stalled, at least for now.  The pushback has come from groups traditionally opposed to the idea — Democrats, school districts, teachers’ unions and parents committed to public schools — but also from some conservatives concerned about the cost to the state.  Iowa is one of 31 states where legislators have proposed creating or expanding school choice programs this year, without Washington even lifting a finger.  Even if just a few of the bills pass, the number of children attending private schools with public money could greatly increase, one reason the proposals are meeting resistance.”
 
For-Profit Schools 
Here’s a real eye-opener about how some for-profit networks operate.  Pro Publica’s lengthy investigative piece probes charges the some of the schools run by Camelot Education are more “like a prison.”  True, it deals with students in 6th through 12th grade with behavior or academic problems but its techniques for dealing with those pupils raise some serious issues.  The article focuses on one Camelot campus, Paramount Academy in Reading, Pennsylvania and some harmful actions aimed at students “Over six months in 2013 and 2014,” the story reports, “about a half-dozen parents, students and community members at Paramount Academy — billed as a ‘therapeutic’ day program — complained of abusive behavior by the school’s staff.”
 
Vouchers              
The PBS NEWSHOUR program has a continuing series called “Making the Grade.”  This installment takes a look at how the voucher program in Indiana, one of the most extensive in the country is playing out.  It could offer some insights into what a national program might look like as proposed by the Trump administration.  The program in Indiana was greatly expanded under then-Governor, now Vice-President, Mike Pence.  You can watch the segment (6:38 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read the transcript by clicking here.               Most parochial schools stand to profit from any federal plan to provide taxpayer dollars for families to send their children to private or religious schools.  However, Cheryl Binkley, on her Third Millennium Teacher blog, makes the case for why congregations should be against the Trump voucher proposal.  She’s a former teacher who now lives in Virginia and  offers 4 main reasons for her position.  “Many of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations of the U.S. behind the scenes are welcoming,” she begins, “even promoting the idea of government vouchers and financial supports for religious based PreK-12 schools, and the reasons are fairly evident.   More money, more students, the opportunity to open their own school.”               Despite the push for vouchers from the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate, they are not a sure bet at the state level, even in Republican controlled conservative states like Arkansas.  The lower house of the state legislature recently rejected a bill, by a vote of 37 in favor to 47 opposed, that would have created educational savings accounts (aka vouchers).  The ARKANSAS NEWS provides the latest developments.  “Legislators who spoke against the bill,” it mentions, “raised concerns about accountability, fairness, the impact on public schools and implications for the future.”
 
Charter Schools 
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies love to label the traditional public schools as “failing.”  Maybe it’s time to apply that label to charter schools.  An investigative item in USA TODAY finds that some charters have admirable graduation rates which they often achieve by having selective admissions policies, high expulsion rates, low numbers of ELLs and students with disabilities, strategies that counsel poor performing academic students to leave and others.  That, however, is not the focus of the article.  It looks at how charter students do at earning a degree from a college or university.  It even gives them 6 years to earn that degree.  The numbers are not easy to come by, but the author of the story believes it’s around 23%.  Interestingly, he uses the Alliance College-Ready Public (charter) Schools network as his case study.  The item is titled “Charter Schools ‘Thorny’ Problem: Few Students Go On to Earn College Degrees.”  “Like many charter school networks, the Los Angeles-based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools boast eye-popping statistics: 95% of their low-income students graduate from high school and go on to college,” it begins.  “Virtually all qualify to attend California state universities.  Its name notwithstanding, the network’s own statistics suggest that few Alliance alumni are actually ready for the realities — academic, social and financial — of college.  The vast majority drop out.  In all, more than three-fourths of Alliance alumni don’t earn a four-year college degree in the six years after they finish high school.”               Remember the collapse of the Texas-based energy titan Enron when it declared bankruptcy back in 2001?  Might there be some parallels to the charter industry?  That’s the gist of a very intriguing study by 3 education researchers featured in BUSINESS INSIDER.  “The charter-school industry — consisting of schools that are funded partly by tax dollars but run independently — is rife with the same types of fraud and mismanagement,” the report reveals, “that led to the Enron collapse.”  The article includes a link to the full report (52 pages) titled “Are Charter Schools the Second Coming of Enron?”  At the end of the article is another link to a similarly fascinating study (26 pages) titled “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School Bubble?: Lessons From the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.”               
 
New California School Accountability System
The old API (Academic Performance Index) with its single, standardized test based number is a relic of the past.  The California State Board of Education is rolling out its new “dashboard” accountability plan for comparing schools and districts using a number of criteria and some color coding.  A story in the March 13 L.A. Times describes how the new system came into being and how it works.  When the pilot version of the State Board’s dashboard website went live last week, “visitors [are] able to search for a school and find something called an ‘equity report’ on its page.  The report includes how a school performed on standardized tests in English and math; the progress English-language learners are making toward proficiency; suspension rates; and graduation rates, ” the article explains.  “Links let people find out more about each area, including how particular groups of students are doing.  Down the road, more information will be added, including measures of school climate and how prepared students are for college, and potentially scores on science tests.”                The California State Board of Education rolled out the new school accountability “dashboard” system (see above) on Wednesday.  An article in Thursday’s Times reports that schools seem to be fairing better under this concept than under the previous API.  “The dashboard reflects a new, more holistic approach to evaluating schools,” it points out, “one that does not see test scores as the be all and end all.  It also emphasizes progress and so heaps praise on schools that do poorly but see significant score increases from one year to the next.”  The piece explains how the new system works and has some preliminary results.  It also includes two graphs with comparisons of how students in grades 3-8 performed under the old API single-number rating and the new “dashboard” system.  The Times story includes a link to the California School DASHBOARD or you can find it by clicking here.  Select a school or 2 or an entire district and see what pops up.  [Ed. note: I checked up on the high school where I taught for 26 years and from which I retired in June, 2009 and also the LAUSD.  Hang in there.  I ran into a few glitches.]
 
Betsy DeVos
If you think the DeVos selection to be the U.S. Sec. of Education is a fiasco, wait until you see who she picked to be a special assistant.  It’s Robert S. Eitel, who previously worked as the chief compliance officer for a company that runs several for-profit colleges that are facing a number of federal investigations for deceptive marketing, loose accounting practices, burdening students with enormous debt and inflated job placement rates among others.  A story in The New York Times profiles Mr. Eitel whose current post does not require Senate confirmation.  [Eitel’s] new role,” it points out, “which has not been announced publicly, could bump up against federal rules involving conflicts of interest and impartiality, ethics experts said, particularly given his position as a vice president for regulatory legal services at Bridgepoint Education Inc., an operator of for-profit colleges, during federal investigations into the company.”               Prior to becoming Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos was a strong proponent of charters and vouchers.  Now that she heads the Dept. of Education she still supports those programs but also claims she’s in favor of “great public schools.”  The only problem is how she defines “public schools.”  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a careful look at what she really means by that phrase.  “School choice proponents like DeVos often argue that all that matters is whether students who attend charters, online schools, and private academies do well on standardized tests and that parents are generally satisfied with these choices.  But this argument ignores the tax-paying public that deserves to know whether those outcomes are being achieved without wasting our public dollars,” he complains,  “which more often than not, they probably are.”               It’s becoming more and more necessary to fact-check some of the things Betsy DeVos says.  She recently accentuated the story of a student from India who was attending a “failing” public school when his family moved and enrolled him in a virtual charter.  He graduated which is great news although we have little idea of the quality of the education he received there.  In addition, DeVos failed to mention that less than 20% of his class graduated in 4 years.  If you add a fifth year the number only rises to 23.6%.  That would easily be considered a “failing” school by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like Betsy DeVos.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 provides the “missing” details left out of the Sec. of Education’s cherrypicked “success” story.
 
The Teaching Profession
If you’ve taught for any length of time you have certainly had what would be considered to be “difficult” students.  How you handled them makes all the difference in the world as to how they remember you.  Mercedes Schneider, on her blog at deutsch29 titles her piece “Many of My Most Difficult Students End Up Loving Me.”  She’s been teaching on and off at different levels since 1991-92 .  Whether you are retired from the classroom, teaching currently or planning on entering the profession she has some sound advice to offer. When you care about these students a bond develops between you and them.  “What happens is that a trust is established and a relationship is forged.  That doesn’t mean there is no longer a need for discipline,” Schneider relates.  “What it means is that the student trusts me and understands (and even comes to value) the discipline when it must come.  These moments I consider the gems of teaching and learning.  These moments defy capture on any standardized test or school grading rubric.”
Bill Proposes Money for Teacher Housing in California
And finally, the lack of affordable housing in urban areas in California and a paucity of available housing units in rural ones are contributing factors to the teacher shortage in the state.  AB 45, introduced by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), would address those issues by allocating $100 million to school districts to help construct units for their teachers.  A brief story in Sunday’sL.A. Times describes the legislation.  
                     
                                      .                                                                      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, March 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The “Ed News” will be taking a brief break.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, March 21
Reminder: Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 am Sunday.  Turn your clocks ahead one hour.
 
                Inline image 1
 
 Next Friday is St. Patrick’s Day.
 
                        Inline image 3
 
 
And Spring begins at 6:29 am on Monday, March 20.
 
                       Inline image 2
And now to the news.
“We must master many subjects in order to implement our dreams.
Our personal journey begins by gathering appropriate learning experiences 
and awakening our minds to observe, evaluate, and recall what we experience.” 

― Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls*

LAUSD School Board Election Results
Two of the 3 critical LAUSD school board races will head to run-offs after first round voting took place on Tuesday.  Board Pres. Steve Zimmer will square off with charter proponent Nick Melvoin in District 4.  Pro-charter incumbent Monica Garcia won outright in District 2 and a run-off will be required to determine the winner for the open seat in District 6.  Charter-backed Kelly Gonez drew the most votes but was well short of the 50% + 1 vote needed to take the seat.  The L.A. City general election will take place on Tuesday, May 9.  An item posted on the L.A. TimesWednesday morning has the unofficial results.  “Tuesday’s races,” it notes, “marked the latest battle between supporters of charter schools and those allied with the teachers union.  Those two factions spent millions of dollars on outside campaigns that dominated the election.” You can find all the Semi-Final Official election results on the County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk website by clicking here.               If charter proponents in the two remaining races (see above) prevail over teachers union backed candidates in the May 9 general election they will have a 4-3 advantage and a majority on the LAUSD board for the first time.  What does that bode for the future of charters in the district? Continued expansion?  Less oversight/accountability?  A front-page story in yesterday’s L.A. Times assesses what’s possibly in store in the next couple of years for the LAUSD which already has the most charter campuses and students in charters than any other district in the nation.  “But the charter vs. union controversy has become a kind of shorthand for each side’s hopes for L.A. Unified’s future, often obscuring other issues.  Both sides say they also see the local contests,” it suggests, “as a leading indicator of how California’s education landscape could shift. . . .  Both sides are likely to pour more than a million more dollars into the most expensive school board elections in the country.”  The March races were pretty nasty battles.  For the 2 remaining contents in May, both sides will undoubtedly take the gloves off.
 
Vouchers and School Choice 
A federal government voucher program will divert taxpayer dollars to provide tuition for students to attend private and religious schools.  Because it is a federal program it adds to the deficit.  The Trump administration is likely to stay away from the term “voucher” for just that reason and instead propose a “tax credit scholarship program.”  What does that mean and how does is work?  An article inThe New York Times provides some answers and focuses on a plan in Arizona where one private investor is making lots of money on the deal.  “State tax credit voucher programs have grown rapidly in recent years.  The number of students receiving them increased to 256,000 this year, from about 50,000 in 2005.  Arizona has one of the oldest and largest programs.  It allows taxpayers who donate money to nonprofit voucher-granting organizations,” it explains, “to claim a 100%, dollar-for-dollar credit against their state taxes (up to a certain limit).  In other words, if a married couple donates $1,000 to a voucher-granting nonprofit, their tax bill is reduced by $1,000.  The nonprofit then gives the money to families who use it to pay tuition at private schools.”  The money that is donated is no longer taxed and that adds to the deficit because it is no longer collected as revenue.  Pretty neat, huh?                John Kuhn is superintendent of a district in Texas and a long-time advocate for traditional public schools.  He recently delivered a speech to the Association of Texas Professional Educators during their Legislative Action Weekend.  His topics: “Vouchers Serve Adults at Childen’s Expense.”  His remarks appear on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “The voucher movement is about money and adult interests.  It isn’t about children.  It’s not even mostly about parents who want a discount on their private school tuition; it’s mostly about the interests of other adults, very wealthy adults.  It’s about the interests of tycoons and political players,”  he complains in his talk, “who are funding school voucher campaigns across our state and nation not because they want to improve schools, but because they want to engineer a cheaper education so their property taxes will go down.  They want to hobble teachers’ unions and reduce wages and benefits.  And on top of cheapening a system that already has one of the lowest levels of per pupil spending in the nation, Texas privatizers also want to make money on the back end, they want a piece of the education pie, which billionaire school choice advocate Rupert Murdoch said was a $500 billion dollar industry just waiting to be ‘transformed.’  He meant to say hijacked.”               We all pretty much know what school “choice” means to the corporate “reformers” and their political allies: charters, vouchers, private and religious schools, no teachers unions, more emphasis on student test scores for evaluating teachers, etc., etc.  What does school “choice” look like from the point-of-view of a public school classroom teacher?  Good question.  Glad you asked.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, invites Sarah Yost, a veteran National Board-certified teacher of English Language Arts who is currently working at a middle school in Kentucky, to share her experiences about how school “choice” is impacting her state.               Is the idea of “school choice” just another term for the “segregation academies” that sprouted up around the South in the wake of theBrown v Board of Education decision in 1954?  If certain types of people don’t want their kids attending school with children of a different  group, they’ll just start their own elite, exclusive campuses.  Is that racist solution from the past simply repeating itself today?  That explosive charge is examined by Jennifer Berkshire on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog.  She travels to Arkansas as the first stop on her “school choice tour” to check out what’s going on.  She quickly discovers that the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) is pushing a bill in the state legislature that would achieve two main goals from the corporate “reform” agenda.  “The Waltons are backing a controversial bill,” she asserts, “that combines two new school choice faves—1) ‘tax credit scholarships’ that would let well-heeled Arkansans and corporations claim hefty state and federal tax deductions for donating to a nonprofit, which then disperses funds to choice-seeking parents in the form of 2) an education savings account, which lets parents pay for private school tuition using a ‘backpack full of cash.’   So what’s changed?  Not the number of private schools.  Arkansas has just 230 of them, and that’s before you cross off the schools that charge well in excess of the $6K voucher amount.  And not the legacy of racism that gave rise to many of these schools in the 1960’s and 70’s.
 
