Monday, September 18, 2017


Chuck Schumer gives advice to Trump on how to be a good opportunist
"He likes us. He likes me anyway..Here's what I told him. I said, 'Mr. President, you're much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step left. If you have to step just in one direction, you're boxed.'" -- CNN 
Rep. Luis GutiƩrrez (D-Ill.) on Dem's deal with Trump
"I love Nancy Pelosi. I don’t have any doubt of her authenticity and commitment. But how do I now have to accept border security? Do I now have to put up half a fence? Is it going to have electricity and barbed wire on it?" -- Politico 
Robert Jay Lifton, psychohistorian
The American president has particular power. This makes Trump the most dangerous man in the world. He’s equally dangerous because of his finger on the nuclear trigger and because of his mind ensconced in solipsistic reality. The two are a dreadful combination. -- Bill Moyers & Co. 
Atty. G. Flint Taylor
About half (of the $125 million in taxpayer money used to defend torturer Jon Burge) has gone to the survivors. The other half has gone patronage'. That's all your downtown law firms that are hired to fight us in court, about twenty-five to thirty million that has gone into the pockets of those lawyers defending Jon Burge and Richie Daley. -- Hitting Left
Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos is the first secretary of education in our history who is actually hostile to public education. We've never had this before. -- NPE 

Friday, September 15, 2017

John King's 'worries' about DeVos don't include "choice" or vouchers

Duncan & King
As N.Y.'s Education Commissioner, John King's top-down imposition of corporate-style reform policies, including Common Core testing mania, led to a revolt among parents and teachers.

As Arne Duncan's appointed successor to a short-lived stint as Pres. Obama's Ed Secretary, King continued Duncan's push for mass closings of public schools in black communities and replacing them with privately-run charters. In many ways, the Duncan/King failed Race to the Top program, set the table for Betsy DeVos' current school "choice" agenda which now threatens to decimate public schooling altogether.

As his reward for causing all this mayhem and division, King landed softly at the top of the Education Trust, which supposedly looks out for poor and minority children but instead has been a bulwark of destructive, top-down imposed testing madness going back to the now thoroughly-discredited No Child Left Behind law.

While King and Duncan have been critical of DeVos, they have steered clear of saying anything strongly critical about the bedrock of her "reform" strategy -- privatization, "choice" and vouchers.

In an interview with EdWeek's Alyson Klein, King reveals his and Ed Trust's affinity with Trump/DeVos on ed policy by omitting any criticism or even mention of their push for privatization and school vouchers. While King shares some of his legitimate "worries" about the DeVos administration's funding cuts to education and it's recent moves when it comes to civil rights enforcement, his concerns sound rather tepid.
"All of those things suggest that there's not a full commitment to civil rights protection," King said.
Not a full commitment? A duh statement if I ever heard one. Especially when you consider the lengths to which Trump/DeVos have already gone to turning the Office of Civil Rights into its opposite. 

And then there's the reality that King and Duncan's regimes also failed (by Duncan's own admission) on what Duncan called "forced integration", at times disparaging Obama's own Justice Department on civil rights enforcement.

But King's main concern isn't about the Trump regime's bent toward white supremacy. Rather it's that DeVos may not be tough enough on states and school districts when it comes to enforcing test-score accountability,

He tells Klein that he concerned that DeVos and even Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown aren't intervening severely enough in low-performing (high poverty) schools --"intervening" meaning labeling them as failures, closing them, and replacing them with charters.
"I am worried about the clarity for parents about school performance ... I'm very worried about the California dashboard," he said, referring to the state's proposed accountability model, which considers school performance on a host of factors, but doesn't come up with an overall rating. "I think it's very confusing."
While in previous interviews, King has called the voucher issue a "distraction", his list of current concerns expressed in the EdWeek interview include not even a mention of "choice" or school vouchers. This omission is most revealing. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Juking the stats on graduation rates

Bernard Gassaway is a former New York City public schools teacher, principal, and superintendent of alternative schools and programs of more than two decades. So he knows from where he speaks. In the Aug. 29 issue of EdWeek Gassaway shines a light ("Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I've Seen It Myself")  on the way school officials have used various tricks to juke the stats on graduation rates.
As a direct result of a public thirst for schools to show progress, boards of education pressure superintendents, superintendents squeeze principals, principals ride teachers, and teachers stress students. The ultimate measure of progress for schools nationwide is high school graduation rates.Public school officials use a variety of schemes to give the appearance of progress.
This is nothing new of course. Some of you will harken back to the so-called Texas Miracle, one of the great school reform frauds of all time, engineered by then Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his school chief Rod Paige. Together, they rode the myth of zero dropouts all the way to the White House.

Here in Chicago, where the mayor runs the schools and his political success depends in large part on showing miraculous gains in standardized test schools and grad rate bumps, there a long history of juking the stats. In 2015, CPS was forced to lower four years of inflated high school graduation rates to account for a "higher-than-advertised" dropout rate, another blow to a district beset by financial and professional turmoil. The accuracy of the district's numbers had been called into question in a report by CPS' inspector general. But CPS officials did not announce the revised graduation rates until months after Mayor Rahm Emanuel won re-election.

Gassaway brings us up to date on the stats-juking process in New York City where incremental bumps in grad rates have been induced through the misuse of credit recovery, virtual learning, or reclassifying students with disabilities to lower the graduation standards bar.

But the real kicker comes next. It's all about getting rid of low-scoring or other problem students as a way to produce statistical gains in measurable student achievement.

Gassaway writes:
...when education officials cannot use any of the aforementioned tactics to get struggling students through high school, they transfer or push out students who are off-track for graduation—dropping the dead weight that is dragging down graduation statistics. Pushing students out is the most efficient way to increase a school's graduation rate. Principals transfer overage and under-credited students to alternative schools.
He could well have included the statistical impact produced by the mass out-migration of poor, African-American and their families from cities like Chicago in recent years. As urban public school populations shrink, and the poorest kids leave, schools in the black community are shuttered and resources are redirected towards selective-enrollment schools and charters, average test scores and graduation rates tend to rise.

Gassaway's expose may ring truest for those educators in urban districts who have toiled so long and hard, without adequate resources or support, to bring about academic success for students most at risk for dropping out, only to hear politicians like Rahm taking credit for supposed test score and grad rate gains. 

This is not to say that some of those gains aren't real. But the mayor's boasting about rising grad rates at CPS makes no sense unless he can point to some dramatic changes, either in the classroom (beyond the tracking of freshman students) or in the community that would keep kids from dropping out. So far neither he nor CEO Claypool have. Which leads me to believe that it's more about the whitenizing of the city. 

My last point on this, which I've made several times this week is: If the mayor really believed his own claims about dramatic improvements at CPS under his leadership, why would he be supporting school vouchers as an "escape route" from "failing schools"?

Monday, September 11, 2017


Azalia Martinez

NEIU student Azalia Martinez 
I’m not scared anymore. I’m not accepting it. I’m ready to fight, because you know, contrary to popular opinion, this is my country. The only country I’ve ever known.” -- Sun-Times 
Jacques Charbonnier, a 63-year-old resident of St. Martin 
“All the food is gone now. People are fighting in the streets for what is left.” -- New York Times 
Miami-Dade Principal Bernie Osborn
 "We are a Title 1 [high poverty] school. My students don't have a lot as it is. I am worried that their resources will be drained. We have a great staff at JFK Middle, and whatever we have to do to assist our families, we are going to do it." -- EdWeek 
Columnist Charles Blow
You could stay in hell for a little while if you knew that you were going to get out. -- New York Times 
Kurt Andersen
Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. -- The Atlantic
Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg
Let me assure you; Chicagoans are not all like Rahm Emanuel — in fact, it’s just him. -- Memo to Amazon's Founder 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

These Schools Belong to You and Me

My old and dear friend Deb Meier and her former Mission Hill School colleague and co-writer, Emily Gasoi have a new book out and it's well worth the read. These Schools Belong to You and Me is an elegantly-written call to defend and preserve the public or democratic part of what's left of public education itself.

They cover a lot of ground in 180 pages, including a biting critique of Trump's Ed Sec. Betsy DeVos, privately-run charter schools, the misnamed "accountability" wave, and Deb's reflection on the cooptation/disembowelment of the small schools movement which she helped launch at Central Park Elementary School in East Harlem more than 40 years ago.

Deb and Emily are among the few practitioners still writing about democracy and education. John Dewey lives.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Chris Kennedy discovers his inner-left

Oliwia Pac
“This raise means that I can finally afford my rent, get groceries, not have a hassle trying to pay off my student loans,” Oliwia Pac, who helps passengers in wheelchairs, escorts children traveling alone onto flights and works security at O’Hare Airport, tells the Sun-Times. 
“It could be better. But this is a very big step that has occurred for us as airport workers. I’m just beyond ecstatic. We’re slowly but surely winning.”
Born-of-the-manor Chris Kennedy could have at least shown the decency to congratulate the airport workers and SEIU Local 1 on their strike victory before bashing the settlement. Instead guv candidate Kennedy, appearing on Ben Joravsky's show on WCPT, in an otherwise fine interview, attacked the victory celebration claiming the hard-won raise of the minimum wage to "no less than" $13.45 wasn't high enough for him.
He asks Ben, "Is the city council proud of the fact that they're paying somebody $13.45 and hour? Does somebody think that's a good idea? Does anyone think that that's a living wage?
No, Mr. Kennedy. I doubt that anyone thinks that? But if you're making ten bucks an hour and you raise the minimum wage 30%, that's something to cheer about.

The workers also won the right for baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, aircraft maintenance workers, security guards and other contract employees to organize without interference, for the first time. To win this, they had to agree to a "no strike" clause. But agreements like this have never stopped workers from using an array of tactics beyond the legal strike to win their demands.

Kennedy, who like the rest of the IL Dem primary candidates, has suddenly discovered his inner leftism, at least up until election day, has never had a real job himself and obviously has never walked a picket line. Of course $13.45 is not a living wage. Neither is $15 as in "Fight For 15". But buy raising the floor, the SEIU-led victory lifted up all the airport workers. The struggle for a living wage and for full union rights continues.

BTW, Kennedy was not a big fan of workers rights when he chaired the U of I Board of Trustees and had faculty members fired or discredited for their political views.

Danny Rodriguez on Hitting Left.
Tune into Hitting Left today at 11 CDT on Lumpen Radio to hear our Labor Day interview with O'Hare airport striking worker Danny Rodriguez. Chris Kennedy should listen in as well. He might learn something.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Lawmakers above the law on vouchers

IL legislature violates the Constitution.
I doubt that Rahm Emanuel, Cardinal Cupich, nor any of those legislators in Springfield who voted for the school funding/voucher bill -- not to mention the governor who signed it into law -- have ever read the State Constitution. If they had read it, they sure didn't give a rat's ass about its content or meaning when they gave giant tax breaks for the state's wealthiest in order to unlawfully fund so-called "scholarships" to pay for private, Catholic, and religious school tuition.

    Neither the General Assembly nor any county, city, town,
township, school district, or other public corporation, shall
ever make any appropriation or pay from any public fund
whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian purpose,
or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary,
college, university, or other literary or scientific
institution, controlled by any church or sectarian
denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of
land, money, or other personal property ever be made by the
State, or any such public corporation, to any church, or for
any sectarian purpose.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)
Could it be any clearer?