Ed News, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“If you are born on this planet, we want to make sure you get 
the kind of education you actually deserve.” 
Earth Day and Science Education 
Saturday marked the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day and protests and marches around the world took place to observe the occasion.  A march took place in downtown Los Angeles in opposition to the anti-science policies demonstrated in words and deeds by the Trump administration.  How have these negative attitudes towards science impacted the teaching of the subject in our nation’s classrooms?  Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, takes a look at 9 bills introduced in various state legislatures just this year aimed at curtailing the teaching of evolution and/or climate change in U.S. schools.  She headlines her piece “What the Latest Assaults on Science Education Look Like.”  “There are essentially two different kinds of anti-science legislation,” she writes, “according to the nonprofit National Center for Science Education.  One involves efforts to repeal the adoption of state science standards or challenge science textbooks.  There are also bills that attempt to allow science (and other) teachers to present unscientific criticism of scientific principles as legitimate — usually aimed at affecting classroom discussion on evolution and climate change.”               The “Inside School Research” column for EDUCATION WEEK describes how a number of education research organizations and educators joined the March for Science that took place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to commemorate Earth Day (see above).  The reporter spoke with several of the march participants to find out why they were taking part.  Here’s one example from the piece: “Erin Anderson, a sociologist at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., marched with her husband Jon Schultz, a middle school special education teacher, and their daughters Grace, 7, and Claire, 5.  Schultz said he worries about the removal of science data from federal web sites, and Anderson voiced concern about ‘the delegitimizing of science and STEM fields in the current administration.  The politics is informing policy now instead of science.'”
 
Granada Hills Charter High Wins National Academic Decathlon Again
You can certainly criticize the LAUSD for all sorts of reasons but you can’t complain about how well its students perform at the prestigious Academic Decathlon competition.  For the third-year-in-a-row the team from Granada Hills Charter High (LAUSD) took home the honors at the national contest that took place over the past week in Madison, Wisconsin. The win actually marked the sixth time in the last 7 years the school claimed victory.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times heralds the good news.  “The team of nine students scored 54,507 points out of a possible 60,000,” it relates, “in the rigorous three-day competition, beating out dozens of other national teams.  For the second year in a row, Highland Park High School in Texas placed second. . . .  Students were tested in seven subject areas: science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. The competition included multiple-choice exams in each subject, as well as essays and speeches.  It ended with a fast-paced Super Quiz.  This year’s topic was World War II.”  To further demonstrate the dominance of the nation’s second largest school district, this year’s win marked the 15th consecutive national victory for the LAUSD!!!  In addition, teams from the LAUSD have been victorious at the national level 17 times since 1987.  That’s preeminence.
Charter Schools and Vouchers
A rally, news conference and teleconference for media members [took place] yesterday morning by a wide range of California state lawmakers, parents, educators and community activists in support of 3 bills pending in the state legislature that would promote more charter accountability, transparency and access for all students in the Golden State. The event was held in Sacramento according to a press release reprinted on Diane Ravitch’s blog prior to the action taking place.  “News conference speakers,”  the announcement explains, “will include state Senator Tony Mendoza, author of SB 808, ensuring that charters could only be authorized by the school district in which they would be located; Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, author of AB 1478, requiring charters to comply with the same transparency and accountability laws as traditional public schools; and Assembly Member Rob Bonta, whose AB 1360 would prohibit discriminatory admissions practices and ensure due process in pupil discipline at charter schools.”             Speaking of SB 808, see above), Jennifer Freemon, ALOED member and Glendale school board representative, has an informative op-ed about the legislation in the Glendale News-Press titled “A Glendale Lesson: SB 808 Would Rein in Charter Schools.”  She details the bill and explains how it would effect local school board decisions regarding the charter approval process.  Freemon chronicles how the GUSD board turned down one charter application and it was subsequently also denied by the County Board of Education.  However, it was ultimately accepted by the State Board of Education.  “Rather than creating space for innovation and creativity to improve public education as a whole, the system is being abused, and as a result we see inadequate charter schools failing our precious children.  Locally elected school boards,” Freemon demonstrates, “do not have the final authority to determine whether or not a charter school fits the needs of their student population and community.”  Thanks to ALOED past-president Nancy Kuechle for passing this along.               It’s pretty obvious what the agenda of the school “choice,” charter and voucher crowd is–the end of traditional public schools and the total privatization (in order to earn massive profits) of that long-cherished system in this county.  Michael Fiorillo, a reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog, comments on what the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies really hope to achieve.  “There is the desire to have iron control of the labor force,” he writes, “explaining why charters are over ninety percent non-union: the desire, as seen virtually everywhere else in the labor markets, to replace full-time employment with temporary/ contingent labor, the desire to pay teachers less, and the desire to have them under the thumb of management, which is much more difficult to maintain in a union, career-oriented environment where institutional memory has value.”                Los Angeles is obviously not a rural area but a federal voucher program, like the one being pushed by the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate may actually do extreme harm to those schools located outside of urban and suburban areas of this country.  So argues Jill Long Thompson, visiting associate professor at the Kelley School of Business and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington.  Her commentary appears in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and is titled “Vouchers Can’t Make Rural Schools Great Again.”  “For rural communities, in particular, voucher programs create a business model that simply will not work.  Running a rural school is very challenging because the resources are always limited, and oftentimes scarce.  Vouchers encourage the creation of small private schools.  But, we don’t need more schools in rural communities; we need more resources to strengthen the schools we have,” she argues.  “Increasing the number of schools means increasing the overhead, which is why vouchers dilute resources even further.  A school voucher program is the education policy equivalent of a county highway program that would give residents money to build little private roads anywhere they want.  That would not only be costly and inefficient; it would not serve the community’s transportation needs.”               Mercedes Schneider is an investigative reporter extraordinaire.  On her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 she does the tedious research and in-depth fact gathering necessary to uncover some of the more wild claims of the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, in this case the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the strongly pro-choice and conservative education policy think tank.  TBF has been a charter authorizer in Ohio since 2004 and they currently oversee 11 schools in the Buckeye State.  Their goal, as stated on their website, is to ensure “that every student who comes to our schools makes the grade.”  So, how well are they achieving that benchmark?  That’s where Schneider comes in.  She dug into the school report cards published by Ohio and uncovered some rather deficient results for the TBF schools.  “None of the 11 TBF charter schools,” she discovers, “have even a C in ‘achievement.’  And ‘gap closing’?  FFFFFFFForget about it.  Still, TBF seeks to expand the number of, uh, ‘high performing’ charters.”  Diane Ravitch had this to say about the TBF Institute: “Since TBF lectures the nation about the virtues of school choice, it is useful to know how it’s own schools are doing.  It is not a pretty picture.”               Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast in 2005, all but 5 of New Orleans schools have been converted into charters in the nation’s largest experiment in school “choice.”  The ExCEED Network Charter Schools Management Organization recently withdrew its application to convert those few remaining campuses into charters.  A story in THE HECHINGER REPORT has the latest developments.  “New Orleans,” it rather bizarrely notes, “could have become the first city in the U.S. where the elected school board doesn’t directly run any public schools.  Now that won’t happen — at least, not this year.”
 
Public Education in the Crosshairs             
The GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina has done something wonderful for the public schools in that state.  They voted to reduce class size in grades K-3!  Only. . . one. . . small. . .  problem.  That’s an expensive proposition and they have, so far, refused to provide any additional funding to pay for it.  Is this just another thinly veiled strategy by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, in this case Republican lawmakers, to create chaos in the public schools so they can turn around and promote “choice,” charters and vouchers?  NC POLICY WATCH describes the problematic situation developing in the Tar Heel state.  “Policy Watch has reported extensively on the class size bickering since last November,”  it reminds.  “School district leaders say a GOP-authored budget mandate that schools trim class sizes in grades K-3 beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year will have major consequences in North Carolina public school districts without additional state funding or staffing flexibility for district leaders.”               And then there’s this nifty trick from the Florida legislature that’s offering up to $200 million to charters to help them fund things they won’t pay the public schools to have.  The Tallahassee Democrat headlines its story “Activists See Conspiracy In Plan to Help Charter Schools.”  It features Beth Overholt, a parent and proponent of her local public schools, who is fed up with the shenanigans going down as the legislature races to wrap up its current session.  “Overholt is among a group of parents, educators, and lawmakers,” the article states, “who see a plot to undermine public education unfolding in the session’s final two weeks.  They say it is being executed by reformers who use a pretense of accountability and innovation to divert public money to set up an alternative privatized education system.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a visit by Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos and AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to a rural public school district in western Ohio.  That “field trip” sparked several reactions.  The first, comes from Russ Walsh on his Russ on Readingblog.  He titles his piece “School Choice: The Faustian Bargain” and argues the language needs to change if traditional public school supporters hope to make any headway.  Walsh believes the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies are really anti-democratic and need to be called out for it.  “School choice is theft of our tax dollars and theft of our democracy,” he suggests, paraphrasing an Ohio voter.  The second is from Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog and the author is a bit skeptical of what Weingarten was trying to achieve by escorting DeVos to the Van Wert High School.  Klonsky quotes the same Valerie Strauss article in The Washington Post that was highlighted in the “Ed News” on Friday.  [Ed. note:  The “Ed News” scoops another eminent education blogger.]  “If some WaPo ink is all Randi was after,” Klonsky concludes suspiciously, “all well and good.  But if she’s providing some union cover for DeVos in exchange for some credibility with the Trump administration, she’s playing a fool’s game.”               Betsy DeVos is at it again.  She recently announced “There isn’t really any Common Core any more.”  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, had to politely disabuse her of that notion.  “When she was first nominated late last year to be education secretary by Donald Trump, the Michigan billionaire was described as a strong ally of former Florida governor — and Common Core booster — Jeb Bush.  She had not at that time attacked the Core publicly but later said she was not a supporter.  During the campaign,” Strauss carefully outlines, “Trump had promised ‘to get rid of Common Core,’ and at a December rally with the president-elect, she repeated that sentiment, saying that the Trump administration would put an ‘end to the federal Common Core.”  Here’s the problem: The federal government didn’t technically impose the Core on the individual states; the standards were fully or in part approved by state bodies, departments of education or legislatures in 46 states. Only states can decide to get rid of the standards, and, in fact, some have.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Dr. Michael Flanagan, writing on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) blog, once again is befuddled by a teacher evaluation system in New York State that took effect last month that is making use of student test scores on standardized assessments, which are also brand new, for 40% of a teacher’s rating.  “Besides the pressure these tests put on students, teachers’ careers are now being evaluated on short notice assessments, that no teacher has even seen, much less been able to prepare their students for,” he complains. “Teachers are educated professionals.  I myself have a doctorate in education.  We can all clearly see that this method of evaluation is a farce.”              
 
Technology and Teacher Training
Is it possible to train teachers to work with technology that hasn’t even been invented yet?  Candace Roberts, the author of an item inTHE HECHINGER REPORT, is a professor of education at Saint Leo University in Florida.  Her department makes a major effort to do just that and she explains why and how.  “New tools have changed how teachers interact with their students, and how the students interact with the materials being taught.  More than 100 years ago,” she reminds readers, “the chalkboard was a great teaching tool.  It’s since been replaced by interactive whiteboards, document cameras, tablets and virtual reality headsets, each slightly more functional than its predecessor.  Changes today are not just incremental improvements of old tools. They are helping us move to a new paradigm, and teachers need to be prepared not only for the tools available today, but for the tools that we can’t fathom are coming in the next 10, 15 or 20 years.”  Roberts provides 4 tools for training teachers for the technology to come.
 
Testing and Opt-Out
Diane Ravitch’s blog has an essay on why students should opt-out of standardized testing “The single most important thing you need to know about the state tests is that they are utterly useless and without any value,” she points out.  “The results come back in the summer or fall, when the student has a different teacher.  Neither students nor teachers are allowed to discuss the questions on the test, so no one learns anything from them.  Teachers are not given a diagnostic report for each student, just rankings.  Why do you need to know that your child is a 38 or 48 or 68?  How does that help her?  What information can you glean from a ranking?  None.”               What do student standardized test takers have in common with passengers being taken/dragged off commercial airplanes?   TheAlfie Kohn blog provides an answer and it has to do with the idea of competition and declaring winners and losers that, he says, has become so prevalent in this country.  If that’s all a bit confusing, read Kohn’s essay and see if it doesn’t clear up the fog.               
 
Trump and Education
On Saturday, Pres. Trump will reach the widely watched benchmark of his first 100 days in office.  What has he accomplished and how does he compare to his most recent predecessors George W. Bush and Barrack Obama?  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK provides some answers.  “Trump and Congress haven’t wrapped up, or even done major work on, a signature K-12 policy bill.  Trump has talked a fair bit about expanding school choice,” it notes.  “And there are placeholders for it in his preliminary fiscal 2018 budget.  Those could eventually turn into significant voucher or tax-credit proposals.  But so far, no school choice legislation in Congress has gotten any real traction, including a high-profile voucher bill from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.”
 
New Research on Pre-K
One of the first titles discussed by the ALOED Book Club was by Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, author of several books and a blogger.  In an entry on his Science & Education blog he reviews some new research from a group of scientists from various fields who look at the value of pre-kindergarten education in this country.  Willingham analyzes 4 key findings from the complete report.  “The last decade has seen a huge upsurge in researcher interest in the consequences of pre-k education. That’s due, in part,” he begins, “to the steady increase over the last fifty years in the number of children enrolled in pre-k.  In the last twenty years, that increase has been driven by children enrolled in public programs. . . .  The increase in publicly funded programs naturally enough sparks interest among policymakers as to whether these programs work.”  You can find the full report (106 pages) titled “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects” by clicking here “If you have even a passing interest in pre-k,” Willingham concludes, “I recommend this report to you.”
 
Impact of Private Donations to Public Schools
These days traditional public schools never seem to get the amounts of funding and support they need and deserve.  Per pupil spending varies widely from state-to-state and private donations can supplement what schools spend.  EDUCATION WEEK has an eyeopening analysis of 3 neighboring districts in Wisconsin and it reveals a wide imbalance in the amount of private dollars each attracts.  The article asks: “Do Private Donations Reinforce School Disparities?”   The piece is illustrated by a number of colorful graphs, charts and a map and is part of an ED WEEK series on “Hidden Inequities” (link included).  “Private donations can come through parent-teacher organizations, school district foundations, booster clubs, and private companies,” the item relates.  “Though they account for a fraction of districts’ budgets, the extra dollars can reinforce existing inequities between districts just one street over from one another, suggests a nationwide Education Week Research Center analysis of the latest federal financial data available.”
 
