Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dear Colleague,

“Disappointing but not surprising” is how California’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan is being described. As written in The 74,

The federal feedback was extensive, exceeding what most other states received. “California got dinged for a lot more than other states,” said Adam Ezring, director of policy for the Collaborative for Student Success, which together with Bellwether Education Partners is providing an independent review of each state’s school accountability plan. “Parents want to know how their kids’ schools are performing, and how their students are performing.”

The government’s feedback to California included:

  • California’s plan doesn’t show how the state will identify its lowest-performing schools so they can receive extra support.
  • It’s not clear how the state will ensure progress is actually made at low-performing schools.
  • It doesn’t include high schools in its academic achievement goals.
  • It doesn’t show how the state will measure improvements among student subgroups, such as English learners, or provide long-term goals for all English learners.
  • It’s not clear how the state will support schools with student subgroups who are consistently underperforming.
And that is just the beginning. To read more, go to http://laschoolreport.com/disappointing-but-not-surprising-californias-essa-plan-gets-some-of-the-harshest-feedback-yet-from-washington/

Additionally, California does not do well in teacher training either, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality:

California earned the most needs-to-improve marks in the area of teacher and principal evaluation. Specifically, the council recommended that the state include evidence of student growth in teacher evaluations, require student surveys be part of teacher evaluations and ensure that teacher evaluators are trained and certified.

The council also recommended that California require teachers be evaluated annually and observed multiple times, offer appropriate training and improvement plans for teachers, equitably distribute teacher talent among schools, effectively evaluate principals, and place ineffective ones on improvement plans.

State officials took exception to the NCTQ report, however. To get a balanced view, go to https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/27/teacher-training-report-california-earns-a-d-below-most-states/

According to data published by the federal government in December, the national high school graduation rate has risen to 84 percent, an all-time high. While this would appear to be a reason to celebrate, there are many who are not ready to break out the champagne.

News media investigations have found that some schools improve their graduation numbers by not counting some low-performing students in their graduating classes. Others try to get rid of students who are at risk of dropping out by encouraging them to transfer to alternative schools or to be home-schooled. One recent investigation found that a school in Washington D.C. graduated half of its students last year even though they had missed three months of school, too much to have earned diplomas.

Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says, "There is a plausible case to be made that the education system is doing a better job for more of these kids, especially for disadvantaged subgroups. But there is ‘reason to be nervous about the rapid progress’ in the graduation rate, since requirements for diplomas can be ‘squishy’ and some high schools decide to make themselves look good by lowering standards.

To learn more, go here - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/high_school_and_beyond/2017/12/US_graduation_rate_new_all_time_high_gains_in_all_groups.html

As 2018 unfolds, contributors are flocking to sign up for the brand new Illinois tax credit scholarship program. The idea behind the endeavor is to help poor students get a chance at attending private school.

Donors who want to take advantage of the tax credits must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue and reserve their credit, up to $1 million per individual. Once approved, they can write the check. Donations cannot be earmarked for particular students, but they can be sent to a specific schools or network of schools if made by an individual. Corporate donations go into a general fund. Donors can take a $.75 credit on every dollar they give until the $75 million in credits is exhausted….

Priority is given to the lowest-income families first, and to those who live in lower-performing “focus districts” where the students and the local public school are at or below state averages for the lowest-10 percent of students or those with graduation rates of less than 60 percent.

A student whose family is within 185 percent of the poverty level or less can get a full tuition, up to $13,000; a family within 185 percent to 250 percent of the poverty level is eligible for a 75-percent scholarship; and a family that earns 250 or above the federal poverty level can a scholarship for half of tuition. For more details about the program, go to https://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/what-you-need-to-know-about-illinois-new-tax-credit-scholarship-program/ and http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2018/01/04/abcs-illinois-new-private-school-scholarships-tax-credit-program

Speaking of choice, January 21-27 is National School Choice Week, the aim of which is to “raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.” There are 232,240 events and activities planned for NSCW in 2018. Celebrations include “school fairs, parent nights, school tours, educational field trips, homeschool information sessions, student performances, celebratory rallies and more. It will be the largest series of education-related events and activities in US history.”

To learn more about National School Choice Week and events near you, go to https://schoolchoiceweek.com/

On February 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Janus v AFSCME case, with a decision scheduled to be announced in June. If successful, it would free public employees in 22 states from having to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment. Many union leaders are beside themselves with the thought that their days of getting to collect forced dues payments may well be numbered. In an attempt to rally the troops, the lies and half-truths have been flowing. Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association says, “They want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join in strong unions.” Wrong. The case is about giving working people the choice to be a part of a union or not. He also claims, “A decision in Janus to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights in the workplace moves us further in the wrong direction.” Wrong again. The case has nothing to do with collective bargaining; it’s about the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of association for workers.

To learn more about the case, go to http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/janus-v-american-federation-state-county-municipal-employees-council-31/ To read more about union distortions, go here - https://californiapolicycenter.org/its-janus-in-february/

If Janus is successful, how many California teachers will choose to cut ties with the union? All we can do at this point is guess. But in Michigan, membership is down 25 percent since right-to-work became law in 2012. To learn more about the hit that the Michigan Education Association is taking, go here - https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/michigans-largest-teachers-union-has-lost-25-percent-of-its-members

Also, on the union front, Mike Antonucci had an interesting post a few weeks ago, which begins with a quote from NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a. “For decades, corporate CEOs and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country.”

Antonucci then proceeds to point out:

The NEA currently holds $108.5 million in investments. Its public disclosure reports require it to itemize only those investments that exceed 5 percent of the total in two categories: marketable securities and “other investments.” NEA has almost $73 million in “other investments,” no single one of which exceeds $3.65 million, so NEA is not required to itemize those transactions. Where that money goes is anyone’s guess.

However, we do know where almost all of NEA’s $35.7 million in marketable securities are invested. The marketable securities consist of various types of mutual funds — some that invest in bonds, some in stocks, and some that are indexed to exchanges. Here they are (rounded off):

Eaton Vance Atlanta Capital Small- to Mid-Cap Fund — $1.8 million
Federated Strategic Value Dividend Fund — $2.8 million
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Exchange-Traded Fund — $3.3 million
Loomis Sayles Bond Fund — $5 million
SPDR Standard & Poor’s Dividend Exchange-Traded Fund — $2.8 million….

To see the rest of the list, go to https://www.the74million.org/article/union-report-the-national-education-association-assails-corporations-when-not-making-money-from-them/

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN. In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them to be informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dear Colleague,

The past month has not been kind to the California education establishment. A Public Policy of California report finds that just 30 percent of all California 9th graders are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree. Also, only 45 percent of the graduating class of 2016 completed college preparatory courses, which are required to be considered for admission to any state school. The report analyzes when students leave the path to college, which students leave, and the major impediments to success. It is based on a large longitudinal sample of high school students, as well as statewide data.

In San Francisco, the statistics for black students are especially grim. In fact, SF NAACP President Amos Brown told the local school board that it should declare a state of emergency, because just 19 percent of black students are proficient in English, compared to 31 percent of black students statewide. San Francisco has the worst black student achievement of any county in California.

Then, in an attempt to force California to address its education failings, a group of lawyers representing teachers and students from poor performing schools is suing the state, arguing that it “has done nothing about a high number of schoolchildren who do not know how to read.”

The advocacy law firm, Public Counsel, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court to demand the California Department of Education address its "literacy crisis." The state has not followed suggestions from its own report on the problem five years ago, the lawsuit said.

"When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation," said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, who sued along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster.
Of the 26 lowest-performing districts in the nation, 11 are in California, according to the lawsuit. Texas, the largest state after California, has only one district among the 26.

To access the PPIC report, go to http://www.ppic.org/press-release/less-than-a-third-of-states-9th-graders-likely-to-earn-a-bachelors-degree/ To learn more about San Francisco’s problems, go to http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article181525146.html For more on the lawsuit, go here - http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article188153344.html

And the bad news is not limited to California. The results of an international reading test reveal that U.S. 4th-Graders lag behind other countries in reading.

When it comes to the standing of U.S. students, fourth grade reading comprehension has slipped since 2011 – though not statistically significantly – lowering its position in the international ranking to 16th place. In 2011, four education systems scored higher than the average reading score of U.S. students, while in 2016, 12 education systems scored higher.

"We seem to be declining as other education systems make larger gains on assessments," Peggy Carr, acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, said in a press call last week. "Countries that were our peers have surpassed us while some that used to do worse than us are now our peers."

To read more about the results, go to https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-12-05/other-countries-surpass-us-students-in-international-reading-comprehension-test

The yearly EdChoice “Schooling in America” report has been released and, as usual, the pro-choice outfit has done a thorough job of digging into various education crevices. From the executive summary:
The national nomenclature surrounding education has shifted dramatically in the past year. Terms like “vouchers,” “charter schools,” and “tax-credit scholarships”—all educational options—have entered the mainstream dialogue as a result of a political embrace by the executive administration. This emergence has fueled the ongoing debate on what is and should be considered public education in the United States.

Often in this political climate, the loudest voices garner the most attention. That has certainly been true in education, where distinct stakeholders of parents, teachers, administrators, boards, and governments often struggle to align their goals. Yet the voices of everyday citizens as a whole also should be examined for this most important public good.

To access the report, go to https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2017-Schooling-In-America-by-Paul-DiPerna-Michael-Shaw-and-Andrew-D-Catt-1.pdf

Also, on the school choice front, the Associated Press has just issued a report that claims that “US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation.”

Just one of the many of the report’s odd assertions is that charters are “segregated.” which is patently untrue. Segregation is forced separation. No charter in the country has adopted an apartheid policy. Parents of all races send their kids to these schools voluntarily. The more popular ones hold a colorblind lottery to determine admission.

Education reformers’ responses to the AP analysis were quick and pointed. Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries wrote that AP “ignores the blatantly obvious fact that charter schools are concentrated in neighborhoods with high proportions of students of color to provide them an alternative to the low-performing traditional public schools they previously had no choice but to attend.”

Howard Fuller, civil rights activist and veteran education reform advocate, tweeted, “The issue for low income Black children is how to get an effective education. I don’t oppose integration. I support excellent education for poor Black children wherever they can find it. Blaming charter schools for the lack of integration is bogus.”

To read more about the AP report and reactions to it, go here - https://www.the74million.org/education-reform-groups-decry-associated-press-analysis-of-charter-school-segregation/

Mike Antonucci has written “Five Common Teachers Union Arguments – That Rely on Half-Truths.” This valuable post provides excellent rejoinders to several union arguments. So for example, when your strident Uncle Don, a union organizer, is chomping away at his Christmas goose and spitting out things like, “Union dues are not used for politics,” you can quote Antonucci:

The problem is that most people broadly define politics to include lobbying, independent expenditures, issue advertising, ballot initiative campaigns, rallies, protests, and endorsements. All of those things are paid for with dues money, which every union member, regardless of his or her political views, contributes. Virtually every other type of political spending other than direct contributions to candidates and parties is made with dues money.

If you are a Republican union member, you have paid, do pay, and will pay to help elect Democrats to office.

To read all of Antonucci’s valuable rejoinders, go here - https://www.the74million.org/article/analysis-five-common-teacher-union-arguments-that-rely-on-half-truths/

If you have any questions about where your dues dollars are going, the latest NEA U.S. Department of Labor report will answer many of them. As reported by RiShawn Biddle, “…it is clear that the nation’s largest teachers’ union is spending even more to maintain its influence in education policy. Whether or not it benefits the teachers who are often forced to pay into its coffers is a different story.”

He adds that the union “spent $151 million on lobbying and contributions to supposedly likeminded organizations during its last fiscal year. That’s a 9.4 increase over influence-buying levels in 2015-2016. This, by the way, doesn’t include another $43.7 million in spending on so-called representational activities in 2016-2017, which almost always tend to be political in nature; that’s six percent less than in the previous period.”

To access the spending report, go to http://dropoutnation.net/2017/11/30/neas-151-million-influence-spree/

And just how do teachers, collectively, lean politically? A new poll by Education Week provides some answers. Not surprisingly, teachers are quite mixed. When asked to describe their political orientation, teachers responded:

5% - very liberal
4% - very conservative
24% - liberal
23% conservative
43% moderate

Just about as even a breakdown as you can get, but obviously the unions don’t spend their members’ dues money accordingly. Also importantly, Ed Week stresses that, en masse, teachers do their best to keep their political views to themselves when dealing with their students.

To read more about teachers’ political leanings, go here - https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/12/13/survey-paints-political-portrait-of-americas-k-12.html

Anyone wishing to make a year-end donation to CTEN can do so very simply through a personal check or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html  As a non-profit, we exist and operate only through the generosity and support of people like you. (And to those of you who already regularly donate – our heartfelt thanks!)

It has been another exciting year for CTEN - www.ctenhome.org/ and we look forward to an even more vigorous 2018. We are grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dear Colleague,

“Steve Bannon Tried to Recruit Teachers Union to Trump’s Agenda While in the White House” reads the eye-catching headline in a post on The Intercept earlier this month. From the piece:

“Look, I will meet with virtually anyone to make our case, and particularly in that moment, I was very, very concerned about the budget that would decimate public education,” Weingarten said. “I wanted it to be a real meeting, I didn’t want it to be a photo-op, so I insisted that the meeting didn’t happen at the White House.”

Weingarten didn’t take notes at the meeting, which was held at a Washington restaurant, but told The Intercept she and Bannon talked about “education, infrastructure, immigrants, bigotry and hate, budget cuts … [and] about a lot of different things.”

She came away a bit shook. “I came out of that conversation saying that this was a formidable adversary,” she said.
He was looking, Weingarten said, for some common ground that could assist him in realigning the two parties, his long-term goal in politics.

 
Core knowledge advocate E.D. Hirsch, who argues that “only a well-rounded, knowledge-specific curriculum can impart needed knowledge to all children and overcome inequality of opportunity,” has written a compelling piece on the subject.

Our schools now exhibit a diminished sense, once widely held, that a central goal of American schooling is to foster national cohesion—“out of many, one.” The loss of that sense of mission in the early grades has occurred because of two intellectual changes that have gained ascendancy during the past 80 or so years. The first and most important change was a shift, starting in the 1920s and ’30s, from an emphasis on initiating children into the mores of the national tribe to an emphasis on developing the nature of the individual child.

 
According to the Learning Policy Institute, the U. S. annual teacher attrition is about 8 percent and LPI finds this number alarming. Should this be a cause for concern? The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2016, the “quit rate” for teachers was indeed 8.8 percent. But other fields didn’t fare nearly as well. In manufacturing the rate was 14.6 percent, in real estate 18.5 and in retail trade it was over 35 percent. In fact, BLS reports that 25 percent of all workers left their jobs in 2016. So teachers quit their jobs only about one-third as much as all workers. 

Nothing really new here, as Mike Antonucci wrote about the issue in 2007. Using numbers from a 2004-2005 National Center for Educational Statistics report, he acknowledges that while some teachers do leave the profession because of education-related issues, most leave for non-education related reasons – to pursue a position other than that of K-12 teacher, retirement, pregnancy or child rearing, personal reasons, health and changed residence, etc.


Early literacy specialist Patrick Herrera is back again this month, this time with some advice for ESL teachers. He writes that decoding exists in TWO areas of language.

Decoding is converting text to speech fluently.  The listening skill also needs fluent decoding to achieve comprehension. Consider the following:

A.         “Did you give the umbrella to mom that I gave you?  It’s going to rain.”
            “I gave it to her, but she didn’t need it.  She already has one.”
            “Give it back to me.  I’ll need it if it rains.”

The same information in the syntax of Spanish:
                       
B.         “To her did you give the umbrella to mom that to you I gave?  It is going to rain.”
            “To her it I gave, but she not it needed.  Already she has one.”
            “Return to me it. It I will need if it rains.”

The second language learner receives information in an unfamiliar sequence. Internalizing the structures of another language must be presented in an organized manner.  

To learn more, go to www.phonicstoliteracy.com 

Is the Youth Entrepreneur program right for you? It “equips young people with the values and vision to pursue their dreams. We strive to change the mindsets of young people, so they believe in themselves and what they can accomplish. Our experiential education model instills entrepreneurial and economic principles built for prosperity. We inspire students to overcome barriers and seize opportunities for good.”

Additionally, YE is not just a business class. It is “an engaging elective course and alumni program that prepares students from fragile communities for success in the workplace and in life.”

To learn more go here - https://youthentrepreneurs.org/

The Independent Institute’s Vicki Alger has released a report on the value of educational savings accounts. She writes that “California is among the bottom five states in the nation in reading and math. Currently, nearly one out of five high school students does not graduate, and just 43 percent of those who do graduate meet California’s four-year college course requirements.” She continues,

The proven policy-path for dramatic improvements in student achievement is parental choice: giving parents the ability to choose the methods and means of their children’s education, including the freedom to use education savings accounts, or ESAs.


On the union front, if the Janus v AFSCME case, due for a hearing early next year, is successful, no teacher or any public employee in the U.S. would have to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. The American Federation of Teachers is getting ready for the worst case scenario and sent its director of field programs Rob Weil to speak to the Baltimore Teachers Union. In a presentation titled “Janus, Unions, and the Rest,” Weil details the potential ramifications of the lawsuit. In one of his more interesting comments, he posits that “Unions may be forced to spend larger amounts of time and money on membership maintenance instead of other more progressive union activities.” He adds that the progressive moment (sic) as a whole, and many specific groups, “will lose resources (both $$ and people) which will lessen their impact. Some social partners may, unfortunately, no longer exist.”

In other words, without forced dues, the unions may actually have to pay attention to their members and their political preferences. Mike Antonucci has a different take, however. He writes, “Although their overall numbers will be reduced, it is conceivable that unions will become more progressive organizations. Those who pay dues out of personal choice, rather than mandated obligation, are more likely to support their unions’ political goals as well. There will be less union, but it could be union concentrate.”

So will the unions become even more politically strident? Or will they soften their political positions to attract more members? Only time will tell. 


For an in-depth look at the history of labor reform going back to 1935, Sean Higgins has written an excellent piece on the subject for the Washington Examiner. It includes an interesting quote from former SEIU President Andy Stern: “If states are going to adopt right-to-work laws, they should release unions from the responsibility of representing non-members in collective bargaining. If you are not a member of something, you shouldn't get the benefits.”

 
For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2017 rebate form. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union after the 15th. You will not get the full amount, but rather a prorated one depending on how long after the 15th you file. For more information, please visit http://www.ctenhome.org/know.htm
 
CTEN has three Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share our experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here https://www.facebook.com/groups/125866159932/   Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here - https://www.facebook.com/groups/126900987357825/   Our newest page is Teachers for School Choice and can be accessed here - https://www.facebook.com/teachersforchoice?fref=ts
 
In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information. Many thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, October 18, 2017



Dear Colleague,

As many of you know, teachers throughout most of the country are paid by the step-and-column method, whereby salaries are based on the number of years on the job. Teachers can also increase their salaries by taking “professional development” classes, despite conclusive research that these classes have little if any effect on student learning.

When teacher salary schedules first came to be about 100 years ago, they were designed to eliminate discrimination due to race, ethnicity and gender. With such discrimination illegal today, is there really any need for them?
Not according to the Brookings Institution, which has come out with a report that shows the detrimental effects of the step-and-column pay regimen. 

The evidence presented here demonstrates a strong association between inequalities across teacher compensation, school funding, and pension benefits that we believe warrants greater attention. In light of an aging workforce creating a growing number of teacher vacancies, and a new generation of increasingly mobile millennial teachers, these findings have important implications about how public resources are allocated across teachers and students.

 
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a study released in September by the Fordham Institute delves into the depths of the teacher absentee problem. On average, teachers miss about eight school days a year due to sick and personal leave, while the average U.S. worker takes only about three-and-a-half sick days per annum. The study shows that 28.3 percent of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent, which is defined as missing 11 or more days of school per year due to illness or personal reasons. Interestingly, in charter schools – most of which are not unionized – the corresponding number is just 10.3 percent.

Even within charter schools, the study reveals a glaring disparity. Teachers in unionized charters are almost twice as likely to be chronically absent as their colleagues in non-unionized charters – 17.9 percent to 9.1 percent.

The study’s author, David Griffith, stresses that there’s a direct link between teacher attendance and student achievement. He writes,

There are roughly 100,000 public schools in the United States, with over 3 million public school teachers and at least 50 million students. So every year, at least 800,000 teachers in the U.S. are chronically absent, meaning they miss about 9 million days of school between them, resulting in roughly 1 billion instances in which a kid comes to class to find that his or her time is, more often than not, being wasted….

To read more of this eye-opening report, go here - https://edexcellence.net/publications/teacher-absenteeism
 
While this year’s Smarter Balanced test scores are nothing to rave about in California, there is one bright spot as EdSource’s Carolyn Jones points out: 3rd graders’ math scores. She writes,

Nearly 47 percent of 3rd-graders met or exceeded the math standards, the highest number of any grade level. By comparison, only 32.14 percent of 11th-graders — who spent most of their school years studying the old standards — met or exceeded standards.

To read more about the math scores go here https://edsource.org/2017/signs-of-hope-amid-smarter-balanced-math-scores/588427 To see all the results go to http://caaspp.edsource.org/
 
Over half of California students are not meeting English standards on the test, and perhaps we need to try a different approach. To that end, early literacy specialist Patrick Herrera has some ideas. He writes that all teachers are language teachers, and when teaching vocabulary, definitions are not enough. He writes,

Learning objectives include a purpose, an instructional plan and assessment.  A common vocabulary assignment is a list of words and definitions to memorize for a quiz.  This includes science, history, etc. 

Memorized information will be quickly forgotten.  Also, you want to insure that the lesson becomes part of their speaking and writing communications.

Let’s review the complete process:

         Assign vocabulary with definitions and sentences that reflect the definitions.
         Review in class, and ask for volunteers to create another sentence using the word. Students add the sentence to their assignment. 
         Quiz: Provide sentences from the original assignment (not the definitions) with the vocabulary word missing. They supply the missing word. 
   
Vocabulary is more than words and definitions; vocabulary needs context. Context helps you think. You can’t think without vocabulary.

To learn more, visit Herrera’s websitewww.phonicstoliteracy.com  

On the school choice front, there is good news coming from Florida, where a recent study conducted by the Urban Institute shows favorable long-term outcomes for students who enroll in the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program – the largest private school choice program in the country. As the American Federation for Children reports:
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for two years, college enrollment increases by 9-14 percent compared to public school students.
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for three years, college enrollment increases by 19-25 percent compared to public school students.
  • If a student stays in a private school via the FTC for four years or more, college enrollment increases by 37-43 percent compared to public school students.
 
The big union news over the past month is the announcement of the Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the Janus v AFSCME case. Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus, who is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Foundation, says, “When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”

The lawsuit is a sequel to Friedrichs v CTA, which was headed to a SCOTUS victory last year until Antonin Scalia’s death short-circuited the case. But right-to-work proponents are optimistic that Scalia’s replacement, Neil Gorsuch, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom. As things stand now, public employees in 22 states are forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

 
Many teachers unions are preparing for the worst, and some state affiliates are going to rather drastic lengths to protect their turf. Anticipating an unfavorable Janus decision, Education Minnesota, the National Education Association affiliate in the Gopher State, has come up with a new form that includes the following wording:

I agree to submit dues to Education Minnesota and hereby request and voluntarily authorize my employer to deduct from my wages an amount equal to the regular monthly dues uniformly applicable to members of Education Minnesota or monthly service fee, and further that such amount so deducted be sent to such local union for and on my behalf. This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and ends on September 30. (Emphasis added.)

 
The new American Federation of Teachers U.S. Department of Labor report has been disclosed. As RiShawn Biddle writes,
The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union spent $44.1 million in 2016-2017 on political lobbying activities and contributions to what should be like-minded groups. This is a 29.6 percent increase over the same period a year ago. This, by the way, doesn’t include politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called “representational activities.”

Interestingly, the union gave a whopping $1.2 million to the Atlantic Monthly, double the amount it gave to the magazine the prior year. Biddle comments:

You have to wonder if Weingarten and her mandarins are kicking themselves for not offering to buy a stake in the Atlantic, which will soon be controlled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ reform-minded Emerson Collective, which has become a landing spot for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his former honcho on civil rights enforcement, Russlyn Ali.

To read more about AFT largess, go to http://dropoutnation.net/2017/10/03/afts-44-million-spend/  To get Mike Antonucci’s take on the DOL report and the Atlantic spend, go here - http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2017/10/03/afts-disclosure-report-stirs-things-up/
 
And on the subject of unions, a reminder: now is the time for agency fee payers to claim their rebate. Or, if you are a full-dues payer but want to withhold the political share of your union dues, now is the time to get busy. Existing CTA fee payers have until November 15th to request a refund. For details, go here - http://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html

And finally, as you well know, information is frequently used to score political points and make cases for various causes. To that end, CTEN has a “cheat sheet,” which has been updated on our website – all with original sources. To see it, go to http://www.ctenhome.org/cheatsheet.html 

If you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something added, please let us know. As always, thanks for your continuing interest and support.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Dear Colleague,

A recent study from New York City has the education establishmentarians in a tizzy. Alex Zimmerman summarizes the results in Chalkbeat. “The study finds that being closer to a charter school led to small increases in math and reading scores, boosts in reported student engagement and school safety, and fewer students being held back a grade. The test score gains increased slightly more in traditional public schools that are co-located with a charter.”

So not only don’t charter schools hurt traditional public schools, they make those schools better. Sarah Cordes, a professor at Temple University and the study’s author, thinks a close proximity “might really get administrators to get their act together.” She adds that the charter sector “is working as it was intended: creating pressure on administrators to improve the quality of their schools.”

Cordes’ study is not the first on the subject. Brian Gill, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research in Cambridge, MA, looked at 11 studies in 11 different states which compared the effects of charter schools on traditional public schools and found that “six studies found some evidence of positive effects, four found no effects, and one found negative effects.”

To learn more about the NY study, go here - https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/07/28/do-charter-schools-hurt-their-neighboring-schools-a-new-study-of-new-york-city-schools-says-no-they-help/ To see Gill’s findings, go to http://educationnext.org/the-effect-of-charter-schools-on-students-in-traditional-public-schools-a-review-of-the-evidence/

Also on the school choice front, a 1995 interview with the late Apple founder Steve Jobs has just resurfaced and is available on YouTube. While the interview, conducted by Computerworld’sDaniel Morrow, went on for 75 minutes, the brief time Jobs spent talking about education is memorable. The Silicon Valley visionary and strong universal voucher proponent saw the unions as a stumbling block.

The problem there, of course, is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible….

Twenty-two years later, not much has changed – at least in strong union states – where there is little choice for parents, massive school districts are entangled in bureaucracy, and meritocracy is just an eleven-letter word. Jobs went on to explain the effect that a monopoly has on a customer.

What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country, is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said “We don’t care. We don’t have to.” And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.

To watch the brief video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-8JiOQOe6U

Tami DeVine is a media professional who would like to teach young people the ins and outs of broadcast journalism. Please read the following, and if this sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact Tami directly.

Crown City Network presents the "News Makers" TV News Training Program. This program provides a terrific opportunity to teach young people how to do TV News and gives them skills they can use in any newsroom in the world if they decide to pursue broadcast journalism as a career. It's a fun program and teaches invaluable life skills including proper communication, self-confidence, asking the right questions and so much more. Some of the on-camera and behind-the-scenes skills they'll learn include:

1) TV News Reporting
2) TV News Writing & Producing
3) Videography
4) Video Editing
5) On-Camera Vocal Delivery
6) Professional Dress and Makeup for TV News
7) Proper Interview Technique
8) And More!

The "News Makers" Program also works great for individual as well as group training after school and during the summer for elementary, high school and college students. We're able to provide quality, professional, broadcast level training because we have tremendous experience in TV News.  We have launched many people into their dream TV careers, and we train them based on my experience working for more than 20 years at broadcast TV network affiliates like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. We've trained people nationally and internationally. I hope this is a program you'll let us implement in your school. It's fun and teaches so many great skills that students can use even if they choose another career path!

Here are links to a couple of different levels of training we provide depending on the age of the trainees: Alexis Walker, Feature Story:  New Voice of the DodgersChandler School and
Chandler School - 1-3rd Graders

The shows and stories the students create run on broadcast television reaching 18 million viewers in 7 Southern California counties and stream online.  This is valuable TV News experience and exposure that many professionals would love to have! Students can include this on their resumes and will look great if they decide to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.  They'll be head and shoulders above their competition!

Please contact Tami DeVine at 626-365-3741 or tami@crowncitynews.com to learn more.

Are public schools really public schools? EdChoice President Robert Enlow doesn’t think so.

The legend says that public schools accept all comers. That is simply not true, and it never has been.

In fact, the entire system is set up to ensure that public schools don’t really accept all comers. That’s because attendance in public schools is based on geography—on where people live. What this means in practice is that public schools accept all kids who look like each other or who live in similar types of houses and whose family income is the same. K-12 public schools are more segregated by race and income than ever before.

To read Enlow’s provocative piece, go to https://jaypgreene.com/2017/06/05/public-schooling-is-a-myth/

It’s no secret that illiteracy is a growing problem in the U.S. In fact, according to The Literacy Project, there are currently 45 million Americans who are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th grade level, and half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th grade level. Professor Patrick Herrera would like to do something about this.

Latinos and blacks continue to show a lack of achievement in reading. These two communities represent over 35% of the 48-plus million children in our schools. Over half will drop out of school due to lack of reading skills. Millions face low-paying jobs.

Reading requires a pre-reading foundation, which begins with phonics. This is a cognitive, neural skill that links a group of sounds to a group of letters, both representing a word. The second skill is converting sounds into writing. A third skill is converting text into speech. This is the preparation for the reading skill, which usually begins at home.

Many disadvantaged parents have limited literacy skills. They are not able to prepare their children for first grade. It becomes the responsibility of the schools. The answer lies in teacher training and the right curriculum. There is a solution.  

To learn more, go to http://phonicstoliteracy.com/

CTEN is again participating in National Employee Freedom Week, which begins August 20th and runs through August 26th. NEFW is a national campaign whose purpose is to let employees know that they have the freedom to opt out of their union and become agency-fee payers or religious/conscientious objectors. An important objective is to reach those in union households nationwide who are unaware they can opt-out of union membership without losing their job or incur any other penalty. For more information, please visit the NEFW website –http://employeefreedomweek.com/  For info specific to teachers in California, go tohttp://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html 

Also, on August 24th at noon EDT, there will be a live-streamed panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation:  “Protecting Public Employees’ First Amendment Rights: Major Cases Challenging ‘Abood.’" For more info, go here - http://www.heritage.org/the-constitution/event/protecting-public-employees-first-amendment-rights-major-cases-challenging

On the subject of employee freedom, is this the time for Congress to push for the Employee Rights Act? A Wall Street Journal editorial thinks so and describes one facet of the bill:

The House bill would require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining. Current labor law lets unions deduct money from worker paychecks to fund political activities. Workers then must go through the tortuous process of requesting a refund for the share not spent on collective bargaining, which unions may broadly define to include member engagement that boosts voter turnout. No other political outfit enjoys this fundraising fillip.

To read more about of the Employee Rights Act, go to http://employeerightsact.com/  To read theWSJ editorial, go here - https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-gops-labor-project-1500678214

CTEN has three Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share our experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found herehttps://www.facebook.com/groups/125866159932/   Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -https://www.facebook.com/groups/126900987357825/   Our newest page is Teachers for School Choice and can be accessed here - https://www.facebook.com/teachersforchoice?fref=ts

In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information. Many thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President