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Friday, December 28, 2018

Lois Weiner: What's At Stake in the LA Teachers Union Standoff - LA Progressive

What's At Stake in the LA Teachers Union Standoff - LA Progressive

What’s At Stake in the LA Teachers Union Standoff

Far more is at stake in Los Angeles than a traditional contract struggle in the stand-off between United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and LAUSD.
What even conscientious followers of media outlets likely don’t know is the reforms LAUSD has demanded in Los Angeles schools are based on a decades-long effort to turn education into a market for investors. This project, advanced by wealthy executives and their foundations, has advocated reforms nationally–and internationally–seen in LA schools already:
  • using standardized tests to control what and how children learn;
  • creating charter schools to weaken neighborhood schools and undermine parent loyalty to public education;
  • creating new revenue sources for corporations to profit from the education marketplace; and
  • weakening teachers unions.
The “portfolio model” LAUSD will adopt if permitted has already been tested in many cities. The reform fragments the school system into networks operated by private charter management organizations, and though the model is said to provide “choice” for low-income children of color by privatizing school management, we have ample evidence privatization has increased school segregation and racial disparities in educational outcomes.

Across the nation, states have punished districts with low standardized test scores for students with “takeovers,” disenchfranchising low-income communities of color by denying them the right to have elected school boards.

Across the nation, from New Jersey to Louisiana, Massachusetts to Michigan, states have punished districts with low standardized test scores for students with “takeovers,” disenchfranchising low-income communities of color by denying them the right to have elected school boards. In many of these takeovers, states have imposed the “portfolio model” in which a small number of students have increased educational opportunities, but as is clear in New Orleans, the vast majority of schools and teachers flounder. As will likely occur in Los Angeles if this model is implemented, a few elite and well-funded public schools will exist the whitest and most affluent parts of the city. A handful of low-income students may find spots in these schools but most will languish in charter schools that are virtually unregulated by central authorities.
As teacher union influence has waned, especially among Democrats, who have adopted the pro-privatization views of their largest donors, teachers have become angry about their unions’ inability to stem deteriorating conditions in CONTINUE READING: What's At Stake in the LA Teachers Union Standoff - LA Progressive

NYC Public School Parents: Highlights of 2018 in books, education policy and political activism

NYC Public School Parents: Highlights of 2018 in books, education policy and political activism

Highlights of 2018 in books, education policy and political activism
Here is my collection of bests from 2018 – in books, education policy, and politics.  This is far from an exhaustive or authoritative list but merely one from my perspective, sitting here in NYC and glimpsing encouraging and even inspiring events elsewhere across the nation and the world.

First, I’d like to highlight three terrific books I read this year, each with special relevance to education:
Adequate Yearly Progress,  a novel by Roxanna Elden, a veteran teacher, is set in a struggling Texas high school and is  a hilarious satire of the all the trendy buzzwords and supposedly innovative transformational “reforms” that teachers and schools have been subjected to since NCLB.  Check out the review by Gary Rubinstein here and an interview with the author here.
Ghosts in the Schoolyard, a brilliant study of school closings by Eve Ewing.  It tells the story of how students, teachers and whole communities were devastated by the closing of 50 plus schools in Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013. Diane Ravitch writes about this amazing book here.  Many of Ewing’s findings were also reported in a more purely academic way by a report from the University of Chicago Consortium, which confirmed how students from closing schools experienced long-term negative educational effects.  As to Ewing’s book, I can only read a little at a time because it makes me relive in my mind the traumatic hearings on the 100 plus NYC school closings carried out during the Bloomberg years and now the de Blasio administration.  It also makes me regret that with all the scholars and authors in the NYC area, no one has written a similar book about the damage down by the NYC school closings.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou was probably the most enthralling work of non-fiction I read this year, about Theranos, the start-up blood testing company, whose worth was estimated at one time at a billion dollars – an evaluation built solely on exaggeration, fraud and outright lies.  Though not about education per se, the book reveals how much of the corporate culture in Silicon Valley is based on hype and overly credulous reporting by the media.  This unearned hype is similarly reflected in the popularity of online or “personalized learning” ed tech products in schools throughout the country, despite the lack of any independent research showing they work to improve student outcomes, the risk to student privacy involved, and the growing evidence that they undermine the essential human relationships necessary for real learning.

