Thursday, July 31, 2008

Open letter to Obama

I am one of thousands of folks who have signed on to the Nation magazine's “Open Letter to Barack Obama” calling on the candidate to “stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.” You can read it and sign on too, right here.

One of these key points in the letter has to do with educational equity and NCLB, although none of the original signers were recognizable education activists (Bolder, Broader coalition?) or teacher union leaders. I wonder why not?

PreaPrez on Tennessee shooting

It was during the Spring camp in March of 1965 (I was 17) that we got word that the Reverend James Reeb, a Unitarian minister who was organizing for the great Selma March, was attacked by a mob of Klansmen and murdered. That night we gathered in Reverend Reeb’s honor with candles under the pine trees. Many of us were already active in the school desegregation battles raging in Los Angeles at the time. That night we all pledged to do more.
Read the rest here…

Good job, Kette…


Does this mean that Eli Broad will take back his award? Probably not.

But still, Eduwonkette has the straight dope on N.Y.’s student achievement data and it ain’t pretty—certainly nothing like what we’ve been told. It seems that Bloomberg/Klein have been spreading a lot of political fertilizer around.

According to Kette:

The achievement gap in New York City has increased in the last five years, and the decreases in the achievement gap in grade 8 ELA have come at the expense of white and Asian students. Coupled with my analyses of NAEP achievement gaps - which also showed no progress and in some cases growing gaps - these findings are quite troubling.

Looks like a job for the DOE’s new "Truth Squad."

"The unkindest cut of all..."--W.S.

Mark Kleiman’s happy—sort of-- that they found that the small growth removed from John McCain’s face was cancer-free.

But Mark can’t resist retelling the old tale about a political rival's remark when a tumor on Lord Randolph Churchill's lung proved benign: that the doctors had "found the one bit of Randolph that wasn't malignant and cut it out."

Side note: The next time someone tells you that the media is playing softball with Barack Obama (and I’m not saying some aren’t), ask them why, faced with one of the great banking crises in U.S. history, no one is asking John McCain about his role in the Keating Five scandal?


NYT on blogger/satirist Gary Babad

Soft-spoken with a strong sarcastic streak, Mr. Babad, 56, hardly seems like a rabble-rouser; more like the kind of man who would rarely raise his voice. He is a social worker with two daughters who have attended city schools since kindergarten. But he has a bit of a protest pedigree: Grandma was a Communist, and Mom was the president of the local teachers union in Ardsley, N.Y...

the whole article here.

You can find Gary at:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Voight offensive

Wing-nut John Voight (channeling his late amigo Charlton Heston) warns us that electing Obama will bring about “a socialst era” in America. I doubt it.

He blames it all on school reformer/educator Bill Ayers, us civil rights and anti-war activists, and other assorted, "militant white and black people" who hypnotized him back in the '60s. I hope my friend and colleague Bill realizes the kind of power he has. Name me one other progressive educator who can single-handedly so influence the course of American politics.


Damn! What ever happened to the John Voight in Coming Home, who gave that great speech at the end, to high school students, warning them that the Vietnam war wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

When I was your age, all I got was some guy standing up like that, man, giving me a lot of bullshit, man, which I caught. I was really in good shape then, man. I was captain of the football team. And I wanted to be a war hero, man, I wanted to go out and kill for my country. And now, I'm here to tell you that I have killed for my country or whatever. And I don't feel good about it. Because there's not enough reason, man, to feel a person die in your hands or to see your best buddy get blown away. I'm here to tell you, it's a lousy thing, man. I don't see any reason for it. And there's a lot of shit that I did over there that I find fucking hard to live with. And I don't want to see people like you, man, coming back and having to face the rest of your lives with that kind of shit. It's as simple as that. I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm a lot fucking smarter now than when I went. And I'm just telling you that there's a choice to be made here.

Maybe he and fellow new-McCarthyites Sol Stern and Checker Finn ought to order it from Netflix, heat up some pop corn, and watch it together.

Election banter

McCain’s surge…

From Frank Rich in NYT

It was laughable to watchjournalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into sayinghe was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

Even Brooks sees it…

In an otherwise insidious column on education, or as he calls it “human capital development,” conservative wing-nut David Brooks can’t help notice that his boy John McCain has nothing to contribute to the discussion.

If you look at Barack Obama’s education proposals — especially his emphasis on early childhood — you see that they flow naturally and persuasively from this research. (It probably helps that Obama and [University of Chicago researcher James] Heckman are nearly neighbors in Chicago). McCain’s policies seem largely oblivious to these findings. There’s some vague talk about school choice, but Republicans are inept when talking about human capital policies.

Inept? Geez, that’s mostly all they talk about. I mean who else views humans simply as capital?

So much for McCain’s solution to the energy crisis…

Chicago Tribune:

Stevens is the single most prominent advocate of oil drilling in protected areas, and charges that he took more than a quarter-million dollars worth of unreported gifts from oil services contractor Veco Corp. and its executives will play right into Democratic efforts to paint Republicans as a party captive to Big Oil.

Jed Report:

John McCain planned to visit a New Orleans area offshore oil rig...but suddenly canceled, blaming the weather. But it turns out that today it is 85 degrees and sunnypartly cloudly. Perhaps the fact that a huge oil spill has contaminated the New Orleans water supply and closed the Mississippi River has more to do with McCain's quick turnabout?

Russo’s backdoor pitch to stay home on election day

Electing more Democrats in November will create as many problems as it solves.

What problems are those, Alexander? Did you ever really have any problems with Bush and the neocons? If you did, maybe you should mention them every once in a while between Obama bashes.

Also, why are you still so worked up about the little snub by your anti-diversity soul mate Liam Julian, over at Fordham? Is their something festering beneath the surface that we don’t know about? A quid pro quo, maybe?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Inside the Ownership Society

Publishing giant Pearson favors Obama over McCain. How come?

Pearson CEO, Dame Marjorie Scardino is critical of the Republicans for not properly funding NCLB. She thinks the Dems will spend more on education and hopes Pearson will get a bigger share than they did under Bush/Spellings. She might be right. British-owned Pearson’s education arm sells textbooks and digital-learning programs to students in America and beyond, which account for nearly two-thirds of the group's profits. Pearson also owns the Financial Times.

Under pet programs NCLB and Reading First, Bush favorite McGraw-Hill had a near monopoly on textbook sales, edging out competitors Pearson and Houghton Mifflin with it’s Open Court reading script. Harold McGraw is a long-time family friend of the Bush’s and is a Bush golfing buddy. That’s all paid off to the tune of $2.7 billion in profits in 2007.

But with the massive shift to war spending and accompanying deep cuts in the education budget, McGraw’s overall business has suffered, opening the way for giant competitor Pearson to make its move, hoping that an Obama victory in November will bring about a shift in DOE contracting.

McCain vs. Obama on ed issues

Well, the lines are now being pretty clearly drawn between the two candidates.

McCain supports school vouchers; Obama opposes them. McCain opposes affirmative-action programs; Obama is generally in favor. McCain favors government-funded, private alternative certification programs, like TFA for new teachers; Obama leans towards expanded teacher-residency programs, which help bolster field experiences for prospective educators while allowing them to earn certification from a university program. And on it goes, pretty much as you would expect, important differences between progressive and conservative candidates. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The debate has stirred some surprising responses though. Some ed conservatives, like Fordham’s Mike Petrilli, are openly critical of McCain for wanting to continue the DOE’s expansion, control and monitoring of tutoring programs. Petrilli has been getting into it lately with his boss Finn at Fordham. Maybe he’s been in touch with Diane Ravitch.

“I don’t see how the federal government could possibly have the capacity to do this well,” said Mr. Petrilli, a vice president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. “You’d have to double the size of the Department of Education.”

To me, the most interesting position comes from the liberal Education Trust, which has been a faithful supporter of Bush and the neo-cons on NCLB and it’s focus on high-stakes testing. Now the Trust, looking at a likely shift in management at the DOE, claims to support “both approaches:”

Both candidates’ plans share a goal of getting more effective educators into the classroom, particularly to help poor and minority students, said Heather Peske, the director of teacher quality at the Education Trust, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization. She said both approaches could be promising, if administered correctly.

Is that what’s meant by hedging your bets?

Boys, boys...

Fordham think-tanker Liam Julian takes umbrage at Russo’s umbrage. It seems, Russo got pissed because Flypaper didn’t give Russo’s blog “first dibs,” on the NYT Magazine story on integration. I feel Julian’s pain on that one. No reason to cite Russo, we can all read the Times.

But all I can say is: boys, boys, stop your prissyness, kiss and make up. After all, when it comes to issues of racial and class equity and fairness, you’re both on the same side.

Fordham’s Julian and Finn think the struggle for equality (Finn calls it “race mixing”) ended 40 years ago and Julian refers to it as “social engineering” (how original). Russo has always argued that school reform has nothing to do with diversity. So you're agreed. Right?

And boys, remember, neither of your blogs are all that. So behave.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rhee bails out Archdiocese

If you want to know what Michelle Rhee’s touted D.C. “school reform” plan is all about, you have to go no further than Saturday’s Washington Post, “Funds Found for New Charters.”

Despite district shortfalls and mismanagement that have led to the firings of hundreds of D.C. teachers and support staff, Rhee and the board have dipped into the district’s dwindling reserve fund for up to $16 million for a bailout of the city’s Catholic Schools.

The District will use a $7.5 million education reserve fund to pay for the seven former Catholic schools slated to reopen as secular charter schools next month, and it will be able to find more money if necessary, officials said this week.. Estimates of how much the schools will cost the city range from $7 million to $16 million…. If surpluses do not occur or if more funds are needed, the city will find the money, said David Umansky, a spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

The trick, perfected by Rhee’s mentor, Paul Vallas, is to turn inner-city parochial schools, abandoned by white flight, into charters. That way, the Archdiocese can continue operate them on the public dole, primarily with uncertified and underpaid, non-union teachers, teaching the church’s prescribed curriculum. After all, isn’t that what an Ownership Society is all about?


Ednotes Online makes some good points about the new Klein/ Sharpton,/Rhee /McCaincurrent dust-up between Diane Ravitch and Checker Finn, group (EEP) and the in his response to my brother Fred’s Friday posts:

Also note who funds Nightline and John Merrow: Broad and Gates… all of the players on the Rhee/Joel Klein team.

