Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tom Torlakson supports teachers rights to teach

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today released the following statement regarding theVergara, et al. vs. State of California, et al. lawsuit:
"The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.
"We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.
"No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.
"In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.
"While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court's ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rethinking Schools- Teaching Ferguson

RS Logo
Teaching Ferguson
Compilation of blog posts and resources from Rethinking Schools,
Teaching for Change, and Zinn Education Project 

Teaching About Ferguson
by Julian Hipkins III

Credit: Reuters

As the new school year begins, first and foremost on our minds and in our hearts will be the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Teachers may be faced with students' anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, and questions.  Some students will wonder how this could happen in the United States. For others, unfortunately, police brutality and intimidation are all too familiar.

Here are a few ideas and resources for the classroom to help students think critically about the events in Ferguson and ways they can be proactive in their own communities.

Teach About Mike Brown. But Don't Stop There.
By Rethinking Schools magazine contributor Renée Watson
Credit: flickr user no scream @ the end
This time last summer, I researched articles and collected poems about police brutality, racial profiling, and the murders of black men in the United States. The George Zimmerman verdict was fresh on my mind and I wanted to talk about it with my students once school was back in session. I revised a lesson I had taught six years prior on the murder of Sean Bell that asked young people to turn their pain into poetry. And now, here I am again, swapping out the articles I used last year on Trayvon Martin with articles about Mike Brown. I have accepted that I may have to teach this lesson every school year.

Back to School, and to Widening Inequality

 Robert Reich
 American kids are getting ready to head back to school. But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income. Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children. Thirty years ago, the average gap on SAT-type tests between children of families in the richest 10 percent and bottom 10 percent was about 90 points on an 800-point scale. Today it’s 125 points. The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement.
On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia.
The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing.
It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Groups protest Pro-corporate policies of Mexican G...

antiracismdsa: Groups protest Pro-corporate policies of Mexican G...: SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto praised Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers Tuesday for approving a series ...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The U.S.'s Classist Educational System - And California's

by Peter Dreier.
America's education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. They have more modern facilities, more up-to-date computer and science equipment, and more up-to-date textbooks. They have more elective courses, more music and art offerings, and more extracurricular programs. They have better libraries, more guidance counselors and superior athletic facilities.
Not surprisingly, affluent students in well-off school districts have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance and entry to the more selective colleges. This has little to do with intelligence or ability. For example, 82 percent of affluent students who had SAT scores over 1200 graduate from college. In contrast, only 44 percent of low-income students with the same high SAT scores graduate from college. This wide gap can't be explained by differences in motivation or smarts. It can, however, be explained by differences in money.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another Opportunity Missed - Civic Education Policy Proposals in California

California education policy makers have once again written and published a nice looking report on school curriculum – this one on the need for improved civic education.  As is the norm for these tasks, a group of “well respected” civic leaders have participated.
They have written a report, Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California, and they call it a Blue Print for Action.
They call for a major revision of civic education.  That is fine. They also call for discussion of their proposals on social media.( p 42)   Well, here is some of the needed discussion. 

They even recognize the diversity of California students.  They say,
Civic learning is also vital for our increasingly diverse California society. In 2012-
2013, our 6.2 million K-12 students were 53 percent Latino, 26 percent white,
9 percent Asian and 6 percent African American, with the remaining 6 percent
comprised of other ethnicities. In addition, an increasing number of our students
are not native speakers of English. Almost 4 in 10 kindergarteners are English
language learners. This diversity, and the attention it requires, is now acknowledged
in our school funding model. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) recognizes
the necessity of investing in the reduction and ultimate removal of inequitable
outcomes in California public schools. Revitalizing civic learning opportunities, in
an equitable manner, can contribute to meeting these goals.”

While it is accurate that we have a general problem of civic engagement of the young,  it is also true that we have a very specific problem with the rate of Latino and Asian voter participation and  civic engagement.
 Rates of voting and voter registration provide a window into civic engagement.  The proportion of state voter  registration that is Latino and Asian has remained far below the proportions of these groups in the state’s overall population. In 2010, Latinos in the state made up 37.6% of the general population while they were on 21.2 % of the registered voters. The Asian population was 13.1 % of the state but  only 8.1 % of the registered voters.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs in Public Schooling

By Anthony Cody and Alan Aja.
From the very beginnings of No Child Left Behind, the strongest argument for attaching stakes to tests has been Civil Rights. This phrase is shorthand for equity in education, an end to the systemic neglect of children of color. And proponents of corporate reform have become adept at wrapping themselves in these concerns, while promoting policies that have devastating effects on students and their communities. Common Core is no exception to this.
From Politico last week came word that Common Core proponents have realized that they are losing the battle.
We’re so good at all our statistics and data and rational arguments . [but] emotion is what gets people feeling passionate,” Oldham said. “It may not be the most comfortable place for the business community . [but] we need to get better at doing it.
This message seems to connect with Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has received Gates Foundation funding to evaluate the Common Core, as well as general operating grants. Petrilli said:
“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”
Step one: Get Americans angry about the current state of public education.
To that end, expect to start hearing from frustrated college students who ended up in remedial classes even though they passed all their state tests and earned good grades in high school. “These kids should be as mad as hell” that the system failed them, Petrilli said.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Release of DC-CAS Proficiency Scores Affirms Need for Transparency, Change of Policy Strategy | Economic Policy Institute

Release of DC-CAS Proficiency Scores Affirms Need for Transparency, Change of Policy Strategy | Economic Policy Institute

Clearly Michelle Rhee's leadership of D.C. schools did not improve student achievement.

"Better than the Republicans", Not Good Enough

by Jeff Bryant,
A common admonition progressives have gotten used to hearing over the years is to support more conservative Democratic candidates because “Republicans are worse.”
This admonition makes some sense in electoral politics, when, in most cases, progressives face a ballot box decision where they have to choose the “lesser evil” instead of someone who wants to do something really horrible like roll back government policies to what was in favor a hundred years ago. Elections, after all, are societal constructions where you’re forced to make a choice between only two candidates, usually. To not vote at all forfeits your right to have a say-so in the matter. And few Americans get the opportunity to vote for third party candidates who have viable shots at winning.
But “better than the other side” loses any legitimacy in the policy arena, or at least it should. For sure, there are often trade-offs between adversaries in the legislative process. But when there’s not an actual bill facing an up-or-down vote, there’s simply no reason for progressives to accept policy positions from office holders on the basis of those positions being better than what the other side wants.
Yet progressives who push for polices reflecting their values are constantly scolded for exhibiting a “have it all fantasy.” They’re told to give centrist Democrats “credit” for positions where there is some agreement – such as marriage equality or climate change – and understand when those officials have to make deals with the other side. “That’s how the game is played,” goes the refrain.
When it comes to the education policy arena, “the game” has played into a disaster for the nation’s schoolteachers, parents, and students.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Myth of Teacher Tenure

by Diana D'Amico — July 23, 2014

In the stories of exorbitant costs and incompetence, teacher tenure laws have achieved mythic proportions. Judge Rolf Treu’s tentative decision in Vergara v. California may be the death knell for teacher tenure. But what will change as a result? A look to the past reveals that teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to. Using history as a lens, this commentary explores the origination of tenure policies and the debates that surrounded them. This commentary argues that embedded in the tenure debates is a much larger problem that should concern us all.

In 1917, the president of New York City’s Board of Education told a reporter that the schools are “burdened and clogged with many teachers who are unfit” because of their “permanent tenure.”1 For nearly a century, critics have blasted tenure for putting the needs of adults above those of children. In the stories of exorbitant costs and incompetence, teacher tenure laws have achieved mythic proportions. Judge Rolf Treu’s tentative decision in Vergara v. Californiamay be the death knell for teacher tenure. But what will change as a result? A look to the past reveals that teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to.  

Monday, August 04, 2014

Welcome to Sacramento Superintendent José Banda

Welcome to Sacramento.  We hope that you can establish a positive working relationship with the Board, the community, and the teachers.  Developing a positive relationship and sustained, consistent leadership is required for school improvement.

We regret the prompt attacks on your character and your contract by the Sacramento Bee editorial board.  You see they were staunch advocates for the prior Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, a Broad Foundation assisted superintendent.  He left promptly without an explanation. It is unusual for the Bee to attack a new superintendent before he has an opportunity to make some decisions. 
Duane Campbell, Director.
Democracy and Education Institute

Friday, August 01, 2014

New President of NEA and Arne Duncan

Jeff Bryant:
For years, politicians and policy leaders have been running the nation’s public education system basically by the seat of the pants, drafting and passing legislative doctrine that mostly ignores the input from classroom teachers, research experts and public school parents.
What’s got teachers stirred up? How real and potent is this upsurge of their activism? Why should people who identify with progressive causes care? Salon recently posed those questions, and others, to Lily Eskelsen García, the new president-elect of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, at the recent Netroots Nation conference in Detroit.
First of all, congratulations on becoming the new NEA president.
Still president-elect. I take office Sept. 1. We have an incredible president, Dennis Van Roekel, who basically said a transition period should be a transition period, not go stand in the corner. So he gave me the president-elect title and told me I would take the press calls, go to Netroots, meet with Arne Duncan, start establishing where you want to go and be as vocal and as visible as you can possibly be. Our members have asked NEA to step up and take things to another level. There’s too much at stake for us. There are policies that need addressing and we have some of the best policy expertise in the nation, but those ideas need a face to the NEA, a face for the American teacher that is channeling the voices of these 3 million educators, and when you hear the words come out of her mouth it’s not just her opinion — it’s a whole lot of teachers and support staff who are saying here’s an important thing for the American people to hear and an important thing for Arne Duncan and President Obama to hear. So he told me to start being that voice today.
The voices of these teachers are important, aren’t they? And too often we don’t really hear their stories about what it’s really like to teach in American schools, do we? For instance, I was just at a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, where a teacher told us about showing up to school one morning and finding a man had been shot to death in front of the building the night before. The body was still on the sidewalk as the kids were coming to school, and the teachers had to decide how they were going to handle this with the children. So many of our teachers are really serving as first responders for kids, aren’t they?
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