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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

TFA (Teach For Awhile) and the Permanent Stream of Temps for the Poor

What better way for Caitlin and Seth to build their resumes while deciding on Penn or Columbia for grad school? Sweet!

A big chunk from the the NYTimes Magazine:

. . . .In some circles, there is a perception that Teach for America’s corps of teachers do not come back, that many of them view their teaching stint as a résumé-burnishing pit stop before moving on to bigger things — that T.F.A. stands for “Teach for Awhile.” The numbers are telling. More than a third leave after their two years, and another 10 percent drop out well before. T.F.A. says that more than 60 percent of its alumni stay in education, though its definition of education is a broad one. In the organization’s view, it takes allies in every field to close the achievement gap. T.F.A.’s sights are set on the boardroom and Capitol Hill. This is what it calls “the second half of the movement,” beyond the classroom.

One new program, for example, coaches alumni in how to run for political office. Their goal is to get 100 leaders into elected office by 2010. “We have to have advocates in every sector to work on educational inequity,” Elissa Clapp, T.F.A.’s senior vice president for recruitment, told me in June. “It’s naïve to think that we can solve this problem only through teaching. We are completely agnostic about what people do after their two years.” T.F.A.’s agnosticism is central to its cachet. Most college seniors are blissfully without a clue as to the future, much less ready to sign on for a life in the classroom. T.F.A. soothes their qualms by emphasizing the two-year commitment. Recruiters have an impressive arsenal of statistics at their fingertips to prove that they can get you just about anywhere. “Our alumni,” Clapp said, “are living proof that these two years could actually be a career accelerator.”

Kilian Betlach is not your average T.F.A. teacher. After graduating from Boston College in 2002, he applied to the program. He was dealt a shock during the summer training: “I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t having success. I left feeling like this had been a mistake.” That fall, he was assigned to a public school in San Jose, Calif., where, for the length of the first year, he felt in over his head. “I was just squeaking by,” he told me. Despite the difficulties, he has stayed on far longer than most; he has just finished his sixth year as a teacher and doesn’t see himself leaving anytime soon.

“Every day that first year,” Betlach said, “I was like: ‘Oh, my god, I’m a teacher. I’m not ready for this.’ But I got better with time. We all do.” Still, he is troubled by what he refers to as “T.F.A.’s message about teaching.” In six years with T.F.A., he said, “I never was encouraged to stay on as a teacher. It’s almost as if the program perpetuates the idea that if you went to Harvard, a teaching career is below you. As soon as you join T.F.A., the focus is on being an amazing teacher. Then, all of a sudden, it stops. And you start getting e-mails from Goldman Sachs.”

AT TIMES, T.F.A.'S recruitment model, with all its emphasis on high achievement rather than a strong commitment to teaching, does suggest that great teachers are born, not made. But what it takes to excel in college may not be what it takes to command the attention of a class full of children, and making up the difference may require more than five to seven weeks of training over the summer. Traditional master’s-degree programs in teaching tend to take at least one year, along with substantial time as a student teacher. T.F.A., however, usually responds to state certification requirements by having its teachers work toward certification during their first year of teaching. Still, the summer training program is an intensive indoctrination. Trainees are shuttled about in yellow school buses, fed box lunches and given frequent pep talks. Schedules run from early morning to late in the night. When I sat in on parts of the summer institute in Houston, I noticed that some trainees were nearly asleep. Others scribbled into their notebooks furiously. All of them wore nametags; it was like freshman year all over again. T.F.A. insists that its content is just as good as that of traditional programs. “It’s a trial by fire,” one current trainee told me. “If you can’t handle the sprint, get out.” Some do drop out.

The question of what it takes to be a good teacher has inspired a series of spirited data wars between T.F.A. and its critics. Most often cited (by the critics) is a 2005 study examining the links between student achievement and their teachers’ certification status. In a study of more than 132,000 students and 4,400 teachers in the Houston public-school district, Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Education, and three colleagues found that students taught by certified teachers outperformed those taught by noncertified teachers in reading and mathematics. Uncertified T.F.A. teachers had negative impacts on student achievement on five of six tests. Tellingly, their effectiveness improved when they gained certification.

T.F.A. has called the Stanford study flawed, arguing that its sample sizes were small and questioning whether it was subject to adequate independent review. (The organization’s P.R. team is formidable.) Teach for America points to a 2004 study carried out by Mathematica Policy Research that shows T.F.A. teachers’ student scores matching those of a comparison group of novice and veteran colleagues in reading and slightly better in math. Over two months of talking to T.F.A. staff members, I was referred to this study no less than 13 times. Another study points to the fact that principals clamor for T.F.A. teachers; 74 percent considered T.F.A. teachers more effective than other beginning teachers.

Darling-Hammond’s explanation for the numbers is not exactly flattering to T.F.A. “The principals who are saying ‘I love T.F.A.’ are responding to the fact that teaching standards in schools that hire uncertified teachers are typically low,” she told me this summer. “This is a country that spends so little on the neediest, and here we are perpetuating a cycle of underprepared teachers. If one takes the lowest possible standard and accepts that as a goal, then Teach for America is great.” . . .


Friday, September 28, 2007

What IS Left Behind?

What IS Left Behind?

We have reached a critical crossroads in our educational and national history. As NCLB’s reauthorization or expiration takes center stage in Washington, American citizens who care about the future of our public schools and our democracy must be heard. Our shared future is not an abstract political possibility but, rather, one that breathes in every son or daughter, every niece or nephew, every grandson or granddaughter, every neighbor’s child, and every one of our own students who enters the schoolhouse door.

While Secretary Spellings and legislators from both parties stubbornly proclaim that NCLB is working—despite of all the empirical evidence indicating otherwise—and as politicians boast that no child is being left behind, let us pause to consider what has been jettisoned. Let us take a moment to think about what has been left behind, what has been dumped, what has been pushed out the door because there is no longer space or time for it in the school day.

Now if your school still has some of these things, I say congratulations. At the same time, however, I say beware. Beware, because the unattainable goal of 100% proficiency that is the bedrock of NCLB makes it most likely that over the next seven years, your school will join the 30% of schools today where these crucial elements of school have already been left behind.

As American citizens deeply concerned about the health of our democratic republic, we are, of course, concerned and horrified that the social studies have been left behind. In Florida and other states, social studies teachers, afraid of losing their jobs, are lobbying for social studies to be tested, so that their work will survive.

The emphasis on math and reading tests has meant less geography, civics, and government, which leaves children ignorant of how public decisions are made or where their community fits into state, national, and global contexts—or even that there is a context beyond their street and TV screens. Children are left, in effect, stranded on lonely islands of ignorance, without the impetus or skills to have their voices heard in ways that make the world listen.

History, too, has been left behind, making it assured that this next generation will grow up more likely to be swayed by the mistakes and misdeeds of the past to which they remain clueless. What is a democratic republic and where did it come from? Sorry, that’s not on the test, either.

And economics? While children in wealthy communities, the ones without AYP worries yet, play stock market games and learn about hedge funds, the economic education of children in schools under the testing gun consists of collecting “Scholar Dollars” that they trade in for bags of Skittles, a pittance of pay for a meaningless labor whose significance remains a mystery to them.

Health and physical education have been left behind, too, leaving children out of shape and subject to diseases associated with obesity and inactivity. At the same time, children are left in the dark about the importance of healthy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, the kinds of foods that are scarce in the small stores of poor neighborhoods. And left behind, too, is information about the hazards of a never-ending diet of Taco Bell and McDonalds—because that's not on the test, either.

Art and music have been left behind, leaving in their crossing wakes an imagination gap, a creativity gap, and expression gap, an aesthetic gap, a souls gap. We can add these gaps to the achievement gap that parallels a widening economic gap – despite years and years of increased testing and accountability in those schools where the economic gaps are at their deepest points.

