Latest News and Comment from Education

Friday, October 30, 2020

Lori Jablonski: The OP Ed the SacBee Refused to Print

 The OP Ed the SacBee Refused to Print

From Lori Jablonski

The Sacramento Bee consistently begs for support for local journalism and claims to be a forum for important issues that concern our region. Yet its editors have refused to print a timely and insightful opinion piece from CK McClatchy's Lori Jablonski.

At the same time, the Bee continues to print anti-teacher, anti-union attacks from its ethically-challenged "opinion" writer Marcos Breton that are riddled with factual errors.

Here is Lori's piece that was submitted to the Bee, but their editor board, which now includes Marcos Breton, refused to print.

SCUSD isn’t going broke–it’s broken. We know how to fix it.

By Lori Jablonski

Recently, the Bee reported that community leaders called on Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) officials and the teachers’ union “to work together in creating a distance-learning plan and preventing the cash-strapped district from going insolvent.” It hasn’t happened and this is why.

Quite simply, SCUSD isn’t “going broke” but it is broken.
Since August 2018, Superintendent Jorge Aguilar and Board President Jessie Ryan have repeatedly and falsely claimed that SCUSD is on the brink of a state takeover. In May 2020, district leaders claimed it would end the year with a $5.9 million deficit.

But six weeks later, after the 2019-20 finances were tallied, SCUSD reported a $23 million surplus and a reserve fund of $93 million—nine times higher than the minimum required by the state. It was the biggest reserve fund in SCUSD history.

District leaders are projecting for 20-21 that SCUSCD will face a deficit of $26.4 million. Meanwhile, they are parking $101.3 million of their $640-million budget in “books and supplies.” SCUSD spent a fraction, $11 million, on the same budget line in 19-20. This “creative accounting,” which has been going on for years, deceives the community and deprives students of much needed services.

SCUSD has failed to properly report its finances for the past eight years and committed numerous jaw-dropping accounting errors. In the spring of 2019, for example, district administrators failed to count the enrollment at five schools, which amounted to an $8-million-per-year mistake. Based on this accounting error, the school board laid off 400 staff, including 175 teachers. 

Michael Fine, a top finance official in state education, has said that he has “no confidence” in the district’s financial data. At the same time the school board presented a troubled financial picture to the public, it rewarded the superintendent with pay increases resulting in a salary nearly double the governor’s pay.

This past spring, the pandemic-related distance-learning rollout was a disaster. Many students had trouble connecting and faced a prolonged shortage of Chromebooks. When teachers offered to provide assistance to students and families, the school board responded by having the superintendent send a “cease and desist” letter threatening to sue any educator who provided technical advice to students and parents.

Faced with a return to distance learning this fall, more than 200 educators--on their own time, with input from 1,000 other teachers—developed a comprehensive distance-learning plan.

In contrast, SCUSD assigned two administrators with no distance-learning instructional experience to come up with their own directives. SCUSD demanded more standardized testing and more screen time than any of the surrounding districts, which would have been especially counter-productive, even harmful, for the youngest learners. The administration appeared to be more concerned about how its program looked on paper than how it worked in practice, a trend criticized by Carl Pinkston of the Black Parallel School Board as quoted by the Bee: “The district has not been honest and truthful with the public and itself about its historical failure to provide quality education for all kids.”

Fortunately, state law prohibits a district from imposing its will without teacher input. While some matters could be agreed upon, such as the Google learning platform and total instructional time, teachers strongly opposed the SCUSD’s one-size-fits-all approach. Using their professional judgment, they have continued to teach to the needs of each class and student.

Distance learning won’t last forever. The Sacramento City Teachers Association and district officials have begun discussing when and how to return safely to school. But if SCUSD continues to ignore the input of thousands of educators about what our students need, both academically and in terms of health and safety, negotiations about a return to the classroom will be as difficult as earlier negotiations.

Who can trust district leaders who repeatedly deceive the public, manipulate district finances, and disregard the input of educators? We can fix this -- the place to start is with the upcoming election for school board members.

Lori Jablonski teaches government at CK McClatchy High School. She has taught in SCUSD for 20 years.

Sacramento City Teachers Association |916.452.4591 |

SCUSD CHANGE the BOARD 2020 | Facebook

CURMUDGUCATION: Psychic AI and Plagiarism Detection

CURMUDGUCATION: Psychic AI and Plagiarism Detection
Psychic AI and Plagiarism Detection

Artificial Intelligence is used to sell a lot of baloney. It would be bad enough it were used only to teach badly and provide poor assessments of student work, but AI is also being hawked as a means of rooting out plagiarism. For an example of this phenomenon at its worst, let's check in on a little webcast from Mark Boothe at Canvas Learning Management System. He's talking to Shouvik Paul at Copyleaks, a plagiarism checking company and partner of Canvas. I'm going to watch this so you don't have to--and you shouldn't. But you should remember the names just in case somebody at your place of work suggests actually using these products.

We start with a quick intro emphasizing Copyleaks' awesomeness. And then Boothe hands it over to Paul, the Chief Revenue Officer at Copyleaks, because when you want to talk about a product, you definitely want to talk to the revenue people at the company. Incidentally, sales and marketing has been Paul's entire career--no computer or education background anywhere in sight. But this is going to be a sales pitch for thirty-some minutes. Great.

First, Paul offers general background on Copyleaks. An AI company, building "very cool" stuff. That includes a product that does grading of essays on standardized tests. It takes humans hours, but their Ai can grade those papers "within seconds" within 1% accuracy of a human grader. Spoiler alert: no, it can't. They have offices around the world. 

So they were working on ed tech, and "as we all know" everyone from universities through k-12 is using some kind of plagiarism detection (oh my lord-- does that mean there are first grade teachers out there running student paragraphs through turnitin?). Paul says they found that some of the technology out there was outdated, meaning that when you're out there in education dealing with students, "it's such a cat and mouse game--they're always looking for new ways to beat the system." So we're going to adopt a cynical premise about those awful students as a starting point. Great. 

"Let's face it. What's the first thing a student's going to do? They're going to youtube, and they're going to type in something like 'how to cheat plagiarism check' Right?" And he is showing us on CONTINUE READING: CURMUDGUCATION: Psychic AI and Plagiarism Detection

Play an online board game with me TODAY at 5pm! | Cloaking Inequity

Play an online board game with me TODAY at 5pm! | Cloaking Inequity

Honored that the University of Kentucky College of Education is sponsoring Give Health For Kentucky Kids. The donation page is: We will be playing Jackbox- an online board game. Join us and play LIVE with me and Esports stars for free on your phone Friday 10/30 at 5pm:

Teacher Tom: The Disease of Productivity

Teacher Tom: The Disease of Productivity
The Disease of Productivity

I've been struggling lately with feelings of guilt. Nothing too bad, but no matter how hard I try to shut it up, there's little voice nagging me: I should be working more, working harder. Objectively, there is no reason for this. I'm meeting my obligations. I'm not letting anyone down, but whenever I sit choose to read a novel in the middle of the day or take a long walk in the autumn sunshine, I'm cautioned that I'm wasting time. I'm pretty good at silencing the voice, but it reasserts itself whenever what I'm doing isn't somehow moving my life forward. 

What a bummer. 

If only I'd not wasted all that time, I might have that big house by now, that vacation home, my daughter's inheritance would be secure, I'd have reached all my retirement goals. If I'd only worked more I could now just relax without a care in the world. I could finally afford to be irresponsible. But I'm not where I should be and it's my own fault. If only I was more motivated or driven or fearful, I'd be somewhere by now. 

I can go down that rabbit hole, but then I remember that I'm not alone. Indeed, I don't think I know anyone who is not at least a little bit afflicted with this disease of guilt over, say, CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: The Disease of Productivity

Jennifer Berkshire: Will Education Cause The GOP to Lose Arizona? | Diane Ravitch's blog

Jennifer Berkshire: Will Education Cause The GOP to Lose Arizona? | Diane Ravitch's blog
Jennifer Berkshire: Will Education Cause The GOP to Lose Arizona?

Jennifer Berkshire writes in this post about the educational awakening in Arizona, the result of #red4ed and the teachers’ revolt of 2018.

Proposition 208 is on the ballot. It calls for a 3.5% tax increase on people earning over $250,000 a year, to be used to raise teachers’ salaries and hire more teachers. Surprisingly, 60% of voters appear to favor the measure, including a sizable number of Republicans.

She writes:

That taxing the rich to pay for schools would emerge as a cause with bipartisan support in 2020 is not a complete surprise. More Arizonans now identify education, not immigration, as the top priority facing the state, reflecting mounting concern with schools that are notoriously underfunded, teachers who are poorly paid, and a teacher shortage crisis so severe that 28 percent of the state’s classrooms lack a permanent teacher.

Education has become a potent political issue since #RedforEd protests shone a harsh light on the condition of Arizona’s schools in 2018. After a historic teacher strike, educators doubled down on electoral organizing. Democrats gained four seats in the state House of CONTINUE READING: Jennifer Berkshire: Will Education Cause The GOP to Lose Arizona? | Diane Ravitch's blog

Big Education Ape: 100th Episode: A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door – Have You Heard -

Grassroots Education Network- October 2020 Newsletter - Network For Public Education

Grassroots Education Network- October 2020 Newsletter - Network For Public Education
Grassroots Education Network- October 2020 Newsletter

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 155 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. 

If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison at

Notes from Marla

As I type our newsletters each month, I notice consistent themes in organizing.  One theme that never seems to go away is how organizations in the network work together.  In this newsletter, you will see how state organizations work together for events and actions. For example, Schools and Communities United, Parents for Public Schools Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Public Education Network sponsored a Grab and Go Giveaway to show public school support this month. The Pastors network hosted a virtual luncheon with NPE President Diane Ravitch this month. Pastors for Florida Children and the Florida Council of Churches collaborated on a great new source for Pastors and Houses of Worship called Why Should Christians Care About Public Education, written by Angel Pittman and edited by Rachel Gunter Shapard. You can read it hereVirginia Educators United and Virginia BATs released a petition this month about the reopening of schools in VA. The petition strongly urges lawmakers to change course and delay consideration of openings to the end of the second quarter, after the winter holidays at the earliest. Class Size Matters, NY Allies for Public Education, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy are working together this month to survey parents about which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state and whether they are sufficiently protective of children’s privacy. 

Through the many newsletters I have written, I see this consistent theme of connection and organizing, which is always a recipe for success. So, as you read this newsletter, and subsequent newsletters, look for other organizations you can connect with.  Many of the organizations have specific strengths, resources, or people that can help.  If you need a connection, send me an email, and I will connect you.  Most of all, know that you are part of a network with so many resources, people, and strength to help you when you need it.  

National Organizing

Network for Public Education President Diane Ravitch spoke to an education class this month at Acadia Senior College in Maine.  NPE Executive Director Carol Burris appeared on The Rick Smith Show late last month talking about the rate of charter failures in our CONTINUE READING: Grassroots Education Network- October 2020 Newsletter - Network For Public Education

Prospects for COVID-19 Stimulus Package Fade: Will We Have to Wait for A New President and New Congress to Negotiate Relief for States and Their Public Schools? | janresseger

Prospects for COVID-19 Stimulus Package Fade: Will We Have to Wait for A New President and New Congress to Negotiate Relief for States and Their Public Schools? | janresseger
Prospects for COVID-19 Stimulus Package Fade: Will We Have to Wait for A New President and New Congress to Negotiate Relief for States and Their Public Schools?

Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House negotiator Steve Mnuchin and Senate Republicans for a second coronavirus relief bill have collapsed until at least after the election—maybe until a new Congress convenes in 2021 and, perhaps, a new President takes over.  Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has declared that the U.S. Senate will not even be back in session until November 9.

Of immediate urgency is essential assistance for individuals and small businesses now that most of the programs funded by last March’s CARES Act have run out—the one-time $1,200 stimulus checks, the small business paycheck protection program, pandemic emergency unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium, and support for health coverage. But there is another critically important need—one that is slightly farther removed from families’ immediate crisis.

