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

. . .a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. James Coleman, 1966

Friday, November 27, 2015

A better investment

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2015

No Child Left Behind gets undeserved credit for making schools pay attention to students living in poverty ("Education's sweet spot,” November 27). Experienced educators have always been aware of the effects of poverty and know which schools and students are the most impacted.  Also, educational research has confirmed the negative effects of poverty on learning for decades. 

Recommending more precise measurements to identify needy schools is like recommending that fire departments invest in expensive and highly accurate thermometers so that firefighters get the exact temperature of dangerous and rapidly spreading fires before trying to put them out.

Instead of spending billions on unnecessary testing, let's invest in protecting children from the impact of poverty, i.e. expanded and improved food programs, improved health care, and improved school and public libraries in high-poverty areas. The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, undernourished, ill, and have little access to reading material.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-adv-school-reform-20151127-story.html

TN State Board of Education Now Running "No Excuses" Charters

Yep, you heard that right.  After Nashville Metro said NO to more ed reform chain gangs, and after the State Board disagreed upon appeal, and after Metro School Board effectively said NO once more, now the State Board is stuck with its own KIPP schools.

Wonder if the State Board will also assume the legal responsibility for the children who are regularly mistreated in these penal schools?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spellings Defends Toxic NCLB Policies

Even though national test performance gains were higher before NCLB than after, and even though the achievement gaps between black and white/rich and poor remain gaping, and even though ACT scores are flat and SAT scores are at a ten year low, and even though child poverty has risen steadily over the past 15 years, and even though millions of our best teachers have been run out of teaching by unethical testing and pressure cooker accountability practices, and even though tens of thousands of communities across the country have lost their schools to corporate welfare charter reform schools, and even though  90+ percent of the nation's schools were failing by 2014 (based on Spellings' impossible definition of "adequate"), and even though a half-million parents last year opted their children out of the racist and classist tests that Margaret Spellings' policies inspired, even with all this, the bloviating cow, Margaret Spellings, yesterday defended the most damaging and irresponsible education policy in American history:
Spellings, a key architect of No Child Left Behind, made no apologies for an accountability system that is now vehemently derided by schools and parents. Many have that luxury, Spellings said, because it's not their children who are failed by public schools. School districts and board members are always ready with an excuse as to why some children, especially those in poverty, can't learn.

"It made people uncomfortable and it still makes people uncomfortable, this idea that adults need to do a better job serving our students," Spellings said. "How can we hold onto that outrage in our heads when only half of our minority students are getting out of high school? How can we hold that idea in our head with the notion that all our teachers are effective and pretty much all the schools are good, but half the kids aren't performing and our workforce is at risk?"
Outrage, indeed!  Under Spellings' watch, resegregation of schools escalated, labeling and sorting of children became standard school practice, child health deteriorated, school funding became more unfair, teaching became scripted, curriculum was canned, child stress soared as learning waned and play was banned in many schools, school privatization proliferated, and child poverty rose to an all time high. So yes, Margaret, I'm holding the rage.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Guest post: What could be wrong with a "community school" model?

By Alison McDowell
November 23, 2015

Alison McDowell

Alison McDowell is a Philadelphia public school parent and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. This article is an expansion of her testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on November 19, 2015. While it speaks to developments in Philadelphia, it has national implications.

If you read my SRC testimony it paints a troubling picture. Given that my testimony was limited to three minutes, I wanted to add some additional thoughts to the conversation. It’s particularly important to get these ideas out there, because Philadelphia’s mayor elect Jim Kenney and his new Chief Education Officer, Otis Hackney, just took a trip to Cincinnati with the express purpose of learning more about the community school model and how it could work in our city. While Oyler, the school they visited, is lauded for its program, the long term success of the model remains uncertain.

As I see it, two groups are working concurrently on community school initiatives. They hold opposing views about what community schools are. Reformers talk about eliminating the concept of "seat time,” instead they want to promote the idea that you can learn anywhere at any pace.  I see that line of thinking as potentially very dangerous if you’re someone like me who values real bricks and mortar schools as a cornerstone of civil society. At the same time there are an increasing number of people who are involved with community school initiatives on the local level. They see community schools as neighborhood anchors. The problem is that they have absolutely no knowledge that there is another powerful group, the corporate education reformers, including Tom Vander Ark, working to undermine all they are doing.

Click here to read the entire article.

For background on the election of Jim Kenney as mayor, see:

Common Sense in Philadelphia | Defend Public Education

Also see:
City leaders picture full-service schools
Philadelphia Inquirer – November 23, 2015



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Peg with Pen: Harassment Lawsuit Anyone?

Peg with Pen: Harassment Lawsuit Anyone?: When your school is being destroyed by the dictatorial advice of fake teacher programs (Relay) aided and abetted by the Colorado Department...

Why is Diane Ravitch Celebrating?

No one outside the cabal of corporate education reformsters and their stooges in the U. S. Congress knows the dirty details in the secretive Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and no one will know until a few hours (if we are lucky) before the Congress votes on this ESEA sequel to No Child Left Behind.  

Apparently, the dissemblers at Fairtest and NPE are willing to accept Ed Week's corporate spin on the new bill, rather than examine it for themselves.  After all, the holidays are almost here.  

What we do know about the newest corporate version of ESEA is that--
  • annual mandated testing will continue uninterrupted,
  • states must take action to fix or privatize the lowest-scoring 5 percent (the poorest) schools each year,
  • charter schools are guaranteed billions of dollars more than they are presently receiving,
  • the U. S. Secretary of Education is barred from intervening in state-sanctioned segregation or other exclusionary "education solutions" that states may impose on the citizenry.
Now these are just a few of the corporate goodies inside this NCLB 2.0  And yet, Diane Ravitch pretends that some significant change has occurred in education policy and that there is reason to celebrate.  For those who cherish public education and who oppose high stakes standardized testing and charter privatization, there is nothing to celebrate.  

We are about get screwed again, and Ravitch is taking a victory lap:
But for the moment, let’s celebrate the demise of a terrible law that saw punishment as the federal strategy for school reform. Let’s celebrate that no future Secretary of Education will have the power to impose his or her flawed ideas on every public school and teacher in the nation. Let’s thank Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray for finally ending a failed and punitive law.

KIPP Administrator "choked and dragged" 16 Year Old Female Student in NOLA

A week after a St. Louis KIPP administrator was placed on leave, pending an investigation of abusing a kindergarten student whose head and neck showed clear signs of a physical assault, a New Orleans KIPP dean of students has been placed on leave, pending an inquiry into an incident involving a 16 year old female student on November 16.  

The story below from the Times-Picayune details how KIPP officials offered a very different story of a violent "disciplining" incident than the one told by video images from students at the scene.  

A 16 year old female KIPP student, who was lifted off the ground by the dean of students in a choke hold, was apparently dragged down the sidewalk in the same position.  She was later treated for what doctors described as "cervical strain."

Notice in the first photo below that the child's feet are off the ground as she is choked by KIPP Dean of Students, Wilfred Wright.

A New Orleans mother says her daughter's dean choked and dragged her down the street at KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy Monday (Nov. 16).

In a photo of the incident, a staff member's arm is wrapped around the girl's neck. Her sweater vest has ridden up; her mouth is open and her feet appear to be slightly off the ground as she grabs at his arm with both hands.

KIPP spokesman Jonathan Bertsch said the staff member "was intervening in a fight between two students," and had been placed on leave pending an investigation.

Rebecca Solomon initially believed the school's account of the incident, she said Friday. She acknowledged that her seventh-grade daughter, 13, got into a social media spat with another girl over the weekend, and that they were on the verge of fighting physically when she got off the bus at 2300 St. Claude Ave. She asked to withhold her daughter's name for privacy.

Solomon identified the man in the photo as dean of students Wilfred Wright. She said Wright told her the girl became furiously aggressive, and demonstrated how he had gently and appropriately restrained her. By Solomon's account, Principal Herneshia Dukes said it took several teachers to hold the girl down.

A KIPP incident form Solomon sent NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune said "both girls swung at each other ... while shouting and screaming disrespectful things."

Solomon said it didn't add up. "She's not aggressive," she said. The school didn't call her. The girls were given a minor punishment, a one-day, in-school suspension, according to records Solomon provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

Furthermore, her daughter called Monday morning sobbing, saying Wright choked her, and that when she struggled to get out of the chokehold so that she could breathe, he applied more pressure on her neck.

Still, Solomon believed the school, because "I'm not a parent who tries to go against any school officials," she said. "I feel like (they) have the best interests of my child at hand." Indeed, she drives a school bus.

But the next day, at a conference, the mother of the other girl showed her a video and photos other students took at the time. "Knots in my stomach started to come. My heart dropped," Solomon said.

It didn't look anything like what Wright demonstrated, she said. As she described it: "The video shows that he had my daughter in a chokehold, he had one hand around her neck and she was screaming something" as he was "dragging her down the sidewalk" from the bus stop around the corner to the side entrance.

Solomon did not have a copy of the video. A screenshot with a video bar shows the pair down the sidewalk from the bus. She said she took the girl to New Orleans East Hospital Tuesday, where doctors diagnosed a cervical strain.

Bertsch would not identify the staffer. He said, "Student safety remains our highest priority, and we act swiftly to address any allegations of inappropriate conduct."

Employees are trained "to safely intervene with students when their behavior is dangerous to themselves or others," Bertsch said. That can include removing the student from the situation.

Solomon said she couldn't believe it. "I love KIPP. KIPP has done a whole lot academically for my children," she said. In fact, "my daughter likes Mr. Wright. ... She never thought that Mr. Wright would handle any student like that."

Solomon said she had filed a complaint with the state Education Department.
My book about life in KIPP Model schools will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in February 2016.  Pre-publication orders may be made here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

WA Supreme Court Says Charters Are STILL Unconstitutional

from the News Tribune:
The Washington State Supreme Court announced Thursday that it will not reconsider its September decision declaring the state’s voter-approved law establishing charter schools was unconstitutional.

The high court had been asked to reconsider its decision by several parties, including the state charter school association, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a bipartisan group of 10 legislators and four former state attorneys general.

A slim majority — five of the nine justices — said the court should deny the request for reconsideration. Three justices dissented, saying they would have revisited the decision in full.

Additionally, Justice Mary Yu said she would have been willing to reconsider the portion of the decision invalidating charter school funding.

The court ruled Sept. 4 that the state’s voter-approved charter school law is unconstitutional, mainly because the schools are overseen by boards that are appointed rather than elected.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/education/article45547353.html#storylink=cpy

Call Congress to Say NO to New Corporate ESEA

This is a good, principled bill; it’s a notable conservative victory, and it’s the best deal to be had. It deserves conservative support.Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Max Eden is program manager for education policy at AEI.

One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared. --Diane Ravitch, conservative historian and leader of NPE, the #1 testing resistance containment organization.

With both sides of the aisle of the corporate Congress supporting ESEA's corporate welfare program to hand out billions in Federal grants to charter operators, testing companies, connected technocrats, and corporate union enablers, it is time for parents, teachers, and students to call your government and let your reps know that you do not support another generation of failed corporate education reform.  

Call and tell your Senators and Representatives to say NO to the new ESEA.  Numbers available here:

Awakening at Purdue