Saturday, July 30, 2011

On our way to the SOS march

Diane Ravitch speaks at SOS pre-march conference
It seems like I've been doing this most of my adult life. Coming to D.C. to march around the White House has almost become a yearly ritual, starting with the Civil Rights Movement, the struggle to end the war in Vietnam and the many wars since, and now -- in some ways a continuation of those great movements -- the struggle to save and transform our public school system.

It's hot today in D.C. -- real hot. So to draw inspiration and fire myself up for 5 hours in the sun and on the hot city streets, I'm thinking of those striking Hyatt hotel workers who had the heat lamps turned on them while they picketed outside the Park Hyatt in Chicago on that 100 degree day.

I'm marching today not just to protest current administration education policies, but also against those same heartless bastards who are exploiting and oppressing those women housekeeping workers (mostly immigrants) at the Hyatt. And I'm here to oppose those same billionaires who dabble in school reform, who run the power philanthropies and who feel entitled to decide (without any public accountability) what's best for our schools and kids.

Diane Ravitch spoke at the conference yesterday and was her usual brilliant and inspiring self. An historian by trade, Ravitch laid out the history of the U.S. education "crisis" which goes back to the 19th century. This latest crisis, like most others, is both real and "manufactured" and is caused in many ways by NCLB -- "the worst piece of legislation ever." Ravitch's speech nicely complimented Jon Kozol's focus on apartheid schooling, the day before.

The biggest debate so far has been about whether or not to accept the White House invitation to meet before the march. To me, it's clear. The SOS leadership was right when they politely refused. I mean, just think about what would happen in a rushed meeting with WH staffers and PR guys. Who would speak for the marchers on such short notice? How would the message be shaped? How would it be used in the media to take the heat off of Duncan's disastrous Race To The Top, testing-mad policies?

No, much better to wait until after Sunday's  post-march Congress when democratic decisions can be made about who should meet with the President's people and what they should say. My hat's off to the SOS leadership for not taking the bait. I hope some of Duncan's people show up today to get a sense of just how deep and wide teacher and parent anger runs against his policies.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sorry Mr. President. We didn't come all this way for tea and cookies at the White House

Conferees discuss post-march strategies at our Think/Do Tank Workshop
The first day of the SOS conference was powerful. Hundreds of teachers and ed activists from across the country crowded into the American University auditorium and cheered wildly as an angry Jonathan Kozol attacked educational apartheid and urged them on to action on Saturday.

Calling out Education Secretary Arne Duncan by name, Kozol lambasted current administration policies, especially the test-crazy No Child Left Behind and Duncan's Race To The Top. NCLB can't be "fixed" said Kozol, but should be abolished. Kozol said that racial segregation in the schools was worse now than at any time since the assassination of Dr. King in 1968.

"The politicians you've got to struggle with the most are the ones who act like your friends," said Kozol. They will pull you aside and tell you quietly that they support you and that they're working inside the administration to change things, but that they can't say so openly.

Kozol's warning was timely. The day before, when a small group of teachers went over to the Department of Ed to protest cuts in arts programs, staffers invited them in for a chat. They had a brief audience with Duncan, after which the DOE's Justin Hamilton issued a statement to the media saying they had a "useful" discussion with SOS marchers. Many people at the conference told me that they felt used and manipulated by the DOE statement. And when a similar invitation was issued yesterday by the White House, SOS leaders politely declined,, offering to meet only after thousands of teachers voiced their demands and their anger with the administration at Saturday's march.

 "We didn't come all the way to Washington to have tea and cookies at the White House," a teacher from the west coast told me.

Martha Infante, a National Board Certified teacher from Southern California, tweeted from the conference:

The White House wants to meet w us? Thats great. Weve been pleading 4 a meeting for 2 years. Now, its time to march. Meet us at the ellipse.
The SOS March Executive Committee issued this statement Thursday evening::

We sincerely appreciate the interest of the White House in the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. We'd be pleased to host any White House or Department of Education personnel on the Ellipse on Saturday so they can hear firsthand what teachers, students, parents and community members from around the country have to say about public education. Thousands of concerned citizens will be sharing their experiences and their thoughts on the future of our schools. July 30th is your opportunity to listen to us. After the March, we will be open to meeting with White House or Department of Education leaders to further discuss our specific proposals.
Diane Ravitch will keynote this morning's session with what should be another barn-burner. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pew Study: Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs

A third of black & Latino families have no wealth

Hispanic families accounted for the largest single decline in wealth of any ethnic and racial group in the country during the recession, according to a study published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, about a third of black (35%) and Hispanic (31%) households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15% of white households. In 2005, the comparable shares had been 29% for blacks, 23% for Hispanics and 11% for whites. The median wealth of Hispanic and black households is at its lowest point since 1984, when the Census Bureau first conducted the study, the report said. 
“It’s a very stark reminder of the high share of minorities who live at the economic margins of this country,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and an author of the report. “These data really show their economic vulnerability.” -- New York Times
To the "no excuses" crowd: Will the widening poverty gap be reflected in the so-called educational "achievement gap? You bet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Republicans are winning it

It's time to hit the streets to save our schools

No more golfing with Boehner!

Thousands will rally today at noon in front of congressional offices. Make the call Wednesday for the National Call-in Day.Then it's on to Washington for the Save Our Schools March on July 30th.

We're demanding an end to the holding of the country hostage by Republican loonies whose only concern is cutting taxes for their wealthy patrons. If they win, it's likely to be the end of the road for public education, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Turn out today at noon. Find your representative's office here. Download signs here. Better yet, make your own!