Through months of negotiations, the two sides could never reach any agreement on one of Nancy Pelosi’s top priorities and something essential for the nation’s over 13,000 local public school districts: significant relief for state and local governments. State funding averages 40 percent of all public school funding, with local funds comprising around 40 percent.  President Donald Trump and some Republican  Senators opposed what Trump called “a bailout for poorly managed ‘blue’ states.”  While Trump and so-called “deficit hawk” Republican Senators have politicized the issue, here is how—last April—Rutgers University education funding expert, Bruce Baker, and Albert Shanker Institute policy expert, Matthew Di Carlo defined the urgent need for relief for state and local governments: “The most terrible and lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic will of course be measured in loss of life. But a parallel tragedy will also be unfolding in the coming months and years, this one affecting those at the beginning of their lives: an unprecedented school funding crisis that threatens to disadvantage a generation of children. It currently is difficult to make any precise predictions about the magnitude of the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, except CONTINUE READING: Prospects for COVID-19 Stimulus Package Fade: Will We Have to Wait for A New President and New Congress to Negotiate Relief for States and Their Public Schools? | janresseger

$420K in Grants Donated to Digital DIvide Fund - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

$420K in Grants Donated to Digital DIvide Fund - Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)
Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces $420,000 in Grants to the Bridging the Digital Divide Fund to Benefit Students in Southern California

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced that Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), in partnership with the San Diego Foundation, have donated a total of $420,000 to the Bridging the Digital Divide Fund. SDG&E and the San Diego Foundation’s grant of $100,000 to the Classroom of the Future Foundation will address the digital divide among tribal K–12 youth in San Diego County. SoCalGas’ portion of $320,000 will be split into five grants to separate organizations in Southern California for specific work to close the digital divide. SoCalGas and SDG&E are part of the Sempra Energy family of companies.

This contribution to the Bridging the Digital Divide Fund, established by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDE Foundation), supports the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Closing the Digital Divide Task Force. The COVID-19 pandemic forced an estimated 97 percent of California’s 6.2 million students to begin their school year in distance learning. The task force has been working since April on behalf of California’s most vulnerable students and families who continue to experience barriers to internet access and distance learning.

“This is a difficult time for all of us, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated access issues to technology, placing additional strain and stress on some of our most underserved populations who still lack the basic tools to connect to their learning,” said Thurmond. “Through my Closing the Digital Divide Task Force, formed to secure devices and reduced-cost internet service, I have asked 100 of California’s top companies to step up and help close this gap. I commend SDG&E and SoCalGas for answering that call and for their investment toward lifting up every child, an example I hope others will follow.”

“Both of our companies have a long history of supporting school and community programs that help underserved children overcome barriers to success. Now more than ever, our schools, teachers, and students need us to step up to help fill the gaps so no child is left behind, especially during this challenging time,” said Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell, vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs for SDG&E and SoCalGas.

The $100,000 Classroom of the Future grant was made through the San Diego Foundation’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which SDG&E seeded. SDG&E has contributed $2.5 million to the fund and has plans to donate another $500,000 in early 2021. The grant will address the digital divide among tribal K–12 youth in San Diego County by providing laptops and mobile hotspots. According to Classroom of the Future Foundation and the San Diego County Office of Education, there are more than 350 tribal students across several San Diego County school districts who are unable to fully participate in distance learning because they lack computers and/or internet connectivity.

SoCalGas’ $320,000 in total grants will benefit five local organizations to help meet specific needs: Southeast Community Development Corporation will provide students from South Los Angeles with a Chromebook, earbuds, hotspots, and tutoring. STEAM Coders will provide STEAM programming to more than 1,100 K–12 students enrolled in four schools located in Los Angeles, Inglewood, and Claremont and will provide 140 high-grade laptops with 120 hotspots. Southern California Indian Center will supply 100 laptops and hotspots to low-income Native American children throughout Los Angeles County and Orange County. YMCA Greater Metropolitan Los Angeles will purchase equipment to extend their wi-fi access to the outside of each of their 26 branches. Community Coalition (South Los Angeles) will sponsor laptops, hotspots, and Microsoft Office for students in Los Angeles Unified School District.

Since April, the State Superintendent and his task force—in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, state lawmakers, and nonprofits such as the CDE Foundation—have been working to remove inequitable barriers to student access by working with internet service providers, tech companies, device manufacturers, and other groups to increase access to devices and internet connections.

The CDE and the task force have since partnered with a few major technology companies and internet service providers to put together programs to make it easier for schools to acquire necessary equipment and services for their students. Local educational agencies (LEAs) are encouraged to start the process now as devices are in high demand across the country. LEA staff can view more information at the CDE Securing Devices and Connectivity for Students web page.

