Monday, May 31, 2010

Why I support teacher seniority rights

Without them, testing madness rules

Jimmy Kilpatrick's post today on, highlights the ongoing attack on teacher seniority rights in Cleveland and in other mainly urban school districts. This has become a centerpiece in Arne Ducan's Race To The Top and his so-called "turnaround" strategy.

I favor protecting teacher seniority rights for several reasons. One is that they signify the respect due to professionals in most fields. Secondly, they are the product of democratically negotiated collective bargaining agreements between school boards and teacher unions and should be honored as such. The current three or four-years probation period, during which teachers can be fired at the discretion of the principal, provides plenty of time for any school leader worth their salt, to weed out incompetent teachers.

But maybe even more importantly, without the protection of seniority, teachers and principals, confronted with potential bonuses on the one hand, and job loss and school closure on the other, become totally dependent on standardized test scores for their survival as educators. The pressure to produce or show test score increases in a brief time period is putting the entire public education system in a state of academic free fall.

It's not just about protecting teachers' jobs, although that's important, especially in the midst of this recession. It's also about making teaching/learning authentic and moving beyond the narrow confines of standardized testing.


Is there any question?
It's "a legitimate concern to question whether BP's interests in being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage is aligned with the public interest," he said, adding: "We have to verify whatever it is they say about the damage." (Pres.Obama)
L.A. high schools students hold a "walk-in" to protest cuts
“It does sound tempting to really relax and take the day off, but I can’t take a day off knowing it’s going to affect my future,” said Kahn, 16. “We’re protesting the fact that it’s gotten to the point that we have to be cutting back on our education. The priorities of spending in California are very wrong.” (L.A. Times)
Hedge-fund school "reformers" Tilson, Buffett cleaning up on the oil spill

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicago's Little Red K-12 Schoolhouse

"Small, rural schools have been doing this ever since things began"

Chicago Public School officials hope the Little Village structure will help them address a quandary they have long struggled with: how to transition students from their familiar elementary schools to often larger, less controlled high schools. At the same time, officials hope to decrease the number of dropouts and increase the number of students who make the next transition — to college.

Sarah S. Pearson, deputy director at the Coalition for Community Schools, a not-for-profit based in Washington, D.C. said the urban K-12 model is rare across the country, but does exist in at least two schools in the Cincinnati area. (Chicago Tribune)

Congrats to Perspectives Calumet students and teachers

 Through tears, valedictorian Sade Johnson congratulated her peers on surviving the past four years. “Through it all we stayed together and we grew to know each other,” she said. “Laughing, crying and having fun.”

Perspectives was one of the first teacher-created and teacher-led small schools in Chicago. It became a charter school 13 years ago and opened a school in the old Calumet High School four years ago. This week, as Catalyst's Sarah Karp describes, Perspectives Calumet graduated it's first senior class. Congratulations.


Pedro Noguera is guest editor at The Nation, for the magazine's special issue on education. His editorial offers a sharp critique of current administration policies as well as a way out.
Before his election President Obama carved out what many regarded as a more progressive and enlightened position on education reform. Recognizing that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had become widely unpopular because of its overemphasis on standardized tests, he declared, "Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of the year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test." He pledged to lead the nation in a different direction. We are still waiting for a change of course...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

J.P Morgan bailout brings a gift for charter operators

Conservative think-tanks like Fordham and AEI are pouring out their hearts to the poor for-profit school reformers who they claim, are being squeezed out of Duncan's i3 funding opportunities. They also claim that privately-managed charter schools are  "terribly underfunded." Debra Viadero at Edweek, gives the claim some credence in this blog post although she can't help but "wonder whether this report takes into account the dollars that many charter schools get from foundations and other private donors." Wonder indeed, Deb.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, J.P. Morgan Chase took out full-page ads in the nation's news papers to announce a gift of $325 million to privately-run charter school organizations. I know the money is funneled through J.P.'s private tax-sheltered foundation, but I wonder if it comes from the pot of $50 billion in bailout money they received from us taxpayers? It's also questionable how much of that money will ever reach a classroom once the partner institutions and management companies like The Reinvestment Fund of Philadelphia, The Low Income Investment Fund of San Francisco, and NCB Capital Impact of Arlington, Virginia each take their cuts and pay their own salaries. Some charter managers make hundreds of thousands each year in salaries and benefits.

Interesting side note--the Midwest chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase is none other than Bill Daley, brother of Chicago's mayor, Richie, who currently controls the schools in our fair city.

Attention bounty hunters

We know about schemes to pay students for high marks. And we’ve written about some of the marketing tactics schools are using to attract families. But one charter high school in Williamsburg is taking a step further – offering a $100 reward to any student who recruits another teenager to attend the school. (New York Times)

Duncan does his best Rivers

Arne Duncan got bad grades on his phone call with teachers. He calls Cody back. Does his best Joan Rivers: "Can we talk?"

But will congress and the administration take heed of BBA's new talking points on ESEA re-authorization? Including:
Neither schools nor teachers should be held accountable based primarily on test scores of students. Such accountability can lead to gross misidentification of failing schools and creates incentives to teach to the test, narrow the curriculum, and substitute drill for education. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cleaning up Rhee's act

D.C. Rhee offered to clean up her crappy image for fiance [not finance, WaPo copy ed.] K.J. He says, "Honey, just be you. Let's not create false hope." (Bill Turque in Washington Post)


Thousands of Chicago teachers rock City Hall
As they completely surrounded City Hall, some teachers chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, Mayor Daley has to go.'' But outside Board headquarters at 125 S. Clark, the last half of the chant changed to "Huberman has to go.''The entire block was packed with teachers wearing red T-shirts, screaming up at board headquarters in chants that bounced off the canyon of office buildings. (Sun-Times)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Visiting an Ethnic Studies class in Tucson

Wanna buy a public school?

 L.A. High School put out for bid

8 more L.A. schools being sold to highest bidder
Except for the high schools, all the low-performing campuses are, broadly speaking, in low-income minority neighborhoods north and west of the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways. (L.A. Times)

What happened when a group of teachers finally got Duncan's ear?

They got an earful

I want to find positive things to take from what unfolded, but it is challenging. Here is what happened. We were given a magic phone number to call in. There were about six Dept of Ed people back in DC in a room with Arne Duncan, who introduced themselves one by one... (Anthony Cody)

Monday, May 24, 2010


Stewart vs. Lewis in run-off for CTU president

"You don't make radical changes in times of trouble," Stewart told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.
But Lewis posed this question: "And exactly what has this experience gotten us?"
Does free speech stop when the bell rings?
"When you teach young people who are very close to voting age that the government gets to decide what they can criticize, you shouldn't be surprised that we get damaged citizens," he said. "Too many (school officials) see student expression as a problem to be managed rather than an opportunity to teach." (Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center)

"Even though I believe their voices have to be heard, they have to be disciplined for their infractions." (Joyce Kenner, principal, Whitney Young Magnet High School)
Texas school board approves new "standards"

"I have let down the students in our state," said board member Mary Helen Berlanga (D). "What we have done today is something that a classroom teacher would not even have accepted," she said, sweeping a pile of history books from her desk onto the floor. (Washington Post) 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mayoral control of the schools?

At a news conference to discuss Chicago's gun ban and the Supreme Court's pending ruling on the issue, a reporter from the Chicago Reader asked him if the ban was effective.

"Since guns are readily available in Chicago even with a ban in place, do you really think it’s been effective?" asked Mick Dumke.“Oh!” Daley said. “It’s been very effective!”

He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.
“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”
“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”

Duncan's "miracle"

More evidence of the fraud that was Duncan/Daley's "miracle" in Chicago. Arne Duncan rode the myth all the way to D.C.
Eighth-grade scores didn't show any significant gains between 2002 and 2009 -- a period spanning most of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's tenure here as Schools CEO.Chicago posted no substantial progress since 2002 in closing the achievement gap between white students compared with African Americans or Hispanics, and between poor and non-poor students. (Sun-Times)
Now he's forcing his Chicago "model" on the nation's schools by threatening them with the withholding of federal dollars.

If you want to hear a bogus explanation for the failure of Duncan's "miracle," look no farther than his departing chief educational officer, Barbara Eason-Watkins:
She also noted that CPS schools are focused on state tests -- which can carry huge stakes -- and not national ones.
Of course, for the past decade, CPS has been teaching to the wrong test. Why didn't i think of that?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Have you heard...?

1960 Woolworth sit-ins

...We're in the "post-racial" era

Except that in Kentucky, the Limbaugh Party just picked a T-Party senate candidate who would like to roll back the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, Rand (named after Ayn?) Paul thinks the law impinges on the freedom of businesses to refuse service to African-Americans, gays, disabled, if they so choose. Paul is also (no coincidence) a big voucher/charter proponent. He obviously feels that through privatization, schools will no longer have to admit ELL and special-needs students, if they so choose.

Already being done, Rand.Thanks anyway.

Then there's my new favorite wingy think-tanker, AEI flack Rick Hess, leaping to defend Supt. Horne's ban on ethnic studies in Arizona. Hess, it seems, favors and enforcement of  white "unum" in the curriculum. Hess has now earned his own SmallTalk tag (below) along with Finn, Petrilli and a tiny handful of other wing-nut ed experts. But I still can't understand how this paid flack for AEI gets his own blog at Edweek.

Both Hess & Horne should make common bond and unum with the Texas school board as they move to rewrite the state's curriculum standards to (among other things) replace mentions of "slavery" with the words, "triangle trade."

Ironically it's former Bush Sec. of Ed and Houston Supt. Rod Paige, of Texas miracle fame, who is now quoted as being critical of the board's rewrite. I say, ironically, because it was Paige who paved the way for all this, when as the nation's schools chief, he tried to force his own Christian fundamentalist religious beliefs on the nation's schools.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, those Ohio charter management companies!

Bad guys in white hats

A group of Cleveland and Akron charter schools is in open rebellion against the for-profit management firm that runs the schools. The governing boards say that White Hat's interest in making a profit conflicts with the schools' goal to educate. The suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, says that the boards are "virtually impotent to govern the schools."

Plain Dealer story here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hess tries his best to spin CF mess

AEI's teacher-bashing spinmeister Rick Hess, tries his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear (Gist's mass firings at Central Falls H.S.). A massive push-back by organized labor, students and teachers nationwide forced Commissioner Gist and Supt. Gallo to rescind the firings and hire back all 93 teachers and staff before legal action would have forced the issue.

In this interview with Gist, Hess tries to make it seem like this was the plan all along, that the firings were just part of a "poker game" bluff to make the teachers union accept violations of the contract without any negotiations. Notice how he tries to lead Gist into accepting a certain percentage of firings as a benchmark of success. Gist of course, refuses. 

RH: Okay, but suppose that, at this time next year, we see that just five or six of the school's 93 teachers are removed. Would observers be right to be skeptical that the process was toothless?

DG: It's not about removing any particular percentage of teachers. It's hard to know what the proper percentage would look like. But I strongly encourage people to be skeptical. We should be skeptical. I want people to take a hard look at us, and I'm going to do the same with the district and with my staff. But it's not about the percentage of teachers we remove. It's about the quality of the evaluation and about performance. I expect there will be turnover, but how much there is remains to be seen.
 And so it goes.
More Gist:   But there are some great teachers at the high school and, because teacher evaluation is so poor around the country and in the state, we don't have good evidence as to who should stay and who should not. This deal gives us the opportunity to make those decisions in a more informed way and gives folks the opportunity to be a part of the reform movement. 

Yes, commissioner. You should have thought of that before you made Central Falls the poster child for failure of Duncan's Race To The Top

Second thought: Why is this paid flack for the right-wing think tanks being given a blog at Edweek? Just asking.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Teachers, staff all rehired at Central Falls H.S.

Things have come full-circle in Central Falls, R.I. where 87 teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and other staffers, who were arbitrarily fired without due process, will now return to their jobs without having to reapply. More than 700 people had already applied for the positions.

The firings were pushed at first by an over-zealous State Commissioner Deborah Gist, and a near apoplectic local supt.,Fran Gallo, both bending over backwards [no pun intended] to please Arne Duncan's reform agenda Duncan, in turn, praised the mass firings as "courageous" and held up mass teacher firings as the new face of school reform as well as an implied threat to any union that wouldn't play ball on RTTT.

But the fired teachers got such overwhelming support from students and fellow teachers around the country, including thousands signing on-line petitions, that Gist may have been told to stand down and reopen negotiations. She was also facing court action that likely would have stopped the firings any way.  Instead of firing teachers, the school's principal was reassigned to another school, which is probably what should have been done in the first place. Other changes, according to WaPo, may include "a new evaluation system designed to inform teaching and learning, and targeted and embedded professional development." In other words, all things which could have been done originally without the crisis mentality and without threatening the very economic viability of the poor town of Central Falls and making its name synonymous with teacher bashing.

The Answer Sheet's Valerie Strauss (who always seems to make a lot of sense) says, Duncan & Obama should have kept quiet in the first place, on the firings.
What do you think would have happened if Obama and Duncan had not taken sides when the teachers were first fired, and instead had urged the opposing sides to work harder to reach a better solution? I think it is fair to assume that the negotiations would have reached success a lot sooner, sparing the Central Falls community a lot of grief.
If there is a humorous side to all this, it's watching the conservative think-tankers stumbling all over themselves trying to figure out whether or not the board vote to rehire all the teachers was a "victory" for the right-wing. AEI's Hess says it was. Fordham's Smarick says no. Both are wrong as usual.

More background on Central Falls firings.

Birthplace of charter schools "infected"

Junk bonds fueling Minn. charters

Minnesota's charter school movement, which sparked a national rethinking of public schooling nearly two decades ago, has been infected by an out-of-control financing system fueled by junk bonds, insider fees and lax oversight. 
To lure the investors they need for new buildings, some educators are abandoning the intimate campuses their founders envisioned and are building large schools that look more like the conventional institutions that some families are fleeing. Some charter school advocates say the build-your-own trend could undermine an education movement built on small class size and parental involvement. (
An examination of the state's charter school finances by Minnesota 2020 came up with similar findings:
Seventeen years after the first charter school opened in Minnesota, this examination of fiscal year 2007 charter school financial audits shows that the vast majority of charter schools do not follow basic financial guidelines or, in some cases, state law.


Honor student's arrest will test Arizona law
I never thought that I’d be caught up in this messed-up system,” Ms. Colotl said Friday at a news conference after being released on $2,500 bail. “I was treated like a criminal, like a threat to the nation.” (NYT)
Kellogg Foundation V.P. on nation's racial wounds

 The demographic mandate is clear, Christopher noted, because “by 2015, most of the children in America will be children of color,” who will continue to experience higher rates of interaction with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, not because of some genetic flaw, but because of a system of rooted privilege and the policies that undergird it. (New American Media)

Former president of Columbia Teachers College, Arthur Levine

"In the past, minorities have tended to provide leadership for the minority protests. Now they've moved to center stage. They're leading the protests." ("Minority student activists protest education cuts"--USA Today)
The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining EducationThe education of Diane Ravitch
“Never before,” she writes of the Gates Foundation, was there an entity “that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.”(N.Y. Times review)

Racist Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"I should be a hero. They should be thanking me." (

Friday, May 14, 2010

Horne vs. Dyson

Pedagogy of the OppressedGood thing I'm not teaching in Arizona. State Supt. Horne wants to ban Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I just assigned chap. 2,  "The banking concept of education."  Horne ought to read it. It's really not about "smash the gringos."

Inside Chicago's school "Renaissance"

“Our Soldiers know how to shoot, but they may not always understand when to shoot — or not to shoot,” Munsey said. “Was there a hostile act? With VBS2, we train on their weaknesses.”

Chicago Public School District representatives met with Combined Arms Center-Training team members at Fort Leavenworth in April to learn first-hand about the U.S. Army’s approach to virtual training. Their goal as members of the school district’s Office of School Turnaround was to learn about possible approaches to help prepare teachers and administrators to succeed in the Windy City’s toughest schools.
 “We need to make it so people are constantly growing,” said Dr. Donald Fraynd, turnaround officer for the Chicago Public Schools. “Our teachers and administrators need to be able to go into an uncomfortable space and know they won’t get fired if they make the wrong decision,” he said, adding that virtual training would offer that safe opportunity to learn. (

A major court victory in L.A.

 Tim Sullivan, principal of Markham Middle School in Watts

How many other inner-city schools will follow suit?

Calling it a "major victory," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hailed a judge's decision to issue an injunction blocking district-mandated layoffs at three Los Angeles Unified middle schools where civil rights groups said job cuts would deprive inner-city children of their right to an education. (AP Wire)
“'Today's landmark decision carries on the ideals of Brown v. Board of Education that no child may be deprived of the right to learn,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California. “
 The class action suit was filed in February 2010 by students at three Los Angeles middle schools who alleged that one round of layoffs had already stripped their schools of many teachers, and that another planned round would devastate the quality of their education.
The Los Angeles Unified School District and the State of California were among those named as defendants. In 2009, LAUSD sent Reduction in Force (“RIF”) notices to 60% of the teachers at Liechty, 48% at Gompers, and 46% at Markham.  Many other LAUSD middle schools had less than 15% of their teachers laid off.  In 2010, LAUSD was set to lay off 49% of the teachers at Liechty, 21% at Gompers, and 30% at Markham.  At the same time, over 30 of the 69 LAUSD middle schools would lose less than 10% of their teachers. 
The evidence presented made it clear that the affects of the firings hit the hardest at schools in the poorest and most racially isolated neighborhoods--a clear violation of civil rights. The question is, how many other urban schools and community groups will file suit modeled on the one in L.A.  in order to prevent devastating RIFs before they occur?

The plaintiffs were represented pro bono by a team of lawyers from law firm Morrison & Foerster, as well as by the local chapter of the ACLU. Sean Gates, a partner in Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office, was co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“Our case was so strong that the Governor and the State Board of Education, defendants in the case, agreed with our position,” Mr. Gates said. 
 A copy of the injunction with names and phone numbers of the winning lawyers, can be accessed here:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Go Giants! Beat Palin!

The press reported that Sarah Palin was in Chicago yesterday, or as Huffington described it, "had no problem dissing President Obama on his home turf."

Well, let me explain for those who don't know this city--Palin spoke in the corrupt little town of Rosemont, not Chicago and certainly not on Obama's home turf. She wouldn't dare come into the city, even for her $100K speakers fee and with her 9 personal body guards.

What really pissed me off was that she used her speech before a gaggle of cheering T-baggers to bully and threaten Highland Park High School over it's decision to boycott a girls basketball tournament in Arizona.  With a diverse team of hoopers, the school rightly felt the girls would be unsafe and vulnerable to stop-and-search racial profiling. On this, they found common ground with Arizona's own Phoenix Suns players.


BTW, I ordered my Highland Park High Giants basketball T-shirt here. You can too.

Taking back school reform

Ravitch & Rose via email

Mike Rose and Diane Ravitch connected in L.A. during her book tour and continued their discussion of school reform issues via email.

Rose: I think a good place to start is with NCLB. That law was driven by a masterful rhetoric that casted dissent from its agenda as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” There can be “no excuses” for the low performance of poor, immigrant, and racial and ethnic minority kids, as measured by the tests NCLB supported. Currently, some other school reform advocates, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have taken up this point of view: Poverty doesn’t matter. 

Ravitch:  The press barons, the mighty foundations, and most think tanks today share a common narrative. They want privatization, the more the better; they have contempt for ordinary teachers, whom they hold responsible for low test scores; and they applaud any superintendent who promises to fire principals, fire teachers, and privatize more public schools. I don’t know who will frame the counter-narrative, and I don’t know who will lead the opposition to these destructive trends
 Read the entire Teacher Magazine dialogue here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Latest from the Chicago's school 'Renaissance'

No more foreign languages taught here

Did Mayor Daley bring Ron Huberman over from CTA to manage the complete and total dismantling of public education in the city? It's beginning to look that way.

The latest target of Daley/Huberman is the district's World Languages program. In short, it's a goner. Elementary school students will no longer have a chance to learn a foreign language at their neighborhood public school under a decision to dump "world languages" to save $3.5 million, according to this report in today's Sun-Times.
Late Tuesday, CPS Budget Chief Christina Herzog released a list of 27 affected schools and said all world language magnet program positions were being closed -- a total of 40 jobs -- for a savings of $3.5 million.

Profit in charters? Yes

"There's a very fine line between what all of us do, and fraud..."--Whitney Tilson, hedge-fund school reformer

Skeptical friends continue to ask me: "Is it really possible to make a profit operating a charter school(s)?" I remember the above-mentioned Tilson mocking anyone who suggested such a thing and edu-business experts like Mark Dean Millot saying that running schools, "is a very unprofitable business." I've offered several explanations to my friends about why profits may be driving much of the charter school business.

Maybe Juan Gonzalez from Democracy Now, can convince them that there's gold in them charters. 

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, before we move on to the Gulf, you have a very interesting column in the "New York Daily News" today, an exposé around big banks and charter schools.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, Amy, one of the things I've been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans, and big banks, Wall Street banks- executives of Wall Street banks, have all lined-up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. I think I may have come across one of the reasons.

There's a lot of money to be made in charter schools, and I'm not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools. It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets tax credit. What this allows is it gives enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities and it's been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. I have focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state, is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools, twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany attend are now attending charter schools. I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets tax credits. What happens is the investors who put up the money to build charter schools get to basically or virtually double their money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that their lending, so they're also collecting interest on the loans as well as getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits like historic preservation or job creation or brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in ten million dollars and in seven years double your money. The problem is, that the charter schools end up paying in rents, the debt service on these loans and so now, a lot fo the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt service- their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year or- huge increases in their rents as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. The rents are eating-up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

One of the big issues is that so many of these charter schools are not being audited. No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. Often, there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans.

There needs to be some light on this whole issue and the state legislature right now is considering expanding charter school caps, but one of the things I press for my column, there has to be the power of the government to independently audit all of these charter schools or we're not going to know how public dollars are ending up in the coffers of Wall Street investors.

As you may know we covered a story about hedge fund managers getting in on the charter school action...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Anderson gets an earful in Elgin

Arne Duncan's senior advisor, Jo Anderson, former director of the IEA, got an earful Monday when he met with teachers in Elgin, IL.
Jane Jorgensen, who teaches at Ontarioville Elementary, questioned why the federal government would bail out the auto and banking industries when 300,000 teachers across the country stand to lose their jobs next year. "Why isn't the world freaking out?" she asked. "We're talking about the future here."
With a new Illinois law that ties student performance to teacher evaluations, passed this winter to help the state's bid in the federal Race to the Top education competition for federal stimulus dollars, "some teachers are now just teaching to the tests," Horizon Elementary teacher Johnnie Zurek said."We are assessment crazy. Who would want to teach at a (low-performing) school with these new rules?"
Anderson's response: "You're not going to get money without doing something different." 

Huberman's version of "reform" in Chicago

What's causing all that wind in the Windy City? It could be the revolving door of principals. 

C.E.O. Huberman,  an education know-nothing, is left with the tired old game of replacing managers. Now he says he will get rid of 80 principals in one shot. If there ever was a recipe for chaos and instability, this is it. I'm still waiting to hear where Huberman will find 80 great (but unemployed) principals to replace them. Maybe we can switch with Milwaukee. Sounds like a windfall for the Harvard Business School- spawned New Leaders for New Schools.

The mass firings come 15 years after the mayor took over the schools system and imposed his so-called Renaissance 2010 on the district. They signal the complete and total failure of Daley's and Arne Duncan's reform plan with the blame being once again thrown completely on educators.

The lamest line on this came, as you might expect, from one of Chicago's know-nothing aldermen. 31st Ward Ald. Ray Suarez, who also touts school vouchers, is demanding that Huberman fire more principals.
"This didn't just happen last week. This has been going on for many, many years. And you still give the same excuse: 'We're working on it. We have a contract.' In private industry when you have a leader and he's not performing, I don't care what kind of contract he's got. He's out." 
 Wrong, Alderman.  In case you haven't heard, in private industry when your top people screw up and destroy the company as well as our environment and our national economy, you give them giant bonuses. Or in the case of Chicago alderman, they give themselves a big raise.

Oh good, they found the $39 million in D.C.

"We had to open things up and move some things around."-- Mayor Fenty

WaPo's Bill Turque reports that D.C. district crats have "found" the $39 million they needed to pay for Rhee's bogus contract. Was it in a drawer somewhere? Stuck to somebody's shoe? No, it will come from cuts to after-school programs, and stim $$$ that should have gone to pay salaries of hundreds of laid-off teachers.

Private foundations have promised to pick up $21 million of the tab. Of course, they promise lots of things. D.C. teachers are being asked to abandon all remaining job protections in the contract in exchange for a one-time salary increase. They have to hope that the foundations keep their promise and sustain their funding (which they've made contingent on Rhee staying in D.C.). And if Rhee decides to fire a few hundred more? Well, I guess they don't get the promised raise.

Union prez George Parker calls that "good news" for teachers. Hey George, that condo in Florida is still on the market.

Monday, May 10, 2010


This WaPo headline wins this week's It's-Not-From-The-Onion Award.

Hoping to raise school standards, Rhee adds 13 senior managers
Coming in a close second was this statement from BP spokesman Bill Salvin:
The Gulf oil spill containment process is "going exactly as we hoped"

The Mel Brooks Award

My brother Fred should receive an award from Mel's Save Our Schmuck Foundation for his assessment of  Fred Hess' latest piece of make-class-size-bigger nonsense.
AEI’s Fred Hess can explain that the over six thousand teachers that may be laid off in the New York public school system is a golden opportunity...Fred Hess is a Schmuck (Fred Klonsky's blog)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why the Chicago voucher bill failed

Back in the day, when I was over at UIC, a conservative prof friend would always corner me in the hallways between classes to argue school vouchers.

"Mike, you're so smart about small schools," he would usually begin. "Why can't you see how good vouchers would be for Chicago?" He obviously had a different vision of small schools than I did. But on the voucher issue, I finally grew tired of arguing and said, " Look Herb, you're arguing with the wrong guy. Go down to Springfield and talk to your Republican pals in the legislature (at the time, they were the majority). If they really wanted vouchers, there would be vouchers."

This week's defeat of Sen. Meeks voucher bill proved my point. While the unions were attacked from the right for driving the bill's defeat, many downstate Republicans also voted no, enough to kill the bill. According the Crain's Greg Hinz: 
 Of the 48 GOP members of the House, only 29 ever were listed on the tote board as voting "yes." Four of them fell off the roll-call at the last second, as it became clear the bill was going to fail.That means at least 19 — four in 10 — went south on what supposedly is a seminal issue for the Republican Party.
One reason for the Republicans bailing on the bill, according to Hinz -- they "likely were stampeded by the 'slippery slope' argument spread by the unions: Chicago today, the rest of Illinois tomorrow. And others surely relied on that old Springfield bromide: What's in it for me?"

In other words, vouchers were okay for those schools and those kids in Chicago, but not in our districts. And you know what those & our means.

The power of power philanthropy

Power philanthropy is co-piloting for a bumbling Michelle Rhee in D.C., writes Mark Schmitt at Politico. A consortium of private foundations and billionaire hedge-funders is likely the only thing keeping her in power.

"...a group of private foundations that had pledged $64.5 million to the District of Columbia Public Schools to provide the funds necessary for Chancellor Michelle Rhee's controversial teacher merit-pay proposal were conditioning their grants on a right to reconsider if there were a change in leadership in the D.C. Schools -- that is, if Rhee goes, so does the money. "

This is the same game being played by muscle foundations like Gates, Broad & Walton (the "Billionaire Boys Club," as Diane Ravitch calls them) around the country, as they move to take the public out of public education and make a mockery of democratic decision making.

Writes Schmitt:
"Shouldn't Rhee's tenure be our decision to make or that of the mayor? (We have a mayoral election this fall, which is likely to be in large part a referendum on Rhee and the mayor who appointed her, Adrian Fenty.) Sixty-four million dollars from foundations based outside of D.C. puts a high price on that decision, especially for a poor city." 
Even the flies are buzzin'

There's no better friend of the ownership society than right-wing think-tanker Checker Finn. But even Finn agrees that the private foundations are snuggling up a little too closely with public education. He points to  a dozen major foundations that have committed some $506 million to “match” federal funding from the i3 “innovation” program.

The problem with Finn is, he claims that it's government and the public that is corrupting the benevolent billionaire philanthropists,  instead of the other way around. 
There’s an affinity here that transcends anything I’ve observed in earlier years—and of course it is heightened by the number of people with foundation (and, generally, nonprofit) backgrounds who occupy key policy roles in the Education Department and other agencies.
Well put, Checker.

But what about the $325 million JP Morgan Chase is "investing" in public charter schools. That doesn't seem to bother Finn or his young acolyte, Andy Smarick who points out that the bank and partners will make use of the federal New Markets Tax Credit program to extend the initiatives reach.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speaking truth to power

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining EducationDiane Ravitch is an educational traditionalist. That hasn't changed. She still doesn't fancy herself as a progressive educator. Nor is she a fan of small schools. So why do I like her so much? With the very survival of public education hanging in the balance, Ravitch has emerged as a powerful voice on the most important issues of the day. She's become a loud, clear active force against the ownership society policies of Duncan and Bloomberg. She's speaking truth to power about testing, mass teacher firings, and school closings. Plus, she's pro-teacher and for their rights to bargain collectively. Progressive or traditionalist, how can you not like that?

In today's NYT, Richard Bernstein writes:
Ms. Ravitch’s basic idea is that the education bureaucrats, the politicians, and the heads of a group of fabulously wealthy foundations have cleaved to the latest fads and theories, most of which can be subsumed under the business model of public education. (Letters from America)
As for small schools:
Ms. Ravitch found that they have produced little in the way of measurable results. Often, as in the case of the Gates Foundation’s creation of small high schools to replace large, big-city high schools, they have brought about the opposite of what they intended. 
I'll even give her another amen on that last point.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicago students hit the streets to protest cuts

AERA Boycotts Arizona

The 25,000-member American Educational Research Assoc. has joined the growing list of organizations vowing to boycott Arizona in protest of its new immigration law.
"As education researchers, we need to be concerned about the effects this new law may have on fostering an environment of fear with consequences for students' learning, educational achievement, and attachment to and belief in the social institutions of society," said Kris Gutierrez, the group's president-elect and a researcher from the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Debra Viadero, Edweek)


I've read Fred Hess' report from AERA twice and still can't figure out who he's calling, "fascists in flip-flops." Can you? The researcher from the far-right American Enterprise Institute is upset because AERA's  membership appears to be so "one-sided" in their opposition to Arizona's law.

Ella Baker Award

I didn't go to AERA this year, but I'm told, one of the highlights of the Denver meeting was the presentation of the Ella Baker Award to Grace Lee Boggs. Presenters included Vincent Harding, Barbara Ransby and Charlie Cobb.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two world views

Speech by Afghani shop keeper President Obama

Around the world and here at home, there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda.  They will stop at nothing to kill and disrupt our way of life.  (Remarks to the Business Council)


This, from yesterday's NYT
A new survey by the Pew Research Center found distrust of government at its highest level in 30 years. Of all federal agencies, the department of education’s approval rating had fallen most sharply, to 40 percent from 61 percent in 1998. In fact, the department got the lowest rating of any federal agency, including the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Duncan’s aides said the drop could reflect dissatisfaction with No Child Left Behind. Mr. Duncan says he encounters no public opposition.“Zero,” he said. 
Hey Arne, over here!

Ownership Society News

Entertainment Properties Trust recently bought five public schools for investment of approximately $44 million.What a deal! (h/t Ken Libby)

N.J. Gov. Christie goes to D.C. to push "deep cuts" in public ed and more "reform"--meaning vouchers. NCAA leader, James Harris  responds: "This is not about ‘school choice.' This is about using precious public funds to subsidize private and religious education."

Tom VanderArk is so excited about Christie, he could pee. But most of all, he's elated over the current budget crisis. It's a "good opportunity for online learning," says VDA.  I can't understand why those 275,000 300,000 teachers and staff getting riffed don't get that. 

Meet Gov.Schwarzenegger's appointed state board. Might as well just appoint Eli Broad himself. (Perimeter Primate).

Monday, May 3, 2010

'Will close schools for $$$' -- Huberman

They call it "reform" but...
Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman told aldermen yesterday the federal government is now offering financial incentives for districts to close schools or fire staff. (WBEZ)

HUBERMAN: There’s theoretically $2 million on the table for every time CPS exercises  one of these models.

Aldermen warned Huberman that his community outreach efforts could be undone if it looked like the district’s decisions were about money. They said dollars shouldn’t be dangled before needy communities as an incentive, either.


Republican battle cry
"Drill, baby, drill" is now, "Hush, baby, hush." (Greenwire)

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony at L.A. May Day rally
“Everyone in God’s eyes is legal...Every time we have an economic downturn, there is a new attack on immigrants.' (NYT)
McCain's bashing of immigrants
What a difference the Tea Party makes. This time McCain endorsed his state’s new immigration law as “a good tool” and “a very important step forward,” and propagandized in favor of it with his widely ridiculed televised canard that illegal immigrants were “intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” (Frank Rich)
 Report from the Venture Fund meet
Charters have also become a pet cause of what one education historian calls a billionaires’ club of philanthropists, including Mr. Gates, Eli Broad of Los Angeles and the Walton family of Wal-Mart. But for all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, according to experts citing years of research. (Trip Gabriel, N.Y. Times)