Monday, June 30, 2008

A new look at urban schools

Urban public schools are always getting a bad rap. So why are so many middle-class families with school-age children leaving the suburbs and moving back into the city? Others even giving phony addresses to sneak their kids into inner-city schools tax-free. Sunday’s Chicago Tribune (“An Urban Education”) lists other reasons offered for raising kids in the city, including short commutes and diversity.

“But none of this would matter if it weren’t for a grassroots movement to improve schools,” writes the Trib’s Virginia Groak.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks Virginia

Champ change
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When I was out in L.A. earlier this year, I got to visit the Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School, part of the Green Dot group of schools. Pretty impressive. I guess the champ agrees. He just cut them a check for $3.5 million.

"It's the system..."

Weekend's best quote comes from Thomas "Flat Earth" Friedman, who must be reading my stuff:

Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

Uh, oh. Does Obama know this guy? Have they ever met? Is he going to have to renounce him?

Exorcising Jindal

Although he faces a recall petition in his home state, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is not only on John McCain's VP shortlist, he is also the darling of New Orleans' school privateers and even keynoted the recent national charter school conference. He's a believer in exorcism, teaching creationism in public schools, and vouchers. What a perfect match for McCain.

Living for the city

That's me, reflected in Stevie's glasses

I love Chicago in the summer.

Highlight of the weekend was Saturday night's Stevie Wonder concert in Grant Park. Seemed like a million people in the park, a really diverse crowd, white, black, kids and old-schoolers, all up on their feet for most of 3 hours—singing along with Stevie and knowing every lyric.

They want us to join their fighting
But our answer today
Is to let all our worries
Like the breeze through our fingers slip away

Brother Fred's already got the YouTube video.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cutting through D.C. double talk

"The grants being announced today are not
related to those (Michelle Rhee's) efforts."--Washington Post

Anytime I see the words Gates, World Bank, Fannie Mae and community engagement in the same sentence, I do a double-take. But there's something about Phillip Rucker's story ("Grants Will Aid Groups Working for Education Reform"), in Friday's WaPo that made me scratch my chin and go, "hmmm."

It wasn't just that Gates, Fannie Mae, and the World Bank, of all people, are putting up (a measly) $725,000 in grant money to support a "community engagement" piece in D.C. school reform initiative. I'm glad the five District non-profits are getting a little operating money and I'm sure they will find good ways to spend it regardless of what the givers' intentions may be.

No, what made me scratch was this :

The grants come as Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) are trying to raise $75 million a year from businesses and private philanthropies to fund their education restructuring efforts. The grants being announced today are not
related to those efforts.

If these community-engagement grants have been consciously distanced from the pot of business dollars controlled by Supt. Rhee and Mayor Fenty, why then, this next quote from the World Bank's Vicki Betancourt?

Viki Betancourt, community outreach manager at the World Bank, said the grants will help build "community will" around Rhee's efforts. "It doesn't immediately influence the reforms directly," Betancourt said. "What it does is gets parents and community members engaged in talking about these reforms and becoming active."

It will take a lot more than $750K and more than just getting folks talking, to build community will for the Rhee/Fenty school-privatization program, especially when they admit up front that the funded programs will have no influence over the reforms.

So, maybe someone from D.C. can write in and cut through all this double talk?

Friday, June 27, 2008

This is all so 1950s

More Politics of Fear

Check out my brother Fred's PREAPrez blog for recent posts here, here & here, about the witch hunting Ms. McDonald over at the Justice Dept., who Googles all prospective employees to see if they are now or ever have been a member of…

Sing, sing a song…

When the American Legion says, "sing" you sing. At least that's how it is at a fearful Fenton High School in Bensenville, Il. where the Legionaires demanded that the school choir perform the National Anthem at the start of every concert.

On Monday, members of a local American Legion Post and the American Legion Riders spoke out at the Fenton High School District 100 board meeting, saying the school had a civic duty and social responsibility to educate students to be civilly responsible. They also said singing the song would honor all of the school's graduates who went on to serve in the military.

