Hitting Left with guest Brandon Johnson

Monday, August 31, 2009

NCLB on crack in Massachusetts

Kindergarten testing madness
This is kindergarten, the happy land of building blocks and singalongs. But increasingly in schools across Massachusetts and the United States, little children are being asked to perform academic tasks, including test taking, that early childhood researchers agree are developmentally inappropriate, even potentially damaging. If children don’t meet certain requirements, they are deemed “not proficient.” Frequently, children are screened for “kindergarten readiness” even before school begins, and some are labeled inadequate before they walk through the door. (Boston Globe)
Wisconsin dumps its standardized test

A 17-year-old statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law will be replaced with a broader approach to judging how well Wisconsin students are performing. The tests will be replaced over the next two to three years with a system that combines state, district and classroom assessments. Wisconsin is one of the few states with a law prohibiting the pay of teachers being tied to a standardized test score. This has attracted the ire of the DOE. Arne Duncan is threatening to withhold federal Race-To-The-Top dollars unless the law is changed. (MPR News)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Economics of testing


Another year, another study

Yes, despite what you may have heard from the "no excuses" crowd, SAT scores once again correlate perfectly with parents' tax returns. According to Catherine Rampell at NYT's Economix blog, the correlation remains strong again this year.

I'll leave it to the reader to look at this data and figure out the long-term impact of Duncan's dictum that teachers be paid on the basis of these test scores.

Of course, as any over-educated Harvard business prof (with bathrooms on his mind?) will be quick to argue, the data doesn't prove a causal relationship between income and test-scores.
Suppose we were to graph average SAT scores by the number of bathrooms a student has in his or her family home. That curve would also likely slope upward.
But as Rampell points out:
There’s a very strong positive correlation between income and test scores. (For the math geeks out there, the R2 for each test average/income range chart is about 0.95.)

Illinois Gov. won't sign the Soto bill

Senate Bill 363 would have put some limits on Chicago school closings. The bill, offered by Rep. Cynthia Soto, was supported by a wide array of teacher, parent, and community groups, including the Chicago Principals Association, Chicago Teachers Union, Designs for Change, Grand Boulevard Federation, and South Side United Local School Council Federation, was passed 53 to 0 in the Senate and 117 to 0 in the House. This despite intensive lobbying efforts by Mayor Daley and powerful business and real estate interests.

Why is Gov. Quinn vetoing the bill? He is afraid that in its current form, he and the Daley machine would not have control of a task force set up under 363 to monitor new school construction, school repairs and school closings.

According to an August 27th press release issued by Designs for Change:
"The Governor has hijacked a year-long Chicago school facility improvement campaign at the last minute, by stacking the Task Force and watering down its ability to come up with a strong fair policy. He has disappointed many who thought he was different from the typical Illinois politician."
Quinn then confirmed DFC's conclusion by also vetoing his own campaign ethics bill, passed in the wake of the pay-to-play arrest of former Governor Blogojevich.

Looking for a "Great White Hope"

Lynn Jenkins

Back in 1989 when Chicago Mayor Daley was first campaigning against the city's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington, he was caught saying that the city needed a "white mayor." When called on it, Daley quickly went into denial mode. "I was misquoted," said the soon-to-be-defeated machine candidate. When asked how his comment should be interpreted, Daley responded with the words, "wet mayor, I said, a wet mayor."

I'm harking back to this strange episode as I'm reading about Kansas Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins telling her audience that her party was looking for a "great white hope." Later Jenkins' spokeswoman Mary Geiger explained that Jenkins' remark was not meant to refer to "race, creed or any background."

Inside Daley's Renaissance 2010

If you really want to know what Renaissance 2010 is all about, read this gut-wrenching account of the destruction of De La Cruz Middle School in the predominantly Mexican Pilsen Community.
So here's the answer to the mystery: Renaissance 2010 is not based on solid research, educational theory, or inference from data. It is based on a Gospel, that the Market will heal you, and government--and the teacher's unions--are necessarily the problem. Shut down schools and liquidate their staff, encourage privatize players to enter the education "market". (Gapers Block)

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Apologies to Diane Ravitch for complaining about her equating current ed policies with those of Bush and the neocons. She was just a little premature in her pronouncements, that's all. Even Bush, with the demon Cheney whispering in his right ear, couldn't conceive of such misuse and abuse of Title I funds, intended to support the education of poor kids.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today that he plans to demand radical steps—such as firing most of a school’s staff or its conversion to a charter school—as the price of admission in directing $3.5 billion in new school improvement aid to the nation’s 5,000 worst-performing schools. (EDWEEK)

For Sale--250 L.A. public schools

Attention all wannabe school operators. A huge chunk of the nation's 2nd largest school system is for sale--cheap.

In fact, if you want to buy a school (or a few schools), the school board will throw in a brand new multimillion dollar facility free of charge.
For the charter school operators, the biggest prize is 50 new schools scheduled to open over the next four years. (L.A. TIMES)

Feds raid more Philly charters








The schools are among five Philadelphia area charter schools that are part of a widening federal investigation into allegations of misspending public funds. While the feds had no comment, the state auditor general had complained that many charter schools have lack of controls or, for that matter, any oversight. (6ABC.Com)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scene in Motown

I'm blogging from Detroit this morning. It's a city in turmoil. Change is in the air. But what kind of change? Will it be done to teachers or with them? (Free Press story)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

J.D. organizing in EastTexas

Today was my last day of organizing work in East Texas. Tomorrow I fly home. Over the last two weeks four of us have helped the local AFT organizer prepare for, distribute materials at, and help recruit at about 10 events.

Essentials

I liked my brother Fred's speech to teachers as the new school year begins:

Let me share a few personal views on what constitutes some essential ingredients for any successful strategy for improvement.

That good working conditions are good teaching conditions and good learning conditions.

That these are provided by an agreement, collectively bargained and honored by both teachers, administrators and the board of education.

That teacher voice is crucial to a quality school system.

That the best leadership is shared leadership.

That good ideas come from the bottom and from the top.

That the responsibility for good schools doesn’t stop at the school’s front door, but it is also a community, a state and a national responsibility.

Read the rest here.

Someone interpret, please...


What does Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" have to do with NCLB? Plenty, says Duncan's press guy. Nothing, says Duncan.

Peter Cunningham on NCLB

“We’re mindful of all the criticisms about federal overreaching, about too much testing, of all the complaints about No Child Left Behind,” Mr. Cunningham said. “These complaints come up all the time in conversations about all our programs, not just this one, with education officials across the country. The context that No Child has generated is the context that we have to live with.”
Arne Duncan on NCLB

CNN CORRESPONDENT TOM FOREMAN: But how do you feel, when you see headlines like this on the Web from people out there who are criticizing you, parent groups, some teacher groups. Some are very much in your corner. There's no question. But there are others who are saying no, what you're doing is an extension of No Child Left Behind, you're just not calling it that.

DUNCAN: Right. Well, this has nothing to do with No Child Left Behind.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rhee's list

How NOT to fix schools

Goofball D.C. Chancellor Michelle "Never Taught" Rhee (with broom at left) hired the consulting firm Insight Education Group to help her create an easily-measurable list of good teaching components, such as:
A highly skilled teacher should never have more than five instances of "inappropriate or off-task behavior" by students within a half-hour of class time. At least three times in that span, an instructor should respond to students' correct answers by "probing for higher-level understanding" of the idea being discussed (Washington Post).
More on Rhee from the Washington Post story:
Rhee's first two years at the helm of the 45,000-student system brought major upheaval, including school consolidation and closure, principal turnover, dismissal of central office staff and contentious contract negotiations with the teachers' union. Those talks are ongoing after nearly 22 months.

