Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"School districts felt pressured to teach to the test..."

The push is on to move quickly to re-authorizing NCLB. With this in mind that I'm re-posting this short clip from Barack Obama's campaign speech in Wallingford, Pa. on April 2, 2008 as a way of reminding the president and his secretary of education of the hopefulness he inspired back then.

The violence at Fenger

Julie at PURE writes:
But it is of critical importance to acknowledge that Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 program is a significant contributing factor to the increase in violence at Fenger and other affected schools. R2010 has radically destabilized already fragile communities by closing schools – often the only major community institution in some neighborhoods -- and by firing long-time teachers and staff and pushing students out and across gang territory to unfamiliar surroundings.

While the Tribune alluded to this reality by mentioning that CPS made nearby Carver High School into a closed-enrollment military school, you failed to add that Fenger also receives students from Englewood and Calumet High Schools, which are no longer regular neighborhood schools thanks to R2010, or that Fenger is in its first year of CPS-run turnaround under R2010, meaning that nearly all of its staff was fired and replaced this past summer.
Also, see comment from Artis, below.

Previous SmallTalk blog posts on school violence:

More from my old Yahoo 360 blog:

Violence Epidemic 5/8/08


"Not the time for Dewey"
Given the existing constraints of imposed instruction and the demand for orderly, acquiescent behavior, what can be done to modulate the rigid authoritarianism? This is not the historical moment to anticipate a resurgence of Dewey progressivism with its focus on harnessing student interests to an ever-evolving co-constructed curriculum. (Penn Prof. Joan Goodman, Edweek)
Obama, please visit Chi-Town
PRESIDENT OBAMA, your young people are dying in the streets of Chi-Town. Please stop by Chicago on your way back from Copenhagen (Sun-Times columnist, Stella Foster)
Civil rights leader, Newt
The odd couple of Gingrich and Sharpton found common ground in the concept that education is the new frontier on civil rights. (AP Wire)
Rhee's broom

The broom -- poised to sweep out the old, the failed, her employees -- has become convenient shorthand, a quick answer to the question I ask one D.C. schoolteacher after another: What makes you think Rhee doesn't respect teachers? (WaPo's Marc Fisher)

Related: More on—Aw shucks, Newt isn’t running 10/4/07

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Who's running the show at the DOE

This was posted on the Our Global Education blog:

Message from The Broad Residency's Managing Director: Lynn Liao

It's easy to spot the exciting changes marked by the launch of our newest cohort of Broad Residents this summer. Following a banner recruitment season attracting interest from almost 2,800 candidates, the Class of 2009-11 is our biggest yet at 36 Residents. This is more than triple the size of our first class six years ago. In addition, Residents are concentrated in partner organizations tackling ambitious agendas to transform their academic results, organizations such as D.C. Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, and New Schools for New Orleans. Perhaps most notably, in order to support Secretary Arne Duncan and his team's historic effort to reshape federal policy we have placed three members of this class with the U.S. Department of Education.

Chicago's School "Renaissance"

Derrion Albert, 16

As the student death toll mounts in Chicago, the question remains: Can you really have school reform, let alone a "renaissance" without improving the conditions for public school children and their families outside of school and in the communities?

"My children have to go to this school. I don't have car fare to send them anywhere else," Black said. "They opened this school up and said everything has changed. Nothing has changed," she said... We can't stop the senseless killing until we can reach the young people who are growing up without their own hopes and dreams. (Mary Mitchell, Sun-Times)

Monday, September 28, 2009

In the mailbox

On Sunday, AOL had a story on Obama wanting kids to spend more time in school (it was in the Boston Globe today and I assume many other papers. On extending the day, AOL asked for thumbs up (40%) or thumbs down (45%), with144K respondents (non-random, of course). Of 142K who responded to the adjacent question, what do you think of Obama's education policy in general?, the response was poor 48%, fair 18%. Wonder what a real (randomized) survey would show on the latter question? Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Interim Executive Director


There is a brilliant small book just out by the incomparable Mike Rose called Why School? Published by the New Press it has garnered neither reviews nor much attention. This is a shame because it is an important argument against the controlling discourse strangling public education today. I write to urge each of you to get it, read it, spread the word among your networks, and if at all possible, review it!

Bill Ayers

Turning charters into gold

"We’re not speculators. We’re investors.” So says the CEO of a real estate trust that recently sunk some $170 million into 22 charter schools. Which got me wondering: why charter schools? How do they end up looking like sound investments?--Daniel Wolfe, "Speculating on Education"

Some of you may recall...

A couple of years ago, a post of mine, shining the light on hedge-fund "school reformers" like Whitney Tilson who bankrolls the DFER organization, created a little tiff. Short-seller Tilson cynically made fun of my notion that there were profits to be made in the world of charter schools.
“Trying to make a killing in the charter school business”?! Yeah, that’s right, the charter school business is so profitable that I’m telling all my friends in the hedge fund business that they’re in the wrong business. My message: “If you really want to make a lot of money, start a charter school!” LOL!
LOL indeed. Fast forward to--well, how about right now?

