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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Can Corruption Become Any More Blatant?

With less than three years remaining in the current corporate feeding frenzy in Washington, the legalized looting of the Federal Treasury in the coming months stands to make Baghdad after Saddam look like a picnic. What we know, of course, is that Bush's corporate thugs pushed through $12 billion in college student aid cuts in order to justify permanent tax cuts for the wealthy. What we did not know about that "deficit reduction bill" is that the same piece of legalized dreck contains an unending gift to the for-profit diploma mills to drain away the remaining student aid. Who is Sally Stroup and Brad Card? Sam Dillon has the whole sordid story:

It took just a few paragraphs in a budget bill for Congress to open a new frontier in education: Colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid.

That change is expected to be of enormous value to the commercial education industry. Although both for-profit colleges and traditional ones have expanded their Internet and online offerings in recent years, only a few dozen universities are fully Internet-based, and most of them are for-profit ones.

The provision is just one sign of how an industry that once had a dubious reputation has gained new influence, with well-connected friends in the government and many Congressional Republicans sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic.

The Bush administration supported lifting the restriction on online education as a way to reach nontraditional students. Nonprofit universities and colleges opposed such a broad change, with some academics saying there was no proof that online education was effective. But for-profit colleges sought the rollback avidly.

"The power of the for-profits has grown tremendously," said Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee who has expressed concerns about continuing reports of fraud. "They have a full-blown lobbying effort and give lots of money to campaigns. In 10 years, the power of this interest group has spiked as much as any you'll find."

Sally L. Stroup, the assistant secretary of education who is the top regulator overseeing higher education, is a former lobbyist for the University of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit college, with some 300,000 students.

Two of the industry's closest allies in Congress are Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who just became House majority leader, and Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, who is replacing Mr. Boehner as chairman of the House education committee.

And the industry has hired well-connected lobbyists like A. Bradford Card, the brother of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. . . .

One Alternative

Thanks to David McCurry for this connection:
The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to advance learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world. Read More...

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Is That Light Another Train?

With the President’s poll numbers at 34% and His Darkness at 18%, anyone must begin to wonder when the quacking starts and when the big snowball of neo-fascism, er, neo-conservatism, begins its downhill melt. I see that Professor Fukuyama has jumped ship with a row boat full of new books on how pre-emptive war and the bare-knuckled imposition of freedom, by god, might not be such a good idea. Poor neocons. And when you see withering send-ups of Lard-arse Limbaugh at Imus’s conservative hangout show, that is a sure sign that it might not be entirely cool anymore to make make fun of those oppressed peoples who are having no fun.

All of this good news, of course, could be turned around by a first-class Rovian terror scare or even by a red alert on the homosexual marriage threat, and we are likely to see both some time before the “Party of Lincoln” faces the voters in the Fall. Because the situation remains fluid, shall we say, in terms of the current threat by the neo-eugenicists to dig a ditch for poor people that they cannot escape from, it remains, therefore, foolish to act as if the corporate socialist agenda of Grover Norquist and his minions has at all been altered. It remains their dream to replace civic purpose and public institutions with manipulated market forces and to focus relentlessly on dismantling democratic government when and where they can.

Those who believe that public schools will survive the current assault by corporate socialists are now coming out of their defensive crouches to plan a new direction for schools, or at least to clear the overgrown paths that were deserted when the everyone fell into the rut of school by high stakes testing. Some now remind us that the oppressive and anti-intellectual mission of the public schools before testing should not be the model we return to, once, in fact, we are able to shut down the psychological rape rooms that now operate with public sanction in the urban schools of America.

Shutting down the new chain gang schools, however, will not be so easy, for those who see the economic mission of schools as the chief end also view the “new and improved” “scientifically-based” social manipulation of the poor as a necessary element in helping the masses purchase their tickets in steerage on the American Economic World Cruise. With a new coat of paint, new desks, everyone a laptop, and job security, there are many good liberals and union members who can easily be convinced that the de-humanization of urban children is a good thing. And since corporate socialists come in various political stripes, the demise of one party and the ascension of the other does nothing to guarantee the wholesale departure from the present educational mission to subdue the African-American and immigrant populations for the service of capitalist totalitarianism.

It says something profound about the tenuous nature of our commitment to human decency to watch as, otherwise, caring and intelligent people, carry out the dehumanizing behavioral modifications that are at the heart of the SFAs and the Open Courts, all in the name of education. What will future generations of educators say, if one can still imagine that, as they watch the images of young idealistic college graduates turned into prison guards, exacting the various subject matter and behavioral catechisms from children turned effectively into protoplasmic robots who will live their lives guarding closely their own continued subjugation.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Stand on This Platform

For those who insist that an alternative to genocide must be made explicit before calling for its end, here is a platform statement that has been around for some time. Which major candidate will make it her own?

Revitalize Public Education


Equalize School Funding with Federal Revenue Sharing: Federal financing of all public education (instead of by regressive local property taxes) so that every school has the resources it needs to provide the highest quality education for every child. Use a simple formula based on student population with adjustments based on need to help bring up school quality and student performance in poor communities.


Decentralized Administration: Cut through stifling centralized administration with site-based planning, policy-making, and management with participation by parents and teachers with release-time. Maintain central support staff for decentrally administered schools.


Class Size Reduction: Federal legislation and financing to reduce student-teacher ratios in classrooms to 15 to 1 in all public schools.


Preschool Programs: Federal legislation and financing for public schools to make available Head Start-type programs for pre-Kindergarten children starting at age 3.


After School Programs: Federal legislation and financing to make available after-school recreational and educational programs for all school age children.


Children's Health: Clinics in all schools to check eyes, teeth, and general health at all grade levels. Healthy food at breakfast, lunch, and after school programs. Birth control information at middle and high schools.


Improve Teacher Training and Pay: Improve the quality of teachers with support for career-long training. On-the-jobs apprenticeships for teachers-in-training. Teacher pay scales comparable to other professionals with similar education and responsibilities.


Multicultural Teaching Staffs: Strengthen affirmative action programs to recruit and support ethnic minorities to enter teaching at every level: teacher, aide, assistant, apprentice.


Tuition-Free Higher Education: Federal legislation and financing for tuition free education at public universities and technical schools for everyone who wants it.


Oppose the Privatization of Public Schools: We oppose all schemes for corporations to pursue private profits at the expense of public schools and schoolchildren.


No School Vouchers: No school vouchers from public budgets for private schools.


No For-Profit or Religious Charter Schools: Stop the diversion of public funds to for-profit corporations or religious organizations running charter schools with unaccountable administrations, uncertified teachers, and segregated student bodies.


No Commercialization: Stop turning school children into a captive market for commercial marketing interests with franchises that undermine democratic funding and accountability.


No High-Stakes Testing: Stop the curriculum takeover by commercial standardized test and test-prep corporations. Stop linking administrator and teacher pay and student graduation and retention to standardized test performance. Stop reducing education to answering multiple choice questions. Put teachers back in charge of ongoing, genuine assessment in the classroom.


Curriculum for a Multicultural Participatory Democracy:
We support a democratic public school curriculum that fosters curiosity, critical thinking, and free expression, that explicitly promotes democratic and egalitarian anti-racist, anti-sexist, and multicultural values, that replaces Eurocentric with multicultural textbooks and other curriculum materials, that does not sort children into academic and non-academic tracks, and that is academically rigorous with high expectations for all children.


Support Bilingual Education: Minority-language children with limited English proficiency must have instructional programs that build on their native language and culture while building English proficiency.