Quote of the week from the PEN Weekly Newsblast

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"The paradox of education is precisely this -- that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated." - James A. Baldwin (author)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The politics of fear

As Obama starts to pull away in the polls, a desperate new McCarthyism is rearing its ugly head once again. This time around, it's the network of Swiftboat bloggers that are leading the attack on Barack, using their reliable arsenal (especially in tough economic times) of anti-communism (now fear of terrorism) and racism to spread fear and disunity. The new witch-hunters are combing the Obama campaign especially for '60s radicals (yes, there are some of us left, especially in the field of education).

How to respond? Ignore them? Take them head on? Tough choices for Obama campaigners and for those of us who are targeted orwho are collateral damage.


Brings back memories of similar dark times in the '50s. This new film about blacklisted screenwriter and '60's friend, the late Dalton Trumbo, may shed some light.

This from reviewer Andrew O'hehir in Salon.Com:
The real target of the Red Scare was not the handful of prominent lefties like Trumbo who had their livelihoods destroyed and their reputations ruined but rather the rest of society, which proved by and large to be craven, suggestible, and downright eager to hew to a new standard of patriotic conformity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Charter teacher: 'Union is a good thing"

I didn't go to the big national charter school conference currently taking place in New Orleans. Couldn't afford the trip. But I would have liked to been in on some of the discussions. I could have easily done without listening to the privatizers, like Nelson Smith hold forth. But I would have loved to hear Danny Glover speak. Gov. Jindal speaks today.

I certainly would have liked to watch the expressions on some of the private operators' faces when teacher Mike Meehan of the Construction Careers Center in St. Louis, said he had come to spread the word that "the union is a good thing." I imagine at least several cups of spilled coffee.

This from the Times-Picayune:

Though most charters shun teachers' unions -- which typically lobby against charters -- Meehan said his colleagues recently unionized despite opposition from the school's board. He said their desires -- job security, a pay scale and books for all students -- fell on deaf ears. "The teachers and even the parents at our school have been left out of the loop. That's why we wanted to unionize," Meehan said.

Other good charter issues at the conference catching my eye included teacher recruitment and the lack of diversity on charter school boards:

The influx of rookie teachers, who come bearing vigor, nonetheless concerns some veterans, who question their effectiveness without enough support.

...New Schools have not been able to systematically draw enough African-Americans to boards. Efforts to diversify the boards at some schools, however, have already produced productive dialogue.

Mike Klonsky

Bell Curve resurrection

It amazes me how easily the right-wing think tanks, like AEI, Fordham, and the Manhattan Institute, have been able to restore the once-discredited racist, Charles Murray, back to respectability. Fourteen years after The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure drew wide condemnation for its racist projections of black children as being intellectually inferior to whites, the author’s latest book, Real Education, is making the rounds in conservative academic circles and is even being treated as serious research by some ed reformers.

Murray cynically uses the "not every student should go to college" argument, to now claim a high degree of predictability from birth about which class of children will be capable of college success and higher-order thinking. "It's idiotic," he tells Edweek, to have high expectations for these kids.

Fortunately, Pedro Noguera is given a sentence or two in the Edweek story, to counter Murray's claims.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Funny man Bush

Headline from today's Chicago Sun-Times: 'FEMA doing heckuva job this time'

The story, of course, is about flooded Iowa and FEMA's on-the-spot response to the crisis. It was President Bush who
used that same language to praise his hand-picked, horse-trainer croney, FEMA chief Michael Brown (pointing), who sat on his hands as thousands of mainly-black people in Mississippi and Louisiana died or were forced to flee New Orleans during the horrors of Katrina. 'Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!'' became a dark joke at the time. We still remember the language and aren't surprised that the response in Iowa is world's apart from New Orleans.

We also remember the other joke Bush played on the world five years ago last month, when he stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Lincoln and declared "final victory" in Iraq.

Funny guy, that Bush.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why are they painting LDH as a hater?

Stanford prof and Obama education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond is the country’s strongest voice for teacher excellence and preparation for the profession. She has also been a critic of Teach for America’s obvious weak points. Does this make her a hater of TFA? Yes says Ed (Private) Sector’s Kevin Carey who will tolerate no criticism when it comes to private ventures in education. Not so, says blogger Sherman Dorn. He’s right, of course.