Tuesday, January 31, 2012

View of SOTU from right field

My friend called me yesterday. She sounded irate. "Do you read the Tribune?" she asks. I try not to but can't avoid it sometimes, I respond. "Did you read that column Sunday by Steve Chapman?" No I didn't but I guess I will have to now, I answer. "He's actually calling on kids to drop out of school. If you don't write something about this I will," she threatens. Kind of an odd threat, but it works.

I hate the Trib which is owned and editorially controlled but the worst bunch of greedy, conservative Republican bastards ever. I don't even know why they still are allowed to put the word Chicago on their masthead, since their readership is mainly suburban and they basically ignore everything that happens within the city. I'd much rather  read the Occupy Chicago Tribune -- but I digress.

So I dutifully read the Chapman piece. He's a horrible, reactionary writer -- one of those anti-union hacks who's paper-thin opinions usually find their way to the T-Party hate sheets, like Phillip Anschutz' Weekly Standard or the National Review. I guess his Tribune patrons felt a need to drag him out of his hole to rail against Obama's SOTU speech. (I know, I know. Why don't I stop holding back and say what I really feel?)

Chapman was smart enough to pick on the weakest part of Obama's  speech -- the very few sentences the president devoted to education. Remember? He started out telling teachers to stop teaching to the test, even though his Race To the Top initiative punishes and rewards schools and teachers almost entirely on the basis of standardized test scores. Obama then calls on the states to do something to keep kids from dropping out before the age of 18 and that was enough to set Chapman's tongue (pen) wagging.
We know, said Obama, "that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."
Those of us in the field of education know full well the problems with top-down reform. Telling the states to mandate that all kids stay in school until 18 and graduate sounds a lot like George Bush's NCLB mandate that all kids be proficient in reading and math by the year 2014. Without massive resources directed at the conditions poverty that force so many kids to leave school at an early age, and rethinking the purposes and processes of schooling itself, such mandates ring hollow.

But that's not Chapman's argument. My friend was right, he actually DOES want more kids to drop out -- at least those kids. Chapman argues that there are children who "are headed in the wrong direction" (if this sounds like racial code-wording, you're perceptive) who should drop out of school. "The problem is," he claims, "that the youngsters who are most likely to drop out are the ones who are least likely to learn if they stay."

If all this nonsense sounds familiar, it's because it echoes many of the racist theories put forth a generation ago in Herrnstein and Murray's infamous book, The Bell Curve. These two Harvard profs argued basically that higher education was a waste of time and resources for black and Latino youngsters.

Chapman goes on to equate school with prison "where they are forced to endure oppressive rules, bad food and unpleasant company." As for Obama, he's portrayed as the warden, making their sentence even longer, with "no parole."

Chapman then dutifully implies that the call to keep kids in school longer may be simply a plot by the teachers unions.
Why Obama floated the idea, with minimal explanation, is an open question. But the National Education Association, the country's biggest teachers union, has been pushing it. If you were cynical, you might think the union likes the proposal because it would mean more kids in school, which would mean more jobs for teachers, and that Obama likes it because the NEA endorsed him.
For many newspapers and legit media, this stuff would be an embarrassment. But not the Trib. 

Monday, January 30, 2012


Jesse Jackson
Keep your finger in your pocket," Gov. Brewer. -- Sun-Times
Richard Rothstein
Education “reformers” have a common playbook. First, assert without evidence that regular public schools are “failing” and that large numbers of regular (unionized) public school teachers are incompetent. --‘Reformers’ playbook on failing schools fails a fact check
Warren Buffet
"If this is a war, my side has had the nuclear bomb," Buffett told ABC News. "We've got K Street and lobbyists. We've got money on our side in terms of contributions." -- Huffington
Paul Krugman
Half a century ago, any economist — or for that matter any undergraduate who had read Paul Samuelson’s textbook “Economics” — could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea." -- New York Times
Eric Shieh
"I remember the moment I stopped resenting the deduction in my paychecks that went to my union. It took me three years, and happened suddenly." -- Hechinger Report

Friday, January 27, 2012

Idea: Pick up your "training money"

Just thinking... Why not ask all the many parents and Dyett community folks on their way down to protest the mayor's school closings today (5:30 at 125 S. Clark St.) to  stop off first at Rev. Watkins' Hope Organization and ask for $50 in "training money." Then with money in pocket, they could ride the Hope school bus downtown and save train fare or parking.

The Econometrics of Rwandan Pear Blossoms at Duke University

I rarely post anything of this length. But this piece by my friend and Duke Univ. prof Tim Tyson, was much too compelling and beautifully written to pass up. Had to post it in full. Enjoy.


