Latest News and Comment from Education

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Governor Puts Charters On Notice

CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Governor Puts Charters On Notice

PA: Governor Puts Charters On Notice

It was not so long ago that Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf made charter supporters sad by rejecting the claim that charters are public schools. Today, he took another step and put charters in PA on notice.

At a news conference at a school in Allentown, Wolf said he would take executive action to change state regulations for charters, including tightening ethics standards. He also said he would push to revise Pennsylvania’s charter law, which he called “one of the most fiscally irresponsible laws in the nation."

Wolf also said that the current system "isn't good for anyone," harkening back to 2016 when the Auditor General called PA charter laws “simply the worst charter school law in the United States.” And he also gave special mention to cyber-charters, which have become a boondoggly cash grab of epic proportions in Pennsylvania.

What he will do, exactly, is unclear. There have been some bills that were lofted this year that would provide some good ideas-- like the bill that made it so that a school district would pay cyber-school tuition only if that school district did not offer a cyber-school option of their own. Heck, it would be nice to see a simple rule that said that charters could never again claim (in their taxpayer funded marketing materials) that they are "free." Rather, make CONTINUE READING: 
CURMUDGUCATION: PA: Governor Puts Charters On Notice

Helping Students, Including Those with Learning Disabilities, With Self-Expression

Helping Students, Including Those with Learning Disabilities, With Self-Expression

Helping Students, Including Those with Learning Disabilities, With Self-Expression

The most important words a student can hear from their teacher or parent are, “I want to hear how you think and feel about this.” Helping students express themselves through writing is critical in every class at every grade level.
Self-expression is so important today that I felt compelled to write about one of my favorite teaching activities as the new school year gets underway. It’s helpful for all students, but especially those with learning disabilities.
Children who experience reading difficulties often have writing problems. Dysgraphia is the fancy word for it. With dysgraphia, students clutch the pen or pencil, have trouble staying in the lines, or printing or writing the letters legibly. It sometimes seems more like a fine or even gross motor difficulty.
With dysgraphia, students also misspell words and have difficulty putting words into sentences. For some students, writing difficulties might be so severe that it’s impractical for them to write on paper. They are more comfortable writing on the computer. They still express themselves well this way.
However, if a student only misspells words, learning how to write cursive and journaling may be helpful for them to learn both writing and reading. In fact, there’s CONTINUE READING: Helping Students, Including Those with Learning Disabilities, With Self-Expression

ANDRE PERRY: "The Bluest Eye" can help teach children their true worth

"The Bluest Eye" can help teach children their true worth

The cost of going back to school keeps rising
But the school supplies list should always have room for Toni Morrison
Index cards — check. Pencils — check. Three-ring binder — check. Copy of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” — check.
Parents, you’ll be paying a little bit more this year for school supplies, so please prioritize the essentials. According to the 2019 annual survey on school supply spending by the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association, and the research group, Prosper Insights and Analytics, families of children in elementary through high school will spend nearly $700 on average throughout the academic year, up approximately $12 from last year’s estimates.
At just over $40,000, black median household income ranks the lowest among the racial categories. So before spending on add-ons, we need to get the basics — such as Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” which in paperback costs roughly $10.

Teachers, too, are feeling the pinch. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the government agency charged with collecting education data, most teachers say they spend their own money — on average about $479 — to pay for school supplies. Teachers are able to deduct $250 from their taxes for school supplies, which falls significantly below what they pay for. Clearly, families and teachers must spend their resources judiciously.
Given the recent attacks by President Donald Trump and other politicos on black-majority cities and neighborhoods, it’s imperative that we remember that bolstering our collective self-esteem begins with instilling self-worth in our students, starting on the first days of school. In a tweet attack on July 27 directed at U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is black, Trump disparaged the congressman’s district of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Trump isn’t the first leader to belittle a black-majority district, and he likely won’t be the last. In March of this year, The Washington Post reported that a state delegate from a neighboring county called Prince George’s County, which is 62 percent black, an “[n-word] district.”
Black communities have value, but our neighborhoods, schools, CONTINUE READING: "The Bluest Eye" can help teach children their true worth

Now the first all-charter district in U.S., New Orleans schools experiment still faces questions | Education |

Now the first all-charter district in U.S., New Orleans schools experiment still faces questions | Education |

Now the first all-charter district in U.S., New Orleans schools experiment still faces questions

Two decades ago, a group of frustrated New Orleans educators proposed a radical idea: start an open-enrollment charter school that would educate kids better by freeing the school from the bureaucracy of a poorly performing district.
The response was overwhelming. In its first year, about 900 applications came pouring in for just 117 spots at the school they created, New Orleans Charter Middle School.
That was in 1998. Fast-forward to today, and all of the city's public school students now attend charter schools as part of the nation's biggest experiment in education reform.
This summer, New Orleans officially became the first large American city to not offer a single traditional public school.
"We are embarking on a historic new chapter when it comes to public school education in America," Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said recently. "Since Katrina, we have been defining a new model for public education that has required innovation and a different way of thinking and approaching problems."
The colossal shift has come with promises nearly as big: to improve student performance, increase parental choice and spark innovation while holding charter organizations to a greater level of accountability.
Data from Tulane University show that in the past decade the charter movement in New Orleans has produced gains across across several measures, including improved test scores. The number of students graduating from high school rose by between 3 and 9 percentage points from 2005 to 2014. Some surveys show that most parents attribute these gains to the proliferation of charter schools.
Yet New Orleans remains a city conflicted over how to educate its children. 
Improved scores notwithstanding, some parents say the charter process has been disruptive. The closure of failing schools, for instance, has bounced kids to other schools, sometimes miles away from home, that don't necessarily perform much better. 

In a survey conducted last year by Tulane University's Cowen Institute, which studies education in the city, only 39% of respondents said that they thought public schools were getting better in 2018.
 Promoted, but not helped: How a New Orleans student was able to graduate despite several red flags

Vincent Rossmeier, the Cowen Institute's policy director, says that's likely because student achievement on state tests in New Orleans has remained stagnant in the face of tougher tests and raised standards. 
That, in turn, means few children still have access to schools that get top grades. Last year, only 14% of the city's students attended a school with an A grade. Another 16% went to a B school.
"The schools are improving, but there is still a perception that they're not at a level we want them to be," Rossmeier said. "We don’t have an A school in every neighborhood, and until we do we can’t say we’re the system that we want to be."
Parents' perceptions of the district's success have in the past been CONTINUE READING: Now the first all-charter district in U.S., New Orleans schools experiment still faces questions | Education |

Kentucky teacher shortage: Are 'thousands' of jobs actually vacant?

Kentucky teacher shortage: Are 'thousands' of jobs actually vacant?

Kentucky teacher shortage: Are 'thousands' of jobs actually vacant?

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has in recent weeks drawn attention to a statewide teacher shortage, warning that thousands of instructional vacancies could be putting student learning at risk.
But reports of an immediate crisis are overblown, a Courier Journal review has found.
That's because figures being used to describe the shortage — for example, that school districts have posted more than 2,000 teaching vacancies since April — fail to acknowledge that hundreds of those vacancies have, in fact, been filled.

Jefferson County Public Schools, for example, had as of Friday morning 595 teaching vacancies posted on the state's educator employment website. By its own account, though, JCPS said it had just 129 instructional vacancies.
State employment data for Fayette County Public Schools, Kentucky's second largest district, also failed to match up with district records. Though FCPS on Friday had 367 teaching jobs posted on the state website, a district spokeswoman said the school system considered just 28 certified jobs vacant. 
"And we are making more offers as we speak," Lisa Deffendall said.
Smaller districts shared similar discrepancies with the Courier Journal.
State data showed Anderson County Schools and Johnson County Schools each have 26 vacancies. Asked for updated data, both districts said they had just two job openings.
Jessica Fletcher, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the state was aware of the issue. But she maintained the department had been clear in its messaging.
"We’ve been intentionally saying that that is not the current number of vacancies, but the number of positions posted," Fletcher said. "I have seen some misreporting by a few news agencies where they mistakenly refer to the number of vacancies, not postings that may have previously been filled."
As of early Monday morning, the state had not asked any news outlets to correct or clarify their stories. By noon, Fletcher said she had contacted two news organizations and would be sending out a news advisory about the differences between postings and vacancies. CONTINUE READING: Kentucky teacher shortage: Are 'thousands' of jobs actually vacant?

