Latest News and Comment from Education

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nina Rees’ Airbrushed, Wall Street Journal Charter Sell | deutsch29

Nina Rees’ Airbrushed, Wall Street Journal Charter Sell | deutsch29:
Nina Rees’ Airbrushed, Wall Street Journal Charter Sell

On May 01, 2016, the CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Nina Rees, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Union War on Charter-School Philanthropists.”
Nina Rees Nina Rees
In order to read the piece, one must have a subscription to WSJ. However, Diane Ravitch has posted the piece in full.
Given that Rees’ piece appears in a publication named for “influential financial interests,” perhaps her opening statement is true of many WSJ readers:
If you heard that a group of philanthropists came together to donate millions of dollars to schools, you would probably consider it good news.
Anyone who has spent even five minutes on this blog would know that I would not consider the above to be “good news.” I am aware that millions donated “to schools” in this day and age likely means the corporate reform billionaire attempt to convert traditional public education into an under-regulated, market-driven model.
But Rees– whose job is to shift the stability of the community school into that which can only result in a flimsy, test-score-centered churn fest– thinks she has a fine Nina Rees’ Airbrushed, Wall Street Journal Charter Sell | deutsch29:

Ethnic studies gaining momentum after slow growth in California school districts | EdSource

Ethnic studies gaining momentum after slow growth in California school districts | EdSource:

Ethnic studies gaining momentum after slow growth in California school districts

 An expansion of ethnic studies courses in some of California’s largest school districts is changing the way thousands of students are learning about the historical contributions of a wide range of racial and ethnic groups.

Over the past few years, Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district, and San Francisco Unified, the sixth biggest, have added courses in their high schools designed to broaden understanding of the roles played by African-Americans, Latinos and other racial and ethnic groups.
Last October, the Oakland Unified school board approved an ethnic studies course for all Oakland high schools within three years, and last month the board of San Diego Unified voted for an ethnic studies pilot program in two high schools for the 2016-17 school year. San Diego Unified is the state’s second-largest school district; Oakland ranks 12th.
The new courses — which are adding to whatever is taught about these groups in existing history and social studies courses — have come about in response to critics who say the more traditional courses present an excessively Eurocentric view of American history and culture. Just under 11 percent of L.A. Unified’s 643,000 students are white, with the rest from a variety of other racial and ethnic groups.
This year, about 40 of Los Angeles Unified’s 150 high schools offered six one-semester ethnic studies courses — Afro-American History, Afro-American Literature, American Indian Studies, Asian Literature, Mexican-American Literature and Mexican-American Studies. Plans are now underway to offer a one-semester, survey-style course in ethnic studies to even more high schools, starting in the fall. The specific number of schools has not yet been determined.  
Derrick Chau, L.A. Unified’s director of secondary instruction, said the survey course would include separate units on the cultural experiences of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “And we’re open to adding more,” he said, citing Armenian studies as one possibility.
The push to expand courses to more schools across Los Angeles comes from a school board resolution passed in November 2014 to make an ethnic studies course a requirement for graduation, beginning with the graduating class of 2019.
But six months after the vote, then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines came out against the plan, objecting to making the course a graduation requirement and citing the cost — an estimated $72 million to cover textbooks and specially-trained teachers. He also expressed a preference for weaving ethnic studies into the regular school curriculum from a child’s first year in public school, as early as pre-kindergarten.
Taking those concerns into account, a committee appointed to examine how to expand ethnic studies continued to meet and last month reported to the board that it was moving toward a solution — but not as the board had originally intended. The new course would be an elective and serve as a compendium to the six individual courses that are now being revised to create a year-long program with all of the courses as electives. None would be required for graduation.
“Right now,” Chau said of the graduation requirement, “we don’t have the time or money to implement it that way.”
San Francisco Unified began offering an ethnic studies elective course as a pilot program in five high schools in 2010. In December 2014, the district school board voted unanimously to expand the program in the current academic year to all of the city’s 18 public high schools. The resolution also “encourages Ethnic studies gaining momentum after slow growth in California school districts | EdSource:
Ethnic Studies Now Coalition

How Good Is the Best Edujournalism? – the becoming radical

How Good Is the Best Edujournalism? – the becoming radical:
How Good Is the Best Edujournalism?