Here's Entertainment Properties pitch to potential investors:
We are in this business because we know that charter schools are a successful educational model that achieves what educators and the public expect of schools. Entertainment Properties Trust provides stable financing so educators and school administrators can focus on curriculum and instruction, enrollment targets and the challenges of delivering an education to meet the needs of students and the desires of parents. As a result, our charter school partners obtain a competitive advantage, especially during the early growth phase.
Any questions?

Friday, September 25, 2009

King's dream vacated by a court in Chicago

Dr. King attacked by racist mob when he came to Chicago in 1966

While Arne Duncan was invoking the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, in an effort to rally support for NCLB re-authorization, a federal court, in his home town was putting the final nail in the coffin of Chicago's 29-year-old school de-seg agreement.

Catalyst's Sarah Karp reports that,
U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras scrapped the CPS desegregation consent decree--a move that likely will result in the district abandoning the use of race as a factor in the admissions policies of magnet and selective schools. The move by U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras also halted the court's monitoring of the district's bilingual program, which activists claimed is still inadequate and in need of supervision.

Kocoras' decision came only a long, intense campaign to have the consent decree vacated, led by Duncan, his successor Ron Huberman and Mayor Daley, who saw the deseg struggle as futile and as a drain on district funds.

Community and civil rights groups are rightfully worried that the decision will further limit access of black and Latino students to selective enrollment schools. The question now facing a school district made up 93% of children of color is: since Brown v. Board is dead, how about at least taking Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal) seriously?


Black population declines in Chicago's elite schools 11.28.07

Think-tanks & class size

For more than a decade now, I've been hearing from right-wing think-tankers, like Fordham's Checker Finn, Mike Petrilli, and the Hoover Institute's Eric Hanushek, that class size doesn't matter. The research, they claim, shows little benefit to student achievement scores by reducing the number of students in a class. With class sizes in L.A. high schools soaring to 50 per class and Brooklyn kids being squeezed into classrooms with a shoehorn, Finn and his crew have suddenly grown quiet on the topic.

This from today's Daily News:
Intermediate School 227 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, had no classes with more than 30 students in it last year. Now it has 15, including one for English language learners. Teachers scramble to move desks between classes to accommodate all the children. In some classes, students must share books. "There's a lot of graffiti in the books; pages are stuck together with gum," said Joshua Fernandez, 13, who is in the eighth grade at IS 227 and is in a class with 32 students - who also share desks.

At IS 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, budget cuts forced the principal to eliminate an entire eighth-grade class, pushing the size of seven classes to more than 30 students. "The principal tried to avoid hurting the kids as much as she could," said Peter Bloch, the school's dean. "They're not getting as much individualized attention now." The school also lost the teachers who used to pull struggling students out of class for extra help. The building is supposed to hold 750 students but now has about 965.

Perhaps if the think-tankers had to teach for a day in Bensenhurst or Jackson Heights, they would have to rethink what the research shows.

Bloomberg's key to success

Want better scores? Change the kids

Over the years, we''ve come to expect better results, higher graduation rates and measurable learning outcomes in smaller schools. There's tons of research bearing that out. But I must admit, I wasn't at all surprised to learn Wednesday, that N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg's small schools were scoring higher mainly by recruiting higher-scoring kids. (Gotham Schools). After all, creating a two-tier school system has been the Mayor's agenda from the start. A SmallTalk salute goes out to researchers Aaron Pallas at Columbia Teachers College and Jennifer Jennings (Eduwonkette), at NYU for exposing this bit of Bloomberg data trickeration.

See if you can follow along with Daley

Test will follow

Mayor Daley, who has become the national poster boy for mayoral control of the schools, defended clout admissions to Chicago's selective enrollment high schools this way:
“They can take a C student and that C student can all the way go to a B or an A student. If everybody’s an A student, then you’re not gonna improve learning at all in any education system. You have to have confidence in principals in giving opportunities to young people and young families.”

“You go to other cities. They have highways. They’re moving out as quickly as possible. And if they come into a city, the first thing they say is, ‘I can’t live in the city, my kids can’t go to school. I want to go someplace else.’”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Valuing educators as professionals

"Let's build a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators — who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners..." --Arne Duncan

Not on my watch, says Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman.

The word from inside CPS is that CEO Huberman is placing hidden video cameras in schools and central office to monitor teachers and staff.
"He's watching to see if anyone swipes in late or swipes out early," says one insider. "It's how he ran things at the Chicago Transit Authority. That's why everyone hated him over there. He doesn't treat people as professionals. Early swipe-outs should be a matter between the principal and faculty."
Word is that he's consolidating budget people from the various departments and is cleaning house of Arne Duncan's people. New schools/charters manager Josh Edelman went last week. Chief Ed Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, will be next. He will replace most with Mayor Daley's people and his old team from over at CTA.

But don't worry about Edelman and Watkins. Both will most likely land on their feet with Duncan in D.C.

"Tired arguments..."

Arne Duncan--"End the debate"

Duncan's speech today will invoke Dr, Martin Luther King in an effort to end the reform debate, which he called "tired arguments" against merit pay, standardized tests, and privately-managed charter schools.
"Let's build a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators — who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners and compensated accordingly," Duncan pleaded.
But so far his policies, combined with massive state budget cuts threaten to reduce teaching professionals to the level of delivery clerks, tens of thousands of whom are losing their jobs. Many are being replaced by lower-paid TFA novices.

More Quotables

Diane Ravitch--Falling in love...
Our policymakers have fallen in love with the idea that incentives and sanctions can "drive" educational improvement. They believe that if we promise rewards when test scores go up, we will see test scores go up. So they commit hundreds of millions of dollars to give "merit pay" or "performance pay" to teachers and principals, even to students—if the scores rise. Simultaneously, they threaten to inflict serious sanctions on those schools, principals, and teachers if their students' test scores do not go up. They don't dock their pay, but do something worse: They threaten to close their schools, fire the staff, and tarnish the reputation of anyone who taught there. (Bridging Differences)
Pedro Noguera--Bored dropouts
Not all students who dropout are behind academically. Many are simply bored because they don't see the relevance of what they are learning in school to what is happening in their lives. This suggest that we need to create stronger ties between the curriculum and he lives of our children so that they can see how what they learn 9 in school can be used to solve real problems that they and their families face. Strong vocational programs with links to real jobs are one way to do this. Problem posing education that encourages children to thiink critically about what they learn and apply to real problems is yet another. (RethinkLearning)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tough times for billionaire power philanthropists

Bradley on the ropes

This could be bad news for wing-nuts, voucher activists, and racist bell-curve theorists.

Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation, has been “hard hit” by investment losses the past two years and will need to reduce its grant-making next year, said president and CEO Michael Grebe. The Milwaukee-based foundation, which ranks first on The Business Journal’s most active Milwaukee-area foundations Top 25 list, saw its net assets decline by 43 percent, to $464.2 million, during 2008, according to the foundation’s year-end financial statements.

Gates Foundation goes into the loan business

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is doing more with its money than giving it away. It has been moving into investments, loans and loan guarantees aimed at furthering its programs.This according to according to a Seattle Times report, calling it a step that "could mark a shift from the strategy of the past several years in which it invested its endowment, or asset trust, solely with the goal of maximizing profit."

According to The Times:

The Gates Foundation came under fire in 2007 following a report that it was investing in companies contributing to health problems and other human suffering the foundation was working to alleviate through its grants. At the time, the Gates Foundation said it would not alter its approach to investing its endowment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Latest from the ownership society

Ever heard of RevolutionLearning?

Probably not. Doesn't it sound like some radical '60s N.Y. agit/prop group? Don't worry, it's not. Quite the opposite. RevLearning is actually an international consulting group, hoping to make a few bucks in the ed biz. Their managing partner is Tom Vander Ark--yes that Vander Ark--who still trades on his stint at the Gates Foundation. Here's the rest of the group, including the principals.

Isn't it funny how they now call public school superintendents, "CEOs" while at the same time, calling business CEOs "principals." Well anyway, I think it is.

Here's how they describe themselves:
Revolution Learning is a multi-stage private equity firm focused primarily on growth equity and acquisition opportunities in the global learning market broadly defined.
The global learning market VERY "broadly defined," of course.

RevLearning is spreading the good news internationally about the profitability of public ed reform, especially the profitability of charter schools. In case you don't believe that there's a profit to be made in the world of charters, just check out the job description of Rev Partner Robert J. Hutter:
He is a founding member of a New Markets Tax Credits partnership administered by the U.S. Treasury Department that underwrites major campus real estate transactions for California Statewide Charter school recipients operating in the K-12 space.
Then there's Managing Partner Greg Mauro:
Prior to Revolution, Greg founded eSubscriber, a subscriber management company, and Tachyon, a broadband-satellite pioneer utilized today by U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Oh, btw, when he's not profiteering in those two war-torn countries, Greg serves as a Trustee at the High Tech High Foundation. Rev Associate Gil Shafir, a Wall St. investment guy, is also a graduate of High Tech High.

The only Rev exec who's not a black-suit jacket-white shirt-with-no-tie wearing-white guy (they look like they should be on the team at Morning Joe), is Principal Alice Wang, another Wall St. investment person (JP Morgan).

Is this what they've done with our bailout money?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Huberman gives his charter school chief the boot


The Chicago grapevine is buzzing about CEO Ron Huberman's latest central office house-cleaning. Friday he dropped the axe on his charter school and new start-up school chief, Josh Edelman. You can hear the whispers down the hallways and in the smoking areas at Central Office--"Why Josh?" "Who's next?"

Edelman came to Chicago 2 years ago to run Arne Duncan's close 'em & start 'em operations. Edelman 's fiefdom down on Clark Street became the center of attention under Daley/Duncan's Renaissance 2010 initiative and Harvard grad Edelman was the fresh face in town, wooed by progressives because of his pedigree (son of civil rights leader, Marian Wright Edelman) and by the business community for his apparent entrepreneurial skills.

All of Ren10's credibility rested on the possibility that Edelman's new start-up charter schools, most of which run by outside management companies, could outperform the "failing" neighborhood schools.

For the most part, they haven't, according to latest research coming out of Stanford, the University of Chicago's Consortium, and the Civic Committee itself (authors of Ren10). That's bad news for the Mayor (he needs good school news for his Olympics campaign), for Duncan (he was hailing Ren10 as the "model" for the nation) and for the business community (can't sell real estate without good charter schools).

Was outsider Edelman over his head to begin with? Probably. Did he run afoul of some of the big players and charter operators among the Mayor's allies? Most certainly. It was unavoidable as charter school handouts became the coin of the patronage realm (like taxi medallions) in the Windy City.

Bottom line (as they're fond of saying down at Clark St.)--Edelman's toast.

Legacy of Apartheid schooling

In South Africa...
South Africa’s schools are still struggling with the legacy of the apartheid era, when the government established a separate “Bantu” education system that deliberately sought to make blacks subservient laborers. Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister who was the architect of apartheid, said “Bantu” must not be subjected to an education that shows him “the green pastures of European society in which he was not allowed to graze.” (NYT)
In L.A....

The Times reports city high schools with 50 students packed into a single classroom, many without desks or chairs, sitting on file cabinets or on the floor.
"I'm very frustrated," Collier said. "I mean, it's a good class -- it's an honors class, and the kids are really good. But it's unreasonable to ask me to teach a class of 48 kids and give attention to everybody."
Reader survey question:

Does anyone know of any predominantly white schools with 50 students/class? Please contact me with info.

Weekend quotables

Steve Barr--"We can't do it without the unions"

I think the message is that we can’t do it without them — it’s a 100 percent unionized industry. The way to look at unions and reform is to understand that union contracts and union philosophy is based on a reaction to really bad systems. An urban education steeped in bad centralization, decisions made farthest away form practitioners, a lot of turnover of ideas, and a lot of grownups working downtown that shouldn’t be there anymore. The reaction to that system is going to be horrific, so the union contracts are horrible in the sense that they are reactions to bad systems. So we need to change the systems, which I think is the way the secretary looks at it and the way I look at it. (National Journal) h/t Fred Klonsky

UTLA's Duffy takes some heat from within on charters
The losses incurred by our union as a result have been significant. We've lost the respect of thousands of parents in Los Angeles who want better public schools, charter or district, and can't fathom why UTLA wants only the latter. We've lost credibility with the thousands of teachers who've worked or work at charter schools and see only smoke and mirrors where you proclaim fire. We've lost allies in the labor movement. We've lost votes on the School Board. We've lost the Mayor, lost face, and lost time. (Jordan Henry, Santee Chapter Chair) h/t JoseDelBarrio

Probably not what they had in mind...

In an attempt to improve California's schools, the Obama administration is threatening to withhold federal stimulus money if the Golden State does not rescind a state law that prevents the state from tying test scores to teacher performance. None of this is exactly what teachers had in mind when they knocked on doors to help elect Obama.

"It takes more than the ability to fill in bubbles to be considered an educated person," Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said in a letter to Duncan. "We thought President Obama understood that." (McClatchy)

Friday, September 18, 2009

First union charter school in Mass.

The 10-year-old Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston became the first charter in the Commonwealth to unionize. Under the new contract, teachers can receive performance-based pay so long as it's not based on standardized test scores of their students.

Thomas Gosnell
, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, said teachers at the Conservatory Lab sought to unionize because they were concerned about a lack of say in educational policy at the school and frequent turnover in the faculty. He said the union hopes to reach similar contract agreements around the state.
“This contract preserves the charter school ethos by reflecting a commitment to students, flexibility and innovation, as well as to the professionalism of teachers," said Head of School Diana Lam. "We see the contract as a win for students and teachers alike.” (Edweek)

Whenever neocons say, "it's not about race..."

David Brooks ("It's not about race") says Jimmy Carter is wrong. There's absolutely no racism behind the New Confederacy Movement, Birthers, or T-Baggers who are attacking Obama. Brooks is certain of it. They're just fun-living "populists," he assures us. How does he know? He went jogging near the recent New Confederacy march on Washington and saw some white wing-nuts buying food from a stand at the nearby Black Family Reunion.

My take:
Whenever you hear the neocons saying, "it's not about race"--it's about race.

St. Cloud wants to test 'em in the womb
Kindergartners in three St. Cloud schools with growing minority populations will take math and reading tests this year to help the school district get a better handle on a success gap between white and minority students. (SCTimes.Com)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mr. Huberman's data

CPS is most certainly exaggerating its first-day attendance figures. That seems to be the consensus over at the City Room (see my comments there as well). Why? Are they that desperate for some good news, especially with the Olympic Games bid hanging in the balance?

Even if so, Mr. "Data-driven" Huberman needs to get figures straight. His estimated .4% increase in day-one attendance over last year, is a percent of a much smaller number. CPS enrollment is down to 408,000. That a net loss of about 7,000 kids. So even a small increase (1,600 kids) in day-one attendance doesn't even nearly make up for the number of students who have left the system. Looking at it another way, if only 100 kids were left in Chicago Public Schools and all 100 showed up on day-one, you might say there was a 10% jump in first-day attendance.

Sorry to poop the party.

Providence goes cookie-cutter

I just returned from Providence where I got to spend a couple of days at The MET, one of my favorite small schools. I've visited several times and am always inspired after chatting for a while with MET kids--nearly all from low-income families and all engaged in their own learning. Graduation rates are extremely high and graduates are doing well in college.

What's the secret of The MET's success? Personalization--the school is small and builds its curriculum around the interests of the student. Teachers are highly skilled and act as advisors on student projects and internships. The school is deeply rooted in the community and has its support. You won't find graffiti on the walls of The MET. Kids learn by doing, spending lots of time out of the classroom and working in the company of adults in fields that interest and excite them.

I'm not saying that The MET is right for everyone or that other models and approaches aren't worthwhile or necessary. But the idea that an innovative school like The MET can exist and thrive in the inner-city and its kids can be successful, without bending to unnecessary pressures from the top of the system, is encouraging.

So what do I read in today's news about Providence?
PROVIDENCE — For the first time, the city’s 10 public high schools will share the same graduation requirements, the same core curriculum and the same textbooks, part of a larger effort to boost student achievement and make college more of a reality than a dream. (Providence Journal).
Too bad. I kind of liked the dream better. Don't get me wrong. I really like many of the things the district is mandating. I like advisories and more challenging courses. Of course, "challenging" or "rigorous" take on new, weird meanings in the hands of state bureaucrats and politicians. And as for mandating the same textbook for all schools and students--that's just a boondoggle for politically connected publishing companies and one that turns teachers into delivery clerks.

Fortunately, The MET, a public (non-charter) school, has it's own autonomous standing in the state and is immune from such top-down idiocy. I don't think you will find many textbooks being used at all at The MET.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Obama gives a history lesson in Pittsburgh

Speaking at the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Obama told cheering delegates:
The battle for opportunity has always been fought in places like Pennsylvania. It was here that Pittsburgh railroad workers rose up in a great strike. It was here that Homestead steelworkers took on Pinkerton Guards at Carnegie's mill. And it was here that something happened in a town called Aliquippa. It was a tough place for workers in the 1930s, "a benevolent dictatorship," said a local steel boss. Labor had no rights. The foreman's whim ruled the day. And the company hired workers from different lands and different races - the better to keep them divided, it was thought at the time. But despite threats and harassment; despite seeing organizers fired and driven out of town; these steelworkers came together - Serb and Croat, Italian and Pole, Irish and Greek, kin of Alabama slaves and sons of Pennsylvania coal miners. And they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, securing the right to organize up and down the Ohio River Valley, and all across America. And I know that if America can come together like Aliquippa - and rise above barriers of faith and race, region and party - then we will not only make life better for steelworkers like Steve Skvara in Indiana, and not only make life better for members of the AFL-CIO, but we will make possible the dreams of middle class families and make real the promise of the United States of America.

Chicago's 'miracle' up in smoke--poooof

Duncan's legacy

Sometime over the past week, CPS officials quietly posted the 2009 Prairie State and ACT test scores. They didn’t hold a press conference or even issue a release, as is the custom. And it is no wonder. Scores on both exams stagnated this year. And the scores for juniors who have been part of the district’s High School Transformation project since their freshmen year were no better, and in some cases worse, than their predecessors. (Catalyst)

1 million homeless kids

There are now an estimated 1 million homeless students. This according to data from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

Blue Ribbon Schools--"beating the odds""

But where's the charter schools?

Somebody help me here.

I'm reading over the list of Blue Ribbon Schools announced yesterday by Sec. Duncan. They're the 314 schools--264 public and 50 private--"that are either academically superior, or have made dramatic gains in student achievement and helped close gaps in achievement among minority and disadvantaged students." Among the main consideration--"those that beat the odds."

Ignoring the private schools for a moment, I immediately peruse the list of public high schools and find few surprises. In Illinois for example, there's three award winners--wealthy suburban schools, Deerfield and New Trier, and Chicago's elite selective enrollment high school, Whitney Young (Michelle Obama's alma mater). All three are large--Deerfield has 1700 kids (6 African American students); New Trier in upscale Winnetka , has over 3000 (22 African American students); and Young with 2,100 (fewer than 1% of applicants are admitted).

Two questions immediately come up. First, how are these schools "beating the odds?" Haven't they already beaten the odds by who they enroll? Second, where are the charter schools, especially those run by private management companies? Were they not included in the competition? Did I just miss some, hidden somewhere deep down on the high school list? Were there none good enough to make the grade? If not, why are they being pushed as the national model by Duncan? With all their hype and added Walton and Venture Fund money, can't they compete with our best public schools that have union teachers?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Broad Superintendents Academy

How billionaire, former AIG director Eli Broad, is spreading the business model to public school systems

FOX anchorwoman: "I think this training should be called waste management." Broad spokesman Quinn agrees.

Update on Kent, WA teachers strike

Tentative agreement after 17-day strike

Teachers wanted smaller class size, fewer imposed meetings and more time spent with kids. In Washington, public employees are not allowed to strike. Judge Darvis tried to force teachers back to work with $200/day fines. Darvis accused teachers of "disrespect for the court" and of "setting a bad example for students."

But Kent administrators said smaller classes were too expensive, given the district's budget constraints, and that spending its reserve fund on smaller classes, as the union wanted it to do, would be irresponsible. Although the strike left many families scrambling for child care, growing numbers of parents nonetheless supported the teachers, rallying on their behalf and standing with them on picket lines. (Seattle Times)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A letter from the New Confederacy

Rep. Pence, recruiting an Armey

Has Indiana joined the New Confederacy? As I recall, Obama carried the state (obviously not all of it). Opinion-maker that I am, I just received a 13-page letter from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) that rivals anything Dick Armey (most aptly named man in America) could have thought up down in Texas. All I could remember about Pence's views on public ed was that he led the struggle to have classroom prayers "during the war on terror" and came out against the teaching of evolution. On the more interesting side, Pence is also against mandated state testing and national standards.

His Dear Mike letter begins with a rant about Obama/socialism/govt-ratio
ned health care/etc... His appeal is underwritten by a group called Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The foundation is bankrolling a recruiting campaign for more "ground troops" and Pence's letter is full of military metaphors.

When they're not busy trying to privatize public education, Pence and the AFP Foundation are recruiting soldiers to join the "grassroots citizens army" from the ranks of small business owners, those he claims, who are being "punished for their success." He's appealing to "hardworking families who've played by the rules" as opposed to all those others, I suppose, who just lay around the house all day, collecting entitlements. Together, rich and poor alike are, according to Pence, "marching under the banner of free enterprise." They're "fighting and winning battles" against "big government." They're building "an army of citizens" to fight the liberals, the unions, environmentalists, and especially

Hey, Congressman Pence. Sorry about the postage (oh wait, it's taxpayer's postage), but you've got the wrong guy. I'm not joining your Dick Army.

New models

Can models like New Tech and Project-Based-Learning replace the traditional factory-model high school?
“It’s a world apart from the old factory model of the high school with its rows of desks, textbooks and memorization,” said Ms. Martinez, whose organization has helped design 40 high schools in nine states and hopes to double that number by next year. (NYT)

Weekend quotables

WaPo editorial equating teacher pay raises to gas guzzling
... across-the-board increases to an artificial average are a discredited relic -- the education equivalent of building a gas guzzler when the market has turned to hybrids.
Dowd on Joe Wilson
Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
Ravitch asks us Chicagoans...
Friends in Chicago: why are Duncan and Obama in love with charters and pay for test scores?
Mayor Daley on his plummeting ratings

Ninety percent of those surveyed disapprove of the $1.15 billion, 75-year lease with a private company.
“If we didn’t have the parking meters money … we’d be in much more serious financial conditions. But that’s hard to explain to people because the transition did not go good…

Friday, September 11, 2009

Republican Gomorrah

The Charter School of Excellence

Max Blumenthal's book, Republican Gomorrah (Nation Books, 2009) book traces the rise of the radical right in the US and how it used the concept of personal crisis to grow as a movement and eventually capture control of the GOP to transform it from the party of Dwight Eisenhower to the party of Sarah Palin.

Here's an excerpt:
An authoritarian Christian-right self-help guru named Bill Gothard created the home-schooling regimen implemented by Murray's parents. Like his ally James Dobson, Gothard first grew popular during the 1960s by marketing his program to worried evangelical parents as anti-hippie insurance for adolescent children. Based on the theocratic teachings of R. J. Rushdoony, who devised Christian schools and home-schooling as the foundation of his Dominionist empire, Gothard's Basic Life Principles outlined an all-consuming environment that followers could embrace for the whole of their lives. According to Ron Henzel, a one-time Gothard follower who coauthored a devastating expose about his former guru called A Matter of Basic Principles, under the rules, "large homeschooling families abstain from television, midwives are more important than doctors, traditional dating is forbidden, unmarried adults are 'under the authority of their parents' and live with them, divorced people can't remarry under any circumstance, and music has hardly changed at all since the late nineteenth century."

At the Charter School for Excellence, a school in South Florida inspired by Gothard's draconian principles that receives $800,000 in state funds each year, children are indoctrinated into a culture of absolute submission to authority almost as soon as they learn to speak. A song that the school's first-graders are required to recite goes as follows:

Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name, I'll answer right away!
I'll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say "Yes, sir!" "Yes ma am!"
Hup, two, three!

Teach For Australia

Australia contracts with Teach for America. U.S. researchers, like ASU's David Berliner, ask: "What in the world are you thinking?"
The researchers also found that 69 per cent of TFA teachers had left by the end of their second year of teaching and 88 per cent had left by the end of their third year. That is, most TFA teachers do not stay in education long enough to make up for the damage they cause to their students during their first few years of teaching. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Busted for fraud

Remember Richard Gillman? Probably not. He's the former owner of Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors, the sight of last winter's plant takeover by workers. It was the first national response to corporate bailouts and drew praise from Pres. Obama.

Well Gillman, who tried to sneak the factory out from under his workers' noses and move it to Iowa, where he could set it up as a non-union operation, has been busted for fraud. He faces one count each of organizing a continuing financial crimes enterprise; mail fraud; money laundering; wire fraud; involvement in a financial crime conspiracy and a handful of other charges, the police official says. (Chi-Town Daily)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The always quotable Ravitch

"Is any charter school better than any public school? As we learned from the Stanford CREDO study of charters a few months ago, only 17 percent of charter schools are superior to comparable public schools; the rest were either no better or worse. Yet the Obama administration wants to open up the nation’s public schools—especially in urban districts—to massive privatization."--Bridging Differences

Teaching with social-justice in mind

Greg Michie

His book, Holler if You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students, became a favorite of young urban teachers when it was first published a decade ago. Now it's in its second edition. Greg is interviewed by Teacher Magazine.
I don’t think we can look at kids in poor neighborhoods, on the South Side of Chicago, for example, and think, “Oh well, kids are kids everywhere. They’re just like kids in a wealthy suburb of Chicago.” In some ways they are. I think twelve- and thirteen-year-olds have many of the same worries, fears, anxieties, and joys, but at the same time there are some real stark differences. It’s really important as a teacher to get to know that child, that context, that community, and not just say, “I teach 7th graders.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Grading schools in NYC

How Mayor Bloomberg games the system

Diane Ravitch lays it out in her Daily News commentary. "We are reaching a perilous stage where the test scores go up while real education - the kind that is available in the best schools - disappears."

The lost 18 minutes

WaPo's Jay Mathews was posing as a voice of reason when he came out against the broadcast of Obama's back-to-school speech. After all, he argued, the speech would take up valuable class time. It probably took Mathews the better part of a day to think up that excuse. But Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg makes minced meat out of it in a few well-crafted sentences:
"Instructional time is very precious." Since when? Don't they still blow days at a time, cramming for and then administering standardized tests? Every school in America burns hours with hygiene filmstrips and boredom. But Barack Obama appears, and suddenly they're all too busy to look up for 18 minutes.

The latest on BBA

I was beginning to wonder when and if the Broader Bolder Approach (BBA) group was going to gather some momentum. But now they seem to be on the move and fighting for a seat at an education policy table thus far dominated by conservative opponent Education Equity Project (EEP). That group, led by N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg, Al Sharpton, and Newt Gingrich, favors privatization and wants even greater emphasis on standardized testing. Until now, they have had the closest ties with Ed Sec. Arne Duncan and the greatest influence on DOE policy initiatives like Race To The Top.

A update issued today by co-chairs Co-Chairs Helen Ladd, Pedro Noguera, Tom Payzant, details BBA's early progress. It includes the BBA report, issued in June, which maintains that the burden of school reform cannot be shouldered by schools alone and that test scores alone cannot represent a true measure of school success or failure. BBA calls for a policy approach with combines school improvement with improvements in family living conditions, including early childhood care and education, health, and out-of-school time. Duncan and his staff received a briefing on the report and asked BBA leaders to follow it up with specific recommendations.

According to the latest update, BBA has responded to the request with specifics on improvement of tests and their use and on how Race To The Top funds should be used to improve schools and the lives of children. Recently, BBA Accountability committee members Linda Darling-Hammond, Dennis Van Roekel, Richard Rothstein, and Diane Ravitch promoted the BBA report at the National Journal's web site.


Obama speaking in Cincinnati at Labor Day picnic:
"We remember that the rights and benefits we enjoy today were not simply handed out to America's working men and women. They had to be won."
Shantelle Steve

The Chicago honor student, was lauded in Obama's back-to-school speech. The Julian High School student is also a member of Chicago Youth Initiating Change, which sponsors the annual Social Justice Student Expo — and she recently raised criticisms of Renaissance 2010 with CPS chief Ron Huberman.
“We have to change schools without getting rid of all the teachers, because they are our support system.”
San Diego charters excluding or avoiding special ed students. Only 4.1percent at start-up schools:
"One principal tells me all the time, 'Wouldn't your son be better off in another school? One that can provide him with better services?'" said Patricia Rogers, a parent who has sued both the High Tech system and San Diego Unified over special education issues. "They're inviting you to leave."

Keeping ELL grad rates a secret

Even though NCLB requires states to report graduation rates of English Language Learners (ELL), many don't or won't, according to EDWEEK's Mary Ann Zehr. She quotes an Arizona bureaucrat for example, who says that the state doesn't consider ELL grad rates important and has no expectations that ELL students will graduate on time, so they don't bother to report them.

One bright spot in Zehr's report is a group of N.Y. small schools that that have a mission to serve English-learners and helping to improve the city’s overall ELL graduation rate.
Among those small schools are 10 that are part of the Internationals Network for Public Schools. They enroll ELLs who have been in the country for less than four years. The average graduation rate for the seven graduating classes from those schools was 73 percent in the 2007-08 school year—higher than the city’s overall rate. And many students stay in school and receive a diploma after an additional year or two.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The wing-nuts were right

Obama's speech to the kids

My apologies to Beck, Malkin & Limbaugh. They were right about Obama all along. I played his so-called "stay-in-school speech" backward at 33.33 rpm to check for any subliminal, socialistic messaging. Here's what I heard:
At least, that's how it sounded to me. I'll bet they never thought we would crack the code.

An American disaster for public education

Stimulus dollars make a small dent

This according to this morning's NYT story by Sam Dillon. Arizona, California, Georgia and a dozen other states with overwhelming deficits, the federal money has failed to prevent the most extensive school layoffs in several decades...the shuffling of teachers out of their previous classrooms and into new ones, often in new districts or at unfamiliar grade levels — or onto unemployment — continues to disrupt instruction at thousands of schools...In Arizona, which is suffering one of the nation’s worst fiscal crises, some classrooms were jammed with nearly 50 students when schools reopened last month, and the norm for Los Angeles high schools this fall is 42.5 students per teacher.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Look who's opposing President Obama's speech

It's none other than WaPo's Jay Mathews. He insists he's not agreeing with wing-nut Michelle Malkin (he describes her only as a "columnist") or Florida Limbaugh Party Chairman Jim Greer, who both claim that Obama's back-to-school speech is part of some socialistic plot to take over the country. And I believe him, sort of.

No, Mathews is much more reasonable. He only wants to stop Obama's speech from being played in schools because the 15-minute don't drop out message "will take up too much class time." It seems some teachers once told him that they don't like classroom interruptions.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"The President is speaking. Don't let the children hear"

No more concessions, please

The dregs of the Republican Party, from Limbaugh, to Beck; from Malkin, to Palin, are frantic. They've got to keep their dwindling troops moving from battle to battle without time to think, (they must be reading Clausewitz) from death panels to Henry Louis Gates. And no wonder. Every time they shake a fist or show up with a gun on their hip, the Democrats either turn and run or else try unsuccessfully to coalesce with them.

This time it's the president's back-to-school speech. Obama is calling on kids to stay in school--an obvious "socialistic" ploy to indoctrinate our children in public Medrasaas or re-education camps, according to the tea-baggers.

I only hope that Obama doesn't make any more concessions to these whackos.

Chicago's at-risk hit list

Huberman's solution to gun violence

Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman has taken data-driven reform to the next level. He has contracted consultants who claim, with a $30-million budget, they can predict through data-analysis, the 1,200 CPS students out of 430,000, who "will most likely be shot." If you are fortunate enough to make the most-likely-to-be-shot list, you become eligible for a personal "advocate,'' a social worker and a job in an attempt to "turn your life around." Schools will also get more and better trained security guards. Not from Wackenhut, I hope.

How this will save student lives exactly, former Chicago cop Huberman doesn't say. This is especially bewildering since all of the 290 school kids shot last year, were shot outside of school with most being unintended victims.

According to the Sun-Times,
Huberman also has identified 38 schools that have more safety problems than would be expected. Principals of those schools will be paired with the principals of schools with high safety ratings. They will write plans to bring a "culture of calm'' to their schools, using lessons from the safer schools.
Huberman never says what he intends to do about the hundreds of potential shooters needed to shoot the 1,200 MLTBS kids. Probably hire a different group of consultants for that one.

Oh, I almost forgot...
Huberman also expressed interest in the "Jesuit model'' in which schools are headed by a president instead of a principal with an administrative certificate.
Yeah, the Jesuit model. Why hadn't we thought of that earlier?

Guest blogger --Nik Hartley from Motown

Nik is 13 and currently attends middle school in Detroit. He likes to write and play hoops. He's a good ball handler, but tells me, his outside shot needs work. That's Nik on the far right.


The Importance of Friends in Middle School

From my recent experiences at the overpopulated suburban school called Waldon Middle School, I know that many kids at my age exhibit extremely hostile and mean behavior towards their peers. The students who they target are primarily new kids and those who either have trouble making friends, or have been alienated to the extent that no-one wants to be around them simply because of what others say. They target those who are often alone or are ignored by the groups they hang out with, because they know that none of their targets "friends" can/will come to their aid if they are bullied.

This is not a situation that is easily ignored by the victims, because being constantly dehumanized can have a serious effect on their self-esteem and confidence to do anything in life. The mistake that teachers often make is the assumption that children will behave better and perform better if they don't have good friends in school. In my personal experience, this is the opposite of what really happens.

When I was constantly abused with no-one to help me stand up to the bullies, I felt my will to continue my schoolwork decrease. I also felt so emotionally torn down that I behaved badly in class as a way of releasing some of my stress, and because the teachers were already so against me I felt that it didn't even matter. I also attempted to be a disruptive class clown as a last resort of obtaining friends.

From all of my past experiences, I know that for a child to perform his/her best in school, while maintaining a healthy level of self-esteem, they need good friends who will stick with them. Not only does the student need to actively attempt to make friends, but the school should also encourage students to make friends with everybody and keep their eyes open for any situation where a student is excluded by their peers.