Monday, November 30, 2009

Philly follow-up

Hey Newt--Are they really teaching the "same kids"?

Readers might recall that two weeks ago I began looking into unsubstantiated claims made by Arne Duncan and his runnin' buddy, Newt Gingrich.

They both had claimed that Mastery Charter School in Philly had made spectacular gains in measurable student achievement, with "the same kids" as its "failed" predecessor, Shoemaker School. As I pointed out then, Mastery, for all its strengths and good metrics, wasn't operating under the same rules as neighborhood schools either in its admissions protocols or its reporting of student learning outcomes and therefore the two shouldn't be compared head-on.

Rather, whatever Mastery is doing well, ie. personalization, longer school day, etc... should be spread across the district wherever applicable.

Being a long-time small-schools advocate and an early supporter of charter schools, I wouldn't be dwelling on this point if it weren't for the way today's chains of privately-managed charter schools are currently being pitted against all neighborhood public schools and being misused politically by the likes of Gingrich who claims there's some magic in the charter format.There's no evidence, either in Philly or elsewhere to substantiate such claims.

Chris Satullo
at WHYY offers a more rational assessment:

It's not that charters can't work. It's that the movement harbors too many ideologues who will brook no criticism of their pet project; they seek to shield these PUBLIC schools from pesky questions about low test scores or misuse of public funds. To them the mere existence of charters is success enough. (Listen to the rest here)

Retired Philly teacher Edwin Smith takes on the claim about Mastery's "same kids" success, in an Inquirer opinion piece, concluding:
"The current charter school solution is producing an increasingly two-tiered educational system.
TWIE's John Thompson makes a similar point about another Duncan favorite, KIPP.
I do not understand how the first 123 students of Moon KIPP Academy could be mistaken for being "the same (501) students" who were "in the same building" the year before the neighborhood school was closed. Six years later and long after the demand for KIPP’s rigor has topped out, 215 KIPP students, with 11% on IEPs, get an excellent education - even though their turnover rate is 52%. This compares with the old school’s pattern of a 90 to 100% poverty rate with 24 to 33% of students on IEPs.

An Inquirer editorial, refers to Philadelphia's "50 percent dropout rate and abysmal test scores." But what it fails to mention is that these "abysmal" results come nearly a decade after Duncan's mentor, Paul Vallas came to Philly and presided over the nation's largest experiment in privatized management of schools, with the management of over 40 schools turned over to outside for-profits, nonprofits, and universities beginning in Fall 2002.


Louisiana teachers need help, not blame, says union head
"Our evaluation systems don't work," [AFT Pres. Randi] Weingarten said. She asked teachers how many of them had been subjected to so-called "drive-by" evaluations where someone comes in your room for 15 minutes with a checklist." Dozens of teachers raised their hands. (
L.A.'s bewildering web of "choice" schools
Parent Lisa Polydoros wasn't sure how charter schools work -- and no charter representative was on hand to clarify the matter. "I've been in the system all my life," she said, "and it's still confusing." (Howard Blume, L.A. Times)
If schools are now centers for social services...
"If basic needs are not met, children cannot learn," said Karen Thompson, a guidance counselor at Guilford Elementary School in Sterling. "If we have children coming to school hungry, that is our first concern. We also have to make sure they have shoes, warm clothing. Have they slept? Do they have a place to live?" (WaPo)
...what happens to poor communities when thousands are closed, Arne Ducan?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bloomberg gets my Stuffing-the-Bird Award

This year's winner

Speaking on podium with Arne Duncan, Mayor Bloomberg says his strategy for winning federal RTTT funds is firing teachers.

Duncan responds:
“If folks are just making changes to chase the money, that’s the wrong thing to do,” Duncan said today. “The money will last for two, three or four years. We want the kinds of changes that will last for two, three or four decades.” (Bloomberg)


Go Eagles!
We have a few college students online from college of Georgia Southern University and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog Manager,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Math literacy & social change

The Young People’s Project uses Math Literacy as a tool to develop young leaders and organizers.
In the same way that Ella Baker helped fashion a space for the students who sat-in to think and organize for themselves, the Algebra Project provided a space for YPP to grow and develop. Twelve years later, here we are. (Omo Moses, YPP Founder)


Did Ed Sector fudge Toch's research?

It looks that way. Here's a note FairTest's Monty Neill posted this morning on the North Dakota Study Group listserv:

EdSector CMO Report: Who Lost Tom Toch?

Thanks to a couple of eagle-eyed readers (including MDM) for pointing out that the much-delayed Education Sector report on charter management organizations lacks the name -- and apparently much of the content provided by -- its original author, writer and EdSector co-founder Tom Toch.

Asked about the situation, Toch said, "I removed my name from the report because a good deal of my analysis was removed and, as published, the report does not reflect my research findings on the current status and future prospects of charter management organizations."

Toch says he submitted the 20,000-word report in June, based on two years of investigation, but did not see anything further until a paper copy of the final report was shown to him this past weekend. A good deal of the candid commentary from those within the charter community "had been removed," according to Toch. And the report recommendations were added on by someone else.

Toch can't publish the original version of the report because of copyright issues but he points to several other pieces (in Education Week and the Kappan) that reflect his findings more completely, and notes that he will continue to write and speak on the issue.

No response yet from Education Sector.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Look who's bidding to run L.A. schools

It's none other than Paul Vallas' consulting firm, Synesi Assoc., bidding to run 35 (formerly) public schools. Former Daley-appointed schools CEO in Chicago, Vallas got booted in 2001. He then journeyed to Philly where he brought in Synesi as subcontractors under Princeton Review's contract with the district, before leaving with the district in economic shambles. Then he took over post-Katrina New Orleans schools where he abrogated the union contract and fired every teacher in the city. He then sub-contracted with Synesi to consult with 35 city schools.

Synesi describes itself as a "a boutique consulting firm." It's run by several of Vallas' old cronies like Gary Solomon and former intervention chief Phil Hanson, from the Chicago district who market Vallas' management talents with first-time-free consults, while feathering a nest for him once he leaves N.O.
Synesi Foundation is the non-profit arm of Synesi Associates, a school-management consulting firm based in Illinois. Gary Solomon, president of Synesi Associates, said his organization bid on all but one of the 36 schools as a way of developing a relationship with LAUSD, but ultimately may withdraw the bids and work with the district through other means. (Daily News)
Readers may recall my previous posts on how Synesi and Vallas moved on Rockford, Illinois.

Here's the list of bidders wishing to take over LAUSD schools. What's really funny (sad) is that even other California school districts are now bidding to run L.A. schools.

Monday, November 23, 2009

While N.Y inner-city schools struggle for survival...

From New York Magazine:

"Ross Global, Courtney Ross’s new charter school, is holistic, organic, Ayurvedic, artistic, and evolutionary. But when you’re building an educational Utopia, there are going to be some casualties."
For four-plus years, charter schools have been Chancellor Joel Klein’s most pampered pet cause. And now, after considerable hoo-ha in the press, a unique and controversial example of the genre had unpacked itself in his own ground floor.
h/t Brother Fred

Pedro Noguera to Duncan...

"Stop bashing ed schools!"
Secretary Duncan would be more likely to move the nation’s education agenda forward if he did less scolding and more encouraging. As the occupant of the most visible bully pulpit in the field, he might do this by offering and soliciting suggestions on ways to invigorate schools—not with more testing, but with creative approaches to instruction that foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity among students. ("The New War Against Ed Schools")

Detroit teachers contract extended

"Progress being made" with Weingarten's help
"You have some amazing teachers in Detroit who have been in a system that has been dysfunctional both for kids as well as for teachers and the other employees who work in it." (Detroit News)


Wall Street Journal attacks Ford Foundation
And yet the Ford press release contains not one mention of charter schools, vouchers, merit pay or even Teach for America...One might have hoped that Ford's administrators would have looked at some of the real innovation being done by philanthropies such as Gates or the Walton Foundation and seen how truly far behind the times Ford's ideas are. (OnlineWSJ)
Ford Fund responds
We want communities to have the resources to be at the table and have their voices for change heard. Our belief is that empowering consumers, parents and students will help drive change. One serious disagreement we have with the Journal's editors, however, is their vilification of teachers. (Ford Foundation letter to WSJ)
Bill Moyers warns on Afghan war

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart. And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision. (The Nation)

Friday, November 20, 2009

UC students calling it the "death of public education"


What's it all about?
This is exactly what life is about. You get a paycheck every two weeks. We’re preparing children for life. —District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (Mark Slouka in Harper's)
Look Ma, I'm a "school-based factor"
“We firmly believe that in order to have a good understanding of effective teaching we need multiple measures,” said Gates spokesman Christopher Williams, adding, “a teacher is the most important school-based factor in student achievement. We want research that helps the field better understand what makes a great teacher. What does great teaching look like and how do you measure it?” (L.A. Times)
Berkeley--It's not the drinking water
I mean, protests at Berkeley are necessary, not because the water produces radicalism or that there’s something, you know, that we just do at Berkeley; it’s the nature of the institution. In the ’60s it was necessary to protest UC Berkeley, because they were developing atomic weapons. And now it is necessary to protest at UC Berkeley because of what is being forced on us. (Michael Cohen, lecturer in American studies at UC Berkeley)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sen. Feingold: GAO study finds...

...NCLB has hurt disadvantaged kids

A government study released earlier this week, originally requested by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, has found that problematic educational practices are occurring more frequently in some high-poverty and high-minority schools across the country.

Says Feingold:
This report reaffirms my concern that the No Child Left Behind Law’s one-size-fits-all approach and heavy focus on high-stakes testing is causing problems in schools, particularly schools that serve our most disadvantaged students. The study found that problematic teaching practices like teaching to the test and spending more time on test preparation are happening more frequently in high-poverty and high-minority schools, many of which already have less access to high-quality teachers and resources than more affluent schools.

No it's not the Onion

It's the other McCarthy--just as funny though

Andrew McCarthy our favorite commie hunter during the Obama campaign, is back again raising that hair-raising question--did Bill Ayers really write Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father? Real conservatives must be nauseous over what's become of Buckley's old National Review.

What McCarthy doesn't realize is that Ayers actually ghost wrote War & Peace and the New Testament. Shhh!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ravitch--a conundrum wrapped in an enigma

It must have been difficult for President Obama to lecture the Chinese about democratic freedoms and "black cells" while the world is reading daily about U.S. renditions, kidnappings, waterboarding, and Gitmo.

Now comes Diane Ravitch, a critic of undemocratic schooling practices who turns around and defends the most anti-democratic abridgment of Constitutional rights ever handed us by Bush and Cheney. Her latest tweets are little more than fear-mongering and spreading baseless alarm, while attacking the Justice Department's attempt to try accused terrorists being held without trials or hearings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Here's some of those tweets:
The terrorist trial will be delayed for years by pre-trial motions and every shred of evidence will be challenged. They may walk.

Obama decision to give KSM and other terrorists a civilian trial is incomprehensible.

They did not commit a "crime." 9/11 was terrorism.

This may be Obama's worst decision.
KSM committed no crime? KSM may walk? Where? In Brooklyn? What happened to Ravitch the small d democrat? Thanks to Obama for (too slowly) getting rid of torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial, hearings, lawyers or habeas corpus. And what the hell is wrong with pre-trial motions and challenging every shred of evidence, anyway? Aren't those the underpinnings of our system of justice?

The best response to fear mongers like Ravitch, Beck and Limbaugh comes from 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Sun-Times: Mike Scott took heat for Daley

One of mayor's "fixers"

City Hall reporter Fran Spielman, writing on death of School Board President Michael Scott, in this morning's S-T:
Daley values loyalty above all else and trusts just a precious few. Scott earned the mayor’s trust by taking enough heat for Daley over the last 30 years to earn an asbestos suit. Scott knew better than anyone that the mayor’s fixers operate best in the shadows outside public view. He also knew what former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas obviously did not — that anybody who commanded more headlines than Daley would eventually be run out of town.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No excuses Newt

Gingrich hearts Mastery

On Sunday's Meet the Press, starring Duncan, Sharpton and Gingrich, I heard Newt touting a Philadelphia charter school called Mastery. Mastery is also hailed by Duncan and the DOE as one of the nation's 15 "exemplar charter schools" and a model of a turnaround school (where they keep the kids and fire all the teachers and staff).

I'm not personally familiar with Mastery but it sounds like a good school for those who choose to attend and are able to get in. Of course I like its small-by-design approach with lots of personalized support and assessment based on content mastery. I also like students being able to take 5 years to graduate, if needed.

But because Gingrich pushed it so hard as a model, and Duncan went there to kick off his tour, it made me wonder--just who gets in, stays in, and graduates from Mastery? According to Gingrich, it's a "no excuses" school. That means that school leaders, believe that they can transcend all the negative effects that poverty and racial inequity.

Then Gingrich described Mastery this way:
Three years ago the state became desperate, took over the school, turned it over to Mastery, which is a charter school system. Same building, same students. Three years later, they're in the 86th percentile.
Amazing! In just 3 years, just by taking over a school and turning it over to a private operator, these "same kids" jumped 61 percentile points. Is that all it takes--no mention by Newt of anything curricular, competency of teachers, money, small schools size, etc...

As you might expect, Gingrich wasn't telling us the whole story. While Mastery students did well in some subject areas like reading, they scored low and the school failed to make AYP in others (math). Rather Newt was using Mastery to push his own political agenda--not fair to Mastery and not fair to the neighborhood schools against which Mastery is being pitted.

It doesn't appear for example, that Mastery operates under the same rules or conditions as did its predecessor. And they don't exactly teach all the "same kids." For one thing, Mastery admits only those students whose parents are willing and able to sign a contract. Then prospective students are made to attend a pre-enrollment meeting. Mastery says the meeting isn't evaluative. But right there you eliminate all those students without active parents or those intimidated by the process or who question Mastery's program or school curriculum. Not a bad approach for matching kids with a choice program. But it gives Mastery a decided edge over the neighborhood schools.

Mastery also has a small enrollment, an 11.3:1 student-teacher ratio, and millions of dollars in extra grant support,

John Thompson at TWIE points out that at Mastery's Pickett campus,"there was a 42% attrition rate - a rate that would have killed their reforms in a neighborhood school." I'm currently looking at Philly charter school data to see if it conforms with Thompson's assessment. But it does sound familiar. It's obvious that if you recruit selectively and if you're allowed to get rid of many of your low-scoring kids, you're scores will go up. And if you push them back into the large, neighborhood schools, your scores will look even better than their scores.


P.S. Last week, Mastery kids couldn't get to school due to a strike of transit workers. But even before the strike, students had a difficult time using SEPTA because a dean was caught stealing $6,000 in student tokens and TransPasses. I hope Gingrich won't use that as an excuse.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hedge fund school-reformer nearly fesses up

"There's a very fine line between what all of us do, and fraud..."

Whitney Tilson is the sugar-daddy and co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)-- Democrats in name only. Tilson and the hedge-fund reformers have lots of pull inside the DOE at present. Their goal is to move Duncan more towards school vouchers and privately-managed charters. Basically a current version of the Ownership Society in ed policy.

In this video, Tilson responds to the acquittal of former Bear Stearns hedge-fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin and breathes a sigh of relief at the failure of the U.S. govt.'s first case against Wall Street bankers for wrongdoing in the run-up to the current global financial collapse.


Duncan, Gingrich & Sharpton on Meet the Press
Duncan: "I just want to say, as a country, we need more good schools." Me: Why the hell didn't we think of this?

More Duncan: "Good charter schools are a piece of the answer. Bad charter schools are a piece of the problem."
Me: DOH!

Duncan on DOE INVESTMENT: "We will only invest in those states and districts where student achievement is part of the evaluation." Me: Yes, let the anti-testers starve.

Host Gregory: "I mean, in 1995, Speaker Gingrich, you were an advocate of dismantling the Department of Education." Me: That was before he discovered it was a cash cow for corporate reformers.
NYT editorial: RTTT favors "boutiques" like TFA
The language in the application reflects timidity at the White House and in Congress, where some voices wanted to delay the fight over this issue until next year when Congress will likely reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The language also reflects the sometimes excessive influence of boutique alternative certification programs, which want to keep doors open for teachers who might be shut out under traditional criteria.
Here's Checker Finn at his humanitarian best:
It's a fact that employment was an explicit purpose of stimulus funding--Congress said as much--and with today's jobless rate over ten percent only a churl would deny the humanitarian value as well as the political appeal of this.
Then Checker the churl adds:
That said, turning schools into a jobs program--while well-run public organizations and private firms use the economic crisis to purge weak performers, cherry-pick talent, and position themselves to be more productive going forward--is a dubious way to tone them up for the 21st century.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Hi Mike,

Caught up with some of my reading and saw editorial in yesterday's NY Times questioning Duncan's commitment to putting the best teachers in front of the most challenged students. Everyone seems to be freaking out about the worst teachers being in front of educationally neglected children. Let me share what I have seen with these credentialed teachers we get in urban classrooms.

DPS has the highest percent of NBCT in the State of Michigan. The teachers receive their certification while working in their urban classrooms. Once they attain that certification eventually their salaries increase by somewhere between $5000 and $10,000 annually. I am all for increasing salaries. Problem is the manor in which these folks get certified. These teachers are usually the favored teachers by administrators in the building. To assist these folks in the certification process children are unequally distributed among the rest of staff so that a teacher or a number of teachers can do amazing things with their smaller groups of children. Once they pass the process of certification many resort back to their old practices of pulling out the dvd player many times during the week to let kids watch movies. Most teachers in Detroit Public Schools do not respect the many NBCT folks because they know the real deal.

Thus Duncan not addressing this Highly Qualified Issue in giving our Race to the Top funds -- well I am pleased he isn't tagging that onto the receipt of the funding. My own three kids went to school in Detroit.We had to use the Catholic School System because DPS just wasn't and still isn't cutting it. When we tried to use DPS and Cass Tech High -- Ken Burnley made it clear it wasn't about kids in 2005.

Long and short of it is the teachers my kids had were not credentialed up. In fact some were only college graduates that simply loved what they did -- teaching and working with kids. I still have a high school student in the house. We had to move from Detroit to get a proper high school education for my daughters. Son went to U of D Jesuit High. There is no school like that for females in Detroit. Cass -- like I said didn't fly.

I would much rather my children be taught by someone who loves what they do, someone who in an interview can share where they have taken their children, than to have my children taught by someone who can pull out a resume with Harvard on it. Seriously we only learn if we are meant to teach once we get into these classrooms. It is not the credentials. It is the heart.

A.C. (Detroit)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inside Chicago's school "renaissance"

No "choice" for embattled Fenger kids

On Thursday, 10 students filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools, alleging that their constitutional right to a public education is being denied because the district will not allow them to transfer and they fear going to Fenger in the wake of Albert's death and their own experiences with violence there.

Mayor Daley
says he's for school choice. But when parents and kids at embattled Fenger High asked to opt out, the Mayor's response was, "Fenger is a very good school."

Of course, Fenger was one of those schools where the entire teaching staff was swept out of their jobs (not by choice) under the Mayor's Renaissance 2010 "turnaround" and replaced by a new, inexperienced team that was taken by surprise by the violence which occurred outside their school that resulted in the death of Derrion Albert. Violence at the school has escalated since Daley closed Carver High and turned it into a selective-enrollment military school, scattering dozens of kids to schools like Fenger that were ill-prepared to receive them.
Tywon ended up at Fenger after his mother lost her assembly-line job with an auto parts manufacturer. At the time the single mother's priority was finding a place to live. By July, she was receiving government assistance and had moved her family of four from Calumet City to the Far South Side. During the rush to relocate she didn't have time to worry about which schools her kids would attend.

One district official advised her to declare Tywon homeless, because no school can deny or delay transfers of homeless children, she said. Another administrator recommended she use someone else's address to enroll him in a new school, she said. But a student who falsifies an address is subject to being moved back to the assigned school. (Tribune)

Brit teachers call for smaller schools

Inspired by U.S. Small Schools Movement

The BBC reports:
These "front-line" opinions from young teachers in tough schools include the view that big schools should be re-designed to give them the "characteristics of smallness"... But the trend has been for a reduction in the number of small secondary schools - falling by 43% since 1995 to 156... The report also calls for more collaboration between urban schools, suggesting that three or four schools could become partners and share teaching expertise.

The idea that learning is more effective in smaller school settings has been championed in the United States with the "small schools movement".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lower pay, no degrees, lots of ponds

At wealthy Prairie Crossing, charter school they pay teachers 10% less. Here's why:
School Director Myron Dagley said he tries to peg an incoming teacher's salary at about 90 percent of the pay at schools feeding the charter. He relies on the school's unique environmental mission and small class sizes to help with recruitment. "(Teachers) have a lot of academic freedom implementing our curriculum," Dagley said. "We have a 2.4-acre campus. There are a large number of ponds, hiking trails, paths and prairie restoration areas. Our students, and teachers, have the benefit of accessing all those common areas." Another factor in its relatively low average pay is that most of the school's 25 educators are young and do not have advanced degrees. (Chicago Tribune)

Here's why Arne Ducan should be pushing health care reform

ASCD responds to think-tanker Rick Hess

Yesterday, Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a blog post that questions why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would become involved in health care reform. Here at the Whole Child Blog, we ask: "Why wouldn't he?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


In response to this morning's post "From the School House to the Jail House" I received this statement from Perspectives Charter School leaders:

Perspectives Charter Schools

It is unfortunate that recent national attention on Perspectives Charter Schools centers on the events surrounding last week’s food fight at the middle school on our Calumet campus. The event is not reflective of the culture of our school.

At Perspectives, we are focused on educating our children and preparing them for success in college and life. The Perspectives community includes five excellent charter schools around the city of Chicago, and our graduates have gone on to our nation’s top universities. Perspectives schools operate around the concept of A Disciplined Life©—a set of principles aimed at teaching our children to communicate effectively and solve problems peacefully.

Last year, more than 90 percent of our seniors graduated and went on to college. We have Chicago’s fourth highest college retention rate.

Regrettably, several of our young students made an error in judgment—as children often do—in participating in the food fight. The Chicago police officers who help protect our school felt it was necessary to arrest those responsible.

We have been working closely with parents, community members and police to ensure that these students are treated fairly as they deal with the consequences of this situation. Perspectives’ leadership will stand by our students as advocates when they appear in court later this month. In the meantime, we will continue to concentrate on our primary role—teaching and learning.

Please feel free to call us with any questions or concerns. Contact Kim Day at 312-604-2122.


Kim Day and Diana Shulla-Cose, Co-Founders

Larry Ashkin, Chairman of the Board

From the school house to the jail house

From the NY Times:
The food fight here started the way such bouts do in school lunchrooms most anywhere: an apple was tossed, a cookie turned into a torpedo...
The problem is, this wasn't "most anywhere." It happened at a Chicago south-side charter middle school with the result of 25 African-American students, some as young as 11 years old, being sent off to jail. I'm talking with educators at the school to try and find out how such a thing could happen at a small charter school with a culture built around the slogan is "A disciplined Life" and to find out what will be done to set things right with the kids and parents.

More to come.

VIDEO from Channel 2 News

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Down the rabbit hole with Arne

After a year of Arne Duncan's threats to "drop a ton of bricks" (withhold badly needed federal dollars) on states and school districts that resisted lifting charter school caps, ill-conceived merit pay schemes, mayoral control, or school "turnarounds," comes this:
No Child Left Behind expanded the powers of the federal government to impose accountability. That was the consensus at the time – but I’m on record saying that – when I was in Chicago I didn’t look forward to a call from Washington. Now that I’m here I’m even more convinced that our role is to support – not dictate -- education reform at the state and local level.

Report from New Orleans

It was one of those rare years when I didn't (couldn't) make it to the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. This year's Forum was held in New Orleans in the wake of the death of CES's founder, Ted Sizer. So I'm relying on friends and colleagues to fill me in on the happenings.

This report from Matt Alexander was in mailbox yesterday and was posted on the Smallschools Listserv:

Hi everyone,

I just got back from the CES Fall Forum in New Orleans -- an inspiration as usual! Thanks so much to Lewis Cohen and the folks at CES national for continuing to make this phenomenal gathering a reality.

It was also fascinating -- and depressing -- to learn about the state of public schools in New Orleans 4 years after Katrina. I have always thought that choice was an important component of an effective school system, but what I heard and saw over the past few days made me question my thinking. Despite the many choices available -- numerous charters, plus two different school districts --it seems that a disturbing number of families cannot access public schools, either because nearby schools are full or because they have burdensome admissions requirements. Many of the best choices seem to be in wealthier neighborhoods; the Lower Ninth Ward (where housing is also hard to come by) has only one school (as opposed to 4 before the storm).

After hearing about this at the conference, I saw yesterday's Times-Picayune, which is doing a series on the same subject. The first article, "Selecting a school can be a real test for New Orleans parents," came out yesterday and there are stories coming this week describing 4 families' efforts to enroll their children in a good school.

Matt Alexander
June Jordan School for Equity
San Francisco, CA

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanks EWA

Spoke at Education Writers Assoc. meeting in San Diego--"Small Schools & High School Reform." Great group of journalists. Lively discussion. Good range of panelists politically speaking. Mostly researchers, but missing teacher voice. I'm heading home but writers are visiting S.D. schools including High Tech Hi & Big Picture.Thanks for the invite EWA.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gates study to measure teachers beyond the test scores

Bill Gates is putting up $2.6 million for a study on measuring teacher effectiveness "beyond using test scores." The study will be a two-year joint project between the UFT and New York's DOE.

But why? Both Gates and N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein have long been the main advocates for "merit pay" based solely on test scores. It was less than a year ago that Klein extolled the virtues of THE TEST in his interview in U.S. News.
"...we're kidding ourselves if we don't think these tests are giving us a reasonably accurate prediction of whether we're getting our kids ready for—at least in New York City—ready for graduation with a regent's diploma, which is a meaningful standard."
So if test scores are so accurate, why all the money spent on alternative and varied assessments? Maybe the push-back has been too strong. The line from the top seems to be shifting slightly as NCLB re-authorization time draws nearer.

Push-back is good.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Schools and High School Reform: Shrinking Size, Diminishing Returns?

Nov. 8-10, 2009
San Diego, California

Join the Education Writers Association for a three-day seminar exploring issues and story ideas related to small schools and high school reform. Participants will visit schools and take an in-depth look at programs in the San Diego Unified School District, hearing firsthand from teachers, principals, students and parents about their experiences.

Sessions include:

  • Left Behind: The Big High School
  • Small in Size, but Not in Feel?
  • Reporters' Experiences Covering Small Schools
  • What Big Districts Can Learn from Small Schools

Featured speakers include Michael Klonsky, Small Schools Workshop and Center for Innovative Schools; Libia Gil, American Institutes for Research; Ash Vasudeva, Stanford University School Redesign Network; Karin Chenoweth, The Education Trust; and Clara Hemphill, New School Center for New York City Affairs.

The seminar is tentatively scheduled to begin Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m., and conclude Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 2:15 p.m.

We have reserved a block of rooms at the Hotel Solamar. Contact (877) 230-0300 to make reservations. Let the hotel know that you are attending the EWA seminar. The hotel reservation deadline is Oct. 14.

Start Date:
End Date:

If you'd like to attend this event you can RSVP online.

A terrible loss for DePaul and the entire community

Francisco "Frankie" Valencia

Valencia's friends said his combination of intellect, street smarts and idealism made him a standout at DePaul. He used his ambition, charisma and personal story of struggle to encourage other "young men of color to persevere in their educational pursuits," DePaul spokeswoman Denise Mattson said. Valencia's mother, Joy McCormack, said Valencia also was a role model to his younger siblings. He volunteered at Chicago public schools and for the Barack Obama campaign. He also traveled to Colombia on a humanitarian mission. "His ambition, idealism, intelligence, enthusiasm and commitment made him a natural leader," McCormack said in a statement. "He aspired to have a career in politics and to serve as an example to the Latino community." (Tribune)

Mayoral control? More reasons why not

"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed." Arne Duncan
Duncan has made mayoral control of the schools a centerpiece of his school reform initiative with Chicago's Mayor Daley and New York's Bloomberg his role models. But there's plenty of evidence to show why such autocratic control fails in practice. The latest has Daley, faced with a City Hall budget crisis, shifting his trusted machine administrators onto the the public school payroll into high-paying, non-educator jobs while hundreds of teachers are being laid off. CPS under mayoral control has become the new patronage hiring hall.

This from today's Catalyst Notebook:

Mayor's Troubleshooter Barbara Lumpkin lands $154,000-a-year job with Board of Education. (Sun-Times)

Lumpkin is the City Hall equivalent of a utility infielder. She has also served as Daley's city comptroller, budget director and city treasurer following the conviction of Miriam Santos...In 2005, her name turned up on city documents as one of four officials who signed off on some of the 14 pay raises over eight years -- three within two months -- granted to former gang member-turned convicted Hired Truck czar Angelo Torres.

This, according to the Sun-Times:

During a brief stint as city treasurer -- before Santos was released from prison and re-claimed the office only to turn around and plead guilty -- Lumpkin downplayed as "routine" $445.6 million in transaction errors that cost a top employee his job and deprived taxpayers of $102,428 in interest and penalties. To plug a $475 million budget gap -- the largest since Daley's 1995 school takeover -- CPS is raising property taxes by $43 million and cutting 450 more jobs. Some of them may be teachers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Militarization of public schooling

He turned Chicago into a Mecca for military schools. Chi-town has more than any city in the nation. A DOE media advisory informs us that today Arne Duncan will take time out from his Listening Tour with Newt Gingrich to support generals and admirals calling for students to be better prepared for the war machine.

The question arises: Duncan was certainly able, in peak athletic condition with intellectual skills honed at Harvard. Why didn't he enlist?

Minorities make up 92 percent of the cadet population. Only 4 percent are white, compared to 8 percent of the general Chicago public schools population.

There are no public school military academies in Chicago's suburbs.

Stimulus 'saved' teaching jobs that never were

Well, I was looking for some way to give Arne Duncan credit for something good. You know me. I always try to be balanced in my criticism of ed bureaucrats and deal makers. So when I read the DOE stats saying that the ed stimulus had "saved 325,000 jobs in education," I believed it and posted the NYT article with only its small disclaimer, that "counting jobs that were saved can be a squishier proposition than counting jobs that were created." Of course, it should have occurred to me that the whole story was pure B.S.

This from today's Trib:
More than $4.7 million in federal stimulus aid so far has been funneled to schools in North Chicago, and state and federal officials say that money has saved the jobs of 473 teachers. Problem is, the district employs only 290 teachers.
(h/t Brother Fred)