Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teacher pension grab bill killed -- for now

How do we know? Ty Fahner told us so

Under pressure from hundreds of thousands of people (including me) who made phone calls and sent emails, IL legislators pulled the plug on a bill that would have increased the amount current public employees would have to pay for their pensions. The great lesson in all this is that if you don't hit it, it won't fall. This was a victory for the grass roots forces inside and outside the teacher and public employee unions against a vicious assault on teachers and public schools.

I am glad that the forces of darkness revealed themselves this time, in a statement announcing the withdrawal of SB 512 signed by none other than House Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, and Ty Fahner, the president of the anti-union Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, saying the issue is dead until the legislature’s fall veto session.Why would Ty Fahner be signed on to such a statement, you may ask? Who elected Ty Fahner and the Civic Committee to speak for the state legislature, you may ask? Exactly!

As things turned out, even some self-respecting Republican legislators were put off by Civic Committee bullying.

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, a member of the House Republican leadership, said some GOP members were told by leaders in the Civic Committee, a group of chief executives from Chicago’s largest corporations, that they would face primary challenges for re-election, if they didn’t vote for the bill. 
"Hopefully they learned something from this, that if you do want help implement change, top down may not be the best model,” Watson said. “Calling caucus members and threatening them — that doesn’t play well -- Springfield State Journal

We almost lost Detroit in '66

But now we're losing Motown's public education system

Gil Scott Heron died Friday. I've been listening to his music and poetry all week and still have the words to his anti-nuke anthem, We almost lost Detroit, spinning around my brain. Gil's song was based on a book by the same title, written two years earlier by John Fuller about the partial meltdown in Michigan of Fermi 1, America's first breeder reactor, in 1966.

Yesterday I read this headline in the Detroit Free Press --IS DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS WORTH SAVING?
The Detroit Public Schools, as we know it, could disappear in a few years. A DPS action plan would charter up to 45 schools, close 20 and leave about 70 that include the best-performing schools, some newly constructed and a handful of special-education schools that are expensive to run... With such a concerted effort to shrink DPS, local leaders, educators, politicians and taxpayers are debating a question: Is DPS worth saving?
Neither Fuller nor Heron could have predicted that the death of this great American city and its school system would come, not from a nuclear meltdown, but rather from an economic meltdown and meltdown of civil society caused in large part by the greed and rapaciousness of Wall Street and Motown's own disaster capitalists.

Detroit has become New Orleans without Katrina.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Christie, GOP want to eliminate Supreme Court's power to rule on school funding

Gov. Christie toasts Arne Duncan.
New Jersey has become the model for national corporate reform assaults on teachers and public education in general. It's the state where the T-Party types like Gov. Christie, Obama Democrats, including Arne Duncan, and Billionaire Boys Club members like Mark Zuckerberg, have joined hands to support the right-wing agenda.

Now look where Christie's "reform" agenda is heading. Christie and state Republicans are hatching a plot to take away the power of the Supreme Court over matters of school funding. 
A Republican strategy memo laid out Friday in an e-mail from Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. to his caucus asked fellow GOP senators for feedback on a three-pronged education plan after Tuesday's Supreme Court order requiring the state to invest $500 million more in 31 poor school districts. 

The plan includes supporting a constitutional amendment that would end judicial involvement in school-funding decisions and give the state wiggle room to reduce funding in lean budget years. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Steven Oroho (R., Sussex) and cosponsored by the other 15 members of the GOP caucus, was introduced in January but hasn't gained traction. It would require voter approval.-- AP Wire
Yes, they want to elliminate the Supreme Court in school funding matters. A segregationist's dream. The only question now is, will state and national Dems (Duncan) reach across the aisle on this one? Probably not, but nothing surprises me these days


Darling-Hammond wins UFT's Dewey Award
“Teacher unions are the only ones now standing up for public education funding and for real education that goes beyond data and test prep." -- Linda Darling-Hammond

Prison funding sucks resources from schools

Friday, May 27, 2011

In my mailbox

From Javier Lacayo

Hi Mike,
I wanted to send some information your way on our ‘Parent Day of Action’ which kicked off at 7am this morning. By 9am, our volunteers and organizers had already collected over 1,000 petition signatures of New Yorkers opposing Bloomberg's plan to fire 4,100 teachers. Throughout the day, more than 100 volunteers have been talking to parents at schools and subway stops across the City (press release here: http://bit.ly/lqAFvM).
In addition to gathering petitions, we have also been collecting audio and video testimonials from public school parents.  You can find them all, uploaded in real time, at parentsforteachers.com
We want to make all of this information and these resources available to local bloggers like you. So we have decided to launch, what we call, the Public Advocate’s Blog Toolkit.
Here’s a link to the toolkit: www.advocate.nyc.gov/blogs. We've pulled together videos, documents, widgets, and a bunch of other media that we think may be helpful in creating informed discussion on local blogs. The site will provide already embedded examples of the resources, along with the specific codes to post on your own site. For example, if you like one of our banners or videos, you can see how they would look on the site, and then just copy and paste the code we provide to embed it on your own site.
Also, we’ve added you to the site’s blog roll - if there are other blogs that you think we should be in touch with, please let us know. We hope you find all of this useful, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach me or Jeff Merritt  (cc'ed here)  Jeff can also be reached on his cell at             917-664-1590      .
Office of the Public Advocate
1 Centre Street, 15 fl. | New York, N.Y. 10007
(212) 669-2115 | http://advocate.nyc.gov
Follow us on twitter @billdeblasio

Friday morning TYs

Now that I've turned another year older, I'm trying to act my age, a little more mature if you will. So I've dropped my Friday morning FUs in exchange for Friday morning TYs (thanks) in order to get back on a positive footing and class-up the blog a bit. You see, some of my readers, including the sisters over at Our Lady Of Mercy (who follow me on Twitter) were complaining that they felt limited when it came to forwarding my profanity-riddled SmallTalk posts. I hope my FU fans will forgive me.

This morning's TY goes out to Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court in Wisconsin for her ruling granting a permanent injunction that voided Gov. Walker's law banning collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.

Another TY goes out to my favorite faux-research and think-tank debunkers, NEPC, for including my post on the new Social-Darwinism in their list of best ed blogs.

Finally, TY to IL congressional candidate Ilya Sheyman for creating a petition to The Illinois State House, The Illinois State Senate and Governor Pat Quinn, which says:

"We stand with workers across Illinois in calling on our legislators in Springfield to honor their commitments to public employees and vote "No" on SB 512."
You can sign the petition here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hentoff -- 'Bloomberg's Schools: Is this America?'

Nat Hentoff, writing in The Village Voice, has nothing but praise for the inside-of-school reportage coming from Meredith Kolodner at the Daily News. And rightfully so.
From her “Sacrificed for Charters” (March 31, 2010), did you know: “Special Education students are falling victim to the fierce battle to find space for charter schools inside city school buildings. . . . At eight of the 15 buildings making room next year (2011), at least a quarter of the students are special education or seriously disabled. . . . For these vulnerable kids, the space crunch may mean less one-on-one instruction, therapy sessions in the back of the classroom, and cramped conditions for wheelchair-bound students, nearly two dozen parents said in interviews. What say you, Chancellor Walcott? -- "Bloomberg's Schools: Is This America?"
You can follow Kolodner here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The new Social-Darwinism

Charter schools for those with "highest potential"

Robert Schwartz's post today on Huffington, "Why Charters and College Access Programs Should Cream," is but the latest incarnation of Social-Darwinism applied to current public education policy. Such theories were popular in the late Victorian era in England, America, and elsewhere.

The basic notion was--and still is--that the strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society, while the rest --- not.  The theory was chiefly expounded by Herbert Spencer, whose ethical philosophies were grounded in an elitist worldview and received a boost from the application of Darwinian ideas such as adaptation and natural selection. In its most extreme form, Social-Darwinism was used to justify eugenics programs aimed at weeding "undesirable" genes from the population. While we usually associate such theories with Nazi Germany, we have always had our home-grown versions within U.S. academia and politics.

President Obama, while on the campaign trail in 2007, was a vocal critic of Social-Darwinism as practiced by the Bush administration in their economic and tax policies. But you don't hear much on that topic from him these days, especially when it comes to school reform policies. After all, what is Race To The Top except a refined form of survival of the fittest?

Schwartz calls on corporate America to further bankroll charter schools like KIPP, ICEF, Yes Prep, and Aspire as elite schools for those students with "high potential," while relegating public schools to "focus on what they've already been doing for the past decade"-- moving those with lesser potential "from below basic to proficiency."
"You see," writes Schwartz, "our urban and rural schools have been doing better at educating lower achieving African American and Latino students in their attempt to close the achievement gap."
Schwartz, a Teach For America (TFA) alum -- no shock there-- directs the so-called Level Playing Field Institute. He actually performs a service by articulating the anti-democratic social theory behind many current corporate reform policies. However, his plea to U.S. corporations to increase their support for school re-segregation and creaming via charter schools is redundant. The corporate world, including power philanthropists like Gates, Broad, Walton and Bradley, is way ahead of him in this regard. It was the Bradley Foundation, in fact, that underwrote the publication of The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray which was based on the Social-Darwinist theory that black and Latino students lacked the academic potential held by white and Asian students and therefore should be tracked away from college preparatory programs.

Schwartz knows from where he speaks. Until recently, he was Chief Academic Officer for Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools (ICEF)  in South Los Angeles. He claims to have led "the strategic expansion of the academic program from three schools with 500 students to 15 schools with almost 4,000 students."

I couldn't help but notice this story about ICEF, which is the embodiment of Schwartz's social-Darwinian theory. It seems that after years of financial mismanagement, ICEF went bankrupt, leading to yesterday's lock-out of hundreds of  students at their Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School. According to ABC News, "The Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) that runs the charter school and leases space from the Boys and Girls Club was having problems paying its bills."

So it seems that even for the chosen few with "high potential," Social-Darwinian theories don't necessarily deliver the goods and their promised "level playing field" is not so level after all. Buyer beware!

Aside: Schwartz, being a TFA grad and all, should really learn how to spell the word Institute in the title of his own organization. I hope it's corrected by the time my readers read this.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Remembering the Creepinator's idiotic "girly men" remarks

Looking back and remembering Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004 speech to the GOP Convention. He ridiculed those who lacked optimism about the state of the economy, calling them "economic girly men" which brought the conventioneers to their feet with giddy applause. He had previously used this line to attack Democrats for being soft on unions.

As it turned out, of course, it was Arnold and the Republicans who were leading the country into the economic abyss, and the so-called "girly men" who were right. The Republicans' call for economic optimism as the country stood on the brink of total global economic collapse borders on criminality. Seven years later, this creep has led his state into economic basket-case status. He's been run out of the governor's mansion, has destroyed the state's university system, has used his position of power to sexually abuse and molest his immigrant housekeeper, resulting in her giving birth to the creep's so-called "love child" and he's wrecked his marriage and family in the process.

Yes, Arnold. You're a real manly man.


Obama's commencement speech in Memphis

"We need to encourage this kind of change [small academies] all across America. We need to reward the reforms that are driven not by Washington, but by principals and teachers and parents. That's how we'll make progress in education - not from the top down, but from the bottom up." -- Seattle Times
One-sided class warfare
This week, Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, suggested to the Economic Club of Chicago that the president’s attempt to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans amounted to “class warfare” and promoted “class envy.”  -- Charles Blow, NYT
 Gates paid millions for teachers to advocate against unions, for "merit-pay" 
 “We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes, The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.” -- Gates Foundation spokesman Allan C. Golston

Friday, May 20, 2011

Late Friday FU goes out to Mayor Bloomberg

The Problem's We All Share -- Norman Rockwell

 A middle finger salute goes out to N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg for his recent ignorant, racist and arrogant assault on parents, civil rights groups and unions. Who does he think he is, Donald Trump?

In response to the massive pushback being organized against his plan to close 22 more neighborhood schools, including lawsuits filed by the NAACP and the teachers union, Bloomberg was transparent in his attitude towards parents.

“Unfortunately there are some parents who just come from — they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education,” -- NYT City Room
He went on to observe: “The old Norman Rockwell family is gone.” I can only imagine what it is about the Rockwell era that Bloomberg longs for.

No research to back up Rahm's push for longer school day

Chicago mayor and school boss, Rahm Emanuel thinks he's found the magic bullet of school reform.He's been touting the longer school day and school year as solutions for Chicago's "failing schools." Using Houston, Texas as his model, the mayor claims that lengthening the school day can add "three years" of instructional time for each student. He never mentions where the money is going to come from to pay teachers, or heat and cool buildings. Measurable learning outcomes in Houston, btw, are nothing to write home about.

Now comes word from several authoritative folks at the recent Wallace Foundation forum on "Reimagining the School Day," that more of the same is not necessarily better.
Elena Silva, a senior policy analyst at the education think tank Education Sector, cautioned, implementing extended-learning programs in these schools will not necessarily mean improved academic outcomes if students aren’t currently receiving high-quality instruction during normal school hours. "You have to be careful with low-performing schools—you can’t just add more time if it’s just going to be more of the same thing that they get during the school day," said Silva. -- Edweek

Parker goes to work for Rhee

Remember former WTU sell-out prez George Parker who agreed to that disastrous contract with Michelle Rhee? The rank-and-file showed their disapproval by booting Parker in the last union election. Guess where Parker ended up? He's working for Rhee. -- Washington Examiner

On that lost highway -- the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Headed east on the Turnpike, I'm hearning plenty about the devastation to public education now taking place under the banner of "reform".  Massive cuts to the education budget, firings of teachers and increased class sizes are expected to reverse many, if not all gains schools may have made in the past few decades.

A survey of Pennsylvania school districts released Thursday suggests teacher layoffs, instructional program cuts and tax increases beyond inflation are increasingly likely if Gov. Tom Corbett's cut of more than $1 billion in education subsidies stands. For example, 17 percent of the responding districts increased class sizes this year, but 86 percent expected to do so next year. -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The impacts of the budget cuts are severe and will deeply affect the opportunity for students to learn across the state," Jim Buckheit, executive director of the school administrators association, said in a conference call with reporters. "It's the wrong answer for Pennsylvania's children today and the wrong answer for Pennsylvania's future."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ownership Society News

K12 Inc. buys Inc.'s high school online program

Kaplan has been the Washington Post's main profit center. But in the past year, the company has been riddled with student loan scandals and mismangement. Kaplan remains one of the biggest testing companies and has a distance-learning component which makes it compatable with the Republican connected K12 Inc. Kaplan Virtual Education, which provides online education for grades six through 12, bought Insight Schools Inc. from Apollo Group Inc. (APOL) in February. It is now selling that brand, as well as the schools branded under Kaplan Virtual Education, to K12.
"While our experience in online learning made the Insight Schools an attractive acquisition with long-term potential, we determined that the timing was not right for us to devote intensive energy and resources to this initiative right now," a Kaplan spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Exiting this business will enable us to focus on our core businesses of higher education and test preparation." -- WSJ
K12 has been expanding rapidly, using it's political connections to win lucrative contracts, as online schooling gains in popularity across the country. In November, the company bought American Education Corp., a provider of instructional software, and it snatched up KC Distance Learning Inc. in July. The company reported enrollment of 101,030 in the latest quarter.

K12 was started by Republican operative and former Sec. of  Education William Bennett but the company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability. K12 Inc. has been under  investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm. Meanwhile, during some of his television appearances, Bennett has continued to comment on administration education policy and the No Child Left Behind Act without mentioning the grant..

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rahm: I don't like what they're doing in Wisconsin. However...

Our new mayor's  inauguration speech yesterday takes demagogy to new heights.
"I reject how leaders in Wisconsin and Ohio are exploiting their fiscal crisis to achieve a political goal. That course is not the right course for Chicago's future. However..."

Yes, if you want to know what these guys really think, always ignore the part that comes before the but or the however.

The mayor reminds me of Bush's  Ed Sec. Rod Paige who wrote in his book, The War Against Hope, "I have no problem with teachers," he wrote. "What I do have a problem with are the powerful unions."

Whenever you hear someone begin a statement with, “I have no problem with…(blacks, Mexicans, Jews, or fill in the blank (_____), you know there’s a “but” coming and that they actually do have said problem. Paige definitely had a problem with teachers.

Rahm implies he doesn't go along with Gov. Walker's attacks on public employees' collective bargaining rights. Then comes the "however." You know what's coming next. He actually does agree as his support for SB7 clearly demonstrates. Like any good demagogue, Rahm counter-poses taking away teachers' rights to "opposing reform" or "doing everything the same way we always have." Actually, Rahm's reform is basically doing the same thing as his predecessor -- more privatized charter schools, more testing madness, more school closures and mass teacher firings, all under the name of reform. It's Duncan's Race To The Top and  Daley's failed Renaissance 2010 on crack. Only this time around, with massive budget cuts.

I guess the only appropriate answer is: YES, we support reform. HOWEVER, this crap isn't really reform.

Case in point: Rahm's call for a longer school day (which nobody argues with) is based on the Houston model (shades of Bush's "Texas Miracle").
By high school graduation, a student in Houston has been in the classroom an equivalent of three years longer than a student in Chicago even when both started kindergarten on the very same day. 
Yes, if you can afford to add 30 minutes/day (4 minutes & 45 seconds/class) for 13 years, it does add up to somewhere around 3 years of seat time for kids. But more seat time doesn't necessarily add up to more or better learning. If kids are bored stiff in test-crazy schools, doing the same  longer will only push more of them out of school altogether.  Rahm fails to mention that HISD doesn't graduate any more students than does CPS and hasn't made AYP in 3 straight years or that they are cutting out a day per week of summer school.  For more on Rahm's infatuation with Houston, see my post on Huffington, Rahm Still Believes in Texas 'Miracles'.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Duncan patronizes teachers

But they're not buying it
"I have a deep and genuine appreciation for the work you do. ... You deserve to be respected, valued, and supported. ... It is my goal to see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society," reads the letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Arne Duncan's open letter, "In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week," is symptomatic of the administration's poor  relationship with the nation's teachers. In response, many teachers have pointed out the contradiction between the administration's words and deeds, between ideals and policies (See comments below Duncan's Open Letter).

Many of the issues date back to Duncan/Obama's support for the mass teachers firings at Central Falls High School. Since then, teachers have felt the full impact of Duncan's shock-and-awe policies embodied in Race To The Top, violation of collective-bargaining agreements, merit pay, evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, and encouragement of school privatization, to name but a few.
"Respect? Value? Support? Not seeing much," said teacher and education commentator Sabrina Stevens Shupe, who writes about education on her blog, the Failing Schools Project.
It's not about testing or about the letter or about any other single issue, said Mike Rose, professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles. The response from teachers is an expression of a broader frustration at not being part of the conversation about education reform, Rose said. Though teachers are as interested as any group in reforming education, Rose said, they feel like current reforms "are being done to them, not with them." 
"They feel they are being dictated to from on high by people who have never spent a day teaching in a public school classroom." -- CNN


Huckabee's new company -- Learn our History.com
GOP Not the Only Party Targeting Unions 
Rand Paul’s "Public health care=Slavery" Rant
"With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to healthcare, you have to realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses."  -- Rand Paul
In Prison Reform, Money Trumps Civil Rights
Many have given up all hope of persuading the white electorate that they should care about the severe racial disparities in the criminal justice system or the racial politics that birthed the drug war. It’s possible now, they say, to win big without talking about race or “making it an issue.”-- Michelle Alexander, NY Times

Friday, May 13, 2011

Late Friday FUs

Since Blogger has been down for 2 days, I am posting my Friday FUs late in the day.

My first FU goes out to the Illinois Legislature for passing SB7, the most anti-teacher, anti-union piece of legislation is recent memory. The bill takes away teachers' job security, severely limits teacher collective-bargaining rights, including the right to strike, and basically destroys the ability of unions to represent their members with integrity by mandating how many votes are needed in a strike vote. SB7 also makes it easier for Chicago Mayor Emanuel to fire teachers in mass (something he is chomping at the bit to do), without due process, thereby increasing class sizes and replacing skilled, experienced, teachers with lower-paid newbies in schools where experience and stability count the most.

FUs especially go out to House members who voted 112 to 1 for passage, even after the CTU and the IFT withdrew their support and raised serious issues about the integrity and legality of the process. And a special FU to our Democratic Party so-called liberal "friends" who showed their anti-union, anti-teacher colors and voted as Boss Madigan instructed. Be sure and call on us again for support next election day.

Oh yes, and an extra special FU to the IEA leadership who not only fell in line behind the corporate reformers without so much as a yelp, but who hailed the bill as a model for the rest of the country.

And finally (is there ever a finally on this stuff?) FU to the Chicago Tribune for describing this piece of garbage legislation as "a sweeping set of education reforms" and  a budget "that would cut state money for schools throughout Illinois." Yes, "sweeping" reforms indeed. There is nothing--not one thing in this bill-- that has any solid research behind it indicating it will lead to an improvement in learning outcomes for our kids.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Emperor Bloomberg has no clothes

Plagued by low grades for his handling of public schools and the city budget, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets a negative 40 percent approval rating from voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Seventy-eight percent of voters with children in NYC public schools disapprove of his school  leadership.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Will liberals finally jump the Rhee ship?

Arne Duncan stumps for Fenty/Rhee in D.C.
This must be embarrassing for liberal Democrats who lauded Michelle Rhee when she was D.C.'s schools chief or who were moved by her anti-public-school demagogy in the film, Waiting For Superman. Now Rhee has planted herself squarely in the camp of the extreme right-wing where she has become a T-Party favorite and the darling of ultra-conservatives like the DeVos family. She recently joined the team of Florida's right-wing governor, Rick Scott, as a high-paid consultant. 

On Tuesday, Rhee keynoted the DeVos-sponsored national school voucher summit. Rhee told the audience of school voucher supporters,  “we’ve got a powerful influencer like the unions … if you don’t have an organized, national interest group like the teachers union that’s advocating on behalf of kids, then you end up with a lopsided policy landscape.”

According to the American Independent:
"The event was orchestrated by the American Federation for Children, a well-funded advocacy group headed by Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She is married to former Republican candidate for Michigan Gov. Dick DeVos, son of famed billionaire Richard DeVos, who made his fortune through the success of household appliance and manufacturing giant Amway."
While it was the giant power philanthropists like Gates, Broad and Walton who paved her way to national prominence as a corporate school reformer, it was Arne Duncan who embraced her teacher-bashing strategies in D.C. where he openly campaigned for Rhee's patron at the time, Mayor Fenty

Buyer's remorse, anyone?

SOS March supports collective bargaining rights for teachers and public employees

Join me in D.C. July 28-30 

I am happy to see this statement of support for teachers' collective bargaining rights coming from the organizers of the July 30th Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action in D.C. I am even more excited to see this early list of union endorsements for the March. There's room on it for lots of other union locals, state and national endorsements.

I hope you will meet me in D.C. Here's the SOS statement and list:

Unions of all kinds are currently under political attack. Public employee unions are especially under fire, as we have seen in Wisconsin and now in other states. As members of public employee unions, teachers are particularly aware of the risks inherent in allowing such attacks to go unchallenged.

Those of us involved in organizing the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action recognize the importance of the right to unionize for all employees. States which have unionized work forces have higher standards of living, and higher performance on various academic measures. Indeed, the nation with the most consistent performance on international comparisons of student performance, Finland, has a teacher corps that is almost completely unionized.

But this is not just about teachers. It is about police, firefighters and nurses. It is about all workers who wish to organize and collectively bargain on productive working conditions, safety and compensation including benefits.

This is not just about adults, either. Poverty is one of the major factors undermining student achievement in America. By empowering employees to improve their working conditions and pay, collective bargaining rights help to stabilize and strengthen families and communities. That, in turn, boosts the social and financial support available to students and schools. The interests of schools, students, teachers, families, and communities are all connected. Attempts to reform schools without simultaneously strengthening communities have a long history of failure– a history that we need to reverse.

For these reasons, we fully support the right of all workers to participate in unions, and for unions to have the right to organize and to represent their membership, including through collective bargaining.
Here is a list of unions that have already endorsed our effort. We hope also to gain the support of unions outside of education.
  • American Federation of Teachers – Executive Committee (preliminary endorsement)
  • Bedford Teachers’ Association (Bedford, NY – AFT)
  • Broward Teachers Union (Broward County, FL – AFT/NEA)
  • Cambridge College Employees Federation (Cambridge, MA – AFT)
  • Chicago Teachers Union (Chicago, IL – AFT)
  • Classroom Teachers Association of Palm Beach (Palm Beach County, FL – NEA)
  • Collie County Education Association (Marco Island, FL – NEA)
  • Colorado Education Association (NEA)
  • Education Austin (Austin, TX – AFT/NEA)
  • Florida Educators Association (NEA)
  • Forest Grove Education Association (Forest Grove, OR – NEA)
  • Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (Milwaukee, WI – NEA)
  • North Carolina Association of Educators (NEA)
  • Oakland Education Association (Oakland, CA – NEA)
  • Roseville Federation of Teachers (Roseville, Michigan – AFT)
  • United Teachers of Dade (Dade County, FL – AFT/NEA)
  • Wisconsin Education Association Council (NEA)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The 'value-added' debacle

Leading mathematician debunks use of  VAM 

The L.A. Times is once again publishing the names of every teacher in the district next to a concocted "value-added score." The reputations and careers of thousands of teachers hang in the balance with the Times' use of a bogus formula they claim can distinguish good teachers from bad ones, who should get "merit pay"and who should lose their jobs.

In a scene out of the theater of the absurd, even Supt. John Deasy and other district leaders are protesting the Times' release of this data, claiming the district is using a different, competing formula from the one used by the Times. Here's Deasy' formula:
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.
The Deasy letter, obtained by education gadfly Alexander Russo and posted on his blog This Week in Education, warned:  “This is very likely to create confusion for many educators and parents.” [See the whole letter here.]

Here's what mathematician, John Ewing, president of Math for America has to say about the Times' bad math:
When value-added models were first conceived, even their most ardent supporters cautioned about their use [Sanders 1995, abstract]. They were a new tool that allowed us to make sense of mountains of data, using mathematics in the same way it was used to understand the growth of crops or the effects of a drug. But that tool was based on a statistical model, and inferences about individual teachers might not be valid, either because of faulty assumptions or because of normal (and expected) variation. -- WaPo Answer Sheet 
Despite this apparent lack of validity, the use of "value-added" formulas as the basis for evaluating, paying and firing teachers, is rapidly becoming the new face of corporate reform with full approval coming from Arne Duncan and the DOE.

Monday, May 9, 2011


The wisdom of the elites
"The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes." -- Paul Krugman, NYT
Freedom riders
Nancy Flanagan responds to Duncan
"It's time to remember the Freedom Riders, who risked their very lives fifty years ago this week, to achieve democratic equality. Not segregated charter schools which a handful of lottery-winners get to attend. Not classrooms staffed by two-year adventure teachers . Not watered-down, low-level curriculum and test items.' -- Edweek
Punishing L.A. high schools for low scores
"The original goal of the funding was to see what a struggling school could accomplish with an infusion of resources in key areas. Instead, the money has allowed these schools to hold the line against deep statewide cuts to schools over the last three years."  -- Howard Blume, LAT
Joel Klein on J.C. Brizard
"If you're going to take a tough stand on certain issues, talking about closing down schools, which he did, or talking about teachers' evaluations, you're going to rock some boats," Klein said. "(Brizard) understands that." -- Chicago Tribune
Pelham City, Georgia Supt. tells Duncan
 If you are sincere in your belief that teaching is an honorable and important profession, please use the power of your position to begin a national conversation on teaching and learning and helping kids that does not begin with the “failure” of public education or discussions about “bad teachers.”-- Maureen Downey at AJC
What happened to Huberman's "Culture of Calm" in Chicago?
“It’s very easy for C.P.S. to make these kind of stopgap-measure decisions and say, ‘Well, it’s just for a year. Sorry. Thanks, you did a great job. Keep it moving,’ “ Ms. Pacione-Zayas said. “I’m not surprised, because that’s kind of been the history of it.”-- Chicago News Coop

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday morning FUs

A big Friday F**K YOU goes out to CUNY's trustees for their decision to block an honorary degree for America's greatest playwright Tony Kushner. Another FFU goes to racist Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern.

Ah, what a great way to start my day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chicago Teachers Union rejects anti-union language in SB7

A courageous and decisive move by Chicago teachers

The 800-member Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates delivered a powerful blow to anti-union corporate school reformers and voted to direct the union to lobby state legislators “to remove the anti-union bargaining restrictions" in SB7. The bill was pushed by Stand for Children and Advance Illinois and other business group and passed unanimously last month by the Senate [See my April 14 blog post, "Big victory for the corporate "reformers" in Chicago]. It's now up for a vote in the Illinois House.

In a CTU press release, union president Karen Lewis said: 
“Bargaining in good faith appears to be a bar set too high for these so-called education reformers – Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, Illinois Business Roundtable and their millionaire funders – who joined forces with the mayor-elect to steer the conversation, and the legislation, away from school improvement to an attack on unions and the children and families they serve.  When you rob educators’ ability to bargain for true school improvement – safe schools with smaller class sizes, class offerings and how your school day is structured to meet your students’ needs – the quality of education available to all children is put at risk. CPS is an inequitable system.  This bill does not change that basic travesty.” 
The CTU statement should put lots of pressure on the two other state teacher unions whose leaders who continue to try and sell SB 7 to their members. IEA spokesman Charlie McBarron originally said  the deal, “puts kids first and will move education forward. We are proud that reforms that we supported, that we brought to the table, are part of this bill.” IEA president Ken Swanson called the agreement “a landmark, historic piece of legislation.” and "an opportunity for Illinois to be a lighthouse for the other states.”

Let's see if the CTU vote has a ripple effect. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rahm still thinks there's a "miracle" down in Texas

"The data shows that the longer you stay in the classroom learning,  you'll learn more..." -- Rahm Emanuel
While you mull that one over, I want to know who the genius was that told Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel that Houston schools were really great? It must have been one of the billionaire experts on the corporate-reform education team. David Vitale? Penny Pritzker? Or maybe Emanuel ran into former ed secretary Rod Paige back in D.C., who told him there was a "Texas Miracle." That b.s. story actually propelled former Texas Governor George Bush into the White House in 2000 along with former Houston superintendent Paige as his ed secretary. In any case, everywhere Rahm goes these days, whenever anyone asks him for an example of what he wants to do with Chicago schools, he answers, "Uh, Texas--Houston, Texas."

At yesterday's forum at Malcolm X College students got to ask questions of the next mayor about how he'll be different from outgoing Mayor Daley and how he plans to improve the city's dropout rate. Obviously prepped by one of his experts, Rahm offered his now-stock answers--charter schools, merit pay, and a longer school day. He also threw in principals, who he calls the "franchisee owner of the school building."
In Houston, says Rahm, "if you start in the Chicago Public School system in kindergarten and your cousin lives in Houston, and you both go all the way through high school, the cousin in Houston spends three more years in the classroom."
My god! Is this true? Three years more in the classroom? That cousin must be a genius (or bored out of their freakin' mind). Well, at least his or her ACT score may be a wee bit higher, if -- and this is a big if-- they're not poor. The average ACT score for Houston's public high school students is 19.7, compared with 17.3 for Chicago, writes Trib columnist Eric Zorn. But that 2.4 difference doesn't seem like much of a miracle, does it, considering the three years of extra time in the classroom. Besides, who is this "average" Houston student they keep talking about anyway? Whose cousin is it? I've always wanted to meet them.

What I do know is the gap between white students in Houston and the district's students of color is about the same as those in Chicago. Not only that, but HISD schools have failed to make AYP under No Child Left Behind standards, for three years in a row. Funny, Rahm failed to mention that.

Zorn adds that, "87 percent of Chicago's pupils are classified as 'low income,' compared with 79 percent of pupils in Houston labeled 'economically disadvantaged.'"

Maybe Rahm's experts should have thought of that. Get 8 percent fewer poor kids in your school and your scores will go up by a couple of points on average, that is. As Houston Supt. Terry Grier told his board of trustees last week:
"We want all of our schools to be on an upward trend. We have kids in our very best schools that need help. But I can promise you it's a lot easier to get help when you're surrounded with children with means. Our biggest challenge in our district is fighting poverty. You look at the achievement gap between free and reduced and non free and reduced. "
And it's not like anyone is actually arguing against lengthening the school day. The CTU is all for it, providing teachers get paid for the extra work. What a concept!

Chicago's elementary school day generally begins for students at 9 a.m. and ends at 2:45 p.m., with no recess and just 20 minutes for lunch. Well, there it is. Just restore recess and adequate time for play (lots of learning goes on during play, Rahm) and bodda-bing, you have your 3 more years of learning.  And I guarantee at least a 1.3 rise in ACT scores--on average that is. As for the cousin--well they've probably already dropped out. You see, Houston's dropout rate matches  Chicago.

Oh, and guess what? HISD's board just announced that they are cutting the district's summer school week down to four days as a budget-cutting measure. The reason--HISD will lose $173.6 million in state funds in 2011-12 and $217.3 million in 2012-13.

Yes, Rahm, the more time you spend learning, the more you are learning. True enough. Try it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Research Corner

More bunk from Fordham 

Chester Finn's Fordham Institute keeps cranking it out. They're only doing what any good conservative think tank does -- making a case for cutting education spending and busting union contracts. Their main targets are usually early childhood education and the neediest urban districts. Problem is, their research always ends up "proving" their ideological stand. How predictable!

Thankfully the folks from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) are around (often filling the shoes of the late Jerry Bracey) to debunk Fordham's bunk. Their latest bunk was a survey of Ohio superintendents, which Fordham used to argue for an increase in district authority instead of increased school resources.   

Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out is a report based on a survey of 246 school superintendents, asking questions focused on reducing costs and expanding superintendents’ autonomy. On the basis of the survey, the report suggests that lack of money is not a serious problem for the state’s public schools. It also suggests that academic achievement would improve if superintendents were freed from state mandates and teachers' union contracts.

NEPC'S Catherine Horn, an education professor, and Gary Dworkin, a sociology professor, both at the University of Houston, find that the Fordham Institute report’s “conclusions are problematic because of the combined effects of non- representative sampling, leading or inappropriately worded items, and the conflating of opinion and fact.” 
Myriad factors contribute to student achievement, including home and community effects, campus resources (material and non-material), as well as teacher competence which are not examined or considered. And, despite the reported finding that superintendents prefer greater autonomy in personnel and school policies over increased funding, the majority of superintendents also contend that they would see a trade-off of more autonomy with a decrease in funding as undesirable.
You can read Horn and Dworkin's review of the Fordham report, here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Re-segregatng Florida's schools via charters

Gov. Scott pushing for more charters, even though...
Kids study algebra at mostly white Legacy Charter High School near Ocoee. (George Skene/Orlando Sentinel)

The Orlando Sentinel is running a two-part series on Florida school re-segregation via charter schools. According to Sentinel writer Dave Weber:
Segregation is making a comeback in Florida's public schools with the new wave of charter schools springing up across the state. One out of eight charter schools has a student body with 90 percent or more of a single race or ethnicity, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of the state's 456 taxpayer-financed charters shows. That compares with one out of 12 traditional public schools.
The title of Part 2 of Weber's series speaks for itself: "Grouping kids by race or ethnicity in charter schools has merit, backers say."
Researchers at Stanford University looked at charters in 15 states and the District of Columbia, and Florida's did not show well. The 2009 study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes lists Florida among six "states that demonstrated lower than average charter school student growth than their peers in traditional schools."


SNL's Seth Meyers nails it
Meyers handicapping Obama's competition in the 2012 presidential race. Mr. President, "I'll tell you who could beat you: 2008 Barack Obama. You would have loved him." -- E Online
Public ed and private money
Times are unquestionably tough, and funding for schools has been cut to the point that they're struggling to fulfill their mission, so we support taking private dollars to help make ends meet. But there is reason for concern when a slate of top positions is filled through the largesse of benefactors, even well-intentioned ones, who have their own agendas in the school reform wars.-- L.A. Times editorial
Ohio's new charter proposal
"This is a blatant giveaway of public money to big Republican campaign contributors like David Brennan, who now will be able to enrich themselves even more at taxpayer expense," said Dale Butland, spokesman for Innovation Ohio. -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
Protesting Gov. Snyder's budget cuts in Michigan
Judith Dewoskin, an Ann Arbor teacher, said. "There's a sign here, it's beautiful, it says, 'The Reverse Robin Hood.' He's taking money away from the poor to give to the rich, which is really not a good thing to do in a state that is going down economically."
"Look at Detroit public schools. They're going to have 60 kids in a class," added Ellen Stone, another teacher from Ann Arbor. "How are public school kids in Detroit going to get an education with 60 kids in a class?" -- Huffington