Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Other messages starting to come through in mayor's race

A version of this post is on Huffington.--M.K.

For the past month in Chicago's media, it's been all Rahm, all the time. But this week, cracks began to appear in the wall protecting Emanuel. New, critical voices are coming through, making his cakewalk into the mayor's office a little more slippery. It's becoming obvious that not everyone, even in the city's business and political hierarchy is happy about the prospects of Emanuel taking over so easily.

Case in point--check out Greg Hinz' latest column in Crain's Chicago Business ("Miguel del Valle echoes Harold Washington in long-shot mayor's bid"). Hinz, probably more than any other journalist, has his finger on the pulse of the city's business community and del Valle is arguably the most progressive candidate in the mayoral field — similar, as Hinz points out to the late great Mayor Harold Washington, who also ran on a platform of economic justice and institutional change.

Del Valle is gaining credibility, in part because he brings an added dimension in that his candidacy is reflective of the great demographic shift with Latino's about to become the city's largest ethnic group. Immigration reform could prove to be a critical issue with del Valle coming out strong at yesterday's press conference. He landed a solid blow with his criticism of Emanuel's "lack of courage" on the issue.

But education remains key to this campaign because, for the past 15 years, the mayor has ruled the schools, appointed all board members and hand-picked the CEO. The current chaos and flat-lining of CPS's pulse can be directly attributed to Mayor Daley's autocratic rule and the failure of his corporate-style, top-down, reform named Renaissance 2010. Emanuel promises more of the same. Del Valle--not.

More from Hinz:
He [del Valle] was one of the fathers of the local school council model that largely was dumped during the Richard M. Daley years, and he'd clearly like to go back to some sort of system that spreads the wealth. "It's time to focus on the low-performing schools," he says. "We don't need a dual-track system."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rahm wants Chicago to be first with Common Core Standards

But he's blowing smoke

Rahm Emanuel says that if elected Mayor, he will impose a new math and English language curriculum on Chicago’s public schools by the end of his first term. I'm not sure that Rahm even knows what the word "curriculum" means. It's obvious that he has some of Arne Duncan's guys feeding him bits and pieces of education jargon to toss around during the campaign and to his credit, he's been first out of the gate on ed issues leaving all the other candidates to respond to him. Hopefully this will change in the coming months.

Here's 10 thoughts I had after reading the NYT piece:

1. Rahm is blowing smoke. He needs a real educator atop the system to help schools develop curriculum. But I wonder if any of the other candidates have the courage to really take him on on this.

2. Common Core is not Rahm's idea. It's part of the "blueprint" currently being pushed by Duncan around the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind. It comes out of meetings of the National Governors Assoc. and state ed chiefs. But it's been met with strong resistance because, among other reasons, it appears to be code language for more standardized testing. It also presages an unprecedented expansion of the DOE's power over local schools. So far, that power has been used mainly to test and punish.

3. Which standards does Rahm want to impose? How about the Texas curriculum standards that excluded teaching about Thomas Jefferson and any mention of the word slavery and pushed the theory of Intelligent Design over evolution.

4. Common Core is really a multi-billion-dollar bone thrown to the large textbook and testing companies.

5. Standards should be developed by educators and not demagogic politicians who know or care nothing about child development, teaching literacy or authentic learning and assessment.

6. Rahm's claim of being the first throws him into conflict with own his machine ally, Mayor Daley. What makes him think he can do in one year what Daley couldn't do in 15 years? Every time Rahm says anything about education he has to beg forgiveness from Daley whose endorsement he needs for a successful campaign.

7. Rahm is promising to impose a new curriculum in one year without any consultation with educators or the teachers union. This is a recipe for even more division, chaos and resistance in the schools. How is he planning to implement the new curriculum? He will have to re-train thousands of teachers to deliver and assess this new pre-packaged curriculum at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars plus thousands of hours of training and planning time away from the classroom. That should make his pals in the consulting business very happy but no one else.

8. Rahm's version of standard core curriculum means a total revision of all the state's standardized tests. Expensive plus no way to accurately compare progress with previous years.

9. The whole idea behind Common Core standards is to eliminate the unevenness nationally between states. For Rahm to boast that he will make Chicago "the first city" to adopt the curriculum and to claim that “no one else has taken on the initiative” misses the point. If Chicago is the only one, then its standards aren't "common." Are they? It's also not true. Several cities have launched Common Core Standards initiatives. I think Suwanee, GA. may have been the first.

10. Instead of promoting Common Core, our new mayor should call for a Chicago Education Summit in collaboration with the CTU and other stakeholders in public education. It should bring together teachers, parents, students, community organizations, foundations, local school coulcils and the business community to draft a new education plan. A major part of the summit should include panels of teachers to design the Chicago Curriculum with input from national experts in reading, math/science, the arts, etc... Former mayor Harold Washington's call in 1987 for an Education Summit could serve as a model.


Where's Cathie Black? Village Academy wants to know.
A fig leaf
"This compromise is not a compromise at all, but a very transparent and flimsy fig leaf that will allow Ms. Black to be in charge despite a complete lack of qualifications for the job." (Mona Davids, President of the New York Charter Parents Association)
FBI raids hedge-fund operators
It's another shadow cast over an industry that despite frequent scandals, bailouts and complicity in the collapse of the credit markets, still has enough credibility on Capitol Hill to avoid a real crackdown. Campaign contributions buy respect where it counts. (Sun-Times business columnist David Roeder)
How DFER got started

Hedge-fund Republicrats like Whitney Tilson hooked up with billionaire right-wing yahoos like Wal-Mart's John Walton. Then they used big bucks to lobby, influence, and win over Democrats and Arne Duncan.
The main obstacle to education reform was moving the Democratic party, and it had to be Democrats who did it, it had to be an inside job. (DFER Watch)
Frank Rich
Now corporations of all kinds can buy more of Washington than before, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and to the rise of outside “nonprofit groups” that can legally front for those who prefer to donate anonymously. (Still The Best Congress Money Can Buy--NYT)
Bob Herbert 
A stark example of the potential for real conflict is being played out in New York City, where the multibillionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has selected a glittering example of the American aristocracy to be the city’s schools chancellor. Cathleen Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has a reputation as a crackerjack corporate executive but absolutely no background in education. (Winning the Class War--NYT)
Ariana Huffington
"When we have two-thirds of Americans right now who expect their children to be worse off than they are, when we have America ranked number ten in upward mobility - behind France and Scandinavia countries and Spain - when we have 25 percent of young people out of work and 27 million people unemployed or underemployed, we know there is something fundamentally wrong.  (Public Anger Is Beyond Left or Right--CBS)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Toady Steiner renders unto Caesar...

N.Y. State Education Commissioner David Steiner knew what he had to do, even after his hand-picked panel, heavy with Bloomberg friends, voted not to give the clearly unqualified Cathie Black a waiver from the state law requiring the chancellor to have certain education credentials.

The humiliated Steiner, as expected (by me, at least) rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. He knew, without being told, that if he ever wanted to go anywhere in politics in the state of New York, he would have to comply with the powerful autocrat's demand.

Bloomberg the slick billionaire media mogul, was careful to have the pre-arranged deal announced late on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend with the press fast asleep and the bloggers and Tweeters still burping from Thanksgiving dinner. Is anyone even left in town to read the Saturday papers?

Bloomberg let Steiner save a little face by acceding to his request and changing the job title of his chief accountability officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, to that of chief academic officer in order to make it look like there's an experienced educator somewhere in sight when the corporate Ms. Black moves into Joel Klein's old office.

But Bloomberg and Black's problems have only just begun. The mayor's naked display of personal power will surely cause more resentment and anger, even within his own ranks. He also renders Black damaged goods and mucks up the reputation of the former head of the Hearst magazine empire. She will her take office under a cloud with zero credibility, serving only as a matter of political expediency and as a lackey of the mayor, and some tough battles ahead with the teachers union, parents and community groups.

My favorite line in all this comes from Bloomberg's letter to Steiner informing him of the appointment of Polakow-Suransky and making it seem as if Black had done it herself, rather than the mayor. 
Ms. Black's decision to appoint Mr. Polakow-Suransky as her senior deputy, reflects her commitment to a leadership principle that I view as absolutely essential to running any large organization, whether a private business, a public agency, or an entire city government: empowering those around you.

Stop it please, Mr. Mayor. You're killing me. Oh, my side...

The Vitamin D Gap

A good reason to keep and expand health care reform

Severe Vitamin D deficiencies may cause cognitive impairment, missed school days, and affect a student's academic ability. More importantly it can also lead to high risks of death from cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes and other serious physical and mental health problems. It, along with other elevated health risks for African-American children may provide reasons for the widening so-called "achievement gap" in standardized test results.

Recent studies find 98% of African-Americans and 90% of Mexican-Americans are Vitamin D deficient. That compares with 72% of whites. Of those, 27% of African-Americans and 8.5% of Mexican-Americans suffer from severe Vitamin D deficiency as compared with only 2.5% of whites.

Reasons for the gap may include darker skin, with higher levels of melanin, reduces the body's ability to make Vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. But there's a poverty factor operating as well. Those with resources can usually make up for deficiencies by taking vitamin supplements or adjusting their diets. Those living in poverty and without access to medical care, often don't even know they are deficient.

Today's corporate school reformers would like us to believe that the entire responsibility for measurable learning outcomes rest on the school and individual classroom teachers. They show little interest in improving the conditions for students outside of school and claim that focusing on such issues is simply an "excuse" for low performance. Providing all students with (especially preventive) medical care and children of color with Vitamin D supplements could go a long way in narrowing the gap.

Tale of two cities

In Baltimore, a "contract school" in the neighborhood around Johns Hopkins, slated for gentrification, $40M will be spent on a beautiful new building. Meanwhile other inner city schools are in desperate need of basic facility upgrades. According to The Baltimore Sun, many school buildings in the city lack functional heating and air conditioning systems, windows that open and electrical wiring that would allow for computers to be used.

Latest on Huffington

Mike Klonsky

School Reform in the Ownership Society

Movement between the education sector (as they call it) and the giant corporations is another ownership society hallmark. If it sounds reminiscent of the military-industrial complex, you're on the right track.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Panel rejects waiver for Black

Big defeat for Bloomberg and mayoral control

An eight-member panel of education experts, including several with close ties to Mayor Bloomberg, has voted to deny publishing executive Cathleen Black a waiver to become the next schools chancellor. The mayor has argued that under the 2002 law that gave him control of the city schools, he should be able to appoint whomever he pleased.
The erosion of support for Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, was a rebuke to Mr. Bloomberg, who had enlisted powerful business and political allies to lobby Dr. Steiner. (NYT)
OK Commissioner Steiner. You have your cover. Your panel voted. Now deny Black the waiver or look like a complete Bloomberg toady.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ownership Society News

Before he left his post as NYC chancellor, Joel Klein made sure his nest was feathered. He helped put together a mega-deal for his new boss, Rupert Murdoch, a deal that would give the media mogul a no-bid entry point into the highly profitable New York public education market. The deal has Murdoch's News Corp acquiring 90 percent of Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn-based education technology company for teachers, for approximately $360 million.
Education in the U.S. is a $500 billion sector “waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” said Murdoch in a statement, and Wireless Generation is at the “forefront” of individualized, tech-based learning. (Business Insider)
Wireless is is a key partner to New York City’s Department of Education on its Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS) as well as on the City’s School of One initiative.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The trend for appointing CEOs to top ed jobs

A declining commitment to public education and social justice
Furman prof Paul Thomas has written an excellent piece for the UK Guardian. He's got the pro-corporate dogs all yelping and nipping at his heels. I tried to counter but the comments section was filled. 
In the US, achievement gaps and failure in state schools reflect larger inequalities in society, as well as dysfunction in corporate, consumer culture. The schools did not cause those gaps or failures – although it is true that, far too often, they perpetuate the social stratification. And the evidence shows that schools alone will never be able to overcome powerful social forces. (The corporate takeover of American schools)


Dilemmas of school closings
Last winter, when Mr. Huberman made an initial announcement about closing Paderewski, Ms. Roberts was heartsick. All the years of hard work seemed to be for naught. “This is where the heavy lifting is done,” she said. (NYT)
 Cathie Black waiver panel tied to Bloomberg
“It appears that the deck has been stacked in favor of granting the waiver in a manner that will further undermine public confidence in the appointment of Ms. Black.” (Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries)
Bill Gates
“You can’t fund reforms without money. And there is no more money.” (NYT)
City's broke, but...

Mayor Daley is giving $15 million in TIF money to his cronies at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Board of Trade.
CME is among Chicago's most profitable companies, with a dominant share of the market for futures trading in the United States. For the first nine months of the year, the company reported a profit of $755 million on revenue of $2.2 billion. (Sun-Times)
Millionaires to Obama: "Please tax us"
"For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled," their website states. "We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more." (The Ticket)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The puppeteer

OK, now at least we know where Duncan's "do more with less" crap is coming from.

Cathie Black's "common touch"

Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Cathleen P. Black, the mayor’s pick to lead New York schools, waiting for a taxi outside her Park Avenue apartment.
She grew up sheltered and privileged, in a middle-class Irish enclave of Chicago at midcentury, attending Catholic schools and riding horses at a country club where blacks and Jews were not allowed...She was the newspaper industry’s chief lobbyist in the 1990s, fighting a ban on tobacco advertising, and she occasionally mused about running for office. But she has otherwise barely dabbled in the public sphere: describing her strengths in internal documents, the Coca-Cola Company, where she is a longtime board member, leaves unchecked the box next to “governmental, political or diplomatic expertise.” She has shown a common touch as president of Hearst Magazines since 1995 by riding in yellow cabs rather than black limousines. (NYT)

These are the 11 "Democrats" who voted with the Limbaugh Party

Following John Boehner's lead, they voted against the extension of unemployment benefits to 4 million workers and their families as we head into the holiday season. Shame on you.

Rep. Robert Berry [D, AR-1]
Rep. Allen Boyd [D, FL-2]
Rep. Bobby Bright [D, AL-2]
Rep. Jim Cooper [D, TN-5]
Rep. Lincoln Davis [D, TN-4]
Rep. Baron Hill [D, IN-9]
Rep. Walter Minnick [D, ID-1]
Rep. Glenn Nye [D, VA-2]
Rep. Collin Peterson [D, MN-7]
Rep. Heath Shuler [D, NC-11]
Rep. Gene Taylor [D, MS-4]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

After 15 years of mayoral control in Chicago

Catalyst reports, "not much progress"

Mayor Daley had wielded control of  Chicago schools for seven years when the U.S. Department of Education in 2002 began to administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress in selected urban districts. At every level except 8th-grade reading, Chicago’s first scores were, on average, 9 points below other big cities—and seven years later, scores have risen but are still an average of 8.3 points below other urban districts. During that same period, 8th-graders lost ground in reading: Scores haven’t budged and are now 3 points below the big-city average. (Catalyst Chicago)

Pedro Noguera at the Fall Forum

"Nothing changed" at the DOE

Sadly, I couldn't make it to the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum this year. So I was much interested in this report from the Forum on Education and Democracy and particularly on Pedro Noguera's keynote speech.
Pedro Noguera has had plenty of access to Obama administration policy makers. In fact, he sat down with 50 people from the U.S. Department of Education, who listened to his thoughts for 90 minutes. 

"Then I left and nothing changed," Noguera, a Convener with The Forum for Education and Democracy, said in an opening address last week at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. "I realized that the Obama administration was staying the course not just in Afghanistan, but in education."

Forum director George Wood was named as  CES's new executive board director and announced that the November, 2011 Fall Forum will be held in Providence, R.I.

Noguera is also quoted in yesterday's WSJ on Mayor Bloomberg's selection of Cathie Black and NYC's new chancellor.  
"There needs to be some form of checks and balances," said Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at New York University. "Mayoral control can't mean that the mayor is the only one who makes major decisions."


From Tara Mack

Hello Educators,
The call for proposals for Free Minds, Free People 2011 is here!
Free Minds, Free People, is national conference presented by this network in partnership with The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, the Chicago Freedom School and Youth in Action. It brings together teachers, high school and college students, researchers, parents and community-based activists/educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation.

I hope you will consider applying to present at this event. You’ll find the call for proposals here: http://www.edliberation.org/fmfp-2011/call-for-proposals-1. It is also attached. Proposals are due January 21, 2011.

Our 2009 national conference in Houston, TX featured more than 60 activities, including workshops, panels and local community site visits, 40 presenting organizations and 450 attendees.

Our 2011 conference will be held in Providence, Rhode Island July 7-10, 2011. Free Minds, Free People is an energizing and inspiring gathering because it brings together groups that do not usually have an opportunity to interact and build solutions together: educators, activists and students.
I hope to see lots of you in Providence. Please forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested in being part of Free Minds, Free People.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duncan wants larger schools and larger "smartly targeted" class sizes

Arne Duncan urged districts to consider "modest but smartly targeted increases in class size." As a parent, Duncan said, he'd much rather have his kids in a class of 26 with a really excellent teacher, than in a class with 22 kids, lead by a mediocre teacher. (Edweek)
Duncan, speaking at a forum sponsored by the neocon American Enterprise Institute, also called for closing "under-populated schools." But for most, who can't afford a home in his Arlington,Virginia neighborhood, those aren't really the choices, are they? The Duncans' don't send their kids to inner-city schools where many class sizes have swelled to 40 or 50 as a result of the economic crisis and mass teacher firings. To avoid D.C. schools (even with Michelle Rhee running the show) they moved across the river in suburban Arlington, where schools and class sizes remain relatively small.

"I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education," Duncan told the Wall Street Journal.
First of all, Duncan hasn't really "saved the country's children," or its educational system, has he? And while it is all well and good to want the best for his own children, it's a bit disingenuous of him to use them as an example of why he doesn't mind a class of 26 with an ace teacher in front of it. Well of course not. That's not even an issue where he lives. For many kids in L.A. or Oakland however, the reality is a class size of 35-40, not 22-26, often with an inexperienced TFA teacher or a full-time sub teaching outside of their subject area.

Duncan tries to snow us with his comparisons to "Asian" schools and his use of averages when comparing their class sizes to those in U.S. schools to justify his claim. There is no real average class size, either here or in Asia. "Average" becomes almost a meaningless term in places where wealthy communities buy down class size and in poorer ones where size swells. In some inner-city neighborhoods in Los Angeles, for example, high school class sizes have swelled to 50 students. Class sizes in the 30s, once considered extreme, have become the new normal in high schools across Oregon.  Duncan must have already forgotten his home town, Chicago, where class sizes were  projected to climb above 35 until the teachers union filed suit to block the increases.

No, we don't need any more class-size increases--"smartly targeted" or not. Nor do we need our secretary of education using his bully pulpit to push for larger classes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I need to get one of these red power ties.
Now sooner had I finished posting about Daley's likely interim pick and gone off to teach my class, than one of my students informed me that the Mayor appointed Terry Mazany as his new schools CEO. Shows you how plugged in I am.

No surprises here. Daley played it safe. Mazany will likely keep the seat warm until May, 2011 when a new mayor will pick what amounts to the district's third CEO in 6 months. Mazany is currently president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, the city's second largest foundation and one of the district's biggest outside funders. The Trust served as the conduit for the Gates Foundation grant that supported the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative (CHSRI).

Mazany says he has no plans to become the permanent CEO. He told FOX that he will work on a briefing book for the next mayor and next chief of CPS so they can begin to work on the CPS budget and improving the system. His salary is being picked up by the Trust. Here's Mazany's corporate connections displayed graphically on his Mukety Map.

Unlike previous mayor-appointed CEO's, Mazany does has some school administration experience in California and Michigan. But it would be a stretch to call him an educator.
“We need a schools superintendent whose loyalties are to the students — not to the mayor," said  Julie Woestehoff of PURE. "We need a leader who will put an end to policies like retention and school closings that have been hurting our children. … We need someone who cares more about making parents, teachers, staff and students feel respected, rather than making the business community feel comfortable.” (Sun-Times)
Well put, Julie.

More reasons to dump mayoral control

Need a couple of good reasons to get rid of mayoral control of urban schools? How about Bloomberg and Daley? Narrow, self-serving political agendas have left both of their autocratically-run school systems in chaos.

With a week to go before Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman flees the coop, there is still no official word on his replacement. It's been 5 months since the system had a chief education officer. And even machine guy and front-running mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel has to preface his education platform with a slam on the current Daley-run system. 
"Chicago's public schools are on a precipice. Testing indicates that 86% of our elementary-school graduates won't be ready for college. Nearly half of high-school entrants will not graduate. Teachers and students aren't learning the skills they need, and too many parents are on the sidelines." (Crain's)

The problem for Rahm is that all this comes after 15 years of mayoral control, including 7 years with Rahm's guy, Arne Duncan at the helm, implementing the very failed policies that Emanuel vows to continue. Says Rahm:
"I believe we should establish Chicago's Race to the Top. If we can raise private capital from our businesses and philanthropic community for the Olympics, we can do so for our children's future."
Whoops. Bad example, Rahm. I mean--the Olympics? Didn't anyone tell you not to say the O-word back here in Chicago? This plus privatization of garbage collection don't sound like political winners to me. But what do I know?

In NYC, Bloomberg's autocratic style has created a new firestorm of protest and opposition. His pick of the eminently unqualified Cathie Black as Joel Klein's replacement was made secretly, so as to "avoid a public spectacle." It left observers (like me) wondering, who's advising this guy?

All this, following on the heels of the Fenty/Rhee debacle in D.C., has once again put mayoral control of the schools back into the limelight and hopefully, at the risk of mixing my metaphors, back onto the chopping block.

Monday, November 15, 2010

School reform, New Orleans style

Sebastian and Robin Weston talk about their son being handcuffed and shackled.
Paul Vallas and lawyers for the State Recovery School District settled their suit with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Vallas agreed to end the handcuffing of 6-year-olds. But, under the settlement, he can continue to use cuffs, shackles and restraints on kids over 10 years old. Children at the mainly African-American, Sarah Towles Reed Elementary School in New Orleans were subjected to unlawful arrest and excessive force – including handcuffing and shackling – for minor violations of school rules.

Vallas had no comment on the settlement. He was busy overseeing school reform in Haiti. 


Mayor Bloomberg on his appointment of Cathie Black
“It’s a chance to change the world.” (N.Y. Post)
Former N.Y. Supt. Rudy Crew
We’re in danger of making the New York City public schools a plaything for the rich and famous. Perhaps the thinking is that directing schools is something you do when you’re finished doing your real job; an avocation that starts with a love of learning and warm remembrances of being in school yourself.(NYT)
Hedge-funder Tilson lays it out bare naked
Charter schools, explained Whitney Tilson, the founder of T2 Partners and one of their most ardent supporters, are the perfect philanthropy for results-oriented business executives. For one thing, they can change lives permanently, not just help people get by from day to day. For another, he said, “hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

A wealthy hedge fund manager can spend more than $1 million financing a charter school start-up. But once it is up and running, it qualifies for state funding, just like a public school. Except that in most cases, charter schools save the taxpayers money because they are much more cost-conscious than the typical big city public school. “It is extremely leveraged philanthropy,” Mr. Tilson said.(NYT) h/t Fred Klonsky
Privatizing the garbage

Rahm Emanuel officially launched his Chicago mayoral campaign Saturday, with a pledge to open the city's garbage collection to bidding from private companies. He has already committed himself to privately funding Chicago's version of Race To the Top.
“Should we continue to collect Chicago’s garbage the same way we have for decades when it can be done cheaper and more efficiently, as other cities have shown?" (Chicago News Cooperative)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heading into the weekend...

Think-tanker declares victory over unions

Right-wing think-tanker and professional union-basher (used up my Friday hyphen quota), Jay Greene has declared victory over the nation's teachers unions.  Following last week's Republican election victories, Greene blogged, "We won! At least we've won the war of ideas."

The L.A. Times, as expected, took Greene's handoff and ran with it. But their declaration of victory over organized labor may prove to be premature reminiscent of George Bush's infamous aircraft carrier speech.

Yes, these are tough times for union teachers. But let's not forget how many of the important Democratic victories last week, in Illinois, Nevada, and California, to name but a few, couldn't have happened without strong teacher union support. And let's not forget that it was teacher union resistance to Mayor Bloomberg's school closings and the lawsuit filed by the union and the NAACP that ultimately led to Chancellor Klein being run out of town.
"To say that we're under attack is an understatement," Los Angeles teachers union vice president Julie Washington told an angry audience of her members recently. "This is a wakeup call for all of us."
Jim Horn reminds WaPo's Jay Mathews what he left out in another of his fawning columns about KIPP.
 Actually, Jay has chopped off a half hour for some reason (embarrrasing maybe?), since the study he refers to above, “San Francisco Bay Area KIPP Schools: A Study of Early Implementation and Achievement,” clearly notes the 9.5 hour school day (almost half of which is spent on math and reading), the 60 percent increase in school time overall,  and the 65 hour work week for teachers.  What Jay does not mention, too, is the winnowing effect over time that eliminates the weak and recalcitrant "miscreants" in order to maintain the KIPP brand that people like Mathews promote without noting KIPP's abusive psychological sterilization program or the KIPP attrition rates for both students and teachers that would be entirely unsustainable and unacceptable in regular public schools.School Matters)
Eugene Robinson--Why don't they fight back?
Wednesday night, I gave a talk at Indiana State University. "You watch," said a man in the audience, "the Democrats are going to cave on the tax cuts for the rich, just like they caved on everything else." Sure enough, on Thursday I awoke to read the Huffington Post's interview with White House senior adviser David Axelrod, in which he appeared to signal that Obama - with great reluctance - might have to accept an extension of George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans after all. (RCP)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Line from the N.Y. Times: Two tenets of Bloomberg era...

Mayor Bloomberg has dumped Chancellor Klein in N.Y.
Klein goes off to work on Rupert Murdoch's right-wing plantation, "to explore possibilities in education." I wonder what possibilities those might be? 
Recently, two famous Wall Street short sellers, James Chanos and Steve Eisman, announced that they see a crash coming in the for-profit education sector, which is heavily dependent on online degrees paid for through federally guaranteed student loans. (New Yorker)
The news is better for Cathie Black who leaves Hearst's own struggling right-wing media plantation for Bloomberg and his potential third-party, beat- Obama, presidential run in 2012. Black is no more qualified to run NYC's public schools than I am to run Cosmo. But none of this is really the public's business, says Bloomberg. The selection process around Black's hiring as well as the Klein dump were both highly secretive. This piece in the Times says it all for me:
Two tenets of the Bloomberg era: the mayor’s faith in the ability of business leaders to fix the ills of government, and his keen dislike of drawn-out public debates that might derail his agenda.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Charters and the new version of two-tier education

Those who have followed the work of our Small Schools Workshop over the past 19 years, know that we are not "anti-charter." Many charters emerged from the early small schools movement that we helped create. Small schools and charters were first seen as a way to drive changes and offer innovative alternatives within large, bureaucratic and undemocratic school systems. Early charters and small schools were usually created by teachers and often democratically run with an eye on personalization, teacher autonomy and power to create learning environments where students could grow and develop physically and intellectually.

But today that early charter "movement" has been derailed, captured by the worst, anti-public school politicians and profiteers. Helped by a decade of No Child Left Behind (now called Race To The Top) politics and policies, under both parties at the federal level, charter operators and their lobbying groups have dis-empowered teachers and turned charters into a self-interested, anti-public school, anti-union entrepreneurial venture.

While operating mainly on public funding, they also garner hundreds of millions in supplemental support coming from conservative business groups and powerful private philanthropists like Gates, Broad and Walton. These are dollars that have been shifted away from public school funding and used, through competitive grants, to promote unfair competition, rather than collaboration between charters and traditional schools. This distorted form of competition has led to a new class of selective-enrollment schools and a new version of the old  two-tier system of education based on discrimination and racial segregation.

There's not better example than post-Katrina New Orleans, as Diane Ravitch describes in her latest Bridging Differences post, "What I Learned in New Orleans."
When a young woman (who was white) from the Cowen Institute at Tulane University defended the success of the charters in getting more students to pass AP exams, several people in the audience demanded to know why their non-charter schools were no longer allowed to offer AP courses. The young woman had no answer. Several people that night said: "They stole our public schools, and they stole our democracy while we were out of town."
Another example, can be seen here in Chicago, where mayoral (corporate) control of the schools reached its apex under the mayor's now defunct Renaissance 2010 "reform." Chicago NPR station WBEZ reports an enormous charter school attrition rate with thousands of low-scoring kids being pushed out and sent back to under-resourced neighborhood schools.

WBEZ’s Linda Lutton looks into claims that charters move out students who are toughest to educate—kids with behavioral problems, or kids who struggle academically. She could have also added, kids who are English-language learners and kids with disabilities. This story was co-reported with Sarah Karp of Catalyst Magazine. Read the Catalyst story.

Lutton hears from Univ. of Chicago prof Charles Payne who says:
They sound to me like ways institutions have—whether intended or not—of pushing out the weakest students. And pushing them out in ways that may not count against the school’s evaluation. Because the student appears to be making an independent decision. In fact, the student is being encouraged, pushed in that direction.
Republican and Tea Party victories in the mid-term election have swept into power a host of governors and state officials who support the new two-tier schooling movement. Ravitch concludes,
"I can't say where all this is going, but it doesn't look promising for those who care about our nation's children and the quality of education that we provide them."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Glitter falling from mayoral control in Chicago

My latest on Huffington
But now, with Chicago's schools in a state of leaderless limbo, the problems of having a single autocrat running big-city school systems have become obvious to all. After a decade and a half of Daley's top-down reform efforts, seven of those years with Duncan as the CEO, neighborhood schools remain pretty much as they were. Scores have flattened out. The so-called "achievement gap" continues to widen. Violence has reached pandemic proportions and the school system is on the brink of insolvency. Daley's pet reform project, Renaissance 2010, has been discarded and the phrase banned from usage within the bureaucracy... Read my entire Huffington post here.
Today's best blog posts

Deb Meier's Post-Election Imagining
Alan Singer's What Happens if the Charter School Companies Win?
Arthur Goldstein's No Leeches Left Behind

Monday, November 8, 2010


Olbermann from exile
Greetings From Exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug & obviously left me tweetless XO. (Twitter)
Status Quo
If you don't fully support Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, and other "reformers" then you support the "Status Quo." -- This is a sound bite that media has happily and uncritically repeated, uh, repeatedly. It's used just like, "If you are not for the war, you are against the troops," was during the Bush administration. (Brian Crosby at Huffington)
Kozol--No half steps
Charter schools, favored by the White House, are even more profoundly segregated than most other public schools. Magnet schools, with a few exceptions, have failed for more than 40 years to achieve more than a pittance of diversity. Principals especially should rise above the token gestures of the past and speak out on this issue with the nobility and the transcendent passion that dignify the crucial role they fill in our society. (Jonathan Kozol, Ed Leadership)

Van Jones: We Must Prepare for Battle
We went from "We Are One" to "We Are Done," Jones tells a D.C. audience. It's time to stop waiting for cues from Washington, he says. (AlterNet)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Duncan & Boehner

"I have a good relationship with John Boehner. I've known Boehner for years, I look forward to continuing to work with him."--Huffington

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something to cheer about in Arizona

One election night bright spot was progressive Rep. Raul M. Grijalva holding onto his congressional seat representing southern Arizona. Grijalva, a four-term representative who had easily won reelection in the past, got into trouble after urging a boycott of his state once it enacted a tough immigration law in April. Grijalva, said the law would promote racial profiling.

He was also part of a group of  Dems, led by Rep. Obey (D-WI), who opposed Arne Duncan's Race To The Top initiative.  On Thursday morning, Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was asked on the radio/TV/Internet news hour Democracy Now! whether it was his sense that Obama hopes to make education his welfare reform. 
"That's my sense and also my concern, to be quite honest," said Grijalva, who narrowly won reelection in his Tucson-based district. "We had an opportunity to reauthorize elementary and secondary education. We didn't do that. Now we go back to a session in which the Republicans are going to control the Education and Labor Committee, of which I'm a member." (Huffington)
Grijalva said that large parts of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's education efforts had already been rejected by Democrats. 
"Arne Duncan's four prescriptions for fixing public schools, which were essentially to privatize, close them... we rejected them as a caucus on that committee," Grijalva said.
But Huffington's Ryan Grim adds that Grijalva's opposition could galvanize Obama if he decides that voters were telling him to oppose his base and work with Republicans to go after teachers unions, the element of organized labor that it is now acceptable for liberals to dismiss. Grijalva, though, said that progressives would organize around a defense of public education.

Obama's lament

"We lost track of the ways we connected with the folks who got us here in the first place." --Pres. Obama
Yes he did. Including, youth, teachers, unions, civil rights activists, anti-war (torture) people, GLBT, immigration reformers... In short, the very heart of his political base. Most stuck with him anyway and saved mid-terms from being a total disaster.

Time to re-connect.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Superman" scene was a set-up

“It’s two different worlds,” the mother, Maria, tells the filmmaker in an interview interspersed with scenes of the tour, comparing it with her son’s Bronx public school. “I don’t care if we have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning in order to get there at 7:45,
then that’s what we will do.”
The only problem is, this heart-wrenching scene of hope and anticipation from Davis Guggenheim's film, Waiting for Superman, never really happened. Guggenheim set it up.

NYT City Room critic Sharon Otterman, "In 'Waiting for Superman,' a Scene Isn’t What It Seems", asks other documentary filmmakers what they think the scene.

Gordon Quinn, producer of Hoop Dreams:  
“It’s like you think you are looking at someone responding to the future, and in fact, the emotion has to do with their disappointment, and that’s a very different thing.”

I asked Emmy Award-winning film maker (Navajo Boy) and Columbia College prof Jeff Spitz what he thought about the ethical side of documentary film making. He told me that it's quite common for film makers to insert re-enactments into their films. But, said Spitz, "viewers have every right to question the ethics and intent of how it's done."

If Guggenheim intentionally set out to manipulate the viewer, it raises important ethical questions and could cast doubt on the authenticity of the rest of the film as well.

Despite election defeats for California corporate reformers...

L.A. sell-off of public schools continues

L.A. will turn over operations of 43 more public schools to outside management companies, officials announced yesterday. The announcement came on the eve of election defeats for corporate billionaires Meg Whitman (a big supporter of privately-run charters) for governor and voucher supporter, Carly Fiorina, for senator.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Googie compares critics of his Superman film to Nazi appeasers. He claims they all are "ditherers." I mean who talks like this? Only a self-righteous, arrogant late-comer to the school-reform business, a bully who uses the power and money of real far right-wing zealots like Philip Anschutz, to spread the big-lie that teachers and their unions are THE problem with public schools.

I say this guy is dogfinkil.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicago forum on teacher evaluation

I even put a tie on

It's the day after Halloween so I didn't feel so bad about putting on a tie and dressing up like a downtown school reformer. The reason? It's the first of this year's Schools Policy Luncheon Series, organized jointly by BPI and Catalyst. This one, titled: Teacher evaluation and compensation: Getting it right, grabbed my interest for obvious reasons. The biggest crowd ever, packed the main lounge at the Union League Club (business attire required). Thus the tie.

Lunching on sliced chicken, salad greens, chocolate cake with a blackberry next to it, and lots of coffee, I heard Susan Moore Johnson from Harvard, CTU prez, Karen Lewis, and Peter Martinez, the head of UIC's Urban Leadership Program.

Johnson, coming from Harvard, of course had a Power-Point nobody could read. But her assessment of Value-Added based on standardized tests, "which measure only part of what teachers are expected to do," was great. She basically argued that VA and standardized tests should NOT be used to make important decisions about schools firing or paying teachers; that VA doesn't show teachers how to improve; and that it doesn't improve collaboration within schools. She hit hard on the L.A. Times publication of teacher names next to student scores. What we need, said Johnson, is more peer evaluation and review with support from skilled experienced master-teachers, set up with oversight by a labor-management review panel. Wow! Not bad.

She was followed by Lewis, who spoke with passion and conviction about the role of the teachers union in leading school improvement. Her main points followed seamlessly from Johnson's research and she concluded, "you can't test or fire your way to good schools." This got some applause from about 20% of the room and some eye-rolling from about another 20%. But she seemed to have consensus when she pointed out that the system of teacher evaluation as we know it, was broken.

Fix it, yes, she said.. But even that won't do without a wrap-around system of social services to improve the conditions kids and families face outside of school.

Martinez seemed to be the least critical of standardized testing--"that's what people understand." But he did call for a more collaborative approach based on high standards and the need for good instructional strategies. Okay! No arguments from anyone there, I suppose.

So I left the meeting full of buzz from all the caffeine and chocolate in my system, wondering why, if all these movers and shakers, union leaders and business reformers could reach basic agreement around the need for improved teacher evaluation, and a critique of value-added and standardized testing, why are we still reinforcing merit-pay based on a faulty standardized testing regimen here in Chicago?

Why are the union and a handful of us activist types the only ones speaking out in opposition? Maybe it's too dangerous given Race To The Top and the crack-down on school districts that step out of line.


Mike Klonsky photo

Teacher Jamie Worsek
Like me, she came to President Obama's get-out-the-vote rally on Saturday in Chicago.
"I've actually never been less excited to vote in my entire life. I think all the candidates are awful. I'll do it because it's like my basic patriotic duty," said the 24-year-old Chicago resident who worked for Obama's campaign in 2008. (Huffington)
John Stewart
"We live now in hard times--not end times." (Huffington)
Mike Huckabee on Rove and the T-Party
This country club elite is happy for Tea Partiers to put up signs, work the phones and make “those pesky little trips” door-to-door that it finds a frightful inconvenience. But the members won’t let the hoi polloi dine with them in the club’s “main dining room” — any more than David H. Koch, the billionaire sugar daddy of the Republican right, will invite O’Donnell into his box at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center to take in “The Nutcracker.” (Frank Rich)