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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michelle Rhee In Black Astride Her Broom--Hmm

Time Magazine now joins Newsweek and Bill Gates's $3 billion in blasting away at the due process and collective bargaining rights of teachers, while pumping the brass knucks approach to charter reform schools that has made Michelle Rhee the cover girl for the anti-public-education movement. This week's salvo from Time pulls out the big guns, with senior writer, Amanda Ripley assigned the duty of creating a major piece of teacher bashing and public school castigation.

Predictably, Ripley begins with same lies that mainstream corporate media have been using since Ronald Reagan came to town:
The U.S. spends more per pupil on elementary and high school education than most developed nations. Yet it is behind most of them in the math and science abilities of its children. Young Americans today are less likely than their parents were to finish high school. This is an issue that is warping the nation's economy and security, and the causes are not as mysterious as they seem. The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research. And Washington, which spends more money per pupil than the vast majority of large districts, is the problem writ extreme, a laboratory that failure made.
Or is that a failure that Ripley made with her lazy and biased generalizations that are not supported by anything more than the media mythology she inherits from her privatization preferring predecessors. If Ripley were to look beyond the talking points prepared for her by pay-based-on-test-scores advocate and Hoover Fellow, Eric Hanushek, she would see that it is not teacher rights that are eating away DC Schools nearly so much as it is a long-standing malignant neglect and a continuing history of unaddressed poverty. If teacher job security and unions were the culprit, it seems that the suburban schools would be suffering the same as the urban schools, yes Amanda?

And yet, as the chart (click to enlarge) shows from the research by Boe and Shin from the University of Pennsylvania (published in Kappan, October 2005), white American students, when compared to the average scores from the G5 countries, are doing just swell in the international test score comparison derby. Knocking them dead, in fact. It is only when you add in the poor students scores, both brown and black, that the comparisons become usable by the school privatization crowd to perpetuate their myth of failing Amerian schools. The failure is the American failure to address the disgrace that is povety. When will the media ever include these facts in a story on American public education? Ever?

Do a little reading, Amanda Ripley, before you put the Dragon Lady up for Time's Person of the Year. It might save you some real embarrassment down the road. Here is a clip to get you started, the conclusion from the Kappan piece by Boe and Shin:
Based on our review of the results of six international achievement surveys conducted from 1991 to 2001, we conclude that U.S. students have generally performed above average in comparisons with students in other industrialized nations. Certainly there is variability in performance, with the U.S. scoring above average in reading and civics, average in science, and somewhat below average in mathematics. But even in mathematics at the middle and secondary levels, the U.S. did not perform “poorly.” On the positive side, U.S. aggregate scores were above average in all subjects at the elementary levels and in reading and civics across grade levels.

How then can we explain the common perception that the U.S. generally performs poorly in the international achievement horse race? There are several plausible reasons for this, all of which might be partly correct. First, many consumers of comparative achievement statistics simply are not aware of the results of the full array of surveys that have been conducted in recent years. This may be due, in part, to the selective reporting of bad news and neglect of good news common to the press.23We hope the results reported here will provide more comprehensive factual information on which anyone can base generally valid conclusions about the achievement of U.S. students in international comparisons.

Second, it may be that others are aware of the achievement results of the full array of surveys but simply view average results as poor because they expect the U.S. to be “first in the world” academically, as it is in economic strength and military power. In this view, anything less than first place is regarded as a poor performance. Some actually might have taken seriously the political hype represented in the able public monopoly that must be privatized as much and as quickly as possible. The biased selection of evidence is not a surprising or uncommon strategy for advocates of a particular cause and may have strong policy and political impact.26

Is it reasonable to expect that in the next few decades U.S. student achievement in mathematics and science will improve to the point where assessment scores are substantially and consistently well above average? Regardless of current efforts to improve public school outcomes, this seems most unlikely. At best, we can hope for incremental improvement such as that which seems to have occurred in recent years based on our results in comparison with international surveys administered before 1991.27

A major impediment to higher average achievement scores in the U.S. is the performance of its black and Hispanic students. The achievement gap goes back decades and is not closing rapidly (if at all). Moreover, demographic trends exacerbate the impact of the achievement gap on U.S. mean achievement scores. In 1991, the population of public school students was 70% white and 26% black and Hispanic. By the year 2000, black and Hispanic students represented about 34% of the student population, a stunning growth of 8% during a 10-year period (or growth of nearly 1% per year).28 If the achievement gap remains constant, we can predict that U.S. mean scores will decline as the minority population increases as a percentage of the total.

This article should not be read as a defense of the status quo or an apology for inadequacies in U.S. public education. There is always room for improvement. In fact, all nations seem to be displeased with their education systems and levels of attainment. In the mid-1990s, the OECD sponsored an international study of innovative methods in mathematics and science instruction in 23 nations.29One of the interesting findings was that none of these nations, including some that performed well above average in the international horse race, was satisfied with their mathematics and science teaching and learning. All were striving to improve, just as the U.S. has been — especially since the release of A Nation at Risk in 1983.

In recent years, the U.S. has not performed “poorly” in international comparisons in a statistical sense. Consequently, an allegation of poor performance should not be used to tarnish the constructive work of the majority of public educators and the genuine attainments of U.S. students. Nonetheless, the public and policy makers should continue to expect and demand improvements in instruction from educators and the educational system and improvements in learning from students — especially in those subjects and grade evels where student achievement plainly lags. Likewise, the public and policy makers should give credit where due and recognize genuine achievements in providing effective instruction by educators and in effective learning by students.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Charter School Study: Will the Obama Team Read It?

Minnesota has been doing charter schools for a long time. They were first in the nation to pass a charter school law in 1991. So a new study by the University of Minnesota's Institute on Race and Poverty, editorialized yesterday in the Star-Tribune, carries with it some weight. It cannot be dismissed by the edu-entrepreneurs and charter corporations as a swipe at a new phenomenon that has not had time to mature. This study was conducted at ground zero of the charter movement, where nearly two decades of experimentation with an idea and an institution offer compelling reasons to stop digging, come back to ground level, and try to fill in the hole.

The study, “Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in Twin Cities,” offers compelling data to cause the Obama folks to rethink their rationale for supporting charters, i. e., they will make public schools stronger through competition:
The study finds that rather than encouraging a race to the top, charter school competition in fact promotes a race to the bottom in the traditional public school system.
And charters achieve this feat while "intensifying racial and economic segregation" and underperforming the regular public schools on test scores.

Here is the link to the pdf for Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities.

And here is the summary from IRP:
After two decades of experience, most charter schools in the Twin Cities still underperform comparable traditional public schools and intensify racial and economic segregation in the Twin Cities schools. This is the conclusion of a new report issued today by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Entitled “Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in Twin Cities,” the new study evaluates the record of charter schools in terms of academic achievement, racial and economic segregation, and their competitive impact on traditional public schools. The study finds that rather than encouraging a race to the top, charter school competition in fact promotes a race to the bottom in the traditional public school system.

“The Twin Cities is the birthplace of charter schools. Education reformers look up to Minnesota as the state with the longest track record with charter schools. But before they rush into expanding the charter sector in their states, they should take a closer look at the Twin Cities experience,” said Myron Orfield, Director of the Institute on Race and Poverty. “Rather than being a solution to the educational problems faced by low-income students and students of color, charter schools are deepening these problems.”

This reexamination of charter schools is timely. It comes as the next administration considers charter schools among the many alternatives to reform K-12 education. The study is one of very few to evaluate the academic performance of charter schools and their competitive impact on traditional public school systems within the context of racial and economic segregation.

“Research shows that students in segregated poor schools do worse than students in low-poverty schools,” said Tom Luce, one of the authors of the study and Research Director at the Institute. “Because of this, the way charter schools sort students racially and economically is likely to affect how students perform academically. This is why the report is careful to account for school characteristics when comparing achievement rates in traditional and charter schools.”

The study shows that although a few charter schools perform well on standardized tests, most offer low income parents and parents of color an inferior choice—a choice between low-performing traditional public schools and charter schools that perform even worse. The Institute’s analysis of proficiency rates in elementary schools finds that in both reading and math, a lower percentage of charter school students reached proficiency compared to students who attended comparable traditional public schools. For reading proficiency, the average difference is nearly 9 percentage points and for math it is nearly 10 percentage points.

Charter schools also perform worse than the schools participating in another public school choice program—The Choice is Yours Program. The program is based on the principle of moving low-income students to effective middle-class public schools in the suburbs. The report shows that, all else equal, suburban schools participating in the Choice is Yours Program outperform other comparable traditional public schools as well as charter schools. The clear implication is that the Choice is Yours Program provides better alternative schools than the charter system does.

“The poor performance of charter schools should not come as a surprise given how segregated they are,” said Baris Gűműş-Dawes, one of the authors of the study and a Research Fellow at the Institute. “Racially segregated schools have high concentrations of poverty. The average poverty rate in segregated schools in the Twin Cities metro is 81 percent, compared to 14 percent in predominantly white schools. Research shows that high-poverty schools are associated with a wide range of negative educational and life outcomes. Low test scores is only one of these negative outcomes. Racially-segregated schools with high student poverty rates lead to high dropout rates, low college attendance rates, low earnings later in life, and greater risk of being poor as adults.”

Racial and economic segregation in charter schools intensifies these problems in the Twin Cities. Students of color are much more likely to be in segregated settings in charter schools than in traditional schools. In 2008, 89 percent of black charter students attend school in segregated settings compared to just 38 percent of black traditional public school students in the Twin Cities metro. Similarly, Hispanics and other students of color are more than twice as likely to be in segregated settings in charter schools as in traditional public schools. Charter schools also have higher poverty rates than traditional schools—50 percent versus 22 percent in 2008; and they are more likely to be intensely poor—60 percent of them have poverty rates above 40 percent, compared to 31 percent of traditional public schools.

Even when compared to the highly segregated traditional public schools in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, charter schools are still more segregated than their traditional public school counterparts. In Minneapolis, for instance, 96 percent of all students of color who attended charter schools did so in segregated settings compared to 80 percent in traditional public schools in 2008.

In St. Paul, 88 percent of all students of color in charter schools attended segregated schools in 2008 compared to 73 percent of students of color in traditional public schools.
The presence of predominantly white charter schools with low poverty rates in St. Paul’s racially diverse school district also suggests the possibility that charter schools are facilitating white flight. Eleven percent of the district’s white students attend predominantly white charter schools in a district where there are no predominantly white traditional schools.

Charter schools in the Twin Cities metro perform worse than comparable public schools academically—measured by test scores— and socially—measured by segregation rates. “But the problem is not only with the academic and social performance of charter schools;” said Orfield “charter schools also hurt traditional public schools by triggering further segregation in the traditional public school system.”

Charter schools can compete with public schools in many ways, including areas of interest, ethnicity, risk factors or other characteristics. However, many charter schools in the Twin Cities choose to compete in ethnic niches by offering “ethno-centric” or “culture-specific” programs to their students. “We find that some school districts, in turn, are creating ‘ethno-centric’ schools and programs of their own to compete with these charter programs and to protect their ‘market share,’” said Orfield. “This is a real problem because when the niche that schools choose to compete in is an ethnic niche, it deepens segregation in the overall public school system.”

The study finds that charter school competition has deepened segregation in the traditional public school system in two important ways. First, school districts have responded to charter competition by sponsoring racially segregated and in some cases “ethno-centric” charter schools of their own. Second, districts have initiated “ethno-centric” programs within traditional public schools and have promoted “ethno-centric” magnet schools in their districts. The study concludes that “Overall, charter school competition in ethnic niches has been particularly detrimental for students of color and low-income students because this type of competition intensifies racial and economic segregation in metro schools and exiles these students to low-performing schools.”

For more information about the report, contact Barış Gűműş-Dawes:
(612) 625 2872 or bdawes@umn.edu

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aussies to Klein: Political Apparatchik, Go Home

Joel Klein is traveling Australia pumping his business solutions for schools, all courtesy of Swiss bank, UBS, which is to say, I suppose, courtesy of Swiss taxpayers, who recently provided the "world's biggest subprime loser" a multi-billion dollar bailout. One must wonder if Swiss citizens will be as interested in bailing out Raoul Weil, who was recently indicted by a Florida grand jury as "the CEO of Global Wealth Management at UBS AG for allegedly moving $20 billion out of the United States to evade income taxes for U.S. clients." Oh yes, UBS is a Partner company in the prestigious New York City Investment Fund. More on that later.

Anyway, Klein's reception has raised the ire of Australian educators concerned with the possibility that their schools could be turned in the testing hells that they read about in America. From theage.com:

EARLIER this week on ABC2, Virginia Trioli asked federal Education Minister Julia Gillard if she agreed with Rupert Murdoch, who, in his Boyer Lectures, called Australia's public education a disgrace. Murdoch had said: [Aaarrgh] "The failure of these schools is more than a waste of human promise and a drain on our future workforce, it's a moral scandal." [Aarrrgh]

"I'd have to say I think Rupert Murdoch is making a lot of sense," Gillard said. "When we look at our children in international testing compared with children around the world, what we see is two disturbing things: first, we're not getting our high-achieving students up to the best possible standard. Second, we've got a long tail of under-achievement. That is, lots of kids don't meet minimum benchmarks, and disproportionately they are the children of poor households."

The only qualification that Murdoch has to judge our schools is that he owns about 70 per cent of capital city daily newspaper circulation. When billionaire media magnates speak, the rest of us listen.

The same cannot be said for the other American citizen, New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who Gillard has brought to Australia, "impressed" by his education reforms, especially school league tables, which had produced "remarkable outcomes".

Rubbish. Internet comments on the test results show the improvement in school performance measurement comes from manipulating the tests by prepping students. Klein also makes claims about the results that cannot be supported by any fair analysis. Statisticians who have examined the results say they can be explained by random error.

Klein, a corporate lawyer and political apparatchik, is here to spruik the virtues of Gillard's wacky plan to publish a rating system for schools. Critics point out that the system, based on experience in Britain and the US, "names and shames" poorly performing schools whose output is predictable based on socio-economic background and lack of funding.

The schemes' great political virtue is that it allows governments without any real commitment to raising the standard of poorer schools to appear to be doing something. . . .

Imagine, Inc. For-Profit Charter Scammers Siphon Public Education Funds in 13 States

Earlier this month I posted on the mysterious dismissal of charter execs employed by Imagine, Inc. in Ft. Wayne.

Now the Dallas Morning News reports that, despite Texas state law that disallows for-profit outfits to receive tax dollars to operate charter schools, Imagine, Inc. has been approved by the ethically-challenged Texas Education Agency to run a school in McKinney, Texas:
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News

The Texas Education Agency last week approved the opening of a McKinney charter school run by a company that other states rejected over concern about its tax status.

The Texas board of education allowed the for-profit Imagine International Academy of North Texas to run the school even though state law allows only nonprofit organizations to open state-funded charter schools.

Imagine argued that it would use the nonprofit status of an affiliate charter school in Indiana.

State officials said the Texas attorney general reviewed the arrangement and determined that it was allowable before the school was approved.

But school officials in Florida and Nevada have raised questions about other Imagine schools, saying they have not proved they are nonprofit and that public money should not flow into for-profit hands. The company has opened dozens of schools in 13 states.

Multiple calls to the Imagine Schools Inc. headquarters in Arlington, Va., for comment were not returned.

Florida's reaction
In Florida, Imagine intended to open 15 schools.

But the company met heavy resistance from local and state education officials, and withdrew its applications. Florida education leaders questioned whether Imagine was a certified nonprofit or a business attempting to profit from public education money.

. . . . .

Ken Berger, CEO of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, said the setup skirts the rules.

"The charter seems like a shell corporation created for the for-profit corporation," he said. "It looks like they found a way around regulations."

According to the Internal Revenue Service, Imagine Schools Inc. is not a certified nonprofit – or 501c3. Ms. Brady said the company is expecting to receive the status soon. The company applied for it in November 2005.

Mr. Berger said the process should take months, not years.

Mr. Berger said it's fine for nonprofits to contract with for-profit corporations. But when most of the contract appears to be made with the same company, the relationship becomes "questionable," he said.

"It seems like they are giving oversight duty to Imagine," he said. "It seems like the tables have turned and Imagine Schools are managing them. But it certainly sounds like a questionable arrangement."
We certainly can't have oversight getting in the way of the entrepreneurial spirit. Surely Imagine, Inc. will do the right thing. Just like the Bush-controlled IRS will tell the world that Imagine, Inc. only imagines itself to be non-profit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sarah Talks Turkey

Apparently Slate has found the outtakes of the Sarah Palin interview that took place as a worker in the background slit the goozles and bled out a couple of the quivering birds down the big metal funnel.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More on Corporate Media Union Busting Efforts at CNN

From Think Progress:

In a decision made public yesterday, a judge has ordered CNN “to rehire 110 workers who were fired because they were union members. CNN also was ordered to recognize the workers’ unions, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA) locals 31 and 11.” From the AFL-CIO blog:

Judge Arthur Amchan found that CNN violated the rights of more than 250 employees at the network’s bureaus in Washington, D.C., and New York City when it ended its subcontract with Team Video Services (TVS) [in 2003-2004], whose employees were represented by NABET-CWA. He also ruled that CNN discriminated against TVS employees who wanted to continue working at CNN’s bureaus to avoid having to recognize and bargain with the union.

Ed McEwan, president of Local 11, responded, “Everyone in America should know that the network management we rely on to bring us the news are not above the illegal practices that they headline on a regular basis.”

Newsweek Tries Slop, Sleaze, and Slime To Pressure Obama on Education

If you thought the Election signaled an end to the school privatization crusade or the corporate welfare edu-schemes or the chain-ganging of urban school children, you should look no further than Newsweek's December 1 issue to see that you were very wrong.

Editor and closet neocon, Jon Meacham, has allowed in an article, commentary, ediwhorial, you tell me, that represents a shameless, slimy variety of journalistic extortion aimed at wringing support from the new Administration for the continued parasitic preying by corporations on public schools. Given the fact that the really bigtime corporate hoodlums have bankrupted the nation, the $600+ billion that Americans spend each year on education represents an even more juicy target for the testing-industrial complex and the Bush league edu-entrepreneurs.

Newsweek is playing up the stand-off between the union-busting dragonlady of DC, Michelle Rhee, and the DC teachers who are trying to hang on to due process and tenure. By presenting Rhee as the beacon of hope and the symbol of change, and not simply the freshest transplant from the corporate education hothouse of Eli Broad, Meacham and Co. obviously hope that their cynical and biased reporting will paint Mr. Obama into a corner: hope and change or more of the same?
. . . .As president, however, Obama will have a chance to greatly improve D.C. schools—and, possibly, inner-city public education across the country. The chancellor of the D.C. system, Michelle Rhee, has proposed an innovative teachers' contract that could allow her to reward the best teachers and dismiss the bad ones. Educators everywhere are watching to see what Obama says and does. If he backs Rhee's proposal, he will send a powerful signal to struggling inner-city schools that reform is possible. If he fudges or says nothing, it will be a signal that little will change for the poor and mostly black children in the capital's nearly dysfunctional apparatus. . . .
So help the poor black children, Mr. Obama, or crush the teachers' union--you have your choice--and remember--you're either with us or against us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Private Management of Schools? Maybe We Can Learn From Bush's Medicare Experiment

HT to Keith Olberman. From the New York Times, Nov. 23:
WASHINGTON — Private health insurance plans, which serve nearly a fourth of all Medicare beneficiaries, have increased the cost and complexity of the program without any evidence of improving care, researchers say in studies to be published Monday.

The studies, questioning the value of some private plans for Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers, were issued as President-elect Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats take aim at the plans and consider cutting the payments they receive.

Enrollment in private Medicare plans has nearly doubled in five years, to 10.1 million.

In one study, Marsha Gold, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, says that private Medicare Advantage plans “are now widely available nationwide,” even in rural areas, as Congress intended when it revamped the program in 2003.

But the study, to be published in the journal Health Affairs, says that 48 percent of the additional enrollment comes from a type of plan that mimics traditional Medicare and generally does little to coordinate care. Enrollment in these “private fee-for-service plans” has shot up to 2.3 million, from 26,000 in December 2003.

In a separate article, two analysts from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, Carlos Zarabozo and Scott Harrison, said that growth in private plans had driven up costs because the government pays them 13 percent more on average than what it would spend for the same beneficiaries in traditional Medicare.

The commission, an independent federal panel that advises Congress, has expressed concern about the disparity for years.

“The higher payment rates have financed what is essentially a Medicare benefit expansion for Medicare Advantage enrollees, without producing any overall savings for the Medicare program, and with increased costs borne by all beneficiaries and taxpayers,” Mr. Zarabozo and Mr. Harrison write. . . .

Nobel Winner, Mario Molina, Selected to Lead Science and Ecology Efforts

Imagine--a real scientist doing real work on global warming from inside the White House -- and with the President's permission. Dr. Molina took his PhD at Berkeley and was co-developer of the CFC ozone depletion theory in the early 1970s. He has taught at UC Irvine,UC San Diego, and at MIT. He was recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
MEXICO CITY -- Nobel Prize-winning Mexican chemist Mario Molina will be a part of the transition team of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, the scientist's assistant told Efe.

Lorena Ibarra confirmed that the scientist was invited to join Obama's work team, where he "is going to be managing everything to do with science and ecology," an offer she said he accepted by saying, "Yes, immediately."

Obama on Tuesday promised to give priority to the fight against climate change when he gets into the White House, making his commitment in a videotaped speech that was released at the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles.

Molina, who won the Nobel in chemistry in 1995, will be part of the Executive Office of the 21 leaders of the president-elect's team.

The respected scientist, an expert on climate change, earlier was a science and ecology adviser to Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

He currently lives in Mexico City, but he spends a good part of his time north of the border, teaching at the University of California San Diego and at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in the same city.

Since 2005, he has headed the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies on Energy and the Environment located in the Mexican capital. EFE

Terry Moe Is A Schmo, and the Wall Street Journal is Pathetic

What does the Wall Street Journal do in a time that one might expect the journalistic voice of Wall Street to be doing a little soul searching as their most loyal readers line up for their corporate welfare bailout billions to cover the missing money from the corrupt feeding frenzy that is now concluding the Bush years. Forget it. In today's cover-your-ass-and-change-the subject editorial, Rupert's Boys have brought in Hoover hack, Terry Moe, to lecture Mr. Obama on how he could do for American education what unrestrained greed has done for Wall Street and the American economy. Charming:
. . . . Democrats favor educational "change" -- as long as it doesn't affect anyone's job, reallocate resources, or otherwise threaten the occupational interests of the adults running the system. Most changes of real consequence are therefore off the table. The party specializes instead in proposals that involve spending more money and hiring more teachers -- such as reductions in class size, across-the-board raises and huge new programs like universal preschool. These efforts probably have some benefits for kids. But they come at an exorbitant price, both in dollars and opportunities foregone, and purposely ignore the fundamentals that need to be addressed.
This morning the headline from the front page is another $300 billion or so to cover Citi's dirty business, which is on top of the trillion+ already committed to pay for the corruption and thievery of the AIGs and the other deregulated empires of greed. Obama's entire education initiative, which includes 10 billion for universal pre-school, 11 billion for college tuition assistance, and 8 billion to boost for the poorest schools, represents less than one percent of the projected cost of the bailouts for the Wall Street scam artists. And it represents less than 10 percent of the Pentagon's weapons cost overrun for one year. Put another way, Obama's entire education plan would pay for almost twelve weeks in Iraq.

I've taken the liberty to include another paragraph from Moe's hectoring, which includes a finger wagging on accountability, yes, accountability. I've taken the liberty, too, to include a few words in brackets that would make this an entirely appopriate editorial for the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, WSJ would rather focus on punishing the powerless for imagined offenses that have nothing to do with the crime:
. . . .Real accountability is about standing up for children [American citizens]. The adults are supposed to be teaching kids something, and accountability demands hard, objective measures -- through sophisticated testing and information systems -- of how well they are actually doing that. Good performance needs to be rewarded. But poor performance needs to be uprooted: Schools [Corporations] need to be reconstituted, teachers [CEOs] need to be moved out of the classroom [corporate suites], jobs need to be put at risk -- because if they aren't, children [citizens] continue to be victimized. . . . .
Hey guys, do you remember the children's story about the Emperor, the one with no clothes? Take some time over the holidays, Mr. Moe and Mr. Murdoch, to read it to your grandchildren. They will get it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

St. Hope Charter Renewal and the Missing Million

No oversight--no problem. From the Sacramento Bee:
While under the management of Sacramento Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson, St. HOPE Public Schools fell more than $1 million behind on required payments to the Sacramento City Unified School District.

St. HOPE started paying the money back in October, and the Sacramento City school board Thursday night voted 5-2 in favor of an agreement that would require it to pay off the remaining $729,742 debt with interest by June 30, 2010.

The money owed is for rent on the Sacramento Charter High School and P.S. 7 elementary school, both leased from the district, and for administrative and special education expenses.

At Thursday night's meeting, school board members questioned why they were notified of the debt only about a month ago.

"I'm very concerned with the leadership of this administration, in terms of why we did not know this earlier," said board member Miguel Navarrette, who nonetheless voted to approve the repayment agreement.

. . . .

Under the agreement approved Thursday, he said, the district will meet with St. HOPE monthly to discuss its finances "until everybody's assured that the money is paid back and they're on stable financial ground."

Critics of St. HOPE say Sac Charter High exerts pressure on lower performing students to leave, resulting in the lower attendance numbers. . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Underfunded Urban Schools on the Brink of Financial Collapse

From the Connecticut Post:
. . . . Warning that education in Connecticut's cities faces impending disaster, the chief of the Bristol school system is calling on state lawmakers to suspend standardized testing, shorten the school year and authorize teacher furloughs.

Even with those emergency actions, Bristol --along with many other urban school systems across the state --will be short millions of dollars, and could be forced into layoffs and program cutbacks for the next two years, Superintendent Philip Streifer said Wednesday.

"The public needs to understand the scope of this problem. I'm not going to stand by while public education is decimated," he said. "I'm one voice, but I'm shouting."

Streifer's warning came a day after state budget analysts reaffirmed that Connecticut is on track to a staggering $6 billion budget deficit for the next two years. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has called for $284 million in state education spending next year, a measure that could knock out 6 to 12 percent of education cost-sharing aid to municipalities. That would slice into revenues for suburbs and rural towns, but would most severely hit cities, which rely on state money to pay for half or more of their school costs. . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rhee in Denial

While DC pols and Michelle Rhee debate whether the solution to increasing violence at Anacostia High School and other DC schools is better solved by prosecuting parents for their failure or by the introduction of "peer mediation" programs to stop the knife fights, no one is talking about the utter vacuum in leadership, the community-exploding device we know as NCLB, or the deepening poverty throughout the District that is at the heart of all the school issues.

Meanwhile Rhee's privatized police force, Hawk One, continues to roam the high school halls looking for dates while, otherwise, identifying likely candidates for the new alternative detention camps that are on Rhee's list of education solutions, too. Will Michelle be able to get her new charter system with permanent temp teachers in place before the schools burn down? Stay tuned.

From WaPo

. . . .D.C. State Board of Education member William Lockridge, who represents wards 7 and 8, said the Anacostia situation was triggered by tensions about the enrollment of students from Eastern High School, which is being reorganized under the No Child Left Behind law, and M.M. Washington Career High School, which was closed because of low enrollment.

"I think it was a bad idea from the beginning," Lockridge said. "The community forewarned the administration that this was going to happen, and it's happened. They're not listening."

Rhee said the transfers played no role in the disorder.

Responsibility for security at D.C. schools is shared by "school resource officers" provided by police and a private security firm, Hawk One. Parents and teachers have complained frequently about the ineffectiveness of some guards, saying they fraternize with students and do little to enforce order. School officials said that although they have no immediate plans to replace Hawk One, training for the guards will be upgraded. . . .

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Latest Nation At Risk Report" by Carl Glickman

From Carl Glickman at Forum for Education and Democracy. HT to Monty Neill at ARN:
The Latest Nation At Risk Report: The Education Roundtable to Tell Corporate America How to Stop Ruining America

We feel compelled to report to the American people that the business and financial foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur— companies that extolled themselves as models of excellent practices have deceived the American people with sloppy, undisciplined, and greedy practices that are driving Americans out of their homes, threatening their retirements, and dashing their hopes of a financially secure future. Indeed, if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre corporate financial performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

As it stands, our businesses have allowed this to happen, with greedy CEOs and upper management taking enormous benefits for themselves while preaching and dictating to our schools the need to adopt their “sound” business practices of unbridled free markets, privatization strategies, and the notion of competition as the force for change. Taxpayers are now providing an initial $700 billon bailout of some of these companies, whose CEO’s have been actively involved in dictating to policy-makers that America’s schools should model the management style of the private sector.

God forbid that our schools become more like these kinds of businesses! Our business and financial communities have, in effect, been committing rash, thoughtless acts of unilateral financial disarmament, dragging our citizens and their children into economic insecurity while having many of these same citizens pay the bill. By making their terminology, practices and transactions incomprehensible to the lay audience, these business leaders enjoyed a decade-long end run around the public and our alleged watchdog agencies. The hubris of high rollers on the top floors of America’s giant companies permitting unfettered profit-taking at the expense of others has no limit. To be blunt, the business community has become an industry at risk of implosion.

To help our colleagues in the business community, we educators hereby recommend a new guiding and monitoring organization for business and financial institutions. The Education Roundtable will gather a team of the country’s top educators, whose charge will be to set business standards, goals, and accountability structures for all corporations and financial institutions. To promote a greater culture of accountability, the Roundtable will also require each entity to publish a report card every year, based on a series of standardized assessments.

Our final word, perhaps better characterized as a plea, is that all segments of our population will give close attention to the implementation of our recommendations. Our present plight did not appear overnight, and the responsibility for our current situation is widespread. Reform of our corporate and financial system will take time and unwavering commitment. For no one can doubt that the United States is under challenge from many quarters.


There will be some angry readers out there who will bristle as I have lifted some of the exact wording of the Nation at Risk Report of 1983 and changed the word “schools” and “public education” to “business and financial institutions.” And yes, I have taken plenty of liberties to extend and add sentences to define all business and financial leaders and stock market manipulators as untrustworthy, immoral, dangerous people who have let our country down; crushing the day to day lives and long term hopes of the large majority of Americans who can not afford to lose their jobs, their homes, and their savings. And my business friends -- if there still are a few left -- will bristle at the idea that educators and lay people, with no experiences in business or finance, should be taking charge of what they need to do. If so, the point has been made and hopefully, sincerely taken before further policy making.

Real Affirmative Action: Getting Rid of Legacy Admissions

The opponents of affirmative action can be regularly spotted astride their high horses pontificating against any manifestation of preferential treatment that may favor anyone, particularly, it seems, anyone who happens to be of a darker hue and of less noble birth. Both horse and rider quickly withdraw, however, when the discomfiting subject of legacy admissions is put forward in a way that could threaten the inheritance of privilege that comes with the familial guarantee of an Ivy League education. Ask George Bush.

Now at last, and deliciously I might add, legal scholars are giving this most annoying topic (around Harvard Square, at least) the attention it deserves. A clip form Inside Higher Ed:

. . . .Colleges say that legacy preferences help build cross-generational relationships with institutions and cement relationships with alumni donors. But educators tend to be much more comfortable defending other forms of affirmative action than the benefits that go to alumni children. Whether colleges have admissions policies that benefit minority applicants, athletes, tuba players, or residents of Wyoming, the theory is that those receiving the benefit either have valuable perspectives or faced disadvantage — and that they will add something to the campus community. That’s a harder argument to make when what sets apart the applicant is likely a form of advantage and socioeconomic status that matches the historically dominant groups on campus.

The latest article to challenge the legality of legacy admissions focuses on an 1866 civil rights law that was enacted as part of the Reconstruction era attempts by Congress to reform the South. The article notes that the primary point of the statute was that all citizens have the same rights and that heredity does not convey rights in the United States. The law was passed with the goal of preventing Southern aristocrats from exercising their traditional control over their local areas. The article goes on to cite numerous cases in which federal courts — sometimes citing the 1866 law — have rejected any discrimination based on ancestry or parentage.

The article acknowledges that courts permit potentially discriminatory distinctions for compelling reasons. But it goes on to analyze fund raising rates at colleges with and without legacy admissions — and argues that there has been no diminished giving at colleges that dropped legacy admissions. Since that undercuts the idea that legacy preferences are needed for the societal good that theoretically comes with donations, the preferences should be all the more vulnerable legally, the article says. . . .

Why Darling-Hammond Should Be Secretary of Education

Could we be moving from the Spellings Era of "big girl panties" talk to a time when big girl ideas get implemented? We should be so blessed.

From Edutopia (ht to Richard Lakin):

Rhee Fiddles While Schools Burn

Fenty and Rhee have been so focused on creating insecurity among school employees that they lost track of the security needs of students. They have been so intent upon shutting down schools, charterizing the rest, and de-professionalizing the teacher corps that the work required to hold communities together through the cohesive capacity of neighborhood schools has somehow been forgotten. Evidence? The growing outbreaks of violence in the DC Schools. Who will get blamed? Parents and teachers. What will be the remedy? More police, of course. From WaPo:
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 20, 2008; Page B01

A melee yesterday at a Southeast Washington high school left five students injured, including three with stab wounds, on a day when police, parents, teachers and city officials held a series of meetings to discuss ways of curbing youth violence.

The disturbance at Anacostia High School began shortly after 12:30 p.m. when two students began fighting in a second-floor hallway, said Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes. While officers assigned to the school were breaking up the fight, someone set a small fire in another hallway on the floor, Groomes said. During the evacuation of the school's 1,100 students, more fights broke out among rival groups.

Groomes said five students were taken to hospitals -- three with stab wounds, one who was hurt in a fight and one who had an asthma attack. The teenager who was hurt while fighting is suspected of stabbing at least one of the other students with a "penlike knife," Groomes said. He was charged as a juvenile with assault with a dangerous weapon. Another youth was charged with disorderly conduct after he got into a fight outside the school during the evacuation.

Youth violence, and the difficulty of deterring it, was a topic of discussion elsewhere in the city yesterday. Last night, parents from Ballou High School and Hart Middle School, both in Southeast, gathered to discuss their concerns about violence and school security. . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Put Your DIBELS Handheld in the Garbage

Even though the phonics fanatics, the parrot learning nutjobs, and the edu-profiteers have controlled reading instruction for the past eight years, their gravy train just left the tracks and is now in mid-flight toward the canyon floor below.

First released last June, the final version of a study by Spellings' own research shop shows incontrovertibly that the $6,000,000,000 spent on the direct instruction chain gangs designed for children of the poor benefited no one other than the hacks and hucksters who peddled the junk materials at the behest of the U. S. Department of Education. Now that we know that nothing was gained by this ideology-gone-wild approach to reading instruction, who will determine the harm that has been perpetrated against the most vulnerable children?

Do teachers and principals need any further permission to throw the Sopris West and SRA/McGraw Hill and DIBELS garbage into the garbage? Can we bring back the children's literature now, and can we encourage once again the growth of thinking and imagination in children? And can we prosecute the perpetrators?

From WaPo:

Students in the $6 billion Reading First program have not made greater progress in understanding what they read than have peers outside the program, according to a congressionally mandated study.

The final version of the study, released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students in schools that use Reading First, a program at the core of the No Child Left Behind law, scored no better on comprehension tests than students in similar schools that do not get the funding. . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Charter Operators Crime Log, Tuesday Edition

This guy didn't need no stinkin' oversight:

A charter school founder pleaded guilty today to five counts of theft and records tampering in relation to charges he misused school funds and services to improve his home.

Wilson Willard III, founder of the W.E.B. DuBois Academy in Over-the-Rhine, faced 14 charges, including theft, telecommunications fraud, tampering with school records and unauthorized use of property. If he had gone to court and been convicted on all charges, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison.

Even with the five charges he pleaded guilty to Tuesday, Willard could face up to 14 and a half years in prison, plus fines. . . .

Weingarten Hides Behind Failing Economy to Talk Capitulation on Tenure and Teacher Pay

Almost perfect timing, except that Ms. Randi, as I noted yesterday (speaking of timing), had already bowed to Bloomberg on bonus pay for test scores before the economy went south.

Is this what Randi calls bipartisanship? From today's Times:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Monday that given the economic crisis, her union would be willing to discuss new approaches to issues like teacher tenure and merit pay.

“Faced with declining tax revenues, state and local governments are cutting” education budgets nationwide, Ms. Weingarten said in a speech to education policy makers in Washington.

“In the spirit of this extraordinary moment, and as a pledge of shared responsibility, I’ll take the first step,” she said. “With the exception of vouchers, which siphon scarce resources from public schools, no issue should be off the table, provided it is good for children and fair to teachers.”

It is unclear how much practical effect Ms. Weingarten’s speech will have on the stance her 1.4-million-member union and its locals take in negotiations with school districts or in lobbying state legislatures.

“Randi said she was willing to talk about these things,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase the number of effective teachers. “But from my experience, the A.F.T. and its locals have always been willing to talk about tough issues. The problem is that they’re not often willing to give in on them.” . . . .

And where did Dillon get that description of NCTQ, the "nonprofit group that seeks to increase the number of effective teachers."??? More appropriate would have been the nonprofit group (which includes Andy Rotherham) that seeks to make schools to profit corporations, or the nonprofit group that seeks to replace professionally-prepared teachers with non-prepared warm bodies with bachelors degrees? How about the nonprofit group that used Federal grant money to illegally pump their "merit pay" and anti-ed school propaganda into the editorial pages of the nation's newspapers? And they still haven't paid the money back, as demanded in the OIG report (Inspector General's report Word version).

Here is part of an earlier piece I did on Kate Walsh, who has spent the Bush years trying every angle to crush the teaching profession. Sadly it looks like she and her minions might have found a union president who can help in the process.

From 2005:

Those readers who were floored by the allegations that the US Department of Education would fund their own school privatization campaign through paying off high-profile commentators like Armstrong Williams, hold on to your seats. The $240,000 that Williams garnered for his NCLB PR efforts is chump change compared to the $4,686,574 shoveled out ED's doors to a number of groups to carry the school privatization message and the public school failure message across the country, especially into minority communities. Here is a story run on Sept. 3 by USA Today.

Even though the Inspector General's report on the investigation does some fancy parsing to avoid the conclusion that ED engaged in "covert propaganda," anyone reading the report, besides Maggie Spellings and her lawyers, may conclude that the 4.5 mil went to do just that.

The following excerpt from the Inspector General's report (Word version) shows that Paige and Hickok were looking for organizations to front their message before they had even printed the stationery for the OII (Office of Innovation and Improvement):

Although we did not find evidence to conclude that Department officials awarded grants with the intent of influencing public opinion through the undisclosed use of third party grantees, or directly approved or encouraged the specific activities that resulted in improper expenditures, the level of involvement from the Secretary’s office in the approval of unsolicited proposals and the oversight of unsolicited grants in the FIE program raised some concerns. The Department procedures in place at the time stated:

If the unsolicited application proposes activities that can be funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE), the Senior Officer should immediately forward the application to [the] Deputy Under Secretary in the soon-to-be-created Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII). OII will then notify the applicant and process the application under the above procedures. FIE supports nationally significant programs to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

The “above procedures” referenced in the preceding quote did not indicate that the Office of the Secretary was to be directly involved in the process of screening unsolicited proposals. However, the Secretary and his senior staff appear to have made the significant pre-award decisions on many unsolicited applications received by the FIE program, including determining which initial proposals deserved further consideration. The Secretary, or staff in his office, also determined which unsolicited proposals were to receive funding. Once the grants were awarded, FIE program staff provided the Secretary’s office with monthly progress reports from grantees. (pp.17-18)
So even though ED did not engage in the legal definition of "covert propaganda," they were given monthly reports from these outfits on how well they were doing in spreading the education gospel according to Bush and the privatizers. That seems to a difference that doesn't make much of a difference.

Nonetheless, ED did not get away with this entirely. Most of the grantees listed in the Inspector General's report published propaganda without the required EDGAR disclaimer, which requires the granting agency to recover associated expenditures:
The Department’s grant regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 75.620 require grantees to include a disclaimer on any publication: “the contents of this (insert type of publication: e.g. book, report, film) were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.” If a Department grantee uses grant funds for publications and does not include the required disclaimer language, such activity would violate the condition of the grant and the Department should, if appropriate, recover associated expenditures. (p. 5)
Tomorrow I will publish the list of offenders, but for now here is the Inspector General's conclusion reached on just one grant to the Oquirrh Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) worth $677,318. It provides a chilling view of how these organizations planned to infiltrate the mainstream media with their propaganda. It is interesting to look at the Board members of these organizations--one can begin to see some familiar names (Doug Carnine, for one) associated with other areas of education profiteering:
We did find that the Oquirrh Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) initially submitted independent proposals to the Department. A senior official in OII contacted NCTQ and suggested that it work with the Oquirrh Institute because both focused on teacher quality issues. NCTQ confirmed that this conversation occurred and stated that the OII official did not help with the content of the proposal. NCTQ subsequently decided to submit a joint proposal with the Oquirrh Institute.

In each instance the grantee was provided with a copy of the EDGAR regulations. The failure of these grantees to include the required disclaimer appears to have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds that should now be recovered.

ß Grant U215U030007-04, Oquirrh Institute and National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) (Appendix A, Item 1)

The Oquirrh Institute and NCTQ submitted a joint proposal with three clearly stated goals: 1) increase the American public’s exposure and understanding of the research and full spectrum of ideas on teacher quality; 2) advance the research on teacher preparation and licensure processes, broadening the nation’s experience of and perspective on these issues; and 3) help state policymakers make the necessary reforms to their licensure systems. According to the proposal, the grantee’s strategy for accomplishing the first goal included “widely publish[ing] op-eds on teacher quality issues” with an ultimate objective of having “at least 100 published works, reaching every state” (p. 21). Further, the proposal narrative, on page 14, specifically states:

[W]e will tailor our writing to the issues that a particular state or community is currently debating … Our preference will be to persuade newspapers to publish our writing as op-eds but, if not, we will also submit letters to the editor.

In the monthly progress reports provided to the Department, we found that the only grantee activities associated with the first goal involved the production of, and attempts to publish, op-eds.

According to the grantees’ monthly progress reports, they were able to publish op-eds in at least 11 newspapers. We have been able to obtain copies of only three. Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ, authored the three op-eds published in the Mobile Register (Alabama) on 11/21/04, in the Grand Island Independent (Nebraska) on 12/02/04, and in the Sacramento Bee (California) on 02/06/05. Each focused on proposed changes in teacher reform and NCLB.

The op-eds can be construed as advocating a particular point of view. In the op-ed published in the Mobile Register, Walsh states that the NCLB requirement that all teachers be rated “highly qualified” in the subjects they teach “is not overly demanding or unfair.” She later states “[t]he inability to reach consensus over these minimal requirements signals a resistance, however unintended, to putting the needs of children first.”

Similarly, in the other two op-eds, Walsh advocated policy positions. In the op-ed published in the Grand Island Independent, she advocated changes in teacher qualification requirements in Nebraska. In the op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee, Walsh states: “[p]utting merit pay decisions in the hands of states or even school districts [sic] officials still will lead to excessively complicated formulas that suppress the potential benefits that merit pay could achieve.”

None of the op-eds we reviewed disclosed the role of the Department. Prior to the initial publication of the op-eds, a Department grants specialist reviewed a draft op-ed and reminded the grantee that the Department’s regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 75.620 require a disclaimer on all grant publications. The grant specialist did not know why the published op-eds did not contain the disclaimer.

As these op-eds were published without the EDGAR disclaimer, the funds used to produce them may have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds. If all of the produced op-eds are similarly silent on the role of the Department, then all of the expenditures associated with goal one of the grant may have been improper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea

It was just a few months ago that Randi Weingarten earned the blessing of Bloomberg for her AFT Presidential bid by endorsing the Bloomberg/Klein/Business Roundtable bonus pay plan for NYC teachers based on test scores. Weingarten patted herself on the back at the time for negotiating the stipulation that bonuses would go to schools rather than individuals. Increased productivity (higher test scores) would be judged on a schoolwide basis, thus assuring Weingarten, at least, that individual teachers would not be evaluated based on test scores. And Bloomberg's lawyers did the ropeadope all the way to the signing table.

That capitulation by Ms. Randi signaled the beginning for a feeding frenzy by the BR and Chamber of Commerce, so that just a few months later, we are faced with the BR's leading media stooge, Jay Mathews, now, today, greasing the slippery slope toward the teachers-on-production model by extending the argument of bonus pay for higher test scores into the dystopian ideal of keeping your teaching job based on higher test scores:
People who have studied the public schools that have significantly raised the achievement levels of impoverished students tend to accept the idea that teachers' salaries and jobs must eventually be tied to classroom results. "Of course," said Andrew Rotherham, an education think tank founder, blogger and Virginia Board of Education member who, at 37, is likely to be a major player on this issue for years to come.
Notice the luridly-misleading style of propaganda. Which "people who have studied" is Mathews referring to, and in which journals are their "tendencies" reported? To say nothing of the sloppy writing. "Of course," what, EduWink? What we can know is that Mathews is as full of digested corn as the Thanksgiving turkey he is planning to eat next week.

Yes, the Jays and Andys and Congressman Millers of the edu-world want to make sure that the teachers who are working in these poverty-blighted schools are earning the big money they are being paid. Just like in the private schools where their children and grandchildren are educated, yes? Here are a few reasons, guys, why this is a bad idea:

10. Teaching jobs based on test scores will hasten the flight of the remaining good teachers from the poorest schools where the best teachers are already in the shortest supply.

9. Teaching jobs based on test scores will attract only the most desperate teachers to the poorest schools.

8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.

7. Teaching jobs based on test scores will decimate teamwork and collaboration among teachers.

6. Teaching jobs based on test scores will push the curriculum into a smaller and smaller box based only on what is tested.

5. Teaching jobs based on test scores will further poison the educational climate in schools that is now almost unbreathable.

4. Teaching jobs based on test scores will exacerbate the cheating and corruption associated with high stakes policy implementation.

3. Teaching jobs based on test scores will damage learning for knowledge, skills, and understanding by placing further emphasis only on memorization and short-term learning gains that can be demonstrated with paper and pencil tests.

2. Teaching jobs based on test scores will extend the view of children as raw material to be exploited for their monetary worth.

1. Teaching jobs based on test scores will encourage the marginalization and discarding of the raw material that can't be exploited.

Orange Jumpsuits for Reading First Mafia

At the top of the new Attorney General's list of immediate indictments should be the individuals who comprise the network of hacks and ideologues who turned Reading First into their own private financial empire, while irrevocably damaging the healthy development of children across the country. There is a drawer full of Congressional and OIG investigations to draw from, so the leg work should be quite minimal.

The saddest part, as pointed out in this letter from Ken Goodman circulating on the Web, is that the damage continues to accrue to this day:
The easiest, important educational item that the Obama administration could handle is to investigate the left over scandals of the Bush Administration. Reading First involved blatant conflicts of interest resulting in 6 billion dollars being diverted into the pockets of a small group of phonics fanatics and their greedy publishers (McGraw Hill, Scott, Foresman, Sopris West, Voyager). This is all documented by the Inspector General's reports and it is likely to lead into Secretary Spellings's office and the White House. Meanwhile Reading First has been demonstrated in a USDE study to be a failed program.
. . . .

Congress cut off all funding for Reading First, but the illegally negotiated state contracts are still in place with states and local districts still buying and using the illegally mandated texts and tests and the crooks still raking in the profits. Waiting a year to do any thing about this condemns another cohort of kindergarten children to being labeled as failures for flunking DIBELS and many more schools failing AYP.

Tell Congress and the new administration to cleanup this terrible mess.
Ken Goodman

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fenty and Rhee Conjure Hurricane for DC Schools

From WaPo:
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee are discussing a dramatic expansion of their effort to remove ineffective teachers by restoring the District's power to create nonunionized charter schools and seeking federal legislation declaring the school system in a "state of emergency," a move that would eliminate the need to bargain with the Washington Teachers' Union.

If adopted, the measures would essentially allow the District to begin building a new school system. Such an effort would be similar to one underway in New Orleans, where a state takeover after Hurricane Katrina placed most of the city's 78 public schools in a special Recovery School District. About half of the district's schools are charters, and it has no union contract. . . .

Choosing a KIPP School for the Obama Children?

Reporters and school people of DC are all aflutter at the news of Michelle Obama's school shopping rounds last week, as evidenced this morning with this NYTimes piece:
Michelle Obama toured at least two of Washington’s most prestigious private schools last week — Sidwell Friends School and Georgetown Day School — and touched off a frenzy of dreaming, gossiping and well-mannered jockeying among the Washington elite. Maret School, another exclusive academy, is also believed to be on the shortlist for the future first children, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
I know that Georgetown Day might have the inside track, with an award-winning commitment to equity and social justice to go along with the $28,000 price tag per year for tuition. But then there is Sidwell, where Chelsea Clinton went to school--and it has black children, too--13 percent, in fact. And even though there are lots of elite families who are satisfied with these schools, I am wondering if I might add my own expertise in helping the First Family make the best choice. After all, with these private schools, who can tell if the teachers at schools like Sidwell are truly earning those big salaries they are advertising, which offer beginners the same salary that DC public school teachers end with after 30 years. And without test scores to tell us whether or not these elite teachers are earning their keep, how can we know if they are or, in fact, if the Obama children would be learning what is required to make them competitive in the global economy?

Just between you and me, President-Elect and Mrs. Obama, there are great deals in the area where you don't have to pay $56,000 a year. Have you heard of KIPP, you know, the charter thing that I heard you mention a few times during the campaign. Well, these KIPP schools are great, even though I have heard that Malia and Sasha won't be able to be on a first name basis with their teachers like they would be at Georgetown Day. They're kind of strict at KIPP, but in a real positive way, you understand. The children love it. And since Malia and Sasha already are being nice and working hard, they should be just fine. I don't know about all those Camp David weekends, however--there is a regular Saturday schedule at KIPP, and parents must be available.

Good teachers, you bet, many, many English majors from Ivy League schools who really want to make a difference while they decide how they are going to do that in their real lives. And test scores, wow! Did I tell you about the test scores?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spellings Planning Pumpkin Wrap Spa Treatment

From Austin's statesman.com:
. . . .Spellings, who has worked for George W. Bush throughout his presidency and when he was Texas governor, said she hopes to return to the Lone Star State after her daughter graduates from high school in 2010.

Is a book in her future? "I don't know. I'm planning to go to the spa." That would be Lake Austin Spa Resort, where Spellings recommends the pumpkin wrap.

Her travels have convinced her that Asia, for instance, "is on fire with improving education." By contrast, she sees complacency in parents of students in affluent school districts in the United States. And she says parents of minority students, whose high school and college graduation rates lag sharply behind those of their white counterparts, need to get mad. . . .
I think they just did, Maggie--it was called Election Day!

Minnesota Declares 1 in 5 State Charter Schools Unfit to Remain Open

And yet they remain open.

Good investigative reporting by KAAL in St. Paul:

Meanwhile down in Kansas City--From Fox 4:
KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The former president of a Kansas City, Missouri, charter school's board of directors was sentenced in federal court for embezzling from the school and for his role in mortgage and investment fraud schemes, prosecutors announced on Friday.

James Elliot Coleman, 60, of Raytown was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison without parole. In addition, he was ordered to pay $468, 805 in restitution. Coleman is a certified public accountant who had formerly served as the president of the Westport Allen Village School board.

Coleman pleaded guilty in 2006 for his role in a $778,336 mortgage fraud scheme and a $40,000 investment fraud scheme perpetrated against an older widow and her daughter. . . .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Which Foundations Are Funding Rhee's Union Busting?

Yesterday the world sat at the feet of Bill and Melinda as they outlined their next big-hearted and self-serving ventures into shaping national educational policy to snugly fit the mold of the techno-efficiency zealots. Most of the contenders for the big job of ED Sec were there: Arne, Joel, and even Linda all sat with rapt stares as Bill and Melinda offered them all political cover, while outlining an educational future more dismal than, say, having your computer loaded with Vista--forever.

One of the three legs of the Gates's new 2 billion dollar stool is "teacher quality," which, translated, means higher pay for higher test scores. Does it mean also the continued funding of barracudas like Michelle Rhee in her bid to crush the teachers's union of DC and replace the teaching profession with a permanent stream of Ivy League temps from Teach for Awhile, er, America? Was it Bill and Melinda, or Eli, or Michael and Susan, who promised the $75 million a year for the first five years of the new DC contract? No need for big pay after that? Didn't think so.

From Sam Dillon's piece in the NYTimes today on the big raises promised to teachers who are willing to sell out:

In the interview, Ms. Rhee said the raises would be financed largely by foundations that had given her commitments of $75 million a year for five years, of which a “significant portion” would go for teacher compensation.

“The foundations want to fund things that are innovative and will have national ramifications,” she said. Ms. Rhee has declined to name the foundations, however, raising worries among some teachers about the foundations’ motives and about whether their commitments would remain solid if the nation’s financial crisis were to be prolonged.

Meanwhile in DC, students carry shotguns in the halls while teachers wait or the promised extra academic help that Rhee promised but has not provided. Maybe Bill and Melinda could help. From WaPo:

D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has dispatched a team of administrators and extra security to an Anacostia middle school where three teachers have been assaulted, a 14-year-old was charged with carrying a shotgun and students have run the hallways discharging fire extinguishers.

The intervention began Monday at Hart Middle School, where a dismal academic record -- 17 percent of its students read at proficiency level last year -- triggered a mandatory overhaul under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Interviews with teachers, parents, students and police paint a picture of a troubled school that, far from hitting bottom with its placement on "restructuring" status, has fallen into an even deeper hole. It is overenrolled and understaffed and lacks the extra academic support promised by Rhee, teachers said. . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tennessee's Higher Education Sweatshops

Ah, my home state, the buckle of the Racist Belt and major exploiter of cheap labor, even at the universities. Try 6-6 loads and no health insurance for adjuncts, all for under 20K. Lamar Alexander must be beaming. From Inside Higher Ed:

In the last year, there have been some notable successes for part-time faculty members pushing for better wages and benefits. Through unions, legislative hearings and political activism, the issue of part timers’ treatment has started to capture the attention not just of faculty activists, but of university administrators, too.

But what about states where adjuncts are plentiful but not unionized, where they must rely on good will more than political clout to win improvements in their wages and benefits? The situation at these campuses rarely makes headlines or even the agendas of board meetings.

For the adjuncts at the six universities and 13 community colleges governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the solution they came up with was to ask politely. They worked with administrators to craft and re-craft a proposal to raise the maximum pay offered to adjuncts so that someone working a 5-5 course load (the kind of load that many tenure-track faculty members would consider unworkable) could be assured the chance of topping $20,000 in annual income. They weren’t even talking about such matters as health insurance (which isn’t provided).

If these salary levels are surprising, it may be because they are frequently off the radar screen. The definitive annual survey of faculty salaries by the American Association of University Professors excludes part timers, so the institutions where the part timers in this article work don’t have their averages deflated by these pay levels.

After two years of encouraging meetings organized by AAUP leaders in Tennessee, the board — through its presidents council — decided this month that the current policy works just fine, and that there will be no increases in pay maximums.

The academics who pushed the plan — which would seem moderate compared to adjunct wish lists elsewhere — say that they have pretty much run out of ideas and that they have no recourse except to tell their stories.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

National Petition Against Joel Klein

The most ridiculous thing I have read since the election was from an Republican op-ed in the Dallas Morning News that made this lunatic analogy: Margaret Spellings is to education as Al Gore is to the climate crisis.

I say go for it--rebuild your Party on that bit of wisdom.

The next most ridiculous thing I read since last Tuesday is that NYC's School Dictator is in the running to add his own privatization twist to the Spellings fiasco at ED.

Let the world know you think it is ridiculous, too. From Duane Campbell at Choosing Democracy:
Petition: Oppose Joel Klein
The Petition to oppose the appointment of Joel Klein

We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures.

Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. ( It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react.

This petition is a reaction.

The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of Schools in New York City is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.

Teachers, educators, and future teachers, read the entire petition and sign it at:


NCLB Failure Train Rolls Into Illinois High Schools

A clip from Carbondale's thesouthern:
. . . .Students at Carbondale Community High School District 165 consistently rank in the top third of the state and the school is recognized as one of the region's best. But for three straight years, the school failed to meet its AYP.

School administrators were proud to announce they did hit their AYP this year, but the success does not hide some serious problems, said CCHS 165 NCLB coordinator Virginia Appuhn.

"First of all, 230 high schools out of the 657 in the state met AYP; that's 35 percent," she said. "We've got 1,200 students (at CCHS); of 138 other schools in our (enrollment) range, only 31 met (AYP)."

Appuhn said part of the flaw of NCLB is in its use of subgroups, which represent sets of 45 or more students who fall into a minority such as special needs or low-income students. The failure of a subgroup to hit its AYP means an entire school fails.

This year's standard held that 62.5 percent of students at a given school had to meet or exceed minimum test scores or the school would fail. Next year the standard slides to 70 percent, then 77 before topping out at 100 percent in 2014. . . . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Imagine, Inc. Charter School Leaders Fired

How would you like to send your child to a school paid for with tax dollars where the principal and another administrator get fired, and no one will tell you why? Were they molesting children? Were they stealing money? Were they harassing teachers? This is the new no-oversight reality of charter schools, brought to you by the market solutionists and the corporate socialists.

From the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette:
The school leader and another administrator at Imagine MASTer Academy were fired last week, but a director with the school’s parent company would not disclose any details.

The terminations of Head of School Bruce Greening and Jennifer Murray, who served in a variety of administrative roles, are effective immediately, Guy Platter, regional director of Imagine Schools, said Saturday.

“It’s my job as regional director to determine what’s in the best interest of the school in terms of the direction and the vision and the mission of the school, and I made those two decisions with that in mind,” Platter said.

He declined to say why the two administrators were fired.

Imagine Schools, based in Arlington, Va., is the charter school management company behind two Fort Wayne charter schools: Imagine MASTer Academy, 2000 N. Wells St., and Imagine Schools on Broadway, 2320 Broadway.
Or were these edu-businessmen in charge at the Imagine MASTer Academy simply urinating on a crowd from a balcony during a Grateful Dead tribute concert? Like this charter school CEO in New Jersey. Now that's what I call oversight!
A drunken Jersey City Councilman Steve Lipski, who is also the head of a charter school, has been charged with urinating on a crowd of concertgoers at a Grateful Dead tribute in Washington, the Daily News is reporting.

Lipski, 44, was hauled out of the club about 9:50 p.m. Friday after relieving himself from the second-floor balcony of the popular 9:30 Club, the paper reported, and was charged with simple assault, police said.

Lipski is also the head of CREATE, a charter school on Lembeck Avenue.
To round out today's crime log, how about this bit of pranksterism in California, where teacher retirement money has somehow not been deposited in the State Retirement Fund since 2004. And San Bernadino officials would probably still be in the dark on this one had it not been for two employees of the ASA Charter School coming forward to spill the beans:
SAN BERNARDINO - Limited fiscal oversight of charter schools has some San Bernardino school district officials nervous about potential liability should one go under.

In the last year, the San Bernardino City Unified School District has had issues related to finances with two of its charter schools, the most recent being an investigation of ASA Charter School.

The district is looking into allegations that the charter school operators have failed to remit around $500,000 in employee retirement contributions to the state system since the school opened in 2004, officials said.

"The district is still investigating the issue and no decisions will be made until all of the facts have been gathered," said spokeswoman Linda Bardere.

Gil Navarro, a San Bernardino County school board trustee, said he has asked the county superintendent of schools to investigate as well.

Two ASA employees notified the district about the retirement issues, officials said. . . .

Corporate Corruption Comes to Pre-School in (Where Else) Texas

In 2003 Susan Landry was appointed by Governor Rick (the-Market-Solution) Perry to head up a statewide effort called TEEM (Texas Early Education Model). Besides the more obvious goal of privatizing Headstart, TEEM aims to bring the same rigid chain gang instructional methods and materials to Texas preschools for the poor that have become standard fare in the elementary testing camps that house older children of the poor across Texas. That's right--scripted pre-school, cognitive decapitation, and testing for our tiniest brown and poor children.

And for Landry's efforts to control the behaviors and learning potential of 52,000 little ones far into the future, she is paid $269,535 per year (more than twice the Governor's salary). Landry and her staff have also soaked up at least another $500,000 in royalties from outfits like Sopris West and SRA/McGraw-Hill, who supply the "learning" materials for Landry's outfit. Here's a clip from a nice piece of reporting from the Houston Chronicle on the latest edu-industrial waste site to be exposed:
AUSTIN — An experiment to better prepare low-income youngsters for school has cost taxpayers more than three times the typical pre-K curriculum and raised questions about payments to educators who commercialized the program.

Staff members at the State Center for Early Childhood Development have received about $500,000 in royalties from vendors and book publishers whose products are used in classrooms participating in the Texas Early Education Model, or TEEM.

Critics fear that the $80 million program is little more than an effort to market research and products through a variety of commercial vendors.

"This preschool scheme is not about preparing these little ones to be ready for school," said Jay Spuck, a retired Houston-area school administrator and former teacher. "It is about advancing a political agenda of implanting corporate interests into nursery schools."

But the staffers say they only receive royalties from pre-K products sold outside the TEEM program.

The Texas Early Education Model evolved from a 2003 state law to improve pre-kindergarten coordination among public schools, Head Start programs and child-care centers.

The approach, which champions training teachers and early literacy instruction, was developed and studied as part of a highly competitive federal grant program conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and The National Science Foundation, founders say.

"I really expect these kids to show effects of this program long term," said Susan Landry, director of the State Center. "It is probably not an inoculation against everything bad in education, but it gives them a fair shot. They get to start on the same footing. These kids are writing their names, they are writing letters, and they are so proud of it." . . . .
So far the results have been, shall we say, pathetic. This is from an independent evaluation submitted to the Texas Education Agency in 2007:
There was considerable variation both between and within communities with regards to student performance and teacher outcomes. For about half of the communities, students in the treatment groups improved more than students in the control groups, and for the other half of the communities students in the control groups improved more than the students in the treatment groups on the student outcome measures (e.g., mCLASS subtests). TEEM did lead to overall improvement for teachers, although there was considerable variation, with teachers in both control and treatment groups obtaining both positive and negative difference scores on the
teacher outcome measure (i.e., Teacher Behavior Rating Scale.)(p. 2).
Which brings us to the whole issue of testing children as young as 3 years old an ongoing experiment: Unethical, immmoral, and abusive, all at public expense. And even though Roland Good's name is not on it, TEEM uses the same 60-second testing methods and PDA technology that Good manufactured for his DIBELS empire.

Here is a small chunk of a lengthy report by Landry's own staff (An Experimental Study Evaluating a State Funded Pre-Kindergarten Program: Bringing Together Subsidized Childcare, Public School, and Head Start) that details some of the regimented training to prepare teachers for their regimented teaching. And remember: No middle class children allowed:
Child assessment. Assessors were trained during a four-day workshop by a Ph.D. level trainer that included didactic training and practice after which assessors participated in a graded certification process. Standardized certification procedures evaluated general administration procedures including following verbal and behavioral scripts detailed in administration manuals, administering practice items, establishing basal and ceiling items, recording children’s responses, and managing children’s behavior. Following obtainment of full certification, assessors were evaluated again during the initial stages of testing while they worked with children enrolled in the project. Specifically, project coordinators sat next to an examiner and observed administration of each subtest. If any difficulties were noted, then follow-up training/supervision was provided (p. 18).