Friday, January 29, 2010

'More losers than winners'

Forbes interviews the Sec. of Ed. on Race-To-The-Top
It's a free-market-style competition, and Duncan warns in an interview with Forbes that when the results are announced in April, there will be "more losers than winners." (Obama's Classroom Fixer)

Will "V.D." finally do the time?

They called him "Fast Eddie" back in the day, when he led the Democratic machine's racist assault on Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. But we just called him, "V.D." Ed Vrdolyak was finally convicted last February after he collected illegal kickbacks in a crooked $1.5 million school construction land deal. But a crony U.S. District Judge, Milton Shadur, let V.D. walk free.

Today's Sun-Times reports that Vrdolyak’s probation-only sentence for fraud has been overturned by an appellate panel, meaning he could face prison time when he is re-sentenced. We're still waiting.

What passes for reform in Illinois

More RTTT testing madness
The most provocative reforms will replace the elementary school ISAT with a tougher exam, mandate testing at every grade and rate teachers and principals based on students' test results. (Tribune)

Bloomberg/Klein closing NYC schools but...

Replacing them with what?

Juan Gonzalez, in today's Daily News,

Hours after rebuffing parents and voting to shut 19 public schools, education officials announced plans to end most programs at Alfred E. Smith High in the Bronx and replace them with a charter school. That charter school, however, has its own troubled history. Read the rest here.

Daley appoints another fixer as board president

Daley said he does not "condone any misuse of taxpayers' money by anyone, no matter who it is."--Clout Street

Mayor Daley has appointed another of his trusted political manager/fixers to become the next president of the the Board of Education. Mary Richardson-Lowry, a corporate lawyer from the power-house Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw law firm, served as a City Hall counsel and Daley-appointed building commissioner. She also led the transition team for then-incoming County Board President Todd Stroger. She brings with her, no background in public education except for the fact that (like Arne Duncan) her mother was a teacher.

According to Catalyst,
Richardson-Lowry left the building commissioner post days after an accident at the John Hancock Center, where scaffolding plunged more than 40 floors to the ground during a wind storm and killed three women. But a city spokesperson said Richardson-Lowry’s departure had nothing to do with the accident.
Richardson-Lowry comes to a school board in the midst of a major scandal and her appointment will do little to change CPS image as an annex of City Hall, rife with corruption and patronage. The last two board presidents, Michael Scott (who committed suicide in November) and Rufus Williams, are the subject of investigations surrounding the misuse of funds. Daley's appointed schools CEO Ron Huberman recently revoked credit cards from 89 CPS bureaucrats. As one would expect, the current investigation is being carefully run by another Daley-appointed lawyer.

Richardson-Lowry's appointment should help keep a lid on the investigation and make sure that there's a firewall between it and the 5th floor of City Hall.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blogs & Tweets, where do they go?

Yesterday, I was sending around a provocative piece by WaPo ed beat writer, Bill Turque, on the whole Michelle Rhee fiasco, when suddenly, about 7:30 p.m., his story disappeared. When friends went to the link, they were greeted with some kind of "no longer available" sign. I tweeted around, asking, "what happened to Turque?" Nobody seemed to know.

Had the Post editorial board censored him for revealing the disparity between street reporting and editorial decisions re. Rhee? Did Mayor Fenty and Rhee's big-money supporters demand Turque's head? Paranoia runs deep these days.

But as the sun comes up this morning, (everywhere except here in Chicago, I suppose) I see Turque's D.C. Schools Insider column is back on line. Must have been some kind of technical problem, right? But wait a minute. Something has been changed. In the last paragraph of Turque's original piece, he asks:

Are Fenty and Rhee gaming the system by using the editorial page this way? Of course. Is this a healthy thing for readers of The Post? Probably not. Is it going to keep me from doing my job effectively? Nope.

Damn! That was the very line I had pulled out and tweeted about yesterday. But when the column reappeared this morning, the entire last paragraph was missing--except for, "Is it going to keep me from doing my job effectively? Nope." Luckily, I had made a copy of Turque's original column.

Now that last question looms large. As the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not trying to get you.

Another disappearing Act

This one, not nearly as significant, although still Rhee-related.

On Tuesday, I had a little, not-so-friendly exchange with ed gadfly blogger, Alexander Russo. Russo, in his TWIE blog, had launched a broadside against Rhee's critics, charging them with opportunism for jumping all over the D.C. superintendent for saying:

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school."

Russo continued his Tweet assault, with the lead-in "I'm no Rhee apologist, but..."

When I responded, Russo took me to task for criticizing Rhee's stupid remarks claiming, I was "defending bad teachers."

But by Wednesday, all of Russo's blog posts about Rhee's statement had vanished along with all of Russo's Tuesday tweets about Rhee. When I and several other bloggers asked him if he had removed them, Russo simply tweeted, "Nope. They're still there."

They aren't. Russo made them go away. Why? Was he embarrassed? If you go to his blog now, you will find a dateline from Sept. 3 instead of his apologies for Rhee's remarks. Strange!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My campaign is over before it has even begun

Betti Cadmus and her book-banning board members in Menifee Union School Dist. undercut my campaign by putting Webster's Dictionary back on the shelves. I didn't even have a chance to send her our list of dirty words culled from Webster's soiled pages. But don't fret wing-nuts. Betti and the gang are allowing parents to have their kids read another version of the dictionary (presumably cleaner). Maybe we should start looking through the Oxford Dictionary. Yes! there it is: ORAL SEX.

I hope my blogs on this topic weren't responsible for Menifee's retreat. I was hoping a banning of the dictionary would increase readership and boost student test scores. Fortunately for them, board members aren't tested.

Duncan's donuts

Did he say it? We're never quite sure

Arne Duncan,
who has called for the closing of 5,000 schools, is interviewed by Politico's Mike Allen

DUNCAN: And then finally, having the courage to challenge the status quo, and what we're calling the bottom 1 percent of schools each year; not the 99 percent that are either world-class or they're improving each year, but those schools where the status quo is frankly unacceptable. And when we fail to do our job, when we're not educating, we--we perpetuate poverty.

ALLEN: 99 percent of schools in the country are acceptable?

DUNCAN: I didn't say that.


By night's end, all the testimony by the community meant nothing to Bloomberg/Klein's Panel. They were going to close 19 city schools no matter what evidence was presented. Here's the last on-the-scene report from Anna & Maura at Gotham Schools.
4 a.m. After a two-hour protest that closed the streets in Fort Greene; nearly nine hours of testimony by concerned elected officials, parents, teachers, and students; and a series of votes that underscored the divide between Mayor Bloomberg and everyone else on school politics, the Panel for Educational Policy determined early this morning that 20 city schools, both young and old, small and large, will begin to close this fall. We’ll have more about the implications of the panel’s decisions starting sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Timothy Knowles is director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. Here he responds on WBEZ to parents who are trying to save their neighborhood school from being closed.

This is deeper than bad data on standardized test scores. This is about an institution being taken away that my child goes to, I went to, maybe my mother went to. Frankly, it’s about communities, it’s about neighborhoods, it’s about relationships. Data doesn’t tip those things. And the district doesn’t factor those things in to its school closings. Most of Chicago’s closings and turnarounds have taken place in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty.

Knowles says it’s hard to measure the cost of eliminating one of the last remaining institutions in a disinvested neighborhood. If we could measure that, it might make closing schools more of a dilemma.

Alfie Kohn on Edweek's Live Chat
"Assessment systems must be aligned with [national] expectations (standards)." Now there's a sentence that should strike fear in the heart of all good teachers."
Supt. Michelle Rhee referring to 266 laid-off D.C. teachers
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" (Fast Company)
Rhee, yesterday
"'It was never our intention, nor did I ever say, it was all of the teachers who fell into these categories...Our intention was not to paint all teachers with a broad brushstroke." (Edweek)
Rhee apologists
"Michelle Rhee's great virtue is that she's been willing to say what others have not been willing to say, and to take on fights others are not willing to take on," said Andy Smarick of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (Washington Examiner)

Fire Rhee before she speaks again

"I didn't mean all of them..."

This morning, some ed reporters told me that they were still waiting by the phone for a return call from Michelle Rhee in hopes that the D.C. supt. would explain her vicious teacher-bashing comments from a week ago. The call never came.

Rhee, supposedly laying out the rationale for her firing 266 teachers had told a business magazine:
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"
Dakarai Aarons at Edweek writes:
Questions immediately arose. If these teachers had been physically and sexually abusing children, why were they allowed to remain until a budget crunch required dismissing teachers? How many of the 266 teachers had been abusing students?
After days of embarrassed silence, Rhee and her PR team finally figured out what to say. The response came in a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and members Kwame Brown and Marion Barry that was released to the press today. She probably would have been smarter exercising her right to remain silent. The letter contained not a hint of self-criticism for defaming hundreds of teaching professionals. Rhee still insists that there was one and only one teacher among those fired, who was accused of having sex with a student months ago and was no longer a classroom teacher.
"'It was never our intention, nor did I ever say, it was all of the teachers who fell into these categories...Our intention was not to paint all teachers with a broad brushstroke."
It's now time to fire Rhee and bring someone in with some leadership experience and self-control. Rhee's so-called reform has done nothing to improve schooling for most of the District's children. She has become an embarrassment, even for her most avid supporters/apologists like those at the Washington Post, who have been forced into damage-control mode.

Book burning dilemmas

It's not easy being a book burner. For one thing, as a Menifee, Calif. school board member, Betti Cadmus, discovered when she tried to ban Webster's Dictionary from district schools. "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary" to see if there's any graphic sex words contained therein.

For another, you've got to try and avoid embarrassment by making sure you are banning the right author. In Texas, for example,
the State Board of Education banned children's author Bill Martin, who died in 2004, after board member Pat Hardy cited a book he had supposedly written for adults which contained "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."
"She said that that was what he wrote, and I said: ' ... It's a good enough reason for me to get rid of someone,' " said Hardy
Problem is--she mixed up DePaul University prof, Bill Martin, Jr. author of Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation with Bill Martin, author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. What do you see?

I highly recommend reading both with a critical eye. For example, while Martin Jr.'s book has an explicitly Marxist bent, the kid's author Martin is potentially even more subversive.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.
RED bird, get it?

So now I'm starting a new campaign to send board member, Hardy examples of other books by authors with Martin in their name, to add to her to-burn list.

Let's start with another juvenile fiction writer Ann Martin, paper back writer, George R.R. Martin. Then there's Martin Amis, philosopher Martin Heidegger. Oh, and let's not forget that well-know subversive, Martin Luther King.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Duncan's critics
Duncan must contend with critics on the right who don’t accept the federal government’s active role in education, and ones on the left who see him as a neoliberal enforcer, exploiting Obama’s Democratic bona fides to impose the free-market reform agenda on the unions. (New Yorker)
Quoting me

Small schools expert Mike Klonsky has written about the controversy on his blog, asking his readers to help school officials comb through the dictionary and find the offending words. "The problem for the book-banning officials is, they have to be able to read through the dictionary themselves in order to find more sex-related words," he writes. (Edweek)

CPS resists "at-risk" kids

In spite of Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman's pledge to help at-risk teenagers, in some instances school officials are undermining that effort, making it difficult for such troubled youths to return to school after they have been incarcerated, according to judges, attorneys, probation officials and others in the juvenile justice system. (Tribune)

Banning the dictionary

Thanks to Edweek's Dakarai Aarons for taking note of my campaign to help Menifee Union School Dist. officials find dirty words in Webster's Dictionary. I figure, if board member Betti Cadmus and her crew of book burners succeed in banning the dictionary, more kids will start reading it. Test scores should improve.

Teacher miseducation at ASU

Is McCain the new dean?

ASU is "reforming" its teacher education program by putting less emphasis on pedagogy and more on subject matter. Is John McCain the new dean of ASU's College of Ed, or what?

A new curriculum will be tougher and will consist of more content courses, especially in mathematics. Education students must specialize in a content area, even if they are teaching in elementary school. "We're talking about having a course in probability and statistics that elementary teachers will have to have because that's what they use in elementary school," [the real dean, Mari] Koerner said. "So you can't be a teacher if you're math-phobic." (Arizona Republic).
More elementary teachers with a background in statistics and little knowledge about child development and learning theory. Isn't that special?

Another indication of ASU going with the conservative flow in teacher ed is their $18 million contract to study and model Teach for America's approach. Sounds like a win-win for both.

I actually like the ideas of teachers having a specialty and of placing students in classrooms while they are doing course work. But are these something new at ASU? How sad.

Tweets Ken Libby: "I bet David Berliner has some choice words for these upcoming changes to ASU's teacher program." ASU Regents Professor of Education, Berliner is co-author of The Manufactured Crisis and one of the biggest critics of the neo-conservative/privatization trends in public ed reform.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Punching a marshmallow

I just listened to the most incredible discussion on KCRW Public Radio. It was ostensibly a debate about Race-To-The-Top between Arne Duncan's PR guy, Peter Cunningham and former NYT ed writer and current leader of the Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) Richard Rothstein.

But there was no debate. The articulate Rothstein did a great job in exposing RTTT's use of testing; its narrowing of the curriculum to a focus on math and reading to the exclusion of everything else; its forcing states to allow more charter schools while ignoring the research giving no credence to that approach. RTTT is in many ways worse than NCLB. And on it went.

When it came Cunningham's chance to respond, he could do little but agree with each and every one of Rothstein's points. Not even a minimal defense of RTTT on principle. Yes, he said, Rothstein is right. Our testing mania is doing all the negative things Rothstein claims. But since testing is the name of the game unfortunately, we are going to continue to rely on standardized testing and in fact do more of it, and with national standards to boot. Yes, Rothstein is right about charters. We know there are lots of bad charters, no better than the schools they were supposed to replace. But we are going to mandate more anyway. Yes, Rothstein is right about our narrowing of the curriculum. Maybe we can undo it in the future. And so it went.

Like trying to punch a marshmallow.

California dist. bans Webster's Dictionary

It's too dirty

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week. School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. (Press Enterprise)

The problem for the book-banning officials is, they have to be able to read through the dictionary themselves in order to find more sex-related words.

"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.

To help Betti and the other officials build their case against the dictionary, I'm asking readers to comb through their copies of Webster's and send in any words, via the comments section, that might be considered inappropriate for school age children to read. Then I will forward them on to the good people at Meniffee.

Nell Noddings makes sense of national standards

"Differentiate, don't standardize"

Educator and ed philosopher Nell Noddings says that national standards have been tried many times before, under different and have never worked to improve teaching/learning.
We do not need to standardize. We need to differentiate—to offer a greater variety of courses—and we should work on the quality of these courses. They should not be shabby, dead-end courses for those thought to be incapable of the long-favored academic courses. Rather, they should represent a genuine democratic respect for all the interests and talents required in the contemporary work world. (Edweek)


Dear Mr. Klonsky,

I am a high school senior planning to attend Northwestern next fall. I have been considering pursuing studies related to education and it is through this interest that I landed on your blog site. I am trying to understand your differences with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the subject of charter schools and how they differ from the small school approach (other than on the issue of public vs. private). I'll continue looking at your blog. Possibly you can recommend other resources.
Thank you for your time, June
Hi June.

Thanks for reading my blog and for asking such a good and provocative question. Since this is a blog, I'll try and be brief.

The early movement for smaller schools and teacher-led charters, was about empowering teachers to have more autonomy over their teaching. It was about creating pockets of innovation that could spread successful ideas and practices across the system. It was also about creating more choices for communities that had few, and engaging those communities in democratic decision-making about their schools and neighborhoods.

It was never about taking away teachers' rights to collective bargaining. It was never about excluding kids with special needs or English language learners. It was never about breaking small schools away from public systems and turning them over to chains of charter management companies. And it certainly was never about standardized testing and schools that turn teachers back into delivery clerks for a pre-packaged curriculum.

These aberrations began to take hold during the Bush years under No Child Left Behind and here in Chicago under Daley/Duncan's Renaissance 2010 plan. Unfortunately, they continue to be carried over under the current administration's Race To The Top.

Susan Klonsky & I lay it all out in our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society. I hope you get a chance to read it.

Best of luck at Northwestern and hopefully in your teaching career.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another "turnaround" set for Marshall High

Chicago's legacy of failed top-down reform

They're "turning around" Marshall again. In case you're not up on school reform lingo, turnaround (depending on what day it is) means either replacing current students with more middle-class, high test scorers, or more recently, firing entire faculties and staff. Oh, all except for the Commandos' (yes, that's really their team name) renowned basketball coach Dorothy Gaters. Gaters, who has led the Lady Commandos to 8, count 'em, 8 state titles, will be retained while all her colleagues get pink-slipped because she is "part of the fabric'' of Marshall, Schools says CEO Ron Huberman.

Excuse me, but didn't you say that it was this very "fabric" that turnaround was trying to shred?

Sound confusing? It's all part of the latest version of Daley/Duncan's failed Renaissance 2010 initiative, a plan focused on school closings rather than school improvement; on top-down coercion and compliance, rather than community engagement. It's the plan that was hailed as the Chicago Miracle and is now being exported nationally through Arne Duncan's Race-To-The-Top.

The Sun-Times story gives us a clue as to what the likely outcome of Marshall's latest top-down turnaround might be.

Marshall's test scores have continued to dip, despite being "re-engineered" in 2000 and receiving a highly-paid principal-mentor in 2006. "Haven't they tried this before?" Marshall parent Laticia Fields asked of the latest overhaul.

"CPS doesn't know what it's doing, and that's the only reason our kids aren't learning." Past fixes weren't deep or widespread enough, Huberman insisted. The largely black, low-income school has languished on academic probation for 14 years. "This is the biggest dosage [of change] you can get,'' Huberman said.

That says it all, doesn't it. Huberman's metaphor for change is another dose of meds being tested on an ailing patient. If one pill doesn't work, ie. a new super-star principal, give 'em reconstitution or re-engineering. If that won't fix things, fire all the teachers (except the coach).

My favorite Chicago headline on all this--FIXED SCHOOLS FAIL

Teachers write: "We're not being heard"

"The sleeping giant stirs"

Check out the Facebook group, Teachers' Letters to Obama. Anthony Cody, a veteran and National Board Certified science teacher from Oakland, launched the new movement with his own letter. Cody, writing in Edweek, says that more than 600 teacher/bloggers have signed on and more that 100 eloquent letters have been posted thus far, and more come in every day.
The overwhelming message is that, although we supported President Obama as a candidate and continue to have hope today, we do not feel heard by this administration, and have grave concerns about many of the actions of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From outside the beltway

When Michele NcNeil called to interview me for Edweek's assessment of Arne Duncan's first year, I carefully jotted down some notes listing the main points I wanted to make. Michele said she wanted someone from "outside the beltway" to comment on Duncan. There's no one more outside the beltway than me these days--well, maybe Bill Ayers--which is just fine with me.

So when I read Michele's piece yesterday, and read my own quotes, I felt uncomfortable that she had me saying, "In some way, Duncan’s policies are worse than what we experienced over the last eight years."

It's not that I didn't say that or that I don't think it's true. But that kind of a statement, left hanging out there without any explanation, could easily be misinterpreted. So I wrote this clarification and tacked in onto the end of Michele's report:
I didn't think it was right of Ms. McNeil to leave my "in some ways worse than Bush" quote hanging out there without any examples or explanation. For the sake of clarity, I don't think the current regime is worse than the neo-cons or that Sec. Duncan is worse than Paige or Spellings. The fact that teachers and their union leadership is even at the table, represents a step up from the previous 8 years.

My point was that there are some things, some policies, which are even more destructive and more of a threat to the public aspect of public schooling. What is worse about current policies is the cynical way Duncan has used his power and the threat of withholding desperately-needed federal dollars in the midst of the current economic crisis, to coerce states and school districts into accepting his failed approach to reform (there's now important and overwhelming evidence of this failure coming out in the Chicago media).

This failed Chicago approach includes, as I pointed out to Michelle McNeil, massive school closings in inner-city neighborhoods, turning local public schools over to private management companies, single-minded emphasis on standardized tests and test-driven merit pay.
On these policies he's outstripped even the previous administration.

I'm still hopeful however that the push-back we are now seeing in communities and by hundreds of school districts saying no to the Race-To-The-Top (an even worse metaphor for reform than No Child Left Behind), will force a rethinking and shift in these policies.
Michele was nice enough to respond with this note to me:
...on the Duncan profile. Sometimes in my attempt to cram a lot into a small space (tho I did get a fair amount of space, no doubt, for this piece) I don't do as good of a job as I could have in fully explaining people's thoughts. So I just wanted to drop you a quick note and thank you for further clarifying, and to let you know I appreciated your comments. I took note!
"Every picture tells a story, don't it"--Rod Stewart

Afterthoughts: 1) I think Michele McNeil is a really good journalist. 2) I think the picture atop Michele's article, showing Arne Duncan strolling in front of the Washington Monument with Dell CEO, Michael Dell, says a lot about how I really see Duncan's first year.


David Brooks--We need "intrusive paternalism"

Conservative NYT columnist Brooks has it all figured out. You don't really help suffering people in Haiti or Harlem by "throwing money" at them. The Haitians' problem is, they're irresponsible and they have a different religion, says Brooks:
There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized.
As for black folks in Harlem, we just need to get rid of their culture and replace it with "a culture of achievement." Here's Brooks' "intrusive paternalism" solution to poverty there:
...the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.
Why we swallow Race To The Top

Nevada’s school superintendent, Keith W. Rheault, said in an interview that some Nevada educators had initially grumbled about the federal program but had fallen silent as the state’s tax revenues plummeted last year.

When you’re starving and somebody puts food in your mouth, it’s amazing what states will do,” Mr. Rheault said. (NYT)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

School closings wipe out community resources

Huge jump in number of homeless students at schools on N.Y.C. shutdown listThere's two things you need to know about Arne Duncan's Race-To-The-Top school-closing model of reform. First, it doesn't work to improve schools, raise test scores, or close the so-called achievement gap. The recent Chicago Tribune report on Renaissance 10 only adds to the already impressive pile of research confirming the failure of this approach.

Second, school closings can be and usually are devastating to the surrounding school community. The reason? Schools are so much more than schools. For one thing, they are often centers for social services, jobs and community development. When you close schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, you deplete those communities of badly-needed resources.

Case in point: The Daily News reports that at 19 of the 20 N.Y. schools that the Education Department announced last month it plans to shut down, the number of homeless kids jumped by more than 100%.
The school takes on even more of a family role for the child, encouraging them to keep going," said student affairs coordinator Stefanie Siegel. "Academic success can be hard to keep on the front of the table because you're just trying to keep the students stable."

Ren10 has failed, so...

Here's more of the same

No sooner had the Tribune published another report showing Chicago Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 school-closing plan to be a bust, than the board announced the closing of 14 more schools. Among the schools slated to be closed are Wendell Phillips and John Marshall High Schools. Phillips will be turned over to AUSL, a private management company. Marshall, will once again be "turned around" by the CPS central office.
Marshall, home to the winningest basketball coach in state history -- girls coach Dorothy Gaters -- has been through its share of fixes. In 2000, it was "re-engineered.'' By 2006, Lane Tech Principal Keith Foley -- whom CPS officials touted as a "superstar''-- was sent in as a principal mentor. At the time, 15 percent of kids were passing state tests. The pass rate has since plunged to 3.9 percent. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Monday, January 18, 2010


Dr. Martin Luther King

"A riot is the language of the unheard."
("Other America" Speech, 1968)
Here's what they call "looting"
"People who have not been eating or drinking for almost 50 hours and are already in a very poor situation," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva. "If they see a truck with something, or if they see a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat." (Michael Shaw, Huffington)
Parents hate L.A. huge, overcrowded high schools, but...
Enabling parents to choose from mediocre options falls way short of finding more engaging teachers, making classroom life meaningful for blue-collar kids. Rebuilding the California economy necessitates fresh and inventive forms of human capital. The marketeers - from L.A. to D.C. - have yet to ask how we retool schools to impart the analytic skills and social agility that new jobs and new lifestyles already require.(Bruce Fuller, SF Gate)


From Mary Anne Raywid's son, Scott Scheele

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that our beloved Mary Anne (a/k/a Mom, Nana, Cissy) has passed away after bravely battling lung cancer for almost 2 years and pancreatic cancer for about 6 months. Fortunately, she was able to avoid pain, but she had very little energy or vitality during her final weeks. Nonetheless, she didn't ever complain about her plight. Rather, she repeatedly said how blessed she had been to have led a good, long life on pretty much her terms. Indeed, each night, when we would say "good night" to each other, Nana would say "Thanks for another lovely day." For our part, we were blessed with the opportunity to have Nana stay with us during her final months. It is some comfort to us to know that we were able to provide her with extra loving care during her darkest hours. Her time with us during those months strengthened the wonderful, giving relationship with our family, particularly our boys.

We are planning on holding two memorial services: Sun. Jan 31, 4pm, at the Fist Unitarian Church in Honolulu, Hawaii., and one Sat. March 6, 11am, at the Farifax Unitarian Church, on Hunter Mill Road in Fairfax, VA.
Those of you on the east coast that would like stories, photos, or mementos shared in a scrapbook at the Hawaii service, and vice versa, please send them to us at the address below. If there's interest, we will have the scrap books available at those services.

If you are so inclined, we are accepting donations in her memory to the American Cancer Society at:
Donations should be made in the name of Mary Anne Raywid Scheele. Acknowledgments should be sent to our family at 8918 Colesbury Place, Fairfax, VA 22031.

Thanks to all for your loving support of Nana and our family during these past several months. All the telephone calls and lunches are treasured by all of us and will always be remembered fondly.

Please pass this along to anyone you think would want to know.

Daley/Duncan's reform failed says Trib

They owe us all an apology

A report in Sunday's Chicago Tribune confirms what I and others have been saying and writing about since 2006. Daley/Duncan's Renaissance 2010 plan is an ill-conceived, mismanaged, and expensive bust. Its focus on school closings and privately-managed charter schools has produced little besides "moribund test scores," the displacement of thousands of students "into other low-performing schools," and "youth violence." The plan also reproduced inequality in its exclusionary policies towards special-needs students and English language learners.

The Tribune adds:
The architect of Renaissance 2010, former schools CEO Arne Duncan, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education -- and he's taking the Daley-Duncan model national as part of his Race to the Top reform plan.
The Tribune study also confirms that:
  • "In Renaissance 2010 elementary schools, an average of 66.7 percent of students passed the 2009 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, identical to the district rate."
  • "The Ren10 high school passing rate was slightly lower on state tests than the district as a whole -- 20.5 percent compared with 22.8 percent."
  • "Only a quarter of Renaissance 2010 schools had test scores high enough to meet the federal goals set by No Child Left Behind."
  • "Nothing created more disruption to the city's educational landscape."
  • "Chicago students as a whole still post some of the lowest test scores on national math and reading exams."
  • "Even in schools with single-digit pass rates, violence-filled hallways and embarrassing absentee patterns, parents picketed the streets and filled the school board chambers, begging that their schools be left alone."
  • "The new schools mirror the district demographically, except they enroll fewer special education students and those who speak English as a second language."
Don't confuse us with facts

Like those wishing funeral mourners happy returns of the day, Ren10 leaders still claim Ren10 is a "great success" and are planning more of the same.
"We haven't looked at all the data, but our belief is that Renaissance 2010 dramatically improved the educational options in communities across Chicago," said Peter Cunningham, Duncan's spokesman, who followed him from Chicago to Washington. "We believe that it is contributing to Chicago's overall success. Renaissance 2010 and Race to the Top both reflect a willingness to be bold, hold yourself to higher standards and push for dramatic change, not incremental change."
Phyllis Lockett, president of the Renaissance School Fund, claims she has a secret, not-yet published study that shows Ren10 schools outperforming comparable neighborhood schools by 4 points.
"It's not like we are ready to cheer and scream success," Lockett said. "Our schools are doing very well but we've got to raise the bar. It's not good enough to 'just be better than the neighborhood schools.'
Promising more of the same during the rest of his term in office, Daley's appointed schools CEO Ron Huberman referred to the past 6 years as, "the first phase of Renaissance 2010" which he called "the organic part of a brand-new reform."
"In the second phase, we need to put our energy behind the proven factors that work and drive them hard. If we had not gone through stage one -- as painful as it might have been -- we could not get to stage two."
Duncan should apologize

I can't help but look back to 2006, when in response to our early critical assessment of Ren10, Arne Duncan wrote:
Academics are supposed to stick to the facts and remain impartial, but Ayers and Klonsky have clearly failed the test...Closing and reopening a failing school is an absolute last resort, intended only for the small handful of schools that have consistently underperformed while the rest of the system has made steady and dramatic gains...All of us in Chicago are grateful to Ayers and Klonsky for their work with small schools in our city and their continuing commitment to education, but they need to get their facts straight.
Duncan's response was at best misleading. He is calling for the closing of thousands of schools, not as a "last resort" but as the mainstay of his mandated Race-To-The-Top strategy and threatening the losses of badly needed school funding if states and districts fail to comply.

He owes us and more importantly, the children and parents of Chicago Public Schools an apology for what they've been put through. He also needs to get HIS OWN facts straight. Reading the recent studies from the Civic Committee, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Washington Post, or even the Sunday Trib would be a good start. The verdict is in on Renaissance 2010 and on the myth of the Chicago Miracle.

Finally, he needs to stop reproducing, on a national level, his now obviously failed Ren10 strategy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Education may not be able to change the hearts of men, but it can change the habits of men."

On March 14, 1964, Dr. King accepted the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers and delivered this speech.
... For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground in the freedom struggle. It was not fortuitous that education became embroiled in this conflict. Education is one of the vital tools the Negro needs in order to advance. And yet it has been denied him by devises of segregation and manipulations with quality.
Historically, to keep Negroes in oppression they were deprived an education. In slave days it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write. With the ending of slavery and the emergence of quasi freedom, Negroes were only partially educated—sufficient to make their work efficient but insufficient to raise them to equality.
It is precisely because education is the road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status. Therefore as Negroes have struggled to be free they have had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education....
...The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education."


From Monty Neill

North Dakota Study Group, Feb. 12-14, Univ. of St. Mary on the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois

I hope you will be able to join us at the NDSG annual meeting this February. We have many exciting speakers and panels this year, along with works in progress, and many chances for discussion and shared learning. We gather Thurs eve Feb 11, our main days are 12-13, and we close before noon on the 14th.

Among our key presenters this year are long-time community organizer and activist Grace Lee Boggs, Chicago prof and activist David Stovall, the What Kids Can Do Group with Barbara Cervone & Kathleen Cushman and a student; Curtis Lewis and college and high school black male students; plus a panel on assessment and an evening activity/presentation on play. Jay Featherstone will get us started, Deb Meier will bring the gathering to a close.
All the information you need is on website,

I hope to see you there, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions,
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
NDSG Planning Committee

Putting L.A. public schools out for bid

Final bids were due early this week and, in the end, charter operators almost exclusively sought the new buildings. They turned in no proposals for Burbank Middle School and Gardena, San Pedro, Maywood Academy and Lincoln high schools.

"It is revealing that only a few charter operators are interested in LAUSD's most challenging schools," said L.A. school board member Steve Zimmer. "For most charters, public school choice seems to be about land and facilities." (L.A. Times)

Following the money

This, from Albany Times-Union Capitol Bureau's James Odato: "Billionaires bet big on charters, governor."
The leading donor to Brighter Choice is the Walton Family Foundation, run by the heirs of the Wal-Mart store chain. Disliked by union advocates, the Walton group has doled out $15 million for charter school construction alone in Albany and more than $1 million a year for several years for operations of the growing Brighter Choice charter schools.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest blogger Bill Schubert

Bill Schubert, 2007 winner of the Mary Anne Raywid Award, is SmallTalk's guest blogger.

Remembering Mary Anne Raywid and Her Contributions

Mary Anne Raywid was a major influence in education – history and philosophy of education, social foundations of education, democratic education, educational choice, small schools, teacher education, and more. She was a pioneer – one of the few women who worked at high levels in realms of educational philosophy, history, and other foundational disciplines.

When I entered the field of curriculum and educational foundations, Mary Anne was a dynamic presence. She nurtured and led many. I first saw her when I was a doctoral student attending the 1974 at the annual conference of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), a large organization that also served as an umbrella group to bring together a network of philosophically oriented associations: The John Dewey Society for Education and Culture, The American Educational Studies Association, and The Society of Professors of Education.

Over the years, Mary Anne was a leader in all of these. She also took an interest in those beginning the professoriate, and encouraged us to understand that a responsibility that lies deep within our privilege to have a lifetime of study is to advocate. In an editorial position with the Journal of Teacher Education, sponsored by AACTE in 1980 she accepted an article I wrote called Professors Should Advocate. I was thrilled to be published, and continue thirty years later to argue that professors should advocate and take action to overcome injustices and enact more humane possibilities. This has been the spirit of Mary Anne’s work.

One of her early books was called The Ax-Grinders (Raywid, 1963) wherein she showed her ability to grapple with critics of public schools. An advocate of quality and choice in public schools as a basis for democracy, she and colleagues from AESA (with Don Warren and Charlie Tesconi, 1984) wrote Pride and Promise: Schools of Excellence for All People. This book was a brilliant antidote to A Nation at Risk, the 1983 the National Commission of Excellence in Education report. Over the years, themes of advocacy, activism, and democracy continued to permeate her work. Relative to the accountability craze, she has asked us to ponder deeply about what is worth measuring. She has highlighted our attention to progressive reforms from the renowned Eight Year Study (1933-1941) through the counter culture movement of the 1960s, the open and alternative schools of the 1970s and early 1980s, through small schools and charter schools of the past two decades, working closely with the Small Schools Workshop and many other reform ventures.

In 1996, The Society of Professors of Education inaugurated the Mary Anne Raywid Award, which was given to Maxine Greene. Subsequent recipients include Gloria Ladson-Billings (1997), Larry Cuban (1998), William Hare (1999), Herbert Kliebard (2000), Douglas Simpson (2001), Faustine Jones-Wilson (2002), O. L. Davis, Jr. (2003), William Pinar (2004), Wayne Urban (2005), Geneva Gay (2006), William Schubert (2007), Daniel Tanner (2008), and Joel Spring (2009). I was deeply honored to be one of the recipients of an award in Mary Anne’s name. The last time I met her was at the meeting when this award was given in 2007 in Chicago. We had a great conversation – remembering educational scholars and events in the field, and moving quickly as Mary Anne was wont to do into a discussion of matters of mind and heart – concerns for life’s mysteries – bases of what education should address.

Mary Anne was an exemplar for progressive democracy, critical awareness, and practice on the ground. She lived her study and her advocacy. Her legacy is substantial and continues in the lived experience of many she influenced.

Bill Schubert University of Illinois at Chicago