Weekly Roundup 9/5/14

Roundup3A short school week, thanks to Labor Day weekend, didn’t mean a lack of education news. The Common Core, big business, and leadership are the main topics of our picks for the week. With our Weekly Roundup, we bring to you the good, the bad, and the ugly of education-related news stories that grab our attention. This week’s 10 articles are listed below, in no particular order.
*FYI – Newsletter subscribers have the advantage of receiving our top news picks sooner than they will appear in the Weekly Roundup.*

All eyes were on the new NEA president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, as she took the reins on Labor Day. She claims her top priority is to “roll back standardized testing before it does more damage than good,” and NEA has been critical of the Obama administration’s support of using test scores to evaluate teachers. After her visit with Obama over the weekend, Garcia spoke with NPR Ed about that meeting and her other concerns regarding education. Read the compete NPR Q&A and get to know the new president.

Now that September is here, all eyes are on the November elections. Never before has an election ever been as high stakes for students, parents, and education as it is right now. The seats of 36 governors, 6,048 legislators, 31 state attorney generals, and 468 members of the U.S. Congress are up for election. Let’s face it: education voters did not do well in the 2010 midterm elections, which allowed too many candidates who put corporations and CEOs ahead of students to be elected. And, governors like Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and Kansas’ Sam Brownback slashed education budgets after they entered office; unfortunately, “similar scenarios played out across the country after the 2010 elections.” Education voters, teachers, parents, and everyone else who cares more about the state of public education than lining wealthy business’ pockets must vote for the right candidates this fall. The Education Votes article explains exactly what is at stake if we don’t.

If you read the Education Votes article listed above, you may be interested in seeing how your state compares to those mentioned. Now you can, because earlier this week, the Huffington Post put out an overview of how the Common Core is playing out across the US. Each state is briefly described, and most descriptions include information about the governors and other legislators who are influencing the discussion. It’s very interesting to see how the states are reacting to the “national” standards.

Fred Klonsky is a retired public school teacher who blogs about testing data and education-related issues. Klonsky frequently has Bev Johns, a special education advocate and activist, serve as a guest blogger, and her latest post is magnificent. Remember when NCLB required all students to be proficient on state tests by 2014?  Well, it’s 2014. Nobody expected this dream to become a reality, and the failure of public schools to reach that goal has been translated to the failure of public education as a whole. However, Arne Duncan is perpetuating the nonsense by seeking “to require ALL students with disabilities to demonstrate proficiency or advanced mastery of challenging subject matter on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.” Johns, of course, is concerned about what this means for the future of special education because regular education students have not been close to achieving Duncan’s goal. Will this mean that special ed will also be “deemed an utter failure”? Johns especially is concerned that RTI/MTSS and full inclusion for all will be the result. Included in the post are portions of a 3-page letter from all 8 Republicans on the U.S. Senate education committee to Duncan, detailing questions about his special ed and Results Driven Accountability. Read the entire blog post and consider Johns’ points and questions for yourself.

Monday, we published a blog post warning teachers and parents not to allow school districts to “sell” your kids as news on the hearings for Ohio House Bill 597 heated up to the point that a businessman with Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying “students are the educational product … going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume…” Basically, ed reformers/businesses hope to get even wealthier at the expense of our children and America’s public schools. As the fight to repeal the Common Core standards gets more interesting in Ohio, Republican Rep. Andy Thompson says it’s kind of “creepy the way this whole thing landed in Ohio with all the things prepackaged.” An AP article by Kimberly Hefling offers a wonderful overview of the fight in Ohio, with comments like the one from Thompson, as well as those from parents and educators, and describes how other states are pushing back against the standards as well. Read the full article here.

While some government leaders and citizens starting to see exactly how big businesses and ed reformers are attempting to take over education, other organizations are clearly showing just how strong the push is to privatize our public schools. A new report from GEMS Education Solutions, an education consulting firm, released its “Efficiency Index” and an accompanying report Thursday. Basically, they ranked the return on investment for 30 different nations’ education budgets: according to the report, the index “treats the educational system as if it were a company which attempts to obtain an output.” That statement, in itself, should be enough to send up everyone’s red flags. As soon as we talk about return on investment and output, we are talking about a BUSINESS. We start looking at students as cogs on an assembly line and teachers as factory workers. Even more disturbing? The report says that in order for the U.S. to become more efficient, we would “need to increase class sizes and reduce teacher salaries.” If you haven’t yet seen the writing on the wall about the state of education in this country, read the full article.

Continuing with our business theme, this article explains how Peter Cunningham, “the former communications guru for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan” is leading an organization that has received initial grants totaling $12 million from the Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor to “encourage a more ‘respectful’ and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions.” On its face, Education Post’s mission sounds delightful. Delve a little deeper, and you see that one of its originators, Bruce Reed (president of the Broad Foundation) wants to “help spread information about what works both inside the field and outside” but says “administrators, school leaders and teachers have papers to grade, schools to run, and they don’t have time to get out and talk about this.” Really? Teachers are exactly the ones who should be talking about this, because we are the ones who know the truth about what’s happening to education. Don’t be fooled. This is just one more way for businessmen to take the educators out of the discussion on education. No thanks, Education Post. We aren’t buying. Read the entire Washington Post article to decide for yourself.

On August 26, we wrote a blog post about the call for later school start times after a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics determined that kids, especially teens, need more sleep. A September 2 Chicago Tribune article describes exactly just how much sleep teens aren’t getting, despite the report’s suggestion to push back school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later. According to the article, though, only about 15% of U.S. high schools have an opening bell at 8:30 a.m. or later. Hearing just how an early school day affects students, from falling asleep in class, to relying on caffeine and stimulants, makes the issue all too real. Read the students’ comments in the full article.

Sometimes, articles fall into our laps at just the right time, and this is the case with the newly updated NCTE Position Statement on Students’ Right to Write. We’ve been making the case for TRUE writing on our website within the past week, and the NCTE Position Statement falls right in line with what we’ve been saying: students’ right to write must be protected. One of our favorite “beliefs” from the Position Statement is “teachers should avoid scripted writing that discourages individual creativity, voice, or expression of ideas.” Yes! Break out of the formula writing and allow students to write to learn and explore and express. Read the entire NCTE Position Statement here.

Why does America hate teachers? Noah Berlatsky, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, admits that while that is not exactly the premise of Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, the book does trend toward answering that question with an account of 200 years of education policy. Worth noting here is one of Berlatsky’s takeaways from the book: “Education reform, as so often before, seemed to be less about aiding students than about targeting teachers.” This is nothing new for teachers to hear, but it is nice to hear that an “outsider” gets it. Another one of Berlatsky’s gems, “The focus on testing to evaluate teachers, then, is not based on a rational look at the research. Instead, one could argue, it’s based on the logic of the moral panic, and the created identity of teachers,” gets at one of Goldstein’s main points: “discussions of education in the U.S. have repeatedly been framed in terms of moral panics.” This is an intriguing article about an even more intriguing book: read Berlatsky’s entire article from The Atlantic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *