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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Secretary of Education Sweepstakes

Joe Biden's team (Dr. Jill and who else) will be choosing a new Secretary of Education. Of those listed, who's your pick?  If you say Randi (Rhonda) or Lily, your comment will not be posted. 

From WaPo:

Under Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has rolled back some civil rights protections as well as Obama-era efforts to hold for-profit colleges accountable for poor outcomes. She’s promoted alternatives to public schools and tried to slash federal funding for education. Biden is expected to reverse all of that, with more money for K-12 and higher education, new and revived civil rights protections and a focus on racial equity.

Biden has said he will name a public school educator as secretary of Education, a stab at DeVos, who had no experience with public schools. Many expect that to be someone from the K-12 world. Among those talked about for the job include a handful of big-city school superintendents, such as Sonja Santelises from Baltimore, Janice Jackson from Chicago or Seattle’s Denise Juneau.

Potential picks

Rep. Jahana Hayes

Connecticut congresswoman

Hayes, elected in 2018, is the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She sits on the Committee on Education and Labor and has sponsored some higher education measures. Before that, she was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.

Lily García

Former head of the National Education Association

[Always a dependable corporate education loyalist], García recently stepped down as president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union. Before that, she was an elementary school teacher. She is friendly with incoming first lady Jill Biden, who is a community college teacher and member of the NEA.

Tony Thurmond

California state superintendent

Thurmond is California’s state superintendent, where he has pushed for educational equity, a goal Biden shares. In 2018, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Thurmond, saying he has “an unwavering commitment to at-risk students and a deep understanding of the obstacles they face.”

Randi Weingarten

Head of the American Federation of Teachers

Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teacher union. She previously served as president of the union representing teachers in New York City, and was a high school teacher in Brooklyn. Nominating a labor leader could be seen as an affront to those who favor teacher evaluations and other test-based accountability measures.  [Fact check: Weingarten has never opposed either, and corporate ed reform has nothing to worry about with Randi in the driver's seat.]

Reported by Laura Meckler.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 5: Backstory for the Suppression of the Sandia Report

See Wishing Away Goliath, Parts 4, 3, 2, 1


In August, 1980 Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in Meridian, Mississippi at the Neshoba County Fair, just a few miles down the road from where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. 

The chosen location for Reagan's initial campaign event was not coincidental. It was intended to send a strong message to white America that the Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s were about to face a new racist counter-reformation if Reagan could be elected.  Reagan's message focused on supporting "states rights" and opposing federal interventions to help the poor. New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert wrote in 2007

. . . . He [Reagan] was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Congress overrode the veto.

Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too. . . .

Last year many were somehow surprised to find fresh evidence of Reagan's racism. Remaining skeptics are encouraged to visit this 2019 article from The Atlantic, which provides an audio clip of Reagan's conversation with Richard Nixon, wherein Reagan refers to an African delegation at the UN as monkeys unaccustomed to wearing shoes.

When Reagan took the presidential reigns of power in 1981, his K-12 education priorities centered on eliminating or maiming the recently-created U. S. Department of Education, pushing school prayer, turning federal education assistance to the poor into block grants that could be used as states saw fit, and creating federal tax credits or vouchers for private school choice.

Undergirding Reagan's agenda was a long-standing hostility to racial desegregation and federal equity efforts, including compensatory programs for the poor, the handicapped, and immigrant populations.  Reagan's election marked the beginning of a counter revolution aimed to quash any and all threats to the white protestant power structure of the U. S, as well as fill all cracks in the insuperable wall of white privilege and white supremacy that protect America's foundational myths of equality and exceptionalism. 

Reagan had come to Washington to proclaim a modern day gated version of the tribal Puritans' city upon a hill, and the GOP's rendition would be no less exclusionary, punitive, and hidebound than the first one established in New England in the 17th Century.

While Reagan conservatives were, otherwise, fixated on market solutions for every social problem, the 1980 GOP Platform "reaffirmed" a commitment for government funding of private schools, secular or otherwise, through federal tax credits to parents:

Federal education policy must be based on the primacy of parental rights and responsibility. Toward that end, we reaffirm our support for a system of educational assistance based on tax credits that will in part compensate parents for their financial sacrifices in paying tuition at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary level. 

By 1984, the Reagan's reelection platform called specifically for converting Title I, which is the umbrella for education programs to benefit disadvantaged, special needs, and immigrant children, into a massive school voucher program that would essentially eliminate public schools in disadvantaged communities. The platform declared, without apparent irony, that "[c]ivil rights enforcement must not be twisted into excessive interference in the education process."

Over the eight year of Reagan's presidency, the federal education budget went from 12 percent of federal spending to 6 percent

It is noteworthy that the 1980 GOP Platform writers used the fig leaf of equity to cover an, otherwise, grossly naked wish that "low-income" families who were offered private school tax credits would choose to self-segregate in private schools aligned with the poor's unique "cultural and moral values:"

This is a matter of fairness, especially for low-income families, most of whom would be free for the first time to choose for their children those schools which best correspond to their own cultural and moral values.

The other big Reagan education priority of his first term aimed to shift federal education policy away from equality and equity initiatives begun in 1965 with ESEA.  Instead, Reagan would pick up where Nixon left off by priortizing educational accountability for "excellence," as measured by standardized tests, the cheapest and most effective tool for justifying racial and class sorting. To sell testing accountability as a solution, however, he needed a problem that could be turned into a crisis with some effective propaganda and rhetorical massaging.

Diane and Checker to the rescue

By 1980, Diane was getting the intellectual respect that she had sought since talking her way in 1961 into an unpaid, intermittent staff member position at the conservative New York political magazine, The New Leader.  Salary had not been an issue for Diane in 1961, since she had married money and New York political influence just weeks after graduating from Wellesley. 

Diane's other part-time job with the Carnegie Foundation led to an interest in the history of New York City Schools.  Having been rejected for the PhD program by the History Department at Columbia, Diane spent several years writing a historical narrative of the "school wars" within New York City's public schools, which she published in 1974 to good reviews. 

With the power available only to the well connected, Diane was able to have her popular history of New York's public schools accepted as a dissertation by Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Science and Columbia's Teachers College, and in 1975 she was granted a PhD, even if it was not the one in History that she had wanted.

In 1978, Diane published The Revisionists Revised, a divisive broadside against a new generation of education historians whose work departed from the kind of sunny administrative school histories that, since the days of Elwood P. Cubberley, had turned a blind eye to any social problem that might cast shade on the seemingly unalterable narrative of white America's educational progress

The academic community was shocked by the intensity of Diane's polemical attacks on economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, and social historian, Michael Katz, in particular, whose historical analyses of American education closely examined institutional and structural issues around class and race. Apparently concluding that the neoconservative historical narrative was at risk, Diane poured forth enough invective, ridicule, and distortion to leave most everyone other than conservative ideologues shaking their heads. David Tyack concluded his review thusly:

The revisionists seek to highlight what they see as basic contradictions between the present social system and professed beliefs in democracy and equality. In raising this issue-with all its ramifications of class, race, sex, the structure of organizations, and the nature of the political economy-revisionists have done a service to both scholars and policy makers. That their analysis has often been faulty I would readily concede. But Ravitch has not done justice to their insights and has not even served her own belief in liberal democracy by linking it so hopefully with the present forms of corporate capitalism. In her own way she has done what she criticized in her opponents, for she, too, has politicized history.

Even though her book sales suffered, the public emergence of Diane's hard right turn was timed perfectly for the Republican nomination of Ronald Reagan, whose vision of "morning in America" entirely overlooked the children who awakened to hunger every day and who spent their childhoods in underfunded, tracked, and oppressive schools that the privileged used to efficiently reproduce the inequalities of the larger society.

Neither Reagan nor Ravitch showed any concern that growing numbers of observers, both here and abroad, who could clearly see Reagan's "shining city on the hill" was still segregated, unequal, and discriminatory. Both showed the same disdain and hostility toward the social reconstructionist aim for school as a place to advance cultural inclusion, equity, equality, and social conscience.  

Just after Reagan's inauguration in 1981, Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn, Jr. convened a score of conservative culture warriors, academics, testing advocates, businessmen, and political hacks (Grover Norquist and Bill Bennett included) to hash out plans for a new organization, the Education Excellence Network, which would be funded by the Hudson Institute. They saw themselves as "voices in the wilderness, crying out for academic standards and a renewed commitment to rigorous teaching and learning" (p. 9).

Their cries were immediately heard by an attuned Reagan team, and by August 1981, the Reagan Administration had formed the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which issued its report in April 1983 entitled A Nation at Risk (ANAR).

ANAR painted a bleak picture of K-12 education that created a level of hysteria about the role schools played in national insecurity that hadn't been seen since the national hand wringing that had followed the launch of the Soviet Sputnik in 1957.  As one reviewer put it, ANAR claimed that children were drowning in "a rising tide of [educational] mediocrity."

By the time the Reagan Administration issued its over-the-top scare document in 1983, Reagan had honed his message that the "crisis in education" had been brought on by too much civil rights enforcement:

The schools were charged by the federal courts with leading in the correction of long-standing injustices in our society: racial segregation, sex discrimination, lack of support for the handicapped.  Perhaps there was just too much to do in to little time.

This racist narrative took hold in Washington and within the media, and Reagan's message resonated with a white America eager to set aside troublesome thoughts of social change in favor an education reform agenda aimed at getting "back to basics" in ways that could be measured by a system of testing accountability that was clearly racist in method and outcome.

In 1984 Finn and Ravitch offered their own polemical gut punch to schools with their book Against Mediocrity (foreword by Bill Bennett), which critiqued public schools' teaching of humanities. Three years later Ravitch and Finn delivered a screed against the schools' teaching of history with What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know?

By Fall 1984, it was clear that the standards and accountability movement was going to be an easy sell. Here's a clip from a November 1984 Kappan article entitled "The Dark Side of the Excellence Movement:" (p. 174)

At the same time these racist policies were going forward, Reagan was cutting the number of number of children covered under Title I, the federal program aimed to provide aid to the underserved.  Between 1981 and 1984, ED records show that a half-million kids lost services (p. 176).

Ravitch and Finn, along with Bill Bennett, were rewarded for their rhetorical hit jobs against public schools with plum jobs at ED. Finn was named Assistant Secretary for Research and Improvement under Education Secretary, Bill Bennett (1985-1988), and then Ravitch was chosen for the same position as Finn in 1991 under Reagan's successor, GHW Bush. 

As head of the Research Division at ED, Finn and Ravitch had immediate access to reports and studies whose findings might be hazardous to the Reagan-Bush education reform agenda.  The 1991 Sandia Report fell squarely into that category, and Diane was at Ground Zero when the successful suppression of the Report went down. 

That story will comprise the final part of this circuitous journey, which will end with Diane's apology 29 years after the suppression of a research report that made clear the scandalous hoax that she helped create and perpetuate, and that caused so much permanent damage to generations of black and brown children.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Awakening to Racist Child Abuse of Charter Chains

Fabiola St Hilaire is among a growing number of teachers from the "no excuses" cultural sterilization charter schools who are calling out the racist child abuse by charter chains like Success Academy. 


Working for this organization has truly showed me that as long as I stand with the inaction and blatant disregard for child morality and healthy development it in turn will make me complicit, which I will never be. --From former Success Academy teacher Fabiola St Hilaire's resignation letter


From a story by Michael Elsen-Rooney for New York Daily News:

. . . . For [some] educators and parents, however, Success’s approach feels heavy-handed and inflexible at a time when many families need the opposite.


“It’s inhumane,” said Fabiola St Hilaire, who resigned as a first-grade teacher at the network’s Flatbush, Brooklyn elementary school — lasting just one week under the new remote rules.


 “Just seeing how difficult it was for the kids to stay focused and still as they want them to be, it was like wow,” she said. “You see the fidgety bodies, you see the blank stares.”


Under the plan, kids as young as 5 have to log on by 8:50 a.m. wearing their checkered orange and blue uniforms, pictured here, and sit still with their hands clasped for nearly seven hours of live video instruction. . . .


. . . .The Far Rockaway mom whose little girl spends her mornings in tears urged the network to rethink its approach.


 “I think it’s unrealistic expectations for a 6 year old,” she said. “I don’t know how this is going to work every day until 4:30.”


Just months ago, [former SA teacher, Fabiola] St Hilaire helped spark a racial reckoning at the charter network, which mostly serves Black and Hispanic students, when she publicly challenged CEO Eva Moskowitz’s response to the police killing of George Floyd. That prompted a flood of social media posts from current and former students, parents and teachers decrying entrenched racism in the charter network.


Officials promised to redouble their efforts on anti-bias training and hiring staffers of color, but St Hilaire said she saw few changes.


The revamped remote learning regimen was the last straw, she said.


“Working for this organization has truly showed me that as long as I stand with the inaction and blatant disregard for child morality and healthy development it in turn will make me complicit, which I will never be,” she wrote in her resignation letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The News.


Another Success teacher, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said she resigned in part over misgivings about penalizing students struggling with tech issues or being out of uniform.


 “I want to work at a place that I can defend and stand behind,” the teacher told The News. “And I didn’t feel I could stand behind the policies they were asking us to carry out.” . . .



Sunday, August 30, 2020

Kevin Carey on Diane Ravitch

"The Dissenter" https://newrepublic.com/article/97765/diane-ravitch-education-reform

I am getting reading to finish Wishing Away Goliath, Part 5.  In my digging around, I came across this 2011 assessment of Diane.  Well worth reading. 
A very insightful clip here:

I asked James Fraser if, as a historian, he could locate any consistent intellectual point of view in her work. He thought for a while before saying: “No. And that’s an interesting ‘No.’ I can’t really think of anything at this state, beyond her ability to use historical narrative in illustrating various points—sometimes hugely contradictory points!—about current debates in education.” 

The most consistent thing about Ravitch has been her desire to be heard. In many ways, she has never left the cramped, argumentative office of The New Leader in the 1960s. Her genius was in the construction of a public identity of partial affiliation—a university-based historian who never wrote an academic dissertation, a former government official whose career in public service lasted less than two years, an overseer of the national testing program with no particular expertise in testing, and a champion of public school teachers who has never taught in a public school. She enjoys the credibility of the sober analyst while employing all the tools of the polemicist.


Monday, August 24, 2020

New Covid Database for Schools and Colleges

If you are an educator living in a state like Tennessee whose governor lines up at every chance to lick Trump's boot, or preferably a little higher up on his sweaty, corpulent trunk, you will need some reliable data in terms of Covid infection rates.  From The Daily Beast:

MIAMI—Ever since she got fired from her job with the Florida Department of Health, Rebekah Jones refuses to stop gathering data on coronavirus cases and sharing it with the public. In the past four months, the 31-year-old architect of the state government’s COVID-19 dashboard built her own version of that product as a counterweight for data dissemination, emerging as a consistent and vociferous critic of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic

Now Jones is taking on the arduous task of tracking coronavirus cases inside schools and colleges across the country. The plan is to compile that data into a new dashboard she hopes will help everyone from parents to students to school board members to health officials wrap their heads around tough choices that have already shown signs of disaster.

“I started building it more than two weeks ago,” Jones told The Daily Beast. “It’s called the COVID Monitor. I want to make the data available to epidemiologists, researchers, school districts, and even governments. It’s always been my mission to give people the information they need to make informed decisions.” . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Why I Protest for the P.O.

Video Link: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/national-politics/several-small-rallies-held-across-nashville-to-save-our-post-office

Save Our USPS Rally

By: Chris Davis

Posted at 3:56 PM, Aug 22, 2020

and last updated 5:44 AM, Aug 23, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — About 30 protesters gathered in front of lawmaker's offices in Nashville Saturday morning to send a message about the post office.

"People need their bills, their prescriptions," said longtime activist Venita Lewis.

"We just want to preserve the Postal Service," said Joe Counts, who attended with his family.

Controversy first erupted a few weeks ago, when U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy started an overhaul of the mail system just months before a Presidential election. That overhaul was projected to cause delivery delays across the country.

"We’re getting into political agendas and who the hell is worried about the people?" asked Lewis.

Now DeJoy has promised to delay those reforms until after the November election but the changes that were already made, like removing collection boxes in certain cities, will remain in place.

"Restore the operations of the post office as to what they before Mr. DeJoy who should be in DeJail came into office," said James Horn, who attended the protest with his wife.


Neither Alexander or Blackburn were in their offices at the time of the rally. Earlier this week, Blackburn called the reforms needed, and tweeted this out last weekend calling the controversy a hoax to discredit President Donald Trump.

"We have two senators that don’t seem too enthusiastic in terms of us having a fair election in the fall," said Horn.

Whether you call it a hoax or a harrowing abuse of power, it seems like this debate is unwrapped and here to stay. "This is what you see here now, people concerned with their government and how much of that government is about them," said Lewis.

Rallies like these were held across Nashville and across the country. DeJoy told a Senate committee on Friday he has no plans to step down.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Today's Action to Save the PO and the Election

Please feel free to use the letter below or any parts of it to write your elected federal officials TODAY (yes, I'm screaming).  Thank you--your children and grandchildren will thank you. 

[Find phone, email, and US mail here and here.]




Because I believe you to be among the 90 percent of Americans who deeply value the essential work of the United States Postal Service, I am writing to request your help. Media reports currently abound about deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to hobble the USPS by cutting work hours, altering work rules and record keep requirements, removing postal collection boxes, decommissioning mail sorting equipment, reorganizing management to centralize power, and destroying hundreds of expensive barcode sorters. 


The President, himself, has admitted more than once an active role in disabling the capacity of the USPS to manage the millions of mail-in ballots that will be cast during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic this Fall. 


The question I put to you now is this: Will you use your voice and apply the power your office to halt the anti-democratic efforts underway to sabotage the most basic right of the American people for free and fair elections this Fall? 


The hundreds of millions of voters, businessmen, veterans, retirees, parents, college students, and regular taxpayers who depend upon the USPS require your help.  Please return to Washington, DC now, this week, and request that leaders of both the House and Senate immediately convene oversight hearings that require detailed explanations for the latest postal policy changes from the Postmaster General and the Board of Governors for the USPS.


Secondly, will you please push for the immediate passage by the Senate of provisions to include $25 billion for the USPS as part of the latest coronavirus economic assistance package passed by the House in May 2020?


Congress cannot wait until after Labor Day to act.  In order to make sure that the November election in conducted in a fair and impartial way that protects the integrity of our form of government, nonetheless, Congress must do everything possible now and until such assurances are guaranteed.  


Please respond with a public statement regarding your position and your intentions regarding this vital matter.  Thank you.




Friday, August 14, 2020

How Trump's Mob Dies at the PO

Today I stopped by the local PO and spent $100 on Forever Stamps. Took this selfie with Zona, the postal clerk. 


Now if 25% of 2016 presidential voters did the same, USPS would have the $3 billion they need. If you are waiting for Pelosi and Schumer to do something, you will be waiting long after democracy is buried in the U. S.

Do something today. Please pass it on! 

And tomorrow do something else. If everyone does just a little, a lot gets done.