Monday, July 25, 2011

In the mailbox

Volunteers needed in Wisconsin recall elections

Wisconsin Democrats are now within striking distance of taking back control of the state Senate and putting the brakes on Scott Walker’s out-of-control agenda in Madison. As momentum continues to build behind efforts to flip the chamber, we’ve entered the home stretch towards the critical August 9th elections against 6 GOP senators whose careers are now on the line for blindly following Walker and rubber stamping his extreme agenda. To continue our drive to the finish, we are running one of the most aggressive GOTV and voter contact efforts the state has ever seen. We still have dozens of GOTV volunteer shifts to fill, and we need your support. We've never been closer to recalling the Republicans who callously put corporations over working families. At the end of the day, the victory will go to the campaign most able to mobilize their base. This is why we need volunteers to help out during GOTV -- August 6-9.

We have volunteer shifts to fill in all 8 Senate Districts. Below you'll find a list of elections and their dates. For volunteers in need of supporter housing and transportation, we'll work to accommodate all needs, but these resources are in short supply, so we encourage volunteers to partner with one another as much as possible for these arrangements.

For more information on traveling to the state, please contact Keauna Gregory at or 770-547-0513.

In Solidarity,

Keauna Gregory

Our Think/Do Tank workshop at the SOS Conference in D.C.

American University Thursday, July 28 from 1:45 - 3:45 P.M. 

The national SOS action in Washington isn’t the end but hopefully the beginning of our organizing work in defense of public education and against the wave of Ownership Society attacks against public schools and democratic public engagement. Mike Klonsky and Diane Ravitch are leading a brainstorming and planning session to thing about the creation of a Think/Do tank of some kind on public education policy and opposition to school privatization and the erosion of public space and decision-making. We hope to bring together writers, researchers, bloggers, tweeters, speakers and activists who share our need to speak truth to power. This workshop will discuss where we go from here in crafting an independent voice that defends public schools and their communities. We will offer ideas about a post-conference research agenda, organizing and media strategy, to ensure that this moment of opportunity is optimized.

UC study: 50% teacher turnover rate in L.A. charters

"It has a huge effect on student morale," she said, especially for students who lack needed stability in other parts of their lives. "By the time students graduated from my school, there was not a single teacher who had been there the whole time." -- Charter school teacher
L.A. Times reports that about half of all  teachers in charter middle and high schools left their jobs each year over a six-year period studied by UC Berkeley researchers, who released their findings last week.

Why such an incredibly high rate of attrition?
  • They hire heavily from Teach For America, a cadre of recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years.
  • Some young teachers find the intense, demanding charter experience more than they bargained for, suggested Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller, a study co-author.
  • Leaving for better pay and benefits at traditional school districts.
  • Lack of promised input into school decisions, an unceasing workload and few job protections.
  • "Teachers feel so beleaguered because everything is presented to us as a problem we have to solve. But we can't fix all those problems, like when a kid misses 60 days in a semester."


Bill Gates
Our big investment in school reform. "hasn't led to significant improvements." -- Wall Street Journal. 
Joel Klein then...
"I've long admired News Corporation's entrepreneurial spirit and Rupert Murdoch's fearless commitment to innovation." -- NPR
Joel Klein now...
“I am trying to get as far away from this as I can,” he lamented to a friend. -- NYT
Aaron Pallas
"In any organization in which members are pressed to reach goals that cannot be attained through legitimate means, cheating and other forms of misconduct are likely to occur. That’s the real threat of high-stakes testing." -- Letter to NYT editor

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hyatt -- 'It was the manager's fault'

Some guy named Farley says, "Hyatt is sorry."

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hyatt hotels apologized Friday for an incident in which heat lamps were turned on above workers on strike at a Chicago hotel, when the heat index was already 90 degrees.
Hyatt said that the decision to turn on the heaters was made by a manager. "It was clearly a decision that was not in line with our values or with our corporate policies," the statement said. Hyatt said this was an "isolated incident" and would not be repeated.
The manager responsible for the decision was scheduled to retire, and Friday was to be his last day, said Farley Kern, vice president of corporate communications, in a e-mail. "If that hadn't been the case, we would have taken corrective action matching the seriousness of the conduct," Kern wrote. 

Kern also thanked the scabs:
"We appreciate the effort made by most of the associates of the hotel to cross the picket line and report to work..."
Hey, chuck you Farley. Now how about Hyatt's treatment of the mostly-immigrant and women hotel housekeeping workers who are super-exploited and working without a contract? Retiring manager's fault?

In related news, Rupert Murdoch and his son James have apologized for their company's criminal behavior around the world, but accepted no responsibility. They blamed it all on "people we trusted who let us down."

Speaking of turning up the heat...

(Chicago CBS News
How would you like to be a student at Penn Elementary School in North Lawndale as temperature rose above 100°? Penn is one of 238 Chicago public schools holding 56,000 students this summer, most of which have no air conditioning. Rahm Emanuel has touted a longer school year as his main reform initiative.

From the Sun-Times:
“The kids are miserable. They don’t have energy. They’re just slumped over on their desks,” said Penn principal Sherryl Moore-Ollie. “When it’s 70 out, it’s not bad, but once it reaches 85, this old building heats up and becomes unbearable.”

Many students were preparing to take the ISAT this week, including 53 Penn students who take the test today. Several Penn students were sent home this week suffering from physical symptoms of heat exhaustion. 

Parent LaShawn Martin had to pick up her 9-year-old, Anton Green, Tuesday, because he was lethargic and began vomiting. “Chicago Public Schools is putting these kids into very dangerous situations,” complained Martin.
Reason enough for the mayor to send his kids to expensive, air-conditioned private schools. Who wants to be around vomiting kids?


Rahm's kids to private school
"The problem with Lab is that it doesn't educate kids the way Emanuel says he wants the public schools to educate them. None of the top private schools do. The testing that's supposed to hold mediocre teachers accountable makes good teachers feel like dogs on leashes." -- Michael Miner at the Reader

Hyatt heat lamps -- Whodunnit?

Some readers questioned whether it was actually anyone in the Pritzker family who turned the heat lamps on picketing Hyatt workers yesterday?  Answer: Probably not, any more than Rupert Murdoch himself, actually passed envelopes fill with Euros to Scotland Yard cops. I doubt that either Thomas or Penny Sue, for example, would even know where the heater switch was. They have bigger fish to fry.

"This is one of the hottest days of the summer," said Daniel Medina, 42, a bellman at the Park Hyatt for two years. "I work at that door every single day and only in winter time do those need to be turned on. Somebody did it on purpose. It's ridiculous."
Medina said the lights do not turn on automatically and that only bellhops, doormen and engineers access the room that controls the heat lamps. He said there was no way it could be inadvertent.
After Hyatt allegedly turned the heat on the strikers, Gabriel Carrasquillo, a server at the hotel's restaurant NoMI, began to chant, "You can't smoke us out," and extended the picket line beyond the heat lamps so that employees could get periodic breaks from the heat, he said.  -- Chicago Tribune

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Emperor Rahm's message to his minions

"I care deeply for my family. I don't care about you." -- Ward Room

Quotable: Karen Lewis

On the mayor's decision to send his kids to Chicago Lab, a well-funded private school

“We understand why he would choose a school with small class sizes, a broad, rich curriculum that offers world languages, the arts and physical education, a focus on critical thinking not test-taking, a teacher and an assistant in every elementary classroom and paid, high-quality professional development for their teachers. It’s wonderful that he has that option available to him.’’ -- CTU prez, Karen Lewis

Pritzker turns heat lamps on striking Hyatt workers

M. Klonsky pic
It was already approaching 100° at 8 a.m. when I arrived at the Park Hyatt where, after 22 months of stalled negotiations, hotel workers were staging a one-day picket to protest the hotel chain's intolerable treatment of their housekeeping staff.

In case you didn't know, Hyatt is owned by the Pritzker family. Heiress Penny Sue Pritzker chairs Obama's national campaign finance committee. She is also big player in Democratic Party politics as well as in the world of anti-union, corporate school reform and was recently appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to a seat on the Chicago school board.

Pritzker's response to the Park Hyatt strikers was to turn on the hotel's powerful heating lamps to try and bake the workers into submission on this brutally hot day. But this seemingly inhuman and probably illegal response seemed to have had just the opposite effect. Picketers began chanting, "Hyatt can't take the heat, but we can!" The lamps were left on until word got out and media began to show up.

CBS News
Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers union, is holding large protests against Hyatt in 15 cities in the United States and Canada, among them Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco.  If you join the picket line, be sure and dress light and drink plenty of water so you'll be prepared for the Pritzkers' toaster.

WBBM (CBS) reporter Mike Krauser was there when the lamps were on. Listen to his report here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

UFT leader responds re. bonuses

Following up on yesterday's post...

UFT V.P. Leo Casey responded to my question about the union's position on the ending of the city's bonus plan for paying teachers, a plan which the union had enthusiastically signed onto in 2007. In fairness to Leo, (my comment at the end of yesterday's blog may have sounded a bit snarky), it turns out that he had already written a piece on this issue for Hechinger rather than in the union's own Edwize blog where I was searching. I searched again but failed to find Leo's Hechinger piece. No matter, I publish it here without comment (for now).

Leo's response:
Here it is what I wrote for the Hechinger Foundation, who asked for a commentary on the subject. We think the program should end. There is a minor issue here, that the D.O.E. is suggesting that they can end it on their own, even though it is a negotiated agreement, and we will insist that it can only be ended by common consent. That is why I talk about going back to the negotiations table. But we would want to end it...

By the way, all the right-wingers are livid about this, since the deal involved allowing our younger members to retire at 55 with 25 years in. That part stays intact, no matter what happens with the bonus program. And since the state constitution protects retirement benefits of those in service, it would be very hard to undo that...
We live in an era when educational policy is far too often shaped by ideological dogma. Our challenge is to engage in educational experimentation and innovation, and yet remain grounded in what research tells us works in real classrooms and real schools.

There is a well-established, substantial body of educational research which has found that individual merit pay for teachers fails to produce meaningful gains in student achievement. What is more, individual merit pay has negative consequences, as the culture of trust and collaboration that is at the heart of a good school is undermined when educators are set in invidious competition with each other. In recognition of this reality, the UFT has consistently opposed individual merit pay for NYC educators.

Until the UFT and the NYC D.O.E. entered into an agreement to do a pilot program, there was no research as to the efficacy of school-wide bonuses as a tool of educational improvement. Since a school wide bonus would not have the negative effects of setting educator against educator, and could conceivably contribute to collaboration within the school, the UFT decided that a pilot program was an experiment worth having, provided that it was subject to a rigorous evaluation by independent researchers.

With the publication of the Rand's A Big Apple for Educators, the results of that evaluation are now in: the school-wide bonuses have not produced meaningful gains in student achievement. While one might object that the standardized New York State exams used to evaluate the bonuses were a poor and unreliable measure of student achievement, the report's other findings - most importantly, that the bonuses were seen as a weak motivation that did not change educator behavior and practice - leave little reason to think that a more robust measure of student achievement would produce substantially different results. Indeed, one of the significant findings of the Rand study was that the heavy reliance of the program on benchmarks drawn from the standardized state exams was a factor diminishing its legitimacy with teachers. The evidence tells us that it is time for the UFT and the NYC D.O.E. to return to the negotiations table to find new tools for improving student achievement, such as the development of a rich and powerful curriculum.