The LAUSD
The LA WEEKLY chronicles the continuing enrollment declines in the LAUSD.  Those numbers cannot be blamed totally on the expansion of charter schools in the district.  The LAUSD has the largest number of charter schools serving the largest number of students of any district in the U.S.  “The district’s enrollment, which peaked in 2004 at just under 750,000, began to drop.  Some of the loss was to independent charters,” the piece suggests, “a growing trend that would soon amount to a veritable exodus of students.  But the total number of kids being served by both the district and charters also was dropping.  The reason was simple:  People are having fewer children. They’re also having them later in life — and they’re often leaving L.A. once they do.”
 
Transgender Rights
An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times was disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case dealing with a transgender teen’s desire to use the bathroom of his choice.  The  justices had scheduled oral arguments on the issue this month after which the Trump administration withdrew the previous guidelines promulgated by the Obama administration.  The Times labeled the court’s decision “a mistake.”  “The justices should have heard the case anyway,” the editorial suggests, “as both sides of the case had urged.  Then it should have ruled that, under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits schools and colleges from engaging in discrimination ‘on the basis of sex,’ the school must allow him to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity — even if that identity is different than the one on his birth certificate.”
 
It’s Testing Season
As the testing season commences, one way schools and districts are trying to counteract the opt-out movement is by providing incentives (bribes?) to students who take the standardized exams.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes some of the latest attempts to boost student participation in the annual assessments.  She zeroes in on one elementary school in Colorado and how they are enticing students to engage in the testing program.  “Other schools are also offering incentives in Colorado,” Strauss relates, “one of the states with the largest opt-out movements.  New York has had the most opt-outs, with at least 20 percent of students statewide refusing to take accountability tests for the past few years, and officials expecting big numbers again this year.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Are the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies helping to re-segregate the nation’s schools by creating a two-tier system of education?  That’s the issue raised by Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.  He visits Chicago to illustrate his point.  As an aside, he singles out Walter Payton College Prep High School, one of the city’s most desired selective enrollment campuses, which Vicki Abeles features in her book “Beyond Measure” (the next title to be discussed by the ALOED Book Club on March 25).  “The news out of Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has autocratic power over the public schools,” Klonsky writes, “is that the city’s selective-enrollment high schools have become even more exclusive. In 2009 the Chicago deseg consent decree was liquidated by a federal judge with support from Arne Duncan and selective-enrollment and charters have dropped all pretense of being about racial equality.”               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies would love the public to drink the Kool-Aid that says the “failing” public schools can’t be fixed and the only answer is “school choice”, i.e., charters, private and religious schools and vouchers.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, thinks he’s found a traditional public school system that works and could be used as a model for others to emulate.  The surprising (gratifying?) thing is, it’s right in our backyard.  The district he holds up as the exemplar?  Surprise, surprise . . . . Long Beach Unified.  “Educators I met up and down the ranks of LBUSD refer to ‘The Long Beach Way’ as a culture of continuous improvement that begins with a respect for teachers and a belief that internal accountability – rather than top-down mandates – is what drives meaningful change,” Bryant reveals.  “The Long Beach Way, I learned, is a relentless devotion to the process of ‘doing school’ that puts the essentials of good education – curriculum and instruction and an intense devotion to the well-being of students – at the heart of the work rather than technocratic changes meant to solve problems quickly or disrupt the system.  And while the district has certain ‘non-negotiables,’ real progress is expected to come from the bottom up through collaboration and team work rather than demands and compliance.”  He goes into detail about what he found to be laudable with what Long Beach is doing.  In the article former California Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig tells Bryant why he thinks any school district can replicate what LBUSD has accomplished.  In closing, Bryant promises to continue reporting on other districts that are having similar successes as Long Beach and what, exactly, they are doing right.  Stay tuned!
 
“A Day Without a Woman” Impacts Schools
Wednesday’s “A Day Without a Woman” protests worldwide could have a serious impact on schools around the world.  Women were urged to stay home from work, avoid shopping and wear red in honor of International Women’s Day.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times looked ahead to the action and the effect it could have on schools.  “Schools may feel some of the biggest effects.  Roughly three-quarters of U.S. teachers are women,” it points out, “according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  Two school districts in North Carolina and Virginia have canceled classes, telling about 27,000 students to stay home because not enough teachers and staff plan to show up for work.  In Alexandria, Va., 16 public schools will be closed after 300 members — or more than 20% — of the teaching staff requested the day off.”
 
Federal Education Dollars Could Be Slashed
When Pres. Trump addressed a joint session of Congress last week, he proposed major increases in military spending and significant tax cuts without corresponding revenue increases.  That’s a guaranteed formula for a huge increase in the federal deficit, something Republicans used to be loathe to do.  In order to pay for his 2 major initiatives, Trump will have to reduce spending for discretionary programs like EDUCATION.  Therefore, K-12 budget planners are looking at serious reductions in federal dollars.  EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at this critical issue at a time when districts are formulating their budgets for the next school year.  “A spokesman for the Education Department, Matt Frendewey, said last week that his department was still waiting on more details about how Trump’s plan would affect K-12.  But advocates for relatively limited federal spending on education,” it mentions, “are encouraged by the early signal from the Trump administration.”
 
The Public School System in Jeopardy
Renowned education psychologist, prolific author and former dean of the School of Education at Arizona State David C. Berliner takes a nuanced look at some valuable education numbers and statistics to get a clearer picture of the state of our traditional public schools today.  He does so in the hope of clearing up some misconceptions being peddled by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and certain news outlets.  He addresses the fallacy of our “failing” public schools and what needs to be done to “fix” them on the Equity Alliance Blog.  “In the US, wealthy children attending public schools that serve the wealthy are competitive with any nation in the world.  Since that is the case why would anyone think our public schools are failing?   When compared to other nations some of our students and some of our public schools are not doing well,” Berliner asserts.  “But having ‘some’ failures is quite a different claim than one indicting our entire public school system.”  Berliner offers some concrete suggestions for correcting some of the problems plaguing our public schools.               Linda Darling-Hammond, writing for THE Nation, wonders if the traditional public school system, as we know it, can survive the assault on it from the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate along with the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  Her piece is titled “Education for Sale?  School Choice and the Future of American Education.” “Clearly, the issues surrounding school choice are more complex than the typical pro-charter/anti-charter battle lines might suggest,” Darling-Hammond explains. The central question for a public-education system in a democratic society is not whether school options should exist, but whether high-quality schools are available to all children.  The fact that choice doesn’t guarantee quality should be clear each time we flick through 500 cable-TV channels without finding a single good viewing option.  In public education, this kind of choice is not an acceptable outcome.”  “The article is well worth reading,” Diane Ravitch acknowledges. “It contains useful data.”               Along the same lines, Alex Molnar, Research Professor and Publications Director, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder, looks at how the conservative movement may achieve 2 important goals as part of their overall ideology–make lots of money and eliminate the traditional public school system.  “After the U.S. Constitution had been drafted, Benjamin Franklin commented that the framers had given Americans a republic, ‘if you can keep it.’   The founders also provided the nation with a deeply democratic ideal of public education,” he recounts.  “We’re not likely to keep it.  In the next decade the distinction between public and private will likely continue to blur, and ever more public tax dollars will be syphoned into private coffers.  Public schools will limp along, underfunded and struggling to educate ever larger numbers of students with needs too great to be profitable.  Vast amounts of student data will be collected, sliced, diced, and sold for private gain again and again.  Technology, marketing, and finance will fill the pockets of a tiny minority, and their well-paid retainers and experts will continue to obscure this reality.”               The nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of updating or replacing.  That goes for school buildings and their facilities as well.  The American Society of Civil Engineers, in assessing the state of the nation’s overall infrastructure, gave a D+ grade to the schools according to a story in the “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK which includes a link to the Engineers’ report (3 pages).  It closely mirrors similar findings about the schools issued last year by the 21st Century School Fund.  “A D grade means that buildings are in fair to poor condition,” the article reports, “with many elements nearing the end of their useful life and showing significant deterioration, according to the report.”
 
How Are States Dealing With the ESSA?
The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed and signed into law in Dec., 2015.  Based on that law, the states are facing two early deadlines this year on April 3, and Sept. 18, regarding accountability, assessment, monitoring and support.  How are the individual states dealing with the new legislation in general and the approaching deadlines in particular?  EDUCATION WEEK investigates and finds some states in better shape than others to implement ESSA.  “Uncertainty surrounds what lies ahead for education under the Trump administration, but one thing is for sure: The Every Student Succeeds Act will be fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year,” it begins, “devolving more decisionmaking authority to the states.”
Interview With Michelle Rhee
Jennifer Berkshire, on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog, and Jack Schneider, author and assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross, host a Q & A with Michelle Rhee on the topics of value-added models, rating teachers, her tenure as Chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools, founder of the advocacy group StudentsFirst, the future of education in the Trump era and others.    You can listen to the podcast (35:45 minutes) and/or read the transcript by clicking here.

 
Teacher Preparation Rules Blocked
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to block Obama administration rules that would have required teacher preparation programs be rated by student test scores, according to an item in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “The Education Department finalized the rules after a lengthy process [late last year], and changed how colleges and universities must judge the effectiveness of their programs that prepare teachers for classrooms.  Among other things,” it notes, “these rules would require programs to include data on how many of their graduates get jobs in high-needs schools, how long their graduates stay in the teaching profession, and their impact on student-learning outcomes.”
Congress not only derailed Obama’s rules on teacher preparation programs (see above) but also dialed back on a number of other guidelines related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The New York Times describes some of the actions taken and how they will impact future education policies.  “It is customary for federal agencies to issue detailed regulations on how new laws should be put into effect, and Mr. Obama’s Department of Education did so in November.  But some lawmakers from both parties saw the regulations as unusually aggressive and far-reaching,” it spells out, “and said they could subvert ESSA’s intent of re-establishing local control over education and decreasing the emphasis on testing.  Last month, the House of Representatives overturned a broad swath of the rules using the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to spike federal regulations.  The Senate passed a similar resolution on Thursday, and President Trump has indicated that he will sign it.  That would leave ESSA on the books, but Ms. DeVos would have more flexibility in how to apply it.”
 
The Teaching Profession
What to do when those unexpected intrusions cause you to lose valuable instruction time?  Starr Sackstein is National Board-certified and an English and journalism teacher in New York City.  Her “Tips for Capitalizing on Lost Instructional Time” appears on the “Work in Progress” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Every student wants to learn, but sometimes the temptation to mess around becomes too great,” she writes, “especially when an unfamiliar substitute is in front of the room.  If we can create an atmosphere that demand and challenges students to engage, they will rise to the occasion, at least most of them will.  So much of what we do depends on the groundwork we lay on a regular basis.  What we value becomes evident, perhaps more so in our absence.”  Sackstein offers 7 suggestions for dealing with those times when you are not able to meet your students personally.              Starr Sackstein is at it again forED WEEK (see above).  This time she addresses the idea that the traditional report card is outdated.  The infrequent A-F or numerical rating with the possible inclusion of a few canned comments is not an effective way to communicate information in our highly technological age.  She provides 9 ideas on how to improve student evaluation for all involved, i.e., students, parents and teachers.  “The idea of what report cards are and what they actually do is fatally flawed from the beginning,” she complains.  “Communication about learning needs to be ongoing in a meaningful way and paper report cards being mailed home or sent home with students or uploaded onto an online portal as a PDF a few times a year just doesn’t cut it.  Aside from the infrequency of sharing, the content shared is often out of date and/or not a good representation of what students know and can do.”               Are you currently a retired educator?  [Ed. note: My answer is “yes.”  I retired in 2009 after 37 years as a Social Studies teacher with the LAUSD.]  Are you planning to retire soon?  Will you eventually retire from teaching?  If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, a article from The New York Times takes a look at the state of various state teacher pension plans and the picture is NOT encouraging.  It features a report from the Urban Institute that graded each state’s plan on an A-F scale using several criteria.  “No states got an A,” the story lists, “and only six states received a B: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, New York, Oregon and Wyoming. Most states — 33 — received a C, while six got a D. The last six — Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and Rhode Island — each received an F.”  California got a . . . .  It’s too depressing to print.  Check out the map that accompanies the piece for the answer.  There are several other graphs and charts laying out the teacher pension situation nationally and state-by-state.  You can peruse the full study from the Urban Institute titled “The State of Retirement: Grading America’s Public Pension Plans” by clicking here.  Under the section headed “Filter Plans by Occupation,” click on the box marked “Teachers.”  Either click on the state from the map or select from the boxes with the state names for detailed information about individual state pension plans.              As the Trump administration continues to crack down on immigrants to this country, LGBTQ people and other groups, guess who is on the front lines in trying to protect students and their families?  You guessed it!  Teachers!!!  THE Nation has a story detailing how teachers will be one of the first lines of defense in protecting illegal immigrants, trans students and other who have been threatened with unfair treatment.  The article is titled “Teachers Will Be a Formidable Force Against Trump.”  It looks at some recent protest marches in New York spearheaded by teachers.  “New York schools have historically been seedbeds of political dissent, but under the Trump administration, the classroom atmosphere has been more charged than ever,”the piece relates.  “Kids wonder if Homeland Security will snatch up their parents at home while they’re in school.  And teachers might take a little more care to make sure their trans student can use the right bathroom without getting bullied.”               Here’s an intriguing idea for dealing with the teacher shortage in California.  2 state senators have introduced SB 807 which would give veteran teachers an exemption from paying state income taxes for 10 years, in essence giving them a 4-6% pay increase and hopefully attracting more people into the field.  The nonprofit group EdVoice is behind the drive to get the legislation passed and into law.  It also includes tax credits to assist new teachers entering the profession to defray some of the costs of earning a credential.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a Q & A about the bill with Bill Lucia, President and CEO of EdVoice.  In response to a question about whether anything like this has or is being done in other states, Lucia replies: “This would be novel.  While some states don’t have any income tax, we would be the only state in the nation to have exemptions for teachers.  Some states have explored tax credits to help teachers pay for supplies in their classrooms,” he continues.  “In California, the training costs that teachers can incur, depending on the district, can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  We don’t know of any proposal like this that has gotten as far as people in the governor’s office weighing whether to suggest a veto.”
 