At the same time, the Governor’s Office and lawmakers included $5.3 billion in one-time funding in the state budget for schools to strengthen distance learning heading into the same year. These funds can be used immediately for purchasing needed technology, and more information can be found on the CDE’s Learning Loss Mitigation Funding web page.

Read more about the CDE Foundation Bridging the Digital Divide FundExternal link opens in new window or tab..

# # # #

Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Fund Education Instead

Fund Education Instead

Big money for pro-charter school board candidates, picks George Gasc贸n for DA – Los Angeles Education Examiner

Big money for pro-charter school board candidates, picks George Gasc贸n for DA – Los Angeles Education Examiner
Big money for pro-charter school board candidates, picks George Gasc贸n for DA

Los Angeles’ school district used to have sleepy school board races. But those low budget, pedestrian races – like that for LA County’s District Attorney – are bygones. Between the SCOTUS Citizens United ruling codifying limitless lobbying and independent campaign support, and the ascendency of “school choice” as a stalking horse for privatization of the public sector within the education arena, LAUSD’s school boardroom has become a surrogate battlefield for neoliberalism, public-private partnerships and the leveraging of public goods for private gain.

So, too, it would seem might the race for LAC’s District Attorney (LAC-DA) signal a new incursion on privatization in criminal justice.

And given such a grand ideological tussle, it is little wonder that formerly obscure school board elections of local and narrow interest should have become worth astonishing amounts of money to a select few with special interest in (eg, profit, systemic change, ROI extracted from) the political insurgency. Such an influx could concern underlying motivations surrounding next Tuesday’s LAC-DA race.

An explosion of this trend was marked in 2013, when the mayor of New York City 3000 miles away, saw fit to drop one million dollars over the metaphorical backyard fences and literal mailboxes of west LA in order to influence a school board race so very, very far away, and seemingly removed, from him. But in retrospect it is clear that the Education sector provides a goldrush of opportunity for privateers. And the shock and awe of CONTINUE READING: Big money for pro-charter school board candidates, picks George Gasc贸n for DA – Los Angeles Education Examiner

A VERY BUSY DAY Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... The latest news and resources in education since 2007

Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... | The latest news and resources in education since 2007

Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...
The latest news and resources in education since 2007

Big Education Ape: THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... The latest news and resources in education since 2007 -

October’s (2020) Useful Parent Engagement Resources – Part Two | Engaging Parents In School… -

Here Are My “Best” Lists On Responding To Student Trauma
geralt / Pixabay I have over 2,100 frequently revised and updated “Best” lists on just about every subject imaginable, and you can find them listed three different ways in three different places (see Three Accessible Ways To Search For & Find My “Best” Lists ). I’m starting to publish a series where each day I will highlight the “Best” lists in a separate category. Today, it’s on Responding To St
Two Useful Resources To Use In A Discussion About Grading
OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay Our school district had a good idea this year about improving grading by eliminating zeros and pegging undone student work at 50%. However, as our district is prone to do, they didn’t involve teachers in the actual discussing and decision-making process and just announced it. So, schools like ours are hustling to initiate a discussion on it so that there is “buy-in”
My Favorite Posts That Appeared In October
I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here ). You can also see my all-time favorites here . I’ve also been doing “A Look Back” series reviewing old favorite
Fun Video For ELLs: “What if animals were round?”
AnnaliseArt / Pixabay This would be a fun video to show to English Language Learners and have them talk and write about what they saw… I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Animals .
Friday’s Must-Read Articles & Must-Watch Videos About School Reopening
mohamed_hassan / Pixabay Here are new additions to THE BEST POSTS PREDICTING WHAT SCHOOLS WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE FALL : What school looks like now — in striking pictures from around the world is from The Washington Post. Research Video News Brief: Projecting the Potential Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Academic Achievement is from The American Education Research Association. Educators Wante
New Resources On Race & Racism
I’m adding these new resources to various “Best” lists. You can find links to all of those many lists that relate to race and racism at “Best” Lists Of The Week: Resources For Teaching & Learning About Race & Racism: Hundreds Of 

Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... | The latest news and resources in education since 2007