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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Arne Duncan Post Gets A Response

A fellow teacher educator over at Education Policy Blog had some comments on one of my Arne posts yesterday, but he took his remarks back over there, where they could be enjoyed by an audience more likely, perhaps, to offer moral support for his snippy remarks. Below I have given good buddy, Craig, center stage for his comments here. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing the stage to offer my comments on his comments.

Craig's initial remark was in reference to George Schmidt's contention in yesterday's post that the Chicago charterizers under Duncan are making segregation worse in Chicago.
1. yes, of course CPS's charter schools are segregated (that is, mostly all black or Latino). That's because most of Chicago's neighborhoods are segregated. (http://www.luc.edu/curl/cfm40/data/minisynthesis.pdf.) Only 8.3% of CPS students are white (http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getReport.aspx?year=2008&code=150162990_e.pdf) and they are concentrated in a very few pretty good schools near Hyde Park and on the north side. Where are the white children supposed to come from to "desegregate" either the CPS neighborhood schools or the charter schools.
There is an interesting phenomenon going around, Craig, called socioeconomic school integration. Having had Bush's SCOTUS to eviscerate the Brown Decision in 2007, this kind of conscious integration effort shows some promising social and academic results, particularly in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. But, then, you would have to sell that notion to the ethnically-diverse and economically-similar parents of the leafy suburbs who would rather keep Hyde Park just as it is. That, or send their children to a school like Sidwell.

By the way, Craig, there is an interesting study just out from the University of Minnesota that looks at a 15 year history of charters in Minnesota. Among their conclusions: charter schools exacerbate segregation, both economic and racial, while driving down performance in charters as well as public schools:
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.
Craig's second point was again in response to Schmidt's remarks on the miltarization of Chicago Schools under Duncan.
2. Duncan's support of military academies in the high schools isn't support for the "militarization" of high schools. It's support for a set of charter schools that have proven highly popular (and "effective" in some senses), not support for militarization of high schools. As I mentioned, Duncan is a pragmatist; he's not going to exclude military academies simply because they are affiliated with the military.
It might not bother you, Craig, that ten percent of Chicago school students, and the vast majority of them poor, wear a military garb to school every day. In fact, some would say that the military offers them the only reasonable chance to have a job when they leave school. Who needs a draft, right, when we have all this human capital ready to be turned in boots on the ground for the next oil war. For a little reading, Craig, on the connection between the the corporate schooling and militarization of society, you might dip into Pauline Lipman's book, High Stakes Education: Inequality, Globalization and Urban School Reform, which uses the Chicago Schools as a case study to examine globalizatio, education, and the corporate state.

And here's a clip from some other academic boots on the ground in Chicago, from January, 2208, a piece by Quinn, Meiners, and Ayers:
. . . .Today, Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the nation, with Cadet Corps for students in middle-school, over 10,000 students participating in JROTC programs, over 1,000 students enrolled in one of the five, soon-to-be six autonomous military high schools, and hundreds more attending one of the nine military high schools that are called “schools within a school.” Chicago now has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three army high schools. When an air force high school opens next year, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all branches of the military. And Chicago is not the only city moving in this direction: the public school systems of other urban centers with largely Black and immigrant low income students , including Philadelphia, Atlanta and Oakland, are being similarly re-formed—and deformed— through partnerships with the Department of the Defense. . . .
Craig, cont'd:
3. Yes, Linda Darling-Hammond is a more "progressive" educator than Duncan. (Duncan is not an educator...he's an administrator.) But Darling-Hammond has lately had the luxury of a country-club professorship at Stanford and isn't really accountable for anything other than the force of her ideas; she has the luxury to speak about education as if money, personnel, facilities, transportation, poverty, and huge size weren't the issues they remain in CPS. (Don't get me wrong...I love her...and I think Arne will rely on her for advice and counter-advice, as he should.)
Duncan is a lawyer trained by Paul Vallas in how to create a corporate welfare charter school system for the poor at a 20% savings (no unions) that functions at the behest of a CEO, once known as the school principal, who reports to another CEO, once known as the superintendent, who reports to another CEO, once known as the mayor. Now if you like this kind of business model for society that makes everyone accountable except the CEOs, Arne is your guy, no doubt about it.

But to marginalize Darling-Hammond's huge body of research, scholarship, and service as the product of a "country club professorship," her work that is usable on a daily basis to teachers and people like you, Craig, who teach future teachers, well, that is simply a cheap insult by someone, I would imagine, with his meek liberal dander up. The value of the work that Darling-Hammond has done with NCTAF, alone, will eclipse anything that Arne Duncan may ever hope to do in education as the non-educator he is.

Go Craig:
4. To critique Duncan for supporting accountability by lumping in all that other anti-progressive crap that goes on to meet NCLB standards ("the perceived urgency for social control and a population suited to mindless labor helped form a bipartisan coalition aimed at replacing city schools with small manageable work camps based on stringent behavior modification, scripted instruction, and cognitive decapitation") is simply sloppy. Duncan doesn't support that stuff, but as CEO of CPS, his job #1 was to improve test scores--that's what he was hired by Daley to do--and as a pragmatist he allowed multiple means to be employed toward that end. The sad truth is that some of these approaches "work" in that limited sense (Kipp Schools, take note).
Mutliple means? To raise test scores? Is there some confusion with multiple measures here? The fact is, Craig, that your denial of Duncan's support for all the "anti-progressive crap" is the real crap here. There is good reason that Margaret Spellings describes Arne Duncan day before yesterday as "a visionary leader and fellow reformer." There is good reason, too, that Duncan is described recently by another phony miracle worker, Rod Paige, as the "budding hero of the education business." This guy is just what he appears to be to those who are willing to see him without the benefit of their Obama-tinted glasses.

By the way, Craig, I suggest you do a little more reading on KIPP than what you find in the Chicago Tribune or the Washington Post. KIPP is the Hampton Institute of the 21st Century, where children are brainwashed daily to internalize the mantra, Work Hard, Be Nice, while their capacity to become autonomous and healthy educated adult citizens is squelched. A clip below is from my recent commentary on a new study of KIPP in California, a study that shows that the big gains in test scores at KIPP are clearly linked to extremely high attrition rates. In short, school scores soar as low performers are dumped, which, of course, feeds the corporate school to corporate prison pipeline:
Student attrition, then, is a real problem, to say the least--but one that does nothing to dampen the heat of enthusiasm among those looking for a rigorous solution to the achievement burden. The idea of "scaling up" a system that leaves over half the students to give up may be an laudable model for folks like Don Fisher who "thinks that education is a business" and that a school is "not much different from a Gap store," but such a system would throw gasoline on the failure fire that is already consuming poor communities where hope has already been airlifted out. Consider this non-shocking, though certainly troubling, finding from the Report:
Together, the four schools began with a combined total of 312 fifth graders in 2003-04, and ended with 173 eighth graders in 2006-07 (see Exhibit 2-3). The number of eighth graders includes new students who entered KIPP after fifth grade (p.12).
That amounts to a 55% attrition rate, even when adding all the new enrollees during the three years. Imagine what the attrition rate might be if the "researchers" took a measure of the beginners vs. completers without the new recruits.
I thought he had just a couple of points!
5. I'm guessing that Linda Darling-Hammond wasn't chosen because Obama's financial backers can't understand how what she supports fits into the actual management of education in the US. I'd rather have Linda as head of OER, frankly.
Craig, this says a whole bunch about how you view the shaping of education policy in America. Outside of Illinois, is public policy openly dictated by the ignorance of "financial backers?" I thought that Obama represented a break from government by those who can afford to buy it. As for the "actual management of education," the federal government does not have, yet, a Mayor Daley who appoints a Board of Education to place his dictates behind the fig leaf of democratic participation. But you are correct: Obama's financial backers will never understand schools designed for children.

Now for the real snippy part:
6. It's great to have the left-wing to keep the left-of-center pragmatists honest. I think that's what Jim's post is meant to do....not to suggest that Obama would have been wiser to have appointed someone like Alfie Kohn, Peter McClaren, Henry Giroux, or William Ayers as education secretary. Or, um, maybe it was to suggest that?
It's a very common ploy among some pundits to attempt to marginalize those with whom they would otherwise engage in dialogue. As I said before, however, I would gladly take any of the names you sarcastically include as a superior choice to Arne Duncan. And if your position, Craig, represents "left of center," then I am Che Guevera.

Jim, do you have a few names of people--that is, those who might actually be appointed by Obama--that you WOULD be happy to support as education secretary?
A couple of other guys (I don't know about the quality of their basketball game) who would have been great choices:

Doug Christensen, Former Nebraska State Superintendent
Peter McWalters, Former Commissioner for Rhode Island Schools

Both were recently canned for not supporting the blowing up of public education.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Thank you so much for this post. Over the past few weeks, I've watched in horror as the great minds of the progressive blogosphere have openly embraced neo-liberal / neo-conservative education policies in the name of "holding schools accountable."

    Matthew Yglesias at ThinkProgress referred to Darling-Hammond as representing the status quo in education reform... after admitting he really hadn't a clue who she is! I had to clean the coffee off of my computer screen after I read that one!

    Those of us in the education business have a long hill to climb if we are to change normative understandings of "what our schools need." Thanks for making a contribution to the cause.