Latest News and Comment from Education

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How We Discredit Teacher Knowledge | The Patiently Impatient Teacher

How We Discredit Teacher Knowledge | The Patiently Impatient Teacher:

How We Discredit Teacher Knowledge

I started this blog with the goal to engage in civil, intellectual discourse befitting the fact that I have “Dr.” in from on my name now. Some things, however, just make my blood boil to the point that the CapsLock may just have to come out. We have reached one of these moments with this article by Robert Pondiscio featured in EducationNext as well as some other sources. The gist of this article one of the many failings of our horribly inept teaching force is that mere teachers are creating or finding their own materials instead of relying on experts to provide expertly designed, expert instructional materials.
Here are some highlights:
“A new study from the RAND Corporation finds that nearly every teacher in America—99 percent of elementary teachers, 96 percent of secondary school teachers—draws upon ‘materials I developed and/or selected myself’ in teaching English language arts. And where do they find materials? The most common answer among elementary school teachers is Google (94 percent), followed by Pinterest (87 percent). The numbers are virtually the same for math. But don’t blame teachers. These data, for reasons both good and bad, reveal a dirty little secret about American education. In many districts and schools—maybe even most—the efficacy of the instructional materials put in front of children is an afterthought. For teachers, it makes an already hard job nearly impossible to do well. Expecting teachers to be expert pedagogues and How We Discredit Teacher Knowledge | The Patiently Impatient Teacher:

CURMUDGUCATION: Pearson CEO Spreads It On Thick

CURMUDGUCATION: Pearson CEO Spreads It On Thick:

Pearson CEO Spreads It On Thick

EdWeek's Market Brief, a site that unabashedly focuses its gaze on the giant pile of money attached to the education biz, sat down with Pearson CEO John Fallon to unleash a heaping helping of corporate toolspeak. 

Fallon responded to a series of questions from reporters that EdWeek has helpfully organized. So we'll borrow their organizational scheme here.

What is Pearson's biz?

Primarily, Pearson makes giant piles of money. Fallon claims $7 billion annual revenues and "50 percent come from courseware/content, in K-12, higher education, and across the professional space." Thirty percent comes from testing (ten percent of the high stakes variety). The last twenty percent comes from services provided to school and Pearson's own virtual school. So, bigtime education.

Fallon says that a Pearson motto is "content plus assessment, powered by technology, equalizes effective learning at scale." Similar to the sort of thing we all used to write on "why I want to teach" essays back in teacher school. Okay, not that similar, since the Pearson motto doesn't actually mention teaching as part of the plan-- just technology-powered content delivery and assessment. As we have noted before when studying Pearson's Master Plans.

Fallon also said the company’s approach is to “define what we do by the outcome, not by where it happens physically.”

In the Cyber School game

Reporters, apparently in a very diplomatic and polite manner, asked Fallon, "Pearson has bet heavily on cyber-schools through its Connections Academy, among other products. What do you say to customers who are have noticed that cyber-schools are a big poop sandwich?"

Fallon's answer is a Mona Lisa of corporate baloneyspeak.

It’s important to speak in specific rather than general terms…It’s not always the case, but it’s fair to say there’s a disproportionate number of students in virtual schooling who are there because physical schools have failed them in some form or another. So it’s going to be important that we CURMUDGUCATION: Pearson CEO Spreads It On Thick:

On the anniversary of Brown v. Board, new evidence that U.S. schools are resegregating - The Washington Post

On the anniversary of Brown v. Board, new evidence that U.S. schools are resegregating - The Washington Post:

On the anniversary of Brown v. Board, new evidence that U.S. schools are resegregating

Thurgood Marshall, who served as the NAACP’s chief legal counsel through Brown v. Board of Education and who later became the first black Supreme Court justice, is pictured in 1958 on the steps of the Supreme Court after filing an appeal in the integration case of Little Rock’s Central High School. Around him are students from Little Rock and their chaperone. (AP)

 Poor, black and Hispanic children are becoming increasingly isolated from their white, affluent peers in the nation’s public schools, according to new federal data showing that the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily black and brown students more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.

