"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding the Implementation of AB 1505

A copy of this letter was sent to each individual member via email

August 1, 2020

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

I am an educational rights attorney and law professor here in Los Angeles. I live within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) and I am a registered voter.

I am writing you regarding the implementation of AB 1505. I’m asking you to vote YES on said implementation this Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

As you know, Assembly Bill No. 1505 went a long way towards reigning in the more egregious excesses of the charter school industry. Most notably, it discouraged the practice of “forum shopping” in which a charter school corporations found to be out of compliance with the law, and thus denied a petition or renewal, could circumvent the law by seeking authorization with another authorizer. Public policy supports placing more oversight and accountability on these private entities that divert funding from our public schools.

Assembly Bill No. 1505 also implemented a number of other student-centered policies that force the charter school industry to be more accountable, transparent, and responsive to the communities from which they draw their funding. A key issue advanced by AB 1505 was in regards to credentialing. Students in our communities deserve instruction from educators with appropriate education in child development and pedagogy.

A YES vote on the implementation of AB 1505 provides a path for placing pupils over profits.



Monday, July 27, 2020

Laurie Garrett on the Folly of Re-opening Schools

Remote Learning Should Continue This Fall

Remote Learning Should Continue This Fall in Tennessee


A growing body of evidence makes it increasingly clear that opening Tennessee schools this Fall represents an unwise and irresponsible political decision that will endanger staff, faculty, students, and students’ families. With a sophomore grandson chomping at the bit to get back with his friends and teachers at the L&N STEM Academy, I do not come to this conclusion lightly.  But I have to listen to the facts.


We know, in fact, that pediatricians agree that schools offer intellectual and social development opportunities that healthy kids require.  Even so, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics told Congress on July 23 that schools “really can’t open” in communities where Covid-19 remains widespread . Presently, the Washington Post ranks Tennessee 5th in the nation for new Covid infections per capita.


The facts tell us, too, that many working parents with elementary-aged children are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making sure their children are properly cared for during the work day. Too, there is ample pressure to re-open schools in hopes of producing good economic numbers in the fall that might resuscitate November election prospects for Trumpsters who have failed to provide the leadership required to manage the pandemic. 


Sadly, any short term economic and political gain from forced early re-opening is sure to further delay sustained economic recovery beyond November.  After all, the health of the economy is dependent upon the good health of its workers. Opening schools drastically increases the chances for new transmission and increased spread of the virus to children’s parents and teachers’ families.


Unfortunately, some factually-challenged advocates for opening schools as the pandemic is headed in the wrong direction argue that children are less susceptible to the virus and are less likely to spread it if it is contracted.  Recent research, however, clearly shows that even though children often exhibit mild symptoms when they contract Covid-19, children 10 and older are just as effective as adults in spreading the virus.


Let’s consider a few more relevant facts.  In Knox County, the Health Department noted most recently that three of five Covid benchmarks are now in the red zone, which indicates “statistically significant increases in deaths and the number of positive cases, and that testing is not optimal.”


And even though Tennessee has increased Covid-19 testing by 200% since May 22, the number of positive cases has increased by 566%.   In short, the increase in testing does not come close to matching the increased number of new infections.


Even though a majority of parents (59%) are worried that their children are falling behind academically due to the pandemic, an ABC/Ipsos poll released July 24 found that only a minority (44%) of those same parents are willing to send their kids back to school this Fall.


Another national poll released July 24 by Gallup shows that teachers, who understand the challenges of keeping children safe from infections at school, are even more concerned: 75% are extremely or moderately concerned, and 74% said remote learning should continue this Fall.


The most compelling piece of evidence for keeping schools closed this Fall comes from the White House, however.  Even though his administration insists that children and teachers nationwide should head back to school in August, Mr. Trump announced July 23 that Covid makes it too unsafe to hold the in-person GOP convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville.  Now if public gatherings are too unsafe for responsible adults with no limit on resources to make conditions safe, how can we expect children to return safely to schools that have not been provided extra funds, clear guidance, and necessary protocols to make and keep them safe? 

Just outside Knox County, Alcoa City Schools opened last week.  Their first case of Covid was detected at Alcoa Middle School two days after opening.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

CVS Covid Test Worse Than No Test at All

I was pretty sure I had Covid on Saturday, July 11, but the first test I could schedule was at a CVS Pharmacy July 13. The next best time was July 14 at Complete Health Partners, an emergency medical clinic nearby. I scheduled them both out of caution and self-isolated myself in an upstairs bedroom. 

Very oddly, I thought, the CVS pre-screening form asked me if I had been to Wuhan, China in the past two weeks.  Something told me they might be a bit behind the curve on what's happening with Covid-19.

Scheduling both tests proved to be a good call.  When I followed the signs at CVS to the drive-in window around back, a clerk inside greeted me from behind a closed window, read from her script, and dispensed me out a bag with testing collection materials: a ziplock bag, a small vial, and 4 regular Q-tip swabs. 

She continued reading from her script as I followed her directions the best I could to gather a nasal sample, all the while sweating and shaking and feeling awful. 

Both nostrils. Pull lid from vial, place swab into vial, and reseal. Put in ziplock and drop in Deposit Box on side of building.  She didn't even take my temperature.

I had a real test the following day at Complete Health Partners and waited three days during the height of my illness for the results (I found out later that I could have had my results in a half-hour if I had paid $350 on top of my insurance payment). 

Three days later I was entirely NOT surprised by the positive reading on the Covid test. The previous 72 hours days had been hellish, with severe headaches, chills, fever, night sweats, nausea, skin rash, and mental fogginess. 

And I was not surprised when I did not hear any test results from CVS.  Until today, that is, July 26, now 13 days after the test. 

A chipper young woman with CVS informed me that the labs were backed up, but I need not worry anymore because my Covid test came back NEGATIVE!

Even while I was offering an extended verbal review of CVS's Covid bullshit "self-test" on the phone, I knew I was going to have to write about this.

I checked online for any information on the CVS's bogus test, and as I did so, I remembered the CVS exec with Donald Trump announcing plans for Covid tests that would be conducted in CVS parking lots.  When I went to CVS, in fact, that's what I thought I would be getting, instead of a q-tip and a test tube in a bag.

Then it came back to me, something I read a couple of years ago about CVS's political connections with the Trump Administration. I quickly found at Snopes.com that

CVS corporate and its associated PAC contributed $535,000 in donations in 2017 to political organizations that support Trump,

and that Trump is the only presidential candidate that CVS has supported since 2016.

Enough said.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

KIPP Drops the Motto But Keeps the Brutality

Four out of five students who started school at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute during the decades just after the Civil War never earned their certificates of completion, even though academic expectations were far below schools for white students.  Getting booted from Hampton's residential program, you see, was more likely to come from a bad attitude, or bad character, than bad study habits.

Hampton's chief purpose, after all, was to inculcate in freed slaves and Western Indians a deep and abiding respect for hard work, above all else.  Secondarily, the purpose was to politically neuter Southern blacks and to assimilate Native Americans. As Captain Richard Pratt made infamous, "Kill the Indian, save the man."

The indoctrination at Hampton was non-stop, and most students who completed the program became teachers who were expected to fan out across the South to teach young black folks "the dignity of labor" and a ready acceptance of second-class citizenship, which had been earned, they were taught by white male instructors, by the inherent moral depravity of their race. 

To earn the favor of the white philanthropists who supported Hampton's methods, and to advance in white Southern society, Blacks would need to labor diligently and to remain compliant without complaint. You might say, those indoctrinated in the Hampton Model schools were taught to work hard and to be nice.

I was gratified to see, then, in Jay Mathews' announcement yesterday that KIPP would be dropping its motto, "Work Hard, Be Nice," that Jay acknowledges the obvious connection between the 21st Century KIPP Model of African-American and Latinx schooling and the 19th Century Hampton Model of Black and American Indian schooling.

Mathews explains KIPP's decision to drop the motto this way:

The announcement quoted a former KIPP student saying: “Asking us to ‘be nice’ puts the onus on kids to be quiet, be compliant, be controlled. It doesn’t actively challenge us to disrupt the systems that are trying to control us.”

Just as we should celebrate the taking down of monuments to racism across our deeply racist country, we should celebrate the dumping of this racist semantic monument by a racist organization.  It is a beginning.

What will the new motto be, and what, if any, effect will it have on KIPP's ongoing programs to culturally sterilize, behaviorally neuter, and neurologically rewire young children to work efficiently within their chains of poverty? 

We must remember that philanthrocapitalists and their politicians who support the KIPP Model do so because of its reputation for churning out gritty and grateful students who become gritty and grateful employees who are willing "work hard, be nice."  It took the Hampton Model forty years to finally begin to move toward the kind of quality education that current student of Hampton University enjoy. 

And of course, Jay Mathews continues to spin for KIPP.  Some things never change.  I have heard the same spin from him so long, in fact, that I will use one of my earlier responses to another of his similarly misleading columns:

Mathews would have us believe that . . . [the] growth of KIPP resulted from two young geniuses inspired by a "magical" teacher godmother who sprinkled her fairy dust on them and gave them her blessing. 

The facts, however, are a bit more complicated and prosaic.  KIPP sprang from the corporate conceptual ground provided by Teach for America and its market-centered and publicly-fed neoliberal agenda, and it was fertilized and manicured by tons of tax-sheltered cash provided initially by renowned conservative GAP founder, Donald Fisher.  It did not hurt, either, that KIPP was asked to do a skit at the 2000 National Republican Convention.

As for the godmother teacher in Jay's fairy tale, Harriet Ball, her ideas were harvested by the KIPP machine, and she was left unpaid for her intellectual property. 
Read this book:

Anderson, James. (1988). The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

From the back cover:

James Anderson critically reinterprets the history of southern black education from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. By placing black schooling within a political, cultural, and economic context, he offers fresh insights into black commitment to education, the peculiar significance of Tuskegee Institute, and the conflicting goals of various philanthropic groups, among other matters.

Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order--supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators, and most southern school officials--conflicted with the aspirations of ex-slaves and their descendants, resulting at the turn of the century in a bitter national debate over the purposes of black education. Because blacks lacked economic and political power, white elites were able to control the structure and content of black elementary, secondary, normal, and college education during the first third of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, blacks persisted in their struggle to develop an educational system in accordance with their own needs and desires.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Quadruple-Dipping by Corporate Welfare Charter Chaingangs

Let's add 'em up: charter schools in California are eligible for 1) state per pupil funding equal to public schools, 2) chunks of the half-billion dollars each year from the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants, 3) hundreds of millions from white philanthropic oligarchs and high rollers who see total compliance charter schools as the solution to what white philanthropists of the last century referred to as "the Negro problem," and 4) hundreds of millions available under new federal relief for small businesses.

And on top of that, you may add the stacks of cash saved by charter schools operating as non-profit corporations.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

. . . . Fourteen charter schools or chains in Oakland combined to receive roughly $20 million from the program. They included Education for Change, which runs six schools in the city and received $5.25 million, and Lighthouse Community Public Schools, which has two campuses and got $2.3 million.

Eight charter schools or chains in Santa Clara County combined to receive roughly $20 million. All but one received at least $1.5 million. Summit Public Schools, which has three schools in the county and a total of eight in the Bay Area, received $6.8 million.

At least two schools in San Francisco received loans. San Francisco Creative Arts Charter School got nearly $600,000. Envision Education’s City Arts and Tech High School also received a loan, but says the money will go to its consulting business — not the school that is supported by public funds. It did not divulge the amount it received.

And the St. Hope charter schools in Sacramento, whose board is chaired by school choice advocate Michelle Rhee and which was founded by her husband, former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, received more than $1.5 million.

Some of the loans were first publicized by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education. The Chronicle independently verified their research and conducted its own.

Traditional public schools are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, and state-funded charter schools’ access to the loans raises questions among their critics about fairness.

“Because charter schools are currently receiving full funding as public schools intended to maintain employees, while at the same time receiving funding as private entities that are also intended to maintain employees, taxpayers are left covering what appears to be the same bill twice,” the groups said in a report questioning whether Oakland schools were “double dipping” on funds.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Details of Allegations Against KIPP's Mike Feinberg

Do you remember Christine Blasey Ford's emotional and riveting testimony related to her decades-old sexual assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, when he was a drunk, horny punk who enjoyed terrorizing and humiliating females? If you do, you're likely to remember, too, that institutional sexism functioned as it always has: it maligned the female victim of abuse so that the male perpetrator would never be held accountable for his criminal violence and cruelty.

You may remember, too, that Blasey Ford is a highly-regarded white middle class professional, whose testimony lacked only vital criterion required to establish its veracity: maleness.

Now picture what it must be like for a working class non-white female to go up against a privileged middle class male hero of the white male establishment, this time in a Southern state where discrimination and racism are even more systemic than in Washington, DC. 

This is what happened in April when a former KIPP student and her mother testified before two administrative law judges in Texas about a sexual assault that occurred twenty years ago when she was an 11-year old Mexican-American girl at Mike Feinberg's Houston KIPP middle school.

And even though Wilmer-Hale, the prestigious DC law firm hired by KIPP in 2017 to investigate the allegations, "found the alleged victim to be credible," the Texas judges have now concluded that they will recommend to the Texas Education Agency that the victim failed to "meet its burden to prove any such allegations," and that Feinberg, then, should retain his teaching license.

Here is the summary of the main allegation against Feinberg, who was defended during the hearing by some of the best defense attorneys money can buy.
As the factual bases for the present disciplinary action, Staff has accused Respondent of sexually abusing Student 1 during two incidents that would have occurred during the spring of 1999. At that time, Student 1 was completing the second of two years that she spent in KIPP Academy’s fifth grade while Respondent was serving as the school’s principal and as a teacher. In the first incident, according to Staff’s pleadings, Respondent “took [Student 1] into his officeat the school, ostensibly to conduct a “yearly check-up,” and then proceeded to reach under her shirt and run his fingers between her breasts and also along her back. The second incident allegedly occurred “[a] week or two later,” when Respondent “took [Student 1] back to his office,” this time under the pretense that he had “lost the file” from the earlier “check-up” and “would have to redo the exam.” Then, according to Staff, “Respondent asked [Student 1] to remove her clothing from the waist down,” “had [Student 1] sit on the desk and spread her legs,” then “approache[d] her with a Q-tip and inserted it into [her] vagina for a few seconds.”
The Texas judges did not hear the two charges against Feinberg's for sexual harassment against KIPP employees, and they did not hear allegations that Feinberg used KIPP computers to access porn.

It is be up to the State Board of Educator Certification to make the final call on whether or not Feinberg will keep his provisional middle school teaching license that he qualified for during his two year stint as a TFA recruit in the early 1990s.

Feinberg's lawsuit against KIPP, Inc. for defamation was dismissed earlier this year.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 4

by Jim Horn
Parts 1-3 here, here, and here.

Before I get into Diane Ravitch's role in the suppression of the Sandia Report (promised at the end of Part 3) and her subsequent silence on the issue, I need to offer some more context for my critique of Ravitch policies.  Over the years, Diane has recruited a number of eunuchs to serve as the royal protectors of her Court, so that each time a critic of her policies emerges, he or she is set upon with lambasting and accusations of ideological purity, animus toward the Queen, and aiding and abetting the enemy.  Today is no different.

Diane Ravitch's new book, “Slaying Goliath. . .,” follows on two previous books written since the lucrative reformer conversion experience in 2007, when it finally became clear to Diane that her think tank cronies had no interest in disarming the public school time bombs ticking inside No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Even though Diane had known at the creation of NCLB in 2001 that tens of thousands of schools and millions of children and teachers would be labeled failures because of an inability to meet NCLB's impossible proficiency targets, she waited until NCLB had become a highly unpopular toxic mess to make her move.  In fact, Diane's conversion was not much of a stretch from where she had always been. Let me offer a little bit of history.

With the Supreme Court appointment of Bush II as President in 2000, Tea Party conservatism was ascendant in the Republican Party.  As has been the history of Democrats since Jimmy Carter, the DNC, having already swapped principle for opportunism under Bill Clinton, rushed further right to claim the territory once occupied by Republican moderates.  Simply by standing still, then, Diane found herself aligned with the neoliberal Third Way Democrats, not because of any change on her part, but because the DNC’s rush rightward to fill the void left by Right flight moved backwards to where Republican moderates like Diane had always been.

With the DNC's rightward march, AFT and NEA, then, became the conduits for Clintonian education priorities such as charter schools, national standards (Common Core), testing accountability, performance pay for teachers, alternative teacher certification, computer technology, edu-preneurial privatizing of school services, and Business Roundtable policy priorities. 

By the time Ravitch was ready to ditch NCLB in 2007, the only K-12 education issue of substance separating Republicans and Democrats was school vouchers, which she quickly jettisoned as if she had never supported them.  Following her conversion, Diane became, and remains to this day, the chief apologist for awful policy positions by both AFT and NEA.

Her conversion, in short, was more transaction than transformation, with less pain and much more gain.  Even so, the fact that someone of Ravitch's status would publicly denounce NCLB and its poisonous outcomes as she did in 2007-08 made her an overnight hero to educators and policy progressives uninterested in her other policy positions. 

Since 2007, Diane's positions on Common Core, charter schools, performance pay and other corporate reforms have been all over the board, as she has simultaneously presented herself as a freedom fighter against CorpEd, while at the same time leading the propaganda effort to deflect and neutralize criticism of AFT-NEA's corporate collaboration with the DNC's Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children (SFC), and Save Our Schools (SOS).  

Ten year ago, AFT-NEA's embrace of value-added testing, Common Core, test-based teacher evaluation, charter schools, TFA, teacher performance pay, and big data fit pretty tightly with Diane’s policy preferences at the time she announced her opposition to NCLB.  In order to stay relevant to the real resistance to Corporate Education during the last ten years, Diane's NPE and AFT/NEA have been forced to shift away from or at least disguise some of their more odious alignments with the DNC's corporate education political hothouse, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

This has come as a result of the effective resistance work of teachers, parents, and students demanding change and making it happen.  For instance, the uncompromising dedication and fearless leadership of Long Island Opt Out and United Opt Out constrasted sharply with the tepid and ineffective gradualism of  AFT, NEA, and their new ally, Diane Ravitch.  Teacher and parent resistance to the Common Core, for instance, led corporate union leaders to muffle their earlier enthusiasm, and Diane went so far as to publish a revised edition of The Death and Life . . . primarily to walk back her previous support for the Common Core.

Over the past 15 years, a handful of critics have supported teachers' skepticism to CorpEd reforms by repeatedly ridiculing and exposing Diane's and corporate union leaders' acquiescence to performance pay, VAM, teacher evaluation based on value-added test scores, high-stakes testing, ESSA, and charter schools.   And one by one, their support for these corporate reform priorities have fallen by the way, moved underground, or have been shrouded in position statements that require careful explication to figure out what they mean.  NPE's position on charter schools is a prime example of a policy statement that appears on the surface to oppose charter schools when, in fact, it supports the continuation of racist charter schools, while blowing smoke about some amorphous and fantastic eventual absorption of charters by public education.

Within the small world of corporate education critics, Diane Ravitch has achieved a sort of demigod status.  She has many defenders, as I have discovered during the past decade of analyzing and critiquing her Janus-faced policy schizophrenia

By generously offering recognition and attention to her followers who desperately seek it and by marginalizing critics with ridiculous claims of personal persecution, she has inspired a hive of vigilant rhetorical activists, where loyalty is demanded and rewarded, criticism is vanquished, and the protection of the queen is paramount.  This political devise is on full display in Slaying Goliath, as Diane offers a catalog of attaboys to every activist who has carried her water without criticism or complaint.

I am not one of those.