State Mandated Child Abuse

Someday, someone, somewhere, in an act of civil disobedience, is going to say enough is enough. How much longer will the American public and teachers stand by as the nation's children are subjected to the emotional and intellectual abuse of the testing industry and the politicians whose pockets they line? How much longer?

Fifth-Graders Hit Hard by New Test Load
By Rick Holland / Daily News Staff Sunday, February 26, 2006

Last week’s school vacation may have been the last time many fifth-graders and teachers felt fully relaxed -- at least until June 2.

By that date, the 10- and 11-year-old students will have slogged through three times the number of federal or state-mandated exams that their counterparts were required to endure in 2005. It’s all part of a rigorous new schedule of exams included in this year’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System which has fifth-graders sitting for three two-hour tests and a one-hour so-called tryout test.

According to some school officials and teachers, the spike in fifth-grade test-taking time from 2005 to 2006 places undue strain on students. "It is an unbelievable amount of pressure to put on a 10- or 11-year-old kid," said Stephen Patrick, chairman of the Bellingham School Committee and a sixth-grade teacher. "In the sixth grade, we have only have two (MCAS) tests this year...I feel so bad for the kids in fifth grade."

School officials agreed.

"This year’s schedule is far too intense (for 10-year-olds)," said Elaine D’Alfonso, principal at the Bellingham Memorial Middle School. "The teachers are stressing the importance of these tests, but they’re being careful not to over-emphasize, so the kids don’t get anxious or sick."
Despite the best efforts of teachers, D’Alfonso knows every student reacts to pressure differently.

"I think some kids will get anxiety from this schedule and some will get ill from it," she said.
The cause behind this year’s exam slate for fifth-graders is a combination of federal deadlines and state mandates, according to Kit Viator, director of student assessment and the MCAS program for the state’s Department of Education.

She said all states are required to have full-length (two-hour) tests in 2006 in reading and math at all levels from third to 10th grades. Those tests -- along with an elementary grade science exam -- are mandated as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
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The next casualty of NCLB will be an entire generation of scientists along with their discoveries and cures that will never see the light of day. That's something to think about -- if there's anyone left who can still think.
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"I would admit it’s a dilemma, but we have a federal law to administer an elementary science test," said Viator. In the end, however, she said part of the reason to keep the science test at the fifth grade level was financial.

"The state had already invested significant funds to get that grade five science test operational," said Viator. Beyond the pressure on fifth-graders, D’Alfonso said the increased testing activity has forced her to say no to some cultural activities and field trip proposals.

"I’ve had to turn those offers down....We don’t have the time and teachers get very nervous when (classroom) instructional time gets taken away near MCAS exam time," said D’Alfonso.
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The teachers should be nervous -- they are forced into being accomplices in this crime against humanity.

New York Times Goes Stupid Once More

Today's NY Times editorial says this:
The most recent findings from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy revealed distressing declines in literacy, especially among those with the most education. For example, fewer than a third of college graduates — down from 40 percent a decade ago — were deemed "proficient" in terms of literacy as defined by the ability to read and understand lengthy passages placed before them. A small but still alarming percentage of college graduates scored "below basic," meaning that they were incapable of all but the simplest tasks.

The truth is that the percentage of college graduates that were below average did increase by 1 point (from 2% to 3%) in prose literacy. Howver, it did not change in document literacy (2% to 2%), and actually went down one point in quantitative literacy (5% to 4%) (from page 15 of NAAL--Download the complete report, view and print the report as a pdf file.) Only the propagandists at ED who are owned by Business Roundtable and their dupes at the NY Times could find that disturbing.

What the NY Times does not say anything about is that AIR, the same outfit that published the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, came out with another study in January 2006 based on the same data set. Does the NY Times know that this document exists, or is just taking the sheaf of Ben Feller articles and the other crap that is being handed to them by ED?

The American Institutes of Research says this in the Press Release on January 19, 2006, when it announced the findings of the National Survey of America's College Students:
The AIR study found there is no difference between the quantitative literacy of today’s graduates compared with previous generations, and that current graduates generally are superior to previous graduates when it comes to other forms of literacy needed to comprehend documents and prose.
The following is taken verbatim from p. 24 of the AIR Literacy Study, for pdf (click here)
Students in 2- and 4-year colleges had higher prose and document literacy than adults in the nation with similar levels of education (Figure 2.3).3 On the document scale, the scores for graduating seniors in 4-year institutions were 20 points higher than the scores of all adults in the United States who previously received a degree from a 4-year college or university. For quantitative literacy, however, differences between current and former college graduates were not significant. Moreover, with one exception, the percentage of students in 2-or 4-year colleges with Proficient literacy (Figure 2.4) was comparable to the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Proficient literacy (the percentage of students in 4-year institutions with Proficient document literacy was significantly higher than the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Proficient document literacy). Underscoring the struggles that current college students have with quantitative literacy, the percentage of graduating students with Basic quantitative literacy was comparable to the percentage of college graduates in the nation with Basic quantitative literacy.

From p. 25:

Chapter Highlights:

This chapter compared the literacy of U.S. college students with the literacy of U.S. adults by key demographic groups. The results revealed the following:


The average prose, document, and quantitative literacy of students in 2- and 4-year institutions was significantly higher than the average literacy of adults in the nation.


Students in 2- and 4-year colleges struggled the most with quantitative literacy. Approximately 30 percent of students in 2-year institutions and 20 percent of students in 4-year institutions have Basic or below quantitative literacy.

Across colleges and universities, the average literacy of male and female college students was higher than the average literacy of men and women in the nation.


The literacy gap between men and women in the nation largely disappears among college students. With the exception of Asian students in 2-year institutions, college students from each racial or ethnicgroup outperformed adults from the same racial or ethnic groups in the nation.


The literacy gap between Whites and minorities in the nation remains among students in colleges and universities.


In 4-year colleges, students with a non-English language background had higher average literacy than adults in the nation with an English-only language background.


Students in 2- and 4-year colleges had higher prose and document literacy than adults in the nation with similar levels of education, although differences in quantitative literacy between current and former college graduates were not significant.

Here is the way that the paper of record ends its "fair and balanced" editorial that looks no further than the secondary sources being handed to them:

Colleges and universities should join in the hunt for acceptable ways to measure student progress, rather than simply fighting the whole idea from the sidelines. Unless the higher education community wakes up to this problem — and resolves to do a better job — the movement aimed at regulating colleges and forcing them to demonstrate that students are actually learning will only keep growing.

A better job?? If I were the Editorial Board of the Times, I hope that I would be taking my own advice, which would entail something quite different from the past five years of whoring for the Bush Administration on every issue, while the public is left to deal with the real threat of a fascist takeover.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Numbers Don't Lie

The numbers don't lie, people do.

As Republican lawmakers in Georgia, now the fourth state to pass the 65% solution, (aka the final solution for teacher unions and public schools) are getting brownie points for a slogan that sounds good, I thought it might be interesting to check on the business acumen of the bigshot Republican backer pushing this ridiculous formula. What a shock to discover that Patrick Byrne's company, Overstock, managed to lose $25 million last year on sales of $803 million. Perhaps Byrne should spend a little less time trying to find solutions for education and spend a little more time figuring out how to turn a profit on $800 million in sales. Maybe then people wouldn't be shorting his stock.

Unfortunately it looks like the GOP has found the right person to pull off their latest and greatest education scam on the American public.
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"This legislation... is a politically expedient public relations ploy," said Frank Petruzielo, the superintendent of Cherokee County schools. "It will sound good to the public. It will sound like an easy, no-cost fix to public education. But it will not in any data-driven way present the opportunity... for improving education."
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Could Byrne be looking to "overstock" America's classrooms with goods and services from his company? Luckily for investors, Greenberg and Dow Jones are onto him and his friends at the SEC. By shining a light on the true value of Byrne's company and warning investors to run for the hills, hopefully fewer people will lose their hard-earned money. Who will warn the American people about the 65% solution before they wake up one day and realize that they have been taken AGAIN.

The SEC's witch hunt against journalists like Greenberg and analysts at research firms is outrageous because the SEC should be investigating the financial statements and possible hanky panky going on at Overstock.

As for the numbers:
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"This is masking the real problem," Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said of the 65 percent rule. "The real problem isn't allocation of funds. The real problem is a billion dollars in cuts in the last three years and an antiquated funding mechanism, which is being held together by duct tape."
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When is this nightmare going to end?

More on the 65 cent Solution and Byrne

Fired Up! Missouri has much more on the not-coked up Patrick Byrne, with a "the contents of the memo from First Class Education . . . previously reported in the Austin Statesman and in Stateline.org, Fired Up! can now reveal the actual memo from FCE (pdf version)."

Something Loose in the Brain

For a people tired of the stubborn, gross inequities in economic and educational opportunities in our country, No Child Left Behind offered the perfect, if impossible, panacea. We would pump in more money, set high standards for all, test everyone like hell without exception, and punish those who continued to sit on their dead "laurels" rather than getting with the program. It was the tough, fatherly, Republican thing to do, and it was the ultimate expression of the color-blind "ethical" approach that treats everyone exactly the same regardless of difference, regardless of how their needs may vary or how their opportunities and abilities are not the same.

With the acceptance of this strategy of values outruling facts that no one with eyes open has ever failed to acknowledge, there grew a necessary blindness that has left many incapable of acknowleding the savagery of failure that results by requiring the impossible from children, children who could never know that self-blinded adults who purport to help them have developed a scheme that now insures the horrible failure that is the focal point of their school lives.

These same adults are the ones who now explode with a feigned indignation when the non-blinded among us suggest that equal treatment for different people requires different treatment. Then come the standard accusations of soft bigotry every time this point is made. The comfortably blind among us refuse to acknowledge that family income is a much better predictor of test scores than quality of curriculum and instruction, or even school spending for that matter. Poor populations score lower on tests than their richer counterparts. Not only that, poor people are the ones who suffer by such high-sounding racialist phrases of high expecations for all. Imagine that.

I know that all of this is nothing new, but when I read news stories like this, it seems like the explanations must start all over again. The blindness of the inherent discrimination is no less shocking every time I encounter it:

Four [out of 24] school systems in the state reached academic proficiency targets for every group of students, including the disabled: Howard, Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties. Every school system except for those four failed to make adequate yearly progress. Most stumbled only on special-ed test scores; a few missed targets for African American students or other groups. It's not uncommon for school systems to fail to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Virginia data show that about half of the state's 132 school divisions missed AYP last year. Maryland's ratings underscored educators' mounting concerns about the assessment of disabled students and the results required.

Ronald A. Peiffer, deputy state superintendent for academic policy, said yesterday that Maryland plans to introduce a test by 2007 that is specially designed for significantly disabled students. In recent years, many of these students have taken standard versions of the Maryland School Assessments and failed in large numbers.
"We're getting the measurement issue fixed," Peiffer said. But he added that the state also has concerns about instruction. "In many instances, there were different expectations for students with disabilities," he said. The latest ratings are "shining a spotlight on that."


Has Mr. Peiffer forgotten, and has he just now begun to re-discover, that special ed is special because of the historically-recognized need to acknowledge differences? Remember IEPs (individual education plans)?

Just a couple of questions that I need to repeat here again:
  • If one has to choose, which seems to be the case with the all-or-nothing national testing policy that is intended to leave us with nothing in terms of public education as we know it, would you continue to choose the same scheme with the impossible expectations that will guarantee the failure of tens of millions of children over the next 8 years, largely represented by the handicapped, brown, and poor?
  • Do you really believe that the only alternative to the bigotry of low expectations is the racism of impossible demands?
  • Do you really believe the Big Lie that the intent here is to leave no child behind, rather than to introduce a repressive chain gang model for schools in urban America?
  • Will you not see the increasing number of planned failures that heedlessly and arrogantly sacrifice children on the ideological altar of school privatization?
  • Can we see allow ourselves to see the shame and the crime in the violence that we are perpetrating against our children, our schools, against the future of the Republic?
  • Can we?
  • Will we?
  • When?

Intimidation to Protect

The Times has a rather bizarre story on the SEC issuing subpoenas to folks who have written stories on a handful of stocks whose prices nose-dived as a result. It would seem that the SEC could be taking their lead from one of those disgruntled companies, Overstock, Inc., which we know is owned by the conspiratorial junk man, Patrick Byrne, who also fronts the neocon-funded divisive campaign to ram the 65% solution through every statehouse in the country. I suppose such sleaze in power could be an amusing diversion if it were not shaping national education policy and deciding which reporters will be dragged into the courts to uphold the 1st Amendment. Here is a clip from the Times:

For some time now, Mr. Byrne has been saying that his company is the victim of a Wall Street conspiracy intended to drive down its stock, which has fallen to the mid-20's from the mid-70's since the fall of 2004. Last August, Overstock sued Rocker Partners, a short-selling hedge fund that has been openly negative on the company, and Gradient Analytics, an independent research firm that has written consistently bearish reports on Overstock's mounting business problems.
The lawsuit asserted that the two firms were acting in concert to hurt the company and manipulate its stock price. Both Donn W. Vickrey, who runs Gradient Analytics, and David A. Rocker, the managing partner of Rocker Partners, have been sources for Mr. Greenberg over the years. And Mr. Greenberg has written about Overstock and Mr. Byrne from time to time, in his typically tough-minded fashion.Which of course makes Mr. Greenberg a charter member of the Overstock conspiracy. To hear Mr. Byrne tell it, Mr. Greenberg's role is to do the bidding of Rocker Partners and Gradient Analytics; when asked last year by Ron Insana of CNBC whether he was accusing Mr. Greenberg of "helping others front-run or trade illegally in the shares of your company's stock," Mr. Byrne replied, "That's correct, that's what I am doing." He described Mr. Greenberg to me as a "lapdog."


Although Mr. Byrne says he did not know about the subpoena, he clearly knew something was afoot. (He later told me that he had "just come from an interview with certain law enforcement people" who had been asking about Mr. Greenberg.) "As I take a sip," he taunted in his e-mail, "I find myself curious: do you guys know? Are you sitting somewhere, blithely oblivious, still
chuckling about Whacky Patty, and all that? Or do you understand now that this is going to end badly for you?"


IF you know anything about Patrick Byrne, it's probably his famous "Sith Lord" conference call. Held last summer, it was an hourlong monologue during which Mr. Byrne laid out a vast, overarching conspiracy, made up of dozens of Wall Street players — including the New York
attorney general, Eliot Spitzer! — all under the thumb of an mysterious puppet master, whom Mr. Byrne labeled the Sith Lord. He titled the conspiracy "The Miscreants' Ball," an obvious reference to Michael Milken's old Predators' Ball.


Although Mr. Byrne told me that his Sith Lord speech ranked among "the 10 proudest moments of my life," most people, including me, thought it was loony beyond belief. Roddy Boyd of The New York Post recalled hearing about it from someone on Wall Street. "When he described it, I thought he was embellishing," Mr. Boyd said. But when he listened to the replay, "my jaw dropped — you cannot make up what occurred on that phone call."In addition to his conspiracy-mongering, Mr. Byrne talked about Stinger missiles, Wayne and Garth, a mysterious Spanish phone message, stuttering and cocaine. ("I'm not a coke head," he said, unprompted.) . . . .

Friday, February 24, 2006

Creativity an Important Business Skill??

Perhaps the dopes at the Business Roundtable should start reading some of their own publications.

Test Prep Bonuses in Florida

Despite a 2-1 margin among Florida voters against linking teacher pay to FCAT scores, Prince Jeb has gone full steam ahead with an ill-conceived, half-baked, and force-fed plan to reward the teachers in Florida who don't teach low-performing students--or subjects that are not tested. And librarians--forget it.

Let's see if this fiasco lasts as long as the great voucher debacle.

The Miami Herald has these astute reactions to the "plan."

Politically Savvy, Incredibly Stupid

Assorted Stuff has this take on Georgia's decision to implement the 65% Solution. That leaves only 35% away, right?

A "legacy of political audacity"

From USA Today:

Education, chutzpah and the GOP
The misguided reforms of No Child Left Behind are merely symptoms. The illness has taken years to consume the Republican Party.

In the spirit of the federal No Child Left Behind law — motto: “All Tests, All The Time” — I offer to the nation's social studies teachers this brief quiz for your students:

Name the political party:

1) that in its 1980 national convention platform called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

2) that has controlled the White House 17 of the past 25 years, a period in which the president's proposed Department of Education's budget increased more than five-fold, to $68.8 billion in 2006 from $13.2 billion in 1982.

3) that for decades extolled the virtues of neighborhood schools and condemned the busing of school children as a “prescription for disaster.”

4) whose presidential nominee said in a 2000 debate, “I don't like it when the federal government tells us what to do. I believe in local control of schools.”

5) whose leader five years ago pushed through Congress the most arbitrary set of federal regulations public education has ever seen, a law that, among other things, sanctions the wholesale busing of children away from their neighborhood schools.

If your students know how to spell R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N, give them an “A”. Next week, have them learn the meaning of the word “chutzpah.”

Because chutzpah is what it takes for George W. Bush, who styles himself as the education president, to foist this program off on the American people and call it “No Child Left Behind.” The leader of a party that has demonized public education and federal regulations for a generation is building a legacy of political audacity.

And he's not done yet. With White House backing, Republicans in Congress have slipped into this year's budget bill a scheme to further tighten the federal grip on local education by setting up a national rating of academic rigor for high schools. The rating would be used in awarding a new kind of federal grant for low-income students headed to college.

It is all of a piece: the morphing of the GOP into the party that stands for more intrusive government, political pork, budget deficits — and the trampling of states' rights that interfere with a federal social-issue agenda.

No Child Left Behind is just the most obvious example of hypocritical Republicans talking one game and playing another.

The law was presented in 2001 as a way to short-circuit efforts by local school officials to cover up their mistakes and failures. It ties federal aid to increasingly severe sanctions if schools don't show “adequate yearly progress” in an unending battery of tests and requires that all students achieve the same “proficiency” level by 2014.

Most assessments of the program that I've read have been either mixed or decidedly negative. To be fair, some math scores are rising because of the law's requirements, and the achievement gap between whites and blacks seems to be narrowing. But though some good might come out of it, the anecdotal evidence in my own back yard — suburban Atlanta's DeKalb County — suggests that one component of the program is doing more harm than good.

The law requires that students at under-performing schools be allowed to transfer to another school of their choice at the failing school's expense. In 2003-04, the latest school year in which national figures are available, 31,000 students in the USA exercised that option, but the situation in DeKalb County suggests that figure is skyrocketing. Students in DeKalb's failing schools are leaving their classmates behind in droves and fleeing to higher-achieving schools. These “receiving schools” are being forced to set up mobile classrooms, shuffle bus routes and hire extra teachers to accommodate the flood.

Here's the upshot: While the number of students fleeing weaker schools in DeKalb has increased in three years from 32 to almost 1,600, the number of schools qualified to receive the students has dropped from 25 to 13. So both the bad schools and the good schools are suffering: The bad schools are losing the students needed for academic stability; the good schools are becoming overwhelmed with lower-achieving students.

Crawford Lewis, superintendent of DeKalb County schools, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “no matter how well-intentioned the law is, it punishes schools that are doing well … yet the school district has a moral responsibility to do what the federal government wants us to do.” . . . .

Excuse me??? The moral thing to do?? Or just following orders?? I believe that Nuremberg settled the issue of just following orders in committing crimes against humanity.

Dr. Crawford's email address: crawford_lewis@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Growth Models as Window Dressing

If anyone doubted neocon resolve for the corporate-sponsored War on Public Education, listen closely to the bottom line rhetoric of Ed Chieftess, Ms. Spelling. You will hear that nothing has changed and nothing is planned to change in regards to the future guaranteed failure rate of schools, which is the weapon of choice in undercutting support of public education, as more and more schools inevitably fail to meet impossible demands:
In the 2004-05 school year, the share of high-poverty schools that failed to make enough yearly progress under the law jumped by 50 percent, to 9,000 from 6,000 the year before. There are 50,000 high-poverty schools in the United States, for whom failing to make enough progress sets off a cascade of extra attention, as well as eventual punishments, including the possible closure of the school.

In inviting the proposals, however, Ms. Spellings said the department would not compromise on certain "core principles" of the law, including the requirements that all students reach proficiency in reading and math by 2014, and that schools break down student performance by race, ethnicity, income, disability and gender.


Despite the disingenous and misleading talk of flexiblity that proceeds from an empty hope attached to growth models, the implacable and impossible demand for 100% proficiency by 2014 has and will not change without a public uprising sometime between now and the planned reauthorization of NCLB next year.

The real strategy at ED is to use the ropeadope growth model talk to stem the growing outcry against NCLB long enough for the manufactured failure rate to turn parents and teachers against their own public schools. In the meantime, the desperate enthusiasm for growth models represents the kind of empty wishing and easy appeasement that allows the NCLB juggernaut to continue unabated. Just as states should be joining forces to reject outright the impossible and racist demands that sacrifice increasing numbers of schools, children, and teachers, instead they are clamoring for a ticket in a big contest where nobody wins--except the ed industry, the voucher fanatics, and the corporate political economists who wish to extend an iron-fisted social control based on a blinding fear of failure.

The Big Lie that most Americans still cannot contemplate centers on the espousal of help to the poor and the brown as the primary motivator behind NCLB. No doubt it was at some point for some people, but what we are seeing today is the emergance of a genocidal education policy of epic proportions that could set back the educational struggle for growth, equity, and social justice by a hundred years. The fact is that the poor and the brown are being sacrificed in the crucible of a corporate socialist power machine that hopes to "change everything, forever" as Gene Hickok has enthused on more than one occasion.

What happens in America's schools will determine which way America goes at this tipping point of history. It is past time to restore the civic, intellectual, and moral purpose of schools, and to throw the closet fascists into the Potomac.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Support FairTest

Michael Winerip has this profile of the testing "watchdog," FairTest. From where I sit, fundraising for the watchdog would be much further along if it watched less and barked more. When you send your check, please remind them that appeasement is not the answer.

Please support FairTest by making a tax-deductible donation.

Protect Network Neutrality

Dear Judy,

Our work is paying off: Monday's New York Times editorial page1 echoed Common Cause's call to action on net neutrality2, and legislation may be introduced soon in Congress to protect our freedom on the internet. Here's what the Times had to say:

"When you use the Internet today, your browser glides from one Web site to another, accessing all destinations with equal ease. That could change dramatically, however, if Internet service providers are allowed to tilt the playing field, giving preference to sites that pay them extra and penalizing those that don't. …Congress should protect access to the Internet in its current form."

Please add your name to our petition demanding strong net neutrality legislation. We need our representatives in Congress to know that there is widespread support for legislation that protects the democratic nature of the Internet and prohibits telecom companies from blocking, impeding or prioritizing any online content or services.

http://www.commoncause.org/ProtectNetNeutrality

Earlier this month, Common Cause members sent tens of thousands of letters to the telecom execs and asked them to abide by net neutrality principles. But it's clear now that we need a law to protect the Internet from being privatized by Verizon, AT&T and other greedy media corporations. Here's more from the New York Times:

"The Senate held hearings last week on "network neutrality," the principle that I.S.P.s - the businesses like Verizon or Roadrunner that deliver the Internet to your computer - should not be able to stack the deck in this way. If the Internet is to remain free, and freely evolving, it is important that neutrality legislation be passed. …Some I.S.P.s are phone and cable companies that make large campaign contributions, and are used to getting their way in Washington. But Americans feel strongly about an open and free Internet. Net neutrality is an issue where the public interest can and should trump the special interests."

We need you to tell Congress to protect freedom and openness on the internet.

http://www.commoncause.org/ProtectNetNeutrality

Thanks to each of you who has helped Common Cause become a leader in the fight to preserve internet freedom, and thanks for all you do to hold power accountable.


Sincerely,

The Common Cause Media Reform Team
Celia Wexler, Lauren Coletta & Dawn Holian

P.S. Lobbyists for Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other telecom giants are heading into the halls of Congress to enshrine their own plans in telecom legislation now being drafted in committee. We need to stop them. Please sign the petition supporting net neutrality: http://www.commoncause.org/ProtectNetNeutrality.

1 New York Times editorial
2 "Net neutrality" is the principle that you should be able to access any content or services on the Internet without interference from your Internet service providers

Offshoring the Shore?

That is Josh Marshall's line.

Anyway, this is not a school issue, but it is too big to ignore at any level of discourse. From Think Progress:

U.S. Didn’t Target Bin Laden in 1999 Because He Was Meeting With UAE Royal Family

Dubai World Ports is controlled by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates. Atrios notes this morning that former CIA director Tenet told the 9/11 commission that the United States did not target Bin Laden at a camp in Afghanistan in February 1999 because he was meeting with the UAE royal family.

Here are some more details on the incident from the 9/11 commission. Here’s Tenet’s March 24, 2004 testimony:

MR. TENET:…The third complicating factor here is, you might have wiped out half the royal family in the UAE in the process, which I’m sure entered into everybody’s calculation in all this.

More details from the 9/11 Staff Report:

On February 8, the military began to ready itself for a possible strike. The next day, national technical intelligence confirmed the location and description of the larger camp and showed the nearby presence of an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates. But the location of Bin Ladin’s quarters could not be pinned down so precisely…According to reporting from the tribals, Bin Ladin regularly went from his adjacent camp to the larger camp where he visited the Emiratis; the tribals expected him to be at the hunting camp for such a visit at least until midmorning on February 11…No strike was launched. By February 12 Bin Ladin had apparently moved on, and the immediate strike plans became moot. According to CIA and Defense officials, policymakers were concerned about the danger that a strike would kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with Bin Ladin or close by.

Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke expressed concern about the UAE royal family’s relationship with Bin Laden:

On March 7, 1999, Clarke called a UAE official to express his concerns about possible associations between Emirati officials and Bin Ladin…The United Arab Emirates was becoming both a valued counterterrorism ally of the United States and a persistent counterterrorism problem…

This information only underscores why the administration should have fully investigated the sale, as required by law, before approving it.

Test This, Says Higher Ed

With most of the corporate media mum on any subject that might upset King George, Inc., there has been growing discussion within the collegiate press on the incipient stupidity of the floated notion of standardized testing in American universities.

USA Today, as mainstream as it gets, is congratulated for offering this today by Bard President, Leon Botstein:
Block federal monitoring
Institutions of higher education should do a better job teaching students, making sure that they graduate with rigorous intellectual skills. But the federal government, with its dubious track record in management and efficiency, particularly in education, should be prevented from making matters worse.

The truth is that colleges and universities are being asked to pick up the pieces from high school and correct the widespread failure to teach basic skills. Nevertheless, even by default, we need more effective remediation to bring high school graduates up to speed.

We should not, however, paralyze one of the few globally competitive sectors of American society by inept federal regulation that harbors the illusion that testing is a valid cure. Colleges and universities, both private and public, are under political and financial pressure to graduate nearly everyone who is admitted. Too few of the best faculty teach undergraduates. Far too few courses of study are designed to provide a sound, general education. But the solution should come from within. Higher education needs to raise its standards of expectation of students and faculty by using the means that helped create our great network of institutions: rigorous self-policing and peer review.

Whatever the faults of our higher education system, it is still the best in the world, the envy of friends and enemies alike. Students come to the USA from around the world because of the unique diversity, excellence and innovativeness of our institutions, large and small, public and private. The European community is changing its higher education system to more closely resemble ours, away from its own traditions of centralized, national uniformity. Why is the Bush administration considering testing to go in the opposite direction?

We Americans pride ourselves in thriving in an atmosphere of competition with as little regulation as possible. This is the atmosphere that creates innovation, and it is the condition, absolutely appropriate, for higher education and research. The most dangerous threat to the American university is not financial; it is the specter of thoughtless control by politics and bureaucracy.

Leon Botstein is president of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Reader Response on Mathews

You will find this in the Comments, but it seems to deserve an airing front and center:
Jay Mathews has a singular agenda: the promotion of Jay Mathews. Although he often refers, in a "homespun" manner, to his own lack of intellect, it never stops him from a good, long, illogical rant.

Consistent in his dedication to anything that promotes NCLB and its associated policies of test and measurement, the AP explosion, and ultimately the privatization of the whole public school system, he is able to accomplish at once both a parade of support for Kaplan/Post and a commercial aimed at his own line of propoganda.

Don't ever try to explain the truth or reality behind your argument with him. He steadfastly refers to his tired, same old, dated, and poorly supported references, ultimately using any opportunity to sell his own books.

No matter how you support your argument, statistically, scientifically or anecdotally, he is as predictable as the sun in always ending the debate with: "show me the proof."

Jay Mathews is the poster child of proof that anyone, no matter how limited in ability, how limited in reason, how limited in knowledge, can aspire to become a world-class opinionate--and make a fortune in the process.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Approaching Global Depression, And It's Not Economic

How easily these totalitarian practices move across national boundaries when economic hegemony or ideological hegemony replaces human rights, human values, and common decency. In this regard, Friedman was right, the world is, indeed, flat--because there is no difference in the effects of this kind of social control through the childhood oppression of schooling--they create the same psychological torment in Shanghai or L.A. Such practices also guarantee a fragmented me-and-mine-only social structure based on an arms race of test scores that are used to decide how the poor and dark will be left behind in this century.


Pressured children face testing times
China Daily Updated: 2006-02-21 06:10

As primary and middle school children return to school for the new term, Shanghai Education Bureau has vowed to reduce the pressure on students. This vow is nothing new: pledges of this kind in other cities have been heard dozens of times before.

Despite years of painstaking efforts by education authorities to relieve students from excessive study loads, a recent survey of 114 schools by the Shanghai Education Information Investigation Team shows that the burden has in fact grown heavier, not lighter.

For many students, the winter vacation was simply a time to do endless homework and go to extra classes. This term the schoolbags are no lighter. They still have to get up early, probably before dawn, in order to get to school before 7:20 am. Hours of homework every day mean that they have little time to play. In fact, many children now simply refuse to play.

Weekends are no time for fun either, as parents arrange extra classes for their children. It used to be that students at the bottom of their class had to take extra classes in order to catch up. Now, top students do the same in order to leave everybody else behind.

Most schools have been half-hearted about carrying out education authority policies or administrative orders for less homework and fewer classes, because it may mean lower scores for their students in city or national exams, especially university entrance exams. That would mean shame for the school and lower bonuses for teachers.

Any real measures by schools to lessen burdens are likely to meet strong resistance from parents, blaming teachers for not doing a good job.

It would be unthinkable for most Chinese parents to protest about excessive homework, as some parents in California in the United States did when schools assigned homework to students during the summer vacation. In China, the opposite would be true.

Unfortunately, many children are less happy than their parents were in their childhoods, despite abundant material wealth. Surveys have found high levels of depression and other psychological problems among school children.

We cannot simply accuse the schools of overburdening students. Most important in the current educational assessment system are test scores, widely regarded in China as equivalent to intelligence. Other educational goals - good morality and physique - are usually deemed less important, although this is seldom acknowledged.

We also cannot blame parents, even if they willingly become perpetrators or accomplices in the theft of a colourful childhood from their offspring. Their love for their children - usually only child - should not be questioned.

They point to the national university entrance exams, which would exclude their children from opportunities if they fail to achieve excellent scores. They point to the increasingly tough job market, which heavily favours diplomas over practical capabilities.

So what should be reformed is the university entrance system that rewards top test scorers. Universities should admit students with good academic records, but they should pay more attention to their all-round abilities, morality, physique and other qualifications, such as social work.

What should also be reformed is the rote learning system that requires students to learn like a machine.

Human resources departments should pay more attention to the practical ability of future employees instead of the fame of school they have come from.

It would be fruitless to just ask kindergartens, primary and middle schools and parents to help overburdened students, without addressing the above reforms.

The future generation will be in great danger if their only early memories are endless homework, memorization and tests. Their competitiveness on the global stage will be enhanced, not diminished, if they have a healthy and wholesome childhood

.

(China Daily 02/21/2006 page4)

Mathews Tries Misleading Honestly

I was glad to see Jay Mathews move over to the Editorial Page in his latest Williams-esque opinion piece for the Adminstration's education policy based on public school death by testing. It is the most honest misleading thing he has written since his last op-ed, whenever that was. Now, at least, we get Mathews unfiltered and unplugged from his buds at the right-wing sludge tanks or the ed industry support groups, who are the usual go-to guys for “facts.”

Unfortunately for the readers of the Washington Post education pages (which could just as easily be the Washington Times), Mathews is no less wrong in his opinion piece assignments than he is in his truthy news stories, as yesterday’s homage to the virtues of testing shows. This piece begins and ends in intellectual territory that has been cleared by our dull chain-saw wielding President, who, too, remains mystified by how anyone can argue that teaching to the test can be anything but good. Not only does Mathews show off the same rapier-like intellect that the President regularly displays when confronting tough issues, he demonstrates a similar disconnect with what is going on in the real world, in real schools, everywhere. Try this em-bubbled version of how today's empowered teachers keep things on track in terms of what is best for kids:
There are, of course, ways to teach to the test that are bad for kids and that occur now and then in schools . . . . But there is no evidence that this happens often. Strong teachers usually raise a ruckus, administrators back down and everybody goes back to the traditional lesson reviews that all good teachers use.
Which school planet is Mathews living on? The protected outposts of Arlington’s gated communities where schools have no poverty or diversity to bring down their test scores or their optimism? Or is he talking about the new chain gang schools of DC, where behavioral control has replaced intellectual pursuit, where teachers learn their lines instead of making lesson plans, where children parrot rather than think, where order is maintained by strange salutes and posted messages written in a language that the children can’t understand. I wonder.

I will have more to say on Mathews, the ed-opiner a bit later.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Must See

I am hoping you can post this short but critical message to your readers of Schools Matter.

ALERT: This is a must see movie: "Why We Fight"

If you live in a blue urban area, it'll be playing in a theater near you. If not, please bookmark it for your DVD reference.

As we fight to save the public schools, we must always keep the bigger picture in the foreground, namely that our country is sliding quickly from its foundation of democratic principles, towards one of corporate socialism based on unharnessed capitalism...and the war industry is the primary source which controls and feeds it. The history and serious ramifications of our war industry must be exposed along with the greed and corruption that has seeped into every pore of our decaying democracy, here and around the world. Only by becoming alert to the seriousness of what is going on (all politicians are complicit), can we hope to save our union. Good luck, and keep fighting....

Yvonne P, PhD
Clinical Psychologist/Psychoanalyst

Margaret Spellings is not a Mensch

Why is it every time a pundit talks about the colossal failure and abuses of those in this administration, education is always left off the list? In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman laments the lack of mensches in the government. He's talking about people who don't take responsibility for their actions, lie to the American people as they carry out the destructive policies of a President whose disregard for reality borders on the pathological.

The first sign Spellings was not a mensch and was as big of a bully as the rest of them, was her first official act as Secretary of Education. Spellings criticism of a PBS episode of "Postcards from Buster" that depicted a family with two moms was a chilling sign of things to come.

Ignoring reality i.e., the outright rebellion across party lines, states legislators and educators over NCLB has become the hallmark of her reign of terror as she convenes yet new panels stacked with testing industry experts like Kaplan Inc. These experts will objectively determine whether the testing frenzy should be implemented in high schools and colleges. The silence in Congress and in the press is deafening.

What's most sickening about Spellings, like Brownie and the other incompetents put in positions of power, is her arrogance and hubris despite the lack of qualifications for the job. Although she has never been a teacher, her mantra is to test every child, every year and in every subject. She talks about accountability for teachers and students while her boss proposes the largest budget cuts for education in the nation's history. Hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of The American Competitiveness Initiative, she has become the Stepford education secretary and mouthpiece for an administration that has no shame when it comes to lying to the American people about everything including education.

Qualifications? She has none. Prior to coming to Washington, she was just another Bush crony. Spellings' own education? She has a bachelor of arts in political science. Then again, in Bushworld, all that really matters is that she is one of the faith-based delusionals who still believes in the Texas Miracle.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Virginia's $200 Million Question

Virginia legislators are looking for ways to protect suburban school districts, teachers and students from the pain and suffering being inflicted upon them by NCLB. Title 1 schools, on the other hand, will continue to endure the pain as more testing, standardized curriculum and punitive sanctions are used to close the achievement gap. That is the same achievement gap that is sure to get wider if the answer to this question turns out to be NO.
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"In essence, we want to know if Title I funds will be withheld if we exempt non-Title I schools that don't get the money," said Patricia Wright, acting superintendent of public instruction. "That is the million-dollar question."
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Landes said Wednesday he wished the bill could go farther in forcing the federal government to grant Virginia flexibility in the No Child Left Behind requirements, but he said concerns from school superintendents over the potential loss of more than $200 million in federal Title I funds influenced his amendment.

"It still accomplishes part of what I was trying to do and addresses some of their concerns," Landes said. "It's a good next step."

The measure also would require the federal government to report how much its mandates cost local school districts each year. Landes estimated local districts spend $52 a year per student to keep up with NCLB mandates.

Title I schools are those that serve a large number of children from low-income families. Of the state's 1,843 public schools, 762 received more than $223 million in Title I funds under NCLB in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Education. Virginia's total NCLB funding was $335.7 million.

Waynesboro School Superintendent Lowell Lemons said Title I schools already are the ones most affected by NCLB rules, but he said he was pleased that the General Assembly was at least pushing legislation that could send a message to the federal government to relax its benchmarks.
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Saturday, February 18, 2006

American as Apple Strudel

While big brother is busy visiting Wendy's to pull another one over on America's working poor and unemployed by selling them medical savings accounts which they and the nation can't afford, little brother is busy trying to sidestep the Florida Supreme Court's voucher ruling. Is Jeb insinuating that justices on the Florida Supreme Court are un-American?

In the Orlando Sentinel news story, Jeb's inquiring mind wonders how he can get voters to see the equality and generosity in his education plan:

"How do we get voters to go along? Once a good campaign describes the fact that some people have choices already because they have the money to move to a better neighborhood or send their children to a private school and some people don't -- that's an un-American concept, in my opinion," Bush said.

Hmm... let's see, Jeb wants to know how they can get voters to go along. Perhaps we can help him. Oh, I know, make sure their public schools are failing, deplete them of funds and resources and test them to death. Who needs public schools in the new ownership society. Wait till you see what's in store with a $500 - $4,000 voucher towards the private school of your choice.

Those left behind in the under-funded decaying and overcrowded public schools -- not to worry, the Pentagon in hiring.

The roar of that giant sucking sound is getting louder. With big brother's proposed budget cuts, medical savings accounts (another tax break for the rich) and giveaways to the energy industry, state finances will be driven deeper into the ground -- leaving even less money for those un-American public schools. Opting out of NCLB will be the best bargain around - what will Maggie do with all that extra money? Oh yes, use it for the American Competitiveness Initiative to hire all those math and science teachers that will be competing for those great-paying jobs in the un-American, failing public schools. And, or course, let's not forget her little "enterprise" -- more tests.
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During her first visit to South Carolina since she was sworn in as secretary in January 2005, Spellings discussed the American Competitiveness Initiative.

The project, which President Bush announced during his State of the Union address in January, would commit $380 million to improving the quality of math and science instruction in K-12 schools.
Spellings said other countries are "beginning to catch up" with the U.S. on scientific innovation, "and if we want to stay competitive and remain the world's leader and remain the world's innovator, we must pick up the pace."

To do this, America must close the achievement gap between the wealthy and poor "for good, and make opportunities available for every child," she said.

Spellings also commended South Carolina, saying the rest of the country should take cues from the state's rigorous student testing system.

"Tests can and should line our enterprise," she said, praising state Superintendent of Education

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Ownership Society on Renters' Wages

The successful creation of the Norquistian neocon dystopia turns on the ability to convert every social need and civic concern into a consumer commodity or a market opportunity. Look no further than the on-going efforts to privatize Social Security, education, health care, and even parts of the U. S. military. Witness King George with some of his reluctant vassals at Wendy's yesterday, talking up the thrill of choosing a health insurance plan on Wendy's wages. Here is how he took on critics of his health savings accounts:
"It's kind of basically saying, if you're not making a lot of money you can't make decisions for yourself. That's kind of a Washington attitude, isn't it -- we'll decide for you, you can't figure it out yourself. I think a lot of folks here at Wendy's would argue that point of view is just simply backwards and not true."
This kind of phony populism, as E. J. Dionne calls it this morning in the Post, ignores the fact that the Norquist solution to be imposed at the federal-corporate level will essentially guarantee two types of health coverage--the Walmart policy and the Neiman-Marcus policy. Of course, there will be the best coverage for those who don't need a policy. Guess which one the Wendy's audience will be looking to buy?

The same phony choice is being touted by the Bushes and other school voucher and corporate welfare advocates who base their reasoning on the same phony populism: Rich parents choose their school, they say, so why shouldn't poor parents?

With this story today in the LA Times showing private school tuition across the country moving into the $20,000-$30,000 range , who really believes that a $5,000 voucher is going to come close to offering choice to those who cannot afford to keep their kids in sneakers? As Kozol said drily several years back, when conservatives decide to give 20 to 25 thousand dollars a year for every inner city kid to go to to a school like Exeter or Andover, that is when I will become a Republican.

In the meantime, what is on the Norquist education agenda takes us back to where this post started, for the varieties of schools envisioned by corporate socialists such as Whittle will likely resemble the choices that the poor have now when they choose to dine at either MacDonald's, Burger King, or, of course, Wendy's.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Sex Police: Coming to A School Near You

Thanks to another one of Bush’s education policies that he dug up from the Dark Ages, there’s a new and dangerous virus spreading through state legislatures and our nation’s schools called abstinence-only sex education. It should come as no surprise that an administration that prides itself on faith-based delusional fantasies has staked out another frontier for its war on freedom and civil liberties by meddling in the sex lives of American teenagers.

Jumping on the bandwagon are Republican lawmakers in Virginia giving a whole new meaning to the term school bullies as they try to beat teachers and teenagers into submission while igniting a new round of homophobia in schools – making sure that gay students don’t get too comfortable with their sexual identities. Two bills have been introduced by VA lawmakers that would promote abstinence-only sex education and make it more difficult for gay students to form clubs.

In harmony with Bushco’s MO of using phony research from neo-con right wing think tanks to back up their claims, the latest round of propaganda can be found in a new study that blames the liberal media and the baby boomers for sticking to the notion that a healthy approach to teenage sex can actually save lives. Meanwhile, the legislation and the Bush administration policies ignore REAL scientific research from the CDC that clearly documents improving trends in youth risk-behavior are a direct result of comprehensive sex education. At the same time, there is a lack of any credible research showing abstinence-only sex education to work. To add insult to injury, Bush, captain of the morality police and king of the liars, had the chutzpah to pledge in the SOTU (same old truthiness -- unbelievable) to take action to stop the HIV/AIDs epidemic, which has been particularly devastating for African American women while proposing to slash funds for HIV prevention at CDC:

“The White House's budget proposal last year - which shaped the budget now awaiting final congressional approval - cut funding for the HIV prevention work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $4.5 million. And it flat-lined almost every aspect of the Ryan White CARE Act for a third-straight year. Meanwhile, the administration spent the last congressional session shoving its proposal to gut Medicaid through Congress. The budget Congress is now poised to approve would shift the program's growing cost onto the backs of the poor families it was designed to help in the first place.

At the White House's insistence, the bill will allow states to charge co-pays that may reach as high as hundreds of dollars for some. The Congressional Budget Office has said this cynical step would not save money through people actually paying the co-pays but rather by discouraging them from using Medicaid at all. Medicaid is the nation's largest payer for AIDS treatment, and two-thirds of Blacks getting AIDS care pay for it with public health insurance. In the coming days, the White House will submit its next budget proposal. Perhaps it will reflect the ideals of the "hopeful society" the President described. But given the goals outlined in the rest of his speech, we won't hold our breath. "

Another REAL report, “Reversing Course: The Impact of ‘Faith-Based’ Sexual Health and Family Planning Policies At Home and Abroad,” argues that the replacement of scientific programs by so-called ‘faith-based’ ones over the past six years jeopardizes the progress made during the 1980s and 1990s in improving teen sexual health domestically and reducing HIV/STD infection rates and unwanted pregnancies worldwide.”

The attacks against anyone who might disagree with the moral majority just keep on coming from groups like Focus on the Family Action and the Heritage Foundation. Then again, when it comes to the truth, its abstinence only for the delusional faith-based.

More Students, More Better

A couple of days ago Jay Mathew at the Washington Post wrote a stealth editorial (posing as a news story) on the beauty of larger class sizes. The story was studded with prominent voices from the ed industry and right-wing sludge tanks that pump out "educational research" to support the neo-con war effort against public schools.

There was Whittle, the chief corporate socialist among education privatizers, Abigail Thernstrom from the Manhattan Institute, Eric Hanushek, freakonomist who manhandles statistics for the Hoover Institute's "research," and Saul Cooperman, former Ed Commissioner from New Jersey whose expertise conforms to market demands. All of them are aglow with the prospect of jamming more students into already-overcrowded classrooms.

Since I complained to Mathews about this "fair and balanced" piece, Mathews has essentially hidden the piece, and he has altered the original without noting that revisions have occurred. That might satisfy his editors and his conscience (somehow), but it does nothing to bring the lopsidedness of his "news story" to the public attention who read the original.

Here is the logic presented in the piece: We have some good teachers who are good despite the fact that they have over 30 students to a classroom. Because these teachers seem to function (produce high test scores) regardless of class size, let's give them some more students. In fact, let's keep these teachers and get rid of those who are not as good at generating high test scores. Then we can offer a pay raise to attract others who can produce the high test scores regardless of the number of students in the class. This will, in fact, make accountability by testing even for central to what schools do, since teachers with 35-40 students will have their options for assessing student effectively reduced to the preferred regimen of data deposits and data inventories (standardized tests).

Of course, what the most reliable research shows (the STAR study) is that when class size is reduced, not increased, we see performance increases without super-teachers, without re-training, and without turning schools into sweat shops. This from a web site with links to STAR:
A feature edition of The Peabody Journal (Vol. 67, No. 1, Fall 1989/1992), edited by John Folger, included research findings from Project STAR and the fourth grade follow-up. In the paper "Carry-over Effects of Small Classes" J.D Finn, B.D. Fulton, J.B. Zaharias, and B.A. Nye reported that "The results of Project STAR show clearly that average pupil performance in the primary years can be increased (with reduced class size) by approximately one fourth to one third of a standard deviation without the introduction of new materials or curricula and without retraining the teachers." They also stated that in contrast to other education reforms that focus on specific subject areas and generally require some reorganization of course content, teaching strategies, and/or class scheduling "the effects of reduced-size classes were found on every achievement measure administered in Project STAR... To realize proformance gains as extensive as this through any combination of student grouping, individualized instruction, or tutoring would be both difficult and expensive, if it were even possible to implement or maintain such an approach". In summarizing their fourth grade findings, the authors stated that "Significant achievement advantages in a broad range of content areas were maintained one full year after the small classes were disbanded. Further, there is evidence that pupils who had attended small classes became more assertive in classroom participation behavior in comparison to their peer who attended regular size classes."
Who is buying Jay Mathews' lunch? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Post owns Kaplan, the premier test-prep and tutoring outfit, which has gobbled up, by the way, Quest, the profitable for-profit post-secondary ed outfit.

Could this be related to why the Post keeps this misleading propaganda from 2 months ago on their site:
Literacy of College Graduates Is on Decline: Survey's Finding of a Drop in Reading Proficiency Is Inexplicable, Experts Say (Post, December 25, 2005; Page A12)

Click here for de-bunking post.

The "P" Word

The stealth campaign to dismantle public education continues unabated, even though there are signs that the privatization discussion is seeping into larger rivulets of the mainstream media. Chicago's schools are under a direct and frontal assault led by the mayor, himself, as documented each month in George Schmidt's Substance Newsletter.

Here is a recent example of the emerging discussion from the Chicago Sun Times:

Privatization is no answer to improving education
February 4, 2006

BY RALPH MARTIRE

One of the most contentious issues in the school funding reform debate has little to do with finances. Sure, critics maintain that schools don't need more money to provide a better education. Increasingly, however, the main argument against reforming public education funding focuses on how broken the system is, rather than the cost of fixing it. In essence, critics claim the public school system is a bureaucratic dinosaur so stifled by regulations and lack of innovation that it's incapable of delivering a high-quality education, regardless of funding level.

Under this line of thinking, privatization is the key to better schools. Since private schools compete for students, they're compelled by the market to provide the quality education consumers demand. To support their claims, privatization advocates note that private-school students consistently outperform public school students on National Assessment of Education Progress tests. So, rather than waste additional revenue on enhancing public education, the most efficient use of taxpayer money is supporting more school choice, through public funding of private and charter schools. The resulting competition will force public schools to improve.

But what if the theory's fundamental premise -- that private schools outperform public schools -- is wrong? Christopher and Sarah Theule Lubienski, University of Illinois professors, recently tested that premise in the most comprehensive study of relative performance of public vs. private school students. The full study, which analyzed National Assessment of Education Progress math test scores for fourth- and eighth-graders, is available online at //www.ncspe.org.// What separates this study is that for the first time, the research controlled for the role demographics such as student socioeconomic status, English proficiency, disability, race/ethnicity, gender and school location play in student achievement.

The study's main finding is eye-opening: Demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. According to Christopher, after factoring in demographic differences, ''the advantageous private-school effect completely disappears, and even reverses in most cases, seriously calling into question the common wisdom that private schools provide a better education than public schools.''

Sarah notes the research team didn't expect this result. ''I went to a private, conservative Christian school and had no preconceived bias on the issue. I just wanted to mine the data to create an accurate, comprehensive picture.'' Mission accomplished. The study analyzed more than 190,000 fourth-graders in 7,485 schools and more than 153,000 eighth-graders in 6,092 schools. In each instance, the number of students studied was 10 times greater than previous research. The study analyzed math rather than reading scores, because children primarily learn math in school, whereas most learn some reading at home. Hence, math better isolates the impact of the school on achievement.

The bottom line is clear. Private schools have students that come from better backgrounds, more affluence and have more home academic resources than public school students. Once those factors are considered, public school students outperform their private school peers. This means public schools are especially adept at educating the students who are most difficult to teach. It also means the fundamental basis of the argument in favor of privatization -- that the competitive market produces a better education -- is wrong. Yet, the assumption that market forces compel private schools to demonstrate better academic performance than public schools remains valid. That's how a private school differentiates itself and attracts tuition-paying students.

What proponents of privatization failed to consider is that private schools can attain better test score results in two ways. First is doing a better job of educating children. But it's very difficult (and expensive) to educate at-risk kids who come from concentrated poverty, have special needs, or aren't fluent in English. Far easier and much less expensive to attract students who are more likely to achieve academically and avoid those difficult to teach. Effectively, private-sector forces compel private schools to recruit top students, because it is the most cost-effective way to produce top scores. There's no incentive to design an education that can reach students who are difficult to teach, because there's no profit to be made from teaching poor kids.

Ironically, this was predicted by Adam Smith, the father of capitalism. In his seminal work, /The Wealth of Nations, /Smith called for the public sector to assume responsibility for educating the general public. In Smith's words, ''The education of common people requires, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the state.'' Smith supported public education for ''common'' folks because they couldn't afford private schools. He contrasted that with the position of individuals of ''rank and fortune,'' because their parents are ''willing enough to lay out the expense necessary'' to educate them.

The data show that Smith was right. When it comes to educating the public, nothing works better than public schools.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company
Unfortunately, Martire's statement that "there is no profit to be made in teaching poor kids" shows that he needs to familiarize himself with Whittle's corporate socialist model.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Parents Are Not Worried About Math and Science

Ben Feller of the AP makes a rebound and actually does a story on something other than BushCo. press releases. A clip here:
Nationwide, a new poll shows, many parents are content with the science and math education their children get -- a starkly different view than that held by national leaders.