Latest News and Comment from Education

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Accountability? Testing Disclaimers for ALL! | Reclaim Reform

Accountability? Testing Disclaimers for ALL! | Reclaim Reform:

Accountability? Testing Disclaimers for ALL!

Student, teacher and school accountability are absurd if the testing corporations are not held accountable.
Angry child
This is the actual CCSS disclaimer:
Our children, our schools, and our children’s teachers are rated by high stakes testing companies with these disclosures. View the actual CCSS disclaimer page HERE.
Angry child2If this corporation and the corporations of other high stakes testing companies can get away with this and remain in their multi-billion dollar businesses and government contracts, our children should also have legal disclaimers holding them unaccountable. The same goes for teachers and schools. Otherwise, the insanity and greed of the high stakes testing frenzy will continue and destroy any possibility of real educational growth for our children.
Well, declare that this obscene power grab calling itself “education reform” must stop with our children. Our children are not guinea pigs, data feeders, or things. Our children are children who need our protection from the child abuse which is corporate high stakes testing – high stakes testing in all of its brand names.
How can you legally refuse these tests? Read HERE for UnitedOptOut information.

Teachers often missing from debate over school reform | Dallas Morning News

Teachers often missing from debate over school reform | Dallas Morning News:

Teachers often missing from debate over school reform

The debate over improving public schools too often leaves out the people who teach in the classroom, Alfonso Correa said.
Correa teaches AP English and composition at Dallas’ School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center in Oak Cliff. A magnet school, TAG is consistently rated among the top public high schools in the nation.
“A lot of these discussions about policies and education reform almost always exclude teachers,” Correa said. “Over the last five to 10 years, this huge reform movement has focused on standardization and data.”
Correa, 46, wants to shift attention back to teachers.
“Instruction” he said, “is for putting together a piece of furniture. Teaching is a far more complex concept that no business model can approach.”
He will speak at the Dallas Festival of Ideas on Feb. 27-28 in the Arts District.
Correa recalled attending the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2007 and watching another education reform panel made up of two Bush administration officials, along with the father of Bill Gates.
“I remember sitting in the audience feeling aghast,” he said. “They were talking in a vacuum about education. They had no perspective about what happens in the classroom. It was totally abstract.”
Classrooms aren’t an abstraction and teachers don’t work in a vacuum, Correa said. They have to connect with their students, and that happens by understanding them.
In the Dallas school district, where nearly 70 percent of the students are Hispanic and many come from new immigrant families, Correa’s background helps him in the classroom.
He grew up in Brownsville and as a first-generation Mexican-American, he spoke English and Spanish. His mother was from the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico, and she raised him with help from his aunt and grandmother.
“The border was nothing at all like it is now,” Correa said. “You could go back and forth easily.”
He still remembers his band teacher as a role model. “I definitely see his no-nonsense style in my approach,” Correa said. “He got great results with a ragtag bunch that turned the band program around into a well-respected, fearsome group.”
Ranked in the top 5 percent of his high school class, Correa wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin. But his family couldn’t afford the tuition, and he had no idea he was eligible for a scholarship. There was a community college in town, but he didn’t want to live at home. He decided to enlist in the military for the education benefits.
He joined the Navy in 1986 and completed his stint in 1990. He spent those four years assigned to the submarine force and spent his shore leave going to museums and other cultural attractions in places such as Hong Kong and Japan.
“I was part of a little group called the ‘Nerd Herd,’” he said. “Our deal was, ‘We’re in the Far East. Are we ever going to be back here? Probably not.’”
Matured by his time in the Navy, he became more serious about going to college. He returned to his hometown and enrolled in the University of Texas at Brownsville, a campus that had just opened.
He majored in English with a minor in history and an eye toward a career in teaching. An English professor left a lasting impact, teaching him that literature was not just about artistry but also about culture and society.
After his 1996 graduation, he thought he had lined up a teaching job in Brownsville. But when it fell through, a friend who knew someone in the personnel office of the Dallas school district suggested he try there.
As luck would have it, the massive Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center had opened the year before with six magnet programs, including the School for the Talented and Gifted. Correa got an interview with the late Dr. H.B. Bell, executive principal of the Townview campus, and was offered a position the same day. “It was just this whirlwind thing,” he said.
Correa is now in his 19th year of teaching. He has also taught African-American studies, Latin American studies and Senior Thesis.
He said he was influenced by Louise Cowan, who started the Teachers Academy at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
He serves on numerous local and national education committees, including the committee that helps put together questions for the AP English Language and Composition exam. He is also on an advisory board at the Teachers Academy, which runs a summer enrichment class.
He and his wife have three children ages 11, 9 and 4, and his approach to teaching is similar to parenting: Treat each child as an individual.
Even well-intentioned ideas, such as using a best-practices approach to training teachers, are flawed, Correa said.
“The proposition is, all you have to do is observe and talk to really effective teachers and take what they’re doing and teach others to do that thing,” he says. “That’s Teachers often missing from debate over school reform | Dallas Morning News:

LAUSD District 3 race: 5 challengers seek to end Tamar Galatzan’s reign

LAUSD District 3 race: 5 challengers seek to end Tamar Galatzan’s reign:

LAUSD District 3 race: 5 challengers seek to end Tamar Galatzan’s reign

LAUSD candidates for District 3: Elizabeth Badger, Tamar Galatzan, Filiberto Gonzalez, Ankur Patel, Carl Petersen and Scott Schmerelson. 

LAUSD candidates for District 3

Tamar Galatzan
Age: 45
Education: Birmingham High School, salutatorian (1987); Bachelor of Arts in political science, UCLA, magna cum laude (1991); Juris Doctor, University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1994)
Party affiliation: Democrat
Political experience: LAUSD board member, 2007-present
Work experience: deputy city attorney/neighborhood prosecutor (2002-present); Western States associate counsel, Anti-Defamation League (1996-2002)
Family: two sons who attend LAUSD schools
Scott Schmerelson
Age: 63
Eduction: Master of Science in education, school administration, Cal State L.A.
Party affiliation: Republican
Political experience: first run for public office
Work experience: more than 35 years as an educator, retired LAUSD principal
Family: Single
Carl Petersen
Age: 47
Education: attended Pace University for computer science and holds a Bachelor of Science in business management from the University of Phoenix
Party affiliation: Democrat
Political experience: first run for public office
Work experience: director of logistics at Arecont Vision, LLC
Family: married with five children, ages 14 to 22
Elizabeth Badger
Education: Master of Public Policy and Administration, Cal State Northridge; Bachelor of Arts in political science, Cal State Northridge
Party affiliation: Democrat
Political experience: six terms on the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee, also a member of the organization’s executive board; ran for L.A. City Council and California State Assembly
Work experience: co-owner of B&B Automotive, founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Minority Outreach Committee
Family: married for 14 years, three biological and three stepchildren, the youngest two are in middle school while their older siblings work in banking, the Los Angeles Police Department and U.S. Marine Corps.
Filiberto Gonzalez
Age: 40
Education: Master of Social work, USC; Bachelor of Arts, Cal State Northridge
Party affiliation: Democratic
Political experience: Founded Californians for Safe Schools to organize parents against child abuse in 2012; North Valley Area Planning Commission member from August 2013 to October 2014
Work experience: Served as project director of an early childhood education initiative at United Way of Greater Los Angeles; also served in many management roles at North Valley Caring Services, a community-based nonprofit in North Hills, and chief development officer at Mexican American Opportunity Foundation
Family: married for 10 years; three girls, ages 2, 6 and 8. Two attend local LAUSD school in Chatsworth
Ankur Patel
Age: 29
Education: Master of Science in transportation, Cal State Northridge; Bachelor of Science, UCLA; educated in LAUSD’s San Fernando Valley schools from elementary through high school at North Hollywood High School
Party affiliation: Independent
Political experience: board member, treasurer and budget advocate in the Neighborhood Council System
Work experience: taught English for two years, taught as a graduate assistant at CSUN
Family: single, two younger brothers who also went through LAUSD, immigrant parents from India with strong educational values. Father studied under a street lamp, earned a degree in India and then came to America and earned an engineering degree from CSUN and worked as a rocket scientist in the San Fernando Valley for 30 years.
Los Angeles Unified’s primary election in District 3 is shaping up to be a battle of five Davids versus Goliath, after a charter school lobbying group slung its financial clout behind two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan.
With an independent expenditure of $59,820 earlier this month, the California Charter Schools Association brought Galatzan’s financial backing to $74,125, more than all five of her challengers combined have so far at $52,816, according to campaign finance records.
Galatzan, whose District 3 seat representing the western San Fernando Valley is up for grabs in the March 3 primary, said her support for charter schools has been driven by campus-based educators.
Those educators, she said, are seeking to create either affiliated charters in hopes of alleviating fiscal straits or independent charters, which operate with near autonomy.
“The teachers at the campuses brought the petitions, and I’ve backed those teachers,” Galatzan said of her support for independent charter schools.
But challenger Filiberto Gonzalez said simply approving charter schools is creating a two-tiered system. In one tier are children who are fortunate enough to have parents who secure their seats at charter schools or pay for private education. The remainder, he said, will be left to suffer through LAUSD, a district that has proven too big to give taxpayers “a return on their investment” by educating students.
Gonzalez said he believes schools need more local control. But the way to achieve that lofty goal, he said, is by breaking up the nation’s second-largest school district into smaller, more manageable districts.
While the prospect is nothing new — breaking up LAUSD has been discussed for decades — now is the time to make it happen, and Gonzalez, who grew up in public housing, said he’s the candidate to get it done.
“I think if we’re able to get past the primary, and we’re doing everything we can to do that, we’ll have a very robust debate and discussion about that,” he said.
While Gonzalez has a grass-roots campaign, attending events and meeting voters in neighborhoods with traditionally high turnouts, his campaign coffer has only $2,321.
But it’s not the fewest dollars raised so far. Carl Petersen’s financial support amounts to a mere $1,260. The father of five decided to run after spending two days at LAUSD headquarters fighting with district lawyers for the services two of his children need because they suffer from disorders in the autistic spectrum. While campus-based educators agreed Petersen’s children needed the support, he said, district higher-ups didn’t agree.
“During those two days, I said, ‘Something has to change; parents need a say,’ and I decided I was going to step up and run,” Petersen said.
Petersen also believes the cure to many of LAUSD’s woes is more local control. But rather than break up the district, he said, LAUSD needs to set clear expectations and let educators decide how they’re best achieved.
“You have to let teachers do their thing. They’re professionals; that’s why we hired them,” said Petersen, who heads up logistics for a company that manufactures surveillance cameras. Accountability for educators has proven a contentious issue in the district, as former Superintendent John Deasy’s efforts to measure performance were staunchly opposed by the teachers union.
Candidate Ankur Patel, a former English teacher of two years and previous graduate assistant instructor, wants students to evaluate their educators rather than to rely heavily on test scores.
“The students spend more time with their teachers than anyone else and are in the best position to assess their educational experience,” Patel stated on his website.
Patel also wants smaller classes. While LAUSD has sought to reduce class sizes this year using additional state funding, Patel said far more needs to be done. Classrooms across the district are packed with more than 40 students, each of whom represents roughly $10,000 in state funding for a total of some $400,000 per room. Yet the textbooks are old, teachers aren’t paid enough and schools aren’t clean, Patel said.
Patel has more funding under the direct control of his campaign than any other candidate, including Galatzan, at $21,746 — an amount he amassed, in part, by contributing $5,000 to his campaign directly and loaning it another $5,000, according to campaign finance records.
Candidate Scott Schmerelson assembled the second-highest dollar figure directly under campaign control by borrowing $15,000 from himself.
The retired teacher and administrator worked in LAUSD schools for 33 years and carries the endorsements of LAUSD’s administrators union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, as well as the California School Employees Association, which represents clerical workers, teachers aids and other classified positions.
And he’s no stranger to troubled schools. When LAUSD wanted to prevent a state takeover of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School when it was Mount Vernon Middle School, Schmerelson was called in. During his five years as principal, he improved test scores, conditions and morale at the troubled Mid-City campus, according to his website.
Schmerelson wants to increase local control by sending more decision-making power to school site councils, which are campus-based bodies of administrators, teachers and parents. He also wants teachers to evaluate the performance of their peers, as opposed to administrators, and create mentoring systems to support underperforming educators.
“The average teacher has close to 10 years’ experience right now. Why in the world would we move to get rid of struggling teachers without doing everything we can to help them improve instruction,” Schmerelson states on his website.
Rounding out the field of six is Elizabeth Badger. The 55-year-old finished fourth in a field of six running for Los Angeles City Council in 2013. About five months later her bid for a state Assembly seat LAUSD District 3 race: 5 challengers seek to end Tamar Galatzan’s reign:

Opinion: Charter schools don’t belong in new recovery district. They are already bound by ‘perform or close’ mandate | Get Schooled

Opinion: Charter schools don’t belong in new recovery district. They are already bound by ‘perform or close’ mandate | Get Schooled:

Opinion: Charter schools don’t belong in new recovery district. They are already bound by ‘perform or close’ mandate

Dr. Tony Roberts is president & CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. He wrote this essay in response to the governor’s proposed Opportunity School District, a state-run district that would take over low-performing schools.
His point: Charter schools should not be among the schools taken into the special state district because an effective mechanism already exists to monitor and close them.
By Tony Roberts
AJC_3In the AJC article this week, “New plan for failing schools,” a list of 141 “persistently failing schools” is described based on the College and Career Performance Index. The article mentioned:  “Two state-approved charter schools are on the list of low performers as well.”
As a follow-up, AJC reporter Greg Bluestein posted on the AJC political blog that some skeptics of the proposed Opportunity School District were using the argument that the two schools on the list of failing schools already under state oversight—“state charter schools”—were indicative of the kind of job the state would do if charged with taking over schools.
This argument falls apart miserably when the truth about these and other charter schools in Georgia is known.  (For clarification, I am speaking of “traditional, start-up charter schools” approved either by local school districts or the state Charter Schools Commission—not charter systems or college and career academies that are most always under the control of a local school board.)
First, “state charter” school is a misnomer as the state does not own or run charter schools. The state approvescharter schools, as do local school districts, but they are operated independently with their own board of directors and their own staff, budget, curriculum, and their own higher goals of academic achievement to which they are contractually obligated in their charter. (The AJC stated it correctly by describing the schools as “state-approved.”) By “higher,” I mean at least higher either than the average of similar schools in their district or higher than the state average, in some cases.
Second, charter schools that do not live up to the “promises” made in their charter petition are closed after a reasonable period — or should be.  Sometimes this happens by the school’s charter not being renewed at the end of their five-year contract—or even prior to the end if no improvement is in sight. But the result is the same. Charter schools can only exist if they deliver the results they promise or better.
For example, two state-approved charter schools were closed in 2014: Heritage Preparatory Academy in Atlanta and Scholars Academy in Clayton County. The original charter (or contract) term for Heritage did not expire until Opinion: Charter schools don’t belong in new recovery district. They are already bound by ‘perform or close’ mandate | Get Schooled:

Leveling the Playing Field for Our Kids | Randi Weingarten

Leveling the Playing Field for Our Kids | Randi Weingarten:

Leveling the Playing Field for Our Kids

A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilize communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.
On my recent visit to Israel, the West Bank and Auschwitz, I was reminded how public education, by bringing children together -- regardless of race, religion or creed -- can promote pluralism.
Public education can also provide the safe harbors our children need, especially in tough times. In December in Ferguson, Mo., I saw how public schools gave kids the space they needed to process what was happening in their community, while instilling hope for their future.
And we are all constantly reminded of how a high-quality public education, one that enables kids to learn teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving -- skills they need to compete in the 21st century -- can lead to good jobs and a more robust economy.
Just last week, a new study was published that found if we eliminate the achievement gap in the United States, we can grow our gross domestic product by 10 percent and raise the lifetime earnings of low-wage workers by 22 percent. This study by theWashington Center for Equitable Growth describes strategies that have worked in other countries to bridge the achievement gap.
We narrow that gap through supporting, not sanctioning, kids, teachers and schools. We narrow that gap through teaching kids how to work with their hands, to work in teams, to solve problems -- not just how to ace a test. We narrow that gap by providing early childhood education and helping all third-graders read at grade level. We narrow that gap when we give all kids, not just kids from wealthier families, access to art and music, librarians and nurses. We narrow that gap by focusing on high-poverty schools that struggle and helping these schools through interventions like wraparound services that combat the impact of poverty.
There's a debate stirring now around the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of hisWar on Poverty that, at its root, was about leveling the playing field for kids. The law's most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind, in emphasizing testing, pulled us away from the focus on kids, especially those who are poor--as are half of public school students in the United States.
The good news is that pretty much everyone agrees NCLB has to go. The law allowed high-stakes testing to eclipse all else, it failed to close the achievement gap or reach its intended goals, and it must be fixed. More than 18,000 members of the American Federation of Teachers submitted comments on how to fix NCLB.
One teacher talked about the number of pre- and post-tests her students take. She noted that even third-graders attend a Saturday Test-Prep Academy to learn test-taking skills. Her plea? "We need thinkers, not test takers, for our future growth as a nation."
But even more compelling are stories that reveal the inequities that persist in America's classrooms. A teacher from Florida wrote simply, "I work every day to support learning and high expectations for students who are hungry, are homeless, have experienced trauma, and struggle in many ways. ... Please, authorize ESEA in a way that provides for the needs of all students, whether they live in an affluent neighborhood, or in my school's neighborhood."
The current House Republican bill does just the opposite. While it would make some needed improvements to accountability, it would also lock in recession-driven cuts to education. It would allow state and local governments to walk away from their responsibility to maintain funding from year to year. And it would divert moneyLeveling the Playing Field for Our Kids | Randi Weingarten:

Pope Francis, Hitting a Child Is Not 'Beautiful' | Al Jazeera America

Pope Francis, Hitting a Child Is Not 'Beautiful' | Al Jazeera America:

No, Pope Francis, there's nothing 'beautiful' about hitting a child

Pontiff ignores decades of medical literature on corporal punishment –€“ and survivors like me

 Pope Francis has officially lost his revolutionary cred. Known for his willingness to challenge church doctrine, to bring religion into the 21st century and to speak truth to power, he clearly hasn’t gotten an updated parenting manual. He appears to still be reading from a 17th-century edition that advised Europeans that children could be possessed by a devil that should be driven out with a rod of correction.

During a recent general weekly audience, the pope decided to offer some advice to the world’s parents. “One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face, so as to not humiliate them,’” he told the audience. “How beautiful!”
He then praised the father’s actions, saying, “He knows the sense of dignity. He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”
Did somebody slip a mickey in the pontiff’s communal chalice?
There is nothing beautiful or dignified about physically assaulting a child. At its core, corporal punishment — legalized brutality — is about intentionally causing pain. It is a form of humiliation that denies children the right to bodily integrity and puts them at risk for a slew of negative behaviors. If Francis had stopped — or sent one of his many researchers to the Vatican Library — to look at more than 60 years of medical literature, he would realize the numerous harms that come from smacking a kid. 
The pediatrics, child development and psychological communities around the globe are in agreement that corporal punishment does not work to get children to comply. Parents will often repeat and escalate the intensity of hitting, placing children in danger. Scientists have repeatedly found that lightly spanking a child, even occasionally, is tied to mental disordersdrug and alcohol abuseaggressive behavior and hyperactivity and juvenile delinquency. The trajectory of brain development can be altered when a caretaker spanks the gray matter (literally) out of their skulls, which leads to lowered verbal intelligence and decision-making skills as well as imbalances of the hormonescortisol and oxytocin, which can lead to an impaired ability to regulate emotions and risky sexual behavior.
In providing a moral justification for abuse and brutality, the pope's comments are another reminder of the false promises of a church that speaks for power. 
And if science isn’t his cup of tea, the pope should simply talk to survivors like me. I guarantee they wouldn’t utter the words “dignity” and “beautiful,” unless the architecture of their brains have been damaged sufficiently that they’ve convinced themselves that being hit was an act of love that made them better people.
The pope’s endorsement of hitting as long as it is done with “dignity” suggests that he, like so many, see violence as both necessary and empowering as long as it is imagined as transformative. Such efforts to reconstitute abuse and violence as love and empowerment share an ethos with those who seek to influence behavior through violence. And they are particularly disturbing in a world in which kids are routinely beatenand brutalized in their homes, in juvenile facilities, on the streets, at checkpoints, in schools and in war zones.
Of course, when it comes to the welfare of children, the Catholic Church’s track record is troubling. It’s no wonder Pope Francis, Hitting a Child Is Not 'Beautiful' | Al Jazeera America: