Archives for the month of: October, 2015

Alan Singer thinks that President Obama didn’t go far enough to reduce testing. He thinks the “Testing Action Plan” is empty rhetoric.

Michael Bloomberg thinks the President was wrong to discount the importance of standardized testing, the source of data that tells leaders which teachers and principals should be fired and which schools should be closed.

What do you think?

I think that former NYC Mayor Bloomberg should relax. The “action plan” is all talk, no action.

The Detroit Free-Press speculates about why Ichigan did not win $45 million to create new charter schools. Well, it could be because the stat does not exercise oversight of charter authorizers or charter schools. It could be because the state’s charter schools perform poorly. It could be because the Detroit Free Press ran a series about charters and their lack of accountability or transparency or quality.

But why did Ohio win $71 million for its equally poor charter industry?

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy released a detailed (though not complete) list of financial scandals in the charter industry.

In Michigan, the CMD identified 25 “ghost” charters that received $1.7 million in planning grants from the state (taxpayer dollars at work), but never opened.

One of the “ghost schools” was to be a boarding school called Detroit College Preparatory Academy. After failing to open the school, its proponent was then hired as the head of Michigan’s State School Reform/Redesign
Office which is responsible for fixing “Priority Schools,”schools in
the bottom 5% in terms of academic performance. This is often done with a
state takeover, leading to an Emergency Manager. Sometimes, they get turned over to charter companies.

Being a reformer means there will always be a rightwing governor or think tank to hire you.

Most virtual charters schools are educational frauds. But they are very profitable.The corporation provides a computer, some printed materials, and access to an underpaid, overburdened teacher who is monitoring many screens. In return, the online corporation is paid full state tuition, while providing none of the staff, programs, or resources of a regular school.

New studies find that the academic performance of students schooled online is poor. The worst online schools are in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, in both reading and math. About 8% of charter students are enrolled in cyber charters.

Benjamin Herrold writes in Education Week:

“Students who take classes over the Internet through online charter schools make dramatically less academic progress than their counterparts in traditional schools, according to a sweeping new series of reports released today.

The National Study of Online Charter Schools represents the first comprehensive national look at the roughly 200 schools in the publicly funded, independently managed cyber-charter sector. Such schools enroll about 200,000 full-time students across 26 states.

Reports jointly released by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and Mathematica Policy Research found that:

More than two-thirds of online charter schools had weaker overall academic growth than similar brick-and-mortar schools. In math, 88 percent of online charters had weaker academic growth than their comparison schools.

On average, online charter students achieved each year the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading than similar students in district-run brick-and-mortar schools.

As a group, online charters are characterized by high student-to-teacher ratios, low student engagement, and high student mobility.

Online charters frequently offer limited opportunities for live contact with teachers and a relative paucity of supports for families, despite high expectations for parental involvement.

From funding to enrollment to oversight, states are failing to keep up with the unique policy challenges that online charters present.”

Bertis Downs lives in Athens, Georgia, in one of the state’s poorest communities. He is a great advocate for public education and is also a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He made his mark as manager of the rock group R.E.M. We are very proud to have him advise us, given his devotion to public schools, where his own daughters are students. This article he wrote was posted by Valerie Strauss on her blog this morning.

One of the amazing things about Athens and the Clarke County School District is that its superintendent, Philip Lanoue, was chosen as National Superintendent of the Year by his colleagues.

He writes that the over-testing culture has not been good for the local public schools. Parents and teachers don’t like it. But Superintendent Lanoue has led the way in making positive changes.

Bertis writes:

I mean, really, if this over-testing, high-stakes culture is really such a great idea, wouldn’t reformers want this environment for their own children? Wouldn’t they push the elite private schools their children attend to adopt those “innovative reforms” too? The fact that they don’t is telling. These are not educationally sound ideas, and reformers know it, even as they call these policies “innovative” as they push them to the public. Do they think we don’t know better? Of course the schools exempt from the public mandates don’t nurture this absurd over-testing culture, especially the ones labeled “innovative” by those passing the laws. Balderdash, by any other name…

Our family lives in Athens, Georgia, a community that – like most communities – values public education, and our kids go to our local public schools. Our school district has been innovating, really innovating in some pretty creative ways, some of which might even sound old-fashioned or simple. I actually prefer the word “intuitive.” Especially for the past six years, we are grateful for the leadership of Phil Lanoue, who was named 2015 National Superintendent of the Year.

He deserves the honor, and here’s why: he works to build up all Athens community schools by focusing on teaching and learning, using technology where it enhances the overall mission of educating students, working with community partners to try new techniques, enhancing efficacy, and emphasizing our community’s capacity to support the work of our neighborhood schools. Dr. Lanoue is the first to state that he isn’t the only one putting in the work. He sets a tone, supports his team members and advances good ideas that foster high-quality teaching and learning. Many of these ideas are proving themselves effective over the years.