The Econometrics of Rwandan Pear Blossoms at Duke University
Timothy B. Tyson
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture

Genius glinted off every sentence she wrote. A sophomore in my first class at Duke University in the spring of 1991, she sat in my office three hours each week, both wrists wrapped in bandages; we rarely spoke of that. She read to me from her stories; I read to her from Zora Neale Hurston. A natural-born English major, she majored in Econ, for which she cared not a fig. Her tyrannical father refused to pay tuition for any major but Econ. Hospital gauze hid the wounds of her war with him.

I thought about her as I read the study by Peter Arcidiacono and Kenneth Spenner, who insist that African American students at Duke remain less well-prepared than their white counterparts. Evidence that black students catch up quickly is mistaken, they say; the mirage of their progress reflects that African Americans select “less demanding” majors at far higher rates than whites.

African American undergrads here are fodder for this attack on affirmative action and liberal arts. “What Happens After Enrollment” is a political tract disguised as scholarly inquiry. Arcidiacono speculates disingenuously that all the attention might be “because others are using the study in a lawsuit against racial preferences in admissions.” How can “others” use his unpublished work without him? How can a Duke prof be “very surprised” that the newspapers follow a racially-loaded U.S. Supreme Court? History, anyone? Who appointed him to weigh the merits of black folks being allowed into the room?

No one disputes the academic freedom of these professors to engage in politics around their own points of view; Duke’s treasure, the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, whose legacy Arcidiacono treads upon, provided research for Thurgood Marshall in Brown. But there is no constitutional right to r-e-s-p-e-c-t, as Aretha might put it. BSA members who question “the research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity,” display a generosity and deliberation far exceeding those of this study.

Arcidiacono and Spenner dress their Little Lord Frankenstein in academic robes, an unconvincing costume. In their bizarre econometrics, our African American students, failing to choose the “more challenging” majors, bear the blame for the lack of minority “representation” in economics, engineering and the natural sciences. Other explanations abound; possibly the company. But the authors’ pretense of caring is undercut by their crusade to reduce the numbers of black students at the elite institutions where research careers begin. Stingy polemics, yes; good scholarship, not so much.

Their pamphlet expounds on "racial difference” without contemplating what “race” might be. Nor do the authors consider the very nature of these decisions. Their inquiry into the deeply personal choices of black students fails to ask even one black student, not that we should take anyone’s words at face value. Apparently white males at Duke once devoted to Econ and Engineering in high school mostly cling to their calculators, despite this claim that “the average student finds Engineering the most challenging field, followed by Economics.” Less-average students might diagnose lack of curiosity or fear of the unfamiliar. But to explain would require individual inquiry; we would have to check our assumptions, not just boxes on a questionnaire. Neither God in Her Divine Wisdom nor our destiny as a species would make us all engineers or economists; to major in econ when poetry holds your heart defines failure, not success. Is it possible that African American students, each one unique, on the whole come from cultural and intellectual traditions different than—not less than--most white students at Duke?

Econ majors in my seminars complain of the staggering amounts of reading. And the paucity of “right answers” in history, literature and theology intimidates many, though they catch up quickly. Once they stop inhaling the economist’s elixir--the hokum that crazy humanity is a profit-maximizing choice-machine--people often blossom in sunlight.

I have watched fire seize the minds of erstwhile econ majors, causing bad grades—in economics. They just can’t “value-maximize” anymore, not drunk on James Baldwin and James Brown. If you want a “more challenging” major, get entangled in Ellison’s “blues impulse” and trace the dust tracks from Bethlehem to Rwanda; “finger the jagged grain” of humanity, sharp with our “myriad subtleties.” Sit on the steps of Atlanta University with Du Bois, shotgun cradled on his lap, and wait for the mob; let Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi” behold Armstrong’s genius of jazz; wander with Hughes among “the people of the night,” who “will give even a snake / a break.” How then to stumble home to mute econometric formulas? Sometimes these renegades light out for territory unseen. If only we built higher walls around Duke, we might bar such fools that learn and lose their way; resolute youth could scale the heights of Economics without leaving their own intellectual cul-de-sac, unimpaired by poetics—or by education.

Not long ago, I saw her walking her dog near East Campus. No more bandages; her little family and her part-time teaching job leave a light on her face never seen on that sophomore. Inspired by Hurston’s heroine, Janie, she told her father to go to hell. He groused about it, but she’d finally majored in English—double-majored in Econ to shut him up. She couldn’t remember much Econ, she said, but she still reads Their Eyes Were Watching God every spring when the pear trees blossom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GOP salutes Obama's ed policies

A GOP salute
At least there's someone who likes Obama/Duncan ed policies.
"Republicans tonight salute our President, for instance, for his aggressive pursuit of the murderers of 9/11, and for bravely backing long overdue changes in public education." -- Indiana's T-Party Gov. Mitch Daniels'  in his response to SOTU.
Daniels was only returning the favor. It was Arne Ducan's "salute" to Daniels last April, that boosted Daniels' stock as an education governor and potential GOP V.P. candidate.
"Now, few states have done a better job of coping with the recession than Indiana and I want to salute you -- Governor Daniels -- for your leadership and management skills. I also salute you for your leadership on education issues. You are among the 42 states that have voluntarily adopted college and career ready standards. You knew the bar here was too low and needed to be raised, even if that was hard to do. You are among the 46 states that developed bold reform plans to compete for Race to the Top." -- Arne Duncan, April 15, 2011.

Rahm's hired army of protesters under investigation

Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

The Chicago Public Schools inspector general said Wednesday he is investigating reports that bused protesters were paid to carry signs or read scripts at school closing hearings. News of the probe came as Mayor Rahm Emanuel sloughed off questions about whether the practice was appropriate.
Strange media coverage on this. You won't find the IG investigation story in today's Tribune online. Instead there's a headline and lead-in under the Trib's Breaking News banner with only a link to the Sun-Times story.  Unusual to pump competitor's story? Why, I wonder?

Tucson students walk out over banning of ethnic cultural studies

Pres. Obama wrestled verbally over immigration policy with racist Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer, after hundreds of Tucson students walked out of their schools in a coordinated protest against the banishment of the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program.

Cholla High School student Ahtziri IƱiguez noted that she was following the march in the footsteps of her brother, a graduate of the Mexican American Studies Program.
“I think it’s very unfair that people here don’t let us learn about our own culture,” she said. “My brother took (Mexican American Studies) classes his junior year and he would go home and discuss with my Mom and interested me in education, so I knew I wanted to take these classes.” -- Common Dreams
Without federal intervention, the program appears doomed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Misstate of the Union

"For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we've convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning—the first time that's happened in a generation."
But he could have put it this way:
By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform. That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education. -- Mike Winerip, NYT: "In Race to the Top, the Dirty Work Is Left to Those on the Bottom"

Rahm's Army

A busload of paid counter- protesters headed to school closings hearings from St. Stephen's church in Englewood.
It's tough times in the Windy City. Unemployment's high, especially for black youth. The church-run social-service agencies are jumping. Conditions are ripe for recruitment to the mayor's new army of rent-a-protesters to counter the growing mass resistance to neighborhood school closings. Chicago political machine hustlers like Englewood's Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III, do the mayor's dirty work in exchange for control of poverty funds and side money from the mayor's wealthy pals and charter school patrons.

Watkins' job is to fill buses with hungry men like Thaddeus Scott, 35 who come to his HOPE Organization looking for financial help with their energy bills only to be promised $50 if they will attend school-related “rallies” at the board of education. The slick Watkins, pastor of Bethlehem Star M.B. Church and founder of Pastors United for Change denies they were paid to protest, saying money paid was "for training".

Scott and other recruits say they didn’t realize until the last minute that they were supposed to support school closings. One said he was promised $50 to speak at a rally “for schools,” but was stiffed $25 after Watkins complained he had publicly revealed at the hearing he was “compensated” for speaking. Many of the recruits end up switching sides and join the community protests in speaking out against the closings. Others earn their money by trying to start a brawl and disrupt the legitimate protests.
“I don’t want the $25 he owes me,” Scott, 35, told the Sun-Times. “He can keep his dirty money. You can quote that. “Why am I speaking out? Because I am in support of Crane [the high school whose closure he says he was supposed to support]. . . .“They thought for a few dollars they could get us to say whatever they want. . . . We were preyed upon.”
Stipends for training, indeed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shame of a nation

After a decade of No Child Left Behind and three more years of Race To The Top, Black and Latino teenagers in U.S. schools are performing at academic levels equal to or lower than those of 30 years ago. According to a study by the Education Trust (one of the main supporters of NCLB), reasons for the low performance include:

  • Lowered expectations for students of color
  • Growing income inequality and lack of resources in low-income school districts
  • Unequal access to experienced teachers
  • An increased number of "out of field" teachers instructing minority students in subjects outside their area of expertise
  • Unconscious bias" by teachers and administrators.
"Young people of color are overrepresented in the poorest schools and the poorest neighborhoods," says Dominique Apollon, research director of the Applied Research Center. "There is a cumulative and compounding effect of structural deficiencies in many schools."

The study points out that low-income minority students are also more likely to have newly minted teachers, many of whom aren't equipped to help under-performing students get on track.
Florida SOS tweeter, Rita Solnet @ritacolleen makes similar points in response to latest Florida school district rankings. Tweets Rita: "FL's top ranked Sch District [St. Johns County] has lowest % of poor children. We need a study to tell us that?" She adds, "FL's worst ranked District [Madison County] had highest % of poor children (at 78%). Again, we needed a study for this?

You're right Rita. We certainly don't need another look at FCAT scores to tell us that poverty and racial segregation and isolation continue to have a major impact on measurable student learning outcomes in Florida and elsewhere, despite the denials by many corporate school reformers who continue to brush off these factors as "excuses." These latest studies should sound the alarm that current administration policies are not working. The continued use of student standardized test scores as the main basis for teacher evaluation, "merit" pay and closing and punishing schools in poor communities, will only continue to reinforce this shameful trend.

If you need more evidence that these issues transcend the classroom, take a look a how Florida's 67 counties stack up on the deliverance of health care. Once again we find wealthy, white St. Johns County near the top (3) and largely poor and black Madison County near the bottom (65).

Monday, January 23, 2012


Duncan's Race to the Top bus
Michael Winerip
In August 2010, Mr. Duncan visited the state union’s headquarters in his Race to the Top bus (he really has one) and told union and department officials that New York had won a grant “because of your collective leadership, your act of courage.” -- NYT, "In Race to the Top, the Dirty Work Is Left to Those on the Bottom."
New York Gov. Cuomo
"If we don't do this, we lose the Race to the Top money, so the equation is simple at the end of the day," Mr. Cuomo told a packed auditorium near the state Capitol here. "No evaluation, no money, period." -- Wall St. Journal
Calif. Gov. Brown
"Second-graders take five days of tests. That's longer than I spent on the bar exam." -- L.A. Times
Valerie Strauss
Really, Ms. Rhee, how can a formula ever accurately factor in the impact of a sleepless night in a homeless shelter on a hungry student’s performance on a high-stakes test? Did you know that 22 percent of American children live in poverty and that low test scores are always correlated with family income? -- WaPo, "Dear Michelle Rhee: About that teacher evaluation study"
Charles Blow
But many Republicans are willing to forgive his [Gingrich's] flaws and his past because he connects with a silent slice of their core convictions — their deep-seated, long-simmering issues with an “elite” media bias, minority “privilege” and Obama’s “otherness.” -- NYT, "Newt's Southern Strategy"
Ericka Hoffman, 26, a junior at Cal State-Bakersfield
“People in positions of power, I think they believe nothing is going to happen,” she said. “We’re just going to yell and scream and hold up signs and nothing’s going to change. But you’ve got an entire generation of people that realize something is wrong and something has to change because the system is wrong. There’s more of us than there are of them.” -- The New Student Activism, NYT

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sound the alarm! The "activists" are coming

The “democratic engagement” faction within civics education has recently re-energized and is pressing hard on schools to push kids into activism. -- Chester Finn
Finn (right) and his Fordham crew
The Occupy Movement, the Wisconsin recall initiative, and other signs of increased youth and student activism have education conservatives jittery. Chief among them is think-tanker Chester Finn, head of the right-wing Fordham Institue. His latest screed, "Should schools turn children into activists? And should Uncle Sam help?" is aimed at, what he imagines as the activist wing of civics education.
 On the other side, we find much greater emphasis on civic participation and activism, on voluntarism and “service learning,” and on what is often termed “collective decision making” (or problem solving) and “democratic engagement,” which often boils down into the communitarian view that issues facing society are best dealt with through group action, by people joining hands and working together rather than through the political process.
 Worse yet, moans Finn, is the role of the Dept. of Education and Arne Duncan in promoting this "democratic engagement" faction and Duncan's use of the words, "action civics". I must have somehow missed all that. The last thing I remember about Duncan was his mad attempt to head off Matt Damon at the airport in D.C. last summer, to keep him from speaking at the national Save Our Schools March & Rally. That must have been before he joined the "democratic engagement" faction.

But what really has Finn's toga all in a knot, is "A Crucible Moment," a  publication, written by D.O.E. higher-ups Martha Kantor and Eduardo Ochoa.While I admit, I only scanned the tract, it looks pretty good to me. Obviously, Finn is not me.

He is pissed that the D.O.E. awarded a contract to the Global Perspective Institute, Inc. (GPI) and a subcontract to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to lead a national dialogue that would result in recommendations about strengthening students’ civic learning and democratic engagement as a core component of college study. The result was the formation of a National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement headed by Larry Braskamp, who I remember as a progressive educator and decent guy from his days as dean at UIC's College of Education back in the early 90's.

Civics without action is an empty shell. Finn's attack on people for "joining hands and working together," shows how much disdain the ed-cons have for participatory democracy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prof. Timuel Black's Papers

Black (second from left) next to Mayor Harold Washington in 1984. |Courtesy Chicago Public Library
Library officials on Wednesday unveiled the Timuel D. Black, Jr. Papers, the massive collection from the 93-year-old professor emeritus at City Colleges of Chicago who also wears the titles of author, civil rights, labor and political activist and oral historian. The papers can be viewed at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection at Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St.

Michael Flug, the retired senior archivist of the Harsh collection, brought in Black’s papers to the library between 2003 and 2010.  Flug told the Sun-Times:
“I think it’s arguably the single best collection of material on Chicago African-American history that anybody has ever opened,” Flug said. “It’s not only large, it’s incredibly varied. Tim was involved in hundreds of different organizations in labor rights, civil rights, women’s rights, education initiatives, and he’s a jazz enthusiast so there is a fabulous jazz collection.”

Rahm's retreat was phony

Protesting the mayor's latest assault on free speech.
With protesters chanting “We vote no” outside, a compliant city council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s  plan to deny First Amendment rights to the thousands of protesters who are expected to come Chicago for the NATO and G-8 summits. The cost to taxpayers for the summits will likely exceed a billion dollars, if past summits are any indication.

Emanuel's threat to face-down protesters with an unprecedented show of military force was met with nationwide outrage and embarrassment, even on the part of many Emanuel supporters who fear a repeat of the 1968 "police riots" at the Democratic Convention. The mayor was forced to retreat. But his retreat turned out to be a sham. He backed off only a minor threat to levy excessive fines against protesters but kept the rest of his assault on constitutional rights intact.

According to the Sun-Times:
Surviving measures include: more surveillance cameras; parks and beaches closed until 6 a.m.; sweeping parade restrictions and higher fees for those events and empowering Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to “deputize” out-of-state law enforcement personnel in the event that demonstrators overwhelm Chicago Police. The mayor would also be granted sweeping authority to purchase goods and services for the summits — without City Council approval or competitive bidding — provided those items cannot be purchased under existing contracts.

Ald. Hairston
The council passed the anti-protest plan by a 41-5 vote with only one dissenting voice, that of Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), being raised.  “We have to be careful of how we regulate content. I still have concerns about freedom of expression and civil liberties,” Hairston said.

Shame on self-proclaimed progressives who voted for the plan,  like Ald. Joe Moore (49th) who applied his lips tightly on the mayor's behind.
“I congratulate Mayor Emanuel ... and other members of the mayor’s team for their open-mindedness and lack of defensiveness about their proposals. It is truly a refreshing change in City Hall,” Moore said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rahm's retreat

Eric Ruder from the Coalition Against NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANGATE) speaks on Mayor Emanuel's new ordinances concerning protests in the City of Chicago. Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Classic Rahm. He pushes the envelope on First Amendment rights and then pulls back in the face of protest.

The Sun-Times reports, he canceled plans to dramatically increase fines for resisting arrest to appease aldermen and protesters concerned he was trampling First Amendment rights in the name of securing the NATO and G-8 summits. But I suspect there were some phone calls made from White House. This is an election year and the last thing Dems need is a repeat of '68 Chicago police riot which marked the beginning of the end for the old Daley machine as well as for Hubert Humphrey's presidential candidacy.

Funniest quote of the day came from top cop Garry McCarthy who claimed that the concessions shows that City Hall is “listening to the voice of the people.”


Meanwhile, neighborhood protests against Rahm's school closings continued on MLK Day. SOS Chicago's Bob George reports from the Marquette Park neighborhood where a little more than 45 years ago Dr Martin Luther King marched through the Same Park for fair and open housing. Dr King said of this march that he encountered the most hostile crowds he had in his entire career. 

Bob writes:
I attended the March and Rally at Marquette Elementary school on Chicago's South Side on Martin Luther King Day, [organized by the Chicago Teachers Union and community groups]. Chicago Public Schools have targeted Marquette for Turnaround Parents Students , Teachers and the community are fighting this privatization move to have AUSL a non-profit turnaround take over in 2013. Today CPS turns a blind eye on the needs of this same community.

Approximately 250 Parents Students , Teachers and the community members rallied at Marquette Elementary School and then marched in Dr King's steps then rallied at Marquette Park to hear speeches from parents, youth leaders, ministers and union leader Karen Lewis. The last leg of the march was to a home of an 8-year-old boy who had recently been murdered where we joined in prayer for Peace and Justice. We chanted Whose Schools Our Schools , Save Our Schools and sang We shall Overcome with added lyrics of We shall Save Our Schools someday. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rangel takes U.N.O. into the lucrative charter business

Juan Rangel
Sunday's NYT has a Chicago News Coop story, "A Lifetime of Close Ties and Growing Influence," about U.N.O. which has become the mayor's front group in the Mexican community. The machine boss is Juan Rangel, who successfully took U.N.O. into the charter school operating business.

While the city's neighborhood schools are being strangled by budget cuts, Rangel's ties with the mayor and his political clout in Springfield has charter operator U.N.O. sitting pretty. According to the Times:
The group, which ran a single charter school until 2005, now has 11 and expects to open another six within two years. In 2012, U.N.O. will have a total budget of about $95 million, the organization’s executives said. The vast majority of that financing will come from government sources, including $52 million to run existing schools and $33 million to build the new ones.
My favorite Rangel quote comes at the very end:
"I guess I’ve never understood the concept of being too powerful.”

Monday, January 16, 2012


Dr. King
“...The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies." -- Valerie Strauss, "MLK's prescient thinking on education reform."

Bill Moyers
In an era of gross inequality there’s both irony and relevance in Woody Guthrie’s song. That “ribbon of highway” he made famous? It’s faded and fraying in disrepair, the nation’s infrastructure of roads and bridges, once one of our glories, now a shambles because fixing them would require spending money, raising taxes and pulling together. -- Moyers & Winship, "Woody Guthrie, more relevant than ever."
Marv Davidov
'60s Freedom Rider
"I want people to remember and tell funny stories about me and the struggle, and try to create a deeper, more profound movement and build the numbers." -- Star-Tribune, "Peace Activist Marv Davidov dies"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stand for Children back in town to 'educate us' about turnarounds

Like Freddy Kreuger, he's baaack!  

It could be time for a mic check as Jonah Edelman and his well-funded, out-of-town gang of professional union busters at Stand For Children, return to Chicago. On Wednesday, the group announced that it is launching a radio campaign to “educate Chicagoans about the value of public turnaround schools.” Thank goodness we have people from Portland here to educate us about how great these turnarounds are.

According to Catalyst,  
[SFC director] Gonzalez is aware that the organization carries with it a negative weight, especially among unionized teachers and grassroots organizations. Stand for Children was a staunch supporter of Senate Bill 7, which limited teacher tenure and made it more difficult for teachers to strike. Senate Bill 7 also gave Chicago school leaders the power to unilaterally lengthen the school day, which had previously been a subject in collective bargaining. After the bill was passed last year, in a speech in front of the Aspen Institute, Executive Director Josh Jonah Edelman described how his group outfoxed the CTU in getting the bill passed and bragged that the bill would effectively prevent the teachers from ever striking.
I don't think Jonah will be assigned to do any follow-up panels up in Aspen after this one. Do you?

Hoping 2012 will see a rebirth of parents movement

Thinking back to Chicago's dynamic school reform movement of the late '80s and early '90s (before mayoral control) and wondering if it's possible to capture that democratic spirit for change we all felt back then. That movement was sparked by parents who desperately wanted greater opportunities and equity for their children within the public schools system.

The last decade of conservative No Child Left Behind policies accompanied by the growing influence of corporate reformers and power philanthropists,  has also produced a movement of conservative parent groups focused on banning books, school re-segregation, and attacking the teaching of evolution and multiculturalism. The coercive and divisive Parent Trigger laws enforced policies allowing a group of parents to hand over public schools to private management companies.

In  New Hampshire, the Tea Party dominated Legislature on Wednesday overrode the governor's veto to enact a new law allowing parents to object to any part of the school curriculum.

But after 10 years, NCLB and the conservative accountability wave has proven to be a disaster for public education by any credible measure. Privately-run charter schools, which offered false hope for many parents, have been shown to under-perform even traditional public schools.  Parent opposition also appears to be growing in reaction  to school closings in under-served communities and further instability and  loss of opportunity for their children.

Hopefully, the conservative wave will be reversed as we head towards the 2012 elections. The birth of the Occupy Movement, Save Our Schools, and the emergence of progressive parent groups like Parents Across America offer a good opportunity to rebuild.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Results for money..." Bush defends NCLB

Desperately seeking a politician who, in this election year, will still openly defend NCLB on it's 10th anniversary? Look no further than Andrew Rotherham's (who else?) Time Magazine interview with Pres. G.W. Bush --the man who turned the Ownership Society into a  catch phrase. Bush responds to Rotherham's softball question this way:
First of all, I am extremely proud of the effects of No Child Left Behind. For the first time, the federal government basically demanded results in return for money. It started by saying, We expect you to measure [student performance]. As a result, there has been a noticeable change in achievement, particularly among minority groups. And I’m proud of that accomplishment and proud of the fact we were able to work with people from both parties to get it done.
Bush saves his greatest praise for, "people like [former school superintendents] Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, people who are willing to challenge the status quo, tell you that one thing that made it effective was the accountability."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tom Toch on Voucher Redux

Tom Toch, senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, writes in this month's Kappan, on the resurgence of school vouchers. Toch says that the 2010 elections led to a flurry of new voucher initiatives, but that there’s little to recommend vouchers as a large-scale reform strategy.
When House Republicans cut a trillion-dollar budget deal with Senate Democrats and the White House last spring, Speaker of the House John Boehner demanded a couple of pot sweeteners. One was relaunching the D.C. Opportunity Scolarship Program that gave low-income District of Columbia residents federal vouchers to pay tuition at the city’s private and parochial schools. Established by Congress in 2004 under Republican
leadership, the program was defunded five years later, with Democrats in control of Capitol Hill and teacher unions pushing the Obama Administration to shutter the program.
Boehner got the money he wanted for D.C. — nearly $120 million over six years — and his victory has helped fuel a resurgence of the school voucher movement following last year’s elections, which brought pro-voucher Republicans to power in the House and many states.
You can read the entire commentary here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why is this N.J. charter app being approved?

The New Jersey suburb of Highland Park needs a new charter school like a fish needs a bicycle. But after her bogus applications had been rejected three times, and despite community protests, real-estate agent Sharon Akman, may finally get her Tikun Olam Hebrew charter school along with a $600,000 grant, courtesy of Arne Duncan and the D.O.E.

Writes Michael Winerip in Sunday's Times:
For each child who leaves a district to attend a charter, the charter receives 90 percent of the district’s per-pupil spending allotment. In modest-size communities like Highland Park, with a district of 1,500 students, that can take a substantial bite out of a school budget. What has been so frustrating to opponents is that despite repeated distortions in the Tikun Olam applications, the charter still may open in September.   

How could federal oversight be so lax? 
The answer, says Winerip, charters are the darlings of  "an education establishment that includes Democrats (President Obama) and Republicans (Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey) with strong financial backing (the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations)."

Monday, January 9, 2012


Ben Joravsky
Not really sure what it is about Mayor Emanuel and public libraries, but the dude never looks so happy as when he's cutting their hours or firing their staff. In this case, he's vowing to close the branch libraries on Mondays. Or as he might put it—let those fuckers get their books on Amazon! -- The Reader
Charles Blow
Racial politics play well for Republicans. Santorum and Paul finished second and third in Iowa. Time will tell if Gingrich rebounds. Playing to racial anxiety and fear isn’t a fluke; it’s a strategy that energizes the Republican base. -- "The G.O.P's 'Black People's Platform"
Nicholas Kristof
One of the biggest long-term challenges we face, I think, is the way an underclass is becoming stratified in the United States, replicating poverty from generation to generation. -- "Investing in Early Childhood"
Marilyn Katz
 [Police Supt.] McCarthy's statement that his police force is gearing up for mass arrests and [Mayor]Emanuel's proposed legislation send a message that is more chilling than welcoming, despite official assurances that the city respects free speech. -- Chicago Tribune: "Reining in Those Pesky Protesters"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Report from last night's hearing on the closing of Crane High School

Hearing on Chicago school closing. (M. Ritter)

I couldn't make it to the hearing at Malcolm X College last night. So I asked Martin Ritter to send Small Talk a report. Here it is. -- M.K.

Unreal event tonight.

Donald Fraynd was the MC and Jesse Ruiz of the Board was present. Around 200 rental protesters were bused in [by the mayor's people]. They didn't know why they were there but all said they got paid. Around 200 Crane supporters: community allies, students, alums, staff, etc. 

Crane Coalition prepared a Power Point presentation -- but were told we could not present it... so after the initial Board presentation 10-15 Crane presenters engaged in civil disobedience and stood at the mike, made a statement about presenting the power point and stood silent. This was extremely effective as our crew and even the rental protesters began to shout together: Show the power point!!! This went speaker after speaker for 20-30 minutes. Jesse Ruiz and CPS didn't know what to do. Finally they relented and let us show our stuff that refuted tons of CPS data. The place erupted as we began to win the hearts and minds of the bused in folks. CPS looked confused and worried.

It gets better: At that point the public officials walk in together. Sen. Annazette Collins, Alderman Burnett, Congressman Davis, Fmr Alderman Ed Smith, and Alderman Fioretti (wearing a Crane Varsity Letterman's
Jacket - the place goes nuts for this). They speak one by one stating their position supporting Crane staying open and opposed to phase out!

They tell CPS - listen to the people. Congressman Davis was more on the neutral side but he said his job was to listen to the people and he said the people were demanding Crane to stay open. The bussed in people are either silent or on our side. A good number of current and former students, parents and community reps speak.

After that person after person tell CPS - "Dont phase out Crane." 8 p.m.comes and CPS high tails it outta there. Round 1 victory.

Martin (Marty) L. Ritter

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gabe Lyon, 2011 Chicagoan of the Year

Congratulations and best wishes to Gabe and Project Exploration. 

Is Vallas angling for Duncan's job? Just asking.

Reading Paul Vallas' strange EdWeek assessment of decade-old NCLB I had a funny thought. This guy is angling for a job in Obama's administration. First read his comment and tell me if I'm nuts.
In summation, I think NCLB's legacy is that it has been the next powerful phase in the federal government’s efforts to improve schools by demanding greater accountability and providing more resources, as begun by the Clinton administration, and it provided a solid base for the current administration to build upon with its ambitious Race to the Top initiative.
The thought struck me that Vallas, who is as they say, between jobs now that his consulting gigs in Haiti and Chile are over, could be a logical replacement for the inept Arne Duncan. Talk about irony. It was Duncan who replaced Vallas as Chicago schools CEO under Mayor Daley. Vallas went on to run the Philadelphia school system into the ground financially and then moved on to create the two-tier school system in post-Katrina New Orleans. In both cities, Vallas led the way in replacing public schools with privately-managed charters.

Duncan on the other hand, has failed to get his K-12 re-authorization bill through congress. He has totally alienated the administration from it's base among teachers and their unions (despite the premature NEA endorsement of Obama) and he crashed and burned with his comment that Hurricane Katrina "was the best thing" that happened to schools in New Orleans. Duncan has staked his reputation upon mayoral control of the schools. Vallas -- not so much.

So I'm thinking, with elections coming up and change in the air, Vallas may be sniffing around Duncan's door. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

CPS parents, community groups protest school closings, privatization

Chicago mayor stars in right-wing, anti-public school video

Thanks to brother Fred I came upon this right-wing propaganda video targeting public school and teachers unions staring none other than Rahm Emanuel.

"A Tale of Two Missions," co-stars the head of the anti-union Michigan-based Education Action Group, Kyle Olson, and Juan Williams, who was fired from National Public Radio for making anti-Muslim comments on air.

The video is part of  National School Choice Week, the continuation of a campaign promoting vouchers and privately-run charter schools and attacking public education and collective-bargaining rights for teachers. The campaign began with the film, Waiting for Superman in 2010 and is backed by EAG and the far-right Heritage Foundation whose own video "What is School Choice," is featured on the NSCW website.

Backers of NSCW include usual suspects, Michelle Rhee, John McCain, John Boehner, Joe Lieberman, Jeb Bush, and FOX News regular, Dick Morris. Others offering NSCW testimonials include Liz Dreckman of the Arizona School Choice Trust, Andrew Broy of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, and Patrick Kaiser of the The Center for an Educated Georgia.

Surprised to see Chicago's Democratic mayor in the center of this right-wing campaign? I'm not.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teaching and learning in a strange land

One of the by-products of the accountability movement and high-tech data management tools--like on-line grade-books--is the elevation of filling in boxes over actual learning. -- Teacher in a Strange Land
I really liked this reflective piece by Nancy Flanagan, "Who's responsible for this, anyway?" I think I'll use it in my Phil. of Ed. course this quarter. Nancy is a retired veteran teacher who blogs regularly for EdWeek. She was also one of the main organizers of the SOS March in D.C. last summer and was recently elected to the new SOS National Steering Committee.

Nancy stands poles apart from the test-crazy, corporate types who now dominate the field of  school reform. Michael Wiuerip shines a spotlight on these creeps in this NYT piece, about Pearson, the London-based publishing conglomerate that has become a giant in the multi-billion-dollar testing industry. Pearson uses its tax-exempt foundation to buy-off willing district administrators in exchange for contracts and a buy-in to the testing madness. 

Strange land indeed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

NAACP resolution on charter schools

In a process established by the NAACP Constitution, this resolution was adopted by the delegates to the 101st Annual Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, during the legislative session in July, 2010. It was subsequently ratified by the NAACP National Board of Directors at its meeting on October 15, 2010. This resolution is now the policy of the Association, and is “binding on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the Officers, and all units.”

WHEREAS, charter schools are public schools which were originally designed to explore new approaches to educate students; and

WHEREAS, in some cases, charter schools have become a school model that is used to segregate students; and

WHEREAS, charter schools have too seldom informed the education community regarding innovative instructional strategies that accelerate academic achievement in the general population of students; and

WHEREAS, the Center for Research in Educational Outcomes (CREDO) which examined charter school data in fifteen (15) states and the District of Columbia confirmed that only 17% of the charter school students in the study outperformed their peers, while 46% performed no better and 37% performed worse; and

WHEREAS, charter schools operate more autonomously than traditional public schools in the use of funds, adherence to state laws and school policies, selection and removal of students, and the selection and removal of staff, thus creating separate and unequal conditions for success; and

WHEREAS, charter schools draw funding away from already underfunded traditional public schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes that at best, quality charter schools serve only a small percentage of children of color and disadvantaged students for whom the NAACP advocates relative to said population left behind in failing schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes the urgent need to provide quality education for all children, not only those fortunate enough to win lotteries to attend existing quality charter schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP is committed to finding broad based, effective solutions for immediate implementation to improve the quality of public education for all children.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will strongly advocate for immediate, overarching improvements to the existing public education system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will urge all of its Units to work to support public schools throughout the nation to educate all children to their highest potential.

Roslyn M. Brock Leon Russell Benjamin Todd Jealous
Chairman Chairman President & CEO
National Board of Directors Committee on Resolutions

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Barack Obama
"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."  -- CNN
Lu Young, supt. Jessamine County, Ky.
“I never had any conversation or discussion with anyone from Pearson about the awarding of the testing contract during this trip or later.”  -- Michael Winerip, NYT
Jason Kamras, D.C.chief of human capital.
“We want to make great teachers rich.” -- NY Times
Phil Kadner
"He held an elected post that was unnecessary, that actually had been abolished but was resurrected so someone could fleece the taxpayers once more. Eighteen months on probation somehow seems inadequate." -- Corrupt IL schools boss gets 18 months’ probation

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/31/2567321/miami-dade-schools-ride-wave-of.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/31/2567321/miami-dade-schools-ride-wave-of.html#storylink=cpy