Education News for 11-08-2012

State Education News

  • 55% of school levies pass (Columbus Dispatch)
  • As Gov. John Kasich’s administration finishes work on a new plan for funding public education, Ohio voters approved 55 percent of the 192 tax increases for schools on Tuesday’s ballot…Read more…

  • Test scores suffer when kids move (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The students aren’t staying put, Not in Columbus, a district that has long struggled with a student population that often.…Read more…

Local Education News

  • Cyberbullying and Sexting - Prevention and Education (New Carlisle News)
  • On Thursday, October 25th, 2012, Tecumseh Middle School, hosted the CyberBullying and Sexting Prevention and Education for all students and parents.…Read more…

  • Cleveland school board votes to restore full school day, along with cut programs, after levy wins (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland schoolchildren will have 50 minutes returned to their school day in January, after East Side voters overwhelmed West Side opposition to give the district more money Tuesday.…Read more…

  • Columbus school board discussing bus problem (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Spurred by complaints from parents, the Columbus Board of Education wants a plan to fix problems with the district’s bus operation.…Read more…

  • Upper Arlington Schools Did Not Plan For Levy Failure (WBNS)
  • Upper Arlington City Schools officials said that they did not plan for specific cuts should their levy fail at the ballot – which it did.…Read more…

  • Cleveland: Work begins after levy passes (WKYC)
  • CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Metropolitan School District took its first action Wednesday night, one day after voters passed a 15-mill property tax levy.…Read more…

Education Profiteering: Wall Street's Next Big Thing?

The end of the Chicago teachers' strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation's public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because -- as often happens in wartime -- the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers. The familiar media narrative tells us that this is a fight over how to improve our schools. On the one side are the self-styled reformers, who argue that the central problem with American K-12 education is low-quality teachers protected by their unions. Their solution is privatization, with its most common form being the privately run but publicly financed charter school. Because charter schools are mostly unregulated, nonunion and compete for students, their promoters claim they will, ipso facto, perform better than public schools.

On the other side are teachers and their unions who are cast as villains. The conventional plot line is that they resist change, blame poverty for their schools' failings and protect their jobs and turf.

It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class. For over twenty years large business oriented foundations, such as Gates (Microsoft), Walton (Wal-Mart) and Broad (Sun Life) have poured billions into charter school start-ups, sympathetic academics and pundits, media campaigns (including Hollywood movies) and sophisticated nurturing of the careers of privatization promoters who now dominate the education policy debate from local school boards to the US Department of Education.

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and -- most important -- have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats.

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Teachers And Their Unions

One of the segments from “Waiting for Superman” that stuck in my head is the following statement by Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter:

It’s very, very important to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. Teachers are great, a national treasure. Teachers’ unions are, generally speaking, a menace and an impediment to reform.

The distinction between teachers and their unions (as well as those of other workers) has been a matter of political and conceptual contention for long time. On one “side,” the common viewpoint, as characterized by Alter’s slightly hyperbolic line, is “love teachers, don’t like their unions.” On the other “side,” criticism of teachers’ unions is often called “teacher bashing.”

So, is there any distinction between teachers and teachers’ unions? Of course there is.

People who disagree with policies traditionally supported by teachers’ unions, or support policies that unions tend to oppose, are not “anti-teacher.” That’s kind of like arguing that fighting against environmental regulations is tantamount to hating members of the National Wildlife Federation. It’s certainly true that the rhetoric in education can cross the line (on both “sides”), and extreme, motive-ascribing, anti-union statements are understandably interpreted as “bashing” by the teachers that comprise those unions. Some of the discourse involving unions and policy is, however, from my (admittedly non-teacher) perspective, more or less substantive.

So, you can “love teachers and disagree with their unions,” but don’t kid yourself – in the majority of cases, disagreeing with unions’ education policy positions represents disagreeing with most teachers. In other words, opposing unions certainly doesn’t mean you’re “bashing” teachers, but it does, on average, mean you hold different views than they do.

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Education News for 01-05-2012

National Stories of the Day

  • Both Sides Hang Tough on Teacher Evaluations - New York Times
  • When it comes to labor issues, it is often difficult to tell what is really going on. Negotiations are often a game of chicken, with each side holding firm and acting tough — until one side pulls the brake or jumps to safety. In the case of the city’s Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers, it appears, from the outside, that both sides are determined to sail off the cliff. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Akron Public Schools try to win back students - Akron Beacon Journal
  • Leggett elementary, located a few blocks from the Summit County Jail, serves some of the poorest kids in Akron. The school boasts an “Effective” rating on the latest state report cards and a new school building, but Principal Philomena Vincente still faces competition from charter schools. Read More…

  • Dayton Schools hope to avoid $12M deficit – Dayton Daily News
  • Dayton Public School officials are trying to determine whether to put a property tax levy on the November ballot to avoid a projected $12 million deficit in 2014. The school board’s new president, Ronald Lee, said Wednesday that “later this year is a possibility” for a levy. Read More…

  • CPS cited for fire code violations – Cincinnati Enquirer
  • The Cincinnati Fire Department cited Cincinnati Public Schools for numerous safety code violations following a Dec. 26 fire at the vacant building that used to house Quebec Heights School. Fire Chief Ronald Coldiron noted in the citation that the “current condition of the premises presents a hazard to the public and safety personnel.” Read More…

Bringing Out the Me in Team

A great first person account of how high stakes test based evaluations destroys team work in schools

Test scores are the new epicenter for the war over education. On one side are politicians and reformers advocating test scores to evaluate teachers. On the other side are teachers and unions arguing for more comprehensive evaluations rather than relying on scores alone. In a society that values results, reformers are gaining the upper hand. In report after report, districts and states have adopted evaluations primarily based on student achievement on end of grade tests. The results, the reformers argue, will retain the best teachers while removing the bad ones. It is a system that has worked in the private sector and could revolutionize our schools.

Despite the mountain of evidence against using test scores in this way (a nice summary here), I have to admit, there seems to be a bit of logic to the argument. A talented teacher like my wife would be rewarded in a system like this, while lesser teachers would soon be removed. In theory, it seems reasonable. . . until I saw it in action.

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