Tuesday, April 29, 2014

YESTERDAY'S CLASS -- Malcolm London, Schuette, Rocketship...

THANKS MALCOLM...Thanks to brilliant, young Chicago poet/activist/educator Malcolm X London from Young Chicago Authors for his guest lecture in my class yesterday. My students, all aspiring teachers, were bowled over as Malcolm recounted his experiences as a Chicago high school student and then read two of his latest epic poems. If you're not familiar with his work, High School Training Ground, performed here at his TED talk, is a good place to start.

SCHUETTE...The students have all expressed righteous revulsion and indignation at the racist spews of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. But only a couple were aware enough of the biggest blow against racial equality, the one that will likely impact the lives of millions of students and their families, to recognize the name, Schuette. The Supreme Court's decision, which has pretty much flown under the media radar -- both mainstream and social media -- has opened the door for states, both red and blue, to end affirmative action programs in hiring and college admissions. It's being called this court's Plessy v. Ferguson.

A comment or two from the President and his education chief would certainly help bring some awareness to the Schuette decision and not leave his own Court appointee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, hanging in the wind. But  don't expect a peep out of either of them.

ROCKETSHIP... "The fact that what's considered the gold standard for poor students in Milwaukee is considered unacceptable for kids in the suburbs is just wrong." -- Economist Gordon Lafer

The Rocketship charter school chain which originated in California and has spread to Wisconsin, with the enthusiastic support of state legislators and the local chamber of commerce in Milwaukee, is "a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day," says Lafer

With no gym, art class, librarians, or significant science or social studies, Rocketship provides a stripped-down program of study with a heavy focus on standardized tests. Because of its extraordinarily high teacher turnover (the chain relies heavily on Teach for America volunteers), its large classes, and reductive curriculum, Rocketship subjects kids most in need of consistent, nurturing, adult attention to low-quality instruction and neglect. That model, which is also on display in Milwaukee's low-performing voucher schools, is demonstrably harmful to kids. But it has generated big profits for wealthy investors.

Readers may remember who's been pushing the Rocketship brand the hardest here in Chicago. Rahm pal, Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute pumped the discredited charter privateer company back in 2012 in Chicago Magazine as part of a plan to turn the Windy City into the "Silicon Valley of the midwest".

Knowles wrote:
 “In California, the Aspire Public Schools and Rocketship Education charter schools have exceptional schools and the appetite to grow. Critically, they do it at the same per-pupil spending as we get in Chicago. Imagine that on a Chicago-size scale.
“No other U.S. city holds this mantle of education innovation. It would cost a couple hundred million. But Rahm, working together with the local education talent and the business and philanthropic communities, could make this happen in 12 months. And the payback for children would be long lasting.”
Payback indeed. Duck, kids!

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