SDUSD Program to Combat Islamophobia Draws Controversy
And finally, last Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” called attention to a program in the San Diego Unified School District that attempts to educate students, faculty and staff about Islamophobia and bullying of Muslim students.  It must be something about our current political times, but the idea has drawn controversy according to an item in the San Diego Union-Tribune.  “Stan Anjan, executive director of Family and Community Engagement at the district, said the district could begin rolling out steps to address the issue by the end of the school year.  Those steps,” it explains, “could include social studies lessons on Islam so students would better understand the religion.  Another suggestion was including Islamic holidays on calendars so teachers who had Muslim students would be more sensitive about scheduling after-school meetings with parents. . . .  Anjan said the district’s plan does not include favoritism of Muslim students or violate church and state restrictions.”
 
 
                                      .                                                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Friday, April 21, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Life is not only about acquiring knowledge,
it is about applying knowledge.”

― Amit Kalantri

Charter Schools
The LAUSD board voted 4-3 at their regular meeting on Tuesday to support 3 controversial bills in the Sacramento legislature that would bring more transparency and accountability to charter schools in the state.  The split vote is significant given there are 2 seats up for grabs on the board at the May 16th L.A. City general municipal election.  If charter proponents Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez win their respective races against incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer and newcomer Imelda Padilla, charter supporters will have a majority on the LAUSD board for the first time.  That critical factor and information about the 3 bills can be found in a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.               Diane Ravitch’s blog has some harsh words for L.A. billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and his position on charter schools.  She’s critical of his possible influence in having a bill (SB 808) withdrawn in the California legislature (see above) that would have allowed only local school boards to reject new charters in their districts that were neither needed nor wanted. Current law lets charters that are not accepted by local school boards to appeal to county boards of education or even the state board.  Ravitch is curious if the Democratic author of the bill pulled it from the Senate Education Committee due to influence from charter supporters like Broad.  “How many millions or billions will Eli Broad and his friends in the CCSA [Calif. Charter School Association] spend before they admit that all they accomplished was to destroy public education?  This will be Eli Broad’s legacy: not his museum; not the buildings where he has carved his name,” Ravitch bitterly concludes.  “But his destruction of public education in Los Angeles and across the state of California.”              Do the applications filed to open new charter schools contain keys as to whether they will be successful or not?  The answer to that provocative query is “yes,” according to a just released study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a pro-choice, conservative, nonprofit education think tank.  The report is featured in the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  The research identified “three risk factors for new charter schools: failing to name a school leader, lacking programs to support at-risk students, and planning a child-centered curriculum.”  The article briefly discusses those and how they were determined.  You can find  the full report (45 pages) titled “Three Signs That a Proposed Charter School is at Risk of Failing” byclicking here.                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, profiles an unconventional charter school in Indiana with an eye catching motto that, on the surface, would seem to be producing miracles.  But digging a little deeper yields some discouraging results that aren’t, unsurprisingly, being publicized.  “‘College or Die.’  That’s the motto of the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School,” it begins, “a charter school in Indiana which, according to its website,  ‘expects 100% of its students to be accepted at a fully-accredited four-year college or university’ and ‘to achieve exceptionally high levels of scholarship and citizenship.’”  That’s a strikingly high (impossible?) target to achieve.  A quick investigation yields some rather unsettling figures.  In 2013-14, 93 students were enrolled in 9th grade.  4 years later only 40 made it to their senior year.  It doesn’t take advanced math to determine that’s a loss of 57%.  Not anywhere close to the promise that 100% would be accepted at a college or university.  Now I know the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies want schools to run like businesses but it doesn’t take long to realize that’s a prime example of false advertising!               When schools are supposed to run like businesses one of the things they could spend their money on is advertising in order to attract students.  Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider discuss the idea of “Edverstising” on Berkshire’s blogHAVE YOU HEARD.  Their conversation takes place on a podcast (26:45 minutes) that you can listen to by clicking here.  “Is $1,000 per student kind of a lot to be spending on marketing?  That’s how much Success Academy spends, putting the charter network on par with a typical large corporation.  In the latest episode of Have You Heard, Jack Schneider and I wade into the murky business of education marketing or ‘edvertising.’  Fast growing and completely unregulated,” Berkshire writes in the introduction to the podcast, “edvertising is one byproduct of an education marketplace.  We talk to researcher Sarah Butler Jessen about what happens when public schools must now compete against charter schools with lavish marketing budgets.  And what happens to public education when schools define themselves as “brands.'”  The website includes a link to a full transcript (9 pages) of the program.                Do you ever notice that some of those corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies will tout a successful charter or innovative school but when someone goes back and checks on the campus a few years later things aren’t going so swimmingly?  Case in point:  billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates lauded Eagle Valley High School in Colorado back in 2013 for implementing many of his ideas for school improvement.  Well, Gary Rubinstein’s blog revisited the school and found it to be doing rather poorly on several important metrics that Colorado measures school growth by. Wouldn’t that seem to imply that Gate’s “innovations” may not be what they’re stacked up to be?  Only asking.  Will anyone, other than Gary Rubinstein, call him out on that?  The commentary is titled “Update on Colorado District that Gates Praised in 2013.”                 One of the initial aims of the charter movement was to use nonunion teachers.  Some charters have since become unionized for various reasons.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at the state of unionization at charters schools today “As of February of this year,” it reports, “the AFT was representing teachers at 229 charter schools scattered across 15 states. Todd Ziebarth, the senior vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said that the union’s efforts to recruit new charter teachers has only intensified with the election of President Donald Trump and the appointment of his education secretary Betsy DeVos, who is pushing for more school choice and charter schools, reports Politico.”
 
Testing
Need a comprehensive, all-in-one-place list of “34 Problems With Standardized Tests?”  Your wish has been fulfilled, thanks to Valerie Strauss’  column in The Washington Post.”  Built around a dubious court ruling in Florida that decided standardized test results can be used to deny third graders promotion to fourth grade, Strauss turns her column over to Marion Brady, veteran Florida educator, author of school textbooks and courses of study and a nationally syndicated columnist.  He’s pretty annoyed by the court’s investing so much certainty in standardized exams.  “The proceedings illustrate the legal profession’s inability to get it right on matters having to do with teaching and learning.  The appeals court’s decision reflects the conventional wisdom that testing is a simple matter,” he complains.  “Unacknowledged is the fact that educators have wrestled with the complexities of evaluating learner performance for generations without reaching firm conclusions.”  Brady suggests a long list of negative consequences from the misuse of standardized tests.  
 
Lessons From Finland
Finland has often been held up as having an exemplary public school system.  What, exactly, are the Finns doing that could be replicated here in the U.S.?  Timothy D. Walker moved to Finland 4 year ago to teach English in a 5th grade classroom there.  What did he learn about what makes the Finns so successful?  What he discovered he’s turned into a brand new book titled “Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Lessons for Joyful Classrooms.”  The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK contains an interview with Walker in which he talks about his book and some of the lessons he learned while working in the Nordic country.  In answer to a question about teacher training in Finland, Walker had this response: “Perhaps one of the most obvious lessons is that training is important.  Teachers need to feel a sense of expertise, to feel confident in their abilities, and have certain areas of teaching developed before they step foot in the classroom,” he relates.  “There are great teaching programs in the United States, but some programs are not helping inexperienced teachers develop or making sure that teachers enter the classroom with basic teaching skills.”
 
A Primer on Vouchers, “Neovouchers” and Education Scholarship Accounts
Not exactly sure what vouchers are or how tax credits and ESAs to attend private/religious schools work?  What about the term “neovouchers?”  Kevin Welner, Professor of Education Policy and Law and Director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, offers a primer on some of these key terms that you are sure to run across soon if you haven’t already.  The Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate are quite keen on promoting these at the federal level so you need to be, if you aren’t already, conversant in what the terms mean and how they work.  Welner’s piece appears on THE CONVERSATION website.  “As Republican lawmakers craft a tax reform bill, there’s speculation on the import taxes, value-added taxes and tax cuts it may usher in.  Meanwhile,” he commences, “it’s likely that the bill will also include a major education policy initiative from the Trump administration: a tax credit designed to fund private school vouchers.  A decade ago I started researching this new kind of voucher – funded through a somewhat convoluted tax credit mechanism – that appears to have particular appeal to President Trump and other Republicans.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Teacher salaries will not make one a millionaire.  But what if you could start a business and make millions selling your lessons?  That certainly seems far fetched and unrealistic and you’re probably VERY skeptical of the whole notion.  But before you give up and think this is totally fanciful, check out the story in EDUCATION WEEK titled “Million-Dollar Teachers: Cashing in by Selling Their Lessons.”  “Miss Kindergarten is in the million-dollar club.  So are Lovin Lit, the Moffatt Girls and about a dozen other teacher-entrepreneurs,” it begins, “who are spinning reading, math, science and social studies into gold by selling their lesson plans online to fellow teachers around the world.”  Still not convinced?  Read the rest of the item.  It’s not that long and it could be worth a million dollars to you.                How do teachers present controversial issues in these especially contentious political times?  The “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK takes another look at a topic the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of times in the past. The author of the piece, William J. Tolley,  currently teaches in the Peoples’ Republic of China and if you think confronting controversial issues is dicey in this country, try taking them on in highly authoritarian China!  He offers some ideas that apply to teaching in China but can certainly apply to the U.S., as well.  Here’s one of his examples: “3. We made the issues of the day a primer for learning about the issues of the past.  Using worldwide current events as a springboard for our discussions, we make connections between contemporary consequences and their historical causes—and always round back to discuss change and continuity over time.”           Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article by Valerie Strauss about the demographics of the teaching profession.  She noted that even though the numbers of minority teachers had increased, they still made up less than 20% of the total.  An op-ed piece in The New York Times is titled “Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?”  The author attended an all-black elementary school in Pennsylvania beginning in the first grade in 1957, 3 years after the landmark Brown decision ordered the desegregation of schools in this country.  He relates his experiences attending all-black schools until the 5th grade when he summarily became a “guinea pig” in the desegregation experiment and describes the situation regarding black teachers today.  “Statistics show that districts are doing a miserable job of retaining teachers of color and that more leave the field each year than enter it.  A 2016 report by the Education Trust shows why.  Among other things, African-Americans interested in teaching black students find they are steered into positions where they teach only black students.  The same teachers complain of being pigeonholed as disciplinarians,” he maintains, “their other talents rendered invisible.  The forces that are driving African-American teachers out of the classroom are taking a toll not just on black children but on the educational system as a whole.  The country will never overcome this problem unless it begins to treat it with urgency.”
 
LAUSD Ends McTeacher’s Nights

As predicted (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”) the LAUSD board, at their meeting on Tuesday, voted to end the fundraising events known as “McTeacher’s Nights” where groups of teachers and administrators from a particular school would take orders from behind the counter at a local McDonald’s from students and parents at their school.  A portion of the money collected would go to the school or an education-related organization.  The vote was 5-1 but the final resolution that was passed watered down some of the language at it related to other fast food restaurants according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.
 
Betsy DeVos
Two items from Tuesday’s “Ed News” were critical of Betsy DeVos’ choice to fill a critical, albeit, temporary position in the Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.  The person selected appeared to be an opponent of civil rights.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews a couple of her recent picks and worries that DeVos will not be sensitive to civil rights.  His commentary is titled “Early Signs Betsy DeVos Will Not Support Civil Rights” and he draws an interesting comparison to Monday’s Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn that appeared to be practically devoid of any minority children.  “As I reported shortly after her nomination, DeVos has a problematic track record on civil rights, based on her actions in Michigan.” Bryant reminds readers, “to promote school choice programs that significantly worsened the state’s racial and socioeconomic segregation of schools. . . .  More alarming is recent news of how many new hires for the education department have a history of making racially offensive comments and expressing controversial opinions on efforts to level the social and economic playing field for African-Americans and other racial minorities.”               They say “politics makes strange bedfellows”  Can we infer from that adage that education might do the same?  Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos and AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten took a “field trip” yesterday to the Van Wert City Schools, a rural Ohio district made up of TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS, at the invitation of the AFT head.  [Ed. note: They did have a deal that Weingarten would accompany DeVos to a “school of choice” the Secretary would select in the future.] The “Politics K-12” column forEDUCATION WEEK recounts the visit and notes at the outset of the story that “Both were still alive and well at the end of the day.” “Weingarten said in advance of the visit that she picked Van Wert,” it notes, “because it’s a good model for what the rest of the country should be doing when it comes to K-12.  The 2,200-student district focuses on community schools, early-childhood education, and project-based learning. And teachers are brought to the table whenever district leadership makes any significant changes to the curriculum.”
 
Trump and Education
Last month the Trump administration released its budget blueprint for the next fiscal year.  It contains huge increases for military spending and homeland security and large cuts for just about everything else including the Dept. of Education.  A commentary forEDUCATION WEEK decries the elimination of a particular program that funds after-school and summer learning for mostly low-income students.  Margaret McKenna, the author of the piece, is chairman of the board of the National Summer Learning Association and a former university president. She describes the program being axed and questions the justification offered by the administration for its elimination.  “In rationalizing the proposed cut,” McKenna complains, “Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, claimed there is ‘no demonstrable evidence’ that after-school programs, designed to help low-income children do better in school, are successful.  Whether administration officials are consciously rejecting evidence or just alarmingly uninformed, they are completely wrong.”
 
Supremes Hear Crucial Church-State Case
Tuesday’s “Ed News” highlighted an important case before the U.S. Supreme Court that although not directly related to education could have some serious implications for future education policies especially concerning the expansion of federal vouchers.  The case deals with the use of state money in Missouri to repave a church’s preschool playground.  Oral arguments were heard on Wednesday and a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews what the opposing attorneys had to say and how the justices reacted.  “The case, Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Comer, could lead to a major shift in the law on church schools and public funding.  Lawmakers in many states have been pressing for tuition vouchers, scholarships and similar proposals,” it explains, “that would allow public funds to flow to support religious schools and their students.  But they sometimes confront a barrier written into their state constitution.  These provisions forbid the use of any tax money to support churches or church schools.  They are sometimes called ‘Blaine amendments’ because they were adopted in the late 19th century after Rep. James G. Blaine tried but failed to add a similarly strict ban to the U.S. Constitution.  The playground dispute gives the justices a chance to strike down those limits as unconstitutional.”               An editorial in yesterday’s Times describes the 1st Amendment dilemma facing the Supreme Court justices in the Missouri church-state case they heard on Wednesday (see above).  “Religious freedom in the American context has two meanings.  One is that government will not promote religion or, as the 1st Amendment puts it, that there will be ‘no law respecting an establishment of religion.’  But the 1st Amendment also protects the ‘free exercise’ of religion,” the editorial informs.  “That means citizens can’t be penalized for practicing their faith, including, the Supreme Court has ruled, when it comes to the allocation of government benefits.  On Wednesday the court struggled with a case originating on a preschool playground in which those two definitions of religious freedom seemed to pull in different directions.”  The piece urges the court to issue a narrow ruling in the case so as not to open the door to federal voucher proposals in those states that have laws prohibiting them.  “A ruling limited to the facts of this case would be an exercise in judicial modesty.  It also would reassure those who have worried that a victory for the church in this case,” it continues, “would make it easier to adopt a program of vouchers for religious schools in states with constitutional provisions such as Missouri’s.”
 
