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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NCLB Blasted

From the Examiner:
BALTIMORE - Two key proposed Bush administration changes to the No Child Left Behind law drew criticism from local public school education officials and union leaders.

The Teachers Association of Baltimore County, a National Education Association member, criticized the White House for proposing to allow school officials to override collective bargaining agreements.

“We do have to abide by the governing laws,” Teachers Association President Cheryl Bost said in a phone interview. “All schools have to respect the collective bargaining agreements, even charter schools. But that doesn’t mean we can’t possibly make changes. We can still work together on some things.”

Citing one example, Bost said, the association might allow longer work days for teachers in charter schools wishing to extend school hours; however, it would have to come with commensurate pay.

“We have ideas for improving schools, adding staff to lower-performing schools, making available the best leaders on instructional and behavior issues,” Bost added. “We’re not given an equal seat at the discussion table.”

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings released the changes the administration wants in the 5-year-old education law, up for renewal this year.

A second proposal would allow students in failing public schools to apply for a $4,000 religious or private school voucher.

“President Bush has clearly decided to invite partisan bickering rather than bipartisan progress,” said American Federation of Teachers President Edward McElroy. “Every minute spent debating a voucher proposal means less time for making needed changes to a law that has been long on promise and short on progress.”

Baltimore Teachers Union spokesman David Barney said Tuesday that the union would support the AFT’s position.

“Vouchers would shift resources and the best students, but what about the kids left behind,” Baltimore County School Board President Donald Arnold said. “The biggest thing we need to do is bring all the schools up to the top-performing levels.”

With school board leaders from Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, Arnold met with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., Tuesday at noon in his Capital Hill office to discuss the No Child Left Behind reauthorization.

Arnold would like to see the current law changed to designate an entire school as failing, even if only one small subgroup of students misses the adequate yearly progress marks. Ruppersberger said he’s more concerned about fully funding the legislation.

“It was a good idea,” Ruppersberger said of the law. “But it was never funded completely. For example, the federal government was supposed to pay for 40 percent of the special education costs. That number has been at 15 percent or 18 percent. That puts the squeeze on the state, and then the state puts the squeeze on the local governments.”

Finally a Little Pell Grant Relief

Despite all the saccharine lip service by conservatives about not leaving children behind, they have staunchly stood against increases in Pell Grants, just as they have refused to budge on the minimum wage. One must wonder if the millionaires in Congress will block this effort as well:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30— The maximum federal grant for middle- and low-income students to attend college would increase for the first time in four years under a catchall spending bill that House and Senate Democrats agreed to on Tuesday.

The measure would complete budget issues left over from 2006.

The increase, announced by the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, would raise the maximum grants, under the Pell program, to $4,310 a year from $4,050. The last substantial increase in the grants was in 2001.

Spellings on the Road Again Hawking High School Charters

Spellings is on tour once more, this time to tout the Bush Co. alternative to public high schools: for profit or non-profit, privately-managed charter high schools that use tax money to fund them. The non-profit variety is increasingly popular, because with it, corporations can received tax breaks for money contributed to the charter fundraisers to shut down public education.

And if states have caps on the number of charter schools allowed? Easy--just ignore the law. Never mind that there is no empirical research to show that these ED-supported alternatives are any better than the publics they are intended to replace. Obviously, the Decider has decided once again, and who will dare stand in his way. The evidence will now be manufactured to support the decision:

The day after the Bush administration unveiled its most detailed plans yet for renewing the No Child Left Behind Act, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings selected a charter high school here as the first stop in a campaign to sell a plan that includes expanding the role of charter schools and revamping high school instruction.

“People ask me, ‘Is No Child Left Behind possible?’ And I say yes, it’s absolutely possible. And people say where is that happening, and I say right here at Noble Street,” Secretary Spellings said on Jan. 25 at a student assembly at Noble Street Charter High School, which was founded under a charter from the Chicago school board. It was her first school visit after Mr. Bush’s Jan. 23 State of the Union address. “I am very encouraged by the innovation that’s going on here. … We need to open up more charter schools where they are needed.”

The administration’s plan would make it easier for districts to turn faltering regular public schools into charters. The administration said it would support local decisions to reopen schools identified as needing improvement under the No Child Left Behind law as charters, even if state law limits the number of those independent public schools. . . .

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Accountability for Failing Doctors and Hospitals

Children in poor areas of DC, Chicago, New York and other urban areas have much lower birth weights than children in the suburbs. It is obvious that public health care doctors and hospitals that serve these poor, black, and immigrant early underachievers are going to require new accountability measures to make sure that birth weight gap is addressed. And if they fail to produce children who meet the new birth weight targets, then we are going to have to shut them down and re-open them as privately-managed companies that will be operated from funds that went previously to the failed government clinics and the lazy doctors who worked there. Maybe then we will finally begin to see birth weights increase. And if not, they certainly couldn't be any less. Could they?

Clinics and hospitals receiving federal funds intended for poor patients will be required to weigh pregnant patients in Months 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and to report these weights the the State. If patients do not meet the target weights that have been estabished by the State to make sure that all American babies are born at average or above average weight by 2014, then the facilities and doctors who treat and weigh these patients will be placed on "Needs Improvement List" (NIL). After five years on the list, the doctors will be fired and the facility re-opened under private management.

Sure, there will be the bigots of low expectancy expectations who whine about other factors influencing birth weights, but these are the same welfare advocates will use any excuse keep their government handouts coming in while children remain trapped in a failed public health care system. No more excuses, bigots!

Still Think Impeachment is a Bad Idea?

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. . . .

Knights-Errant of the Business Roundtable, Begone

The members of the Order heard an unpleasant banging noise below. When they peered down from the ivy-covered parapet, they saw workers with jackhammers and others with explosive charges that were being inserted into the foundation walls. The Knights-Errant of the Business Roundtable had a new target. The members conferred and offered a resolution:

The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Published in The Key Reporter

Winter 2006

The 41st Council of Phi Beta Kappa in Atlanta was a great success, not least in electing to leadership positions distinguished people who will guide the Society’s future. It was also a celebration of 50 years of our Visiting Scholars Program. How better to celebrate than by hearing from, and conversing with, some Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars themselves? In the midst of all this, we authorized six new chapters, and the Council took a major step toward fulfilling the first goal stated in the Society’s strategic plan: to be a more effective advocate of the liberal arts and sciences on the national scene. That step was the adoption of a resolution, in plenary session, that places Phi Beta Kappa in the conversation about the future of American higher education.

In September of this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings accepted a report on that topic from a specially appointed commission, and she very quickly laid out an action plan to pursue its recommendations. The report and information about the commission are available on the Web at ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/index.html. In her action plan, located on the Web at ed.gov/news/speeches/2006/09/09262006.html, the secretary targets access, financial aid and affordability, and institutional accountability for student learning outcomes. These are important issues. They deserve our attention. But missing from the report and from the action plan is any mention of certain aspects of American higher education that have made it, in the commonly heard phrase, “the envy of the world.” By an overwhelming voice vote, the Council endorsed the following statement as a basis for expressing Phi Beta Kappa’s perspective:

"The U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education has issued, in September 2006, a report seriously flawed by omission of the role of the liberal arts and sciences in sustaining the excellence of American higher education.

