Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Ching Chong, Ling Long, Ting Tong..."

Great parody of UCLA student Alexandra Wallace's Anti-Asian Rant

h/t Russo


We have a great department chair. Here's what she sent us this morning:

Hello EPSR Faculty,

I am forwarding the email below and attached flyer for your information.

Thank you.

Dr. Proweller

Amira Proweller, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Educational Policy Studies and Research School of Education DePaul University

March 29, 2011

Dear Friend of Higher Education,

I am writing to ask you to join in an effort to stop the attacks on public education and on our universities' education programs.

I invite you and your colleagues and students to join Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action. This national grassroots organization began as an effort by classroom teachers to stand together against the destructive, corporate-driven, free-market reforms that are being foisted on our K-12 public schools. Three of the founding members of our organization are professors of education in Maryland, Connecticut, and New Mexico. Many of our new members are professors of education, as well as college students majoring in education.

Although our mission began over two years ago as an effort to prevent the reauthorization of the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind, we believe it is time for all of us with a professional commitment to education to speak with one voice.

I am writing to ask you, as the chairperson of your department, to share my letter with your faculty and students. Please visit our website at , where you will find our list of endorsers and our guiding principles. Please post the attached flyer on your faculty and student bulletin boards.

We invite your faculty members and students to sign up through our webpage and join with us to defend public education and our profession. We invite all of you to join us in Washington, D.C. this summer for Four Days of Action, July 28 -31, which includes our march on July 30. If either your department or your individual faculty members or any student associations wish to endorse us, we will be adding a new endorsement page on our website where we will list endorsements related only to higher education. Endorsements can be e-mailed to us through the e-mail link on our website.

Only by standing together can we awaken the public and our elected officials to the dangerous movement to privatize large sectors of public education and to demoralize and weaken our profession. Our schools are at risk, the public sector is at risk, and democracy is at risk. Please stand with us.


Diane Ravitch

The Information Coordinator for Illinois is Helen Hoffman
Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mathews says Rhee made "stupid" remarks because she didn't have time to read USA Today story

"I was stupid."
Michelle Rhee tells her pal Jay Mathews that her remarks about D.C. test cheating were "stupid." Mathews adds, "thoughtless" and "insulting." But he's still making excuses for her.

"I sensed from my talk with Rhee that one reason she misspoke on Monday was that she had not had time to read either the USA Today [written in part by Mathews' wife] story or the investigators’ reports, or to probe the weaknesses of test security protocols in Washington and other districts."

Right Jay. She's much to busy to read the article she knew Tavis Smiley would ask her about. After all, there's all that consulting for teacher-bashing T-Party Gov. Scott in Florida, plus a wedding coming up. 

Boring double-talk on testing

Speaking at a townhall event in Washington, D.C. President Obama said that too much testing makes education boring, and that performance should be measured in more ways than test scores:
"Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools," the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.
"All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting." --  Forbes
Following the speech, Obama pushed his ed secretary Arne Duncan to plan the next wave of Race To the Top grants which force school districts to fire teachers and close schools based on standardized test scores.

Classic administration double-talk. It's getting boring.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The money behind school reform

Proposed TEPCO plant on Texas Gulf coast.
Disaster capitalists Gates, Buffett...

Whenever there's an environmental disaster in the world, I always look to see how deeply Bill Gates, his partners, and his foundation are involved. The Gates Foundation's investments in Nigeria have helped turn much of that country into an unlivable, oil-polluted wasteland.

Gates got off scott free after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf, even though his foundation owns millions of shares of BP and his hedge-fund school reform partners Warren Buffett and Whitney Tilson own NALCO the company that makes COREXIT, the dispersant that is even more harmful to the environment than the oil.

Now comes the horrific nuclear disaster at Fukushima which has even greater world-wide implications. Gates has been among the loudest champions of building more nukes in this country. He and his foundation have billions of dollars invested in nuclear development, here and around the world.

The reactors at Fukushima were built by Gates partner, G.E. and operated by TEPCO. TEPCO, which is being bashed by the Japanese government for spreading lies and misinformation in order to protect themselves and their investors from liability, is currently building more nukes down in South Texas. Partners in the South Texas project include--yes, you guessed it-- Gates and Buffett.

Gates is also the largest single owner and board chairman of TerraPower, Washington state's nuclear energy company. Other TerraPower investors include, Microsoft, Apple and Intel to Sony and Nokia to Google and eBay — that have poured about $5 billion into Gates' nuke projects.

His partner in the nuclear power industry is the Japanese company, Toshiba and Toshiba along with NRG Energy and G.E. are the direct partners with TEPCO in the U.S.and Japanese nuke business.

Warren Buffett, owns Constellation Energy--67% of which is nukes.

Gates recently put $35 million into Charles River Ventures and Khosla Ventures to build nukes.

It it any wonder then that U.S. politicians, including Pres.Obama are still singing, "NUKE BABY, NUKE" and "DRILL BABY, DRILL"? There's lots of reasons for Gates and his nuke partners to exert influence over pols in both parties. Among them, huge corporate tax breaks. G.E., the nation's largest corporation, pays only about 12% of its earnings in taxes. Don't you wish you were taxed at that rate? Gates does them one better. By investing so heavily through his $36 billion foundation, he is taxed at about a 1% rate on profits from corporate investments. Bad news for Gates--the rate may soon go up to 1.9%.

Finally, it's worth thinking about how much public school reform and public schooling itself, have become dependent of these non-taxable profits gained from these dirty and destructive Gates Foundation investments.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How Deasy will decide who's a good teacher

Here's his value-added formula

Want to know how L.A.'s incoming supt. John Deasy (the man from Gates) is going to sort good teachers from bad? How he's going to decide who gets fired and who stays? Who has their careers destroyed? Who will get paid? How much?

It's all right here:
y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.


Marcus Yam for The New York Times
A sign at 168th St. and Broadway in Manhattan announcing enrollment for KIPP Star Elementary, a charter school.
Educator Takes On Charter Chain
"There is a quiet but fierce battle going on in education today, between the unions that represent the public school teachers and the hedge-fund managers who finance the big charter chains, between those who trust teachers to assess a child’s progress and those who trust standardized tests, and occasionally it flares out into the open over something as seemingly minor as the location of a school." -- Michael Winerip, NYT
Biden visits Delaware high school
Biden acknowledged that “beating up unions” had become en vogue for some, but credited the key role unions were playing in improving Howard High. “Do you know what these guys did?” Biden asked. “They said, ‘We’ll take a chance.’" -- Education Votes
Experience makes teachers better
"Having $40 billion or $50 billion does not mean you know how to engage, entertain, inspire, motivate and educate a classroom of 25 10- and 11-year-olds for 6½ hours each day. Have any of these people even set foot in a classroom in the last 20 or 30 years, other than for the occasional photo-op?" -- Edward Johnson, teacher at West Elementary School in Sycamore, Il 
Al L.A. rally
"This is a direct attack" on all unions and the entire middle class, Mitchell shouted, warning that similar policies could soon be introduced by politicians in California, which is grappling with an estimated $26-billion deficit. "An injury to one is an injury to us all!" -- Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.
Florida for sale
"The Florida Legislature proved this past week, once and for all, that it is the utter Whore of Babylon." -- St. Pete Times columnist, Howard Trolxer

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A New Poem for Chicago by Luis J. Rodriguez


A Hungry Song in the Shadows

When I think about Chicago’s first settlers, migrants, jobseekers,
who sought haven or the hope of one,

I think about a place fierce with wails, noises in all decibels,
tongues from all reaches, and how this is not just a city,

but a dream state of brick and chain-link fences, where poetry clatters
along with the El train on iron rails, where temples hold every

belief and street corners every color, a city that nourishes all palates,
holds all thoughts, and still contains the seed of this vital idea:

In accord with nature, all is possible. This is a city that steam built.
That muscle and sweat solidified into a church

of organized labor. Where a swampy onion field in a few generations
could become home to the brightest and most jagged skyline,

where fossil fuels are holy water and smokestacks and silos remain
as soot-stained monuments to industry—from horse-drawn plows,

to the foulest stockyards, the roar of combustion engines, the rattle
of metal-tipped tools, and smoke-curling big rigs streaming along

cluttered expressways and upturned streets. I came to this city on my knees,
laden with heartaches, bitter in the shadows, seeking a thousand voices

that spoke in one voice, where steel no longer reigned, but where open mics
and poetry slams kept the steel in our verses, lamenting a life of work,

in a time of no work, and where the inventive and inspiring
could finally burst through the cement viaducts and snowy terrains.

Now we are artists or we die. From the fractured neighborhoods where
bootblacks and news hawking boys once held sway, to this daunting

gentrified metropolis of ghosts, toxic waste, and countless poor ripped
from their housing projects, three-flat graystones, or trash-lined

bungalows, yet nothing can truly uproot the uprooted. The energy for what
Chicago can become is buried inside people, in callings, passions,

and technologies, but only if this manufactured garden aligns
with real nature, no longer limited, finite, fixed on scarcity, but abundant,

cooperative, regenerative, like a song across the lakeshore, blooming
with lights, music, dance, banners, and words into a cornucopia

of potentials, possibilities, even the impossible. It’s an imagination
for the intrinsic beauty and bounty in all things.

Chicago. Clean. Just. Free. It’s the city we’ve wept and bled to see.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring training and the death of small schools

I was in Ft. Myers Wednesday, where we had a chance to meet fantastic teacher/parent/activist and tweeter Bonnie Cunard, a leader in Florida's Save Our Schools movement. After that, we decided to head over a few blocks to City of Palms Park, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

It's a beautiful night and the Sox are hosting Tampa Bay. But on our way, I have to pull the car over when the cell phone rings. It's Linda Lutton from WBEZ radio telling me that Chicago's interim schools CEO, Terry Mazany is going to announce up to 20 school closings the next day, including the remaining small schools at Bowen High, which we -- the Small Schools Workshop -- helped start. Linda wanted to know what I thought about all that and I told her in the most direct way I could.


The small schools at Bowen were originally conceived, organized and led by teachers with lots of support from the school's principal and its Local School Council, headed by Neil Bosanko. They were trying to deal with rising dropout rates and endemic violence in and around the school, by building smaller learning communities that would hopefully make students more visible through personalization. They would also try to give teachers greater responsibility, autonomy and control of their classroom environments while helping them organize into collaborative teams.

The small schools initially showed great potential. TAP scores in reading and math rose steadily for four years and by 1999 were above the level required to lift Bowen off of academic probation. Then, in 2000, TAP scores fell back a few points in reading and math.

Schools CEO Paul Vallas moved immediately to put the entire school under his failed intervention plan  and essentially liquidated Bowen's small schools, putting the entire high school on a test-prep regimen. Demoralization set in, dozens of teachers resigned in protest and Principal Alejandra Alvarez was fired. Things soon turned chaotic. Vallas' intervention was a disaster, and not just for Bowen. The whole story was told in a 2001 Catalyst piece by Jody Temkin, "Bowen High: School's fledgling progress 'destroyed' by intervention."

A year later, the Gates Foundation came to town and decided to invest in its own version of small schools. Local foundations, including the Chicago Community Trust, with Terry Mazany in the lead, joined in. The Trust received most of the Gates money and became the home of the new Chicago High School Redesign Initiative (CHSRI). A meeting at Bowen was soon called by CHSRI leaders who informed a group of remaining teacher leaders that small schools were back in vogue and that they would be expected to submit new proposals for reconstructing the small schools if Bowen was to receive any Gates money.

This top-down approach was doomed from the start, as was Gates' entire small-schools strategy. Today's announcement by Mazany was simply the final nail in the coffin. As my brother pointed out today in a blog post-- how ironic it was that Mazany was now closing the small schools simply because they were small.

As for the school's continued decline in test scores---well, just look at the deteriorating conditions around the school community where jobs were once plentiful and local steel mills used to produce 1/6 of the world's steel. Now Bowen sits amid a post-industrial wasteland, high in unemployment, poverty, crime and gang violence. As I explained to Linda Lutton, until something is done to relieve these conditions, no single school reform could be expected to produce high test scores. Small schools were never posed by us as a panacea, a singular cure for the so-called achievement gap, the way charters are currently being promoted.

So that was my response to Lutton. Here's the quote of mine WBEZ went with today.
"All the ideas that were the foundation of the small schools movement--like personalization, like kids staying together with teachers a long time so teachers could get to know them and connect curriculum with kids' own experiences—all those ideas are kind of being washed away to save money," says Michael Klonsky, director of the Small Schools Workshop and a faculty member in DePaul University's School of Education... Klonsky says the experiment shows kids need more than good schools. Their living conditions and the state of their neighborhoods must be improved as well, he said. 

Not a bad sound-byte. And if I would have left it at that during my phone interview with Linda, we probably could have made it to the game on time. But by the second inning, we were met with a SOLD OUT sign (how appropriate!) on the ticket window, and even the scalpers had retired for the night. At least I got to take a picture with the statue of the "Splendid Splinter," Ted Williams.

Lessons from the International Summit on Teaching

The great WaPo columnist Valerie Strauss has been reporting on the first ever International Summit on Teaching, convened last week in New York City. She takes note of the key difference between current U.S. ed policies and politics and those countries that are leading the world, like Finland and South Korea. The difference being that in those countries, teachers are "well-respected, well-paid, well-supported with resources and development, unionized, and considered capable of designing curriculum and lesson plans themselves without interference from non-educators.'

Strauss follows up with a commentary on the Summit by Stanford's Linda Darling-Hammond, who President Obama rightfully should have chosen to be our secretary of education over the corporate toadie who currently sits atop the DOE. Writes LDH:

For contrast, wade through Arne Duncan's (DOE's) murky, bureaucratic report on the Summit and see how all the meeting's important lessons sailed right past them.
"How poignant for Americans to listen to this account while nearly every successful program developed to support teachers’ learning in the United States is proposed for termination by the Obama administration or the Congress... These small programs total less than $1 billion annually, the cost of half a week in Afghanistan."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The view from Florida

More testing madness

I've been in Florida all week, trying to get a handle on Gov. Scott's train wreck of a school reform. The latest fiasco has to do with the state's testing madness and a new law that forces schools to evaluate and pay teachers on the basis of students' FCAT scores. The last time the legislature passed such a bill, it had to be repealed when the state ran out of money and couldn't afford "merit " pay.

The latest problem is that, for the second year in a row, the state can't get test scores back in time to enter student grades, allow seniors to graduate or figure teachers' pay into their budgets. What a mess!

Florida law requires test results be available within a week, but the state says it won't have them ready until after schools have closed for the summer in many districts. Last spring's late FCAT scores forced the Lee district to recall staff from summer vacations to process the data.

This year they're not blaming vendor, Minnesota-based NCS Pearson. Pearson was fined $14.7 million by the state for last spring's six-week delay in releasing Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. Instead they say, the tests are just tied up in bureaucracy.
Among the repercussions for "merit pay" -- how is a teacher supposed to budget and plan things when they may not learn a student's peformance until June?

The civil rights revolution in the South never really arrived in Southern California,

Gary Orfield on failed L.A. deseg

Southern California is home to what is by far the nation's largest population of Latinos, the second largest Asian population and the West's largest population of African Americans but... 
"If one compares the outcomes in the "dropout factory" schools, where the major product is dropouts or students totally unprepared for college, with the kind of opportunities that exist in schools serving affluent communities, it seems they could be serving different countries. The fact that California's level of public funding for schools has become one of the worst in the U.S. makes the private resources more affluent communities can give their schools all the more important."  -- Huffington

Monday, March 21, 2011


David Orr -- "Chicago ain't broke..."
Chicago mayor's TIF slush fund

“There’s a giant myth being spread all across this land ... that local governments have no money, they need to take it out of the backs of teachers, take away their pensions. Chicago ain’t broke. Chicago has put $2 billion tax dollars that the public doesn’t know about into these TIFs and there’s another $500 million being added every year. There needs to be a moratorium on these TIFs because there has been enormous abuse. They are supposed to go to blighted areas. It’s gone to Willis Towers. It’s gone to Grossinger. It’s gone to other major corporations. As we uncover the mayor’s slush fund, which this is, we’re going to discover that money can go to help the schools.” -- Cook County Clerk David Orr
New study: NCLB is a total bust
"These methods satisfy the adults because you can walk away and say, 'I really kicked ass - I made them abolish their school,' " said Jennings, president of the group that conducted the study. "But instead of shaking up the school, it may be that we need to improve instruction."-- S.F. Chronicle
Bloomberg's parent liaisons

We're looking for "Happy Harrys,” and not “Angry Sallys." -- New York Times
Paying Florida's teachers based on test scores
"Currently, annual teacher evaluations are subjective and very few teachers receive negative reviews. For the first time, an objective measure of teacher effectiveness — based on standardized tests that measure student learning — will be part of annual evaluations." -- Jeb Bush in the Chicago Tribune

Friday, March 18, 2011

At my old high school

This morning, 3,400 students from Hamilton High School in Los Angeles (my alma mater) are walking out of school.

This is not a school wide "Ditch Day." We are walking out not to avoid our classrooms, but to save them. To protest the terrible budget cuts our school could face. To protest the 22 pink slips handed out to our beloved teachers, to protest the potential closure of our school library. We are walking out to protest the increase of class sizes by 50% or more. And we will walk out to stop our magnets from facing a 90% loss in funding. LAUSD stands to lose $500 million in funding.

In the aftermath of Obama's embrace of Jeb Bush

I'm back in Florida this week where Gov. Scott is set to sign the bill that would make state’s public school teachers lose their job security and work for "merit pay" based on student's FCAT scores. Of course this can only apply to teachers teaching in subjects tested on the FCAT. T-bagger Scott , encouraged by his chief ed consultant Michelle Rhee, is behind the teacher-bashing bill.

It creates a statewide teacher evaluation and merit pay system in 2014. New teachers hired after July 1 will have no tenure. At the same time teachers lose their right to collective bargaining and due process. The legislation is the first one that was sent to the Republican governor after he took office in January. A similar bill by his more moderate predecessor, Charlie Christ, was vetoed in the face of widespread opposition from teachers and the union.

These changes were initiated by former Governor Jeb Bush who was embraced earlier this month by President Obama--a signal for Scott and the legislature that the new bill met with administration approval.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I don't think so.
Somehow Diane Ravitch and I ended up in a Twitter skirmish today with the Fordham Institute's Mike Petrilli. Petrilli is claiming that there's no privatization of public schools going on. Being a protege of conservative think-tank guru Checker Finn, he has learned the art of defining his way out of arguments, playing word games instead of getting to the heart of the matter. I already knew this going in, but bit anyway.

Petrilli fires the first shot at Ravitch:

Diane, name me one "reformer" who wants to privatize public schools.  

Ravitch quickly names not one, but 6, before she runs out of Tweet space:  George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Margaret Spellings, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan=Corporate education reform.
I simply retweet Ravitch's answer, which draws Petrilli's fire towards me, narrowly nicking my Tweet finger. 
Michael Petrilli: None of those folks want to "privatize" public education.
I whirl and fire back:
Mike, what else would you call closing thousands of public schools & handing them over to private operators?
And again: 
Not to mention after-school programs, food services, security, curric. devlp., special ed, sports programs...
Oh, I ran out of space before I could mention tax-free real estate ownership of land including the ability of charter companies to leverage low-interest loans and pay execs huge compensation packages. Don't worry, Ravitch will bring that one up.
OK, so it's not a fatal blow. Petrilli ducks and fires with both barrels using the old re-definition gambit:
Michael Petrilli If the schools are open to the public, supported by public $$ and accountable to the public, they are public.
Uggh, I'm hit. He's got a point. But it's a weak one. It barely grazes me. Diane comes to my aid:
Diane Ravitch When charter schools pay $400,000 to CEO, when they fight public audits, when they kick kids out...not public.
I double-team: CMOs aren't accountable to the public, even admit they're private when it comes to NLRB and unions.

Then Petrilli goes where you knew he would:
Your definition of a public school seems to be "Staffed by members of public employee unions."
Now, I admit, I'm getting pissed: 
Save the union-baiting Mike. Not a question of who staffs them. It's who controls them, profits, signs pay checks

Nuts, I let him off too easy on that one. It takes a privatizer to ban unions when the public system is based on collective bargaining rights for teachers. It's precisely this union hating which puts Petrilli in league with the worst of the privatizers. Oh well, it was in the heat of battle. I'll get him next time. 

Diane Ravitch chimes in:  Privately managed deregulated charters are privatization. Decimates public sector. Nepotism ok.
I'm beginning to realize that this debate isn't moving anybody. It's an argument over the definition of the word privatization, and Petrilli won't move past that. He doesn't want to say he supports privatization and therefore is an enemy of public schools. It's only their union-free management he's after. Fordham is involved in the operation and authorization of privately-run charter schools in Ohio. 
But before signing off, I call on the old guy, Sun Tzu. Remember-- my enemy's enemy is my friend:
If u don't think they're private, Mike, your argument is with them--not me.
A Chicago charter school that has received more than $23 million in public money since opening in 2004 is arguing that it is a private institution, a move teachers say is designed to block them from forming a union. In papers filed with the National Labor Relations Board, attorneys for the Chicago Math and Science Academy on the city's North Side say the school should be exempt from an Illinois law that grants employees of all public schools the right to form unions for contract negotiations.-- Chicago Tribune, "Charter school says it's private"
Take that, Petrilli.  So far no response.


La Cucaracha
"In Madison a new governor, Scott Walker, is applying the Rahm Emanuel axiom that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste." -- Michael Miner, Chicago Reader
David Brooks on Obama: "we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pants." -- TNR 
"There is something deeply shameful about continuing to use 9/11 as a justification for remaining in Afghanistan." -- Jeremy Scahill
"Walker kicked the hornet’s nest..." Victor Kamber, The Hill

Monday, March 14, 2011

Close to meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant


Unions a Civil rights issue
"Dr. King lost his life struggling to help sanitation workers – public sector employees – achieve their goals for a dignified existence as workers. We think that's an extraordinary backdrop in which to frame the debate over what's taking place in the country today." -- Wade Henderson, president of the NAACP Leadership Conference.
Power shift
"This is a fight for workers, this is a fight for the middle class, this is a fight to try to stave off the shift in power and wealth that is starting to become gross." -- Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Obama keeps his distance
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, the nation's largest nurses union, called Obama "largely a bystander" in the debate over collective bargaining. "I think we're feeling a sense of betrayal from him and not liking it much," she said. -- Huffington
"Bobb has set off a vicious cycle undermining even good schools." NYT's Michael Winerip Detroit -- Hope for the Hopeless

Friday, March 11, 2011



This is Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson -- and today, I'm heading home to Wisconsin to join the fight in person.

The last three weeks have shown what progressive strength and worker solidarity look like.
My fellow senators and I know that thousands of PCCC members in Wisconsin and across the nation have been fighting right alongside us -- attending rallies, making phone calls, donating to some great TV ads, and telling your friends about the Republican war on workers.

I want to say thank you. I also want to let you know that the fight's not over.

Republicans need to learn what accountability feels like. It's time for Republican senators to be recalled from office.

The PCCC just opened up an official Recall Committee in Wisconsin -- which will mobilize volunteers and run new ads against vulnerable Republicans. Please chip in $3 to help fund this vital work.

Wisconsin Republicans brazenly stampeded over the will of the people as they engaged in their right-wing attack on workers.

They shut down the public hearings, they shut down the legislative hotline, they shut down debate in the Assembly in the middle of the night, and they tried to lock citizens out of the Capitol. And on Wednesday night, when they had their last chance at redemption, Republican senators chose to bend the rules and join Governor Walker's war on working families.

The citizens of Wisconsin are rising up and engaging in the democratic process like never before. Recalls of the Republicans are kicking into high gear as clipboards begin to replace protest signs in neighborhoods across the state.

Governor Walker and Republican senators refused to listen to the public -- but now the people will be heard all across the state at the ballot box. 

Please help us win this fight by chipping in $3 to the PCCC's Recall Committee. Click here.
Thanks again for standing with us in solidarity, and for being a bold progressive.

-- Senator Chris Larson, Wisconsin's 7th District (

Maddow was right--just a little early, that's all

Palm trees have become an increasingly common site at the demonstrations at the Capitol to deride the Fox News channel, which during a discussion of the events in Madison aired footage in which palm trees were seen in background. John Hart — Wisconsin State Journal

I'm writing this post about an hour before thousands of Wisconsin high school students are planning to walk out of classes in support of their teachers and other public employees and their unions. Here's wishing them success. Courage is contagious. 

Rachel Maddow was a bit premature in declaring victory in Wisconsin Tuesday night. 

As I pointed out at the time, it was way too early to celebrate. Maddow had assumed that polls showing the mounting and overwhelming opposition to Gov. Walker's assault on the state's teachers and public employees unions had forced Walker to compromise and negotiate. She must not have listened closely to his phone conversation with the Koch impostor where he candidly admitted to using the bait of a compromise only to trick the 14 Dems into returning to Wisconsin. He never had any intention of compromising his attack on the unions.  In fact it was one day after Maddow's "we won" declaration, that the Republicans went into an illegal secret session and passed a bill which essentially eliminates collective bargaining rights for teachers and all public workers.

The period ahead will be a tough one for teachers with massive layoffs on the horizon and swelled class sizes facing those teachers who are still working. On top of that, many will lose their benefits, including health care coverage for their families and possibly, their pensions.

This new gaggle of T-Party Republicans, unlike their more right-centrist counterparts, are ideologically driven and couldn't care less what the voters think. It all reminds me of former vice-president Cheney's response to a reporter who told him that polls showed two-thirds of Americans opposed the war in Iraq. Cheney replied, "So!"

To give her her due, Maddow had it essentially right in that the Republican tactical victory on Wednesday is likely to turn into a strategic defeat for them in the upcoming elections. AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka has even thanked the gov for overreaching and waking up the movement:
"We should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year award! Because Gov. Walker's over-reaching has brought us to this moment to talk about jobs. This is the debate we've wanted to have. Well, guess what? Suddenly the debate came to us, and we're winning."
Yes, thank you Gov. Walker for waking us up. Now it's up to us to get organized for the long haul. In Wisconsin it means continuing the protests which have sparked more resistance in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan and to get the recall process started. 

The Republican coup d'etat apparently also awoke President Obama.

According to an AP story in today's papers, the White House is denouncing the Wisconsin Senate vote, calling it an assault on public employees. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama believes it is wrong for Wisconsin to use its budget troubles “to denigrate or vilify public sector employees.” 

Pretty daring for the Great Triangulator

Thursday, March 10, 2011

After a decade of No Child Left Behind

We're approaching 100% "failure"

Arne Duncan said Wednesday, that 82% of all schools could now be labeled as "failing" under NCLB rules. The DOE estimates the number of schools not meeting targets will skyrocket from 37 to 82 percent in 2011 since states have "raised standards" to meet the requirements of the law. Yes, we're truly racing towards the top.

The latest news has forced Duncan to re-triangulate. He has been pushing, so far unsuccessfully, for NCLB re-authorization for the past two years. He still praises NCLB for supposedly "shining a light on achievement gaps among minority and low-income students," but now admits, ""No Child Left Behind is broken" and needs to be fixed.
"This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed."  
That's all  true. The law is all about test-and-punish. "Fixing" it, could only mean easing the standards or allowing waivers for charter school or other Duncan favorites. But when we first made this point, he labeled us a "proponents of the status quo." Remember?

Finally, says Duncan,
"We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk."
Yes, yes. What a great idea! But isn't that exactly what NCLB is all about--"shining the light" on failing schools?

By the way, who are these people who've "been in the business" of labeling schools as failures, anyway? They should definitely get out of the business.

  • "Obama wants to see 5,000 failing schools closed."--MSNBC 
  • "Eventually, he [Duncan] said, he hopes to see 1,000 failing schools turned around each year.--NYT
  • "In the first round [of Race To The Top] there will be “a lot more losers than winners,” Duncan said, "and the department plans to offer two subsequent rounds of funding for improving failing schools."-- Harvard Magazine  
  • Arne Duncan's $3.5 Billion Lever for Turning Around Failing Schools--Edweek
I could go on. But you get the point.

NCLB's stated goal is to reach 100% proficiency in reading and math by 2014.  But the way things are going, if we stay the course, we should reach 100% failure rate some time within the next three years.

Congratulations are in order, I suppose.

The road to Madison

The drive from Chicago up to Madison is about 150-miles, a little over 2 hours each way. Maybe a little longer coming back because of the late afternoon traffic or if you stop for dinner. It's a straight, boring shot up I-90, past Rockford and the Clock Tower Inn, where the Fab 14 Democratic senators have been holding up for the past 23 days. But if you drive it with friends, there's time to catch up on politics and personal stuff. Or just plug in some good sounds, stop at the Oasis for cheaper gas and coffee fill-up. Before you know it you're heading down John Nolen Drive towards the Capitol. You can usually park on the street or in a lot, a block or 2 from the protest march.

I got used to the drive back in the '60s, then again when my daughter was an undergrad at UW. It was also fun making the trek up to Camp Randall for Badger football games when our friend's son was a freshman fullback. Looks like we're headed back up tomorrow to let Gov. Walker and the Koch brothers know what we think about yesterday's fascistic, union-busting coup d'etat.
"You are cowards!" spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to an estimated 7,000, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests. -- This morning's Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Duncan does his best John Lennon

Arne Duncan--“Imagine if we could have a digital tutor that could allow a student to catch up two grade levels in a year." -- FOX Newws

Did you watch Maddow last night?

If you didn't, you can watch her here. She's at her very best, with great interviews with Shock Doctrine author, Naomi Klein and former GOP chairman, Michael Steele.

First, Maddow declares a victory for the people of Wisconsin in their 22-day struggle to defend the collective-bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees. Maddow says that Gov. Scott Walker, "has started to crumble," that at least 3 Republican senators are breaking ranks from his caucus, and that the whole Republican union-busting strategy is coming apart at the seams. The GOP national "disaster capitalism" strategy of using the budget crisis as an excuse for outlawing unions is galvanizing massive opposition nationwide, with all polls showing growing and overwhelming opposition to Walker's "no negotiations" strategy. Even the most conservative papers in Wisconsin are raking Walker over the coals for his divisiveness.

I hope Maddow is right. But it's way to early to celebrate.

In another segment for example, Maddow lays out the disaster-capitalism scenario, already playing out in Michigan, where the house has already passed legislation and a Republican senate will likely pass it today, whereby state officials can declare a budget "state of emergency" and turn whole municipalities, deemed "insolvent" over to private management companies (much like we are doing now with public schools) and removing elected public officials. It's an ownership society dream come true -- a nightmare for democracy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reforms with no merit

If you need any more evidence that so-called "merit pay" is a crappy idea, here it is, right from the horse's mouth:
New York City’s heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed “transcendent” when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes.“If anything,” Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, “student achievement declined.”-- Gotham Schools
Teacher evaluation

Over at the teacher-free National Journal, a panel of experts rehashes test score-baed teacher evaluation and the B.S. continues to pile up. Here's more on the continuing saga of Bill Gates, the man who nobody would listen to if he wasn't rich. EPI's Rich Rothstein looks into Bill Gates' claims and finds them to be "misleading" and "demagogic."
"It is remarkable that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved." -- National Journal
Michael Winerip's NYT headline sums it up best: Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie  Ah, So it's not just Bill Gates.

Why blame teachers?

A much better discussion--"Why blame the teachers?"-- is taking place at, NYT's Room For Debate featuring some bright lights like Pedro Noguera, Jeff Mirel, and Diane Ravitch, to name but a few. And to offer the view from far right field is AEI's hired gun Rick Hess who's basically arguing -- teacher bashing? Where? What? I don't see any teacher bashing.

Ravitch says, "It all started with No Child Left Behind" and she ought to know. Noguera warns: "If measures are not taken quickly to slow down the push toward sweeping, ill-conceived reforms, the damage could have long-term consequences for American education."

Michigan prof, Mirel, who anticipated Ravitch's book some 20 years ago, with "The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System: Detroit, 1907-81, sums it up nicely:
"Recent right-wing attacks have described teaching as a “part-time job” or a glorified form of “baby-sitting.” This characterization of teaching is simply wrong, and the initiatives that it supports -- cutting salaries, benefits, tenure and collective bargaining -- are maliciously wrong."

Monday, March 7, 2011


Anthony Cody
"President Obama last week proved his point. Education is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing terrible ideas." --Washington Post
Obama on Bush
Jeb Bush “is someone who championed reform when he was in office, someone who is now championing reform as a private citizen.”-- Politico
Florida teacher Jennie Smith
"I told him [Pres. Obama] directly that I and so many other teachers were very disappointed to see him on stage with Jeb Bush, considering the assault on public education he has led in this state and how his foundation has continuously tried to eliminate our contracts and our collective bargaining" -- Miami

New definition of reform = who to fire first?
“It is really cynical for the political vultures to make this about a victory against the unions,” said Michelle Fine, a professor at the City University of New York who testified for the plaintiffs as an expert witness in the case. “This is really just about how we distribute the pain. The remedy itself is very sad.”--New York Times
Book shed new light on Lincoln's racial views
“For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people,” Lincoln said, promoting his idea of colonization: resettling blacks in foreign countries on the belief that whites and blacks could not coexist in the same nation. -- Sun-Times

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ravitch hits it out of the park

Duncan's Croissants

I'm really pissed at my friend Arne Duncan. He never even thought to invite me to his Breakfast With Bloggers over at the DOE. He knows how much I love those croissants and coffee, ordered up fresh from the department commissary. I guess he's not quite ready to reach across the other aisle. That's OK, Arne. I'm patient.

Or maybe the breakfast was one of those Race-To-The-Top-type deals where you have to submit your blog posts in advance. Then Arne could look you right in the eyes, like he did with Arizona's Sen. McCain and Gov. Brewer, and determine who was most deserving of this meal on the taxpayer's dime. (Oops, put your guns away, T-baggers. I may be wrong about that. He probably paid for the croissants with private foundation dollars.)

Anyway, I'm not really grousing or complaining (I got my own coffee & muffins Letizia's in Logan Square). I also got a full report on the eat-in this morning from Edweek's Michelle McNeil and from my favorite teacher/union-bashing blogger, Rick Hess, who probably had only a short cab ride over from his AEI think-tank office. You can read both of their accounts for yourself, but here are my highlights.

From McNeil:
First off, the department released two guides for states: one on "smart ideas to increase productivity and student achievement" and another on flexibility states have in using existing federal dollars. [But, adds Michelle] there's a footnote the Education Department has inserted saying it doesn't guarantee the "accuracy, timeliness or, completeness" of the ideas in this document, nor does the department pass judgment on their "importance or success." So, I'm wondering how useful these "smart ideas" really are?
ME: You know, Michelle, I've been wondering the same thing.

From Hess:
Duncan firmly pushed back against reflexive small-class mania. He suggested that it doesn't make sense to insist that a great teacher can only teach 22 kids--even if she feels like she can handle 29 and would gladly carry the larger load if she'd be compensated accordingly. He said, "Class size has been a sacred cow and I think we need to take it on. Give me and my wife a choice of putting our kids with a great teacher of 28 or a mediocre teacher of 23, and I know what I'd choose every time."

ME: Isn't it great that Arne is sticking it to all those maniacs who listen to those lazy teachers and who believe all that class-size  research and stuff. They are making such a big deal over a measly 60 of the nation's poorest kids being packed into Detroit classrooms. Surely there are great teachers over there in Michigan (who haven't already been riffed) who will gladly race to the few remaining inner-city Detroit schools to shoulder such a burden.

As for Arne himself, I feel badly for him and his wife, sitting there hoping against hope for a chance for their kids to have a great teacher and a 28-student classroom. The Duncan's don't send their kids to inner-city schools where many class sizes have swelled to 40 or more as a result of the economic crisis and mass teacher firings. To avoid D.C. schools (even when Michelle Rhee was  running them), the Duncans moved across the river to suburban Arlington, where schools and class sizes remain relatively small.

PLEASE SOMEONE. ANYONE. Help the Duncan's find a school with 28 per class and a great teacher for their poor kids.

Congressman Obey Denied Access to Wisconsin Capitol

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dear Mike ,

In case you missed it: The budget legislation passed by the House of Representatives would slash $747 million -- about 10 percent -- from the 2011 budget for the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children. It's commonly known as "WIC."

WIC was created in 1974 to provide a very modest but crucial measure of food assistance to low-income moms and little kids who are at "nutrition risk." To qualify for this modest assistance, recipients must be poor -- very poor. Some 68 percent of WIC beneficiaries live at, or below, the poverty line. That's about $22,000 for a family of four.

Congress was quick to slash a food program for poor kids during the worst economy in 80 years, but it cut not one penny from the country's farm subsidy programs -- at a time when the farmers who receive the subsidies are enjoying record-high crop prices and incomes.

By cutting just a fraction of what we spend on farm subsidies, the House could have held WIC harmless and continued to give a little help to deserving poor little kids at serious "nutrition risk."

I wrote a Huffington Post column on the cut to WIC and how it symbolizes an unacceptably lopsided and wrong-headed approach to food and agriculture policy. Please read the column (it's below) and then stand with EWG Action Fund and let your representative know that you want a fair, equitable food system that begins to help the country heal its dietary and environmental woes.

Ken Cook
President, EWG Action Fund

Robt. Gates' epiphany

'In the ensuing decades, a large, permanent military establishment emerged as a result of the Cold War — an establishment that forged deep ties to the Congress and industry.' -- Robt. Gates in 2008
Sec. Gates, the successor to Donald Rumsfeld, has led our ever-expanding military-industrial complex through both Bush and Obama regimes, the "surge" in Iraq and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence.

Neither of these two regimes have much to show show for all that except mounting body counts, loss of American prestige and credibility around the world, and deepening financial crisis here at home. The U.S. has become a superpower in decline, largely because of its growing militarization replacing real productive growth and wealth within our national economic structure. It's this economic collapse which has precipitated the crisis in public education--not the other way around as claimed by the corporate reformers and power philanthropists.

As he nears retirement and makes his farewell tour of the military academies, Gates tells his followers what he has learned from all that experience:
"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined' as Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it."
Amen! But too little, too late.

More "reform" Rhode Island style

"It's for the kids," say Providence officials
About 1,500 people jammed the street in front of City Hall in Providence, R.I., on Wednesday to protest last week's dismissal of the city's entire teaching force. "I thought the only insanity was in Wisconsin, not in Rhode Island," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the crowd, which raised signs and banged drums... Providence officials say their goal is to cut the budget while doing the best they can for city schoolchildren.--NPR
It was a year ago that mass teacher firings began in this state, lauded by President Obama and Sec. Duncan. 

Assault on teachers continues in Idaho
State schools superintendent Tom Luna said Wednesday that his bill to eliminate 770 teaching positions to pay for expanded technology in the classroom — and fill a public education funding hole — still has life. “The reports of the death of that bill have been greatly exaggerated,” Luna told a group of reporters at a lunchtime press conference in Boise.-- Press Tribune

Whenever you see the words, OBAMA, JEB BUSH, and SCHOOL REFORM together in one headline, DUCK KIDS!
“Because of high expectations for students, hard-edge policies that focus schools on learning and an array of choices for families, the Sunshine State is leading the nation in rising student achievement,” Bush said. “I look forward to sharing Florida’s model for student success with President Obama and Secretary Duncan.” -- Political Wires