New Poll on Attitudes Towards Education in California
A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 1,705 adults in the Golden State earlier this month about theirattitudes on a number of education-related topics. The “Education Watch” column in today’s L.A. Times features some of the key results.  It headlines the fact that respondents favored vouchers and higher school funding.  “About 60% of adults and 66% of public-school parents in a new poll said they favored vouchers that parents could use for their children’s education at any public, private, or parochial school,” it reports regarding the former topic.  “Republicans (67%) were more likely than independents (56%) and far more likely than Democrats (46%) to hold that view.  Across racial and ethnic groups, 73% of African Americans, 69% of Latinos, 56% of Asians and 51% of whites supported vouchers.”  Other subjects mentioned in the story included reporting on the immigration status of students, schools as sanctuary zones and how respondents rated their local school.
 
How to Keep a School Superintendent on the Job
School superintendent tend to have rather short tenures.  A recent report found that they last an average of only 3 years in urban districts and 6 years in rural ones.  What should school boards avoid in hiring a new superintendent?  Cindy Mincberg, a former biology teacher, school board member and CEO of the Houston and Portland, Ore, school districts, is currently president and CEO of the Center for Reform of School Systems.  In a story for EDUCATION WEEK she lists 5 “pitfalls” school boards must navigate around and solutions for how to do that in selecting a new district chief.  Here’s one from her account and the accompanying solution: 3. Reliance on the interview to make a selection. . . .  Solution: Instead of prioritizing interviews, the board should first rely on the investigations of past behaviors by the candidates, as past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  In addition, it should initiate a series of interactions between the candidates and the board members in a variety of settings where interaction ranges from casual to structured.”
 
An AA Degree May be the New High School Diploma
And finally, if “orange is the new black” and 40 is the new 30 [Ed. note: I’m WAY beyond that age.], than an AA Degree may be the new high school diploma or so argues Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at the Atlantic, in an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times.  “A surge of innovation in states and cities is building momentum for what could become a seismic shift in American education.  Just as in the last century Americans came to expect that young people would finish at least 12 years of school,” he writes, “many local governments are now working to increase that minimum to 14 years.  And political leaders are beginning to acknowledge that if society routinely expects students to obtain at least two years of schooling past high school, government has a responsibility to provide it to them cost-free. . . .  Two key factors explain why 14 is the new 12 in education.  First, amid anxieties about the economic divide in America, there is a recognition that community colleges provide crucial opportunities for working-class kids. And second, they fill employers’ simultaneous demand for more highly skilled workers.”  Thanks to “Ed News” reader Don Hagen for sending this along.
 
                                      .                                                                      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, April 18, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Ed. note: Wow, a body tries to take a short vacation to enjoy the Spring Break and who would guess so much education news would emerge during Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday and Easter.  Anyway, this edition of the “Ed News” has a lot of information to digest.  Just a reminder: I don’t make the news, I just try to report it for you.  My suggestion: try not to take it all in in one reading.]
And now to a LOT of news.
“Knowledge is the name professors give to the confusion they create.” 

― Marty Rubin

San Diego USD to Fight Islamophobia and Bullying
The San Diego Unified School District approved a plan earlier this month to combat Islamophobia and bullying on its campuses.  The program will be introduced to faculty and staff during the remainder of this school year and will commence at the beginning of the fall semester.  A story in the April 8th, L.A. Times describes why the district decided to go in this direction.  “A 2015 report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” it notes, “found that 55% of Muslim American students surveyed in California said they had been bullied because of their religion.  In July, the San Diego school board directed district staff to work with CAIR in developing a plan to address the issue locally.”
 
Testing
ALOED member Larry Lawrence and Joan Davidson, educator and parent activist, were prominently featured in a piece on Diane Ravitch’s blog about some sleuthing they engaged in to find out what’s going on behind the scenes at an office of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) at UCLA.  The company provides the Common Core-based standardized tests and materials for California and 14 other states.  That, however, is down from a peak of 25.  The office will be moving at the end of June since UCLA severed its connection to the organization.  “The SBAC organization is using public funds,” Davidson writes by way of introduction to her and Larry’s notes, “but refuses to make public their agendas, minutes, meeting locations, budgetary decisions, etc.  Since the tests are secret as well, someone in one of the 15 states who contract with SBAC needs to explain to the public how they are using public funds without any public information disclosable to the public.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers a primer on the economics of standardized testing.  He explains how government legislation mandates schools give standardized tests which means it creates a forced market for the products being sold by the testing companies.  It’s all very simple but at the same time extremely pernicious. “In the case of government mandating consumers to buy a particular product, it’s perhaps the strongest case of a captive market.  Consumers have no choice but to comply,” he perceptibly points out, “and thus have little to no protection from abuse. They are at the mercy of the supplier.  It’s a terrible position to be in for consumers, but a powerful one for businesspeople.  And it’s exactly the situation for public schools and the standardized testing industry.”               What is the real, total cost of standardized testing programs for states?  A bill recently introduced in the Texas legislature would mandate that figure be determined and made public.  A commentary by Sara Stevenson, a librarian at a middle school Texas, in The Austin American-Statesman, suggests the costs are more than just what a district pays a company for the tests it administers.  There is also costs for test prep materials and salaries paid to personnel to administer the tests among others.  “If Texans know the true cost of all this state-mandated testing,” she maintains, “we can all come together to eliminate or severely dial down these tests with the shared goal of using our talent and our treasure more wisely.”               Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Stan Karp, veteran educator and an editor of the “Rethinking Schools” magazine which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  Karp’s topic: “Why High School Exit Exams are a Waste of Time.”  He points out that, as part of the backlash against standardized tests, more and more experts are questioning the value of high school exit exams.  California and 9 other states have recently ended or postponed their tests and the Golden State went so far as to issue diplomas retroactively to students who were denied them due to not being able to pass the assessments.  “There are several reasons for this retreat, including the research on exit testing,” he relates, “which clearly shows that exit tests don’t help the students who pass and hurt the students who don’t.  They increase dropout rates and incarceration rates without improving college participation, college completion levels, or economic prospects for graduates in states that have them.”  Karp proceeds to review much of the research that reinforces the supposition that the tests are not useful.
 
The Teaching Profession
A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a bill (SB 807) introduced in the California legislature that attempts to address the teacher shortage plaguing this state.  It would exempt teachers from paying California state income taxes which would, in essence, give them a 4%-6% pay increase.  The idea behind the legislation is that it would help attract and retain teachers in the Golden State.  An editorial in the April 9th, L.A. Times is skeptical of the concept.  “Studies of why teachers leave the profession don’t generally find that their salaries — admittedly low compared with professions that require similar educations — are at the top of the list,” it points out.  “Heavy workloads, disruptive working conditions, lack of autonomy and a perception that their work isn’t respected tend to be the more common concerns.”                The editorial in the Times about offering teachers a break on paying state income taxes (see above) drew 3 letters that appear in Saturday’s paper.  The first one makes the point that increasing salaries will not convince educators to remain in their classrooms.  “To the editor: As a high school English teacher with 10 years of experience in the classroom,” the author begins, “I want to adamantly stress that there is only one overriding reason teachers quit: the steady erosion of authority and respect.”                Over the years the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of interesting teaching techniques.  Here’s another one: “Expansive listening.”  Elena Aguilar, the author of this commentary in “The Art of Coaching Teachers” column for EDUCATION WEEK, is a veteran K-12 educator and a transformational-leadership coach and consultant who works out of Oakland, CA.  She defines the technique and describes some ways teachers can implement it in their classrooms and everyday lives.  “Expansive listening takes courage.  It takes practice.  It takes fierce commitment to a different way of being,” she relates. “This kind of listening and questioning requires a voyage into the deepest unknown.  You need not abandon all opinions nor dishonor your experiences.  You need to be willing to be changed by what you hear.”  Aguilar proceeds to offer some concrete tips on how to achieve all of this.               When schools and districts face teacher shortages, as many now are, that also means they probably don’t have enough substitutes of fill in for educators who call in sick.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted the problems of teacher shortages, THE HECHINGER REPORT takes on the issue of a shortfall of substitutes and how it impacts students.  Often this situation effects high-poverty districts, special education students and schools with high numbers of English Language Learners the most.  The article focuses on how Niagara Falls High School on the New York/Canadian border deals with the problem.  “Turning to substitutes at all can create cause for concern,” the item mentions.  “Research shows that academic achievement declines the more days students spend with subs.”              Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, features some new research on how the demographics of the K-12 teaching force have changed in the U.S. between 1987-88 and 2011-12.  One of the more significant trends has to do with the number of minority teachers. Even though the amount more than doubled over the quarter century of the study, the total still hovers at less than 20%.  The figures are broken down into many different categories. “From 1987 to 1988 and 2011 to 2012, researchers found that the teaching force became much larger, by 46 percent; more diverse, though minority teachers remain underrepresented; and less experienced,” Strauss points out.  “There were, however, large differences among different types of schools and academic subjects.”  The column includes a copy of the full report (80 pages) titled “A Quarter Century of Changes in the Elementary and Secondary Teaching Force: From 1987 to 2012.”  The study was released by the U.S. Dept. of Education based on figures analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics.               More and more teachers are making their resignation letters public and the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of them in the past.  A new study of these “I Quit” missives finds they are not just individual statements of why the educator is leaving but are quickly becoming a much broader plea to rally like-minded people to social action.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK features the report.  “In the past five years, U.S. teachers have increasingly shared their resignation letters online—in blogs, on Facebook, Youtube, and on local and national news sites—where the missives have gone viral.  These letters come from novice and veteran teachers of all subjects and grade levels, in urban and suburban settings all across the country.  Linking these letters,” it relates, “is the view that education in the United States is headed in the wrong direction, and that the best course of action is to leave the classroom and let the public know why.” The article includes a link to the full study (11 pages) as published in the journal “Linguistics and Education.”  It’s titled “With Regret: The Genre of Teachers’ Public Resignation Letters.”                Are you a future teacher or an educator who is contemplating changing districts?  If so, this one is for you.  Ariel Sacks is a middle school language arts teacher and instructional-support coach.  In the “Teaching for the Whole Story” column for ED WEEK, she offers an “Interview Tip for Teachers: Be Prepared to Be Specific.”  She offers a “few tidbits of advice” for those facing a job interview including how to deal with questions you might typically be asked.  “A move into a new teaching position,”  Sacks concludes, “is a great time to reflect, connect to your purpose as a teacher, and mine your experiences for those specific, positive examples that will show strangers what you are capable of in the classroom.”  [Ed. note: I spent a number of my off-track times with the LAUSD at what used to be called “Teacher Selection and Recruitment” at their downtown headquarters on Grand Ave. doing intakes and interviewing new teachers and those experienced educators seeking to change districts.  Sacks’ guidance is right on based on my experiences.]  Sacks promises to offer a second tip for successful job interviewing in the future.
 
Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos just selected Candice Jackson to serve as the acting head of the Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and Jackson, apparently, is a real doozy.  She will fill that job until a permanent nominee is chosen and then will become a deputy assistant secretary at the OCR.  ProPublica has a profile of this latest appointment.  “Although her limited background in civil rights law makes it difficult to infer her positions on specific issues, Jackson’s writings during and after college suggest she’s likely to steer one of the Education Department’s most important — and controversial — branches in a different direction than her predecessors.  A longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian,” it explains, “she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences.  She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.”  I told you she was a humdinger.                Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOGreacted to the choice of Candice Jackson to serve as the acting head of the DoE’s Office of Civil Rights (see above).  You can probably guess from the title of his essay how he feels about her: “Dept. of Ed Hires Anti-Civil Rights Crusader to Protect Student’s Nonexistent Civil Rights.”   “This is the kind of administration,” Singer ends derisively, “that will finally ensure that never again will any white person ever be inconvenienced by people of color and all their needs!  Never will the poor or minorities ever receive any federal help that could be perceived by white people as extra help – if we forget about all that we have helping us.  Finally we’ll all be equal.  And some of us will be even more equal than others!  Be sure to check out the highly photo shopped pictures that lead off and conclude the piece.                DeVos has been busy, of late, filling some open positions in the Dept. of Education (see 2 items above for one of her more controversial choices).  A story in EDUCATION WEEK reviews 9 of her latest selections, including that of Candice Jackson.  “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,” it begins, “has announced a slate of hires for key positions in the Department of Education—many of whom have been working in the agency since the beginning of the Trump administration in unofficial capacities.”              Betsy DeVos has waded into the student loan issue and her latest actions are not very promising.  The New York Times has run several articles over the past month on the debt problems plaguing students and what the new administration is or is not doing about it.  In its latest installment the paper looks at how DeVos has rescinded a key rule instituted under Pres. Obama to try to clear up some of the confusion over how the student loan program is managed.  “It was a high-stakes move: Her department administers $1.3 trillion in loans on behalf of nearly 43 million student borrowers.  At issue is which companies will handle the bulk of those loans in the future,”the article explains, “and how they will do it. Under the Obama administration, the Education Department was on the verge of selecting a single vendor to build a new system for servicing its student loans, in what was expected to be one of the largest federal contracts outside of the military.  But on Tuesday, [April 11], Ms. DeVos signed an order rescinding key parts of that attempt to streamline the system — essentially hitting the reset button on the Obama-era plan.”
 