The data was released by the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday, 62 years to the day after the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional.
That landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education began the dismantling of the dual school systems — one for white kids, one for black students — that characterized so many of the nation’s communities. It also became a touchstone for the ideal of public education as a great equalizer, an American birthright meant to give every child a fair shot at success.
But that ideal appears to be unraveling, according to Tuesday’s GAO report.
The proportion of schools segregated by race and class — where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are black or Hispanic — climbed from 9 percent to 16 percent of schools between 2001 and 2014. The number of the most intensively segregated schools — with more than 90 percent of low-income students and students of color — more than doubled over that period.On the anniversary of Brown v. Board, new evidence that U.S. schools are resegregating - The Washington Post:

Schools are now ‘soft targets’ for companies to collect data and market to kids — report - The Washington Post

Schools are now ‘soft targets’ for companies to collect data and market to kids — report - The Washington Post:

Schools are now ‘soft targets’ for companies to collect data and market to kids — report

Schools have become “soft targets” for companies trying to gather data and market to children because of the push in education to adopt new technology and in part because of the rise of computer-administered Common Core tests, according to a new annual report. 
The report, titled “Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School” and published Tuesday by the National Center for Education Policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the 18th annual report about  schoolhouse commercialism trends.
It says student privacy is increasingly being compromised by commercial entities that establish relationships with schools — often providing free technology — and then track students online and collect massive amounts of data about them. Then they tailor their advertising to keep the young people connected to them. One important consequence, the report says, is that children who are subjected to “constant digital surveillance and marketing at school” come to accept as normal that corporations play a big role not only in their education but in their lives.
The report says:
Schools have proven to be a soft target for data gathering and marketing. Not only are they eager to adopt technology that promises better learning, but their lack of resources makes them susceptible to offers of free technology, free programs and activities, free educational materials, and help with fundraising. Schools are under relentless pressure to make ever greater use of technology. Our techno-friendly zeitgeist embraces and celebrates the rapid proliferation of education technology in every corner of our lives. In school, teachers are encouraged to integrate technology into their lessons and homework, and to rely on computerized student performance data as a diagnostic tool. State and federal laws now require that schools do extensive data reporting; in addition, the Common Core testing regime requires students to take computerized tests—and therefore to be computer-competent before they approach the tests.
Although some parents try to resist the collection and use of data about their children, the ubiquity of computers makes it easy for children and their parents to accept “constant data gathering and attendance surveillance of children” — and few look through the companies’ “long paragraphs of legalese” to understand what is really going on. Americans are, the report Schools are now ‘soft targets’ for companies to collect data and market to kids — report - The Washington Post:

Jersey Jazzman: Chris Christie LOVES Segregated Charter Schools

Jersey Jazzman: Chris Christie LOVES Segregated Charter Schools:

Chris Christie LOVES Segregated Charter Schools

Chris Christie is back in Jersey doing what he does best: talking up charter schools.
Charter schools are growing rapidly in New Jersey, and one charter school is among the top in the state. Governor Chris Christie is meeting with students at the Thomas Edison Energy Smart School, a school where robots and high-tech are part of the everyday curriculum. 
Governor Christie is commending the school that ranks third out of ten in the state for high math and science test scores. 
"Every child has extraordinary God-given potential. It is our job to maximize that God-given potential. When we settle for traditional public schools, we settle for less for families. To me, that's immoral," said Governor Christie. [emphasis mine]
Oh, really? You know what I think is immoral, Governor? Setting up charter schools that don't enroll children with special education needs yet are held harmless in their funding -- all while leaving those children in underfunded public district schools.
- See more at:

David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision? |

David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision? |:

David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision?

David Hespe--How could you do such a thing?
David Hespe–How could you do such a thing?

