Latest News and Comment from Education

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Jeff Bryant: How Betsy DeVos is using the pandemic to get what she wants –

How Betsy DeVos is using the pandemic to get what she wants –

How Betsy DeVos is using the pandemic to get what she wants

As American deaths from COVID-19 crested 100,000, the New York Times reported U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared her intention to “force” public school districts to spend a large portion of federal funds they’re receiving through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on private schools.
Going beyond the traditional practice of education secretaries to issue guidance on how states should interpret federal law, she now wants to write the laws herself.
Her actions are akin to the executive orders President Trump routinely issues to bypass Congress in order to implement his extremist agenda.
Trump has been mostly able to get away with this. Can DeVos?
Since her bumbling appearances at congressional committees and in media interviews, DeVos has often been caricatured as “incompetent” and “ignorant,” and she may indeed be all of that and more, but it’s dangerous not to see how her agenda is advancing during the current crisis.
No one knows how public schools will be able to reopen for a new school year, and the economic recession caused by the pandemic will likely crush school budgets, but the Trump-DeVos agenda remains public education’s most existential threat, and Republicans either cheerlead these efforts or shrug them off while Democrats muster a haphazard defense. Some may find it hard to believe what DeVos proposes can be CONTINUE READING: How Betsy DeVos is using the pandemic to get what she wants –

California schools chief details plan for reopening |

California schools chief details plan for reopening |

California school reopening guidelines include continuing online learning
Local districts have for weeks been working on their own guidelines to reopening, some of which hint at drastic changes to public schooling

SACRAMENTO, Calif — California's Department of Education has released a detailed how-to guide to safely reopen schools in the age of face masks and physical distancing.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond says it will serve as a road map for school districts as they prepare for the return of classes. The 55-page manual released Monday is titled “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools.”

“The guidance sets the bar high. Safety first, our top priority based on the information that we have from health experts,” said Thurmond. 
Guidelines include recommendations on face coverings for staff and students and recommendations on the importance of taking temperatures before students and staff enter the campus.
Thurmond says many parents have also expressed an interest in continuing online learning, which will be incorporated.
The California Department of Education suggested something they call "blended learning." It's where some students attend class in person while others continue instruction online.
“This is going to be a very difficult task for Sac City Unified,” said Jorge Aguilar, superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District
Capacity will also be a key issue for schools like Elk Grove Unified School District.
“Every one of our students have something unique that they connect to and so in having to figure out who is able to come in and when is going to be one of the biggest challenges,” said Xanthi Pinkerton, spokesperson for Elk Grove Unified. 
Schools across California have been closed since mid-March when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued CONTINUE READING: California schools chief details plan for reopening |

Pandemic-Stricken Schools Tell Senate They Need Help to Reopen - The New York Times

Pandemic-Stricken Schools Tell Senate They Need Help to Reopen - The New York Times

Pandemic-Stricken Schools Tell Senate They Need Help to Reopen
The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on returning to “normalcy” this fall, but education leaders said they were struggling with budget cuts and demands to meet health guidelines.

WASHINGTON — Without a large federal investment in the nation’s public school system, districts hit hard by the coronavirus will struggle to meet the needs of their pupils this fall as they try to reopen their doors, educators told a Senate panel on Wednesday.
In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, education leaders from around the country said budget challenges were among their chief concerns as they drafted plans to resume in-person classes. That is particularly true for students who have borne the brunt of the economic, educational and racial injustices that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Across the country, school leaders are beginning to roll out plans to welcome more than 50 million students back, which include procuring 50 million masks; flooding schools with nurses, aides and counselors; and staggering schedules to minimize class size. But the high-dollar demands to meet public health guidelines and make up for setbacks that have disproportionately affected low-income students, students of color and those with disabilities could cripple their budgets.
“At a time when our kids and our communities need us most, we are having to make massive cuts,” Susana Cordova, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, told senators. Additional funding would be essential, she said: “We must double down for those who have been most impacted by the Covid crisis if we are to deliver on the promise of education to create a more equitable society.” CONTINUE READING: Pandemic-Stricken Schools Tell Senate They Need Help to Reopen - The New York Times

Teacher Tom: No One Has Fallen Behind

Teacher Tom: No One Has Fallen Behind

No One Has Fallen Behind

Seattle's schools closed due to the coronavirus on February 27, which means the kids have been out of school for 15 weeks. Yes, there have been valiant efforts at online schooling, but neither the teachers with whom I've spoken, nor, more importantly, the kids think it amounts to much. They're going through the motions because that's what's expected of them, but when I recently asked a group of teenagers how it was going they all agreed that they were "learning about half as much." And these are "good students." They all told stories about how some of their classmates weren't even trying, doing things like turning off their cameras and renaming themselves on Zoom as "Reconnecting . . ." Of course, kids have ways of tuning out even without remote learning, but I think most agree that from an academic point of view, this sort of schooling falls into the category of "better than nothing . . . but just barely."

Of course, this is all just from the "academic point of view," meaning that if you measure success by the pace at which the kids are marching through material that a committee of adults has determined they need to be marched through, then the children are falling behind. "Months Behind" screams a recent headline in the New York Times. "New research suggests that by September, most students will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms, with some losing the equivalent of a full school year's worth of academic gains."

First of all, allow me to respond with a resounding, "No duh!" If CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: No One Has Fallen Behind

Russ on Reading: Instruction for the Vulnerable Reader: Comprehension

Russ on Reading: Instruction for the Vulnerable Reader: Comprehension

Instruction for the Vulnerable Reader: Comprehension

This is the fourth in a series on instruction for vulnerable readers that is a companion to my series on Why Johnny Can't Read. Other posts in this series addressed decoding, spelling and vocabulary. In this post we turn our attention to comprehension.

There are three key concepts to keep in mind when thinking about teaching reading comprehension.

1. Comprehension is an intentional act. Readers need to actively engage with text with the intention of understanding.
2. The more you know about a topic before you read the better your comprehension of the reading will be.
3. Students can be taught strategies that will help them strengthen their comprehension.

So intention matters, prior knowledge matters, and instruction matters. Here are some posts that deal with these issues: CONTINUE READING: 
Russ on Reading: Instruction for the Vulnerable Reader: Comprehension

SSPI Calls for Stronger Mental Health Supports - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

SSPI Calls for Stronger Mental Health Supports - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Calls on Counseling Groups to Strengthen Mental Health Supports for Students

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Wednesday called on counseling groups across California to work together in a coordinated effort to expand services that can close gaps in mental health supports for students experiencing increased levels of trauma exacerbated by the pandemic.
During his weekly virtual media check-in, Thurmond called attention to emotional strains caused by the pandemic: Students are missing important, caring connections with their friends and teachers since school campus closures, and many are living in isolation and experiencing increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Youth across California are struggling to process their own grief and anger over issues of racial injustice while also under the strain of household circumstances such as food insecurity.
In the meantime, there are thousands of students across the state who have not checked in with their teachers since school campuses closed three months ago, Thurmond noted. And the California Department of Education (CDE) anticipates that the number of youths identifying as homeless could increase as the impacts of the pandemic continue.
Counseling and mental health groups that want to help are asked to email
“For months, students have experienced intense stress under the biggest challenges they may experience in a lifetime. Just as we are thinking about what academics look like for students in the weeks and months ahead, we must make sure that we prioritize the mental and emotional health of students who will likely be entering a very different school environment this fall,” said Thurmond. “I call on all of our leaders in the field of counseling, mental health, and social-emotional learning to join us in the effort to close gaps in these supports.”

To begin laying the groundwork for this effort, the State Superintendent has convened leaders from the California Association of School Counselors, the California Association of School Psychologists, and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services to begin sharing resources and ideas for creating a framework and securing resources for students in need.
Additionally, the CDE has numerous resources for educators, families, and students, including resources for students in crisis, students experiencing homelessness, and foster youth. CDE’s guidance for the safe reopening of schools also addresses ways to support the mental health and well-being of all.
An archived broadcast of the full media check-in can be viewed on the CDE’s Facebook page.
# # # #
Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Audio: Senate Panel Asks: When Can K-12 Schools Safely Reopen? | 89.3 KPCC

Audio: Senate Panel Asks: When Can K-12 Schools Safely Reopen? | 89.3 KPCC

Senate Panel Asks: When Can K-12 Schools Safely Reopen?

Safely reopening the nation's public schools will be an expensive and Herculean task without additional help from the federal government. And, until schools do reopen, the nation's most vulnerable children will continue to be hardest hit — losing consistent access to meals, valuable learning time, and vital social-emotional support. Those were just some of the takeaways Wednesday from a hearing of the U.S. Senate's education committee.
A handful of school leaders and a former U.S. secretary of education told senators that many districts will struggle to put in place recommendations for protecting students from COVID-19. Those include providing masks, gloves and sanitizer, hiring cleaning staff and nurses, conducting testing and contact tracing, as well as planning for socially distant classrooms. One big challenge is that these efforts are happening as states slash education budgets.
"I am concerned that the economic impact of the pandemic will result in necessary and sustained cuts in PK-12 education funding, perhaps to exceed 20% in Nebraska," said Matthew Blomstedt, that state's Commissioner of Education.
The high cost to reopen schools was thrown into sharp relief by a recent analysis from the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School CONTINUE READING: Audio: Senate Panel Asks: When Can K-12 Schools Safely Reopen? | 89.3 KPCC

NANCY BAILEY: Black Students in Poor Schools: It’s Still NCLB!

Black Students in Poor Schools: It’s Still NCLB!

Black Students in Poor Schools: It’s Still NCLB!

In The Shame of the NationThe Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, Jonathan Kozol refers to a comment by President George W. Bush about Bush’s goals for education. President Bush said, I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. Later, in 2004, he said, It’s working. It’s making a difference.
Kozol writes: It is one of those deadly lies which, by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans as, perhaps, a rough approximation of the truth. But it is not the truth, and it is not an innocent misstatement of the facts. It is a devious appeasement of the heartache of the parents of the black and brown and poor and, if it is not forcefully resisted and denounced, it is going to lead our nation even further in a perilous direction (p.284).
That lie is kept alive by those who promote charter schools, choice, and online learning, and who scapegoat teachers over reading and what and how they teach. They are throwback shills for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), failed policy whose underlying CONTINUE READING: Black Students in Poor Schools: It’s Still NCLB!

AB 1835 Passes Assembly. Assists English Language Learners

Big Education Ape

AB 1835 Passes Assembly. Assists English Language Learners

AB 1835 Passed the California Assembly yesterday, and is sent to the Senate.
this would resolve our long standing conflict with Sacramento City Unified on funding of English Language Learners.

 AB 1835 would require districts and other local educational agencies to identify any unspent supplemental and concentration funds by annually reconciling the estimated amounts of these funds they include in their LCAPs with the actual amounts of funding the State reports apportioning to them. This bill would also specify that unspent supplemental and concentration funds at year-end must retain their designation to increase and improve services for the intended student groups. AB 1835 will also require districts and other local educational agencies to identify in their LCAPs the total amounts of any unspent supplemental and concentration funds from the previous year. 
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was enacted in 2013. The LCFF was designed to be a more equitable system of funding, with the goal of providing additional funding for the highest needs students. These subgroups of students include English learners, low-income students, and foster. If the student groups targeted for assistance make larger than a majority of enrollment, districts receive additional concentration money.

What is the conflict we have been having.  Explained in the testimony below.

Testimony given to SCUSD Board, and sent to SCUSD LCAP Advisory Committee.

League of United Latin

American Citizens



Lorenzo Patiño Council
#2862 of Sacramento
         June 10,2020.

 Re: LCAP Update-  2020.

In your planning to review progress under LCAP,  we offer the following comments.  We also addressed our concerns to the SCUSD School Board and to Superintendent Aguilar. We request that our comments be shared with all members of the LCAP Committee and that the comments be included as public comment in your public report.

On behalf of the Lorenzo Patiño  Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) we urge you to respond to our  four year long request to provide transparency in budgeting for English Language Learners.  We have received budget  documents from the district in response to our public records request. 

LULAC is a long-standing national and local civic organization dedicated to the advancement of civil rights, including the achievement of excellent educational opportunities for every child. 

For four  consecutive  years we have asked that you  “Promote school success of English learners by adding instructional time in English through direct instruction in small groups by skilled credential teachers.”   From 2017 and 2018 we urged the board to accomplish this by instructing the District to include in your budget the addition of at least 10 bilingual instructors designated to serve English Learners.  These recommendations have not been adopted in your LCAP plans. They have not been responded to. They have not been included in district  LCAP reports. 

 The Board is now charged with submitting a written report explaining to the community the changes to program offerings the district has made in response to school closures to address the COVID-19 emergency and the major impacts of such closures on students and families, including low-income students, English Learners and foster youth

 Note, for the last three years  the district has  received some $6 million per year to improve the educational opportunities of English Learners as a supplemental allocation under LCFF.   In spite of  our repeated requests, the district has not described how you have used this money to serve this targeted population. 

In your now required report for June, 2020, we charge you to  track English Learner Funds and ensure your accountability documents clearly show how the authorized funds are being used primarily for those students.  We further request that our public comments on the failure to track funding in prior years be recorded as public comment in required reports. 

In your June 19,2020,  report the district should explain how the District provided the specific services required in law to English learners. How will you be ensuring that English Learners are progressing with their English language proficiency and have equal access to the curriculum? What are you doing specifically to address the needs of English Learners ? 

We believe that your June 19, 2020 report should promise  that a new  supplement to your accountability system will  be established  to provide  appropriate tracking of monies received from the state under LCFF supplementary and concentration funds.   

Note, in response to the district’s prior refusal to provide clear accounting of funds used for English learners,  the Sacramento LULAC, and the California State LULAC  has taken a position of support for AB 1834 and  AB 1835 ( Webber- 2020)  which , if adopted, will require you by law to track these funds and will prohibit the use of funds considered  “ surplus” for one year to be transferred to the district general fund in subsequent years.  

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Education Committee.  LULAC 

Sacramento LULAC, PO Box 162790, Sacramento, Ca. 95816. 

2020 Medley #12 — Post-pandemic Education | Live Long and Prosper

2020 Medley #12 — Post-pandemic Education | Live Long and Prosper

2020 Medley #12 — Post-pandemic Education

Have you read anything lately about “when schools reopen after the pandemic is over?” There are ideas galore…some good, some ridiculous. It’s good to plan ahead, of course, but we don’t really know what the situation will be in three months.
One thing is sure, with the pandemic there came an economic downturn — a recession, which actually began in February. The House of Representatives has passed a spending bill that’s stalled in the Senate. States are running out of money…and schools are, as usual, at the top of the list of cuts.
Here in Indiana, schools have yet to recover from the recession of 2008. More cuts to education, at a time when increased funding for education is absolutely necessary, will be disastrous. Last week I suggested that one way to reduce costs for public schools is to cancel testing…another way would be to return charter and voucher money back to the public schools. Those, however, are not likely to happen, the latter especially.
So the post-pandemic calls for more bus service, smaller classes, teachers teaching online and in person, and a host of other ideas which will cost more money. How does that happen?
Pasi Sahlberg, author, with William Doyle, of Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive, has some ideas of what NOT to do when schools reopen. At the top of the list is refusing to accept that CONTINUE READING: 2020 Medley #12 — Post-pandemic Education | Live Long and Prosper

NYC Educator: Letter from the Chancellor

NYC Educator: Letter from the Chancellor

Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. At this moment the entire country is in turmoil, and none of us know what to do about it. I don't either, but it's important that you think I'm somehow in control, even though I have no idea how to handle what the hell is going on not only in the city, but also in the state, the country, and the world. You know, just like you.

It is my job to try to make you think otherwise. That's why I boldly announced that we would continue instruction last Monday as we were doing citywide PD. I knew that was awkward for you, so I announced it to parents and to principals, but didn't bother contacting you at all. But that damn New York Post couldn't write up a story about how kids weren't doing diddly-squat, even though truth be told they were not.

We started planning for this return the moment that we closed buildings in March. While it didn't do much good since we had no idea what the hell was gonna happen next, one thing is for sure: we haven't got the faintest notion just what we're gonna do when September rolls around.
Since we cannot yet predict what September will look like, we can—and we must—be prepared for a range of possibilities. Our job is to be ready and nimble. What if we are invaded by mutant clowns from Mars? We have an entire focus group looking at that. If that happens, we are 100% prepared!
Just in case that doesn't happen, there are 8 key areas outlined below. We've discussed these things with absolutely everyone except working teachers, who are complainers, and who tend to ask questions like, "How the hell can we open school buildings during a pandemic and also prevent Covid infections?" It's these nattering nitpickers and nagging nuisances who never nod to our nebulous needs.

As you all know, we left schools open for weeks after we closed Broadway. We also ignored hundreds of thousands of your signatures until the pressure became too much for us to bear. I myself, upon seeing 108,000 signatures of UFT members demanded there be 108,000 signatures of epidemiologists instead. Hey man, CONTINUE READING:
 NYC Educator: Letter from the Chancellor

NYC Public School Parents: Today's "Talk out of School PODCAST" - removing School Safety Agents from police control, saving youth jobs and ending admission screens

NYC Public School Parents: Today's "Talk out of School" - removing School Safety Agents from police control, saving youth jobs and ending admission screens

Today's "Talk out of School PODCAST" - removing School Safety Agents from police control, saving youth jobs and ending admission screens

Today on "Talk out of School," I spoke to Matt Bromme, former NYC principal and Superintendent of District 27 in Queens and former HS student Cat Oteng of the YA-YA Network about the need to remove School Safety Agents from the NYPD control, and add school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other ways to defuse tension at schools.

Then we spoke to Alex Rodriguez of Teens Take Charge on the campaigns to restore the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and end school admission screens.

For more information on ending the school to prison pipeline, check out this letter signed by hundreds of NYC school leaders urging the Mayor to transfer School Safety Agents to the supervision of principals rather than the NYPD, and the websites of the YA-YA Network and Dignity in Schools campaign.
To find out about the campaign of Teens Take Charge to end school admission screens, check out their website; see also their proposals about how the SYEP could be reconfigured to meet the needs of youth and the community at this time.
NYC Public School Parents: Today's "Talk out of School" - removing School Safety Agents from police control, saving youth jobs and ending admission screens

How a Taxi Ride Changed My Life (Ed Bridges) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

How a Taxi Ride Changed My Life (Ed Bridges) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

How a Taxi Ride Changed My Life (Ed Bridges)

June is commencement time for American students and nearly all will be done remotely. Commencement speeches are a genre unto themselves. Occasionally, a talk doe not follow the well-worn ruts. A professor I knew well gave one such speech a few years ago.
Ed Bridges was Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. His focus on educational administration, leadership, principal preparation, and problem-based learning earned him the respect of both students and educators globally for decades. We had been colleagues and friends for over 38 years. He gave this commencement address June 17, 2012 at the Stanford University School of Education. Bridges died in 2019.
It is an honor and a privilege to be your commencement speaker. After accepting the invitation to be your speaker, I consulted my oldest and one of my dearest friends. Since he had served as the president of four Canadian universities and the Chairman of the Board for the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, I knew that he had listened to many commencement speeches and delivered a few as well. Over a Guinness, I said, “George, what advice could you give me?” He paused, leaned over, and spoke softly and slowly. Here is what he said, “A commencement speaker is like a body at an Irish wake; the organizers need you for the party and don’t expect you to say much.”
I intend to follow my friend’s advice and talk briefly about how my life was CONTINUE READING: How a Taxi Ride Changed My Life (Ed Bridges) | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Teacher Tom: The Play First Summit: Let's Build a Paradise from Hell

Teacher Tom: The Play First Summit: Let's Build a Paradise from Hell

The Play First Summit: Let's Build a Paradise from Hell

I despise the novel Lord of the Flies. I hope they're still not making kids read it. As I passed through middle school, high school, and college I had to read this mean, nasty piece of work no less than three times. I'm not saying it isn't well written. I'm not even saying it isn't worthy 
literature. No, what puts this book on my bottom shelf, spine turned toward the wall, is its ugly take on human nature. William Golding held the Hobbsian view that people are essentially evil and that if left to our own devices, without the strong control of institutions like governments, churches, and schools, we would revert to a warlike state of every man for himself. Even as an adolescent, I resented that Golding had set up an opportunity to examine paradise by proposing a group of boys my age being stranded alone on a tropical island then, instead of utopia, had them create a kind of hell. That they are ultimately saved by Her Majesty's Navy makes it almost impossible to stomach.

It's not alone in being a good book based on bad philosophy. But this novel, because so many people my age have read it, has become a kind of cultural touchstone, frequently brought up in argument as "evidence" that we can't trust children or poor people or Black people or anyone for that matter to do anything good without a great white master strictly enforcing rules that have been passed down from on high. I can't count how often people have evoked Lord of the Flies at me as a CONTINUE READING: 
Teacher Tom: The Play First Summit: Let's Build a Paradise from Hell