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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Detroit teachers union calls for district-wide sick-out Monday

Detroit teachers union calls for district-wide sick-out Monday:

Detroit teachers union calls for district-wide sick-out Monday

(Photo: Keith Matheny)

The union representing Detroit Public Schools' more than 2,600 teachers called for a district-wide sick-out on Monday, which could potentially shut down all the schools serving more than 46,000 students.

The action, announced Sunday, comes one day after DPS emergency manager Judge Steven Rhodes told the union that unless the state Legislature approves sending more money to the district, there is not enough in the coffers to pay teachers their already-earned salaries after June 30. Summer school and extended special education services would also be canceled.

Teachers said Sunday they were assured by DPS that the $48.7 million in a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last month to fund the district through June 30 would cover summer pay for the approximately two-thirds of district teachers who signed up for the plan, which allows for paychecks year-round instead of just during the school year.

 "The district’s promises are no longer worth the paper that they are printed on," Terrence Martin, executive vice president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said during a hastily called news conference where officials announced they were urging teachers to call in sick Monday to disrupt operations.

"While we recognize that this puts Detroit’s parents and communities in a difficult situation, the district’s broken promises and gross negligence leave us no choice."

DPS on Sunday night still had not announced any school closures, said spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

Martin said teachers will demonstrate Monday in front of the Fisher Building, demanding "the pay we have earned" and a third-party audit of DPS spending.

"We would like to go through the district’s books and find out where the money has been going," union interim president Ivy Bailey said.

The union plans an emergency meeting Tuesday night, where it will hold a voice vote "to authorize a major collective action," followed by secret ballot votes in schools on Wednesday and Thursday, said Martin.

Union officials did not specify if their collective action could include a strike — which has technically been illegal for teachers, police, fire and other municipal workers in Michigan since 1947, but have still occurred over the years.

"You’re telling people to come to work, but we aren’t necessarily going to pay you, that’s a lockout. And we have to be able to respond to what we see as a lockout," said union administrator Ann Mitchell.

DPS, which has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager Detroit teachers union calls for district-wide sick-out Monday:

How charter schools are dodging Colorado laws | The Colorado Independent

How charter schools are dodging Colorado laws | The Colorado Independent:

How charter schools are dodging Colorado laws

Charter schools have been using waivers to get out of teaching comprehensive sexual health classes, evolution, state mandated hiring and firing practices, substitute teacher policies and many other rules. Who’s watching? Nobody.

How charter schools are dodging Colorado laws

Educators say people without college degrees, including high schoolers, are teaching in Pre-K through fifth grade classes at the Community Leadership Academy, a publicly funded charter school in Commerce City.
At the Golden View Classical Academy, in Golden, students are learning that real marriages are just between men and women, and that condoms are ineffective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. As for evolution, forget it. It’s not in Golden View’s curriculum.
Though these educational practices seem to defy Colorado law, charter schools have found a legal workaround, and many Democratic and Republican lawmakers are looking the other way. After all, charters have been the darlings of education reformers from both parties for more than 20 years.
In 1993, Colorado’s first two charter schools enrolled just 187 students. Now 226 charter schools educate more than 108,000 students statewide, making up roughly 12 percent of the total K-12 public school enrollment.
Though hundreds of laws govern public schools, many of those rules are being waived for charters both by school districts and the state Board of Education.
Currently, the Board of Education automatically grants 18 waivers involving laws related to benefits, hiring and firing at charter schools. The state makes this process easy because nearly every charter school requests these exceptions.
Golden View Classical Academy. Photo by Derec Shuler
Golden View Classical Academy.
Photo by Derec Shuler
The Board also grants non-automatic waivers, which require charter schools to explain why they should be given a pass on rules that apply to all other schools. That’s how Golden View Classical Academy dodged state sex-ed requirements.
Individual school districts set additional policies for how charter schools obtain waivers. Jefferson County, for example, offers 42 automatic waivers and dozens more non-automatic ones. Non-automatic waivers must include a replacement plan explaining the rationale for the exception and how it is tied to the school’s mission, how the school will meet the law’s intent and how the waiver’s impact will be evaluated.
In JeffCo, replacement plans must be submitted when charters turn in contract applications.
But seven JeffCo charter schools’ waiver applications reviewed by The Colorado Independent included incomplete replacement plans, and in 10 cases, blank sheets of paper with nothing but the title of the district policy where the plan should be. All but one of the applications were for five-year contract renewals with the district.
Some charters simply cut and paste answers from waiver applications submitted by other schools. Addenbrooke Academy of Lakewood, for example, copied replacement plans from Golden View Classical of Golden. In three instances, the name of Golden View mistakenly appears in its charter contract renewal application.
Montessori Peaks in Littleton submitted blank sheets of paper instead of replacement plans for some district waivers.
In Golden, Free Horizon Academy – which applied for dozens of waivers — merely referred to its employee handbook or school policy manual in its replacement plans. Yet the word “waiver” never appears in the manual as it applies to district policies, and there is no justification or plan for evaluating waivers, as the district requires.
Charter schools claim to educate students better than traditional schools. One reason cited: They have more flexibility in dealing with state and How charter schools are dodging Colorado laws | The Colorado Independent:

Newark’s school mystery–political theater or reality? |

Newark’s school mystery–political theater or reality? |:

Newark’s school mystery–political theater or reality?

Christie--he tells Baraka Newark has enough moneyChristie–he tells Baraka Newark has enough money
What is going on in Newark?
On Tuesday, the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka, blasted Gov. Chris Christie for an impending 6 percent local property tax increase  because of hat he said was poor management of the state-operated school system, a criticism that provoked an angryresponse from Christie. Yet, just a day later, on Wednesday, the school board adopted the state regime’s  $1 billion budget with the big tax increase still there, because, said its newly elected president, Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Baraka would come up with $9.6 million to fill the budget hole–and ultimately prevent the tax increase.
And how did this fiscal miracle come to pass? No one is saying.
Is this political theater–or reality?
Baraka tells the governor he's responsible for tax increaseBaraka tells the governor he’s responsible for tax increase
Keep in mind that the school board–officially entitled the Newark School Advisory Board–did not have to pass the state regime’s budget and its members Tuesday had said they wouldn’t. It could have rejected it, as it has in the past,  or taken no action at all–which some board members wanted to do.  But the board members apparently learned something the residents of the city did not–and, for the moment, at least, they’re not telling the people who elected them. They voted unanimously for the spending plan.
Baskerville-Richardson says she cannot comment on the budget mystery.
“I’ll be able to say more later,” she said, “but I can’t say anything now.”
Frank Baraff, Baraka’s press officer, also would not comment–except to say the $9.6 million Baraka promised to fill the budget hole without increasing taxes was Newark’s school mystery–political theater or reality? |:

40 Reasons to Honor Teachers in 2016

40 Reasons to Honor Teachers in 2016:

40 Reasons to Honor Teachers in 2016

Eight years old boy presenting flowers to someone, perhaps its National Teacher Appreciation Day

Last year I made this list in honor of all teachers for teacher appreciation week.
It is that time of year again! So, I’d like to wish all my teacher friends a wonderful week! I hope you can focus on the great jobs that you do despite any problems that come your way.
I added a couple more points about being appreciative for teachers.
Please feel free to add to this list in the comment section.
  1. Teachers in public school teach all children—they reject no one.
  2. Teachers choose teaching because of their subject and mostly because they like the students.
  3. Teachers don’t pick their careers for the money.
  4. Their teaching is free (well except for AP).
  5. Many teachers pay-out-of-pocket for materials.
  6. Teachers protect their students.
  7. Teachers support parents and can be a great back-up.
  8. Teachers encourage students to do their best.
  9. They take students on exciting field trips.
  10. Teachers create interesting lesson plans.
  11. They decorate their classrooms even in the poorest schools.
  12. Each teacher has a different and interesting personality.
  13. Teachers listen and help solve problems.
  14. Teachers correct students so they don’t make fools out of themselves.
  15. They make students laugh.
  16. Teachers help students plan for the future.
  17. They evaluate student work.
  18. Teachers study to understand how to be good teachers.
  19. Teachers give students paper and writing tools when they forget to bring their own.
  20. Teachers connect families to40 Reasons to Honor Teachers in 2016:

Please Support NPE’s Political Action Fund! | Diane Ravitch's blog

Please Support NPE’s Political Action Fund! | Diane Ravitch's blog:
Please Support NPE’s Political Action Fund!

The Network for Public Education has two organizations.

One is tax-deductible and non-political. That is the Network for Public Education, which advocates for public schools and teachers and against high-stakes testing and privatization by research and conferences. NPE is recognized by the IRS as a c(3) organization.
The other is the Network for Public Education Action Fund, which engages in political action. NPE Action endorses candidates and actively supports political efforts to advance our agenda of free public education for all and better education for all. NPE Action Fund is recognized by the IRS as a c(4), meaning that it is not tax-deductible.
Both funds need your support.

At our annual conference a few weeks ago, we have announced the creation of memberships for the NPE Action Fund. This will give us the resources to help candidates who fight for better education for all.Please consider becoming a member and supporting our advocacy for children and real education.

