Wednesday, April 20, 2016



Dear Colleague,

Last Thursday, a California appeals court reversed a previous ruling that had removed tenure (after two years) as well as the LIFO and dismissal statutes from the state's constitution. But it isn’t over yet. Next stop for the Vergara case will be the California State Supreme Court. More here - http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-court-rejects-bid-to-end-teacher-tenure-in-california-marking-huge-win-for-unions-20160414-story.html

In light of the Vergara case, there is proposed legislation in Sacramento that deals with the controversial issues involved. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) has introduced legislation that would change both seniority and tenure as we know it,

Under Bonilla’s bill, teachers who are doing poorly would be placed into a program that offers them extra professional support. If they receive another low performance review after a year in the program, they could be fired via an expedited process regardless of their experience level.
New teachers would potentially take longer to obtain permanent employment status, often referred to as tenure. The probationary period for new teachers now lasts 18 months. Bonilla’s bill would allow school officials to keep teachers on probation for a third or fourth year after placing them in the professional assistance program.

Seniority would no longer be the single overriding factor in handing out pink slips. While tenured teachers with positive reviews would still be the last to go, Bonilla’s bill would allow districts to lay off permanent teachers with two or more poor reviews before they lay off newer teachers who have not received poor evaluations.


A quick review of the Friedrichs case: The lawsuit, which would make teacher and all public employee participation across the country voluntary, was on track to win in the Supreme Court until Antonin Scalia’s death in February. At that time, all involved agreed that the vote would be 4-4 and the decision would revert to a lower court ruling; thus there would be no change to the existing agency fee rules. In fact, that’s just what happened on March 29th when SCOTUS revealed that it was evenly divided. Then, on April 8th, the plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a petition to rehear the case after a new justice is chosen to replace Scalia. The petition states, "The questions presented in this case are too important to leave unsettled with an affirmance by an equally divided court, and they are guaranteed to recur in the absence of a definitive ruling from this court.” The petition also argues that it is "quite common" for the Supreme Court to grant rehearing "where the court is equally divided, particularly when there is a vacancy." To read an Education Week piece on the petition, go here - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2016/04/non-union_teachers_seek_friedr.html  To read the petition itself, go here - http://pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/friedrichs_v_cta_pet_rehearing.pdf

Ed Source’s John Fensterwald has written an interesting piece on the Friedrichs case in which he asserts that “Besieged teachers unions reach out to their members.” As he states, the unions got a reprieve and an “opportunity to learn from a near-death experience.” One paragraph in particular really caught my eye:

And it has seen a growth in membership, notwithstanding the spotlight that the Friedrichs lawsuit cast on the teachers’ option to pay only agency fees instead of full union dues. (UTLA Secretary) Barnhart said the percentage of teachers who are paying only agency fees dropped in two years from about 10 percent to 4 percent. The largest increase in membership coincided with the union vote last year on a contract with a 10 percent pay raise. UTLA converted 900 teachers on election day. Many of the 2,700 teachers who had been paying agency fees “didn’t realize they weren’t members,” Barnhart said. The union gave them a provisional ballot to vote and signed them up, he said. (Emphasis added.)

I find it quite surprising that so many agency fee payers do not realize they must resign from the union to achieve that status. If any of you know others who are unaware of the agency fee facts of life, please send them to the CTEN web page where membership options are discussed - http://www.ctenhome.org/teachers-union-membership-options.html

For those of you who are still union members, most notably of the CFT variety, you might be interested in a piece written by CFT president Josh Pechthalt in the union’s Feb.-March newsletter. In a piece called “The State of Our Union: We are working to “Activate Labor for Justice,” Pechthalt states the following,

We must deny Republicans the White House. The next president may appoint more than one Supreme Court justice. I don’t want my daughter or any child living in a world where a majority of right-wing Supreme Court justices are making decisions about women’s rights, healthcare, the environment, affirmative action, union rights, and the power of the wealthy and corporations to buy elections. We have to work hard to elect a Democrat.

If you are a full dues paying member, please keep in mind that your political dues are supporting Pechthalt’s politics. If you want to reconsider your membership status, again, our membership options webpage spells things out - http://www.ctenhome.org/teachers-union-membership-options.html

Is there a war on school choice in California? Watchdog.org’s Amelia Hamilton certainly thinks so. “Currently the 15th friendliest state for school choice, California’s educational establishment is fighting back. While the battle against charter schools continues to rage, the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) has recently denied parents the right to a parent trigger option, throwing the law into jeopardy.” She ends her convincing piece with “Stuck in a bureaucratic, unionized past, school districts are looking to strong-arm these options away from families rather than grow with the educational opportunities that are becoming available.” To read the whole article, go to http://watchdog.org/260240/war-school-choice-california/
 
In a recent US News & World Report piece, “America’s Bankrupt Schools,” Lauren Camera sounds alarm bells, explaining that “Pension plans could be the culprit behind broke big-city school districts,” and goes on to detail the bleak fiscal situation that now burdens Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago. Among other things, she claims, “the funding crises have had serious ramifications on the teaching profession, making it difficult for urban school districts, which already struggle to attract and retain teachers for the most underserved students, to fill open positions.” To read this provocative piece, go to http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2016-03-18/why-big-city-school-systems-are-going-broke
 
According to a new report, from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Education Reform Now, an affiliate of the advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform,

One in four college freshmen who enroll in college directly after high school enroll in remedial classes. Remedial students who begin at four-year colleges are about 75 percent more likely to drop out of college — an issue both K-12 and higher education policy experts have been grappling with for years. Much of that research has focused on lower-income minority students who attend community colleges. But a report released Wednesday shows this student population is far from the full picture, pointing to an “expansive failure” of American K-12 schools in preparing all students for college.


Just how bad are the Common Core tests in New York? According to a teacher there,

Over the course of three consecutive days last week, students in Grades 3-8 took Pearson’s New York State Common Core English Language Arts tests. As was the case in 2013, 2014 and 2015, I felt that the 2016 English Language Arts tests were developmentally inappropriate, confusing and tricky. Despite the New York State Education Department (NYSED)’s “adjustments” to the 2016 assessments, there was no improvement to the quality of the tests.


Blogger and education activist Leonard Isenberg claims that:

Every week for the last 5 years I have been contacted by what seems to be a neverending parade of targeted senior teachers at the top of the salary scale that make up 93% of teachers being charged and subsequently removed from their careers at LAUSD. They all tell with minor variations the same story: They are being hit with fabricated morals charges or inflammatory allegations of being racist for doing something as mundane as teaching about race in the context of the civil rights movement in a Social Studies class.

They all describe the open collusion of UTLA from chapter chairs on upwards with LAUSD against them in a process that presumes them guilty without UTLA doing anything to come to their aid. The only teachers UTLA has ever defended are those within the UTLA "power" structure. Just ask Alex Caputo Pearl who was targeted when he was at Crenshaw High School and very atypically had the union successfully come to his defense.

Has this happened to any of you who are involved with LA Unified? Or any other district? To read more of Isenberg’s accusations, go to http://www.perdaily.com/2016/03/top-of-the-salary-scale.html#more

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 http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here - http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts  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, March 16, 2016



Dear Colleague,

California State Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, representing the 34th district (mostly Kern County), has come up a couple of interesting bills. AB 2753 would “require California’s public employee unions to post an itemized version of its budget online, making it accessible for its members.” A second bill, AB 2754, would “require public unions to hold an election every two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public employee union to take its place.” To learn more about these bills, go here - http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2753  and http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2754
 
Whatever the fate of the above bills, if you are looking to start a “local only” teachers union with no ties to NEA/CTA or AFT/CFT, please contact Rafael Ruano for help in doing so. If you’d like more information, go to http://www.ctenhome.org/california-independent-teachers.html

On February 11th, LA School Report released an internal Los Angeles Unified School District document, which stated that just 54 percent of seniors in LA are on track to graduate. The drop off from 74 percent last year was immediately attributed to new requirements, which ensure that graduating students are ready for acceptance into California public universities. But then, due to the district’s “credit recovery plan” (allowing students to take crash courses on weekends, holidays, etc.), the graduation rate was upgraded to a less cataclysmic 63 percent. Shortly thereafter, the district again raised the rate to 80 percent. Many are skeptical about LAUSD’s happy talk, claiming that “credit recovery is not content recovery.” And to buttress that point, less than 40 percent of 12th graders are ready for college, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). While those numbers are for students across the U.S., students in the Golden State do no better. To read more, go to 

After losing the Vergara case, in which five of the state’s tenure, seniority and dismissal statutes were ruled unconstitutional, the defendants, CTA and the state of California appealed. On February 25th, three justices on the California Court of Appeals heard arguments and both sides were upbeat after the session.

“I am delighted, it’s a great day for the students of California,” said attorney Michael Rubin, after arguing for the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers. “I am confident the justices understood the questions and why tenure benefits the teachers. I think they can see why this trial judge grossly overstepped his bounds.”

Arguing for the students, attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. said that he felt the judges planned to uphold the ruling. “We were able to get across the dangers of these laws and how they deprive thousands of California children of the quality education they deserve,” he said.

But whichever way the appeal goes, the losing side will surely take the case to the California Supreme Court. To read more, go to https://www.the74million.org/article/calif-appeals-judges-jump-in-during-vergara-arguments-both-sides-predicting-victory

On the parental choice front, there are rumblings in California. Unite 4 CA Students is asking people to “advocate for school choice in California.” Though not suggesting any specific plan at this time, the organization is serious about getting a choice initiative on the ballot in 2018. To learn more, go here - http://u4cas.org/

Regarding choice – how much regulation is optimal? Some very smart people debated this issue at a Cato Institute confab earlier this month.

Since Milton Friedman, school choice proponents have argued that vouchers and other private choice programs would improve student performance, and nearly every “gold-standard” study has found they do – until now. Recent studies of Louisiana’s voucher program have found that it actually reduced students’ performance on standardized tests. Why? In this forum top experts will discuss several possible reasons for this, including the role of various regulations, and will debate what the body of research says about how to design choice policies.


Also, some folks are trying to make California’s charter school law go away, claiming “the charter school industry is at the heart of the corporate takeover of our public schools.” To read more about this effort, go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/repeal-charter-school-act-of-1992-in-ca-ballot

The Association of American Educators’ 2016 survey has been released, and, as always, it’s interesting to see where independent-minded teachers come down on education issues. Just a small sampling:

  •  69% of teachers would support a blended learning environment in which students spend part of their day with a teacher and part of their day on a computer.

  • 67% of those surveyed are interested in negotiating their own contract so that they can negotiate a salary and benefits package that best suits their lifestyle.

  • 95% of teachers expressed support for course choice, allowing students to craft custom educational plans utilizing a variety of providers. 


If you missed the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference, which features Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. CTA, you can watch a recording here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33YY7wQgfI8&feature=youtu.be

Speaking of Friedrichs, Rebecca and I joined host Rick Reiff to discuss the lawsuit on PBS’ Inside OC television show. Rebecca does the first 15 minutes solo and during the second half, I am joined by CTA president Eric Heins for a discussion about the merits of the case. After the show ended, the video kept rolling and Heins and I engaged in a spirited 9 minute debate. The TV show can be accessed here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSn-onxoHQw  The post-show debate can be viewed here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytQ5h3Wv6mM

And finally, a brief word from the Conservative Educators Caucus:

The NEA’s Conservative Educators Caucus, whose purpose is to influence union policy, was founded in 2001. Because we are a well-established voice for conservatism in this liberal organization, now is NOT the time to relinquish our caucus standing. In order to survive, we need an infusion of active NEA members and supportive associate members: teachers, retirees or just concerned conservative volunteers to contribute ideas, participate in exhibits and in NEA policy-making procedures, help raise funds, and recruit members. 

The NEA convention this July will be in Washington, D.C. and we need volunteers to participate at our exhibit. The NEA EXPO lasts for two days and we need help. Also, the EXPO is a very expensive endeavor and donations are welcome. If you are interested in participating or in becoming an active or associate member as a teacher, retiree or volunteer, please email our caucus chair, Lydia Gutierrez at lydia4education@gmail.com  Also, please share this with teachers you know. Thank you. 

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from our home page - http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/CTEN - Brochure.pdf  Or, if you prefer, we will be happy to send you as many preprinted ones as you need.

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, February 17, 2016



Dear Colleague,
 
In December’s letter we posted a link to an article which took exception to the oft-repeated assertion that we are in the midst of a teacher shortage. True or not, the California legislature is busy doing what it can to attract more teachers. There are three bills in the hopper that our lawmakers think will alleviate the problem. Perhaps the most intriguing is from State Sen. Ben Allen who wants to “fund residency programs for new teachers to apprentice alongside a mentor in a classroom of low-income students while they are getting their credentials.” If your ed school experience was like mine, anything that would cut out a lot of useless classes would be most welcome. Instead, teachers would get on-the-job training from a master teacher. To read more about the proposed legislation, go here - http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article57993603.html

And talking about ed schools, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a study last month that looked at a representative sample of textbooks used in programs that train elementary and secondary teachers. And the results are not pretty.

Not one of the textbooks selected by programs for assignment in educational psychology or methods coursework—where teacher candidates typically learn about learning—provided even minimal coverage of the small set of research-based instructional strategies most likely to be effective in any kind of classroom, no matter the age or subject.

At best, the textbooks reference a fraction of what would benefit teachers. To learn more about NCTQ’s findings, go to
http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c9b11da2ceffae94e1dc196f6&id=5c95021e76&e=20e292f39f

In a field where fads and “new ideas” are an everyday event, one of the more controversial is restorative justice. While the new way to deal with student miscreants has resulted in fewer suspensions and expulsions, has it led to better behavior by the offending student or resulted in improved classroom life for teachers and good students? Well, according to a recent article from EAG News, in Los Angeles, the answer is a resounding NO.

Suspensions in the district dropped from eight percent in 2007-08 to less than one percent in 2014-15, the Los Angeles Times reported. Schools days lost to suspensions fell from 75,000 in 2007-08 to 5,024 last year.

But many teachers in the Los Angeles district report that the new system has resulted in a state of chaos in many schools, because students realize there are no serious consequences for their actions.

“My teachers are at their breaking point,” Art Lopez, the Los Angeles Academy Middle School’s union representative, wrote in a letter that was quoted last year by the Los Angeles Times.

“Everyone working here is highly aware of how the lack of consequences has affected the site. Teachers with a high number of students with discipline issues are walking a fine line between extreme stress and an emotional meltdown.”

To read more, go to
http://eagnews.org/restorative-justice-discipline-policies-push-l-a-teacher-to-their-breaking-point/  However, there is a new report out that looks at three schools in Denver that have successfully implemented restorative justice practices. To read about it, go here - http://b.3cdn.net/advancement/213db9b237a868a182_jfm6ii7yo.pdf

West Virginia has just become the 26th right-to-work state. The bill passed in the legislature, but the governor vetoed it. However, since the bill wasn’t related to the budget, or any other appropriation, Republicans just needed a simple majority to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. To read more, go here -
http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/12/west-virginia-is-now-the-26th-right-to-work-state/

And on the right-to-work subject, the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism is holding its yearly conference online Saturday, February 27th at 9am (PST). As always, admission is free. To watch a one-minute promo video, go here -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=louQjCRBd5E  At the end of the video, you will be able to register for the conference by clicking on the video link.

Any of you teach students the importance of entrepreneurship? If so, you can apply for a $5,000 scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business. (The scholarship is open to all K-12 teachers.)

Applicants are asked to submit a short video describing the best practices he or she uses to teach entrepreneurship and what the outcome has been. The winner of the award will be granted a $5,000 scholarship that can be used for educational resources pertaining to entrepreneurship.  Applications and videos must be submitted by March 31, 2016.  The winner will be invited to attend the NFIB Young Entrepreneur of the Year Luncheon in Washington, D.C. this July where his or her video will be presented.

For more info, go to
http://www.nfib.com/foundations/yef/

Whatever your take on school choice, the best way to become informed is to check out the “The ABCs of School Choice” from the Friedman Foundation. It’s a comprehensive guide to every private school choice program in America. Out in late January, the latest edition defines each of the four types of school choice: education savings accounts, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and individual tax credits and deductions. It also features a spread for each school choice program including the most recent participation, funding, and eligibility data as well as information on the program’s rules, regulations and legal history. To access the report go to
http://www.edchoice.org/research/the-abcs-of-school-choice/

A provocative headline in Education Week, reads “School Superintendents Think Parents Just Don't Understand, Gallup Poll Finds.”

A nationwide Gallup poll found that less than a third of K-12 superintendents surveyed believe that parents in their school district have a solid understanding of the district's academic model and curriculum.

And just 16 percent of the superintendents surveyed think that parents understand how the state accountability system evaluates their schools.

Roughly 70 percent of superintendents say parents need more information to understand how states assess school performance.

Has this been your experience with parents? To read more, go to
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2016/01/gallup_poll_parents_just_dont_.html

Another eye-catcher: this one from The Washington Post: “Teacher race affects black students’ odds of being labeled gifted”

Black students are half as likely as white students to be assigned to gifted programs, even when they have comparably high test scores. But the racial gap in “giftedness” largely evaporates when a black student is taught by a black teacher, according to new research published this week.

Black students taught by black teachers are assigned to gifted programs at almost the same rate as white students, and three times more often than black students with similar academic ability and family background who are taught by teachers of other races, according to the study by Vanderbilt researchers Jason A. Grissom and Christopher Redding. The race of a black child’s teacher made a particular difference in whether he or she was identified as gifted in reading.

To read more, go here -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/01/21/teacher-race-affects-black-students-odds-of-being-labeled-gifted/

And finally, a sad note. Director at Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom Andrew Coulson, 48, died of brain cancer on February 7th. He was a brilliant thinker, extraordinarily kind and had a terrific sense of humor. His colleagues described him as “almost impossibly sunny.”

Coming from a computer engineering background, Andrew seized on education reform—and the need for educational freedom—not because he had spent a career in education, but because he saw a system that was illogical, that was hurting society and children, and that needed to be fixed.

To read more of Coulson’s legacy, go to
http://www.cato.org/blog/andrew-coulson-memoriam  In an article posted on the CTEN website Coulson contends that the unions effects on collective bargaining are trivial. He claims that their key success has been their effective lobbying to maintain the educational status quo. To read this scholarly piece, go here http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/CoulsonCato%20Journal.pdf

There was a second death of note last week. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away Saturday. The Friedrichs decision, which presumably would have favored the plaintiffs 5-4, is now on hold. In all likelihood, a vote on the case, which could kill mandatory union dues, hasn’t yet been taken and the result of the remaining Justices’ vote will probably be 4-4, leaving the current Abood decision in place. The plaintiffs’ best hope is that the case gets held until a new Justice is appointed – and that the appointee is not named by either the current president, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. For more info on the replacement procedure, go here -
http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/02/tie-votes-will-lead-to-reargument-not-affirmance/

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 informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

And finally, if you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website –
http://www.ctenhome.org – please let us know. And again, please share our monthly letters with your coworkers. Thanks.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President