Merrow, in case you missed it, has become Rhee’s and Paul Vallas’ personal privatization cheerleader. Shame on him, especially for his cheerleading on post-Katrina /New Orleans schools debacle.

As I pointed out several months ago, Ravitch is quickly becoming radicalized, or should I say, rationalized, by the deepening crisis in N.Y. ed reform, her ongoing Bridging Differences debate with Deb Meier, the amazing collapse of neocon influence, and the emerging cracks within the ranks at Fordham.

Also see Peter Goodman’s post on Edwize, about EEP, "Klein, Inc., Spreading the Brand Across the Nation."

A sign of the times

The 800-pound militarization gorilla

The big news story over the weekend was Bush/Cheney apparently changing tactics and for the first time, sending a top diplomat to negotiate with the Iranians. Why the change now--pressure from the Obama campaign and overwhelming response to his speech in Berlin? Could it forestall a missile attack by the Israelis--an attack which would, in the words of UN atomic watchdog chief, Mohamed ElBaradei turn the whole region into "a ball of fire?"


Clues may be found in the ongoing rift between the State and Defense departments, which has apparently been turned upside down. During Bush’s first administration, it was Colin Powell at State half-heartedly trying to put politics and diplomacy in command of U.S. foreign policy while Rumsfeld at Defense was pushing for his department to be the main policy driver and to militarize foreign policy.

Now its Defense Secretary Robert Gates who is talking openly in the Washington Post about “creeping militarization” of foreign policy.

"We cannot kill or capture our way to victory" in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Gates said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism… "As a career CIA officer, I watched with some dismay the increasing dominance of the defense 800-pound gorilla in the intelligence arena over years," said Gates.

Is it just me or does this guy sound a lot like Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in his 1961 farewell presidential address, warned the nation, to no avail, about the emergence of that same “gorilla,” the military-industrial complex?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Planning to Change the World

I just got a copy of a teacher’s planning book (thanks Tara Mack) that should make Sol Stern and Williamson Evers scream in despair.

Stern, as you may know, is the wing-nut from the Manhattan Institute whose journalistic passion seems to be hunting down social-justice teachers. Evers is an assistant secretary of education at the DOE, plucked out of the Hoover Institute, who previously served in the Paul Bremer regime in Iraq. In fact, he's the guy mainly responsible for striking the words, social-justice, out of the Iraqi Constitution. Wish I could be there to hear their reaction to this book.

From its title, Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers, you rightly assume this is not your ordinary planner. Rather it has scheduling calendars, replete with social-justice birthdays and historical events; .

One favorite date of mine is the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Democratic National Convention riots. But I wish the editors would have added the world POLICE in front of RIOTS. Remember, the Walker Report determined that it was the police—not us demonstrators—who rioted on those August days in 1968. Lots of thought food here for student discussion and debate.

The planner is also filled with short vignettes about several social-justice teachers and their classrooms—teachers like Bree Picower, a member of NYCoRe, who is strong on teacher networking and breaking out of isolation; and Curtis Acosta, who teachers Raza Studies at a Tucson high school and who has developed two strategies for dealing with high-stakes tests: “out-clever and revolt.”

Teaching for social-justice is one way, and a great way, to tap into kids interests and lived experiences and motivate many to take those interests to the next level. This planner will help.

Planning to Change the World is available here and is a good buy at 14 bucks, plus you get to piss off Stern and Evers. Nice!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Swedish meatballs

Sweden’s newest craze since lingonberries and IKEA? It’s ownership-society education ( did Milton Friedman visit Stockholm before he passed?) Swedish for-profit schools, supported by taxpayer funds are drawing rave reviews from conservatives and McCain types.

This from Edweek:

Andrew Coulson, an education expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., called the Swedish program "a beacon, being more market-like than any other among rich countries."

What’s the big deal, you ask? Don’t private schools exist everywhere? Don’t we have our own run of privately-managed charter schools? Yes, but here in the U.S., the number of children attending private schools is on the decline while in Sweden, where public schools follow a set national curriculum, they have increased to about 10%.


" is more important to do things the same way than to do them well.”


There’s even a chain of for-profit schools modeled on IKEA (I’m not making this up).

The Economist gives them lots of play this week. They’re called, Kunskapsskolan (“Knowledge Schools”) and they opened their first six schools in 2000. Four more opened last autumn, bringing the total to 30. They now have 700 employees and teache nearly 10,000 pupils, with a big operating profit that’s increased by making teachers work longer hours with no prep or planning time. Look out KIPP!

Here’s my favorite quote in the Economist story. It’s from company boss, Per Ledin.

Many schools would be horrified to be likened to IKEA, but Mr Ledin goes one better. “We do not mind being compared to McDonald's,” he says. “If we're religious about anything, it's standardization. We tell our teachers it is more important to do things the same way than to do them well.” He then broadens the analogy to hotels and airlines, which make money only if they are popular enough to maintain high occupancy rates.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain/Bloomberg, a done deal

After a private meeting with NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, John McCain has come out openly in support of the new EEP coalition headed by Klein and Al Sharpton.

This conservative policy group was formed to counter the more progressive Bolder, Broader group. EEP is generally anti-Teachers Union and more oriented towards privatization.

The BB group on the other hand, makes the case that schools can't be expected to shoulder the burden of school reform alone--without massive supports put in place to counter the effects of poverty and inequality. Klein's group calls that approach, "making excuses" for low test scores. That's also been the line of the Bush administration and the underlying philosophy of NCLB.

In return for McCain's endorsement, Mayor Bloomberg, will make a statement Friday, in support of McCain's education policies--such as they are. McCain is an advocate of school vouchers, privatization, and teaching creationism in public school classrooms.

I think it's a lose-lose proposition all around. McCain's endorsement of EEP could be the kiss of death for the policy group, which is based largely within the center/right of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Bloomberg's support for McCain's extreme right-wing ed policies drops the mask of neutrality from the Mayor's face and does little to bring any new votes McCain's way.

Thank you John McCain for making things a little clearer. It will now be that much harder for centrist liberals to keep one foot in each group.

You listening, Chicago CEO Arne Duncan?

Reviewed in Horace

Horace Book Review
Source: Horace Summer 2008, Vol. 24 No. 2

Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society by Michael Klonsky and Susan Klonsky (Routledge, 209 pages, $26.95)

Mike and Susan Klonsky’s Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society deserves to have sunscreen stains on its pages and sand within as an unlikely recommended summer read for CES network educators. Okay, if there’s a great novel that you’ve been saving for the week that school’s out, read that first. But before school starts up again,* read Small Schools to get angry and radicalized, to remind yourself of the extraordinary value of your work, to cheer for yourselves as worthy alternative underdogs, and to rekindle your fire.

A nightmare gallery of monsters menace public education, and the Klonskys invoke some of the most frightening: the gang of politicians, foundations, think tanks, and corporations that have invaded schools during the still-current Bush administration. Documenting the ways that “the progressive grassroots educational reform movement for small schools has been hijacked by business groups, right-wing ideologues, and the ideology of the Ownership Society,” the Klonskys throw readers into the deep end of the small schools movement, the threats posed by corporate and governmental encroachment on public education, and the toxic ground on which privatization forces have co-opted small schools for corporate gain, both in the authors’ home turf of Chicago and elsewhere.

The breathless pace slows in the first chapter, which unpacks small schools’ “traditional democratic values of Deweyan progressivism combined with Information Age notions of professional community, personalization, and safe learning environments in an unsafe society.” This chapter focuses on the story of opposing school reform movements in Chicago, serving as a useful primer on that city’s tension around school size, control, and ideas of whom its schools are for. This inside baseball of Chicago politics, school reform, and role of the Klonskys’ Small School workshop is contextualized within the movement that includes Deborah Meier’s work in New York, southern Freedom Schools, and other results of progressive efforts around the country. This chapter also captures the “politics of disaster” that have been created in response to public schooling’s complex challenge, describing how a deficit model of education has evolved to dismantle existing public systems.

The sprawling second chapter details and defines the forces and practices of the Ownership Society and its “all-out assault on teachers, public schools, and public space in general.” Featured in President Bush’s 2005 inaugural address, the term was intended to sell the idea that individual citizens should control health care, finances, education, and other key factors of their lives. The Klonskys vehemently oppose the political practices that exemplify the Ownership Society, and their arguments effectively encapsulate the rhetorical co-option of words and ideas—such as the very concept of small schools—that may have originated from the grassroots progressive education movement, but have come to be fully integrated into the current administration’s “demagoguery.” This is compelling stuff.

The third chapter deals with the privatization of our school systems. When the Klonskys write, “In many districts around the country, the best of the small and charter schools have indeed become agents of change, responding to a national sense that the traditional system of public education needs transformation,” you’ll think “Hey, that’s us! That’s CES.” But such schools are anomalies whose existence emphasizes the gulf between intended purpose of charter schools—to provide stimuli to the system and grassroots-driven alternatives—and their current uses as for-profit collectives that rob the public system.

The book concludes with considerations of the role of philanthropy, with most of its attention on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (a CES funder). “It’s hard to say whether the world’s richest man has been part of the problem or part of the solution,” the Klonskys observe. They are far less ambivalent on the role of conservative think tanks that rose to power on a tide of private funding and adept use of technologies that allowed them to emerge from the shadows.

The conclusion “Alternatives to Top-Down Reform,” offers a welcome, and familiar, note of hope, with its faith in the power of professional learning communities. Critical Friends Groups to the rescue! Though its documentation of the forces that oppose what we know works to educate children, and preserve and improve the intellectual and other forms of health of their communities, is daunting and at times heavy-handed, you’ll finish Small Schools with renewed faith in your work as a CES network educator, and a healthy infusion of anger and energy.

* Year round schools: the bane of the education book reviewer. Sorry to slight those of you who are at year-round schools, but you still experience summer, yes? And you still read? Apply this as you see fit (Horace suggests liberally).

This resource last updated: July 24, 2008

Database Information:

Source: Horace Summer 2008, Vol. 24 No. 2
Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: CES National
School Level: All
Audience: New to CES, Teacher, Parent
Issue: 24.2

Hated jaywalkers

Compassionate conservative Robert Novak ("The Prince of Darkness") always had a thing for jaywalkers. Here's a WaPo quote of his from 2001:

"I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don't run the country, all I can do is yell at 'em. The other option is to run 'em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that."

Novak took off in his Corvette yesterday, after hitting a homeless person, knocking him up onto the hood of his car. After police caught up with him, Novak claimed he never noticed hitting the victim.

"I didn't know I hit him," Novak said as he walked back to his Corvette. "I feel terrible. . . . [But] he's not dead, that's the main thing."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on WWAD (What Would Al Do?}

Which coalition would Shanker have supported?

I asked Deborah Meier to write a blog piece, following the UFT's Leo Casey post here last week. Here's her response:

I liked Leo's response. I'm a pretty harsh critic of the latter-day Shanker, starting with the two strikes (1967, 1968), but I think Leo is right about 1968. But the unwillingness, even after it was over,to understand better the nature of the divide that had opened up -- at least in part because of the UFT's "strategy"--was tragic. As was Shanker's position on the Vietnam war and his dismissal (literally) of anyone who disagreed with him on that question--like Abzug and many of my staunch democratic teacher colleagues.

His anti-communism (which God knows I shared!) was not the problem, but the allies
he made in its name. He aided and abetted the depth and rancor of the left
divide--not from communists alone, but from anyone he felt was not prepared to
reach his conclusions on principle and strategy. He made no such distinctions.
In the process he abandoned even some of his best union/teacher ideas--his
boldness about rethinking schooling. He unhappily engaged in ill-advised teacher
bashing of his own, and glibness about parents' sense of powerlessness that was
not useful.

It made it harder to build the alliance that was critical. But I found the worst aspect of the culture he left behind was an absence of respect for differences in the union, the kind of lively debate we so badly needed, the creating of a vigorous intellectually diverse climate. He was a master at the clever put-down, the quick dismissal, of scorn. Leo is also right, that Sandy and Randi both had a much deeper respect for their fellow teachers, and for the need for alliances with parents and community groups.

Now, of course, in criticizing Shanker for all this, I'm giving him magical powers.
Much of it would have happened without him, but it is a measure of my respect
when I also say that had he acted and spoken otherwise, it would have had an
immeasurably useful impact. But note, it's immeasurable so I have to leave it at

He was never a straddler. But I don't care what he "would've" if he could've"--only what he "should've" when he "could've." The latter has passed us by, and the former can't take place on this earth.

But the Klein-line is and remains (see his recent statement in D.C.) plain teacher bashing,union-busting and pro-testing and more testing! Klein is who he is, and his
statement is a rejection of the argument that the Bolder approach was out to proclaim.

I doubt if Shanker would have moved far enough over to have joined Klein/Bloomberg, but that's not worth discussing.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DGQs (Damn Good Questions)

Lying or "finessing" the truth?

Eduwonkette on N.Y. achievement gap:

You ask, "But Bloomberg and Klein say the achievement gap is closing. Are they lying?" It's not lying as much as it's finessing with the intention of providing a rosier picture of progress than is warranted.


Ravitch asks Meier: "What gives...?"

A group called Democrats for Education Reform, run by wealthy hedge fund managers and other zillionaires, has the primary goal of creating more charter schools. So, what gives here? How did some of your ideas migrate to become the plaything of the super-rich?


I'm asking John McCain a DGQ: You planning to visit the Iraq/Pakistan border???


I'm afraid that it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border. And I would not announce that I'm going to attack Pakistan, as Senator Obama did.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Republicans cavort with ‘60’s radical

SmallTalk has uncovered evidence that McCain, Bush, Cheney, Rice and the entire neocon leadership have all been cavorting with a well-known 1960’s radical. (No, it’s not Bill Ayers.)

In fact, just this past month, Bush completely reversed himself and removed this Marxist from the terrorist watch list and Sec. Rice even sent him a birthday greeting..their mouthpiece on the New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof who recently wrote that putting this former “terrorist” on a watch list was “absurd.” Kristof went so far as to call the ‘60’s radical, who spent 27 years in prison for his violent behavior, “the symbol of peaceful conciliation.”

Why so quiet on this one, Sol Stern?



John McCain made these remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2004 when interviewed by Council Chairman Peter Peterson:

PETERSON: Let me give you a hypothetical, senator. What would or should we do if, in the post-June 30th period, a so-called sovereign Iraqi government asks us to leave, even if we are unhappy about the security situation there? I understand it's a hypothetical, but it's at least possible.

McCAIN: Well, if that scenario evolves, then I think it's obvious that we would have to leave because— if it was an elected government of Iraq— and we've been asked to leave other places in the world. If it were an extremist government, then I think we would have other challenges, but I don't see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people.

Now Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki endorsed Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable for the United States to withdraw from Iraq. In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.” […]

All McCain can do now is keep repeating his mantra—“the surge is working…the surge is working…” while the White House now says it now wants a "time horizon," not a TIME LINE.


From Chris Lehmann at Practical Theory:

By the way, and this is an aside, what is going to happen as charter schools fail? So many of these have five year charters, and a certain percentage of them are not going to get renewed. It's already happening in Philly. What is the educational / emotional costs for the kids who go to schools that get closed down after five years? Is anyone other than Mike Klonsky writing about issues like this?

Thanks Chris.

From Sunday’s NYT, “At Struggling School, Pride Displaces Failure”

The Newton experiment began last September after Mr. Thomas, under pressure from the lagging test scores, struck a partnership with the influential Newark Teachers Union and Seton Hall University to remake the school. Although the state has oversight of the Newark school district, Newton was given leeway to form a governance committee consisting of representatives of the teachers’ union and Seton Hall, along with district and state education officials, to approve daily operations ranging from intercom repairs to academic policies and teacher hiring.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jena redux

Trib's Howard Witt shines a light:

What happened in the 39 minutes in between — during which Pikes was handcuffed by local police and shocked nine times with a Taser, while reportedly pleading for mercy —is now spawning fears of a political coverup in this backwoods Louisiana lumber town infamous for backroom dealings. Read on…

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society

Reviewed by Tom Hoffman

So You Want to be a School Reform Star?

I'm about half-way through my copy of Mike and Susan Klonsky's book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society, which arrived yesterday. It is pretty much a book length take on the issues Deborah Meier and Doug Noon blogged about yesterday (and Mike blogs about all the time).

Specifically, the book is about the collision between the original strain of progressive small school reform (affably personified in the ed-tech blogosphere by Chris Lehmann) and "Ownership Society" neo-con reforms typified by NCLB and privatization schemes. Interestingly, the Ownership Society has no figure in the ed-tech blogging ghetto, but it defines the ground (e.g., a certain kind of crisis mentality) in ways the community has trouble perceiving.

It is genuinely difficult to pick apart the overlapping tactics and rhetoric these two groups employ, and the Klonsky's do an excellent job of explaining the history and philosophy of the dueling "small schools" movements.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leo Casey responds to my WWAD post

Thanks to UFT's Leo Casey for this response to yesterday's post, What Would Al Do?, my reflections on Richard Kahlenberg's own reflection on Al Shanker. Here's Leo:

What Al would do is never ask what Al would do – the part of him that I find admirable was his ability to be a fresh and innovative thinker, to avoid the ossification of his view of the world. I find this fetishization of him very un-Shanker like. It is like embalming Lenin -- except that Lenin had few of the redeeming virtues Shanker had, from where I sit. So I have a problem with taking a generally very dynamic thinker, and making him into someone frozen in time. I find it interesting for example that right before he died, he told the New York Teacher reporter doing a series on the history of the UFT that he thought he had been mistaken in the past in taking the Sidney Hook line that Communists should not be allowed to teach because they would propagandize. He said that they were no different that many others who held to rigid dogmas, and yet were not precluded from teaching: the true test was that they did in the classroom, not what they believed. I would never have predicted that change of mind.

In particular, Shanker would have been appalled at people like Checker Finn and Joel Klein attempting to use the moral authority of his name to attack teacher unions and teacher union leaders. Shanker was, first and foremost, a teacher unionist, and understood all that he did through that lens.

Shanker was a man of principle, and it is hard to imagine Shanker having anything to do with the Sharpton-Klein coalition on a whole host of principled grounds. Kahlenberg may be right that Shanker would also have problems with the Bolder, Broader coalition, but Shanker died over ten years ago and it is too easy to get into what is speculation on how he would have evolved – I don’t see the same sort of principled objections he would have had to Sharpton-Klein. But bottom line: if Shanker could change his position on Communists in the classroom, he could change it on a whole number of issues.

There is much in Randi which follows in Shanker’s path, but she is also her own woman, and has accomplished things here in NYC, such as the coalition with community groups, that was not possible under his leadership. How would have thought, ten years ago, that with the help of ACORN, the UFT would have together organized 28,000 home day care workers, overwhelmingly poor women of color? Who would have thought that the UFT would be partners with groups like the Coalition for Educational Justice and the Immigration Coalition?

For what it is worth, I think you misread Ocean Hill-Brownsville. I do believe that the UFT made mistakes in that conflict, but the community control side had a position far more mistaken and flawed – and while the union’s mistakes were ones of strategy and tactics that allowed the conflict to take on a racial and ethnic cast, the community control side were mistaken and flawed on principle, dismissing democratic procedures and due process procedures as meaningless. It is simply not true that the strike was about opening up positions in education for people of color – that had been already done. If anything, and from the union point of view, it was about protecting due process for teachers, and ensuring that teachers could only be dismissed upon a finding that they had not performed their duties as they should. That is a core value for a union. Significant mistakes were made in fighting for that goal, but the goal was one worth fighting for.

Leo Casey

Vice-President from Academic High Schools

United Federation of Teacher

Nursing the cuts

While education conservatives continue to claim that talking about the need for adequate resources for public schools equals “making excuses” for low test scores, I’m blown away by this latest report on the lack of school nurses. It seems that 25% of the nation’s public schools now have no nurse on staff. Federal guidelines call for one school nurse for every 750 students but the national average is now 1 nurse for every 1,151 students. Teachers are more and more being forced to take on the role of care giver to ailing students. This comes at a time when 16% of students have a condition that requires regular attention from the school nurse.

Conservatives like Chester Finn turn this issue upside down. Here he is on his on Gadfly blog:

A quarter century after A Nation at Risk, a growing number of America's education leaders appear to be abandoning hope for schools that significantly boost student achievement and are instead coming to view schools as multi-service community centers that do everything but teach.

You see, to people like Finn, having nurses based in the school would be “doing everything but teaching.” Even his own Fordham Foundation mentee Mike Petrilli, seems to have broken with him on this one. Finn in turn, not only rebukes poor Mike, but even compares him with the devil herself—AFT prez Randi Weingarten.

I’m not sure how to deal with the “excuses” argument. I’ll try speaking their language. How about this—if you have thousands of ailing kids in schools with no immediate nursing care available and if you have thousands of untrained teachers patching up, rather than teaching these (often seriously) ailing kids reading and math, won’t this create downward pressure on TEST SCORES?

There, that ought to get a rise out of him.

Things that make you go, “hmmm”

Philly’s horrible record with privately-managed charter schools didn’t prevent them from handing out eight more charter school planning grants. And what are the schools they are considering? How about a grades 7-12 school for prepare students to work on construction jobs? Or how about a school specifically for Russian immigrants? Remember the storm in New York over the Arab language and culture school, the Kahlil Gibran International Academy, which forced principal Debbie Almontaser out of her job?. Or how about a high school for “at-risk” kids? (At risk being a code word for what?) I haven't heard too many kids lately, referring to themselves as "at risk." Have you? I think it's Philly's Reform Commission that's at risk here.

What is it with these guys?

The other day it was NBC’s Matt Lauer referring to Barack Obama as “Osama.” This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, it was Dan Rather praising Jesse Jackson as someone who set the stage for “Osama Bin Laden’s” candidacy. After each gaff, no corrections or apologies were made.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What would Al do?


That’s the name of one-note tune played by Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg, author of the late AFT leader’s influential biography, Tough Liberal. Al Shanker plays Kahlenberg’s Jesus in the American Prospect, “How the Left Can Avoid a New Education War” and in the current issue of the Kappan, “Albert Shanker and the Future of Teacher Unions.” In fact, to Kahlenberg’s credit, it’s hard these days to pick up an ed journal without seeing a spin-off of a Tough Liberal chapter applying Al’s Thought to today’s situation.

Kahlenberg wants candidate Barack Obama to follow the resurrected Shanker’s lead and unite the two main, oppositional education policy groups, in order to avoid a “war” within the liberal camp. Problem is, the two groups represent real and substantial differences that are difficult to reconcile. One, led by the unlikely duo--N.Y Chancellor Joel Klein and Al Sharpton-- has a recipe for union busting and privatization. It attacks teacher unions and calls the other coalition’s focus on debilitating social conditions and fighting poverty, “excuses.” Why in the world would Shanker’s ghost find common ground here?

The other side, organized by the more labor-friendly Economic Policy Institute, recently took out full page ads in the NYT and WaPo calling for "A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education," arguing that schools can’t do it alone and that real school reform requires and improvement in living conditions of children and families. Its leaders include, Helen Ladd, Pedro Noguera, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Julian Bond, and Tom Payzant.

Shanker was the classic “tough liberal” of his day, a blend of militant unionism and cold-war anti-communism and militarism. One difference between then and now is--in the ‘60s the teaching corps was a bastion of protected jobs for whites as was the entire public school bureaucracy.

On the one hand, Shanker claimed to support racial integration. But when, with the failure of school deseg in N.Y., the black community, angered by white-only teacher hiring practices, organized a “community-control” movement, Shanker used demagogy to rally angry white teachers to oppose affirmative action and smash community control. Kahlenberg, like Shanker, still calls affirmative action “preferences.” How telling.

Shanker, like the AFL-CIO leadership, also supported the Vietnam War and CIA incursions and coups in Latin America, which makes me wonder why, if alive today, he would now be so concerned about an “education war.”

WWAD today? If Al’s channeler Kahlenberg is right, he’d try and water down the differences between the two coalitions and push candidate Obama further to the middle-right for the sake of political expediency. He may be right. But somehow, I still can’t imagine Shanker uniting with the Klein/Sharpton group.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Ailing Ownership Society


From the L.A. Times
(“Americans may be losing faith in free markets”)

Even the Bush administration, which took office arguing that the Social Security crisis could be solved, in part, by tying some of retirees' future benefits to Wall Street, has begun advocating more government regulation of financial markets. When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government-chartered but investor-owned, began to teeter last week, the administration quietly went to work on possible government action.

"There may be a backlash against markets at the moment," acknowledged Kevin A. Hassett, economic studies director at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and an advisor to presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain. "But the backlash doesn't seem to be informed by any alternative view of how the world works."

Americans entered the new century convinced that "we had a new economy built on services and information technology that would let us win globally," said Harvard economist Robert Z. Lawrence. "The whole premise of globalization in the year 2000 was that it worked well for us and the other developed countries but that the developing countries would need help," Lawrence said. Today, virtually all those optimistic assumptions have been turned on their heads. "


From the Washington Post (“Capitalism’s Reality Check”)

Since the Reagan years, free-market clich├ęs have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing… In the presidential campaign so far, John McCain has been clinging to the old economic orthodoxy while Barack Obama has proposed a modestly more active role for government. But the economic assumptions are changing faster than the rhetoric of the campaign. “Reality has broken in,” says [Barney]Frank. And none too soon.


NYT columnist Paul Krugman

“Owning a home lies at the heart of the American dream.” So declared President Bush in 2002, introducing his “Homeownership Challenge” — a set of policy initiatives that were supposed to sharply increase homeownership, especially for minority groups. Oops.


Former CNN writer/producer Mike Malloy

Remember a few years ago when Bush (or was it Cheney?) touted the term "ownership society"? Uh-huh. Go buy a home. No money down. No money needed. Ever. Smoke and mirrors. Pretend it's all real. Pretend you have something. Watch how they snatch it away. Listen to the tearing sound. Smell the fear that is flooding the country.

DGQs (Damn good questions)

Diane asks Deb a DGQ from the past:

But, here and now, I have a question for you about the past. Friends have contacted me and said, "Ask Debbie what happened to the Annenberg Challenge." What they really want to know is how the small school movement turned into one of the favorite strategies of the corporate elites who are so interested in education. They also want to know how you feel about this idea that "headquarters" can decide to open 10, 20, 50 small schools, recruit principals, and will them into existence.

Diane, please tell them to read our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society. It may answer their questions.

Organizing the charters

Even Russo asks a Chicago DGQ…

“What if anything ever happened to the idea of union-run, or organized, charters in Chicago?”

Answer—First you need a union that is not in self-destruct mode and is about real organizing. Charter school teachers I know are still looking.

Remember we raised the idea in Chicago last August, when we had CTU President Marilyn Stewart, IEA Director Jo Anderson and Green Dot Charter starter Steve Barr come together around the idea at a public meeting. While some small meetings with teachers from a few campuses have been held, CTU faction fighting has pretty much paralyzed organizing efforts here.

Maybe new AFT leadership will help turn things around in Chi-Town. Barack Obama made a point of it in his speech to the AFT convention, applauding the leadership for “representing charter school teachers and support staff. ... We know well-designed public charter schools have a lot to offer.”


Authentic assessment

Jackie Bennett at Edwize is on to something I alluded to the other day, when I asked whether both Chris “The Minister of Truth” Cerf and Sol Stern, of the far-right Manhattan Institute, could both be full of it?

Cerf tells lies using standardized test scores to claim credit for reform gains that aren’t really there. Stern on the other hand, is wise to the Ministry’s game, but plays one of his own. He portrays all reform as a failure leading us to think that public school reform is impossible. The only alternative left—privatization, which is what the MA is all about.

But Bennett responds:

To me, however, there do seem to be gains, though I don’t know if we see them in the scores. This year, I felt a difference in the schools I know best, and I heard a difference when I talked to teachers and principals.

It still remains for Bennett then, to tell us how the school community can see those gains. How are students demonstrating what they’ve learned and what they can do with what they’ve learned?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


She and Helms get badge of honor

Ann Coulter on the late (what took so long?) Jesse Helms:
Helms was for integration; he was simply against "movements." To paraphrase Dan Quayle, to be called a racist by these people is a badge of honor.
Lewis Cohen, Director of the Coalition of Essential Schools on testing:
Policymakers are increasingly acknowledging the disconnect between what is being required to be successful on standardized tests and the skills our children will need to face an increasingly complex future. Last month Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama participated as an evaluator in a performance assessment at a new small high school in Mapleton Colorado. Afterwards he spoke about the need for more appropriate assessments.

Though charter school teachers remain eligible for the basic retirement benefits offered through the state retirement system for public school teachers, they generally are not eligible for ancillary retirement benefits, such as medical and life insurance, provided by the Orleans Parish school system.

Questioning retention in Florida

A Florida state law mandating that 3rd graders be held back a year based on low FCAT scores, has had a serious damaging effect on students.
”'The research stretching over a 60-plus-year period has consistently demonstrated the same thing: that retention in grade does not improve performance in subsequent years' achievement and bears a strong relationship to dropping out of school later…`No other body or research is so strongly one-sided, yet policy makers and politicians point to it as a way to improve performance.''
The D.C. test score bump

There may be a new sheriff in town., but in D.C. schools,testing madness continues as usual. The media’s all abuzz about this year’s increases on standardized test scores, and the bureaucrats are already elbowing their way up to the media trough to take credit for the bump.

New supe, Michelle Rhee, knowing full well that such a short time in office couldn’t have produced huge test score jumps, still claims it was her privatization efforts combined with teacher and staff firings that deserve all the credit. "I wasn't expecting to see such large gains early on," Rhee said.

Others, more accurately attribute the score increases to students getting used to the new DC-CAS exam, introduced by Rhee’s predecessor Clifford Janey. Still others say that schools’ preoccupation with test-prep led to the increases.

Either explanation, of course, begs the real teaching/learning questions in the District.

Side note: Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso said students in the traditional system made strong gains and were outperforming their peers in public charter schools.

Guru still “annoyed”

Testing “ guru” Dave Heistadhad, “waited anxiously for months to proclaim that the district had made strides on this year's state reading and math tests… And, he really wanted to say that annoying achievement gap between black and white students had narrowed. No such luck…. Instead, a familiar pattern held true. Schools with high percentages of students of color and low-income families didn't do well.”