Friday, December 30, 2011

Summing up 2011: David Sirota did it for me

SOS March & Rally, July 30, 2011
I was going to write one of those end-of-the-year blog posts. But lucky for me,'s David Sirota ("In education, it’s all about dollars and cents") did it for me. Now I can concentrate on getting ready for classes next week. Thanks David for getting it right.
As the revelations of 2011 prove, students aren’t helped by billionaire-executives-turned-education-dilettantes who leverage their riches to force their faith-based theories into schools. Likewise, they aren’t aided by millionaire pundits sententiously claiming that we just “need better parents.” And kids most certainly don’t benefit from politicians pretending that incessant union-busting, teacher-bashing and standardized testing represent successful school “reforms.”
Read David Sirota's entire commentary here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A biblical school reform metaphor

But who's David and who's Goliath?
There's a strange dynamic going on inside the online education reform debate in which the well-funded reformers play the role of wimpy David and the scrappy traditional educators are Goliath. -- Alexander Russo
I've got to hand it to provocateur metaphor-mixing Russo. He got some of my fellow SOSers and current reform critics to take the bait by referring to them as mighty Goliaths overpowering the wimpy Davids of corporate school reform in internet combat.

Russo, a paid blogger for Scholastic, got what he was after -- someone to take notice, stir some controversy  and a hoped-for circulation boost. I have no problem with that. I've worked as a paid writer (beats the hell out of working for free) for several publications myself. But there should be a special place in hell for Russo's patron, Scholastic Inc., if only for their publishing and distribution of coal industry propaganda to the nation's fourth graders.

Speaking of heaven and hell, let me put on my old-testament scholar's cap for a minute (watch closely, you probably won't see this happen again), to take on Russo's misuse and abuse of good- book mythology. Remember, the biblical David's victory in the battle against the Philistines had less to do with size and and shot accuracy than it did with social justice. David stood on just ground, sling-shot in hand against the enemies of God's helpless people. That's hardly a metaphor for Bill Gates' minions.

How does that metaphor play out here? Let's just say it's a stretch (no sling-shot pun intended). Any comparisons between God's king and corporate school reformers like Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and Wendy Kopp come purely from the pipe dreams of a Philistine. In other words -- what is Russo smoking? Neither are today's teachers, parents and community activists helpless wanderers, waiting for a Superman messiah to lead them.

My fellow SOS activist and EdWeek blogger Nancy Flanagan (Teacher in a Strange Landthanks Russo for "acknowledging a handful of the swelling cadre of articulate educators and parents who are mad as hell about what's happening to their public schools and just not going to take it anymore. We like it when our efforts are noticed and shared."

But Nancy isn't buying Russo's David/Goliath metaphor either.
One at a time, the big-boy funders are picking off nonprofits (not to mention the federal government) and re-shaping their work toward a reformy mindset. A little anti-LIFO here, a bit of merit pay there, a heavily subsidized "innovation charter," the repeated concept that grant funding and privatization are the only routes to genuinely raising the bar. If you want the pay, you have to play. They may have even lured the NEA over for a quick drink with their youngest and hottest teacher recruits.
Anthony Cody (Living in Dialogue), one of the "Goliaths" named in Russo's post, has a different theory.  He thinks that the corporate heavies have a disdain for public debate and carefully choose their arenas so that they can always win. 
They are choosing as their forums places where they know they can win. Video surfaced of Stand For Children CEO Jonah Edelman speaking frankly to fellow "reformers" at the Aspen Institute, disclosing exactly how his organization had muscled its way into Illinois, supporting legislation that eroded the ability of teacher unions to negotiate over basic things like the length of the working day, and undermined seniority.
Just to be safe, I consulted with some other of my fellow hermeneutic scholars, some of whom interpret this dust-up as Russo's attempt to egg on his favorite corporate funders to become more active (if you know what I mean) in the internet battle against us reform infidels. 
Others interpret Russo as a misunderstood prophet who is actually praising us progressives for our feistyness (yes indeed) and our organization (if only it were true) and telling us, that in the long run, we have the power to overcome and save our schools.

I'll go with that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What the 1%ers have to say for themselves

Quotes from New York Magazine piece, by Noreen Malone, I Stand Guilty of Being a Fat Cat.’

Billionaire Tom Golisano:
“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit.” 
Right-wing loony
Home Depot Ken Langone reclaimed certain terms that have been used to oppress his people:
"I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed. If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat." 
Shop at Home Depot? Are you kidding me?
Another Home Depot co-founder, 82-year-old Bernard Marcus said, regarding possible targeting from Occupy Wall Street protestors, the only thing to do was approach the whole thing with Zenlike calm.
"Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?”
There's more: white men with money, white men with money talking to reporters, the wail of the 1%

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

While public schools go begging...

Cities spend billions on militarization

Thousands of local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in federal grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Daily Beast investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found. Obvious question for Occupiers is, who are these WMDs really pointing at?

Answers could come from Chuck Wexler who runs the govt.-funded Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).  Despite implausible denials here and in this obviously embedded NPR story, it was Wexler who coordinated those conference calls with city police chiefs to discuss their response to the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall. He basically admits PERF'S involvement in this Tweet from Nov. 1

Those conference calls were the prelude to the Oakland attacks on occupiers which led to the wounding of Iraq war vet, Scott Olsen and to the pepper spraying of passive protesters at UC-Davis. Now the cost to those cities is likely to skyrocket as they face lawsuits over free speech, use of force.


ABC News reports that anti-govt. anti-taxer Rick Perry's security costs Texas taxpayers up to $400,000 a Month. And he's not even a Chicago alderman.

Ben Falik (really) at Huffington, claims there are some really great deals in Detroit if you want to buy a school.
"What's stopping me from opening my own charter school?" Not much, in all likelihood... You'll want to choose a name for your school that exudes credibility and markets the particular mission of the school. Assuming it's still available, I recommend Academy for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Community activist Martha Sanchez, right, shares an emotional moment with her children, Gonzalo Romero, 17, and Catherine Romero, 12, celebrating victory in an eight-year battle to shut down a metal-finishing plant across the street from 28th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times)
Danny Schechter
I did my Christmas penance back in a very cold and all too empty Zuccotti Park on Christmas day. There had been a 24 hour prayer event and vigil. I had only stopped in for a two hour stint—call it my Holiday witness—in time to hear the writer Jay Janson and others read from the still moving statement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on the need to get out of Vietnam and other countries Washington was then occupying/invading in the false name of freedom. -- The News Dissector
P.L. Thomas
Choruses of “no excuses” and “poverty is not destiny” punctuate almost all of the discourse and even reform plans coming from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee, and the implications of these bromides are where the problems rest.  In short, the real debate is not whether or not one side believes poverty matters and the other does not (this is genuinely a false dichotomy that likely does not exist). The real debate is where the source of what matters lies and how to address the impact of poverty on the lives and learning of children. -- Poverty Matters!: A Christmas Miracle
Ross Caputi
What we did to Fallujah cannot be undone, and I see no point in attacking the people in my former unit. What I want to attack are the lies and false beliefs. I want to destroy the prejudices that prevented us from putting ourselves in the other's shoes and asking ourselves what we would have done if a foreign army invaded our country and laid siege to our city. -- I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah (Guardian)
Andrew Hartman
TFA is, at best, another chimerical attempt in a long history of chimerical attempts to sell educational reform as a solution to class inequality. At worst, it’s a Trojan horse for all that is unseemly about the contemporary education reform movement. -- Teach for America: Liberal mission helps conservative agenda (WaPo)  
Katharine Mieszkowski
At Cesar Chavez Elementary School, physical education lessons, taught by classroom teachers, are held on a fenced-in blacktop lot below a huge, colorful mural of the school’s namesake. In the mural, Mr. Chavez, the late civil rights leader, is surrounded by a crowd of children as he carries a banner that reads “Help me take responsibility for my own life so I can be free at last.”--The Haves’ Children Are Healthier Than the Have-Nots’ (NYT)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

End of Iraq War? Let's not celebrate quite yet

When the leaders speak of peace
The common folk know
That war is coming.
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out. -- Bertolt Brecht
A letter from  a friend tells me the war is over, that Obama has pulled all combat troops out of Iraq. She suggests that we who protested Bush's invasion from the beginning should hold a press conference and claim credit even though the anti-war movement in the U.S. has long been dormant, anesthetized since Obama's election in 2008.

Liberal peace activist, Tom Hayden writes in the L.A. Times that, "the war is as over as a war can be, and the peace movement should celebrate." The president himself has declared the war effort, "a success" and the New York Times goes so far as to tells us that "War Really Is Going Out of Style." Remember, it was the Times that banged the war drums the loudest in the months leading up to the invasion with article after article offering "proof" of weapons of mass destruction. 

Hayden also sends around an interview with Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, who claims that "The tide of war is receding around the world." 

