Monday, October 31, 2011


John Adams' 276th birthday
“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” -- The New Civil Rights Movement
Anthony Cody
"Bill Gates can produce the most elaborate teacher evaluation system in the world, but any system built upon the two dimensional data provided by test scores will be trumped by the smell and taste of poverty in our classrooms, and the cold hard data that shows we are failing to provide the most basic level of support for our children to live healthy lives and learn well in school." -- Washington Post
Charles Blow
"We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt — a pipe dream that exploded like a pipe bomb when the already-rich grabbed for all the gold; when they used their fortunes to influence government and gain favors and protection; when everyone else was left to scrounge around their ankles in hopes that a few coins would fall." -- New York Times
Daley vs. Rahm
I’m not reflecting on Rahm, but I’m not angling for something else, you know? Rahm is a lot younger [only 51 years old], and he knew he was going to be doing something else in two years or four years or eight years, and I’m in a different stage. I'm not going to become the leaker in chief. -- Bill Daley
Vets join OWS
 "He joined the military to fight for people's rights, and that's not what he found himself doing in Iraq. And so he came home and started fighting for people's rights here and for his brothers and sisters who were still deployed," said Iraq veteran Aaron Hughes, the central and team leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War. -- ABC News

Friday, October 28, 2011

Embedded Jonathan Alter equates unions with T-Party

After reading Jonathan Alter's latest diatribe against teacher unions ("Tea Party and Teachers Union Make Strange Brew"), I can only wonder who at Duncan's D.O.E. is feeding Alter his lines. Writing for Bloomberg News, Alter somehow equates the NEA's opposition to NCLB test-and-punish accountability standards with the T-Party's defense of states rights and its call to do away with the Dept. of Education. Of course, neither position is held by the NEA. Alter writes:
Talk about bizarre bedfellows. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, and the Tea Party are both arguing against federal accountability standards in education.
Alter then goes on to praise Duncan's anti-union pal, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who he claims, "understood the importance of accountability when he was secretary of education 20 years ago." Ironically, it's Alexander who has been the most critical of the D.O.E.'s centralized authority under Duncan. He claims that the latest version of NCLB's rewrite gives "too much authority" to the federal government, and would “transform the U.S. secretary of education into chairman of a national school board.”

Not wanting to upset Duncan's apple cart, Alter makes no mention of Alexander's own T-Party rhetoric.

You might recall that it was educational know-nothing Alter who responded to a critical  NYT editorial by leading a charge against administration critic Diane Ravitch, in which he parroted all of the talking points assembled in the D.O.E.'s communications department.

The question remains -- is Jonathan Alter Arne Duncan's Armstrong Williams?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Longer school day or smaller class size?

Research you can use 
"Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced a preference for expanding school days and years to increase instructional time over reducing class sizes." -- Edweek
Why do Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and corporate school reformers all favor longer school days and school year while opposing smaller class size initiatives? The answer is simple. The longer school day and year require fewer teachers, with each teacher teaching  more kids in larger classes at no extra cost. This is the business model of school reform. Yes, it's cheaper in the short run.  It is also a "reform" that is meant to override collective bargaining agreements.

However, there is no evidence that more instructional time alone, especially in larger classes, has any positive effect on measurable learning outcomes or on closing the so-called "achievement gap." In fact, many studies show a drop-off in student engagement that accompanies longer instructional time and that the addition of instructional time alone is insufficient to maximize learning outcomes (See: "Time and learning in the special education classroom." by Libby Goodman). There's plenty of other research showing little benefit expected from a further increase in the amount of math and reading instruction offered per day. For example: The merits of a longer school day, Charles R. Link, James G. Mulligan and Theory and practice of early reading, Lauren B. Resnick, Phyllis A. Weaver.

Ironically, some of the best research summaries on the benefits of smaller class size can be found right on the D.O.E.'s own website.  Other resources include:

I heart New York

Oakland fallout

Call for a general strike

Give lots of credit to Oakland protesters for having the courage and discipline to regroup  peacefully last night in the amphitheater in front of City Hall. Thankfully they haven't let the outrageous assault by Mayor Quan's cops terrorize them or divert them from their mission. It would be too easy to make police brutality THE issue now. Instead the 99ers spent several hours planning for a meeting today to discuss the mechanics for a general strike next week.

The Oakland Tribune reports:

After Tuesday night's violence, hundreds of Oakland residents appeared to have come out to help transform Occupy Oakland from a relatively disorganized, loose-knit movement to a broad-based community drive to implement a general strike. What the protesters are hoping for is the support of unions, teachers, students and workers to shut down the city next Wednesday.
"I think the police brutality drew a lot of people out of the hills and into the streets," said Josh Chavanne, 29, a freelance Web designer from Oakland. "There is nothing like a little inhumanity to turn on people's humanity."
Who's advising Quan?

I can't help wondering who advised Mayor Quan -- "I've got it. Let's attack protest with rubber bullets, gas, and flash grenades. That'll work." -- Quan who is now facing a growing recall movement, denies she was in on the planning for, what Morning Joe's Mike Barnicle called, "a police riot." It turns out that Tuesday morning, while plans were being made for the attack on the protests, Quan was actually at the White House on "city business."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vet survived Iraq. Now critically wounded, shot in the face by Oakland cops in assault on protest.

After vet was wounded, others came to his aid. A cop then tosses flash grenade at them.

Targeting mayoral control of the schools

Photo: Anna Philips
Brother Fred reports from OWS that mayoral control of the schools has become a prime target of the protests. Although I don't think I'll ever be at ease with that human microphone thing (reminds me too much of the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian), it does sound like a great way to get your point across in one of  Chancellor Wolcott's carefully controlled policy panel meetings.

There's a pretty good debate about standardized testing going on at National Journal online. The main protagonists are FairTest's Monty Neill and former Bush adviser and die-hard NCLB defender (he may be the only one left) Sandy Kress. On today's Bridging Differences blog post  "End it, don't mend it", Diane Ravitch warns that, "Instead of ditching this disastrous law, senators are trying to apply patches."

School's CEO J.C. Brizard calls Chicago's widening racial achievement gap "unacceptable." Good! But then he offers up the 90-minute longer school day as the solution. Not so good.
NYT reports that the top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades.  
The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Noguera: School reform is community reform

BBA's project in Newark

In the new issue of Kappan, Pedro Noguera describes the theory and practice behind a Broader, Bolder Approach (BBA) initiative in Newark which links community-based reform with the anti-poverty struggle. BBA has been working in seven schools in Newark's Central Ward (six kindergarten through 8th-grade schools and one large comprehensive high school).

According to Noguera, they have introduced school-based interventions in response to the issues and challenges presented in this high-poverty area. Through these interventions, social services, and a concerted effort to increase civic engagement, BBA is working to ensure that environmental hardships related to poverty don't undermine efforts to transform schools. With funding from the Ford, Victoria, and Prudential foundations, the BBA effort commenced two years before the $100-million donation from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg came to Newark.

BBA's approach has critics and opponents, writes Noguera including an unusual combination of prominent public figures like former chancellor of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, former House Republican leader Newt Gingrich, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. They argue in support of the principles of NCLB, such as standards-based reform and accountability through high-stakes testing. The also  charge that shift the focus of school reform toward reducing poverty or improving the health and welfare of children is using poverty as "an excuse."  Despite its critics, writes Noguera, the BBA strategy is moving forward and gaining momentum as an array of stakeholders across the country agree to support it.
While expecting a single school to counter the effects of poverty on its own is unrealistic, a small but growing number of American schools are finding ways to reduce some of the effects. Mitigation is not the same as solving a problem, but it’s nonetheless an important strategy for schools to employ.
Read Noguera's entire Kappan article here:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dems living abroad in France get it right

I wonder why the Democrats, living abroad in France, seem to have it much more together than the ones in the White House, Congress and the DOE? Here's the education platform they want the Democratic Party to adopt:

Proposed by Chair Democrats Abroad France, Constance Borde assisted by the Democrats Abroad France Education Policy Group Chair: Dr. Leslie J. Limage
 (Originally submitted to DA Resolutions Committee on September 14, 2011, Approved for transmission to the DA Platform Committee by the DCPA on October 17, 2011, Washington, D.C.)
WHEREAS education is a human right and public responsibility to provide all children and young people with the opportunity to realize their full potential (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26).
WHEREAS ongoing policies inherited from the previous U.S. Administration and carried forward by current leadership are undermining the quality of education as well as our longstanding commitment to equal opportunity, the alleviation of poverty, civil rights and respect for linguistic, social and cultural diversity in a misplaced reliance on business practices and privatization of public education.
WHEREAS what we need to improve education is a strong, highly respected education profession; a rich curriculum in the arts and sciences, available in every school for every child; assessments that gauge what students know and can do, and a government that is prepared to change the economic and social conditions that interfere with children’s readiness to learn.
WHEREAS we cannot improve education by quick fixes, by handing over our public schools to entrepreneurs, by driving out experienced professionals replacing them with enthusiastic amateurs, or by closing them and firing teachers and entire staff. No country in the world follows such strategies.
WHEREAS disadvantage in our country is exacerbated by unsafe and crumbling schools. Over the past three years, investments in school improvements have benefited the wealthier districts disproportionately. The President’s new job’s creation legislation announced in his September 9, 2011 speech to Congress on an “American Jobs Act” is intended to remedy this situation and we need to ensure that it does in fact do so.
BE IT RESOLVED that Democrats Abroad adopt the following education policy foundations for our platform in 2012 many of which already figured in our 2008 Platform and that these principles figure in our 2012 Party Platform:
The Purpose of education: is to enable all children and young people to reach their full potential as individuals and become socially responsible citizens of our country and the world.
Equality of opportunity and non-discrimination are the foundations of our democratic society and must be reflected in all aspects of educational governance, management, finance, school facilities, teaching and support professions.
Formative Evaluation and Assessment should encourage learning. The evaluation of students should be diagnostic. The results of student evaluation should not be used to evaluate teachers and schools as institutions. The evaluation of schools should celebrate the strengths of community ownership of and improvement by school communities.
The teaching and school leadership professions. Teachers and their organizations should be viewed by governments as equal partners, independent but committed to the common endeavor of achieving successful education systems. School leadership, governance and management also require professional knowledge and the specificity of public service and education. Outsourcing any aspect of educational leadership de-professionalizes key foundations of our education systems and decision-making based on knowledge, experience, trust and democratic principles. Education professionals’ collective bargaining rights acquired over many years should be respected rather than threatened.
Educational facilities: quality, safe and environmentally friendly schools. Public schools are an important element of our nation’s infrastructure. Repairing strengthening, upgrading and constructing schools are essential. A nationwide effort needs to be initiated to anticipate and improve the adaptability of the nations’  existing and yet to be built school infrastructure, including regular rehabilitation and upgrades.
Promoting Equality through Inclusive Education. It is the responsibility of public authorities to ensure that all citizens have access to high quality education services appropriate to their needs. All barriers to education must be removed in order to make school accessible for all persons. Any school receiving public funding should not be permitted to select its students based on their likelihood of meeting testing standards, much less because of race, ethnic origin, sex, or religion.
Early Childhood Care and Education: Free, High Quality Public Preschool Programs
Early childhood care and education is intended to meet the needs of the whole child. The Federal government should provide assistance to states for the creation of free, universal, voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. They should encourage linkage of universal preschool with the resources, infrastructure and talent of the public school system. The Federal government should also ensure that states require the licensing and certification of all preschool instructors.
Primary and Secondary Education. Quality primary and secondary education are the basis on which all further learning takes place and young adults are equipped with the critical thinking skills and knowledge to make further educational and professional choice throughout their lives. These levels of education are public responsibility. The Federal government’s first responsibility is to set the bar higher than it has ever been in terms of equality of access and service, rather than lowering it to enable “market” forces to play.
Higher Education: Access, Academic Freedom and Quality. Action must be taken to improve equal access to all forms of tertiary education and reduce the cost of higher education. A key characteristic of successful individuals and societies is the quality of higher education. It is not a matter of “competition” worldwide or for scarce “jobs” within our country. It is an absolutely necessary building block for realizing human potential and constructing democratic, open and globally responsible world citizens.
Protection of education as a public good in a period of economic austerity. All concerned citizens should work to re-take and then re-build quality public education. The trends towards privatization and outsourcing of our children’s future are undermining democratic institutions at home and internationally. We need informed citizenry to begin to re-establish democratic values and institutions that respect them.
Thank to Diane Ravitch for forwarding this. 


Duncan's biggest fan
“I’m a fan,” said Margaret Spellings, Duncan’s immediate predecessor, who was education secretary during President George W. Bush’s second term and an architect of Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind policy. “He’s a good man who I think is doing the best job he can.” -- Politico
Petrilli agrees
He has “used his power responsibly for the most part,” said Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a former Bush-era Education Department official. “The priorities he’s been pushing on are the right ones.” -- Politico
Ravitch not so much
“If you like federal control of education, he’s your man.” -- Diane Ravitch

Gates knows best
"It may surprise you—it was certainly surprising to us—but the field of education doesn't know very much at all about effective teaching." -- Bill & Melinda Gates

Measurement and its discontents
One way is to ask ourselves what is missing from our measurements. Are the tests administered by schools making students smarter and more educated, or just making us think we know how to evaluate education?  -- Robert Crease, New York Times

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rahm declares war on the unions

Move over Gov. Walker, Chris Christie and Rick Perry. A new king of the union busters has emerged in Chicago, of all places. He's a big-city mayor, not a T-Party governor and his plan starts with tax breaks for the corporations and big tax increases on the poor followed up by a legal rip-off of public employee pensions. His only barrier is the unions and Mayor Rahm has already declared war on them, starting with the teachers union.

But even autocrats run into resistance once in a while (Isn't that so, Bloomberg, Duncan, Mubarak?) and Rahm ran into some yesterday when the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board ruled that his arbitrary longer-school-day scheme being imposed on resistant schools violated teachers collective bargaining rights. The Board ruling pushes the state attorney general’s office to seek an injunction against Rahm's assault on teachers who were being made to work longer hours for what amounts to less than minimum wage. The ruling puts a temporary hold on Rahm's waiver strategy of bribing individual schools and teachers to break ranks with their unions. The strategy was already a failed proposition as only 13 schools out of some 470 voted in favor of the contract waiver.

In another disgusting display of journalistic toadyism,  two Sun-Times editorials exhort politicians to go after the pension funds as a way to pay for corporate tax breaks ( "To fix state pension mess, cut benefits for employees") and to attack the transit workers union ("For sake of riders, CTA must take on unions").
It’s time for Illinois to get a grip on its monstrous pension problem. And the only viable solution requires public workers and the state to swallow bitter pills: reduced pensions for current employees and mandatory payments by the state to cover the roughly $85 bil­lion it owes for pension benefits already promised.

This solution, in concept, has been pushed for years by the Civic Committee, a Chicago business group, and was embraced by House Minority Leader Tom Cross and House Speaker Michael Madigan in legislation introduced last spring. It could come up in the veto session that begins next week. 
 Yes, there's no doubt that the mayor has pulled out all stops and mobilized all his troops in his war on the city's workers. Occupy Chicago!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicago math and science scores worst ever

Duncan rode the myth of the Chicago "miracle" all the way to D.C.
It's been 16 years since Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of Chicago's school system, bringing with him a school-reform agenda focused on school closings, mass teacher firings, privately-run charter schools, and increased reliance on standardized test scores as the main means of judging  schools and teachers. Now Mayor Emanuel has taken the reins with his own brand of corporate-style reform.

Each campaign, from Renaissance 2010, to Turnaround Schools, was supposed to produce big gains in measurable "student achievement."  The mayor's hand-picked, politically faithful school CEOs, from Paul Vallas, to Arne Duncan, to Ron Huberman, were all quick to make claims of miracle "turnarounds." Duncan even rode the myth of Chicago "miracle" all the way to Washington.

But facts are stubborn fellows, as they say, and now comes news that nearly half of all Illinois public school students failed the annual 11th grade Prairie State Achievement Exam, the worst statewide performance recorded in the test's history. This news comes on the heels of a report from the Consortium on Chicago Schools Research, showing, "No real progress in CPS grade school reading in 20 years."

The latest results not only show the bankruptcy of corporate-style school reform in Chicago, but the failure of No Child Left Behind as well. Chicago's  failure to meet NCLB standards makes the district part of the 80 percent nationwide who are anticipated to be left behind.

I can already predict the mayor's response. Instead of calling for an end to the testing madness, Rahm will likely claim that the dismal scores are the result of schools not implementing HIS longer-school-day reform. Maybe he can name it, Renaissance 90 Minutes.

Isn't it time to rethink the whole notion of mayoral control of the schools?

Rahm's model district is in shambles

Mayor Emanuel and schools chief Brizard have been touting Houston, Texas as the model for their longer school day campaign. 
"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."
Remember, it was Jonah Edelman and Stand For Children who fed Emanuel that nonsense. Well, it turns out that they couldn't have picked a worse model. The Texas "miracle" is a mess and Houston's schools and school children are once again in a state of crisis.

For one thing, the heavily black and Hispanic district is broke. Teachers are being laid off and class sizes are swelling

According to the Chronicle:  Houston ISD, the largest district in the state, typically has the most contract waivers to increase class size above the legal limit, and the number jumped to 1,048 classrooms exceeding the cap this fall - up from 693 last year. Roughly a quarter of the district's elementary classes top the limit this year. Texas, like most states, does not cap the size of middle and high school classes, and elementary classes that get waivers have no limits.

Now you know where Emanuel is heading with this stuff. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beating the bushes for a speaker in Denver

Look who they've dredged up in Denver to speak on school reform. This even though Jr. had backed out of his previous commitment. His handlers wouldn't let him get within 10 miles of WikiLeaks' founder Assange.

Even though the president's jobs bill was DOA, Dems are pushing ahead with it piece-by-piece in order to force the hand of Limbaugh Party opposition-ists. Not a bad campaign strategy. First up is $35 billion for state and local governments to rehire teachers, police and firefighters paid for by a tax increase for millionaires and ending subsidies for the oil and gas industry. "Our expectation [is] that the first measure will be teachers," says White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
I'm looking forward to hearing  John Carlos speak tonight with my favorite sports writer, Dave Zirin up at Northwestern.  For those too young or mis-educated to know, Carlos was the great Olympic sprinter who in 1968,  along with Tommie Smith, raised his fist in the black power salute, in open defiance, when he got to the medals podium. He's been an outspoken human rights advocate ever since. Zirin is co-author, along with Carlos, of The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World. Cornell West wrote the foreword.

In this morning's L.A. Times:
About 200 protesters gathered near downtown Tuesday to link the nationwide Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests to budgets cuts and layoffs in the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Occupy LAUSD” participants took on the district, education philanthropists and charter schools as well as giving voice to familiar themes such as opposing corporate greed and inequality. Many of the demonstrators had marched from the main Occupy L.A. campsite around City Hall, more than a mile away. English teacher Greta Enszer spoke at the school board meeting going on inside district headquarters and then addressed the crowd outside in similar terms.  
“This is not OK to lay off permanent teachers,” she told the school board. “This [job] is not a stepping stone to me. This is my profession. My students are very important to me.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Times slings the manure on New Orleans charters

Echoing Duncan's comments on Katrina

Not since Arne Duncan claimed that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans" have I heard more b.s. about charter schools in the Big Easy. The latest to sling the manure is the N.Y. Times editorial board.

An October 15th editorial, Lessons From New Orleans, takes Duncan's crude comment and runs with it, hailing, "the structural changes [that] occurred because the hurricane essentially destroyed the old system, allowing the city to begin fresh."

"Fresh" meaning the firing of every teacher in the city, the driving out from the city's schools more than 100,000 mostly African-American children, the busting of the teachers union, and the creation of a new two-tiered school system around a core of privately-managed charters.

There is no evidence offered by the Times showing that these charters are any better. The Times board even hedges its bets on charters:
Charters around the country are often no better than traditional schools, and are frequently worse. In New Orleans, they appear to be better on average than charters elsewhere. They generally have a longer school day and a longer school year than most schools. They spend a great deal of time teaching study and time management skills, and plan each student’s development. None of these attributes are particular to charters, but they have helped turn the schools around.
So this is what reform is, according to the education experts at the Times. Create a system of schools that are "frequently worse" than traditional schools. Have kids stay in these schools longer and have mostly inexperienced and unqualified TFA teachers teaching poor kids "study and time management skills." I can only imagine what would happen if this recipe was foisted upon white, middle-class parents. But don't worry. It never will be.

Behind this new wave of charter school myth making is a well-orchestrated and well-financed political campaign supported with millions in PAC money coming from the state's most conservative, anti-union and anti-public-school forces. Chief among them is Lane Grigsby, a right-wing Baton Rouge businessman who is committed to taking the public out of public education.

See my post about Grigsby on my Schooling in the Ownership Society blog.

Also see Diane Ravitch's excellent piece: What I learned in New Orleans.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Dr. Cornell West
"If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, he would be on Freedom Plaza."--Upon his arrest in D.C. protest
Sen. Bernie Sanders
"Now that Occupy Wall Street is shining a spotlight on Wall Street greed and the enormous inequalities that exist in America, the question then becomes, how do we change the political, economic and financial system to work for all Americans, not just the top 1 percent?" -- Huffington
KIPP gets an "F"
"I still find it very difficult to vote for two more schools when their first school, which got all these praises, is an F," -- Jacksonville school board member, Tommy Hazouri
Taxing the rich?
“I suggested 80 percent. A tremendous number of wealthy people haven’t given much of anything.” -- Billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hip-Hop High

Sam Seidel
There are lots of kids who can't or won't connect with the traditional high school setting. Many brilliant and talented among them drop out and wind up on the street. That's one of the reasons why we created the Small Schools Workshop 20 years ago, to help educators develop small, public, personalized, alternative models focused on areas of student interests, talents and passions. While many of the ideas of the early small schools movement were captured and distorted by the regressive currents of privately-managed charter schools, there are still lots of good small, alternative schools fighting to survive and flourish.

One of them is the High School of Recording Arts in St. Paul (MN), also known as Hip-Hop High. In the preface to Sam Seidel's new book, Hip-Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education, veteran alternative schools educator Herb Kohl writes:
The High School of Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul is a bold and exciting attempt to build a high school rooted in this culture and based on performance, music and video production, community-based learning, the study of urban African-American youth culture, and the development of performer and community-controlled businesses. It also attempts to integrate more traditional academic knowledge into its hip-hop focus. 

Last night I went over to the Elastic Arts Foundation in Chicago to hear Seidel read from Hip-Hop Genius . He brought with him school director Tony Simmons and  a couple of HSRA students, Lil C and Federal, who performed some of their own high-energy poetry. Joining them on stage were a couple of local young poets from Kuumba Lynx and Young Chicago Authors.

Seidel's book is the culmination of several years of active documentation and engagement with Hip-Hop High, its students and teachers.  It's a fascinating account of the creation of a learning community tailored to the needs and interests of students and filled with caring teachers and a professional quality recording studio equipped with the latest in digital technology.

Here is just one more example of the power of the arts and other extracurriculars in teaching and learning. Hip-Hop High is trying and seems to have managed to make the extracurricular curricular.

Lots of lessons and questions embedded here for alternative and traditional educators alike, including how this unusual high school wrestles with such issues as testing, standards, and discipline.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"What do these protesters want, anyway?"


Fordham's "High Flyer" report gets low marks

"The report’s flawed analysis and interpretation leads to biased results and to an unsupported conclusion that many high-performing students do not maintain their academic edge while more low-performing students catch up." -- NEPC review of High Flyer
These days, it's getting tougher for right-wing think tanks to pass off their school reform propaganda as legitimate research. The reason? There's a group of skilled academics over at NEPC, armed with the necessary research skills, who are able to take on and debunk their politically-aimed studies.

Case in point -- A recent report put out by the conservative Fordham Institute and Northwest Evaluation Association, Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude?, claims that the academic performance of high-achieving students is being undermined by a policy focus on lower-achieving students.

The problem is, their claim isn't supported by solid evidence. University at Buffalo, SUNY, professor Jaekyung Lee, a nationally known expert on accountability and equity issues in education, finds that Fordham's conclusions rest on biased methodology and misleading arguments.

Lee concludes:
"So the good news or bad news, depending on one’s predilection, is that everybody improves to more or less the same extent over time, implying equal benefits of schooling. However, if we are concerned about the issue of equity, the picture looks gloomy. The clear bad news is that the achievement gap between high and low achievers is large and does not narrow over time in general. And more specifically, racial and poverty gaps also do not narrow (and sometimes widen) over time."
Find Jaekyung Lee’s review on the NEPC website at:

In fairness, Fordham's Mike Petrilli went on the Jim Bohannon Show and got Jimbo to say that he found the study to be "very important."

Monday, October 10, 2011

We occupied the hell out of Chicago

Thousands marched a rallied in Chicago, Monday. A mortgage bankers 
convention meeting downtown had to end their meeting early before thousands of protesters arrived and make a run for it.

Morgan Park H.S. Marching Band

Turning around the 'turn-arounds'

L.A.'s Promise turns out to be a big lie

Out in L.A., they're "turning-around" Manual Arts High School again. School district officials announced that they will retake control over Manual from L.A.'s Promise, a corporate-style reform group they had appointed to turn the school around. The huge campus (3,500 Latino and African-American students) has been beset by overcrowding and endured a disorderly start to the school year that saw initial shortages of desks and textbooks and left some students without class schedules. In March, hundreds of Manual students walked-out to protest teacher lay-offs and transfers forced by the management group.

Ten teachers have no classrooms of their own; instead they share rooms and switch locations from period to period. A new school is expected to open nearby next year to relieve overcrowding. "The primary problem is that the classes have ballooned," said history and government teacher Daniel Beebe, one of the instructors without a classroom.

Writes Howard Blume in L.A. Times:
Top district officials faced a dilemma in dealing with L.A.'s Promise. They wanted to address the situation at Manual Arts without alienating the backers of the nonprofit group. Officials did not want to derail a recently launched, major fundraising initiative led jointly by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and education philanthropist Megan Chernin, longtime head of the L.A.'s Promise Board of Directors.
L.A.'s Promise Doard of Directors also includes former Gates' education chief Tom VanderArk whose recent attempt at starting a chain of N.Y. charter schools ended in disaster.  It's advisory board includes:
Peter Chernin, The Chernin Group; Ivelisse Estrada, Univison; Robert Iger, Walt Disney Company; Kevin Sharer, Amgen; and Ron Sugar, Northrop Grumman.


Fred Shuttlesworth
"He marched into the jaws of death every day in Birmingham before we got there." -- Andrew Young
The Mayor of Wall Street
"What they're trying to do is take the jobs away from people working in this city," the mayor declared in his harshest criticism of the three-week-old protest that has caught the attention of the nation. "They're trying to take away the tax base we have because none of this is good for tourism." -- N.Y. Post
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten
"They are basically sending us a message that says, 'Don't create a society where one percent basically has all the wealth.'" -- CBS News
The GOP and the DOE
“You can imagine the Republican candidate is saying, ‘Not only do I want to end the Education Department as a bureaucratic monster, but I want to defund programs for needy kids or special-needs kids,’ or ‘I want to let states spend those dollars on other kids.’ That’s a very difficult debate for the Republican candidate.” -- Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let's Occupy Chicago Monday

Meet at the Board of Trade (LaSalle and Jackson) at 4 P.M.

The Occupy Wall Street protests are coming full-blast to Chicago where Mayor Emanuel and the Civic Committee continue where Mayor Daley left off,  with the city as their personal cash cow.  On Monday the teachers union and education activists will play a key role in the flowering Occupy Chicago Movement. The CTU is mobilizing teachers, who have a day off Monday for Columbus Day, to meet  at the Board of Trade (LaSalle and Jackson) and march to CPS headquarters, to City Hall and the Art Institute to demand and end to the privatization of our schools and asking that the state and and wealthy investors gathering at the Art Institute pay their fair share and adequately fund our schools. Four other marches are also expected to meet up at the Institute.

Greg Hinz at Crain's reports:
The union says about 10,000 teachers, jobless veterans, students and others will join in objecting to "corporate bailouts, tax breaks for the rich and the way neighborhood schools are cheated out of more than $250 million a year." The latter refers to tax-increment financing funds, which the city uses for development projects and which the union asserts can be switched to other needs.
The union said in a press release that demonstrators will also rally for "a better school day" as a counter to the mayor's own 90 minutes of more seat time campaign.

Other marches will begin at: 
  • Daley Plaza (Washington & Dearborn) where SEIU members are coming together to demand meaningful job creation.
  • Federal Plaza (Adams & Dearborn) An alliance of labor unions and immigrant groups are rallying to demand real solutions to the unemployment crisis. 
  • Hyatt Regency (Wacker & Stetson) National Peoples Action—Pay Us Back-Outside of the Mortgage Banker’s Association 98th Annual Convention and Expo. Congresswoman Jan Schakowskywill be speaking to the group about the foreclosure crisis in Chicago. 
  • Hilton Chicago (Balbo & Michigan) College students and MoveOn activists are converging outside the Futures & Options expo to demand that corporate welfare be reinvested in our schools and communities.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

News from the battle front

Unions join the protest

Crain's New York Business, New York Magazine, and The Village Voice are reporting that "a loose coalition of labor and community groups" have pledged solidarity with the protests at Zuccotti Park in New York's financial district and are organizing a march for next Wednesday, Oct. 5. -- Slate

Who are the 99 percent?
College debt shows up a lot in these stories, actually. It’s more insistently present than housing debt, or even unemployment. That might speak to the fact that the protests tilt towards the young. But it also speaks, I think, to the fact that college debt represents a special sort of betrayal. We told you that the way to get ahead in America was to get educated. You did it. And now you find yourself in the same place, but buried under debt. You were lied to. -- Ezra Klein, WaPo
UFT will show support for Wall St. protests today
At 4:30 p.m., members will gather near the UFT banner in Foley Square. Marchers will step off at 5 p.m. from Foley Square and head to Zuccotti Park, where they will be welcomed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have created an encampment to denounce corporate greed and the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country. Their rallying cry: “We are the 99 percent.” -- Edwize
Other unions that will be joining the protest today

  • United NY
  • TWU Local 100
  • SEIU 1199
  • CWA 1109
  • Communications Workers of America
  • CWA Local 1180
  • United Auto Workers
  • United Federation of Teachers
  • Professional Staff Congress - CUNY
  • National Nurses United
  • Writers Guild East
Who won't be there today

I'm pretty sure you won't find corporate reformers like DFER at today's protest. The reason? Their patrons, like hedge-funders Whitney Tilson, Charles Ledley, John Petry, David Einhorn, Joel Greenblatt, Vincent Mai, Michael Novagratz, and Boykin Curry already occupy Wall Street.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thankfully, the CTU didn't take Zorn's advice

You may remember, it was just a little over two weeks ago that Tribune columnist Eric Zorn was urging the Chicago Teachers Union to throw in the towel in its fight with the mayor over the 90-minute-longer school day.

Zorn advised CTU leaders on Sept. 16 to "graciously surrender."
I couldn't begin to guess which side has the stronger case — labor law is pretty dense — but I can helpfully imagine for the teachers union what the headlines will be if they happen to prevail:
Teachers win: School day shortened
Union turns back clock on school reform
Students lose learning time as teachers get back shorter schedules

Well it's a damn good thing that Zorn's warnings went unheeded. None of his doomsday predictions materialized. None of those headlines appeared in print. In fact, here's the actual headline on today's column:

Brizard failed to sway the rank and file to a longer school day this year 

He writes:
If you’re keeping score at home, which I happen to be, the tally looks to be stuck: 
Chicago Public Schools –13 Chicago Teachers Union – 470 
Well Eric, I was also keeping score and that sounds like somewhat of a a defeat for our autocratic mayor. In other words, even with all of Rahm's threats; even with his bribing of teachers to break with their own union and abandon their own collective bargaining agreement; even with all that, Rahm could only get 13 schools to bite.

In fact, according to Zorn himself, it's Rahm and Brizard who have thrown in the towel --at least for now. They were out-maneuvered when the union put forth its own play for a "better" restructured school day -- one that included academic enrichment, more arts and teacher planning time as opposed to Rahm's call for more seat time. In other words, they changed the whole narrative away from longer vs. shorter school day.

More Zorn:
Whether you think a 2.7 percent acceptance rate is good news --- most teachers have put the brakes on a hastily implemented plan that asks them to set aside a key portion of their collective bargaining agreement    --- or bad news --- most students will not this year get the extra classroom time some of them badly need --- it certainly reflects the failure of new Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to make his case to the rank and file. And it's almost certainly why, Friday, Brizard sent a letter to union leader Karen Lewis saying "the time is right to turn the Pioneer Project into a collaboration between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union leadership..."
There's an important lesson in all this. Next time a Tribune columnist offers your union tactical advice, do just the opposite and victory is practically assured.

Yo-yo Ma brings "Arts strike" to Telpochcalli

Telpochcalli is a small neighborhood public school on Chicago's southwest side. It was started by teachers as part of the early small schools movement. The school's mission focuses on arts integration and bi-lingual literacy. In this morning's Trib, Mark Caro writes:
What Yo-Yo Ma and friends brought to [Telpochcalli] Monday was dubbed an "arts strike," which is fitting because that particular iron is hot. Ma, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's creative consultant, and Damian Woetzel, a ballet star/director/producer who serves with the virtuoso cellist on President Barack Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, gathered a diverse collection of performing artists at the Telpochcalli Elementary School in the predominantly Mexican-American Little Village neighborhood to illustrate the benefits of arts-based education programs. Don't miss the great video. 
According to Caro, after the program Ma was enthusiastic about Telpochcalli.
"The school is spreading a fabulous message," he said, noting that teaching two languages helps students see the world from multiple perspectives. "Plus you add the senses, whether it's music, it's dance, collaboration — all these things are the ingredients that stimulate the imagination. Imagination and empathy are the key ingredients to creating an innovative workforce, a student population that is absolutely curious and passionate about learning, and this school is doing it the right way."
"This is the type of thing that could really make a difference in people's lives," he said, "not just enriching but giving the fundamental values of what builds a great society."

Monday, October 3, 2011


U.S. Marine
"2nd time I've fought for my country. 1st time I've known my enemy." - At Wall Street protests
Alabama Supt.
"In the case of this law, our students do not have anything to fear," Casey Wardynski said in halting Spanish. He urged families to send students to class and explained that the state was only trying to compile statistics. Police, he insisted, were not getting involved in schools. -- A.P. "Ala. Hispanic students vanish"
The "Chicago Miracle"
So after waves and waves of reform, you thought Chicago public elementary schools had made tremendous progress in the last 20 years? Think again...Math scores improved only “incrementally” in those grades, and racial gaps in both subjects increased, with African American students falling the most behind other groups, especially in reading — an area pushed heavily under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. -- Sun-Times
N.Y. Teacher
“This time I just got a letter home, explaining, you know, that I’m no longer needed,” said Ms. Ramirez, 30, who is five months pregnant with her first child. -- New York Times, "School Layoffs About to Fall Heaviest on the Poorest and Most Struggling" 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet home Alabama???

Once again the shame of the nation
 Birmingham, Ala. -- Latino students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, fearful that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities. -- AP Wire