 
 
*Kilroy J. Oldster is an accomplished trial attorney, arbitrator, and mediator. His litigation practice encompasses both criminal and civil cases including personal injury, professional negligence, business disputes, and domestic relations.

                      
                                      .                                                                       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, March 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Museum education has the power and the responsibility to do the challenging inner work 
of tackling tough topics and turning them into teachable moments.”
Some Childrens’ Books About Protest and Activism
With so many anti-Trump protests and a few pro-Trump ones taking place in this country and even around the world, I couldn’t pass up this item.  The geek MOM website has an annotated list of “13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism.”  You might want to use these in your classroom or for your own kids or grand children or share it with a friend or colleague or at the next faculty meeting.  The “Ed News” is a blog of timely educational news so the article certainly fits the bill.  Here’s the first one from the list:  “The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. The crayons are fed up, and they’re going to let Duncan know exactly why.  Show kids the power of letter writing, how a strike can help you fight for your rights, and the power of listening when you’re in charge.”

Cartoon of the Day
Tom Toles | Just what are they teaching our kids in school these days??
Just what are they teaching our kids in school these days??
The Teaching Profession
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted, once again, the suggestion that the school day start after 8:30 in the morning for middle and high school students.  What about restructuring the traditional school day for teachers?  Interesting concept.  What changes would be made?  A story on the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK features a new report that offers some ideas.  It suggests that teaches be given more time to collaborate with colleagues, plan lessons and just reflect on best practices “The authors of ‘Reimagining the School Day’ point out that U.S. educators spend far more time teaching lessons and less time planning them than educators in other top-performing countries.  In a typical work week,” the article mentions, “U.S. teachers spend about 27 hours delivering lessons, compared with their counterparts in Singapore, who teach 17 hours each week, or to teachers in Finland, who log 21 hours a week.”  The ED WEEK item includes a link to the full report from the Center for American Progress or you can download it as a PDF file (15 pages).               How do mothers, fathers, husbands and wives of teachers feel about what their loved ones do and the criticisms aimed at them about being “lazy,” uncaring about students and overpaid (“you only work 6 hours a day and 9 months out of the year”).  The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) have an essay on their website from a family member of a hardworking teacher.  The sentiments she expresses could apply to most dedicated educators.  “When you are the mother of a teacher you will get to listen to people criticize public school teachers without a second thought.  They will demonize them as lazy leeches,” this mom writes, “who teach for the money and not because they care about the future of their students. (Because we all know they make soooomuch)”
 
John Deasy is BAAAACK, Unfortunately!
Former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy is back and critics of his poor performance as head of the district are pained at how often he resurfaces.  He left under a cloud of suspicion in Oct., 2014,based on his involvement in the “iPad-for-all” program and the disastrous roll out of a new student information system among other things.    Billionaire philanthropist and charter proponent Eli Broad quickly hired the discredited former chief of the nation’s second largest school district.  And now, like a cat with 9 lives, Deasy is collecting a hefty check from a group called Frontline Education to be the editor-in-chief of their brand new website called “The Line.”  Peter Greene takes his usual irreverent look at the new publication on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  He reviews some of the first articles on the website and adds his often acerbic comments.  “We’ve wondered for a few years what would happen to reformsters when they approached the autumn of their careers,” Greene wraps up.   “Apparently at least part of the answer is that they get together on websites where they play their greatest hits, like over-aged rock bands traveling the county fair circuit.
 
Guns in Schools
During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to end gun-free school zones.  If and when he gets to that pledge, he will be in for a fight, especially from educators who will bear the burden of dealing with guns in their schools if he is successful.  Friday’s “Ed News” had a commentary about why allowing guns in schools is a bad idea.  EDUCATION WEEK has a topical piece titled “Educators Join New Fight to Block Guns in Schools.”  It focuses on one teacher who survived the nation’s deadliest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, a little over 4 years ago and an administrator who was wounded by a student gunman over 30 years ago at a high school in Montana.  “The federal law prohibits carrying or discharging guns within 1,000 feet of public or private school grounds,” the article points out, “unless a person is specifically authorized to do so by a state.”
 
The Trump Administration and Education
Mike Pence is the vice president of the U.S.  He joins the Trump/DeVos team and this triumvirate can do some serious damage to the traditional public school system in this country. 
Previous editions of the “Ed News’ have detailed what Pence did to schools in Indiana when he was governor of that state and whatDeVos did to education in her home state of Michigan.  Now that the 3 are firmly ensconced in their respective offices, what can we expect in the way of future education policies?  One good way to predict is to look back at what they’ve fashioned in their home states.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a comment from a retired educator in Indiana describing what Pence did to education in the Hoosier State.  Warning: it’s not a pretty picture if you’re a fan of traditional public schools.               Pres. Trump’s proposal to divert $20 billion of federal funds into a voucher program, he is calling it a tax credit scholarship plan, will need Congressional approval.  It is likely to face resistance from some members of the House and Senate education committees.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEKexplores 2 other scenarios for how the Trump administration might get the plan through Congress and to his desk for a signature.               Why are Pres. Trump and Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos so enamored of how school “choice” is being implemented in Florida?  Kristina Rizga, writing in Mother Jones, explains why the Sunshine state has become “the new darling” of the corporate “reformers,”privatizers and their political allies in the Trump administration.  So what is it about Florida?  For starters,” she relates, “the state offers many different types of school choice, including charter schools, vouchers for lowincome students and those with disabilities, and tax credit scholarships.”  Rizga also chronicles how Florida has been able to get around those pesky state constitutionalamendments that prohibit the spending of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools (see Mercedes Schneider’s piece about Blaine Amendments in the “Charters and Vouchers” section below.)
 
LAUSD School Board Races
Ahead of 3 critical LAUSD school board races that voters were deciding on today, a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times lays out the implications for the ongoing battle for control of the board between pro-charter and pro-traditional school candidates.  If the 3 contested seats are won or retained by charter proponents that would leave them with a majority of the 7-member board.  “On Tuesday, charter school supporters have their best chance yet,” the item begins, “to tip the scales and win a controlling majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education.  Three of the seven seats are up for grabs, and charter backers have strong candidates, seemingly unlimited financial resources — with major help from former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan — and the enthusiastic support of a growing number of charter-school families.”               Jennifer Berkshire, who used to write the blog “EduShyster” and is now working under the Have YOU HEARD moniker, profiles Lisa Alva, one of the dark horses in the LAUSD school board election to unseat the charter advocate and pro-reform incumbent Monica Garcia in District 2, which covers downtown, East L.A. and surrounding neighborhoods.  Alva once considered herself a member of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers but underwent a change of heart and now supports the traditional public schools where she currently teaches.  “Alva is feeling cautiously optimistic.  She’s buoyed by the support of neighborhood associations that,” Berkshire writes, “understand the vital connection between public schools and, well, neighborhoods.  And she’s encouraged by endorsements from progressive democratic groups and the Network for Public Education.  ‘I’m the only teacher in the race,’ Alva points out. She’s also the only candidate who is pledging to be the ‘voice of the voiceless.’  In a season of election surprises, here’s hoping for one of the good kind.”
 
Charters and Vouchers
An extensive, front-page investigative article in yesterday’s L.A. Times looks into the financial dealings of the Celerity Education Group, a network of 7 charter campuses in Los Angeles and 3 other states, and its founder and CEO Vielka McFarlane.  It found a disturbing pattern of questionable spending and conflicts of interest.  “At a time when charter school advocates are determined to increase the number of such schools in L.A., the story of McFarlane and the Celerity schools offers a case study of the growing difficulty of regulating them.  The task of spotting and stamping out risky financial practices in charters,” it reveals, “largely falls to the school district’s charter schools division, which employs about a dozen people dedicated to monitoring the schools’ fiscal health.”               Mercedes Schneider provides a valuable history lesson on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 related to the “Blaine Amendments” in most state constitutions and how they impact voucher proposals.  What are they?  They are named after Sen James G. Blaine of Maine and refer to laws that prohibit the spending of public tax dollars in support of private and/or religious schools?  They came about during the last quarter of the 19th century and could be crucial as the Trump/Pence?DeVos triumvirate attempt to push their voucher program at the federal level.  I’ll leave it to Schneider to sort all this out for you.  She’s does an excellent job, as always.  “To date, it seems that 37 or 38 states have some sort of Blaine amendment.  These two figures are cited repeatedly in various sources that I have read,” she indicates, “including those in this post.  However, I could not locate a comprehensive listing in any document that did not require purchase.”  [Ed. note: California has it’s version of the Blaine Amendment–I checked.  See Art. IX, Section 8, and Art. XVI, Sec. 5 of the state constitution.]               How is the voucher program doing in Louisiana?  The Louisiana Dept. of Education publicized the most recent scores of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (aka vouchers) at the end of February.  The verdict?  A “D” grade based on the comparable public school report card scores.  Not very encouraging.  A story in The New Orleans Times-Picayune, bluntly titled “Louisiana School Voucher Program Earns a D for 2016,” has the depressing details (especially if you’re a voucher advocate.  I wonder if the Trump/Pence/DeVos team are watching?)  Interestingly, the scores were delayed by about 3 months and were not made public until the deadline for parents to sign up for a voucher.  I wonder why parents weren’t provided with that vital piece of information while they were deciding to apply for a voucher?  You’re guess is as good as mine!  [Tulane University researcher Doug] Harris’ team at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans published a study last year,” the article points out, “showing students actually backslid when they took vouchers, ‘moving to worse schools’ than the public schools they left.  He is currently working on an update.”  Can anyone explain to me why vouchers are a good idea?               Is there a middle ground in the battle between charters and. traditional public schools?  That’s the premise of a sure to spark debate commentary in EDUCATION WEEK titled “How to End the Charter Schools War.”  It’s written by Ron Wolk, founding editor of ED WEEK and a board member of Big Picture Learning, a network of over 100 charter campuses in the U.S. and worldwide, including 11 in California, that promote student-centered learning that downplays standardized test scores.  “Our country needs a centrist solution—a strategy that addresses the concerns of both camps and recognizes that there is truth on both sides of the debate,” he contends.  “That strategy should reinforce the original purpose of charter schools as expressed by dozens of state charter laws: To create schools that become vanguards, laboratories, and an expression of the ongoing and vital state interest in the improvement of public education.  With the charter expansion of the 2000s, however, that worthy goal was often ignored.”   Wolk presents some interesting ideas.  I don’t agree with everything he says but it may be worth a look. Both sides seem to be getting further entrenched with their respective arguments and despite what many of you may think, I’m not totally against charters.  However, I go back to their original intent as laid out by Albert Shanker in the late 1980s, and repeated by Wolk in his quote above, which would allow public schools to innovate new ideas for delivering quality educations to all students and become laboratories for teaching others how to do this.  That vision has been severely eroded by the corporate “reformers,’ privatizers and their allies, again see Wolk’s quote above, who I do rail against and will continue to do so.  Their goal is to destroy public education as we know it in the name of profit and greed!               Why is there a seemingly fight to the death between charters and the traditional public schools?  It could be because they are involved in a zero sum game.  There are only so many students and taxpayer dollars available.  When one sides wins, the other loses.  That’s the premise of a piece from Sara Roos, aka the redqueeninla titled “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”  “While it’s possible for both entities to tolerate one another, it’s not possible for their existence not to impact the other,” she argues.  “That’s where the fallacy lies.  Folks who wonder ingenuously why we can’t all ‘just get along’, seem not to understand the pernicious consequences of charter schools on the totality of a public education system. The underlying game-plan of charters is to rarefy its pupil-population, by hook or by crook.  Sometimes in the past, this has been done illegally through fixing lotteries or selections processes.”                  What might the effect be on school districts around the country if the Trump/Pence/DeVos team successfully get afederal voucher program passed into law?  A new study from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, featured in the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK, paints a rather bleak picture for up to 85% of school districts in the U.S.  Smaller districts in predominantly rural states would be especially hard hit.  In the report they are referred to as “sparse” districts or ones with 4 or fewer schools.  They would be the least able to adjust to even a small number of their students leaving in order to utilize federal vouchers that allowed them to attend private or parochial campuses.  The article includes a link to the full report titled “Vouchers Are Not a Viable Solution for Vast Swaths of America.”  The ED WEEK article illustrates as a case study from the report a rural district in Wyoming with 650 students enrolled in its one elementary school, one middle school and one high school and the impact vouchers would have on the viability of the original district.                You know what the 3 Rs are.  What about the 3 Rs as they relate to vouchers?  Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, titles his essay unsparingly: “School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist and the Religious Right.”  He includes a brief history of vouchers and a list of statements about them with links to the research and writings that support the statements.  “Our new Secretary of Education, BetsyDeVos, is rich, white, and a proselytizing supporter of the Christian religious right.  DeVos is also an outspoken champion of school vouchers.  These two things are not coincidences,” he suggests.  “While voucher proponents will tell you, and some may even believe, that their push for vouchers is a push to make sure all children have the opportunity to get a great education, the real benefactors of school vouchers are the rich, the white and the religious right.”               
 
Supreme Court Will Not Hear Transgender School Bathroom Case
In a brief order yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a case concerning a transgender student’s wish to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school.  The high court had scheduled arguments in the case for this month but changed its mind given the Trump administration’s reversal of Pres. Obama’s guidelines on the subject.  A story in The New York Times has the details about the court’s recent action.  “The Department of Education said in 2015 that schools ‘generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.’  Last year,” it reports, “the department went further, saying that schools could lose federal money if they discriminated against transgender students.  The Trump administration withdrew that guidance last month.”
 