Like my friend, I'm happy to recognize any and all accomplishments by the peace movement but only with my favorite caveat attached, Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories.

Like Hayden, I'm happy about the pull-out and detest war industry lobbyists and  opportunist Republicans like John McCain, who are trying to score points by calling the withdrawal "premature" and arguing for a large residual force to remain in Iraq. McCain knows full well that Obama had no choice but to pull out after negotiations with the Al-Maliki regime broke down. I'd also be elated if we could get out from under the great financial burden a decade of war has placed on our backs. The war cost, amounting to $2 trillion by most estimates, has been a key factor in the current economic collapse and has helped devastate public education and erode civil liberties.

In the pit of my stomach I know that any anti-war celebrations are premature and just plain wrong, considering the death and devastation our retreating troops are leaving behind. I mean --thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed; the cradle of civilization bombed, battered and bleeding with little left of infrastructure, torn by sectarian violence which was inflamed by the U.S. 10-year occupation. A corrupt, anti-democratic, U.S.--installed but pro-Iranian regime, in Baghdad sitting next door to the world's largest embassy, guarded by mercenaries from the murderous group of thugs and assassins formerly known as Blackwater. Their main job, it seems, will be to protect the western oil profiteers from tripping over each other for a shot at Iraqi oil.

Then there's the accompanying erasure of memory about the torture cells at Abu-Ghraib and the 2005 Haditha massacre.

We broke it, but we sure as hell have no intention of fixing it. Tom, celebrate? Really?


Largest embassy in the world
Now comes the news, leaking out in dribs and drabs, that the war in Iraq may not be as "over as over can be." A NYT article by Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker appears on Christmas eve, describing a new, secret phase of U.S. military action in Iraq.  According to this and other reports, "the responsibility for security assistance" has now moved to the C.I.A., "which operates in Iraq under a separate authority, independent of the military." The agency historically has operated its own strike teams, and it also has the authority to hire indigenous operatives to participate in its counterterrorism missions.
“As the U.S. military has drawn down to zero in terms of combat troops, the U.S. intelligence community has not done the same,” a senior administration official said.
The U.S. also has about 40,000 combat troops remaining throughout the region, including a ground combat unit that was one of the last out of Iraq — and remains, at least temporarily, just across the border in Kuwait. Significant numbers of long-range strike aircraft also are on call aboard aircraft carriers and at bases in the region.

Rhodes tries to counter the NYT story in the plausible-denial language only a Defense Dept. bureaucrat could love.
"I don't think we're looking to reallocate our military footprint in any significant way from Iraq. They won't be reallocated to other countries in the region in any substantial numbers."
Eli Lake, writing for the Daily Beast, has more on the "CIA's covert Iraq Mission."
The programs involve everything from the deployment of remote sensors that scan the wireless spectrum of terrorist safe havens to stealth U.S.-Iraqi counterterrorism commando teams, and their status is uncertain as a U.S. diplomatic team negotiates with Iraqi leaders, according to officials, who made clear the CIA intends to keep a footprint inside the country even as troops leave by Dec. 31.
The causes of war still remain -- now more than ever. Big power contention for markets and for old sources of energy, strategic footholds, ports, etc... power and influence of the military-industrial complex and Wall St. on our elected politicians. The next phase may focus on Iran. A Libya-type attack on Syria is also possible.

The face of war is changing. Less and less emphasis on large-scale troop surges -- or what people like Rhodes call, "a large footprint."  More on hi-tech warfare, drone wars and use of mercs. The New National Defense Act budget is larger than ever, replete with new assaults of civil liberties for Americans and foreigners living here.

No celebrations yet. Keep the pressure on! Use the 2012 elections to rebuild the movement against war.   Bring all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan!  Demobilize Blackwater! Jobs and justice for our returning troops! Obama keep your promises! Close Guantanamo! End the torture!

That's where I'm at this Christmas Day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jose Rico named to lead White House initiative

José Rico has been appointed as the new director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The Initiative is in charge of expanding academic excellence and improving educational opportunities for Hispanics.

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the public education system, comprising more than 1 in 5 students in the nation's elementary, middle and high schools, according to a report by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The report shows that Hispanics will drive the growth of the labor force over the next several decades, accounting for 60 percent of the nation's growth between 2005 and 2050.
“Hispanic students have graduated at lower rates than others for a long time, making it impossible for America to advance if they continue to fall behind,” Rico said. “Improving Hispanic educational excellence isn't just a Latino problem. It's a challenge for all Americans.” -- Ed.Gov
Prior to his work with the Administration, Rico served from 2005-2009 as principal of Chicago's Multicultural Arts High School, named by then Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan as founding principal in 2005. He previously worked for the University of Illinois-Chicago's Small Schools Workshop to help develop small, innovative learning communities in public schools. He also worked during this time as a school improvement coach and on charter school projects with the Knowledge Works Foundation and the National Council of La Raza.

Parents beat back Rahm's re-segregation at LaSalle Academy

LaSalle Language Academy
When Arne Duncan was Chicago schools CEO, one of his first goals was to eliminate the city's court ordered desegregation plan. The fight was carried on under Mayor Daley's regime by Duncan's successor, Ron Huberman, who finally got a federal judge to liquidate the consent decree. Rahm Emanuel's attempt to carry on Duncan's tradition and re-segregate one of the city's few remaining integrated magnet schools has been beaten back by protesting parents.

Emanuel tried to phase out LaSalle Language Academy Magnet School, where 1,500 kids apply for about 70 open seats every year. According to a WBEZ report, " it also would have turned one of the city’s few integrated schools into a majority white school by closing the door on students from other neighborhoods. And parents feared their school’s unique language programs—run with desegregation funds—would be lost."

Late Tuesday, schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard sent letters to parents  saying the proposal is off the table.

Chicago communities rally to save their schools

Board pushes longer school day on the high schools

Marquette Elementary School supporter Florence John
son, center, with Southwest Youth Collaborative, rallies Thursday with parents, teachers, community activists and students who oppose a “turnaround” project at the Southwest Side school. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune / December 22, 2011)
On a day when teachers, parents and students rallied to protest closings or turnaround projects at eight public schools, school district officials responded by announcing they would extend the high school day by 36 minutes beginning next fall. At Marquette, which has been on academic probation for seven of the last eight years and where less than 20 percent of students between the third and eighth grades are reading at grade level, teachers say the district has failed the school.
"We have been sabotaged over the last three years," said Jacqulyn Ward, an eighth-grade math teacher. "We've had three principals in that time; we've had new (area officers) who've come in and tried to change everything and who are now gone. It's been total instability."-- Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vallas, the master of disaster, takes interim job in Bridgeport

"I am used to taking on great challenges and going into crisis situations," he said. "Our plan is to move fast." --Paul Vallas
I guess his consulting business in Haiti and Chile must have bottomed out. In any event, Vallas has taken a job, offered by his buddy Stefan Pryor in Bridgeport, as the interim superintendent. Look for him to make the best use of him limited time there to decimate collective bargaining, fire teachers in mass, eliminate as many neighborhood schools as possible and replace them with privately-managed charter schools. That's been his MO since leaving Chicago, Philly, post-Katrina New Orleans and post-quake Haiti. He's definitely the master of disaster.

Bridgeport is the state's largest city, whose district has some of the state's deepest poverty and not surprisingly its lowest test scores. Also look for Vallas to give a big no-bid contract to his old Chicago pals at Synesi

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Turnaround cronyism at Collins High

Be sure and read Matt Farmer's excellent Huffington post on Chicago turnarounds. He lays bare the crony relationship between venture capitalist Mike Koldyke's Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and the mayor. It ends up with AUSL being handed Collins High for their very own. 
That's when the money started to roll in. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation quickly ponied up $1 million to the heavy-hitters at AUSL for the Collins turnaround effort. That same foundation kicked in an additional $10.3 million for AUSL in 2008, and a chunk of that cash was used for teacher training at Collins...
The results can hardly be called a success.
...No one with press credentials thought to say: "Mr. Mayor, if one-third of that September 2007 freshman class failed to walk across the Collins stage with a diploma in June 2011, can you really say Collins is a successful turnaround?"

Chicago parents and community leaders take anti-closings fight to City Hall

From left, Jeanette Taylor-Smith, Pastor Joshua Ivery and Jitu Brown yell protest chants in front of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune)
South-side parents and community leaders were back at Chicago's City Hall yesterday asking to meet with the mayor and demanding an end to Emanuel's arbitrary school closings, turnarounds and privately-run charter schools. The say that if they don't get word within seven days of an appointment with the mayor, they will stage a sit-in until they secure one.
"We are requesting a moratorium on all school actions in Chicago based on what the research of our experiences tell us. Chicago Public Schools cannot continue to push policy that is harmful to the children,"  said Steven Guy, s the grandparent of a student from Fuller Elementary School. -- WBEZ
The protest comes five days after hundreds of parents, teachers and community activists occupied the Board of Education Meeting, leading to board members shutting down the mics and fleeing the room. 

In These Times writer Joel Handley, quotes community activist Jitu Brown:
To longtime education organizers like Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), the program is just another in a long line of failures. “Reconstitution, reorganization, charter schools–all these initiatives have failed miserably,” Brown says. “They’re window dressings. You have to address poverty before the problems of education.” -- The Poverty of School Reform
Writes Handley:
Brown and KOCO created a model for sustainable success with their Bronzeville Global Achievement Village. They asked parents to forget about budget constraints and imagine the type of education they want for their children. Months of cooperative labor birthed a program that would partner with Dyett High School and its neighborhood feeder schools to streamline curricula between grades and bring much-needed focus to laboratory sciences and leadership. But CPS has other plans. On November 30, it announced that Dyett, along with three other schools, would be closing next year.
Also see Chicago Tribune's coverage: "Uproar continues over plans for South Side schools" by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stumbling towards exactitude

Michael Winerip, writing in Sunday's NYT ("10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude") reveals the discrepancy between testing and reality in Bloomberg Town.

Winerip tells the testing story year-by-year, listing every pile of disinformation, scandal, and resistance left in the wake of No Child Left Behind and current state testing madness.
Nearly a quarter of the state’s principals — 1,046 — have signed an online letter protesting the plan to evaluate teachers and principals by test scores. Among the reasons cited is New York’s long tradition of creating tests that have little to do with reality.


Now that factories are gone, it's tee-time in Benton Harbor, Michigan
Now that the factories are gone
But at this point, it seems more likely that Harbor Shores will simply bring a new population to Benton Harbor and hasten the town’s fracturing into two distinct communities: the second-home owners and Whirlpool executives who live inside Harbor Shores and frequent the Arts District — and everyone else. -- Jonathan Mahler, NYT Magazine
A success?
"It's harder to end a war than begin one. Everything that American troops have done in Iraq - all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding and the building and the training and the partnering, all of it has landed to this moment of success." -- Barack Obama
David Vitale
"Mr. Vitale is a banker who was picked by Rahm Emanuel to be president of the Chicago Board of Education. And as the Missile confidently presided over a cowed City Council on Wednesday, his schools emissary co-starred in melancholy political theater that gave insight into the mayor’s ultimate challenges."  -- "Marie Antoinette, I'd like you to meet David Vitale" by James Warren, CNC
Ron Paul
“She [Michele Bachmann] doesn’t like Muslims, she hates Muslims, she wants to go get them.”   -- Jay Leno Show

Friday, December 16, 2011

A great charter school hustle

I've got to hand it to charter school authorizer and former lobbyist, Greg Richmond for coming up with this great hustle. A law recently pass by the Illinois state legislature created his new charter school agency called the Illinois State Charter School Commission which has the power to create new charter schools even when local school districts oppose them. The commission also has the power to monitor the same charters it authorizes. Richmond is the commission's chairman.

Okay, that's a little shady. But here's where the great hustle comes in (some cynics might call this a conflict of interest). The way the commission raises money for itself (aside from private dollars from pro-charter billionaires)  is by handing out more and more charters. You see, starting next July, Richmond's commission can begin collecting a fee from every new charter it creates. The more charters, the more money in its budget to authorize more charters.  And so it goes. Bada-bing. Bada-boom.

The nine commission members — recommended by Gov. Pat Quinn and appointed by ISBE — are already holding official meetings and overseeing a staff member, attorney Jeanne Nowaczewski. The money for the commission’s staffing and other expenses so far comes from the Walton foundation. Other recipients of Walton grants include the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, a statewide umbrella. The foundation reports that it gave the network more than $1 million in 2010. Andrew Broy, the network’s president, said the amount for 2011 is about $950,000.

The network also serves as an intermediary — a “fiscal agent” in nonprofit parlance — for Walton’s funding of the state commission. Richmond said Nowaczewski receives her paychecks from the network, not the commission. Exactly how big is that paycheck, I wonder?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rail against the machine

Jose More pic

Community protesters drowned out the voice of CPS schools boss Jean-Claude Brizard yesterday, as he was about to announce the closing of more schools, turning them over to private charter school management companies.  “You have failed…You have produced chaos…You should be fired” they chanted. When they paused, billionaire board president David Vitale said he hoped they had “gotten it out of their system.”

They hadn't. 

According to CNC reporter, Rebecca Vivea, the protest marked the first time Occupy Chicago has been directly involved in a demonstration against CPS, though the group has been closely aligned with the CTU for other protests. Ashley Bohrer, an Occupy Chicago activist and graduate student at DePaul University, spoke against charter schools at the meeting and what she called the privatization of public services. 
“The goal of this action was not to shut down the Board of Education meeting,” Bohrer said. “When they walked out of the meeting, they made it very clear that they are not interested in an open democratic discussion about the future of social services in this city.”  -- Chicago News Co-op
The board unanimously approved 12 new charter schools at the end of the meeting.

An "astonishing number..."

Remember last spring when Arne Duncan was pushing for reauthorization of NCLB, he claimed that 82 percent of public schools were "failing"? Three days later, President Obama repeated Duncan's foolish claim in a speech at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va. “Four out of five schools will be labeled as failing,” Obama said , in March. “That’s an astonishing number.”

Astonishing indeed. The only thing "failing" was NCLB itself.

As Duncan himself admitted yesterday while brushing aside his horrible, demoralizing misstatements,  
“Whether it’s 50 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken,”
President Obama, get rid of this guy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More video of today's battle in Chicago to save our schools


Protesters: ”these are our children, not yours” ”reject cps failed reforms”

c Chicago News Coop 

Now shouting "who's meeting? our meeting!'

 : Audience interupts Brizard, shouts "Mic check!" & procedes with loud chant. "These are our children not corporate products."

: Chants start again after Brizard tries to begin presentation again.
: Vitale says I hope they have gotten it out of their system.

  Catalyst Chicago Mag

People now being forcably removed from building.

Chicago News Coop

Each time one gets escorted out a new one starts.  

Linda Lutton

Mics cut board leaves

In Chicago: 'A fight for the soul of public education'

Carrying signs and bullhorns, several hundred parents and teachers gathered outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters Tuesday night to rally against the proposed closures, consolidations, and phase outs of 17 schools in low-income, African-American and Latino communities. About 40 people spent the night in the wind and rain to be first in line for a board meeting that will decide the schools' fate. Though rain reduced their numbers, their message in support of the schools did not waver.  
"This is a huge fight for the soul of public education," said CTU president Karen Lewis.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unprecedented victory in Colorado school funding case

In a 183-page ruling in favor of the plaintiffs Friday, Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in the 6-year-old Lobato v. Colorado case that the state's education funding is "irrational and inadequate" and violates the state constitution's pledge to provide a "thorough and uniform" education system. She specifically pointed to the lack of funding to serve the need of the state's poor, minority and disabled students. (Read the full report) "There is not one school district that is sufficiently funded," Rappaport writes in the report. "This is an obvious hallmark of an irrational system."

The ruling was a slap in the face to conservative, anti-public school forces, including the Hoover Institute's Eric Hanushek, who testified that more school funding wouldn't lead to better schools. The judge said that Hanushek's claim was 'contradicted by testimony and documentary evidence from dozens of well-respected educators in the State, defies logic, and is statistically flawed.”

Conservatives, led by right-wing Attorney General John Suthers, and some corporate "reformers" are already working to have Rappaport's decision overturned.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Parents of children in Newark schools sign a petition to wrest control from the state and give the school board a more active role. -- New York Times
Resisting charter takeover of Newark school
“You could see the new furniture coming in,” said Shellian Peters, 38, a mother of three. “Whereas on the district side, it was the same as when the school was built. That’s how blatantly obvious it was.” -- "Growing Push in Newark to Retake School Reins" by Winnie Hu, New York Times
Diane Ravitch
"The entire current reform movement rests on a fanatical belief in standardized testing. Yet testing experts warn us that the tests should be used for diagnostic purposes, not to fire teachers and close schools. The basic rule of testing is that a test should be used only for the purpose for which it was designed." -- Speech to National Opportunity to Learn Summit December 9, 2011.
Author Judith Warner
"The chief promise of their brand of reform — the results of which have been mixed, at best — seems to be that they can remake America’s students in their own high-achieving image." -- "Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform?
On New York's Testing Madness
“I think the last thing we want is a test of stamina,” said Richard Organisciak, superintendent of the 11,000-student New Rochelle district in Westchester County. “The thought of a third grader sitting there for three hours — it boggles my mind that he would stay as focused or perform as well on a high-stakes test.” -- New York Times

Friday, December 9, 2011

The real Chicago "miracle" -- Arne Duncan still has a job

The only miracle emerging from the past decade of Chicago's corporate-style school reform is that former CEO and current Sec. of Education Arne Duncan hasn't resigned from either posts out of sheer embarrassment.

The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) once again put Chicago near the bottom compared to other large urban districts with similar demographics and concentrations of poverty (85% of CPS students live in poverty). Significantly, the biggest drops in reading scores came during Arne Duncan's time as CEO when the media was spinning the myth of a Chicago "turnaround miracle."

A new report on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress taken by 21 big-city districts was the second analysis in less than a month to indicate that, despite more than a decade of massive investments in corporate-style reform, and despite a heavy administrative emphasis on test-prep and big push on  reading skills,  Chicago’s elementary-grade reading performance has barely budged for years. The Sun-Times reports that the so-called "achievement gap"  between white students and black and Latino students— showed no real shrinkage since at least 2003 in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading. In fourth-grade reading,

Most interesting -- Chicago’s NAEP reading doldrums occurred during a huge reading push ordered by former Mayor Daley and carried out by then-Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan, now the nation’s Education Secretary.

The Sun-Times reports however, that "real progress didn’t show up until 2011 — after Ron Huberman took over the Chicago Schools CEO helm in 2009 and shifted the district from Duncan’s emphasis on reading coaches to a new emphasis on data analysis."

I suppose the lesson here is that the real key to progress in school reform is manipulating and spinning data reports (Huberman's specialty) rather than the imposition of programmatic reform. Duncan's success came after he and his media team fabricated the myth of a Chicago turnaround "miracle" which later formed the basis for federal education policy, including Race To The Top.

Peter Cunningham, Duncan's media guy, tells the S-T: 
“The information we had [from state achievement tests] showed [CPS] was showing great success... We weren’t gaming the numbers."
My experience tells me that whenever the spinners claim that they aren't gaming the numbers -- they're gaming the numbers."  If Cunningham has some previously unrevealed evidence of great progress, perhaps he wouldn't mind sharing it with us. Until then, we'll go with the NAEP results.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Obama's Osawatomie speech

"Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008." -- Robert Reich
If you had any doubts that the Occupy Movement was impacting the presidential elections, check out President Obama's Osawatomie (Kansas) speech made yesterday as protesters occupied the National Mall. Obama channeled trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt in a rousing bit of populism aimed directly at Wall Street greed and the growing wealth gap that remains the biggest threat to democracy.
Inequality...distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them - that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.
The speech was hailed by liberal economist Robert Reich as "the most important economic speech of his presidency." Reich's in-depth analysis of the speech ends with a most telling statement:
"Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008."
Obama tipped his hat to the occupiers. But in a strange attempt to be balanced, he lumps them together with the T-Party that was the spawn of the very forces the president seems to be criticizing.
Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements - from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities.
Okay, I admit that there's not much there there. That's typical of a timid Obama who has always carefully distanced himself from his activist base and from black and Latino communities (except when foot soldiers are needed to turn out the vote). But at least he's recognizing Occupy as a force in other ways besides Justice Dept. phone calls to 18 city mayors, advising them how to disburse the 99-ers from city parks. Hopefully, by next November, any Democratic politicians who hope to get elected will have to at least give positive recognition to OWS and its leadership in the fight against the Wall Street profiteers.

While I'll leave it to the progressive economists like Reich and Krugman to analyze the entire speech, there are many parts of it that are troubling and confusing. One is the "New Nationalism" theme which smacks of saber-rattling (TR's imperialistic specialty). Obama even invokes the Race To The Top theme --not about test-driven school reform this time-- but about global competition with China. The speech offers little hope to those of us who see the Afghan war not only as the main threat to world peace and stability, but as one of the prime sources of the current economic crisis.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Here's a few of my favorite observations from this morning's media scan. 

There is an “autumn of the patriarch” feel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg these days. -- Michael Powell, New York Times.

Diane Ravitch
I have said it before, and I'll say it again: There are no silver bullets in education. There are no magic feathers that enable elephants like Dumbo to fly. It's hard work to improve schools. It takes dedication, resources, and time. And the work is never done, the magic number of 100 percent is always out of reach. Just when you think that you've achieved success with this year's students, another new group arrives, each student with his or her issues. Or students leave and arrive mid-year. Or the state changes the testing program or releases new regulations requiring more paperwork. Claims of overnight or one-year transformations should be suspect on their face. -- Diane Ravitch, Bridging Differences

U.S. among world leaders in growing income inequality.

According to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, income inequality — which has sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. — is increasing all across the developed world, led by bankers and executives reaping bigger and bigger income gains. 
“The social contract is starting to unravel in many countries,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said in a statement. “This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that the greater inequality fosters greater social mobility.” -- TPM

Monday, December 5, 2011

CTU Teach-in on school closings

More than 400 parents, community organizers and union members packed a "teach-in" at King College Prep High School in Kenwood Saturday to build grassroots opposition to plans for shutting down or overhauling 14 Chicago public schools.
"We need to be here. If it's not my school on the list (to be closed) today, it could be tomorrow," said Jeanette Taylor-Smith, vice chairwoman of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, who has two children attending local public schools. -- Chicago Tribune
Next battle front: Dec. 13th for a vigil and possible occupation at CPS Headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., 6 PM and then, the following morning, sign up to speak at the Dec. 14th board meeting and make your opposition known. 

Chicago's new top charter school bureaucrat

She's in a "relationship."
Her name is Carly Bolger. She's never taught, as far as I can tell. She's two years out of college. Hired by Chris Cerf to run his bloated and troubled charter schools bureaucracy in New Jersey but quit after just 10 months on the job. Emanuel then hires her to head his Office of New Schools. That position has been empty since Josh Edelman left town to work for Michelle Rhee in D.C. 

T-Party Gov. Chris Christie has pushed for the rapid expansion of the state's charter schools despite strong evidence that they are under-performing traditional schools. A report by the Washington-based Center for Education Reform has slammed the application process for what it called its lack of transparency and objectivity. His hand-picked schools chief, Cerf doubled the size of the charter office to 11 people, including Bolger. 
But the controversy over charters has been fiery, especially from suburban districts that haven't welcomed the schools into their communities and have argued that state oversight is inadequate. Several legislative bills remain pending that would significantly tighten restrictions on charters... The department over the past year has been criticized for using outside reviewers, whom it has refused to identify but turned out to be largely charter school leaders and advocates. -- N.J. Spotlight
Why is she coming to Chicago? She says her decision was "100 percent personal," since she is moving because of a "relationship" in Chicago.



Visiting a wealthy suburban school
"This is a school? I thought it was a museum." -- Terence Lewis, 17, a senior at Furness High in South Philadelphia

Chicago Rep. Cynthia Soto
“We need explanations, specific explanations” for the decisions to close or restructure the schools. -- Chicago News Co-Op
GOP candidate Buddy Roemer
"I believe that Mitt Romney represents the one percent and I believe that Newt Gingrich is the lobbyist for the one percent." -- ThinkProgress
Operation 'Urban Shield'
The use of anti-terror techniques to suppress a civilian protest complemented harsh police measures demonstrated across the country against the nationwide “Occupy” movement, from firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into unarmed crowds to blasting demonstrators with the LRAD sound cannon. -- Max Blumenthal, MondoWeiss

Friday, December 2, 2011

Transparent moments

Every once in a while, a bit of truth comes seeping through the pores of the corporate media. Corporate moguls, media tycoons or politicians become a little remorseful or a little drunk and let us know what they really think.

N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg let the cat out of the bag in a recent speech at MIT, admitting that if he were king (isn't he?) he'd fire half the teachers and double class size.
He looked like he was from another planet when he dressed as a hippie for a political show, but the mayor’s blueprint for fixing city schools have some asking “what was he smoking?” -- CBS News
"Big money owns everything ..."

On November 22, Dan Rather upon receiving the prestigious Burton Benjamin Memorial Award at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, shared his thoughts on media and the Occupy Movement.
 But now, we see our fellow citizens taking to the streets. And, that my friends, is our cue to get back to work. As the People of our nation begin rising up, they expect the business of news to be about inquiry and accountability. And, luckily for us, we can still do that ... but it may not be within the confines of big corporate media. As you know, we are living in an age when big money owns everything ... including the news. -- RSN
Then there's former Chase Bank V.P. James Theckston whose Florida team wrote more than $2 billion in mostly bad mortgages, who in a remorseful moment told NYT's Nicholas Kristof:
“The bigwigs of the corporations knew this, but they figured we’re going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out. And the problem loans will be out of here, maybe even overseas.”
Kristof adds:

All this came into sharper focus this week as Bloomberg Markets magazine published a terrific exposé based on lending records it pried out of the Federal Reserve in a lawsuit. It turns out that the Fed provided an astonishing sum to keep banks afloat — $7.8 trillion, equivalent to more than $25,000 per American.

Yes, it's out there. You just have to dig for it and try and make sense out of it.