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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tomorrow I'll be discussing Wall Street banker Marshall Tuck on Dr. James Miller's The War Report on Public Education radio

Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 14:00 PST (2:00PM)
The War Report on Public Education
Call in number: (888) 627-6008

Host: Dr. James Miller
Co-Host: Lucianna Sanson

Guest: Jonathan Pelto (2:00PM) Democrats vs. Democrats vs. Teachers

Guest: Robert D. Skeels (3:00PM) Experienced educator Torlakson vs. business banker Tuck, the SPI race in California

I'll be discussing how Wall Street banker Marshall Tuck is supported by anti-public school billionaires and charter industry moguls. Moreover, I'll be discussing the various violations exposed by the MALDEF and Public Counsel cause of action filed against Tuck in the context of his vicious war on students and their families.

The War Report on Public Education!

Smoking Gun! Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck violated student and parent's civil rights!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The concrete facts about school performance

Sent to Time Magazine, Oct. 23, 2014.
Re: Taking on Teacher Tenure, Time, November 3, 2014

   "Unassuming" tycoon David Welch is also unformed. He claims he prefers a world of "concrete facts" but still maintains that the American education system is "failing" because of bad teachers who can't be fired. 
   The concrete facts are these: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our unspectacular (but not horrible) performance on tests is because of our high child poverty rate, about 23%, second highest among 34 economically advanced countries, according to UNICEF. High-scoring countries such as Finland have a child poverty rate of about 5%.
   Poverty means, among other things,  poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little access to books. All of these have powerful negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
   Our main problem is not teaching quality, unions, or the rules for due process. The main problem is poverty.

Stephen Krashen


Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

Child Poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Resistance to CorpEd Takeover of Memphis Schools Alive and Energized

I met with a group of parents and teachers in South Memphis last evening to discuss ideas and actions to resist the corporate takeover of Memphis's poorest schools.  The group represented teachers/parents from four of the 12 schools on the ASD hit list for 2015: South Side Middle, Wooddale Middle, Raleigh-Egypt High, and Florida-Kansas Elementary. 

Expressing her determination to turn back the assault on the local schools by the Shelby County School Board and the corporate foundations, Toni Jackson said during the meeting, "we've got to stand up--we are fighting for our lives." 

All affected parents and teachers are urged to join this group of teachers and parents on Monday at South Side Middle School, where KIPP, Inc. and Shelby County school board officials are sure to face tough questions and determined resistance.  Parents and teachers do not want their school turned into a corporate reform school chain gang.

MTA Responds to Corporate Teacher Licensure Plan by DESE

MTA Position Statement on DESE’s Performance-based Licensure Plan

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is floating a series of dangerous proposals that would link your license to your evaluation and/or student performance measures. The MTA is strongly opposed to all of the options outlined by DESE – and to any proposal that would tie an educator’s license with the state to his or her school- and district-based evaluations or student performance measures. 

On October 20, DESE released “Design Principles and Policy Options” for a “reimagined license system.” DESE has contracted with TNTP1 and the Keystone Center2 to hold “town halls,” ostensibly to get stakeholder feedback on these options. Members who attended the first session reported that the conversations were controlled and participants were not given the option of challenging the faulty premises being promoted by DESE. Meanwhile, DESE plans to issue proposed policy changes in the spring of 2015 and to have built a “performance-based licensure system” that includes “a link between licenses and district work assignments” by October 2015.

The policy options include a number of ideas about how to change the licensure system for those entering the profession as well as for those who are already licensed and experienced teachers. Based on a preliminary analysis, the most alarming proposals are the three options for “License Renewal and Advancement for Teachers” that are the subject of this position statement.

All three options, called Models A, B and C, would link license renewal and advancement to performance as determined by different means. We urge MTA members to demand “none of the above” as an option. Here are some highlights.

Model A: One provision: “License A automatically renewed for all educators with summative performance ratings of at least Proficient each year and at least moderate student impact rating each year.” 
In other words, the Student Impact Rating – based on MCAS growth and DDM scores – could be used to deprive you of a license to teach and drive you out of public school employment forever if that rating was less than “moderate.” What happened to the state’s promise that these questionable, yet-to-be-implemented ratings would only be used to help determine the length of an educator’s growth plan? Such a provision would make the high stakes attached to mandated tests even higher. Why would DESE even consider this option at a time when educators and parents across the state are saying that there is already far too much emphasis on standardized tests? How does this benefit students?
Model B: One provision: “If educator fails to demonstrate to the state [emphasis added] progress towards growth identified in the Educator Plan, the license may be conditionally extended for one additional year if LEA [school district] or its designee(s) provides additional coaching.” 
In other words, DESE – which claims it doesn’t have enough staff to regularly answer routine licensing phone calls – could be given the job of analyzing the plans of some 80,000 educators for the purpose of determining whether they have made progress toward meeting their goals. How many millions of dollars would this cost and, cumulatively, how many thousands of hours would teachers have to spend complying with such a requirement rather than teaching students? Why should the state have any role whatsoever in reviewing or analyzing an educator’s locally developed growth plan? How does this benefit students?
Model C: One provision: “Educators may renew a license by completing (or demonstrating) any two of the following:
• Recommendation from the employing LEA for license renewal
• Satisfactory results based on Student Feedback through a survey or other means
• Successful and Effective Parent Engagement….”

There are eight bullets altogether, but the first three give an idea of the direction. Under this model, the yet-to-be-implemented student feedback systems could play a role in determining whether you keep your license. This is a perversion of the stated purpose of obtaining student feedback. Why would DESE want to further undermine the validity and usefulness of an evaluation system that is already subject to deep and sustained criticism by educators? How would students benefit?
We strongly oppose all three models under consideration by DESE. 
• Linking licensure to evaluation is wrong. No other profession links job performance with licensure. Of course, the license of any professional can be pulled for grievous offenses, but not for employment-related performance reviews. Evaluations relate to educators’ employment status, not to their licenses. Linking performance measures to licensure puts vocal and activist teachers – indeed all teachers – on notice: Be careful or you will not only lose your job, but the ability to teach in Massachusetts.

• The state’s role is to determine if an educator is qualified. The appropriate role for the state is to determine whether an aspiring educator has met the education, training and experience requirements for obtaining a license and whether a practicing educator has met the professional development requirements for renewing a license. To link licensure to job performance would further extend the state’s reach into the choices educators make in the classroom.

 Too many mandates on top of too many mandates. It is outrageous that these proposals are being made at a time when even top state education officials have acknowledged that the state and federal governments have imposed too many mandates and new initiatives on educators. State Education Secretary Matt Malone has described the current mandate madness as akin to educators “trying to drink water from a fire hose.” And yet now the state is proposing a controversial new mandate that is strongly opposed by the field – with no clear explanation of why it is so urgent to impose these burdens at this time or how students will benefit. Stop the mandates! Let us teach!

October 22, 2014

1TNTP was found by Michelle Rhee in 1997 as The New Teacher Project.

2The Keystone Center has been mostly an environmental and energy consulting firm, with Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Dupont, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric (the utility company in the movie Erin Brockovich), Coca-Cola and General Mills as clients. Keystone is becoming a player in education issues. Will it have equivalent corporate sponsors?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Failing KIPP School Set to Take Over Southside Middle School

The Achievement School District (ASD) has a new hit list of Memphis schools, all of them poor and black.  Below is the list copied from the ASD website, which is run by semi-literate businessmen who don't know to turn the spell check off before the turn a Word doc into a pdf:
You will note that South Side Middle School is to be taken over by KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools.  I did a check on the TN website to see how South Side Middle scores compare to KIPP.  The only KIPP middle school in Memphis with three years of data is KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School, whose value-added scores are below, followed by South Side Middle School's VAM scores:

Now you don't have to be Bill Sanders to see which of these two schools has better growth scores (green indicates above the target and red below the target).

In comparing the school level evaluation composites from the state website (click to enlarge), we get another picture of how South Side Middle, now set for takeover, is doing better than the KIPP outfit that is poised to turn it into another franchise (level 5 is best, level 1 is worst).

Now you must tell me whose interests are being served here by this scheme to turn a public school with a committed faculty and parents into another corporate welfare reform school with its penal system of total compliance schooling.

We will meet with South Side Middle parents and teachers at 5:30 today at Glenview Community Center at 1141 S. Barksdale in Memphis.  Be there. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arne’s sudden interest in improving testing

Sent to the Denver Post, Oct. 21.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been an enthusiastic supporter of the common core testing program, accurately described as "nonstop testing" by education expert Susan Ohanian.  The common core imposes more testing on our children than has ever been seen on our planet, and no attempt was made to determine if the new tests result in higher student achievement.

Now Secretary Duncan ("A test for school tests," Oct 20) says he supports a movement to eliminate redundant and inappropriate tests.  This should have been done using small-scale studies before the tests were forced on millions of children. 

Stephen Krashen

original article by Arne Duncan: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26762648/test-tests?source=infinite

A Response to Gates/Duncan

from Peg Robertson at her blog:

Please comment on this article Arne Duncan: A test for school tests. Even if you have time for just one line of comment - we must not allow these lies to stand as truth. Thank you everyone.

Here is my comment on the article:

First - we must understand that the call for less testing is simply an appeasement - and a distraction - from the privatization agenda which requires immense testing PLUS the full implementation of the common core standards. The high stakes testing and the common core standards MUST stay in place if corporations wish to continue cashing in on public education to the tune of 800 billion dollars and growing. So, Arne can say whatever he wants to attempt to appease the public but we must understand clearly that the goal is to privatize. And they will happily decrease the testing to appease the public so that they can continue to dismantle the public school system.

These tests test what matters least. None of these tests support instruction, unless of course your goal is to teach to the test - which requires becoming savvy at multiple choice and formulaic writing. In our public schools the testing never ends. At the elementary school level we are testing weekly in some shape or form. The common core standards, upon which all this testing and curriculum is based, are developmentally inappropriate, not internationally benchmarked and not based on research. The PARCC test, which Arne claims is oh so fabulous, has no peer review research to demonstrate that it is valid. PARCC is an experiment. Experiments require informed consent. There is no parental informed consent for the PARCC experiment, which public school children in Colorado will be subjected to this year.

The PARCC is already estimated to fail 70% of our children. When CMAS social studies and science scores come out on October 27th, the citizens of Colorado will also see that Colorado's children have failed those tests. Then, watch the corporate reformers say - YES - see??? Our schools are failing! Our children are failing! Our teachers are bad! Watch them add more common core curriculum (Which by the way is nothing but test prep of the worst kind...mundane, boring and requires children to practice for the common core tests day in and day out using all the new fancy technology necessary for these tests.) Watch them fire more teachers because our evaluation will be tied to these tests and since 70% of the children will fail it - well, you do the math. Watch the schools buy more technology in order to increase test scores  and watch the CDE gather more student data because data is the new gold. Watch this data get shared with corporations so they can churn out more products and better manage and monitor our children.

Watch teachers spend more time getting trained to administer tests versus actual professional development to support teaching. In the last year I have received "professional development" on how to administer TCAP, ACCESS, PALS, and TS Gold and CMAS. I wonder what new tests will be ushered in next year? Oh yes - and I have received "professional development" on new common core curriculum which is scripted - for the day in which teachers will simply be teacher as technician. Look up Carpe Diem schools if you are wondering what that looks like. The end goal is to have very few experienced teachers - that would be dangerous as we know too much. Teacher as data puncher is all that is needed in the privatization agenda. Thinking is dangerous  - we might wake up the masses  - and then the cash flow would end. Teachers must be obedient and follow the rules of the privatization agenda, therefore, making sure that our evaluation is tied to these high stakes tests keeps us silent as we teach to the test. It also pits teacher against child as teachers soon realize that their livelihood depends on the test scores of these children.

Watch specifically in the urban areas, where children live in poverty and do not have books or computers at home which already puts them at a disadvantage for these online tests. Not to mention that they are hungry, many are sick, and many are tired due to having no consistent place to sleep at night. These children in poverty already suffer from toxic stress which damages the pre-frontal cortex of their brain - add toxic testing and toxic test prep to the mix and the damage increases. Watch these schools get labeled as failing schools - when in truth they are abandoned schools. Watch the reformers come in and hand them over to a charter, fire the staff, and usher in Teach for America folks who have 5 weeks of teacher training. Watch them continue to ignore poverty.

Meanwhile, when teachers do nothing but test and test prep day in and day out, we have no time to actually support the learner. This nonsense about "college and career ready" is so short sighted. What about problem solving citizens?  The common core and high stakes testing together are designed to destroy our public schools. The federal mandates under Race to the Top have opened the door wide to allow corporations to cash in using our children's data . If we hope to stop it, we need to revolt by refusing to allow our children to take these tests. I, personally, have refused to administer the PARCC test. See here, and I will continue to support parents in refusing these tests.  If anyone expects politicians, or mainstream media - such as the lovely Denver Post - to listen to anything that speaks to the truth, it will require a full-on revolt from the parents. Starve the beast - no data means no profit - game over. If I can help let me know. My email is writepeg@juno.com and my blog is 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Isenberg Offers Antidote to the Ravitch Sedative

When Diane Ravitch published Death and Life of the Great American School System, it broke down a bunch of barriers and gained mainstream attention for long-neglected insights and observations that formed the core of her book.  Since then, Ravitch has grown her new anti-reformy fiefdom built on borrowed material into a sprawling empire that includes a growing cadre of speechifers and worshipful, protective acolytes who vie for her attention while hoping that some of her celebrity will rub off on them.  

Meanwhile, Ravitch has used the excuse of friendship to support corporate unionism and the malfeasance of the prostituted toadies that run the AFT and NEA.  She has used corporate education reform as an effective foil to sell her books, while refusing to use her firsthand knowledge of how the corporate education complex operates to bring it down.  And while she delays the sharing of her knowledge of how the fetid inner circle of CorpEd works, she continues to insist that these self-serving and corrupt Koretians, Hooverites, and other fascist thought misleaders are good people with misguided agendas.  Good people don't keep doing the same bad things even though they know better.

If you're tired of righteous panel discussions, blog posts turned into lucrative book deals, corporate unionists posing as the resistance to the corporate education agenda, and endless talk about getting rid of "over-testing," then it could be that there was someone in the last feel-angry Ravitch meet-up that you attended who feels the same.  Obviously, Leonard Isenberg is one who wasn't even there who feels that way.

Ravitch's role in creating and nurturing the corporate monster is a part of history she refuses to tell.  If the truth would set Ravitch free from her role in keeping NAEP cut scores impossibly high and the Sandia Report off the front pages, it could also bring her demigod status back down to the ground level that is so alien to her.  And that could ruin, too, the place she has chosen for herself between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Addams in the history of great American women. 

I think just to the left of Elizabeth Dole and the right of Hillary Clinton would be much more appropriate. 

Smoking Gun! Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck violated student and parent civil rights!

"...raises significant concerns that [Marshall Tuck run] PLAS continues to disregard state law, regulation, and LAUSD policy and is failing to implement transparent and uniform procedures to ensure parent and student rights are protected." — MALDEF / Public Counsel

Smoking Gun! Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck violated student and parent's civil rights!

Those of us who have had the great misfortune of watching Eli Broad's protegé, Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck, operating in Los Angeles over the years have witnessed numerous nefarious activities. From Tuck's thinly veiled white supremacy, to his cutting of vital health education classes, to his gutting ethnic studies, to his overall failure as an administrator, no reasonable person would ever support Tuck, if they were aware of his actual record. Unfortunately the corporate media have had no interest in discussing what Tuck actually did rather than what he says he did. If the media were doing their jobs, there were plenty of things that they could have done some investigative reporting on. In addition to Tuck's corporate, top-down management, there were persistant rumors of California Education Code violations, civil rights violation, and more, but we had difficulty finding people willing to come forward.

Back in July, a high profile bilingual education activist sent the following to a group of us.

I know that LAUSD and PLAS, under the leadership of Marshall Tuck, had a Uniform Complaint filed against them in 2009 for their actions at Ritter Elementary School. The complaint, on behalf of the parents, was filed by the Office of the Public Counsel (OPC) in conjunction with MALDEF. The complaint was upheld, remedies were directed, but no change of procedures or actions ever took place. How can I track down the UC? Do you think I should contact the OPC and the lawyer I was working with on behalf of the parents of the students in their now defunct Dual Language Program? Any advice would be appreciated.

The last few months have seen us encounter myriad dead ends trying to obtain documentation of the successful Uniform Complaint, but once we finally got copies last weekend, it became obvious why people have been trying to hide it. The Uniform Complaint Cause of Action filed jointly by Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Public Counsel Law Center on behalf of families whose civil rights had been violated by Marshall Tuck is perhaps the most damning documents I've ever seen. United Teachers of Los Angeles' Cheryl Ortega has already written a piece: Marshall Tuck Betrays Latino and African American Parents, that outlines the history, background, and details surrounding this tragedy at Ritter Elementary School. Therefore, I want to look at some of the more salient points in the Uniform Complaint against Tuck.

A. Failure to Provide Notice of Placement in an English Immersion Program

Here the lawyers discuss how Marshall Tuck and his Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) lieutenants violated state law, and cite a common law case supporting their interpretation of PLAS's violation.

B. Failure to Notify Parents of Their Right to Apply for a Parental Exception Waiver.

The attorneys outline how Marshall Tuck and PLAS ignored the California Education Code. I love how the section ends with: "...violated the parents' rights under California law."

C. Failure to Form an Alternative Language Class When 20 Waivers in a Given Grade Have Been Provided.

MALDEF and Public Counsel show unequivocal evidence that Marshall Tuck failed to adhere to the provisions of the California Education Code.

D. Failure to Provide Required Response to Waivers, to Assess Each Waiver on Its Individual Merits, or to Provide Notice of the Right to Appeal if the Waiver is Denied.

Citing numerous violations of the California Education Code, Proposition 227, and other state laws, the lawyers take Marshall Tuck and his corporate team to task for blatant law breaking. Tuck, as demonstrated above, would eliminate any program that he believed was interfering with preparation for standardized tests. Students weren't important, their test scores were. Like all neoliberal corporate education reformers, PLAS and Tuck were entirely ignorant on pedagogy. The Uniform Complaint's answer to PLAS's insistence that Dual Language Programs hurt test scores is instructive:

PLAS's response that the existing program at Ritter Elementary was not producing the desired results is insufficient. There is ample evidence in LAUSD and statewide that Dual Language Programs, when implemented by a competent school-site team, not only produce far superior results in terms of academic achievement for all participating children but result in children who can speak and write in two languages, a clear assest in our world economy, and who may also have better appreciation of cultural and linguistic differences. It was PLAS's responsibility, in keeping with its goal of creating an excellent school, to create an excellent DLP, not to abolish the existing program.

Marshall Tuck abolished the existing program.

As the Uniform Complaint document segues into the section that outlines Marshall Tuck and PLAS's ongoing violations, there's one more passage that I want to reproduce. Bear in mind that these events had been going on for over a year, and that both PLAS's executive team, headed by Chief Executive Officer Marshall Tuck, and PLAS's unelected Board of Directors had been entirely intransigent and uncooperative for that entire duration. The community, parents (and their lawyers), teachers, and everyone else tried to work in good faith with PLAS, but that good faith was not reciprocated.

Public Counsel and MALDEF expected that this year PLS would make every effort to ensure it followed state law, regulation and LAUSD policy consistently and uniformly. This appears not to have happened.

Please read the entire document to get and idea of how egregious Marshall Tuck and his cabal really were. The opening quote of this essay, reproduced from page one of the Uniform Complaint, shows exasperation with Tuck's lawlessness. Ironically, Tuck's entire campaign has centered around the abject lawsuit filed by reactionary millionaire David F. Welch. The Welch suit was designed to strip teachers of their bare modicum of protections they currently have, including their small degree of academic freedom. The suit, which used students who for the most part weren't even public school students, is being appealed, and hopefully will be overturned in its entirety. Tuck is quick to talk about the rights of students, but as it has been demonstrated, he methodically violated the civil rights of both his students and their parents on an ongoing basis.

The cretinous GOP candidate for California, a banker just like Tuck, keeps insisting (with no substantive evidence) that "Jerry Brown is betraying the children of California." Perhaps he's alluding to the two charter schools Brown has ties to. But here we have a clear, unequivocally documented case of multiple betrayals, deceptions, and malfeasance by another candidate for a different office:

Marshall Tuck betrayed parents and ignored the law!

Let's reelect State Superintendent Tom Torlakson

Smoking Gun: Marshall Tuck Violated Student and Parent Civil Rights! by Robert D. Skeels

Monday, October 20, 2014

Let Coakley Lose

Some of us are done with "Democrats" who support corporate education agendas.  I say let Coakley's incompetence take her where it will.

By Matt Murphy STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE Posted Oct. 20, 2014 @ 5:49 am
BOSTON, OCT. 19, 2014.....Democratic gubernatorial nominee Martha Coakley spent part of her weekend trying to patch up her campaign's relationship with a key constituency after her recent comments about charter schools left members of the state's largest teachers union feeling "deep anger and disappointment" with their candidate .
The Massachusetts Teachers Association has endorsed Coakley in the race for governor, but their alliance began to show signs of strain after Coakley reacted last week to the state's disqualification of two proposed charter schools in Fitchburg and Brockton.
Coakley, who said she supports lifting the cap on charter schools, called on the Department of Education to reconsider, and issued a statement saying, "Families and children in Brockton and Fitchburg deserved better. We shouldn't let a technicality get in the way of offering increased opportunities to our children in school districts across the state."
That statement, according to MTA President Barbara Madeloni, left members of the teachers union who could be critical to Coakley's get-out-the-vote effort angry and confused by their candidate's position. . . .

Wall Street and Marshall Tuck - TuckForWallStreet.com

Our public schools should be places where kids want to learn and teachers want to teach. Marshall Tuck has the wrong vision for California schools. He’s spent years working on Wall Street. Tuck's education is in bringing in profits on Wall Street — and so he wants to increase high-stakes testing and expand corporate charter schools. Is there any doubt Tuck will put the bottom line for his friends on Wall Street above what our kids need?

East Nashville United Parents Shut Out of Board Meeting by Astroturf Charter Group

From East Nashville United:

At last Tuesday’s school board meeting, our members showed up in force to signal their opposition of Dr. Register’s Third-Way Proposal because it was not created with genuine and earnest community input. There, we met a new community group wearing blue t-shirts that said “East Nashville Believes.” Primarily made up of parents and teachers from charter schools in East and–according to some of the parents in attendance–North Nashville, these parents, students, and charter school teachers and operators made their opinions on choice felt—and then some.

Still, the presence of this group was somewhat curious. Not once since Dr. Register announced his proposal has anyone debated anyone else’s decision to make a choice.

East Nashville United has asked for a community-driven plan, period.

Well-organized, with Twitter hashtag at the ready, those in blue shirts arrived well over an hour before Tuesday’s meeting. When our members arrived 30 or so minutes before the start of the 5:00 p.m. meeting, they had no place to sit.

After four weeks of attending packed priority school meetings, providing child care, and canvassing East Nashville neighborhoods to engage in conversations about education in East Nashville, we were largely shut out of the most important school board meeting since the announcement of Dr. Register’s plan. Until that evening, we hadn’t seen the folks in the blue shirts at these priority school meetings or on the streets knocking doors. When we met with some of the leaders just a few days before, not one mentioned that they would be attending, or that they had formed a new group. We were disappointed, given the lost opportunity to collaborate (not just by talking, but on food, transportation and childcare — there doesn’t seem to have been a reason for two separate sets of childcare options).

We respect the charter community, as well as its students, teachers, and parents.  We welcome them to the conversation.

We admire the dedication they have to their schools and realize that dedication was earned. The charter community showed up to support its schools because these schools are working for them. That’s obvious, and it is something we celebrate with them.

At no point have we ever suggested that the district close down charters schools in East Nashville. In fact, we have made it very clear that we support all of our East Nashville schools, from our priority schools, to non-priority schools like Warner and Stratford, to charters like KIPP and Liberty Collegiate, who are as much a part of our community as any other school east of the river.

But the fact is, this doesn’t need to be yet another conversation about charters.

We’ve had those conversations in Nashville again and again and come away dumber and dumber each time. Yet, for some reason unknown to us—perhaps because they are winning the debate at the state and local level—they have shut us out of our repeated attempts to collaborate. It appeared from last Tuesday that the folks in the blue shirts want to fan that debate back into flame. We hope that’s not the case.

We want a more interesting dialogue.

We want a discussion about all of our East Nashville schools and how we can make sure that they are serving the needs of our children. We aren’t going to accept a top-down plan that throws our schools—all our schools—into a state of panic and chaos. We want a plan that reflects the diverse needs of our East Nashville communities.

How then do we get there? From the very beginning, East Nashville United (and only East Nashville United) has pushed for a community-driven task force to make recommendations to MNPS. We advocated for a position from East Nashville Charter Schools on the task force. We repeat: East Nashville United pushed for a community-driven task force and for a East Nashville Charter School representative on the task force. This is a fact, and cannot be disputed.

On Tuesday, Dr. Register announced that he would be forming such a task force. This was a first step in ensuring that MNPS devises an effective, thoughtful plan for our schools—and not a collection of slogans disguised as policy. We have more work to do in ensuring that our task force has the time and resources necessary to do its job, but we’re making progress. Over the next few weeks, you can expect to see us at neighborhood meetings, football games, and walking your streets talking about schools.

We renew again our invitation to the charter school community to join us—and build on what we have already accomplished.
We have done this privately with very little success. We will continue to do so in spite of the roadblocks.  We want a genuine conversation about education policy for all schools in East Nashville, and hope that the charter school folks on this side of the river will participate. We know they love their schools; we hope they’ll spread the love for the rest of the schools in East Nashville as well.

We can’t afford to waste time on petty squabbles about who said what on facebook, or what rumor is floating around the East side.

The children in our schools need the help of their community–ALL of their community–and we must answer that call, before any more time is lost.

Practice Practice Practice

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Get "Building the Machine" for Every Parent, Educator, and Student Group in America

Building the Machine brings to light new understanding of Common Core that I have not encountered before.  New degrees of deception are laid bare, and a range of implications are explored in a finely-edited and dark-toned piece of documentary filmmaking. The film comes in an extended 3 DVD set that includes original documentary, the parents' interviews, and supplementary episodes on Disc 3 that examine the standards, data mining, national curriculum, and the little-understanding subject of international benchmarking.

My comments are limited to Disc 1.  The first disc runs just over a half hour and would make a fine centerpiece for any PTA or student group meeting.  In introducing both proponents and opponents of Common Core in the intro, the facts to follow become even more devastating as the viewer is allowed to see how good intentions can go so bad and how the corporate machine may easily exploit any good intentions to grow corporate revenue by diverting the river of cash that Americans rain into education each year.

We hear about the cloaking during the early drafts of CC and the truncated response to public comment that never altered the original course.  We hear the shabbiness of the argument that states were involved in decision-making and drafting, when it was only a group of governors and state execs rubber-stamping a process and product that citizens did not even know about.  We hear of how the national standards had to appear as an "immaculate conception" that had no linkages to the Bush I agenda of national curriculum and national testing that was launched during the DC high times of Lamar Alexander and Diane Ravitch.

We hear about the five members of the Validation Committee who refused to sign on even with huge political pressure, and how their names were expunged from the Committee as if they never existed.

We hear about the two months that states had to write Race to the Top grants based on Gates guidance, and how 45 states came to sign on almost overnight to national standards that were being written by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba.

We hear from Stanford mathematician, Jim Milgram and from curriculum expert from Massachusetts, Susan Stotsky, the only two content experts on the Validation Committee.  We find out from Milgram what was to me a most insidious aspect of Common Core for which I was totally unaware.  Hidden within Race to the Top verbiage is a requirement for public colleges in states that sign on the Common Core commitment: No remedial courses for credit will be allowed in state colleges and universities.  What this will do, of course, is drive down the quality of the courses to fit where students are whose preparation remains affected by underfunded schools, racism, and poverty.  This, in turn, will open the pubic colleges to criticism and failure labeling, which, in turn, will drive the corporate PR campaign to privatize public colleges and universities.

The insanity of having a single test to measure preparedness for college and careers is also explored in some detail.  The bottom line, of course, is that you end up with a test and and test-based curriculum that does neither.  Those not interested in college will drop out in larger numbers from high school, and those headed to college will only be prepared for 3rd and 4th tier institutions.

The last part of Part I examines the absurdity and dangers of central education planning for a nation so vast and diverse.  As one Chicago teacher suggests, the race we are in, if there is one, should be to keep democracy alive and ahead of capitalism.

All three discs are available for under 30 dollars with shipping.  A final note: the documentary is funded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Why, you ask?  Because home schoolers know, too, that with Common Core tests becoming college entrance tests, then their children will be forced into the same mold.  For those phony federalists like Lamar Alexander and his fans who remain advocates for a neo-stalinist approach to education, all I can say is get your head out of your ass: there will be no voluntary local adoption when there is no choice.