Read on to learn ahow Lanoue has provided positive leadership to the schools and the community.

Jeb Bush has made some comments mocking people with liberal arts degrees. He has a liberal arts degree in Latin American Studies.

In this column, Valerie Strauss posts some of the wonderful tweets from people with degrees in psychology, one of the fields that Bush belittled.

When the Indiana legislature held hearings about education, parents drove hours to testify and sat for several hours as the imported “experts” spoke. Many of the parents had to leave after waiting for five hours.

Look at what happened in Massachusetts when the Legislature held hearings about lifting the charter cap.

The politicians danced in and out; some left early. The parents waited.

The foundations testified. The parents waited.

The school committees testified. The parents waited.

The heads of charter schools testified. The parents waited.

The charter parents in their matching T-shirts testified. The parents waited.

After hours went by, and almost no one was left, the parents spoke.

Look at the photo. It tells the story.

Who owns the public schools if not the public?

Carol Burris carefully reviewed the NAEP scores. Listen to her interview on public radio. Unlike many commentators, she has the advantage of being an experienced educator and is also executive director of the Network for Public Education.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund is pleased to endorse Dr. Suzie Abajian for the South Pasadena School Board

Dr. Suzie Abajian is an educator, in every sense of the word. She has sixteen years of experience as a teacher, field supervisor, educational researcher, and professor, and holds a Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. Dr. Abajian taught Mathematics at Loyola Marymount University for four years, and is currently a professor of education at Occidental College. She has been a committed supporter of public education throughout her career, and will bring a profound understanding of education policy, effective teaching, and education research to the South Pasadena School Board.

NPE President Diane Ravitch has offered Dr. Abajian her unqualified endorsement, stating, “Dr Suzie Abajian is exactly the kind of person who should run for school board and be elected to serve. She is a well-informed advocate for students and for educational change. I hope that the people of South Pasadena turn out to elect her for their school board.”

Abajian has already demonstrated that she can successfully work within the system to bring about positive change for students. She was on the steering committee for the Save Adult Education campaign that kept the Adult Education Program in Los Angeles Unified School District open. She is also on the steering committee of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition that made Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement in select school districts in California.

Teacher, El Rancho School Board Vice President, and fellow Ethnic Studies Now Coalition member Jose Lara has also endorsed Dr. Abajian, stating, “Dr. Abajian championed Ethnic Studies in our schools, which meant that having the literature and history of students of color, Latino, Black, Armenian etc. in the classroom is as essential as expanding STEAM programs.”

“She has been a champion for students and educators from many years now,” Lara continued. “She has been an advocate for equitable funding of public school and maintaining essential programs like Adult Education, music, arts, and expanded Pre-K education.”

A strong proponent of small class sizes, Dr. Abajian stated, ‘Class size definitely matters! Class size should be kept under 20. I will do whatever I can to support legislation and policy changes that reduce class size.”

Dr. Abajian immigrated to the United States from Syria with her family when she was 12 years old. “I can identify with the struggles of students who don’t quite fit into our school district. Our school board needs to have individuals from more diverse backgrounds that better represent the diversity of the city in which we live.”

NPE Action agrees that Dr. Abajian is an ideal candidate for the South Pasadena School Board. Please visit her website to learn more about her, and do what you can to support her campaign by donating or volunteering.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund endorses Kathleen Gebhardt for the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education in Boulder, Colorado.

Kathleen has an unparalleled combination of experience in education that makes her ideally suited to be a school board member. Not only is she is a graduate of the district, she has been a parent in the district for over 25 years, and has served on several school and district committees. She clearly has a deep and thorough understanding of the issues specific to the Boulder Valley School District.

In addition, Kathleen has spent over 20 years working professionally in education, and currently teaches education law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She is the Executive Director of Children’s Voices, which is a “non-profit law firm of school advocates dedicated to achieving equal access to a high quality public education for all school-age children in Colorado.” Children’s Voices puts a special emphasis on working on behalf of special education students, English language learners, and children who live in poverty.

It is no surprise that Kathleen has received multiple endorsements, including the Boulder Valley Education Association and Boulder’s newspaper, the Daily Camera. The paper’s endorsement stated, “Kathy Gebhardt’s passion, experience and lifelong commitment to children make her the hands-down favorite and the candidate we endorse for the District C school board seat.”

Kevin Welner, professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and director of the National Education Policy Center, has also endorsed Kathleen. He writes, “If school board members were hired through a normal application process, based on qualifications, Kathy would be hired immediately. No person in the state of Colorado is better qualified for such a position. She has worked tirelessly for two decades to get our children the supports and resources they need for their educations.”

NPE Action agrees that Kathleen’s qualifications are phenomenal, and we urge our members in Boulder to do everything they can to support Kathleen’s campaign. Please visit her website to learn more about her positions on the issues. We are sure you will agree that the Boulder Valley Schools will be well served by Kathleen, and hope you will donate or volunteer to help her win a seat on the school board.