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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 02:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

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Tax Dollars at Work: CSU Spent $2 Million on Presidential Homes


Tuition at the California State University (CSU) system increased from $1,428 per year in 2001-2 to $5,472 in 2011, with another 9% rate hike planned for the fall of 2012. Because of budget cuts and financial insecurity, the university has also cut course offerings and services. Yet in that same 10-year period, CSU spent over $2 million renovating eight university-owned presidential residences, including such extras as expanding garages and hiring interior designers, according to a report this week in the Bay Citizen.

In 2012, alone, CSU spent over $400,000 remodeling presidential homes at CSU Fullerton and CSU Northridge, in the Los Angeles Area. In 2011, it spent $257,000 on kitchen upgrades and swimming pool replastering at San Diego State, and another $230,000 on kitchen upgrades and lighting at Cal Poly San Luis Obsipo. Cal Poly also spent $200,000 on renovations in 2010--$831,000 total since 2004, 99% of which was paid for through state funding.

11 university presidents live in these lavish homes at tax-payers’ expense. Another 12 university presidents are getting $60,000 per year in housing allowances to covering living costs off campus. All this is on top of their six-figure salaries (some have also received raises), which alone ought to be sufficient to live comfortably within easy commuting distance of any of the CSU campuses.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/tax-dollars-at-work-csu-spent-2-million.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed May 30, 2012, 11:16 PM (0 replies)

55% of Oakland’s African American Males At Risk of Not Graduating


New research by the Urban Strategies Council of Oakland found that 55% of African American male students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) were at risk of not graduating due to high suspension rates, chronic absences and poor academic performance. This compares with a still high rate of 37.5% for the general student population, according to the Bay Citizen.

Of those who were not on track to graduate on time, 73% were chronically absent in elementary school, missing at least 10% of school days. This parallels findings from a Baltimore study (see here). The same percentage had been suspended at least once in middle school.

It is easy to blame schools, teachers and parents for the problem. Indeed, the Bay Citizen quoted Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, who said that “five-year-olds don’t miss school without an adult knowing at home,” as if the parent was keeping the child home for illegitimate reasons. Yet, high absenteeism is not primarily due to irresponsible parents who simply keep their kids home or don’t monitor their attendance. Rather, high absenteeism correlates with poverty and lack of health insurance or access to affordable care, suggesting that poor kids stay home more because they are not receiving preventative or prompt curative care, leading to longer and more severe infectious and chronic illnesses.

Of course, at the higher grades, students sometimes cut class for other reasons, like preferring to be out on the streets or with friends, to avoid gangs or bullies, or because they are so behind in grades or academic skills that school has become a traumatic and unpleasant experience for them.

Most of these problems, likewise, cannot be directly blamed on parents, teachers or even the students themselves. Poverty creates an achievement gap before children have even entered kindergarten (see here and here). The achievement gap only gets worse as children progress through the system, with affluent students continuing to reap benefits like summer travel, enriching extracurricular activities and better health and nutrition that are denied to their lower income peers. Failure and frustration are thus built into the system and routine for many students and cutting class could be seen as a rational response to the embarrassment, powerlessness or frustration of being stuck in classes in which one is lost, confused and has little chance of passing.

Gangs are also a product of socioeconomic conditions and a problem that can be significantly reduced or eliminated by eradicating poverty and providing jobs and extracurricular activities for youth. Until that happens, students who must cross through rival gang territory in order to get to school could be provided with transportation alternatives that bypass the dangerous turf or reassigned to other schools.

Bullying is also a societal problem. It occurs at home and in the streets and playgrounds. Politicians, bosses and community leaders also engage in it. Until it as addressed at these levels, children and adults will continue to see it as a normal (and effective) way to interact and achieve one’s goals and the problem will persist. However, schools can do a lot more to reduce bullying on campus by better educating their staffs and creating and enforcing disciplinary policies that treat it as a serious offense.