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe, in what has to be one of the most extraordinarily cynical and disingenuous legal decisions  produced by a state bureaucrat (who also is a lawyer), has upheld the dismissal of nearly 50 pupil attendance officers in Newark, a district with arguably the worst pupil attendance rates of any school district in the state.
Hespe overturned the decision of a state administrative law judge who ruled that former state-appointed school superintendent Cami Anderson violated the law in 2013 when she laid off 46 attendance officers to close a budget gap.
Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss, citing the statutes requiring all districts to take action against truants, concluded  Anderson “violated (the statute) by abolishing the position of attendance counselor that is statutorily mandated.”
Anderson, Moss wrote, took the action as part of a plan to close a budget shortfall of $57 million–a shortfall caused primarily by $33 million in payments of district funds to privately-run charter schools. But, while school districts and other public agencies have broad powers to abolish jobs and lay off workers, they may not break the law to do it.
“The testimony in this matter has shown that there is no one in the NPS (Newark Public Schools) who is looking for truant students since the attendance officers were laid off,” Moss wrote in a ruling on a case brought by the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).
Moss described the responsibilities of attendance counselors who, under law, had extensive powers to track chronic absenteeism, search the city’s streets for truants, and even arrest them summarily and return them to school or their parents. She said the district operated four yellow school buses used solely to patrol David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision? |:

Alexander Russo: LA Times Charter School Costs Story Raises Coverage Concerns | The Grade | The Washington Monthly

LA Times Charter School Costs Story Raises Coverage Concerns | The Grade | The Washington Monthly:
LA Times Charter School Costs Story Raises Coverage Concerns

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.45.13 AM
LA Times charter school costs story from last week

I was surprised last week to see that the LA Times ran a story about a new UTLA-commission charter school costs report without getting it thoroughly vetted by others, but apparently that practice isn’t as uncommon as I thought. 
“I don’t think it’s that unusual,” said interim education editor Bob Sipchen in a Friday phone call in which he described the circumstances that allowed him to go forward with the piece. “I don’t know of any journalist who turns down information.”
“You get your information wherever you can,” said Sipchen, as long as you’re “completely fair about how you present it.”
Hmm. Ok. Let’s leave that for a minute.
Common or not, is there something wrong with a newspaper running a story under these kinds of limitations, or did the LA Times rush to get something published in a way that might mislead readers? What were the realistic alternatives?
[Disclosure: THE GRADE has received funding from the AFT, of which UTLA is a member, and Education Post, which receives funding from the Broad, Walton, and other foundations.] 
The LA Times story is notable not only because it raises questions about how advocates supply journalists with news that gets shown to the public, but also because LAUSD’s 221 charters and 100,000 students make it the biggest charter district in the country.
Similar debates — and coverage decisions — are being made by journalists all over the country. 
The LA Times is also one of the handful of newsrooms that has taken outside funding to bolster its education coverage — a move that has been controversial among journalists and education funders. Is the LA Times producing high-quality education coverage? Are the outside funders seeing the improvements in size and quality of coverage that they hoped to see? 
By all accounts, the LA teachers union offered the LA Times an advance look at a report purporting to show that LA-area charter schools costs the district tons of cash. But the condition was that the paper couldn’t show the report to other folks — the district, the charter school people, outside experts. 
The LA Times’ Howard Blume wrote the report up, indicating that charters were “bleeding money”from the district (and also that the report came from the union). Charter schools’ growth resulted in “a decline of more than $500 million a year — about 7% — in the district’s core budget,” reported the LA Times “a net loss of about $4,957 per student, the study says.”
The story also indicated that the report was provided to the paper with the “the stipulation that the report not be distributed to outside parties.”
According to Sipchen, reporter Howard Blume actually won permission to talk about the report to others “any way we wanted to,” short of passing it over.  “We were able to discuss [the report] as specifically as we wanted to. We just weren’t allowed to show it.”
However, the quotes from researchers like Erik Hanushek and California Charter Schools Association are vague. They don’t sound like the reactions of people who know the main numbers from the report. 

