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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

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Corruption at CTC Placed Kids at Risk, Denied Teachers Credentials

A recent lawsuit against the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), filed in November by former government lawyer and CTC whistleblower Kathleen Carroll, alleges that CTC lawyers and administrators engaged in numerous illegal acts that prevented qualified teachers from obtaining or maintaining their credentials. The charges against the attorneys include tampering with case outcomes, acting outside their legal jurisdictions, nepotism, cronyism, and conflict of interest.

According to Steve Zeltzer, writing for Daily Censored, the suit’s allegations imply that the CTC may have been used as a tool for preventing qualified teachers from receiving their credentials so they would be unable to get hired at traditional district schools and be forced to seek jobs at alternative schools with less stringent credentialing requirements, like charter schools, which are often nonunionized. Consequently, Zeltzer argues, thousands of teachers may have been illegally or inappropriately denied their credentials, thus creating a small army of well-trained teachers willing to accept low-paying jobs with poor working conditions at private charter schools.

The CTC is responsible for licensing California teachers, administrators and other education personnel; investigating charges of misconduct against credentialed teachers and applicants; and approving teacher training programs. The agency has been involved in the development of curriculum, tests for teachers, and teacher evaluation policies, often by outsourcing to private testing and publishing companies like NCS Pearson (which is currently being sued by the state of New York (among others) for illegal kickbacks to officials involved in deciding whether or not to use their tests. Pearson is also a big player in the design of Common Core Standards (CCS) which will require a whole new series of high stakes exams from which Pearson hopes to profit.

Zeltzer reports that several CTC Commissioners have had personal or financial ties with private charter schools and would thus benefit from having a large pool of teachers desperate for jobs, but unable to acquire them at traditional public schools. Ting Sun, for example, was chair of the CTC at the same time she worked at the Natomas charter school—which she founded with her husband—and was being paid by the California Charter Association. She is also on the board of the corrupt Gulen charter school chain Magnolia Public Schools (for more on Gulen, see here, here and here). According to Zeltzer, Sun failed to report these conflicts of interests, as required by CTC commissioners, since they vote on contracts paid for with public funds.

Carroll had been an attorney at the CTC for four years until she was fired for whistleblowing in the middle of the audit of the commission that she helped initiate. One of her allegations was that the CTC had a long backlog of misconduct reports, many of which were specious. The CTC admitted there was a backlog of more than 12,000 reports. The actual number was never verified. Regardless, this is a serious safety concern for parents and students (as some potential abusers may have remained in the classroom) and a serious due process violation for accused teachers (many of whom may be innocent, especially since many of the reports were trumped up).

Carroll told Ting Sun that the Director of Professional Practices at the CTC, Mary Armstrong, had lied about the backlog. She told CTC Director Dale Janssen that the misconduct reports were not being processed quickly enough, including those involving sexual misconduct, thus placing students at risk. According to the suit, Janssen responded by hiring a private investigator to discredit Carroll, including the release of her private medical records.

There may also be evidence of tampering by the office of California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, which initiated the audit at Carroll’s request. Steinberg’s office made changes in the audit request and failed to investigate some of Carroll’s allegations. Steinberg’s office, like many in the CTC, had its own conflicts of interest. His education advisor, Susanna Cooper, is married to Eric Douglas, who owns Leading Resources Inc., which represents the Bureau of State Audits, which was doing the CTC audit. Cooper is also on the board of West Ed, which receives funding from Pearson and numerous other public and private education profiteers, and has a vested interest in many of the CTC’s projects, including testing and credentialing, thus further drawing into question the objectivity of the audit.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said the commission was “one of the worst run” organizations she had ever investigated. Janssen and Armstrong resigned not long after the auditor’s report came back (June 2011), but the backlog of unprocessed complaints continues and questions remain about the agency’s integrity. Sun remained as chair until her term ended in November. Janssen and Armstrong were replaced by Gov. Brown appointees, Nancy Ramirez, from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Michael Cooney.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/02/corruption-at-ctc-placed-kids-at-risk.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Feb 7, 2013, 08:31 PM (1 replies)

Misguided Moralism From Both Sides of the Gun Debate

Many have questioned why it took the tragedy at Sandy Hook to jump start the debate on gun control, a massacre so horrific that even some staunchly pro-gun politicians have started to suggest that perhaps some new regulations might be in order.
"The Suicide" Edouard Manet,
This outpouring of support for tighter gun control was due largely to the fact that the Sandy Hook massacre involved the slaughter of “innocents.” Young school children are seen by many as the most vulnerable, unsullied and worthy members of our society (unless you include unborn fetuses and the rich, whose worth to society is unquestioned).

This distinction between worthy and unworthy victims has permeated the discourse on gun control on both sides of the issue, with the focus being on how to make our schools safer (i.e., protecting the “innocents”) rather than how to make society safer or how to cut the overall social costs associated with gunshot wounds and deaths.

Yet, as tragic as it is for children to be gunned down at school, school shootings make up only a tiny fraction of the total annual gun deaths (less than 300 since 1980, or less than 10 per year). The sad reality is that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from gun violence, primarily due to suicide. In 2010, there were 19,392 gun-related suicides, or 63.6% of the total gun-related deaths, according to Wikipedia. In contrast, there were 11,078 gun-related homicides, or 36.4% of the total. Very few of the homicides occurred at schools or other public settings. Nevertheless, President Obama promised on January 16 to make our schools safer by keeping guns out of the wrong hands and improving mental health surveillance and services. Like his sanctimonious colleagues in Congress and the media, the focus is on the “innocents,” while the bulk of gun victims are ignored.

Biggest Bang for the Buck: Depression or Psychopathy?
In one sense, the discussion of better mental health monitoring and treatment is welcome. For too long mental health services have been inaccessible or unaffordable to many who need them, while prejudice and shame prevent some from attempting to obtain these services even when they are accessible.

The problem is that this aspect of the discourse has focused on almost entirely on psychopathic rampages, which account for very few gun deaths, while virtually ignoring depression, PTSD and other conditions that lead to suicide, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of gun deaths. From the perspective of cost effectiveness, it would make a great deal of sense to improve mental health access and services for everyone who needs it—not just those who are seen as potential homicidal maniacs.

Another problem with the mental health “solution” is that it tends to be discussed in essentially moralistic and prejudicial rather than rational terms. For example, Obama’s call for schools to become “more nurturing” implies that mean teachers or impersonal schools are somehow responsible for school shootings. His call for more mental health workers in the schools to curb “student-on-student violence” (rather than to treat all student mental health conditions) suggests a distinction between the worthy but rare victims of school rampages, and the less worthy but abundant victims of depression, anxiety, and stress (conditions which, if left untreated, could lead to suicide). His call for more police on campuses sends the message that school shooters are bad guys who must be punished or killed, rather than troubled youth in need of help. Yet there is no clear evidence that school safety officers have any effect on reducing crime or violence at school.

Moralism is also behind the lynch mob demanding a national registry for the mentally ill and the denial of their second amendment rights. The assumption is that because some crazy people have committed shooting rampages, that all crazy people are untrustworthy and violent and therefore need to be carefully monitored and controlled. Yet statistically, crazy people are no more likely than anyone else to commit acts of violence. Thus, identifying them and preventing them from buying guns should have only a nominal effect on the total number of annual gun deaths. On the other hand, the implementation of a national registry could scare away many people who need mental health services from seeking help, thus putting themselves (and possibly the public) at greater risk.

A Rational Person in the Asylum? (Or Not)
One would think that mental health practitioners would take this unique opportunity to talk about depression, PTSD, and other problems that can lead to suicidal thoughts, now that the media has latched onto the idea that the government might do something to improve access and affordability of mental health services. Yet when the media interview mental health experts about the role of mental health in reducing gun violence, the experts rarely mention suicide. They, too, seem to be caught up in the moralism and hysteria (or perhaps they were told in advance to avoid mentioning suicide since it is a downer, far less titillating than massacres and therefore bad for advertising).

Of course those who commit suicide rarely take out large numbers of “innocents” in the process. They simply shoot themselves, often when no one is watching. Furthermore, they have made their own decision when and how to die, in contrast to the “innocents,” whose choice was made for them by their murderer.

Yet suicide, like school violence, has significant social costs, including the loss of income and the emotional trauma for surviving family members (including the “innocents” they leave behind). Suicide can require emergency services, often at the taxpayers’ expense. It is disruptive to colleagues who must pick up the slack at work as they mourn the loss of their workmate and friend; and to their bosses, who must suddenly find a replacement; and to landlords, who lose rental income while their bloodied apartment is being cleaned.

What About Gun Control?
Gun enthusiasts like to point out that during the 10-years assault rifle ban, there was no reduction in gun fatalities in the U.S. However, the ban was pretty leaky, with loopholes that allowed the purchase of numerous high powered weapons. It also did nothing to reduce the 270 million guns circulating in the U.S. (close to nine guns per every 10 people).

However, it is hard to imagine how a total reduction in circulating guns (rather than temporary bans on the sale of certain types of guns) could not reduce gun fatalities. Consider that slightly more than 50% of suicides in the U.S. are committed with firearms. When guns already exist in the household, they provide a quick and highly efficient means of killing oneself. Since other methods are less reliable, more painful, or more difficult to plan and carry out, reducing access to guns should reduce the number of suicide attempts, as well as the success rate.

A reduction in the number of guns in circulation also ought to reduce accidental gun deaths (which average around 600 per year). Though statistically rare compared with suicides and homicides, slightly more than half of the accidental gun deaths involve children, and thus account for far more deaths of “innocents” than do school rampages. However, the otherwise upstanding adults whose negligence or irresponsibility contributed to these accidents are far more sympathetic (and formidable, when it comes to threatening their right to bear arms) than are crazies like Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook killer).

Poverty is Violence
Since the pundits and politicians have taken suicide off the table, let’s talk about homicide, because even here there is a lot of moralism and prejudice in the public discourse. Certainly it is scary to imagine oneself or one’s child the victim of an armed robbery, rape, terrorist attack or school massacre. But for most Americans this fear is exaggerated. In the majority of homicides, the victim is poor, with a prior criminal record.

One might justly wonder why the left isn’t calling for “economic justice” or programs to help ex-cons integrate back into society, in addition to gun control and improved mental health access, since this could help reduce the number of gun deaths. But then again, ex-cons and the poor, in general, are not considered worthy victims. If we really wanted to reduce their unnecessary deaths, we would have to provide housing to the homeless so they didn't die of exposure. Employers would have to slow down the factories and provide sufficient safety equipment so their low income employees would stop dying on the job. They'd have to provide healthcare so they could keep their employees' diabetes and hypertension under control, and increase their pay so they had less stress and material insecurity (which contribute to their elevated rates of hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease).

Lastly, a significant fraction of the homicide victims are women who were killed by their partners. In 2000, according to the Violence Policy Center, 1,342 women were shot to death by their partners (about 50% of the total domestic violence deaths). But why worry about a thousand dead women (some of whom left behind orphaned “innocents”) when there are ten innocent school children who need protecting?

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/01/misguided-moralism-from-both-sides-of.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Feb 7, 2013, 09:59 AM (7 replies)

Misguided Moralism From Both Sides of the Gun Debate

Many have questioned why it took the tragedy at Sandy Hook to jump start the debate on gun control, a massacre so horrific that even some staunchly pro-gun politicians have started to suggest that perhaps some new regulations might be in order.

This outpouring of support for tighter gun control was due largely to the fact that the Sandy Hook massacre involved the slaughter of “innocents.” Young school children are seen by many as the most vulnerable, unsullied and worthy members of our society (unless you include unborn fetuses and the rich, whose worth to society is unquestioned).

This distinction between worthy and unworthy victims has permeated the discourse on gun control on both sides of the issue, with the focus being on how to make our schools safer (i.e., protecting the “innocents”) rather than how to make society safer or how to cut the overall social costs associated with gunshot wounds and deaths.

Yet, as tragic as it is for children to be gunned down at school, school shootings make up only a tiny fraction of the total annual gun deaths (less than 300 since 1980, or less than 10 per year). The sad reality is that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from gun violence, primarily due to suicide. In 2010, there were 19,392 gun-related suicides, or 63.6% of the total gun-related deaths, according to Wikipedia. In contrast, there were 11,078 gun-related homicides, or 36.4% of the total. Very few of the homicides occurred at schools or other public settings. Nevertheless, President Obama promised on January 16 to make our schools safer by keeping guns out of the wrong hands and improving mental health surveillance and services. Like his sanctimonious colleagues in Congress and the media, the focus is on the “innocents,” while the bulk of gun victims are ignored.

Biggest Bang for the Buck: Depression or Psychopathy?
In one sense, the discussion of better mental health monitoring and treatment is welcome. For too long mental health services have been inaccessible or unaffordable to many who need them, while prejudice and shame prevent some from attempting to obtain these services even when they are accessible.

The problem is that this aspect of the discourse has focused on almost entirely on psychopathic rampages, which account for very few gun deaths, while virtually ignoring depression, PTSD and other conditions that lead to suicide, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of gun deaths. From the perspective of cost effectiveness, it would make a great deal of sense to improve mental health access and services for everyone who needs it—not just those who are seen as potential homicidal maniacs.

Another problem with the mental health “solution” is that it tends to be discussed in essentially moralistic and prejudicial rather than rational terms. For example, Obama’s call for schools to become “more nurturing” implies that mean teachers or impersonal schools are somehow responsible for school shootings. His call for more mental health workers in the schools to curb “student-on-student violence” (rather than to treat all student mental health conditions) suggests a distinction between the worthy but rare victims of school rampages, and the less worthy but abundant victims of depression, anxiety, and stress (conditions which, if left untreated, could lead to suicide). His call for more police on campuses sends the message that school shooters are bad guys who must be punished or killed, rather than troubled youth in need of help. Yet there is no clear evidence that school safety officers have any effect on reducing crime or violence at school.

Moralism is also behind the lynch mob demanding a national registry for the mentally ill and the denial of their second amendment rights. The assumption is that because some crazy people have committed shooting rampages, that all crazy people are untrustworthy and violent and therefore need to be carefully monitored and controlled. Yet statistically, crazy people are no more likely than anyone else to commit acts of violence. Thus, identifying them and preventing them from buying guns should have only a nominal effect on the total number of annual gun deaths. On the other hand, the implementation of a national registry could scare away many people who need mental health services from seeking help, thus putting themselves (and possibly the public) at greater risk.

A Rational Person in the Asylum? (Or Not)
One would think that mental health practitioners would take this unique opportunity to talk about depression, PTSD, and other problems that can lead to suicidal thoughts, now that the media has latched onto the idea that the government might do something to improve access and affordability of mental health services. Yet when the media interview mental health experts about the role of mental health in reducing gun violence, the experts rarely mention suicide. They, too, seem to be caught up in the moralism and hysteria (or perhaps they were told in advance to avoid mentioning suicide since it is a downer, far less titillating than massacres and therefore bad for advertising).

Of course those who commit suicide rarely take out large numbers of “innocents” in the process. They simply shoot themselves, often when no one is watching. Furthermore, they have made their own decision when and how to die, in contrast to the “innocents,” whose choice was made for them by their murderer.

Yet suicide, like school violence, has significant social costs, including the loss of income and the emotional trauma for surviving family members (including the “innocents” they leave behind). Suicide can require emergency services, often at the taxpayers’ expense. It is disruptive to colleagues who must pick up the slack at work as they mourn the loss of their workmate and friend; and to their bosses, who must suddenly find a replacement; and to landlords, who lose rental income while their bloodied apartment is being cleaned.

What About Gun Control?
Gun enthusiasts like to point out that during the 10-years assault rifle ban, there was no reduction in gun fatalities in the U.S. However, the ban was pretty leaky, with loopholes that allowed the purchase of numerous high powered weapons. It also did nothing to reduce the 270 million guns circulating in the U.S. (close to nine guns per every 10 people).

However, it is hard to imagine how a total reduction in circulating guns (rather than temporary bans on the sale of certain types of guns) could not reduce gun fatalities. Consider that slightly more than 50% of suicides in the U.S. are committed with firearms. When guns already exist in the household, they provide a quick and highly efficient means of killing oneself. Since other methods are less reliable, more painful, or more difficult to plan and carry out, reducing access to guns should reduce the number of suicide attempts, as well as the success rate.

A reduction in the number of guns in circulation also ought to reduce accidental gun deaths (which average around 600 per year). Though statistically rare compared with suicides and homicides, slightly more than half of the accidental gun deaths involve children, and thus account for far more deaths of “innocents” than do school rampages. However, the otherwise upstanding adults whose negligence or irresponsibility contributed to these accidents are far more sympathetic (and formidable, when it comes to threatening their right to bear arms) than are crazies like Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook killer).

Poverty is Violence
Since the pundits and politicians have taken suicide off the table, let’s talk about homicide, because even here there is a lot of moralism and prejudice in the public discourse. Certainly it is scary to imagine oneself or one’s child the victim of an armed robbery, rape, terrorist attack or school massacre. But for most Americans this fear is exaggerated. In the majority of homicides, the victim is poor, with a prior criminal record.

One might justly wonder why the left isn’t calling for “economic justice” or programs to help ex-cons integrate back into society, in addition to gun control and improved mental health access, since this could help reduce the number of gun deaths. But then again, ex-cons and the poor, in general, are not considered worthy victims. If we really wanted to reduce their unnecessary deaths, we would have to provide housing to the homeless so they didn't die of exposure. Employers would have to slow down the factories and provide sufficient safety equipment so their low income employees would stop dying on the job. They'd have to provide healthcare so they could keep their employees' diabetes and hypertension under control, and increase their pay so they had less stress and material insecurity (which contribute to their elevated rates of hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease).

Lastly, a significant fraction of the homicide victims are women who were killed by their partners. In 2000, according to the Violence Policy Center, 1,342 women were shot to death by their partners (about 50% of the total domestic violence deaths). But why worry about a thousand dead women (some of whom left behind orphaned “innocents”) when there are ten innocent school children who need protecting?

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/01/misguided-moralism-from-both-sides-of.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu Feb 7, 2013, 09:58 AM (0 replies)

Skyrocketing Executive Pay and the Educational Salary Gap

Despite the passage of California’s Proposition 30, which holds the state’s education funding steady at 2011-2012 levels, none of the $20 billion that has been slashed from K-12 funding over the past 4 years will be restored. Consequently, school districts will continue to operate on austere budgets, with overcrowded classrooms, reduced course offerings, and reduced numbers of teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors. This has led to a record 188 state school districts at risk of financial collapse. Yet, like the bailed out banks and automobile industry, many districts have managed to find the money to offer their top executives lavish raises.

Perhaps the most notable example is Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)—the nation’s second largest school district—which has struggled with a $2.8 billion deficit over the past five years, while laying off 10,000 teachers. At the same time as LAUSD has cut teachers and services, it has boosted Superintendent John Deasy’s salary from $275,000 to $330,000 (according to the Bay Citizen)—roughly five times the average teacher’s salary. Since 2009, LAUSD has increased its superintendent’s salary 32%.

California Watch has investigated 40 of the largest districts on the state’s financial watch list (those at risk of financial insolvency) and found that more than half have raised their superintendents’ salaries since 2009. For example, Riverside Unified School District raised Superintendent Richard Miller’s pay from $267,208 to $314,963, despite having cut $100 million from its budget since 2008-09. The Lynwood Unified School District raised its superintendent’s pay by roughly 23%, from $200,000 to $245,000, two years ago, even though it has had ongoing budget deficits, including its current deficit of $6.8 million.

While the primary cause of California’s education budget problems has been the declining business, property and income tax rates, overly generous executive pay has added to the problem. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie capped superintendent salaries and New York is considering similar legislation, the Bay Citizen reported. A superintendent pay cap is not currently under consideration in California.

Proponents of high superintendent pay argue that superintendents are charged with much bigger and more important responsibilities (i.e., protecting and nurturing the “innocents”) than are corporate executives, yet they are paid only a fraction of what CEO’s of similar sized companies are paid. On the other hand, CEO pay has been skyrocketing over the past few decades and is now at its highest level ever relative to the median pay of their employees, contributing to the growing wealth and income gap and declining working and living standards for the majority of Americans.

It is also complete nonsense that executives need or deserve to earn 1,000 times, 100 times or even 2 times more than their employees. This argument is based on the fallacious notion that responsibility for large budgets and large numbers of employees is tougher and more valuable than other occupations. Yet it is the employees who do all the really difficult work. It is the employees who create the profits in private business and the bosses who pocket the difference between the wealth they create and their salaries. Though superintendents do not earn profits from their teachers’ labor, they have far more control over their own working conditions (and consequently less stress) than teachers. It is the teachers who have the most direct influence over the safety and success of the “innocents.” It is the teachers who design creative and engaging curriculum; create positive, nurturing classroom environments; and who communicate with parents about their children’s wellbeing and needs. So if it’s really all about the children, then it is the teachers, not the superintendents, who should be getting the six-figure salaries and 20-30% raises.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/01/skyrocketing-executive-pay-and.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:53 PM (2 replies)

Who’s Hurting NY’s Kids? Cuomo's Attack on Collective Bargaining


“Do not punish our schoolchildren for the obstructionism of the U.F.T.,”

These were the words of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, referring to Governor Cuomo’s decision to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of funding to New York schools because the city and its teachers union, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), failed to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations by the arbitrary January 17 deadline imposed by the governor.

Bloomberg is insinuating, of course, that the teachers (or their union) have caused schools to be penalized and, consequently, for children to be harmed, but it was the governor who imposed the arbitrary deadline and who holds the purse strings. It is Cuomo who is holding the students hostage until their teachers and their bosses come to an agreement. And it is their bosses in the Department of Education and Mayor Bloomberg himself who have made unreasonable demands on teachers and risked failing to meet the governor’s deadline by doing so.

There is an uglier story here, one that is being replayed across the country. New York state has been trying (and succeeding) in imposing changes to teacher evaluations so that they are based on student test scores and the UFT, like many unions (including UTLA in Los Angeles and CTU in Chicago) has been willing to accept it, even though student test scores are an unreliable measure of teaching ability (see here and here) that can result in good teachers receiving bad evaluations and bad ones slipping through the cracks. The sticking point between UFT and Mayor Bloomberg was Bloomberg’s refusal to let the deal expire at the end of 2015, even though most other state school districts had only 1-year deals (see Labor Notes).

Bottom line:

UFT is sabotaging kids by accepting any level of student test scores in their evaluations
Bloomberg is sabotaging them by making absurd demands on the teachers that are well beyond the already absurd demands being place on them by other New York districts
Cuomo is not only holding the schools hostage until the teachers buckle, but he is also shredding the teachers’ contract and undermining their right and their ability to collectively bargain with their employer, which happens to be the city of New York, not the state of New York


Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/02/whos-hurting-nys-kids-cuomos-attack-on.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:51 PM (3 replies)

Story Time’s Over Kindergartners—Time To Write Expository Essays!

The testing mania that has dominated education reform for the past decade has only indirectly affected kindergartners (the federal and state tests do not start until second grade). However, because the stakes for schools are so high (low test scores can mean reconstitution, mass firings of teachers, forced take over by a charter school), curriculum development and implementation at all grade levels are now influenced by the tests. At some schools, this means a reduction or elimination of arts, music, physical education and even science to make room for math and English support or for test preparation. It may also include practice bubble-in tests at the kindergarten and first grade levels.

At virtually all levels of K-12 education it has reduced the potential for learning activities that are spontaneous, fun, creative and rooted in students’ interests and experiences. While this may prepare children for a future life at a desk in a cubicle (perhaps one reason why the Gates Foundation has spent millions of dollars to promote the Common Core Standards (CCS), it also contributes to their alienation from and disdain for school and learning, as well as the increased stress and anxiety many teachers are noticing in their students.

Presently, despite the testing mania, kindergarten still retains some of the games, song, dance and other playful, lighthearted activities we remember from our own kindergarten experiences. This may soon change with the adoption of Common Core (CCS), which will supposedly put all children on the same learning track as others at their grade level, including the lower elementary grades.

On the surface this might seem like a common sense way to raise the bar and improve learning outcomes (based on the bogus assumption that teachers across the country do whatever they damned well please in the classroom and that there is little or no standardization across grade level). However, as Susan Ohanian shows in her recent critique of the video “From the Page to the Classroom: Implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and Literacy,” the CCS are incredibly rigid and stultifying and could have a detrimental effect on teaching and children’s attitudes toward school and learning. For example, even at the K-5 grades, the CCS require a 50-50 mix of fiction and nonfiction reading, with writing grounded in the texts, with no narrative writing or personal opinions permitted. (Click here for Ohanian's piece: http://www.dailycensored.com/gates-financed-common-core-standards-turn-kindergarten-into-global-economy-zone/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Dailycensored+%28Daily+Censored%29)

Here are just a few of Ohanian’s comments (you can read her full article at the Daily Censored):
The New York Post ran a piece Playtime’s Over, Kindergartners: Standards stressing kids out, explaining that the city Department of Education wants 4- and 5-year-olds to forget the building blocks and crayons and get busy writing “informative/explanatory reports.” This includes writing a topic sentence.
When my favorite group of second graders were studying a caterpillar’s transformation, some of the kids wrote me exuberant notes along with drawings about what they were learning. I didn’t check these notes for text complexity or topic sentences. Yes, some kindergartners are ready to read. But many children are harmed when, in the name of rigor and complexity, what was once second grade is now kindergarten. We don’t expect all babies to walk or talk at the same age. Why do we think five- and six-year-olds should be standardized in their learning—and shoved as a pack into more rigor? (Look up the definition and ask yourself if that’s what you want for a child you love.)
Professor of Curriculum and Teaching at Hunter College and author of numerous books on children’s literacy development, Sandra Wilde worries about the pressures on kindergartners. She suggests, “Read the book, watch the butterflies develop, act it out, but skip the close reading of long sentences. Fingerpaint butterfly pictures instead. What’s the hurry?”

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/02/fun-story-times-over-kindergartnerstime.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:45 PM (10 replies)

Deasy Sued in Miramonte Molestation Scandal

When Los Angeles school teacher (LAUSD) Mark Berndt was arrested for molesting students at Miramonte elementary school, Superintendent John Deasy fired the entire staff at Miramonte in a lame attempt to whitewash the tarnished image of LAUSD. Yet there was ample evidence at the time that LAUSD had engaged in years of incompetence and outright obstructionism in the investigation of molestation and abuse claims, though Deasy did not fire any district administrators. Now a lawsuit has been filed against current Superintendent Deasy, plus four former superintendents—Ramon Cortines (who has been sued independently for sexual harassment of an employee), Ruben Zacarias, Roy Romer and David L. Brewer—for deliberately not reporting complaints of teacher abuse.

According to the LA Times, the lawsuit claims the superintendents created an environment in which administrators were discouraged from investigating complaints of misconduct or reporting them to state authorities and law enforcement, while shielding teachers from scrutiny. The lawsuit also accuses the superintendents of lacking a clear and effective policy on child abuse allegations and deliberately not maintaining files on such complaints. A state audit released last November found that LAUSD officials failed to promptly report nearly 150 cases of suspected misconduct to state authorities.

The attorney leading the lawsuit said the officials had a “calculated plan over 20 years to facilitate child abuse at the expense of the safety and welfare of the kids.”

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/02/deasy-sued-in-miramonte-molestation.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:43 PM (1 replies)

Another Domino Falls--UTLA Rolls Over and Accepts Student Test Data to Evaluate Teachers

United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents teachers at the nation’s second largest school district, recently signed what some are calling a landmark agreement to use student test scores to evaluate teachers. 66% of the 16,892 members who voted approved the agreement, the Los Angeles Times reported, bringing L.A. in line with Chicago, New York and many smaller cities in using student test data in teacher evaluations.

The Times is calling it a victory for the union, because the agreement limits the use of value-added measures (VAM), which supposedly measure how much a teacher influences students’ gains or losses on test scores from year to year. Instead, the agreement allows for the evaluation of teachers based on raw state test scores and district assessments.

In reality, this can hardly be considered a victory. The reason that VAM should be opposed is that it cannot accurately or consistently attribute student progress on tests to anything their teachers may or may not have done. When used correctly (e.g., taking the average of students’ scores over three consecutive years and factoring out variables outside the teachers’ control, like poverty), VAM scores may be consistent for teachers at the extremes (i.e., the very best and very worst), but is essentially useless for the vast majority of teachers who fall somewhere in between. Yet few school districts average the scores over this length of time, particularly those that are on one-year evaluation cycles. Even those on two-year cycles rarely do this.

Even when VAM is not used, all use of student test data to evaluate teachers suffers from most of these same problems. There is no scientifically accurate or consistent way to know why a child’s test scores improve or decline over time. Their socioeconomic status not only has a large influence on their baseline scores, but also on how quickly they improve over time. School and community cultures and attitudes can affect how seriously students take the tests. Student’s prior teachers and prerequisite knowledge and school-readiness influence how much they learn and how successful they are with future teachers.

The new evaluation plan will also include the use of student and parent feedback and teachers’ contributions to the school community, both of which are fraught with potential for bias. Students and parents are not only untrained to evaluate teacher quality, but they are not objective, either. They can and do provide negative feedback on teachers for vindictive and petty reasons, like refusing to change grades or for holding a child accountable for school or class policies.

With respect to the “school community,” teachers are already expected to participate in committees and extracurricular activities and several of the California State Teaching Standards address this. What remains unclear is whether this is just a reiteration of what already exists in the standards (in which case it need not be mentioned in this new agreement) or if it is an expectation that teachers contribute even more time outside of their teaching responsibilities. If the latter is true, this could lead to a bias in favor of those teachers who kiss up most to administrators or who volunteer most for administrators’ pet projects.

Not surprisingly there was no consensus among LA teachers in favor of this deal. Only about half of the teachers participated in the vote (according to Ed Source), with about 66% of those voting in favor, which means only one-third of the district’s teachers actually approved the measure. While it is impossible to know why turnout was so low, one can speculate that many teachers were ambivalent to the point that they were willing to accept whatever their colleagues decided. Indeed, Cheryl Ortega, the union’s director of bilingual education, said she wanted to vote no, but voted yes because she feared the state would mandate something worse.

The decision by UTLA to push this terrible deal likely influenced many members to support it and it amounts not only to a sellout of its own members, but a threat to all teachers in the state. That UTLA and LAUSD were at the bargaining table in the first place was the result of a recent court ruling that the state’s Stull Act required the use of student test data in teacher evaluations. However, not only was the court ruling flawed (the Stull Act requires the use of student data—not necessarily the use of high stakes exams), but it was an attack on collective bargaining, which is supposed to be between a union and its members’ employer (in this case LAUSD, not the courts or the state legislature).

Yet even if the Stull Act did mandate the use of high stakes student test data, this would not justify UTLA rolling over and accepting it. The fact remains that the use of student test data is unreliable, inconsistent and inappropriate for evaluating teachers and will likely lead to many good teachers receiving poor reviews and potentially losing their jobs, while doing little to identify, let alone remediate bad teachers. Thus, it is also potentially detrimental for schools and children. UTLA (like the UFT and CTU did in response to similar legislation in New York and Illinois) chose to take the easy, passive, risk-free road of obedience, rather than fighting for the interests of their members or the interests of children.

Now that the three biggest district unions have accepted the use of student test data to evaluate their teachers without a serious fight, states will be emboldened to shove it down the throats of other school districts.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/02/another-domino-falls-utla-rolls-over.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 09:42 PM (0 replies)

Teacher Fired for Past Life as Porn Actress

In another stunning defeat for free speech and privacy, the California Commission on Professional Competence (CPC) has upheld the dismissal of Stacie Halas, finding her “unfit” to teach 8th-grade science because she had acted in pornographic films in the past, the Los Angeles Times recently reported. (An East Coast appellate court just ruled that a school could fire a teacher for a Facebook posting)

The CPC argued that her pornographic past prevented her from being a good role model in the present. Even though she made the films from 2005-2006, before she was employed as a teacher, “the continued availability of the films will hamper her ability to be an effective teacher,” according to Judge Julie Cabos-Owen. The commission also took offense at her “dishonesty” and her failure to convince them of her “redemption.”

This ruling (along with the recent ruling against Jennifer O’Brian, for her Facebook posting) is chilling to all teachers and anyone who hopes to enter the teaching profession. While there is a broad public consensus that teachers should be good role models for their students, there is no consensus about what this actually means. A teacher can be accused of being a poor role model for any number of protected actions, including having tattoos, being an atheist, belonging to the wrong political organization, or for questioning the authority of her principal, superintendent or Arne Duncan. Any of these could become a distraction in the classroom (if the teacher lacks the skill or experience to prevent it), but none of them (including a past experience in pornography) necessarily prevents a teacher from doing a good job.

Another disturbing aspect to her firing is that it was in response to a past behavior that occurred well before she entered the teaching profession, that had no direct relevance to her ability to teach, and that she shows no sign of doing again. Considering how easy it now is to dredge up a person’s history on the internet, one can imagine all sorts of other “distracting” past behaviors that could ruin a teacher’s career (e.g., high school or college photos of drunkenness or nudity, arrests for civil disobedience, addiction).

The ruling is indicative of the Madonna/whore schizophrenia society has around teaching. Despite the fact that teachers can now stay on the job when pregnant and usually even when gay or living in sin, they are still expected to live lives of moral perfection, even when outside of school and in the privacy of their own homes. They should not drink or do drugs, perform in or watch pornography, fight, swear, scream or get angry. In short, teachers are not permitted the luxury of being human.


The ruling is moralistic—a product of adults’ discomfort with sexuality, not Halas’ competence in the classroom. It should be remembered that her students are not old enough to legally access her videos and are unlikely to actually see their teacher nude (though their parent might be scouring the internet this very moment). It is precisely people’s moralism that has made it a distraction by turning an insignificant part of her past into a maelstrom and portraying her behavior as something terribly shameful.

Even her lawyer has been complicit in this moralism, portraying her as a person who made a mistake (i.e., choosing a lucrative but despicable job) out of financial desperation, but who then went on to do something glorious (i.e., become a teacher). According to her attorney, had her district allowed her back on the job, the message to children would have been that one can make a mistake and redeem herself; whereas the ruling against her sends the message that you better not make any mistakes.

However, it is inaccurate to call her past behavior a mistake. She made a rational choice to act in pornographic films. It happened to be one of the quickest ways to help her family out of their financial mess. It is perfectly legal, pays really well, and theoretically harms nobody. Calling it a mistake implies that porn acting is deplorable or unacceptable and that it is preferable to accept low paid, tedious and backbreaking work instead. The message to children (and to teachers) is that one’s material security and wellbeing are subordinate to the need to shelter children from all turpitude, both real and imaginary.

The dishonesty charges stem primarily from her failure to come clean before being hired. Yet had she included her acting career on the job application it is virtually guaranteed that she would never have been hired in the first place, even with a valiant public appeal for redemption. Thus, she was faced with a choice of never becoming a teacher (something she apparently felt was more desirable than porn acting) or being deceitful. Ironically, had she been a prostitute, which is illegal, they likely never would have found out and she would still be teaching today.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/01/teacher-fired-for-being-poor-role-model.html
Posted by Modern School | Sat Jan 19, 2013, 10:49 AM (11 replies)

California Flunks Rhee’s Reform Ratings—Badge of Honor?

Michelle Rhee’s Students First advocacy group issued its ratings of state reform efforts last week. California was ranked 41st nationally, with an overall score of F, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to Students First, California has been asleep at the wheel with respect to the “reforms,” failing to limit teacher tenure and require student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Richard Zeiger, Deputy Supt. at the California Department of Education called the F grade a "badge of honor."

While it may be refreshing to hear a high ranking education official disparage Rhee’s astroturf school privatization organization, the fact that California ranked so high on her list should still be an embarrassment. Consider that there are 9 other states that ranked lower than California which, according to the backward logic of Rhee, means there are 9 that have done a better job than California at resisting free market reforms. Furthermore, the only high mark California did receive was for being the birthplace of “parent trigger” laws, which are essentially a Trojan horse for corporate education profiteers and for-profit charter school operators to grab taxpayer dollars—hardly a mark of honor.

No states received an A from Rhee’s organization. The two top states were Louisiana and Florida, which each earned a B-. Louisiana has been one the quickest to give away its public schools to non-unionized private charter school operators, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans, over 70% of students now go to charter schools. Florida bases 50% of teacher evaluations on student test scores even though those scores are highly variable from year to year and completely unreliable for all but those at the extremes.

Even though Massachusetts has among the highest levels of student achievement, the state only received a D+ because it did not do enough to crush teachers unions and give away control of its schools to education profiteers. Montana received an F for strongly supporting local control of its schools.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2013/01/california-flunks-rhees-reform.html
Posted by Modern School | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 09:12 PM (8 replies)
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