Student test scores have stalled nationally. What can be done about it? - LA Times

Student test scores have stalled nationally. What can be done about it? - LA Times:

Student test scores have stalled nationally. What can be done about it?

  the early 2000s, Mark Schneider watched American students get slightly better at math and reading, one year after the next.

It was the height of the Bush administration, with No Child Left Behind in full swing. That was the law that required schools to regularly test their students in reading and math and sometimes face consequences based on their scores.
Schneider, then an administration education official, got used to presiding over good tidings. "It was a good news story," he recalled. "It was good for the country. How could anyone be against increased performance for minorities?"
He left the administration in 2008, and since then, as an independent researcher and a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, he's watched the results from afar, and they haven't been as good. In recent years, performance in reading and math has stagnated. The trend continues, with the release last week of math and reading scores for high school seniors.

"We're stalled," he said. "That's the bottom line."

From 2013 to 2015, reading scores for high school seniors dipped (from 288 to 287 out of 500), while math scores also went down a point (from 153 to 152 out of 300). "We're not making any progress," Schneider said. He had the same concern last fall when the government released test scores for fourth- and eighth-graders, which showed a similar pattern.
So why have Americans hit an academic wall? Can it be broken?
Schneider used to be commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the government arm charged with a loaded job: figuring out what students know, whether it's enough, and telling their parents and taxpayers how smart, or dumb, they are.
Primarily, the federal government does that through one test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The idea was simple: Create a device that purely assesses what students know, as opposed to measuring the different advantages they might have.
NAEP is now said to be the gold standard of exams. The results have no stakes for test takers or teachers — it doesn't affect funding or college admissions — so there's little incentive to game, cheat or spend hours drilling its material.
The creators of NAEP have long said that their goal lines are "aspirational." In plain English, that means that the test is Student test scores have stalled nationally. What can be done about it? - LA Times:

Paying For America's Schools: Is There A Better Way? : NPR

Paying For America's Schools: Is There A Better Way? : NPR:
Is There A Better Way To Pay For America's Schools?

Big Education Ape: K-12 Spending per Student by State [Rankings]

Big Education Ape: Local education inequities across U.S. revealed in new Stanford data set | Stanford News

 The Kansas Supreme Court gave state lawmakers an ultimatum:

Make school funding more equitable by June 30, or it will consider shutting down the state's public schools.

Since then, things have gotten ugly.

Lawmakers followed up with a plan — to make it easier to impeach Supreme Court judges who attempt to "usurp the power" of the Legislature or governor.

Then came a plan to address the court's concerns over school funding: Send a little more money to roughly two-dozen of the state's poorest districts without taking money away from other districts or raising taxes.

The plaintiff districts have already responded to the plan, calling it a "shell game."

It's unclear if the Kansas Supreme Court will be satisfied.

What is clear is that the politics of school funding can be bitter

Over the past two weeks, the NPR Ed Team has taken a hard look at how we pay for public schools in the U.S. In Part 1 of our School Money series, we mapped the consequences of a funding system that favors affluent districts.

In Part 2, we unpacked the difference a dollar can — and cannot — make in the classroom, finding compelling evidence that money, spent wisely and consistently, can improve the lives and outcomes of disadvantaged students.

This week, we grapple with the politics of school money, asking:

Is there a better way to pay for our schools?

The answer requires that we do two things: explore the challenges to change, and spotlight a few ideas that could lead to a more balanced system.

What follows is a wrap-up of our reporting. For nearly every name and place, you'll find a hyperlink to more.

Like this one, for the latest on the school money showdown in Kansas.

The TABOR Trade-Off

First, the challenges. In a word: taxes.

In 1992, Colorado voters had had enough, no longer trusting state lawmakers to spend their tax dollars wisely.

They amended the state's constitution with something called the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

It required that voters, not lawmakers, have the final say on tax increases, and it capped tax revenue. Anything the state raised over that cap — typically in boom years — would be refunded to taxpayers.

TABOR's effect on Colorado's schools has been severe.

Its cap on property tax revenue limits how much money districts can raise locally. And by capping income tax revenue, the law also limits the state's ability to help schools make up the difference. A one-two punch.

"I don't think people on average knew what it meant, especially long-term," says Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, a nonprofit research group.

Today, the state's economy is booming. The unemployment rate is just 3 percent. And, thanks to TABOR, taxpayers are on track to get $156 million back from the state.

But Rainey says Colorado's schools are struggling more than ever.

"They have outdated technology, larger class sizes. They've lost the opportunity to offer certain programs. They can't retain teachers. They can't attract teachers," says Rainey. The list goes on.

In 2013, according to Education Week, the state spent roughly $2,500 less per student than the national average. That ranks Colorado, the nation's 14th richest state, below two of the Paying For America's Schools: Is There A Better Way? : NPR: