Friday, May 29, 2009

What happened to "the civil rights issue of the 21st century"?

Who's with Newt? EEP?

A week ago, race baiter Newt Gingrich was at the White House, lecturing Obama about education being the "civil rights issue of 21st century." He's one of the three top leaders and spokesman for the "no excuses" EEP education policy coalition, along with Joel Klein and Al Sharpton. Now Gingrich is joining conservative wing-nuts Limbaugh and Tancredo ("National Council of La Raza is equivalent to the KKK") in calling Judge Sotomayor a "racist".

So the question is: what brand of "civil rights" are Gingrich and his bedfellows in EEP really talking about? Fellow Republicans are running as fast as they can from Newt, hoping to salvage some credibility among Latino voters. But will Klein, Sharpton, Bloomberg, and Duncan (who spoke with Newt at the EEP White House rally) and the rest of the EEP leaders follow suit and repudiate?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oakland's New Supe

He's Tony Smith, a progressive educator and supporter of small schools and charter schools. The board's vote was unanimous. Smith is a former superintendent of the Emeryville school district and worked for the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools (BAYCES), a leading resource for the small-schools movement.

For more on Smith's appointment see:

Chip Johnson at SFGate


Robert Gammon at East Bay Express

h/t Rick Ayers

Top-down reform

Gates and small schools

New Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes is heir to Stonesifer's party line that smaller high schools "don't work".
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent billions of dollars exploring the idea that smaller high schools might result in higher graduation rates and better test scores. Instead, it found that the key to better education is not necessarily smaller schools but more effective teachers. Some people might cringe while recounting how much money the foundation spent figuring this out. But the foundation's new CEO, Jeff Raikes, smiles and uses it as an example to explain that the charity has the money to try things that might fail. (The Olympian)

What failed was not smaller high schools, but Gates' top-down, "business model" of high school reform. Their either/or approach (effective teachers vs. better, smaller learning environments) will always flop, no matter which new model, next big thing or silver bullet they invest in, be it in school reform or global health.

Why would you call these, "the best teachers"?
The best teachers tend to leave when their schools experience an influx of African-American students, according to a study of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. school district published today. (Edweek)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Mike Petrilli, Fordham Institute's deputy dawg under Checker Finn, had no comment on Obama's appointment of the first Latina in history to the highest court in the land, other than "Wow, another Catholic."

Chicago: Sleep-out to save Anderson

From Tara Mack

On Saturday, May 30, from 11 am until 10 am on Sunday May 31, Hans Christian Andersen School is having a "Sleep-out". Andersen School is located at Honore & Division on the near north side, not far from Carpenter. They are in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood and have been told that "they are not a good fit for the neighborhood". The Board voted to phase them out a year ago February. At the time they mobilized 300 parents, teachers, students, and community members to protest but they won only minor concessions.

Mildred Rodriguez, chairperson of the Andersen LSC is the organizer, and she is putting this sleep out together to protest the accelerated phase-out of Andersen and phase-in of LaSalle Magnet II. The neighborhood school and neighborhood kids are being pushed out to make way for a middle-class "magnet" parent and student body. The school is fighting to stay alive even as the Board takes it apart grade by grade.

This sleep-out is being timed to coincide with the "Do Division Street Fair" which is taking place on Sat-Sun May 30-31. The festival describes West Division Street as "the hottest, hippest, most cutting edge neighborhood in Chicago" identifying the area as ideal for dismantling a neighborhood school and putting in a specialty school such as LaSalle II.

This school would like to have the support of CORE and all our allies. Andersen's example could be an encouraging action to all the schools that are under the gun. Please consider coming out to Andersen on Saturday-Sunday and spending a shift with them, including overnight. CORE could also help produce a leaflet that could be distributed to fest-goers describing what is happening to Andersen School.

I will continue to send updates as I receive them from the organizer at Andersen.

Norine Gutekanst
Whittier Elementary

Weekend Reads

More bad news for Klein's Leadership Academy
...An analysis by The New York Times of the city’s signature report-card system shows that schools run by graduates of the celebrated New York City Leadership Academy — which the mayor created and helped raise more than $80 million for — have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes.
Mr. Turay, who is 57 and has worked in city schools for 24 years, prefers the new system, or at least the small-school environment. “I didn’t know kids, I didn’t know parents,” he said of his days at Evander Childs. “I couldn’t tell if I helped anyone, really.”
Transparency is "too seductive"

Rotherham wants the education stimulus money to be used to push more top-down "reform"on districts by threatening to withhold funding. Transparency, he claims, "offers the seductive promise of an easy way out for policymakers." (U.S. News & World Report)

Grants for new school designs

KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the American Architectural Foundation seek submissions for the Richard Riley Award, which recognizes design and educational excellence in "schools as centers of community" -- schools that provide an array of social, civic, recreational, and artistic opportunities to the broader community and to students, often clustering educational and municipal buildings together. Maximum award: $10,000. Eligibility: all existing elementary and secondary public schools. Deadline: July 1, 2009.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Right answer, wrong question

E.D. Hirsch's Common Core panel (moderated by Diane Ravitch) has the answer partially right, but the've got the question wrong. Their framing question is:

Why Do American Students DO Poorly on International math and science examinations?

Their answer: "It may be because we aren’t teaching them literature, history, and the arts."

In fact, American students don't do poorly on international math and science exams. Whenever U.S. students are all lumped together by their mean scores on standardized tests, the reality of a two-tiered system of education in this country is blurred over. Our wealthy students, in upper-class suburban communities who attend well-equipped, well-staffed and environmentally sound schools, can compete with students in any country when it comes to math, science scores.

Those students stuck in depressed, under-served communities, who are basically warehoused in large, poorly resourced schools, can't compete on test scores with even the selective-enrollment schools around the block. This is especially the case when they aren't being taught anything except that which is being tested, ie. no arts, history or literature. But it's not really about the never- ending curriculum war between traditionalists and progressives.

The real answer: It's not just about curriculum content. When it comes to educational equity, no excuses please.

A community send-off for Rico

A couple of hundred people--family, school folks, Little Village friends--turned up at Tumbao last night to say goodbye to Jose Rico, wife Angie and family, who are on their way to D.C.. Jose has been appointed as special advisor to the assistant secretary of education. Jose grew up in Chicago's Little Village community and is currently the principal of the Multicultural Arts Academy (MAS) at Little Village High School.


Duncan loves mayoral control. But why?

Here's how things work in Chicago where Arne Duncan was a key part of the mayor's team and where the mayor runs the show, privatizing or selling off everything that's not nailed down, including the schools.
It's not the first time that LaVelle and Monterrey have cashed in on Daley's privatization frenzy. They also serve as subcontractors to the Spanish-Australian consortium that paid $1.83 billion to lease the Chicago Skyway for 99 years. (Fran Spielman, Sun-Times)

Hanging out with the hedge-fund school reformers

My takeaway from the event was that the innovation and entrepreneurship folks -- the Republican wing of the Democratic party -- feel really warm and fuzzy about all that's going on in Washington these days. Obama with his charter cap-lifting talk, Arne Duncan, who they consider one of theirs, and many of Duncan's hires, who come from the Gates/Broad/NewSchools world. And they're REALLY excited about the "Race To The Top" funding that is accompanying the stimulus -- it's like the federal government just dumped cash on top of all the Broad and Gates money that they already had. (
Why the blackout?

Brother Fred tweets, "Wonder why so many education bloggers ignored events in LA?" Interesting question. And asked in only 59 spaces. Maybe we can get some to explain their editorial decisions. Maybe it's that left-coast thing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Duncan testifies, Deb Meier responds

"Small schools vs. privately-managed charters...DOE has hardly any educators on staff...Mayoral control...single focus on test scores corrupts the purpose of education..."

Speaking of mayoral control...

Some of the teachers at Roosevelt High, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's alma mater, feel like they just traded one bureaucracy for another when the mayor took control of the schools. The teachers are trying to create smaller learning communities within this giant, 4,700-student high school in East L.A. But it seems that top-down reform has made things worse.
Decision-making by PLAS administrators is irritatingly haphazard and confusing, said English teacher Rebecca Lizardi. Can a student in one of the seven small academies take a class available only in another academy? One day yes, the next day no. "Why don't they just use a Ouija board?" Lizardi cracked. (Steve Lopez, L.A. Times)

Mayoral mythology

Mayoral control has been Arne Duncan's mantra as he tours from state to state. It makes no difference to Duncan what the unique conditions are in each city or even if the local mayor is behind bars on corruption charges or hopefully on his way. "Put the mayor in charge," cries Duncan, even if the mayor is the head of a corrupt political machine and dreams of using the schools as his own private patronage system.

Diane Ravitch posts about the "myth of mayoral control of schools" at Huffington:
Our schools are too important to hand them over to the sole, unchecked control of a single elected official. Checks and balances are not exactly a dangerous innovation. They are an essential element in a democratic society, and they are as essential in the operation of our school system as they are in every other part of our governmental structure.
Protecting blogger rights

New York State’s shield law, which protects the right of news reporters to refuse to testify about information obtained through newsgathering, would be extended to “journalist bloggers” under a bill introduced by State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, two Manhattan Democrats. (City Room)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I wasn't invited

No, I wasn't even asked to give my suggestions when the most powerful philanthro-capitalists gathered in N.Y. May 5th for a secret meeting about the current global financial meltdown. All of my favorites were there, including, Bill, Oprah, Warren, Mike and Eli. According to one report, each billionaire was given 15 minutes to deliver a presentation on how they saw the future global economic climate, the future priorities for philanthropy, and what they felt the elite group should do. I'm glad I wasn't there. I mean, what can you say in 15 minutes?

Illinois Senate passes school-closing bill 53-0-5

They passed a modified version of Cynthia Soto's bill that creates a Chicago Education Facilities Task Force to review the city’s school closing and construction policies and recommend new rules to govern facility decisions by Chicago Public Schools leaders. The vote was a real blow to CPS chief Huberman and Mayor Daley who each sent troops to Springfield to lobby against the bill. Don Moore, one of the bill’s architects and executive director of Designs for Change, said he expects the House to accept the Senate’s changes soon, possibly by next week. The governor would then have 60 days to sign or veto the bill.


Diane Ravitch responds to Deb Meier at Bridging Differences:

You are right to take issue with Brooks for treating the "miracle school" as a vindication of Joel Klein and Al Sharpton's Education Equality Project. EEP insists that schools alone—with no support from other institutions—can close the achievement gap. This is claptrap. The Broader Bolder Agenda (which we both signed) has steadfastly maintained that the gap won't close without addressing the need of children for improvements in health care and the well-being of their families. The Harlem Children's Zone was created to address these needs, and to place schooling in the context of families and communities.

Miami's 'zone' -- no gains for high schools

Catherine Gewertz, posting on Edweek's new High School Connecttion Blog, reports that Miami/Dade's School Improvement Zone, set up under former Supt. Rudy Crew, was a bust that produced little in the way of measurable high school improvement, according to the district's own evaluation.

According to the study, the School Improvement Zone produced "at best an inconsistent impact that was limited to the elementary grades" and "was not found to have had a consistent positive impact at the secondary grades." The district study compared the 39 Zone schools with 39 demographically similar schools, and found the Zone schools turned in worse scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in most subject areas than did the other schools.

The Zone was a cluster of 8 low-performing high schools and feeder schools with its own administrative team. Reforms focused on extra math and reading instruction, and longer school days and years. It's now up to the school board and the post-Crew leadership team to figure out a new high school reform strategy.

Miami/Dade has some of the largest high schools in the nation as well as one of the lowest high school completion rates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We're public! No we're private!

No, I don't think so

Are charter schools public or private entities? For years charter school lobbyists have argued that charter schools are public schools--even those run by private management companies. Chicago charter cheerleaders at INCS for example, are sure to call them "charter public schools" in every reference. After all, they are publicly funded and chartered by public agencies.

But that's all changed now that a majority of teachers at Civitas charters operated by Chicago International have signed union cards. In an attempt to block teachers from unionizing, charter operators around the country are now claiming that they are private.

I guess Civitas will have to redo their web page before the courts rule.


Take note: the union busters at Civitas don't mind calling themselves public in order to receive millions of dollars in extra funding from the likes of Gates, Walton, and Searle foundations.

The preschool "juggernaut"

Obama's commitment to early childhood education has got Checker Finn and his boys over at the right-wing Fordham Institute in a snit again. They are trying to mobilize Limbaugh Party allies in a life or death struggle against the JUGGERNAUT. No, they're not talking about another Hitler wehrmacht or anything like that.

The picture on the cover of Finn's book says it all. Early childhood education is about to flatten this corporate exec.

It's all about the "Preschool Juggenaut", (title of Finn's latest book). The prospect of universal early childhood education has Finn freaking out. When he closes his eyes and thinks of Headstart, he envisions a giant steam roller flattening the taxpayer. "For all its surface appeal, universal preschool is an unwise use of tax dollars," warns Finn.

The roster

For those who can't tell the players without a scorecard, here's the official list of DOE appointees.

Morning Schmoe

Joe Scarborough is sounding more and more like he belongs on the comedy channel. Here's his set-up question the other day for wing-nut Senator Kitt Bond (R-Missouri) as they both try and defend torture:
"Senator, can you explain to Americans why, for selfish reasons, the CIA would never lie to members of Congress?"
No, seriously.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More L.A. students show support for teachers

300 Santee H.S. Students refused to come into school and are protesting pink slips and walking around the perimeter of campus! #LAUSD #UTLA (Twitter)

Duncan to testify Wednesday


Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but big news for us. Secretary Duncan is testifying on Wednesday. He’ll be the only witnesses, so there will be plenty of time for questions and answers from both Democrats and Republicans. Should be very interesting and I’m sure you and your readers at Mike Klonsky's Small Talk will want to tune in.

Let me know if you need any more information.


Mike Kruge, Online Outreach Specialist

Committee on Education and Labor

'Union started sounding good....'

A union started sounding good to Eric Levy about a year ago. That’s when he and other teachers at Chicago International Charter School’s Northtown campus were told they’d be teaching an additional class.
LEVY: We were just presented with that. There was no salary increase or anything like that, it was just like, “Hey, you’re teaching six classes now.” Class size has slowly crept up, too. So it’s six BIG classes. My biggest class has 33 students. (City Room, WBEZ)
R.I.P. 'mainstream' media

Teachers set up picket lines in L.A. Friday and as a result, dozens were thrown in jail, including A.J. Duffy, the president of the teachers union The teachers were putting their bodies on the line, peacefully protesting the massive budget cuts in public education and the mass firing of tens of thousands of their colleagues statewide as well as the worsening conditions for the district's 700,000 students (mostly students of color). They were joined by thousands of students at high schools across the city who walked out in solidarity. Big news, right?

The L.A. Times ran a piece a week before the arrests, quoting schools chief Cortines accusing teachers of "milking the system" and then one on Friday, just before the arrests, claiming that teachers were going to "
storm district headquarters" and "jump on some desks." Then they trailed way behind the blogs and Twitter in covering the protest and the arrests. I found this story about the student protests, on Saturday but nothing else. I looked again on Sunday. Nothing. I looked again this morning. Nothing. I combed the national press again today. Nothing.

Actually more people in China know about the L.A. struggle, than do folks here in the U.S.A. I found this story about teachers in Queensland (that's in Australia) going on strike, but nary a word about L.A. Thank goodness for the blogs and Twitter. RIP L.A. Times and the Tribune Company.

Weekend Reads

Harlem school's successes were "no miracle" says Noguera

Posting as a guest on Gotham Schools, Pedro Noguera counter punches with NYT's conservative columnist David Brooks , "The Harlem Miracle," and makes mincemeat out of his arguments. Brooks had claimed that the jump in test scores at the Promise Academy school within the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) had "completely eliminated the black-white achievement gap," a affirmation of Joel Klein's conservative "no excuses" faction (EEP).

In fact, argues Noguera, who co-directs the Broader and Bolder Approach (BBA) policy coalition, the gains made by children at the school and within Geoffrey Canada's HCZ are attributable to a combination of quality education and a focus on their social and emotional needs.
The Promise Academy, praised by David Brooks, is a wonderful school, but it is not unique and hardly a “miracle.” There are several schools in Harlem and other parts of New York where poor children are achieving at high levels. Many of these are charter schools, but some are public and private schools. In most cases, these schools succeed not because they impart middle class values, (there is very little evidence that the middle class is the only group that values hard work and courteous behavior) but because of high academic expectations and a clear, coherent approach to educating children. Most importantly, these schools succeed because they also address social, health and psychological needs of the children and families they serve.
BTW, what happened to the giant EEP rally?
Organizers didn't say which five cities were going to be part of the education tour. Sharpton energized the crowd, leading a few hundred drizzle-kissed onlookers in the familiar chant: "No justice! No Peace!" (Daily News)
Brother Fred writes:

What if the Education Equality Project bunch call a rally and nobody shows? Rotherham predicted 40,000. Oops.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scenes from L.A.--updated

About 500 students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles held a sit-in Friday morning in the school's central yard. Later, they moved to the athletic field bleachers, and the school provided a sound system so they could discuss why they didn't want teachers laid off. Garfield could lose 13 English and social studies teachers.

At Jordan High School in South Los Angeles, about 200 students gathered in the quad to show solidarity with teachers, and the campus was put on lockdown in what Principal Stephen Strachan called a routine security measure.

When students refused to go back into class, Strachan said, he gave them a microphone and about 15 students spoke out about the proposed layoffs. (L.A. Times)

Check his travel receipts

Tom VanderArk, as usual, has his head up his rear end. Remember VDA? He was the education front man at Gates who pushed the idea that urban high schools were "too difficult" to fix and called for mass school closings in the black community before the idea was hip. Now he is promoting the Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton crowd and their faux commemoration of the Brown decision.

VDA, posting on Huffington, claims he was just in Chicago where he supposedly visited Austin High School.
On the far west side of Chicago, Austin High School serves a population of low income minority students. The school was closed and replaced by four small schools in an effort to improve achievement and graduation rates. The building is old and the Oak Park neighborhood is tough. At nearby People's Taco, you shout your order through a hole and greasy tacos spin out of a bullet proof turret.
But VDA must have been high on greasy tacos. For one thing, Austin High isn't in Oak Park. For another, Oak Park isn't a" tough neighborhood'. It's one of the wealthiest suburbs around. Austin High School was closed all right, but wasn't replaced by four small schools. There are only three, including one good one, Austin Poly, which btw isn't a charter school. Oh, one more thing. It's PEEPLES (not PEOPLE'S) Tacos over on Chicago Ave.

So the question is--where was VDA really when he was supposed to be in Chicago? If I was his partner at Vander Ark/Ratcliff, I would ask to see some travel receipts before I reimbursed him.

More on the bedfellows' White House visit

"Don't read too much into it..."

An Obama administration source cautioned not to read too much into Mayor Bloomberg's recent visit to the White House with New Gingrich and Al Sharpton, saying it was Sharpton, not the president himself, who wanted Bloomberg included. He also wanted his Education Equality Project partner, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, to come along, too, "but Klein is apparently a bit too much of a lightning rod for criticism for the White House's taste these days."(Elizabeth Benjamin, The Daily Politics)

Duncan's new mantra

Mayoral control of the schools has become Arne Duncan's new mantra, his panacea for Detroit's failing school system. This, even though the former mayor is sitting in a jail cell. I'm not saying that mayoral control of Detroit's schools is necessarily a bad thing, but does this even begin to touch the real problems?

New media
The front page of a Chicago daily recently headlined these stories: A charter school facing closure, record turnouts for university elections, a poll showing that Chicagoans crave more openness in their government. It was a pretty robust report, but it wasn't in the Chicago Tribune or Sun-Times, the major papers in town. In fact, it wasn't on paper at all, but in the Chi-Town Daily News, a small but growing online upstart that is trying to succeed with a relentlessly local focus. (

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are charters a "private entity"?

When the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) certified a unionization bid by teachers from three Chicago charter schools late last month, the newly-formed union hoped for a seamless transition from organizing to collective bargaining. Unfortunately, that hasn't panned out. Instead, Civitas -- an arm of the Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) network -- has opted to challenge the state board's authority to rule on the matter, arguing that as a "private entity," the decision ought to fall to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). (Progress Illinois).

Baltimore Sun ed writer/blogger shows some heart

I've used lots of Sara Neufeld's well-written and well-researched articles as a source for my blog posts about Baltimore schools and school reform. Now Sara is leaving the Sun. What a loss! And what a stand-up person. Best wishes for future success to her. (h/t Gotham Schools)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An "incredible spectacle"

Paul A. Moore is a teacher at Miami Carol City High School in Miami, Florida. He writes about "The Dreams of Grant Park," on Thomas Paine's Corner:
President Obama had voucher and charter school boosters to the White House the other day for advice on educational policy. The nation was treated to the incredible spectacle former Speaker Newt Gingrich posing as an enemy of racism and a proponent of civil rights for his concern over the “achievement gap”. There was no mention of the infant mortality gap, or the life expectancy gap, or the household assets gap, or the employment gap, or the incarceration gap, or the quality of healthcare gap, or any of the other gaps that might shatter the illusion that Newt Gingrich gives a damn about people of color.

around 5,000 schools

Well, at least Edweek didn't run with the bogus headline saying Obama wants to "close 5,000 schools." But this "turnaround" business is bad enough, with Duncan extolling the so-called Chicago miracle as his model. The two comments here were right on target.
How are you going to get supposedly good teachers to come work at a failing school, especially if you start basing teacher's ability to feed their families on kids test scores?

The ripple effect

On Sept. 3, 2008, I was posting from the back of a school bus headed from the south side of Chicago to the wealthy suburbs of the North Shore. I was on one of dozens of buses organized by Rev. Meeks, loaded with kids, parents and teachers who were boycotting the first day of school.

We were traveling north to try and register hundreds of inner-city kids at New Trier High School in symbolic protest of the vast funding gap between rich suburban schools and resource-starved schools in the city. If you recall, Mayor Daley and then CPS schools chief Arne Duncan, attacked us and Rev. Meeks for "keeping kids out of school".

As we arrived at New Trier, dozens of white suburban parents greeted us with WELCOME signs and a group of NT students came out and gave a solidarity speech at our rally.

This morning's Trib carries a story, "Students look to fix schools," showing the ripple effects from that important struggle eight months ago.
The student campaign, like the forum itself, is an improbable outcome of a civic action that most thought would end when nearly 1,000 Chicago students climbed back onto yellow school buses and drove home. That it didn't astounds Schechter. "We absolutely would not have done this without [the boycott]," Schechter said. "I don't think people would imagine this coming out of the North Shore."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The boundaries of school reform

James Forman, Jr. reviews two book and reflects on KIPP and the Harlem Children's Zone
Before KIPP, there was Harlem’s Central Park East, which flourished under Deborah Meier’s leadership in the 1980s and 1990s. For many years, Central Park East was the icon of “what works” in inner-city education, and Meier’s account of the school in The Power of Their Ideas remains one of the wisest books ever written about teaching. But Central Park East did not revolutionize education, because efforts to transplant what worked there into schools with different cultures and less-skilled educators often failed. (Boston Review).

Pragmatists and ideologues

Newark's Mayor Cory Booker has drunk some of David Brooks' "Harlem Miracle" kool-Aid. But here at Huffington he sounds more like a small-schools pragmatist than he does a neocon ideologue:
I have no loyalty to charter schools, traditional public schools, magnet schools, small school models, publicly funded scholarships (vouchers) or private schools. I have loyalty to results. The important question should not be one of philosophy or political perspective, it should be: What is working to empower poor and minority children to have the same educational opportunities in America as those who are more affluent? ...We have recently begun a small school initiative for our high school students who are at risk of dropping out. Further, among other things, our new superintendent is looking to expand our magnet schools of excellence which have long waiting lists and completely reorganize our persistently failing schools.
Hoover's Hoxby

By neocon ideologue, I mean someone more like Hoover Institute's Caroline Hoxby who tries to peddle some snake oil in St. Louis. Hoxby claims that her own study shows an imaginary matched pair of students--one going to a regular public school and one going to a charter (any charter will do)--with the charter school student coming out way more successful. That study, she says, offers proof of total charter superiority. She also claims that her imaginary charter school has all but eliminated the so-called "achievement gap." But then the inevitable happens. Real life rears its ugly head. Some local has the nerve to ask Hoxby:
Why aren’t charter schools in St. Louis performing so well?

Hem, haw, next question!

Messing with the headlines

To close or fix struggling schools?

Here's the headline on yesterday's AP story by Libby Quaid: OBAMA WANTS TO SEE 5,000 FAILING SCHOOLS CLOSE. The same exact Quaid piece ran again today with this headline: OBAMA WANTS TO TURN AROUND 5,000 FAILING SCHOOLS.

The headline was also changed in the online editions of several newpapers, including the Sacramento Bee,. Quaid's piece, which was picked up by global media outlets, offered no attribution for the original headline statement. But the article came on the heels of a meeting between Obama and the three bedfellows, Bloomberg, Gingrich, and Sharpton. Did the novice Quaid simply accept their spin on Obama's position and run with it without checking? Or are Obama and Duncan really pushing such a massive school-closing policy? If they are, then why no direct quotes or White House press releases on such an important policy shift?

To be continued.


Meanwhile, the AFT's Weingarten is making her presence felt at the "reform" table, offering a trade-off with Bloomberg--support for mayoral control in exchange for keeping neighborhood schools open. While the press focused on the Bloomberg's kiss on Randi's cheek (it's Spring and love is in their air), here's the meat of the Daily News story:

Weingarten Saturday proposed a way to turn around failing schools without shutting them down, offering teachers a reason to line up behind the mayor. "If somebody wants to look at it as an olive branch, they'll look at it as an olive branch," she said...

Weingarten's idea for helping troubled schools would be funded with Race to the Top grants, stimulus money from Washington specifically set aside for school reform. Weingarten cited three supposedly failing schools originally slated for closure this year - including Middle School 399 in the Bronx - where reading tests scores skyrocketed as proof that some schools need to be given a second chance.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I don't think Bloomberg, Sharpton, and Gingrich are such "strange bedfellows." Do you?

It was the very image of the strange-bedfellow triumvirate standing outside the White House yesterday after an audience with the President - Mayor Bloomberg, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich - that dominated most stories. But far more compelling is the nature of the bed the three, and countless others, have made for themselves, in the Education Equality Project. (Daily News)

C'mon. You gotta love Gingrich talking the "civil rights" talk to Obama.

"I think this is an issue that should bring all Americans together," Gingrich said, saying that education should be a civil rights issue for the 21st century.

Hey Newt! You must not have heard. Civil rights was an issue in the 20th century too when you were running for Congress from Georgia as a Dixie-Pub. Now you're attacking bi-lingualism as "ghetto language", calling for an end to multiculturalism in schools, replacing it with "patriotic education." So actually, civil rights is still the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Note to Arne

Elizabeth Green at Gotham Schools reports that NYC Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, sent a note to Arne Duncan, warning him to take Bloomberg's B.S. with a grain of salt. Green also wonders why only three bedfellows went to the Obama meeting. What happened to Joel Klein, the head of the "no-excuses" faction.

No more "miracles" please

No sooner had the Streets & San guys hauled away anther year's worth of homages from the expressway underpass near my house, where leaky walls had etched an image of the Virgin Mary (if you squinted your eyes) than I read David Brooks piece, "The Harlem Miracle."Now don't get me wrong. I believe in miracles as much as the next guy. For example, there was Kobe Bryant's incredible shot Friday night from near mid-court with one second left on the shot clock. Only not when it comes to public schools and the so-called achievement gap. It's just that I've just seen too many of them debunked recently. First there was the "Texas Miracle" that made the dropout rate supposedly disappear from urban schools and propel Gov. George Bush into the presidency. Then there was the the great "Chicago Miracle" called Renaissance 2010.

Brooks' miracle has the Harlem Children's Zone's Promise Academy, on its own, without any changes in the living conditions of Harlem' children, completely and totally eliminating the achievement gap between wealthy white students and poorer children of color. It must be true, writes Brooks, because a friend of his at Harvard visited the school and had an epiphany.

This is no knock on the Promise Academy. I'm sure that a small school with a good group of teachers and lots of resources can produce a jump in test scores. But let's cool it on the miracle talk please.