LAUSD Expands Dual-Language Program for Preschoolers
The very successful and highly popular LAUSD dual-language program is being expanded for its youngest pupils.  The “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how the classes work in one classroom at Grand View Elementary School in Mar Vista.  “Research has shown that bilingualism has a wide range of benefits in children,” it mentions, “helping their communication skills and giving them an edge over monolingual peers in their ability to focus and process information.  These benefits can start as early as a baby’s first year, and children are likely to have a better mastery of a language the younger they start learning it.”
 
SomeDam Poet Rhymes Again
Diane Ravitch’s blog once again features some verse from SomeDam Poet.  This time the title is “The Good Old Days.”  Here are the first 4 lines:
 
Don’t you miss the good old days?
The days of school deforming ways?
When Arne ruled with iron hand
With Common Core and test and VAM?

Check out the rest. It’s very short.


School Accountability System
California scrapped its old single number API (Academic Performance Index) as a way of holding schools accountable and rolled out a much more complex, and some would say, confusing “dashboard” system of pie charts and text that rates school are a number of criteria.  An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times lauds the State Board of Education for making changes to the old, outmoded system but thinks it still needs some tweaks to make it more understandable.  An L.A. group called Parent Revolution, a pro-choice organization that likes to use the parent-trigger law to turn under funded and poorly supported schools over to charters, has offered a couple of suggestions for improving the new school accountability plan.  The Times describes what Parent Revolution is proposing and thinks it should be adopted by the State Board.  “At this point California has spent years without an accountability system at all,” the editorial reminds, “while it shifted to a new testing system based on the Common Core curriculum standards and got busy fashioning this new dashboard. The resulting charts are supposed to provide information about everything from school culture to how well prepared students are to go on to college or decent jobs.”
 
The Myth of “Failing” Public Schools
And finally, ever wonder why the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies are constantly talking about the “failing” public school system?  I refuse to refer to traditional public schools in that way.  I would rather everyone adopt the descriptors  “underfunded” and “poorly supported,” which is much closer to reality.  Paul Thomas, Professor of Education at Furman University, taught English at a rural high school in South Carolina for almost 20 years.  He used to blog under the “Becoming Radical” website but recently changed the name to radical eyes for equity. [Ed. note: Anyone notice that several of my favorite bloggers have recently changed the names of their websites?  Am I missing something?  Do I need to join the trend?  But I digress!]  Furman believes the idea of “failing” public schools is really a “selffulfilling prophesy” which just so happens to be part of his title.  He references the Ron Wolk article in ED WEEK (Furman refers to that publication as “the queen of misinforming edujournalism.”) that I highlighted in the “Charters and Vouchers”section above.  “Edujournalism,” Furman complains, “has been for decades a harbinger of the current threats to democracy posed by, not fake news, but post-truth journalism, the sort of enduring but false claims that drive mainstream media and remain unchecked by the public.”
 
 
*MONICA O. MONTGOMERY is a cultural entrepreneur, who curates unique and interactive museum exhibitions that pop up in non-traditional and traditional venues. Monica believes museums should be in service to society. She is the founding director of the Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum.
                                      .                                                                       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, March 3, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Tuesday is the Consolidated Municipal and Special Election date for L.A. County.  Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.  Be sure to vote if you are registered and have not already cast your ballot.
   Inline image 2

And now to the news.

“I don’t teach. I just show them why to learn, what to learn, 
how to learn, and the ultimate purpose of learning.” 

― Debasish Mridha

UTLA President Re-elected
Bargaining unit members of United Teachers Los Angeles overwhelmingly returned Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl to office for a second 3-year term.  He received over 82% of the votes cast according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  A little over a quarter of the membership returned ballots.  For preliminary UTLA election results see Tuesday’s “Ed News.” “Caputo-Pearl will have little time to savor his victory because the union is locked in another election struggle, over three of seven board seats on the L.A. Board of Education. The union and affiliated unions,” the article reports, “are expected to spend well over $1 million to retain a board that is generally pro-union.  Supporters of charter schools are expected to pay even more to try to tip the balance.”
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The redqueeninla blog returns to reporting on the exorbitant amounts of outside money being poured into the 3 LAUSD school board races on Tuesday by the pro-charter corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies.  A big chunk of the money is aimed at defeating incumbent board president Steve Zimmer in District 4 that stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley.  The redqueen lists some of the billionaires by name and who specifically they are contributing to.  “Sure our public school system has problems, but all is not unremitting disaster and there’s still a process intact for ordinary citizens to claw their way toward collective improvement.  The moment we remove public transparency, accountability and control of our children’s education and our nation’s future,” the author cautions, “is the moment we sell our democracy downriver to plutocratic ‘special interests.’  That’s the future Zimmer’s opposition connives to establish.  A public Education sector privatized for corporate ends.  It’s no future for our children and it’s no future for our democracy either. . . .  The stakes are that stark.”  [Ed. note: You may need to click on the charts and graphs she includes or hit the “Zoom +” button to be able to read what they contain.]                  Peter Dreier, professsor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, weighs in on the billionaires who are using their outside financial influence to defeat board Pres. Steve Zimmer in a hotly contested LAUSD school board race (see above).  Dreier’s commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST and he names names and lists some of the organizations backing the challengers.  “The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call ‘school reform.’  What they’re really after,” he charges, “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 as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.”            Diane Ravitch’ blog endorses candidates in two of the three LAUSD school board races ahead of the election on Tuesday.  In District 2 she urges a vote for one of the two challengers against incumbent Monica Garcia and in District 4 she picks incumbent Steve Zimmer.  “It seems every school board race in Los Angeles is a struggle for the existence of public education,” she observes.  “That is because Eli Broad and his billionaire friends pour millions of dollars into local school board races (and Eli is one of the few billionaires who actually lives in Los Angeles) to try to control it.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos IS the Sec. of Education.  There’s no arguing that fact.  Whether she should be in that job is a whole other story.  Since her appointment was announced in late November, the “Ed News” has highlighted a a myriad of items detailing her advocacy for charters, vouchers and choice, her lack of practical teaching experience and her dislike of traditional public schools, among other issues.  TheCenter for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy and advocacy group, perused her financial disclosure forms during her Senate confirmation process and after and discovered some rather disturbing trends.  An investigative piece on the organization’s website reveals a number of alarming investments she has, so far, not made any effort to divest herself from.  “Overall, DeVos’ paperwork showcases an extensive web of investments, several of which raise eyebrows. . . .  Unfortunately,” the piece points out, “senators could not ask DeVos any questions about what is in the OGE [Office of Government Ethics] paperwork during her confirmation hearing.   In an unprecedented move that applied to no other Trump nominee, DeVos’ hearing went forward before the paperwork was finished.  Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, never had a chance to ask about it.”  
 
Trump and Education
Pres. Trump delivered his first speech to a join session of Congress on Tuesday night.  He briefly mentioned education, calling it the “civil rights issue of our time,” which several previous presidents had also done.  In addition,  he repeated his campaign rhetoric regarding his plan to divert billions of federal taxpayer dollars ($20 billion) into a “tax credit scholarship program” (vouchers) for students to use at private or parochial schools.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews the speech and some of the other issues Trump raised.  “The push for school choice is no surprise—it’s the education issue Trump talked about most often on the campaign trail,” it mentions.  “And Trump picked an education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who spent decades advocating for expanding vouchers and charter schools.”                            Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is troubled by the verbiage Pres. Trump used about education in his speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night (see above).  Bryant finds Trump’s proposals for school “choice” and vouchers to be rather dangerous as they could easily lead down the slippery slope of promoting religious fundamentalism at TAXPAYER EXPENSE.  He describes some of the textbooks used in religious schools that voucher wielding students could be attending.  Whatever happened to that founding fathers’ provision in the Constitution about separation of church and state?   Want a peek at how this might look around the country?  Of the roughly 2,300 private schools in Florida,” he points out, “more than 1,500 accept voucher money, and of these voucher-accepting schools, about 45 percent rely on them for at least half of their students.  About 70 percent of these schools are religiously affiliated, ‘including some where religion is a central focus.’  Now, Trump wants to roll that out nationwide.”  “This is an alarming post,” Diane Ravitch’s blog warns regarding Bryant’s story.  “Read at your own peril. . . .  Read the entire article.  Ask yourself whether religious fundamentalism provides the kind of education that our nation’s children need to prepare for a complex world.”  Ravitch is being rather kind in her admonition.               Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog has an analysis of Trump’s speech to Congress.   See if you can figure out what Klonsky thought of it from his title: “Trump’s Empty Statements on Education.”   He picks up on a couple of the points Trump tried to make.  “Trump’s vapid speech to the Joint Session of Congress last night revealed, among other things,” Klonsky complains, “that he is an educational know-nothing.  As you might expect, the speech was void of any real vision for the future of public education or school reform.  It amounted to little more than a sound-bite ad for market-driven schooling.”            This is pretty telling.  Today Pres. Trump made his first official visit to a school as president and it was to a CATHOLIC CAMPUS in Florida where over 85% of the 350 students are able to attend due to taxpayer provided vouchers.  That’s a photo-opp fraught with meaning.  Valerie Strauss discusses the trip prior to its taking place on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  “Trump has repeatedly expressed his interest in expanding school choice,” she reminds readers, “which includes voucher and tax credit programs that use public dollars to fund tuition and other educational expenses at private and religious schools.  Opponents say these programs violate the constitutional separation between church and state and harm traditional public education systems where the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren are enrolled.  But they have grown substantially in the past decade, and DeVos has been a leader in the choice movement for decades.”              The Politics K-12″ column for EDUCATION WEEK reports on Pres. Trump’s visit to a Florida Catholic school this morning which was his first stopover at a school as president (see above).  He was accompanied by Betsy DeVos and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).  “Symbolically, it’s telling that Trump picked a Catholic—not public—school for his first school visit,” it points out.  “President Barack Obama, a charter fan, picked a charter in the District of Columbia for one of his earliest school tours, although he went to a Catholic school as president-elect, back in November of 2009.  And President George W. Bush choose a public school in Tennessee.”               Valerie Strauss follows up her blog about Pres. Trump’s visit to the Catholic school in Orlando, Florida, (see above) in her blog for The Washington Post.  She describes what took place, who attended and what the message and meaning is of the stop.  “Trump is the first sitting president to visit a Catholic school,” she mentions, “since Ronald Reagan visited St. Agatha Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Detroit on Oct. 10, 1984, years after he was elected.”
 
Public Attitudes About Education
California is unarguably a very progressive, blue state.  Texas, on the other hand, is a deeply conservative, red state.  The Texas Politics Project, which is a partnership between the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, polled 1,200 registered voters in February about their attitudes on a number of general subjects.  One question had to do with what steps could be taken that would be the “most effective in improving K-12 education?”  The top choice selected by 21% of respondents was “Reducing the number of standardized tests students must take;”  number 2 choice picked by 20% of respondents was “Increasing funding for the public school system.”  Click on the boxes at the bottom of this bar graph to view a particular demographic breakdown of the numbers. The results are rather intriguing, particularly when you remember Texas is such a Republican state.  Imagine what the findings might be here in California.
 
Teacher Training
When you were working on your credential did the preparation program include any sort of training for working with students with disabilities?  [Ed. note: That was a long time ago for me (1972), but to the best of my knowledge, my answer would be “no.”]  A story inTHE HECHINGER REPORT finds that many teacher training programs even today offer little, if any, instruction in working with students with disabilities.  “The need for teachers who have both the knowledge and the ability to teach special education students is more critical today than ever before,” it suggests.  “A national push to take students with disabilities out of isolation means most now spend the majority of their days in general education classrooms, rather than in separate, special education classes.  That means general education teachers are teaching more students with disabilities.  But training programs are doing little to prepare teachers.”  The article goes on to illustrate its point through the experiences of one middle school math educator in New Jersey who began teaching in 2012.                Is your district facing a teacher shortage?  Are there not enough newly credentialed educators in your state to meet the demand?  Why not have that district create its own teacher preparation program?  That’s exactly what the Las Virgenes Unified School District (Ventura County) is doing starting in the fall.  Thanks to ALOED member Nancy Kuechle for sending along an article from The Acorn newspaper that describes just how the LVUSD is planning to develop a credential program of its own.  “Educators currently receive their credentialing through the Ventura County Office of Education,” it spells out.  “District Assistant Superintendent Clara Finneran said Las Virgenes has specific goals focused on reducing suspension and expulsion rates among students that don’t coincide with the VCOE.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Although it is not often included in state history standards, more and more teachers and districts are including units on the history of white nationalism in the U.S.  In the past year or so, the country has seen an upsurge in hate crimes and the formation of hate groups.  The author of an essay on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog is a history teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  “Although white nationalism has always been a dominant, if not the dominant ideology in American history, white nationalists in the twenty-first century often embrace policies of voter restrictions, immigration restriction, segregation, flight from public schools, and the defunding of any public programs at any level that are perceived to transfer public funds to minority groups.  Moreover,” he continues, “the current resurgence of white nationalism seems to be fueled by the prospect of a minority majority in the near future.  Demographers have established that people of color will outnumber white Americans in about thirty years.”              Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) gets at the essence of the teaching profession in an impassioned defense of teachers.  “The art of teaching cannot be confined to one definition for every school day.  The art of teaching is different on different days,” she contends, “with different classes of students, and is different with individual students.   The art of teaching does not exist in a silo of one word.  One of the administrators who worked in my district said it best, ‘Teaching is the only profession where you have to make 30 decisions in a 40 minute period that can impact a child’s life.’  Teaching is not one thing or the other.  Teaching is many things all at once.” Hear!  Hear to that!
 
Proposal to Start School Day Later for California Teens
An editorial in Friday’s L.A. Times commented on a story in the Feb. 18th edition of the paper about a bill introduced in the California legislature that would allow the school day for middle and high school students to start sometime after 8:30 in the morning.  The editorial prompted a single letter-to-the-editor that appears in yesterday’s Times.  It is from a retired middle school teacher who worked at a school that began at 7:30.  The author of the letter was in favor of the later start.  
 
Charter Schools  
Intelligence Squared U.S. held a fascinating debate on Wednesday in Manhattan on the topic: “Charters Schools are Overrated.”  Arguing in favor of that statement are Gary Mirron, professor of Education at Western Michigan University, and Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor of Educational Leadership at CSU Sacramento and co-founder of the NPE (Network for Public Education).  [Ed. note: An ALOED colleague and I heard Dr. Heilig speak at Antioch University’s Culver City campus on February 16.  See the Feb. 24, edition of the “Ed News.]  Arguing against the statement are Jeanne Allen, chief executive officer of the Center for School Reform, and Gerard Robinson, a former Florida education commissioner and resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  The “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a recap of the debate which includes a poll of viewers prior to and after the event about how they felt about the topic.  “The debate comes at a time when expanding school choice, including charter schools, is shaping up to be the main agenda for K-12 under President Donald Trump,” it mentions,” who brought the issue up during his first formal address to Congress.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been one of the biggest champions for school choice for years, pouring millions of dollars from her family’s fortune into supporting charters, private school vouchers, and other forms of choice.”  The winner of the debate was the side that changed the most minds among the online and live audience viewers.  You can read the article and check out the before and after responses by clicking here and you can view a video (109:41 minutes) of the debate on the Intelligence Squared U.S. website.                Vicki Cobb, President and founder of iNK Think Tank, Inc., and prolific author of nonfiction books for children, viewed the debate about charter schools (see above) and commented on it for THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “My ‘lane’ is quality education for every child.  So, I am interested in the problems and processes that go into starting a school from scratch. Republicans and education ‘reformers’ frame this as ‘choice’ and believe that choice is essential to the republic,”  she suggests.  “But, if you’re a parent that can be misleading. Even if your child is in a local public school, you have choices—you can send your child to another public school, or a magnet school, or get involved in contributing time and ideas to your own local school. For people of color in poor neighborhoods, charters represent a seductive alternative to the local school, which may have been labeled “failing.’”     Friday pop quiz: How many states allow charter schools?  Answer: 43 + the District of Columbia.  Kentucky could soon become the 44th state as a bill to do just that is working its way through the state legislature according to an item in EDUCATION WEEK.  Both houses of the Bluegrass state’s legislature and the governor’s office are controlled by the Republicans, so prospects are excellent that the bill will eventual become law.  It now goes to the state Senate.  “House Bill 520 would let local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington,” it explains, “contract with private groups to create charter schools in their communities.  Each of these schools would be governed by an independent board of directors that must include two parents from the school’s students. The contracts would have to be renewed every five years.”
 
LAUSD Sues City Over Toxic Cleanup Costs
The LAUSD filed suit against the city Housing Authority in an attempt to recover costs of cleaning up lead and arsenic contamination at David Starr Jordan High School in Watts. An article in today’s L.A. Times reviews the situation and the latest legal action.  “The district says that the contamination seeped into the soil from a neighboring parcel of land,” the piece explains, “that the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles bought in 2008 to develop.  The school district says the school’s arsenic and lead levels are currently safe but that the housing authority needs to take responsibility for the work that’s already been done as well as for any future work. . . .  The site was used for heavy industry from the 1930s to the 1970s.  Scrap metal was stored there, and furnaces melted scrap iron for use in steel products.”
 
Supporting Public Schools
The “K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK offers “Some Things You Can Do to Support Public Education Now.”  It provides 5 concrete suggestions that counteract some of the arguments that our traditional public school system is “failing.”  Here’s one idea from the list: “Get to know the issues—and especially learn your history.” “There are no shortcuts.  Get involved.  Make a commitment.  Write a letter.  Work to elect good people to the school board,” the author urges.  “Get on the school board yourself. There can be no democracy without a good education system.  It’s up to us to make sure everyone has access to one.  It’s hard, slow, deliberate work protecting public education, but it’s worth it.”
 
Guns in Schools
Does Pres. Trump plan to end gun free zones around the nation’s schools?  He promised he would do that during the campaign.  Will he follow through and if so, when?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG thinks that “is a bad idea” and gives 5 reasons why.  “Children deserve a safe environment in which to learn,” he concludes simply.  “Adding guns to our already overburdened public schools is throwing a match at an already explosive situation.”  Be sure to check out the photo that leads off this piece–scary!
 
Students in Montebello Protest Proposed Staff Cuts
Hundreds of students in the Montebello Unified School District staged a walkout yesterday to protest proposed staff cuts for the district.  Issues of corruption and mismanagement have plagued the district over the past several months and fiscal problems go back to the 1990s according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “More than two decades ago, students walked out of schools in the Montebello Unified School District, protesting millions of dollars in budget cuts.  On Thursday,” it begins, “history repeated itself, with hundreds rallying at the district office to protest hundreds of potential layoffs.”
 
A Correction
And finally, in the Feb. 24th edition of the “Ed News” I indicated that another ALOED member and I attended a speech by Julian Vasquez Heilig at the Culver City campus of Antioch University on the wrong date.  It should have read February 16th.
                                      .                                                                       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, February 28, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

EVENT REMINDER: The next ALOED Book Club discussion will take place on Saturday, March 25, at the Samuelson Alumni Center at Occidental College.  The volume this time is Vicki Abeles’ “Beyond Measure.”  Brunch, provided by ALOED, will be served at 11 am with dialogue about the book to follow at noon.  For more details and to RSVP click here.  Please join us for good food and an always stimulating discussion.  You don’t even have to read the book to participate but you do have 3 1/2 weeks to finish it.  Stop making excuses.  Sign up for the event, get the book, READ IT and join us.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

And now to the news.

 “The best teacher teaches by inspiring students to learn 
 by showing them the ultimate purpose of learning.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Charter Schools & Vouchers
Carol Burris, once again writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, offers a “cautionary tale” of how a fight over the takeover of a neighborhood school effected an entire community.  This time she travels to John Wister Elementary School in a neighborhood of Philadelphia to describe how the parents were split into two warring factions in a battle with the Mastery Charter School chain.  “The popular rationale for charter schools is that they provide families with ‘choice.’  Competition is good, proponents claim, and neighborhood schools will get better as they compete for students and resources.  Increasing numbers of parents, however, argue that the opposite is happening.  They complain,” Burris contends, “that charters take away the choice they want — a public school in their neighborhood in easy walking distance from their home.  The playing field is not even, they argue.  Charters have more money to spend, and are favored by political forces.  And when a charter chain aggressively lobbies to take over a public school, parents are pitted against each other.  Surely that is no one’s choice.”              Are charter schools losing some of their cachet?  New figures reported in EDWEEK Market Brief note that school spending between 2012 and 2014 for non-charters rose while lagging “significantly” for charter schools.  Surprisingly (or not), the biggest gap in comparative spending between charters and non-charters was in the realm of instruction.  “Only half of states reported high-quality financial data for both charter and noncharter school districts. Of the 25 states that did report,” the piece notes, “the data showed charter schools spent 10 percent less per student on average than traditional district schools.  Interestingly, the gap showed most in instruction.”  Apparently, a lot of that taxpayer money for charters goes to non-classroom sources like public relations, advertising, salaries for charter board members, rent, profit (in some cases), etc., etc.  Be sure to check out the bar graph for a rather revealing snapshot of charter vs non-charter spending.               Several new reports are out putting the kibosh on vouchers, one of the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate’s signature policy initiatives.  A story in The New York Times reviews the latest studies and some of the reaction to them.  It’s headlined: “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins.”  “The new evidence on vouchers does not seem to have deterred the Trump administration, which has proposed a new $20 billion voucher program.  Secretary DeVos’s enthusiasm for vouchers,” the article concludes, “which have been the primary focus of her philanthropic spending and advocacy, appears to be undiminished.”  This is just another example, apparently, of how the Trump administration is going to ignore the research in their headlong crusade to achieve their personal agendas–facts be damned.  As Trump himself might tweet: “SAD!”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, previews the Trump/Pence/DeVos initiative to introduce vouchers in the president’s budget plan scheduled to be released in mid-March.  Schneider predicts that details and the cost of the voucher proposal will be sketchy and references the article above about poor results from voucher plans in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana.  “What this means in the world of Trump-DeVos education is that the voucher is being pushed regardless of the evidence that state-level voucher programs are faring embarrassingly poorly.  School voucher superiority is an ideology that Trump says he will finance and DeVos is devoted to proliferating.  By mid-March,” she suggests, “America might know just how much the Trump-DeVos voucher non-solution will cost, at least in the short term.  The long-term costs for the thousands of students subjected to dismal ‘choice’ remains to be seen.”                Is the ultimate goal of education to make a profit or educate students?  That shouldn’t be a difficult choice yet we allow for-profit charters to make millions of dollars.  ARIZONANS FOR CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY have a new report about an unregulated online charter that made $10 million in 2016.  You can read a 1 page News Release about the study by clicking here.  It includes 2 separate links to the full report (14 pages) titled “The Consequences of Unregulated Charter Schools: For-Profit American Virtual Academy Nets $10 Million in 2016 After Siphoning $84 Million From Non-Profit Primavera Online.”               Yet another disgruntled teacher has quit Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy Charter chain in New York City and sent a letter, posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog, about why she chose to leave.  “Most of the students I taught at Success dreaded coming to school, as did most of the teachers.  It is a grueling, relentless atmosphere where every second is cherished as potential learning time, and every slip-up garners an immediate consequence.  There is a small fraction of people – students and adults alike – who thrive in this extreme environment. . . .  Like so many others,” the young educator reveals, “I quit Success because the brand of teaching the network demands prevented me from providing the quality of education my students deserve.”               Another study, released last week, finds that private school vouchers are NOT the answer as they provide only limited or no improvement in student test scores (see item above from the New York Times for some additional research on vouchers).  The report is written by Martin Carnoy, a professor at Stanford University and research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and is featured by Valerie Strauss in her blog for The Washington Post.  “The Carnoy report concludes by saying that any Trump administration ‘push for vouchers and charters could be seen as distracting from implementing programs that can, in fact, improve student learning.’  They include investing more in excellent teacher pre-service training,” Strauss emphasizes, “in early-childhood education, in after-school and summer programs, in improved student health and nutrition programs in and out of schools, and in implementing high standards in math, reading and science curriculums.”
 
The Trump Administration 
What might we expect from Trump’s initial budget proposal in regards to education policy?  The President addresses Congress this evening and is expected to submit details of his budget by the middle of March.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK speculates about Trump’s spending plans for K-12 and post-secondary education.  One thing he has more than hinted at is a possible 10% cut in domestic agencies to help fund a substantial increase in military and security spending.                 Jennifer Berkshire has changed the name of her influential blog from “EduShyster” to HAVE YOU HEARD.  She has a Q & A with Derek Black, professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, about what he sees the Trump administration doing regarding civil rights enforcement and education.  He’s not at all encouraged by their very first action in this area–the rescinding of guidelines promulgated by the Obama administration pertaining to transgender student’s rights to use the  bathroom of their choice.  Black also ventures some predictions for the future and comments on “zero-tolerance” discipline policies.
2 Key Elections for UTLA
United Teachers Los Angeles is in the midst of 2 important elections.  Union elections have taken place over the past couple of weeks with the ballots counted yesterday (see following item).  On March 7, a week from today, the L.A. municipal elections include races for 3 critical LAUSD board of education seats which the “Ed News” has reported on in previous editions.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times mentions the current situation the union is in and what the 2 elections augur for the future.  The school board races once again pit pro-charter candidates against union-backed challengers and one incumbent.  “In the school board races, UTLA-backed candidates are facing off against those supported by charter-school advocates. Although the union can’t match charter backers dollar for dollar,” it suggests, “it’s ultimately likely to spend well over $1 million to plug its candidates and to try to convince voters that charter-backed candidates are the tools of billionaire donors who would work on behalf of a Trump agenda — because Trump views increasing the number of charters as key to giving families more choices in schooling options.”               Preliminary UTLA election results (see above) can be found on the union’s website by clicking here.
 
Betsy DeVos
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the NEA (National Education Association), the nation’s largest teachers union, got a phone call from Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos who wanted to talk about future education policies.  Before conducting a conversation Eskelsen Garcia wants some clarification on where DeVos stands on certain issues and wrote a letter to the head of the Dept. of Education which she shares on her Lily’s Blackboard website.  The letter includes 4 critical questions the leader of the NEA would like answers to.  “For us, there is a wrong answer to these questions.  Privatizing and profiting from public education,” Eskelsen Garcia writes, “has not moved us toward equity, equal access, non-discrimination, and opportunity for all students.  Educators will never waver in our determination to create a system that works for ALL children.  Educators, students, and parents deserve to know that the U.S. Secretary of Education will do the same.”  So far, she’s not received a response from DeVos.               SomeDam Poet has a one stanza rhyme about DeVos and how she handled the Trump administration’s u-turn on transgender student bathroom rights (see Friday’s “Ed News).  It appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog and is titled “DeV[i]o[u]s.”  It will take you all of 15 seconds to read.               DeVos delivered some brief remarks to the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) on Thursday (see Friday’s “Ed News).  Peter Greene, writing for The Progressive, deconstructs one of her main points and finds it rather disingenuous.  She blames Pres. Obama and his Sec. of Education, Arne Duncan, for wasting billions of dollars on their School Improvement Grants (SIGs) program.  Greene believes she’s focusing on the wrong issue.  “DeVos and other conservative reformers are taking the real lesson of the grant program’s failure: ‘spending money on the wrong thing for schools doesn’t help,’ and shortening it to a far more damaging assessment: “spending money on schools doesn’t help.’”  Greene points out she want to spend $20 billion (Trump’s estimate) on vouchers–another failed idea–to “help” the public schools.  She’s missing the point, as Greene tries to explain.               Mitchell Robinson, writing on the eclecta blog, has some advice for Betsy DeVos after her rough start as Sec. of Education and her speech to the CPAC (see item above).  “So, here’s my last bit of advice for you: slow down, talk to some real teachers (not those Teach for America interns the Department of Education seems to be so fond of these days), and make a real, pre-approved, planned, coordinated visit to an actual public school (not another one of those ninja-style assaults you tried to pull off last week).  When you get to that school,” he offers, “try this: listen more than talk; pay attention to what the students and teachers are really saying, not your own interpretation of what you think they are saying; and–most importantly–ask them how you can help.”  Robinson includes a list of some of the “stuff” DeVos did during his first week or so as head of the DoE.             Maria Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), was angered by Betsy DeVos’ first attempt at social media upon assuming her post as head of the DoE.  It had to do with a “joke” about finding pencils
 
Inline image 1
Kilfoyle invites teachers to talk about how they’ve spent their own money to provide supplies and materials for their students and prints a long list of their responses.
 
NEPC Presents its “Bunkum Award”
In this season of awards, the Oscars were handed out Sunday and several others preceded it, the NEPC (NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY CENTER) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, School of Education, presents its annual “Bunkum Award” for the worst research from a think tank.  Envelope please.  And the winner is . . . . The Center for American Progress (CAP) and its questionable study correlating high standards (Common Core) to improvements in test scores for high-poverty students.  “The fundamental flaw in this report is simply that it uses inadequate data and analyses to make a broad policy recommendation in support of the common core state standards.  A reader may or may not agree with the authors’ conclusion,” the piece notes, “that ‘states should continue their commitment to the Common Core’s full implementation and aligned assessments.’  But that conclusion cannot and should not be based on the flimsy analyses and anecdotes presented in the report.”
 
Pearson Records Record Loss
The education publishing giant, Pearson, reports its biggest loss in history amid slumping textbook sales in the U.S.  The London-based company announced a loss of 2.6 billion British pounds ($3.23 billion) on Friday according to a story in theguardian.  “Pearson was founded in 1844 as a construction company which switched to the publishing sector in the 1920s,” it points out.  “A spokesman for the company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1969, said he could not be definitive but believed it was the largest loss Pearson has ever reported.”
 
No Homework Policy
One of the recommendations Vicki Abeles makes in her book “Beyond Measure” (see note about the next book club discussion at the top of this edition) has to do with an over abundance of homework making students’ lives miserable (along with some other things) and what can be done about it.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, tells about one public elementary school in Vermont that decided to ban homework and suggest that students read and play instead.   The principal ran the idea by his 40 educators, how refreshing, and they all agreed.  [He] conducted a family survey asking about the policy, and most parents at the nearly 400-student school responded.  The vast majority supported it,” Strauss points out, “saying their kids now have time to pursue things other than math work sheets, and many report that students are reading more on their own than they used to.  He said a small minority of parents are concerned that students are missing learning opportunities from doing homework and won’t be prepared for middle school.”  Find out how the idea was implemented and how it fairing since its introduction at the start of this school year.
LAUSD Shines
For a supposedly “failing” large, urban, public school district, the LAUSD keeps winning prestigious academic competitions.  The nation’s second largest school system has won 17 National Academic Decathlon titles since 1987, by far outdistancing the second place district.  A team from North Hollywood High just won the LADWP’s Science Bowl and, surprisingly, the school’s B team placed second.  North Hollywood has a long history of success at regional science competitions.  This was their 18th overall victory.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the gratifying details.  “Team members each receive the $1,000 Hitachi Scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington,” the article relates, “where they will represent L.A. in the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl from April 27 to May 1.  The team will compete in a field of 70 high school champions from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A total of nine teams from California will participate.”
 
Technology and Staff Development
THE HECHINGER REPORT has a piece on “3 Ways Technology Can Supercharge Teacher Training.”  It presents some of the latest video learning techniques to help educators improve their delivery of instruction.  “In the past four decades, many new methods have been adopted by schools to make professional development less sit-and-get and more personalized to teachers’ individual needs.  Now it’s time to adopt the technology,” the author of the piece suggests, “that can act as a force multiplier for personalizing professional learning.”
 
Public Education
And finally, despite what you might hear from the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, “choice,” in the form of vouchers and charters, IS NOT the only way to improve underfunded and poorly supported public schools.  As the authors of this commentary in THE HECHINGER REPORT argue, there are other avenues to achieve improvement.  They provide 4 concrete suggestions for helping traditional public schools and use two examples from districts in Lowell, Massachusetts and Denver, Colorado, that demonstrate what can be achieved if the right strategies are adopted.  The piece is titled “When It Comes to Struggling Schools, School Choice is no Substitute for Systemic Change.”  The two authors are president and managing director of Education Resource Strategies, a national non-profit group assisting urban school districts to better utilize and manage resources.  “Successful turnarounds must be accompanied by real and meaningful changes,” they conclude, “in the way we train and support teachers, the way we instruct students and the way we structure our time and use our resources.  It’s not sexy but it works.”
                                      .                                                                       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, February 24, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Knowledge is a unique kind of property, indeed: 
you can share it with others, while still possessing it.” 

― Eraldo Banovac*

Betsy DeVos
The “Numbers and letters” feature in the Sat., February 11, L.A. Times indicates that during the week of Feb. 4-10, the paper received “924 printable letters to the editor. . . . 43 letters mentioned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the third most discussed topic.  121 letters were written about President Trump’s travel ban, including his comments on judges. 52 readers discussed the riot at UC Berkeley over Milos Yannopoulos’ speech.”  [See, the “Ed News” wasn’t the only publication preoccupied with DeVos.]               Barbara Miner, in an op-ed in the Feb. 12, L.A. Times issues a dire warning about Betsy DeVos and her voucher plans.  Miner is a reporter based in Milwaukee and the author of a book that takes a look back at some of the key education policies that impacted that city.  Her volume is titled “Lessons From the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.”  Miner reviews the history of  vouchers in Milwaukee and how they expanded throughout her state of Wisconsin.  “DeVos, now confirmed as secretary of Education, is not just another inexperienced member of the president’s Cabinet.  She is an ideologue,” Miner warns, “with a singular educational passion — replacing our system of democratically controlled public schools with a universal voucher program that privileges private and religious ones.  If you care about our public schools and our democracy, you should be worried.”  The picture Miner paints is particularly bleak.               Barbara Miner’s op-ed cautioning about the dangers of vouchers and the possible Trump/Pence/DeVos plan to divert up to $20 billion of taxpayer funds into them  (see item above) prompted 3 letters that appear in the Feb. 18 edition of the L.A. Times.  The first one favored the idea while the last 2 were opposed.                What has DeVos been up to in her first few weeks in office?  Valerie Strauss titles her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post “So Far, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is Just What Her Critics Feared.”   Strauss offers a list of some of the things DeVos has done that has her detractors up in arms.               Want a dystopian view of what education and schools might look like under the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate?  Look no farther than North Carolina, suggests Lindsay Wagner, a veteran education journalist, on the AJF (AJFLETCHER FOUNDATION) website.  The state is rife with charters, vouchers and online, for-profit “academies” to the detriment of the traditional public school system.  Wagner’s essay is titled “North Carolina: Already a DeVos World.”  “As a result of DeVos efforts—along with those of other school privatization advocates—hundreds of millions of public dollars now flow to school vouchers, charter schools and virtual charter schools,” Wagner concludes plaintively.  “So when she does come to visit, it will be more like a welcome home party for DeVos.  North Carolina has been her playground for years.”                If you are not concerned about the future of public education after viewing what’s taking place in North Carolina (see above), why not check out the situation on charter growth in Florida and how it’s being accomplished courtesy of Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.  Klonsky headlines his piece “Why DeVos is Making Florida’s Charter System Her ‘Model.’  She Practically Owns It.”  “Florida’s charter schools are among the worst in the nation.  The state’s so-called ‘choice’ system of charters and vouchers is highly segregated,” he maintains, “riddled with corruption and mismanagement (like FL state government in general) and has been rocked by scandal after scandal. . . .  Therefore, I was not surprised to hear Trump’s ed secretary, Betsy DeVos point to Florida’s ‘choice’ system as her model and ‘blueprint’ for K-12 education.”  Are you at all worried (terrified?) yet about what’s in store for public schools under the current administration?                DeVos delivered some brief remarks yesterday to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  In one column for The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss reprints the speech in full.  In a follow-up column she offers some analysis of what DeVos said including some disparaging remarks about how college and university faculty tell students what to say, how to say it and even how to think.  Pretty inflammatory stuff.  Diane Ravitch’s blog has an analysis of DeVos’ speech to CPAC (see above).  Ravitch, as you can probably guess, was not impressed with what the new Sec. of Education had to say before the group.  “Betsy DeVos gave a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), explaining that the programs created by George W. Bush and Barack Obama had failed, and she would replace them with her own ideas.  She did not point out,” Ravitch begins, “that her own ideas have failed too.  Just look at the mess she has made of Michigan, where the state’s rankings on the federal test (NAEP) have plummeted, and where Detroit is a mess thanks to the miasma of school choice.”               According to Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, Trump and DeVos are readying a voucher plan to present to Congress.  Because that might be a difficult sell, they are not calling it a “voucher” plan but, instead on referring to it as a “federal tax credit scholarship program.”  That’s right.  The word “voucher” doesn’t appear in the idea.  Bryant explains how this is a clever ruse (he uses the term “deceptive scheme”) and why opponents of vouchers need to be careful how they play their cards in an attempt to defeat it.  “So whether the plan is for tax credits or vouchers, in either case, public funding is redirected from public schools to private institutions,” he clarifies, “and the impact on funding available for public education is the same.  There are reasons for the Trump administration’s deception.”  You might want to read up on this topic as the battle lines are being drawn in anticipation of a bitter struggle to come.
 
Testing 
What, exactly, is the purpose of standardized testing?  Good question.  Anyone want to weigh in with an answer?  Audrey Hill, the author of this piece on The Dog With a Bone blog [Ed. note: I didn’t make that up, despite what you might think] is a middle school English teacher in New York.  She mentions that the assessments were meant to be a way to provide accountability for individual students and schools but that’s not what they were designed for.  “. . . high stakes testing, known ironically as accountability,  is currently among the most unaccountable of unaccountable things in American education today.  It is unaccountable in the very thing that it purports to account for: the measurement and evaluation of learning,  teachers and schools.  It does none of these things well.”  Hill goes on to describe what the tests are truly meant to measure and why the results should NOT be used to evaluate teachers or rank schools or districts.               Long Beach Unified School District requested a waiver from the state so that it could substitute the SAT  instead of the SBAC standardized test in its high schools.  LBUSD’s inquiry was based on a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act which gives school districts some leeway in which exams they choose to utilize.  The state turned the district down.  An article from EdSource provides the specifics of the situation.  “State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and state board President Michael Kirst detailed the SAT’s shortcomings as a Smarter Balanced substitute,” it relates, “and said state law wouldn’t permit the waiver. They concluded that the ‘SAT would require significant adaptation before it could be used for accountability purposes in California.’”                Hey everybody, testing season is fast approaching.  EDUCATION WEEK has some interactive maps and a chart illustrating what tests individual states are requiring this school year.  Click a button next to a series of inquiries, then scroll down to the map or chart at the bottom to see the answers.  Here’s one of the questions: “Which states are using PARCC or Smarter Balanced?”
  
 
Granada Hills Wins LAUSD Academic Decathlon
Marshall High may have won the Super Quiz portion of the LAUSD Academic Decathlon (see the previous edition of the “Ed News) but they couldn’t keep Granada Hills Charter High from repeating as overall district winner.  Granada Hills is also the defending national champion.  A story in the Feb. 12, L.A. Times describes the victory and how the Decathlon competition works.  South Pasadena High was victorious in the separate L.A. County contest.  The LAUSD winners were announced at a gathering at Hollywood High on Friday, Feb. 10.  “The competition has 10 portions that contribute to the scoring,” the article explains, “and all had to relate to [this year’s topic] World War II.  The first day of L.A. Unified’s competition took place Jan. 28 at the Roybal Learning Center, west of downtown, with students demonstrating their skills at delivering a speech, participating in interviews and composing essays.  The Feb. 4 wrap-up competition also was held at Roybal.  In the morning, students tested in eight subjects: art, economics, language and literature, math, music, science and social science.  The Super Quiz, where teams submit answers to questions before a cheering throng, began in the afternoon. The Super Quiz is the only public event.”  The top 10 scoring LAUD teams will advance to the next round which is the state competition in Sacramento in March.  The national championship will take place in April in Madison, Wisconsin.  Teams from the LAUSD have been victorious at the national level 17 times since 1987.
 
For-Profit Schools Are Getting a Reprieve Under Pres. Trump
The Obama administration made a concerted effort to investigate and close down some notorious for-profit colleges that were taking advantage of students in various ways.  The Trump administration is revisiting that effort and the for-profits couldn’t be happier as some of their stock prices have soared recently.  A story in The New York Times reviews the abrupt change in policy and what is all means for students, investors and the colleges themselves.  “While some career training schools delivered as promised,” it points out, “critics argued that too many burdened veterans, minorities and low-income strivers with unmanageable tuition debt without equipping them with jobs and skills that would enable them to pay it off.  After years of growing complaints and lawsuits, the [U.S. Dept. of Education] moved aggressively to end abusive practices that ranged from deceptive advertising to fraud and cost students and taxpayers billions of dollars.”  That may all be coming to an end under Pres. Trump and Sec. DeVos.  SAD!
 
Charter Schools
ProPublica has an extensive investigative piece on how for-profit alternative charter schools in Florida are being used to hide dropouts and scam the accountability system in other ways in the Sunshine state.  “Alternative schools at times become warehouses where regular schools stow poor performers,” it reveals, “to avoid being held accountable.  Traditional high schools in many states are free to use alternative programs to rid themselves of weak students whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing, a ProPublica survey of state policies found.”  The report focuses on how one school in Orlando is used to fudge the numbers.
 
The Public Schools
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday, Feb 12, column in the L.A. Times, features an Ontario Rotary Club luncheon that highlights some successful public school students in the pre-K-8 Ontario-Montclair School District who overcame some pretty difficult obstacles and have some ambitious education goals ahead of them.  Lopez headlines his piece “If You Think Public Schools Are Failing, You Haven’t Met These Kids.”  “President Trump’s new education secretary thinks charter schools and vouchers are the way to go.  But at the luncheon,” Lopez writes, “Ontario-Montclair School District Superintendent James Hammond and board President Elvia Rivas said there may be no better strategy than investing sufficiently in traditional schools and giving them enough autonomy.  And letting them put children before ‘adult-centered politics,’ as Hammond put it.”               In light of the DeVos confirmation to head the Dept. of Education, The New York Times Magazine has an extensive and important article reviewing the history of public education and the whole concept and meaning of “public” institutions in this country. It asks the critical question “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?”  Is DeVos the threat to our public school system as her critics worry, or is her elevation to become the next Sec. of Education just the catalyst pro-public school supporters need to rally around? “If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools.  Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix.  The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off,” it concludes on an upbeat note, “may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.”               The ELC (EDUCATION LAW CENTER) out of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University has a list of the most “fiscally disadvantaged school districts” in the U.S.  It comprises 54 different districts in 20 states.  California is number 1 with 16 districts making the list including Bakersfield City, San Francisco Unified and Santa Barbara Unified.  “This list of the most fiscally disadvantaged districts highlights the urgent need for school finance reform in many states,” the report specifies in the “Conclusion” section.  “This reform must start with a determination of essential education resources and end with a funding formula that accounts for district poverty concentration and local fiscal capacity.  It will require replacing outmoded, arbitrary funding formulas and the historic method of distributing funding based on prior year spending and political, not educational, considerations.”  The full report (6 pages) is titled “Is School Funding Fair?  America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts.”  You can find the chart with the list of districts on page 3 of the report.
 
Bullying in the LAUSD
An internal Inspector General’s audit is critical of practices and procedures regarding student bullying in the LAUSD.  The information was released after a public records request from the L.A. Times which features the study in the Feb. 14, paper.  The report found that statistics on bullying were outdated and incomplete and teacher training was inadequate. “Although the extent of bullying found by the L.A. Unified’s Office of Inspector General,” the story notes, “is not necessarily out of line with national figures, the audit suggests that students are getting less help than they should.”
 
Julian Vasquez Heilig Speaks
Fellow ALOED member Larry Lawrence and I attended a “Friends of Education” event presented by Antioch University at their Culver City campus on Thursday evening July 16.  Julian Vasquez Heilig spoke about equity and education policy in the age of Trump.  He is a researcher, blogger and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at CSU Sacramento.  He addressed charters, vouchers and what education activists and people opposed to the Trump/Pence/DeVos agenda for dismantling the public school system can do to fight back.  The audience consisted primarily of students in the credential program at Antioch and interested community members.  Heilig spoke for approximately 45 minutes and answered questions for 15.  A reception with refreshments was held prior to the event.
Death of LAUSD Teacher Sparks Meningitis Concerns
A third grade teacher at Montara Avenue Elementary School (LAUSD) died last week of meningitis spawning health concerns among parents at the South Gate campus.  The educator was from Huntington Park, had taught at the school for 16 years and was 39 years old, according to a story in the Feb. 14, L.A. Times.  “The L.A. Unified news release directed parents to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health information page on meningococcal disease,” it mentions.  “The disease can spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as sharing food and drinks.”
 
Transgender Student Rules Overturned
This didn’t take long.  You could pretty much have predicted it.  It took only 33 days for the Trump administration to dismantle rules put in place by its predecessor regarding transgender students’ rights to use bathrooms of their choice.  The “Rules for Engagement” column for EDUCATION WEEK describes the action and its ramifications.  “The Trump administration had long signaled the shift,” it relates.  “White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that the president believes the treatment of transgender students is a ‘states’ rights issue.'”               What was Betsy DeVos’ role in setting aside bathroom rights for transgender students (see above)?  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, explains whether there was some disagreement between the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions,and the head of the Dept. of Education over the matter. Critics of the action were outraged by her position.  Strauss includes some of their Tweets as well as reprinting the official statement DeVos released on the issue.               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is incensed by the Trump administration’s action against transgender students.  He headlines his piece “I’m a Public School Teacher.  Hands Off My Trans Students.”  Singer describes an interaction he had with a student at his middle school to illustrate his point.  “This has nothing to do with children.  It has to do with old men and women who refuse to broaden their views about the world.  It’s about the ancient making the young do as they say regardless of how doing so may trample on their right to be themselves.  Well, I won’t be a part of it,” he bluntly concludes.  “You want to attack my trans students?  You’ll have to do it through me.  I’m a guardian of kid’s rights.  I’m a defender of children from whoever wants to do them harm.  I’m a public school teacher. That’s just what we do.”
 
Proposal to Start School Day Later for California Teens
The “Education Matters” column in the Feb. 18, L.A. Times discusses a bill (SB 328) introduced in the California legislature by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) that would require middle and high schools in the state to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 am.  The proposed legislation is based on a 2014 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that found teenagers were better equipped to tackle academics if classes started after 8:30 in the morning.  “Districts that have adopted the policy,” the article suggests, “have reported improved attendance rates, state exam and college admission scores, and grade-point averages, according to the academy.  Research has also shown that students who start classes later are involved in fewer disciplinary measures and car accidents.”               An editorial in today’s Times was dismissive of the idea of starting the school day later for middle and high school students in California (see above).  The main argument put forward by the piece is that it should be a local district decision and not mandated by the state.  “By requiring all public middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.,”  the editorial contends, ‘SB 328 would represent an overreach by Sacramento, dictating a decision better left to local school districts.  For all of the advantages of later start times, they might not work for all communities and all schools.”
 
A Scholarly Look Back at NCLB
I hate to keep beating a dead horse, as the saying goes, but No Child Left Behind has been pretty universally condemned as a failure when it came to education policy.  Helen F. Ladd is a professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University and takes an authoritative look back at NCLB in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.  Her article is reprinted in the Wiley Online Library website.  “Although NCLB included some components that generated positive, if qualified, effects,” she points out, “my overall conclusion is that NCLB was deeply flawed.”  Ladd discusses the few positive components of the law and then details 3 major weaknesses in her analysis.
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The L.A. Municipal election next month includes races for mayor, controller, city attorney, 8 city council seats and 3 LAUSD school board positions.  Guess which one’s are drawing the most campaign contributions so far?  If you said “mayor,” you’d be wrong.  If you thought it was the city council races you’d still be incorrect.  The 3 school board slots vastly outdrew ALL the other city races in outside spending.  As of Feb. 17th it was all other city elections $465,803 versus $3,357,847 for the school board spots!  A story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times has the rather astonishing details.  “Independent spending is when a group or political action committee chooses to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure,” it explains.  “As long as the candidate or the candidate’s campaign plays no role in managing this spending, there are no limits.  In the school board races, the largest spending was in District 4, covering the Westside and west San Fernando Valley, to defeat school board President Steve Zimmer ($1,256,121).  Zimmer also was the single candidate with the most money spent on his behalf ($705,157).”               Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, is perplexed by a group called L.A. Students for Change and their involvement in the fractious LAUSD District 4 school board race (see above).  He did some digging and arranged to visit one of their gatherings only to have the invite rescinded after he wrote an earlier column about how the campaign was using the students as a front for a heavily financed professional campaign.  “To be clear, I’ve got no issue with the students.  Good for them for raising their hands out of a desire for an improved L.A. Unified,” he writes.  “But I had trouble believing that 18 students, without adult guidance, decided all they wanted to do was attack a single candidate rather than extol the virtues of other candidates.  And that one candidate, incumbent Steve Zimmer, is a target of charter school proponents, which is where the million dollars came from, with former Mayor Dick Riordan as sugar daddy.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Many states, including California, are experiencing teaching shortages.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have chronicled this alarming phenomenon and suggested reasons for its existence.  One of them is high teacher turnover.  An article in Tuesday’s L.A. Times describes how the Great Public Schools Now organization, a strongly pro-charter group, has provided grants totaling almost $900,000 to 3 charter school networks and one traditional LAUSD public school to work on improving teacher retention.  “Recent, comprehensive data are hard to come by, but an early study of Los Angeles area charters, published in 2011,” the piece points out, “found that they were having to replace on average 50% of their instructors every year.  To qualify for a grant from Great Public Schools Now, a charter operator had to meet certain academic performance parameters.  It also had to have lost no more than 30% of its faculty since the last school year.  That’s still well above the state average of 10.6%.”               Corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like to promote the idea that ending tenure will improve the teaching profession (i.e., the Vergara case in California and others in New York and Minnesota).  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, takes a look at the premise and finds, at least in Louisiana, the ending of tenure led to an exodus of teachers from the profession.  Tenure was ended in the Pelican state beginning in 2012 after Act 1 was passed by the legislature.  What has been the impact?  Schneider features a new study released Wednesday from the Education Research Alliance (ERA) in New Orleans that looks at the data on teacher turnover.  “Act 1 began in 2012 as House Bill 974.  The reason it is called Act 1,” she explains, “is that the 2012 Louisiana legislature rammed it though as the first act, with calculated speed, amid an atmosphere dripping with then-Governor Bobby Jindal’s business-and-industry-backed intention to bring “accountability” in the evaluating of the state’s teachers.  Once 2012 hit, Louisiana teachers began considering how and when to leave the profession. And each year beginning with 2012, Louisiana’s teacher workforce has experienced a noticeable exit of many experienced, seasoned teachers who otherwise would not have likely chosen to leave the profession so soon.”               Do you know the difference between a summative and formative assessment?  If you’re not sure or want some clarification, the “High School & Beyond” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a short video (2:00 minutes) explaining what a formative assessment is.               Ever heard of the “Hamburger Method” for writing as essay?  It’s a graphic organizer geared to elementary students.  The “Curriculum Matters” column for ED WEEK features a short video (54 seconds) narrated by Briana Sotomayor, a cute and self-assured 4th grader in rural West Virginia, who explains how to write an essay.  It’s worth your time just to listen to her describe how it works.  
 
No Charges in FBI Probe of LAUSD iPad Program
And finally, after a lengthy inquiry by the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office decides not to file any charges related to the LAUSD’s controversial, and ultimately unsuccessful $1.3 billion “iPads-for-all” program.  The plan was the brainchild of former district Supt. John Deasy who quit under pressure related to the proposal in October, 2014.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times provides the latest developments in this long, drawn out case.  “Especially under scrutiny by investigators were personal ties and communications that Deasy and other district administrators had with executives from Apple and Pearson, the company that provided the curriculum installed on the devices. . . .  Deasy had worked closely with Apple and Pearson,” it reviews, “and had little or no contact with competing vendors, according to records released by the district.  He’d also filmed a promotional video for the iPad in December 2011, before he announced the iPad-in-schools plan.  A pilot project in the year leading up to the board vote tested only iPads — while another did a trial run of Pearson’s online content.”
 
 
*Eraldo Banovac is an energy expert and a university professor.  He was born in 1955, in Pula, Republic of Croatia.

                                     .                                                                       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, February 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The “Ed News” is going to take a short break to enjoy Valentine’s Day
and Presidents’ Day.  Look for the next edition on Friday, February 24.
                  Inline image 1
                  Inline image 2
  “Learning is easy; misunderstanding makes it complex!” 

― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Betsy DeVos Confirmation
As the “Ed News” predicted, the main news story about the final Senate confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos appears on the front page of Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  If you missed the item that was highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of my blog you can read it by clicking here.              The Times story about the DeVos vote in the Senate (see above) drew 5 letters that appeared on the paper’s website Tuesday morning shortly after the final tally.  None of them were pleased by the result.  Interestingly, Thursday’s print edition only had 3 letters and they were slightly different.                An editorial in Wednesday’s Times excoriates Senate Republicans for not taking a principled stand against Betsy DeVos, who the paper describes as “neither qualified nor competent” for the job of Sec. of Education.  If 50 out of 52 GOPers couldn’t see clear to register a “no” vote on this nominee, what other people and policies will they not be willing to take a stand against?  “The vote Tuesday was, of course, a harbinger of bad things to come in the world of education.  But even worse,  it was a clear message from the more rational, thoughtful members of the Republican Party,” it deplores, “that we should not count on them  to stand up to Trump when his statements and actions are reckless, ill-considered or just plain dumb.  That’s very troubling; this is a particularly poor moment in history for them to surrender their independence.”             Kristina Rizga, author of the book “Mission High” (the upcoming summer selection for the ALOED Book Club), speculates about the future of federal public education policy  for MOTHER JONES under the now in place Trump/Pence/DeVos team.  She breaks her commentary into 3 broad categories. “Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our ‘failing government schools’ and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools.  To do that,” it reports, “Trump could create an incentive program to encourage states to allow vouchers, lift caps on charter schools, and decrease state oversight over what kind of charter schools can be open and how they operate. In DeVos, he found a partner who has spent the past two decades doing just that in Michigan.”  You at least have to check out the photo that leads off this item.               Donna Roof is a retired high school teacher in Indiana who is “heartsick and outraged” at the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and what it will mean for public schools in the future.  She lists a number of reasons why she feels that way but adds an almost equal number of things she plans to to in response.  Her essay appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “Today,”  Roof begins, “I am heartsick and outraged…I saw 50 Senators and our Vice-President vote for a person who is highly unqualified to be our country’s Secretary of Public Education.”  She concludes: “Today, tomorrow, and every day…I will fight against the injustice being brought against public education as I heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”               The Educators of Color organization on their EDUCOLOR website issue a Press Release decrying the approval of Betsy DeVos and vowing to continue the fight for educational equity and justice.  “As an organization committed to full educational justice for students and communities who are systematically denied access to a quality public education,” it reads, “we are fully prepared to resist policies and positions put forth by this Secretary of Education and this White House, and will be vigilant in protecting the important work of USED’s Office for Civil Rights.”         Leonie Haimson, on the NYC Public School Parents website, reviews the events of the past couple of weeks regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education (DoE) and gazes into her crystal ball to see what the future holds.  She headlines her piece “So It Happened; DeVos Was Confirmed.  What Next?”  “Surely, we will need all your activism,” she addresses readers, “in the battles to come – whether it be against the expansion of charters, the use of tuition tax credits or vouchers, or wasteful ed tech scams — all of which would divert precious resources from our public schools. Now that we’ve woken up our elected officials to the fact that parents and teachers and citizens fiercely love their public schools, and will do nearly anything to preserve, protect and support them, we must continue to speak out.”               The Chicago TEACHERS UNION (CTU) issues a Press Release stating their position that confirming Betsy DeVos to head the DoE is a “nightmare.”               Not be be outdone, UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) also quickly issued a Press Release reacting to the DeVos vote.  It reiterates many of the same sentiments as other groups and organizations cited in this section.  “We stand with our union affiliates — NEA, AFT, CTA and CFT — and with civil rights and community organizations around the country” the statement proclaims, “in strong opposition to DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education.  In mass numbers, we called Washington, DC in attempts to influence the Senate regarding DeVos – now, we will re-double our efforts in building the movement for educational justice.”                Humorist Andy Borowitz, who the “Ed News” has happily highlighted in the past, couldn’t refrain from poking fun at the idea of Betsy DeVos becoming the next Sec. of Education. His piece appears, as always, in THE NEW YORKER.  “The Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary,” Borowitz begins, “means that immigrants will be the nation’s only reliable source of educated people going forward, education experts said on Tuesday.”  Enjoy the rest of it and try not to laugh too loud.  You’ll disturb the people around you.  And please remember, it is SATIRE!               The “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK paints a pretty bleak picture of what federal education policy will look like under Sec. DeVos.  The author extends his scenario to the impact it will have on California.  You may want to sit down before reading this one.  The cartoon that leads it off is definitely worth a gander.   “Betsy DeVos, I would hazard, doesn’t give a fig about running the traditional functions of the U.S. Department of Education,” the author suggest.  “She wants to get federal money in the hands of private school operators as fast as she can.  This includes relaxing the ban on funding scandal-ridden for profit higher education institutions.  She will say that she is for states’ rights, but what she will mean is that she favors the rights of states to use vouchers, and she will offer them every encouragement to do so.”                 Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has an extended headline to her article: “She’s A Billionaire Who Said Schools Need Guns to Fight Bears.  Here’s What You May Not Know About Betsy DeVos.”  She’s been under a microscope since she was introduced as Trump’s choice to head the DoE on November 23.  There are lots of things you’ve probably learned about DeVos and Strauss attempts to educate you about some things you may not know about her.  Here’s just one example: “She did not support Donald Trump for most of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle.  DeVos has long been a close ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and she donated to his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.”           Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacts to the vote to confirm DeVos.  He aims his ire at both the new Sec. of Education and those Republicans who supported her.  Regarding the latter, he grumbles: “Yet only Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats to vote against her. . . .  This is a classic example of money speaking louder than people.  DeVos is a Republican mega-donor.  She’s given $200 million to GOP candidates over the years – including many of the Senators who voted to confirm her.”                Sec. DeVos addressed DoE staff for the first time on Wednesday.  A member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) reports on what she said and what her words to the department actually mean “. . . . there were a couple of places where she let slip what her actual perspective was.  She said all children are born with innate curiosity,” the author relates, “and wanted to learn, but there were problems.  The problems were the adult humans around them who got in the way.  It doesn’t take much to figure out that the adult humans she considers in the way are teachers.  A word she could not bring herself to use.  She spoke of educators,but not in proximity to words about students.”               The satirical newspaper the ONION has a droll piece on some new policies DeVos plans to implement as head of the Dept. of Education.  Here are 2 examples from their list: “Identify at-risk students and do nothing whatsoever” and “Let low-income parents choose which one of their children gets to go to school.”  Please remember these are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.               Progressive Democrats may have lost the battle over Betsy DeVos.  However Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, sees a possible silver lining in the defeat.  He believes the long running bipartisan consensus on corporate “reform” between the GOP and moderate Democrats may have finally also died.  He cites a number of examples of how the dynamic is changing regarding charters and privatization between the two parties.  “For years, big money donors have been successful at keeping many Democratic party candidates in the charter school camp.  Opposition to DeVos may disrupt that loyalty,” he suggests is one.              CNN politics reports that a group of protesters blocked Betsy DeVos from entering the Jefferson Middle School Academy, a public campus in the District of Columbia, this morning.  [Ed. note: I have to agree with Arne Duncan and Randi Weingarten’s tweets about the incident that are included in the article.]  In addition, Diane Ravitch’s blog also condemned the action and reiterated how important it is that DeVos visit successful public schools to see how well they are doing.               OK, here’s another humorous take on Betsy DeVos.  This time it’s a short sketch (3:19 minutes) from “The Late Show” with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, presents the video with a few brief comments about it.  “On the show’s Thursday episode, Fallon ‘interviewed’ the secretary, played by comedian Jo Firestone, for a skit that attempted to show DeVos as clueless about nearly everything, including how to stand in front of a camera.  By midday Friday, more than 12 million people had viewed the bit on YouTube.”
 
House Republicans Want to Discard DoE Rules on ESSA and Teacher Prep
GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are moving quickly to attempt to abolish certain rules promulgated under the Obama administration regarding school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and teacher preparation.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the Republican strategy and what it would mean.  “If both sets of regulations are overturned, it could have far-reaching consequences,” it maintains.  “States have been crafting their ESSA accountability plans for several months, and were doing so even before Trump won the election, with the Obama ESSA accountability rules in mind.  The Trump administration has already paused the final implementation of the accountability rules from Obama’s Education Department, but without any regulations at all, states will be in limbo and uncertain how exactly to craft state plans that pass muster with a Trump Education Department.”
 
Move to Abolish DoE Begins
Here they go again!  Republicans have long advocated the elimination of the Dept. of Education.  On the same day they voted overwhelmingly for Betsy DeVos to lead the department, a member of the House, Thomas Massie (R-KY), introduced legislation to end it.  The DoE came into existence in 1980 under Pres. Carter.  THE HILL briefly explains the bill.  [The] bill is only a page long,” it notes, “after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.  Massie believes that policymakers at the state and local levels should be responsible for education policy, instead of a federal agency that’s been in place since 1980.”
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The mostly pro-charter L.A. Times editorial board issues it’s endorsements for the 3 LAUSD board seats up for election on March 7.  Surprise, surprise, when given a choice between traditional public school advocates and pro-charter proponents, guess who they recommend?  Two of the 3 positions are held by incumbents, board Pres. Steve Zimmer (Disrict 4), who is considered pro-public schools and Monica Garcia (District 2).  The editorial, in Wednesday’s paper, favors 2 challengers who lean more towards the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  For the one open seat being vacated by Monica Ratliff they urge a vote for a current charter school math and science teacher.  Their overall theme appears to be the need for “new faces” on the LAUSD board.                 Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, draws a connection between the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and the large amounts of money being poured into the campaigns of pro-charter advocates for the LAUSD school board (see above).  How are the two related?  He believes in both instances it’s the students who are being thrown under the bus ( and he begs your pardon for the pun).  Lopez is angry at the name of the group “LA Students for Change, Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board, 2017” that is connected to, wait for it . . . . the ubiquitous California Charter Schools Association.  He explains how the student organization was formed and refers to a nasty mailer that went out under their name attacking Zimmer (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  [That one and other mailers] would have you believe Zimmer fired good teachers while protecting bad ones, drove the district into the ground financially, and failed to root out child molesters.   Zimmer’s actual record is mixed; he has supporters, he has critics,” Lopez fairly points out.  “But distorting that record is dastardly.  And using students as a front is immoral.”
 
California Teacher Shortages
The “Ed News” has documented teacher shortages that are plaguing states nationwide.  California is not immune to that troubling trend.  A new report from the Learning Policy Institute, featured in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK chronicles the shortage of qualified educators in particular fields and the major impact that is having on classrooms up and down the Golden State.  Fields most impacted include special education, math, science and bilingual education.  “The state has wrestled with teacher shortages for some time now, and the California-based think tank says that districts have responded to the shortages by hiring underprepared teachers, relying on substitute teachers, and assigning teachers out of their fields of preparation.  This is disproportionately happening,”the piece points out, “in schools that serve the most vulnerable students, the report found through analyzing data from California government sources. . . .  The study points to research that shows that underprepared teachers depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates.”  You can find the full report (31 pages),titled “Addressing California’s Growing Teacher Shortage: 2017 Update,” which is, by the way, co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, by clicking here.
 
Friedrichs vs CTA Case–The Sequel
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly last year, the high court ended up split 4-4 on the pivotal Friedrichs vs CTA case which challenged a public union’s ability to charge members an agency fee if they wished to opt out of paying full union dues.  Because of the tie vote the decision reverted back to the appellate court ruling which favored the unions.  Experts at the time predicted a new suit would be quickly filed with the same issues.  IT’S HERE!  Yohn vs California Teachers Association,the latest attack on agency fees was filed in a Santa Ana federal court on Monday.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has the details of this newest assault on public employee unions’ ability to raise funds and remain as viable entities.  “The main difference between last year’s case and this one . . . . is simply a new set of plaintiffs,” it points out.  “The litigants also want to change the law so that the union would have to persuade teachers to opt in to membership rather than being automatically enlisted.”              Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to the latest iteration of the Friedrichs case (see above).  He points out that the latest suit, Yohn vs CTA, was filed by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) the same folks that brought you the original case.  “Plaintiff Yohn contends that he doesn’t need the union to negotiate for him because he can totally do better on his own.  He is 38 years old, far too old to believe in fairy tales, but personally,” Greene contends, “I would be happy to let him try.  And then I would like to sell him a bridge.   CIR expects to work their way up to the Supremes by the summer of 2018.  So dig out your old files– we’re going to literally re-litigate Friedrichs all over again, and that light at the end of the tunnel is probably the headlight of an oncoming train.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to promote “choice” as a way to improve public schools.  What if they could be convinced to direct a few of their billions of dollars into teacher-powered schools?  If you are not familiar with them they are analogous to worker co-opts in which teachers are solely responsible for creating, planning and running schools.  Wendi Pillars is a National Board-Certified teacher who has taught ELLs in grades K-12 for 20 years both in the U.S. and overseas.  Her piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK is titled “So You Want to Create a Teacher-Powered School? Five Things to Know.”  She attended the Teacher-Powered National Conference in Los Angeles last month and relates 5 things she learned from it.  Here’s one example from her list: “3. Teachers must design and propose their own solutions.”
Many students are feeling fearful and unsettled in light of particular Trump administration moves regarding immigrants.  Julie Jee, in the “First Person” commentary for ED WEEK, offers some practical suggestions for “Making Sure Students Feel Safe in Uncertain Times.”  She’s a high school English and literature teacher in New York and is National Board-certified.  “Even in the best of times,” she begins, “educators put in a tremendous amount of effort to make students feel safe in their classrooms—greeting students at the door, joking around about a potential snow day, asking about a recent swim meet, offering a shoulder to cry on after a family tragedy.”               This may seem intuitive but a recent study found a direct correlation between positive teacher evaluations and job satisfaction.  This may only apply to educators in Tennessee among whom the investigation was conducted.  The research was done by analysts at the Vanderbilt University and the University of Missouri and is featured in the “Teacher Beat” column for ED WEEK.  “Job satisfaction,” it maintains, “is directly related to a teacher’s choice to stay in the profession.  Past research shows that 25 percent of teachers who leave the profession say that job dissatisfaction is the reason.”               How do the individual states rate when it comes to average pay for teachers and where does California fall on the list?  Another “Teacher Beat” essay for ED WEEK provides answers to those always intriguing questions based on a new study from GoBankRates.  Alaska and New York are number 1 and 2 for paying the highest salaries; Mississippi and Oklahoma pay the lowest.  “A salary on the high end doesn’t necessarily mean easy living,” it notes.  “The authors show, for instance, that the average salary in California of $72,050 ‘is just a tad under the amount of money needed to live comfortably in [the state].’  What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would be much less, closer to $40,000 per year, according to the California Department of Education.”  Read the article and check out the interactive map of average salaries and the link to a tool for comparing cost of living in various cities and states (from CNN Money).  You can find the full report, with the interactive map and individual state numbers listed alphabetically in little boxes under the map, titled “Here’s How Much Teachers Make in Every State” by clicking here.               The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) recently posted this question to the group’s Facebook page:  “Why did you become educators?”  Two of the members combed through the responses and posted them on the organization’s website.  Here’s one of the replies they received:“I became a teacher to make the world a better place.  I want to inspire people to really see the world around them and care enough to understand the importance of protecting this planet. Over the years that has evolved in practice, but it seems to matter more than ever right now.” – Amy Bebell
 
Trump on Education
More “alternate facts” emanating out of the Trump White House?  Senior Presidential counselor, Kellyanne Conway, stated in an interview with CNN, that Pres. Trump is going to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal Common Core.  One small problem: he can’t, according to the “K-12 Politics” column for EDUCATION WEEK which explains in detail (again) why the president doesn’t have the power to repeal the Standards despite what he and the administration believes.  “As we’ve reported previously, states adopt content standards like the common core—the federal government doesn’t get to choose for them,” it reiterates.  “Washington also didn’t write the common core. There was intense debate during President Barack Obama’s administration about whether Washington improperly coerced states into adopting the common core through programs like Race to the Top grants. But regardless of that debate, the president by himself doesn’t have the authority to scrap the standards with the stroke of a pen.”
 
Korean War Vet Earns High School Diploma at Age 83
Enough of this depressing, negative, nasty news.  Time for a real heartwarming education story.  I know they seem few and far between these days which makes them so welcome when they materialize.  Norm Johnson was a lad of 17 when he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and was sent to fight in the Korean War.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times catches you up on all the inspiring details of his life and the ultimate awarding of his high school diploma 67 years after he joined the military.  “After amassing personal experiences that could rival Tom Hanks’ character Forrest Gump in the 1994 film,” it relates, “Johnson will receive what he describes as an important accolade Wednesday when he gets an honorary diploma from the San Diego County Office of Education and Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project.”
 
Charter Schools
And finally, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) from Michigan describes how the charter system works in that state and suggests “You Don’t Want DeVos Style Charters in Your State.”  “Charters [in Michigan] do not have to hire certified teachers.  They do not have to accept any student they don’t want.  There are no lottery procedures. They get parents to enroll by promising them free laptops.  Then they feed the children computer instruction with little adult interaction.  Or their management companies create textbooks and software and make a profit by selling it to themselves at an inflated price.  Charters also get tax write offs for their real estate deals.  Which by the way, they pay for out of their school state aid.”
 
                                     .                                                                       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.