Latest News and Comment from Education

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Student Privacy Matters - How can parents exercise their rights to protect their children’s privacy under federal law?

Student Privacy Matters:


How can parents exercise their rights to protect their children’s privacy under federal law?
COPPA Opt-Out Form                                                                                                     (submitted to online vendors/service providers)    
COPPA Opt-Out Form                                                                                                      (instructing school/district to contact online vendors/service providers on your behalf)

The above summaries of parental rights and opt out forms are aligned with our understanding of federal student privacy laws, which are complex and have changed over time.   Any questions, corrections or suggestions for improvement, please email us  thanks!

Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts 'Suspect' Conduct, 'Rampant Nepotism' - Hartford Courant

Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts 'Suspect' Conduct, 'Rampant Nepotism' - Hartford Courant:

Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts 'Suspect' Conduct, 'Rampant Nepotism'

The Jumoke Academy charter school operation was saddled with "rampant nepotism," imposed little or no oversight on former CEO Michael Sharpe and made repeated financial missteps that could sink the organization within three years, according to a 99-page investigative report ordered by the state Department of Education.

The report, released Friday afternoon and coming in the midst of an FBI investigation of Jumoke and the closely related Family Urban Schools of Excellence, mirrors reporting by The Courant since June. The state report was especially critical of Sharpe, who hired multiple family members, gave work to the relatives of Jumoke executives, approved the hiring of felons for school jobs and oversaw "expensive and ornate modifications" to a Jumoke-owned apartment that he later rented. Sharpe resigned on June 21.

PDF: State Investigation Of Jumoke/FUSE
"There were virtually no checks and balances in place to control Mr. Sharpe's actions at Jumoke," the report's author, Hartford attorney Frederick L. Dorsey, wrote. "Michael Sharpe basically had unfettered control of Jumoke from the time he was appointed CEO in 2003, and even after he had transitioned in July 2012 from CEO of Jumoke to CEO of FUSE."

Sharpe, one of the state's most prominent charter school leaders until his undoing this summer, was not immediately available for comment.

Dorsey wrote that educators in Jumoke's three Hartford schools were passionate — even tearful — in their support for Jumoke's mission. But he said that negative publicity from the misdeeds of its past leadership, coupled with potentially crippling loans from questionable real estate deals, could put the organization's viability in jeopardy by the 2017-2018 year.

Outgoing state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, long a champion of charter schools, ordered an investigation of Jumoke and FUSE in late June, following revelations in The Courant that Sharpe was a convicted felon and had claimed for years to have a doctorate in education.

"The mismanagement and poor judgment detailed in this report are extremely disappointing and must be remedied," Pryor said Friday. "While some corrective steps have been taken, it is clear that more work remains to be done. Going forward, to protect the interests of the school's students, parents, and teachers, Jumoke Academy must demonstrate to the state that it can take the steps needed to restore our trust and ensure the school's continued viability."

James Michel, chairman of Jumoke's board of directors, acknowledged Friday afternoon that "the board should have been more engaged, more active and provided oversight over Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts 'Suspect' Conduct, 'Rampant Nepotism' - Hartford Courant:

That surprising thing Bill Gates said - The Washington Post

That surprising thing Bill Gates said - The Washington Post:

That surprising thing Bill Gates said

 Bill Gates is an indisputable king of philanthropy, so much so that his private money has the power to draw public funding along with it. Whether it is because the amounts he donates are so large or because people assume his brilliance in technology bleeds into all other areas — or a combination of both – he has had an unprecedented influence on the areas of health and education around the world. That’s why it is important to pay attention to what  he has to say about how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s initiatives are working.

Late last month, the Seattle Times published a story that recounted a speech that Gates gave last fall about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s extraordinary “Grand Challenges” project, in which billions of research dollar have been awarded in at least 80 countries to research improve health and development to the neediest. The story says that rather than giving a boastful speech, Gates, used the word “naive” four times in describing the expectations he and his foundation had for the initiative. It says in part:
The Microsoft co-founder seemed humbled that, despite an investment of $1 billion, none of the projects funded under the Gates Foundation’s “Grand Challenges” banner has yet made a significant contribution to saving lives and improving health in the developing world.
What happened?
For one thing, Gates said, he was “pretty naive about how long that process would take.”  Success wasn’t coming as fast as he had calculated, a result in part by a miscalculation about how the projects he funded would work on the ground.  A Web site called had written about the speech earlier and and noted that critics of the project, while acknowledging the enormity and good intentions of Gates’ philanthropy, have said that many of these projects have relied on solving problems rooted in poverty and disease with technology rather than addressing relevant social and political issues. The story says in part:
The foundation’s metrics for assessing success or failure within the Grand Challenges program have not been made public. But after a decade and nearly a billion dollars spent on more than 1500 projects aimed at solving the philanthropy’s select Grand Challenges, not a single project has been judged a Grand Slam, or even a home run.
“We were naive about how specific we had to be about costs and ease of delivery,” Gates said. One of the biggest ‘learnings’ (another word, or not, he likes to use) is that just funding scientists and innovators to explore far-fetched but promising ideas is not sufficient, he said. Going forward, Gates told the crowd, they will be requiring most innovators requesting a grant to partner with manufacturers, biomedical companies or others with expertise in product development before they’ll fund a project.
“We vastly underestimated how important that is,” Gates said.
These are not minor admissions.
After health, his second biggest grant-making target is education. Here, too, he has made some important admissions about his expectations for success and the actual track record, after pumping billions of dollars That surprising thing Bill Gates said - The Washington Post:

30 Most Controversial Education Practices in U. S. History

30 Most Controversial Education Practices in U. S. History:

30 Most Controversial Education Practices in U. S. History

by Deborah Medwin
With the adaptation of Common Core standards by the majority of U.S. states, scrutiny of educational practices has rarely been tighter. Educators, parents, students and taxpayers are focused on the state of education across the nation, and the media now reports on such educational intricacies as curriculum planning and literacy standards. The ensuing controversy over the value of the Common Core reveals not only America’s passion for education, but also its historical tendency to both embrace and reject deviations from what might be considered an educational norm.
From racial integration to MOOCs, there have been experiments in education. Teaching methods vary depending upon the intent and style of the instructor, the time period, fashionable techniques, and school, state, or federal impositions, but since the formal adaptation of tax-supported public school (in the 17th century) in the U.S., these institutions of learning and teaching have consistently weathered controversy. Top Education Degrees has examined some of the most surprising, provocative, or revolutionary educational practices and compiled a list of the 30 most controversial.

Method for Selection

The nature of a controversy is a dispute that is prolonged, impassioned, and often public in nature. Top Education Degrees began by defining controversy in education based on one or more of the following four guidelines:
1. A subjective social or religious issue that uniquely affects education
Issues like gun control, sex ed, prayer, creation v. evolution and spanking in schools are, for the most part, matters of personal opinion. Implementation of rules regarding such issues may be based on legal precedent or pressure from political, administrative or parental authority, but when opposing perspectives among interested parties converge, controversy is inevitable.
2. A deviation from traditional methods
Educational practices, teaching methods, and curriculum vary from school to school; nevertheless, in most public schools in the U.S., there exists a basic concept of education. Children are required by law to attend an educational institution whose responsibility is to impart knowledge and understanding of the traditional subjects: mathematics, English, social studies, and sciences. A certain level of non-traditional teaching style and subject emphasis is generally tolerated or desired, of course, but when non-standard educational movements become broad, such as flipped schools, MOOCs, or homeschooling, or threaten to affect traditional schools, like same sex schools or integration of students with special needs, controversy ensues.
3. A potential “corruption” or harming of students
Education is intended to provide knowledge, skills, and discipline; educated students are prepared for careers, personal fulfillment, inter-personal relations, and general life navigation. Sometimes, however, a school or instructor distorts those objectives, intentionally or not, and physically or ethically obstructs the goals of education. The controversy lies in the perspective: to some, educational research which depends upon real classroom conduct is progressive or necessary, while to others, emotionally or intellectually manipulating students or grades amounts to exploitative human experimentation.
4. Shown to be historically, scientifically, or socially incorrect
From a more historical standpoint, some of the controversial practices included in this list are no longer legal or fashionable, but are nevertheless prime examples of contentious topics in education. It is precisely because of the controversy that practices like racial segregation have been challenged, disproven, and abolished, but in some cases, despite evidence to the contrary, questionable educational practices persist.

# 30 Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes: Third Grade Discrimination

In 1968, while the U.S. was in the throes of the civil rights movement, Jane Elliot, a Riceville, Iowa, third grade teacher, questioned her all-white class about racial discrimination, and wondered whether they knew what it felt like to be treated badly because of the color of one’s skin. Concluding that empathy could best be achieved through experience, Elliott instructed her class to implement a new way of thinking: that brown eyed people were superior to blue eyed students, and the two groups should not mingle. Brown eyed students were given extra recess and academic praise, while blue eyed students were isolated and ridiculed. The following day, Elliot reversed the hierarchy, and blue eyed students became the privileged group. In just a short time, the superior set became mean and exclusive, while the lower group was plagued by academic underperformance and depressive thoughts. Elliott discussed the children’s actions and feelings, and ended the lesson by explaining its point: that just as the color of a person’s eyes shouldn’t affect their treatment, neither should the color of their skin.
While Elliott’s methods have become well known and widely used (they have inspired training videosused around the world used to help employers educate staff and instill basic workplace guidelines about racial tolerance), they have nevertheless provoked some controversy. How wide a role does a public school play in the social and moral guidance of its students? What are the ethical implications of subjecting a student to emotional discomfort for the sake of instilling personal and social 30 Most Controversial Education Practices in U. S. History:

Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean? | Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean? | Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean?

In 2006, the U.S. public schools suspended students 3.3 million times. Note that I did not say 3.3 million students, because that might be misleading as you will see if you keep reading.
There is currently a group in the United States demanding that teachers and schools be restricted when it comes to suspending children from classrooms and schools. It would be interesting to know who is funding this issue and pushing it. Is it Arne Duncan who is the Secretary of the federal Department of Education or is it Bill Gates who is funding the push for Common Core standardized testing with $5 – $7 billion—test results that will be used to rank and fire teachers in addition to close public schools and turn our children over to corporations to teach even if parents don’t want that?
Corporate education reformers love throwing around numbers like 3.3 million, because that will make the public schools look really bad, and big numbers tossed out like that look so impressive to people who are easy to fool.
I decided to dig deeper to understand what that number really means.
In this post, we will explore what is behind the suspension and expulsion rates in the United States, because the public schools have been criticized for suspending too many students. Some critics have even alleged that the ratio of Black children being suspended is a sign of racism. I disagree, but you will have to make up your own mind after you look at all the numbers and in this post there are a lot of numbers to wrap your critical thinking around. The following chart provides a powerful and revealing comparison and I’m interested in your conclusions from this data.
Chart for Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools by Race says “Seventy-one percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents, mostly single mothers. Compared to children raised in an intact family, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; and drop out of high school.” The Heritage Foundation reports that in the United States, marriage drops the probability of child poverty by 82 percent.
In 2006, there were 53.8 million children in the k – 12 public schools, and there were 3.3 million suspensions representing 6.1% of the total number of students. That means almost 94% (or more) of the children did not earn a suspension.
When 6.1% of the total students are suspended from public schools—or less as you will see—is that cause for Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean? | Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education? - Living in Dialogue

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education? - Living in Dialogue:

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education? 

 By Paul Horton.

Why have those defending public education had such an uphill fight in crafting a compelling counter to the mainstream message that “public education is broken”? How can we break through this monotonous monopoly of thinking with an alternative message?
As Noam Chomsky points out, the mainstream political discourse in America is largely shaped by media outlets under complete corporate control.
Who are the players here? Over the past two decades, as the internet has transformed communication, a circle of Silicon Valley billionaires have achieved great influence. Their outlook tends to be Libertarian, and finds much in common with neoliberals when it comes to education policy. These nouveau tech billionaires have found common cause with hedge fund managers and banking industry insiders, who also hold tremendous power.
According to Robert McChesney,
…much of the wealth generated by the Internet has been funneled into a small number of hands….[T]he Internet has produced monopolistic titans like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, e-Bay, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, and Qualcomm….In combination, these firms have almost unlimited power in Washington, and the only time they face any regulatory threat is when the giants find themselves on opposite sides of an issue….Academics trip over one another as they sing the praises of digital titans,
…but [T]he Internet brings one of the core contradictions of capitalism to the fore—what is good and rational for those who control the economy is bad and irrational for society as a whole. (Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century, 228-9)
The most important fact in American politics today is the Citizens United decision. With this, the hand of the Democratic Party was forced: in order to win major elections the party must accept major campaign funding from the Silicon Valley right libertarians, neoliberals and their financiers on Wall Street. For neoliberal Democrats who are forced to lick the Nikes of their major funders, the privatization of education has become the price they pay to get the dollars needed to win elections.
The Obama Administration’s education policies are the equivalent of doing dog tricks or “dancing” for someone who is holding a gun.
So what role does the media play in this dance?
Although things have improved slightly in the print media in 2014, almost all major print editorial pages are controlled by publishers who are whole hog on privatization and charters: NYT and Chicago Tribune and theTribune network are leading the bandwagon and heavily influenced by Bloomberg, Broad, and Murdoch. TheChicago Sun-Times editorial page is completely compromised by the political pressure exerted by publishers friendly to governor-elect Bruce Rauner who supports privatization of education. The New Republic is dead, succumbing to Silicon Valley neoliberal libertarianism.
The ProgressiveThe Nation (the country’s oldest journal of political and cultural opinion), Salon, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post most often include stories and voices of teachers in print; while PoliticoThe Huffington Post, AlternetTruthout, and Common Dreams are open to teacher voices that call attention to a counter narrative.
Diane RavitchAnthony Cody, Jon Pelto’s Education Blogger’s Network, Cynthia Liu’s K12 News Network,Tim Slekar’s Busted Pencils site, Dr. James Miller’s War Report, and the Network for Public Education, an organization formed to counter the neoliberal Democrats for Education Reform, have all worked to build online grassroots communities opposed to right libertarian and neoliberal public education disruption-destruction. Peter Greene has been relentlessly spot-on, taking Mr. Gates-Duncan-Petrilli on every day. The work of blogger-authors Mercedes Schneider and Jeff Bryant has been exemplary in reaching a broader audience at Huffington Post and Salon. Edushyster (Jennifer Berkshire) brings a deft humorous touch to her articles and interviews. Dozens of local bloggers around the country like Mike and Fred Klonsky in Chicago, The Jose Vilson in New York, and Julian Vasquez-Heilig’s Cloaking Inequity blog have been relentless, but Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education? - Living in Dialogue:

Every inch won should lead us to demand more | Notes on a Theory...

Every inch won should lead us to demand more | Notes on a Theory...:

Every inch won should lead us to demand more

One of the most important concepts for understanding politics is quiescence. The great political scientist Murray Edelman placed the production of quiescence and arousal at the center of his approach to politics.
Government affects behavior chiefly by shaping the cognitions of large numbers of people in ambiguous situations. It helps create their beliefs about what is proper; their perceptions about what is fact; and their expectations of what is to come. In the shaping of expectations of the future the cues from government often encounter few qualifying or competing cues from other sources; and this function of political activity is therefore an especially potent influence upon behavior.
To make this point is to deny or seriously qualify what may be the most widely held assumption about political interactions: that political arousal and quiescence depend upon how much of that they want from government people get. Political actions chiefly arouse of satisfy people not by granting or withholding their stable demands, but rather by changing the demands and the expectations. (Emphasis in the original. Politics as Symbolic Action.)
For Edelman, the key to understanding politics is the ways the demands made by the public are managed, not how they are fulfilled. Often this is done through the use of symbols.For example, think about how in response to the Fight for 15 protests, Democrats have embraced a $10.10 minimum wage, including voting on it in the Senate, even though it has zero chance of making it even through that body. This has included the president imposing it on federal contractors, with the caveat that it would only apply to new contracts (making his earlier feet dragging consequential). Similarly we see states like Maryland enact $10.10 but limit its scope and extend the timeline for when the full new minimum should be imposed. The long timeline will make pushing for additional raises more difficult, although not impossible. In Seattle, where activists have successfully pushed the 15 dollar number onto the agenda, the mayor’s proposal has all sorts of loop holes, even as he claims to be leading the 15 dollar cause. The top number is the symbol, while the details are used to limit its impact.
Or think of the USA Freedom Act, winding its way through Congress right now. It originated as a challenge to mass surveillance written by some of the strongest congressional critics of the National Security State, who were emboldened by the disclosures by Edward Snowden. Such unauthorized disclosures are one of the only ways to challenge government secrecy designed to ensure people “encounter few qualifying or competing cues from other [non-official] sources.” But along the way it has been modified in ways that either water it down or make things worse, leading some of its original supporters to turn against it. Unsurprisingly, even the original bill didn’t go very far in challenging the spying Leviathan.
The inclination to declare premature victory seems to me a common affliction, as evidenced by the responses to the election of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bill De Blasio. Another example is the victory laps taken in response to a small number of members of Congress embracing ideas like Social Security expansion or postal banking. Celebrating steps along the way is essential, but too often it seems like the first steps are treated as evidence of a changed game
People love the idea of winning without a fight. You see that in the hope of many Democrats that the Republicans will be so extreme that voters will reject them without Democrats having to take a stand on anything. You see it in their insistence that demographic changes will lead to the demise of the Republican Party, despite the fact that those demographics are malleable and a product of politics. You see it when people offer charts and stats alone as if bare facts ever convinced anyone of anything, or their efforts to argue in favor of (mildly) liberal ends from conservative starting points. You see it in the efforts to avoid taking stances that conservatives will oppose (as if they won’t move to oppose what ever previously reasonable position liberals take.) You see it in the simultaneous claim that the ACA is a great success and a frustration its opponents are still pushing back.
I love the idea of winning a fight. I love it because our opponents are wrong and deserve to be beaten. I love it because winning begets winning. I love it because, as Frederick Douglass taught us, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” I love it because we have so, so far to go to begin to approximate our ideals. I love it because I love it.
I’m convinced that part of winning–really winning–means making bold demands. It means not letting what seems immediately possible limit our horizons. Realism is essential, but part of being realistic is understanding that things change and big demands lead to big change. I’m convinced of the importance of Every inch won should lead us to demand more | Notes on a Theory...: