Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The 'Summer Slide' myth

Testing companies continue to perpetuate the myth of the so-called "summer learning gap", where children supposedly forget most of what they learned in the classroom in a matter of a few weeks of vacation. If this were true, it would speak more to an irrelevant school curriculum than anything else. But it's not true.

According to an article by Sarah Shupe in today's Edweek, 
...what students forget over the summer becomes more damaging over time as students make less progress during the school year, according to an ongoing study by NWEA, the Northwest Evaluation Association.
"As kids grow less and less during the school years, they are still seeing the same summer drop—so they are losing proportionately more," said Megan Kuhfeld, a research scientist at NWEA and the author of the study.
According to this theory, kids grow dummer and dummer as they progress through school and therefore can ill-afford to spend more time playing and with their friends and families.

NWEA tracked the reading and math test scores of students grades 3 to 6, and nearly 40,000 students from grades 5 to 8 in an "unnamed southern state" and concluded that the more time they spent with family, fishing, working, at summer camp, hanging out with friends -- or whatever students do on vacation in this southern state -- the less bright they got.

Not only that, but things got worse as the kids grew older.
On average, students lost about 2 points out of a possible 250 each summer in reading, and a little more than 4 points each summer in math. But as the charts below show, students gain less during each school year as they grow. 
In other words, hardly anything measurable that was being taught in their schools lasted in children's consciousness for more than a few weeks. This generates an obvious call for perpetual schooling and even more standardized testing.

But it should be even more obvious to the evaluators that students continue learning during the summer, the same way that they learned before they were in school, experientially and largely through play. How well they learn depends on what kind of learning and play experiences are available to them in their family and community life. But that's true within school as well.

Authentic learning is deep and enduring. It goes on all the time, all year round, including summer. Perhaps especially in summer. If children lose academic skills over the few weeks of summer, then did they really ever learn those skills?

Then there's the question what's tested, what's not tested, and how real learning is measured. Reading and math scores are but one small indicator.

All this leaves open the question of what happens when these kids graduate, become adults and spend the rest of their lives forgetting how to solve a quadratic equation, the shape of states on the map, or the color of Laura Ingalls dress. Do we call that the life slide? Hopefully, what stays with them are critical thinking and life skills, habits of the mind and body.

I think it was Albert Einstein who first said it: "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school?"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

'Who do you serve? Who do you protect?': The Killing of Snoop the Barber

Officers assigned to a foot assignment observe "a man exhibiting characteristics of an armed person".  -- Anthony Guglielmi, the Chicago Police Department’s chief communications officer
It's hard to say what it is that will finally push a community to the breaking point. I lived in L.A. in 1965 when the Watts riots (rebellion) began as a reaction to a police assault on a black motorist pulled over for a traffic violation. LAPD needed help from 4,000 members of the National Guard to quell the uprising. By the time the smoke cleared they counted 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage.

In '68 it was the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis.

1992 brought the Rodney King riots.

But all these singular events were only sparks that lit the prairie fire of anger and rage. The real tinder box was years of oppression and suffering within a system of enforced racist violence, segregation, joblessness, broken schools and mass incarceration -- a political system leaving those oppressed communities voiceless and without hope for the next generation.

I was considering all this when I heard the news about yesterday's deadly shooting by police of Harith Augustus ("Snoop the Barber") on Chicago's south side. Harith was the father of a 5-year-old daughter and was a well-known barber in his South Shore neighborhood. One of his customers told local media the barber usually “brings his daughter with him wherever he goes, but she wasn’t with him today.”

Police said they encountered a man “exhibiting characteristics” of being armed. Wait, what?

There was a confrontation and Augustus was shot in the back five times and killed. An angry crowd gathered shouting,  "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?", and a confrontation ensued, a few water bottles against cop batons. Witnesses said the cop who did the shooting was quickly whisked away from the area in a police cruiser. As of this writing, she has not been named.

Shortly after, the streets erupted in the neighborhood with residents turned demonstrators demanding answers from police. Police claimed a weapon was recovered at the scene. People who knew him said, Harith had a permit for the gun, that it was holstered and that he never reached for it. So much for all that Second Amendment bull crap.

By midnight, demonstrators were still in the streets, police and residents clashed and a number of people were arrested. Sun-Times reporter, Nader Issa was caught up in the chaos and was assaulted by police.

I don't know if Harith's killing will turn out to be one of those moments in time. If nothing else, this is one more brick in the wall for a mayor running for reelection and still being dogged by his role in the cover up of the Laquan McDonald killing. His only saving grace is that none of the other candidates seem to have a meaningful response to the ongoing and systematic police abuse in this city's black communities beyond calling for a new $95M police training academy.

But at the risk of being repetitive, the pumping of five bullets into the back of a man accused of no crime except running for his life, is not a training problem.

Here's some of Issa's tweets from the scene.
 The situation has gotten as bad as its been a night. Police charged into the parking lot and started hitting people. Two officers smacked my phone out of my hand and shoved me to the ground. Don't know how many arrests, but at least a dozen from what I could see. pic.twitter.com/L7Q5xQyWSe

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Searching for my inner civil self in these difficult times

Protests rocked Chicago following the Laquan McDonald shooting and the cover-up that followed. 
Responding to liberal critics of incivility, I'm trying to get back in touch with my inner civil self. Not like all those "McCarthyites" on the Vineyard who are shunning poor Alan Dershowitz or that mean old bartender in D.C. who flipped off Trump's racist-in-chief, Stephen Miller. Miller got so upset, he tossed his sushi. What a waste.

I'm now looking for common ground with political foes like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Rauner. I'm even offering to mediate the rift that broke out between the two over Saturday's anti-violence protest on the Dan Ryan which ended with each telling the other to "shut down" their Twitter accounts.

C'mon fellas. remember, you're long-time business partners. Rahm, Bruce even donated thousands to your campaign warchest. You both gonna let a little expressway disruption get in the way of millions in profits?

Remember, you two will always have Montana. 
My message to both of you: Remember, there will always be Montana and that thousand-dollar bottle of Napa Valley wine you two shared.

Believe it or not, I've also found some common ground with Rahm's former police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, who is now his number-one, great-white-hope opponent in the mayor's race.

McCarthy, who was Rahm's top cop during the Laquan McDonald killing and cover-up by Chicago cops, now says, he opposes spending $95M on a new police & fire academy.

So do I, but for different reasons.

Here's the part I agree with:
“This police academy is a shiny object that Rahm Emanuel can point to and say, `I’m all about police reform.’ It’s for political purposes — not functional purposes,“ McCarthy said.
 “I could find much better ways to spend that money that would have a much greater impact on what’s happening in Chicago. … I’d use that $95 million to put social services and mental health centers back in communities that need them the most.”
Here's where I don't:

McCarthy contends that there is no new training needed and that CPD is doing a fine job. He was at odds with the Justice Department's report which came out in 2015, when Emanuel was forced by a judge’s order to release video of white Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teen, 16 times. The report found CPD’s training to be sorely lacking.

That dispute forced Rahm to throw his top cop under the bus. Hunger for revenge appears to be what drove McCarthy to enter the race. He will likely draw votes from largely-white wards on the northwest and southwest sides where lots of cops and firefighters live.

I of course, don't agree that CPD is doing a fine job. I don't even buy the "few bad apples" theory which would also, by the way, make a new training academy unnecessary.

The ongoing shooting of unarmed black men, women a children by mainly white Chicago cops is part of an institutionalized culture of entrenched racism within the department which is, at worst cultivated and encouraged and at best, tolerated by the mayor, department heads like McCarthy, and the FOP.

In other words, this isn't really a "training problem", but one calling for more radical solutions which need come directly from the communities most impacted by police misconduct.

It's not that I'm against a sparkling new police training academy in principle. It's just not high on my priority list, given the current state of public school buildings and other city infrastructure needs.

I don't think any of the mayoral candidates have real handle on the problem. But I am intrigued by the idea of a gay, progressive African-American woman like Lori Lightfoot, who Rahm appointed president of the Chicago Police Board, giving the mayor and McCarthy a run for their money in the most recent polls.  According to those polls, taken in April, 62% of those surveyed want someone, anyone besides Rahm as mayor.

I'm with the 62%. I would sooner vote for Pigasus ('68 reference there) than for either McCarthy or Rahm. Still searching for my civil side on those two.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Thousands of marchers took over Chicago's Dan Ryan Expressway Saturday, demanding an end to gun violence joblessness. 
Jonathan Capehart
Just when you thought the callous disregard for these children couldn’t get any worse, the New York Times reported last week that “records linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed.” And don’t forget that the Trump administration is going after naturalized U.S. citizens now, too. -- Washington Post
Christine Geovanis, CTU spokesperson
“Our concern is equity. And where is the plan that is designed to lift up neighborhoods that are so clearly struggling? By not having a plan, by refusing to deploy a plan, they’ve been able to dovetail these one-off announcements that don’t strengthen all neighborhoods and all neighborhood needs equally, and end up privileging some at the expanse of thousands of others.” -- Sun-Times
Michael Sainato
The reality is that the decline of America’s traditional retail industry has left a void that corporate titans like Amazon will continue to exploit – unless employees, unions and Amazon customers work together to raise wages and improve working conditions. -- Guardian
Elizabeth Warren
 “He tries to bully me to shut me up, and he’s also trying to bully women all across this country. He talks about MeToo. He thinks we should sit down and shut up. It’s just not going to happen.” --Washington Post
David Callahan
The rest of us, ordinary citizens without big bank accounts, will certainly play a role in the outcome this November. We cast the votes, after all. But more and more, US politics – along with civic life broadly – often feels like a spectator sport, as a growing array of billionaire super citizens battle it out in the public square. -- Guardian

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Latest from the "stable genius"

He's right. The brain is important...
And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.”

Friday, July 6, 2018

Karen Lewis on Hitting Left (archives show) today

Karen Lewis with the Klonsky Bros. on Hitting Left, March 3, 2017. 
Brother Fred and I are taking the day off. Retirement has exhausted us both. Instead of our usual live show on Fridays, today we will be rebroadcasting a show from the Hitting Left archives, March 3, 2017, featuring in-studio guest, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis. As most readers know, Karen, suffering from failing health, resigned from her position last month.

Tune in at 11 a.m. today at WLPN, 105.5 FM or catch the livestream at www.lumpenradio.com to hear Karen at her most upbeat and feistiest self. Or, you can listen to the whole show on podcast.

The latest word from Karen is, she's still in the fight. 
“I want my members to know first that I’m not abandoning them, I just will be an emerita,” Lewis said. "I will be around to help do things, I’m not disappearing anywhere and I’m going to be here for whatever people want to do with me.”
Lewis said she also planned to be involved with the city’s upcoming mayoral election, and revived her past criticism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he faces a crowded field of challengers.
“My plan is to try to get somebody to unseat Rahm,” she said. “I think we can do better than that.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My memo to Rahm: Killing Petunia not a good look

Fired Animal Care Director, Susan Russell, left, holds Petunia alongside state Comptroller Susana Mendoza 
Memo to Mayor Rahm Emanuel...Your poll numbers are in the dumper. 23 shot, including 5 children 15 and younger this past weekend. Your administration is ridden with scandal. For the next few months leading up to election time, that video of the Laquan McDonald shooting will be playing over and over again. Black families are leaving the city in droves. Your police Supt. Eddie Johnson claims he has never seen any police misconduct in all his years on the force. Yet he's pushing for a new, $95M cop training academy. This while many schools are in ruins, filthy and disgusting. The sexual abuse scandal at CPS goes all the way to the top. You, your hand-picked school board president, Frank Clark and schools CEO  Janice Jackson all appear culpable. While you still have tons of money to spend on reelection, your main opponents are raising lots of cash from your former patrons. Even some of your closest pals are dropping hints that you may drop out of the race. I could go on.

So what do you do? You fire Animal Care Director Susan Russell, for "warehousing dangerous animals".

Not a good look, Rahm.

You sure you're really up for this campaign?