"Since 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society has upheld the conviction that broad undergraduate study in the liberal arts and sciences, by all students, conducted with rigor, is essential to the accomplishment of higher education’s most important purposes. Phi Beta Kappa has honored outstanding achievement in the liberal arts and sciences and has elected as members many who have gone on to become the nation’s most eminent leaders in government, the private sector, and academe.

"The transformative and empowering consequences of higher education depend upon strong student engagement with the liberal arts and sciences. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, therefore, urges the nation’s higher education leadership, in pursuing appropriate goals of increased access, affordability and accountability, to advance these studies as a wellspring of excellence in American higher education."

Aid, access, and accountability need our best thought. But we must speak up when national policy initiatives are framed by the idea that higher education is no more than a service delivered to a consumer. That metaphor will obscure the most distinctive aspect of education that is truly “higher.” Education in the liberal arts and sciences cannot be adequately captured in the language of consumerism: it specifically aims at the student’s transformation and not at the gratification of pre-existing desires. Its real value may well be made invisible by the model of mass distribution of standardized goods and services.

So we need to talk about why it is a good thing to have thousands of faculties across the country striving for their own vision, why it is a good thing for society to cultivate persons of deliberation and reflection, rather than persons of didactic or apodictic habits. We need to talk about the importance of public understanding of the nature of science and the nature of civilizations and cultures across the globe. We need to talk about the value of a democratic society in which citizens have the help of learning to inform their choices.

In The Washington Post on September 4, Duke University President Richard Brodhead responded to a prepublication draft of the Spellings report. He wrote, in part, that “we need to promote everything in our system that breeds initiative, independence, resourcefulness, and collaboration. One of these is the liberal arts model of education.” This is the conviction expressed in the Council’s resolution, and we join President Brodhead, an initiate of Alpha of Connecticut, in the effort to place these values at the center of the nation’s conversation about higher education.

Monday, January 29, 2007

NYC Principals Get No Respect

School principals in New York want more money and a contract to offset their miserable existence in Bloomberg and Klein's brave new world of corporate control. This is a world in which principals will replace the traditional superintendents as the new "field commanders" in the war against "the magic and poetry of teaching and learning." If I didn't read it in the New York Times today, I wouldn't believe it. Perhaps a salary increase will make it easier to join the testing Gestapo and rule with an iron fist and a hardened heart.
Under Mr. Bloomberg’s latest plans, announced in his State of the City address this month, principals will gain power but also face far more scrutiny. They will be held accountable for students’ progress and for rigorously reviewing teachers up for tenure. They will be rated by superintendents in the chancellor’s office and also, for the first time, by the staffs in their own schools.

And since the mayor plans to eliminate traditional superintendents’ offices, principals will become the field commanders.

Many principals applaud the concept. Kenneth Baum, principal of the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, a Bronx middle school, said, “These kind of empowering moves for principals allow us to make the school-based decisions that make sense for us.”

Yet others complained that the emphasis by Mr. Bloomberg and Chancellor
Joel I. Klein on corporate-style management and data-driven accountability, and relentless pressure from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, were drowning out the magic and poetry of teaching and learning.

“I think the principals as a group feel very battle weary,” said a Brooklyn high school principal, who asked not to be identified out of fear of alienating superiors. “We’re tired. We don’t feel like there’s any real vision coming from the leadership around instruction.” This principal added: “The emotional and hopeful and romantic piece of education is left behind by businessmen.”

Still, what echoed most in the interviews was bitterness over the lack of a raise to compensate for the added duties.
Oh, those hopeless romantics

Testing and the "Darkest Underbelly"

In moving toward the negotiating table for reauthorization talks, Bush and Spellings have shown zero interest in acknowledging the impossibility of children reaching their 100% proficiency target in math and reading by 2014. To acknowledge reality would require change, and that, in turn, would shake loose the linchpin of the Right's school privatization plan that requires a steady stream of public school failures in order to undercut public support and, thus, get traction for the voucher and charter alternatives intended for those who don't have a choice in the matter.

In the meantime, of course, there are the millions of children, parents, and teachers who are being sacrificed each year in order to attain the assured failure that has been planned for them. The choking canaries in this dark poisonous mine are, of course, the poor, the disabled, the immigrant, the minority--the ones supposedly for whom the title of this legislation was stolen from the Children's Defense Fund. No Child Left Behind, indeed.

Here is a commentary from science teacher, Robert Tyrrell, on what is happening to the children at his school, children who are being ground up in this cruel crucible--and what is happening, too, to the attitudes of the survivors who now see the test failures as the "dumb ones" who stand in the way of success:
Campus West School is a kindergarten through eighth-grade Buffalo public school that has had a long and proud tradition in its association with Buffalo State College. The staff is highly trained, motivated and constantly involved in professional development.

Our school is a site for training student teachers, with many professionals using our school for educational research. Our scores for eighth-grade general education students on the 2006 English language arts, math, social studies and science exams are the second- or third-highest in the district for nonselective schools. The scores surpass some suburban schools.

Campus West, however, has been listed as a "school in need of improvement" for a number of years by the State Education Department, as was reported in The Buffalo News on Jan. 11. How could this happen?

Campus West has, throughout its existence, been a wonderful learning center for special education students. At this time, about 40 percent of our student body is special-needs students. One part of the No Child Left Behind Act requires special education students to meet the same benchmarks as their counterparts in general education.

A little-known aspect of this policy is that a school can be judged deficient solely on the basis of the Education Department's judgment that special education students are not successful on state assessments. This indeed is the mechanism by which Campus West was designated as needing improvement. The policy of judging an entire school program by measuring special education student achievement on standardized testing precipitates much more negative fallout than the simple label implies. First and foremost, parents and community and media people are not able to see real successes in the school program.

For example, the percentage of Campus West general education students who passed the eighth-grade English language arts test has increased 20 percent in the last two years. The eighth-grade general education students of Campus West are almost 25 percent above the city average on all state tests.

It also undermines the professionalism of special education teachers who traditionally have judged the success of special education students based on their individual learning plans.

Lastly, and the reason for this explanatory piece, the policy of judging a school by the success of its special education students on standardized tests affects student responses to their educational program. One bright student, perhaps reflecting her parent's comments, was recently overheard: "Campus West is a "bad' school because we have "dumb' kids taking these [standardized] tests."

Much more could be said, but to me, this statement reflects the darkest underbelly of the unwarranted use of standardized testing and provides its own commentary.

Robert Tyrrell is a science teacher at Campus West School in Buffalo.

America's Schools of Institutionalized Child Abuse

A clip from the NY Post:
January 28, 2007 -- For a month, third-graders at one Brooklyn elementary school had only two social-studies lessons.

Their teacher said she was too busy teaching kids test-taking strategies.

"The kids can't tell you who the president was during the Civil War," she said. "But they can tell you how to eliminate answers on a multiple-choice test. And as long as our test scores are up, everyone will be happy.

"That's education?"

The teacher, who requested anonymity, said she was ordered by her principal to "forget about everything except test prep" over the four weeks prior to this month's statewide English tests.

"All anyone cares about now are test scores," she lamented.

Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 brought high-stakes testing to the nation, city teachers have complained that statewide tests and test preparation have dominated class time. Now, they say, the situation is getting worse.

With Mayor Bloomberg's announcement of plans to crack down on tenure, teachers fear test scores will become even more important than other performance indicators.

They also fear the focus on tests will grow as a city science test for grades 3 through 8 debuts in 2007-08 and a city social-studies test arrives for the same grades in 2008-09. Currently, only two grades take those tests.

"My students haven't done science or social studies since three weeks before the ELA [English language arts] exam," said Jennifer Giovinazzo, a fourth-grade teacher at PS 14 in Staten Island who attended a forum on testing last week.

"We did one period of science today, and I had to review everything we learned from before the reading test," she said. "That took the whole period. Nothing new was learned."

She said her students get prep during lunch and aren't getting additional classes like art. "The kids don't even know what a crayon is," she said.

Another teacher called it "institutionalized child abuse." . . .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

When Schools No Longer Matter

If the educational genocide is allowed to continue with the reauthorization of NCLB, how long will unschooling remain a choice for just the quarter-million or so children whose parents have already opted out of the test prep chain-gangs that have replaced school? If schooling is allowed to become even more irrelevant to a humane education, who can blame parents for choosing a different path altogether?

Perhaps when the survival of schooling, itself, becomes an economic issue for the NEA and the AFT and the McGraw-Hills of the world, then we may begin to see some return to consideration of what children need in order to become adult humans, rather what the Business Roundtable believes it needs--more roboticized components of the human capital market.

A clip from the Tennessean:

. . . . Families often turn to unschooling in rejection of what they see as a one-size-fits-all school system they say crushes curiosity and creativity. Advanced children get bored waiting for classmates to catch up, while slower learners can fall between the cracks.

They also shun traditional home schooling because it follows the same mold of telling children what they need to be taught and how to learn it.

"The object of school is to make everyone come out the same. That whole concept offends me," said Chelsea Gary of Franklin, who is unschooling an 18-year-old stepson, Chris, and her other two children, ages 3 and 5. There's nothing a school system could do to persuade her to enroll them, she said.

Chris, nestled in an oversized red beanbag in his bedroom, said he hated reading until his parents pulled him out of school in California in December 2005 so he could direct his own education at home.

"I've learned more in the last year than I ever did in public school," said Chris, who spent the first few months "deschooling," getting used to his educational freedom.

A giant TV, shelves of CDs and a nearby computer loaded with video games are easy distractions in the typical teen-age bedroom. But Chris said he's not tempted because he's more interested in what he's reading, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.

"Topics I don't like, I skim it," he said. "It's kind of a cool idea. I focus on things I want to use in life."

Life, he hopes, will mean either being a rock star or chef — that's why he spends the afternoons working at a Panera Bread cafe or rehearsing in a heavy metal band. He's not sure if he'll go to college.

"I want my children to grow up retaining all their creativity and interests they were born with," his stepmother said. " I can't imagine someone crushing that out of them.". . .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Documentary "No Child Left Behind" Tonight

This Sunday, January 28, at 7 p.m. the documentary film "No Child Left Behind" will be shown at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, a new 500-seat state-of-the art theater located at the Jewish Community Center in Deal New Jersey.

Following the film, there will be a discussion led by Dr. James Horn, Ph.D., of Monmouth University and filmmaker Lerone Wilson. Wilson, a New York University film student, produced the movie while working as a substitute teacher in a New York City elementary school.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. The proceeds will be used for educational scholarships.

"No Child Left Behind" is a must see for teachers and parents.

Jewish Community Center
100 Grant Avenue
Deal, NJ 07723

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Speeding Gender Equity Clock at ED

The same ED that re-wrote the book on research to require experimental or quasi-experimental methodologies for most federally-funded educational research has now re-written the rules on gender, allowing for "same-sex education any time schools think it will improve achievement:"

"Too many schools feel they can carry out a social experiment with students' education with really the flimsiest of theories," said Emily Martin, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project.

Single-sex schools are an "illusionary silver bullet," said Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations for the American Association of University Women. They distract from real problems and do not offer proven solutions such as lower class sizes and sufficient funding, she said.

Many classrooms and schools could make the switch thanks to a change made by the U.S. Department of Education in November.

Previously, single-sex classes had been allowed in only limited cases, such as gym classes and sex education classes. But the new rules allow same-sex education any time schools think it will improve achievement, expand the diversity of courses or meet students' individual needs.

Fairfax County Revolts Against NCLB Abuse of Immigrant Children

From WaPo:
. . ."This will help build political pressure to find a sensible solution where you keep accountability, but you test kids fairly," said John F. Jennings, president and chief executive of the District-based Center on Education Policy. "Schools are saying it makes no sense to test kids who don't understand English. The U.S. Department of Education is saying that they should be tested the same way as other students. There has to be a third way.". . .

The CBS Film You Won't See on CBS

Apparently it doesn't fit the feel-good format of America's mom, Katie Couric, and the MSM corporate fealty to the War Machine. From Josh Marshall:
Take a look at this video segment about the war on the ground in Baghdad, The Battle for Haifa Street, little more than a mile from the Green Zone. For some reason CBS only ran it on their website. It never saw the light of day on the network news.
Murrow rolls in his grave.

What We Talk About When We Talk About School Privatization

Before Bush II came to Washington with his Texas Mirage (TAAS) that would become the Nation’s Nightmare (NCLB), the Dems owned the education issue. In large part it was due to the work of another Texan, LBJ, whose policies eventually brought us face to face with the liberal (as in Enlightenment) delusion that for every social or economic problem, there is a schooling solution. That we continue to embrace the delusion is clearly evident in the continuing acceptance of a Bush education policy purportedly aimed at helping a minority population whose support for him has never climbed into double digits.

Notwithstanding a continuing widespread blindness to the real Bush agenda among white voters, it is with a heightened sense of incredulity that we are subjected to another round of the threadbare platitudes about not leaving minority children behind, platitudes that are cynically used as they have been from the start to disguise the conservatives' real agenda of crushing public schools while continuing to subjugate the poor. In this new push for the conservatives' privatization scheme, the focus has subtly shifted from saving poor children by closing the achievement gap in the public schools to now saving poor children by giving them $4,000 to escape into either Christian fundamentalist madrasahs or the Big Lots version of secular private schools. Oh yes, one other Spellings option: Chain-gang charters (the Tucker Solution) that have been demonstrated by her own "scientifically-based" research to be no better, or even worse, than the public schools she would replace. No matter--the charter solution is at least cheaper to run with no messy collective bargaining units to deal with and no prying eyes from publicly-elected school boards.

From the Tribunein Chicago, where Spellings was yesterday trying to remedy that elusive 1% of non-perfection that continues to plague her almost pure plan:
"For the promise of No Child Left Behind to be real, we must provide more vigorous and robust tools to address the chronic underperformers," Spellings said. "We cannot have kids trapped in these schools year after year after year."
What do African-Americans think of Bush's new plan to free their children by giving them a handout big enough to choose their own correctional testing facilities?
Here is must-read commentary from New America Media:

EDITOR'S NOTE: President George W. Bush is asking Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, but the act has failed to deliver on its promise, writes Donal Brown, a New America Media reporter who taught for 35 years in California's public schools.

President George W. Bush is asking Congress to re-enact the No Child Left Behind Act even though the act has failed to significantly boost the performance of under-achieving students.

Calling the NCLB a "good law" during the State of the Union address, the president ignored the criticisms of those in the educational trenches.

NCLB began auspiciously with the right emphasis on enabling urban students to improve their school performance. It provided a frame for establishing high standards for all students and making schools responsible for student progress.

But for all its good intentions, the law has created huge problems for educators, students and parents, and has failed to deliver in crucial areas.

At the onset, NCLB was never funded properly. There was no money provided to transfer students out of under-performing schools. In Chicago, 2,000 students needed to transfer, but had no place to go.

In a feeble attempt at a remedy, once again the Bush administration is playing the voucher card. In his speech, Bush said he wants to enable "children stuck in failing schools the right to choose some place better."

The Department of Education reauthorization plan allocates $4,000 scholarships for students to attend private, other public or out-of-district public schools. This does not address the problem that in many cities, there are simply no schools in which to use the scholarships. Private schools are exclusive and are not likely to accept large numbers of under-performing students from public schools. The tuition of the best private schools can range from four to seven times that of the scholarship money. And there is no sign that suburban schools with high performing students are lining up to accept these students, either.

So far, the transfer aspect of NCLB is a failure. In 2005, nationwide, only 1 percent of eligible students chose to transfer. Critics also question spending money on busing students when funds are needed to hire better teachers, improve instruction and provide books and computers.

Notwithstanding the need to establish stronger benchmarks for success, the testing regime established by NCLB has delivered no more than minimal results.

In his speech, Bush cited the progress minority children had made in closing the testing score gap between them and other students. Fact-checkers working after the speech and others say that Bush's claim that NCLB is closing the gap is exaggerated.

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2005 indicated that the reading scores for fourth grade Asian, Hispanic and black students went up modestly. Native American scores went down. For the eighth grade, scores for all groups except Asians went down. The achievement gap between black and white students from 2002 to 2005 widened a bit.

Professor W. Norton Grubb of the University of California at Berkeley, who has extensive experience in urban schools, thinks it is too early to make any claims for NCLB. He says that any rise in scores can be characterized as one-time improvements from students getting used to testing and teachers teaching to the test.

For sure, teachers around the country are reeling under the weight of a testing regime. Some out of desperation are resorting to deadly drills that sap the spirit of students and deaden the joy of learning.

The Bush plan to reauthorize NCLB calls for more funding for tutoring that was not funded under the original act. The reauthorization funds tutoring for disabled and limited English proficiency students. Unfortunately, there are legions of other students who need tutoring.

Urban districts strapped for funds have found it impossible to provide qualified tutors. Grubb said districts that do provide tutoring often hire untrained college students unfamiliar with students' needs or how to help them. He said that a program called Reading Recovery was effective using one-to-one or small group tutoring by highly trained tutors.

The list goes on. The reauthorization plan is woefully inadequate in addressing the need for more and better-trained teachers. The plan wants to improve teaching by rewarding effective teachers, but only offers "resources" to interested states and districts rather than funding.

That will do little to provide excellent teachers for the most difficult students to teach. Harnessed with poor teaching conditions, unruly students and inadequate training, teachers do not last. There should be more federal money going directly for salaries and training for those teachers willing to take jobs in schools with vast numbers of under-performing students.

It is unlikely that the Bush administration will make significant outlays for education. The war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich have depleted the treasury, and now that the Democrats rule Congress, Bush has forsaken the route of deficit spending and is trumpeting the virtues of a balanced budget.

Yet there is no more important challenge facing the nation than turning out, in Bush's words, "a public with knowledge and character." It will take more than a warmed-over NCLB to meet that challenge.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Orleans Public School Children Wait-Listed While Charter Schools Bar Their Doors

For the poorest citizens of a devastated New Orleans who were hoping to hear some encouraging words this week from their President, they will have to wait. They will wait, just like 300 of their children who are now waiting and wait-listed because there is no place for them in the very sick Recovery School District.

But there are some in the Big Easy that the Decider and his Secretary of Education have not forgotten: the 17 new charter schools that the privatizing President hopes will serve as a model for the nation. They enjoy new everything and a mandated teacher-student ratio of 1:20.

In the meantime, there are the children of the Recovery School District, those children from the public schools prior to Katrina who were on the NCLB list of failures. The Recovery District (another Orwellianism) is still 73 teacher short of what they need for their legal limit--a 1:25 teacher-pupil ratio. These children are now jammed into 18 schools, with 300 wait-listed while waiting for seats that have been refused them by the charter schools.

We can know, of course, that when Spellings sends in Jay Greene and other Walmart scholars from Arkansas to do her comparative research on test scores between the charter students and the rest who are waiting for a place to sit down, the new charter schools are going to win that contest. If true comparisons show charters no better than the publics, which true comparsions have shown, then the Secretary will create some phony, manipulated comparisons. Anything to crush the enemy--the public schools.

Phyllis Landrieu, the Orleans Parish School Board president who prayerfully thanked Katrina's merciful destruction of the public school system a few months back, must be giving thanks once more for the overcrowding in the Recovery Schools that her 17 charter schools will be competing against when the LEAP comes to town once more in March.

Asked if they'd consider increasing class sizes to help offset crowding in the Recovery District, Orleans Parish School Board President Phyllis Landrieu said it's too early to say.

"That's not something we can answer quickly," she said. "The board will have to talk about that."

Misleader, Liar, or Both? NAEP and the Art of Manipulation

8th Grade NAEP Reading Scores at left (click charts to enlarge)

4th grade NAEP reading scores at left

And here is what the President said in his SOTU address:
"Minority students are closing the achievement gap, and student achievement is rising – more reading progress was made by 9-year-olds in five years than in the previous 28 years combined, and reading and math scores for 9-year-olds and fourth-graders have reached all-time highs.

Now below are 4th and 8 grade reading comparisons based on ethnicity:

And below is the chart (click it to enlarge) from which the President drew his conclusions that were delivered in his speech to show that NCLB is working:

You be the decider!

Documentary "No Child Left Behind" Comes to NJ

This Sunday, January 28, at 7 p.m. the documentary film "No Child Left Behind" will be shown at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, a new 500-seat state-of-the art theater located at the Jewish Community Center in Deal New Jersey.

Following the film, there will be a discussion led by Dr. James Horn, Ph.D., of Monmouth University and filmmaker Lerone Wilson. Wilson, a New York University film student, produced the movie while working as a substitute teacher in a New York City elementary school.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. The proceeds will be used for educational scholarships.

"No Child Left Behind" is a must see for teachers and parents.

Jewish Community Center
100 Grant Avenue
Deal, NJ 07723

Educator Roundtable Says Enough is More Than Enough

A grassroots movement called the Educator Roundtable has collected over 24,000 signatures in a few weeks in support of repealing the legalized child abuse of NCLB. They have archived the comments left by grandparents, teachers, parents, students, principals, academics, and even politicians. The Educator Roundtable will have its first big meeting in Atlanta March 17. Clearly, the ground is about to move.

Here are a few of the comments by signers you may read with the thousands of others at the ER website:

This law is a full frontal attack on public education. It is designed to destroy public education by setting unrealistic goals that could not be reached even if every mandate was fully funded. It is a disaster. Return the schools to local control. As a public school teacher of 32 years, this is the most dangerous piece of legislation for public schools I have ever seen. In my school district standards based education has been turned into a standardized education nightmare where all children are treated exactly the same with curriculum that teaches to a test and eliminates any pretense of teaching kids to think. The price we will pay for this kind of education is a generation of people who will know how to pass a test but have no idea how to solve the problems of our world. Please scrap this legislation now before it is too late. --Patricia A. Kennedy

I have always been passionate about my job, and never felt I needed to be paid for what I do. I no longer find any joy in teaching and feel that I am harming children far more than I am helping them. I have chosen to take a leave of absence for a year to try to heal the wounds I feel from this heinous law. OF COURSE no child should be left behind, but this law is so terribly flawed in its implementation! The government would act just as foolishly if it legislated that no lawyer would ever lose another case, no doctor would ever lose another patient. People are not widgets, or pieces of metal, to be shaped and molded in cookie cutters. There is SO MUCH MORE to education than the passing of random tests. We are dealing with human beings, many of them very flawed and damaged. Educational decisions should, no MUST, be made by educators, not by legislators who have absolutely NO IDEA what the art of teaching, and nurturing responsible human beings, is about!! --Kathleen P. Willis

"NCLB" is an insult to the educational community and to teachers everywhere. "Teaching to the FCAT" is rampant in FL and our children are not getting the chance to explore incidental learning which sparks further study in a particular area. There is "no time" for such things, as it is of the highest importance that the school "score well". It is well known that different children learn in different ways. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. The NCLB ignores this completely & imposes a cookie cutter mold on all students, completely ignoring those "square pegs", who will fall behind because teachers are prohibited from taking the time to teach in an understandable way to them. As far as filtering money to homeschoolers and away from schools, the majority of homeschoolers DO NOT WANT the government to interfere with their children's education. Please keep your money; it is not wanted. I've been on both sides of the fence. My child has been homeschooled & public educated. The NCLB has to go! --Deborah Carter

I am not teaching students to love to read or love to learn. I am "phontasizing" them (shoving more and more phonics down their throat) which is in no way instilling a desire to pick up a book and read! I numb myself everyday to get through my teaching day. More and more curriculum to cover, more and more paperwork that goes along with the "data-driven dialog" that we endlessly babble about. It's sad, we are cultivating a generation of students who hate to read and who are not intrinsically motivated to learn. But heck, they can sure fill in bubbles. --Lorretta Chavez

I'm a special ed teacher...special ed students are being "left behind" with the current law! They are not given what they need to become productive members of society. They are lumped in with "regular" students and asked to perform to a certain standard despite their IQ or disability. Unless someone devises a way to improve IQ, this law is unlawful and does not meet students' needs. --Elizabeth Herren

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!! As a National Board Certified teacher, I am appalled at what we are putting out students through, the discrimination they are facing as a result of this act and the lack of professional respect our educators are given from folks in the government who have never stepped foot in a real classroom! To provide all students with an equal opportunity for learning is one thing and very fair, but to expect ALL students at the same mastery level by a certain age is totally unrealistic! Every human develops individual and unique affinities that make them successful, not all can be measured and determined by a single test score! This act is truly UNFAIR and I expect our drop out rate and teacher shortages will soar! High expectations are great.... but let's get real!!! The other issue that is totally wrong is the constant cut of funds that would enable better education to occur. The kids aren't supposed to be left behind, but there is no money to bring them along!!!!! Enough is enough! --Dana Honea

I am leaving my job of 28 years because of the travesty of NCLB. It is clearly a manipulation by our president to get his agenda in under the radar. He wants vouchers and private schools. We will soon see the destruction on the middle class! --Susan Ford

As a career educator and a parent and grandparent of public-school educated children and grandchildren, I do not object to accountability, but this legislation is not only unrealistic, unfunded, unjust and unequally applied, it undermines the public education system instead of improving and reforming it. The future of our nation, and its children, as well as our ability to provide the personalized, challenging instruction students need to become capable citizens, is at stake. Please stop the destruction! REPEAL NCLB! --Eldene Burrows

The students I have the honor of teaching this semester are so complex -- and delightful in their complexity. What is delightful about the art of teaching is working with students and encouraging the whole learning community to use the imagination to create, recreate the self and the community of learners. Teaching is the art of empowering young people from within. One cannot base a whole child/young person -- dire I say it -- human being -- on such a bill. NCLB disenfranchises students, teachers, school systems, and on. Students end up with such a narrow view of the possibilities of this wonderful life. NCLB does not offer opportunity; rather, the student is relegated to a single number, single tasks, and tasks with rules without a living context. John Dewey said education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. NCLB doesn't prepare young people for life, and certainly, education has become so far removed from life itself, discouraging imagination and promoting education as drudgery. --Anna M. Ragghanti-Crowe

Monty Neill in Chicago

Some interesting and informative video here (31 minutes) based on Monty Neill's visit to Chicago in early January. Monty surveys the status of testing and retention research and talks about the political landscape surrounding reauthorization talk of NCLB. Some interview and some presentation. Thanks, Monty.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Monty Neill Responds to Bush's "Augmentations" to NCLB

Monty's fired up:
President George Bush’s State of the Union proposals to escalate the failing test-and-punish strategy of the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law, as outlined by a White House policy memo (http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/initiatives/print/education.html), rest on misinformation and ideologically skewed assumptions, not evidence. Pres. Bush wants to continue pursuing dead-end policies that have not improved educational quality, particularly for our nation's most vulnerable children

The facts demonstrate that NCLB is not a success. Key independent indicators, including dropout rates, college admissions test scores, and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are unchanged or only slightly improved. Narrowing of the racial achievement gap has slowed since NCLB was implemented.

Meanwhile, the law has turned many schools into test-coaching programs, denying students the well-rounded, rich education all the nation's children deserve. The Bush administration pretends that minor changes in test scores in a few subjects is an adequate substitute for real education.

Now, the Pres. Bush proposes that all states report their NAEP results along with scores on their local tests. But the NAEP definition of "proficiency" was deemed flawed and too high by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Education. Making states look bad by comparing them to an unreasonable standard will not improve education.

Outside the Bush Administration, a broad consensus on how to overhaul NCLB is emerging, as evidence by the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, signed by more than 100 education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic groups, including FairTest. It says, "Overall, the law’s emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement."

The recommended changes to NCLB include:

- using multiple measures of student learning instead of single test scores;
- expecting rates of improvement actually attained by significant numbers of real schools, replacing the "adequate yearly progress" scheme;
- providing substantial support for building the capacity of schools to serve all students well, then holding them accountable for making improvements; and
- increasing funding to support improvement efforts and to enable all students eligible for Title I services to receive them.

The Forum on Educational Accountability, a group working to implement the Joint Statement, will release more detailed proposals on capacity-building, assessment and accountability in the coming months.

The Joint Statement is available at www.fairtest.org and at www.edaccountability.org.

What FairTest has not confronted or challenged directly is the privatization strategy that emanates from the conservative rationale for the old and new versions of NCLB. FairTest, for whatever reason, continues to pretend that the educational genocide from NCLB is somehow an unintended consequence of incompetence or stupidity. Although there is plenty of that to go around in this Administration, neither incompetence nor stupidity is the reason that Bush Co. has a laser focus on impossible AYP targets for public schools. Look at the privatization initiatives in tonight's speech that depend upon the manufactured failure of schools based on impossible test targets:
  • We Will Strengthen School Restructuring. Schools subject to restructuring for chronic underperformance will be required either to make substantial changes in staff or to reconstitute the schools' governance structure.
  • We Will Require Persistently Underperforming Schools To Offer "Promise Scholarships." These scholarships will enable low-income students to transfer to private schools or out-of-district public schools, or receive intensive tutoring. Federal funds will follow the students to their new schools.
  • We Will Offer Competitive Grants Through The "Opportunity Scholarships Program" To Help Communities Expand School Choice Options For Low-Income Parents And Students. Similar to the Washington, D.C., choice program that the Federal government has funded since 2004, families would be able to send their children to a private school through a locally designed scholarship program. They could also seek intensive tutoring.
  • We Will Increase The Availability Of High-Quality Charter Schools, Which Provide Important Options For Parents. Charters will also have a greater degree of flexibility to use their grants in executing planning and startup activities.
  • We Will Expand Access To Tutoring. We will ensure that districts notify parents whose children are eligible for tutoring and require school districts to make full use of the Federal funds set aside for tutoring and other school choice activities.
We Will Help Parents Get The Information They Need In Time To Make Informed Decisions About Their Children's School Choice Options. We will strengthen enforcement mechanisms to ensure parents receive proper and timely notice of their tutoring and choice options, and school districts will be allowed to use Federal funds to conduct high-quality parent outreach campaigns.

To Miller and Kennedy: A Plan for Withdrawing from NCLB Insanity

For those in Congress who may be looking for an alternative to the current train wreck of NCLB, read about George Wood's field trip to Nebraska:
Imagine that in this era of reducing everything we do in schools to a score on a high-stakes, standardized test that one state just says no. Imagine that this state relies upon locally established standards, assessments developed by teachers and administered in classrooms by those teachers, and only gives one state wide test—a writing sample again scored by teachers. Imagine that the State Commissioner of Education supports and fights for this system, because he believes that assessment should not drive instruction but simply be one tool to assist good teaching.

If you cannot imagine this, then head out to Nebraska and see their School-based Teacher-led Assessment Reporting System—go see the STARS.

A group of us did just that on a study tour organized by The Alliance for Public Schools. Educators, policy researchers, and reporters spent three days in Nebraska to see STARS in action. We visited classrooms, met with teachers, students, administrators, and parents, were briefed by State Commissioner Doug Christensen and his staff, and attended a state-wide training system for peer reviewers (teachers who will review the work of other teachers).

It is hard to capture in this short space what we saw, and for a full picture I suggest you either visit the STARS web site or pick up a copy of Chris Gallagher’s fine book, Reclaiming Assessment which includes a Foreword by Forum Convener Deborah Meier. The simple outline is this:

  • Nebraska’s educational standards, slimmer than most, are either approved by local districts or districts improve upon them and send them back to the state for approval.
  • There is only one state-wide assessment which is a writing sample. This is scored by Nebraska teachers at a state-wide review for which there is a waiting list of teachers who want to participate. Samples of these are sent out for scoring to check on reliability—Nebraska’s teachers’ scores are always more demanding.
  • Other standards are assessed by teacher-developed assessments, both paper and pencil and performance, taken at the point of instruction. Often students do not even know they are taking a state assessment; it is just one part of a classroom activity.
  • Each district chooses a norm-referenced test at whatever grade they want to provide a snapshot comparison of local scores to national norms.
  • There are no high-stakes attached to the tests. If students do not do well the teachers meet to see if a) the assessment was inappropriate, b) they did not do a good job of teaching the content, or c) the students need additional work.
  • You cannot compare districts by looking at test scores since there is no statewide test.

The system was driven by State Commissioner of Education Doug Christensen, who may be the most visionary state educational leader in the country. He is, as he says, “committed to teachers being instructional leaders. You cannot have good schools without professional educators, and you have professional educators only if you treat them like professionals. That’s what this is all about.” (Read Doug’s speech on assessment here.)

It is indeed. At every school we visited, in every conversation we had, teachers talked about how STARS puts them in charge of their craft. As one of our companions from Hawaii put it, “There is a lot of aloha going on here; teachers sharing their wisdom, working together, acting like professionals.”

As I noted, there is no way to record all we saw in this space. So perhaps the best way to give you a flavor of what is going on in Nebraska is through a few snap shots taken from my notes of the trip;

  • Accompanied by an eleventh grader I go to an English classroom where a writing standard is being assessed. She walks over to the teacher who hands her the assessment and she shares it with me. I ask the teacher if he is worried that she sees the assessment before taking it the next period. “Why would I worry about that, this is just like the tasks we ask them to do all the time, they know what is coming and I know they are prepared for it."
  • In a fourth grade classroom students are busy at their desks waiting to be called to the back of the room for an assessment on electricity. They each take their turn sitting with the teacher and building simple circuits of varying types. The teacher notes the steps the student takes, what the student can tell her about it, how the student self corrects. This is recorded as part of the assessment on electricity.
  • I am talking with a group of seniors about assessment and they ask what goes on in my school and state. After I tell them about our high stakes standardized graduation exams they are amazed. “You mean kids don’t know what is on the test, and it is all a paper and pencil type exam…And their teachers don’t grade it and don’t know what to help them with?” They cannot imagine what it is like and wonder why anyone would do that to students. A math teacher who is in on the session points out to them: “(Tests like that) are why I left Texas to come teach here.”
  • A sixth grader watches a video of his oral presentation yesterday, with student and teacher scored rubrics in hand. He makes notes on how to improve his presentation next time.
  • In the state-wide training for peer review I watch Educational Service Center staff working with teachers and administrators. “Our ESC is crucial to our small district,” a superintendent tells me. “We are all on the same page, working together, and our teachers value their collaboration.” It is this way everywhere we go, with educators talking about how much time they spend together working on curriculum, assessment, and helping kids learn.

There is much more one could say about what is going on in Nebraska, including that it took a fight with the U. S. Department of Education to get this system approved even though it is clearly working. Working because by all outside measures Nebraska’s kids do well in school; because Nebraska’s teachers feel and act like professionals; and because assessment is seen as a tool to help kids learn, not a stick to use in punishing those who fail. Let’s hope that any change in NCLB takes notice of what is happening out here on the plains.

Most importantly, Nebraska’s kids are in the company of powerful adults. This was an epiphany that came to me after talking with a high school principal near the end of the trip. He and I had a gentle disagreement on how to organize the school day. In reflection I realized that the Nebraska system was not about doing things the way I would do it, it was about giving educators the power to do what worked for their students. Rather than have their classrooms and schools be chained down to a one-size fits all assessment system, educators in Nebraska have the freedom to construct systems that best meet the needs of their students. A responsibility they take seriously and in so doing model professionalism of the highest degree.

As Deborah Meier has said, “Young people learn to be powerful adults when they are in the company of powerful adults.” That is, we learn to be democratic when we watch others being so. Nebraska’s kids are in the presence of educators who do not talk about ‘what the state makes us do.’ Instead they talk about what they have created—the lesson young people learn from watching this is the most important lesson of all.

Announcing the New Testing Surge

Tonight the SOTU Speech will give the Decider an opportunity to change the subject from his foreign war that he would rather forget to the domestic one that he is now eager to wage with new vigor: the war against public education. He will use this event tonight to urge bipartisan support for an escalation, er, surge in testing, a bold (read reckless) plan to lay down a endless blanket of incendiaries from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Sure, there will be some naysayers who tell you that the current testing war is not working any better than the one that the Escalator would rather forget. The achievement gap, for instance, remains a chasm, and test scores in reading and math have been less during the past four years (based on NAEP) than they were in the previous four. Not only that, but the troops in the classroom are demoralized and ready to desert for being blamed with the failure, and the tutoring companies and the corporate welfare charter outfits (the Blackwaters of the edu-world) complain about a shortage of contracts.

What the whining naysayers don't realize, however, is the testing war, the war on public education, is being won. For complete victory, it is just going to require a determined effort to re-arm and re-deploy the NCLB weapon that will assure the demise of the enemy. Just look, for instance, at the growing number of schools in every state of the nation that have already been neutralized by AYP scores that don't pass muster. And just look at the projections that show 70-90 percent of all public schools being taken down, taken out, by 2014, if we have the guts to stay the course, er, to adapt and adjust. Now is not the time to waver in our commitment to crushing the dictatorial government schools. We have the voucher reinforcements ready to pull the trigger on their front, and we have General Marc Tucker ready to launch a full-scale charter assault in his theatre of operations. All we need is the determination to not cut and run. We need to buck up, suck it up, bite the bullet--we need to Reauthorize NCLB Now!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Five Myths About U.S. Kids and American Schools

A must read from Paul Farhi in yesterday's WaPo:
The usual hand-wringing accompanied the Department of Education's release late last year of new statistics on how U.S. students performed on international tests. How will the United States compete in the global economy, went the lament, when our students lag behind the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong in math and science? American fourth-graders ranked 12th in the world on one international math test, and eighth-graders were 14th. Is this further evidence of the failure of the nation's schools?

Not exactly. In fact, a closer look at how our kids perform against the international "competition" suggests that this story line may contain more than a few myths: . . .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

20 Reasons to Repeal NCLB Redux

1. An education policy built on impossible performance demands that undermine public schools should be repealed, not reauthorized.
2. An education policy that ignores the unique needs of English-language learners and special education students should be repealed, not reauthorized.
3. An education policy that abuses and traumatizes children, destroys the desire to learn, and corrupts the purposes of learning should be repealed, not reauthorized.
4. An education policy that bases life-altering decisions on the use of a single assessment should be repealed, not reauthorized.
5. An education policy that ignores poverty as the chief cause for the achievement gap should be eliminated, not reformed.
6. An education policy that replaces the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of children with year-round teaching to raise test scores should be repealed, not reauthorized.
7. An education policy that uses pseudoscience and flawed research to devise national reading and math teaching standards and strategies should be repealed, not reauthorized.
8. An education policy that shrinks the American school curriculum to two or three subjects that are tested, thereby reducing or eliminating recess, social studies, art, music, foreign languages, health and PE should be repealed, not reauthorized.
9. An education policy that discourages integration and diversity, while encouraging homogeneity and segregation, should be repealed, not reauthorized.
10. An education policy that supports the use of tax money to fund private schools and private management of public schools should be repealed, not reauthorized.
11. An education policy that encourages our best and most ethical teachers to leave the profession should be repealed, not reauthorized.
12. An education policy that encourages teachers to ignore the needs of individual students in favor of raising test scores should be repealed, not reauthorized.
12. An education policy that is built on unfunded and under-funded requirements should be repealed, not reauthorized.
13. An education policy that reduces or eliminates local education decision-making should be repealed, not reauthorized.
14. An education policy that mandates that military recruiters have access to student information should be repealed, not reauthorized.
15. An education policy that is used to reward public money to insiders and cronies for their political support should be eliminated, not reformed.
16. An education policy that replaces effective teaching with chain-gang rigidity and parrot learning that minimizes critical thinking and democratic values should be repealed, not reauthorized.
17. An education policy that supports paid propagandists to advance its agenda should be repealed, not reauthorized.
18. An education policy that offers public funds to tutoring companies with no accountability or oversight should be repealed, not reauthorized.
19. An education policy that is not closing the achievement gap or increasing student knowledge should be repealed, not reauthorized.
20. An education policy based on threats, intimidation, and sanctions should be repealed, not reauthorized.

Action Strategies to Fight Back

1. Hold a public forum in your community to discuss 20 Reasons to Repeal NCLB.
2. Organize a meet-up with teachers and parents to talk together about how NCLB is affecting children and school.
3. Persuade your professional and civic organizations to pass resolutions supporting repeal of NCLB.
4. Write letters-to-the-editor and op-ed pieces to your local and regional newspapers.
5. Ask your school board to pass a resolution against NCLB.
6. Contact your U.S. Senators and U. S. Representatives asking for repeal of NCLB.
7. Contact your state legislators to enlist them in the effort to repeal NCLB.
8. Parents: Join the NCLB-mandated Parents Advisory Board at your child’s school. Bring the 20 Reasons to Repeal NCLB to begin a dialogue.
9. Organize a public protest on test days or days given over to test preparation.
10. Make a statement and sign the Petition to Dismantle NCLB at http://www.educatorroundtable.org/

Restoring the Fairness Doctrine to Save the Republic

From Raw Story:
Rep. Hinchey: New bill would break up media monopolies and restore fairness doctrine

Warns media reform critical to prevent 'end of democratic republic'

Concerns about monopolies and fears of a possible "fascist" takeover of the US media have prompted a Democratic congressman to push to restore the Fairness Doctrine, RAW STORY has learned.

"Media reform is the most important issue confronting our democratic republic and the people of our country," Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said at the Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. "This is a critical moment in history that may determine the future of our country…maybe forever."

Hinchey told RAW STORY he plans to reintroduce the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA) that would break up media monopolies and restore the Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission under the Reagan administration.

“If Rush shoots his mouth off, he must give equal access to our side,” Hinchey said. “The American public will begin to get both sides or all sides of an issue. That is basic – fundamental to a democracy.”

Last year, Hinchey introduced H.R. 3302 (MORA), but Republicans blocked the measure in committee. He also founded the Future of American Media Caucus in Congress in 2005. With Democrats now in control of Congress, a new media reform measure is expected to be assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee within the next couple of weeks, Hinchey’s staff confirmed.

“We’ll be trying hard to get the subcommittee and the full committee chairs to bring this to the House floor,” Hinchey pledged. A companion bill will be introduced on the Senate side by Bernie Sanders (D-VT), he added.

MORA would restore the Fairness Doctrine, reinstate a national cap on ownership of radio stations, lower the number of radio stations that one company can own in a local market, and reinstate the 25 percent national cap on television ownership, among other restrictions. The bill’s no-grandfathering provision would compel media conglomerates to divest to comply with new ownership limitations.

MORA would also require public interest reports from broadcasters and require more independently produced programming on TV. In addition, it establishes new public interest obligations to assure that broadcasters meet the needs of local communities and requires increased, sustained public input and outreach to give the people a voice in programming.
Media 'con job'

Hinchey faults the mainstream media for failing to tell Americans the truth about “an administration in Washington that has falsified information to people about weapons of mass destruction in order to justify an illegal and unjustified attack perpetrated on Iraq. How was it that Congress voted to give the President that authority? And how was it that so many people just bought into it when Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and whatever weapons they had were given to them by the Reagan administration?”

Talk radio has become dominated by shows that are “right wing, even neo-fascist,” he said, adding that even the best newspapers gave readers a “con job” by reporting false information fed by the administration.

“This should make every single citizen in America deeply concerned,” he told conference attendees. “What lies will they tell in the future to jeopardize this democratic republic or even end this democratic republic? That is the objective of many of those involved.”

Hinchey believes the takeover of the U.S. media has been carefully calculated by the “political right wing,” starting with the abolition in 1987 of the Fairness Doctrine, which was originally adopted in 1949 in reaction to the rise of global fascism prior to World War II.

“Fascist government dominated discussions in Europe. They could now broadcast all over and control all information going out. That’s how they took over governments in Spain and Italy,” Hinchey recalled. “The U.S. said the airways should be owned by everyone.”

The Fairness Doctrine required that broadcasters give equal time to people who wished to express an opposing viewpoint. “Under the Reagan administration, the FCC wiped out that rule and said only businesses that operate stations can express their view,” Hinchey noted. Congress passed a bill that would have required the FCC to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that bill was vetoed by Reagan.

“The veto said clearly that this is an idea from the political right wing because we do not want to allow other points of view – because if we allow free and open discussion on the environment, healthcare [and other issues], in almost every case the right wing will lose.”

Asked whether the Congressman believes there is now an attempt at a fascist takeover of the U.S., a Hinchey staffer noted that Rep. Hinchey’s legislation arose from his concern about increasing concentration of media ownership into the hands of a few individuals and corporations. “Whether or not there is a purpose that includes fascism, we could wind up in a fascist situation if corporations end up controlling information without the government providing some balancing mechanism, such as the Fairness Doctrine,” said the staffer, who spoke on background only and did not wish to be named. “He would also say that the FCC’s recent efforts to weaken media ownership rules in order to enable corporations to own more and more outlets plays into that as well.” . . .

The Bloomberg Defense

A reader writes:
I've been reading your blog for a couple months now and usually appreciate and am with you on most things. I think you're a little quick to jump the gun here though. First - the facts. The "private management companies" must be non-profits.

Yes, and the College Board is "non-profit," too--but they cleared over $500,000,000 last year from their testing products. Besides, how could the corporate sultans receive tax credits or deductions for their largesse if the edu-business companies they plan to fund were not set up as non-profits?
Second - I think the revolutionary part of what Bloomberg/Klein are doing has been lost - the Fair Student Funding Initiative. This means a school like mine in the Bronx that serves the students who need the most will be seeing more money at the expense of schools that tend to serve the Middle Class and Upper Class in nicer part of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

I have my doubts as to whether any remaining middle class parents who continue to have kids in NYC public schools will allow their kids' funds to be drained off. It has never happened before, and I don't expect it happen now in this reverse Robin Hood era.
Third - yes, Empowerment Schools can outsource services to other companies. But Empowerment Schools can also partner with community organizations and receive funds that are unavailable to most schools. I teach in an Empowerment School, and we get somewhere in the range of 25%-50% of our total budget from our partner organization - FEGS. Among other things, this allows us to increase our support staff (we have a full time college placement specialist, just like the top private schools)

Sad, indeed. This is the typical neo-liberal treatment to the poverty and racism issue: ignore the real problem, provide services that only the middle class can use, and then blame the poor for not using them.
. . . .Not to mention the fact that literally every request I have made for classroom materials - from technology to books to curricular materials - I have received. Are there flaws with the Tucker model of education reform? Of course, and you've highlighted a lot of them. But with that said, there are a lot of benefits, which I am seeing first hand (and believe me, we are not a KIPP like school - I'd like to think people like Paulo Freire and Myles Horton would be proud of most of what they saw at Bronx Lab).

That Bloomberg and Klein would be falling over themselves to pander to the "empowerment" schools in order to prove their superiority should be expected, I think. That is the Marc Tucker horse they have their money on, after all. Wonder if the schools served by the remaining superintendents have the resources to honor every requst from teachers?
Maybe I am being a little naive here - but I always come back to the fact that the Bronx has something like a 30% graduation rate. What has been done in the past hasn't worked. Isn't it worth trying something new?

The fact that the City, the State, and the Nation have ignored the poverty, repression, and racism that produced what "hasn't worked" does not seem reason enough to give up on the public schools for not accomplishing what no school system alone can ever accomplish, anyway. If Bloomberg's privatization plan is allowed to succeed, I am sure, Steve, that the Mayor's Office will stay busy congratulating you, your colleagues, and themselves for the new bright successes that were so recently painted as dismal failures. Something new, indeed.

Bloomberg, Klein, and the Stealth Privatization Plan

Even though there are few details available on Bloomberg's stealth privatization plan for NYC Schools, there is enough to know that this Tucker Lite version of corporatized education will be conducted without consulting teachers and principals and without the benefit of 6 of the 10 school superintendents who will be replaced by private management outfits that will contract with the Mayor's Office. If principals choose to sign test score performance contracts, they can become "empowerment" schools and be serviced by these new edu-business versions of Kellogg, Brown, and Root.

Taking a page from the Bush playbook on delivering news you'd rather not make public, Bloomberg sent Klein out on Friday to make the announcement during a speech to, who else, a hand-picked group of corporate executives who are part of the "partnership." Wonder how many of these corporate partners have children who attend the crumbling school buildings that they will now manage as the bold new civic-minded slumlords whose real focus remains on minimizing the city tax bill on their deliriously-rich Manhattan sultanates.

With testing practices in place that assure the failure of the most vulnerable children, and with retention policies locked in that hold children back, thus increaing their likelihood of dropping out later, Klein, a mealy-mouthed version of Dickens's Gradgrind, had the audacity Friday to lay claim to a phrase by Jonathan Kozol to characterize the apartheid education system that Klein and Bloomberg are scheming to perpetuate:
Mr. Klein defended the need for vast change to the school system. “How can we be anything but bold,” the chancellor asked, “when 140,000 of our children between the ages of 16 and 20 years old have either dropped out or are on the verge of dropping out?”

Calling the failures of school systems “the shame of our nation,” Mr. Klein said, “We must move forward with resolve.”

Breath-taking, and truly Rovian.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nelnet Gets to Keep $278,000,000 in Illicit Student Loan Interest Payments

ED's Inspector General's Office announced back in September that ED had overpaid conservative political bankroller, Nelnet, $278 million in interest for student loans that had been subjected to the sleazy practice of "loan recycling."

Now Maggie Spellings has decided to let them keep their fraudulent gains. Why? Incredibly, the only excuse that the ED lawyers can come up with is that if ED starts going after the $278 million owed them by Nelnet, then they might endanger other ill-gotten gains from other crooked outfits (who have paid, through campaign contributions, for admission into the federal treasury feeding frenzy):
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings rejected the inspector general's recommendation that the department seek to recover past overpayments. The audit estimated that Nelnet already has been improperly paid more than $278 million by the government.

Recovering past payments might require the government to also go after money other lenders have received, including some small nonprofit lenders, according to Department of Education officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the settlement. The federal officials said they didn't want to put small lenders out of business.

“This decision was reached in the best interests of taxpayers and students as well as the integrity of the federal student loan programs. The federal student loan programs are an important pillar in this nation's system of financing college opportunity and offer students and families the ability to afford higher education,” Under Secretary Sara Martinez Tucker, who oversees higher education issues, said in a statement.

The audit by the inspector general's office report found that Nelnet has improperly sought and received an artificially high rate of return on many of its loans.

Right on cue, Kennedy and Miller are out front to let the world know how disgusted they are about the decision:
“The administration should have settled for nothing less than the full recovery of Nelnet’s ill-gotten proceeds from these loans,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “The Department of Education’s settlement is a loss for students and taxpayers, who are the victims of Nelnet’s greed.”

Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said his panel would investigate the accord. “We will ensure that taxpayer dollars are used properly,” Mr. Miller said in a statement.

The question is: what will Miller and Kennedy do to oversee and investigate this thievery? And what about the Reading First corruption uncovered by another OIG Report last fall? Will Kennedy and Miller stand by and let Spellings deliver more imperial decrees on that matter as well?