Weekend Quotables


Gates' Silver Bullets

''We've been sort of looking around for the silver bullet for education reform, and actually the answer has been right under our feet the whole time,'' said John Deasy, deputy director of the foundation's education work. (NY Times)

NEA finally speaks out on Race-To-The-Top
"Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America's public schools." (Guardian)
Diane Ravitch gives lesson on federalism
The Obama administration wants states to change their laws limiting the number of privately-managed charter schools and to change their laws that prevent the evaluation of teachers based on student test scores. These policy preferences are not based on any court decisions nor any enactments by Congress. As it happens, they are not supported by social science evidence or experience. They are simply hunches and preferences, nothing more. (Flypaper)

Duncan's innovation grants

By "seeding" innovation, Duncan is sending a powerful message to educators across the country that he expects experimentation and aggressive improvement. But Ducan is also promulgating a very specific vision of what reform is likely to look like -- one heavily borrowed from Gates. (Dana Goldstein, American Prospect)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

BRAVE NEW VOICES, 2009

During the week of July 14, 2009, hundreds of young poets ages 13 to 19, representing 50 cities and four countries, competed in the 2009 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam in Chicago,...

Friday, August 21, 2009

'Chicago high school reform a bust' --new study

Another day, another study, showing Duncan's "model" high school reform a bust. Gates pulls plug on more studies. Problem solved.
Former CEO Arne Duncan often said that a key to creating the best urban school district in the country was to improve long-failing high schools. But Duncan’s broadest, most expensive effort, called High School Transformation, sputtered in implementation and has failed to spark significant improvement, according to an evaluation released Thursday. (Catalyst Notebook blog)

Philly's Ackerman--'We don't need no stinking oversight'


Community activist, Heidi Ramirez, has been driven from Philly's School Reform Commission. School boss Arlene Ackerman is now free to privatize school management and use TFA replacement teachers, with no oversight from a puppet SRC.

Read the full story at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

Test scores up, but gap widens

News out of Oakland, just recovering from the state takeover of public schools.

Test scores are up. Standout schools are small, as we would expect, including the new West Oakland Middle School and East Oakland Pride, both "small schools" carved out of larger middle schools.

But as far as the so-called achievement gap goes, it's the same old story.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good news for "innovative" non-profits

Here's the latest from the DOE. Non-profit school reform groups will be eligible for federal grants as large as $50 million each. Arne Duncan announced the Innovation Grants yesterday at a meeting of school superintendents as part of a $650 million initiative.

The good news is that the grants will open up other possibilities for districts besides closing schools and firing entire teaching staffs. But many worry that the bulk of the funding could go to already flush business-model reformers like Teach for America and charter schools operators.

But hope springs eternal:
"I was just trying to highlight that innovation comes from different places," Duncan said. "I was trying to set a tone that we're not going to look at the usual players, the usual suspects."
We'll see.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fallout from Chicago's 'Turnaround'

Under Vallas, it was called "reconstitution." Under Duncan, it was "turnaround." Firing teachers, closing schools, revolving-door principals, and eliminating Local School Councils and other forms of community engagement. Little done to improve the lives of kids. Results--Harper High same as ever.
Teachers and principals are mad about getting fired, communities are incensed over another reform agenda they feel excluded from and students are confused returning to a group of teachers they don't trust. The program's newness means there's little evidence such efforts have been successful, but that's not stopping Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from touting it. (Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The real force behind mayoral control

It's none other than the world's richest man, Bill Gates. Gates secretly bankrolled the recent campaign to preserve N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg's one-man rule over the public schools.

According to a story in yesterday's N.Y. Post, Gates funneled about $4 million to the pro-mayoral-control forces during the recent debate in the state legislature. When questioned by the Post, a Gates spokesperson confirmed the donation and the approximate size.

Gates money paid for Learn-NY's extensive public-relations, media and lobbying efforts in Albany and New York City. The effort include advertisements, parent organizing and canvassing -- including a five-borough bus tour and trips to the state capital. Gates gave the money from his personal pocket -- not from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pumped $150 million into the city to develop small schools.

It was N.Y.'s Bloomberg-appointed Chancellor, Joel Klein, who, as a federal prosecutor, helped settle the Justice Dept.'s multi-billion anti-trust suit that could have destroyed Gates's company, Microsoft.

According to the Post:

He made it clear that he liked having city CEOs in charge of education decision-making and accountable for results. "You want to allow for experimentation. The cities where our foundation has put the most money is where there is a single person responsible. In New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, the mayor has the responsibility for the school system," Gates said during a CNN appearance.

Another billionaire philanthropist -- Eli Broad, a proponent of charter schools -- also gave millions to Learn-NY.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend quotables

Bill Gates Warren Buffett

Sometimes it seems like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a nation unto itself. Its endowment of over $30 billion makes it the 300-pound gorilla of philanthropy, and the backing of a pair of business superstars (Warren Buffett is a big contributor) adds luster. (WSJ Health Blogger Jacob Goldstein)

"We have to live with it"

Arne Duncan's press guy, Peter Cunningham responding to "outpouring of complaints" about Race-To-The-Top testing madness:

“We’re mindful of all the criticisms about federal overreaching, about too much testing, of all the complaints about No Child Left Behind,” Mr. Cunningham said. “These complaints come up all the time in conversations about all our programs, not just this one, with education officials across the country. The context that No Child has generated is the context that we have to live with.” (Sam Dillon, NYT)
"Test frenzy may get worse..."

“I am a public school teacher who vehemently wanted to vote for a president who would save us from No Child Left Behind,” Diane Aoki of Kealakekua, Hawaii, wrote to the department. But linking test scores to teacher evaluations, Ms. Aoki said, means “the potential is there for the test frenzy to get worse than it is under No Child Left Behind.” (NYT)


Obama's dream


This, from Paul Krugman's column last Thursday:
So much, then, for Mr. Obama’s dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever. In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh.
But then there's always Newt Gingrich, the former Dixiepublican congressman from Georgia and erstwhile 2012 presidential candidate, who, alongside of Limbaugh and Sarah ("Death Panel") Palin, has led the charge of the paranoids against Obama's healthcare reform and tried unsuccessfully, to deny Judge Sotomayor her seat on the Supreme Court by labeling her a "racist."

Yet Gingrich, desperately seeking a measure of credibility outside the shrinking base of the Limbaugh Party, now stands, anointed by Arne Duncan as the face of his Race-To-The-Top ed reform. Gingrich will stand next to Duncan on their current RTTT speaking tour. It's worth asking again, what is it about RTTT that makes it so attractive to the likes of Gingrich? And what is it about Gingrich that makes him so attractive to Obama and Duncan?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Bedfellows Tour

Arne Duncan is going on tour with strange bedfellows, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich to promote the Race to the Top. Newt, as a leader of the most backward wing of Republicanism, launched a racist campaign against the appointment of Judge Sotomayor and has been rallying the T-baggers against Obama's health care reform. So the question is, does this version of united front around school reform represent an adjustment in Gingrich's approach to politics or is it a statement about the character of Duncan's reform agenda that makes it acceptable to someone like Newt?

I guess you can tell what I think.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's not just about testing

"There’s more to good education than math and reading scores," says Rich Rothstein, in an Edweek commentary well worth the read. Rothstein is one of the voices calling for a Broader, Bolder Approach to education. Here, he finds some areas of common ground with Barack Obama around testing issues and critique of NCLB. He also makes the case that neither schools nor teachers should be held accountable for scores alone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A look back at Denver's Manual High

A man-made disaster for hundreds of Denver's kids

It's been three years since the disastrous Gates Foundation's early venture into small schools at Denver's Manual High ended in defeat. This early turnaround project failed, primarily because of the foundation's top-down approach, ignoring teacher, parent, and community wisdom. As one parent summed it up: "We weren't against small schools. We just wanted it done with us, not to us."

It didn't take long for Bill Gates to throw his hands up and abandon Manual and the small-schools movement altogether, claiming that high school restructuring was "too difficult." The school was closed at the end of the 2006 school year amid militant community protests. 558 students were scattered across the city to new schools, lives disrupted and relationships with teachers destroyed.

According to a recent University of Colorado study:
Nearly a third of those students are now classified by the district as withdrawn. They are either dropouts, have moved to a different state or their whereabouts are unknown. One student has died, and 94 transferred out of Denver Public Schools. Their progress is no longer tracked.
The C.U. study is one of the few projects that watched what happens to kids after a school closes.

Its findings:

• Only 52 percent of the students who were juniors when Manual closed went on to graduate. Manual had previously graduated 68 percent of its seniors.

• Historically, Manual students had a 6 percent chance of dropping out of school. After closure, the chance that a displaced Manual student would drop out soared to 17 percent.

• Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores among displaced Manual students dropped from between 3 and 38 points in reading, writing and math. Historically, Manual students typically gained between 8 and 19 points each year in those subjects.

The Gates Foundation chalked it up to experience and left town. Arne Duncan now says he wants to close 5,000 schools. I'll leave it at that for now.

Quotables

Arianna Huffington: Is health care reform going the way of NCLB?
...the chance to enact meaningful change doesn't come along often. And when the opportunity is squandered, it is lost for a long, long time. When reform that isn't reform passes, people check it off their list and move on -- and we are left with worse-than-no-reform boondoggles like No Child Left Behind and Bush's Medicare drug plan.
Fly me to the moon

Herb Kohl is interviewed by John Merrow.

H.K.: Arne Duncan, on the official Department of Education website said, “For states, school districts, nonprofits, unions, and businesses, Race to the Top is the equivalent of education reform’s moon shot.” I thoroughly agree with him. Remember we went to the moon, not to improve science or the quality of life in our country, but to face down the Soviet Union. We spent a lot of money doing it, got little return, and never went back. I believe Duncan’s analogy should be taken seriously.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Casey at the bat


UFT's Leo Casey goes toe-to-toe with Moscowitz & anti-union let-em-eat-cake, Gang of Four. http://bit.ly/QGVq1

Inside Chicago's school 'renaissance'

CPS bans Twitter

H/t to Russo on this one. It's Huberman's latest edict -- No communicating with students or their families via personal email. No cell phones. No Twitter. No Facebook.
Just a few days after patting itself on the back for enlisting a R&B singer with a MySpace page and lots of Twitter followers, CPS's new email policy (PDF) requiring teachers to use official email for all communications with students has come to light.
Paying for test scores?

National Journal's panel of experts holds forth on paying kids for test scores. Responses are pretty much as expected (except the V.P. of the Chamber of Commerce is opposed).

Alfie Kohn: "Rewards, like punishments, can produce only one thing: temporary obedience. What they can never do is help kids become more effective or enthusiastic learners."

Monty Neill: "Test score 'bribes' for students are like steroids for athletes -- they can temporarily boost performance, but their long-term impact damages the very thing you are trying to improve."

Those in favor include former Bush advisor Sandy Kress and of course, VanderArk.

VanderArk credits power philanthropy

Former Gates Foundation front man, Tom VanderArk confirms pretty much everything we wrote in our book, about the disproportional influence exercised by power philanthropists (Gates, Broad, Walton, etc...) over current public ed policy.

VanderArk writes:

Duncan's announcement of Race the Top criteria didn't come out of the blue -- it's the result of the smart investment of several billion dollars by a coalition of foundations supporting the work of hundreds of education policy entrepreneurs.

He calls the new educational agenda "a consensus" created over the past 8 years and an extention of No Child Left Behind.

The difference between us and VDA is, he marvels at the power of power philanthropy and its ability to leverage billions of dollars behind an ownership society agenda-- and we don't.

Quotables

Arne Duncan sums up his communique from the DOE during his term as Chicago's school boss:
“It wasn’t a call about teaching kids to read,” Duncan recalled. “It was a call about a compliance report or something."
Mayor Daley, responding to his school board president's involvement in an Olympics land deal:
"The facts are wrong."
Tom VanderArk marvels at the power of power philanthropy and its ownership society agenda:
The 'human capital' agenda has also matured in the last eight years with the scaled success of foundation favorites Teach for America, New Leaders, and New Teacher Project.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicago's true Olympic spirit

Scott just helping his friends

In between appearances before the clout-gate grand jury, Chicago west-side developer and School Board President Michael Scott appeared to be using his connections to corral public park land he hopes will become a valuable Olympic Games site.

Scott was criticized back in 1990 for his insider connections when he left his job as the city's chief cable administrator to go work for a cable company. Earlier this year Scott used his position to force school principals to form plans to promote the Olympics.
Teachers and union officials said Scott's tactics were heavy-handed and they feared retaliation if they did not support Daley's quest for the Games.
But Daley claims that Scott isn't in it for the money. The facts are wrong," insisted Daley, possibly forgetting that facts are just facts.

Daley claims that Scott was "just helping out some friends." Good point Mr. Mayor. I mean, if a School Board prez/real-estate developer can't reach out and help his own friends, what's this world coming to?

Weekend Reads

Charters need to change their ways

While Obama and Duncan keep calling for more and more charter schools, even threatening to cut funding for states that fail to lift their caps, it is clear that charters aren't doing much for the cause of equity and diversity. But they can, write Harvard researchers, Susan Eaton & Gina Chirichigno. (Education Week)

Duncan as "King Maker"
“They don’t have a balanced education program when they put so much emphasis on charter schools. I think they have latched onto charter schools as a magic solution, and it isn’t,” said Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy, an advocacy group for public schools. “I think they should focus on regular public schools. That’s where the majority of students are.” (Politico.com)
Some stim $$$ finally reaching Detroit

The Detroit Public Schools, one of the biggest local recipients of stimulus cash, is set to receive more than $148 million, and many local districts and charter schools are getting money as well. Another $80 million is headed to students at universities, colleges and vocational schools in the area, with Wayne State and University of Michigan-Dearborn students getting a lot of the money.

Another recipient, the Everest Institute, which trains dental assistants, massage therapists and medical administrative assistants, is expecting more than $9 million for student Pell Grants. Vocational schools like those training beauticians and barbers are also getting a chunk of the Pell Grant money. (Detroit News)


Friday, August 7, 2009

Vallas' New Orleans becomes privatization Mecca

From Nola.com
Though charter operators guard their autonomy, the trend toward clustering represents a kind of middle ground between traditional centralized school systems and stand-alone charters. The strategy allows "CMOs" -- nonprofit charter management organizations, which typically take on from two to ten schools -- to achieve economies unavailable to stand-alone charters, whose principals are often heavily burdened with business-side affairs.
Rockford redux

Readers may remember back to March, when I wrote about Paul Vallas' virtual takeover of Rockford's public schools. After landing a huge consulting contract, while still holding down his job as New Orleans school boss, Vallas used his clout to push a Chicago-based chain of charter schools on the city. He also brought in his lieutenant in New Orleans, Lavonne Sheffield, to become the new Rockford superintendent, over the objections of several local board members.

Only one problem--Sheffield isn't certified. As if anyone needed proof that Vallas was calling the shots. Why else would an economic basket case like Rockford pay top-dollar for an uncertified supe?

Like a rope "supports" a hanging man

Mayor Daley says he "still supports" Board of Education President Michael Scott who, this week, was hauled before a a grand jury investigating Chicago's cloutgate scandal. Will Scott return the favor by continuing to protect Daley and other city clouters who used admission to the elite magnet schools as political handouts.

And who will Daley sacrifice to the feds in order to keep their investigation from going any higher up the ladder? It could be Scott. Or more likely, a couple of school principals. But fed involvement points to this being much more than just a local school-based problem.

It all adds new meaning to the term, affirmative action. Not what the feds had in mind when they ordered Chicago to establish magnet schools as a step towards deseg.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Attention--other school districts

This isn't the way you want to begin the new school year--federal investigators in your principals' offices and school board prez Michael Scott sitting in front of a grand jury.
Asked whether he has ever made a call on behalf of someone else, Scott said, "Nope. Never." Asked whether he had ever heard of a call being placed to get a student clouted in, he said, "That's a different question. You asked me if I made a call. No comment. It's an ongoing investigation." (Sun-Times)
Daley's pretzel logic

Mayor Daley continues to argue that the clout scandal "is a good thing." He says, it shows how attractive Chicago public schools have become, prompting one commentator to respond: "That's like saying car theft is a good thing because it shows how badly people want fancy cars."

Daley's defense of clout-based admissions to the city's few selective-enrollment schools is really a testament to his failed Renaissance 2010 initiative and the length's some people will go to escape the second tier of his under-resourced, racially segregated, two-tier school system. Ren10 was from the start, a plan to widen the gap between the two tiers which only encouraged clout-based admissions (a clear violation of the court-ordered desegregation plan).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The running of the rabbits

A week ago I wrote about former Gates Foundation lieutenant, Tom VanderArk and the way he wanted to divide states seeking stimulus money, up between rabbits, rebels and laggards. The laggards, those states that might question VDA's (Duncan's) 8-point reform package, would be hard pressed to receive any federal dollars, if he had his way. As an example of a rabbit state ("those ready to move") VDA offered up only Florida, even though it's the state with the lowest high school completion rate in the nation.

What then does he like about Florida? He says, they "put data to work to narrow the achievement gap."

Well, according to the Palm Beach Post, they sure put data to work all right. Half of Palm Beach students performing below grade level attend A-rated schools. The Post reports that Palm Beach County's highest rated A schools do no better than D and F schools at teaching the students who are most behind.
That stinging indictment comes directly from the Palm Beach County School District in a proposal for a $120 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Usually district administrators tout Palm Beach County as a shining star among the state's urban districts, the only one to earn an A rating five years in a row.
As you might expect, PB district leaders blame the failure completely on the teachers. claiming in their Gates grant proposal, that, "70% of their teachers are ineffective." That alone ought to get them some Gates money. The district's grant proposal calls for shifting over to merit pay, paying teachers on the basis of test scores and dividing them up into one of four categories: associate, professional, master and Palm Beach Certified.

How will that improve teaching/learning for the bottom quartile of students? Well maybe Tom VanderArk can explain that to us. In the meantime, Florida's data gathering system (grading of schools A to F) continues to make it the laughing stock of the nation.

Chicago follies

"It's a good (I mean) bad thing..."


Chicago high school admissions/clout scandal has federal Civil Rights implications. Selective enrollment magnet schools were set up to enforce deseg consent decree. Arne Duncan tried like hell to get out from under it.

Federal subpoenas have now been issued. Duncan/Daley are still playing dumb. Russo thinks it's "slowly heading Duncan's way." Duncan tells his media people: stonewall it.

Duncan is still leveraging $100 billion in stim money to push the Chicago model. Oy!

Mather H.S. principal says he felt pressure "from parents and politicians." But which politicians? He doesn't say.

Daley's hand-picked board prez, Michael Scott swears, "I've never called about a student.'' Translation: he called.

Daley first says, "it's a good thing" that clout heavies are trying to back-door their kids into elite schools. He even thanks God for sending them. But after talking to his law dept., he says, "it's a bad thing."

NPR:
Federal investigators are among those looking into the city's elite public schools. The investigation suggests there is more to the admissions process than just the lottery that several thousand students enter each year. There are allegations parents use their clout to get their kids into certain schools. (Listen to the NPR story here).
Poor Huberman. He inherits Duncan's mess:
"We are carefully reviewing the existing selective enrollment policies and guidelines, and we will be implementing additional controls in the near future," Huberman said in the news release. (Trib)

Economics of dropout rates


EdNews Junkie posts and interesting comment on both my blog and Gewertz'. Here's my response:
Junkie,

No doubt you are right about the economics of dropout rates and test scores. Clark County was the fasting growing county in the nation. They were building new schools hand over fist, even before there were any communities to support them. Now Nevada has become the state with the fastest rising foreclosure rate in the nation and Clark County leads all counties in foreclosures.. Time to rethink validity of state accountability measures and the notion that schools alone must shoulder the entire responsibility for reform.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vallas contracts with TFA while hundreds of teachers are pushed out

There was much blogger ado last week when USA Today's Greg Toppo wrote about Teach for America kids being brought in to Boston and North Carolina to replace laid-off veteran teachers. He could have just as easily been talking about New Orleans' Recovery District.

Student activists are leading the push for small schools in Philly

Meanwhile, the two student organizations that helped build momentum on the small schools issue, Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change, continue to push for action on small high school conversions at West Philadelphia and Olney High Schools, respectively. The District is working to secure the land for construction of a new small-schools campus across the street from West. (The Notebook)


More on the Las Vegas turnaround


Edweek's Catherine Gewertz is one of the few education writers/bloggers in the country, really focused in on high schools and one who takes high school transformation seriously. However, she and I each looked at this Nevada high school turnaround story through different lenses.

I liked the Valley High story because it showed a large, traditional high school making big improvements without draconian measures like privatization, school closing, or wholesale teacher firings, being forced on them--NCLB-style. In other words, it was being done with teachers, not to them. The educators at Valley relied on things like artful leadership, personalized teaching (smaller learning communities), after-school tutoring, and a strong focus on literacy.

Catherine also salutes the school for making big gains in reading and math, but thinks the state is being too soft with its accountability standards by awarding a school that graduates only about half its kids.
But I'm still stuck on the part of the story that has to do with a state accountability system honoring a school that graduates only 55 percent of its students. That troubles me. It's not new news, of course. Many a wonk has pointed out that No Child Left Behind permits states to low-ball their academic goals. So while the test-score gains at Valley are impressive, and obviously signify a lot of hard work and staff devotion to the students, the fact that the school is being honored while losing nearly half its kids is still troubling to me.
What do you think? You can jump in here or over at Catherine's High School Connections blog.

Is WaPO in the media or ed biz?

The Washington Post was one of the only big-city newspaper companies to turn a profit last year. But it had nothing to do with selling newspapers or even ad space. The only real profit center in the Post organization was its Kaplan education division, an online test-prep education company.

According to Market Watch
For some reason, the Washington Post Co. still considers itself to be in the media business. It shouldn't. In the middle of a punishing recession, education revenue at the Post Co. grew 13%, producing $649 million in the second quarter, the company said Friday. Driven by the Post's Kaplan education division, it reported a profit in the second quarter, earning $12 million, or $1.30 per share. Revenue rose to $1.1 billion, up 2%. Investors like what they're seeing. Shares jumped almost 8% Friday.
You don't suppose that has any influence on WaPo editorial decisions around testing issues, do you?

Gates/Viacom tell students, "get out of Northeast Philly"

Gates in partnership with media giant Viacom, is paying millions to put subliminal messages into youth oriented television productions. No lie.

The Gates messaging experiment begins on September 12, when BET, a division of Viacom, premieres, as part of the network's ongoing education initiative and Viacom's new Get Schooled platform -- an award-winning documentary called PRESSURE COOKER.
At a school where more than 40 percent of students don't even make it to their senior year, Ms. Stephenson's class stands in stark contrast, with 11 members of last year's class earning more than $750,000 in scholarships. She offers the kids her version of the American Dream: You choose a realistic goal. You work hard. You work the system. You get out of Northeast Philly.

Weekend reads

Don Rose tells us what it was like when Daley's old man ran the city and Benjamin Willis ran the schools for him.
The new schools were built primarily in white areas, far from existing color lines -- or well within the boundaries of what came to be known as the ghetto. (Mayor Daley famously opined, however, "There are no ghettoes in Chicago.")
Toughest jobs

Arne Duncan, quoted in WaPo D.C. story, says that fixing broken neighborhood high schools without firing all the teachers or bringing in different kids, "is the toughest work in education today." Of course, he's never done it. Nor has he ever tried teaching in those schools, with little support or resources. If he had, he'd know that done right, and with good partners--not Gates-style takeover managers like Edison--success is possible. Michelle Rhee appears to be giving it a shot.
Of the remedies available under No Child Left Behind -- which include wholesale replacement of teachers and administrators and even conversion to a charter school -- outside partnerships are among the least popular. Deep-pocketed players, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the for-profit Edison Project, have spent enormous sums trying to reimagine the American high school but have achieved mixed results at best.