This and That

Surprise from a reader (and I agree) - a figure from a Danny Westneat column.

Did this surprise anyone else? 2370 kids, about 5% of all of the students in Seattle Public Schools, are homeless? I had no idea it was that many.

From the Week in Geek:  The physics of the Winter Olympics.  Good piece to show to the kids as you watch some amazing athletes in action.   (Those kids on the snowboards give me a heart attack.)  

Heads up on a coming trend in politics - more "school choice" meaning more charters and now the push for vouchers.  This from Non-Profit Quarterly.

Most candidates for major local or state positions, particularly governor, scurry to charter schools to be seen as supportive of these vanguards of the school choice movement.

Among Republican candidates for office, the message of charter school advocacy seems to be designed to resonate with voters frustrated with the purported inadequate performance of traditional public schools, even if the candidates have little or nothing to propose for the vast majority of pupils, like the 96 percent of public school pupils in Texas, who do not attend charter schools.

In Maine, Republican Governor Paul LePage talks about charter schools as though they, along with private schools, were completely separate from the public schools, even though charters operate under public school mandates.

“Talking about helping poor minority children softens the GOP’s image and lets candidates offer a positive vision instead of forever going on the attack,” explains Politico’s Stephanie Simon. “And unlike immigration reform, school choice is politically safe; there’s no chance of blowback from the Tea Party.” Republicans particularly see this as a strategy to appeal to Latinos, where they think they can make inroads.

Good article from Publicola on the city government discussion around pre-K and city funding.  There are about 12,000 3 and 4 year olds with about two-thirds in preschool (that last number seemed high to me so good to hear). 

In terrible news, a Florida child with massive disabilities that I previously reported on who was being forced to take state tests, has died.  Ethan Rediske was 11 and had brain damage and cerebral palsy.  Up until his death early this week, his mother had to fill out forms to the school to state that "he was not in any condition to take a state-mandated test.   Another child, with only a brain stem, was also being asked to take state tests despite being blind (and the test had pictures as answer choices).  Disgusting. 

And a story from PoliticoPro on Mr. Gates Goes to Washington. 

Gates and his staff at the foundation “have assembled an agenda and a mechanism to achieve their objectives, plain and simple,” said Scott Thomas, dean of the education school at Claremont Graduate University.

They’ve shown, Thomas said, that “you can leverage foundation resources to really affect federal and state policy — and the funding that comes along with that.”

In K-12 education, Gates gets substantial credit — or in some quarters, blame — for the explosion in charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed. He’s transformed the way educators are evaluated, putting much more emphasis on student test scores as a measure of effective teaching. And he’s a driving force behind the Common Core academic standards, which push students to read more non-fiction and spend more time on fewer topics in math.

When the Gates Foundation first funded Parent Revolution, only California had a parent trigger law. Austin and his peers lobbied and promoted the concept and it’s now on the books in several states, including Texas and Louisiana. 
(And indeed it is part of Washington State charter law to the nth degree.)
The Gates Foundation has spent more than $170 million to fund groups that have drafted, analyzed and promoted the new academic standards, which are rolling out in classrooms nationwide. It helped states draft applications pledging to adopt the standards in exchange for federal grants. It even joined forces with textbook publisher Pearson’s foundation to develop classes aligned to Common Core.  (Any more questions on Gates and Common Core?)
When a furious backlash emerged from parents upset at the new standards, the foundation responded by pumping in more money. That, in turn, fueled the protests, which now increasingly portray Bill Gates as a malign influence usurping local control of public schools.

“Bill Gates, God love him, he’s well-intentioned,” said Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington University. “But when he came out with his letter last week saying there would be no more poor countries in the world by 2035 … I understand it’s an intellectual exercise for him, but it comes across as insensitive and extremely arrogant.”

McGuire said she’s seen two sides of Gates’ influence in the education realm: He’s been extremely generous in helping many students, she said, but he’s also tended to be “overbearing” in promoting policy solutions that aren’t necessarily backed up with evidence.  

“While we applaud him for wanting to fix things, sometimes [the foundation’s] sense that they know best is a problem, because they don’t always have the best solution,” McGuire said. “You have to listen to the people you want to help if you want to help them well.”

These paragraphs tell you all you need to know about the concern of the influence of the Gates Foundation. 


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