Charter Schools
A nomadic LAUSD charter school will be closing its doors at the end of this school year after several forced location changes led to a severe drop in enrollment.  The final nail in the coffin for the Westchester Secondary Charter School came last week when the County Board of Education voted not to renew its charter for another 5-year term.  An article in the April 10th, L.A. Times details what happened to the school.  “Its enrollment, now at fewer than 220 students spread among grades 6-12,” it explains, “peaked in 2014 and never recovered.  Its students’ scores on the state exams were comparable to those at nearby schools such as Crenshaw High School and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets (formerly Westchester High School), but a county report found it hadn’t met any of its other academic goals.   ‘The educational program at Westchester is not likely to be of educational benefit to the pupils who attend,’ the report said.”                A new report from the group In the Public Interest (ITPI), out of Oakland, finds that charter schools continue to expand and siphon off precious taxpayer dollars from their traditional public school counterparts even as the demand for charters and their need declines.  The study is featured in an item that appeared in the L.A. Times last Tuesday.  The analysis “looks at where charter schools are increasing in number and where schools are needed based on enrollment. The two trend lines do not correspond, researchers found — especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” the article relates, “where the number of school-age children has declined even as the number of charters has exploded. . . .  The report points out that traditional school districts can’t build new schools when real or potential enrollment fails to justify expansion.  But those rules don’t apply to charter schools,” it continues, “which can open anywhere and qualify for state funding or subsidies to build or lease facilities.  The report says public funds helped open and sustain at least 450 charters in areas with plenty of existing classroom space.”  You can find an overview of the study including its 8 key findings by clicking here which includes a link to the full ITPI report (59 pages), titled “Spending Blind–The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding,” or the full study can be accessed here “The California charter school industry has been growing rapidly for the past twenty years.  From less than 200 schools in 1998,” the Introduction to the full study points out, “the industry has grown by more than 600%, to over 1,200 schools serving nearly 600,000 children, or nearly 10% of the state’s students.  And this growth is poised to continue into the future, with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) declaring a goal of serving one million students by 2022.”               Some good news for the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools charter network which manages 28 middle and high schools in Los Angeles.  67 teaches complained that the organization was spending taxpayer money to fight off their effort to join UTLA, the teachers union that represents educators at the LAUSD.  A state audit, made public last week, cleared the network of any mismanagement of pubic funds or fraud but did direct it to refrain from the  skirting of regulations regarding the sharing of parent and alumni private information. A story in Friday’s Times reports on the audit’s findings.  “Alliance did spend nearly $1 million to fend off unionization, the audit found.  But none of that money, it mentions, “was taken out of the schools’ budgets, diverted from classrooms or drawn from public funds.  Instead, the charter network relied on private contributions.  According to the audit, it raised about $1.7 million from a network of private donors and benefited from another $2 million in pro bono legal work.  As of June 2016, Alliance had spent about $915,000 — including $426,000 on consulting fees, $107,000 on legal costs, and $31,000 for flyers and letters to parents and teachers — in fighting unionization.” Wow!  That seems like an awful lot of money to spend in an attempt to keep teachers from joining a union.               The group Great Public Schools Now, which is a loosely organized front for the Eli Broad-led attempt to move up to 50% of LAUSD students into charters, is flexing its financial muscle once again.  In an attempt to curry favor with the district’s traditional public schools it has provided $750,000 grants to two successful schools in order to have them recreate new campuses in their image.  An article in Friday’s Times describes the awards and how they came about.  “Union leaders and charter school critics remain skeptical of Great Public Schools Now, which is less than two years old,” it notes.  They’ve called its aid to L.A. Unified a form of tokenism compared with relatively vast sums that well-heeled backers of the group have provided in years past to charter operators.  These critics have said they expect Great Public Schools Now to continue that pattern.”
 
Public Education
Traditional public education is under assault from the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies.  The “Ed News” has chronicled this onslaught on many occasions and is one of the reasons this blog even exists.  The U.S. Congress is on its Spring Recess until April 23rd, and Jeff Bryant believes this is an ideal opportunity to get involved in the fight to save our public schools.  He refers to his small moment as “The Resistance Recess.”  Writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, he reviews some of the stories describing how the corporate “reform” movement is trying to replace the traditional public system with charters, “choice,” vouchers and other strategies.  He explains how proponents of the public schools can get active and touts the NPE’s “Toolkit” which explains school privatization through a series of 13 one-page fact sheets and an interactive graphic that was highlighted in the April 7th, edition of the “Ed News.”  If you missed that, Bryant includes a link where you can find it.  “Whether you have school-age children or not, you have a lot at stake in the struggle to ensure public schools continue to benefit the public,”  he implores.”  “Public education is America’s most collaborative endeavor by far.  We all pay taxes to support public schools.  Schools are community anchors like main streets, town halls, public parks, churches, and community centers.  And we depend on public schools to prepare our future workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.  Public schools are the foundation of our democracy,” Bryant continues, “where students learn to respect and appreciate others who are different from them and schools model civic values to students and the community.  But public schools are imperiled, which means our democracy, and our future, is too.”               Want a peak into the possible dystopian future of public education?  Jeff Bryant, this time writing for The Progressive, titles his piece “Erie, Pennsylvania’s Schools Are a Canary in the Coal Mine of Education.”  He describes the latest hobson’s choices confronting the low-income schools in Erie.  The picture he paints is not a pleasant one and confirms his admonition in the item above that now is the time to actively fight for our traditional public schools. Bryant describes the myriad problems plaguing the Erie schools and what their limited options are.   “All these economic educational hardships, which are well documented, might sound extreme,” he suggests.  “But it’s not as if Erie is a special case.  A 2015 analysis by the federal government found schools that serve poor kids are increasingly financially disadvantaged nationwide, while schools for better-off children are increasingly given a funding advantage by state and local lawmakers.”
 
The Role of School Superintendents
What kinds of characteristics make for a strong AND successful school superintendent?  Nicholas A. Fischer held a number of assistant superintendent and superintendent positions in school districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware and Virgina as well as working for the Massachusetts Dept. of Education.  He is currently a school-management consultant and coach.  His commentary, titled “Leading a School District Can Be Controversial, Embrace It,” appears courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  He makes a major point of saying that being worried about political repercussions shouldn’t drive one’s decisionmaking.  “School and district leaders must have a core set of beliefs that allows them to stand their ground and risk their jobs over contested decisions.  Despite pushback, they’ll find constituents who are willing to support the kinds of leaders who pursue what is in the best interest of students, parents, and school staff.  The function of schools,” Fischer concludes, “is to make sure that young people have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.  And a skilled leader should never fear taking a political risk when it comes to helping children become the best they can be.”
 
George Lakoff
ALOED members Randy Traweek, Larry Lawrence and I attended a talk by noted author and former UC Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff on Thursday evening at the IMAN Cultural Center in Culver City.  Lakoff, who recently retired after a 50 year career in the classroom, spoke about how progressives can and should interact with conservative Republicans and Pres. Trump supporters.  He briefly reviewed his theories of how conservatives and progressives are brought up differently and addressed the topic “What To Do Now: How We Can Win With the Right Message.”  He spoke for about 90 minutes and took questions from the audience for about 45.  You can read more about his ideas on contemporary politics and personalities at his George Lakoff blog by clicking here.
 
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                       George Lakoff
 
Vaccination Rates Increase
Since California tightened requirements for vaccinations in 2015 the rate for students getting the shots has increased significantly despite some controversy over the legislation.  A piece in Thursday’s L.A. Times reports on the latest figures and includes a graph and 2 maps illustrating the statistics.  “New data released Wednesday,” it points out, “showed that the percentage of California’s kindergartners as of last fall with all required vaccinations rose from 92.8% to 95.6%.  Los Angeles County’s rate jumped from 90% to 95%, and Orange County’s from 92.5% to 95.5%.”                An editorial in Friday’s Times was laudatory of the 2015 vaccination law in California and impressed with the gains in inoculation rates it achieved (see above).  “This data is cause for celebration, albeit a measured one.  Though there are fewer counties in the vaccination danger zone,” it relates, “some remain, mostly in the north end of the state.  Eighteen percent of schools in the state still have immunization rates lower than 95%.  Those shortfalls must be eliminated.  Also, the vaccination rates are only for entering kindergartners.  Older kids who were previously exempted weren’t required by SB 277 to update their shots.  There will be gaps in the collective immunity levels until those students either reach 7th grade, which has its own immunization requirements, or move on.”
 
Starting the School Day Later
The “Ed News” has highlighted several studies that find that starting the school day after 8:30 am leads to some positive outcomes for middle and high school students.  A State Senator in California is trying to do something about it.  Anthony Portantino who represents the 25th Senate District that covers portions of the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys has introduced SB 328 which would mandate middle and high schools in the state start the day no earlier than 8:30 am.  A story in the “Time and Learning” column for Education Week reviews the research about the later starts and previews the legislation.  It focuses on a new study by Pamela Malaspina McKeever, a researcher at Central Connecticut State University, who just so happens to be an elementary school principal as well.  She discovered a positive correlation between later school start  times and increased attendance and graduation rates. Who could possibly be against that?  “McKeever’s study looked at data for 30,000 high school students enrolled in 29 different high schools across seven states,” the article explains.  “She compared graduation and attendance rates for these schools one year before they implemented a start time after 8:30 and two years after they made the schedule change.  She found that the average graduation rate rose from 79 percent to 88 percent.  The average attendance rate rose from 90 percent to 94 percent.”
 
California Graduation Numbers Continue to Rise
The figures for high school graduation rates are often used as a key indicator of how successful schools and districts are.  The news in California continues to be positive.  The state’s 2015-16 graduation rate rose a little less than 1% over the previous year while the number for the LAUSD jumped 4.8%.  Some critics were a bit skeptical of the results, claiming too many graduates are still not prepared for college or a career and that a few districts used various questionable methods to pad their numbers.  A story in Thursday’s L.A. Timesprovides the latest developments.  The statistics are augmented by several bar graphs.
 
Grit
The concept of “grit” as it relates to students and learning has been quite fashionable.  Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, popularized the idea and the ALOED Book Club even discussed Paul Tough’s “How Children Succeed” several years ago which placed a strong emphasis on grit.  However, there are critics and doubters of the whole notion.  Christine Yeh is a professor of psychology and education and co-director of the Center for Research, Artistic and Scholarly Excellence at the University of San Francisco.  You can count her among the detractors when it comes to promoting grit.  Her commentary, for EDUCATION WEEK, is titled “Forget Grit.  Focus on Inequality” and spotlights a new study that has some major misgivings about the stress on grit.  “Grit is an easy concept to fall in love with because it represents hope and perseverance, and conjures up images of working-class individuals living the ‘American dream.’  However, treating grit as an appealing and simple fix,” Yeh complains, “detracts attention from the larger structural inequities in schools, while simultaneously romanticizing notions of poverty.”
 
Vicki Abeles on Ending Homework
Vicki Abeles, author of “Beyond Measure” and director and producer of the documentaries “Race to Nowhere” and “Beyond Measure,” a companion to her book, took part in a discussion about doing away with homework yesterday morning on Larry Mantle’s “AirTalk” program on NPR station 89.3 KPCC.  They were joined by Jay Mathews, education reporter for The Washington Post and listeners who called in during the program with questions and comments.  The piece is titled “Under Pressure: Should Homework be Abolished for Elementary School Students?”  You can listen to the segment (21:35 minutes) and read a short overview by clicking here [Ed. note: The ALOED Book Club discussed her book last month and the ALOED Educational Film Series took in a screening of “Race to Nowhere” several years ago.]  Abeles also wrote an op-ed piece for motto, a TIME magazine online newsletter, titled “Why I Think All Schools Should Abolish Homework–It Should be the Exception, Not the Rule.”  “How long is your child’s workweek?  Thirty hours?  Forty?  Would it surprise you to learn that some elementary school kids have workweeks comparable to adults’ schedules?  For most children, mandatory homework assignments push their workweek far beyond the school day,” Abeles writes, “and deep into what any other laborers would consider overtime.  Even without sports or music or other school-sponsored extracurriculars, the daily homework slog keeps many students on the clock as long as lawyers, teachers, medical residents, truck drivers and other overworked adults.  Is it any wonder that,deprived of the labor protections that we provide adults, our kids are suffering an epidemic of disengagement, anxiety and depression?”
 
Working With Students With Autism
Sesame Street recently introduced Julia, a muppet with autism.  Many classrooms have students who are on the autism spectrum.  With those two things in mind, EDUCATION WEEK presents a short video (4:18 minutes) featuring Laura Anthony, a clinical psychologist with the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Health System, who offers 3 tips on how to work with autistic students.  Here’s one: “Tip #2 Teach Acceptance.”
 
Vouchers and School “Choice”
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case tomorrow morning that, although not directly related to education, could have serious implications for the federal expansion of vouchers and other private school “choice” initiatives.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the case and its issues regarding the separation of church and state.  The main question in the case is whether state money may be used to improve a Missouri church’s preschool playground.  You’ll have to read the item to see how that relates to vouchers and tax credits that might allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend religious schools.  The court is back to its full complement of 9 justices with the recent seating of Neil Gorsuch and that could affect the outcome.  “The case has drawn significant interest,” the article explains, from groups that are more interested in what the court’s eventual decision may mean for school choice.”               An item in the “School Law” column for ED WEEK describes a late breaking twist to the court case (see above) that could render the question at hand moot.  The governor of Missouri decided on Friday to reverse state policy that denied the church the chance to apply for the grant to improve its playground.  That could throw a wrench into the works of the case facing the Supreme Court.  “The arguments in the case are scheduled for 10 a.m. [tomorrow]. The justices could decide to scrap the case as moot,” this story points out, “or could proceed with the arguments, during which they could give further consideration of the governor’s action before moving to the merits.”  Stay tuned for any new developments.                Arizona had the first vouchers, aka educational savings accounts (ESAs), in the country and now has themost far-reaching voucher program in the nation and school “choice” proponents are looking to make it even broader.  An item in ED WEEK reviews the expansive new law that the governor signed at the beginning of this month. “In 2011, Arizona became the first state in the country to approve such savings accounts, but only for students with disabilities.  Since then,” it explains, “Arizona slowly has expanded the program to other student groups.”             Beware those initial, seemingly innocuous voucher programs (see above).  They often grow into monsters!  What started in Arizona as a plan for special needs students has morphed over several iterations into a much larger and more expensive use of taxpayer funds despite overall general opposition to the concept.  Gene V. Glass, currently a lecturer in the College of Education at San Jose State,  on his Education in Two Worlds blog, explains what’s going on in the Grand Canyon state.  “The latest incarnation of the program will expand the program by 5,000 students per year until a cap of 30,000 is reached.  Even Republicans,” he notes, “were reluctant to support the expansion, probably because of persistent non-support of vouchers among the voting public.  The latest PDK Gallup poll continues to show more than 60% of parents opposed.”
 
The Case Against Corporal Punishment
Dr. Michael Flanagan, member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) once again makes the case for eliminating corporal punishment in our nation’s classrooms. Despite his and others’ arguments, you may be surprised at how pervasive the practice remains.  “Corporal punishment is regularly used in 19 states; 15 states expressly permit it, while another 7 do not prohibit it.  It is illegal in 28 states [including California] and Washington DC,” he reports.  “The majority of the states that still permit corporal punishment are Southern states.  Nationally, there were 163,000 cases of corporal punishment during the 2011-12 school year alone.  Alabama paddled 19,000 students in 2013-2014, and Texas subjects more than 30,000 students a year to corporal punishment.  Of the 19 states where corporal punishment is legal in schools, 11 states were former Jim Crow states, 14 states are Right To Work States and all went Republican in the last presidential election.”  Flanagan illustrates his case with a number of charts and graphs.
 
A Model for Eliminating A-F Grades on Report Cards
Middle and high school students in the Windsor Locks Public School District are no longer bringing home report cards with A-F grades.  The small Connecticut town located just south of the Massachusetts border is in the fifth year of an experiment with a new mastery-based system for evaluating student learning.  This year’s freshman class will be the first to graduate with a mastery-based diploma.  THE HECHINGER REPORT has a detailed story about the new plan, how it works and some of the resistance that has developed to it particularly around the issue of how it will affect college applications.  “Each semester, progress is the goal.  Students who take longer to learn something aren’t penalized for it, and they don’t get the chance to give up and move on.  Actual mastery is the new bar for passing classes,” it spells out.  “Teachers have had to get more creative in helping students understand new concepts, and students have had to take a lot more responsibility for their own learning.  Sitting quietly at the back of the room is no longer an option in classrooms that prize student engagement.”
 
LAUSD Hopes to Promote Better Nutrition
The LAUSD board is expected to address two resolutions at its regular meeting today related to student nutrition and health.  The first would end the partnership with McDonalds’s in which the chain hosts “McTeacher’s Night” fundraisers.  The second would create a vegan option for every meal served in district cafeterias.  The “Education Watch” column in today’s L.A. Times discusses both initiatives.  “District guidelines already prohibit schools from seeking sponsorship from corporations that market, sell or produce products that may be harmful to children, including alcohol and firearms as well as high-fat and high-calorie foods and drinks,” it points out.  “Still, McTeacher promotions have taken place more than 120 times from 2013 through 2016, according to research provided by the Boston nonprofit Corporate Accountability International. . . . At the fundraisers, teachers get behind the counters at the fast-food restaurants while parents and students line up to buy food.  A portion of sales goes to the school or a school-related organization.  The Corporate Accountability group said that McDonald’s asks for a minimum of 10 teachers and a principal to attend events and to promote them, according to public records obtained from school districts.”
 
Congratulations!  You may it all the way to the end of this edition.  
I warned you at the outset that there was a lot to read and digest.
You are to be commended for your perseverance!
                                      .                                                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                   

Ed News, Friday, April 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Ed. note: The “Ed News” is going to take some time off to enjoy Spring Break.  Look for the next issue on Tuesday, April 18th.]
The 8-day Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown on Monday.
                  Inline image 1
April 14th is Good Friday and, of course, Easter arrives on Sunday, April 16th. 
                    Inline image 2
And now to the news.
“There is a difference between information and knowledge, 
and the most important role of the library is not providing access to information; 
it is supporting, enhancing, and facilitating the transfer of knowledge – in other words, education.” 

― Kathleen McCook

Betsy DeVos
Not only are many educators still shaking their heads over the selection of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education, but now many of those same skeptics are concerned (troubled?) about some of her picks to fill jobs in the DoE.  A story in The New York Times raises some serious issues about 2 key nominees to positions in the Department’s Office of Civil Rights.  You may want to sit down before reading about who’s been selected.  One candidate was involved in a critical sexual harassment case involving Florida St. University and the other leveled some incendiary sexual charges against Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.  “The posts are among the most high profile in the department. Staffing in the Office for Civil Rights has been a source of concern for civil rights advocates ever since the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender students as one of its first education policy moves. . . .  The appointments,” it explains, “have been met with trepidation from advocates who are anxious about the future of the Office for Civil Rights, which gained a higher profile under President Barack Obama as it focused policy as much on equity in education as on achievement.”  The news emanating from the Ed. Dept. just keeps getting worse and worse!                   Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, describes 3 schools DeVos visited this week.  One was a public school, albeit, one that was located on a protected from protesters military base.  One was a private religious school and one was a charter with ties to a controversial rapper and a charter network that came under investigation by her own Dept. of Ed a couple of years ago.  “As DeVos concludes this itinerary of school visits, she will have visited at least as many private and charter schools as she has visited traditional K-12 public schools in her tenure as Education Secretary so far. . . .  But the schools she chooses to visit and what she says to the educators in these schools continue to convey the message that rather than fulfilling her obligation as a public servant to support public schools,” he complains, “her agenda is mostly about distributing scarce resources for education to other types of schools she would prefer parents choose instead.  The fact these schools may have a religious agenda, may rely on schemes to redirect tax money to private pockets, or may be designed to put education funding at risk to privateers and real estate deals seems not to bother her one bit.  That’s not parents’ choice.  It’s her choice.”
 
Preschool Suspensions/Expulsions
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy group, has a rather troubling story about suspensions and expulsions in PRESCHOOLS.  It’s titled “4 Disturbing Facts About Preschool Suspension.”  Here’s one example from the list: 2. It can be driven by implicit racial bias.”
  
Trump and Education
What are the chances the Trump administration will be able to get its federal voucher program through the House and Senate and to the president’s desk for his signature?  Michael J. Petrilli, on the “FLYPAPER” blog from the THOMAS B. FORDHAM INSTITUTE, a conservative education policy think tank, believes it will take “3 miracles” which he gladly reveals.  Given the fact a bloc of very conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus (formerly known as the Tea Party) were recently able to derail Trump’s signature attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the odds are pretty slim that the president will prevail in his voucher plan, according to Petrilli’s commentary.  “So the prospect [of a federal voucher program] is compelling for school-choice enthusiasts.  But so is the goal of Heaven on Earth,” he fears.  “The question is how to get from here to there.  Creating and sustaining a massive new federally-fueled voucher program will take more than a miracle.  It will take three miracles.”                Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, issues a manifesto and a call to arms for proponents to defend the traditional public school system in this country.  He ties it in with a recent segment of Bill Maher’s “Real Time” program that featured an author remarking on his latest book about how to counteract the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century.  The piece is titled “Defending Public Education From Trump’s Tyranny.”  “Our institutions are under assault.  One of the most vulnerable of these institutions is public education.  If we do not fight for it, we will lose it. If we do fight for it,” Walsh insists, “perhaps we can turn the conversation about schools around and focus on what is really causing our educational problems – income inequity, prejudice, and segregation.”  Diane Ravitch calls this “an important post.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The news is not all bad on the corporate “reform” and privatization front.  The following 4 stories may signify the continuing decline of those “reformers” and privatizers:  First, the Wisconsin Working Families Party swept 3 school board elections in Milwaukee on Tuesday so now pro-public school members control the board in that city.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release from the WWFP announcing the exciting news.  “Wisconsin Working Families Party worked for months to elect a slate of public school champions,” it states, “who will advocate for more resources for our school system, fight off unaccountable voucher expansion, and put forth an aggressive policy agenda that trusts teachers, invests in our student’s success, and adds to the quality of life for working families in Milwaukee.”                 Second, the Connecticut State Board of Education decided this week to eliminate the use of student state standardized test scores as part of its teacher evaluation process.  It’s not a total victory for education experts,however, who have railed against this practice for years as districts will still need to count 22.5% of a teacher’s evaluation based on non-state exams according to a story in the ct mirror.  State education board Chairman Allan B. Taylor and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell,” it relates, “both praised the board’s approval of the plan as an important clarification of the role state tests should play: a goal-setting tool for teachers, not part of a formula for rating an individual teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.”               Third, the Texas (Texas!) House voted against the authorization or funding of school vouchers in the state thus killing the idea for at least the next 2-year budget cycle.  The HOUSTON CHRONICLE has the details of this action. “The votes put on the record the lower chamber’s distaste for a program prioritized by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and favored by Gov. Greg Abbott,” it concludes, “to allow students to take public funds assigned to their school district to subsidize tuition at private schools.  The Senate has spent years trying to push such a program into law but the bill has failed to make traction in the House.”                And fourth, 17 school districts in Illinois have joined together and filed suit against the governor, the state and the State Board of Education for a failure to fund the public schools at the levels they require to function properly in accordance with the state constitution.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release describing this action.                Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is on the attack AGAIN!  In 2011 he and the GOP legislature were able to ram through a draconian bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public unions in the state.  His latest offensive against public schools is to promise increased funding for districts IF they can certify that they’ve cut teacher pay and eliminated long-term union contracts.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, is justifiably outraged at this latest incursion.  “Would this reduce the number of teachers in Wisconsin?  Of course– and thereby weaken that damn union and its ability to stand up to guys like Scott Walker.  And of course,” Greene complains, “this also accomplishes the goal of making public schools less and less attractive so that charter schools can look better by comparison (without having to actually get good).”               The NPE (Network for Public Education) released its latest “Toolkit: School Privatization Explained” which consists of 13 one-page “fact sheets” about charters, privatization and vouchers for your information and to share with people who may be uninformed about those critical topics.  It also includes an interactive map with report cards detailing the state-by-state status of privatization.  For instance, click on California and we earn a “D” based on their 6 criteria, which are individually detailed.  “The appointment of Betsy DeVos as US Secretary of Education has put our public school system in the crosshairs.  We know her real agenda– the destruction of our public school system, which she referred to as ‘a dead end.’  DeVos and her allies,” the introduction to the Toolkit explains, “have worked for decades pushing charters, vouchers and neovouchers such as education tax credits and ESAs.  DeVos even supports virtual charter schools that have a horrific track record when it comes to student success.  Unfortunately the general public is often confused by the misleading terms that privatizers use to mask their agenda. Terms like ‘choice’, ‘portability’ and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are an attempt to make religious school vouchers and other unpopular policies acceptable.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Given the very divisive presidential campaign and what’s taken place since the election and inauguration, have teachers shied away fromdiscussing political issues and personalities in their classrooms?  According to a survey conducted in February by the Education Week Research Center, the answer is “no.”  Results of the poll appear in EDUCATION WEEK.  “More than 830 K-12 teachers and other school-based instructional staff members who are registered users of Education Week’s edweek.org website,” it notes, “responded to an email invitation for a survey about their experiences teaching about controversial topics in a time of division. . . . Many teachers said they feel obligated to make sure all their students—regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion—feel safe and secure, and that has made conversations about politics and other current events feel necessary.”  The article includes a link to the results titled “Survey Data: Discussing Controversial Topics in the Classroom” which consists of several interactive graphs with findings from the poll.              A veteran of the Washington, D.C., schools describes the fear that’s driving her from the classroom.  If nothing else, the title of this essay from the GREATER GREATER WASHINGTON website should grab you: “What’s a White Bitch Like You Doing in a School Like This?”  And that was one of the first questions she was asked in a JOB INTERVIEW!  “The fear that will drive me from my classroom at the end of the 2016-2017 school year is the fear,” the author gravely relates, “that what I gave was not enough when pitted against the forces of a disengaged and segregated society.”  When educators like this leave, it’s no wonder we have teacher shortages.                An article in THE HECHINGER REPORT suggests that high schools can take a page out of how preschoolers learnin order to make academics more palatable.  It focuses on what’s going on in the classrooms of City Neighbors High School, a charter with 375 students in Baltimore.  “For anyone who’s spent time in an early childhood classroom, the idea that school should be as much about making friends and having fun as learning the alphabet will sound familiar.  The traditional American high school, by contrast, has been compared to a factory,” it suggests, “in which kids are treated like products, to be crammed with knowledge (in the most boring way possible) before they’re ejected from the assembly line.  A new generation of reformers has been working to change that system for more than a decade, and many of their ideas are borrowed — knowingly or not — straight from preschool.”  Be sure to note the references to High Tech High School in San Diego.
 
Protections for Student Journalists
What, if any, press freedoms do high school and college journalists have in this country?  Good question.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has an interesting item on just that topic.  It includes a sate-by-state interactive map of the protections afforded to those correspondents.  Click on California, for example, and you’ll find this: “College and high school students are both protected from administrative censorship.”  Click on the “Read More” button and you’ll get a detailed assessment of the legal protections in the Golden State from the splc (Student Press Law Center).                 The New York Times has a similar story about press freedoms for student journalists (see above and note both articles use the same photo).  It relates how a group of high school reporters in Kansas discovered some falsified credentials that a recently hired principal at their school claimed to have.  They published their findings in the monthly student-run newspaper and, guess what?  Said principal promptly resigned!  The story also touches briefly on the issue of how each state is different in what it allows student journalists to print.  “The article might never have appeared had it not been for the Kansas Student Publications Act, which grants students independent control over their editorial content,” the Times piece points out, “including material that might paint a school in an unflattering light.  A 1988 Supreme Court ruling gave administrators the authority to censor the content of student journalists.  Ten states, including Kansas, passed laws giving students independent control, although administrators can still remove material that is obscene, defamatory or poses a danger to the school.  Similar bills are pending in nine other states.”
 
Charters & Vouchers
Sec. DeVos visited a charter school in Florida yesterday.  OK, whats wrong with that?  I wonder if she was aware that the school’s management company was under investigation by her Ed. Dept. a couple of years ago?  Probably not or, if she was, she may not care.  Anyway, Jennifer Berkshire, on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog, interviews Preston Green, an education law expert at the University of Connecticut, about problems of cronyism, conflicts of interest and mismanagement that all too often arise in the charter industry due to a   lack of accountability and transparency “I explored the issue of whether a charter school ‘bubble’ is emerging, akin to what we saw in the lead up to the housing crisis. . . . Charter schools were to be freed from the shackles of rules that applied to public schools and those rules were regulations.  The thinking was that by removing those regulations,” Green explains, “the industry could tap into innovation.  And that’s the same language, by the way, that we saw in the subprime mortgage crisis and that we saw in relation to Enron.  By removing all of the shackles that would prevent innovation in the business sector, we would harness that innovation.  But instead we enabled private entities with nefarious purposes to take advantage of that.  I’m not saying that all charter schools are nefarious,” he continues, “but when you remove the regulations, there may just be too much incentive, and too much temptation for some.”               Carol Burris, executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education), has been touring the country gathering information and writing about the charter industry in various states.  She was in California and the “Ed News” highlighted her findings there.  Recently, she was in Arizona and, again, the “Ed News” featured her report.  This week she penned an op-ed in the Arizona Capitol Times summarizing what she discovered in the Grand Canyon State.  Her piece is titled “School Choice a Sham, Profits on the Taxpayers’ Dime” and it paints a pretty damning picture of what’s happening with corporate “reform” in Arizona.  “It is time for Arizonans to take a hard look at who really benefits from school choice.  While some families may want tax-payer funded options, the dizzying array of choices, combined with lax oversight and weak laws,” she indicates, “make Arizona’s taxpayers easy marks for profiteering on the taxpayers’ dime.  Arizona is the Mecca of School Choice – for-profit charters, non-profit ‘fronts’ for for-profit charters, Empowerment Scholarships Accounts (ESAs), and tax credits all compete with little regulation and oversight.”              Arizona is certainly not backing away from its charter and privatization push.  In fact, it’s doubling down on its voucher program (called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) by expanding it to all students in the state.  Republican governor Doug Ducey signed the legislation last night and Betsy DeVos quickly tweeted her delight at the approval according to a story in the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Under the  ESA’s expansion, the average student will receive $4,400 a year,” it explains, “the amount of money the state would typically send a district for enrolling a student.  Students with disabilities and poor students would receive more money than other students.”  Arizona, it should be noted, has one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates in the country.  
 
LAUSD
The LAUSD’s Spring Recess begins tomorrow and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16th.  Happy Spring Break to all LAUSD employees.              The  NPE (Network for Public Education) ACTION has officially endorsed Imelda Padilla for the District 6 LAUSD school board post to be determined by voters on May 16th.  The seat represents the East San Fernando Valley and was previously held by Monica Ratliff who decided to run for the L.A. City Council.  “Imelda is strongly opposed to vouchers and believes that it is important to keep class size small,” the statement mentions.  “Although she is not an educator, she believes she has the skill set needed for success.  ‘As a youth and labor organizer, I have a winning record in fighting for the needs of all students; demanding resources be redirected to our students and parents.  I’ve devoted my life to advocating for our most vulnerable and will not stop until we reach 100% graduation,’“ she told NPE ACTION.
 
BREAKING NEWS: Judge Gorsuch Confirmed
And finally, Senate Republicans had to make a major change in the chamber’s rules to end the use of the filibuster in dealing with Supreme Court nominations but they were then able to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court today.  The vote was 54-45.  The “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the latest developments.  “Gorsuch, 49, is expected to be sworn in time to participate in April arguments that include a case with potentially major implications for religion and education. The new justice also could cast potentially deciding votes,” it says, “in education issues expected to come to the court in the near future, including on the rights of public-employee unions and transgender students.”               Now that Justice Gorsuch is set to join the other 8 members of the U.S. Supreme Court (see above), what can one expect regarding his rulings on education issues?  Previous decisions certainly don’t predict how judges will rule in future cases but they do open a window into how jurists think and apply the law.  With that caveat in mind, Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, analyzes the meaning of a single word in one of Judge Gorsuch’s rulings in 2008 while he was on the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals regarding the rights of students with disabilities.  She headlines her piece “Why the Word ‘Merely” Turned Many Advocates for Students With Disabilities Against Gorsuch” and includes excerpts from his Senate confirmation testimony in which he attempts to justify his position.  Strauss supplements her piece with an article by John C. Fager on the same subject that was highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News.”  Ta Da! I even scooped Valerie Strauss on that one.
 
                                      .                                                                      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, April 4, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself 
in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself 
what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, 
of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it” 

― Thomas Jefferson

Public Schools
The headline of an op-ed in The New York Times tells it all: “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?”  It tells the story of some highly successful TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS in the K-12 Union Public Schools district in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The author of the piece is David L. Kirp, professor at UC Berkeley, who ALOED member Larry Lawrence and I heard speak at Occidental College back in September, 2014.  Kirp describes an innovative system with a strong emphasis on the STEM subjects and is organized into a tightly knit group of community schools and surprise, surprise, the students are not from a high socio-economic enclave.  The district also offers healthy doses of art, music and sports to augment the academics and they accomplish all of this on one of the lowest per pupil spending amounts in the country.  “Ms. DeVos, the new secretary of education, dismisses public schools as too slow-moving and difficult to reform.  She’s calling for the expansion of supposedly nimbler charters and vouchers that enable parents to send their children to private or parochial schools.  But Union shows what can be achieved,” Kirp points out, “when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals and develop ties between schools and the community.”  Kirp adds in conclusion that the Union District in Tulsa is not an outlier.  He singles out districts in Union City, N.J., Montgomery County, Md. and Long Beach and Gardena, Calif., as accomplishing similar things and he challenges Betsy DeVos to check out what’s taking place at these exemplary PUBLIC schools.  Diane Ravitch called this “a terrific article that you will enjoy.”              Arthur Kamins was a science teacher and administrator in New York, Massachusetts and Kentucky.  He makes the case that public institutions and programs are essential to our democracy and that public schools do a much better job of maintaining it than private schools.  It is critical,therefore, that we preserve and strengthen our public schools if we wish to retain our democratic system of government.  Kamins’ commentary is titled “Don’t Be April Fooled: Public Is Better” and appears in THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “Don’t be fooled.  Tell your federal and state representatives,” he concludes.  “The wealthy need to pay more taxes not less.  Tell them that we don’t want to slip inside the gates of the wealthy.  We want to improve the public schools we have for all children.  Vote for that or we won’t vote for you.”
 
Charter Schools & Choice
The UTLA website summarizes 4 bills introduced in the California legislature last month that would promote charter school“accountability, transparency and equity” and promote the creation and support of more community schools.  “The legislation will be joined by an additional bill in coming weeks, forming a package of proposals that would support the creation of Community Schools,”the article relates, “and hold privately operated charters to some of the same standards as traditional public schools, including ensuring equal access for students and the prohibition of practices that discourage enrollment or push enrolled students out of school.”                A small group of Republican members of the Freedom Caucus (previously known as the Tea Party), in the House of Representatives, were recently able to derail Pres. Trump’s attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.  Now, another contingent of conservatives is gathering steam to oppose the administration’s much touted plan to make school choice, in the form of vouchers, into a federal program.  The opponents of the idea see it as yet another bid to shift powers away from local and state governments.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reports on a recent meeting at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, where a group of conservatives issued a warning to refrain from turning vouchers into a federal program.                The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like to promote school “choice” as a panacea for what supposedly ails public schools which is really under funding and poor support–but I digress.  Is school choice a ruse for a more sinister agenda?  Patricia MacCorquodale, a parent, sociologist and professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, describes her experiences navigating the twists, turns and dead ends of school “choice” in trying to select the best school for her daughter.  Her essay appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post and is headlined “The Masquerade of School Choice: A Parent’s Story.”   “Don’t let school choice trick you,” MacCorquodale sums up.  “The best way to provide quality across social class, race and ethnicity is to invest in public schools.”               When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies saw a rare opportunity to remake the New Orleans school district into an all-charter system.  It took a couple of years but the district is now pretty much 100% charter.  And how has that transformation improved the schools?  Well, in the realm of school desegregation, the answer is “not at all” as they remain as segregated as before the storm.  Diane Ravitch’s blog features a new report from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans out of Tulane University.  “New Orleans schools were highly segregated prior to the reforms, especially in terms of race and income,” Ravitch writes, “and the study finds that segregation levels remain high post-Katrina.  The authors find little evidence that the reforms affected segregation for elementary school students, but most groups of high school students they examined were affected. . . .  Among high school students, segregation has increased for low-income students and English language learners but decreased for special education students.  The study also finds that segregation by achievement levels has generally declined since Katrina.”               The League of Women Voters of Missouri came out strongly against charter expansion in the Show-Me state.  The two co-presidents of the local chapter in Columbia-Boone County penned an op-ed in theCOLUMBIA DAILY Tribune explaining why their organization takes that position.  Here’s one of their reasons: “• There is an unfounded belief that charter schools are superior to traditional public schools and therefore provide parents with an advantageous choice.  Studies of charter school academic achievement do not demonstrate that they are better than traditional public schools.  Parents expect superior outcomes when placing their children in charter schools.  Unfortunately, such is often not the case, and all too often charter school outcomes are actually inferior to those of traditional public schools.”
 
Neil Gorsuch
Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted a couple of items about why Judge Neil Gorsuch would probably not rule to protect students with disabilities if he were to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  John C. Fager, a former education columnist for the NY Daily News, agrees with that assessment.  In a piece on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website he goes into detail regarding a previous decision on the topic issued by Judge Gorsuch and explains why the jurist was less than forth coming on the matter during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago.               Yesterday Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9, along party lines, to approve the nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court and send it to the Senate floor for final action.  Democrats on the panel hammered the jurist for a previous appellate court decision concerning the rights of students with disabilities and their belief that he doesn’t fully support the landmark Brown v Board of Educationdesegregation decision.  The “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK updates the latest developments.  Senate leadership hopes to hold a final floor vote on the Gorsuch nomination by this Friday.  “The 11-9 vote sets up a showdown later this week on the Senate floor, with most Democrats apparently embracing a filibuster strategy the would require 60 votes to end debate, and Republicans saying they are willing to change Senate rules to permit a majority vote on the nomination. . . .  Assuming they could not reach the number needed to end a filibuster,” the story continues, “Senate Republicans have said they would go for the so-called nuclear option, voting to change rules to eliminate filibusters for Supreme Court nominations.”
 
LAUSD
A new coalition of community groups has banded together to try to get the LAUSD to streamline and simplify the district’s enrollment procedure according to a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The idea is that students and families would have one place, one form and one process,” it explains, “for managing the myriad educational options available in the nation’s second-largest school system.”
 
LGBTQ… Students
Not sure what all the letters in the first part of this headline stand for?  Wonder how you can best support your LGBTQ students or even children or grandchildren?  Have no fear.  Kristi Jackson is a Spanish teacher in Virginia and the single mother of a teenaged transgender son.  She provides a primer on what all those (and other) letters mean and offers an alphabet (A-Z) of suggestions on how to best support an LGBTQ child in your classroom or at home.  Her thoughts appears on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association)website.  Here’s one example from her lexicon: “P = Protect   This one bears repeating: Protect the privacy and safety of your LGBT students at all costs. Many of these kids could face very difficult and even dangerous home and social situations if they were to be ‘outed’ unintentionally, even with the best of intentions behind it.”  Her other 25 entries are of equal value.
 
Math Anxiety
Many students suffer from the malady known as “math anxiety.”  It can affect student grades as well as their performance on standardized tests.  Jo Boaler, a professor of mathematics education at Stanford, features some new research on the subject and outlines 5 problems educators can solve to ease students fears about math.  Her commentary appears on THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “Widespread, prevalent among women and hugely damaging,” it notes, “math anxiety is prompted in the early years when timed tests are given in classrooms and it snowballs from there.  Psychologists’ recommendations — including counseling and words to repeat before a test — severely miss the mark.  The only way to turn our nation around is to change the way we teach and view math.”
 
Trump and Education
Education advocates are concerned that Pres. Trump’s proposal to eliminate Title II funding in his budget blueprint could seriously impact the hiring and support of teachers, especially those who work with ELLs.  The Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant program (aka Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is funded to the tune of $2.3 billion annually and its projected termination has educators up in arms according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Eliminating the $2.3 billion program could hamper implementation of the law’s newest version, the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It also could lead to teacher layoffs,” it further points out, “and make it tougher for educators to reach English-learners and other special populations and to make the most of technology in their classrooms, educators and advocates say.”  Click on the “Title II Funding” sidebar for a pie graph showing where Title II funding went in 2015-16.               Pres. Trump shared some of his ideas about education today in answer to a question at a CEO town hall meeting in Washington, D.C.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, features his response and she offers some analysis of what he said.  She also includes a video clip (1:27 minutes) of his answer.  “Denigrating public schools is a common theme among some school reformers, such as DeVos,” Strauss reminds readers, “whose primary interest in education is to expand school choice, including charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated privately, and vouchers, which use public funds to pay for private school.  Public school advocates say that such rhetoric is untrue, unfair and hurts the public schools that educate more than 80 percent of America’s schoolchildren.”
 
Opt-Out and Common CoreTesting
The final figures are not yet in, but Newsday is reporting that over 51% of students in 116 out of 124 school districts they surveyed in Nassau and Suffock counties on Long Island chose not to take the English/Language Arts exams in grades 3 to 8.  The article also details some flak State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is taking over some Common Core testing issues and a controversial Holocaust lesson at one campus in the state.  “Some upstate school systems also reported high rates of ELA test refusals, while others have said their numbers were down somewhat.  Elia told Newsday on Monday,” the story relates, “that the department would release official data on opt-out rates after state math tests are completed next month.”
 
Betsy DeVos
And finally, Betsy DeVos visited another school on Monday.  This time it was a Dept. of Defense school in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and, surprise, surprise, she talked up providing vouchers for military families to send their children to private schools if they wish.  Not everyone she addressed was thrilled by that prospect according to Valerie Strauss in her column for The Washington Post.  “More than 73,000 students attend 168 Defense Department schools,” she points out, “in 11 foreign countries, seven U.S. states, Guam and Puerto Rico, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity, an agency that runs pre-K through 12th-grade educational programs for stationed military families.  At Fort Bragg, N.C., there are eight schools that run from pre-K to eighth grade, with students attending high school off the military installation. . . .  The visit occurred at the start of the Month of the Military Child.  More than 80 percent of military-connected students are educated in public schools, but DeVos supports expanding options to public schools, including vouchers that use public money to pay for private school tuition.  That’s what she talked about at Fort Bragg.”  The executive directors of the Military Impacted Schools Association and the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools both issued statements questioning DeVos’ focus and urging her to direct more funding to the public schools.               If you are still wondering what in Betsy DeVos’ résumé qualifies her to be the U.S. Sec. of Education, join the club.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of sources that have raised the same issue.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog is now on the bandwagon after reading a disturbing story in The Washington Post about some clandestine meetings between Erik Prince, founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater AND sister of Betsy DeVos, who apparently acted as a go-between in setting up a back channel contact for the Trump/Putin connection back in January of this year in the Seychelles [Ed. note: Extra credit if you know where they are].  Klonsky includes a link to the WaPo story.  Check it out.  It’s alarming and his blog piece attempts to ascertain why Trump picked DeVos to head the Dept. of Education.  “Betsy DeVos’ appointment as Sec. of Education had less to do with her competency, adroitness, or knowledge of the field than it did with massive donations to the Trump campaign and her family’s ties to a web of international intrigue,” he suggests, “centered around her brother, Blackwater founder and secret Trump attaché, Erik Prince.”
                                      .                                                                      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 31, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “I can see education is everywhere, and many people were educated. 
But I realize that common sense is not that common.” 

― Nurudeen Ushawu

LAUSD School Board Elections
LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer is facing a stiff challenge as he seeks a third term for his District 4 seat which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley.  Voters will decide the election on Tuesday, May 16th.  The NPE (Network for Public Education) officially endorsed Zimmer in a statement on their website last week.  “Even though Mr. Zimmer has served on the Board since 2009,” it notes, “he is facing tough opposition from a candidate backed by the California Charter School Association and by the billionaires who have tried for over a decade to take control of the Los Angeles School system, with the goal of school privatization and charter expansion.”                If you’re still a little hazy about where Arne Duncan stands on charter schools, this story in yesterday’s L.A. Times should help dispel the fog.  The Sec. of Education for 7 years in the Obama administration just endorsed the 2 pro-charter, pro choice candidates for the LAUSD school board.  Duncan came out in favor of Nick Melvoin in District 4  and Kelly Gonez in District 6.  Both Melvoin and Gonez are charter proponents and are financially supported by millionaire former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. Current board Pres. Steve Zimmer  (District 4) and Imelda Padilla (District 6) are backed by UTLA.  “Like President Trump and his Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, Melvoin and Gonez strongly support privately operated, publicly funded charter schools.  But so does Duncan.  And so did the administration of President Obama,” the item points out, “who also maintained close ties with leaders of teachers unions critical of charters.  The union message to liberal Los Angeles voters has been that Melvoin and Gonez will pursue the Trump education agenda.  But the candidates insist the more apt association is with Obama.”
 
Testing
High-stakes, standardized testing got its big start under No Child Left Behind which was signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush in Jan., 2002.  As Vicki Abeles indicates in her book “Beyond Measure” (which, by the way, the ALOED Book Club discussed on Saturday)“NCLB and Race to The Top [Pres. Obama’s version] began as an effort to raise standards but ended up as a punitive accountability strategy.”  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, follows in Abeles’ footsteps and wonders what has all this testing accomplished over the past 15 years in a piece he titles “The Lost Years.”  Greene offers a couple of theories as to why students seem to know less even with the huge emphasis on the exams.  “I don’t think the BS Test scores mean jack, and they have never been and will never be my measure of success.  But reformsters chose the game, set the rules, picked the measurement they wanted (BS Test scores),”he complains bitterly, “and they STILL lost the game. We have wasted over fifteen years of education; some students have seen their entire schooling consumed by test-centric baloney.  Yet we keep plowing on, keep committing to Testing Uber Alles. We are losing students, losing education opportunities, losing the chance to awaken some young humans to what they could be and could become– instead, we are still trying to mash their spirits flat under the heavy testing hand. We are losing years that we cannot get back, cannot give back, and this is not okay.”  Diane Ravitch has this to say about Greene’s impressive commentary: “This is one of Peter Greene’s most powerful posts. I urge you to read it.”               Peter Greene is a teacher and in the item above he explains why he believes that high-stakes assessments are a waste of time and have been for a decade-and-a-half.  Another teacher and blogger, Ralph Ratto, who teaches elementary school in New York, describes the start of testing this week in his state as “one of the darkest days in education” on his Opine I Will blog.  “Teachers must sit by as our students struggle for hours.  We will observe children get physically and emotionally ill taking these tests,” he describes dejectedly.  “We are forbidden to assist or even discuss the tests.  Students who refuse the test must sit in the same room with those taking the test.  They are expected to sit quietly and read for at least 90 minutes.  Have you ever tried that?  How do they expect 8-12 year old kids to do that?  Folks, this is institutional child abuse!  I have written about this and about how this is the time of year that I am ashamed to be a teacher.  We all should be ashamed, when we make these children take these tests to fulfill a political agenda and provide absolutely no valid  data that helps children excel.”   
 
Trump and Education           
Cartoon of the day:
is finding threats where nobody looked before
Tom Toles | Trump’s new security state is finding threats where nobody looked before
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
Is this another example of the “bloom being off the rose” when it comes to the charter sector?  The “Charters & Choice” column forEDUCATION WEEK reports that the number of charter schools that opened in 2015-16 “plummeted” as compared to previous years.  “In a new analysis of the charter sector’s growth, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers finds that applications for new charters have fallen off by 48 percent since 2012.  In the 2015-16 school year,” it points out, “the average number of applications received by large authorizers fell to just over 7, down from more than 18 in the 2011-12 school year.”  The ED WEEK article offers a few reasons for the decline in new charter schools and includes a link to the NACSA report titled “Inside Charter School Growth: A Look at Openings, Closings, and Why Authorizers Matter.”               The CBS THIS MORNING program ran a segment yesterday on controversial reclusive Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and his connection to a string of charter schools in the U.S. and around the world.  Gulen lives in a guarded compound in the Pocono Mountains in western Pennsylvania.  [Ed. note: The ALOED Education Film Series screened the documentary “Killing Ed” about Gulen and his charter network on the Occidental College campus in November.]  The Turkish government has requested the extradition of Gulen charging him with involvement in the unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey in July.  The Obama administration didn’t act on the application before leaving office in January.  The Trump administration has yet to respond.  “Over the past two decades, Gulen’s Turkish followers have opened up taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S.  Some parents have expressed concern about the connection to the Gulen movement, while others don’t seem to mind.  But CBS News has learned,” the segment reports, “the FBI is investigating whether Gulen’s followers have skimmed money from those schools in order to fund his movement in Turkey.  A senior State Department official believes Gulen-linked charities and educational institutions in the U.S. look ‘a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up… to hide money for money laundering.’”  The article includes a video (5 minutes) of the story that ran on the program.               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like to tout how well charter schools are doing.  Don’t buy all the hype.  Carol Burris, former New York high school principal and currently executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education) has been traveling around the country reporting on charter schools in California and various other states.  She recently spent some time in Arizona and writes about her findings on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post.  This entry is headlined: “What the Public Isn’t Told About High-Performing Charter Schools in Arizona.”  Burris burrows into the BASIS Charter Network that now runs 18 campuses in The Grand Canyon state.  She discovered some rather interesting things.  Despite the fact charters like to claim they are “public” schools because they are funded by taxpayer money, the comparison to traditional public schools pretty much ends there.  Among other things Burris analyzes are enrollment demographics and declines, the low number of students accepted with disabilities and ELLs, administrative costs and other factors.  “Like the ‘no-excuses’ charter schools found in cities, the attrition rates at BASIS middle and high schools are extraordinarily high,” she reveals.  “Of a cohort of 85 students who began eighth grade in BASIS Flagstaff during the 2011-12 school year, only 41 percent (35) remained to enter twelfth grade in 2015-16.  In the flagship school, BASIS Tucson North, a seventh-grade class of 130 became a class of 54 by senior year.  The same pattern exists in every BASIS charter high school in the state.”               The Charter industry in Nashville isn’t faring very well.  Will Pinkston, member of the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education, describes it as “unraveling” in an op-ed forThe (Nashville) Tennessean.  “It was just a matter of time before the wheels came off Nashville’s charter school industry,” he suggests.  “This year, it’s finally happening.  Advocates for charters — publicly funded private schools — have long argued they’re the best approach for improving K-12 public education.  But national research shows, and now a series of new local developments reinforces, that charters are just a collective ruse pushed by special interests trying to privatize our school system.”  Pinkston details what is happening at 2 chains in his city, RePublic and Rocketship, to buttress his claim.         The former director of 3 controversial charter schools in Oakland was recently charged with mail fraud and money laundering in relation to the schools’ applications for federal grant funds.  Ben Chavis who stepped down from his post in 2013 amid previous charges, was arrested yesterday in North Carolina reports a story in the EAST BAY TIMES.  “According to the indictment announced Thursday,” it reveals, “Chavis, 59, of Lumberton, N.C., and others devised and put into place a scheme from early 2006 through May 2012 to defraud the California School Finance Authority by requesting federally funded competitive grants for three charter schools in violation of federal conflict-of-interest regulations.”             The largest voucher school in North Carolina is enmeshed in a major financial scandal.  Keep in mind the Tar Heel state requires very little accountability and transparency regarding how taxpayer funded voucher programs are run, so it’s pretty easy to get away with this kind of shenanigans if one is so inclined.  Lindsay Wagner, writing on the AJF (AJFLETCHER FOUNDATION) website, explains what’s going on at the Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville and it should serve as a sobering caveat as to what can happen with voucher programs like the massive federal one being proposed by the Trump administration.  “Since 2014, Trinity Christian has received more than $1.2 million in taxpayer funds through the Opportunity Scholarships Program, which provides low-income families money to attend private schools.  For the academic year 2016-17,” Wagner writes, “school voucher recipients comprised 60 percent of Trinity Christian’s enrollment, according to state records.  The voucher school’s overall school enrollment grew by 25 percent between 2015-16 and 2016-17.  The state places few requirements on private voucher schools to account for how the taxpayer dollars are used to educate students, demonstrate achievement of the students who receive the aid or any transparency to assure the funds are used as intended.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Even a second grader is concerned about Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos’ agenda to dismantle the traditional pubic school system in this country.  A delightful piece in THE HUFFINGTON POST describes the sincere postcard Willa, the 8-year-old daughter of CNN commentator Sally Kohn, sent about her school to the head of the Dept. of Education pleading with DeVos not to “tear it down ever.”  “Kohn told HuffPost she was proud of her daughter,” the article explains, “for speaking up to protect her education.  She praised the school Willa attends and hopes one day all schools will have the necessary resources to keep kids thriving.”                Did Betsy DeVos just compare school “choice” to the battle between Uber, Lyft and traditional taxi services?  Yes, she did at a speech she delivered at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK scrutinizes her latest observations about schools, ride-sharing services and test scores.  [Ed. note: I know what you’re thinking, but I really didn’t make this up.  Maybe she just wants traditional public schools to be taken for a ride!!  Oooooo–bad pun!]               If you’d like to read just exactly what DeVos said about school “choice”  and ride-sharing companies (see above), Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, provides you with a transcript of her remarks.  Here’s an excerpt from DeVos’ address: “The reflexive question asked, often politely, by critics of choice is why should we not simply fix the broken schools first?  If only schools received more funding, they say, the schools could provide a better learning environment for those being left behind.  But of course we’ve already tried that, and it’s proven not to work.”  [Ed. note: Oh really Madam Secretary. When was the last time we ADEQUATELY funded and supported our public schools?]               A detailed analysis in The New York Times of DeVos’s speech this week to the Brookings Institution (see 2 items above) parsed her comments about school “choice,” School Improvement Grants (SIGs), some disappointing test scores and ride-sharing services. “Betsy DeVos, in her first extended policy address as education secretary,” it begins, “argued on Wednesday for an expansion of school choice programs, pointing to lagging test scores and a program championed by the Obama administration that funneled billions into low-performing schools but failed to produce better academic outcomes.”
Diane Ravitch’s blog castigates much of what DeVos said during her speech this week (see 3 items above) and urges reporters like the one who wrote the above story in The New York Times to carefully fact-check everything she says.  Since many of them don’t, Ravitch takes it upon herself.  “Grrr. It is frustrating to see this kind of ignorance expressed by the Secretary of Education,” she objects, “although Arne Duncan should have lowered our expectations.”               That speech DeVos delivered on Wednesday is drawing a lot of attention.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, joins the list.  Greene takes her to task for most of her prepared remarks and her responses to the Q & A afterward.  He too, was appalled at her Uber/Lyft/ taxi comparison to schools and choice.  He refers to it as “a tortured analogy.”  “This week Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stopped by Brookings to help them help her plug choice.  The main purpose of the event was to roll out a new report (The 2016 Education Choice and Competition Index),” he begins, “but the main outcome of the event was that DeVos said some truly extraordinary stuff.  First, she delivered some prepared remarks, but then she sat down for some Q & A with Russ Whitehurst (Brookings) and that’s when some kind of amazing stuff just kind of fell out of her mouth.”               Add Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, to the growing tally of bloggers vetting DeVos’ speech.  Schneider is dismayed by the whole idea of schools as businesses that should be run as a franchise like McDonald’s, 7-Eleven or Hertz.  “In sum, the term franchise is a marketing term.  And given the push to turn American public education,” she explains, “into a marketed product/service under the auspices of ‘school choice,’ it should come as no surprise that promoters of market-driven ed reform use business terminology to attempt to reframe American public education.” Diane Ravitch’s blog goes a little deeper into one aspect of the speech than she does in her post highlighted above, i.e., the Uber/Lyft/taxi similarity to schools and education. Ravitch titles this essay: “Note to DeVos: A School is Not a Taxi or an Uber.”  “At the Brookings celebration of school choice, Secretary DeVos said that people should choose a school like choosing Uber or some other alternative to the traditional public school.  She is clueless about the role of public education,” Ravitch declares, “in a community and in a democracy.  Picking your mode of transportation is a consumer good that you pay for; public education is both a public good and a right.”              And finally, at least for the time being, Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, checks in on DeVos’s speech from earlier this week.  He’s not in the lease bit bashful about his reaction to what she said, to wit, his title is “NEWSFLASH: Betsy DeVos Opens Mouth.  Nonsense Falls Out.” Singer zeroes in on what she said in regards to our test scores as compared to other countries.  He finds her remarks well short of the mark.  “Betsy, please just stop.  The blatant ignorance coming out of your mouth hurts,” he pleads harshly.  “It’s embarrassing.  But perhaps there is a silver lining here.  We’re used to hearing these lies from more credible sources.  Before becoming Education Secretary, Arne Duncan and John King had advanced degrees.  They ran major metropolitan school systems.  DeVos is just rich.”   Be sure to check out the illustration he leads his piece with.               All right.  Enough already about that speech DeVos delivered.  Let’s move on to other matters.  Want to get a handle on what types of schools DeVos would really like to create?  Are you sure to want to know?  Rebecca Klein, Education Editor for THE HUFFINGTON POST, describes a school DeVos has supported for many years in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  You may need or want to sit down before reading the story.  It’s extremely revealing and a rather scary look at what the future of education may have in store.  Remember, you’ve been warned of the nature of the article.  Proceed at your own peril.  The piece is titled “Welcome to the Private Evangelical School of Betsy DeVos’s Dreams.”  “The Potter’s House is a private school that is ‘evangelical in nature’ and reportedly teaches creationism alongside evolution.  It’s also the type of school,” Klein relates, “that Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, apparently believes can level the playing field in educational inequality.  The nondenominational Potter’s House makes a special effort to serve students of all races and income levels.   DeVos has been deeply involved with The Potter’s House for years ― as a donor, volunteer and board member. She has mentioned the school by name in speeches and interviews, saying schools like The Potter’s House have given ‘kids the chance to succeed and thrive’ and that the institution inspired her to advocate for education-related causes.”
 
Graduation Rates 
As the school year winds down, high school seniors begin to contemplate graduation DAY.  Education experts also begin to focus ongraduation RATES.  There’s been a major push in recent years to increase those numbers.  The co-authors of a story in EDUCATION WEEK offer “Six Ways to Improve High School Graduation Rates.”  “In recent years, the graduation track record of our 15 million U.S. public high school students has steadily increased,” they mention.  “Overall national graduation rates for public school students have climbed 4.2 percentage points in the past four years, up from 79 percent in the 2010-11 school year to the current 83.2 percent.  Despite improvements, the stakes remain high.  At the current rate, close to 700,000 of today’s high school freshmen won’t make it.  If nothing changes between now and 2020, nearly three-quarters of a million young people each year will see their prospects for higher education, high-skilled jobs, and economic mobility severely curtailed.”
 