A recurring theme running through my blog posts—one that could be addressed daily—is that education journalism is almost always significantly misleading and way too often completely inaccurate.
Mainstream media and journalists are trapped in false but compelling narratives about schools, learning and teaching, children, poverty, and race. Journalism itself fails education as a field because of a simplistic “both sides” to a rather cartoonish “objective” journalism.
As I have detailed too often, media coverage of education includes primarily voices and perspectives of people with no or very little experience or expertise in education, but when a few contrary perspectives are offered, those are typically framed as “some critics”—with no effort to establish which claims are credible or not.
Sadly, the best unmasking of the essential failure of the media has been by one of our faux-media comedians, John Oliver, who highlighted that even if there are two sides to an issue, one can be overwhelmingly credible while the other is mostly baseless; therefore, placing them as one-versus-one misleads the public on the weight of the arguments.
So when I received yet another email from the Education Writers Association (EWA)—who is extremely proud of itself—announcing their top award for education reporting, I wondered: How good is the best edujournalism?
The EWA Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting was awarded for Failure Factories (The Tampa Bay Times), written by Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia. The series includes the following:
Without question, this series is comprehensive and it confronts some incredibly important issues about public schooling: the significant relationship between race/poverty and student achievement; the plague of segregation and resegregation in public institutions such as schools; and the huge inequities of education faced by racial minorities and impoverished students such as teacher assignments, school safety, funding, and discipline practices.
And while the series does a solid job of raising these issues, my first response is that these are all old news—I mean very old news.
That our public schools have failed poor and black/brown students is a recurring message over the last century—little different before or after the Civil Rights movement.
Therein lies a real problem with even the so-called best edujournalim—journalists without a historical lens afforded those with expertise in a field are ripe to fall prey to the lens of a novice.
One such failure of this series and then how the EWA praised the series can be found in thequoted judge’s comment:
Bravo to this team and the paper for taking an all-too-common story (low achievement in a high-poverty area) and digging past the excuses to reveal a shameful history of indifference and, most troubling, willful neglect. I was awed by the dogged reporting, the sheer volume of interviews and data-crunching, and the courageous analysis that put the blame exactly where it needed to be. But the true brilliance of this work is found in the stories of the children who were robbed of an education they deserved. How many other school districts in America might have the same story to tell?
The series title “Failure Factories” is but one of many triggers for the pervasive and ugly “no excuses” narrative that is all the rage in the U.S.
You see, once again, this series oversimplifies the story of educating vulnerable populations of students: racism and classism are merely excuses for the schools charged with high How Good Is the Best Edujournalism? – the becoming radical:

The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 education reporters, advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers, and commentators. Members of the Education Bloggers Network are dedicated to providing parents, teachers, public education advocates and the public with the truth about public education in the United States and the efforts of the corporate education reform industry.
As Diane Ravitch noted in a post about the Education Bloggers Network, “If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.”
To become part of the Education Bloggers Network contact Jonathan Pelto, founder and manager of the Network

Rising Income Inequality Is Fueling School Segregation: Families with Resources Increasingly Buy Into Exclusive School Attendance Zones

Education Law Prof Blog:
Rising Income Inequality Is Fueling School Segregation: Families with Resources Increasingly Buy Into Exclusive School Attendance Zones

 It is shaping up as a bad month for school segregation--kind of.  Secretary John King has been pushing for new integration policies. Sean Reardon and his colleagues released a new study finding that money alone cannot close the achievement gaps that segregation creates. And now, Ann Owens has delved into the sociological aspects of segregation and found that economic inequality itself is a source of school segregation, at least, among families with children.  In Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children, she finds that wealthier families without children are not so much of a problem for school segregation.  But wealthier families with children make housing choices based on schools that intensify school segregation.  In the current environment, they are predisposed to, in effect, buy their way into particular public schools.  In other words, for them, the public school system is not so different from the private school system.  The difference is that instead of paying tuition to the realtor, you pay it through your realtor.  

On one level, this makes perfect sense, and families buying homes in "good" neighborhoods so that their children will attend "good" schools is not new. Owens' study, however, points out that the ability and incentives to exercise this type of choice have increased over time, and the results have become more glaring.  With increasing income inequality, there are more clearly schools that some families do not want to send their kids to.  At the same time, those same families have the purchasing power to go elsewhere, and they know where to go. Her abstract explains:
Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.
The text of the article offers these findings:
  • The increase in residential income segregation occurred entirely among families with children, for whom income segregation rose by about 20 percent. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation did not change, on average. By 2010, income segregation between neighborhoods among families with children was twice as high as segregation among childless households. My findings reveal that the current narrative of an increasingly unequal metropolis in terms of income segregation is true only for families Education Law Prof Blog:
Charter Schools - Dividing Communities since 1991

Why Detroit educators spend Teacher's Day pleading for pay

Why Detroit educators spend Teacher's Day pleading for pay:
Why Detroit educators spend Teacher's Day pleading for pay

For many educators, Teacher's Day comes with apples, thank-you cards, and other tokens of gratitude from parents and students. But in Detroit, teachers are spending this day demanding their paychecks.
Most of Detroit’s public schools remain closed on Tuesday, as teacher sick-out protests over missing pay enter their second day.
Ninety four of Detroit’s public schools closed on Monday due to the protests, causing more than 40,000 students to miss class. Detroit’s teachers, who are legally not allowed to strike, stayed home sick in order to protest the announcement that they will not receive pay for work already completed.
"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," said the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ executive vice president Terrence Martin in a press conference Monday.
Monday night, DFT interim president Ivy Bailey sent out an email saying that teachers would once again miss work on Tuesday. Teachers also have a protest and a union meeting scheduled for Tuesday, in the absence of classes.
Educators are trapped between a rock and a hard place in Detroit, where debt has skyrocketed and school enrollment plummeted since the early 2000s.
During the 2003-2004 school year, Detroit schools enrolled over 150,000 students. Today, about 46,000 students, a third of 2003’s enrollment numbers, attend Detroit public schools.
By this summer, Detroit’s schools will be a whopping $515 million in debt and the schools are rapidly running out of funding. Unfortunately, about two thirds of the city’s teachers have signed onto a common teacher payment plan that spreads paychecks out throughout the year, ensuring that teachers receive paychecks in the summer for work they did during the school year.
This year, the school district announced that it simply doesn’t have enough money to pay teachers their salaries after June 30. That announcement shocked the teachers and prompted Ms. Bailey to call the situation a “lockout,” where she says teachers are essentially barred from their jobs by the fact that they would be working without pay.
What will happen in Detroit as the sick outs continue?
Although Michigan teachers are legally prohibited from striking, former DFT president Steve Conn said that, "a strike is the only way the teachers can win."
Despite legal prohibitions, Detroit’s teachers have gone on strike before, in 1999 and 2006. In 1999, teachers went on strike for nine days and eventually received a two percent pay raise for their trouble. In 2006, teachers went on strike for 16 days over pay cuts. Although a judge ordered teachers to return to their classrooms, most did not.
Yet even if teachers go on strike, where will Detroit get the funds to pay them?
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill last month that gave the Detroit Public Schools $47.8 million dollars, but that was not enough. A $720 million restructuring plan approved by the state’s legislature could aid the city, but if all else fails, the district could require another short term cash injection to grant teachers their due.  
"Being paid for their work isn't a luxury, it's a necessity," wrote DFT president Ivy Bailey in a statement yesterday.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.Why Detroit educators spend Teacher's Day pleading for pay:
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Detroit Public Schools will be completely broke by June. Here's how things got to this point. - Vox

Detroit in a downward spiral as budget dries up - CBS News

Detroit teachers close schools 2nd day with mass sick-out

Q&A: What To Know About Detroit Public Schools Teacher Sick-Outs « CBS Detroit

Voodoo Accounting: Charter Schools And The State School Aid Formula

Voodoo Accounting: Charter Schools And The State School Aid Formula:
Voodoo Accounting: Charter Schools And The State School Aid Formula

Last fall, the Columbus Dispatch published an article, Are local school taxes subsidizing Ohio Charters? that confirmed the Byzantine nature of Ohio school finance and the complexities surrounding the calculation of state school aid. If comprehending how the formulas work which allow districts to receive state aid is enough of a challenge, readers also learned that the state was adding insult to financial injury by sending extra money to charters by calculating the amount of local support in the charter aid formula.  This calculation method further assists charters by using the local share amount (viz., local property taxes raised by the district for its schools) in the formula to determine charter payments at the expense of public education.
How novel: starve public schools of state funds for years but use local support dollars to calculate the level of state charter payments. So much for local control.
Let’s get back to that word Byzantine again.  Consider this one example of how state school aid works.
“When a student living in the Columbus district attends a charter school, the state subtracts nearly $7,800 on average from the district’s state funding. But the state is giving Columbus only an average of about $3,900 in basic aid per pupil,” the Dispatch’s Jim Siegel reported. “Once charter-school money is subtracted, the district gets just $2,604 for each student who is left, a $1,312 loss that is also, by far, the highest in the state,” he explained.
As we’ve read before on these pages, voodoo public policy begets voodoo economics which begets voodoo accounting.  In the Dispatch story, Sen. Peggy Lehner, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, confirmed the perfidious nature of state school aid when it comes to charters. “It’s kind of a shell game with the money,” she said. “It’s state dollars, but you have to use local dollars to backfill the state dollars. I think it’s pretty clear that these kids are getting local dollars.”
If Sen. Lehner is clear about the creative accounting used to determine state aid, the voting public in this election year should also be clear about what’s going on here. Though some state officials like Lehner would describe state school aid calculations as backfilling, let’s call it what it is: voodoo accounting.
When Ohio taxpayers start catching on to this state-sponsored ongoing charter school finance scam, they will find that what was a mini-revolt against voodoo accounting that pumps additional public tax dollars to privately operated Voodoo Accounting: Charter Schools And The State School Aid Formula:

Analysis: EdVoice with an IE for Dodd; Educational Reform Group Has Ties to Vergara Suit and Wal-Mart | Davis Vanguard

Analysis: EdVoice with an IE for Dodd; Educational Reform Group Has Ties to Vergara Suit and Wal-Mart | Davis Vanguard:
Analysis: EdVoice with an IE for Dodd; Educational Reform Group Has Ties to Vergara Suit and Wal-Mart

Had it been any other entity, the emergence of mailings on behalf of Bill Dodd on the environment and his overall record may not have even budged the needle.  But the fact that this is EdVoice is a different story.
Barely a month into the campaign, with most expenditures in the last two weeks of the filing deadline, EdVoice has already pumped in $240 thousand into the race.

