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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