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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Silicon Valley Menace

If technology is ever to be a solution to any social problem, Silicon Valley first must stop being the problem.  Until then, these technopolies must be seen as enemies of free people everywhere:

. . . . Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.
Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.. . .

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ravitch Embraces TURN Agenda, Openly This Time

The Union Reform Network (TURN) was established as a joint venture among Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and the leadership of NEA and AFT.  TURN was created with millions of dollars from Gates and Broad, and the new "reform network" they created aimed to co-opt and use the teachers' unions as essential levers to advance corporate education reform agendas and the corporate political agenda of dismantling the hard-earned rights and benefits of teachers.

Those goals have not changed over the past 20 years, even if the rhetoric has been fine-tuned to appeal to unsuspecting teachers enticed by phrases like "teacher-led visions."

Earlier this month, TURN issued its most explicit version yet of its long-standing goals, this time with objectives included, along with some of the strategies that TURN intends to use.  Within a few days of TURN's publication of its new document, Diane Ravitch posted her support of the TURN agenda, as spelled out in the latest proclamation, Our TURN: Revitalizing Public Education . . .:
It is a good report. It refutes the common refrain from corporate reformers that there is no alternative to their cramped and toxic practice of high-stakes testing and school choice. It is a public school response to the Betsy DeVos’ belief in the free market of charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

This is a worthy presentation of a well-resourced public school system, staffed by experienced teachers whose collective voices are represented in the policymaking process, and whose voices carry more weight than those of the politicians who write unreasonable and impossible mandates. 
Along with her glowing assessment, Ravitch posted a most saccharine "Rationale" from the TURN document, along with even more syrupy "Vision" from Our TURN . . . 

Here's the "Vision:"

As teachers and teacher unionists, we believe that teaching and learning can be transformed if we embrace a new vision of education that rests on four pillars, each of which bears equal weight:

1. If we want schools to prepare student to be career and college ready, thoughtful citizens, and reflective human beings, then schools should be safe, learner-centered and well-resourced to serve the needs of each individual student.

2. If teachers are the most important in-school determinant of student learning, then teaching must be recognized as a true profession.

3. If America needs to tap into the talents of all students, irrespective of their background, then educational excellence must be inclusive and education redesign must be accompanied by changes in other aspects of students’ lives.

4. If all education policy must ultimately be about enhancing opportunities for students to learn, then collective bargaining (and other forms of collaborative decision-making) between teachers and management should always aim to advance student learning.

The Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), a coalition of teachers and teacher union leaders from AFT and NEA union locals, was founded 20 years ago “to promote progressive reforms in education and in teacher unions.” To all who are engaged in the debate about the future of public education – whether practitioners or policymakers — this document lays out precisely what we aspire to.

We begin with our idea of what education, schools and classrooms could and should look like, then turn to the policies needed to bring about that vision.
What's not to love, right?  Sounds like something we can all get in bed on board with.

What Ravitch does not post or even mention are the "Policy and Practice" objectives that TURN provides in the document, all of which reflect long-standing priorities of corporate reformers:

1) linking collective bargaining to accountability testing gains,

2) weakening seniority rights (particularly related to administrative transfers),

3) eliminating of teacher salary schedules in favor of merit pay schemes, and

4) dismantling system-wide collective bargaining agreements for the kinds of school-based preferences that made Green Dot's hostile takeover of Locke High School possible.

These are the policies, then, that TURN will continue to pursue, now with the added support from Diane Ravitch's NPE:
We back “quality bargaining” that puts student learning at the center of collective bargaining (and other collaborative) agreements and requires that all proposals be buttressed by evidence of how they contribute to the advancement of student learning.

We support the highest standards for teachers and reject the allegation that due process rights provide a lifetime job guarantee. Accordingly, we support the widespread adoption of peer assistance and review procedures that support struggling teachers and in some instances remove teachers from the profession.

We call for the possibility of flexible, site-specific negotiated agreements, where a super­majority of teachers in a school can override the corresponding district-wide contract to allow for tailoring terms and conditions to improve teaching and learning.

We propose modifying consideration of seniority in school transfer decisions in cases where fair teacher-led hiring practices are put in place.

We call for modifying the traditional single salary schedule and instead adopting differ­entiated pay that recognizes that teaching is broad in its scope of responsibilities. . . .

We advocate meaningful consultation with parents and community members as part of the process of collective bargaining (or other agreements) with management.
Oh yes, and if you are wondering if TURN has forgotten the latest corporate tech fixation on de-personalized learning and the elimination of brick and mortar schools, TURN has not forgotten.  Here's the way TURN couches the new "competency-based" screen-based learning as "learner-centered schools:"
In learner-centered schools, students are rarely lectured to. Instead, learning is collaborative, and students do most of the work themselves. The paradigm of students who sit still and absorb material is replaced by well-crafted, active learning opportunities that promote cooperation, analysis, and synthesis. 

And in learner-centered schools, learning is connected to the real world. Lessons often take place in real life settings, not just in classrooms. 
In the past, Diane Ravitch struggled to downplay her connections to TURN by attacking and disparaging motives of anyone who noticed as much.  In 2013, for instance, when lawyer and whistle blower, Kathleen Carroll, pointed to Ravitch's speech at one of TURN's meetings (and another speech to psychologists funded by Pearson), Ravitch lashed out, as did Diane's venomous protege, Mercedes Schneider.

Now quite suddenly, Diane Ravitch has openly endorsed TURN's latest statement of its agenda.  And she has done so with the typically deceptive and dissembling techniques that Ravitch perfected during her many years as a loyal lieutenant to Chester Finn and Lamar Alexander.

Some more links to TURN's activities:






Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Preparing the Next Generation of Racists

Last updated: October 12
Betsy Devos can usually be counted on the embrace school vouchers over charter schools as the preferred method of privatizing public education, but there is one notable exception.  DeVos and her alt-right handlers from the White House have a special place their "hearts" for online charter schools, which provide parents free rein to educate or miseducate their children in a home school environment.  

In order to build a future majority of white U. S. nationalists, Trumpists need an education model like online charters in rural areas that allows white supremacist moms and dad the opportunity to indoctrinate their children in the requisite levels of hate that may sustain and grow the white supremacist movement.

The fact that online charter schools have long-established records of being utterly ineffective in providing academic and social skills to children appears entirely irrelevant to the renewed federal enthusiasm among Trumpists for these intellectual black holes:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted online learning as a school-choice solution for rural America, saying that virtual charter schools provide educational options that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year.
A recent issue of Harper's has a story on women of the alt-right, which includes this clip that helps us understand the Trumpist enthusiasms for choosing cyber charters as an enabler for the most damaging forms of home schooling:
In January, Mary Grey self-published an illustrated children’s book called Walls and Fences. “Why do we build walls? We have walls for protection,” the text begins, set against a colorful image of the biblical city of Jericho as its walls tumble down at God’s behest. Grey said she wrote the book “to help explain to my children why having a wall around our country” — like the one Trump has pledged to build along the U.S.?Mexico border — “is justified and a good and normal thing.”

There is a long legacy of pro-white extremists trying to create illusions of normalcy. Kathleen Blee, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote in her book Inside Organized Racism that “much about racist groups appears disturbingly ordinary, especially their evocation of community, family, and social ties.” In a two-year study of thirty-four women across the United States, Blee found that her subjects, many of whom were educated and held good jobs, were “responsible for socializing their children into racial and religious bigotry.”

Stewart told me she has read Walls and Fences to her children. Her younger ones — she has six in all — regularly crawl into view in her videos. She homeschools them to ensure that their education is Christian and pro-white; she discourages interracial relationships and no longer supports gay rights. In one YouTube post, she included an image of her smiling, toddler-age daughter wearing a frog outfit. This was a homage to Pepe the Frog, one of the alt-right’s signature memes, with bulging eyes, red lips, and an oversize green head. . . .
Note for homeschoolers:  One home school parent posted an anonymous comment (I don't publish anonymous comments) that indicated she believes that I was calling all home schoolers racists and white supremacists.  Her reasoning followed something like this:

Schools Matter says white supremacists are using homeschooling to indoctrinate their children.

I home school.

Therefore, Schools Matter is calling me a racist.

Not it.  Read the article. Damn.

Monday, October 09, 2017

NPE and CTA Converge Behind Eli Broad Agenda

CTA [California Teachers Association] knows charter school teachers, like traditional public school teachers, care deeply about their students and work hard to help them succeed. Many charter schools are locally driven, provide an excellent education and deserve our support. For example, Green Dot Public Schools California is a Los Angeles charter operator that strives to be open, equitable and inclusive.California Educator, May-June 2017, p. 19
Steve Barr (left) and Eli Broad (center) in 2007 with $10 million for Green Dot, Inc.
The program is set, the CTA's welcome mat is rolled out, and NPE is trying fill seats for Diane Ravitch's 4th NPE talkathon on October 14-15 in Oakland, CA. 

If you don’t have the $1000 to attend, you should check with your corporate NEA or AFT affiliates for available "scholarships."  CTA is behind this year’s conference, and with their growing charter teacher membership in California, there should be plenty of cash on hand to fill the 500 seats for this withering cause.

Looking at this year's NPE program presentations related to charter schools, there is clear evidence that NPE's policy schizophrenia has become even more pronounced and ingrained.  We find there are scheduled presentations and discussions by those who promote charter schools, by those who would limit charter schools, and by those who vow to end charter schools.  

With so many clamoring and disparate voices to hear at once, it becomes harder and harder to discern a clear message from NPE/AFT/NEA other than, of course, the clarion call new AFT and NEA and NPE members.

This year's NPE meet-up continues a self-contradictory effort to expand a shrinking coalition that, essentially, stands for nothing and will fall for anything. It is a dysfunctional group that is run by Clinton charter supporters, AFT and NEA chiefs, and fronted by Diane Ravitch and her bloggers at Basecamp.  This motley crew can be counted on to advocate for and/or against charter schools, depending upon whose wallet that AFT/NEA/NPE is trying to pry open at the moment.

When Ravitch's host, the California Teachers Association, joins Diane this week to talk about the evils of charter schools, the focus will be on the handful of for-profit charter schools in California. This year, however, it is harder than ever for the AFT/NEA/NPE to make a convincing case that their qualified opposition to “for-profit” charters carries any remaining weight at all, especially given the fact that California has just 34 of these “for-profit” charters for CTA to oppose.  

In California as elsewhere, for-profit charter schools make up a small percentage of the total number of the resource-draining corporate charter schools that are bleeding out public systems wherever they operate.

In fact, California has over 1,200 of the “non-profit” charter schools for CTA to mine for members, and CTA has shown its support for these charter schools, as it eagerly tries to sign up more and more of these charter teachers. The "non-profit" charters are the ones that CTA, Ravitch, and their faux resistance movement continue to embrace.  CTA has signed up almost a third of the 7,500 charter teachers in California, thanks to the promotion by NEA/AFT of Green Dot Schools, which is the creation of Eli Broad and his corporate school enforcer, Steve Barr.

The same year that Eli Broad handed Barr $10 million for Green Dot, Barr said this about then-UFT President, Randi Weingarten: "Randi Weingarten is one of the most progressive labor leaders in the country."

In the May/June issue of California Educator, CTA had this glowing assessment of Green Dot:
         CTA knows charter school teachers, like traditional public school teachers, care deeply about their students and work hard to help them succeed. Many charter schools are locally driven, provide an excellent education and deserve our support. For example, Green Dot Public Schools California is a Los Angeles charter operator that strives to be open, equitable and inclusive.

Despite CTA's exuberance, we know that Green Dot's charters are the same kind of selective, non-inclusive, segregated, and test-based public money sinks that threaten the continued financial viability of public schools in California and elsewhere. They are privately-managed without public oversight and without elected boards.  Most importantly, they drain away billions of public dollars meant for education in order to create investment opportunities for Eli Broad's buddies.

We know, too, from state data in California that Green Dot serves fewer African-American children, as well as fewer special needs and ELL students than the community public schools from which they draw students. And through slick marketing ploys and administrative winnowing tactics to get rid of problem students, Green Dot's populations do not represent the communities that must face Green Dot's insistent, corporate-funded hostile takeover attempts.  

And even though public systems like Inglewood Unified continue to resist Green Dot's hostile takeover (to no avail), CTA is willing to look the other way as long as they can sign up more members and collect more union dues from Green Dot's teachers.  Where is CTA's support for the public systems that are trying to survive the corporate onslaught designed by the charter industry?
The sickening Vichy-style collaboration between the charter industry and corporate puppets from AFT/NEA/NPE serves to further the Eli Broad plan that started over twenty years ago, when part of Broad's first $10 million education handout funded the creation of The Union Reform Network (TURN), which continues as a growing and deadly cancer inside both NEA and AFT.  

TURN was intended to make the corporate administrative agenda and the union agenda indistinguishable, and it was embraced by leaders of both AFT and NEA.  Thanks to Diane Ravitch and the union bosses’ deal-making, Eli Broad is well on his way to realizing his goal that includes eventual destruction of the teaching profession and public schooling as we have known them for over a hundred years.  

A thorough repudiation of AFT and NEA corporate unionism and their deceptive promoters remains the only course of action to stop the corporate advance of privatization via charter school.  For outfits like NPE, the pretense of pragmatic problem-solving has functioned as a thin cover for unprincipled maneuvering to fit the needs of corporate reformers into organizations that were created to oppose them.  

The result has been the ostracism and marginalization of those whose principled stances Ravitch has labeled as policy purism.  What was, not so long ago, the beginning of a real resistance movement against corporate education reform, has been coopted by an aristocracy of the arrogant and cynical self-serving power brokers who continue to make the teachers and parents that they use and abuse complicit in their own subjugation. 
 . . .we recognize that many families have come to depend on charter schools and that many charter school teachers are dedicated professionals who serve their students well. It is also true that some charter schools are successful. We do not, therefore, call for the immediate closure of all charter schools, but rather we advocate for their eventual absorption into the public school system. --from NPE Position Statement on Charter Schools, 2017

Friday, October 06, 2017

Jeanne Allen: Reactionary Right-Wing Extremist

Allen: On board with ALEC

It’s general knowledge that Center for Education Reform (CER), and its CEO Jeanne Allen, are extremely right-wing. Sourcewatch documents their connection with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Allen: Funded by the fringe

Jeanne Allen’s CER is funded by reactionary extremist billionaires, here’s a a sampling of their fringe-right supporters:

  • The Anschutz Foundation
  • The Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • The Honorable and Mrs. Frank Baxter
  • The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • The Broad Foundation
  • The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund
  • The L & S Milken Family Foundation
  • Mr. Whitney Tilson
  • The Walton Family Foundation

Allen: Writing for the Fringe-Right

Jeanne Allen is a frequent contributor for reactionary publications like National Review. Additionally, she expressed enthusiastic support, in writing, for the policies of Donald J. Trump and his arch-reactionary Secretary of Education, religious extremist Betsy DeVos. Moreover, Allen was called out on Crooks and Liars for her full-throated support of DeVos’ segregationist policies.

Allen: Reactionary Republican

Jeanne Allen ran as the GOP candidate in 2010 for Maryland’s District 16 race for House of Delegates. She received funding from right-wing republicans like Jeb Bush, dark-money investors, and charter school profiteers. Jeanne Allen was Executive Director of the extreme-right Heritage Foundation’s “Town Hall.”

Brief history on how this meme came about. I recently tweeted about Allen in connection to an article I saw another activist post about her.

My tone not comporting, to steal from Professor Dylan Rodriguez, with the norms of "white civil society" caused some consternation with the reactionaries inhabiting #EdReform Twitter. Here are a few of the more notable responses:

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Charter Teacher Floors Six Year Old, Knocking Out Tooth

At the Exploration Elementary Charter School for Science Technology, the school's "hands on, minds on" philosophy has turned into hands on practice--by an out-of-control teacher who will face charges to be filed by the child's mother. One of Exploration's teachers, as yet unnamed, is "accused of slamming a 6-year-old student, Marlon K’Harii Williams, to the ground, knocking out his front tooth."

Why I Quit Twitter

1.  Same variety of corrupt, lying, traitorous, and greedy bastards who run Facebook.

2.  As with Facebook, Twitter has turned social media into an anti-social platform that further fixates and isolates people from real interactions with other humans.

3.  It's really bad for my writing.

Peanuts to KIPPsters, PR Bonanza for Facebook & KIPP

Since 1994, KIPP's few dozen segregated charter schools and the thousands that emulate them have been hawking a late capitalist version of the Horatio Alger storyline aimed to inspire the character rehabilitation of the defective minority poor: if black and brown children and their parents work hard enough and are nice enough and bow deeply enough, then they, too, can reach the same economic summits occupied by the privileged millennials who entered the Ivy Leagues through side doors reserved for the socially and economically fittest. 

This myth actually precedes Alger's 19th Century formulaic juvenile novels by almost 200 years.  After all, it was 17th Century Puritan scion, Cotton Mather, who prescribed work as the best medicine for the poor, whose poverty was a clear indication of a moral defect for which God's disapproval was made manifest in their economic plight.  Blaming the poor for their poverty was a foundational American value before there was an America, and so was, and so there remains, a cultivated blindness to the structural and discriminatory impediments in society that keep the poor oppressed, regardless of how much grit, persistence, and zest that they can manage to exude.

For years now, the KIPP Foundation has boasted about the thirty-something percent of the dehumanized students who finish 8th grade at KIPP getting college degrees, but they refuse to talk about the 50 percent of those children who start 5th grade at KIPP who never finish 8th grade at KIPP).  If they did acknowledge the fact that low performers and behavior problems are expunged from KIPP before they ever reach 8th grade, then there would nothing at all miraculous about the one-third of the one-half of KIPP students who actually gain college degrees.  

Even among this select group of college completers (most of them from second and third tier colleges), there is a growing awareness that the students who do manage to finish college are not getting the plum jobs that are reserved for the children of the affluent.  After all, KIPP college students have to earn money during the summers and can't afford the unpaid summer internships in Silicon Valley or Washington, DC.  Nor can KIPPsters afford the foreign travel and social networking that lubricate the relations of the elite.  

Now there is some suggestion that this realization has even crept into the consciousness of KIPP CEO, Richard Barth, and the widow of Barth's former Harvard classmate, David Goldberg.  A bold solution has been put forth:  Facebook's billionaire COO, Cheryl Sandberg, has established a scholarship in Goldberg's name that will give 15 of the 4,600 eligible students a scholarship worth $15,000 per year.  My god, this adds up to less than what Putin, alone, spend on Facebook ad buys each year.

In the end, both KIPP and Facebook get to pretend that they care about the problem of the black and brown shut out of high paying jobs, all the while gaining national media attention for their ridiculous and penurious gestures.  You might call it a win-win--for Facebook and KIPP, that is. 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Conference presentation on criminal defendant Ref Rodriguez

Legal scholar Robert D. Skeels gave a twenty minute talk on criminal defendant Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez of the California Charter Schools Association at a conference on school privatization on October 1, 2017.

Why I Quit Facebook

The most recent dissembling and deflecting by Facebook in regards to Russian ad buys expose once again the real-life character who is depicted in The Social Network: a permanently-boyish sociopath who will do anything to gain power, money, and prestige, regardless of the harm and cost to others.

Zuckerberg embodies the most dominant version of Bill Gates 2.0, the second generation of callow, arrogant tech oligarchs who think they know how the world should operate and who it should serve: them.  The vast majority of their generosity is designed to benefit their own business models, and the big-hearted interventions accentuate their own technology platforms and methods.

Following Gates's assault on public schools, Zuckerberg is now staging his own self-serving campaign to further alienate and control children with a kind of dehumanizing "personalization" that benefits Zuckerberg's business model and the insatiable quest for more human data to serve Facebook's artificial soul housed in Building 8.

Zuckerberg writes off any concerns expressed about his project to monetize billions of unsuspecting users, even though Elon Musk leads a contingent that remains unimpressed by Zuck's reassurances:
Elon Musk recently put forth his own doomsday scenario. "I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it," says Musk, speaking to a roomful of governors last month.
"AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not — they were harmful to a set of individuals within society, of course, but they were not harmful to society as a whole," he says.
It is time to join the millions of people who are pulling the plug on Facebook and wave a final farewell to the smarmy weasel who wields way too much power.