Saturday, July 31, 2010


This from the NEA:

This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked the Senate from voting on an education jobs amendment as part of a larger bill on small business. But, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled another vote for Monday evening, August 2. The package being considered will provide $10 billion to save over 135,000 education jobs. It will also provide funds for Medicaid to help prevent more deep cuts to the programs that serve our most vulnerable populations.

We are facing an education crisis, with hundreds of thousands of educators being laid off, class sizes growing, and programs critical to students’ success being cut or eliminated. Our students’ education and the future of our nation are at stake! EVERY VOTE COUNTS and every Senator needs to hear a strong message of support. Tell your Senatorts to stand up for what is right!

  • E-mail your Senators. Tell them to VOTE YES on a $10 billion education jobs package (H.R. 1586).

  • Call 1-866-608-6355 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-866-608-6355      end_of_the_skype_highlighting to contact your Senators. You will hear talking points and will be connected to the United States Capitol Switchboard – ask for one of your Senators. Tell your Senator that public education faces a budget catastrophe and that he/she should VOTE YES on a $10 billion education jobs fund. Remember to call back to speak with your other Senator.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


"You said it yourself, Big Daddy, mendacity is a system we live in."-- Brick, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Monty Neill's comments on Obama's Urban League Speech

Obama is responding to the jointly-issued statement from all of the major civil rights groups, which thrashed his Race To The Top reform. Monty makes reference to the 1958 film while taking issue with the style and substance of the speech in this post to the North Dakota Study Group.
Of course he defends RTTT even though its main tenets are not backed up by any evidence, as FEA, the civil rights groups and the community groups all point out. He simply asserts that because states are doing (were stampeded/bribed into doing) what Duncan wanted, they are automatically improving. Who needs evidence?... Mendacity

Duncan rewards Arizona

Arne Duncan has claimed sole discretion when it comes to awarding Race To The Top funding to states. "I look them in the eye to see if they are sincere," says the Ed Sec. He must have seen something in the eyes of Arizona's Gov. Brewer and Sen. McCain to push Arizona up from 40th to a finalist's position in the competition for a piece of the ever-shrinking federal funding pie.

Maybe it was the state's commitment to driving out Mexican immigrants from state schools under SB1070, that caught Duncan's eye. Or maybe it was their ban on minority studies.
Ann-Eve Pedersen of the Arizona Education Network says she can think of just one reason the economically depressed state was a surprise finalist in the second round of the $4 billion Race to the Top competition, after finishing 40th out of 41 competitors in the first round in March.“Maybe the federal government has taken pity on the state of education funding here." (Edweek)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Chicago Teachers Union V.P. Jesse Sharkey
“They have come into our house at night, the house of the public schools, and they have taken everything that isn’t nailed down,” Sharkey said. “Now they come to us and say, ‘Give us a hand.’(Catalyst)

How "revolutionary" can you be when Jeb Bush is your biggest fan?

Duncan's "Quiet Revolution"

First we had Bush's No Child Left Behind, which took its name from the Children's Defense Fund's slogan, "Leave No Child Behind." Now we have Arne Duncan's "Quiet Revolution" with its name coopted from the 60's Quiet Revolution in Quebec. 

The irony is that at the heart of the Quebecois movement was the unionization of public employees. Duncan's "revolution" targets the teacher unions, collective-bargaining rights, and public space in general. And so it goes. Privatized charter schools,which systemically exclude ELL kids and those with disabilities, become "the civil rights movement of our generation."

Top-down corporate reform, mass teacher firings and school closings become r-r-r-revolutionary.

The question is: can you have a revolution, albeit a quiet one, that is skewered by every major civil rights organization in the country? If it's really about fixing failing schools, why has this coalition of community-based organizations trashed the Race To The Top and Duncan's Blueprint? I mean, how revolutionary can you be when Jeb Bush is your biggest fan?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

He knows what's good for Detroit, including how people should vote

How does Arne Duncan know what's best for the people of Detroit? It's "common sense."

After all, says Arne, without big city mayors exercising one-man rule over the schools, it's impossible, "for children to reach their full potential, and ultimately for the city reach its full potential."

Is there any research to back up such a bizarre assertion? Of course not. But he does have a spokesman who doesn't mind fiddling with the truth.

Peter Cunningman, a Duncan spokesman, pointed out to The Detroit News that his boss previously worked as CEO for the Chicago Public Schools, where he said mayoral control led to improved test scores.

And what test scores might these be, you ask? And how did the mayor produce them, you ask? And how, from 400 miles away would Duncan or Cunningham know that the Chicago approach would be best for Detroit (whose former mayor is on his way to jail), you ask?

Why, it's common sense.

The impact of IMPACT

Here in D.C., Chancellor Rhee is sailing through the floodgates, opened when union leaders signed on to a bogus contract. The agreement allowed pay increases based mainly on the good will of a few private foundations, in exchange for Rhee's ability to fire teachers in mass, using the IMPACT evaluation process. IMPACT is mainly an attempt to link student test scores with individual teachers. It also includes 22 other measurement points which are supposed to be assessed in a 30 minute-observation by a master-teacher.  

Valerie Strauss shows why the entire process in suspect in this post on the Answer Sheet.
A number of teachers never got the full five evaluations, apparently because a number of master teachers hired to do the jobs quit, according to sources in the school system. But even if they all were, let’s look closely at this: In 30 minutes, a teacher is supposed to demonstrate all 22 different teaching elements. What teacher demonstrates 22 teaching elements -- some of which are not particularly related -- in 30 minutes? Suppose a teacher takes 30 minutes to introduce new material and doesn’t have time to show. ... Oh well. Bad evaluation.
In many cases, Rhee is even ignoring her own evaluation process and firing teachers and school staff arbitrarily, in hopes of impressing her corporate and foundation patrons and getting a leg-up on Race To The Top funding.

Rhee has used the vagaries of the contract to fire the first volley in what's bound to be a full-scale war, with the firing of 241 teachers. So far, the war has been one-sided with only Rhee's side on the attack. Hopefully, that will change.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Maureen Dowd

The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sherrod before Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong. Charles Sherrod, Shirley’s husband, was a Freedom Rider who, along with the civil rights hero John Lewis, was a key member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of the ‘60s. (NYT)
Mayoral control
The only thing that every researcher agrees about is, as David Hursh of the Warner School of Education says, mayoral control represents “a decline in public input, a decline in accountability, a lack of debate over what schools should be doing.” (Shea Howell, Michigan Citizen)
Van Jones

The former White House green jobs czar who, like Shirley Sherrod, was thrown under the bus by the Obama administration amid another phony scandal stoked by Fox: 
Sherrod is "like Rosa Parks and she got slimed." (At Netroots

Friday, July 23, 2010

Past is prologue

Vacationing here in West Virgina, it's hard not to think about the state's rich history of struggle for social-justice. Signs are everywhere, especially in these difficult times. I got a good history lesson reading this editorial in yesterday's Charleston Gazette, showing once again that past is prologue.
In 1920, a strike at Matewan turned into a shoot-out that killed seven Baldwin-Felts guards who had been hired as strikebreakers. Town Police Chief Sid Hatfield, a champion of the strikers, was charged in a different fracas. As he and a companion walked up the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse, they were gunned down by other Baldwin-Felts agents. The murder inflamed miners, who gathered for a second march. In August 1921, 10,000 to 15,000 armed workers entered Logan County. Their advance was halted at Blair Mountain, where Sheriff Chafin's forces had installed machine guns behind breastworks. Full-scale warfare ensued for several days, and perhaps 20 were killed on both sides. President Warren Harding sent Army units and even a squadron of fighter planes to suppress the uprising. Afterward, UMW leaders were tried for treason, but juries found them innocent.
The locus of struggle now seems to be the hotel workers, among the lowest paid in the nation. Hyatt has now become the main target because of their refusal to negotiate a union contract in good faith. Yesterday in San Francisco, about 150 union marchers were jailed.  Hyatt becomes especially significant as it is owned by one of President Obama's richest and most powerful backers, Penny Pritzker and the Pritzker family. They became notorious for firing 98 hospitality workers at a Boston hotel and replacing them with non-union workers who they were forced to train before being put out on the street.

Connections to education reform and current administration policies couldn't be clearer as the fate of teachers and their right to bargain collectively also hangs in the balance. Hopefully Obama, who has backed union rights in the past, won't turn into Warren Harding on this one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Resisting reseg

So much for the "new south" and the "post-racial era." 

Andrea Charity, left, and Monique Davis march down Fayetteville Street in Raleigh on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, to protest the Wake County school board majority's decision to end the district's diversity policy.

Re-seg is on the move again in Dixie as well as in Boston and Chicago. But this time around, it's dressed up as "school reform." Wake County, N.C. is now the focus of attention and civil rights activists are once again going to jail if they have to, to stop the re-segregation of public schools. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When will they stop caving in?

Shirley Sherrod, civil rights hero

This time around, even the NAACP "got snookered" by the racist FOX T-baggers. They admittedly conceded too much too fast and denounced Shirley Sherrod, who turns out to be a civil rights hero. This should be a lesson for the Obama administration which seems to jump every time right-wing leaves rustle, throwing good people under bus. USDA officials fired Sherrod in a panic after FOX falsely claimed she was a "black racist." Instead, Obama continues to stand behind the firing, even after FOX was exposed for doctoring a video of Sherrod's speech, a video which when seen in its entirety, reveals her heroism.
"We probably wouldn't have (our farm) today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction," said Eloise Spooner, the wife of farmer Roger Spooner of Iron City, Ga. "I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you." (Huffington)

In my mailbox

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

We need your help.

Today 20 courageous undocumented youth, including 9 from Chicago, are risking arrest and deportation to stage sit-ins at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. in order to urge congressional leadership to win a path to citizenship through the DREAM Act, and to push for immigration reform.

Six students have already been arrested!

Among those youth risking deportation are 10 from Chicago. Ireri Unzueta, Nico Gonzalez, Reyna Wences, Edy Dominguez, Lulu Martinez, Uriel Sanchez, David Morales, Jesus Morales, and Tania Unzueta are the Chicago courageous students that need your support.

Congressman Mark Kirk is a candidate for U.S. Senate. His website says nothing on immigration reform and he is not a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act. Please show your support for these brave youth by asking Congressman Kirk to stand up for immigration solutions. For more ways to help these courageous youth please visit the website of the Immigrant Youth Justice League at Change takes courage, and these immigrant youth have courage.

Please urge Congressman Kirk to have the courage to stand up for immigration solutions!

At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and the military. The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces. It’s prime sponsor is Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

We ask that you stand with these youth as they fight for their lives.

Short Bio of the youth risking arrest and deportation:

Ireri Unzueta
Chicago, Illinois
Graduate of University of Illinois, Chicago
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Reyna Wences
Chicago, Illinois
University of Illinois
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Aspires to be a university professor
Nicolas Gonzalez
Chicago, Illinois
Immigrant Youth Justice League
David Morales
Chicago, Illinois
Graduate of Harold Washington College
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Aspires to be a biomedical engineer
Edy Dominguez
Jesus Morales
Chicago, Illinois
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Lulu Martinez
Chicago, Illinois
Currently at Harold Washington College, hopes to pursue Latino/a studies and Journalism at DePaul University
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Uriel Sanchez
Chicago, Illinois
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Tania Unzueta
Chicago, Illinois
Graduate of University of Illinois, Chicago
Immigrant Youth Justice League

Please send a letter to Mark Kirk asking him to up for pratical immigration solutions and vist for additional ways that you can help.

Thank you,
Josh Hoyt
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If I gave you $100, then would you enroll your child in my charter school?

I've been trying to stay away from charter school scandals for a while. There's just to many to keep track of. Plus, I could never be as good at it as these guys. But I had to say something about this, since it's practically in my backyard.
Albany Park charter school. Aspira-Haugan Middle School has decided to offer what amounts to a $100 bounty for every kid lured through its doors. The student must "attend through September to qualify for the $100 gift card," the small print on the offer states. So, no hanky panky and double-enrollment somewhere else, guys. (Chicago Daily Observer)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Safer in Iraq

If you're young and black or brown, you're safer in Iraq than in Daley Town. 
An official familiar with shooting statistics said a total of 42 people were shot across the city since Friday 7pm. The official said there was a total of 206 shooting victims for the month of July so far. Based on the numbers, an average of 11 people have been victims of shootings every day in the city. The total number of shooting victims since the beginning of June 1st is close to 470. (WGN)


'We'll-tell-you-how' philanthropy
In the past, says University of Michigan historian Maris A. Vinovskis, benefactors "were not as prescriptive about how they wanted their money spent." Now a new generation of philanthropic billionaires, including Gates, home-building and insurance entrepreneur Eli Broad, members of the Walton family that founded Wal-Mart Stores...want public education run more like a business. (Bloomberg Business Week)
And what business might that be, you may ask? Enron, Toyota, or maybe BP (a Gates favorite)?

Daley's ratings sinking like a stone
 "I believe there is a path to victory for someone who wished to challenge the mayor, but it has to be a credible candidate, and the path to victory is by no means certain," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, a frequent Daley critic who plans to seek re-election to the City Council. (Chicago Tribune)
Another charter school scandal
After sentencing, United States Attorney Rachel K. Paulose added, "Charter schools are an important part of the educational system here in Minnesota. Without charter schools, many young people who have difficulty in the public school system would undoubtedly give up on their education and their future. It is therefore critical that the administration of these schools be conducted with the utmost integrity. Through their actions, the Pierces failed the 290 students enrolled at Right Step Academy."(Charter Schools Scandals)
Sorry. Too many. I just can't keep up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Obey spanks Arne

The Fiscal Times' Washington Editor Eric Pianin talked to Rep. David R. Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday, July 13, in his office at the Capitol. Here are some excerpts:
The secretary of Education is whining about the fact he only got 85 percent of the money he wanted So, when we needed money, we committed the cardinal sin of treating him like any other mere mortal. We were giving them over $10 billion in money to help keep teachers on the job, plus another $5 billion for Pell, so he was getting $15 billion for the programs he says he cares about, and it was costing him $500 million [in reductions to the Race to the Top program]. Now that’s a pretty damn good deal...

We gave [Duncan] $4.3 billion in the stimulus package, no questions asked. He could spend it any way he wants. … I trusted the secretary, so I gave him a hell of a lot more money than I should have....'
My point is that I have been working for school reform long before I ever heard of the secretary of education, and long before I ever heard of Obama. And I’m happy to welcome them on the reform road, but I’ll be damned if I think the only road to reform lies in the head of the Secretary of Education....

We were told we have to offset every damn dime of [new teacher spending]. Well, it ain’t easy to find offsets, and with all due respect to the administration their first suggestion for offsets was to cut food stamps... Their line of argument was, well, the cost of food relative to what we thought it would be has come down, so people on food stamps are getting a pretty good deal in comparison to what we thought they were going to get. Well isn’t that nice. Some poor bastard is going to get a break for a change.

On teachers' unions and education policy:

I have been the leading proponent of funding for education for the last 15 years in this Congress at least. … And I’ve had a hell of a lot of experience fighting teachers unions, school boards, school superintendents, the whole damn bunch when I thought they were wrong. I don’t need any lectures from the secretary of Education or the president of the United States in terms of my willingness to take on teachers’ organizations.

Spouting cliches

"Education is the civil rights issue of our generation." This has become Arne Duncan's mantra lately, as well as that other well-know fighter for civil rights, Newt Gingrich. It almost seems like every department head or project manager has suddenly discovered civil rights and is now calling whatever project they are heading, from charter schools to on-line learning, "the civil rights issue of our generation." Forgive me, but I think Civil Rights is still the civil rights issue of our time.


In the mean time, growing poverty and the widening gap between the rich and poor remains a defining factor in educational achievement, playing a bigger role than anything going on in the classroom. 

Edweek blogger Walt Gardner picks up on this theme today ("Economic Inequality = Educational Inequity"), commenting on a forum in The Nation ("Inequality in America And what to do about it.").

The implications for schools stand out because narrowing the academic achievement gap between racial groups has become a top priority of reformers. In fact, on July 14, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called education "the civil rights issue of our generation" in a speech in Kansas City to NAACP delegates ("U.S. education secretary calls on NAACP to focus on schools"). But he has things in the wrong order when he said: "The only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve it in the classroom."
Accompanying the growing pauper-ization of millions of unemployed Americans and the increased racial segregation and isolation of poor black and Latino families, comes the widening gap in measurable learning outcomes. While corporate school reformers, privatizers and politicians like N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg, continue to refer to these factors as "excuses", Duncan's Race To The Top policies of turning federal funding for education into one big competitive grant, is actually reproducing our two-tiered school system.

Writes Gardner:
The U.S. also has the highest rate of the permanently poor of all other industrialized nations. These appalling conditions are tolerated by no other advanced democracy. Yet with the exception of sporadic populist outrage, business goes on as usual. In fact, when it comes to education, pressure is building to deregulate and privatize schools, as if doing so will somehow mitigate inequities.Those advocating this strategy are the same people who argue for fewer controls on corporations. The rationale in both cases is that an unencumbered marketplace is the solution to both the economic and educational ills of the country. We know by now where this approach led in the case of the former. Why would the outcome be different in the case of the latter? But by the time America wakes up to reality, it will be too late to undo the damage done by this warped thinking.
Well put, Walt.

Symbol of the ownership society

Drill baby, drill!

27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf not checked for leaks, r u shittin me?
Of 50,000 wells ever drilled in the Gulf, 23,500 have been permanently abandoned, the AP reported. Another 3,500 are classified as "temporarily abandoned," but some have been left in that condition since the 1950s without the full safeguards of permanent abandonment.

No wonder Tilson is "bullish" on BP.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who knew?

Tilson may be right about being bullish on BP stock. It turns out that they can deduct much of the cost of the Gulf cleanup from their taxes. Destroying the Gulf of Mexico and the economy of 5 states is deductible. Who knew?

Bullish on BP

Have no fear, Bill Gates. Your foundation's millions of BP shares are safe. Hedge-fund ed "reformer" Whitney Tilson is bullish on BP.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fire D.C. Rhee and her entire staff--or at least cut their pay

Her scores went down

The fun part is watching Rhee loyalists twisting themselves into pretzels to rationalize a 4% drop in D.C. elementary school test scores. Suddenly, the entire test-and-punish crowd is explaining to us how test scores don't mean anything and how test scores are tied much more to out-of-school conditions.

The problem is that she has made rising standardized test scores a central measure for achievement -- hers, students and teachers, writes WaPo's Valerie Strauss. 
So, feel free to judge Rhee on her insistence on placing so much importance on test scores (as have today’s other titans of education reform, such as Joel Klein in New York City). She believes they are so important, in fact, that she recently announced that she wants to expand their use in city schools, so that, in time, every D.C. student from kindergarten through high school is regularly assessed to measure academic progress and teacher effectiveness. But judging her reforms on the actual test scores, well, as my kids say, “Not so much.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Forbes cheers the "end of education as we know it"

It will be much cheaper without teachers
Even if the economy rebounds, the situation for public education will remain bleak. With baby boomers set to retire en masse, state and local governments, which provide the majority of school funds, will face mounting retiree health care and nonpension benefit obligations for which they haven't made proper allowances. And local districts haven't yet felt the full pain of the housing crisis in reducing revenue from property taxes. In other words, we have only seen the beginning of the red ink. (Forbes)
But fear not. Harvard prof and tech guru Christiansen & Horn, have it all figured out. Wrote the book on latest buzzwords, "blended classrooms" and "disruptive innovation" without which so-called ed reformers like VanderArk wouldn't be able to speak at all.

Putting the brakes on university research

More biting the hand...

Research faculty looking into corporate behavior, are now even more concerned for their jobs, tenure and university funding. Case in point: SIU prof, David Gilbert and his assistant did critical research on Toyota's deadly accelerator issues.

Gilbert sought to show that electronics might be to blame for the problem in Toyotas. The world’s largest automaker tried to discredit his findings. Toyota even questioned whether he should be employed by the school, which has long been a recipient of company donations. Electronic messages obtained by the Associated Press show the automaker grew increasingly frustrated with Gilbert’s work and made its displeasure clear to his bosses at the 20,000-student school.

Toyota also had its own pet profs over at Stanford (no surprise there). 
Gilbert’s work“could result in misguided policy and unwarranted fear,” Chris Gerdes, director of Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research (CARS), told reporters. His organization is funded by a group of auto companies that include Toyota. (
Funny?--CARS, as you might expect, is also funded by the Gates Foundation and its affiliate center is housed--guess where?--in Stanford's Gates Computer Science building.

Toyota implied threats to pull SIU's funding and withdrew some internships.
One of Gilbert's research partners, an assistant professor named Omar Trinidad, nervously asked Owens whether the findings would "negatively affect my tenure track or even jeopardize my tenure with SIUC? If you have any reservations on what we are doing, please do not hesitate to inform me." Owens tried to reassure Trinidad: "If your investigations are upheld and have major impact resulting in papers, presentations, and national recognition of expertise, these are all factors that will benefit your research productivity." (AP Wire)
The same dilemmas exist--maybe even greater ones, with current conservative, privatization pressures, for those doing ed research. Arne Duncan's federal innovation grants (i3) are geared only to those who will toe the Race To The Top line. And then there's Gates money controlling the educational research field as well as, apparently the automotive field.  All I can say is. Courage, courage. Thanks Prof. Gilbert.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Power philanthropy at its worst

Which of the world's 2 richest men should run our public schools?

The world's second richest man is essentially running public ed through his foundation, says the Washington Post. But the Gates Foundation is accountable to no one. It is socially irresponsible and invests 95% of its money in polluting or socially-destructive companies like BP. His tax-sheltered "investments" in ed reform have left a path of destruction in their wake. No better example is needed than the crash of the once vibrant small schools movement.

"It has influence everywhere," said Tom Loveless, an education analyst at the Brookings Institution, "in absolutely every branch of education, whether you're talking about the federal, state or local levels of government, schools, the press, politicians or think tanks. Their motives could be 100 percent pure. But any time you have one big player that is influencing all of these groups, it is cause for concern."

If indeed, Bill Gates' influence over public schools and public decision-making comes only as a result of his concentrated wealth, why not let Carlos Slim run our schools. He's richer than Gates by $2 billion and better educated.


Did I say that?

Blogger Sherman Dorn with Moses at his back, responds to my tweet which read: 
"In tightly-controlled AFT convention, Weingarten made sure that no anti-Race To Top resolution made it to the floor."
Dorn in defense of suppressing the RTTT resolution:
"Moses did not return with tablets requiring debate of all motions."
All motions? Did I say that?

Bill Gates knows something about the power of good teaching. He used to be an underachiever. (Tom Marshall, St. Pete Times)

WaPo's Jay Mathews has his eyes opened (a little) wider
I was vaguely aware that the consortium assessed students like that because I knew its connection to Meier, whose Harlem school I had visited and with whom I have exchanged many emails. What escaped me was the fact that the consortium schools were producing better results than similar schools being assessed by standardized tests. ("Intriguing alternative to rating schools by tests").
Nice going Monty Neill for pointing JM to “Keeping Accountability Systems Accountable” by Martha Foote, published in the Phi Delta Kappan, January 2007. Funny, he had to read a 3-year old article to realize benefits of authentic assessment even though he visited Deb Meier's school in person. He's like the Grand Canyon tourist who's only awed after reading the canyon's dimensions in the guide book.

Another Texas "Miracle"
After a couple of examples in which a school got to count a student as "passing" with depressingly low scores, Hochberg asked Cloudt and an associate to see how many correct answers a fourth-grader with barely passing math and reading scores at Benavidez Elementary in Houston needed to be counted as "passing" the writing test. The unbelievable answer Hochberg had reached himself was confirmed by Cloudt: The child needed zero correct answers for his or her teachers and administrators to get credit for his or her "improvement." (Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle)

Friday, July 9, 2010

AFT Convention Tweets

CTULocal1: Sen. Murray, "we're about to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act-which we won't call no child left behind." 

Thatsrightnate Bill Gates speaking at #aftconvention is like Lebron James hosting a sports radio show in Cleveland.

mrsilva  Fun watching CORE teacher raise only dissenting voice in committee this afternoon 

edvoters: Greeting attendees on 7th and pike was a man holding a sign declaring Arne Duncan a Manchurian candidate.

mcricker  Ben Jealous, NAACP President invites AFT to go to Washington DC October 2nd to get the rest of the change we voted for

More on "biting the hand...
Weingarten didn't mention Gates or other philanthropists by name in her speech. But she said she was willing to work with people who have an open mind. People who can't understand why kids in the US aren't getting the best education. After her speech, Weingarten told reporters the Gates Foundation meets those criteria. (KUOW News)

In Chicago, parents & new CTU leaders stand up to Daley on TIFs

There's an alternative to mass teacher firings

TIFs are the city's tax increment financing districts. And they collect about $500 million in property taxes a year. Mayor Daley has the final say in how the money is spent. But the Chicago Teacher's Union and a group of mostly north side parents say TIFs are siphoning away millions of dollars from Chicago Public Schools.
If Raise Your Hand is going to have any sway, it has to find powerful allies. And they may have one in the new president of the Chicago Teachers Union--Karen Lewis. Lewis argued before the board of education last month that CPS could balance its books with TIF money. (WBEZ City Room)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In my mailbox today...

From FairTest's Monty Neill
I have an idea - let's spend $70,000 each on unprepared new college grads, put them in classrooms with low income children, let them incessantly churn (half leave in 2 years, 80% in 3 years) -- all without any meaningful improvement, or no improvement at all, even as measured by the dumb standardized tests. Better idea, let's write it in to federal law and ensure its proponents have powerful policy positions. Then we can model a new principal program on it.

What I really want to know is just how much evidence about the damage caused by testing, the inability of most charters and EMOs and coerced 'turnarounds' to improve education (or even boost test scores), and the inability of TFA-type programs to make a real difference, before policymakers start waking up and changing their minds? Or is it that evidence just does not matter when the ideology is 'right'?


See A New Look at Teach For America here.   

From Marty Brooks
Much of this insanity has grown out of the misguided quest to identify high and low (mostly low) performing schools based on a single criterion - test scores. Even worse, scores from state tests that measure very little of importance. The Tri-State Consortium (which I represent) is comprised of 44 "high performing" school districts. However, most of us in the group recognize that there is a difference between a high performing district and a district that serves high performing students. Similarly, there is a difference between a low performing school and a school that serves lower performing (on tests) students. There are many wonderful schools that add great value to the education of their students each and every day, but are classified as low performing schools because of their students' scores on tests. It's grossly unfair to the reputation of the schools, the morale of the people who work in them, the students who are educated in them, and the communities in which they are located. 

As much as NCLB helped to create this lunacy, Race to the Top is worsening the situation. Creating a competition for already scarce resources, and basing that competition on a state's level of compliance with a federal agenda that includes actions inherently at odds with meaningful improvement (increased numbers of charter schools, tying evaluation to test scores and then tying pay to evaluation, etc.) will only serve to widen the very gaps the approach purports to reduce. Worse yet, students in "winning" states will receive additional funds for additional services while students in "losing" states will suffer reductions in federal allocations that support needed programs. Since when did it become permissible (or ethical) to use students as pawns in order to force compliance with a federal agenda? And yet states are seeking to climb over each other in order to win the next round of funding.



Brother Fred is back from steamy Big Easy. But he's really steamed about IEA leadership & Race To Top.
I could only shake my head at leadership’s pathetic, half-hearted defense of Race to the Top. As an organizing entity, the leadership was impotent.  Not even one of the IEA leaders was willing to go to the microphone in the convention hall to defend their position. While a year ago, some crowed about the IEA’s inside connections to the Duncan USDE, it is now apparent that these inside connections are more a hindrance than a help.

Latest on TFA

More than 50 % of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 % leave after three years. (Answer Sheet) 
TFA teachers appear less effective in both reading and mathematics than fully prepared entrants teaching similar students, at least until the TFA teachers become prepared and certified themselves.

More testing madness in D.C.

Rhee --'Test 'em from womb to tomb'
Some parents and teachers say that the fixation on tests is sucking the oxygen from basic classroom instruction and other activities that enrich school life, such as field trips...Crystal Sylvia, a social worker at Bruce Monroe Elementary, called her school a "test factory" in a recent essay. (WaPo)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Andrea Mitchell interviews Randi Weingarten

No reform possible if thousands of teachers gone from classrooms

Ravitch's speech to the NEA

Diane Ravitch's speech to the 2010 NEA Representative Assembly in New Orleans drew an enthusiastic response from the 10,000 teachers at the meeting.
Race to the Top encourages states to increase the number of privately managed charters, to pass laws to evaluate teachers by test scores, to promote merit pay, and to agree to close or privatize schools with low scores or to fire all or part of their staff. All of this is wrong.

Read the entire speech here.

More on "biting the hand..."

Gates set to speak at AFT convention in Seattle

More on "biting the hand" as Bill Gates preps for his "innovation" speech at the AFT meet in Seattle. $3.3 million for union's Innovation Fund courtesy of Gate/Broad gives him an entry point as the Ownership Society forces pull out all stops to head off a repeat of the NEA RA in New Orleans.

But at ground zero, AFT members are losing jobs in mass-- contract, schmontract. Biggest story yesterday was the RIFing of two veteran, master teachers in Chicago. They thought they would use their years of experience to take leadership positions outside the classroom. This gave Huberman's wolfpack a chance to cut them from the herd and get rid of two veteran salaries. 
"My trust in CPS is gone, literally gone," says master special-ed teacher Deborah Domes. "If I asked someone down there what time it is, I probably would look at the clock to double check. That's how much I don't trust them "

Huberman says, don't worry, "it's for the kids." Let's see how the new CORE union leadership responds.


In L.A., oversized Fremont High reopened after mass teacher firings. Lots of  "good, experienced, strong teachers" were reformed out. Of those not coming back, about 70% had refused to interview for their former jobs, says the Times. 

Most of the teachers in one such academy, the Humanitas program, have left, including lead teacher Stephen DeMarco, whose absence was mourned by students waiting outside for school to start. (Tuesday was the official first day of the school year because the 4,500-student campus operates on a year-round schedule.) "The Humanitas teachers supported us," said senior Alex Giron. "Now that we're seniors, we need them more than ever."
Diane Ravitch, an advisor to L.A. Supt. Cortinez when he headed N.Y. schools, called the approach wrongheaded.
 "There is zero support in research or practice for this mindless, punitive scheme to demean teachers," said Ravitch. "Improve schools. Don't fire teachers without individual evaluations."
Tom VanderArk popped up to criticize the Fremont re-opening from the right. VDA headed the education division of the Gates Foundation and currently runs a charter school consulting company.

"Close and replace is the best option," he said. "There's only one thing wrong with the large, struggling high schools of Los Angeles — and that's everything."
So the stage is set for the AFT meeting in Seattle. Should be some interesting fireworks. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Biting the hand...

Seattle Times columnist Lynn Varner warns the teacher unions, "don't bite the hand [Bill Gates] you feed from." She sure doesn't.

School reformers & BP

Even though the  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation lost some $140 million recently as BP stock collapsed, the foundation has raked in billions from its 43 million shares of BP Oil, much of it from high-risk drilling in the Gulf. BP has made more than $20 billion each year in profits. Warren Buffet, who is a $30 billion partner in the Foundation, also owns millions of shares of NALCO, the company that makes the toxic dispersant COREXIT that BP is currently spilling all over the Gulf. COREXIT is said to be 4x as toxic as the oil itself. It is already reportedly eating through boats in the Gulf. 

Why then isn't the Gates Foundation and Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Fund, being made to pay for some of the damage BP caused with a portion of their mega-profits?

Other owners of NALCO include Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Group and Apollo Management. Goldman Sachs had good timing. They dumped $250 million in BP stock just before the spill. The shares were gobbled up by the Gates Fund.

Then there's hedge-funder and phony school reformer Whitney Tilson, who is buying up BP stock as fast as he can. He says the company's stock is currently undervalued. Tilson also bankrolls Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group that is a major force behind privatization, mass teacher firings and union busting.

Tilson and DFER have the ear of Arne Duncan when it comes to setting ed policy at the DOE. Birds of a feather... (no pun intended).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Roar or meow?

Well, the NEA turned out to be a lion after all. 
“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the union, the National Education Association, told thousands of members gathered at the convention center here. (NY Times)
Duncan's response:  "But we won’t agree on every issue.” Read, who cares? See this video on the DOE's secret memo.

Now let's see what happens with the AFT in Seattle. The NEA resolution can't help but put pressure of the AFT and its president, Randi Weingarten. It's not accident that she gave this statement for the Times story on the NEA resolution:
“For the Department of Education to say, ‘Everybody else has to sacrifice, but our pet programs must be spared’— that makes me so angry I don’t even know how to say it,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has often been more supportive of administration initiatives than the National Education Association .

How Mayor Bloomberg celebrated the 4th

'It's for the kids'

Bloomberg celebrated the birth of our constitutional democracy by slamming the State Supreme Court for "interpreting the law" and for ruling that his closing of 19 N.Y. schools was illegal.

In a Wall St. Journal article yesterday, Bloomberg admits he broke the law but claims that the court should have looked at the "bigger picture" since he did it for the kids.
"We're playing with children's lives, not whether the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed," Mr. Bloomberg said. "They should look at the context of it, and for them to think, 'Well, you know, I'm just here to interpret the law,' that's not true. They are part of society."


NEA Pushes Back
Mr. President, your instincts were right—the path your advisers have laid out is not! ... Our members feel betrayed, and so do I.--NEA Pres. Dennis Van Roekel.  
More frustration
Mostly what we’ve seen out of this administration is a top-down, put-your-thumb-on-somebody kind of philosophy, and it’s aroused more frustration around federal education policy than I’ve ever seen. -- Earl Wiman, president of the Tennessee Education Association
Nice job, Arne

This is all to say that given the already bleak picture Democrats face in November, to have turned a group that was a significant factor in Obama’s election into a group whose president and members now declare openly that they feel betrayed is not good news for the Democrats. Good job, Arne. (Fred Klonsky, Park Ridge Ed. Assoc. reporting from NEA Meeting)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The roll call on Obey's Amendment

"I didn’t come here to be Arne Duncan’s congressman. Who do people think put the money into these programs in the first place? I did ... Welcome to Washington and welcome to hard choices.”-- House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D. Wisc.)

Rep. Obey's amendment, includes $10 billion in aid to state governments and shifts $500 million out of Arne Duncan's $5 billion Race To The Top pool and into putting thousands of laid-off teachers back into their classrooms. But despite Obama's veto threat, the amendment passed overwhelmingly. The vote showed how thin support is for Duncan's reform among House Dems. They voted in favor of Obey's amendment 236-15. The Republicans, on the other hand, voted 3-167. (Roll call vote here)

The bill, attached to a war-funding measure (ugh!) still has to pass in the Senate where Blue Dog Dems & Republicrats still hold sway. 

"The competition has a lot of critics, who argue that the championed reforms -- for example, increasing the number of charter schools and linking teacher pay to standardized test scores -- have no basis in research." (Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet)

What Duncan still has going for him is desperate state governments worried about getting badly-needed federal dollars even though only a few of them have a shot at RTTT money. Duncan has them over a barrel if they don't play ball. We'll have to wait and see how this thing is reconciled.

Friday, July 2, 2010

'Making decisions together' -- What a concept!

Yes that's right, making decisions together in Central Falls where State Ed Commissioner Deborah Gist had, only months earlier, with Arne Duncan applauding wildly in the background, forced the firing of every single teacher and staff member in the school. It was their way of sending a message that teachers no longer had collective bargaining rights and that states would have to toll the No Child Left Behind Race-To-The-Top bell or go bankrupt.

Of course that didn't wash and won't. A national labor push-back plus student and community protests forced Gist to concede and the teachers were all rehired. Duncan and Obama were left with pie on their faces for having overstepped their bounds in the first place. They were hit with another pie yesterday when a Democratic House tagged RTTT for $800 million to be used to bring thousands of teachers back into their classrooms rather then firing them.

Now, Gist is singing a different tune and trying to save a little face herself.
"I can’t imagine that anyone looking at it would say we have backed off on our reform agenda."
Indeed, you can imagine it Deborah. Many of your conservative think-tank friends are saying just that. But I agree with you.Your agenda had little or no reform from which you could back away.

Yes, "making decisions together." What a concept! It's so crazy, it just might work.


One question I have is, why do we need a state commissioner of education? What does she do for $200k/year? Especially in the smallest state in the Union. Can somebody tell me?