If one lesson is to be taken from this study and from the literature on individual merit pay, it is that teachers do not answer to the economic calculus of stockbrokers and hedge fund managers. This observation may not sit well with those for whom the rule of the market and individual financial incentives are an ideological first principle, established prior to logical argument and evidence, but it is the reality of our lives and our schools, and it is affirmed again and again by the education research on performance incentives. While we believe that our challenging and exhausting professional work should provide us with a middle class life, our primary motivation in entering the field of education is not economic gain, but to make a difference in the lives of the young people we teach. Educational policy must recognize this motivation to produce lasting, constructive change.

Leo Casey
Vice President, Academic High Schools
United Federation of Teachers
52 Broadway, 14th Floor
New York, New York 10004

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bonuses dead. Kids didn't win. Where's Randi?

Bloomberg called it, an "historic agreement." (NYT pic)
Union leader raved about bonuses in '07
"Everybody wins, especially the kids." -- UFT President Randi Weingarten - October 26, 2007
Back in '07, Mayor Bloomberg called it an “historic and unique agreement," claiming, “This agreement puts New York City at the forefront nationally in finding ways to reward such high-needs schools for performance.”

Then UFT Pres. Randi Weingarten pushed her own union membership to voluntarily except Bloomberg/Klein's bonus plan. As I recall, there were a few rank-and-file pockets of resistance, warning fellow N.Y. teachers not to be taken in by the mayor's various performance-pay schemes, all of which would begin to connect teacher compensation with student test scores.

But Randi prevailed. Dismissing critics as "maximalists", she correctly made the case that the new bonus plan differed from the typical "merit pay" schemes then being floated in urban districts around the country and which were based on individual, rather than collective teacher performance. She argued that the Bloomberg/Klein plan wasn't "entirely" based on test scores --which it wasn't. She also hinged her support for the bonus program on a change in the law that would allow teachers to retire early, starting at 55 instead of 62, without taking a hit to their pensions. Whether the city will deliver on that remains to be seen.

But then she went way beyond the often legitimate seat-at-the-table argument, that it's better to have union input on these issues, as opposed to autocratic decision-making by the mayor. Instead, Randi raved about the bonus plan, touting it as a win-win for everyone, "especially the kids."
Schoolwide bonuses are much more than a way to sideline individual merit pay. This plan is a proactive way to change the national debate on how to assess, acknowledge and model good teaching. It gives voice and equal standing to frontline educators. And if it works, it is a powerful tool to create the collaborative spirit that will turn some schools around. 
Now that the N.Y. bonus plan has been junked, the victim of massive budget cuts as well as another major study showing that bonuses do nothing to improve schools or teaching/learning, Randi and the union leadership have gone quiet. UFT and AFT websites are mute on the bonus question and even the major piece in Sunday's NYT, failed to elicit a union response.

She was right about one thing however. The agreement sure did change the national debate about assessment and teacher evaluation -- but from bad to worse. As for voice and equal footing for frontline educators -- well you be the judge. 

Looking back and looking ahead, it seems to me that the N.Y. bonus agreement set the stage, not only for current test-and-punish and so-called "value-added" mis-evaluation schemes, but for the steady erosion of union power, teacher voice and undermining of collective bargaining agreements culminating in the recent passage of SB7 in Illinois.

Unlike the outright assaults on unions, led by conservative T-Party govs in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Michigan, this second-prong attack is spearheaded by corporate reform groups like Stand For Children with the backing of local, usually Democratic politicians and Arne Duncan's D.O.E.. Most importantly, they are often being carried out with the expressed consent of and collaboration with many of our top union leaders who are touting this version of seat-at-the-table as models for the nation.

Weingarten may have had some good reasons to buy the Bloomberg/Klein plan. But now, three years later, it's time for a reassessment. I was disappointed ,but not shocked, to find that Edwize, the UFT's website, contained no mention of the failed bonus plan. I was also surprised to find not a word about the Stand For Children fiasco or Josh Edelman's "apology", which revealed how the corporate reformers played on the union leaders' need to be at the table.

I asked a current UFT leader for a response on the bonus issue. So far, I've received none. I'll let you know if I hear something.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another reason why teachers shouldn't fall for the old "bonus" scam

New York junks bonuses (for now)

In some districts it's called "merit" or "performance" pay. In others, it's simply called a "bonus." However they're branded, bonuses have become a center piece in corporate-reform strategies which are increasingly being used to undermine collective-bargaining agreements and pit teacher against teacher.

In D.C., these one-time-only pay bumps were used by Chancellor Michelle Rhee to get surviving teachers to accept the firing of hundreds of their colleagues. Rhee used private funds from Gates, Broad and other power philanthropists to underwrite the bonuses while foisting a horrible contract of D.C, teachers and their unions. The bonus offers could later be removed if and when corporate reforms were resisted, when the money dries up, or simply at the whim of the foundations. But the teachers who lost their jobs in the bonus deal, will never be called back to work.

In other districts like Los Angeles, performance bonuses are  tied to a value-added formula which supposedly shows how much each individual teacher adds to their students score on standardized tests. Similar programs have been tried as pilots in Chicago and across the state of Florida, but dropped as soon as corporate funding dried up, leaving in their wake busted contract agreements and a climate of mistrust, fear, and anger.

Yesterday's New York Times reports that the city's $56 million teacher performance bonus program has been permanently discontinued. The decision was made in light of a RAND study that found the bonuses had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers’ attitudes toward their jobs.
The results add to a growing body of evidence nationally that so-called pay-for-performance bonuses for teachers that consist only of financial incentives have no effect on student achievement, the researchers wrote. Even so, federal education policy champions the concept, and spending on performance-based pay for teachers grew to $439 million nationally last year from $99 million in 2006, the study said. 
Shamelessly, the same bureaucrats who had touted the bonus system are now saying, "oh, never mind" or even declaring victory and putting it behind them.
City officials did not dispute the study results, but they said they did not believe the money was wasted, and indicated that they would continue to seek a merit pay model that worked.
“In January, we suspended this program out of concern about its effectiveness,” said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. “This study confirms that was the right decision, and provides us with important information as we continue to think about compensation models that differentiate among the performance of our teachers.”


Photo N. Marroquin
Students have no tolerance for Zero Tolerance 
"As a result of the current disciplinary policies, we don't feel any safer in our schools," said Gabriela Hernandez, 16, a junior at Kelvyn Park High School. -- Chicago Tribune.
Yong Zhao
 "In well-to-do schools, teachers may doubt the value of the tests, but their students are much less at risk of failing the exams, so they do not have as strong a need to cheat." -- "Ditch Testing: Lessons from the Atlanta Scandal
Principal Carol Corbett Burris
"We know that those who lobby for charter schools, sell computers to virtual schools, and profit from testing are legion. Those who love public education, respect the role of collective bargaining and believe that society must improve the lives of our neediest children cannot be silent. That is what the July 30th march in Washington D.C. to Save our Schools is about. Secretary Duncan needs to hear from us all." -- "When Arne Duncan called to talk"
Charters not wanted in wealthy suburbs
“Public education is basically a social contract — we all pool our money, so I don’t think I should be able to custom-design it to my needs,” he said, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. “With these charter schools, people are trying to say, ‘I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.’ ” -- Matthew Stewart, resident of upscale Millburn, N.J.
Fireworks at L.A. board meeting over retention 
"Having a child repeat the same grade the same way doesn't produce stellar results," said board member Tamar Galatzan, who proposed the board action. "Making sure that students have learned the material when they move from grade to grade is something this district needs to do a better job of." -- L.A. Times

Friday, July 15, 2011

More on the sham that was SB7

No money in the state budget for mandated principal training

If you needed any more evidence to show why the anti-union, Illinois SB7, rammed through the legislature by corporate reformers and Mike Madigan, was a sham, look no farther than the budget. The Chicago News Cooperative reports that the state budget that Gov. Pat Quinn signed on June 30 is missing a key component sought by education advocates: money.
In the final days of the session, lawmakers stripped more than $500,000 from the proposed budget that was intended to help implement Senate Bill 7, a sweeping education overhaul that would streamline the process of firing poorly rated teachers. By eliminating the money at the end of May, lawmakers put a crimp in the bill they had approved overwhelmingly a few weeks earlier and which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had praised as a national model.Mr. Quinn included the money in his budget, but the House erased it and the Senate agreed. 

“It’s not that the House doesn’t care — they do care — but it was just a question of priorities and having to make cuts,” said Jessica Handy, spokeswoman for Stand for Children, an advocacy group that helped write the bill. 
And so, like most of the top-down corporate "reforms" being foisted on schools these day, ie. "merit pay," longer school day, test-based teacher evaluations, expanded charter schools, etc... the states will have to go begging to the power philanthropists in order to get them going. More power over policy by the corporate reformers, less in the way of public power and decision-making over our schools.

Incredible! Makes you wonder once again, how the unions could have ever bought into such a process, let alone tout it as a "model" for the rest of the country?

Check out brother Fred's response to a cowardly, sellout, union bureaucrat who attacked him on Daily Kos, using the name kissfan. Hmmm, wonder which part of SFC's ass she's been kissing?

Poverty's impact on Texas SAT/ACT college readiness

View graph here

ACT/SAT college readiness vs. poverty concentration, 2008 for all Texas high schools. Data taken from Texas Education Agency websites. H/t @ towittertoo who sent  this graph to  Duncan's ever resistant press secretary, Justin Hamilton, with tweet "Justin, dude, poverty matters."

Vander Ark dips toe into the charter waters

But after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Vander Ark walked away from the project, and the schools will not open as planned this fall, leaving others involved stunned and frustrated. -- NYT
Mr. Tillotson, the consultant, said: “It signals what’s wrong with the so-called charter school community. Somebody who doesn’t deserve a charter gets a charter. Somebody who doesn’t deserve a building gets a building. And then somebody who doesn’t care about the communities can turn their head and walk away.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Barack, the great triangulator

I think Obama may have just just sewn up the 2012 election. The big boys from Wall Street finally had enough political posturing and made it clear that they wouldn't tolerate a default by the U.S. on its debt. The GOP loonies have self-destructed over taxes. Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare may be safe for a while, even though Obama threw them onto the table, knowing that the T-Party crazies would not allow Boehner to cut a deal that included a tax increase for millionaires and billionaires. Hail  Barack, the great triangulator!

 Good analysis comes from Greg Hinz at Crain's. 
Trillions of dollars in cuts were on the table, many of them from Democratic sacred cows. Liberal Democratic congressmen were furious. Mr. Boehner wanted to say yes. Any flaws in the deal perhaps could have been fixed with a little more negotiation. Instead, the ultra-conservatives — the folks who suggest that an unprecedented federal debt default would be no big deal — said no. No taxes. Period. No matter what. In other words, despite all the blather the past year about burdening our grandkids, it's not the deficit that counts. It's taxes that count.
Thanks to Pelosi and those Dems who pushed back on Obama on SS, Medicare, and Medicaid as he gambled them on the Tea Party inspired collapse of the Republican Party. Thanks especially to the hundreds of thousands (probably including lots of T-baggers on Social Security), who signed petitions demanding that the prez keep his hands off those entitlements.

