Friday, February 26, 2010


Hannah at L.A.'s Coalition of Essential Schools responds to my question:

Wasn't there a referendum where parents and communities voted overwhelmingly against turning schools over to charter operators and in favor of teacher groups?

Mike: there was a parent/community advisory vote (along with about 15 presentation sessions by the applicants to their communities throughout LA). In some areas, primarily in east Los Angeles, the vote was overwhelmingly for the teacher or district other areas of the city (e.g., central and south LA) it was mixed. Charter groups such as Para los Ninos and Camino Nuevo Charter that are connected to their communities were supported in the vote, and had their proposals accepted; others such as Green Dot that have more problematic issues (moivng out or not admitting special ed kids; fudging data, etc.) or have not engaged into specific community building were rejected by those communities, for the most part, I believe. The vote seemed to come down to quality of the presentations (some of ones I saw by the teachers were brilliant) and relationships. It was only the third step in a five part process: step 4 was the recommendations by the superintendent to the LAUSD Board, and (step 5) Tuesday, the LAUSD Board made its decisions (in some instances, not following S. Cortines' recommendations). Hard to make generalizations about LAUSD. Hannah (LA-CES)


Mike Rose, author of Why School?, is interviewed at Pulse
I’m all for having structural alternatives in big district bureaucracies, and there are a lot of good charter schools out there. But as report after report has now demonstrated, there are also a lot of average charters, and there are some that aren’t very good at all. This is the kind of variability you’d expect if you didn’t see the charter school as a cure-all.
Deb Meier at Bridging Differences
Between now and next week, all readers must go out and buy Diane's book (The Death and Life of the Great American School System). It's an important book and lays out the basis for Diane and my agreements and, on occasion, our disagreements. It would be fun to explore it with an audience who has at least dipped into it, or has it at hand to refer to.
Just got my copy. Still waiting for my review copies of Hargreaves & Shirley's The Fourth Way and Bryk, etal.'s, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

Problems of philosophy(ers)

While I'm sure that most of my Philosophy of Education Society colleagues will refuse to cross the picket line at San Francisco's Hyatt Fisherman's Warf, the Society's leadership is having a hard time trying to decide whether or not to support the union boycott. On the one hand...
Although the Board is sympathetic to the union, we also feel keenly our responsibility to the Philosophy of Education Society. Among the concerns raised were sustaining the financial health of the organization in order to maintain a forum for philosophers of education in the long term, recognizing that the funds that have been raised on behalf of the organization over the years were meant to be used for this purpose, and honoring the collective will of the membership with regard to hotel labor disputes (we will provide a process for this at the 2010 meetings).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet some Central Falls teachers

"There is not a teacher I know, who would not stay after school or come in early to work with kids."

Joel Dear, please run and get me a latte

Charter operator Eva Moskowitz runs Chancellor Klein. She says "jump." He asks, "how high?" It's only right. She makes more than he does.
Since Moskowitz launched her first Harlem Success Academy in August 2006, Klein has attended at least 13 events for her schools, including several fund-raisers and private meetings with her, 125 e-mails between them show. (Juan Gonzalez, Daily News)

Behind the war on teachers in R.I.

Did Duncan give the nod to Central Falls mass teacher firings? You bet he did.

Meanwhile, state and local education officials received some high-powered support of their own, when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in, saying he “applauded” them for “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids.”
Meet Deborah Gist, the ultimate bureaucrat who stands behind the firings. She's the R.I. State Supt. of Schools who used to hold that same post in D.C. Is there really a State. Supt. of D.C. schools you ask? Yep.

Gist, like her D.C. pal, Michelle Rhee, comes fresh out of Eli Broad's Supt. Academy--of course. It's easy to see why the war in Central Falls was inevitable after her hiring nearly a year ago.

Watch her PR interview video here. Try not to puke. h/t John Young.

Gist currently holds the world record in a skill area every bureaucrat must master on their way to the top of the heap:
“I just thought I’d like to break a world record,” she said. Leafing through the Guinness Book of World Records, Gist dismissed several feats as “a little bit much.” But one caught her eye. There were 62 kisses recorded in a minute and I thought, ‘That’s not too hard,’ ” she said. (Journal)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Latest on Chicago school closings

Two schools walking the green mile, get last minute stay of execution from Huberman.

R.I. board declares war on teachers

Central Falls, R.I. has become the latest battlefield in the war on teachers. After failing to get teachers to trash the district's own collective-bargaining agreement and work longer hours for no pay, Supt. Frances Gallo pushed a board vote yesterday to arbitrarily fire the entire Central High School faculty and staff.

According to yesterday's NYT story: "As soon as the meeting ended, the board went into a closed session and members were not available for comment." Like thieves in the night.
On Tuesday night, several hundred teachers and students, many wearing Central Falls High’s colors of red and blue, packed into the meeting, shouting at Dr. Gallo and school board members. As a board member read the names of people slated for termination, many people were crying.
OINKS: Former Gates screw-up VanderArk, who has re-invented himself as an "edu-entrepreneur" couldn't resist chiming in. Calling the Times story, "hysteria," VDA insisted the teachers weren't fired. They were only "restarted," "made to reapply for their jobs," "non-renewed."

Supt. Gallo is the new Michelle Rhee. She has become the hero of the T-bag set including the Keyboard Militia.

CHILLS: Veteran Central Falls teacher George McLaughlin knew Gallo was bad news shortly after she was brought in to run the district.

McLaughlin says that in an early meeting with Gallo, he referred to the history of events in Central Falls, and Gallo cut him off to say, “History is dead.”

“I got a chill up my spine. It was just a few months after she’d been appointed superintendent.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wheels have come off Chicago's Renaissance

Poor Ron Huberman

He inherited the juggernaut that was Duncan/Daley's Renaissance 2010. At the heart of Ren10 was a plan to close dozens of schools and hand them over to private operators. But the school-closing plan was a disaster from day-one. And the moment Huberman was brought over from CTA after leaving that agency on the brink of financial collapse, to replace Arne Duncan as schools CEO, a wave of community protest was there to greet him. He hasn't had a moment's rest since. The anger and resentment over the closings, the mass firings of teachers, budget cuts, and the surge in neighborhood violence created in their wake, has been relentless and Huberman has no choice but to take the hits for his boss Daley. Oh, the life of a machine fixer/manager.

At yesterday's city council meeting, Huberman was bombarded by usually passive alderman who are now feeling pressure from their constituencies, over the closings.

School activists derided the closings as a "done deal,'' and Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th), Education Committee chairwoman, noted that packing boxes arrived at one school before School Board members even voted on its fate.

"That is inappropriate,'' Huberman agreed.

Professor Pauline Lipman of the University of Illinois at Chicago said the problem is Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 plan to shut down failing schools and create 100 new ones. A "growing body of research'' indicates the effort is not helping kids and may even be "harmful to them," she said. (Sun-Times)

This from Rico Gutstein at Teachers for Social Justice:

Near the end of the City Council Education Committee hearing, hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and community members from several of the proposed-to-be-closed schools showed up at the hearing...from McCorkle, Deneen, Bradwell, Phillips, and other schools. They piled into the hearing room and then went up the 5th floor to see Mayor Daley (who was "not available" to meet with them). People circled and chanted, loudly, in the large space outside the Mayor's office before filing out, with energy, enthusiasm, and determination.

More protests are planned for today.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Nate Parker, star of "Blood Done Sign My Name"
Parker says the time is right for this type of film. “You look at the issues like schools being privatized. That’s another new segregation. You look at the dropout rate, which is 50 percent among black males in New York City. (Sun-Times)
Ownership Society run amok
Our government is not broken; it's been bought out from under us, and on the right and the left and smack across the vast middle, more and more Americans doubt representative democracy can survive the corruption of money. (Bill Moyers & Michael Winship)

Which schools can get Obama as their graduation speaker?
Public schools that encourage systemic reform and embrace effective approaches to teaching and learning help prepare America’s students to graduate ready for college and a career, and enable them to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. (Barack Obama on FB)
Why School?
The race is on. Forty-one states have just finished the mad dash to submit proposals for the Obama education initiative, Race to the Top. Now that the first round of competition is over we should be asking the basic questions that got lost in the flurry: What is the true purpose of all this reform? What should it be? Why do we send our kids to school? (Mike Rose, Truthdig)
From one of my grad students after observing at a small Chicago charter school
In general, students seemed to be very happy and engaged in almost all the classes I observed. I was able to speak with several of the teachers. Each was so excited about [teaching) and really felt like they were part of something important...This all seemed like such a positive move toward more equal and stimulating education. However, what I was left with was this nagging feeling that the kids down the street [at 2 large traditional high schools] were getting the short end of the stick...The nature of an acquisitive society requires that someone be left out. In addition, the education provided at [the charter] is only possible because of the school's ability to acquire monetary resources.


From Bill Ayers

The New Yorker failed to print this.

February 7, 2010

Carlo Rotella’s flattering portrait of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (“Class Warrior,” February 1, 2010) claims that in today’s school reform battles “there are, roughly speaking, two major camps.” The first he calls “the free-market reformers,” the second, “the liberal traditionalists.” This unfortunate caricature leaves out a huge range of approaches and actors, including people Rotella himself interviewed for this story (Diane Ravitch, Tim Knowles, Kenneth Saltman). Most notably it omits those who argue, as John Dewey did, that in a democracy, whatever the wisest and most privileged parents want for their children must serve as a minimum standard for what the community wants for all of its children.

Rotella notes that Duncan as well as the Obama children attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (as did our three sons), where they had small classes, abundant resources, and opportunities to experiment and explore, ask questions and pursue answers to the far limits. Oh, and a respected and unionized teacher corps as well. Good enough for the Obamas and Duncans, good enough for the kids in public schools everywhere.

Any other ideal for our schools, in the words of Dewey, “is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.”

Sincerely, William Ayers
Distinguished Professor of Education University of Illinois at Chicago

Friday, February 19, 2010


On Feb. 5, blogger Marc Dean Millot, writing on Scholastic's (Russo's) TWIE blog, "apparently committed the equivalent of heresy by questioning the integrity of the Race to the Top," writes Anthony Cody at Edweek's Living in Dialogue.
In recent weeks, I have tried to be optimistic about statements Duncan and Obama have made that indicate their willingness to depart substantially from the test mania that has driven us for the past decade. However, this incident raises a host of questions that need to be explored much more deeply.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't get the wrong idea

It was last June when L.A. Supt. Ray Cortines declared that public schools needed to be run by a "benevolent dictator." My guess is that he wanted the dictator to be benevolent just in case he got caught double-dipping. Maybe things would go easier on him.

Well this week the other shoe finally dropped. L.A. Times reporter Howard Blume revealed that uber-reformer Cortines has been quietly pulling down $151K/yr. (on top of his $250K salary) working as a do-nothing consultant for Scholastic--the world's largest publisher of children's books and a major contractor with the district.

Today, under heavy criticism, Cortines left his job with Scholastic to "avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest." I guess he just didn't anyone to get the wrong idea.

The company has earned more than $5.2 million from the L.A. Unified School District since Cortines joined the school system as its No. 2 administrator in April 2008. He became superintendent in December 2008.

Yes, that's the same Scholastic that publishes Russo's TWIE blog and told Russo to censor Dean Millot's expose of conflicts-of-interest at Race To The Top.

Scenes from last week's NDSG

This year's North Dakota Study Group was one of the best ever. Check out the video. Boggs, Ayers, Stovall, Meier, Featherstone, learning through play, & more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"It's for the kids"

I'm trying to stay away from writing about charter school scams & scandals. There's just too many of 'em, enough to fill all the open space on SmallTalk for years, and then some. But the latest, coming out of Chicago, really got to me.

It's about a veteran Chicago school principal I've known for years, Helen Hawkins. She made quite a name for herself in the world of Chicago school reform and served as a mentor for many reform-minded young teacher leaders. But she was also one of many who gave up on public school reform, after working against the CPS bureaucracy for so many years. When she got an opportunity to start her own charter school, she jumped at the chance. Whenever I would see Helen, she would point a finger and remind me, education has to be "all about the kids. It's not about the grown-ups (teachers)", she would say.

Lately, whenever anyone tells me, "it's all about the kids," I tell the kids to duck. Something awful is about to be done to them.

This morning I came upon this Sun-Times story, "School's money spent on Coach bags, diet pills." Helen Hawkins is now facing a prison term for embezzling at least a quarter-million dollars from Triumphant Charter School to supply herself with Louis Vuitton and Coach bags, Elan Furs, Tommy Hilfiger and diet pills.

Ravitch on the case

Okay, so Diane Ravitch & I don't agree on some things--like the power of community organizing against the school closings. I can understand the basis for her gloomy outlook. But I have to give her credit for speaking out against them. I'm sure that hasn't endeared her to Bloomberg/Klein and the powers that be. Neither will her latest post at Bridging Differences.

Ravitch is on the case following Millot's censored expose of conflicts of interest surrounding the disbursal of Race-To-The-Top funds.
It turns out that Millot asked questions that someone didn't want to be heard. The blog was removed, and his contract cancelled. The good news is that the Internet is making it very difficult to censor anyone. You can be certain that the censors will fail, because the original is almost certain to appear uncut on the Internet within days or hours.
Thanks to Diane for not letting this thing drop from view.

BTW, here's Part III of Millot's response (Parts I & II here) to his being censored and then dropped Russo/Scholastic as a TWIE blogger after pressure was applied by Andrew Rotherham.
Now, my view is that “every bully is a coward in disguise”. But that’s for readers to decide.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tweeting with Ravitch

Ravitch tweets Klonsky:
Hey, Klonsky, community protests never stop school closings in NYC. Even when 3,000 parents/teachers turn out. That's mayoral control."
Klonsky tweets back to Ravitch:
Hey Ravitch! It's the only thing that can stop them. Next time bigger & louder with you up front.


Who needs to educate who?

Funniest quote of the day comes from CPS bureaucrat Bob Runcie after the board was forced to back off some of its planned school closings in the face of widespread community opposition.
[Chief administrative officer Bob] Runcie says CPS wants to educate parents on what a high quality education looks like...“And raise their level of expectations in terms of what they should be demanding in the quality of education in their schools.” (Catalyst & WBEZ)
Problem for Runcie, Huberman, and Daley is that parents have already raised their level of expectations in terms of what they demand from the leadership of their public school system.

Replacing Smith Career & Tech H.S. with...what???

Bloomberg/Klein continue their loot/pillage/burn approach to school reform with the planned closing of the city's oldest and well-established trade and technical school. According to today's NYT, the DOE will close Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School, a 78-year-old vocational school in the South Bronx and replace it with another charter school with no record of success, this one run by indicted embezzler Richard Izquierdo Arroyo.
But the school the Department of Education plans to put in place of the program, the 18-month-old New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries, has had its own issues. Its founder is facing federal charges that he embezzled from a nonprofit company. Thirty percent of the students left after the first year, as did most of the teachers. And despite its name, it has no experience running hands-on vocational programs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is almost too good

Palin & Gen. Tata hawking their books

I mean, first you've got Arne Duncan backer and DFER's patron hedge-funder, Whitney Tilson calling for more rich, white folks to "take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally." Can we call them Duncan's White School Reform Army?

Then you've got WaPo ed writer Bill Turque, back, I assume, from his censorship exile in WaPo's rubber room, telling us about Rhee's Tata. That's Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata, recently appointed by D.C. Supt. Michelle Rhee as her second in command after a stint in Eli Broad's Superintendent's Academy..

Gen. Tata is no one to fool with, writes Turque. He's:
...a distinctive, alpha-male presence at a school headquarters filled with 20- and 30-somethings transfixed by their BlackBerry devices -- and where five of Rhee's top aides, including her chief of staff, are women. No one else is likely to talk about how to take an issue and "shoot it between the eyes."
And you were worried about Rhee and her broom.

Tata is definitely not into Obama's hopey, changey thingy either, writes the rehabilitated Turque.
In December, he wrote a glowing review of Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue," on the "Big Hollywood" site operated by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart. He said that Palin "is far more qualified to be president of the United States than the current occupant of the White House" and that the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate is "precisely the kind of leader America needs."
It all adds up if you think (really) long and hard about it.

You see, Tilson loves Duncan. Duncan loves Tilson and Rhee. Rhee loves Tata. Tata loves Palin--hates Obama. Turque writes critically about Rhee. Turque is censored by Rhee/WaPo. Turque comes back with a softer piece on Rhee & Tata. Whew!

There's much more tangled up in this web of deception, publishing, censorship (right Russo?) and the ownership society. But for now, I need to take a nap.


Michigan state Supt. Mike Flanagan
Let's move these kids out that don't get it. ... Let's keep the kids who are fun to keep and move the rest to alternative schools! (Detroit Free Press)
Marc Dean Millot

He explains why his expose of Race To The Top conflicts-of-interest was censored by Alexander Russo via Andrew Rotherham, and why he was fired.
Why did Russo pull the post? The short answer, at least the short answer Russo offered over the phone Saturday, lies in his contract with Scholastic. TWIE is not editorially independent. Scholastic decides what will remain on his blog. (EdNotesOnline)
Deborah Meier
Narratives are easier to remember, and so we invent them. And, we always insist that at this moment we cannot move with caution because—it's a crisis in need of an immediate fix. (Bridging Differences)

What passes for "school reform" in Detroit

Testing madness

Under a new order, so-called social promotion would be prohibited for those pre-K through third-grade students now taking the assessment tests, says Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb.
"I would classify myself as a hater when it comes to social promotion," Bobb said. "And that's just why my academic team is conducting these assessments ... so we know where these children are deficient." (Detroit Free Press)
Michigan state Supt. Mike Flanagan then strips the strategy bare:
"It's shameful," an obviously frustrated Flanagan said of the practice. " 'Let's move these kids out that don't get it. ... Let's keep the kids who are fun to keep and move the rest to alternative schools!' "
Move the kids out. Where have we heard that before? Must have been New Orleans.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of Detroit's new reform strategy, don't forget the district's exciting new business partnership.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The mayor feigns neutrality on LSCs

The Meeks bill would gut Local School Councils (LSCs) and promote vouchers. Mayor Daley has been trying to get rid of the LSCs since 1995. Rev. Meeks, whose southside Salem Baptist Church has about 25,000 members, led a failed, but valiant community-based effort for adequate public school funding two years ago, without any support from the mayor. Now that Sen. Meeks is doing the heavy lifting in the legislature, Daley claims neutrality and can stay above the fray. He says school reform in Chicago started the day he took over the schools.
“If you want to go back to prior to 1995, then go back. I will never go back. This school system has changed and is getting better. I don’t care what anyone says.
And therein lies the problem.

Daley's people over at CPS are quietly supporting Meeks' initiative, even though his push for vouchers implies a devastating failure on their part and on the part of the mayor.
CPS officials Wednesday seemed intrigued by the bill. CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond called Meeks "a champion of school reform'' and said "we look forward to reviewing the legislation.'' (Sun-Times)
But in 2008, Meeks led a school boycott on opening day which was attacked by both Daley and schools chief Arne Duncan. Daley was also sharply critical Meeks for a schools funding protest he led at a Cubs game. But their interests now find common ground over the issue of getting rid of LSCs. Meeks' push for vouchers is also being hailed by the Catholic Archdiocese.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Can somebody tell me?

Why has Arne Duncan made Newt Gingrich his front man on school reform and put him on a national speaking tour?
Newt Gingrich tried on Wednesday to brush off the glaring gaffe he made this week on "The Daily Show" when he insisted that the Bush administration was right to read shoe bomber Richard Reid his Miranda rights because he was an American citizen.(Huffington)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A plan to fail our kids

Closing N.Y. City schools is a plan for failure, write NAACP leaders Benjamin Todd Jealous and Hazel Dukes in a DaillyNews commentary. The NAACP has filed suit to stop the closings.
We are suing because, in the New York City case, democracy was overlooked and citizens' voices - the concerns of those most affected - were left out. In our view, the city blatantly disregarded the state-mandated analysis of how the closings would affect the more than 13,000 students who attend the schools, particularly special education and other special needs students, and how the closings would impact the often overcrowded schools they are sent to.
Gutting Local School Councils

A new bill is being pushed by State Sen. James Meeks that would strip Chicago's LSCs of their power to hire principals and to control discretionary spending. Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, says he does not understand Meeks’ motives.

“It seems ironic that an elected official from the South Side would propose a bill that would basically gut the powers of LSC’s, which have a majority of African American members,” Moore says. (Catalyst Notebook)

Inspired by a blogger looking to become a teacher because "teaching...sounds...interesting...," Mei Flower came up with the quick, sure-fire method for getting ready to become a teacher. Think myth of Sisyphus but with people criticizing you. (Teacher Magazine, Blogboard)


At Social Justice High School

Deb Meier paid a visit to the Small Schools Workshop yesterday before moving on to the High School for Social Justice, for a meeting with teachers and staff. She's in Chicago in preparation for this weekend's meeting of the North Dakota Study Group.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Broad money comes "not just with strings, but ropes"

Eli Broad's influence over public education comes, not from the power of his ideas, but from the power of his money. Broad typifies the new class of ownership society power philanthropists who view democracy as an inefficient impediment to exercising their will.
The story was much the same at a public arts high school that Mr. Broad helped to start, then turned away from when the infamously sclerotic school system here failed to attract the leadership he thought would best serve the city. (NY Times)

'Do more than fix a bad NCLB law'

George Wood & Pedro Noguera, two of the convenors of the Forum on Education and Democracy, offer up their perspective on ESEA reauthorization. They call on the Administration and Congress to do more than fix a bad law--"We want them to invest in public schools in ways that prepare every young person to use his or her mind well."

Their main points:
  • Invest in teaching, rather than trying to "micro-manage schools through curriculum and testing mandates."
  • Invest in the Research and Development of Assessments of Student Achievement that Focus on Higher Order Thinking Skills rather than Rote Memory:
  • Rethink the current approach to educational policy—"with the federal government attempting to do what it is uniquely unsuited to do as in mandating teaching practices and curricular approaches, while leaving the heavy lifting of teacher supply, research, and equity to the states."

Making the case against school closings

Who briefs Joel Klein over at DOE? asks Maisie McAdoo at Edwize.

Because what he told NY1 TV’s Mike Scotto on “Inside City Hall” Monday about the 19 closing schools was, “Nobody could make a good case why these schools shouldn’t be closed.”

Has he been away? His deputy chancellors, John White, Santi Taveras and Kathleen Grimm, chaired 20 public hearings over the last two months where parents, teachers and support staff, CEC leaders, Council members, Assembly representatives, grandmothers, local business leaders, students, graduates, principals and advocates testified on why most of the schools on the list should not close. Did the deputies not report back?
'Culture of Calm'

Community resistance to Chicago school closings continues to build as CEO Ron Huberman holds more hearings. Last night, the Mollison and Wells Prep parents were expected to show up in force for a public hearing at district headquarters to question the plans. Last week, about 80 parents and teachers came out for the Marconi-Tilton hearing. (Catalyst)

Faced with increased incidents of school violence in the wake of his massive school closing initiatives, Huberman is advertising for a Culture of Calm coordinator. Interested? The job pays $90k.

But there's nothing calming about massive cuts in CTA service, a year after huge fare increases went into affect. Longer waits for buses, before and after school, have students at Clemente worried about their safety.
The Chicago Police were visible presence outside and around the perimeter of the school. Two squad cars were stationed directly in the front of the school. While a paddy wagon and squad cars were on Division street, several yards away from the main intersection. (
Remember, Huberman ran the CTA before Mayor Daley brought him over to run the schools.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shooting the messenger

Tom VanderArk, Kevin Carey, Lisa Graham-Keegan and other charter cheerleaders are circling the wagons in response to a study released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA that called charter schools "a political success," but a "civil rights failure." The report found that charter schools are more racially segregated than traditional public schools and asserted that those in the western United States are havens for white re-segregation.

I think it was Shakespeare who first wrote: "Don't shoot the messenger."


Palin to T-baggers: 'No to courts, no to profs'

Palin told conventioneers, she's not a big fan of the court system or academics.
"It scares me for my children, for your children, to treat this like a mere law enforcement matter," she said. "It puts our country at great risk... To win that war we need a commander-in-chief not a professor of law standing at the lectern."
As for health care, education reform, racial Palin and her fans, it's that "hopey, changey thing."

Gov. Mark Sanford

After first refusing to allow stimulus $$ into S. Carolina, Gov. Sanford has decided he likes Race To The Top after all. He flew up to D.C. on Thursday, to talk school reform with Arne Duncan.
Sanford met with Duncan to learn more about a charter school program Duncan started in Chicago, said Ben Fox, the governor's spokesman. Sanford also took the trip to urge Duncan to support more charter school grants, Fox said. (The State)
Gee, I've been in Chicago all this time and never even heard of such a charter school. Maybe Duncan will tell us which one he started.

"Enough is enough"--Researchers unionize
“We’ve taken this step so we can protect our rights on the job, and make sure post-docs working on different campuses and in different labs are treated fairly and receive comparable pay and benefits,’’ Simona Maccarrone, a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst, said in a written statement. (Boston Globe)

Friday, February 5, 2010

The "New Philanthropy"

In our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society, Susan Klonsky and I document the role of the giant power philanthropists like Gates, Broad and Walton, showing how the rise of the Ownership Society altered the face and function of American Philanthropy, nowhere more so than in the field of education and school reform.

Now, Georgia Levenson Keohane, guest-blogging at the CEP (Center for Effective Philanthropy) Blog, reveals that the era of the new philanthropy, big, strategic, tactical giving – was also one of historic inequality.
In the U.S. the last quarter century proved a gilded age for some – the rich did get much richer – but was a period of stagnation for the middle class and lost ground for those with the lowest incomes... Even in the best of times, less than one-third of American philanthropic dollars goes to help the poor.

The South Loop "Turnaround"

This morning's Chicago Tribune ran a big story on South Loop Elementary ("South Loop School at crossroads"). South Loop was touted by Arne Duncan as one of his models of a successful "turnaround school."

The Trib says test scores have gone up over the last 10 years and I don't doubt it. I mean, half the 640-student school in this gentrified neighborhood, is now a "gifted program" [code word] in order to attract middle class parents. If that doesn't give your school a test-score bump, nothing will.

I remember when South Loop was built, neither white nor black, middle-class parents--some living right across the street from this brand new, well-equipped school--would send their kids to sit in desks next to "those kids" from the Hilliard Homes. They even protested the school's marquee because they didn't want potential property buyers to know that kids from the projects were coming into "their" neighborhood.

Our Small Schools Workshop spent some time at the school back in 1999 at the request of teachers and former principal Shirley Woodard. Our goal then was to help support teacher-led structural and curricular changes that would improve the school for the children WHO WERE THERE, as well as building a bridge between the Dearborn Park and Hilliard Homes communities. But when pressure groups in Dearborn Park demanded that the school be turned exclusively over to them, the mayor listened. The plan was dropped, Woodard was removed by Paul Vallas (she later won a battle in federal court over her firing) and the whole approach to reform changed to population shifting.

Ironically, now the school is overcrowded and the Board wants to send 6-8th graders over to National Teachers Academy in the Prairie District neighborhood a little farther south. But the parents in this Dearborn Park community are once again pressuring against the move and these are parents with some political clout. The Board backed off and Dearborn Park residents will instead, most likely get a brand new, selective enrollment high school for their kids built right in the neighborhood.

Too bad for the parents at Carver, whose kids were shipped over to Fenger. Too bad for the hundreds of other parents in communities across the city whose schools are being closed and whose children are being shipped all over at great risk. They don't have the same clout.


For background on the South Loop story see Ben Joravsky's 1999 account in The Reader and this Education Week story from 1987.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Small Schools Talk

Bidding wars

30 L.A. public schools have been put up for bid. School elections will decide whether educators or outside management companies will run the schools. The fate of 40,000 students hangs in the balance.
One of the most complex ballots is the one for the soon-to-open Esteban Torres High School complex, where five small schools will operate. There are 10 bids for the site -- five from groups of teachers and five from charter schools. (L.A. Now)
Berkeley High

Rick Ayers sorts through the issues involving small schools and science labs at Berkeley High.

While the development of a handful of committed, integrated small schools are the one reform that has occurred and thus they are a target, being perceived as a threat to privilege.

"Ultimately," writes Ayers, "we have to take a deep look at what we think education is for. Why do we have schools? What are they about? In the broadest sense, they are to develop the adults who will lead our society in the next generation." (Oakland Tribune)
Why Isn't the 'Mother of Small Schools' Feeling Smug?

Yes, I am still a sort-of supporter of small schools—within the right context, blogs Deb Meier. I'm frequently introduced as "the mother/grandmother of small schools." So, why aren't I feeling smug and successful? There are more urban small schools than ever before—even though small often now means 600, not 300.

When and how might "small schools" and "choice" become a favorite of teachers and parents and kids rather than, as in NYC these days, a heavy-handed intruder? (Bridging Differences)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Duncan needs to deepen his apology

"Unbelievable progress"???

Arne Duncan
was right to apologize for his offensive (especially to the thousands who lost family members and homes) remark that Katrina was "the best thing that ever happened to the education system in New Orleans." But once again, I'm urging the Ed. Sec. to go deeper than his, "I said it in a poor way, and I apologize for that. It was a dumb thing to say," mia culpa.

First, I hope he wasn't emphasizing the words TO SAY. Secondly, I hope he will take a deeper look at the data and re-examine the rest of his comments about the "unbelievable" progress "they've made in four years since the hurricane." By "unbelievable progress," of course, Duncan means there was a bump in test scores.

But that bump may have much more to do with death and relocation of tens of thousands of poor, mainly African-American families than it does with the ballyhooed recreation of Paul Vallas' two-tiered school system--one tier, traditional neighborhood schools, the other, privately-managed charter schools.

Posting on TAPPED, the group blog at The American Prospect, Gabe Arana writes:
The statement itself isn't really a call for outrage; it was a trite way to tie test-score gains to the mythology of the city's resurgence. I see it as just another excess of the "education speak" that's bandied about, where everything's about "reform," "achievement," "accountability" -- and "wake-up calls." However, the reason for the correlation should provoke anger. New Orleans schools aren't necessarily doing better with the same students. They are serving a different demographic, one that is more affluent, whiter, and more educated
Arana's comments are based on a 2008 study which was released last October, comparing pre- and post-Katrina census data and educational attainment. The study finds that compared with 2000 census data, the region is now less poor with fewer adults lacking a high school diploma, fewer households with children, more one or two-person households, fewer households lacking vehicles, a larger share of the population that is foreign-born, a higher homeownership rate, and more homeowners without mortgages.

New Orleans lost about 60,000 families after Katrina, according to Post Office mail surveys.

Could these demographic and population changes account for the relatively small bump in N.O. students' standardized test scores? You bet they could. Can they explain the "unbelievable progress" Duncan is referring to? Of course they can. Is Post-Katrina New Orleans a model for school reform and social reorganization in cities like Detroit, D.C., or New York? Of course not.

Duncan needs to deepen his self-criticism and rethink his assumptions about reform.


The Faces of School Reform
Led by a band of billionaires, the school-reform movement has gained increasing momentum during the past decade, spreading its reach into urban communities across the country. But instead of truly transforming public schools, private funders want to restructure them. They insist running schools like a business is the solution. At stake is not only control over hundreds of billions of dollars in local, state and federal funding, but also the future of the next generation of schoolchildren. (The Indypendent)
President Barack Obama's tart-tongued chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has apologized for using the word "r**arded" to describe liberal activists whose tactics on health care he questioned. In a separate incident, Education Secretary Arne Duncan apologized Tuesday for asserting that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans," calling the remark "a dumb thing to say." I have eliminated a word or edited it because I do not want it on my blog. It is not a word most people use today. And the way Mr. Emanuel used it is appalling. (Ruth's Report)
Deb Meier in response to: Will AFT Teacher Evaluation Effort Succeed?
But nothing stopped principals for judging teachers on the basis of their impact on student achievement. I know. I was a principal for 20 years. But to believe that test scores in ELA and Math tests are a synonym for achievement is either deliberate obfuscation or sad ignorance. But worse than that it drives schools further and further away from tackling the more important take--helping young people (as Ted Sizer put it) learn to use their minds well. (National Journal Online)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Duncan apologizes

On Morning Joe this a.m. Arne Duncan apologized for saying that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." Duncan this morning:
“I said it in a poor way and I apologize for that. It was a dumb thing to say.."
Thanks for that, Arne--even though it took 4 days of meetings with Cunningham and the political line fixers to get things straight. It still takes a big person to admit they were wrong. But I hope you believe it was really wrong and not just "dumb" to say it. Maybe, before it goes away, you could deepen the self-criticism a little. You know, like--what was wrong about it and about some underlying assumptions about how real change takes place.

I wonder what all the Duncan sycophants, apologists, RTTT suck-ups, and bloggers, who loved the Katrina comment, are going to say now that Duncan has criticized himself. I'm thinking here of Andrew Rotherham, who denied there was even any controversy, since nobody "credible" was "upset" by Duncan's remarks. Then there was the usually astute TV-1 interviewer Roland Martin, who made the rounds of next morning's shows to leap to Duncan's defense. Paul Pastorek, Louisiana’s superintendent of public education, was quoted in the Washington Post saying that Duncan’s remarks were “a strong statement” but “actually quite accurate.”

Then of course there was New Orleans school czar Paul Vallas, who told the Post, he had "no prolem" with Duncan's remarks. Remember, it was Vallas who bragged in 2008 that now, nobody could tell him what to do:
I have no “institutional obstacles” — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. “No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,” he said. “Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire.

Suit to stop Bloomberg/Klein school closings

The UFT, the NAACP, the Manhattan and Brooklyn Borough Presidents, city councilmembers, state legislators, and two Community Education Council presidents have all joined to together in a lawsuit to block the DOE's plan to close 19 NYC schools. The N.Y. Post ran a nasty editorial attacking the NAACP for supporting the suit, while the Times basically ignored the whole story.

Says N.Y. schools activist Leonie Haimson:
Unbelievably, the NY Times did not run any story about the lawsuit, though it carried the news on its blog (Teachers' Union and NAACP Sue to Stop School Closings). The lack of judgment on the part of the Times editors never ceases to amaze.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Against the Odds

Small schools educators, activists and researchers will want to read Against the Odds: Insights from One District's Small School Reform. The district is Mapleton, Colorado and Larry Cuban and his team have put together a good, readable, qualitative study. I even have a back-cover blurb which reads, "It's all there--struggle, resistance, leadership issues, the muscle foundations, parents, and community engagement. Against the Odds is a great resource for the small schools movement.”

The Strive of It

One of my favorite writers (people), Kathleen Cushman, has a great piece in the current Educational Leadership, "The Strive of It." It's all about practice, practice, practice--maybe not Alan Iverson's favorite topic, but the road to expertise for young learners. The Practice Project opens up real possibilities for teachers who are struggling to engage young students, capture their interests, and building expertise based on the habits of experts.
We discovered a great deal about why young people engage deeply in work that challenges them. And as we analyzed their experiences, the kids and I also began to think differently about what goes on in schools. Could what these young people already understood about practice also apply to their academic learning? Could teachers build on kids' strengths and affinities, coaching them in the habits of experts?


Who's "credible?"

Not Andrew Rotherham. At least not after his puny defense of Arne Duncan's insipid statement that Hurricane Katrina was the "best thing that happened" to New Orleans schools. Says Andrew,
But to have a controversy don’t you have to have some credible people really upset?
Fred (PREAPrez) responds:
Did he ask anyone in the lower ninth. Are they credible?

What about the Dept. of Ed. itself? Not credible? After first confirming Duncan's quote, Lesli Maxwell writes, they called Edweek, "to air concerns about this post."

Oh, did I mention that Rotherham was contracted to help Gov. Bobby Jindal's people write Louisiana's Race-To-The-Top application? Only 28 of the state's 70 school districts wanted any part of RTTT. Jindal has opposed taking federal dollars for post-Katrina reconstruction. He is pushing vouchers for state schools.

Other "reformers" who liked Katrina

Heritage Foundation VP Michael Franc called Katrina "the dawn of a great era of conservative governance"

Milton Friedman, the father of disaster capitalism, called Katrina, "Not just a tragedy, "but an opportunity."

Paul Vallas said, after Katrina, "now no one can tell me what to do."
I have no “institutional obstacles” — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. “No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,” he said. “Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire.
Remember, Duncan himself referred to this, possibly the worst global economic crisis ever, as "this magical opportunity."

Book banners strike again in Virginia

The real version of Anne Frank's diary

Culpeper County public school officials have decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank's diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, after a parent complained that the book includes sexually explicit material and homosexual themes. (NBC News)