Sunday, July 31, 2011

A letter from Idaho

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 31•July•2011
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Writing an essay for 4LAKids every week for 362 weeks brings me first+foremost into contact with my own thinking. That is all well and good – and I hope your contact with my own thinking isn't too jarring, boring or frightening ...but I also spend a lot of time reading and listening and often completely misunderstanding what others have to say.

One of my favorite interlocutors is Dan Basalone – a teacher who rose through the LAUSD ranks into administration and union leadership. Before he retired to Idaho (where I think he wrangles a herd of Russets before driving them to market at Trader Joe’s) Dan was a teacher of administrators. In his career Dan never lost track of the classroom or the teachable moment. He once had the foolish audacity (a trait I truly admire) to invite me to give a lecture to principals-in-training on dealing with parent leadership.

Dan writes of last week's 4LAKids:

Hi Scott,

Thanks for highlighting the injustice in the social promotion situation ...and you might add the homework situation as well.

Now that test scores are driving everything it seems, it really doesn't matter if students are promoted based on class knowledge and homework product because the tests are based on standardized scores which are going to automatically fail up to 50% of students anyway if you take the State as a whole – and most will be underprivileged and undeserved students in the large urban and rural areas.

For well over twenty years we have discussed social promotion and the "plan" was to have key grades for promotion...those being 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th.

According to the present Ed. Code, a student must graduate by 19; so that usually means that they can be retained at least twice in their 13 year school career, In my experience, the sooner the better, but not all children enter school as kindergartners; so grade 1 is not an option for many.

I used to tell parents whose children were struggling that if they believe that school is good for their young children; how could an extra year be bad especially since you can put say a retained 1st grader into a 1-2 combination grade to give the child an extended experience.

I don't believe that anecdotal experiences constitute good research, but I might tell you that as a school administrator I cannot recall a student who when retained and placed properly for the following school year did not succeed.

My favorite example was a fourth grade girl at State Street School in the early 1980's who was struggling as a 4th grader ...her mother agreed to retain her and the following year she not only improved but socially she was elected student body president and was re-elected as a 5th grader.

If college athletes can get a redshift year or years to grow physically and skill wise, why can't young children benefit?

In fact two of my grandsons were both retained as kindergartners and both are now highly successful. might add that both were small for their entering school age and the extra year helped in their physical maturity as well.

As you can see, I believe that as much schooling as possible is a good thing if done right.

Also, we were supposed to have summer school or intercession classes for struggling students at each grade level; this is the money that we should be fighting for when we ask for school levies.

We also took the professionals out of the retention business when the District over the years put the right to retain or not solely in the parent's hands instead of retention we had more children going into special ed. classes which in the long run are much more costly and those very parents that were concerned about what retention would do to their children socially ...had that same worry and more with special ed. Placements.

Summer school should be an option for every student....if a child or young adult knew that retention or summer school was a help and a need and parents were supportive of more schooling ...there would be fewer failures.

Might I also add that there is already a homework policy with suggested times ...and homework should never be based on a parent's ability to help their child at home. Homework should be reinforcing what is learned in school and allow students to be creative such as working on long term projects and community service.

Scott, teaching and learning has some fundamental realities that the present Board of Education and Superintendent as well as other urban and state leaders around the country have not experienced or are afraid to express because education is big money and the politicians are in charge ....smaller public school districts are actually doing a pretty good job; so maybe instead of charters we should have a state law that says that no school district can have more than 25,000 students.

Stay well my friend,


Thank you Dan. I graduated from high school on my 19th birthday; now I know why I was put up with for as long as I was! Much of which you write I agree with ...though I had a friend who was retained in first grade and never really recovered from being left behind. This I think goes to Boardmember Galatizan's concerns that we don't simply repeat our adult mistakes when we have kids repeat a grade.
And I am not sure that the argument about breaking up large districts into smaller ones won't create more problems than it solves. But playing that back in my own mind I realize+remeember that our work is creating students + citizens + lifelong learners ...not avoiding problems.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

●●smf: Today's Times' Opinion page has three pieces about Education in LA. The FIRST is an impassioned cry from the classroom – written by a teacher at a Green Dot Charter School. But it could just as well be from a traditional school, union or non-union – from any inner city school in L,A,, Fresno, Atlanta or D.C. The SECOND is a editorial apologia/explainer of Why LA Charter School Teacher Turnover is So High – with the message that holding parents accountable and/or expelling students – is the answer. Expelling fifth graders only identifies+confirms the future prison population. The THIRD is a technocrat's response; according to the Daily News Dr. Deasy's, 'analytical and often unemotional way of doing business has already earned him a reputation with some for being disconnected and indifferent'| Deasy's ep-ed says it's a new union contract that the District needs ...and the place to negotiate it is apparently the media. Much of what he argues for is worth arguing for – but contrary to his suggestion, his proposal is precisely to make the argument a spectator sport ...unless+until UTLA and LAUSD invites all the partners – and not just the mayor and the school board and editorial boards of the mainstream media – to the bargaining table.

I've said it before; The union contract is not and cannot be the overarching governing authority of any school district. Neither is the budget ...or the STAR test score results. That agreement is in the unwritten compact of trust between parents and teachers and students and administrators and schools and the community – and in the support that the District gives every one of the partners.

►THE MYTH OF THE EXTRAORDINARY TEACHER: Yes, we need to get rid of bad teachers. But we can't demand that teachers be excellent in conditions that preclude excellence.

Op-Ed in the LA Times by Ellie Herman |

July 31, 2011 - The kid in the back wants me to define "logic." The girl next to him looks bewildered. The boy in front of me dutifully takes notes even though he has severe auditory processing issues and doesn't understand a word I'm saying. Eight kids forgot their essays, but one has a good excuse because she had another epileptic seizure last night. The shy, quiet girl next to me hasn't done homework for weeks, ever since she was jumped by a knife-wielding gangbanger as she walked to school. The boy next to her is asleep with his head on the desk because he works nights at a factory to support his family. Across the room, a girl weeps quietly for reasons I'll never know. I'm trying to explain to a student what I meant when I wrote "clarify your thinking" on his essay, but he's still confused.

It's 8:15 a.m. and already I'm behind my scheduled lesson. A kid with dyslexia, ADD and anger-management problems walks in late, throws his books on the desk and swears at me when I tell him to take off his hood.

The class, one of five I teach each day, has 31 students, including two with learning disabilities, one who just moved here from Mexico, one with serious behavior problems, 10 who flunked this class last year and are repeating, seven who test below grade level, three who show up halfway through class every day, one who almost never comes. I need to reach all 31 of them, including the brainiac who's so bored she's reading "Lolita" under her desk.

I just can't do it.

I've been thinking about the challenges of teaching a large and diverse class in a new context lately. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that, in his view, the billions spent in the U.S. to reduce class size was a bad idea. Many countries with high academic achievement, he noted, have accepted larger class sizes to pay talented teachers more and concentrate larger numbers of kids with the best teachers. "The best thing you can do," he said recently in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, "is get children in front of an extraordinary teacher."

That's a common viewpoint at the moment. Every day I see data showing that in countries such as Japan and South Korea, students score higher in reading and math, often with larger classes, and that the U.S. has spent a tremendous amount of money reducing class size to little effect.

But a huge percentage of students in Japan and South Korea pay for after-school tutoring to make up for a lack of individualized attention at school. Finland, with the best scores in the world, has average class sizes in the 20s, and it caps science labs at 16. Still, it's become a popular fantasy that all you need is a superstar teacher, and that he or she will be just as effective even as budget cuts force us to pack more kids into each classroom.

I've taught for the last three years at a charter high school in South-Central Los Angeles where all the teachers are excellent. Our test scores are high. We have terrific administrators, and because teachers are a priority, unlike almost any other LAUSD school, we haven't had layoffs; even so, our school has had to allow enrollment to rise to stay on budget. My largest class last year was 34. My smallest was 20. And I can assure you I was a whole lot more "extraordinary" in my smallest than in my largest.

I'm not sure what the breaking point is, but once you get much above 25 students, providing individual attention becomes difficult. To keep my English class of 31 under control, I have to rely on high-energy routines and structured group activities. In place of freewheeling discussion, I pepper the room with rapid-fire questions. To respond to their essays, I use a rubric emphasizing the four or five qualities I'm targeting for the whole class, and then write one or two short individualized sentences at the bottom of the page. With more than 150 students in my classes, I don't have enough time to spend more than five or 10 minutes on each essay.

Do students really learn best this way? A whole chunk of my students are alienated by this highly structured environment: the artists, the rebels, the class clowns — in other words, some of my smartest kids.

On a good day, about a fourth of my students don't do the reading or the homework; if I set up a conference after school, they might show up and they might not. Why? Because one kid thinks he has an STD, and another girl's brother just got out of juvie, and another guy wandered to the ice cream truck and forgot. Because they're teenagers. Because they're human.

And that's my biggest problem with the myth of the extraordinary teacher. The myth says it doesn't matter whether the crazy kid in the back makes me laugh so hard I forget what we were talking about, or two brilliant kids refuse to accept my rubrics, scrawling their long-winded objections as a two-part argument that circles over every square inch of the backs of their essays — the makeup of the class, the nature of each student and the number of students are immaterial as long as I'm at the top of my game.

But nobody talks that way about the children of the wealthy, who can pay for individual attention in tutoring or private schools with small classes. I understand that we need to get rid of bad teachers, who will be just as bad in small classes, but we can't demand that teachers be excellent in conditions that preclude excellence.

Our children — even our children growing up in poverty, especially our children growing up in poverty — deserve to have not only an extraordinary teacher but a teacher who has time to read their work, to listen, to understand why they're crying or sleeping or not doing homework.

To teach each child in my classroom, I have to know each child in my classroom. We teachers need to bring not only our extraordinariness but our flawed and real and ordinary humanity to this job, which involves a complex and ever-changing web of relationships with children who often need more than we can give them.

I'm willing to work as hard as I can to be an excellent teacher, but as a country we have to admit that I'll never be excellent if we continue to slash education budgets and cut teachers, which is what's actually happening in California despite all our talk of excellence, particularly in schools that serve poor children. Until we stop that, we'll never have equal education in this country.

● Ellie Herman is a teacher at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School in South Los Angeles.

TEACHER TURNOVER AND THE STRESS OF REFORM: A UC Berkeley study showing alarmingly high teacher turnover rates at Los Angeles charter schools is no surprise. More and more teachers can't keep up with the demands placed on them.

LA Times Editorial by By Karin Klein |

July 31, 2011 - When UC Berkeley released a study this month showing alarmingly high teacher turnover rates at Los Angeles charter schools, I wasn't surprised.

That's not a slam at local charter schools, many of which bring talent and passion to the task of educating disadvantaged students. It's just that the study echoed something I'd observed anecdotally many times, starting with my niece.

A bright and cheerful young woman, my niece yearned to teach high-needs children. She took her bachelor's degree at UC Santa Barbara, then her credential, and started out in the San Francisco public schools, where she was assigned to the toughest elementary school in the district. Fifth-graders threw chairs across the room — and at her. Parents refused to show up for conferences.

She wasn't willing to deal with this level of apathy and teacher abuse, so she switched to a highly regarded charter elementary school in the Bay Area. She was still teaching high-poverty black and Latino children, but at the new school parents were held accountable and completely incorrigible students were expelled.

The school was truly a gift to the community, well run with a dedicated staff. My niece poured her energy into her job, and it showed. Her students' test scores were as high as those in an adjacent affluent school district, despite the obstacles these children faced.

One story stands out. A little boy came into class one day unable to focus or even to speak. My niece kept him in at lunch to talk. He was too frightened to tell her, but given crayons and paper, drew it for her: a bullet from the gang gunfire outside his house that whizzed through the bedroom he shared with his little brother, narrowly missing them both.

My niece's response to situations like these — and there were many — was a hug, a sympathetic murmur and a no-excuses pep talk. The classroom was a special, safe place, she told her students, a place where they needed to work hard no matter what was happening outside, so that they could go on to college and happy lives.

Yet by her fourth year, my niece was worn out, depleted of the energy it took to work with a classroom of sweet but deeply needy children who pleaded to stay in her classroom when it was time to leave. The principal's offer of a $10,000 raise couldn't dissuade her from giving notice. She went to work at that affluent school district next door — for less money.

But this isn't a story that's just about one young teacher. At the time she left the charter school, she was the most senior teacher on staff. No one else had lasted even four years.

Over the years, I've met many impassioned teachers at charter schools, only to call them the next year and find they have left. The authors of the UC Berkeley study theorize that the teachers leave because of the extraordinary demands: long hours, intense involvement in students' complicated lives, continual searches for new ways to raise scores. Even the most steadfast supporters of the reform movement concede that the task of raising achievement among disadvantaged students is hard work.

It's not just charters either. New teachers in public schools, lacking seniority, are often assigned to the most challenging schools. Many leave quickly even if their intent was to work with the students who most need help. Others move to higher-achieving schools as soon as they've built up enough seniority.

The common-sense interpretation of the Berkeley study would be that high turnover is not only bad for teachers but for students too. Studies show that teachers' skills improve markedly for the first four years, then tend to level off. It's theoretically a bad investment for charter schools when they lose teachers who have not yet reached their peak. Yet the study didn't make that connection.

Is high turnover indeed correlated to lower achievement in these schools? If not — if some schools are burning through teachers but excelling academically nonetheless — how does this affect our view of the teaching profession? Are teachers disposable employees? That would be the cheaper route, but a depressingly disrespectful one that over time would practically guarantee that bright young college students would steer clear of the education field, especially when it involves teaching the students who most need help.

It's unlikely that we can build large-scale school reform on a platform of continual new demands on teachers — more time, more energy, more dedication, more accountability — even if schools find ways to pay them better. This, not the relatively small number of truly bad teachers, is the bigger teaching challenge facing schools. We need a more useful answer to the Berkeley study than, "Yeah, it really is hard work."

THE CONTRACT L.A. UNIFIED NEEDS: Supt. John Deasy outlines the changes he'd most like to see in a new deal with teachers.

Op-Ed in the LA Times by John E. Deasy |

July 31, 2011 - We are currently negotiating the most important labor contract in the history of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

It can't come as a surprise to anyone that the district faces serious challenges. Money is extremely tight, and providing the students in our diverse district with the best possible education requires change and reform.

On the plus side, we are seeing enormous energy for change within the schools. Talented teachers and administrators have come together to explore new methods of reaching students, and they are seeing results. It's crucial that we maintain this momentum.

To continue moving forward, I believe we must make some groundbreaking changes to our collective bargaining agreements. In the end, the changes I advocate would free excellent teachers and administrators from constraints on using their knowledge, skills and wisdom. They would put more power into the hands of teachers and administrators to determine how best how to serve the students at their schools. And they would enable the district to reward excellent performance.

Here are some of the contract components I think are essential to vastly improving our schools — and to giving our respected and valued educators the power to do their jobs well.

•MUTUAL CONSENT IN HIRING. Currently, schools with open positions find themselves obligated to hire teachers who have been displaced by other schools, even when those teachers aren't good fits. The contract needs to guarantee schools that they will not be forced to hire teachers or administrators simply because they are in need of being placed. Schools should have the right to choose all their staff.

•A ROBUST AND MEANINGFUL EVALUATION SYSTEM. Teacher evaluations are currently inconsistent from school to school and not helpful. They can be haphazard. We need a standardized system for evaluating teachers that is based on multiple measures. Student achievement must be included, along with evaluations by trained observers and parent and student survey feedback. A teacher's contribution to the school and the community should be considered too.

•A BETTER PROCESS FOR GRANTING TENURE. State law requires that tenure decisions must be made after two years. In my opinion, this is much too short a time frame to be sure that a teacher is worth being granted the long-term job protections of tenure. But it is the time frame we are stuck with. To make the awarding of tenure meaningful, we must provide timely and effective support to teachers, then collect and analyze detailed and comprehensive evidence of how the teacher is doing. Tenure must be a high bar and a meaningful event in a teaching career. We must enforce high standards, and then, when tenure is granted, it must be celebrated and accompanied by a significant salary increase.

•COMPENSATION REFORM. The most successful teachers and administrators should be rewarded with significant raises, and these raises must come early in their careers so as to encourage them to stay in education. Additional compensation should also be awarded to employees who successfully take on challenging assignments in underperforming schools. We should refocus our fiscal resources in this direction and stop awarding raises simply for additional degrees earned, years of service and salary-point credits. Raises should be granted for results.

•NO CAP OR LIMITS ON TEACHER-LED REFORMS AND INNOVATIONS. Recently, a few schools have been allowed the freedom to design a curriculum, to employ teaching methods tailored to students at a particular campus and to make all their own personnel decisions. These teacher-led reforms and innovations are highly supported.

Unfortunately, we are restricted by the current contract to only a limited number of these kinds of schools. We must do away with such restrictions on pilot schools and allow successful models to proliferate across the district.

ELECT-TO-WORK AGREEMENTS. Such agreements spell out what is expected of a teacher who elects to work at a given school. They can require additional hours of preparation or other kinds of involvement in the school community. And they spell out what the philosophy of the school is. These are already being used in some schools, and I would like to see the contract guarantee that any school whose staff votes to have such an agreement would be allowed to. Teachers have the option of transferring out of a school rather than signing on to a philosophy and an instructional model in which they don't want to participate. But the agreements can be excellent ways of ensuring that the teachers at a given school are committed to its model of instruction.

PERFORMANCE BEFORE SENIORITY. As much as I wish we didn't ever have to lay off employees, the state budget crisis of the last several years has required staff cuts. When such cuts become necessary, we need a better way of making them.

Currently, seniority determines who gets laid off: It's last hired, first fired.

Instead, we should consider performance in making these difficult decisions.

Among the aspects that should be considered are evaluations, contributions to the school and community, special training, degrees earned and demonstrated success. Only if two staff members are performing equally well should seniority be used to determine who goes and who stays. Failure to consider a teacher's contributions and skills is demeaning. In addition to advocating for this change, nothing prohibits us from going to the state and seeking an exemption from its rules governing seniority. Seniority should be a tiebreaker, not a deal-breaker.

The contract under negotiation covers teachers and professionals who serve our community. As such, it's imperative that the community get involved, and not treat this as a spectator sport.

The provisions outlined above would honor the great teaching and leadership that go on in this district every day. They would be good for students. And they would be good for teachers.

● John E. Deasy is superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

● DISPATCH FROM THE SOS RALLY on July 30, 2011 - by Kevin Carey in The Quick and the Ed — Published by Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington, D.C. |


Interview Of Alfie Kohn by Anthony Cody in Ed Week Teacher “Living in Dialogue” |

● Alfie Kohn has been at the forefront of the resistance to test-based reforms for more than a decade. As we approach the Save Our Schools March this Saturday, I asked him to share some thoughts about the challenges we face. Kohn is the author of 12 books on education and human behavior, including The Schools Our Children Deserve, Punished by Rewards, The Case Against Standardized Testing, and, most recently, Feel-Bad Education.

Q: When many of us point out the narrowing of the curriculum that has been the result of high stakes testing, we are told that the next generation of tests, which the Department of Education has invested $350 million to develop, will be far better at measuring complex thinking. What do you think of this?

Kohn: First, history alone should make us skeptical about the claim that DOE is going to reverse course; as far as I know, there's zero precedent for meaningful assessments sponsored -- or even encouraged -- by federal officials.

Second, the cast of characters currently in Washington makes that claim even less credible. Arne Duncan knows nothing about the nuances of assessment and he's surrounded by Gates Foundation people and others who are at the heart of the corporate "reform" movement that has actively supported the ultra-high-stakes use of lousy tests.

Third, any test that's standardized -- one-size-fits-all, created and imposed by distant authorities -- is inauthentic and is likely to measure what matters least. If these people were serious about assessing children's thinking, they would be supporting teachers in gathering information over time about the depth of understanding that's reflected in their projects and activities. Do the folks at DOE even realize that you don't need to test in order to assess?

Fourth, there's every indication that whatever assessments are created will continue to be the basis for rating and ranking, for bribes and threats. A high-stakes approach, in which you use your power to compel people below you to move in whatever direction you want is at the heart of the Bush-Obama-Gates sensibility (see NCLB, Race to the Top, etc.). And that will undermine any assessment they come up with. We saw that in Kentucky and Maryland a dozen years ago: "Accountability" systems destroyed performance-based assessments. It's sort of like the economic principle about currency known as Gresham's Law: Bad assessments will drive out good assessments in a high-stakes environment.

Q: Much of your work has focused on student motivation. How do you see high stakes testing affecting students' motivation to learn?

Kohn: : There are two things going on here. First, literally scores of studies have shown that extrinsic inducements tend to undermine intrinsic motivation. The more you reward people for doing something (or threaten them for not doing it), the less interest they tend to have in whatever they were made to do. Dangle money or higher ratings in front of students -- or teachers -- for producing better results, and you may get better results temporarily, particularly if the measure is superficial. But their interest in doing it will likely decline, which means this controlling approach isn't just ineffective -- it's counterproductive.

Second, the problem isn't just with the (manipulative) method; it's with the goal. The high stakes here aren't designed to improve learning, at least in any meaningful sense of the word. They're designed to improve test scores. Those are two completely different things, and they typically pull in opposite directions. Pressure people to raise scores, and the classroom will be turned into a test-prep center. Such an environment will likely make anyone's passion for learning (or teaching) evaporate.

Q: How might we approach enhancing the motivation of teachers to teach well?

Kohn: You can't "motivate" people other than yourself. You can make them do certain things by bribing or threatening them, but you can't make them want to do it. In fact, the more you rely on extrinsic inducements like merit pay or grades, the less interest they're likely to have in doing those things. What we can do is support teachers' intrinsic motivation by bringing them in on decision making, by working with them -- so they, in turn, will work with students -- to create a culture, a climate, a curriculum in which a passion for teaching and learning is nourished.

I wrote an article a few years ago called "The Folly of Merit Pay," and I ended it as follows: "So how should we reward teachers? We shouldn't. They're not pets. Rather, teachers should be paid well, freed from misguided mandates, treated with respect, and provided with the support they need to help their students become increasingly proficient and enthusiastic learners."

Q: This week John Merrow said he hoped people would "go to the rally ready to argue for specific changes in schools -- not just 'holistic education' and the like, but specifics." How would you respond to his request?

Kohn: Actually, "holistic" education -- along with other adjectives such as "progressive" or "learner-centered" or "constructivist" -- isn't just a vague slogan. It denotes very specific and, in my opinion, sensible and research-backed practices. Of course it takes awhile to explain what they are and why they make sense, so we'll always be at a disadvantage compared to people who speak in sound bites about "bold reform," "raising the bar," "accountability," "tougher standards," and so on. Those are the people we ought to be pushing for specifics: What exactly do you have in mind, pedagogically speaking, beyond bullying teachers and kids to get higher scores on bad tests?

In any case, those of us with a commitment to progressive education are protesting the outrageous policies being foisted on our schools precisely because they make it so difficult to do what makes sense for children. It's precisely because of our desire for meaningful teaching and learning (about which we can be as specific as you'd like) that we oppose the heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven, corporate-styled policies that get in the way.

Incidentally, when ordinary people took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere in the Middle East, I wonder if John Merrow wagged his finger at them and piously advised them that they ought to have a fully formed plan for democratic government before protesting.

Q: What do you think is the significance of the Save Our Schools March?

Kohn: We are living through what future historians will surely describe as one of the darkest eras in American education -- a time when teachers, as well as the very idea of democratic public education, came under attack; when carrots and sticks tied to results on terrible tests were sold to the public as bold "reform"; when politicians who understand nothing about learning relied uncritically on corporate models and metaphors to set education policy; when the goal of schooling was as misconceived as the methods, framed not in terms of what children need but in terms of "global competitiveness" -- that is, how U.S. corporations can triumph over their counterparts in other countries.

There will come a time when people will look back at this era and ask, "How the hell could they have let this happen?" By participating in Saturday's march, by speaking out in our communities, we're saying that we need to act before we lose an entire generation to this insanity. The corporate-style school reformers don't have research or logic on their side. All they have is the power to impose their ignorance with the force of law. To challenge their power, therefore, means we need to organize. We must make sure that the conversation about the how's and why's of education is driven by educators.

In short, we have to take back our schools.


By Mikhail Zinshteyn | Washington Independent |

07.29.11 | WASHINGTON, D.C. – Education reformer Diane Ravitch gave a keynote speech Friday at the Save Our Schools and National Call to Action, speaking for one hour on the history of education while offering a litany of rebukes aimed at policymakers and stakeholders in toe with President Obama’s Race to the Top programs.

The former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and noted professor of educational history spoke to an endeared audience of teachers, parent groups and community activists, who routinely interrupted Ravitch’s speech with applause, cheers and titters.

Barring no punches, she boasted news outlets have called her an adversary of Bill Gates, whose namesake foundation funds many education research projects that Save Our School organizers view as inimical to education.

During a faux-interview in which Ravitch lobbed questions at herself that she’s answered throughout her career, she spoke on the history of rhetoric on U.S. education, explaining commentators have been drumming the beat of educational crisis for a century.

“In the 1910s there was a crisis,” on student vocational training, which led to the Smith Hughes Act in 1917, Ravitch began. Another crisis was the spate of immigrant children in urban schools during the 1920s, followed by underfunding during the Great Depression. She took a pot shot at Newsweek for calling the 1950s the “golden age” in American education, even though that decade produced the seminal scare-read Johnny Can’t Read—And What You can Do about It, which launched a national call to action for remedial learning reform. Drawing laughter, she remarked the first Soviet satellite was launched into space “because our schools were so bad.”

She also touched on racism, high poverty and class issues coming to the fore during the explosive 1960s, adding ironically “that was the discovery of the 1960s—there’s poverty in America,” which also drew laughter from the audience.

On contemporary issues like budget cuts and high-stakes standardized testing, Ravitch said, “every school should have full curriculum … music is primal. Every school should have a library and media center with a person in it,” a veiled reference to the recent trend of school districts laying off librarians.

She reiterated her opposition to merit pay for teachers, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top measures and school vouchers. On teacher tenure, Ravitch lampooned critics who view educational work protection rules as lifetime employment guarantees: “[Teachers have] a right to a hearing if someone wants to fire [them] … it’s not so onerous ,.. it’s due process.”

Ravitch provided a handful of policy prescriptions, beginning with electing “a whole lot of different people.” She also urged teachers, parents and activists to participate in the recall efforts underway in Ohio and Wisconsin — two states that have aggressively curbed public sector wage protection laws and public service expenditures.

Beyond politics, she argued more medical outreach should be given to pregnant women, citing studies that link underweight newborns to higher rates of learning disabilities, a problem that affects mostly low-income mothers. Early education for all children below the age of five she also mentioned, explaining in 1990 that end goal was the top priority among education policy makers. In addition, she called for increased funding for special education and medical clinics available on all school campuses.

“These people who call themselves reformers have almost all the money and all the political power,” Ravitch said, but “[t]hey are few, and we are many.”

As a primary spokesperson for the impassioned groups like Save our Schools, her call to political action will likely invite increased speculation teachers’ unions are chiefly funding these movements. Politico ran a piece citing an unnamed source who alleges Save Our Schools is concealing the degree to which union representatives are involved in organizing the group’s efforts. The American Independent was also contacted by an individual alleging a cover-up, citing four senior union officials on the Save Our Schools executive committee who were unnamed previously. Sabrina Stevens Shupe, a former teacher who serves as a press contact and web editor for Save our Schools, told TAI it’s to be expected unions will be involved with teacher groups.

“That’s not a smoking gun,” she said. As for the two lists, Shupe wrote in an email, “The ‘internal’ list isn’t internal! It’s public.”

TAI reported Thursday less than half of the money raised by Save Our Schools came from union funds. Ms. Ravitch, the 2011 recipient of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, donated all $20,000 of her prize money to Save Our Schools and other education reform projects.

The Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action | July 28-31 | Washington DC + Nationwide

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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Dispatch from the SOS Rally

Brian Bonner: “The difference between Parent Involvement, Parent Engagement & A Bacon + Egg Breakfast?: Chickens are Involved, Pigs are Engaged.”


The Players, The Scorecard: WARREN FLETCHER and JOHN DEASY: NEW FACE OF UTLA English teacher brings ne...

AB 114: LAUSD’s DEASY WANTS FUNDING MEASURES REPEALED + smf’s 2¢: By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily New...

DEALING WITH (ANTI)EDUCATION ACTIVISTS: By Nora Carr | from the July issue of American School Board Journal | ht...

AVOIDING THE DROPOUT HOLE: Themes in the News for the week of July 25-29, 2011 by UCLA IDEA |


Duncan: TEACHER SALARIES SHOULD BE $60K - $150K: Duncan: Teacher Salaries Should Be $60,000 to $150,000 By Mic...

UTLA: AB 114 AIMS TO STABILIZE SCHOOLS: UTLA is putting pressure on LAUSD to fulfill the intent of the CA legisl...


Obama Prep + Clay MS: PROTESTERS UPSET OVER CHANGES AT 2 SOUTH L.A. MIDDLE SCHOOLS: “…a moral and ethical violat...

Robles-Wong: ANOTHER SETBACK IN SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUITS - Plaintiffs rebuffed in broad equal-protection claim (+...

GRADE CAP ON HOMEWORK: The 10% Solution?: Diana L. Chapman | LA CityWatch | | MY TURN ...

LAUSD TACKLING SOCIAL PROMOTION PRACTICE: By Connie Llanos, Daily News Staff Writer-from the Contra Costa Times)...

LAUSD REACHES OUT TO THE MIDDLE CLASS: By Bill Boyarsky | The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles | http://bit...



NO CUTS? NO FOOLIN'?: - Assembly Education Chair Brownley:4 years ago budget provided $41.3 Billion in General Fund money to K-12.This year's budget only provided $34.7B, a 16% cut.


SCHOOL LIBRARIES NEED YOUR HELP - WRITE NOW!: by Bob Thorpe | Boulevard Sentinel / Eagle Rock-Northeast Los Ange...

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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