Now we have to do the same for public education -- another bargaining chip Obama seems to be offering as bait to the anti-taxers.  Not everyone thinks Obama has the election in the bag. Even though the NEA endorsed early without so much as a single demand in exchange, there is still lots of anger among the nation's 7 to 8 million rank-and-file teachers -- who usually vote.

Mark Naison has a good post on this at the History News Network, "Why President Obama Must Replace Arne Duncan If He Hopes to Win Re-Election."
Today, America’s teachers are so disillusioned with the Obama administration that their participation in the 2012 is a big question mark.  Most teachers I know may ultimately vote for Barack Obama, but they will do so only because they fear the Republican candidate will do more damage, not because they think the Obama administration’s policies are moving the nation in the right direction. 
Even more reason to organize for a strong showing in D.C. July 30th for the Save Our Schools March. Joy Resmovits has a post about the march today on Huffington.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who fed Rahm his longer-school-day talking points?

It was Jonah Edelman & Co.
 "The data shows that the longer you stay in the classroom learning, you'll learn more..." -- Rahm Emanuel
In my May 5th Huffington Post, "Rahm Still Believes in Texas 'Miracles,'" I ask who it was who fed the mayor his talking points about Houston's supposed longer school day. Rahm, as you may recall, was misleading some local students from Malcolm X College by claiming that kids in Houston end up with 3 more years of classroom seat time, by the time they graduate, than do Chicago kids.
"If you start in the Chicago Public School system in kindergarten," offered Rahm, "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."
 Now we know who the feeder was -- no other than the infamous and now self-discredited Jonah Edelman. In the video where he brags how he bamboozled union leaders into giving up many of their collective bargaining rights, he and his billionaire Stand For Children patron, Jim Crown, also take credit manipulating the mayor. Here's an excerpt from video, transcribed by Caroline Grannan [thank you Caroline] and posted at Parents Across America's website.
So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor … and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about the talking point that we made up and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids. That was another shoe that dropped, and it really put a lot of pressure on the unions, particularly on the Chicago Teachers Union because they didn’t support it.
 As I pointed out in my article, I'm not necessarily opposed to a longer school day (or year). It all depends on what happens during that extra time in or out of the classroom and how teachers and students are actually impacted. But it is interesting to see how the mayor's views on education (and he does rule the schools in Chicago) are shaped, not by empirical evidence, but by politically motivated talking points spoon fed him by the corporate reformers.

More EdelGate

Gov. Quinn signs the bill.
Huffington's Will Guzzardi summarizes the Edelman video [transcribed version is here] and subsequent apology. He recounts how corporate reformers, Stand For Children, led by Jonah Edelman, successfully played on the rift between Chicago political boss, Sen. Mike Madigan, and the unions over pensions, to pass SB7.

Edelman's talk, which he gave at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday, June 28, is a narrative of how Stand for Children systematically chose its political allies in the Illinois, invested over $600,000 in nine state legislative races, raised another $3 million, and exacted concession after concession from the state's teachers unions. At first, he explains, Stand saw an opportunity when the Illinois Federation of Teachers turned against all-powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan over Madigan's passage of pension reforms in 2010. The IFT had been a reliable supporter of the Speaker and many of his supporters in the legislature, but it withheld all its endorsements that year from those who had voted for the pension bill. Guessing presciently that Madigan and his House Democrats wouldn't be caught up in the national Republican wave of that year, Edelman decided to position Stand for Children on his side, hoping to curry favor post-election. 
More Guzzardi:
In response to the growing criticism of his talk, Edelman sent an apology to [Fred] Klonsky and other bloggers who posted the video. He chides himself for a tone he describes as "arrogant," and says that he portrayed the debate more as an "us-vs.-them" competition rather than the collaboration that he now insists it actually was. Meanwhile, some of the wronged parties from the video are saying their piece. In a post on Catalyst Chicago, an education blog, a CTU spokeswoman argues that the union will in fact be able to meet the 75 percent threshold required to strike. “We would not have agreed with this if we did not believe that we had a viable option in collective bargaining,” she said.
And in an email message reprinted on Klonsky's blog, incoming president of the Illinois Education Association Cinda Klickna said that "most" of the video "is an absolute lie."
Unions respond to Edelman

Here the IEA's response to the Edelman video:
Despite building the state’s largest political war chest and suggesting his organization had the power to “potentially jam this proposal down [the education unions’] throats,” SfC failed to get its bill passed. Instead, SfC was forced to collaborate with a coalition of education employee unions, lawmakers, school administrators and other education stakeholders who had been working together for years, on a comprehensive reform package that puts students first. -- Read the entire IEA statement here.
Union table at the negotiations.
The three teachers unions that took part in the negotiations with Edelman and the corporate reformers -- IFT, IEA and the CTU, issued a joint statement yesterday. I post it in full here, without comment (for now).

Statement from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and the Chicago Teachers Union, regarding the comments by Stand for Children's CEO, Jonah Edelman, recorded at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
For more information on this story, go to:

July 12, 2011 - We were disappointed to hear the views of Stand for Children's leader and his own assessment of his organization's involvement in Illinois politics. We heard a lot from Jonah Edelman about power in politics, power over unions and management power over teachers. Sadly, we didn't hear anything in that hour-long session about improving education. 

Frankly, Edelman was never actively engaged in that collaborative process. 

By falsely claiming to have manipulated people engaged in honest negotiations, Stand for Children's leader jeopardizes the ability of education stakeholders to work collaboratively in the future. That can make it harder to improve education quality for children. That's wrong. 

What's worse is that these false claims clearly show an organizational agenda that has nothing to do with helping kids learn. 

Jonah Edelman's mischaracterization of the SB7 negotiations will not change our commitment to do what is right for kids and to make sure the adults are treated fairly.

However, his openness about Stand for Children's tactics and agenda will make it very difficult for any education advocate or politician to interact with the organization in the future.
# # #

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Experts fly into town to make the necessary "tweaks"

"If it's something that's not working, then what are the tweaks that need to be made." -- Expert Jonathan Brice, heads the Office of Student Support and Safety in Baltimore City Public Schools
All the king's men...
Chicago's new schools chief, J.C. Brizard has assembled a team of "experts" from across the land to help him figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The fall in this case is 15 years of mayoral control under Daley and his "miracle" makers -- Vallas, Duncan, and Huberman.

As far as I can tell, Brizard's list of "experts" is devoid of any Chicago classroom teachers and is mainly limited to middle bureaucrats, academics, and management types from various districts.
"It's like a forensic audit of the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning," said Robert Peterkin, professor emeritus at Harvard Graduate School of Educationthe advisory team's chairman. 
Yes, forensic. That's the word I was looking for:
 (f-rnsk, -zk) -- Relating to the use of science or technology in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence in a court of law:
It's like on T.V. Examining the body, looking for clues to use in arguments over who committed the crime. It sure doesn't sound like Brizard is really interested in really transforming teaching and learning. No, of course not. He admits it's actually about imposing the Common Core Curriculum on the district by the required 2014 date. How do do it without any teacher input. Isn't that always the challenge?

Brizard's team, includes Brice; Jaime Aquino, a former bilingual teacher who worked in the New York City school system with Brizard then went to Denver and is now the deputy superintendent of instruction at Los Angeles Unified School District; Washington, D.C., lawyer Maree Sneed, whose firm advises school districts; and Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute,

Monday, July 11, 2011

At the AFT conference in D.C.

NYT reports: Amid one of the most contentious periods in recent memory for teachers’ unions, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, on Monday called for education reform that emanates from teachers and their communities, rather than from “those who blame teachers for everything.”
In an interview afterward, Weingarten condemned the Atlanta situation but pointed to the role of the local teachers’ unions in helping uncover it. The cheating itself, she said, was a byproduct of when “targets become more important than learning” and of a teaching climate that in many areas has become “intimidating, fearful and retaliatory.”

Weingarten was followed by economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman.  The reason why public sector workers earn more than the typical American, Krugman said, is because so many public sector workers are teachers, and teachers are more highly-educated than the average American. Even so, teachers continue to earn less than similarly-educated workers in the private sector.
"People want to run education like a business and you can't quite turn every classroom into a profit center. But you start looking to these measurable metrics and it doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way by and large very well in business. You look at the systems that do really well internationally, like the French system and the Finnish system...they repsect teachers, they pay a lot of attention to education, they provide healthy and nutitrious school lunches...They don't say we're going to have some scorecard that is entirely mechanical. More importantly, [standardized testing] is taking our eye off the ball, which is providing a good education." -- Dana Goldstein,  Ladywonk.


Mea Culpa
"I was wrong to state that the teachers’ unions “gave” on teacher effectiveness provisions when the reality is that, indeed, there were long, productive negotiations that led to a better outcome than would have occurred without them." -- Jonah Edelman on Fred Klonsky's blog 
L.A. teachers' careers ruined
"I have no doubt that we are being pre-judged and perceived as bad teachers for, after all, don't we come from a failed school?" -- Jordan High history teacher Aureliano Nava
Minnesota shuts down daycare
“It’s stressful. We have a close relationship with families, and it’s horrible to see what the families are going through. How long can they last?”  -- Gretchen Raymer, director of Creative Kids Academy.
No we can't? Or no we won't?
"Our failure to create jobs is a choice, not a necessity — a choice rationalized by an ever-shifting set of excuses."  -- Paul Krugman

School counselors fear they will bear burden of cuts and testing

In the fall, the anticipated consequences of a $4 billion reduction in state financing to school districts will begin to become apparent to Texas students and their parents: fewer teachers, bigger classes and sparse extracurricular programs.--Texas Tribune
Many counselors worry they will be given more duties on the testing side and that instead of advising students, their jobs will become “more clerical,” said Sylvia Lopez, the director of Dallas I.S.D.’s counseling services.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The failure of austerity disguised as "school reform"

The latest dismal job figures, in an indirect way, demonstrate the grand failure of the current so-called school reform which is based largely on austerity, rather than real, substantial school improvement. While there is continued job growth in the private sector, particularly in manufacturing, public sector jobs are disappearing by the hundreds of thousands.

While they didn't cause the crisis, President Obama and Ed Sec. Arne Duncan have joined hands with teacher bashing conservatives in trying to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and other public-service workers. They have managed to frame the debate as being between which teachers, older or younger, should be riffed first. Unfortunately, teacher union leaders have gone along with this narrative and have even, to some degree, accepted student test scores as the means to decide who goes first.

Obama helped set the tone when he lauded the  mass firings of teachers at Central Falls, H.S. in Rhode Island. Now 16 months later, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Women bear the brunt

Women are bearing the brunt of the austerity reform. According to Bloomberg Businessweek report: "With females in the majority at jobs such as teaching and health care, cutbacks and limits on collective bargaining will fall disproportionately on them." 
Some of the biggest hits are in public education. Women made up about 76 percent of teachers in the 2007-08 school year, the latest available figures from the Education Dept. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has cut school aid by $1.3 billion since taking office in January 2010. Eighty percent of the state's districts reported teacher reductions this school year, says Frank Belluscio, a spokesman at the New Jersey School Boards Assn. Ohio Governor John Kasich's spending plan would cut 7,000 teachers over two years, says Innovation Ohio, which lobbies for the poor and middle class. Government is "taking a wrecking ball to what have traditionally been female-dominated professions," says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Duncan says he's "stunned" by Atlanta cheating scandal

Arne Duncan's last shred of credibility seems to have vanished after he announced to the press that he was "stunned" by the scope of the Atlanta cheating scandal. As one Tweeter put it, "Stunned Arne? Why? You (and NCLB) caused it "

Duncan seems completely bewildered by the cheating pandemic breaking out most recently in D.C. (Rhee's Erasuregate) Baltimore, and now in Atlanta.  At first, he minimizes the problem:
"I think this is very isolated. In Baltimore, there's two schools and they dealt with it. This (Atlanta) is an easy one to fix, with better test security."
Then, when pushed, he reverses course:
"When you hear about cheating in basically 80 percent of schools, you have a cultural problem."
A cultural problem? Hmmm, I wonder whose culture the secretary is referring to?

Can there be any doubt left at the White House that a serious change in direction is needed, away from the disastrous testing-madness policies emanating from the D.O.E.? And that the change must start at the very top? Get rid of this guy, Mr. President!

Unprecedented testing madness

"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." -- President Obama
It's been denounced by educators far and wide. Education research has approached a consensus on its negative effects, especially on poor kids and children of color. President Obama has repeatedly criticized it.  The world's highest performing school systems discard it.

In February 2009, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was named 2009 Superintendent of the Year in San Francisco. Ms. Hall stepped down from her post on June 30, days before the release of a report that documented widespread cheating by teachers and administrators in the 55,000-student Atlanta Public School District.
Paul Sakuma / AP / File
Yet the nation's standardized testing madness, sanctioned under No Child Left Behind law, continues to expand at an unprecedented pace, leaving in its wake a badly weakened American public school system rocked by cheating scandals, most recently in D.C., Baltimore and Atlanta, and marked by school "failure" and what amounts to virtual widespread child abuse as it spreads down to younger and younger children.

This and the previous administration's testing policies which increasingly tie student test scores to rewards and punishments, to school closings, teacher firings and so-called "merit pay," have actually served to incentivize cheating and de-professionalize teaching.

Now comes word that the next round of Race To The Top, Arne Duncan's version of NCLB, will mandate state grant winners to expand standardized testing down to Pre-K, to "develop and administer kindergarten-readiness tests, and develop rating systems for early-education programs."

What's next? Testing 'em in the womb to see if they are life-ready?


While lining the pockets of scandal-ridden testing companies like Kaplan, the current testing madness is a budget buster for local school districts, diverting hundreds of million of  badly-needed dollars away from classroom teaching. Something's got to give and here in Chicago, where the tests increasingly drive curriculum --  it's writing.

Yes, the writing exam part of the Illinois test has now been eliminated in order to save the near-bankrupt state about $2.4 million. The savings come in, because the writing test actually requires humans (as opposed to Scantron machines) to spend time reading and evaluating student writing samples.

While there may be nothing more insipid that standardizing student writing, educators fear that the dropping of writing from the state test will lead to a devaluing of the teaching of writing as part of the curriculum.
"Good teachers, good schools, good principals don't need a test," said Barbara Kato, director of the Chicago Area Writing Project. "But the problem is, without the test, the focus on writing as a whole ends up taking a back seat." -- Tribune

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brother Fred sums it all up

As for the Obama vote. Many activists I spoke with were dismayed. The 72% of the delegates that voted support are well short of the 80% that Obama received in 2008. But it is too many. The difference is that in 2008, the vote of support was given with optimism and enthusiasm. Today’s vote was given with noses held. I’m not proud of the vote. But it is what it is. As always, it shows we have work to do. -- "Holding your nose and closing your eyes"
Also, be sure and read Carol Corbett Burris' great Open Letter to Ed Secretary Arne Duncan in Valerie Strauss' column in today's Washington Post. Burris is the principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.
This is the legacy of the policies that were rushed into place by states to get the federal Race to the Top money. We now have testing systems based on the mistrust of schools and the professionals who work in them. It will severely damage the relationship between students and teachers even as it is destroying the relationship between the state Education Department and educators across New York state.

DC Voices of Concern


Joe Biden at the NEA RA
"There is an organized effort to place blame for budget shortfalls on educators and other public workers. It is one of the biggest scams in modern American history." -- Education votes
Teacher Ken
“Teachers are being targeted,” said Ken Bernstein, a Prince George’s County teacher who is helping to coordinate the march. “And they are finally coming out of their classrooms and getting interested” in organizing a political response.  -- Washington Post
Brother Fred
Fred Klonsky, a Chicago-area teacher and delegate to the convention, said the Obama administration should take note of the 72% vote. “For an incumbent Democratic president to receive less than 75% of the delegate vote at an NEA convention ought to cause some concern for the administration,” he said. -- WSJ
Joanne Barkan
"With the zealots’ mix of certainty and fervor, ed reformers have made this a wretched time to be a public school teacher." -- "The Grand Coalition Against Teachers"
 More seat time?
"Just extending a school day doesn’t mean, by itself, that you’re going to have high-performing schools. It’s not going to be simple.”  -- Noemi Donoso, new CPS chief education officer