The "X"odus Files: The School Climate Hole. | BustED Pencils - via @bustedpencils

Image result for FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!!

CURMUDGUCATION: FL: What?! A teacher shortage??!! -

Alabama Welcomes For-Profit K12 Online School to Suck $$ Out of Its Underfunded Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

Alabama Welcomes For-Profit K12 Online School to Suck $$ Out of Its Underfunded Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

Alabama Welcomes For-Profit K12 Online School to Suck $$ Out of Its Underfunded Public Schools

Alabama needs to fund its public schools properly but instead it is opening dubious charters and now a for-profit K12 Inc. online virtual school.
K12 makes a lot of profit but gets awful results. Low graduation rates, low participation, low teacher salaries. Just what a state would not want if it actually wanted to improve education.
Online virtual for-profit charter schools are the bottom feeders of the education industry. Even Reformer-Disrupters despise them.
Kevin Huffman (ex-husband of Michelle Rhee) was Commissioner of Education in Tennessee. He recognized that the Tennessee Virtual Academy was the worst School in the state. He tried to close it. He couldn’t.
Politics. Money.

Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

Low Country for Black Children
Beyond the presence of former Gov. Nikki Haley and the BMW plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina has always been an unusual state. Yet its racial caste system – and how it keeps Black children from gaining high-quality education – makes it as normal as Wisconsin and Mississippi.
After Europeans arrived, they settled it with enslaved people from the rice growing regions of West Africa, who used their traditional knowledge and skills to turn the Low Country into a major source of food and indigo for the first British Empire. The slave owners, who seldom visited the malarial plantations along the coast, grew rich. The slaves, who survived, remained slaves. Away from the coast, the Piedmont foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were settled by Scotch-Irish migrants working their way down the Appalachian Mountains.
This immigration pattern can still be seen today in the demographics of the state. The western-most counties are nearly entirely White. Though the coastal counties are now populated by White immigrants from outside the state, the Low Country is still mostly-Black.  
At the beginning of the twentieth century most farms in the center of the state were worked by tenants and sharecroppers, many of whom were White, but most of whom were Black, and they were still the majority of the state’s population. The textile and tobacco factories that were becoming common were the scenes of union organizing alternating with violent strikebreaking against the impoverished workers, Black and White, men and women.
Fitting for the place where Denmark Vesey and others were executed for leading a slave revolt at the beginning of the 19th century, Jim Crow was particularly severe in South Carolina. The Black population disenfranchised, allowed only minimal education. J. E. Swearingen, then the state’s Superintendent of Education, wrote in his 1915 Annual Report: “The Negro . . . cannot remain ignorant without injury to himself, his white neighbors, and to the commonwealth.  [On the other hand, h]is training should fit him to do the work that is open to him.” That year, according to researcher Elspeth Smith-Stuckey, more than 90 percent of the segregated schools for Black children had only one teacher. In 1920, Superintendent Swearingen’s “reform” budget asked for $5 per Black student and $$25 per White student.
The Great Migration saw much of the Black population of the state move north, leaving more than one million descendants of enslaved Africans now living in the state CONTINUE READING: Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

How to Pull Off an Inspiring and Educational Field Trip + How to Ensure Students Have Reader-friendly Homes - Teacher Habits

How to Pull Off an Inspiring and Educational Field Trip - Teacher Habits

How to Pull Off an Inspiring and Educational Field Trip

Guest Writer: Lizzie Weakley

Whether you’re in charge of a large group of students or just need something to do with your kids over summer break, a field trip is a great way to connect education with the real world. These tips will help you pull off a fun and problem-free field trip.
Choose a Great Location
The right field trip location depends on the age of your students, the location’s relevance to their studies, and the activities that will be available when they get there.
Consider the material that your students are reading in their textbooks. Historical field trips are a good way to help students connect with their readings; if a relevant event took place in your area, bring them to the actual location. Try visiting art museums for budding painters, and take exploration enthusiasts to the local zoo.
Older kids do fine with museums, but younger children need shows and activities to keep their attention. You can always call the museum to find out what activities might interest your students.

Make the Car Ride Comfortable

Many field trip locations are several hours away from your home or school. You want everyone to feel fresh and excited when you arrive at the location, so make the car ride as comfortable as possible.
Make sure everyone has enough room in their seats. If you are traveling in multiple cars, split up groups so that no one is cramped.
Clean the cars out before the journey. You can purchase bulk car air fresheners to provide a pleasant smell. Little details will create a subtle CONTINUE READING: How to Pull Off an Inspiring and Educational Field Trip - Teacher Habits

How to Ensure Students Have Reader-friendly Homes

Guest Writer: Tiffani Wroe
Teachers are tasked with students’ education — but education happens outside the classroom, too. In fact, when it comes to reading, studies show that children who practice their skills at home with parents become better readers faster than their peers who lack reader-friendly homes.
While teachers hardly have any control over what happens at home, they can influence kids and parents to participate in reading outside of school hours. Even more, they can equip parents with the right tools and techniques for improving reading skill. Here’s how.

Identify Non-reading Homes

Because the goal is to get children reading at home with their parents, students who already demonstrate a healthy and happy home reading life are not the priority in this instance. Instead, teachers need to work to identify homes that don’t promote reading — and fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
Toward the beginning of the school year, teachers should talk with their classrooms about their reading habits. With older students, teachers might employ a “get to know you” written questionnaire, but younger students should be surveyed verbally. Teachers should ask  CONTINUE READING: How to Ensure Students Have Reader-friendly Homes

Louisiana Educator: Louisiana's Flood of Worthless Diplomas

Louisiana Educator: Louisiana's Flood of Worthless Diplomas

Louisiana's Flood of Worthless Diplomas

This well researched article in explains very clearly how Louisiana, during the administration of  Superintendent John White has steadily lowered all standards to produce worthless diplomas. The title of the article, Promoted but not Helped, is a good summary of how Louisiana has improved its graduation rate in the past few years while cheating both students and potential employers.

The article focuses on one student, Denesha Gray, who somehow was awarded a high school diploma by one of the New Orleans charter schools even though she could not count change and was reading at the second grade level when she was granted a diploma.

"Ya all gave her a piece of paper" said Mr Lewis, the student's father.

Under rules that were in place until 2014, Gray’s high school exam scores would have barred her from graduating. But by the time she was a senior, state officials had begun to allow students who required special education services to receive diplomas even if they couldn’t pass the test.
Gray got those services only in her final year, and Lewis believes the intervention was mainly aimed at allowing school officials to wash their hands of his daughter and let her graduate.

The reporter describes how the student's father repeatedly asked school officials to address his daughter's learning disabilities as she was socially promoted from one grade to the next without evidence of learning. When the student was in high school, the highly touted Recovery School District was successfully sued by the Southern CONTINUE READING: 
Louisiana Educator: Louisiana's Flood of Worthless Diplomas

CURMUDGUCATION: MI: Rural Charters, Warm Bodies, and the Effects of the Teacher "Shortage"

CURMUDGUCATION: MI: Rural Charters, Warm Bodies, and the Effects of the Teacher "Shortage"

MI: Rural Charters, Warm Bodies, and the Effects of the Teacher "Shortage"

St. Helen, Michigan, has its share of problems. Founded as a logging community, it's Up North in Michigan. It's at least near the interstate, but the population is under 3,000, with a median family income of $30,268. They do have an annual bluegill festival, and Charlton Heston spent part of his childhood there. On the other hand, they're Number Two on the Roadsnacks list of Worst Small Towns in MichiganUnemployment is a whopping 18.9%; poverty is at 31%. This summer the beaches at the lake have been closed down for bacteria.

Not actually a phys ed teacher
The town took another hit that started in 2008 when the Gerrish-Higgins School District wanted to raise some taxes to improve its buildings. St. Helen residents voted for the tax. Then the district was taken over by the Roscommon Area Public Schools and they marked the St. Helen Elementary School for closure, consolidating all their students into an elementary, middle and high school, all located in Roscommon.

Jennifer Jarosz had lived her whole live in St. Helen. She's the owner/operator of the Hen House Restaurantin St. Helen. She started up Rural Education Matters, and the community looked for ways to save their school, a critical part of the rural community. Initially, they could not find an authorizer, but in 2011 Jarosz was among those testifying before the House Education Committee hoping that the cap on Michigan charters would be lifted. Her work has earned her a spot on the Michigan Charter Schools Association board, an unusual presence among the usual collection of consultants, financiers and corporate profiteers.

This is a side effect of charter caps I'd never thought about, but if authorizers can only approve so many charters, the competition will be to see who can promise that authorizer the best return, and big corporate operations will squeeze out the Mom and Pop charters.

The cap was lifted, and St. Helen had their charter, initially for an elementary school, just down St. Helen Road from the Hen House, and named for St. Helen's most famous resident-- Charlton Heston Academy. It now covers K-12. They featured an extra long school day, and no three month summer CONTINUE READING: 
CURMUDGUCATION: MI: Rural Charters, Warm Bodies, and the Effects of the Teacher "Shortage"

This really isn’t believable | Cloaking Inequity

This really isn’t believable | Cloaking Inequity


One of the biggest honors of my life. California Assembly Resolution No. 1459 @ California State Assembly

I will miss you California!

NYC Public School Parents: Letter to City Council and Speaker Regarding School Siting Task Force

NYC Public School Parents: Letter to City Council and Speaker Regarding School Siting Task Force

Letter to City Council and Speaker Regarding School Siting Task Force

For more on the School Siting Task Force, see recent articles in the Daily News and Wall Street Journal.  We will update this post when we receive a response from the Speaker.

August 6, 2019

Dear Speaker Johnson and members of the City Council:
We are very disappointed in the process and outcome of the School Siting Task Force, created by Local Law No. 168 in Sept. 2018.  The law mandated the creation of  aninteragency task force” to facilitate the acquisition of publicly and privately-owned sites for schools.  Over 500,000 students are crammed into overcrowded schools,  and in some communities, it has taken over 20 years for the DOE and the School Construction Authority to find suitable sites.  The law also mandated that this task force should provide a report to the City Council no later than July 31, 2019 on their findings.

One of us, Shino Tanikawa, was appointed to the Task Force by the DOE, and the first meeting was held privately on Feb. 26, 2019. Yet according to the expert opinion of the NY State Committee on Open Government, any task force or advisory body created by law to have a specific governmental role is subject to Open Meetings Law.  City Comptroller Scott Stringer also sent a letter to the Chancellor and Lorraine Grillo, President of the SCA, urging them to comply with the law and allow members of the public to attend. In our experience, such a critical issue as facilitating school siting and planning to alleviate overcrowding deserves transparency; and it is our experience that it is parents and members of the community who often have the best and most useful suggestions when it comes to these issues.

On May 2, Chancellor Carranza and SCA President Lorraine Grillo responded to Comptroller Stringer’s letter, saying the public would be allowed to attend future meetings, though they refused to concede that they were legally obligated to do so:

Although we disagree with your position that the Task Force is subject to the OML, we do not object to opening Task Force meetings to the general public, consistent with our commitment to community input and engagement. Accordingly, future meetings of the Task Force will be open to the public.

Yet we heard nothing more about the Task Force until Shino received a message on July 22 that the second and final meeting of the Task Force would be held on Monday, July 29 at City Hall from 3-5 PM, and that this meeting would be open to the public.

Five months had gone by between Feb. 26 and July 29, without the Task Force meeting once.

During that final meeting, Lorraine Grillo and her staff from the SCA projected some spreadsheets, listing thousands of city-owned properties and privately-owned land, the vast majority of which they had ruled out as unsuitable for schools, because they were too small, not in the right areas, or strangely configured. They said they had found only two sites out of more than 7,000 properties owned by the city that might be good sites for schools. In addition, they said, they were continuing to explore and analyze some of the privately-owned properties.

Their presentation only lasted about 15 minutes, and then Liz Hoffman of the First Deputy Mayor’s office, who was running the meeting, opened it up to questions. She was CONTINUE READING: 
NYC Public School Parents: Letter to City Council and Speaker Regarding School Siting Task Force