 Education policy:

The corporate education reform movement in retreat.  All their so-called solutions to the problems of struggling schools have failed, including teacher evaluation based on test scores, the implementation of the Common Core, and charter school expansion.
The recent RAND report on the massive Gates-funded teacher evaluation project in  three school districts and four charter management organizations (CMOs) showed that despite spending millions in taxpayer funds to evaluate and compensate teachers based in part on their students’ test scores, these initiatives showed no positive results.  In one district in particular - Hillsborough County school – these policies led to near bankruptcy of the district,  lower achievement and less access to effective teachers for low-income and minority students.
The Common Core standards have been shown to be a disaster as well, as indicated by stagnant   The standards have led to a “lost decade” in which student achievement has not increased for the first time since the NAEPs have been administered.  Even the Fordham Institute, the chief Gates-funded cheerleaders for the Common Core, released the results of a national teacher survey,showing that, as many of us warned would happen, the Common Core has indeed driven out classic works of literature, including novels and plays, from the English curriculum, in favor of a rigid quota of “informational texts” .  In addition, teachers report that students’ writing skills have worsened,  and the Core’s emphasis on “close reading”, with teachers told  to refer solely to the assigned text rather provide any factual or historical context, has caused curriculum with real content to be sacrificed to hours of content-free test prep. Their conclusion:
NAEP scores.
Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of teachers who said they organized their instruction around “reading skills” increased from 56 to 62 percent, while those who said they organized their instruction around “specific texts” declined from 37 to 30 percent. That’s no way to systematically build students’ content knowledge. It’s high time that teachers (and preferably schools) adopt content-rich curricula.” 
Sorry, guys, you and Bill Gates should have thought of that first, before pushing these deeply flawed so-called standards on the nation.
The Pushback against charter schools strengthened as a result of widespread corruption, too frequently push out students and violate their civil rightsdrain public schools of critical resources, and exacerbate segregation
Student Privacy as a dominant concern:  From being ignored by most policymakers, student privacy has emerged as one of the  most important issues in education since the defeat of inBloom in 2014.  With the continued spread of unsafe and unproven data-mining ed tech products, the CONTINUE READING: NYC Public School Parents: Highlights of 2018 in books, education policy and political activism

Please give so we can continue our fight 

for smaller classes and student privacy!

Dear friend:
2018 is nearly done, but our fight for  smaller classes and student privacy continues.  We rely on your support to make this happen; please make a tax-deductible donation to Class Size Matters today.
Our organization can survive only because of the generosity of individuals like you, who understand that all children deserve classes small enough to enable them to receive real personalized learning from their teachers.  Please click here to contribute; if you’d like your donation to go to our privacy work, you can indicate that on the line which says “designate your donation to a specific program or fund.”
This fall, our Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released an Educator Privacy Toolkit, along with the Badass Teachers Association, that has already been downloaded more than 1500 times. Take a look and join us for a webinar on January 20, where we will provide practical tips on how teachers can better protect their students’ data and their own.
Two weeks ago, I co-authored an op-ed showing that the deal that NYC made to put a new Amazon headquarters in Long Island City will likely lead to more school overcrowding, with two potential sites for schools given away to this corporate giant.  
Ten days ago, we released a new report, showing how the Mayor’s expansion of preK in NYC has caused worse overcrowding in 352 NYC elementary schools enrolling more than 236,000 students. We continue to press the mayor and the Chancellor to provide equity for NYC children. which can only occur if more schools are built and class sizes lowered to averages that prevail in the rest of the state.   
Please show your support, so we can continue our fight to improve every student’s opportunity to learn next year and in the years to come.
Happy Holidays, Leonie
PS I have posted my personal list of the best of 2018  – in books, education and politics.  Take a look!

2018 Top Ten: Medley #25 – Live Long and Prosper

2018 Top Ten: Medley #25 – Live Long and Prosper

2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We’re coming to the end of another calendar year so it’s time for resolutions and “best of” lists. Here’s the list of this blog’s Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.
#10, MARCH 29
The Children’s Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America’s eighth-graders were reading “below grade level” which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America’s eighth graders are reading at or above “grade level.”
This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

#9, MARCH 4
Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.
Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests — CONTINUE READING: 2018 Top Ten: Medley #25 – Live Long and Prosper

Goliath Responds: I Am Not Goliath! | Diane Ravitch's blog

Goliath Responds: I Am Not Goliath! | Diane Ravitch's blog

Goliath Responds: I Am Not Goliath!

On December 23, I posted an email exchange I had with Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in which we disagreed about who was the Goliath and who was the David in the field of education.
Mike objected to my characterization of the billionaire-supported “Reform” movement as the Goliaths of American education, the behemoths making war on public schools. He insisted that his side–those supporting charter schools and vouchers–are the true Davids, and those who oppose them are the true Goliaths because we have the AFT and the NEA on our side.
I pointed out to him that the assets of the two big unions are not in the same league as the supporters of school choice, like the Waltons (at least $160 billion) and a long list of other multibillionaires, who avidly fund school choice, along with the U.S. Department of Education, which has shoveled billions into charter schools since 1994 (and will spend nearly $500 million on charters this year alone). You can’t be supported by billionaires, multiple foundations, the U.S. Department of Education, and call yourself the “David” of education.
My clincher, I thought, was to point out the Reformers’ absence from a Twitter campaign on #GivingTuesday sponsored by a website called #Benevity, which offered $10 for every retweet of its message (#BeTheGood) to the charity of your choice. Look at which groups were CONTINUE READING: Goliath Responds: I Am Not Goliath! | Diane Ravitch's blog