High suspension rates are also related to socioeconomic factors. While racial bias probably plays a role in the higher suspension rates for African American males among certain teachers and administrators, it is unlikely the main cause (see Parsing the Black-White Suspension Gap for more analysis of this topic). Rather, lower rates of academic success (remember, the achievement gap is already in place before students even start school) likely create a frustrating academic experience that contributes to disruptive behavior. Also, the middle class culture, mores and expectations of school often come into conflict with the culture, mores and expectations of lower income and non-white communities, leading to the unnecessary escalation of conflicts and more severe punishment for students.

Oakland students of color, particularly black males, indeed have an appallingly high risk of not graduating on time from high school. However, if we really want to see improvements, we need to stop scapegoating the parents, teachers and children themselves and start addressing the socioeconomic factors that are the primary cause of the problem.


Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/55-of-oaklands-african-american-males.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed May 30, 2012, 11:14 PM (1 replies)

Brookings Study Indicates Public Education Not So Bad After All

The 10th Brown Center Report (Brookings Institution), which analyzed PISA and other common standardized test scores, debunked two common myths: that the U.S. once led the world in math and science education scores and that it has been declining ever since. In reality, the U.S. has never led the world on international achievement tests, according to the report. The report also found that some of the states that won federal Race to the Top (RttT) grants actually underperformed states that did not receive the grants on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), thus suggesting that the “reforms” mandated by the Obama Administration are not improving educational outcomes.

According to Brookings scholar Tom Loveless, U.S. science and math scores have been mediocre compared to other wealthy nations since at least 1964 and, contrary to the claims of Ed Deformers and accountability maniacs, they have not been getting any worse. America’s schools are NOT in a state of crisis or deterioration. Indeed, evidence suggests that they have been improving (see Jay Mathews’s Class Struggle). In 1964, we scored near the very bottom, compared with 2010, when we scored near the middle in science and literacy.

Despite the fact that we’ve never been number one (or even close to it) in K-12 math and science scores, the U.S. has continued to dominate the world economically over the past 50 years, suggesting that pundits and critics have been completely wrong about the importance of this metric to our international competitiveness. Furthermore, despite our relatively weak K-12 math and science scores, we continue to pump out some of the most effective scientists and mathematicians in the world, including more Nobel laureates than any other country.

One might conclude from this that our K-12 science and math education has been sufficient for preparing students for the rigors of university level science and math. This would probably be an incorrect assumption. What is probably happening is that some U.S. students are excelling at science and math (primarily the same middle class and affluent students who tend to excel at school, in general) and these students are also succeeding in college, while large numbers of lower income students are struggling across the board, including in math and science.

The improvements in PISA scores, as well as the increasing numbers of lower income and minority students who are taking and passing SAT and AP exams, probably do reflect improvements in teaching, as well as changing attitudes and policies about promoting college and higher level course work to low income and minority students. Yet our inability to score at the top of international tests is not due to the quality of the schools and teachers, which have been improving, but to socioeconomic conditions, which have actually been declining for large numbers of Americans. When disaggregated by class, our middle class students do as well as those from almost any other country. At the same time, the countries with the highest PISA scores tend to have far less childhood poverty and income gaps than we do.

Thus, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, if we really want to see PISA scores go up, along with graduation rates, science literacy, and any other academic indicator, we need to close the wealth gap, end poverty and start investing in education a level comparable to Finland.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/brookings-study-indicates-public.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed May 30, 2012, 11:13 PM (0 replies)

End Due Process for Abusive Administrators?

One of the most vitriolic and idiotic elements of the Ed Deform and Teacher Bashing movements is their assertion that the schools are filled with terrible or dangerous teachers who are impossible to remove because of tenure and due process protections and that these parasites force novice teachers (who are all presumed to be better than their more senior colleagues) out of jobs.

But what about administrators who lack the time or competency to effectively monitor and evaluate their employees or who wield evaluations as a weapon to harass teachers they do not like? The fact is that administrators themselves can be incompetent, abusive and even guilty of criminal misconduct.

