Thursday, April 11, 2019

Risky Business: Long-term Damage to What America Does Best | Teacher in a strange land

Risky Business: Long-term Damage to What America Does Best | Teacher in a strange land

Risky Business: Long-term Damage to What America Does Best


Here’s a book to put on your short list: The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis.
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I’ve now read a number of books (somewhere between four and six, depending on how you categorize them) about the Trump campaign and presidency–by celebrated authors (Bob Woodward) and sarcastic geniuses (Matt Taibbi) and lesser-light authors and scribes. It was a weird, unprecedented campaign and an appalling, slapdash start to a presidency–everyone from Michael Wolff to Katie Tur to Chris Christie says so.
But this is the best book I’ve read, by a long chalk. It’s barely political, focusing on the present, rather than the campaign, the Russian interference, or the 2020 election. It is, however, a blood-chilling account of just what it might eventually mean, in terms of human lives and well-being, that our country is being–What? ‘Run’ isn’t the right word, nor is ‘managed.’ That our government has been taken over by a cabal of unqualified, loutish and greedy people who are in the process of dismantling decades, centuries even, of government policy that works. Just because they can.
Lewis is his usual cynical and incisive self, and the stories he presents are interesting–case studies of how the government protects people and nurtures innovation and provides basic information to make lives and livelihoods better, everything from safe energy to nutrition to the weather. The government is not perfect, or even close, of course, but it’s served us reasonably well for a couple hundred years.
Bye-bye to all that. Reading this book was the first time I considered just how much has already been undone and what some of the long-term consequences might be. Lewis has NOT written a polemic–just an inside peek at things we aren’t considering, because we’re so distracted by this administration’s behaviors, antics and moral failings.
If you’re one of those people who thinks the government is nothing but embedded CONTINUE READING: Risky Business: Long-term Damage to What America Does Best | Teacher in a strange land

Charter critics swing haymaker bills :: K-12 Daily :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

Charter critics swing haymaker bills :: K-12 Daily :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

Charter critics swing haymaker bills



(Calif.) Leaders of the state Assembly are moving a triumvirate of bills aimed at slowing the growth of charter schools in California.
Already playing defense in the Capitol against an unfriendly governor in Gavin Newsom and its long-standing rival, the California Teachers Association—charter schools were forced earlier this year to accept good governance requirements, something that charter supporters had successfully resisted for more than a decade.
But now far more serious challenges have been proposed:
  • AB 1506 would establish a hard cap on the number of charter schools that can be operated in the state.
  • AB 1505 would restrict the options charter proponents have to getting a new school authorized and to appeal denials.
  • AB 1507 eliminates the ability for a charter school to locate outside the boundaries of the district authorizer while also restricting the location of charter resource centers.
Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and chair of the education committee, said the time has come to revise key elements of how charter schools are governed.
“Clearly, we need to shore up the charter authorization laws,” said O’Donnell during a hearing Wednesday. “If you are a good charter operator, you don’t have anything to worry about, but more charter school reform is needed. We cannot kick this issue down the road any longer.”
After enjoying almost unqualified support from the state’s chief executive since former-Gov. Pete Wilson signed the landmark authorization bill in 1993, the charter school movement in California is facing perhaps its most serious political test.
The showdown between charters and the CTA has been brewing for years, CONTINUE READING: Charter critics swing haymaker bills :: K-12 Daily :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

Sacramento City Unified teachers walk out for one-day strike | The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento City Unified teachers walk out for one-day strike | The Sacramento Bee

Hundreds of teachers at Sacramento City Unified walk out on one-day strike


This is a developing news story. Please check back to sacbee.com throughout the day for updates.

Hundreds of teachers across the Sacramento Unified School District walked out of their classrooms and onto picket lines Thursday morning for the first time in 30 years, staging a one-day strike alleging unfair labor practices by the district.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association expected a majority of its 2,500 teachers to join the walkout. 
The district, which serves 42,000 students, told parents in advance that schools would be open and classes would be appropriately staffed. A normal school day was scheduled, with regular attendance monitoring, bus service, meals and programs.


Rosa Parks Elementary School teacher John Brindley greeted his 6th grade students with fist bumps as they walked onto campus Thursday morning, but remained out front with a protest sign rather than join them in the classroom.
“It’s important to stand up for what you believe in. That’s what we’ve been saying to our students,” said Brindley, who has been employed by the district since 2003. “If something is unequal or you think that the things you’ve been told have not been honored, you need to stand up for yourself and make sure that people honor their word.”
Amy Sheehan, a parent of two children at Theodore Judah Elementary School in East Sacramento, brought a megaphone to the picket lines.
“We are out here supporting our teachers,” she said. “As a family, we strongly support union values. We are here to say that standing up for what you believe is right is an important thing to do.”
The strike adds to the extreme pressure faced by Sacramento City Unified, which is under the threat of state takeover as it attempts to close a $35 million budget gap.
The teachers union, which was on the verge of striking just 18 months ago before a last-minute deal was brokered that included pay raises, again voted overwhelmingly last month to strike, arguing that the district is not honoring that 2017 agreement. The district maintains it is working with the union to abide by its understanding of the contract.
In a statement released Thursday morning, the teachers union said they were forced to strike, citing unfair labor practices, because the district was not honoring its contract that would reduce class sizes and improve student services.

“SCUSD officials simply need to honor the contract and obey the law,” SCTA president David Fisher said in a statement.
More than 20 teachers stood outside California Middle School at 7:30 a.m., urging motorists passing on Land Park Drive to honk their horns. A similar number turned out at Rosa Parks Elementary, along with some young children holding signs with messages such as “teachers just want to have fund$.”
At McClatchy High School, the largest school in the district, more than 100 teachers took to the picket lines Wednesday morning. Government teacher Lori Jablonski said that group was an overwhelming majority of the school’s educators.
The strike stems from allegations by the teachers union that the district is not honoring its 2017 agreement, including directing savings from a lower quality health plan strictly toward reducing class sizes and funding more health workers and counselors. The union says the district did not reconfirm those funding allocations.
“We have extremely large class sizes,” Jablonski said. “It’s about a 35-to-1 ratio and that’s standard here. We’ve always been on edge.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg — who helped broker the 2017 contract — and district administrators believe the millions in potential health plan savings should go toward alleviating Sacramento City Unified’s $35 million deficit before improving student services. A new health plan has not been agreed upon.
A mediation session Monday between district leaders and the union was unsuccessful, officials said. At a press conference at Success Academy in Meadowview on Thursday morning, Superintendent Jorge Aguilar acknowledged that tensions were running high throughout the district and the city.
“Today we will focus on keeping our schools open, that we provide all the services that our students and their families deserve,” Aguilar said. “But I look forward to tomorrow, to making sure we begin the process of figuring out how we are going to come together, to make sure we put ourselves in the position where we can achieve long term viable fiscal sustainability.”
Some parents opposed the strike, saying that both parties need to come to the table.
The last teacher strike in the district was Sept. 5, 1989, when more than 1,300 teachers and several hundred other certificated workers walked off their jobs on the first day of school to demand higher wages.
The district has until June 20 to balance its budget or face a state takeover.
This is a developing news story. Please check back to sacbee.com throughout the day for updates.






Sacramento Teachers Picket Outside Schools In One Day Strike Amid Budget Crisis - capradio.org

Sacramento Teachers Picket Outside Schools In One Day Strike Amid Budget Crisis - capradio.org

Sacramento Teachers Picket Outside Schools In One Day Strike Amid Budget Crisis
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Teachers strike outside McClatchy High School on April 11, 2019.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Sacramento teachers and school employees are striking on Thursday in order to pressure the city school district to fully implement a deal they made back in 2017, labor leaders say.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association, the union representing 2,500 teachers and employees, is organizing the strike. It says the picket is not over salaries, but instead because school administrators aren’t following through on a promise to fund better classroom staffing.
David Fisher, president of SCTA, says the union agreed during contract negotiations in the fall of 2017 to switch employee health coverage to save the district money, but only if it spent the freed-up money on reducing class sizes and other student services.   
“We've been trying to get these services for students for over a decade,” said Fisher. “Our ratios of school nurses, school psychologists, counselors and even class sizes are the largest and the most atrocious in the area.”
The Sacramento City Unified School District denies that class sizes are a problem. Spokesperson Alex Barrios says the school district has a massive $35 million budget hole, and it needs any savings garnered through an employee health plan change to help close the spending gap.
Barrios says almost half of the budget deficit could be remedied by switching employee health benefits.
“[School] programs are at risk if we cannot find savings in other areas,” Barrios said. “In order to find those savings, we have to work with our labor partners. We have to all work together and we have to make our priorities saving our schools from a state takeover.”
Sacramento teachers received an across-the-board 7.5 percent salary increase as a result of the 2017 agreement. The district says it spends 91 cents of every dollar on salaries and benefits, and it claims this is more than the average in other districts.  
Emotions are sky high among people who run Sacramento city schools. Last Thursday’s board meeting was packed with parents and teachers concerned about the district’s massive cash flow problems. Board members like Christina Pritchett teared up.

“My heart hurts for all of our students, and everybody that is going through this with us,” Pritchett said.  
At the meeting, board members and the public heard presentations about areas of the budget that could be slashed, such as sports, music and student centers that help children with suicidal CONTINUE READING: Sacramento Teachers Picket Outside Schools In One Day Strike Amid Budget Crisis - capradio.org


Seattle Schools Community Forum: Testing Season 2019

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Testing Season 2019

Testing Season 2019



Image may contain: one or more people and textSeattle Schools is coming up for the testing window for the SBAC.

Opt out info here, including opt-out form.

I again urge you to opt your child out.
#OptOut #RefuseTheTest


From Ignite Fire:

No child has a standardized mind. All are unique and different. In Finland, the first standardized test is taken at 16. Plenty of time to develop and mature. 


➡️Why are we pushing and rushing children to high achievement so early?➡️Why do we care if they are showing college and career readiness in 3rd grade? ➡️Why are we robbing children of their childhood? ➡️Why are we stealing their opportunities to explore and find their passions?

From Stop Fed Ed:

By now, most states have chosen not to use the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessments, which were designed after the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The states remaining in Smarter Balanced are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Five Things every parent, educator, and legislator should know about high-stakes, standardized testing



NYC Public School Parents: Public school parents and advocates relieved that their family’s information will no longer be used to help charters market their schools

NYC Public School Parents: Public school parents and advocates relieved that their family’s information will no longer be used to help charters market their schools

Public school parents and advocates relieved that their family’s information will no longer be used to help charters market their schools


The Daily News this morning said this decision was "tabled," but the DOE was  still telling parents as of 10:50 AM that they are going ahead and withdrawing permission from charter schools to access student information for their mailings.
For immediate release: April 11, 2019
For more information contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329; leoniehaimson@gmail.com

Public school parents and advocates relieved that their family’s information will no longer be used to help charters market their schools
This morning, parents and advocates thanked the Mayor and Chancellor for finally reversing the long-standing practice of allowing charter schools to access their family’s information for mailings sent to their homes for marketing and recruiting purposes.
Said Johanna Garcia, public school parent and President of Community Education Council in District 6 in Upper Manhattan:  “It is unconscionable that this practice has gone on as long as it has.  For more than a decade, parents and advocates have complained about the privacy violations incurred by DOE allowing charters to access our children’s personal information without our consent; I filed a  FERPA complaint to the US Department of Education about this practice in November 2017.  Moreover, I am not aware of another school district in the country that voluntarily makes this information available to charter schools to help them boost their enrollment, diverting students and funding from our public schools.  “
Nequan McLean, co- chair of the Education Council Consortium and the President of Community Education Council in District 16 Brooklyn said: “The DOE never had our permission in the first place to allow charter schools to access this personal information. As a result,  I along with other parents. have been routinely inundated with two or three charter mailings a week, and our district has been overrun by charter schools.  These charter schools are allowed to flood black and brown communities with their promotional materials, often full of exaggerations and lies, that the public schools cannot afford.” 
Shino Tanikawa, the co-chair of the ECC and a member of NYC Kids PAC, said, “For years, DOE has ignored parents’ complaints about this practice, which started in 2006, when Joel Klein agreed to help Success Academy charter schools expand their “market share” as Eva Moskowitz put it in an email.  The result is that this year, more than two billion dollars has been diverted from our public schools, leaving our schools with less space and less funding for our neediest students.” 
Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “In Chicago, after student information was disclosed to Noble charter schools without parent consent, resulting in parents receiving postcards urging them to enroll their children in their schools, this sparked a huge controversy and led to an investigation by the city’s Inspector General.  As a result, the Chicago staffer who released the information to Noble was fired and the district apologized to parents in mailings paid for by Noble.  And this CONTINUE READING: NYC Public School Parents: Public school parents and advocates relieved that their family’s information will no longer be used to help charters market their schools

Internal memo contradicts DeVos on using federal money to buy guns for teachers - The Washington Post

Internal memo contradicts DeVos on using federal money to buy guns for teachers - The Washington Post

Internal memo contradicts DeVos on using federal money to buy guns for teachers



Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say yes — or no — when asked last year whether schools could use federal money to buy guns for teachers. She said the law was vague and she couldn’t take a side.
The result was de facto permission for states to go ahead.
On Wednesday, House Democrats released an internal Education Department memo that showed the matter was viewed differently inside the agency. The memo advised that the agency’s general counsel believed DeVos did have the power to make a call about the funding and laid out arguments that could be made on both sides.
“The Department’s Office of the General Counsel has advised that the Secretary has discretion to interpret the broad language of the statute as to its permissiveness regarding the purchase of firearms and training on the use of firearms,” reads the July 16 memo.
The memo was sent to DeVos adviser Kent Talbert from Jason Botel, who at the time was principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. A spokesman for the House education committee, which made the memo public Wednesday, said the internal document was obtained from “a reliable source.”
The question of arming teachers has proved emotional following deadly school shootings. Many Democrats, teachers unions, education groups and gun-control activists say weapons in classrooms will make schools more dangerous, not safer. But President Trump and gun rights supporters argue that arming teachers would “harden” schools, making them less likely targets for shootings.
Federal funding has never been used to buy firearms for educators. Last year, Congress passed a school safety CONTINUE READING: Internal memo contradicts DeVos on using federal money to buy guns for teachers - The Washington Post

‘A Deal is a Deal’: Sacramento Educators Go on Strike - NEA Today

‘A Deal is a Deal’: Sacramento Educators Go on Strike - NEA Today

‘A Deal is a Deal’: Sacramento Educators Go on Strike



The #RedForEd wave hits Sacramento. Today, April 11, more than 2,800 Sacramento educators are on strike to protest the Sacramento City Unified School District’s (SCUSD) bad faith bargaining and to support a fair settlement that includes additional resources, such as art and music, smaller class sizes, more school nurses, and psychologists. The contract also includes an 11 percent increase in teacher salaries.
sacramento teachers strike
“[The strike] grows out of frustration of the failure of the superintendent to honor a contract that he signed more than a year ago, and the continued treatment of our contract [as] optional, [instead of] something that’s binding on both parties,” David Fisher, a second-grade teacher and president of the  Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), said in an interview.
The superintendent is Jorge Aguilar, whose refusal to honor the contract has led to the city’s first strike in nearly 30 years. SCTA members voted by 92.3 percent to protest the unlawful, unfair labor practices by superintendent and the school board.
In November 2017, after more than a year of bargaining, SCTA and the district settled and signed a bargaining contract with a commitment to reprioritize resources toward students and classrooms. Since then, the district has committed 31 unfair labor practices. Now, the district is back tracking on the mutually agreed upon contract that meets the needs of students.
Thousands of educators, students, and parents will hit the picket lines to demand that SCUSD keep its promise to lower class sizes and increase student services—and to act lawfully and remedy its illegal actions that are hurting nearly 50,000 Sacramento public school students.




Sacramento’s Kara Synhorst, an English teacher of nearly 20 years, captured the sentiments of many educators in a video posted to Facebook: “I’m offended and insulted at the way teachers are being portrayed…My union has offered ways for the district to save money…If anyone is refusing to come to the table, it’s Mr. Aguilar and the district. We have a contract. Don’t ask us to negotiate a new one when you CONTINUE READING: ‘A Deal is a Deal’: Sacramento Educators Go on Strike - NEA Today




Well-Intentioned Ohio School Finance Plan Must Be Revised to Eliminate Savage Inequalities | janresseger

Well-Intentioned Ohio School Finance Plan Must Be Revised to Eliminate Savage Inequalities | janresseger

Well-Intentioned Ohio School Finance Plan Must Be Revised to Eliminate Savage Inequalities


After a decade of tax cuts brought by Governor John Kasich and a supermajority Republican Ohio Legislature,  Ohio—still dominated in the House, Senate and Governor’s mansion by Republicans—is considering a new school funding formula intended to address what have been glaring problems for the state’s public schools. The new plan is bipartisan. We all owe enormous thanks to Representatives Robert Cupp and John Patterson for their leadership.
Currently, only 107 (18 percent) of the state’s 610 school districts are receiving their calculated formula level of school funding from the state—an amount that supposedly represents what the state should contribute based on each school district’s capacity to raise local revenue. All the rest—503 school districts—are operating on guaranteed or capped funding.  We have reached a point—years and years after the last funding formula adjustment, where nobody can really explain how the state is dividing up its contribution through the formula.
The proposed Fair School Funding Plan is designed to consider each school district’s capacity to raise local revenue—with factors reflecting the district’s property tax base and the aggregate income of the residents.  And, we’ve been told, the new formula will distribute school funding based on the cost of what it takes to educate children—what experts identify as the cost of teachers, support staff, school operations, and school administration.
It is not yet possible to see how all this has been figured out, because the calculations and the numbers that were plugged into the calculations haven’t yet been released.  The new funding plan does get more school districts back inside a formula designed to address the number of children who live in the district, however, and supposedly to address the needs of those CONTINUE READING: Well-Intentioned Ohio School Finance Plan Must Be Revised to Eliminate Savage Inequalities | janresseger