There is a history here.  In 2008, the race between Mariko Yamada and Christopher Cabaldon for the State Assembly, where ultimately Mariko Yamada upset the West Sacramento Mayor, saw a massive campaign by EdVoice, to the tune of nearly three-quarters of a million.
CTA put in over half million of their own.  The Sacramento Bee in May 2008 writes, “The California Teachers Association opposes Cabaldon because of his ties to EdVoice, a big supporter of charter schools. Cabaldon has butted heads with labor groups in years past on community college issues, by opposing a proposed West Sacramento casino, and by supporting a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Wal-Mart’s founding family has been a major EdVoice donor.”
So why is EdVoice getting involved again, this time on behalf of Bill Dodd?  It seems likely that they are extracting their revenge for Mariko Yamada’s win in 2008.
The first question is who is EdVoice.  A 2006 article in the Capitol Weekly lays that out: “EdVoice a power player in Capitol’s political war over school funds.”  The Capitol Weekly writes, “It’s advisory board reads like a who’s who of California’s hyper-wealthy political players. There’s developer Eli Broad, Netflix founder and former president of the state board of education Reed Hastings, Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, and Gap founder Don Fisher. While different in political philosophy and temperament, they are linked by their desire to change California’s educational system–and they put their money where their mouths are.”
A decade later, their expenditure list reads like a who’s who of educational reformists.  Arthur Rock a Silicon Valley businessman and investor gave them $1 million.  Carrie Walton Penner is the granddaughter of Sam Walton and an influencer in the charter school movement, she gave over $850,000.  Bill Bloomfield gave $750,000 as well.
Bill Bowes is a San Francisco based venture capitalist, 384 on the list of the 400 Richest Americans.    He gave half a million.  Then you have John H. Scully a Mill Valley investor.   Doris F. Fisher who co-founded the Gap.  And Eli Broad, the Netflix Founder and one of the originals on EdVoice.
In total the donations add up to more than $5 million.  So far, a small portion has gone to the Senate Race between Bill Dodd and Mariko Yamada.
If history of 2008 is a guide, we can expect the mailings to quickly go negative.  Critics criticized EdVoice for the quantity of the ads and the viciousness of them.
An ad that angered advocates for people with disabilities argued that a program designed to help people with disabilities get jobs was turned into an attack line of “$91,000 for coffee service.”  Yolo County Supervisors voted 3-2 to commit $91,000 to the Turning Point agency for equipment and training. That money came from a 2005 tax on millionaires that can be spent only for mental-health services.
EdVoice was founded in 2001 by “Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix, Microsoft board member, Green Dot founding funder) and John Doerr (venture capitalist, investment banker), along with and former CA state Assembly members Ted Lempert and Steve Poizner. Eli Broad and Don Fisher (deceased CEO of The Gap and major KIPP supporter) once served on EdVoice’s board.”
In 1998, Mr. Hastings “also co-founded Californians for Public School Excellence with Don Shalvey. This is the organization that pushed for the Charter Schools Act of 1998, the law that lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.”
EdVoice was a co-plaintiff in the infamous Vergara suit in which nine Southern California Children filed suit.
The suit, Vergara v. California, was filed by Students Matter, and backed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. Students Matter is supported by Michelle Rhee and Students First, Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben Austin,  Read More: Analysis: EdVoice with an IE for Dodd; Educational Reform Group Has Ties to Vergara Suit and Wal-Mart | Davis Vanguard:

NEA - National Teacher Day

NEA - National Teacher Day:

Join Our 2016 #ThankATeacher Campaign!

Teachers give us so much. A boost of confidence when we really need one. Extra help when we’re having trouble. A welcoming presence when everything else seems out of control. And though we know we can’t ever thank them enough, we can take a moment during National Teacher Appreciation Week to share our appreciation for the special educators in our lives.
Join NEA and the National PTA in saying “Thank You” by sharing one of the following on social media during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6:
  • A picture of yourself with your favorite teacher, past or present;
  • A picture of your child with his or her teacher;
  • A picture of yourself holding a piece of paper with a simple message saying Thank You to a teacher and why you’re thanking him or her.
Be sure to use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing.
You can also share this graphic to spread the word to your friends! This National Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s show our teachers how much they mean to us!

Who's Thanking A Teacher on Social Media? Watch It Live.

Students thank their teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week

Be a Superhero for a Teacher!

We are teaming up with the National PTA and Go Fund Me to give back to the educators who give so much to our communities. If you start a campaign to benefit a teacher or a classroom during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6, 2016), GoFundMe will chip in a $100 donation to help you build momentum. Find out more here.

National Teachers Hall of Fame Welcomes Five New Inductees

Two NEA members are among this year's inductees to the National Teacher Hall of Fame. Retired Idaho art teacher Jennifer de Grassi Williams and retired Michigan science teacher June Teisan were honored at by NEA leaders on April 29. Read More.

Meet Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year

Jahana Hayes, a social studies teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT., was named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year on Thursday by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
Read the full story on

Planning an event? Check out our 2016 National Teacher Day artwork for web, social media, and printable fliers!

Teacher Appreciation Week 2016

President Barack Obama Thanks His Fifth-Grade Teacher