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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ringing in the New Year with Wellstone

I find myself thinking about Paul Wellstone lately and the speech he made at Teacher's College before his death in 2002. His powerful message must be kept alive and shared with all those concerned about the future of education, democracy and freedom in America.

So, on this New Year's Eve 2006 I leave SM readers with Wellstone's speech with the hope that you will find it inspiring as you continue to do your good work.

On behalf of Jim Horn & myself,

Wishing you a Happy New Year.

aka freetoteach

This fight we confront today is not just a fight about tests, or just about ensuring that all our children are educated and educated well. It is time for us to renew our national vow of equal opportunity for every child in America. That's what this fight is all about.That reminds me of a quote that has motivated me throughout my life. It is my favorite quote. It is from Wendell Phillips, an abolitionist from the 1840's. At that time both political parties were very weary of the slavery issue and they weren't sure how to confront it. But not Wendell, he just said slavery was a moral outrage, that it was unconscionable, and he wouldn't equivocate. He wasn't afraid to speak out.After he gave a particularly fiery speech about abolition, a friend came up to him and said, "Wendell, why are you so on fire?"And Wendell turned to his friend and said, "Brother May, I'm on fire because I have mountains of ice before me to melt."We have mountains of ice before us to melt. Thank you for your energy, your time, your love for children and your passion to do what is right.

It's the Pedagogy Stupid

To stay on message during the 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville coined the phrase, "It's the economy stupid" and Bill Clinton got elected. Fast-forward to 2006 and it's still the economy stupid but it's also the pedagogy stupid, or rather, it's the stupid pedagogy.

A recent study on adult literacy by the DoE's National Center for Education Statistics showed a 10 point drop in prose literacy proficiency for graduate students and 10 point drop for college students. As Maggie's Commission on the Future of Higher Education headed by standardista and test-crazed lunatic Charles Miller are busy working on ways to hold colleges accountable for reading abilities of students through the use of more testing, others are questioning whether test-driven reform might actually be responsible for a decline in American literacy.

This editorial writer in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution concludes:

"The poor showing on the national literacy assessment even among college grads ought to generate discussion at both state and federal levels about whether test-driven reform is creating better test-takers rather than better readers. As schools concentrate more resources on teaching kids how to bubble in the correct answers on standardized tests, less time is available to develop critical thinking skills."

Hallelujah! Finally, someone with common sense.

The writer also comments, "What's hard to understand is how literacy is falling at the same time that schools are making reading their top priority."

Perhaps she might understand a little better if she had a copy of this article at EducationNews by Daniel Pryzbyla: "Reading First" Dodges NCLB Law.

"Education 'reformers' now in control of the U.S. Dpeartment of Education (DoE) have proclaimed endlessly the need for a "competitive education marketplace." Their Reading First road show aimed at K-3 student fell far short of that sugarcoated economic folly."

Will there be anyone left who still understands the meaning of hypocrisy?

Maggie and her Reading First pushers obviously have their own literacy troubles because NCLB clearly states in Section 6301: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency or school's specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or programs of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under the act."

Pryzbyla suggests, "Now all that's left to be done is print out a copy of NCLB, Section 6301 from this commentary and send it to your local, state and federal elected representatives. It might be the first time they've seen it."

Also, don't forget to tell them -- it's the pedagogy stupid!

Friday, December 30, 2005

FairTest Petition

From The National Center for Fair and Open Testing:

Support Quality Education by Signing This Petition to Overhaul No Child Left Behind

FairTest will use the following petition in public education efforts and to influence policymakers:

Every child in our country needs and deserves a high-quality education. The federal "No Child Left Behind" law, while proclaiming this goal, is in fact doing the opposite. NCLB is leaving millions of young people behind, disrupting school districts, undermining the democratic oversight of our children’s education, and setting back the quality of public education. We the undersigned parents, students, educators, and other concerned people call upon our elected officials to work for fundamental changes in NCLB to:

  • Reduce reliance on standardized, one-size-fits-all testing as the principal measure of student and school progress. Do not make decisions based only on test scores.
  • Promote authentic assessments for students and schools including multiple ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge, primarily on the basis of their daily classroom work.
  • Implement a high-quality accountability system that will help schools improve and fully address achievement gaps.
  • Replace the rigid and unrealistic "Adequate Yearly Progress" rules which will label most schools in the country as failures, even those that are high-achieving or steadily improving, and subject them to severe and unhelpful sanctions.
  • Prevent privatization of public education through vouchers and similar plans.
  • Fully fund our public schools at the level necessary to provide an excellent education for all our children.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Within our Reach by John Chubb, CEO Edison, Inc.

Here is a promo from the Hoover Prostit . . ., I mean, Institute. Just a few of the bought scholars of the Koret Task Force at the table of the National Press Club meeting back in April. At the podium, their leader and Chief Corporate Socialist, John Chubb, out doing Whittle's dirty work.

What an wishful title for Chubb--"Within Our Reach. . ." Indeed.

Within Our Reach, an assessment of the No Child Left Behind Act, debuts at a Koret Task Force Washington, D.C., presentation

April 21, 2005

Members of the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force (KTF) on K–12 Education, along with representatives from Edison Schools, on April 21 in Washington, D.C., offered their findings and recommendations to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), nearly four years after its passage by a large bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress.

Discussing the No Child Left Behind Act at the National Press Club are, from left, Terry Moe, Caroline Hoxby, Diane Ravitch, and John Chubb, at podium.

Within Our Reach: How America Can Educate Every Child, a thorough assessment of NCLB and its progress, copublished by the Hoover Institution and Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, debuted at the presentation, which was held at the National Press Club.

"NCLB has the potential to do for the quality of education in America's schools what Brown v. Board of Education did for the equality of America's schools," said John Chubb, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of the founders of Edison Schools.

According to Chubb, NCLB may well be a watershed event in American education. Its goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students in reading and math by 2014 is audacious but achievable. The KTF's 18-month study of NCLB, however, has revealed serious flaws in the act that, if left uncorrected, could squander a historic opportunity.

Chubb summarized the extent of the problem in America's schools. On reading and math tests given to America's fourth and eighth graders, one-third scored below basic, meaning they were functionally illiterate, and another third demonstrated merely basic skills. Only the remaining one-third scored as proficient or advanced, he said.

That progress can be made is evidenced by rates of gain in major school districts that have adopted NCLB principles—accountability, transparency, and choice. Those rates have doubled in the last two to three years.

Chubb summarized the basic problems and suggested reforms for NCLB. Some states have set their standards too low, he said, which creates a "train wreck waiting to happen."

The solution, as described by Caroline Hoxby, a distinguished fellow at Hoover and a professor of economics at Harvard, would be to give all students the nationally standardized NAEP test and publicize the results, allowing parents to understand how their state's standards measure up. At the same time, current and yearly test scores could be evaluated by standard statistical procedures. The resulting trend lines would be projected into the future to demonstrate whether schools are on a trajectory to meet NCLB's accountability provisions.

Terry Moe, a senior fellow at Hoover and a professor of political science at Stanford University, addressed the issue of qualified teachers. Current standards, as set by states under pressure from teachers unions, among others, do not adequately measure teacher qualifications, he said.

Moe outlined task force recommendations that all teachers either have bachelors' degrees or higher in the subject they are teaching or pass a rigorous test to demonstrate competence in their field. Further, the Department of Education should set up an independent commission to certify that all state tests set the bar high enough, he added.

John Chubb addressed the fact that the school choice options provided for in NCLB are picked up by only 2 percent of those eligible. This is largely because choice is limited to only public schools in the same district and because schools are lack incentives to encourage parents to change schools, he said.

Task force recommendations include (1) allowing parents to exercise the choice option for one year after the school fails to meet its annual yearly progress (AYP) requirements, so schools can't discourage choice by late notification, (2) allowing parents to opt for schools regardless of AYP status, (3) allowing parents to choose schools outside their district if they're willing to shoulder the transportation costs, and (4) including private schools in the choice program if the schools are willing to accept the per pupil expenditure.

Diane Ravitch, distinguished visiting fellow at Hoover and research professor at New York University, stressed NCLB's continuity with past education reform efforts and the 20 solid years of bipartisan support for the principles embodied in NCLB. The task force described complaints about the cost of funding NCLB as a "red herring," as its direct costs are more than covered by funding increases that have followed its enactment.

Panelist Frederick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute seconded the task force's view that the NCLB was important, if imperfect, legislation that can be improved.

Within Our Reach was edited by Koret Task Force member John Chubb. Contributors were Koret Task Force members Williamson M. Evers, Eric A. Hanushek, Caroline M. Hoxby, Terry M. Moe, Paul E. Peterson, Diane Ravitch, Herbert J. Walberg, and Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco.

The book is available from Rowman & Littlefield at 1-800-462-6420 or www.rowmanlittlefield.com

Jeb Chooses the 65 Percent Solution

Having passed a class-size cap four years ago with a hefty price tag, Florida's Republican governor and legislators have been looking for a way to undercut it ever since. They think they have found it in the "sixty-five percent solution," a nationwide neo-con scheme headed up by Internet-based junk salesman, Patrick Byrne, whose reputation has slumped even more since I posted this in November. The scam is being pushed by education privatizers who seek to create diversions and sow discord among public educators across the country in order to advance their takeover efforts. For the whole story, go here to the St. Petersburg Times piece, but here are a couple of choice clips:
The 65 percent idea comes with baggage: The movement's national chairman is a maverick businessman who has been accused of spreading Wall Street conspiracy theories while his company performs below expections. And a recent analysis by Standard & Poor's, the credit rating company, found the 65 percent idea isn't based on hard evidence linking spending levels to student performance.
. . . .
Bush, Handy and Republican legislative leaders have made no secret of their dislike for the class-size amendment, which they say will channel billions of dollars away from other pressing education needs, such as attracting quality teachers. So far, efforts to repeal or limit the amendment's directives have failed.
. . . .
An August story in the Austin American-Statesman suggested the group pushing the 65 percent solution has a bigger agenda. A First Class Education memo obtained by the Texas newspaper said pushing the 65 percent plan as a ballot measure will yield political benefits for Republicans by pitting teachers against administrators, distracting the "education establishment" from other issues and building support for private school vouchers and charter schools. . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lucky to be in America

Just when you thought every conceivable damaging consequence of NCLB's ill-conceived draconian policy has been exposed, the mighty Michael Winerip shines a spotlight on the latest casualties in this war on public education. The children left behind are 90 lucky Somalian refugees in Springfield, MA, who along with their famlies, managed to escape the horrors of refugee camps in their native country. Now they sit idle and isolated in American classrooms.

You see, placing them all in one school where they could thrive and prosper with the necessary ELL services, might make another superintendent look bad when the school is labeled failing because the Somalians can't pass "the test." As Congress schemes on how to attack a new group of the most vulnerable in 2006 through immigration reform , lackeys like Tom Horne in Arizona haven't given up on doing their dirty work. Despite a fine of $500,000 a day and a school board clearly ready to heed a judge's order, Horne is not giving up on holding these kids and their teachers accountable -- no excuses.

From Winerip article:

"For two years, local advocates for the Somalis -- including Dr. A.B. Odutola, Doreen Fadus and Jean Caldwell -- have repatedly asked that the children be clustered in a few schools to maximize translation support and reduce travel time for translators.

Springfield officials have given a variety of reasons for not doing so. Last spring, according to Mrs. Caldwell, school officials said that clustering too many Somalis at one school would bring down its scores on state tests and the school could be labeled failing under the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Mrs. Caldwell, a retiree who does volunteer work for several Somalian families, has filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights."

Is anybody home?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Middle & Upper Class Anxiety over Testing

Today's story on the front page of the New York Times paints a portrait of anxious and angry middle and upper class parents in NYC who appear to be increasingly horrified and disgusted with the relentless focus on standardized test prep that now characterizes public school education. Despite good intentions by these parents to support the city's public schools and expose their children to the real world, the mind-numbing, narrow curriculum is driving them away. Here's an excerpt from the article that pretty much sums things up:

"Her most particular concern was test preparation. "I felt, how could I be doing this to my own children?" she said. "I could understand if test prep was part of the curriculum, but test prep was all the curriculum."

Some wonder how we can be doing this to anyone's children. One of those liberal college professors who thinks poor children are also entitled to a real education was also quoted:

"Nobody gets shortchanged the way the poor do," said Joseph Viterelli, a professor of public policy at Hunter College. "I'm sympathetic to the need to accommodate the middle class community and the dilemma it presents, but the bottom line is that the people who get shortchanged the most are the people who have no options."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Pay to Say Academics and State Education Policies

In the style of his predecessor, when Gov. Rick Perry got ready to make his move against public education in Texas, he called on a right wing propaganda tank to make the recommendations that he wanted to hear.

The Hoover Institute had recommendations waiting for just such an occasion, with enough big time corporate socialists and one-time respectable scholars to impress any part-time state legislator. Despite opposition by every education organization in Texas to the Koret Task Force Report, a bill passed that mirrored the recommendations of the Task Force. The bill calls for performance pay for teachers based on student test scores, vouchers, further deregulation of charters, reduction of property taxes, more student testing. You get the picture. It is worth mentioning that, at the top of the list of task force members is John Chubb, VP and Chief Ed. Officer of Edison Schools. Imagine that.

Though busy in Texas, the Task Force was also on the move in Arkansas, where they were invited by Gov. Huckabee to work a similar miracle there. According to news reports, however, it would seem that the jig might be up if this piece from the Arkansas Times can be an indicator.

Savor this one--you don't get this kind of reporting nearly so often enough:

Jennifer Barnett Reed
Updated: 12/15/2005

The 166-page report on education in Arkansas released Monday by the Koret Task Force was billed by Gov. Mike Huckabee as an objective outsiders’ perspective on what state leaders need to do to improve the state’s schools.

An outsiders’ perspective, certainly. But to call it objective is, at best, stretching it.

The Koret Task Force is an arm of the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank based at Stanford University (its overseers include Walter Hussman, publisher of the editorially conservative Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a financial

backer of controversial “merit pay” experiments in Little Rock public schools). The task force’s members are education scholars, many of whom have strong ties — both ideologically and financially — to conservative organizations that promote “market-driven” public education ideas such as vouchers and allowing private, for-profit companies to manage public schools.

Huckabee invited the task force in late 2004 to evaluate Arkansas’s education system and recent reforms. Earlier that year, the task force had released a study of the education system in Texas, and its recommendations were translated almost unchanged into legislation there by the majority Republican legislature.

That’s not likely to happen in Arkansas, though, where Huckabee will be out of office by the time the legislature — not historically inclined to follow his lead on education policy anyway — reconvenes in 2007. Still, the task force’s report here is certain to be used by prominent business owners who have already been promoting the ideas it contains.

The task force’s chairman, Chester Finn, is also president and chairman of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, another conservative education think tank. Finn was an assistant secretary of education under President Reagan and is one of the most prominent conservative education experts in the country. He has been affiliated with other conservative think tanks as well — including the Manhattan Institute and the Hudson Institute. And he was a founding partner of the Edison Project, a for-profit company set up to manage public schools.

Then there’s Paul Peterson, a Harvard-based political scientist and researcher who’s been funded in the past by the pro-voucher Olin Foundation. Research he did in the late 1990s on a voucher program in Milwaukee that concluded public school students who used vouchers to attend private schools did better than their counterparts who stayed in public schools was later widely discredited in the education community.

In the Koret Task Force’s report on Arkansas education, Peterson co-authored a chapter on charter schools and school choice with John Chubb, who’s chief education officer and a founder of Edison Schools — in other words, Chubb has a financial interest in promoting the idea that public schools should be turned over to private, for-profit management companies.

Other members of the task force have been long-time proponents of vouchers and charter schools, as well as using free-market principles to reconfigure public education systems.

So it’s no surprise that the task force’s recommendations include removing virtually all restrictions on charter schools: They should be automatically excused from all but a few education regulations, including existing collective bargaining agreements in the case of a school that converts from traditional to charter status. Nor should the state Board of Education be the sole authorizer of charter schools — public universities and non-profit education and community development organizations should also be given that authority, according to the task force. On the other hand, the state and local school districts should give charter schools more money to pay for facilities and other capital needs, as well as transportation.

The task force would also radically revamp how the state certifies and pays teachers. Instead of requiring an education degree of would-be teachers, the state instead should certify anyone with a bachelor’s degree who can pass a “rigorous” test of subject matter content and a criminal background check, then provide training in teaching techniques after teachers are already hired and in the classroom.

As for how those teachers would be paid, the task force recommended putting in a system that would be largely based on teachers’ performance as determined, at least in part, by their students’ standardized test scores. . .

A Newspaper NOT Attacking Public Education

I think this is the first one I have read in some time that is not intent on bashing public education. From today's LA Times:

THE UNDERLYING MYTH OF public schools is that they provide a roughly equal education to all. This is clearly untrue, even in California, where schools get most of their money from the state and therefore should get about the same amount per student.

Outdated funding formulas, which probably made some sense when they were set up more than 25 years ago, have some school districts getting hundreds of dollars per student more than others. The 50 or so wealthiest school districts get even more under a strange rule that allows them to escape the state's per-student funding altogether.

Such inequities are heightened when private money enters the mix, as it does increasingly. School leaders, eager to raise achievement, are in the unenviable position of trying to figure out when private spending by parents enhances education — and when it is simply unfair.

A case in point: the Fullerton School District, where officials wanted to incorporate laptop computers into the course work at some schools. Nice idea, but the district didn't have the money for the computers. Its solution was to tap parents for the $1,500-per-child cost. Loaners are available for families who can demonstrate financial need, but that leaves the working and middle class — and the proud — in a bind. Those students can attend non-laptop classes, which might mean transferring to another school.

Not all districts are so shortsighted. A few years ago, the Capistrano Unified School District was so tight on funds that it no longer could afford to keep class sizes at 20 students in the youngest grades. Parents at more affluent schools raised the money to keep the programs — at their children's schools. Still, that provided enough relief that the board was able to pay for poorer schools for that year. But what about the years to come? District trustees laid down the law: Fundraising would have to cover every school in the district. Parents rose to the occasion, raising enough money for all. Sadly, that was a rare exception to the rule.

Private money in public schools can help all students, or it can create a system of haves and have-nots that eventually could creep into schools statewide — smaller classes for children whose parents pay up, along with better-qualified teachers and better equipment. California's public schools can improve only under a system of public support, not by parsing them into privatized segments.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Fake War on College Conservatives

Now that the fake war on Christmas has been won with courageous stands by the likes of Bill O' Reilly against the Jesus-less infidels with their "Happy Holidays nonsense," it is time for the poor embattled conservatives who control every cranny in Washington to move on to other crusades that can be used to shift the conversation away from impeachment. The next big diversion is the fake war on college conservatives, but this one is not nearly so innocuous as the fake war on Christmas.

The New York Times carries this story on the new campaign to build support for reining in criticism of conservative politics on public university campuses. With an unknown funding source, the Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) have a spiffy website where anyone, student or otherwise, can log in and concoct a complaint against any prof at any university--with no threat of rebuttal or fact checking. On the front page of the SAF website today comes this:
A new study of over 1200 academics finds that the academics overwhelmingly vote Democratic and that the Democratic dominance has increased significantly since 1970.
Strangely, the first time I clicked to get the rest of the story, this April 2005 issue of Capital Research Center's "Organization Trends" popped up ( PDF Format). Do check it out--it has every element of negative propaganda that can be spun against the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Capital Research Center (CRC), by the way, is another of the right-wing propaganda hothouses paid to do the hatchet work for those public office holders who might get booted out of office for doing the same. Here is an excellent piece on CRC by Media Transparency's Bill Berkowitz.

Waiting in the wings to offer his solution to the fake war on college conservatives is none other than the corrosive David Horowitz, who we know as the tireless campaigner for the neo-cons' "academic bill of rights" that is now being pushed in every state legislature that will listen to complaints that are being solicited by conservative hatchet men? Could, then, the SAF be the university wing of the Horowitz Youth Movement?

As noted in the Times story, Republican students, when confronted with questions that challenge their political views, feel "uncomfortable." A clear sign that learning may be on the verge on happening, such discomfort is to be thwarted at all costs--and that is what the "academic bill of rights" intends to do. Here is a clip from the Times story:
Marissa Freimanis said she encountered a similar situation in her freshman English class at California State University, Long Beach, last year. Ms. Freimanis said the professor's liberal bias was clear in the class syllabus, which suggested topics for members of the class to write about. One was, "Should Justice Sandra Day O'Connor be impeached for her partisan political actions in the Bush v. Gore case?"

"Of course, I felt very uncomfortable," Ms. Freimanis, who is a Republican, said in an interview.

Wonder what Marissa would do if she were asked if Bush should be impeached? Would she start spouting about the war on college conservatives? Or would she just get uncomfortable and change the subject?

December Second

December Second

Just before dark
smoke from the chimney
drifts down among the trees
in pale wide ribbons,
and puffy juncos dig around
the red oaks for what
squirrels sometimes leave.
Hushed by low smooth sky,
I-75 recedes like
descending sleep.
Lights on, I watch
you through the window
warming by the stove,
holding your breath
for the first flakes
of snow.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Privatization of Public Schools in Detroit and Harrisburg

In 2001, there were 173 for-profit charter schools operating in the U.S. Today the number is over 3,000 and growing. Just in the last couple of days, Harrisburg and Detroit newspapers (here and here) report a sharp increase in enrollment in these corporate welfare schools that are draining resources from public schools already stretched to the breaking point by testing mandates and resource shortages. With little more to justify their appeal than names that mirror parental aspirations for their children, outfits like Harrisburg Prep and Joy Preparatory Academy operate as privately-managed company schools that most often are no better, and sometimes worse, than the public schools that parents have left behind:
Some charters in Detroit have gained more students despite poor academic performance. Joy Preparatory Academy performed worse than Detroit schools on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. Yet the charter school doubled its enrollment this fall to 293 students.
With no data or research to justify such shifts, these desperation experiments are being driven by No Child Left Behind and the assured failure that is embedded in the impossible requirements that have already brought sanctions to the poorest and most vulnerable public schools. Sadly, parents, angered and frightened by federally-mandated letters labeling their neighborhood schools as failures, are being suckered into schools with teaching and curriculum based on the chain gang and straight-jacketed model of Direct Instruction, a scripted approach to learning that makes children entirely unfit for the type of the thinking, understanding, and decision making that higher education requires for success. These children are being prepared, then, for the mindless order-taking that their economic and social dead ends will assure them if this type of schooling is allowed to continue.

The other sad fact is that middle class parents outside of Harrisburg or Detroit remain insulated from the public school dismantling that is going on in urban centers, much the same way that they were oblivious to the lives of impoverished New Orleanians until Katrina. There is, however, no hurricane in Detroit or Harrisburg to get the media interested or to get help mobilized, but, rather, there is a steady, rising tide that is quietly taking under the public schools from the urban soup bowls outward toward the suburbs. By the time the areas around Detroit notice the waters lapping around their own communities, which is inevitable given the current NCLB requirements, poor children in the cities will have already learned to march with unquestioning acceptance to the beat of a drummer intent upon prepping them for a renewed enslavement as second-class citizens for, yet, another generation or more.

Here is just one report (pdf) of what public school parents (all parents) may expect as we move toward 2014:
Massachusetts NCLB Study: Failure ahead for 74% of Bay State Schools, exposing No Child Left Behind Flaws.

Wonder what Horace Mann would think about this underhanded school privatization scheme?

Jim Horn

Thursday, December 22, 2005

School Privatization Provision In Defense Bill

Those who refuse to believe that the real Bush education agenda is school privatization, here is another cold dose of reality. Hellooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! From People for the American Way:

First-Ever National Private School Voucher Program Sent to President’s Desk
Legislation diverts money from public schools, allows for religious discrimination in hiring, and fails to keep federal funds from being used for religious indoctrination
WASHINGTON—On the same day the Senate passed legislation that cuts public education funding for the first time in a decade, it also voted to establish the first-ever national private school voucher program, as part of the final appropriations measure for the Department of Defense. With final approval in the House today, Congress has signed off on this dangerous measure, under the guise of one-time relief for students affected by this year’s hurricanes.

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas voiced strong opposition to the voucher program, which, in addition to diverting funds from public schools, allows federally funded private schools to discriminate on the basis of religion while hiring teachers, and fails to protect against the use of federal funds for the religious indoctrination of students.

“The promise of a quality public education for every child is a cornerstone of our democracy, but private school vouchers divert money from public schools and undermine that promise. Most Americans oppose such voucher programs, which might be why this one was attached to a must-pass defense appropriations bill,” Neas said. “This program throws open the door to using taxpayer dollars to fund private schools. It also allows for government funding of religion and religious discrimination. We deeply regret its passage.”

Cuts to Needy to Fund Tax Cuts for Rich

The neo-cons call their $40 billion in cuts to the needy deficit reduction, but look at the planned expansion of $70 billion more in tax cuts for the wealthy, and you get the picture of why there is good cheer and congratulations all around for Republican leaders this holiday season. Included in the cuts is a $12.7 slice out of college financial aid and cuts to HeadStart. From the Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - Nearly one-third of all the savings in the final budget bill comes from student aid, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

Under the bill, college students would pay higher interest rates on loans. Many banks will receive lower subsidies. And the Education Department will work with the Internal Revenue Service to ferret out students and parents who underreport incomes on financial aid applications. The budget bill is estimated to save $39.7 billion over the next five years. Student aid accounts for $12.7 billion of the savings, or 32 percent.

The rest here.

They're Baaaacck

Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate after the Dover slapdown of the creationist zealots, the New York Times reports that the Christianistas are back to their old tricks, this time in Texas with a new version of an old ruse:

ODESSA, Tex., Dec. 21 -Trustees of the Ector County Independent School District here decided, 4 to 2, on Tuesday night that high school students would use a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for studying the Bible in history and literature.

The council is a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, N.C., and has the backing of the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family, two conservative organizations.

The vote on the disputed textbook, for an elective Bible study course, has not ended the matter. Critics say the book promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

The district superintendent, Wendell Sollis, said Wednesday that he had recommended the textbook over a newer one by the Bible Literacy Project, published this year through the Freedom Forum and an ecumenical group of scholars and endorsed by a group of religious organizations.

"I felt like the National Council was a better fit for Odessa, because they're on several campuses here in Texas and because of their longevity," Mr. Sollis said.

David Newman, a professor of English at Odessa College, said he planned to sue the district because the curriculum advocated a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

The school board president, Randy Rives, said of the curriculum, which uses the King James Version of the Bible: "If you're going to teach something, it's better to use the source. I have complete confidence that we can teach this within the parameters of the law."

Professor Newman said, "If the beliefs of others don't match theirs, then the beliefs of others are irrelevant."

Last summer, the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes religious freedoms, asked a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, Mark A. Chancey, to examine the council course. Dr. Chancey said it had factual errors, promoted creationism and taught that the Constitution was based on Scripture.

A district trustee here, Carol Gregg, said she favored the Bible Literacy Project because it was "more user friendly toward teachers" and "more respectful of minority and majority" religious views.

Unlike the competing curriculum, it mentions several versions of the Bible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Holiday Gift

Please support the work of the Center for Fair and Open Testing. Here is the link to their secure site.

More Dover Dumbness

This from Daily Kos:
Here are some facts you don't hear about from the ID supporters:

  1. The board members wanted a 50-50 ratio between the teaching of creationism and evolution in biology classes (p. 95)
  2. The President also wanted to inject religion into social studies classes, and supplied the school with a book about the myth of the separation of church and state. (p. 96)
  3. Another board member said "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such." (p. 102)
  4. At a meeting, a board member's wife gave a speech, saying that "evolution teaches nothing but lies," quoted from Genesis, asked "how can we allow anything else to be taught in our schools," recited gospel verses telling people to become born again Christians, and stated that evolution violated the teachings of the Bible. (p. 103)
  5. Other statements by board members included "Nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state," and "liberals in black robes" are "taking away the rights of Christians, " and "2,000 years ago someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"

All this evidence was presented, and yet the defense still claimed that "intelligent design" was secular and they wanted it taught for secular purposes. They perjured themselves time and time again on the stand in an attempt to inject their religious beliefs into the public school system.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tutoring Corruption

The Educational Industry Association, a support group for corporate welfare bottom feeders, drafted a code of ethics this year in which it urged its supplemental services (tutoring) members to avoid paying students to sign up for tutoring.

So much for ethics. The $2 billion a year tutoring industry, spawned by NCLB requirements and accountable to no one for results, is so lucrative that companies can't resist. At least one is fudging on this ethical imperative, and it is none other than Newton Learning, which is owned by none other than Edison Schools, Inc. Yes, that one. Here is part of the story from IndyStar.com:
Newton Learning is among eight groups approved by IPS to tutor up to 650 students at Marshall Middle School. Another is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, which has a contract worth up to $900,000 for lessons to as many as 600 IPS students this year. The actual amount paid will be determined by the number of students attending lessons.

Marshall Principal Jamyce Banks appreciates the work of tutors from the nonprofit group. But she questions the approach Newton Learning has taken. The IPS School Board granted Newton a $525,000 contract for as many as 350 students this school year.

Newton tutoring sessions were supposed to start Nov. 28, the day dozens of students stayed after school to start the program. No tutors showed up, though, and Banks later learned the firm had pushed back the start date to January.

Banks said Newton signed up the students it has by promising $100 gift cards. Newton said the money was an incentive for students to attend every session, not just for signing up. Children would need to attend every lesson to receive the gift card -- they have been paid nothing in advance.

In the past, Newton and other tutoring groups did hand out gifts for signing up. This year, Newton changed -- and the state put a $100 cap on the value of incentives.

"We're competing with Xbox and TV and all of the other things they can be doing besides being tutored," said Joel Rose, general manager of Newton Learning, the tutoring division of Edison Schools. "If they don't come, they don't learn."

Intelligent Design Not So Smart

There is no doubt that the fundamentalist crackpots with the persecution complex will be back again with another challenge to the secular state, but, for now, they are toast--just 80 years after Scopes. A clip from the Washington Post article:

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled today that a public school district in the south-central part of the state cannot require the inclusion of "intelligent design" in biology classes as an alternative to evolution.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, issuing his decision in a case that was heard in the fall, ruled that the school board in Dover, Pa., violated the Constitution when it ordered high school biology teachers to read to students a short statement that cast doubt on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and offered intelligent design as an alternative theory on the origin and development of life. Jones ruled that the requirement unlawfully promoted a religious purpose in a public school.

Monday, December 19, 2005

America's Secret Weapon

It is interesting to see the evolution (or is that just the cruelty of getting old?) of moderate-turned-neocon, Lamar Alexander. From a soft-spoken school-boyish gubernatorial candidate in his red and black plaid flannel shirt (the common touch, you know) to an angry, red-faced, demagogue willing to carry the water anywhere for an out-of-control Adminstration. Now he is taking the lead in the Bush/Spellings attack on higher education, particularly teacher education programs.

Last week he was in Nashville to testify at the first big meeting of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, where he took the talking points from ED and presented them to ED’s Commission that was supposedly there to hear something they did not already know. This is the kind of fact finding and data gathering that has come to characterize the current nightmare that continues to unfold in Washington. A couple of days later Alexander was writing a propaganda piece for the Chattanooga Times, through which he was once more pumping the talking points that the Bushies are recommending to themselves:
First, I suggested they urge the Administration to make the National Academies’ “Augustine Report” a centerpiece of President Bush’s State of the Union address in January and the focus of his remaining three years in office.
Apparently the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century's original title, Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, was either too long for Bush to fit into his haiku speech delivery mode—or a bit too apocalyptic for the focus groups. Hey, they could have shortened it to the RAGS Report. Here is my post on RAGS when it first came out. Whatever it is called, RAGS is the inheritor of another famous scare-and-divert document, A Nation at Risk, that Reagan’s crowd pushed out in 1983 to blame the finally-integrated public schools on failed economic policy and bad business decisions among American automakers. By blaming the schools for allowing Japan to gain economic ground , the focus on equity and opportunity got replaced by another round of back to basics, more testing, and voucher promotion as a way for white parents to escape the integrated, and thus ruined, public schools.

Another of Alexander’s recommendations deals with how to pay higher ed for this planned oversupply of engineers and scientists that the Business Roundtable is intent on churning out in order to lower salaries in those areas. You guessed it—the poor will pay. Alexander is using this phony emergency (bad schools allowing China’s rise to power) to free states from federal court consent decrees that have thus far guaranteed a modicum of rights for the poor to health care and other programs through state funding of Medicaid. Alexander would use the China threat to divert that money into higher ed programs in science and technology, which would, essentially, serve the workforce needs of Couple of the Year, Bill and Melinda Gates.
Fourth, I urge the Congress to overhaul the Medicaid program and free states from outdated federal court consent decrees so that states may properly fund colleges and universities.
Having found the funding source, Alexander moves on to the neo-cons' real focus, colleges of education, “the greatest disappointment in higher education today.” Alexander’s covey of cons know that changing the schools is the key to changing everything, and they are intent upon replacing John Dewey’s Democracy and Education with Doug Carnine’s dictator-inspired Direct Instruction. (See Dewey at # 5 on the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries).

Forget those egalitarian and humanitarian dispositions and those pie-in-the-sky notions about emphasizing democratic choice, evolving purpose, and problem-based learning within a growing democracy. The neo-cons want students who can kick China’s ass in math and science, and if it is necessary to steamroll the democratic political landscape in the process, so be it. After all, we need workers, not questioners. Lots of workers, cheap.

Alexander’s final point in his op-ed really builds on the last one and cuts to the heart of matter:
Finally, I hope the commission will put a spotlight on the greatest threat to broader public support and funding for higher education: the growing political one-sidedness which has infected most campuses and an absence of true diversity of opinion.

There is more to this charge of one-sidedness than the academic community would like to admit. How many conservative speakers are invited to deliver commencement addresses? How many colleges require courses in U.S. history? How many even teach Western Civilization?

. . . . How many bright, young faculty members are encouraged to earn dissertations in the failures of bilingual education or on the virtues of vouchers or charter schools?
Is this the type of “scientifically-based” research that Alexander and the neo-cons support for the university? The same type that the Manhattan Institute, Cato, and the Fordham Foundation produce for a fee to justify policies chosen before the facts are known, er, before the propaganda is pumped out to justify the policy? Does he, as former university president (UT), really believe this is the way that his new and improved colleges of education should generate a research base? By choosing to use scientific research to prop up ideological agendas? How is that an improvement?

And now comes the big clincher, where Alexander makes his case for authoritarianism, white elite power, the flag, the war on terror, economic hegemony, and America’s secret weapon: higher ed. Could Alexander be in line to succeed the great Bill Frist as the neo-con version of The Political Apprentice:
I am not surprised that most faculties express liberal views, vote Democratic and that most faculty members resist authority. But I am disappointed when true diversity of thought is discouraged in the name of a preferred brand of diversity.

I salute Secretary Spellings and her distinguished commission, and I look forward to their recommendations. Higher education is America’s secret weapon for its future success. Other than the war against terror, keeping our brain power advantage so we can create new jobs here in the United States and keep our jobs from going to China, India, Finland, and Ireland, is the biggest challenge we face as a nation. Keeping our brain power advantage is the surest way to keep America on top.
Brace yourself--this is just the beginning.

Jim Horn

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Arizona Gets Real, and Real Tough

Ariz. faces $500,000-a-day fines in English-learner case--Also exempts those students from passing AIMS test. Get the story here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Darwin and the Great Left-Wing Conspiracy

From Max Blumenthal:
Self-styled science critic Tom Bethell's "The Politically Incorrect Guide To Science" reveals a lot more than the retrograde state of the conservative mind. Notice the book's tagline: "Liberals have hijacked science for long enough. Now it's our turn." So it's time for conservatives to hijack science, then? (This slogan was quietly changed on the book's paperback edition, but is preserved forever on Amazon.com.)
On Thursday in this post to the right-wing attack on teacher ed specifically and the university in general, I pointed out that the wingnuts now view the historical facts as the results of a left-wing conspiracy. Apparently, such crackpot notions are not just limited to history.

He Ain't No Brent Staples, Thank God

Here is a taste of Marion Brady's commentary that locates NCLB testing within a long-established tradition, beginning with IQ tests, to establish a "scientifically-based" method for keeping minorities at the bottom of the social and economic ladder.

'Straight-cut ditch' schools widen gap in education

Marion Brady
Special to the Sentinel

December 17, 2005

Brent Staples writes about education. His opinions appear in the New York Times. I write about education. My opinions appear in the Orlando Sentinel.

Staples thinks No Child Left Behind is improving education in America. I think it's hammering nails into education's coffin.

I'll grant Staples and other supporters of NCLB this: Because it breaks school populations down by race and requires test scores for each group to be reported separately, the legislation calls loud attention to minority students. If any one minority in a school doesn't make AYP -- Adequate Yearly Progress -- the whole school is in trouble. If there's inadequate yearly progress for two years in a row, the school is in BIG trouble.

This single provision of NCLB has bought the legislation major support from blacks, support I believe is misplaced and shortsighted. The long-range consequences of NCLB will be bad for all students, but they'll be devastating for the very students NCLB's advocates and apologists most want to help.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Why Are Schools Losing School Nurses?

If you live in a state represented by the national average, USA Today reportsthat your public schools have half the number of nurses recommended by thefederal government and the CDC. Of course, poor schools in whatever state don't even come close to half the needed number.

So even though NCLB's testing frenzy makes the need for school nurses evenmore critical to handle the increased stress, anxiety, nosebleeds, and vomiting that come with test days, it is NCLB that is contributing to fewer and fewer nurses:
. . . many school administrators say they cannot afford to keep a nurse on staff, especially given the demands of the government's No Child Left Behind program, which links federal funding of schools to improved standardized test scores. "I don't like going without a school nurse," says Scott Johnson, district administrator for the Siren (Wis.) School District. "But I don't like cutting a teacher, either."
And sweetness-and-light Susan Aspey at ED curtly reminds us that, even though schools fall far short of federal recommendations, Ed has no plans to enforce the recommendations:
"State and local officials determine staffing needs," says Susan Aspey, press secretary for the department. "We don't dictate hiring decisions."
Of course, we know what ED is dictating. Pathetic.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Protecting the Rights of Racists to Become Teachers

The foundations classes that I teach begin with an introduction to the study of ethics, and one of the texts we use is the NEA Code of Ethics of the Teaching Profession. The Code has this Preamble that we read and discuss:
The educator, believing in the worth and dignity of each human being, recognizes the supreme importance of the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, and the nurture of the democratic principles. Essential to these goals is the protection of freedom to learn and to teach and the guarantee of equal educational opportunity for all. The educator accepts the responsibility to adhere to the highest ethical standards.

The educator recognizes the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process. The desire for the respect and confidence of one's colleagues, of students, of parents, and of the members of the community provides the incentive to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the Education Profession indicates the aspiration of all educators and provides standards by which to judge conduct.

The remedies specified by the NEA and/or its affiliates for the violation of any provision of this Code shall be exclusive and no such provision shall be enforceable in any form other than the one specifically designated by the NEA or its affiliates.

And then it has two Principles, the first one dealing with Commitment to the Student and the second aimed at Commitment to the Profession. Here is the first that become central in a number of hairy cases that constitute the core of the ethics part of the course:
Commitment to the Student
The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.

In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator--

1. Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.
2. Shall not unreasonably deny the student's access to varying points of view.
3. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student's progress.
4. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.
5. Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.
6. Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly--
a. Exclude any student from participation in any program
b. Deny benefits to any student
c. Grant any advantage to any student
7. Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.
8. Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.

Why do I bother to print this part of the NEA Code here? Isn’t it enough that I provide this statement (that I try to live by) as the footing for the ethical foundation that prospective teachers build during my course? It would be enough, perhaps, and not worth posting if there were not now a committed group of right-wing crackpots on the loose who view these ethical values as unimportant for evaluating the readiness of prospective teachers. Yes, these are the same crackpots, now supported by Federal education policy, who would prefer to dismantle, or blow up, teacher education programs entirely.

For those still wondering what I am talking about, there is now emerging (see Chronicle article here) a full-blown neo-con fatwah on education professional schools and the emphasis by these schools on dispositions (ethical values) to which teacher candidates are expected to adhere as they prepare to become teachers.

Particularly loathsome and oppressive to oppressed white protestants (who, we may recall, control both bodies of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court) is the emphasis on values such as “social justice.” It is particularly galling, the tirade goes, to have the liberal university language police who now run schools of education to offer any reminder to teacher candidates that skin tone might carry with it some small social or economic implication, or that there are parts of our national past and present that are not so sunny in terms of the treatment of the darker folk.

In fact, these neo-con critics, in their perennial role as anti-cultural and uni-social nitwits, view the honest treatment of the factual past as a liberal plot to demoralize the white race. What is at stake, of course, is the possibility that teacher candidates actually become conscious of racial history, which might lead some of these, otherwise, color blind co-eds to acknowledge that there are, indeed, parts of their “heritage” that might dampen their unquestioning celebration of white pride. You know, the plantation was not just a place for sipping mint juleps—but, rather, the foundational institution for American economic power in the 19th Century.

As part of my permanent atonement for being a southerner, I watch Jerry Falwell on Sunday morning when I go back home on visits. Falwell is old hand in the school history wars, and recently I heard him share with the TV flock his outrage that school history texts discuss Jefferson’s ownership of slaves. Forever blind to any sense of irony, Falwell would rather see Jefferson remembered, not as a slaveholder, but for his commitment to individual rights, which would seem to include freedom of thought and expression and belief. Except in school, of course, where Falwell and the cons prefer the indoctrination of children in meaningless platitudes intended to blind future citizens to what has made them blind.

What has brought on the current war on “dispositions?” And what are these dispositions?:
In the 2002 edition of its guidebook on professional standards, the [NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education)] detailed the kind of learning it expects, including the kind of professional dispositions it believes students need. Dispositions, the booklet says, are the "values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities." They "are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice."
Dangerous stuff. We know now that the current war on the dangerous value of social justice is part of the much broader intrusion into higher ed that hopes to establish ideological quotas to guarantee the untrammeled presence of the endangered, exploited, and oppressed white male protestant conservative patriotic-by-lapel-pin position in every nook and cranny of the university. If there were any doubt that this is a core unacknowledged reason for Maggie’s new Commission on High Ed, have a look at these remarks by Lamar Alexander, who was purportedly at the Nashville meeting of the Commission to talk about science and math education:
Alexander said funding for colleges is threatened by a "growing political one-sidedness" on many campuses that doesn't allow for more conservative ideas.

"How many conservative speakers are invited to deliver commencement addresses? How many colleges require courses in U.S. history? How many even teach Western Civilization? ... Those are politically unacceptable topics," the Tennessee Republican testified.

Alexander, a former U.S. Secretary of Education and former president of the University of Tennessee, said colleges need to bring in more speakers and academics "with a different point of view from the prevailing point of view.

"I know it's the single biggest criticism I hear of higher education, because I'm always the one saying 'Let's have more money for colleges and universities,' " Alexander said. "The biggest thing I get thrown back in my face is, 'They're politically one-sided. Why should I support them?'"

Is the battle against inclusive factual history and social justice dispositions having any effect? Sure enough—in a spineless acquiescence to the anti-political-correctness political correctors, NCATE has quickly folded up on the issue and issued an urgent bulletin. I wonder if this what the NCATE chiefs meant at the Washington meeting that I attended when they talked about plans for closer ties with the federal government?Again, from the Chronicle:
Last month, in the midst of the controversy, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education sent a bulletin to the 614 programs it accredits, saying that education schools should not evaluate students' attitudes, but rather assess their dispositions based on "observable behavior in the classroom." It also said it does "not expect or require institutions to attend to any particular political or social ideologies."

Beliefs, values, philosophy, or ethical commitments don’t matter any more unless we observe them after they are allowed to do damage in the classroom? If a teacher can teach math, it does not matter if she is an avowed skinhead, fascist, or a dangerous liberal? NCATE has, then, just attempted to acknowledge the meaninglessness of a foundational element of what this foundations prof has committed his professional life to. Sorry, NCATE, and I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but—go the Hell.

By the way, did you ever wonder how it happened in Germany? Perfect example—the whores in higher ed were some of the first to fold.

Jim Horn

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Just In Time for Xmas

Judy Rabin writes:
Hard to believe how pathetic this all is. Congress can't even scrape up a
measly $11 million for the poorest, neediest kids - even Dickens' wildest imagination couldn't come up with this one. These guys spend more than that on the golf course. Yep, No Child Left Behind.

December 14, 2005

House Votes to Cut Head Start and Other Key Programs; Senate
for Tomorrow

House Passes Labor HHS Conference Report The House just
voted215 to 213 to pass theLabor HHS Conference Report

(negotiated appropriations bill). It is our understanding that
the conference
report will cut Head Start by $11 million.
This means that programs will see a
further reduction in
services and enrollment. To see how your member
Congress votedplease click here: _

Senate Vote on Labor HHS Conference Report
Now that the conference report has passed
the House it must alsopass the
Senate for it tobecome law.
The bill is scheduled to be votedon in the Senate a

tomorrow. We need folk to call tomorrow(preferably in
the morning) in
order to make sure Head Start does not
receive a cut. We continue to hear that
the vote will be
exceedingly close so every call isgoing to make a big
difference. To get in touch withyour two Senators dial
(202)225-3121. Ask to speak
with the legislative assistant
who handles Head Start. Tell them to vote
against any cuts to
Head Start and to oppose the Labor HHS Conference Report.

Elizabeth Do Just Says No

When Elizabeth Do decided to study for an AP exam rather than take California's STAR test, she apparently set off a round of reprisals by school officials to punish her for doing what is the lawful right of every parent and child in the U. S. (see story here).

While the NEA, state departments of education, human rights organizations, and educational associations work the courts and the back rooms looking for a way to modify Bush's plan for corporatizing or christianizing the public schools, there are a handful of students like John Wood in Ohio, Mia Kang and Kimberly Marciniak in Texas, and sixth grader, Macario Guajardo in San Antonio, who have stood up and just said no the testing fixation that is stuidifying America's children. These students have made clear statements by their actions that should inspire us now to act to end the madness.

I am proposing, then, the creation of a new effort: Rebuilding Excellent Performance and Equity in America's Local Schools (REPEALS).

REPEALS will work as an coalition-building, activist, grassroots organization, 1) to build local and regional support systems for the repeal of No Child Left Behind and other laws or policies that threaten public education, 2) to share and encourage lawful tactics and strategies that will disrupt the egregious violations to human dignity that are promoted by the NCLB Law, 3) to develop, collect, and disseminate curriculum, assessment, and instructional options based on what students and parents need to know and understand for ethical and democratic citizenship, career success, personal fulfillment, and continuous learning for life.

If you would have ideas, money, time, stories of resistance, or interest for the REPEALS agenda, send email here: repeals@yahoo.com

Let's see what we can do to end the current orgy of tabulation that stands in the way of our children's true learning requirements.

Jim Horn

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Holding High School Students

Accompanying this piece today in the Post on the travails of 9th graders, Jay Mathews has this take that he solicited from Walt Haney, who works neither for the Manhattan Institute nor the Fordham Foundation. Thanks, Jay Mathews, for that-- and thanks, Walt Haney for your reliably-sane-and-centered voice.
Overcoming Obstacles to Progress
Tuesday, December 13, 2005; A12

The Washington Post sought an analysis of the ninth-grade hurdle to student progress from Walter Haney, professor at the Lynch School of Education and director of the Ford Foundation-funded Education Pipeline project in the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Public Policy at Boston College:

Thirty years ago, only about 4 percent of students had to repeat ninth grade. Now, it is about 12 percent. In such states as Florida, South Carolina and New York, the ninth-grade hurdle, or bulge, is even worse, with more than 20 percent more students enrolled in ninth grade than were in eighth grade the previous year. . . .

Historically the ninth-grade bulge has been associated with three waves of education reform. First, the so-called minimum-competency testing movement in the late 1970s and then the push for more academic requirements in the late 1980s. . . . A greater increase occurred in the 1990s with the rise of the so-called "standards-based reform" and "high stakes-testing" movements. The grade 9 hurdle is also associated with a structural change in how students typically reach high school. The movement from junior high schools to middle schools shifted a grade 7 bulge to grade 9, which is now the critical choke point in the education pipeline.

The consequences have been severe. A majority of students (as high as 80 percent) who are ordered to repeat grade 9 will not stay in school through graduation. This has led to a falling graduation rate in the last decade or so. According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the graduation rate nationally for the classes of 2002 and 2003 was less than 75 percent, and even lower in such states as South Carolina, Georgia, New York and Mississippi, where it hovered at about 60 percent. . . .

What can be done? Making high schools smaller and less impersonal and connecting schoolwork with students' lives outside of school is one approach. Probably more important would be changes in policies -- specifically providing schools with tangible incentives for keeping children in school and abandoning high-stakes testing used to make important decisions about students and schools based on test results in isolation. After all, test results can never cover all the broad goals of public education -- academic, social and vocational.

No Teacher Education = Highly Qualified

I have posted more than once on how the "higly-qualified" teacher requirement of NCLB creates a shortage that will be filled by entirely-unqualified "teachers" with a degree and a passing test score from flim-flam outfits like ABCTE, the phony teacher prep company that has been fronted by ED to the tune of $40 million so far to help assure the de-skilling of the teacher profession.

Now it seems that Texas governor, Rick Perry (R), has been working his own angle to replace credentialed teachers with a corps of desperate job changers who have not been poisoned by educational theory, developmental awareness, teaching strategies, practice teaching, or professional ethics. In order to meet the "highly-qualified" requirement handed down by ED, which prefers a Walmartized teacher corps that can be brainwashed in the chain gang methods of Direct Instruction, Perry offered school districts the opportunity in 2004 to meet their "highly-qualifed" needs by instantly certifying anyone who had a degree and could pass a test.

Teachers in Texas were outraged, and the Houston Chronicle reports that one teacher has thus far been certified through the program. The Governor's office insists, however, that the program can help systems provide "highly qualified" teachers:
Aides to Gov. Rick Perry say the program can still help school districts fill vacancies with qualified individuals.

"The governor still believes this is a worthwhile program that is worth pursuing, and that it could be very beneficial for school districts," said press secretary Kathy Walt.

This is simply another example of the monstrous lie technique used so effectively by neo-cons--of adopting language to describe policies that are intended to achieve the exact opposite outcome of what is stated: Clear Skies, Healthy Forests, Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, or now Highly-Qualifed Teacher--take your pick.

Jim Horn

Monday, December 12, 2005

Take This Law and Shove It

Voters in Kit Carson, CO have voted to opt out of NCLB. The good news is that these voters can afford to do it. The bad news is that the systems that are being hit the hardest right now cannot afford to opt out. See the whole story here in the Rocky Mountain News:
"Voters in Kit Carson have agreed to pay more in taxes to make up for federal aid they'll lose when the district pulls out of the No Child Left Behind program - a move believed to be at least the first of its kind in Colorado."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Beyond Whittle, Even

With Florida's Supreme Court to rule soon on the constitutionality of the Bush voucher (excuse me, tuition scholarship) plan, Jeb's Plan B has floated to the surface. It works like this. Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations willing to fund school vouchers by giving money to public agencies that would then give the money to private or church schools, Bush's Plan B would allow corporations to give the money directly to the church or private schools and continue to get the tax credits. As the Press Journal explains in this editorial:
In Bush's new plan, vouchers would be funded and administered outside state agencies. This money would never enter the state finance system, thus would not be public funds and would be immune from state rules. Somehow, though, donors would qualify for tax breaks. This plan is certain to face a court challenge because if it is not state money, by what right do corporations earn tax credits?

Now it seems that a similar plan is being offered up in New Jersey, this time fronted by black ministerial mercenaries who have been identified by The Black Commentator in a February 2005 article as hacks who are on the payroll to shape public opinion in black communities, communities desperate for solutions to the continuing problems of poverty. In the clip below, BC makes some other essential connections in the pay-to-play business of promoting school vouchers in poor communities:

The Right’s systematic assault on the Black body politic is dramatically evident in heavily Black and Latino northern New Jersey, a focus of Wal-Mart heir John Walton’s inner city pro-voucher “philanthropy” and Karl Rove’s machinations among Black ministers. The two paths intersect at the Newark-based voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone, or E-3. The hyper-aggressive political front can count on about a half million dollars a year from the Walton Family Foundation ($400,000 in 2003) and also benefits from federal Education Department grants to the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), another pro-voucher outfit. HCREO shares funding links (Bush’s Education Department and rightwing foundations) with the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), one of whose founding directors, former and future Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker (see “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, April 5, 2002), was also a founder of E-3. (Booker received campaign financing from the Waltons, as well.)

This isn’t conspiracy theory; rather, it’s the result of strategic planning and funding by the Bush regime, the Waltons and, especially, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which invented both the “Black” voucher “movement” and faith-based initiatives in the mid-Nineties.

Also on E-3’s board is Rev. Reginald Jackson, head of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. Two weeks before the recent election, E-3 announced:

“In an effort to focus constituents on the benefits of choice, ministers and pastors in NJ began last Sunday (October 17) to deliver sermons on school choice and the need for parents to support the advocacy efforts of the [New Jersey School Choice Alliance]. ‘This is by far the most important, the most vital civil rights issue facing us, and our children,’ said Rev. Reginald Jackson, pastor of St. Matthews A.M.E. church in Orange, NJ….”

The most vital civil rights issue! Not affirmative action, not racism in the criminal justice system, not the right to adequate health care, but vouchers. What a difference rightwing money makes in the priorities of a section of the Black clergy.

Contrary to Eagleton Poll claims that residents of poor New Jersey communities favor school “choice” by up to 75 percent, a recent survey by the Strategic Marketing Group found only 24 percent of Black Newark households believevouchers are the best cure for what ails education in the city. No matter – the twin lures of faith-based funding and vouchers are irresistible to ministers on the make, many of whom operate – or would like to operate – private church-based schools.

The New Jersey plan, which faces stiff opposition in the State legislature, offers dollar for dollar tax breaks to corporations who give cash to pay for enrollment in private and church schools. So then corporations are to be given money from the public coffers to pay businesses to run private schools? This makes even Whittle sound like a paragon of civic virtue!

Jim Horn

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chris and Jeb

Here is a piece I missed from November 27 that offers some new details on neo-con links to corporate socialist, Chris Whittle, whose dreams of empire rest upon the willingness of the American people to build it for him with tax dollars (see review of Whittle's fantasy here). Note the link in the clip below between Jeb and Chris--remember it was Jeb who used the Florida state pension fund to bail out Whittle's last big corporate flameout:

Republican leaders have fueled the [charter] movement with a series of initiatives - the federal No Child Left Behind law (which permits low-achieving schools to be turned over to private companies), Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's A-Plus plan and the growing use of vouchers for private schools. This year, 60 for-profit companies are managing more than 500 schools nationwide. At the forefront is Edison, the brainchild of Chris Whittle, the eccentric entrepreneur who made his first splash in education with the controversial Channel One business that brought TV - and commercials - into schools. The communications executive who had restored Esquire magazine to fiscal health came up with the idea as he prepared a speech to a business group on ways to improve the nation's school system.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Suspensions for Speaking Spanish

In this documentary series and/or paperback text that I highly recommend as a crash course in the history of American education, Jose Gutierrez recalls his school experiences 40 years ago in Crystal City, Texas:
We were not allowed to speak Spanish. We would be given an option. Three days suspension, or three licks with a paddle for speaking Spanish. In the American school they wanted to make Anglos out of all of us. And they [wanted] to take our Spanish away and teach us English. Well, you don't make anybody greater by making them less (Mondale & Patton, 2001, p. 151-152).
We have apparently come a long way since then. Today in one of Kansas City's small chain gang high schools, there are no "licks," and the suspension has been reduced from 3 days to a day and a half. Now that's progress!--the bare-knuckled kind that historically has confused American unity with American sameness, or simply viewed difference--any difference--as a challenge to the white protestant owners of economic and moral integrity who have always maintained the high ground by continually reminding the lowlanders of their inferior status. High expectations for all, right?

In order to undo all of the diversity gains of the 60s and 70s, the neo-cons are working overtime in a heated anti-cultural effort to stem the effects of the inexorable browning of America, by burning away behavioral, cultural, language, any differences that could challenge the entrenched hegemony (whose Christmas is now threatened, right?) that has ruled this country since before there was one.

The race is on to complete the effort, with fear as its greatest motivator. The flip side of fear, of course, is anger--and anger remains the preferred mode of operation for those who will not acknowledge their own cowardice.

Jim Horn

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Propaganda Tank Pumps Science Testing

The New York Times does it again, this time in a piece citing the Fordham Institute's new school failure report as if Fordham's hacks had some credibility beyond the ideological green zone where the plan for educational victory is being expanded to include national science testing to go along with national math and reading testing. No qualifiers, no nothing to indicate that Fordham is the propaganda hub for neo-con educational policy.

The new "study" finds, guess what, that we are not keeping up in the international science ed competition and that state ed departments are doing a crumby job. Handing out Fs and Ds left and right, the study finds that science has slipped to the back burner because of the testing focus on math and reading:
The report, released Wednesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that the focus on reading and math as required subjects for testing under the federal law, No Child Left Behind, has turned attention away from science, contributing to a failure of American children to stay competitive in science with their counterparts abroad.
If science is suffering, can you imagine what is happening to the social studies, which is not even mentioned? Of course, there is no hue and cry for more focus on social studies, where children could potentially learn something about that hermetically-sealed document called the Constituition that, the last time I checked, remains open to the curious for public viewing in Washington. Besides, they don't fuss with social studies in China, our new fear focus, where they are busy training engineers to support the economic goals of their dictatorship. Could that be the less obvious meaning of what Friedman meant when he said "the world is flat."

Jim Horn

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Child Left Behind: The DVD

Here is the link to Boondoggle Films.

No Child Left Behind

After spending a year as a student teacher in a New York City elementary school, documentary filmmaker Lerone Wilson explores the effects of President Bush's momentous No Child Left Behind Act on schools across the country. Trailer Quicktime Windows Media

Email exchange

I picked up the following exchange at ARN today, the Fairtest list. I will have more to say about this a bit later.

Its just not the disabled students that are being penalized. Its the students who are sitting in the middle of the road. My daughter is one of them who is straddling the fence. She has taken the exit exam 8 times and has been evaluated 3 times and they still don't see the need to help her. She is suppose to graduate this school year. Maybe now since her last testing with a outside source,indicated to us just yesterday that she thinks about killing herself often, and feels stupid at school, will finally get there dam attention. This exit exam does nothing for these kids but put them more behind in what they need to be studying. Not to mention the peer pressure of the teenagers. I took my daughter's test to the school yesterday so that they can compare their test with the Dr's. test. I am waiting to hear what they have to say. And believe me I am not stopping if I don't get the answers I want. I will go all the way to Washington, call the radio stations and even TV. My daughter is not alone in this fight and I am willing to fight for all the children out there who have been humiliated by this so call"No Child Left Behind". What is so funny I am the President of our High School PTA.
As the president of your PTA, you might want to consider showing this film on NCLB to
your fellow PTA moms and maybe even some interested teachers. Have you informed them of your daughter's plight? Have you informed her teachers? It sounds like you are not getting support from the school and/or their hands are tied. Maybe you need a lawyer like Brown got for his daughter back in the 1950's. However, with our shiny new Supreme Court appointments, I wouldn't bank on getting any justice there. This fight is going to have to happen at the grassroots level, or it isn't going to happen at all.
The DVD is only $19.99, here's the site:
I am using the film for a research project in one of my graduate courses. There is a PTA mom interviewed in the film as well as many other voices, including the voices of students and teachers on this whole testing issue and NCLB. The kids in the film are younger than your daughter, but the message is the same and if you sit down and watch it with her, it might actually help her in some way.
Good luck and I hope she gets exempt from the stupid test and that she graduates with her class.
Keep us posted.