Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Will NEA be a lion or a pussy cat?

Union will decide at its national meeting this week. Brother Fred on his way to the Big Easy.

Disgusting Dems

They've linked teacher pay to war funding. How degrading for teachers.
House Democrats who are trying to pass a long-stalled war funding bill are sweetening it with $10 billion to help local school districts avoid teacher layoffs when schools reopen. (Boston Globe)

Jay Mathews' laughable headline

WaPo's Strauss tries her best to answer this dumb (yes I said it) question. She's so polite and deferential. I suppose she still has to work with the guy.


Testing kids at age 3 in N.Y.

That's what Bloomber/Klein are doing in NY. Three & four-year-olds are being tested to see if they are "gifted." 
But any new test is unlikely to alleviate what many parents consider the most anxiety-producing part of the process — sending 4-year-olds into an exam that could decide their schooling for the next six years. In fact, the city may begin testing even earlier. (NYT)
It will be interesting to see the race/class breakdown of the "gifted" kids with the new tests. According to the Times:
While increasing diversity in the programs is an issue, education officials have been eager to dispel any suggestion that the gifted admissions process would somehow be diluted to promote it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Research only confuses them

Taken together, latest studies conclude, small schools in N.Y. & Philly making a difference. Charters, not so much. But as far as Bill Gates and Cheerleaders Inc. is concerned, research, schmeesearch!

Standard Deviations

Arizona State prof, David Berliner gets all bell-curvy on us in today's Answer Sheet. But his conclusions are unmistakable and inarguable. If you want to be successful in school and in life, don't be both poor and go to school with other poor kids. The combined effect is devastating. But if you come from a wealthy family and attend a school with other wealthy kids, your life chances are enhanced greatly. While good teachers and schools can and do play a vital role, the compound affect of poverty, segregated schools and housing, on average, have a much more powerful affect on student learning than anything that may happen inside the classroom.  I'm sure the "no excuses" crowd will go ballistic over this.

It is not pleasant to contemplate, but when poor children go to public schools that serve the poor, and wealthy children go to public schools that serve the wealthy, then the huge gaps in achievement that we see bring us closer to establishing an apartheid public school system. We create through our housing, school attendance, and school districting policies a system designed to encourage castes—a system promoting a greater likelihood of a privileged class and an under class.
Of course there are schools (mainly small) and groups of students who continue to beat the odds. In most cases they become the focus of media attention and benefit from the kindness of wealthy patrons, power philanthropists, and an effective PR campaign. But on the whole, Berliner's equations hold up. It's not about "excuses." It's about an increasingly two-tiered system of education.

Monday, June 28, 2010

'Please somebody stop me...'

Before I test again

Maybe that's what test-mad Rhee is really thinking as she takes her D.C. school district farther into the abyss than anyone else has gone.

Do the math

We spend $1 billion each year  for every al Qaeda member in Afghanistan while schools go broke. For every al Qaeda fighter, we have 1,000 of our troops.

Listen to this interview with CIA Director Leon Panetta:
TAPPER: How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan?

PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. I think at most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity.

Did the Ownership Society just have a central committee meeting?

It sounds that way as the new line trickles down from society members like Mayor Bloomberg and Chicago business "reformer" Robin Steans--massive layoffs are necessary to cut budgets and also a way to get rid of union protection for teachers. In place of a contract, fire teachers on the basis of a student test score--or even better, without any evaluation at all.

Following their failed, clumsy attempt to fire the entire faculty and staff at Central Falls H.S. in Rhode Island, they now all seem to be marching to the same beat in the media. They're dragging out all their weapons at once--"merit pay," Race To The Top, and TFA, as they try and play younger teachers off against the veterans as all are forced to compete for dwindling jobs at lower salaries and benefits. It's also a way to rationalize the latest assault on unions and teacher collective-bargaining rights.

Check out Tim Knowles in the Wall Street Journal ("The trouble with teacher tenure'):
The good news is that the majority of teachers are not interested in protecting colleagues who don't belong in the classroom... The time has come to eliminate tenure. We are facing monumental challenges in our quest to provide all students with an education that will prepare them to compete in a globalized economy. By removing one of the main sources of friction between labor and management, we can focus on the substantive issues: training, evaluating and rewarding teachers to make teaching a true profession.
In case you didn't get it, "friction between labor and management" is Ownership Society code for labor unions. It's a shame in a way because Knowles has been pretty good lately on other issues. 

Here's Chicago CEO Huberman, who got the party line on Thursday. This same ABC piece has some good responses from newly-elected CTU leader Karen Lewis,
"Our reality is our contract has a specific way of showing how these layoffs need to occur but I'm saying they don't need to occur period. We can find this money," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers' Union, president-elect. 
and teacher Katie Hogan:
"I think they're encouraging teachers to buy into testing culture or leave the system. That's not what drives teachers. What drives teachers is wanting to help kids."


The real cost of war  
IT BELONGS to every citizen to have in mind what the nation’s present wars are doing — not only to US troops, Iraqis and Afghans, and the faceless enemy, but to the American character. We have come to understand that the brutalities of combat can shatter participants psychologically as well as physically. (James Carroll, Boston Globe)

Race to top forces firing of top principal
“There is no one in the federal government that knows what kind of leadership De Ann Currin is providing, and there’s lots of people in Lincoln, Nebraska, that do." (Answer Sheet)
Closing 2 dozen alternative schools in L.A. 
"It's hard for me to stay out of the streets," said Gabriel, who, like other students in the programs, can't be fully identified because of their status. "When I'm here, it takes my mind off things. If the school closes, I worry it might be a big fall for me." (L.A. Times)

Philly Small Schools

Science Leadership principal Christopher Lehmann said that 116 of the 117-member senior class at the school, at 21st and Arch streets, graduated last week. The one student who didn't graduate will get a diploma after completing a summer course.
"I'm very proud of what the kids have done," Lehmann said. "We hope we have built a school that matters." (Philly Daily News)
Who's failure?
"If it is the job of administration to hire, fire and evaluate teachers and yet they fail to do so, why are unions blamed for this? (Retired teacher comments on Answer Sheet)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

15,000 of us in Detroit

If you're looking for lots of energy and hope for the future, the US Social Forum in Detroit is the place to be. 15,000 registered, the woman at the registration desk tells me. And there's many more without orange wrist bands.

Lots of educators and school activists. Ed workshops (some 50) line up bumper to bumper. Our's bumps heads with some of my favorite folks. Then there's the big assemblies that break down into smaller discussion groups. One today was introduced by Bill Ayers and featured the venerable Grace Lee Boggs and Vincint Harding. Wow!

The Detroit Free Press runs an interesting piece today about the increased participation of religious groups in USSF.
"Faith is about justice," said the Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor of Central United. "Without justice, faith is living a lie. If your faith is just about helping only the people who are inside stained glass windows, we ought to quit." The US Social Forum is attracting thousands of activists from across the U.S., mostly leftists and progressives. But can the far left and religious groups get along? Referring to a biblical verse in Acts about the distribution of wealth, Rowe said: "That's not a communist plot. That's a Christian principle."
One more note from Motown. It has to do with Arne Duncan's mantra about mayor control of the schools. The problem here is that the old mayor Kilpatrick has just been indicted while the newt Mayor (what's up with these former NBA stars) Dave Bing is crying for control of the schools.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Deja Vu all over again

Study Finds Success in NYC's 'Small Schools'

Wait a minute. Didn't I read this same headline 20 years ago? Or maybe I wrote it?
At a time when reformers and philanthropists have largely turned their back on the “small schools” movement, a major study of New York City high schools has found that students are more academically successful in smaller, more personal high schools that they choose for themselves than they are in larger, more traditional schools. (Edweek).
What can I say? Read our book.

Principal George Wood: How to really turn a school around

George was yesterday's guest on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet. Thanks to Valerie for taking risks and giving voice to the real school reformers and educators.

Here's what they DIDN'T do at Federal Hocking High School:
...we did not do all the stuff that the new ‘reformers’ think is vital to improve our schools. We did not fire the staff, eliminate tenure, or pay teachers based on student test scores. We did not become a charter school. We did not take away control from a locally elected school board and give it to a mayor. We did not bring in a bunch of two-year short-term teachers.
 Here's what they DID do:
At our school we rely on weekly if not daily staff development activities, school wide learning strategies, and staff evaluation focused on improving instruction and cultivating the leadership skills of teachers to help and coach their colleagues. There is no incentive linking pay to performance or threats of termination; rather we rely on collaboration and the collective wisdom of the teaching staff to improve student achievement.

What's the real deal at this D.C. high school?

They restructured Anacostia H.S. into small academies, good. But they fired 85% of the teachers, Michelle Rhee style. They even got Michelle Obama to come and give the commencement speech to the school's few grads. So where's the heralded "rebirth," asks visiting teacher/writer Dan Brown. 
I visited the Sojourner Truth Academy for ninth-graders on Friday, June 18. What I saw and heard didn't match the hype. When I asked a student who gave me a tour of the building what the best part of school was for him, he told me: "the teachers... but they're all leaving." ... Possibly worst of all, my student guide led me to the cafeteria, which required passing through a stairwell so dilapidated and encrusted with grime and filth that it seemed to belong in a horror movie.
 Can you imagine these conditions in a predominantly white, middle-class school? Would WaPo still be cheering?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thanks for critical thinkers

Thanks to those critics of bought-and-paid-for school research, EPIC/EPRU, for shining their  light on the latest KIPP study. Gary Miron's preliminary look finds a big problem. The study badly underestimates the impact of KIPPs relatively high student attrition rates and therefore belies KIPP PR guy Steve Mancini's claim that it provides "irrefutable evidence" that KIPP doesn't cream it's kids.

Mancini doth protest a bit too much however, since the concern with the KIPP chain of replicant schools has always been more about attrition, than skimming. It's always been difficult for charter schools to aggressively skim because most are required to admit students through a lottery. Some do it anyway, by claiming that they don't have the resources to teach English language learners or kids with disabilities or behavioral problems, a claim that neighborhood public schools aren't allowed to make.

Miron is actually much kinder and gentler and even somewhat apologetic towards KIPP and the Mathematica researchers than I am. He could have pointed out for example, that KIPP only allowed the researchers to look at 22 carefully selected hand-picked schools after which they concluded that KIPP didn't skim their students. They claim that data wasn't available on the others. Why not I wonder? Mabe Gary will take some of these questions up at a later date.

According to Edweek,
 "...the researchers attempted to get data for all 35 KIPP schools that were opened by 2005, but data from school districts and states were only available for 22 of those schools."
But skimming at the admissions end was never really as much an issue as was student attrition, with low-scoring kids being pushed out and not replaced by other low-scoring kids.

The KIPP study did find that the charter school chain did and does have much smaller populations of ELL and special ed students which make it difficult to compare KIPP with the public schools that are receives in large numbers of these students.

Nat'l. Council of Churches letter to Obama: 'No to Race To The Top'

Arne Duncan claimed he found "no opposition." But WaPo's Valerie Strauss writes that this pastoral letter to Obama from the National Council of Churches, "should erase any doubt that opposition to the Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top is wide and deep."
“While competitive, market based “reforms” may increase educational opportunity for a few children, or even for some groups of children, do they introduce more equity or more inequity into the system itself? We reject the language of business for discussing public education.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

How the TIF game is played in Chicago

Mayoral control of the schools makes Daley's hand-picked school board merely an extension of City Hall. This in turn enables the downtown, business-friendly TIF plan to loot the public schools for hundreds of millions of dollars without a peep from the board. This, combined with some of the lowest levels of state funding in the nation results in massive teacher lay-off and swelling class size. The newly-elected leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union wants to shine a light on TIF and find alternatives to making teachers shoulder the burden of the current economic crisis.

It's all explained more in depth on the CAN-TV discussion with Lorraine Forte, editor in chief of Catalyst Chicago, and Ramsin Canon, politics editor for Gapers Block.


Deep pockets

When Diane Ravitch, was asked whether the Kauffman Foundation’s plan to start a charter school is a positive development, she quipped in an e-mail message to Edweek: 
“And what will they prove? That lots of resources make a difference and that every school should have someone with deep pockets to keep classes small and keep the school well-supplied with the best of everything...If they succeed, perhaps they will prove that we should do the same for every school.”
TFA grad, Marguerite 
Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher (PB)"My students need experienced teachers who know what works and can implement it effectively. Instead, they have me, and though I am learning quickly, I am still learning on them, experimenting on them, working on their time." (TeacherKen's review of Learning on Other People's Kids)
Victory in Puerto Rico student strike

Students on strike at the University of Puerto Rico declared victory on Wednesday after signing an agreement with the system's board of regents, according to news reports on the island (link in Spanish). The strike (see "University Student Strike Engrosses Puerto Rico") lasted almost two months and paralyzed the 11 campuses in the UPR system. In a statement sent to La Plaza, the students' negotiating committee said:
The accord grants the central demands of the students represented by the NNC: the continuation of tuition waivers for meritorious students, the cancellation of a planned special fee that would have raised the cost of study by 50 percent, the rejection of initiatives to privatize the university and a commitment not to enact summary sanctions against strike participants. (L.A. Times)
Shopping for candidates
“In the last few weeks two separate ‘political fundraisers’ promised to raise between $100K and $200K for my campaign if I changed my position to favor charter schools,”(Queens Assembly candidate Steve Behar)
Will the education reformers ever learn?
Charter schools can be a piece of the school improvement process, but they are by no means the panacea many would have you believe. One has only to read through the many recent reports on the problems of Philadelphia's charter schools to know that calling a school a charter doesn't create success. (Teacher James Sando in the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Steinberg is a jerk

I always thought Chicago columnist Neil Steinberg was a jerk, at least ever since he called the late, great Studs Terkel an "idiot". As a writer, Steinberg couldn't carry Stud's jock. It's not that Steinberg never writes anything worth quoting. He does and I have quoted his column from time to time. But as my guys at the gym often note, when my jump shot falls through the net, "the sun even shines on a dog's ass some days."

My feelings about Steinberg were confirmed the other day when he consciously misrepresented the views of newly-elected CTU prez Karen Lewis. His bull crap column thankfully didn't elude the critical eye of PURE's Julie Woestehoff.
Here's what Karen said (full speech here):
"Outside of the classroom, we need society to recommit to bettering all communities.  We also need our parents to recommit to the education of their children.  But inside the classroom, the only people who can improve our schools are professional educators.  Corporate heads and politicians do not have a clue about teaching and learning.  They have never sat one minute on this side of a teacher’s desk.  But they’re the ones calling the shots and we’re supposed to accept it as 'reform.' ”
Here's the "quote" Steinberg used: ""The only people who can improve our schools are professional educators."
Means something completely different out of context, doesn't it?
Smarmy Steinberg responds to Julie's letter with  an apology "clairifcation" right out of  Joe Barton's BP playbook.
Lewis represents a fresh start, and she shouldn't feel ill-used on her first day. We all need to try harder in this tight economy, and that includes me.
Steinberg is still as jerk.

All this follows on the heels of an excellent Sun-Times commentary by another former CTU prez, Deborah Lynch ("Children are pawns in CPS plans to increase class size"). 
It's like a wake around here these days. It's hard to comfort colleagues who are leaving by no fault of their own. And it's hard to comfort the students who are also shell-shocked because so many of their favorite teachers are leaving.

'Don't worry. It's only 100,000 teachers--not 300,000'

WaPo liar Lane sounds like BP's Hayward

Lane's Post Partisan blog is anything but. Here he echoes the very partisan teacher/union bashers and tries to run the big lie past us, that firing hundreds of thousands of teachers is no big deal. 
Well, 300,000 teacher layoffs would increase the national student-teacher ratio in public schools from 15.3 to 1, to 16.6 to 1 – roughly where it was in 1997. And 100,000 teacher layoffs would increase it to 15.6 to 1 – the 2005 level. Neither number portends educational apocalypse.
Lane must not read the Chicago papers. CPS class size is projected to increase to 35/class. In L.A. the Times reports class size has already swelled above the 50 mark.

Lane is a class size deny-er. He's the schools' version of  BP's Tony Hayward who also told us not to worry, the "environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest." The loss of 300,000 (or even 100,000) teachers jobs is indeed, something to worry about.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is Race-To-The-Top headed for the dumper?

Duncan's RTTT--read school closing, teacher firing, test-and-punish, "merit-pay"-- plan is running into tough opposition from key members of congress, especially from Democrats. Some don't like the few reform choices and formula-driven grants available to school districts, currently limited to closing low-performing schools; "turnaround" by replacing the principal and most of the staff; or turning schools over to private management companies.  

Others, especially southern blue dogs like Mary Landrieu (D-La) oppose the needed sign-on from the teacher unions. It seems the only ones who really like RTTT are Republicans and Republicrats like DFER (and, of course, the few grant winners.) Go figure.

Some lawmakers the administration is trying to court in its push to reauthorize the ESEA have questioned whether the four school improvement models put forth in Education Department regulations are sufficiently grounded in research and offer a realistic array of options for perennially struggling schools—particularly in rural areas. (Alyson Klein, Edweek)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What do these top 50 Chicago areas high schools have in common?

According to Newsweek, these are the 50 best high schools in the Chicago area. A mixture of magnets, neighborhood schools, large and small(er). Please take note--not one charter school in the bunch and every one of the 50 is staffed with union teachers. Explain please, Sec. Duncan.

Kenwood Academy made the list. Congratulations!

More on the violence/testing connection

Here's Tribune writer Deborah Shelton's take on the NYU study of neighborhood violence and its potential effect on student test scores. 
Neighborhood homicides can have a detrimental effect on Chicago schoolchildren's academic performance, whether they witness the violence or not, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using Chicago crime reports and the reading and vocabulary assessments of a sample of Chicago children, sociologist Patrick Sharkey of New York University found African-American children scored substantially lower on reading and vocabulary tests within a week of a homicide in their neighborhood.
The story has gotten plenty of play around the country. Here's Reuters' story. But will it have any affect on Race To The Top, on ESEA re-authorization,  or on the current obsession with high stakes test & punish reform strategies? Probably not.

Chicago: School board gives Huberman power to raise class size to 35

"Educational malpractice"

In an unusual display of solidarity, at one point both incoming Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and outgoing President Marilyn Stewart stood together at the podium as Stewart railed against the class size increase, calling it "educational malpractice.'' "I am ashamed of the Board of Education,'' Stewart said. Lewis hugged her afterward. (Sun-Times)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This morning at CPS board headquarters

Violence & Testing

NYU prof, Patrick Sharkey has found that neighborhood murders can have a powerful downward effect on student test scores.

The findings have implications both for crime control efforts and for the heavy reliance on standardized tests, said Sharkey. They can also explain about half the achievement gap between blacks and whites on such tests, he reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If a murder occurred in a child’s neighborhood — an area of roughly six to 10 square blocks as denoted by the U.S. Census — the children’s test scores fell by an average of half a standard deviation, Sharkey reported.

“When one takes into account the prevalence of homicide in the most violent neighborhoods in cities like Chicago, these results mean that some children spend about one week out of every month functioning at a low level as they navigate the home or school environment,” he said in a statement.
In general, black U.S. children score about one standard deviation lower on standardized tests than white children. This finding accounts for half that difference, Sharkey said.

Exactly how many shares of BP does the Gates Fund really own?

H/t to commenter David C. for telling me that I badly understated the BP stock holdings of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which I reported first as 4 million and than revised to more than 7 million shares. Here's where I got my original figures. But in yesterday's NYT, Green blogger John Rudolph ("How British is BP?) reports that the Gates Fund actually owns an astonishing 43 million shares. The estimates keep climbing on par with BP's spill estimates.Stay tuned.

Bloomberg's N.Y. charters still excluding Latino & ELL students

Tuesday's New York Times reports that Bloomberg's privately-managed charter schools in N.Y. greatly under-enroll Latino and Spanish-speaking immigrant students. 
Charter schools have proportionately fewer Hispanic students — as well as fewer students learning English, regardless of their ethnicity — than nearby schools, including schools that share the same building.  

 That's not big news. The news is that the equity gap between charters and traditional neighborhood schools continues to grow after a decade of criticism, while most studies find charters performing at about the same or in many cases worse than those same neighborhood schools.
Charter schools in the city have been criticized for not offering enough services for students still learning English, a shortcoming the new law aims to address. Only 5 percent of charter students are classified as English learners, compared with 15 percent of public school students over all.
 What's also astonishing in the Times piece is that the victims of these exclusionary policies are being blamed for the problem. Charter operators, like billionaire Carl Icahn, claim that they have tried to recruit Hispanics but got no response.
The principal of the Carl C. Icahn Charter Schools, Jeffrey Litt, said he and colleagues made efforts to recruit a student body that reflects the schools’ Bronx neighborhoods. But at Icahn Charter School 4 in the South Bronx, for example, slightly more than a third of the students are Hispanic, while a traditional public elementary school two blocks away is three-quarters Hispanic.  

Monday, June 14, 2010


CTU president-elect Karen Lewis
“Today marks the beginning of the end of scapegoating educators for all the social ills that our children, families and schools struggle against every day.  Today marks the beginning of a fight for true transparency in our educational policy -- how to accurately measure learning and teaching, how to truly improve our schools, and how to evaluate the wisdom behind our spending priorities.” (Progress Illinois)

Bloomberg in defense of BP Oil
“The guy that runs BP didn't exactly go down there and blow up the well.” (Politico)

NAACP President Ben Jealous
"Democrats have the biggest majority in the House and the Senate that any party has had in 30 years. Yet, they behave like they're in the minority. That's the crux of the problem. We're concerned that a relatively small number of relatively privileged angry people demand so much attention with so much hatred." (At Rainbow/PUSH Convention)
Glenn Beck's Blues: The right-wing hates soccer
“It doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn’t matter how many bars open early, it doesn’t matter how many beer commercials they run, we don’t want the World Cup, we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it.” (Dave Zirin in The Nation)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

CTU President-elect Karen Lewis' Victory Speech


Congratulations to new Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis  and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) team for their remarkable landslide victory in yesterday's union election. CORE's victory represents much more than just a win over the  United Progressive Caucus (UPC) and the six-year CTU president Marilyn Stewart. It is a sign that rank-and-file teachers are fed-up with the business-as-usual politics of traditional union leadership in the face of the current assault on public education, including school closings, teacher firings, mushrooming class size and loss of collective-bargaining rights.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Daley's version of reform--teacherless summer school

Daley portrayed the online program as yet another example of his handpicked school team “thinking outside the box.”

Funneling millions of dollars, including nearly a million in federal stimulus dollars to virtual ed companies like Bill Bennett's K12 Inc, Chicago's mayor plans to get rid of summer school and replace it with virtual summer school.
It will allow the Chicago Public Schools to serve an unlimited number of students — some working from home, libraries or parent’s office — at a fraction of the cost. Instead of having live teachers in every classroom, students will take online courses taught by “certified instructors” and work at their own pace. (Sun-Times)
Imagine if they tried this in a district that wasn't 90% children of color.

"The Billionaire Boys Club"

Diane Ravitch, New York Review of Books

My sense is that it has a lot to do with the administration’s connections to the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. Although both are usually portrayed as liberal or at least Democratic, their funding priorities have merged with those of the very conservative Walton Family Foundation. I explain this curious power elite in a chapter of my book called “The Billionaire Boys Club.” (Read the rest here)

"It's Not OK to Hate Teachers"

John Thomas, Chicago Theological Seminary

A recent action alert from the United Church of Christ reported that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is predicting that up to 300,000 jobs in public schools may be lost due to the recession.  In cities like Chicago and Cleveland school officials are predicting class sizes of 35 to 45 for next fall.  Meanwhile, as high school seniors plan for their graduation ceremonies, a new round of “blame the victim” seems to be in vogue.  In this case it is the vulnerable teaching profession that seems to be under siege... (Read the rest here)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ebay schools for California?

'Let the strongest survive and the weakest die...'

Silicon Valley billionaires like H-P's Carly Fiorina & Ebay's Meg Whitman represent the, new ultra-conservative face of the Republican Party in Calif. What's their vision for schools and for an economy where increasingly little is produced but information about selling stuff to each other? 

In a league with Bloomberg's race for mayor in N.Y., Whitman spent $71 million of her personal fortune to defeat another right-wing billionaire, Steve Poizner, in the Republican primary. Whitman and Poizner both favor expansion of privately-managed charter schools. Poizner, who only spent $25 million on his campaign, was a co-founder of California Charter School Assoc. Remember, he gave that racist, anti-immigrant speech at the CPAC convention back in February. Whitman, also virulently anti-immigrant, is also a big fan of off-shore drilling. She faces a close battle with former Gov. and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown in what will be the most expensive governor's race in history. Brown also leans heavily towards charters and brought lots of resources to his favorite ones in Oakland, while neighborhood schools were left to fend for themselves. But overall, he's a lot better than Whitman. Who wouldn't be (besides Poizner)?

T-Party fav, Fiorina, who faces liberal incumbent Dem. Barbara Boxer,  is a straight up voucher supporter. In this speech from 2001 at Aspen, she even used Hegelian dialectics to justify privatization of public schools.  
"Who is your most influential business author?"I paused and said, "Hegel."

Let competition reign, give all students vouchers, and let the strongest schools prosper — and the weakest ones perish.

A child's view of the oil spill

Pufferfish Struggling in the Oil Spill (Tangerine, Fl.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Power philanthropy dominating public policy

This is a case study of a much larger trend. Nationally, it's in the area of education that what Mike Klonsky calls "power philanthropy" (and Diane Ravitch calls "the billionaire boys club"), led by Bill Gates and cheered by Arne Duncan, has really come to dominate public policy. In Washington D.C., foundations are even trying to dictate who can be the city's school superintendent. --Curtis Black on Huffington

Yesterday, I focused on the role of power philanthropists like Broad and Walton, using their power to influence election outcomes in D.C. and to protect the job of their favorite teacher basher, Michelle Rhee.

In that same vein, Chicago writer and musician Curtis Black assesses the disproportionate power of big foundations over an emergent not-for-profit media. Black takes on New York Times digital editor Jim Schachter who Black says, "has gone into full denial mode in response to Jamie Kalven's Columbia Journalism Review article raising concerns about foundation funding for nonprofit news ventures."
He [Schachter]neglects the contretemps over the NYT-CNC story on the "turnaround" of [Chicago's] Marshall High School, which didn't acknowledge the presence of a major turnaround booster, millionaire Martin Koldyke, on CNC's board.
In the coming months I hope the discussion and debate will continue around the role of the giant foundations which exert great influence over public policy, especially school reform and does it relatively free from public accountability.

Also, be sure and read Kalven's CJR piece mentioned above.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Investigate Rhee's crooked deal with the foundations

D.C. Supt. Rhee solicited donations from union busting power philanthropists like Broad & Walton, that reserved the right to pull their funding if there was a change in the school system's leadership. The $64.5M in foundation money was then used to promise teachers a hefty raise if they gave up important collective-bargaining rights and accepted her pay-for-jobs contract--"merit pay," mass firings of their colleagues, and mushrooming class size.

So if Mayor Fenty (Rhee's patron) loses upcoming election to Vincent Gray and Gray gives Rhee the boot--which he promised to do-- Broad & Walton can then renege on funding. Fenty campaign spreads fear that already bancrupt schools will lose millions unless he's elected. If he loses anyway, and he might, the contract, which is being touted as the model for the nation, then isn't worth the paper it's written on. Teachers are left without any job protection. What a scam!

New books, good reads

Organizing for Educational Justice: The Campaign for Public School Reform in the South Bronx Fly Away: The Great African American Cultural MigrationsTo Teach: The Journey, in ComicsFires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground (0)

Monday, June 7, 2010


Hedge-fund manager Steven Eisman
I thought there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive and morally bankrupt as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task. (Bloomberg)
Deb Meier 
It's the new civil rights project. Just as the subprime mortgage fraud was justified by some as a wealth-equalizer, the privatizing of education becomes a civil rights crusade. (Bridging Differences)
Oil watcher Paul Sankey
 Oil is really sunlight plus plants. ..This spill might be a giant fertilizer shot into the Gulf. (Fast Money)
Gov. Schwarzenegger 
The school superintendents who prepared the [Race To The Top] bid deserved an Oscar “for the great performance in putting this together,” he said, thanking several by name, including Carlos A. Garcia, the San Francisco superintendent. (The Bay Citizen)
 Pablo Eisenberg, Georgetown Public Policy Institute
There's concern that their [Gates Foundation] programs are too top down and they don't listen to the grass roots. (USA Today)
Kati Haycock, Gates funded Ed Trust
"I hear a lot of grousing about the Gates Foundation, (USA Today)

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Playing for Keeps"

Life and Learning on a Public School Playground
Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel, and Beth Taylor
Teachers College Press 
Pub Date: June 2010, 144 pages
“Those of us who've been close to Mission Hill will rejoice to see the vision of a humane and happy school reaching a wide audience. We need this book more than ever—bursting, as it is, with the words of children and with their sense of mystery, spontaneity, and sheer jubilation. This is a great antidote to the poison of drill-and-grill austerity imposed upon our children by the technocrats of corporate accountability.”
Jonathan Kozol, author of Letters to a Young Teacher and Shame of the Nation

 Playing for Keeps surrounds us with the authentic and urgent language of make-believe as heard on a Boston public school playground. Fortunately, the three author-teachers are there to lead us expertly between children’s play and the work of school. It is an adventure well worth taking, for teachers, parents, and administrators.”
Vivian Gussin Paley, author of The Boy on the Beach: Building Community Through Play
Deborah Meier has spent almost five decades working in public education as a teacher, writer, and public advocate. She is currently a Senior Scholar in the faculty of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Brenda S. Engel has taught elementary school art and was on the faculty of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Beth Taylor has taught in preschool through college, including in teacher training, program evaluation, early childhood education, and teaching at the Mission Hill School in Boston. 

They pulled the shirt off the shelves today

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Robben Island Singers Project at Chicago's Prosser High School

Recession message to working poor & unemployed

From Urban Outfitters

Ownership Society school reform

Debunking the "Portfolio District"

Latest from EPIC/EPRU comes from DePaul prof, Ken Saltman who exposes the latest business-model reform whereby school district leaders compile and run a "portfolio" of independently operated schools. It is currently being used in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington D.C., and it is being considered by other districts. Yet little or no evidence supports the expansion of such radical experimentation, a new Policy Brief reports.
 "The district superintendent is imagined as a stock investor who has a portfolio of investments (schools)." These schools are run by different contractors, generally as charter schools. The superintendent "holds the investments that 'perform' (in terms of student achievement) and ends the contracts for (sells) those investments that 'don't perform.'"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

BP's Hayward wants life--give it to him

"There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back." (BP Oil CEO Tony Hayward) 
Hayward still insists that  BP’s own sampling of the water showed “no evidence” that oil was suspended beneath the ocean's surface. This despite growing evidence that the growing mass of undersea oil may turn the Gulf into a dead zone. Why not give Hayward his life life without parole?

New 'bold' CPS scheme: 'Proctors' instead of teachers

Chicago public school officials are quietly working on what local papers describe as a "bold plan" to bring an eight-hour school day to up to 100 struggling schools by using a combination of laptop computers, instructional software and "non-teachers." (Chicago Sun-Times)

To keep costs down, "proctors" -- not certified teachers -- would oversee computerized Extended Day sessions. An initial version of the plan called for one proctor for every 35 kids.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

'Performance pay' a bust in Chicago

A study of Chicago's so-called merit-pay program (TAP) reveals it did nothing to improve measurable student learning outcomes in reading and math. Merit-pay bonuses also failed to improve teacher retention rates. "Not surprising" says CPS spokesperson. "We were focused on professional development." Huh!

Great! Let's force schools to do it everywhere as part of Race To The Top.