And, according to CCSA’s Jed Wallace, Blume didn’t give them all that much information to work off of. “He asked us to comment on the ‘fact’ that charters cost the district money.”
There are situations where Sipchen would not have gone ahead, such as attempts to not allow the other side have “a shot at what was being claimed.
To be sure, the initial LA Times story goes into great detail about who wrote the story, how much it cost, and even into the weeds of the policy recommendations that accompanied the report. In these regards, the piece seems extremely conscientious. 
But still,  it doesn’t seem like readers got the whole story.
What else could the LA Times have done to have come up with an even better result? Four variations come to mind:
The paper could have declined to take the story without being able to show it to outside experts, under embargo, and let UTLA accept the condition or try and find another outlet to run the story in a way that’s favorable to them. The paper sells itself short when it gives in to conditions set by stakeholders — especially when there aren’t many other large-circulation outlets that UTLA could have gone to.
It could have traded the short-term advantage of being first to report the findings for a more informed, nuanced story that put the methods, findings, and larger debate in context. Even if its details and conclusions had been different, an LA Times version of the story written by LA School Report could have been deeply useful. See here.
Even if it had accepted the UTLA’s conditions, it could have more thoroughly vetted the report conclusions and methods with an outside expert, for starters - to get at the underling premise of the report and its data. There’s no shortage of economists and financial experts who could look at some of the data and confirm or debunk its methods, but no such insights are given in the piece. 
Last but not least, it could have produced a more analytic second-day story than the one it ran,

Do you really believe all children can learn? Then stop disciplining black students out of the system - The Hechinger Report

Do you really believe all children can learn? Then stop disciplining black students out of the system - The Hechinger Report:
Do you really believe all children can learn? Then stop disciplining black students out of the system
Ending education’s original sin

If  we viewed students as learners and not uneducable criminals, then we wouldn’t kick them out of schools.

We certainly wouldn’t shuttle children through an adult justice system.

Education’s original sin of not believing children are actually children erodes even the most strident of educators’ belief that all children can learn and should be educated in school (and not disciplined out of it).

Believing in children as learners is why schools should applaud Louisiana  Senate bill 324.

Under the Senate bill, youth arrested for nonviolent crimes would be tried and imprisoned under the juvenile justice system. Sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans), the bill would raise the legal age in the definition of a delinquent from 17 to 18. This bill should shortly reach Gov. John Bel Edwards for signage.

The complicity between education and criminal justice systems should be apparent. From a negative view of youth, schools not only adopted no tolerance policies of the criminal justice system, they often fueled it through suspension and expulsion.

Arrests are often made on the school grounds. Police and Security Resource Officers are becoming hired muscle for teachers. In addition, we issue suspensions as if it helps students graduate. Actually, multiple suspensions increase the likelihood of dropping out of school by 10th grade threefold. This is the same rate dropping out of school increases one’s chances of being incarcerated.

At the core of both these horrible sets of policies is the lack of belief in children as learners. Locking up or putting out problems is the antithesis of teaching. Regressive criminal justice policies and harsh school discipline policies are evil cousins that rob black and brown students’ humanity.

Related: Mississippi leads south in black student suspensions

According to Louisiana Department of Education, during the 2013-2014 school year, 13,535 of 61,201 total out of school suspensions were due to willful disobedience. Eight thousand willful disobedience suspensions were dispensed to the very young: grades Pre-K to 5. A higher percentage of those suspensions were handed out to black children who make up 44 percent of Louisiana students but 67 percent of out of school suspensions and 68 percent of expulsions.

Willful disobedience is code enforcement for those who believe black kids don’t deserve Do you really believe all children can learn? Then stop disciplining black students out of the system - The Hechinger Report:

Join the conversation later on Andre Perry’s radio show, “Free College,” hosted Tuesdays on WBOK1230 in New Orleans at 3pm Central/4pm Eastern 504.260.9265.

Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times

Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times:

Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family

At the same time Detroit Public Schools teachers were rallying in front of the Fisher Building on May 3 for pay promised to them and a forensic audit of their district, lawmakers in Lansing were gathering to discuss the district's future. 

While the 10 a.m. House Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday has been highlighted as the forum where 18 GOP representatives voted "no"on a motion for a forensic audit of the district, the meeting is in fact far more significant than a single vote. The meeting, attended by lawmakers and parties interested in the legislation, showcases just who the bigger House legislation was created for. And more specifically, how money and politics work together. 

The largest players in Michigan's for-profit charter schools industry were at the Capitol to give their blessing to the "Putting Students First" legislation, according to meeting minutes from that day. They were Bill Wortz,representing National Heritage Academies — Michigan's largest charter school operator, owned by billionaire J.C. Huizenga; Beth DeShone, representing the Great Lakes Education Project — a Michigan-based charter advocacy group, funded largely by the right-to-work, union-adverse DeVos family; Alicia Urbain, representing the Michigan Association of Public School Academies — a coalition for charter school leaders; and Jared Burkhart, representing the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers — an alliance for charter school sponsors, who receive public funds for sanctioning charters. 

For those not following education politics in Michigan over the last few years, the list of supporters for the legislation could go unnoticed. But all of these advocates represent the interest of charter schools, the competitors to the flailing public school district the House legislation is supposed to benefit. 

Digging into the legislation, we can see why charter advocates may support the Putting Students First proposal for Detroit Public Schools. While it creates many limitations for the traditional public school district — penalties for striking teachers, 401k plans instead of pensions, and a push for uncertified teachers — the legislation does very little when it comes to regulating the proliferation of charter schools in the city. 

"The House plan is clearly designed to cripple DPS, not to save it but to put it in a worse position than now," says Fix The Mitten's Nick Krieger, a constitutional law attorney, who has been focusing on the current legislative plans for Detroit.

Krieger points out that under the House and Senate plans local property tax dollars, typically earmarked for students (per-pupil funding), are getting 
Lawmakers deciding the future of Detroit schools accepted thousands from pro-charter DeVos family | Blogs | Detroit Metro Times:


CNS - Would-Be Mayors of Sacramento Battle Over Campaign Funds

CNS - Would-Be Mayors of Sacramento Battle Over Campaign Funds:

Would-Be Mayors of Sacramento Battle Over Campaign Funds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Former California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg dodged state fundraising laws and illegally transferred $220,000 from his defunct lieutenant governor campaign to his current bid for Sacramento mayor, a rival candidate claims.

     Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby sued Steinberg's mayoral campaign on Friday in state court, accusing him of bloating his campaign's coffers with outside money that was initially donated to his cancelled campaign for California lieutenant governor.

     The five-year Sacramento councilwoman says Steinberg should be forced to return over 100 statewide contributions that he transferred to his Sacramento campaign war chest because it gave him a decided fundraising advantage over other mayoral candidates who were held to strict fundraising rules.

     "Instead of refunding the general election campaign funds he raised for the lieutenant governor 2018 race, Steinberg improperly funneled the funds to the Steinberg Mayoral Committee in violations of state law," the complaint states.

     Steinberg served a combined 14 years in both California statehouses, including a six-year stint as Senate President pro tempore that ended in 2014. The former administrative law judge and Democrat ended his short break from politics by announcing his bid for Sacramento Mayor last fall.

     The accomplished politician is considered the heavy favorite to replace current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and has received endorsements from many of his former colleagues, including Gov. Jerry Brown and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.

     Ashby's lawsuit comes less than a month before the mayoral election and her campaign has blasted Steinberg for transferring "outside money" into the Sacramento race. She had previously challenged Steinberg's $1.4 million in campaign transfers, but they were deemed legal by the Sacramento city attorney.

     While her initial claims were rejected by the city, Ashby's latest challenge centers on just 15 percent of the funds transferred to Steinberg's mayoral campaign. She claims Steinberg's campaign violated the California Political Reform Act by closing down his statewide lieutenant governor campaign in April and transferring specific funds meant CNS - Would-Be Mayors of Sacramento Battle Over Campaign Funds: