Thursday, May 19, 2011

New poll: Californians would rather tax rich than cut schools, services

New poll: Californians would rather tax rich than cut schools, services
March 31, 2011

A new poll of likely California voters has found that 78% believes that people who make at least $500,000 per year should pay an extra one percent of taxes r than see further cuts to the state's schools and social services. The poll, commissioned by the CFT, shows strong sentiment for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes across the board, including all areas of the state, all ethnic groups, ages, and political persuasions. One interesting finding is that 60% of Republicans agree.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It turns out that our local ACLU lead attorney David Blair-Loy does have a little bit of spine after all

At the last ACLU general meeting in San Diego, David Blair-Loy said litigation is the "worst alternative." His preferred alternative is negotiation in a highly civil manner with school attorneys behind closed doors. He's been negotiating with Southwestern College for over a year regarding free speech for employees. He's apparently not into free speech for adults in schools: he even sent me an email telling me I'd better stop talking about school attorneys. He didn't tell me to stop making a specific object statement--he told me to stop talking about them altogether!!!

But it looks like he does support free speech for students (at least as long as no attorneys are being criticized).

La Jolla High's Bench Ban Draws ACLU Ire
May 17, 2011
by Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego

The ACLU is suing the school district over La Jolla High's refusal to allow political messages to be painted on "senior benches," the U-T reports. The paper says the principal ordered that messages regarding Iran be covered up, "saying the benches were reserved for positive messages of school spirit."

An authority-challenging student followed up with messages saying "Freedom for LJHS & Iran" and "Ed. Code 48907," a reference to a section of the state Education Code that supports free speech for students. You can guess what happened to those messages: they got covered up too.

At least students got a nice lesson in irony.

ACLU sues school district over bench dispute
La Jolla High principal ordered student messages covered up
By Maureen Magee
May 16, 2011

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the San Diego school district Monday, claiming that La Jolla High School illegally blotted out political messages painted by Iranian-American students on “senior benches” that have long served as an open forum on campus.

Students supportive of the Middle Eastern anti-government movement painted “Freedom For Iran,” and “Down with Dictator,” on three concrete benches in February following a massive protest in Iran. But hours later, the principal had the messages covered up, saying the benches were reserved for positive messages of school spirit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties argues that La Jolla High’s benches have been painted and repainted for years — with no established standard for monitoring the benches, and that “positive messages” is a “vague and unconstitutional standard for curtailing student speech.”

The ACLU is seeking unspecified damages and it hopes to force the school to open up the benches to all students who want to express their freedom of speech.

“Our hope is that La Jolla High School will recognize that the benches are within the free speech protection of the California law,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties. “These benches have been a glorious forum for free speech at La Jolla High for years. And unless the messages are obscene, libelous or slanderous, they should be allowed under the law.”

The San Diego Unified School District would not comment on the lawsuit that was filed in San Diego Superior Court. A spokesman said the district has not been served legal papers and would not respond until it can formally review such documents.

La Jolla High senior Yasamin Elahi, who painted the original messages that launched the free speech debate, chose not to get involved in the lawsuit. But she said she supports the effort to promote civil rights on her campus.

“I never did any of this to get attention or hurt my school,” said Yasamin, president of the campus Persian Club. “I wrote the messages so kids would realize that there is a lot going on outside the world in La Jolla that they live in. I also want them to fight for free speech.”

Upset that Elahi’s messages were blotted out, La Jolla High senior Yumehiko Hoshijima painted “Freedom for LJHS & Iran” along with “Ed. Code 48907,” on the benches — messages that were also whitewashed by the administration. Yumehiko is working with the ACLU on the lawsuit.

The ACLU said it tried unsuccessfully to work to resolve the matter without litigation but that the district responded negatively.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

SAN DIEGO: Thousands gather to rally for more state funding for schools

SAN DIEGO: Thousands gather to rally for more state funding for schools
North County Times - The Californian
May 13, 2011

About 2,000 teachers and other supporters of public education gathered in a bayfront park in downtown San Diego on Friday afternoon to send a message to state legislators.

"Save our schools, save our students!" chanted the crowd gathered on the hilly grass of Embarcadero Marina Park North behind Seaport Village.

"Are you listening, Sacramento?" California Teachers Association board member Jim Groth said from the stage of the park.

Similar rallies were held in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento and San Francisco on Friday as part of a week of activities organized by the California Teachers Union.

In San Diego, several speakers urged people to tell state lawmakers to put an initiative on the ballot to extend temporary taxes set to expire this year.

Many school districts have said the tax extension would save teaching jobs...

Rallying for Education
NBC San Diego
Rory Devine
May 13, 2011

...The rallies are the culmination of state of State of Emergency Week -- five days of rallies and protests that took place in Sacramento.

But organizers say, with the Governor's revised budget due out on Monday, this is not the end of it.

"Employees have taken furlough days, have taken cuts. We have contributed and we will continue to contribute to help solve in any way we can, but it's up to the legislature to extend those tax revenues so we can move forward while waiting for economy to recover," said Jim Groth from the California teachers Association.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The PR Hacks Behind Facebook's Google Smear

The PR Hacks Behind Facebook's Google Smear
May 13, 2011
By Dan Lyons

PR agency Burson-Marsteller, caught up in a scandal for running a covert anti-Google smear campaign on behalf of Facebook, says it will not fire the two PR guys who ran the operation. Instead, Burson says it will give them extra training.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's Terry Grier doing in Houston? He's choosing the best teachers for summer school

See all posts on summer school.

May 11, 2011
Quality of Summer School Teachers Targeted
By Stephen Sawchuk
Education Week

As hundreds of thousands of students soon head off to summer school, several crucial and long-unanswered questions about teacher quality could get a second look: Which teachers get recruited for summer school, and how well does their instruction align to the knowledge and skills children need to master?

A hefty body of evidence documents the phenomenon of “summer learning loss,” but consensus on the attributes of effective summer intervention, especially when it comes to access to high-quality teaching for students most at risk of falling behind, is only starting to emerge.

Now, though, a handful of districts are beginning to wrestle with the topic, thanks in part to an emphasis on both teacher quality and expanded learning in the federal economic-stimulus legislation.

For the upcoming summer session, which will serve approximately 20,000 students, Houston officials plan to recruit top teachers using information from the district’s value-added system.

Several other districts, such as Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Providence, R.I., have also begun efforts to make summer school engaging for students and attractive to teachers, largely through better alignment of academic and enrichment opportunities. And according to officials at the Baltimore-based National Summer Learning Association, the federal economic-stimulus legislation put about $100 million into summer programs, some of which take a similar approach.

But as school leaders acknowledge, changing the conversation about summer school is still a heavy lift.

“You’re recruiting teachers for the next school year, trying to find the right principals, ordering textbooks, and deep-cleaning schools and reservicing buses,” said Terry Grier, the Houston superintendent. “And then there’s this thing called summer school, and for a lot of folks, it’s an afterthought.”...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The scariest part of Sally Kern's racist speech: "I taught school for twenty years"

How many Sally Kern's are out there teaching American children?

Oklahoma GOP Lawmaker Sally Kern: ‘Blacks’ Don’t Work As Hard As White People
By Alex Seitz-Wald
Apr 28th, 2011
Think Progress

...While Kern has long history of taking outlandish positions — from saying homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism to introducing legislation to force teachers to question evolution — her bigoted comments reflect a disturbing trend among even mainstream conservatives to blame valuable social safety net programs for creating a culture of dependency or even “slavery.”

KERN: We have heard tonight already that in prison there's more black people. Yes, there are, and that's tragic, it's tragic that our prisons here in Oklahoma, what are they, 99% occupancy? But the other side of the story, perhaps this is something we need to consider: is this just because they are black that they're in prison or because they don't want to work hard in school? White people oftentimes don't want to work hard in school, or Asians, oftentimes. A lot of times, that's what happens. I've taught school for twenty years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn't want to work as hard, they wanted it given to them. As a matter of fact I had one student who said, "I don't need to study, you know why? Because the government is gonna care of me." That's kind of revealing there. Equal opportunity, not equal results.

Kern asserting that "women usually don't want to work as hard as a man":

KERN: You see, women usually don't want to work as hard as a man, because, now I mean, now get me, wait a minute, now listen to me, women, hang on, women tend to think a little bit more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, want to have a little more leisure time, that's all I mean. I'm not saying women don't work hard. I think women work very hard, so don't take that the wrong way. But that's fact as you have to keep in mind, okay? Women like to be willing to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that, that's all I meant, okay. They work very hard. But sometimes they aren't willing to commit all their life to a job like a lot of men do. That's all I meant by that. All right.

Monday, May 02, 2011

An Open Letter From Arne Duncan to America's Teachers

"You want real feedback in a professional setting rather than drive-by visits from principals or a single score on a bubble test...I want to develop a system of evaluation that draws on meaningful observations and input from your peers, as well as a sophisticated assessment that measures individual student growth, creativity, and critical thinking. States, with the help of teachers, are now developing better assessments so you will have useful information to guide instruction and show the positive impact you are having on our children."

May 2, 2011
An Open Letter From Arne Duncan to America's Teachers
In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week
By Arne Duncan
Education Week

I have worked in education for much of my life. I have met with thousands of teachers in great schools and struggling schools, in big cities and small towns, and I have a deep and genuine appreciation for the work you do. I know that most teachers did not enter the profession for the money. You became teachers to make a difference in the lives of children, and for the hard work you do each day, you deserve to be respected, valued, and supported.

I consider teaching an honorable and important profession, and it is my goal to see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society. In too many communities, the profession has been devalued. Many of the teachers I have met object to the imposition of curriculum that reduces teaching to little more than a paint-by-numbers exercise. I agree.

Inside your classroom, you exercise a high degree of autonomy. You decide when to slow down to make sure all of your students fully understand a concept, or when a different instructional strategy is needed to meet the needs of a few who are struggling to keep up. You build relationships with students from a variety of backgrounds and with a diverse array of needs, and you find ways to motivate and engage them. I appreciate the challenge and skill involved in the work you do and applaud those of you who have dedicated your lives to teaching.

Many of you have told me you are willing to be held accountable for outcomes over which you have some control, but you also want school leaders held accountable for creating a positive and supportive learning environment. You want real feedback in a professional setting rather than drive-by visits from principals or a single score on a bubble test. And you want the time and opportunity to work with your colleagues and strengthen your craft.

You have told me you believe that the No Child Left Behind Act has prompted some schools—especially low-performing ones—to teach to the test, rather than focus on the educational needs of students. Because of the pressure to boost test scores, NCLB has narrowed the curriculum, and important subjects like history, science, the arts, foreign languages, and physical education have been de-emphasized. And you are frustrated when teachers alone are blamed for educational failures that have roots in broken families, unsafe communities, misguided reforms, and underfunded schools systems. You rightfully believe that responsibility for educational quality should be shared by administrators, community, parents, and even students themselves.

The teachers I have met are not afraid of hard work, and few jobs today are harder. Moreover, it’s gotten harder in recent years; the challenges kids bring into the classroom are greater and the expectations are higher. Not too long ago, it was acceptable for schools to have high dropout rates, and not all kids were expected to be proficient in every subject. In today’s economy, there is no acceptable dropout rate, and we rightly expect all children—English-language learners, students with disabilities, and children of poverty—to learn and succeed.

You and I are here to help America’s children. We understand that the surest way to do that is to make sure that the 3.2 million teachers in America’s classrooms are the very best they can be. The quality of our education system can only be as good as the quality of our teaching force.

So I want to work with you to change and improve federal law, to invest in teachers and strengthen the teaching profession. Together with you, I want to develop a system of evaluation that draws on meaningful observations and input from your peers, as well as a sophisticated assessment that measures individual student growth, creativity, and critical thinking. States, with the help of teachers, are now developing better assessments so you will have useful information to guide instruction and show the positive impact you are having on our children.

Working together, we can transform teaching from the factory model designed over a century ago to one built for the information age. We can build an accountability system based on data we trust and a standard that is honest—one that recognizes and rewards great teaching, gives new or struggling teachers the support they need to succeed, and deals fairly, efficiently, and compassionately with teachers who are simply not up to the job. With your input and leadership, we can restore the status of the teaching profession so more of America’s top college students choose to teach because no other job is more important or more fulfilling.

In the next decade, half of America’s teachers are likely to retire. What we do to recruit, train, and retain our new teachers will shape public education in this country for a generation. At the same time, how we recognize, honor, and show respect for our experienced educators will reaffirm teaching as a profession of nation builders and social leaders dedicated to our highest ideals. As that work proceeds, I want you to know that I hear you, I value you, and I respect you.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. secretary of education.