Intrinsic Motivation is Key to Student Achievement – But Schools Can Crush It (Tara Garcia Mathewson) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Intrinsic Motivation is Key to Student Achievement – But Schools Can Crush It (Tara Garcia Mathewson) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Intrinsic Motivation is Key to Student Achievement – But Schools Can Crush It (Tara Garcia Mathewson)



Tara Mathewson wrote this for The Hechinger Report. It appeared March 27,2019.
Mathewson describes how “traditional” schools “crush” motivation. The age-graded organization–a mid-19th century innovation in organizing public schools (recall the “traditional” one-room school that it replaced)–is the quarry she targets. She describes students who do poorly in such schools.
Mathewson then compares another kind of organization that has arisen in some high schools across the country where teachers and administrators alter significantly the key structures of age-graded schooling. She profiles a Big Picture school called The Met (Providence, RI).  I have been describing another Big Picture school in Oakland Unified School District (CA) called MetWest in a series of posts over the past month.
When Destiny Reyes started elementary school, she felt highly motivated. Like most young children, she liked learning new things, and she excelled at school. She got good grades and reveled in her success, thriving in an environment that, at least implicitly, set her up in competition with her peers. She was at the top of her class, and she proved herself further by testing into a competitive, private middle school. But there, among Providence’s brightest, it wasn’t as easy to be at the top of the class, and her excitement about school – and learning – subsided. Eventually, she says, nothing motivated her. She went to school because she had to.

NYC Educator: No English for You!

NYC Educator: No English for You!

No English for You!


The cynical, morally bankrupt thugs in NYSED face issues far differently than you or I might. For example, there's been a perennial shortage of ESL teachers as far back as I can recall. In fact, one of the reasons I'm an ESL teacher is that I could never get a job as an English teacher. Someone told me, "Go teach ESL," and though I didn't know what it was at the time, I grew to love it.

There are few things more satisfying than observing the rapid progress of beginners, or noticing that your students are suddenly fluent in the language. I remember one girl who struggled for two years and then caught it. I said, "You see? I told you you could do it." She said, "Yeah. I was surprised." Another milestone is the first time a student reads a book in English. "You forced me to do that, and I hated you for it. But now I'm glad you did it."

There's another thing you'll see if you teach beginners. You'll have kids thank you for teaching the one class that they can understand. Imagine what torture it is to go through five or six that they don't understand. 

Of course that's changed now. How do you deal with a teacher shortage? In some states, you just lower the standards and hire anybody. Sure, that's a terrible approach, but it keeps bodies in the teacher chairs. In NY State, they've got a different approach. They take a regulation called CR Part 154, and rig it so you barely require direct English instruction at all. Then, they take the test that ostensibly measures English ability and make the standard so low that my dog could pass. Finally, when everyone advances, they say, "You see that? Our plan worked."

I'm fortunate enough to be in a building in which the principal thinks learning English is important for newcomers. Our principal, in fact, thinks it's so important that he holds classes of multiple levels in which students are explicitly taught English. This, of course, is old school. Official NY State policy is that direct English instruction exists only to support advancement in core courses. Who cares if you can introduce yourself, ask where the bathroom is, order a pizza, or make friends? As long as you can pass a bunch of rigged tests, that's good enough for the geniuses up in Albany.

So all over the state, only rank beginners are required to have only one period of direct English instruction per day. Once they advance, via that NYSESLAT exam that my dog can pass (and granted, he's a smart dog), you plant an ESL teacher in a classroom twice a week and you meet the standard. According to NY State, the kids are being served. What exactly is that teacher supposed to do? Who knows?

One thing the teacher is likely not supposed to do is plan. I know that because co-planning is a serious endeavor. If you're with more than one co-teacher, it becomes nigh CONTINUE READING:
NYC Educator: No English for You!