Category Archives: Education

Cabrillo Chorale Winter Concert

Our son Kevin performed tonight with the rest of the Cabrillo Chorale, in their winter concert.

In the pieces with the entire Chorale (1-5, 10-13), he’s second from right, top row. In the pieces with only the men (7-9), he’s front right.

The last tune, “Cantique de Jean Racine” by French composer Gabriel Fauré, was performed as a tribute to the people of France and the victims of terrorism everywhere, in remembrance of the terrorist attacks in Paris just 1 week ago.

Best & Worst in 2014 Education News

Washington Post  Journalist, author and blogger Valerie Strauss wrote a great article about the Best and Worst education news from 2014. Read her article at Here’s a summary of her list (copy-pasted, though most have more info than I’ve copied here):

Best Education News of 2014:

  • State after state implementing unfair and arbitrary teacher evaluation methods this year nonetheless found an infinitesimal number of teachers to be “ineffective” — including Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland and New York.
  • High school graduate rates are at their all-time high, drop-out rates have decreased and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test results increased, with the biggest improvement among students of color.
  • Colorado students organized a successful large-scale protest campaign that stopped their district from making changes in their Advanced Placement History course curriculum.
  • Ras Baraka was elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey, with opposition to the state’s “One Newark” reform plan for that city’s schools.
  • Two destructive “school reformers” left the public scene:
  • Lily Eskelsen García was elected president of the National Education Association and will provide a powerful voice, along with her counterpart at the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, to support teachers, students and their families with a progressive and positive education agenda.
  • It was a very rough election night, though there were two clear education bright spots that had a lot to do with the support the candidates received from teachers — Tom Wolf was elected governor of Pennsylvania and Tom Torlakson was re-elected California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
  • The good news is that Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union is recovering from surgery on a brain tumor.
  • Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The central role of standardized testing in schools came under increasing attack from many different directions and has even forced some major proponents to at least make rhetorical retreats.
  • Dana Goldstein’s book, The Teacher Wars, was published and became a bestseller.
  • The millions of students who had great learning experiences in their schools this year.

Worst Education News of 2014:

  • Two particularly awful tragedies struck educators and their students in other countries this year — the apparent murder of 43 student teachers in Mexico by police and drug traffickers and the massacre of 148 students and teachers at a Pakistan school by the Taliban.
  • Of course, the United States was not immune from the killings of young people. (Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH)
  • In another attempt to blame teachers for challenges facing schools, California judge ruled in the Vergara lawsuit that tenure and due process is to blame and not poverty, lack of resources for schools in under-served communities, or minimal professional support.
  • The Obama administration appeared to learn little from its countless missteps it has made in the name of “accountability” for K-12 public schools and announced plans to start treating colleges and universities the same way.
  • The Atlanta test cheating scandal has resulted in an endless trial that is still continuing, with terrible revelations.
  • TIME Magazine published a cover insulting to teachers everywhere and sparking a justifiable backlash from educators.
  • Social Emotional Learning threatens to become just another in a long line of good ideas manipulated and used by school reformers in harmful ways.
  • A video from a Chicago professional development session showed why teachers are going out of their minds.
  • A new study found that less than one-half of one-percent of research studies related to education were replicated.
  • The millions of students who should be getting a better education than they are receiving.

The Most Important “In-Between” Education News Of 2014

The Common Core Standards continue to be under attack, with a few states withdrawing their support.

Jazz @ 3:00

Kevin has been loving his music studies this semester at Cabrillo, including vocal jazz. Here are 4 of the 5 songs they performed at Friday’s concert:

Web Design Using WordPress

I am so very busy in my new job (Academic Coordinator, comparable to Ass’t. Principal) at E. A. Hall MS, I really should not add more to my plate… but I am a fool and I can’t resist, so I am teaching a 1 day/week class in the after school program, on Web Design Using WordPress.

I’ll post updates on the class at my own web design website,, but figured I’d post this “life update” here as well.

February 2015 Update: Well, I had the best intentions, but the class just didn’t fly… A few kids were interested, but it was a lot harder for them than I expected, and they lost interest, so it was like pulling teeth trying to get them to actually do the work and build out their sites… There are now a couple dozen abandoned sites at… Oh well…

Updates on Vergara

Media coverage of the aftermath of the Vergara ruling continues, and other sordid actors have joined the misguided battle against teachers.

Now California State Superintendent of Public Instruction is himself going to seek an appeal of the ruling. Here’s Diane Ravitch’s article about this.

Judge Rolf M. Treu has now affirmed the ruling, as described at Politico.

And now Governor Jerry Brown is himself appealing the ruling!  (LA Times coverage)

5 October, 2014: “What’s wrong with the Vergara ruling?” by Carl Cohn, former school superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego, director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University and a member of the State Board of Education. He is also chair of the American College Testing (ACT) Board of Directors, and a member of the EdSource Board of Directors. (

More on Teacher “Tenure”

A few weeks ago I posted a summary of news and information about the Vergara case, here in California. This post will continue that process, with more recent articles about teacher tenure in general as well as the Vergara case.

Boycott Staples!

AFT 2014 National Convention logoAt the 2014 AFT National Convention, to which I was a delegate from PVFT, we learned about the UPWA’s call for a boycott of Staples, because of the arrangement between the USPS and Staples, Corp., that will outsource postal services to Staples stores. By doing so, the USPS is replacing unionized public sector postal workers with non-union, private sector workers, being paid minimum or near-minimum wages. The APWU has called for a boycott of Staples, and the AFT stands in full support and solidarity of this boycott. We rallied in front of the Staples Center with APWU members during the convention. AFT’s joining of the call for a boycott definitely got Staples Corp’s attention, as nearly ⅓ of their total revenue comes from school supplies sales! And the big back-to-school rush is about to commence. Check out for more information, and for downloadable materials, including a flier in Spanish and English.AFT rallies in support of APWU call for a Boycott of Staples

Check out for APWU’s write-up of AFT’s support. Visit for the Resolution in support of U.S. Postal Workers. And APWU posted about the strong impact AFT’s support had on Staples Corp.:

AFT rallies in support of APWU call for a Boycott of Staples    AFT-APWU-staples4
d-flyer-Public-Espanol     d-flyer-Public

The Hardest Part of Teaching

From Peter Greene at Huff Post (7/6/2014):

They never tell you in teacher school, and it’s rarely discussed elsewhere. It is never, ever portrayed in movies and tv shows about teaching. Teachers rarely bring it up around non-teachers for fear it will make us look weak or inadequate.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post once [12/27/2013] put together a series of quotes to answer the question “How hard is teaching?” and asked for more in the comments section. My rant didn’t entirely fit there, so I’m putting it here, because it is on the list of Top Ten Things They Never Tell You in Teacher School.

The hard part of teaching is coming to grips with this:

There is never enough.

There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you.

It’s worth reading the rest of his rant.

26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System

This is a summary of an article written by and posted a few years ago at Business Insider. Taylor begins,

Since it implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems.

So how do they do it?

It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that much of the Western world uses.

And here are the 26 things he lists:

  1. Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.
  2. Compared with other systems, they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens.
  3. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.
  4. There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.
  5. All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms.
  6. Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.
  7. 30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.
  8. 66 percent of students go to college. (The highest rate in Europe)
  9. The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World. [Ted note: I assume they mean academically, not physically.]
  10. Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments every class.
  11. 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school. (17.5% higher than in U.S.)
  12. 43 percent of Finnish high-school students go to vocational schools.
  13. Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.
  14. Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for “professional development.”
  15. Finland has the same amount of teachers as New York City, but far fewer students. (600,000 students compared to 1.1 million in NYC.)
  16. The school system is 100% state funded.
  17. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.
  18. The national curriculum is only broad guidelines.
  19. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates.
  20. In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots.
  21. The average starting salary for a Finnish teacher was $29,000 in 2008. (Compared with $36,000 in the United States.)
  22. However, high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make. (In the US, this figure is 62%.)
  23. There is no merit pay for teachers.
  24. Teachers are effectively given the same status as doctors and lawyers.
  25. In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics. (It’s consistently come top or very near every time since.)
  26. And despite the differences between Finland and the US, it easily beats countries with a similar demographic. (Neighbor Norway, of a similar size and featuring a similar homogeneous culture, follows the same same strategies as the USA and achieves similar rankings in international studies.)

Sources he cites include:

And a few more sources for you:


The Vergara Ruling

There is so much I could say about this… and I’ll try to write more about it soon. In the meanwhile, here are links to various news articles, analyses, responses and perspectives on the ruling and its larger meanings/implications… to which I will continue to add…