Should we end due process, seniority and tenure for administrators?

Oh yeah, they don’t have these protections. They have something better: status and power.

Consider the case of Ramon Cortines, former superintendent of LAUSD, SFUSD, Pasadena and New York. He was accused of sexually harassing a colleague and allowed to retire with benefits, while LAUSD was forced to pay out $200,000, plus lifetime health benefits worth $250-300,000 to Scot Graham, LAUSD’s former director of leasing and asset management, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cortines, like other high powered abusers, denied that he harassed anyone, but admitted that he engaged "adult behavior," and insisted that it was consensual. Yet Graham had complained of Cortine’s behavior to superiors on three occasions. Meanwhile, the district refused to investigate and encouraged him to drop his complaints.

While the out-of-court settlement precludes us from ever knowing whether Cortines was guilty of wrongdoing, some are asserting that the large size of the settlement is an indication of his guilt and the district’s fear of going to court and losing. What is clear is that Cortines enjoyed the protection of his district, which refused to pursue the allegations, investigate his behavior, or otherwise threaten his professional or social wellbeing.

San Francisco Breeding Ground for Corrupt, Inept and Abusive Administrators
Not long after Cortines left San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the Bill Rojas administration oversaw the misallocation (and theft) of millions of dollars from the district. Up to $68 million disappeared into the hands of nonteaching staff, including several who were indicted. Rojas ultimately fled to Dallas, bringing with him several of his loyal criminal cronies, where he managed to continue his incompetence and corruption while evading the long arm of the law. William Coleman, who was Rojas’ No. 2 guy in SFUSD and continued in Rojas’ new administration in Dallas, eventually pled guilty to charges of attempting to influence a grand jury. However, while Rojas was fired from his job in Dallas, he quickly landed a job at a for-profit charter school in Boston, proving that no bad deed goes unrewarded.

At SFUSD, Rojas was followed by Arlene Ackerman who finagled a $250,000 salary, plus a $2,000-a-month housing allowance and $375,000 severance package, payable even if she quit, which she was forced to do not long after taking over. As superintendent of SFUSD she pretended to clean up the district’s sloppy financial records and the scandals of the Rojas years, while completely missing Trish Bascom’s embezzlement scheme which was occurring right under her nose. This blunder was no doubt due to her obsession with quashing dissent and getting her underlings to toe the line. “I can’t continue to tolerate the dissension,” she said about her SFUSD staff and teachers. Part of her strategy for reducing dissent was to spend $400,000 a year of district money on a PR firm to put a positive spin on her leadership, money that should have gone to classroom instruction.

Ackerman then went on to head Philadelphia public schools where she secured a raise that pushed her salary higher than those of the mayor or governor. While in office she gave a $7.5 million no-bid contract to cronies at IBS Communications to install surveillance cameras despite previous work with the district that involved cost overruns 12 times what they had originally estimated. She then scapegoated underlings for the scandal and squeezed the Philadelphia school board for a $900,000 buyout package to get her to resign and go away.

Cheaters Prosper
In Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee presided over one of the largest cheating scandals in the nation. In Atlanta, Superintendent Beverly Hall oversaw an even larger cheating scandal. In both cases the administrators threatened to fire teachers if test scores didn’t go up. In both cases, there were abnormally high rates of erasures and implausibly high improvements in test scores.

Rather than relying on independent outside evaluators, both Rhee and Hall conducted their own biased internal investigations that not surprisingly absolved them and their districts (see New York Times), despite the flagging of numerous schools by McGraw Hill for the suspicious erasure patterns (see USA Today report). The State Superintendent of Education also recommended that the scores of many D.C. schools be investigated because of their unusually high gains, something Rhee’s administration refused to do.

Rhee was never fired, punished or held accountable for the cheating scandal. She did resign when the mayor who had appointed her, Adrian Fenty, lost his re-election bid. Yet she remained the darling of the right wing Ed Deform movement, securing millions of dollars in donations to her bogus student advocacy non-profit, Students First, and numerous $50,000 speaking engagements. To her supporters she is still seen as a hero who took a tough school district and turned it around by being tough on teachers and their unions. It doesn’t matter to them that those “gains” were fabricated because they don’t really care about improved educational outcomes for children. What is most important to them is improved business opportunities, something that Rhee has championed through her support of high stakes testing, private charter schools and her general attacks on unions.

Hall, who has since retired, may not get off so easily. There is currently a grand jury investigating the scandal and District Attorney Paul Howard has not yet determined whether to file charges against her. (See Atlanta Journal Constitution 4/22/12). However, her former top adviser Kathy Augustine resigned after one day on the job as superintendent of the DeSoto Independent School District, with a severance deal worth $188,000, which is a far cry from punishment for her role in the Atlanta cheating scandal. Three other former superintendents are still on the Atlanta Public Schools payroll earning six-figure salaries.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/end-due-process-for-abusive.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 29, 2012, 10:27 PM (0 replies)

Teacher Shortage or Glut?

It is often said that we are suffering a teacher shortage and that terrible pay and working conditions are only worsening it. However, due to several years of mass layoffs, combined with increasing class sizes, most districts have plenty of teachers to fill current needs.

The problem is no longer a shortage of teachers, but a shortage of teaching services. There are sufficient teachers to cover the desired number of classes, but there are far fewer course offerings and desired classes offered to students. They have far more classmates in the remaining classes, which results in less one on one attention from their teachers. Because of the increased workloads, teachers are resorting more and more to multiple choice exams, instead of open ended tests that requiring more reading and team; less inquiry-based labs and more pen and paper or computer simulations.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-shortage-or-glut.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 29, 2012, 10:26 PM (8 replies)

Michelle Rhee’s $1 Billion Union-Busting Superpac

According to the Ed Deform movement, teachers unions are the main impediment to student success. All they care about is protecting incompetent or perverted teachers, keeping working hours short and salaries high and blocking real and meaningful reforms like private charter schools, abolition of due process rights, increased high stakes tests, and dumbed down Common Core Standards.

Education reformers should thus be excited to hear that Students First, former Washington D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee’s fake student advocacy group, has dumped $2 million into a Superpac created to counter the corrupting influence of teachers unions in upcoming California legislative races, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Rhee hopes the new Superpac, called “Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First,” will ultimately raise over $1 billion in its fight against the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. One of their first campaigns has been to back Democrat Brian Johnson, a charter school executive running for the 46th assembly district in Southern California, pumping over $400,000 into his campaign.

Just Another Superpac to Benefit Corporate Interests
Unions, especially teachers unions, have been increasingly relying on political campaign funding as their primary tool for promoting the interests of their members. From the standpoint of workers this has been disastrous as it has taken resources, time and energy away from organizing and the promotion of direct actions like strikes and working to rule and focused them on the very indirect and fickle beneficence of political leaders whose interests lie primarily with business, not workers. The consequence has been a continuing downward spiral in workers’ wages, working conditions and living standards, with legislation increasingly favoring the interests of bosses over those of workers.

The most explicit recent example of the bankruptcy of this strategy is the teachers’ unions’ continued support for President Obama despite the fact that Obama has promoted numerous programs that are terrible for students and teachers (e.g., private charter schools, Race to the Top, Common Core Standards, evaluation reform, etc.). It is irrelevant that Romney might be even worse for teachers. A union is supposed to promote the interests of its workers and therefore should never endorse a political leader with a demonstrated track record of attacking those interests. They should especially not waste their members’ dues on that campaign, when those resources would be much more effectively spent resisting the candidate’s anti-worker policies.

From the perspective of the ruling elite, however, this strategy by unions has been much more of a frustration than a disaster. It has not stopped them from consolidating political power and increasing their wealth to levels unseen in nearly a century. Yet unions are one of the few remaining entities with bankrolls large enough to mount even a modicum of resistance and contest the wealthy in the political arena. Hence, destroying unions outright, or at least their ability to make campaign donations, has become one of the main priorities of the ruling elite. (An example is the Payroll Deception initiative being proposed in California).

MAD Madness
Amassing a stockpile of nuclear weapons large enough to annihilate the world several times over was a cold war strategy that proponents argued would make us safer by deterring the Russians or Chinese from using their huge stockpiles against us. If you nuke me, I’ll nuke you and the planet will be destroyed—Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

This arms race contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union by redirecting limited resources away from human needs and increasing their public’s disgust with their regime. However, according to many historians, it was the drawn out proxy war in Afghanistan between the U.S.-supported Mujahedeen and the Soviet-backed communist government that really blew their wad and brought down the U.S.S.R.

There has been an ongoing political arms race between wealthy individuals and the corporations versus unions and liberal nonprofits. It has always been an unequal race with the wealthy almost always outspending their opposition, often by a ratio of ten to one (or more). With the Citizens United ruling and the super spending by the Superpacs, this has only become more extreme and it threatens to do the same thing to the unions that military spending did to the Soviet Union.

It may not happen immediately. Unions will continue their copious spending in a desperate attempt to elect the lesser evils and block the most onerous legislation, all the while resisting strikes and other direct actions, discouraging their members from fighting back and continuing to give away more and more concessions to the bosses.

In the end, how different is this from withdrawing completely from political campaigns? In either case, the workers lose out. However, by withdrawing from the political game, unions at least retain their war chests, which can be used to organize and mobilize their members to directly pressure the politicians and the bosses, make their lives uncomfortable, cut into their profits, and make some real gains instead of always fighting just to make the losses less bad.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/michelle-rhees-1-billion-union-busting.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 29, 2012, 10:25 PM (2 replies)

Michelle Rhee’s $1 Billion Union-Busting Superpac

According to the Ed Deform movement, teachers unions are the main impediment to student success. All they care about is protecting incompetent or perverted teachers, keeping working hours short and salaries high and blocking real and meaningful reforms like private charter schools, abolition of due process rights, increased high stakes tests, and dumbed down Common Core Standards.

Education reformers should thus be excited to hear that Students First, former Washington D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee’s fake student advocacy group, has dumped $2 million into a Superpac created to counter the corrupting influence of teachers unions in upcoming California legislative races, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Rhee hopes the new Superpac, called “Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First,” will ultimately raise over $1 billion in its fight against the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. One of their first campaigns has been to back Democrat Brian Johnson, a charter school executive running for the 46th assembly district in Southern California, pumping over $400,000 into his campaign.

Just Another Superpac to Benefit Corporate Interests
Unions, especially teachers unions, have been increasingly relying on political campaign funding as their primary tool for promoting the interests of their members. From the standpoint of workers this has been disastrous as it has taken resources, time and energy away from organizing and the promotion of direct actions like strikes and working to rule and focused them on the very indirect and fickle beneficence of political leaders whose interests lie primarily with business, not workers. The consequence has been a continuing downward spiral in workers’ wages, working conditions and living standards, with legislation increasingly favoring the interests of bosses over those of workers.

The most explicit recent example of the bankruptcy of this strategy is the teachers’ unions’ continued support for President Obama despite the fact that Obama has promoted numerous programs that are terrible for students and teachers (e.g., private charter schools, Race to the Top, Common Core Standards, evaluation reform, etc.). It is irrelevant that Romney might be even worse for teachers. A union is supposed to promote the interests of its workers and therefore should never endorse a political leader with a demonstrated track record of attacking those interests. They should especially not waste their members’ dues on that campaign, when those resources would be much more effectively spent resisting the candidate’s anti-worker policies.

From the perspective of the ruling elite, however, this strategy by unions has been much more of a frustration than a disaster. It has not stopped them from consolidating political power and increasing their wealth to levels unseen in nearly a century. Yet unions are one of the few remaining entities with bankrolls large enough to mount even a modicum of resistance and contest the wealthy in the political arena. Hence, destroying unions outright, or at least their ability to make campaign donations, has become one of the main priorities of the ruling elite. (An example is the Payroll Deception initiative being proposed in California).

MAD Madness
Amassing a stockpile of nuclear weapons large enough to annihilate the world several times over was a cold war strategy that proponents argued would make us safer by deterring the Russians or Chinese from using their huge stockpiles against us. If you nuke me, I’ll nuke you and the planet will be destroyed—Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

This arms race contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union by redirecting limited resources away from human needs and increasing their public’s disgust with their regime. However, according to many historians, it was the drawn out proxy war in Afghanistan between the U.S.-supported Mujahedeen and the Soviet-backed communist government that really blew their wad and brought down the U.S.S.R.

There has been an ongoing political arms race between wealthy individuals and the corporations versus unions and liberal nonprofits. It has always been an unequal race with the wealthy almost always outspending their opposition, often by a ratio of ten to one (or more). With the Citizens United ruling and the super spending by the Superpacs, this has only become more extreme and it threatens to do the same thing to the unions that military spending did to the Soviet Union.

It may not happen immediately. Unions will continue their copious spending in a desperate attempt to elect the lesser evils and block the most onerous legislation, all the while resisting strikes and other direct actions, discouraging their members from fighting back and continuing to give away more and more concessions to the bosses.

In the end, how different is this from withdrawing completely from political campaigns? In either case, the workers lose out. However, by withdrawing from the political game, unions at least retain their war chests, which can be used to organize and mobilize their members to directly pressure the politicians and the bosses, make their lives uncomfortable, cut into their profits, and make some real gains instead of always fighting just to make the losses less bad.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/michelle-rhees-1-billion-union-busting.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 29, 2012, 10:24 PM (0 replies)

LAUSD To Apply for Paltry RttT Grant

3 Easy Tricks to Maximize Profits From the Public Sector
1. Demand low taxes to increase personal income while decimating school budgets, thus making public education look like a disaster in need of corporate management
2. Claim your private enterprise will solve these problems and should be funded with public tax dollars (e.g., charter schools, Common Core Standards, laptops for every child, new textbooks or ebooks, tutoring services, etc.)
3. Insist that teachers’ unions are the main impediment to reform and lobby to have them weakened, eviscerated or outright banned

All of the above have been on the table for years at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), one of the 176 California school districts currently at risk of going bankrupt. The district’s budget deficit for the 2012-13 school year was projected to be $390 million as of 3/13/12, according to the LAUSD website.

There is no question that record low tax rates combined with revenue losses due to the housing market collapse have contributed to LAUSD’s budget woes, which in turn have led district officials to attempt all sort of ludicrous shenanigans, like asking teachers to take 20 furlough days (and consequently asking students to give up 20 days of instructional time). The latest absurdity is Sup. Deasy’s plan to plug the nearly $400 million dyke with a measly $25 million federal Race to the Top (RttT) grant (see the Los Angeles Times).

For the first time, RttT grants will be offered to individual school districts, and not just states, willing to sell their souls for chump change. Aside from the fact that the grant would only cover 6% of the current budget hole, the one-time grant would expire at the end of the school year, leaving the district with the same problem the following year unless it can increase its revenue stream or find longer-term and bigger cuts.

There are those who would argue that $25 million is better than nothing and in these dark times one must take what one can get. However, one must consider what must be sacrificed in order to get this “free” money before one can call it a good deal.


Interestingly, the state of California found the eligibility requirements for RttT so burdensome that it voluntarily withdrew its grant proposal because the money was too little for what was being asked. Unfortunately, it did not make this realization until after it had already implemented some RttT requirements, like adoption of Common Core Standards (CCS), which are projected to cost the state more than $1 billion in new textbook and curriculum costs—far more than it would have won in RttT grants.

One of the biggest sticking points is that the state or local districts would need to get union support before moving ahead, since RttT requires the use of student test score data in teacher evaluations, something that cannot occur without changes to teachers’ contracts. Some NEA and AFT locals around the nation have rolled over and accepted this, despite the fact that the data is inconsistent and often inaccurate even when used properly and, in many cases, it is not even used properly (see here, here and here). Consequently, many good teachers could be mischaracterized as ineffective and possibly fired as a result, thus depriving students of good teachers. Worse, it could drive many good teachers away from challenging lower income schools, or from the profession entirely, thus worsening the problem evaluation reform purports to fix.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/lausd-to-apply-for-paltry-rttt-grant.html
Posted by Modern School | Fri May 25, 2012, 09:20 PM (0 replies)

California School Pressures Parents to Buy IPads

The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) is challenging an elementary school’s drive to put technology into the hands of every student, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported this week. Tierra Bonita Elementary School, in Poway, California has initiated a technology program requiring every fourth and fifth grader to have an iPad or similar tablet-style computer. Students were given the choice of using their own device, buying one from the district for $379 (plus $79 warranty and $25 case), or renting or borrowing one from the district.

The problem with their program, according to the ACLU, is that they warned parents the program would be halted if more than 10% of families had to borrow a device. Furthermore, the principal told parents “We are just 15 commitments away from being the first school in Poway to equip all students in 4th and 5th grade next year with a digital device. If you have not turned in a response, we need you.”

The ACLU is arguing that the email and survey “go far beyond assessing interest” by placing “significant pressure on families to either provide or pay for a digital device. This pressure is dangerously close if not tantamount to directly charging an illegal fee...”

While one could easily come up with numerous pedagogically sound ways to use personal tablets in the classroom and for homework assignments, the real driving force behind the “laptops for every child” movement is lobbying by the tech and textbook companies which stand to profit handsomely from it (see here and here).

It is also a boondoggle for school districts. Sure, they could put all their textbooks on one laptop instead of issuing many books to each student. However, they (or their students) would still be responsible for upkeep and maintenance, which could quickly become prohibitively expensive if students treat their tablets as carelessly as many treat their paper textbooks.

As a high school science teacher, when I think about what my students really need to succeed, personal laptops or tablets are pretty low on the list. Those who are struggling most in my classes are the ones who lack the prerequisite skills to succeed in a college preparatory level science class. They lack these skills not because they lack computers, but because they lack proficiency in reading, math, English language and study skills. What difference does it make whether they are having trouble reading from a textbook or an ebook?

While the ACLU is probably taking the correct stand on this, the case is symptomatic of a much bigger problem in education: We continue to gut K-12 funding and then waste what little is left on lame solutions to nonexistent or exaggerated problems. How can anyone think it makes sense to fire and furlough teachers, balloon class sizes, eviscerate support services and then try to compensate for these losses and also shrink the achievement gap by purchasing laptops or tablets for every student?

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/california-school-pressures-parents-to.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu May 24, 2012, 08:39 PM (12 replies)

Teacher Raises in Omaha

As unlikely as it might seem, there are a few people other than CEOs and Wall Street Bankers receiving raises these days. Even more unbelievable is that some of these are teachers.

Members of the Millard Education Association (Omaha, Nebraska), have won a 1.5% raise for the 2012-13 school year and a 3.3% raise for the 2013-14 school year under their new contract, according to Omaha World Herald. The contract also increases stipends for coaches and other extra duties like band directing. Millard Public Schools is the state's third-largest school district with roughly 1,700 teachers.

Under the new contract, head football coaches will receive a $7,500 stipend next year and $8,600 in 2013-14. High school band directors will get a $7,560 stipend for the next two years. Head varsity basketball coaches will earn $7,150 stipends next year and $7,740 the next year. And high school golf, tennis and cross country coaches will get $3,300 stipends next year and $3,870 in 2013-14. Other extra-duty stipends include $1,740 for Academic Decathlon coaches and $580 for club sponsors. For those who also teach, these stipends are in addition to their base salaries.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-raises-in-omaha.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu May 24, 2012, 08:38 PM (1 replies)
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