Diversity of thought has been left behind. What remains in failing schools and the ones teetering on the testing bubble are collections of remote and desiccated facts that represent not even a single culture, but rather, an anti-culture that has essentially eradicated cultural values as a discussable issue.

Science has been left behind, too, and thus the primary tool for understanding how the modern world is organized. Where science survives, it is where it is tested, and the kind of science that remains is the kind that can be fit into a multiple-choice format, not the kind that exercises children’s ability to think, solve problems, conduct experiments, and make good decisions.

Literature has been left behind, and with it the love of reading and books and the curiosity that is spawned and kept alive by the life of the imagination. Stories are now substituted by the measured mouthing of nonsense syllables and the framing of comprehension responses that the children who utter them do not understand.

Recess has been left behind in a third of all American elementary schools, and as the percentage of failing schools increases, we may expect that number to rise. Play, itself, then becomes left behind, and along with it one of the most useful skills of all—to think as if, what if, as in what if life were somehow different than, or what if there were a choice beyond a, b, c, or d?

Nap time has been left behind in kindergarten and even in pre-K, as teachers focus on replacing dream time with skill practice time for a future of testing.

Field trips, holidays, and assemblies have been left behind unless they can be used for test preparation, or unless they come after the test, those short precious weeks when smiles may be seen to return to teachers’ lips and to students’ eyes.

The love of the teacher for her craft has been left behind in so many schools, replaced by the burdensome regimen of the pacing guide and the production schedule and the script. And time for teacher-led discussion, exploration, reflection? There is only time for teachers to learn their lines, trying to become good actors in a very bad play where the audience is compelled to participate. And time to weigh the results of the practice tests in order to get ready for the real tests.

Left behind, too, are teacher autonomy and professional discretion. Now whole hallways of fourth grade classes are on the same page of the same scripted lesson at the same moment that any supervisor should walk by, supervisors who are identically trained to look for the same manifestations of sameness, from bulletin boards to hand signals to the distance that children are trained to maintain from one another as they march to lunch, with their arms holding together their imaginary straightjackets.

Most troubling, however, of all that has been left behind is the teacher’s nurturing care, the teacher whose advocacy for and sensitivity to every child’s fragile humanity has been a trademark of what it means to be the teacher of children.

With the current laser focus on avoiding test failure, even as expectations become higher with each passing year, the child who cannot do more than a child can do now becomes viewed as the stumbling block to a success that is increasingly elusive.

Instead, then, of being viewed as the reasons we have schools to begin with, the needful child who is, indeed, behind, becomes the obstacle to a proficiency that becomes further and further out of reach. When this occurs, as it surely does every time teachers and principals fall prey to the pressure, children become the burden that must be reluctantly borne, obstacles to a success that their own disability, poverty, or language issues complicate— and that even the best teacher can never compensate for.

Students, then, come to be seen as complicit in creating the failure that, in fact, no one, teacher or student, can remedy, because there is a monstrous system that has made child failure and, thus, school failure inevitable, a monstrous system that has traded and treated this generation of children as a means to attain a political end—a political end that, in fact, threatens our future as a free people who are able to think, to solve problems, to care, to imagine, to understand, to have empathy, to participate, to grow, to live.

So as you listen to the growing debate this fall in Washington, please do not leave your political responsibility behind and your good sense with it. Go online tonight and order the Linda Perlstein book, Tested. . .. Read it and, as you do so, keep in mind that the horror that she so ably describes occurred in a school that is considered a success, a “lighthouse school.” Think, then, of what it must be like in the thirty percent of American schools that are now labeled failures.

Recently, a quote by Cal State professor, Art Costa showed up on one of internet discussion groups, a quote that is horribly relevant today: "What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value."

Call and write and visit your school boards and your Congressional delegation. Remind them what you value and what you believe to be significant for now and for our future, and what you know that now and finally must to be left behind.

Jim Horn

A similar version of this commentary was delivered September 27 at Monmouth University. It will be posted on YouTube a few days hence.


50 Years After Little Rock

The witnesses to that old brutality returned to Little Rock High this week, fifty years after President Eisenhower ordered out the 101st Airborne Division to assure the safety of schoolchildren trying to get an education.

Today we find the segregationists no less determined than they were then, but now they use head-spinning interpretations of the Constitution that their advocates on the Supreme Court confirm--and federal education policy that assures separation and white privilege.

From the Washington Post:

LITTLE ROCK, Sept. 25 -- This time around, the Little Rock Nine pulled up at the high school in three white stretch limousines.

Five decades ago, they had to walk through a gantlet of jeering whites shouting venomous threats. Tuesday, fans swarmed them for autographs and pictures. News crews lobbed softball questions. In front of a crowd of 5,000 people, dignitaries including former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, governors, congressmen and the mayor were on hand to laud their bravery in desegregating the school.

The nine former students had returned to the campus of Little Rock Central High School half a century after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had ordered soldiers to escort them into the school.

"We thought this was a place that would accept us," one of the nine, Ernest Green, told the crowd. "And you know what? Fifty years later, I think we were right!"

It was a day of unmitigated adulation of the nine, and recognition of how much their determination to attend school had galvanized the civil rights movement,

Their decision to enroll despite the dangers, backed by the federal show of force, made it clear throughout the nation that the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education would be enforced.

But off the podium here, in private conversations, there was also concern that their achievements had been in part undone by other social changes. Many school districts around the country, for instance, are becoming more segregated along racial lines.

"The forces that resisted the desegregation of Little Rock have never stopped fighting," Jesse L. Jackson said. "Those who rejected the dream are still rejecting the dream."

With the growth of private religious academies, vouchers and charter schools, Jackson said, black and white students are less likely to attend school together. He noted the difficulties of integrating schools when whites leave urban areas, leaving behind what he called "the hole in the doughnut."

"Anything other than have people send their kids where whites and blacks are together," he said.

His observations are borne out in Little Rock and elsewhere in the United States by statistics from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The high point of desegregation in the Little Rock School District came in 1980, when the average black student attended a school that was 50 percent white. Today, the average black student attends a school that is 20 percent white.

"There's been a huge decline -- it takes us back to the kinds of numbers we had in the late '60s," said Gary Orfield, a professor of education at UCLA.

The student body at Little Rock Central High School is 53 percent black and 40 percent white.

Orfield attributed the change in Little Rock's school district to decades of court rulings and other changes that, as of June, restrict school districts in considering race for school attendance plans.

"Little Rock is in the same situation that a lot of the South is," he said. "There's no court order to integrate anymore and the school board doesn't have any right to take any action to integrate based on race. It probably means it will become more segregated." . . .


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Decider Speaks: "Childrens Do Learn"

From Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Offering a grammar lesson guaranteed to make any English teacher cringe, President George W. Bush told a group of New York school kids on Wednesday: "Childrens do learn."

Bush made his latest grammatical slip-up at a made-for-TV event where he urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of his education policy, as he touted a new national report card on improved test scores.

The event drew New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plus teachers and about 20 fourth and fifth graders from P.S. 76.

During his first presidential campaign, Bush -- who promised to be the "education president" -- once asked: "Is our children learning?"

On Wednesday, Bush seemed to answer his own question with the same kind of grammatical twist.

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured," he said.

The White House opted to clean up Bush's diction in the official transcript.

Bush is no stranger to verbal gaffes. He often acknowledges he was no more than an average student in school and jokes about his habit of mangling the English language.

Just a day earlier, the White House inadvertently showed how it tries to prevent Bush from making even more slips of the tongue than he already does.

As Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, a marked-up draft of his speech briefly popped up on the U.N. Web site, complete with a phonetic pronunciation guide to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spellings Manipulates NAEP Scores to Spread Lie About NCLB

Chart from NY Times (click to enlarge).

The corporate media is already in action, printing the press releases handed them by the dissemblers in charge of handing them out from Education Department. "Test scores at all time high" the headlines scream. Yes, true, but this has happened many times over the past thirty five years, as NAEP test scores have generally trended upward since NAEP began.


What none of the Spellings spinners will talk about is the fact that growth in scores has slowed since NCLB as compared to growth before NCLB. The best media report I've seen so far is from the NY Times, and it is has its weaknesses.


Here's the straight dope from FairTest:

NAEP DATA CONTRADICT BUSH ADMINISTRATION EDUCATION CLAIMS;

“NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” HAS NOT LED TO FASTER SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Bush Administration claims about the controversial “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law are undermined by data from its own Department of Education, according to an analysis of newly released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “NAEP shows educational improvement across the nation slowed significantly since NCLB went into effect,” said FairTest co-Executive Director Monty Neill. “This happened despite the fact that curriculum narrowed in many schools to little more than test preparation in reading and math”

“Gains from 2000 to 2003, before NCLB went into effect, were significantly greater than they were from 2003 to 2007, when NCLB was the law,” Neill continued. “That deflates the administration’s claims that federal law is driving school improvement. For example, black students’ 4th grade math scores jumped from 203 to 216 in the three years before NCLB took effect, then edged up to 222 from 2003 to 2007.”

FairTest also cited today's National Assessment Governing Board news release on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) score trends, which acknowledges:

- “[Mathematics] gains made since 2003 are . . . not as large as those realized during some earlier period.”

- “The average 8th-grade reading score . . . remains below the level of achievement shown in 2002.”

“The administration continues to cherry-pick test scores to defend its deeply flawed education policy,” said Neill. “There are much better ways to improve educational quality and equity. Congress should listen to the more than 140 national education, civil rights and religious organizations that have come together to call for an overall of this damaging federal law."

- - 3 0 - -

The multi-organizational statement calling for an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind” and other assessment reform materials are available at http://www.fairtest.org

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

Additional observations on NAEP grade 8 reading results - from Monty Neill

Black, white and Hispanics scores all are identical to 2002.

The black-white gap in reading is same as in 2002 (27 points) and is one point wider than in '98 - AND scores did not rise at a statistically signifcant level since '98 - 1 point for blacks, 2 points for whites.

Scores for whites and Hispanics are unchanged since 2002; but the gap then was reported as 26 points, while this year it is reported as 25 points. Scores for both groups have inched up a few points since '94, but the gap then was 24 points. The gap was 26 points in '92. Gains since '92 have been 5 points for whites and 6 points for Hispanics. At this rate, equity will never be attained and 'proficiency' will be reached in which century?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Join Us at Monmouth Sept. 27

Come one, come all to Monmouth University's Pollak Theatre this Thursday evening, 7-9 PM, for a presentation and panel discussion of the new PDK/Gallup Poll on Public Attitudes toward the Public Schools. There is no admission fee, and no reservations are required. Safe campus, lots of parking.

I will present the major findings of the poll, which will be followed by a panel discussion and questions from the audience. Of course, NCLB will be a prominent topic, but other important education issues for the American electorate will be discussed. Please bring a friend and join us.

Bob Herbert Gets Close, But Swoops On Past

This is a great piece by Bob Herbert from the Times today on the maturation (what is that smell?) of the GOP, but he, like the NAACP and the Children's Defense Fund, miss the elephantine black-bashing strategy that is the heart and soul of the GOP's darling ideological tool, NCLB: the trained subjugation of a permanent caste that is taught and trained in an anti-cultural and anti-thinking curriculum from kindergarten up.

There are many books out there, Mr. Herbert, that document this phenomenon. I would suggest Perlstein's Tested . . . as a primer, which, by the way, examines what happens as a result of NCLB in one of the most successful (makes AYP) urban schools. Read it and then imagine what happens in the ones that don't make AYP!:

I applaud the thousands of people, many of them poor, who traveled from around the country to protest in Jena, La., last week. But what I’d really like to see is a million angry protesters marching on the headquarters of the National Republican Party in Washington.

Enough is enough. Last week the Republicans showed once again just how anti-black their party really is.

The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans. Last week, the residents of Washington, D.C., with its majority black population, came remarkably close to realizing a goal they have sought for decades — a voting member of Congress to represent them.

A majority in Congress favored the move, and the House had already approved it. But the Republican minority in the Senate — with the enthusiastic support of President Bush — rose up on Tuesday and said: “No way, baby.”

At least 57 senators favored the bill, a solid majority. But the Republicans prevented a key motion on the measure from receiving the 60 votes necessary to move it forward in the Senate. The bill died.

At the same time that the Republicans were killing Congressional representation for D.C. residents, the major G.O.P. candidates for president were offering a collective slap in the face to black voters nationally by refusing to participate in a long-scheduled, nationally televised debate focusing on issues important to minorities.

The radio and television personality Tavis Smiley worked for a year to have a pair of these debates televised on PBS, one for the Democratic candidates and the other for the Republicans. The Democratic debate was held in June, and all the major candidates participated.

The Republican debate is scheduled for Thursday. But Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have all told Mr. Smiley: “No way, baby.”

They won’t be there. They can’t be bothered debating issues that might be of interest to black Americans. After all, they’re Republicans.

This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush — they all ran with that lousy pack.

Dr. Carolyn Goodman, a woman I was privileged to call a friend, died last month at the age of 91. She was the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three young civil rights activists shot to death by rabid racists near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964.

Dr. Goodman, one of the most decent people I have ever known, carried the ache of that loss with her every day of her life.

In one of the vilest moves in modern presidential politics, Ronald Reagan, the ultimate hero of this latter-day Republican Party, went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 in that very same Philadelphia, Miss. He was not there to send the message that he stood solidly for the values of Andrew Goodman. He was there to assure the bigots that he was with them.

“I believe in states’ rights,” said Mr. Reagan. The crowd roared.

In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

In 1991, the first President Bush poked a finger in the eye of black America by selecting the egregious Clarence Thomas for the seat on the Supreme Court that had been held by the revered Thurgood Marshall. The fact that there is a rigid quota on the court, permitting one black and one black only to serve at a time, is itself racist.

Mr. Bush seemed to be saying, “All right, you want your black on the court? Boy, have I got one for you.”

Republicans improperly threw black voters off the rolls in Florida in the contested presidential election of 2000, and sent Florida state troopers into the homes of black voters to intimidate them in 2004.

Blacks have been remarkably quiet about this sustained mistreatment by the Republican Party, which says a great deal about the quality of black leadership in the U.S. It’s time for that passive, masochistic posture to end.

Gates Spews--Bracey Responds

From HuffPost:

After Bill Gates spoke to the National Governors Association in February, 2005, I wrote "You Bill Gates! If You're So Rich How Come You Ain't Smart?" To me, Gates' speech was just another illustration that when experts in one field speak out in another, they can say some really stupid things. No one would publish my screed. Maybe it just wasn't well written.

But Gates is at it again. Saying really dumb things. This time in the September 23 edition of Parade. I don't generally read Parade because I think it is generally garbage and it has a long history of saying nasty and erroneous things about public schools. But my wife peruses it and I had to listen to her read out loud the very short piece that is not headed with a by-line. I suppose the author was embarrassed.

Gates is quotes as saying "Testing is the only objective measurement of our students. It's incredible that we have not national standard." Testing is not "objective" when different students have different opportunities to learn what's on the tests. Why is it incredible that we have no national standard? Remember "Only in America?" It used to be a statement of pride that we did things different from the rest of the world. National standards in and of themselves mean nothing. A study of the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study in 1995 found that in math, 8 of the 10 highest scoring nations had centralized curricula and national standards. But so did 8 of the 10 lowest scoring nations. In science 8 of the 10 highest scoring nations had national standards, but so did 9 of the 10 lowest scoring countries.

He says that the 20% of U. S. students who take honors classes and go to college get an education as good as any in the world. "It's the other 80% where the U. S. is weak." Where on earth does he get these figures? There are no data looking at college education across nations. And if only 20% of our kids were getting good college education, why would millions of students flock to American universities. Why would everyone consider them the best in the world? A ranking from Shanghai Jiao Tong University placed 19 U. S. colleges in the top 25 (along with only 3 from the U. K., 2 in Japan and one in Canada).

"When we gave up phonics, we destroyed the reading ability of kids." Not even the National Reading Panel, which went too far towards phonics, went that far. Those of us who learned to read before we started school...well, I guess we couldn't have done that, huh, Bill? (There are many documented cases of people learning to read without instruction).

He says we should end the disparities between urban and suburban high schools. Well I'm all for that and he's at least put his money where his mouth is there, but he doesn't really say what he means. Test scores, I guess.

But you have to wonder about Gates. He must giggle every time he enters his 11,500 square foot house. He's smart enough to know he's pulled off one of the great scams ever. If GM, Ford or Chrysler had marketed a product as lousy as Windows, they'd have long since been bankrupt. The "Bill Gates Wealth Clock" is no longer functioning because something is wrong with the real-time data suppliers, but when I wrote my last book in 2006, the clock registered $65 billion (the URL is here when it functions).

The Parade article observes that it's been two years since Gates made his grim predictions about the economic decline of the U. S. if our schools didn't shape up. And indeed, since then, we have fallen from first to 6th in the annual Global Competitiveness Ranking from the World Economic Forum. But it's a funny thing. If you read their explanation of why we've slumped you end up with only two words: Bush policies (new rankings will be out in a month or two).

What does Gates mean by ending that disparity of urban and suburban schools? It means making them all "non-profit" charter schools so that corporations can use them for tax credits, turn teaching into temporary internships, use tests to determine moves from grade to grade, create a national database that tracks ALL children, and eliminate the need for that transitional phase of school to work by turning school INTO work.

Monday, September 24, 2007

When Russian Othodox Freedom Looks Like American Christian Hegemony

From the NYTimes:

KOLOMNA, Russia — One of the most discordant debates in Russian society is playing out in public schools like those in this city not far from Moscow, where the other day a teacher named Irina Donshina set aside her textbooks, strode before her second graders and, as if speaking from a pulpit, posed a simple question:

“Whom should we learn to do good from?”

“From God!” the children said.

“Right!” Ms. Donshina said. “Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not! He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”

Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return of religion to public life, localities in Russia are increasingly decreeing that to receive a proper public school education, children should be steeped in the ways of the Russian Orthodox Church, including its traditions, liturgy and historic figures.

The lessons are typically introduced at the urging of church leaders, who say the enforced atheism of Communism left Russians out of touch with a faith that was once at the core of their identity.

The new curriculum reflects the nation’s continuing struggle to define what it means to be Russian in the post-Communist era and what role religion should play after being brutally suppressed under Soviet rule. Yet the drive by a revitalized church to weave its tenets into the education system has prompted a backlash, and not only from the remains of the Communist Party.

Opponents assert that the Russian Orthodox leadership is weakening the constitutional separation of church and state by proselytizing in public schools. They say Russia is a multiethnic, pluralistic nation and risks alienating its large Muslim minority if Russian Orthodoxy takes on the trappings of a state religion.

The church calls those accusations unfounded, maintaining that the courses are cultural, not religious.

In Ms. Donshina’s class at least, the children seem to have their own understanding of a primary theme of the course. “One has to love God,” said Kristina Posobilova. “We should believe in God only.”

The dispute came to a head recently when 10 prominent Russian scientists, including two Nobel laureates, sent a letter to President Vladimir V. Putin, protesting what they termed the “growing clericalization” of Russian society. In addition to criticizing religious teachings in public schools, the scientists attacked church efforts to obtain recognition of degrees in theology, and the presence of Russian Orthodox chaplains in the military.

Local officials carry out education policy under Moscow’s oversight, with some latitude. Some regions require the courses in Russian Orthodoxy, while others allow parents to remove their children from them, though they rarely, if ever, do. Other areas have not adopted them.

Mr. Putin, though usually not reluctant to overrule local authorities, has skirted the issue. He said in September that he preferred that children learn about religion in general, especially four faiths with longstanding ties to Russia — Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. But the president, who has been photographed wearing a cross and sometimes attends church services and other church events, did not say current practices should be scaled back. . . .


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Recalling the Lead-lined Chinese Lunch Tote

Adding lead to paint helps the paint dry faster. The Market made them do it--it wasn't Chairman Mao. That's what I call trading one totalitarian system for another without missing a sale. Wonder if the State of California will apologize to the Chinese like Mattel did. From the LATimes:

The hundreds of thousands of lunchboxes given away by state health officials were designed to promote healthful habits, bearing slogans such as "Eat Fruits & Vegetables and Be Active." Just one problem: At least some of them were made with unhealthful levels of lead.
The California Department of Public Health said Thursday that it was recalling 300,000 green and blue canvas lunch coolers made in China and distributed throughout the state at health fairs and other events since 2004.

"It's unfortunate that an item we're using hopefully to promote healthy behavior is discovered itself to be a potential health hazard," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the state's public health department and a pediatrician. "Kids have a habit of putting their hands in their mouth a lot, and the food inside the lunchbox possibly could be contaminated."

The recall underscores the difficulty of ensuring the safety of millions of products produced around the world and sold -- or given away -- in the United States. A wave of high-profile toy recalls this year, including millions of Mattel Inc. products containing lead paint, spurred manufacturers and retailers to implement new controls. The problem with lead in consumer products, however, goes beyond one industry, activists say.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the lead-tainted lunchboxes, California health officials said. But no exposure to lead is considered safe.

Lead is particularly dangerous to the developing brains and nervous systems of children. Exposure, usually as a result of deteriorating old paint in a home, can affect a child's learning ability, hearing, height, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract and, in larger doses, can cause seizures, coma and death.

Children deficient in iron and other key nutrients are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. Many of the now-recalled lunchboxes went to low-income Californians, including recipients of food stamps.

The recall includes 56,000 dark-green canvas lunchboxes with Spanish and English versions of the "Eat Fruits & Vegetables" logo. State health officials were alerted to the problem after technicians from the Sacramento County Health Department, doing a spot check in late July, found elevated lead levels.

Subsequent tests by the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control found that multiple parts of the boxes, such as the vinyl lining, contained lead.

The highest lead levels were found in the bag's decorative logo, a shining yellow sun and brightly colored fruits and vegetables along with the www.ca5aday.com Web address.

Horton said the tests showed lead levels "significantly above" 600 parts per million, the legal limit. One box tested at 1,700 parts per million, according to the Department of Public Health.

Although lead paint has been banned in the United States since 1978, factories in some countries have used lead as an inexpensive way to, among other things, make paint dry faster and last longer. . . .

Protecting Families of the Jena 6, Or Just Another Blanco Stare

Blanco wants to investigate, while the crackers are ready to drag bodies. Who will the Administration send this time to neglect Louisiana citizens?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The FBI is reviewing a white supremacist Web site that purports to list the addresses of five of the six black teenagers accused of beating a white student in Jena and "essentially called for their lynching," an agency spokeswoman said Saturday.

Sheila Thorne, an agent in the FBI's New Orleans office, said authorities were reviewing whether the site breaks any federal laws. She said the FBI had "gathered intelligence on the matter," but declined to further explain how the agency got involved.

CNN first reported Friday about the Web site, which features a swastika, frequent use of racial slurs, a mailing address in Roanoke, Va., and phone numbers purportedly for some of the teens' families "in case anyone wants to deliver justice." . . . .


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Laura Bush on NCLB: "The test isn't really punitive"

Hoping to convince America to re-up for the continuing war against public education, the White House has brought out, by far, its most likable recruiter to put that buttery school marm spin on the horrid fact that parents are expected to sacrifice their children to another six years of educational genocide:

"The test isn't really punitive, it's not to punish people," the first lady said this week. "It's just to find out what the problems are. It's like, you wouldn't go to your doctor and say, 'Tell me what's wrong with me but you can't run any tests.' The outcry against the tests, to me, just seems really silly."
Laura, Laura, Laura. First off, your metaphor is lost on the poor people you are hoping to sway, since most of them don't have doctors. They have emergency rooms. If they did have doctors, I doubt that it would the kind of doctor who decides to remove a vital organ when the test shows the patient is sick, who calls up every day to threaten more organ removal if recovery isn't quick, and who repeats the same test-organ removal process regardess of how much the patient has tried to get well.

As part of their campaign, Bush and Spellings discussed the education bill in a rare, invitation-only briefing this week with female White House reporters. And Spellings is on a bus tour of the Midwest, highlighting back-to-school issues and the No Child Left Behind debate.

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, she sang a chorus of Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered — an anthem, perhaps, for the White House's hopes on the bill.


Or perhaps an indictment? Or impeachment articles?


Friday, September 21, 2007

John Edwards Offers Detailed, Sane Education Plan

Issued today, this Edwards plan is the most impressive of all the presidential wannabes. And it actually has references, which is totally unheard of.

Here is one clip of the plan:
Making Every School an Outstanding School

Every child in America should have the chance to attend an outstanding public school that has high expectations for every child. Children need to master both basic skills in reading, writing and math and advanced thinking skills like creativity, analytic thinking and using technology. We cannot tolerate the benign neglect of our schools. No Child Left Behind has lost its way by imposing cheap standardized tests, narrowing the curriculum at the expense of science, history, and the arts and mandating unproven cookie-cutter reforms on schools. As a result, it has lost the support of teachers, principals, and parents, whose support is needed for any reform to succeed.

John Edwards believes that we need to overhaul No Child Left Behind to center our schools around children, not tests, and help struggling schools, not punish them. He will:

Overhaul No Child Left Behind: The law must be radically changed to live up to its goal of helping all children learn at high levels, accurately identifying struggling schools, and improving them. Its sole reliance on standardized, primarily multiple choice reading and math tests has led schools to narrow the curriculum. Its methodology for identifying failing school can be arbitrary and unfair. And it imposes mandatory, cookie-cutter reforms on these schools without any evidence they work. Edwards supports:

Better tests: Rather than requiring students to take cheap standardized tests, Edwards believes that we must invest in the development of higher-quality assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills, including open-ended essays, oral examinations, and projects and experiments.

Broader measures of school success: Edwards believes that the law should consider additional measures of academic performance. The law should also allow states to track the growth of students over time, rather than only counting the number of students who clear an arbitrary bar, and give more flexibility to small rural schools.

More flexibility: Edwards will give states more flexibility by distinguishing between schools where many children are failing and those where a particular group is falling behind. He will also let states implement their own reforms in underperforming schools when there is good reason to believe that they will be at least equally effective.

Launch a “Great Schools” Initiative to Build and Expand 1,000 Successful Schools: Across America, there are public schools that are helping children from all backgrounds succeed, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, small schools, and other models. Edwards will help 250 schools a year expand or start new branches. Federal funds will support new buildings, excellent teachers, and other needs. Among the schools he will support are:

Small schools: Small high schools create stronger communities, reducing adolescent anonymity and alienation and encouraging teachers to work together. At 47 new small high schools recently opened in New York City, graduation rates are substantially higher than the citywide average. Communities can establish multiple schools within an existing facility, build new schools, and reopen old facilities. [Aspen Institute, 2001; N.Y. Times, 6/30/2007]

Early college high schools: High schools on college campuses let students earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree (or two years of transfer credit) in only five years. In North Carolina, Governor Mike Easley’s Learn and Earn initiative raises rigor and aspirations, reduces tuition costs, and relieves overcrowded college campuses. [American Institutes for Research and SRI International, 2007; Easley, 2007]

Economically integrated schools: While income diversity is not a substitute for racial diversity, low-income students perform best when in middle-class schools where they are more likely to have experienced teachers and classmates with high aspirations. States can build magnet schools in low-income communities and create incentives for middle-class schools to enroll more low-income children. [Kahlenberg, 2007; Harris, 2006; NY Times, 7/15/05]

Create a School Success Fund to Turn Around Struggling Schools: Improving our worst schools is going to take more than federal mandates of unproven remedies; it will require a serious commitment of resources. A new School Success Fund will:

Let experts design and implement reforms: Based on North Carolina’s successful reform, Edwards will ask teams of experienced educators to spend a year at struggling schools helping start reforms. These educators will tailor comprehensive solutions to each school, rather than adopting silver bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions.

Provide resources to implement them: Some schools need more resources to help their children succeed. The School Success Fund will target resources to the neediest schools. Resources will be available to recruit new school leadership and a core of excellent teachers, reduce class sizes, duplicate proven models, strengthen the curriculum, and other reforms.

Emphasize extra learning time: Due to our 180-day school year, American children spend much less time in class than their foreign competitors. Many other countries have 25 percent more instructional time, which adds up to more than two years by the end of high school. When combined with making better use of learning time and designed with educators, longer school days and years create new opportunities for children to master the basics and a broader curriculum. [ED in 08, 2007; Zimmerman, 1998; CAP, 2006]

Establish stronger academic and career curricula: The rigor of high school classes is the number-one predictor of college success. Even students who do not go to college need strong math and reading skills in the workplace. Edwards believes that all schools – even those in small, isolated, and high-poverty areas – should have access to challenging Advanced Placement courses. And he will support partnerships between high schools and community colleges to help high school students get the training they need for the good jobs where skilled workers are in short supply today. [US Department of Education, 1997; ACT, 2006; ED in 08, 2007]

More Resources for Poor and Rural Schools: Four out of five urban school districts studied nationally spend more on low-poverty schools than on high-poverty schools. Rural schools enroll 40 percent of American children – including most children in Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina – but receive only 22 percent of federal education funding. Edwards will increase federal Title I funding and dedicate the increases to low-income schools and districts and rewarding states that distribute funding where it is needed most to increase learning. He will also invest in distance education and cutting-edge software to bring the promise of new learning technologies to remote areas. [NASBE, 2003; Rural School and Community Trust, 2007; Digital Promise, 2003]

Meet the Promise of Special Education: More than thirty years ago, Congress committed to fund 40 percent of the excess cost of educating children with disabilities, but it provides less than half that amount. George Bush has proposed a $300 million cut. Edwards opposes the Bush cuts and supports getting on a path toward meeting the federal promise. [Committee for Education Funding, 2007]

Raise Graduation Rates: Almost a third of all students drop out of school before earning a high school diploma, and rates among children of color or from low-income families are higher. At nearly 2,000 high schools nationwide – called “dropout factories” – more than 40 percent of students won't graduate. Edwards will create multiple paths to graduation such as Second Chance schools for former dropouts and smaller alternative schools for at-risk students. He will focus on identifying at-risk students and support the Striving Readers literacy program and one-on-one tutoring to keep them in school. Edwards will also fund additional guidance counselors in high-poverty schools. [Baron, 2005; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007; Balfranz and Legters, 2004; NCES, 2004]

Support High School Service Programs: The energy and enthusiasm of high school students who want to make their community and their country a better place to live. One type of service program, service-learning, has been shown to have positive impacts on students’ civic engagement, college enrollment, career development, and personal relationships. Nearly half of school-age children lack the activities and role models that are opportunities to make a difference through helping others. Edwards will create a Community Corps service programs for high school students. It will provide resources to high schools that choose to make community service a graduation requirement, helping them make service opportunities higher in quality and integrate them into the curriculum. [NYLC, 2006; America’s Promise Alliance, undated] . . . .

Mychal Bell Still Jailed and More Nooses Appear

Apparently, there is some work remaining to be done in Jena and in other racist strongholds across Louisiana:

Mychal Bell, one of the so-called 'Jena 6,' apparently will not be released from juvenile detention today. Bell attended a hearing in juvenile court in Jena, La., this afternoon, one day after a massive civil rights protest in the town involving the arrest of six black teens for the alleged beating of a white teen.

From the AP: Lawyers would not comment because juvenile court proceedings are secret. But the father of one of Bell's codefendants said Bell's bail request was denied. Bell's mother left the courthouse in tears and refused to comment.

Meanwhile, rednecks near Alexandria were arrested after driving around with extension cord nooses hanging from the tailgate of their pickup truck:

ALEXANDRIA, Louisiana (CNN) -- Authorities in Alexandria, Louisiana, arrested two people after nooses were seen hanging from the back of a red pickup Thursday night, the city's mayor told CNN.

A photograph taken by I-Reporter Casanova Love shows a noose hanging from a red pickup.

Alexandria is less than an hour away from Jena, Louisiana, and was a staging area Thursday for protesters who went to the smaller town to demonstrate against the treatment of six black teens known as the "Jena 6" in racially charged incidents.

Police say the 18-year-old driver of the truck was charged with driving while intoxicated and inciting to riot and also may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- the 16-year-old passenger.

As police were questioning the driver, he said he had an unloaded rifle in the back, which police found. They also found a set of brass knuckles in the cup holder on the dashboard, according to the police report.

The passenger told police he and his family are in the Ku Klux Klan, the police report said. He also said he had tied the nooses and that the brass knuckles belonged to him, the report said. Video Watch what police found on the truck »

At least one of the nooses was made out of an extension cord, according to the police report.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy said those arrested were "from around Jena" and not in the same parish as his city.


Just Saying No to Abstinence Only Funding Is Only A Start

From the NY Times:

New York is rejecting millions of dollars in federal grants for abstinence-only sex education, the state health commissioner, Dr. Richard F. Daines, announced yesterday. The decision puts New York in line with at least 10 other states that have decided to forgo the federal money in recent years.

New York has received roughly $3.5 million a year from the federal government for abstinence-only education since 1998. The abstinence program was approved as part of welfare overhauls under the Clinton administration and was expanded and restructured under President Bush.

In a statement posted on the Health Department’s Web site, Dr. Daines said, “The Bush administration’s abstinence-only program is an example of a failed national health care policy directive.” He added that the policy was “based on ideology rather than on sound scientific-based evidence that must be the cornerstone of good public health care policy.”

The state had also spent $2.6 million annually to fund the same programs over the last decade. That money will now be spent on other existing programs for sex education, Dr. Daines said in an interview. . . .


Now if New York and other states would just say to the behavioral literacy training that the lead quacks, Reid Lyon and Doug Carnine, have packaged as reading instruction for the poor, we could begin, perhaps, to repair the damage done to millions of American children who are taught how NOT to think for several hours of every day.

By the way, the other day when I was sharing with my students some of the pornographic clips from the Association for Direct Instruction website, one student commented on the ominous music behind the clinical narration. He noted that only the harmonica is missing to truly make it jailhouse-worthy. Effective Behavior Management, now that's a good one. Taking it off here, Boss!

Maybe we should send some of these videos to the ghouls in charge of Friday nite programming at the Prison Channel, MSNBC--call it Prison Prep or Carnine's Cages!! How about Reid's Redemption?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

As the Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of David Duke . . .

. . . it validates and emboldens the racists out in the heartland to come out from under their rocks and start making their ugly business. Comments here by Dr. Cornel West on the latest snub by the leading Republican presidential contenders:

The GOP debate in Baltimore at Morgan State University, led and moderated by Tavis Smiley, and currently being snubbed by the leading candidates, is a pivotal moment in this election. It is a litmus test for a Republican Party that, in the past, has run away from black voters and only selectively interacted with Hispanic citizens.

At this moment in American history, it is clear that either the Republican Party wisely embraces people of color, or it chooses to be a losing political party in the future. The courage and vision of Tavis Smiley, and his often overlooked but historic Covenant movement, has put the limelight on this dilemma of the Republican Party.

We shall see which choice the Republican Party makes in regard to people of color in particular, but most importantly to their future as a party in the American democratic experiment.


Of course, we may see Jena, Tuscaloosa, and Greene County, Georgia as blatant examples of racism rekindled in schools. Now if the tens of thousands who showed up in Jena today could take some of that energy to the U. S. Department of Education and to the U. S. Supreme Court to protest the imposition of anti-cultural and anti-thinking curriculums in the SCOTUS-sanctioned segregated public schools that have become testing chain gangs, then we might really see a new movement born for human rights, civil rights.


NCLB's Forced Failure Model Demands Civil Disobedience from Parents, Teachers, and Students


Page above (click it to enlarge) from the Forum for Educational Accountability. Below are the references to source the information for the 11 states listed above.

In the meantime, liberals are scurrying around Capitol Hill playing Let's Make a Deal with the privatizers as the future of the public education system sits on the chopping block. The latest evidence? A Feingold-Leahy proposal that keeps in place the IMPOSSIBLE PIPEDREAM of 100% proficiency if Title One is fully funded:
Addressing the 2014 Deadline – Reforms the 2014 deadline by putting in place a funding trigger that waives the 2014 deadline for any year that Congress does not fully fund Title I, Part A.
What I know and they know, as well, is that the entire Defense Budget added to Title One will not make the 2014 proficiency target any less impossible. This stipulation is simply an open invitation to charterize and voucherize K-12 education as schools continue to swoon under the unreachable goals and as the Gates-Broad movement swings into full action mode, i.e. dumping truckloads of cash into Congressional re-election offices.

Parents, teachers, and students just saying no is the only thing that will derail this bullet train.

SOURCES

California:
CA Accountability page: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ay/index.asp

Connecticut:
“Projecting AYP in Connecticut Schools” (2004)
http://www.cea.org/nclb/upload/AYPCurtisFinal.pdf
http://www.cea.org/nclb/upload/Final_AYP_Report_Feb_06.doc

Great Lakes Region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
The Impact of the Adequate Yearly Progress Requirement of the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Act on Schools in the Great Lakes Region, September 2005
http://epsl.asu.edu/epru/documents/EPSL-0509-109-EPRU.pdf

Additional information for Illinois:
http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/ilcsa.pdf
. Fig. 4 on page 14

Additional information for Minnesota:
Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota. (February 26, 2004).
http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/2004/0404/v3_document.htm
http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/Ped/2004/pe0404.htm

Louisiana:
NCLB: A Steep Climb Ahead: A Case Study of Louisiana’s School Accountability System, Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, Inc., July 2004
http://www.la-par.org/Publications/PDF/NCLBASteepClimbAhead.pdf

Massachusetts:
Facing Reality: What happens when good schools are labeled “failures”? Projecting Adequate Yearly Progress
in Massachusetts schools. http://www.mespa.org/pdf/o5JuneAYP.pdf

Pennsylvania:
Projecting AYP Results in Pennsylvania. http://www.qualityednow.org/pdf/PA-Report2005.pdf

Forum on Educational Accountability materials are available at www.edaccountability.org.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thousands to March in Jena September 20

From Amy Goodman, reprinted at Common Dreams:
by Amy Goodman

The tree at Jena High School has been cut down, but the furor around it has only grown.

“What did the tree do wrong?” asked Katrina Wallace, a stepsister of one of the Jena Six, when I interviewed her at the Burger Barn in Jena, La. “I planted it 14 years ago as a tree of knowledge.”

It all began at the start of the school year in 2006, at a school assembly, when Justin Purvis asked if he could sit under the schoolyard tree, a privilege unofficially reserved for white students. The next morning, three nooses were hanging from its broad, leafy branches.

African-American students protested, gathering under the tree. Soon after, the district attorney, Reed Walters, came to the school with the police, threatening, “I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” Racial tensions mounted in this 85 percent white town of 4,000. In December, a schoolyard fight erupted, and the district attorney charged six African-American high school students, the soon to be dubbed Jena Six, with second-degree attempted murder.

I recently visited Billy “Bulldog” Fowler in his office. He’s a white member of the LaSalle Parish School Board. He says Jena is being unfairly painted as racist. He feels the hanging nooses were blown out of proportion, that in the high school setting it was more of a prank: “This is the Deep South, and [older] black people know the meaning of a noose. Let me tell you something-young people don’t.”

That night, I went to see the Baileys in their mobile home in Ward 10, one of the black neighborhoods in Jena. Two of the Jena Six, Robert Bailey and Theo Shaw, were ironing their clothes. I asked them what they thought when they saw the nooses. Robert immediately said: “The first thing came to mind was the KKK. I don’t know why, but that was the first thing that came to my head. I used to always think the KKK chase black people on horses, and they catch you with rope.”

Theo said he thought the students who hung the nooses “should have got expelled, cuz it wasn’t no prank. It was a threat.” School principal Scott Whitcomb thought the same. He recommended expulsion of those who hung the nooses, but the superintendent overruled him, imposing three days of suspension. Whitcomb resigned.

The African-American teens were dealt with differently. They were expelled, but appealed to the school board. The school district had conducted an investigation, but the school board was not allowed to review it. The school board’s lawyer was none other than the prosecuting district attorney, Reed Walters.

Board member Fowler recalls the January meeting: “Our legal authority that night was Mr. Walters.”

I asked, “And he told you, you couldn’t have access to the school proceedings, or the investigation?”

Fowler replied: “That’s right. [Walters said] it was a violation of something.” The board voted, without information. Fowler recalls: “It was unanimous. No, no it wasn’t. There was one board member who voted no, and that was Mr. Worthington.” Melvin Worthington, the only African-American on the school board, voted against upholding the expulsion of the black students.

Asked if he felt that Walters had a conflict of interest that night, Fowler replied, “Well, I’m assuming that Mr. Walters knows the law.”

Louisiana’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals doesn’t agree. The court just overturned Walters’ first conviction in the Jena Six case (by an all-white jury), that of Mychal Bell, ruling that he should have been tried as a juvenile. Walters pledges to challenge that ruling in the Louisiana Supreme Court, while continuing to pursue the other five prosecutions.

Bell remains in jail, where he has been since last December. Although yet to be tried, the others were jailed as well. Theo Shaw just got out earlier this summer. Imprisoned with adults who were maced repeatedly, Theo’s asthma was triggered, and he was hospitalized.

National organizations like the NAACP have called for a major march in Jena on Sept. 20, the day Bell was to be sentenced. Although his conviction has been overturned, the march will happen, with thousands expected.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in
North America.

Global Warming for Children--and Adults Who Should Know Better

From Laurie David at Huffington Post:

A global warming denier group is attacking The Down To Earth Guide to Global Warming, the new children's book I co-authored with Cami Gordon.

Our crime? It turns out one of the illustrations in the book was accidentally mislabeled. This has got the gang at the at the Science and Public Policy Instituted up in arms - or at least pretending to be -- no doubt hoping to ride our coattails, create some controversy, and promote their own new book.

Why am I not surprised? These "skeptics" have grown so predictable.

Even so, I'd like to thank the SPPI for pointing out this minor error to us. However, we have checked with climate experts who confirmed that the text accompanying the mislabeled illustration, and our description of the close relationship between CO2 and temperature, is accurate and fairly represents the current state of scientific knowledge.

Apparently the climate change "skeptics" have grown so desperate in their attempts to hide the truth from the American people that they've taken to spending hours scrutinizing a children's book, trying to marginalize the urgent information it contains about global warming. And through all their efforts, all they uncovered in a hundred pages was a single mislabeled illustration -- an illustration accompanied by accurate text. Now they've launched a full 'report' attempting to discredit the entire book, even though they can't find anything wrong with it besides the flipping of two colors on a solitary illustration.

So thanks guys! We will correct the illustration in the next edition. We're happy to learn that that was the only question SPPI had about the entire fact-filled book! The Down To Earth Guide translates complex scientific facts about global warming into language that is easily understood by kids.

I hope children of all ages read this book because, ultimately -- and unfortunately -- global warming is the grim legacy we are passing on to them.

stopglobalwarming.org

Dan Brown Knows

Highly recommended (with Perlstein's Tested. . .), especially for teacher education students where faculty know nothing of or steer clear of the realities of NCLB implementation. Review by Jude Rabin:
I just finished reading The great expectations school: A rookie year in the new blackboard jungle by Dan Brown, a 26-year-old TFA dropout who spent 1 year in the Bronx and is now enrolled at Teachers College. Anyway, here's an excerpt from his conclusion and a ray of hope that the younger folks might perhaps get it right some day:

"A clear step in the right direction would be to scrap the No Child Left Behind legislation and to pass new, progressive education laws. NCLB was conceived to hold each school accountable for its students' academic proficiency, a noble aim. However, by using standardized testing as the sole tool to calibrate success, the government has created in the school system a Frankenstein monster of compliance, with its energies devoted in all the wrong directions."

What Brown astutely recognizes, and what most Americans still fail to recognize can be found in this paragraph:

"No single line graph or shortcut can close the social-class achievement gap in America. The idea that high stakes testing will motivate positive change has rationalized massive under funding and the ignoring of the complex needs of students (art, music, and physical education are just a few). Educating the youth of America is not an endeavor that can be performed simply, or on the cheap. As things stand, the primacy of the standardized test saps the most important human elements of education, a wholly human institution."

Brown places the responsibility for improving the lives of American youth at the feet of the voters, "who must use their power to force lawmakers to recognize this issue as a priority."

There's not much new in his book that hasn't been already documented, recorded or said before about poverty and education, but his call to action and outrage over NCLB should be a call to arms for the next generation --because this one doesn't seem to get it. Delaying the date for 100%proficiency, instituting a cheap mass produced version of growth models and more databases, national standards, blah, blah, blah, really isn't the issue - now is it?

The entire discussion must move in a whole new direction and be broadened to include the bigger issues, or we will continue to see the further balkanization and segregation of our society through apartheid education. The stakes are too high to settle for a few worthless crumbs to appease the teachers unions and just postpone the day of reckoning.

KUDOS TO DAN BROWN! He can be reached at danbrownteacher@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pickets for Spellings, Miller, and Kennedy

As Susan Ohanian's caption reads: A Picture is Worth 666,483,972,618,001 Pages of Congressional Testimony.

It is time to break some No. 2 pencils and go to Washington. None of the Business Roundtable's agents on Captitol Hill want to hear anything that anyone has to say that does not agree with the bankrupt business model ideology that is driving the reauthorization of NCLB.

The inept and cowardly NEA in the meantime, with a membership of over 3 million souls, continues to work their back room deals in hopes of preserving collective bargaining rights, while children, starting with the most vulnerable, are ground up in a crucible that extrudes data, leaving behind mindless clumps who are clocking in every morning all over America to earn their Scholar Dollars and a bonus for their foremen, who once were caring and humane teachers, but who now hate their children for the failure that they are unable to correct.

Yesterday Hugo Chavez got headlines by declaring that he would insist on regulation of private schools to make make sure their curriculums encourage critical thinking, critical of capitalism, no doubt. The gringo press shouted, SOCIALIST INDOCTRINATION. At least Hugo so far is allowing the distinction between public and private to remain, rather than working to erase the boundaries with corporate-inspired "public" charter schools that become tax havens for those same corporations who are marketing their wares through those same schools.

And at least Hugo (so far) is encouraging some kind of thinking, directed as it may be, rather than the imposition of mind-blotting math and reading curriculums whose main attraction by those who push them is the total passivity that it breeds among the poor and the disenfranchised who become their victims. Reid Lyon and Doug Carnine are much more interested in neuronal switches that control behavior in young children than they are in imagination, understanding, and knowledge.

And none of these issues is of any concern for the dollar-bloated pols in Washington or the corporate media who present the education agendas of the conservative think tanks,
whose remaining good intentions have been washed away by the flood of money that is required to remain in power. Instead, they talk about bonus pay for teachers in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty and public neglect, where you can't find health care, a good job, or even a decent grocery store. Merit pay for our meritocracy, hear, hear!!

Civil disobedience by parents, teachers, and students is the only tactic that will stop this dollar-stuffed juggernaut. It is time to JUST SAY NO THE CONTINUING CHILD ABUSE, PARENT ABUSE, AND TEACHER ABUSE.

The children, the teachers, and parents are not the failures. Their only failure is allowing the continuation of a failed system. It's time for change.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

Michael Martin's summary of the PDK/Gallup Poll:

* 67% of parents graded their local school an "A" or "B" in 2007 compared to 64% in 2006.
* 60% agreed "most public school students leave high school adequately prepared for college."
* The "biggest problem" facing schools is lack of funding.
* 40% had a negative view of NCLB, while only 31% had a favorable view
* Those claiming no opinion on NCLB declined from 69% in 2003 to 29% in 2007 with 27 of that 40 point change becoming negative.
* 48% are concerned that NCLB is reducing the teaching of "science, health, social studies, and the arts."
* only 27% supported "finding an alternative to the existing public school system."
* only 39% supported vouchers for private schools.
* two-thirds of the public and 70% of public school parents opposed having "private profit-making corporations" run local schools.
* 59% of the public and 57% of public school parents opposed having local mayors take over schools.
* 52% of parents felt "there is too much emphasis on achievement testing" in 2007 compared with only 32% in 2002, and 16 of that 20 point change previously felt it was "about right."
* 62% said that the current emphasis on standardized tests was a "bad thing" because it encouraged teachers to teach to the tests. Only 39% of parents were concerned about this in 2003.
* 82% prefer a measure of student improvement, rather than whether students pass a test, as the best way to measure school performance.
* 73% said they were "not willing" to have their child attend a virtual high school over the internet.
* 85% said it was important for children to learn a foreign language (but not necessarily in school).
* 79% think that English Language Learners should not have their scores counted in measuring school performance until after they pass an English proficiency test.
* 78% of public school parents said that Special Education students should not be required to meet the same academic standards as other students.

Michael T. Martin
Research Analyst
Arizona School Boards Association

Resegregationists on the Move in the New Old South

Following the Roberts Court's repudiation of Brown v Board of Education, a closeted generation of racists has begun crawling out from under their rocks to pick up where they left off in 1954.

The NYTimes has found a prime example of emboldened segregationists in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where "color-blindness" has not been such a black and white issue since the heyday of Gov. George Wallace.

But this is not segregation, the No Excuses segregationists rebel-yell back, but, rather, efficient use of limited economic resources. And if these Negro children don't like going to a segregated school, then they can apply for a transfer under that 21st Century Civil Rights Act, NCLB, whose mandated reporting of test scores has already driven real estate prices even lower in poor neighborhoods--thus making them undesirable for blacks and whites, alike.

What a savior that NCLB is, allowing as it does the transfer of the most able and informed students from these poor and getting poorer schools, and leaving behind deepening encampments of the disenfranchised and demoralized. And what gated lake community needs that type of pollution added to the healthy school climates that these white parents have worked so hard to create. Really, the nerve of you, madam!!

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

Tuscaloosa, where George Wallace once stood defiantly in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, also has had a volatile history in its public schools. Three decades of federal desegregation marked by busing and white flight ended in 2000. Though the city is 54 percent white, its school system is 75 percent black.

The schools superintendent and board president, both white, said in an interview that the rezoning, which redrew boundaries of school attendance zones, was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding. By optimizing use of the city’s 19 school buildings, the district saved taxpayers millions, officials said. They also acknowledged another goal: to draw more whites back into Tuscaloosa’s schools by making them attractive to parents of 1,500 children attending private academies founded after court-ordered desegregation began.

“I’m sorry not everybody is on board with this,” said Joyce Levey, the superintendent. “But the issue in drawing up our plan was not race. It was how to use our buildings in the best possible way.” Dr. Levey said that all students forced by the rezoning to move from a high- to a lower-performing school were told of their right under the No Child law to request a transfer. . . .


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spellings vs. the Facts (Bilingual Edition)

With her Bachelors Degree in Poli Sci and her on-the-job training as Lead Deconstructor of Public Education, Spellings continues to demonstrate that there is no niche of educational policy that is safe from that painfully familiar Bush brand of swaggering ignorance and grinny denial of the facts.

If she had ever bothered to consult the scientifically-based research that her own Department insists upon when it is in their ideological interests to do so, Spellings would have found ample empirical evidence to support a conclusion contrary to the right-wing ruling of her gut, prominent though it surely is.

The subject this time: English language learners. Ed Week's Mary Ann Zehr has this:

I raised this issue when blogging that U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has objected to a provision in the House Education and Labor Committee's "discussion draft" for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act involving English-language learners. The provision would permit school districts to give ELLs state tests in their native languages for up to five years, with the option of extending that time for two more years on a case-to-case basis. "That's simply too long," Ms. Spellings wrote in a letter to leaders of the committee, and added that the provision would provide an incentive to "slow down" the learning of English rather than speed it up. Now, states can give students tests in their native languages for three years, with an option of extending that time for two additional years.

Some people in the field think extending the amount of time for students to take native-language tests will encourage more school districts to offer bilingual education. The secretary's comment prompts me to speculate that by saying that permitting the use of native-language tests for many years is a disincentive to speed up the learning of English, she is also meaning to imply that providing bilingual education for a long time may "slow down" the learning of English.

I might be wrong to make such an assumption but, regardless, I put the following question to two experts in the field: Is the learning of English by students slowed down by some kinds of bilingual education?

Both researchers agree that English-language learners in grades 1-3 taking bilingual education may not test as well on an English test as ELLs in English-only programs, but by the end of elementary school, the scores on English tests even out.

Here's an excerpt from an answer by Deborah Palmer, an assistant professor of bilingual/bicultural education at the University of Texas, Austin: "Kids in bilingual programs often don't test in English in the early elementary grades as [well as] kids in English-only programs, but those test scores even out by 4th or 5th grade, and bilingual education kids will stay higher over the long term, into middle and high school, and be more successful academically in English and other areas. English-only/English-as-a-second-language instructed kids, meanwhile, tend to lose ground after 3rd grade, and show a flat or even downward trend in test scores in middle and high school. I'm referring here to two large-scale studies: Ramirez et. al. (1992) and Thomas and Collier (2003)."

Donna Christian, the president of the Center for Applied Linguistics, got some input from researchers at her center and responded with the following comments:

"I assume that 'learning of English' includes oral language and literacy (and probably learning of academic content through English). ... It's not accurate to say that the learning of English is slowed down because students are learning two languages at the same time. The students who are becoming bilingual may be on a slightly different trajectory in their English-language development than their English-only peers or their English-language-learner peers who are receiving instruction all in English. ... Our research in two-way immersion programs shows that ELLs who begin the program by 1st grade are quite proficient in oral English by 3rd grade. Literacy skills in English show a lot of variation, some of which relates to the grade level at which literacy instruction begins in the program."

"...In the early years of elementary school (grades K-3), ELL students who learn through two languages may score lower on English-medium tests than students who are instructed only through English; however, by the end of elementary school, ELL students in two-way and developmental programs tend to score at least as high as, and often higher than, ELL students who learn through English only. By the time students are in middle school, ELL students in dual-language programs tend to achieve at higher levels than students who only study through English. So not only do ELL students in dual-language programs achieve as well in English as their ELL peers who study only in English, but unlike most of their peers, they can read, write, and speak in their native language as well."

(Ms. Christian clarifies in her e-mail that she's referring to the kind of bilingual programs that provide instruction in two languages through elementary school. Those programs differ from transitional bilingual education programs, which typically move children into full-time English instruction after a few years of bilingual education.) . . . .