Monday, April 30, 2012


Gail Collins
Do you know how difficult it is to get anybody to read about “privatization of education?” It’s hell.  A pineapple, on the other hand, is something everybody likes. -- N.Y. Times
Diane Ravitch
New York got the pineapple story because NY is paying Pearson only $32 million for five years of tests. Texas is paying Pearson $500 million for five years of tests. That means that Texas gets the shiny, new questions–the ones that make sense-and NY gets the recycled remainders, the ones that no one else wanted. You get what you pay for. -- Diane Ravitch's Blog
 CTU Pres. Karen Lewis
“[CPS Chief Education officer Noemi] Donoso’s departure is an unwelcome signal of instability on the education side and yet another example of the chaos on Clark Street. It appears that anyone who knows anything about teaching and learning has a short shelf life at CPS.’’ -- Sun-Times
 Michael Winerip
Though the progress reports are assumed to control for demographics like poverty and race, an analysis by The New York Times indicates that schools with the most middle-class students get the best grades. Schools with wealthier students are three times more likely to get an A than schools serving the poor, which are 14 times more likely to get a D or F. --  "On Report Cards for City Schools, Invisible Line Between ‘A’ and ‘F’"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coming next week to a neighborhood near you

Was this version of The Surge, Rahm's idea or John McCain's? Will the troops be stationed here permanently? Will they be using drones along with boots on the ground, to attack anti-war protesters? How long will the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution be suspended?  These are some questions I have for the Mayor. It appears that members of the Host Committee have more.
The head of Chicago’s NATO Host Committee said Thursday she was blindsided by the federal government’s decision to create a militarized “Red Zone” in the Loop to protect federal buildings in the run-up to the May 20-21 summit at McCormick Place. 
The image of federal agents on downtown streets far from McCormick Place — in battle gear, weapons slung — three weeks before the summit is certain to have a chilling effect on those who live and work in the Loop. It also calls into question Host Committee Executive Director Lori Healey’s oft-repeated message that Chicago will remain “open for business” during the summit. -- Sun-Times
I also wonder if martial law in Obama's home town is the image that Axelrod and his team want the world to see in the days leading up to the Nov. election?

Rahm's priorities

“I’m not making the case that people hate Rahm right now, but they have clearly shifted their thinking. His negative job performance ratings are where the most precipitous movement is.’’ -- Daniel Gotoff of Lake Research Partners
My hat's off to the 7 out of 48 City Council members (I hope they don't find a horse head n their beds) who dared to vote against the mayor's $7.2 billion Infrastructure Trust scam. That's the one where the city borrows billions of dollars from Rahm's billionaire pals, like (Bill Daley's J.P. Morgan bank) who get a healthy return on their investment from the taxpayers. That way Rahm doesn't have to look like he's raising taxes. Paying back the loans is different -- get it? Brilliant!

The money can be spent, with little or no oversight, on any project the mayor wishes. It's what the Sun-Times calls, Rahm's Trust Me Plan. You can bet on one thing. All those projects will put big profits into the hands of those same pals. They make out coming and going.

It all depends on Rahm's priorities. And what are his priorities? I'm guessing mental health care infrastructure is not one of them.

So far this , dozens have been arrested trying to save the city's few remaining mental health clinics.
"Where are our priorities? The clinic closings are already a disaster," Horace Howard, a client of the clinic for the past six years who arrested Monday, said in a statement. "We tried to become a part of the process, but the city refuses to give us access. Mayor Emanuel doesn't want to be a public servant, he would rather that private companies run this city." -- Huffington
Speaking of arrests, school-based arrests appear to be Chicago's current version of school reform:

Posted inside Chicago high school
[The student group] VOYCE says police made 2,546 school-based arrests between September 2011 and February 2012, according to data supplied by the civil rights organization Advancement Project. The VOYCE analysis pointed out that the arrestees included three 9-year-olds, eight 10-year-olds, and 17 children who were age 11. Of those arrested, 75 percent (1,915) were African-American, 21 percent (540) were Latino and 3 percent (75) were white. -- Catalyst
This must be what former schools boss Ron Huberman meant by Culture of Calm.

Autocrat Rahm apparently has already succeeded in polarizing the community. Latest polls show his approval ratings tumbling faster than an alderman's drawers. Forty-seven percent of likely voters polled in late March rated Emanuel’s job performance as “poor’’ or “just fair”— 16 percent more than did so in August.

A big reason for the drop --the schools. Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard’s job performance was viewed as “just fair” or “poor” by 44 percent — twice as many as those who rated him favorably.

Maybe Rahm can rent-a-poll taker like he rents protesters.

Aside from their $7.2 billion windfall, the machine boys can also celebrate Fast Eddie V's return to the streets after doing less than a year in the joint. Yes Fast Eddie's back in town. Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Philly's great public school giveaway now nearly complete

This is a cynical, right-wing and market-driven plan to privatize public education, to force thousands of economically disadvantaged families to select from an under-funded hodge-podge of EMO and charter-company-run schools and to convert thousands of professional and family-sustaining positions into low-paying, high-turnover jobs. -- PFT Pres. Jerry Jordan
He's right. The complete dismantling of the nation's 5th-largest school district and getting rid of collective-bargaining and union rights for teachers has long been the dream of the city's corporate reformers. Taken over by the state and placed under the control of the so-called School Reform Commission, Philly's racially-segregated and underfunded school system was first looted and then sold off school-by-school to companies like Edison and other private charter operators.

What Paul Vallas started a decade ago with his give-away of 40 public schools is nearly a fait accompli with the new Blueprint For Transforming Philadelphia Public Schools. The Blueprint includes a proposal to divvy up city schools among “achievement networks” including charter school operators and other outside organization.

Vallas actually began the process during his tenure as Chicago's mayoral-appointed schools CEO with the so-called Renaissance 2010 plan. Before he was fired by Mayor Daley, Vallas had succeeded in replacing teacher-led, highly autonomous small schools with privately managed charter schools and replacing school redesign with school closings. It was a trend he would take to scale as CEO of Philadelphia Public Schools and later as school boss in post-Katrina New Orleans.

The privatization of Philly schools has been in the works for a long time. It was given the green light by Sec. Arne Duncan when he and pal Newt Gingrich made their infamous tour of the city's privately-managed charter schools back in 2009. 

The process continued in Philly during the scandal-ridden reign of Arlene Ackerman and her Image 2014 plan (modeled on Renaissance 2010), despite mass protests and school walk-outs by thousands of students).

The result, as I've documented in these pages and in our book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society, has been nothing less than a disaster for the city's 185,000, mostly African-American and Latino school children. Study after study showed that the 64 schools turned over to private management companies had failed to outperform the closed neighborhood schools they replaced. 

Now that the Commission has ignored all the research and has moved ahead with its ideologically-driven district reorganization plan, it will be once again up to the students, teachers, parents and community activists to make their voices heard. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pineapple Rebellion in full swing

Sometimes it happens that way. A single insipid test question has sparked a rebellion and shone a light, not only on current standardized testing practices, but on the whole testing industry and its leading profiteer, Pearson Publishing.

The N.Y. Times reports:   
Anti-testing activists have taken up the cudgel, saying that the passage and the multiple-choice questions associated with it perfectly illustrate the absurdity of standardized testing. And by Friday afternoon, the state education commissioner had decided that the questions would not count in students’ official scores.
For its part, Pearson took a passage from Daniel Pinkwater's nonsensical story, The Hare and the Pineapple, distorted it and then asked N.Y. 8th-graders some stupid, irrelevant multiple-choice questions for which there were no right answers. As Pinkwater explains:
I was caught up in the brouhaha that arose from an excerpt from a book of mine, edited out of any resemblance to what I wrote, and included in what was described to me as a “high stakes” test administered to all the eighth-graders in New York....On the test, the story makes even less sense, (less sense than nonsense? Yes! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible), and then . . . get ready . . . there are multiple choice questions the kids are supposed to answer."
In fact, the pineapple questions were essentially no different that many others that appear on standardized tests. Pinapple-gate would even be humorous if thousands of children's futures didn't hang in the balance.The response from the DOE was to pull the embarrassing question off the test. Officials, including Arne Duncan, have claimed all along that the only real problem with the current high-stakes, standardized-testing craze was that some of the tests were poorly written and that we need "better tests."

So, in response to revelations that the state exams had become predictable and easier to pass, the state  awarded a new $32 million contract to testing company Pearson to overhaul their own tests. A kind of merit pay in reverse. The new exams have higher stakes for principals and teachers statewide, whose performance evaluations will be based in part on student scores, beginning as soon as this year.
Scarsdale Middle School Principal Michael McDermott said the question has been used before and “confused students in six or seven different states.” And he had a quick answer to the question of who is the wisest: “Pearson for getting paid $32 million for recycling this crap.”
The past week has seen education leaders and organizations around the country step forward and demand an end to Duncan's current testing policies under Race To The Top. They include the National School Board Association, whose president, Mary Broderick, wrote a letter to President Obama telling him that "we have swung to a far extreme that is significantly hurting children...Students are numbing over testing for testing’s sake…"

Writes Broderick:
Mr. President, public education in the U.S. is on the wrong track. As we have moved decision-making farther from teachers and children, we have jeopardized our competitive edge and keys to our national success: our ingenuity, our openness to innovation, and our creativity.
Another significant anti-testing statement came from the the National Asian American Education Advocates Network.
Standardized testing should not be used to penalize schools or jeopardize students by cutting resources, or hastily shut down or drastically restructure schools. Instead, it should be one of a variety of ways to assess curricula, identify groups with special needs, and inform solutions based on providing resources rather than imposing sanctions.
The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss reports that in Texas, New York, Illinois and other states, protests by parents and educators are getting louder against school reform that insists on using standardized test scores as the basis for evaluating students, educators and schools. She adds that a national resolution protesting high-stakes standardized testing was released Tuesday "by a coalition of national education, civil rights and parents groups, as well as educators who are trying to build a broad-based movement against the Obama administration’s test-centric school reform program."

As groups begin to gather and make plans for future actions, #Pineapplerebellion is going viral on Twitter and the pineapple has become a symbol for the growing movement against high-stakes, standardized testing and current policies associated with Secretary Duncan's DOE and corporate-style reform. Pearson is also becoming a symbol for corporate profiteering at the expense of the nation's children.

The national SOS Platform Convention, Aug. 3-5 in D.C., will provide a focal point for the Pineapple Rebellion with platform planks on testing and teacher evaluation already being drawn up by affiliated organizations.

An article in the Miami Herald shows the lengths and expense to which districts have been forced to go in order to secure their testing systems.  As a teacher who insists that my students "cheat" (meaning collaborate and work in teams on problem-solving), I couldn't help but chuckle at this statement:
“We don’t want students to come out of a test and perhaps memorize questions or share or discuss questions with students who may not have tested yet,” said Tom Ewing, spokesman for ETS, which administers the SAT for the College Board.
I can't help but wonder what's next. Will the Florida National Guard be mobilized to help secure FCAT testing? Maybe they can bring the SEAL Team that killed Bin Laden home. They could handle it.
ore here:

Also worth a read is Michael Winerip's wonderful NYT piece, Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously, a response to a recently released study has concluded that computers are capable of scoring essays on standardized tests as well as human beings do.

Monday, April 23, 2012


He was born to cut Medicaid.
 IL Gov. Pat Quinn
After proposing the take-away of medical coverage from 215,000 of the state's most vulnerable citizens, the governor said: “I know I was put on earth to get this done.” -- Sun-Times
Daniel Pinkwater
"Who knew my book would be used for world’s dumbest test question?" -- Daily News
Deborah Meier
"In the world of testing, it does not really matter whether an answer is right or wrong; the 'right' answer is the one that field testing has shown to be the consensus answer of the 'smart' kids. It’s a psychometric concept.” -- When Pineapple Races Hare, Students Lose
Valerie Strauss
"The whole push for test-based school reform makes about as much sense as a talking pineapple." -- The Answer Sheet
ETS spokesman Tom Ewing
“We don’t want students to come out of a test and perhaps memorize questions or share or discuss questions with students who may not have tested yet,” said Tom Ewing, spokesman for ETS, which administers the SAT for the College Board. -- Miami Herald

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dare the council stand up to autocrat Rahm?

"We've debated this long enough. I'm not in the position of analysis. I'm in the position of getting things done." -- Rahm to his council 
Scientists have discovered signs of life in Chicago's city council. The discovery comes as a shock to our autocrat mayor (and to me) who thought he had already crushed or bought off the last flicker of democratic impulse among his gaggle of alderman.

This time around, even after Rahm snapped his fingers and demanded that the council act without debate and ram through his $7 billion dollar, Infrastructure Trust (Trust? What trust?) deal, a few brave souls (Pat Dowell, Leslie Hairston, Willie Cochran, Rick Munoz, Brendan Reilly, Lona Lane, John Arena, and Scott Waguespackfound enough courage to slow things down. I suppose they still remember the public outrage over Mayor Daley's great fast-tracked, parking meter swindle which bought him a post-retirement gig with the law firm that did the deal.

You just knew this deal would involve CPS, which has been turned into a wing of City Hall. It includes borrowing millions for school repair, directly from his billionaire buddies, who are expecting higher than ever returns on their investment. The very nature of the deal takes all oversight away from the council and gives the mayor and his cronies unlimited power to decide how the $7 billion will be spent.

Here's what Hairston had to say about the deal:
"Despite his 'reform' claims, Emanuel has employed the same closed, rushed, 'ram it down their throats' process that placed us at the mercy of investors who can increase costs at will, demand the City provide compensation for losses and refer complaints to a black hole where nobody accepts fault. Even worse, he wants us to give him blanket authority over numerous such ventures, with appointees he chooses as 'watchdogs.'"
The same scientists found absolutely no such signs among the state's spineless legislators who still vote 113-0 for whatever bullshit Boss Madigan offers up in Springfield.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A new angle on the anti-bullying campaign

A lot of accusations and allegations have been flying around here lately, but this one had to make me laugh. Our little band of progressive bloggers and tweeters are being made out to be "bullies" by the Wall Street Journal. And just who is it we have allegedly been bullying? It's these poor, little kids on the block named, Coca-Cola, Gates Foundation, the Koch Bros., McDonalds, & Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Yes, is seems we big, bad tweeters have been kicking the crap out of these defenseless corporations by shining a spotlight on their relationship with ALEC. In response, these little guys ran home to get their big brothers, the Breitbart Bloggers to come back and beat us up.

Sorry, gotta run. Here they come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What we're up against

Here's what we're up against in Chicago. Stand for Children, the anti-union, pro-privatization group that bankrolled SB7, has been brought into town by the mayor and his corporate reform backers.

Catalyst reports:
Several hundred people, including many parents and dozens of members of Students for Education Reform groups at local universities, packed a room at downtown Roosevelt University on Saturday morning for the launch of Stand for Children's Chicago chapter. Jesse Ruiz, a member of the Chicago Board of Education, pledged to work with the group to "prioritize resources for quality schools," and a number of elected politicians made similar pledges. 
Outside, a group of teachers, organized by CORE, picketed the meeting.

Here's what they're up against in Connecticut. Michelle Rhee's group has a new name but the same anti-teacher, anti-public school politics and a billion-dollar budget. They are backing any candidate and any piece of legislation that will turn public schools over to private management companies.

Brian Lockhart writes on his Political Capitol blog:
A reader gave me this slick mailing he and his wife received this week from a new entry in the school reform debate – Great New England Public Schools Alliance or GNEPSA....What’s interesting is while GNEPSA is a new name in what some have called the “education reform alphabet soup,” it’s not. As others have also pointed out, GNEPSA’s filing with the Office of State Ethics lists seven in-house lobbyists on GNEPSA’s payroll with email addresses linking them to another group – California-based StudentsFirst. And one of those lobbyists is StudentsFirst’s founder, Michelle Rhee.
It's interesting how they paved the way for Rhee and her group by making Paul Vallas the interim supt. in Bridgeport and a big-time player in the state. Vallas has paved the way for school privatization in cities like Chicago, Philly, and New Orleans.

Diane Ravitch has a post today, "I don't understand Michelle Rhee", on he Bridging Differences blog. She writes:
Her organization allegedly has raised more than $200 million and is well on its way to raising $1 billion. This money will be used to attack teachers' unions; to strip teachers of any job protections; to promote vouchers, charters, and for-profit organizations that manage charter schools; and to fund candidates who want to reduce spending on public education and privatize it. I have heard rumors about big-name donors to Rhee, but can't verify them.StudentsFirst does not release the names of its contributors.
On the up side, the push-back against corporate-style reform is growing. Here's a great example coming out of Paul Robeson High School in New York City.


You can help build it by volunteering for and coming to the SOS Education Platform Convention in D.C., August 3-5.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The War Metaphor

The war metaphor has been badly overused-- war on drugs, war on poverty -- but it still holds up in some cases. Dean Baker's Huffington piece, for example, describes The War on Public Sector Workers this way:
Politicians across the country are using heaping doses of the politics of envy to try to arouse the anger of workers. However, their targets are not the corporate CEOs pulling down tens of millions of dollars a year in pay and bonuses. Nor is it the Wall Street crew that got incredibly rich inflating the housing bubble and then took government handouts to stay alive through the bust. The targets of these politicians' wrath are school teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers.
The Republican's war on women is also very real, although it is often a bi-partisan war. It includes austerity and budget cutting which has pushed millions of women out of their jobs and crushed the living standards of their families. Most of the public sector workers listed above are women. Then there's the revived assault on the rights of women to make decisions about their own health care, contraception and abortion.

All good reasons to join the March 28th  National March Against the War on Women.

No metaphor here --the real war makers are coming to town for their May 20-21 NATO Summit. The mayor, still stung after Obama pulled the G8 Summit from his realm, is turning Chicago into a Potemkin Village, only made of barbed wire and barricades. Lynn Sweet writes in today's Sun-Times:
The Secret Service has an extensive shopping list to fortify the Chicago NATO summit, from barriers to withstand a vehicle going 50 mph to 8-foot-high fences that can’t be climbed. The specifics are contained in a bid request from the Secret Service, a document called “sensitive but unclassified.” 

Visiting heads of state won't be able to see the massive protests over these 8 ft. high barricades or see protesters getting beaten and arrested outside. They'll have to watch it all on TV. They certainly won't even hear about the protests back in the neighborhoods were autocrat Rahm is closing the city's mental health clinics.

 On the bright side, I assume the taxpayers won't have to foot the bill for hookers for the Secret Service guys.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our no-bid, win-win, Rahmadier

Marc Boucher, from left, Bombardier vice president of operations; CTA President Forrest Claypool; and Mayor Rahm Emanuel check out a new rail car in November. The cars were later taken out of service because of defects. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune / November 8, 2011)
When I was in D.C., an old Chicago friend asked me what Rahm Emanuel was up to back in Chi-Town. It took me some time to explain how autocrat Rahm, the man in charge of our public schools, was handing over our great city to his billionaire patrons. His M.O. -- privatization of public space, corporate cronyism, no-bid contracts, union-busting, all on a scale that makes the Daley dynasty look like small-time petty thievery.

To clear up any confusion, I am sending him this Tribune story about Rahm's secret no-bid deal gone awry with Bombardier. Or as Rahm crony, Forrest Claypool (pictured above) describes it, "a very, very rare potential for a win-win."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


 Jonathan Pelto
Let’s be honest. Not everyone thinks firing teachers, banning collective bargaining, having a third party run the schools and exempting that third party from Connecticut’s consulting and purchasing laws is “helping” out the children who go to those schools. -- The Answer Sheet
N.Y. Times
This elbows-out and wallets-open competition for top middle schools is most apparent in Manhattan, where a boom in development has carried in a flood of elementary- and middle-school-age children. -- "Tutoring Surges With Fight for Middle School Spots"
Barbara Ehrenreich
The pundits are still agonizing about white people's stereotypes of young black men. There is a simple solution: Black men under the age of 25 should wear tuxedos at all times. -- FB post
Margaret Quinones-Perez
"I don't find something being progressive if it is only by having money that you can get it; it's an oxymoron." -- Voicing opposition to Santa Monica College's proposed 2-tier tuition/privatization plan.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oops...wrong decree!

Plane reading -- Heading back to sweet home Chicago today, thank God. I hate hotels. Need my own pillow to sleep, these days. I've been lugging around my review copy of Education and Capitalism. Maybe I'll get into it on the plane home.

The Reader's Ben Joravsky, as usual, knocks it out of Wrigley Field with his piece on bananas dictator Rahm's longer-school-day insanity.
If you recall, I valiantly tried to save Mayor Emanuel from the mess he got himself into when he unilaterally declared that, from here on out, the public school children of Chicago would have to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes. Whoops—wrong decree.
The view from D.C -- (actually neighboring Fairfax County, VA) where Woody should film his Bananas sequel. Fairfax schools could become the first in the Washington region to create Virginia Virtual Academy that would allow students to take all their classes from a computer at home.
No sports teams. No pep rallies. No lockers, no hall passes. Instead, assignments delivered on-screen and after-school clubs that meet online. It’s a reimagination of the American high school experience. And it’s a nod to the power of the school choice movement, which has given rise to the widespread expectation that parents should have a menu of options to customize their children’s education.

If I owned an ipad -- which I don't, I'd be keeping my eye right on it even while getting groped.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rahm, the artless dodger

Rahm retreats "this much."
“Now that the mayor is starting to listen to parents, teachers and research regarding the pitfalls of the longer school day program being pushed in school districts across the country, it is now time he used both ears to hear everything we are saying about the types of schools our children deserve.  It is not the length of time but the quality of time that truly matters here.” -- CTU President Karen Lewis

Here's how the mayor works politics. First he throws out some education catch phrase that might grab the attention of unwitting voters in the short run --- like a longer school day. I suppose the logic is that if schools are "failing" more seat time will produce better outcomes. Of course, there's no research in the field to validate such nonsense and nothing can be further from the truth.

So the next step is to throw out some arbitrary school-day length. How about 7.5 hours, with no high-quality content added in nor any plan to pay teachers for extra work time? He knows that no high-performing school, especially the private school where his kids go, would ever accept such a long day or thoughtless plan. 

You see, all of Rahm's demagogy was never really about improving the teaching/learning environment. It was always about his grab for naked power. The immediate target was the teachers union and it's collective bargaining agreement. Rahm knows that if he can impose new work rules on teachers and other public employees, rather than allow them, as typically done, to be collectively bargained between the teachers and the board, he has won the battle, regardless of the final outcome of the length-of-day struggle. 

So when parent groups around the city finally get wise to all of the mayor's phony research baloney and start marching against the 7.5-hour school day, Rahm offers a weak compromise without dealing in any of the fundamental issues raised by the parents and the union. 

Pretty slick -- he thinks. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Free tuition not such a radical idea

Michael Hiltzik writes in today's L.A. Times:
"...let's reinvigorate the notion of a free UC education.  The chief objection to this idea isn't hard to predict: "We can't afford it!" Yet it's odd how eliminating in-state tuition is regarded today as completely out of the bounds of good sense, while proposals with far greater fiscal impact are floated routinely and given sober consideration. Eliminating all in-state tuition at UC would cost less than $3 billion a year. (That comes from the university's report on its core operating budget for 2011-12.) During her ill-starred run for governor in 2010, Meg Whitman proposed eliminating the state tax on capital gains, which brings in about $11 billion in a good year."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Research shows...

"Figures don't lie but liars figure" -- Mark Twain

It seems that all political charlatans, demagogues, and think-tankers need to do these days to push their agenda is make some absurd declaration and put the words, "research shows" or "Study:" in front of it.

Here's one example: "Study: Obama's health care law would raise deficit." In this case, a conservative think tank, George Mason University's Mercatus Center, created with Koch Bros. money, produced an obviously biased "study" by a well known, right-wing political hack and held a press conference. Some lazy journalist or campaign news-hungry media inevitably takes the bait and presents it as if the research is genuine and speaks for itself.

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel has taken a page from the Koch Bros. book of tricks by using the "research says" tactic to push his longer-school-day campaign on resistant city schools. As I have shown numerous times on this blog and elsewhere, there is no reliable or valid research to support Rahm's claim that more seat time in school produces better learning outcomes. But buoyed by support from corporate reform groups like Stand For Children, the mayor's publicists at CPS, like Becky Carroll and his hand-picked CEO J.C. Brizard, continue to claim that there are studies to validate this obvious political and anti-union agenda.

I am elated to see that a group of CPS parents has done their own investigation of Rahm's longer-school-day research and guess what they found.
A coalition of 16 parent groups Monday demanded a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to go over the real research on a 7 1/2-hour school day, and not the “misinformation” they charged district officials with spreading. “They are either misinformed or deliberately misleading the public,’’ said Jonathan Goldman of the new Chicago Parents for Quality Education coalition. “In either case, that’s not how we should be deciding public policy, especially when it comes to our children.’’ -- Sun-Times
When veteran Sun-Times reporter Ros Rossi followed up on the parents' investigation she uncovered even more research deception. She called the author of one analysis of 15 studies cited by CPS as proof that longer school days work.  Erika Patall of the University of Texas said the evidence the studies cited was “weak’’ and their conclusions were “very tentative” because “a good deal of the research does not rule out something other than time causing the improvement.’’

Parents also questioned CPS contentions that the system needed a 7.5 hour school day to get “on par with other districts.’’ CPS officials have said their numbers were based on weekly instructional minutes in a National Center for Education Statistics chart, multiplied out annually. 

But an author of the NCES report told the Sun-Times that the chart was based on weekly teacher minutes, not student minutes, of instruction. Plus, the NCES researcher said, every district counts school days differently, so NCES would never extrapolate student instructional minutes in a year from one week’s worth of teacher instructional minutes.
“In putting it all together, somebody is making a lot of assumptions,’’ the NCES researcher said of the CPS calculations. “We do not do that at the National Center for Education Statistics.’’
Research shows that Mark Twain was right.

Monday, April 9, 2012

USC prez lets loose with reformy cliches. Not much else.

Looking through the April 4th issue of EdWeek, I found this back page commentary piece, "Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower Into the Classroom" co-written by C.L. Max Nikias, the president of USC and USC prof William Tierney. I guess the very idea of the head of one of the world's most expensive and least accessible universities telling public schools what they need, kind of pissed me off. So I forced myself to read it all the way through.

Why it took two such highly-esteemed academics to rehash this corporate reform drivel is beyond me. They start out reminding us once again of the failures of our so-called "dropout factories." Don't they have to pay Arne Ducan a buck or two for using this patented, degrading cliche? Talk about the Ivory Tower! What an encouraging way to start a conversation with real educators.

Then comes the usual plea for schools to help make American corporations "globally competitive." According to Nikias and Tierney, it's public schools that are holding back Microsoft, Bain, GM and the hedge funds from beating the Chinese in the hunt for super-profits. Really? I wonder why public education never got the credit it deserved when the economy was on an upswing.?
With statistics like these, America cannot remain globally competitive and economically vibrant. Student performance in other industrialized nations regularly outpaces ours, and China and India are spending vast sums of money educating their children to catch up.
Not only are we hurting the economy, but public school educators are not even adequately preparing students for college. That reminded me of a recent Diane Ravitch tweet -- "There appears to be a bipartisan agreement that bad teachers killed the Dead Sea."

 Okay, so the pair do make some good points here -- although to put it all on the schools is ridiculous.
At too many schools, fewer than half the seniors will qualify to enroll in a four-year college or university. At many of our state universities, more than half the entering freshmen require courses in remedial math or English—or both. Several recent studies show that the performance gap between affluent and poor students in terms of test scores, high school completion rates, and, ultimately, wage earnings continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Yes, it does. But having the president of one of the world's most expensive private universities ($61,000/year), completely inaccessible to nearly all but the children of the rich, complaining about the gap in school completion rates--that takes chutzpah. This is the school where the gap was practically invented. I mean, USC is a school that pays its football coach $4 million a year to coach a team that is still serving a two-year NCAA suspension for having the ethics of a flea.

USC's 4-year completion rate of 70% is pretty good for most private schools, but it is still below the average for the nation's public schools. USC creams it applicants for high test scores and big, parent bank accounts and yet, still loses 30% of entering freshman. "Maybe USC should be called a dropout factory." And maybe there are some things public schools shouldn't learn from private university consultants.

So what solutions are offered by the men from Troy? Simple -- more university/school partnerships  "compacts". Wow, a compact! Just what every classroom teacher needs right now.  Is this some new school reform breakthrough? Aren't school districts already saturated by high-priced, outside university-based, professional developers? Charter school authorizers?  Consultants whose contracts soak up a huge portion of school budgets as they deliver their eye-rolling, power-point-heavy lectures?
We are not suggesting that research universities hold all the answers to our K-12 problems. Some colleges of education have already made significant strides in their involvement in schools. For example, at our own institution, we have a mentoring program [How nice for you. -mk] that helps low-income youths apply to college and a program that helps college-bound youths improve their writing. But the education of our nation's K-12 students cannot be left to a select few.
No, they say, education cannot be left to the educators. Instead we need to bring "our greatest minds to bear on one of our most vital organizations: the public school."  And if schools and districts are unwilling resistors to those "greatest minds," the two want their contracts mandated by legislation.
Our public schools and universities must work together rather than go it alone. If state policies need to legislate these relationships, then such steps should be examined.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for building relationships between school and university. I've been working to do that for a few decades now. And there are a few really good colleges of education which are great at this and have also been doing it for decades. Academics can and should work with classroom teachers (on a voluntary basis). They can learn a lot from each other. Universities can also bring the power of their research into the public sphere by advocating for good ed policies. For example, here in Chicago, a group of 150 university-based researchers called CReATE came out with a damning report on the overuse of standardized testing in school and teacher evaluation. But this critical role probably isn't what Nikias and Tierney have in mind.

Besides the compacts, what other brilliant ideas do they have to offer? Well, they also want us to "think like rocket scientists." Okay, I'm down with that, although I wouldn't mind some rocket scientists thinking like teachers for a change. Then they want us to "knock down the knowledge silos." Yes, now you're talking. Knock 'em down. But also remember where these silos came from -- academia.

But what about, "thinking outside the box" and "becoming life-long learners"?  They must have missed those.


In Sanford, Fl  the police chief threatened to stop the game if Robinson did not leave the field
Chris Lamb
"A specter of Jackie Robinson" haunts the city of 53,000 people to this day. People want to forget it and it shouldn't be forgotten." -- Racist past haunts Florida town where Trayvon died
Judy Rabin
"Like Pharoah, Duncan's heart is hardened and although members of United Opt Out met with him last week and he has heard the cries of the people, he refuses to let them go." --  Schools Matter
 Karen Lewis
"In all of my 22 years of teaching I have never seen a climate as hostile as the one created by Rahm Emanuel, his hand-picked school board and his handpicked leadership of Chicago Public Schools." -- CTU Net
Eric Zorn
"Parents, who were shut out of the key decision here, deserve a greater voice and individual schools should be able to customize their schedules based on what’s best for their student populations, not for someone else’s sweeping reform agenda." -- Change of Subject

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chicago teachers' answer to SB7 -- Vote yes in strike poll

The Chicago Teachers Union has put the mayor and his Board of Ed cronies on notice. After Stand For Children bankrolled the passage of SB7, corporate reformers thought they had essentially eliminated the threat of a teachers strike. The new law bans strikes without 75% approval from union members. So the CTU took the issue right to the rank-and-file and got the approval they needed. The teachers responded to the "hostile environment" created by the mayor, loudly and clearly.
Chicago Public School officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have created such a “hostile” climate that teacher leaders in 150 schools polled CTU members about support for a strike, Lewis and other CTU officials said. At each school, Lewis said, at least 75 percent of teachers favored a strike “should contract negotiations fail” and “CPS and the mayor do not reverse the hostile climate against us.” -- Sun-Times
No money for schools but...
During his press conference to tout $6.8 million in new high-definition cameras at 14 high schools, the mayor's hand-picked schools CEO, J.C. Brizard insisted he had “tremendous respect’’ for teachers and it was “unfortunate’’ teachers were talking about strikin
CPS still obstructing LSCs, says Don Moore
“I would say their overall pattern during the election period has been to obstruct and limit the number of candidates,” says Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change and one of the authors of the 1988 legislation that created LSCs. Moore, a self-described “irritant” for CPS, has been steadily following Local School Councils and prodding CPS for information for 15 years. -- Center Square Journal

Thursday, April 5, 2012

44 years after Dr. King's death attacks on unions continue

Dr. King in Memphis, 1968
"That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, AFL-CIO Convention, December 1961
Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1968 assassination of  Dr. King, who was killed while defending the rights of black public workers in Memphis, to unionize. How ironic then, 44 years later, to hear school reformer Geoffrey Canada's declaration of war on the teachers union.

Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone and co-star, along with Michelle Rhee, in the anti-teacher, propaganda film, Waiting For Superman, was quoted in Tuesday's New York Times:
Ms. Rhee and Mr. (Joel) Klein have a confrontational history with teachers’ unions. But some charter school leaders and other advocates have spoken of the need to lower the temperature of the debate and have turned their focus inward on improving their own schools.
“Folks are genuinely looking for opportunities to make peace and not war,” Mr. Canada said. “And I think that’s terrific. But someone has to make war.”
In making his declaration, Canada, who is fond of quoting Dr. King in his speeches, joined hands with the worst of the worst education privatizers and profiteers whose hatred of unions is understandable. They include, Rhee and Klein (front man for international criminal Rupert Murdoch), Micah Lasher, who runs Mayor Bloomberg's legislative affairs, and charter profiteer Eva Moskowitz. Together, they announced the formation of StudentsFirstNY, a heavily-funded group that intends to pour money behind anti-teacher union candidates in upcoming election campaigns.

Thanks to Richard Kahlenberg for sending me a copy of his and Moshe Marvit's new book, Why Labor Organizing should be a civil right. The book begins with the recounting of Dr. King's role in the supporting organized labor, which he considered part and parcel of the civil rights movement. King was also highly critical of those union leaders who had allowed racially segregated local unions into the AFL-CIO.

King declared in his famous Chaos or Community speech in 1967:
The displaced are flowing into proliferating service occupations. These enterprises are traditionally unorganized and provide low wage scales with longer hours. The Negroes pressed into these services need union protection, and the union movement needs their membership to maintain its relative strength in the whole society.

Santa Monica tuition protests met with pepper spray

Growing up in L.A. in the '60s, I would take summer school classes at Santa Monica City College. L.A. had a great junior college system back then and tuition was cheap enough (about $10/class) so that a kid like me, with few resources, had access to a quality post-secondary education and with that, a job and some social capital. I remember SMCC students as being mostly white, sandy-haired and really into the surfer sub-culture, ie. the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, The Ventures and doing the surfer's stomp at the Oar House on Friday nights.

Courtney Aravena, left, speaks Wednesday about being pepper-sprayed the previous evening, while Ernie Sevilla tells of being pressed up against the wall by the crowd next to the officer who used pepper spray. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / April 4
On Tuesday, hundreds of (what is now called) Santa Monica College students (none of them sandy-haired) gathered peacefully outside the Board of Trustees meeting to protest a plan to raise tuition for some high-demand, core courses such as English, math and history. Under the plan, a foundation would offer about 50 popular classes at high cost, which would supplement about 700 regular state-funded classes. California residents would pay about $540, for example, for a typical three-unit course such as English, while non-residents would pay about $840.

As the trustees began discussing the new two-tiered system, students began chanting against the growing  privatization of public education. Police moved in without warning and began pepper spraying the legal gathering of students in the enclosed hallway.  Dozens had to be treated for inhaling the toxic fumes. Several were taken to the hospital. Shades of U.C. Davis last November.

President Tsang claims that the police acted with "restraint" and that students were acting illegally. However there wasn't even one arrest. I guess pepper spray has replaced due process when it comes to California student protests.

Students are now calling for a campus-wide referendum on the two-tier plan and  Chancellor Jack Scott has asked the trustees to put a hold on the plan. "No one likes to see something like this happen, and I expressed that it might be wise to put this matter on hold," Scott said in an interview.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In the mailbox

This Open Letter to the New York State Regents from New York State Professors Against High Stakes Testing follows on the heels of Chicago CReATE statement on the poor use of standardized test scores as teacher evaluation measures.

Open Letter to the New York State Regents from New York State Professors Against High Stakes Testing
March 30, 2012
As lifelong educators and researchers, from across the State of New York, we strongly oppose New York State’s continued reliance on high stakes standardized testing in public schools as the primary criterion for assessing student achievement, evaluating teacher effectiveness, and determining school quality. We write to express our professional consensus and concern, and to offer our assistance to the Regents in generating educationally sound alternatives to high-stakes testing as the primary strategy for assessment in New York State.
Researchers and educational organizations have consistently documented, and a nine-year study by the National Research Council has recently confirmed, that the past decade’s emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress. In New York State and New York City, the consequences of testing policies have been most disappointing.
Disparate impact on students. Numerous studies document that the over-reliance on high-stakes testing bears adverse impact on student achievement and has been accompanied by widening racial/ethnic gaps. Using New York City as an example, we see that large numbers of students are performing below proficiency. High numbers of the city’s public school graduates fail the CUNY entry tests and are required to take remedial courses. Results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) suggest a failure to achieve significant reduction in the achievement gap separating New York City’s white students from African American and Latino students since 2003. The negative effects of our high-stakes testing environment are perhaps most pronounced for English Language Learners for whom the tests were not designed, who cumulatively and consistently fail to achieve proficiency within the limited school time (a year and a day) before they are required to take the exam in English. In 2010, 24% of 4th graders labeled as ELLs were deemed proficient in English Language Arts compared to 58% of non-ELLs. By 8th grade only 4% of ELLs were classified as proficient compared to 54% of non-ELLs. It is therefore little surprise that of the 2006 cohort, only 40% of ELLs graduated after four years compared to 75% for non-ELLs.
Negative impact on educators. High-stakes testing creates adverse consequences not only for students but also for educators. Statisticians and educational researchers have challenged the validity, effectiveness, and ethics of using high stakes test scores to evaluate educators. As argued in an open letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel by CReATE (Chicago Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education), “There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. [and] Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors.” Given various value added measures, it is not possible to actually identify with accuracy the teachers who are most effective or least effective. This is already causing some highly effective teachers to leave the profession and may very well serve as a significant disincentive for aspiring new teachers to enter the field. The recent release of New York City Teachers Data Reports unleashed a hugely demoralizing media attack on the professional dignity of teachers.
Disparate impact on children who are disrupted by school closings. Finally, we are extremely concerned about the misuse of test scores as the primary criterion for the closing of schools. The 117 schools closings authorized by the New York City Department of Education since 2003 disproportionately affect children receiving special education services, those who receive free and reduced lunch, and those who are English Language Learners.
In conclusion, we stand with the 1400 principals who signed a petition against teacher evaluations based on high-stakes testing. We offer our intellectual support to the State to help generate public policies that bolster schools to be intellectually vibrant environments where inquiry-based pedagogy is encouraged, class sizes are reduced, educators are respected, parents are welcomed, and students are granted dignity while learning. We make ourselves available to the Regents to create just policies to transform the public schools in New York.
Bernadette Anand, Instructor and Advisor, Educational Leadership, Bank Street College Gary Anderson, Professor of Education Leadership, NYU Jean Anyon, Professor of Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY Lee Anne Bell, Professor, Barbara Silver Horowitz Director of Education, Barnard College Douglas Biklen, Dean, School of Education, Syracuse University Sari Knopp Biklen, Laura and Douglas Meredith Professor, School of Education, Syracuse University Robert Cohen, Professor of Teaching and Learning, NYU Edward Deci, Professor of Psychology and Helen F. & Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences, University of Rochester Greg Dimitriadis, Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy, University at Buffalo, SUNY Arnold Dodge, Chair, Department of Educational Leadership and Administration, Long Island University -Post Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY Ofelia Garcia, Professor of Urban Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY Beverly Greene, Professor of Psychology, St. John’s University Suzanne Kessler, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Purchase College, SUNY Wendy Luttrell, Professor of Urban Education and Social-Personality Psychology, The Graduate Center, CUNY Ernest Morrell, Professor, English Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; Director: Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME); Vice President: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Leith Mullings, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, The Graduate Center, CUNY Mark D. Naison, Professor of African American Studies, Fordham University Pedro A. Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, New York University Celia Oyler, Associate Professor and director of Inclusive Education Programs, Teachers College, Columbia University Pedro Pedraza, Researcher at El Centro, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University and Former Assistant Secretary of Education Michael Rebell, Professor of Law and Educational Practice, Teachers College, Columbia University Richard M. Ryan, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education and Director of Clinical Training, Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester Ira Shor, Professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center Louise Silverstein, Professor of School-Child Clinical Psychology, Ferkauf Graduate School, Yeshiva University Carola Suarez-Orozco, Professor of Applied Psychology and Co-Director, Immigration Studies at NYU Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. Professor of Urban History and Director of Center for Urban Studies, University of Buffalo, SUNY Ethel Tobach, Curator Emerita, American Museum of Natural History Sofia Villenas, Director, Latino Studies Program and Associate Professor of Anthropology and Education, Cornell University Lois Weis, State University of New York Distinguished Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy, University at Buffalo, SUNY