The Teaching Profession
With students making use of so many varied digital platforms, the author of this essay on the “Work in Progress” column forEDUCATION WEEK urges teachers to “Model What It Means to Be a Digital Citizen.”  Starr Sackstein, National Board-certified teacher, author and blogger, offers six sensible suggestions on how to exhibit appropriate digital behavior for students and to your own children and grandchildren by extension.  Here’s one example from her list: “Be respectful.  It’s useful to remember that we should treat others as we want to be treated and social media is the perfect forum to practice.  People are watching all of the time.  Whether it is your followers, colleagues or students, when you choose to be respectful, others will notice and they will notice even more if you engage in disrespectful behavior.”               Most veteran educators probably know this but a new study out of the U.K. finds that teacher encouragement and positive feedback have a lasting impact on students.  The report was produced by a researcher from the University of Cambridge.  An article in the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK features it.  “The study also revealed that a teacher’s encouragement,” it points out, “has a much greater impact on students with average grades and parents with limited educations.  These students who reported receiving positive feedback from their teachers more often finished high school and pursued college degrees.”  The ED WEEK item includes a link to the full report titled “Does Teacher Encouragement Influence Students’ Educational Progress”  A Propensity-Score Matching Analysis.”  [Ed. note: I have no idea what the last statement of the title means.  Maybe it’s something uniquely British.]
 
What Would a Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch Mean For Students With Disabilities?
The chances appear pretty good that Neil Gorsuch will become the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Unless the Democrats have some sort of trick up their sleeve, the Republican majority has a clear path to approval.  Once he’s on the court, what might his presence mean for students with disabilities?  The answer: not encouraging as Jeff Bryant points out on the Education Opportunity NETWORK.  His commentary is titled “A Gorsuch Approval Would Put Vulnerable Students Further At Risk.”  “Students with disabilities already face a difficult path through our nation’s education system, but President Donald Trump appears determined to add to the disadvantages these students already face.  His nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court,”Bryant maintains, “is yet another sign his administration is less than eager to uphold the rights of these students. . . .  With the Gorsuch nomination, Trump appears increasingly willing to respond to the real obstacles these children face by telling them, ‘Tough!  You’re on your own.'”  Bryant proceeds to offer some analysis of several previous legal rulings by Judge Gorsuch when he was on the federal appeals court and reminds readers of candidate Trump’s mocking on the campaign trail of a reporter with a physical disability.  
 
Student Privacy
And finally, do some of your students or even your own children or grandchildren take the SAT or PSAT for college admission or as a high school graduation requirement?  If so, are you aware of the amounts of personal data that are collected and what the College Board, that owns the 2 tests, does with it?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to Cheri Kiesecker, a Colorado parent who’s a member of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, a national organization fighting to protect parent and student personal data.  She did some detailed investigating and reveals some rather disturbing aspects about what information is collected, how it’s collected and how much of it and with whom it is shared. Student privacy issues have come to the fore as digital technology becomes more and more ubiquitous and this item shines some much needed light on the topic. 
                                      .                                                                      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 28, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The educational process must again provide the opportunity 
for students to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices.
Teaching is not simply telling people what to believe and do.” 

― Donovan L. Graham

The Teaching Profession
You might want to put this one in the “Odd but True File.”  Do students have the right to be taught by a human teacher or would a computer suffice?  That’s the issue possibly requiring court adjudication in Tennessee.  THE (Nashville) TENNESSEAN has the intriguing details of this story.  “Do the rights of Tennessee students to a public education extend into the right to have a teacher,” it begins, “and if so, does a computer program count?  Those questions were posed to a state appeals court [last] Tuesday during oral arguments in a case involving a Nashville student, Toni Jones, that could set a statewide framework defining school districts’ obligations to their students.”  [Ed. note:  I wonder if a computer should be asked to decide this case?]               “How Many U.S. Students are Taught by Qualified Teachers?” is the question headlined in a “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK. It contains some interesting numbers and figures compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics.  “At least 90 percent of K-12 public school students in the United States were taught by teachers with state certification in the years studied: 2011-2012, 2013, and 2015.  In the 2011-2012 school year,” the story reveals, “state-certified teachers taught about 95 percent of students across all types of districts ranging from urban to rural.  That percentage didn’t vary based on student disabilities, language status, or grade level. However, more high school students than middle school students were taught by teachers certified in the subject area for which they were hired, such as English or math.” You can read the full report which runs about 61 pages plus 161 pages of appendices titled “Certification Status and Experience of U.S. Public School Teachers” by clicking here.
 
Rights for Special Ed Students
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a key U.S. Supreme Court ruling extending education rights for special education students.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the decision and analyzes what its impact could be in the future.  The case Endrew F. v. Doublas County School District was handed down on Wednesday.  The response from various education groups and organizations to the finding has been mixed as the article notes: “Advocates for children with disabilities are cheering a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as a clear win that establishes more-ambitious academic standards for special education students.  Representatives for some educational groups and districts, on the other hand, have a more measured response.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Guess which Trump administration adviser/cabinet member or GOP leader earned the lowest approval ratings on a survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute?  No peaking!  You’ll just have to read the article in Newsweek to find out.   It’s titled “It’s Not Just Trump: Poll Says His Cabinet and Other Republican Leaders Are Unpopular Too.” “According to the poll, which surveyed 1,073 adults between March 3 and March 11 with a margin of error of three percent,” it reports, “virtually all of Trump’s staff and cabinet appointments had a higher percentage that disapproved than approved of their early job performance.”  OK, here’s a hint:  the lowest approval ratings did not go to Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counsel.  He had the second lowest combined approval rating at 36%.  The article includes a link to the full poll or you can access it by clicking here.               DeVos’s visit to a second public school, this one in Bethesda, Maryland, since she began her tenure as Sec. of Education went about the same as her first.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ second visit to a public school,” it mentions, “was met the same way as her first visit, with protests, as dozens of parents and community members sang, chanted, and held up signs criticizing the Trump administration’s push for vouchers and pitch to cut funding for K-12 programs.  The protesters lined the streets outside Carderock Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., a wealthy woodsy suburb.”                As of last week, DeVos has visited 4 schools since taking over as head of the Dept. of Education.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, notices a rather “curious pattern” to those four stops.
 
Conversation With Diane Ravitch
The Hitting Left With the Klonsky Brothers website, episode #8, includes a discussion with Diane Ravitch about some critical current education issues including Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration’s education agenda, charters, vouchers, corporate “reform” and others.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.  Ravitch appears in the first part of the program (up to the 22:58 minute mark) and a local Chicago poet completes the segment (total 57:54 minutes).
 
Trump and Education
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is outraged at the message send about education priorities in the recently unveiled Trump administration budget.  “The message being spun out of Trump’s education budget,” Bryant writes, “is that it takes money away from those awful ‘adult interests’ – like, you know, teachers to actually teach the students and buildings so students have somewhere to go after school to play sports, get tutored, or engage in music and art projects – in order to steer money to ‘the kids’ who will get a meager sum of money to search for learning opportunities in an education system that is increasingly bereft of teachers and buildings.”  He goes on to detail where the cuts are in the education blueprint and where greatly expanded funds are earmarked, i.e., vouchers and school “choice.”                Another education reporter makes the argument that vouchers are nothing more than thinly veiled programs to promote school segregation under the pretense of school “choice.”  This time the case is made by THE HUFFINGTON POST and the author features a new report from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, that takes a look at what a federal voucher program would do to student diversity in the nation’s schools.  “The history of school voucher programs is tied up with ideas of white supremacy.  To avoid school desegregation as a result of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling,” she writes, “some Southern states created tuition grants to allow white students to attend all-white private schools in the 1960s.  Some of these private schools still exist, though they are no longer specifically for white students.   White students continue to dominate private school demographics, in part because of this racist history, says Halley Potter, the Century Foundation fellow who wrote the brief.  It’s a history that must be considered when looking at the future of these programs.”   It was bad enough that Pres. Trump selected Betsy DeVos to head his Dept. of Education.  In addition, he’s packed most of the appointive positions at the DoE with his cronies or those of  DeVos and there’s nary an experienced educator among them.  Laura Chapman, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, discovered a list of who’s been appointed so far and she reviews it person-by-person.  Chapman also includes a long list of positions that have yet to be filled.  “It is Amateur Hour and ‘Ask a Trump Crony’ time in this and other administrative offices,” Chapman concludes dejectedly.  “These are the components of the ‘administrative state’ that Steve Bannon and Trump intend to ‘deconstruct.’  That destruction appears to be the job of the cronies, not people competent to make reasoned judgments.”               Pres. Trump’s proposed budget contains huge cuts to programs in the Dept. of Education that would certainly impact the traditional public schools.  However, as an analysis in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK points out, both charter and private schools will also feel the effectof the reduction in federal funding.  “The Trump administration’s budget blueprint would include $1.4 billion in new money for school choice, but it would get rid of Title II,” it describes, “the $2.3 billion main federal program for improving teacher quality, and the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, a $1.1 billion program which helps finance afterschool and extended-day programs.  Private and charter schools receive funding, or at least services, from both programs.”
 
Public Schools 
Jeff Bryant delivered a speech to grantees of the Schott Foundation for Public Education titled “Words That Hurt Our Public Schools, and Ones That Help.”  He prints a transcript of that talk on the Education Opportunity NETWORK.  He reviews some words and phrases that are used to denigrate the traditional public school system and some that commend it.  You will certainly recognize both types.  Bryant views the attacks on public schools as part of the wider attempt to dismantle government and the public sector in general.  “The war on the public sector uses the power of language on every front.  For instance,” he suggests, “slashing financial resources for the public good is called tax relief. Laws preventing industrial pollution from fouling our shared environment are called stifling regulation.  Public financial assistance for the poor is called a government give-away program.  Funds we collectively pool to ensure our financial security in old age are branded entitlements.”  He also includes 4 ideas on how to best craft your own messages about education and promotes a new “toolkit” from the NPE (Network for Public Education) that will help public school proponents confront the corporate “reform” and privatization agenda.                An article in VICE reports on how schools are on the front lines inprotecting undocumented students and their families from threats of immigration raids and deportation.  It describes how big cities around the country are aiding the effort and refers to a recent incident in Los Angeles last month where a father was arrested right after dropping his daughter off at school.  “Schools have been proactive in hopes of alleviating the anxiety of immigrant children,” the story mentions, “emphasizing that they remain open to everyone.”                In this day and age, what do you think is more important to society: allocating taxpayer funds to build a state-of-the-art stadium in order to steal (oops, attract) a team from another city or earmark those limited resources for public schools?  If you are the State of Nevada and the City of Las Vegas, the answer is a resounding “BUILD THE STADIUM!”  A mind-blowing piece in The New York Times tells the sad tale (if you’re a public school advocate) of how the Oakland Raiders were enticed to move to “Sin City.”  “Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students.  There was simply no money,” it laments.  ‘This is the last thing we ever want to do,’ Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time.  It’s a shame the school board did not build a football stadium, perhaps with a public school annex.”  Pres. Trump’s proposed budget would seem to be following in Nevada’s footsteps.  Slash federal funds for public school programs in order to possibly pay for the wall with Mexico, increase military spending and offer big tax cuts for the 1%.  What is this country coming to? Sounds more and more like we are doomed to the same fate as the Roman Empire and its “bread and circuses.”  
 
Testing and the Opt-Out Movement
The standardized testing window in New York State opened yesterday and the opt-out movement in the state with the highest number of students choosing to skip the exams is kicking into high gear in anticipation.  Long Island is the epicenter of the action according to a story in Newsday.  Last year over 200,000 students statewide or 21% opted-out. “Officials in some Long Island districts,” the article relates, “put estimates of opt-outs at 40 percent to 70 percent of their eligible students.  Brian Conboy, superintendent of Seaford schools, said he expects the boycott of English exams in his district to run close to last year’s 67.8 percent.”               The New York State Education Dept. (SED) is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to stem the opt-movement that’s taken a firm hold on the state (see above).  Some of their tactics are not exactly above board according to Fred Smith, a former testing expert for the New York City Board of Education.  His analysis, on Diane Ravitch’s blog, offers a litany  of ways the SED is not being completely truthful with the public.  “Clearly, not leveling with parents shows contempt.  It is part of SED’s conspiracy of silence designed to keep mass testing in place.  Parents and their children, the lifeblood of the public schools,” he urges, “should strongly consider opting out of the 2017 exams.”
 
Granada Hills Wins State Decathlon
Despite an issue with some possibly compromised Super Quiz questions, Granada Hills Charter High School (LAUSD) won theCalifornia state Academic Decathlon competition in Sacramento over the weekend.  The top 4 teams were all from the LAUSD with El Camino Real Charter placing second and Franklin coming in third.  The top non-LAUSD team was South Pasadena High which finished 5th according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “Granada Hills, the reigning national champion, will represent California and pursue the state’s fifteenth consecutive U.S. title at the nationals,” it concludes, “which will take place April 17 through 23 in Madison, Wis.  All told, 581 students from 67 high school teams took part.”
 
Charter Schools
Here’s a good question: What have charter schools provided to improve teaching and learning in this country?  Having trouble coming up with an answer?  Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy has some things for you to contemplate, in the form of a quiz, as you ponder my initial question.  His commentary, which focuses on charters in Ohio but is pretty universal, comes courtesy ofDiane Ravitch’s blog.  “Ohio taxpayers have been forced to invest in this $9 billion charter experiment,” he writes.  “Truthful answers to [my] questions reveal that they have, in large part, been bilked; but state officials in charge of the Statehouse continue to throw more money at this failed venture.”   When a charter operator opens a school in a city and signs a contract to operate it for a certain length of time, can they walk away from that commitment and leave everyone involved high and dry?  Before answering you may want to consider what took place in Memphis.  The details are provided by Chalkbeat Tennessee and the title of the item will give away the answer: “Why Charter Operators Exiting Tennessee’s Turnaround District Can Walk Away.”  “When two charter school operators announced plans to leave Tennessee’s turnaround district this spring, many people were surprised that they could break their 10-year agreements. . . .  But in Memphis and across the nation,” it points out rather surprisingly, “there’s nothing to stop charter operators from leaving, even when they promise to be there for a long time.”  How many of you were aware of that fact?              Want a detailed look at what charter expansion can do to the public school system in a major American city?  Diane Ravitch’s blog features a new report from the Project for Middle Class Renewal that chronicles what’s happened to the  Chicago Public Schools , the third largest school district in the country, over the past 20 years.  Ravitch has a very brief overview of the account which you can find here “The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of children, who are children of color, have been systematically neglected for the sake of creating a dual school system.  This is not education reform,” Ravitch charges.  “This is privatization at the expense of the overwhelming majority of children.  This is Rahm Emanuel’s agenda, this is Arne Duncan’s agenda, this is Betsy DeVos’ agenda.”  You can read the full report (17 pages) titled “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship Between Charter School Expansion, School Closures, and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools” by clicking here.
 
Another Milestone for Diane Ravitch
And finally, yesterday Diane Ravitch’s blog passed the 30 million mark in page views since it debuted in April, 2012, and she has a special announcement to go along with that occasion.  “I don’t blog for myself,” she relates.  “I blog because I am trying to give voice to the educators who have no public platform.  I have opened the blog to teacher-writers to tell their stories.  I have wanted to create a space for teacher-leaders to speak up.  I wanted many people to feel emboldened to speak out.”
                                      .                                                                      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.