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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trading Chemistry Texts for 7 Weeks of FCAT Test Prep

From the Palm Beach Post:
When Priya Mistry returned from winter break, she expected to spend the next quarter in chemistry learning about Avogadro's number and converting moles to mass. Instead, her teacher said he was throwing out the chemistry curriculum for the next seven weeks and teaching a review for the science FCAT.

"It's kind of easier than the normal chemistry would be," said the Palm Beach Gardens High junior, who's not entirely displeased. "But we're supposed to be doing chemistry. . . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Connecting the Rot

A President who believes that the best oversight is no oversight and a Congress impotent to act, yes? (from KaiserNetwork.org):
Capitol Hill Watch | Experts, Lawmakers Call for Increased FDA Funding To Address Agency Problems
[Jan 30, 2008]
FDA lacks adequate funds and organization to meet an increased number of responsibilities and ensure public health, witnesses and lawmakers said on Tuesday at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, CQ HealthBeat reports. During the hearing, lawmakers heard testimony from members of the FDA Science Board, which recently released a report that found "lives are at risk" because of problems at the agency.

Peter Barton Hutt, an industry attorney and former FDA chief counsel who testified on behalf of the science board, said, "Science at FDA today is in a precarious position," adding, "The agency is barely hanging on by its finger tips." Hutt said that Congress should double funds for FDA over the next two years, increase the number of agency employees by 50% and provide an annual cost of living increase of 5.8% to all agency employees (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/29). According to Hutt, since 1988, more than 100 regulations have increased FDA responsibilities despite a lack of additional funds (Stark, McClatchy/Houston Chronicle, 1/30).

Gail Cassell, an Eli Lilly executive and chair of the science board, said, "We found that FDA's shortfalls have resulted in a plethora of inadequacies that threaten our society," such as "inadequate inspections of manufacturers; a dearth of scientists who understand emerging new technologies; inability to speed the development of new therapies; an import system that is badly broken; a food supply that grows riskier each year; and an information technology infrastructure that was identified as a source of risk in every (FDA) Center and program reviewed" by the board.
Meanwhile, back at the slaughterhouse (from Raw Story):
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released footage taken by an undercover investigator which reveals horrifying abuse of cows at a California slaughterhouse which reportedly supplies meat to American school lunch programs.

Cows too sick or lame to walk are shown being shocked, prodded, shoved with forklifts, and even blasted with hoses in what the head of the HSUS describes as "torture ... right out of the waterboarding manual." Such "downer" animals normally would not be led to slaughter out of fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (i.e., "mad cow" disease) entering the food supply.

The abuses shown in the video violate state and federal laws intended to prevent cruelty to animals, the HSUS asserts. "This must serve as a five-alarm call to action for Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture," says HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle. "Our government simply must act quickly both to guarantee the most basic level of humane treatment for farm animals and to protect America's most vulnerable people, our children, needy families and the elderly from potentially dangerous food."

The Washington Post reports that mad cow disease is extremely rare in the US, but of those documented cases, "the vast majority have been traced to downer cattle."

More on the story at this link. The HSUS warns that the following footage is graphic.

The Unbearable Stupidity of Chicago School Reform

As schools become more and more desperate to solve problems for which poverty stands in the way of solving, it is fascinating to watch the disemboweling of the public schools with the accompanying inhumane treatment of educators and students as they are ground up in the mindless and voracious reform crucible.

And while the teachers and administrators must still use "proven" and "scientifcally-based" curriculums and methods to turn around student performance now inspired by the evaporation of hope, the pols who control the schools adopt entirely unproven and draconian measures as a remedy for the school failure created by the poverty and lack of opportunity that they ignore, thus making it even more difficult for schools to have a positive effect in the lives of children who are now counted as test scores.

This is, truly, a stunning degree of self-imposed blindness by those chosen to lead. From the Chicago Tribune:
January 29, 2008
No school district in the nation has yet managed what Chicago officials proposed last week: a sweeping, simultaneous overhaul of a cluster of failing schools.

Experts say the plan to fire the staffs of eight schools and replace them with better qualified educators is somewhat of a gamble, one that will require an almost perfect alignment of stellar principals, committed teachers and re-invigorated curriculum and programs to succeed.

But that's no guarantee.

"No one knows if turnarounds work," said Andrew Calkins of the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute. "We spent two years looking at turnarounds and could not find a single example of turnaround work that was successful and sustained and done on scale, not just one school."

As Chicago parents began to digest the proposal first reported in the Tribune on Thursday, many seemed willing to roll the dice -- in part, an acknowledgment that even partial success is better than what their children face now.

Fara Bell, a Morton Career Academy parent, said turning around both Orr High School and Morton, an elementary school that feeds into it, is the only way to guarantee wholesale change.

"There's a little thing going on with every grade, and there's no progress. I believe [the teachers ] get to the point where they're ready to give up," said Bell. "I think we need stricter and dedicated teachers. Just because they come to work don't mean nothing. I see a lot lacking."

The school district is proposing replacing the staffs at Harper High School and the three small schools on the Orr High School campus.

Both Harper and Orr have undergone repeated efforts to be reinvented, but those efforts have been unable to improve student performance. Fewer than 25 percent of students at the schools met or exceeded state standards last year. . . .

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 State of the School Privatization Plan

Will this be W's final insult to public education--a national school voucher proposal he would like to disguise by calling it the "Pell Grant for Kids." As Nick Burbules quipped, if NCLB has been such a success in not leaving poor children behind, why should they suddenly need cheap church school vouchers to escape their world class education that NCLB has provided?

From the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s call for a $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids is the latest effort by his administration to channel tax dollars to low-income parents to help them send their children to private or religious schools.

His proposal, in his State of the Union address Monday night, was denounced by some top Democratic lawmakers and teachers’ union officials as a national “voucher” program that would only drain resources from urban public schools that in many cases are in need of money.

And some critics said that the president’s call for yet another education initiative only underscored the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal law that Mr. Bush considers a landmark achievement of his first term.

In naming his proposed program after a federal scholarship program for college students, Mr. Bush sided with advocates for school choice who say low-income parents should be able to send their children to private schools.

The new program would be modeled after a much smaller federally financed “scholarship” initiative in Washington that Mr. Bush championed in 2003, which has provided more than $14 million a year for low-income children to attend private and religious schools.

But some lawmakers influential on education issues were not impressed by the proposal.

“The president didn’t commit the resources to expand educational opportunity,” Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a prepared statement.

“Instead, on top of a $70 billion shortfall in funding for his own education reforms, he again proposed to siphon scarce resources from our public schools to create new voucher programs,” said Mr. Kennedy, who is chairman of the health, education and labor committee.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union in New York City, said: “It is an indictment of how No Child Left Behind hasn’t worked. If that policy had worked that would be no reason to call for any new policies to turn around and compete with public schools.”

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nine Weeks of Testing

By Patricia Lopez at Ed Equity:
AFT.org "NCLB Watch"
December 2007 / January 2008

The pressure to sacrifice teaching and learning to a treadmill of endless, duplicative testing is a common problem in school these days. But it would be tough to find a state harder hit by this burden than Texas, where public schools must navigate separate state and NCLB accountability provisions based on standardized test scores.

The demands have meant that some schools in Texas are spending 130 days a year involved in some aspect of testing-test prep, test administration, test benchmarking and test scoring. Now teachers are fighting back through a campaign called "Reclaim Your Classroom."

Texas AFT is distributing Reclaim Your Classroom Test Watch cards in schools statewide and on the Internet so that teachers, parents and students can track how much time is spent on testing, including standardized tests like the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which is used for grading schools under NCLB as well as the state's accountability system.

The cards also track the inordinate amount of time spent preparing for and benchmarking tests-and that pressure has only grown since enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, says Ken Zarifis, a middle school language arts teacher from Austin. Zarifis began to track testing hours well before the campaign kickoff in September.

"My students are losing nine weeks a year to testing," he reports. "Ten years ago, testing was taking about a week out of the year. It's appalling." . . . .

Art? Music? Cultures? NCLB?

By Lisa Greenwood at LJ World:
Recently, Charles Goolsby, theatre director at LHS, invited the district 9th grade English classes the opportunity to see a special performance of the current LHS production-in-progress, Romeo and Juliet. What a fantastic opportunity for students to see one of the works of literature they study in class brought to life on stage!

But something was nagging at me...

If this production were not tied directly to the 9th grade English curriculum, would principals and teachers have responded so enthusiastically to the invitation? Or would it be construed as an obstacle to getting students through the required curriculum in order to perform strongly on standardized tests?

I thought back over my years as a student, and then as a teacher. I had a sneaking suspicion that there just weren't as many field trips as there used to be. So I polled my students, who said that field trips had definitely dropped off in junior high from the frequency encountered in elementary school. This is partly due to the large amount of fantastic and enriching programs and opportunities in our community for the elementary students.

But the teachers I spoke to said that they had noticed a definite decrease over the years. "Not enough time -- we are already trying to cram everything in before the kids have to take their tests -- we can barely get through the required district curriculum." This from two math teachers, and I had heard similar comments from English teachers as well.

So my question is...in the struggle to adequately educate our children, and in the struggle to maintain the high standards and increasingly unreasonable goals set by NCLB, where do we make time to teach them about life? About culture? About music and theatre? About arts? About their environment and their community? We can't do those things in isolation in a classroom. They have to get out of the classroom to experience some of these things, but that takes away from precious classroom instruction time.

For some of our students, a trip to LHS to see Romeo and Juliet may be the only chance they ever get to hear Shakespeare's work as it was intended. What else is passing them by while we keep them in the classroom, chained to the mandates of NCLB and standardized testing?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Squash, Anyone--anyone with $65K for Tuition?

While school privatizers continue to wave the freedom flag and talk about parental choice, their rhetoric is matched by the reality of choosing charter schools in shutdown strip mall storefronts or corrugated trailers, or the choice of four to six thousand dollar vouchers to attend church schools that are, otherwise, emptying for fear of the priestly pedophiles who lurk there.

Meanwhile, the NYTimes has the story on the real school choices, the ones that are accessible to those who can afford to choose a school with a billion dollar endowment that charges from 40 to 70 thousand dollars a year for tuition.

EXETER, N.H. — When Curtis Thomas, a 14-year-old from a poor family living in St. Rose, La., arrived here two years ago to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, he brought little more than a pair of jeans and two shirts. That would hardly do at a 227-year-old prep school where ties are still required for boys in class.

So Curtis’s history teacher, armed with Exeter funds, took him shopping for a new wardrobe.

That outlay was just a tiny fraction of what Exeter spends on its students. With its small classes, computers for students receiving financial aid, lavish sports facilities and more, Exeter devotes an average of $63,500 annually to house and educate each of its 1,000 students. That is far more than the Thomas family could ever afford and well above even the $36,500 in tuition, room and board Exeter charges those paying full price.

As a result, like the best universities to which most of its students aspire, Exeter is relying more and more on its lush endowment to fill the gap.

Despite Exeter’s expanding commitments, which include a new promise to pay the full cost for any student whose family income is less than $75,000, the school’s endowment keeps growing. Last year — fueled by gifts from wealthy alumni and its own successful investments — it crossed the $1 billion mark, up from just over $500 million in 2002. . . .

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dousing the Flame in Pennsylvania High Schools

Teacher Jake Miller speaks out for his students and for his profession on the plans in Pa. for high school exit exams.

From morningcall.com:
''Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.''

While a student at Bloomsburg University, I remember stumbling across this banner, and being floored by its message. These words, which I later learned were a quote by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, serve as the flag to my classroom at Panther Valley High School today.

I am a firm believer that students learn by doing, but more importantly, by wanting to do. Give them a torch and a sense of guidance, and they will find their way. But give them a pail, and you'll find how much they hate being compared to other students on assessments such as the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA).

After learning about the Pennsylvania Board of Education's decision to make PSSAs standard as a graduation requirement, I gave them the torch of my classroom to discuss the proposals. Here's what I learned:

A mere mention of the acronym PSSA automatically conjured an array of emotions. Some students were filled with revulsion. They hate the PSSA. But they detest our school's 4SIGHT remedial test, its evil step-brother, even more. Just yesterday, one of my problematic ninth grade students was pulled from my class during a test review, which he was fully participating in and thoroughly enjoying, to fulfill his 4SIGHT requirement. He pleaded to stay, but I explained the state supercedes me as boss. His response? ''Mr. Miller, I'm going to finish in five minutes.'' He was back in four.

Many students, like this young man, have learned to be apathetic about tests. After years of taking tests with no review of their answers, they do not know how to improve themselves and achieve the coveted ''Advanced'' or ''Proficient'' ratings. So, they've learned to be unconcerned.

Yet, others are entirely consumed by them. One student told me that when he was in third grade, he used to get nauseous the day before the PSSA because he had been brainwashed to succeed. Instead of finding success, some students unearth stress. Approximately 49 percent of students suffer from test anxiety; giving them more tests shows how little their apprehension matters.

Special education students are also a concern. One of my students explained to the class, if we have these standardized tests, a student like her might be forced to drop out. Her face turned sour as she explained, ''I need teachers' help on tests, and I feel lost when I take the PSSA.''

What about vocational-technical students? ''I'm not going to college,'' professed one of my very blatant students. ''I just want to learn a trade. But with this proposal, I'll be forced out of something I love to do into college prep courses. That is crap!''

Imagine that your son or daughter has problems the year he or she is to take one of the two English PSSAs (language arts and reading and writing, which must both be passed). Said another student, ''It doesn't matter what the problem is whether it's a bad teacher, a teacher on maternity leave, or the student having personal issues. He or she still will be forced to take a test needed to pass, but are doomed to fail.''

I love feeling floored by statements like that.

But, if teachers are forced to teach to tests, conversations like the one I had with my class, where students discuss and solve problems, will be replaced by the memorization of answers. In effect, we will force a continual extinguishing of the fire by examining the filling the pail that is standardized testing.

It's a light we cannot afford to lose.

Jake Miller is a social studies teacher at Panther Valley High School.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All the March Nooses Across Louisiana

Racism has never been just about Jena, Louisana. Since 2000 the Louisiana State Department of Education has used the Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP), with its ground-breaking 4th and 8th grade retention policy that Michael Bloomberg has now emulated, to strangle children, teachers, and schools into a rigid, mindless, behavioral control system that would be an embarrassment even in a totalitarian state.

While music, art, social studies, science, health, recess, field trips, and loving teachers have been left behind, the constant surveillance of practice tests, the fear of failure on an individual level, and fear of failure at the school level (thanks to NCLB) have turned poor, black, and brown Louisiana schools into year-round test preparation chain gangs.

Children in grades 4 and 8 have to pass both the reading and math sections of the LEAP in order to move on to the next grades. All Louisiana elementary schools are to have a School Performance Score (SPS) of 120 by 2014. At Lincoln Elementary in Iberia Parish, they started this journey in 2000 with an SPS of 54.8. Now 7 years later they are at 71.7. At their current rate of improvement, the 4th graders today at Park Elementary will be 30 years old when their school reaches the 2014 target for all schools in Louisiana.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of children will have been labeled failures because of the poverty they can do nothing about. In the meantime, they will have been robbed of an education whose purpose of democratic citizenship, creative thinking, survival and health skills, cultural and artistic awareness, global awareness, ecological understanding, will have been all sacrificed in order to obtain an iron-fisted control over the next generation of compliant, ignorant, dependent, duped, and incapacitated drones willing to be ordered about by a numerically-shrinking white elite. This is the true banality of evil, unacknowledged in our presence, and given the name of equality and goodness. What kind of people have we become.

And in the meantime, too, test preparation goes forward at Park Elementary with the hollow hope of success this coming March. Last March 50% of 4th graders failed the LEAP, thus learning the loss of hope at an early age. From the New Iberian:

BY RANDY LOUIS, THE DAILY IBERIAN

Teche Area students are preparing to take high stakes testing.

This year teachers and staff members at Park Elementary School are making sure every student is prepared for the LEAP and i-LEAP tests by offering after-school tutoring to give students a second look at the math concepts and language arts skills they will see on the two tests, which are March 10-14.

The LEAP test taken by fourth- and eighth-graders determines whether students pass to the next grade. The i-LEAP, taken by students in the third-, fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grades, does not determine whether a student is promoted to the next grade.

Evelyn Louis, principal at Park Elementary School, said about 80 students at the school have taken advantage of the after-school tutoring.

“We have been preparing students since Oct. 1 for these high stakes tests that they will be taking later this spring,” Louis said. “The students have 30 to 45 minute intervals in which they focus on Math and English-Language Arts skills to help them prepare for the test.”

Louis said students recently took a benchmark test to see where they stand and most of the students did pretty well on the practice test.

“Some kids have a little touching up to do before the big test, but for the most part, I think the students and teachers are doing a really good job preparing for the test,” she said.

“The kids are into it and overall everyone is doing pretty well. Hopefully the afternoon training will benefit all the kids on the i-LEAP and LEAP tests who have participated in the after school tutoring.”

Llamira Crosby and Tanasia Leon, fourth-grade students at the school, said they have been attending after-school tutoring since it began in the first week in October.

“Tutoring has been a little sophisticated but I have been doing pretty good with all of my worksheets that we have been working on,” Crosby said. “I know I am going to pass the LEAP test because I am focused and I have been doing the necessary things to be successful on it.”

Leon agreed.

“During tutoring we have been doing a number of math and English activities,” she said. “Staying after school has helped me out a whole lot, and I believe I am ready for the LEAP test. I know I will pass it.”

Will Leon be in the 50% that does pass it?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Unending War Relies On Steady Supply of Dropouts and Pushouts

During World War I, the new racist "scientists" of human intelligence field tested their new human sorting tool that came to known as the IQ test. GIs who did poorly (the poor, the brown, and the black) on the bogus inventory were shipped off to the trenches of France, while the high flyers got Washington desk jobs.

Almost a hundred years later we use other racist tests to accomplish the same end, all the while calling it a civil rights initiative. And now WaPo reports that a third of new recruits are the great grandsons and great granddaughters of the World War I generation of poor, brown, and black citizens who did not finish school. These youngsters today have failed to make it in the testing factories we call schools, and recruiters, armed with these kids' school data (NCLB mandates it), have an unending supply of hot leads.

What would that recruiting poster look like--an army one group of dropouts and pushouts who can still contribute to the America's world class military economy. Sign your body up today!

At Lincoln Elementary, They Are Free At Last

Please help Lincoln Elementary, a rural school in Lindsay, California make up the $250,000 they relinquished in Title I funds to go NCLB free.

Story from Susie Pakoua Vang at the Fresno Bee (photo by Christian Parley) :
Lincoln Elementary is among a small number of U.S. schools turning down Title I funds -- and gaining independence.
By Susie Pakoua Vang / The Fresno Bee
01/20/08 22:17:30
LINDSAY -- Last fall, one little elementary school in this poor farm town did something startling: it said no to nearly $250,000 in federal funds. In exchange, Lincoln Elementary gained something its teachers considered even more valuable: more independence.

"We want to do a better job than we've been able to do and we want to do that by being flexible," Principal Pam Canby said.

Lincoln is among a small number of U.S. schools -- no one can say how many for sure -- that have gained flexibility in following federal education mandates by turning down Title I funds.

In rare cases, whole school districts have rejected Title I as a way to opt out of the federal academic accountability system set up by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. But most heed the warnings of state and federal educators who caution that the cost of giving up Title I can be steep.

The federal dollars are distributed to state education departments, which then give the money to school districts based on poverty and low test scores. Districts then decide which schools receive Title I funding, with priority given to schools with 75% or more low-income students. Funds can be used for staff development, supplemental materials and literacy and math coaches.

In return, schools receiving the money must show test results demonstrating that an ever-escalating share of their student bodies meet proficiency standards in English and math.

No Child Left Behind has met strong opposition since it became law. Some educators and parents say the program is under-funded and forces teachers to follow a standard script, rather than adapt to the needs of their students.

"Many teachers no longer can be innovative in their teaching," said Mike Green, a California Teachers Association representative and Lindsay Unified teacher. "A lot of that has to do with the fact that you are required to teach to the test."

Some local and national educators share Green's frustrations. Canby said Lincoln educators have been "diligent in marching to the tune of Title I." The school worked with a board of education experts who evaluated and monitored the campus' academic progress under the federal program.

The school also saw a major shift in staffing. Canby was brought in about five years ago after Lincoln failed to reach annual academic targets, Lindsay Unified Superintendent Janet Kliegl said. More than half the teaching staff is new.

District officials took the unusual step of giving up $243,000 -- out of its budget of $4 million -- to free the school from Title I mandates because too much time was spent on paperwork, when time could be better spent on more innovative teaching efforts.

Kliegl said Lincoln was a good candidate for the change because overall it is a high-achieving school, but there are groups of students, such as English learners, who miss federal targets. This calls for a more flexible approach, she said.

Tom Rooney, Lindsay Unified's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said No Child Left Behind requires a great deal of staff time on paperwork.

"That is necessary for some schools and it's necessary for some districts," Rooney said. "We've made the decision that that's not a necessary burden to put on [Lincoln]."

In past years officials spent Title I money on computers, learning programs and literacy and math coaches to try to meet the standards.
Now, Lincoln's staff will use creative student programs that teachers would not have had time for under provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. These include teaching via the Internet, far-ranging field trips and a renewed focus on science and the arts.

"We want our kids to go out on the road, go to the ocean, go to the mountains," Canby said. She wants students to appreciate music and art, which often were dropped from classrooms in order to focus entirely on improving test scores under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"An effective citizen is a person who is fluent in the arts. It's not just about reading and writing," she said.

Canby said she also wants to see a strong focus on science, which previously took a back seat to English and math.

Although the school no longer is obligated to meet federal mandates, the campus still must meet the state's Academic Performance Index benchmarks, which measure annual academic growth. Index scores range from 200 to 1,000, with all schools working toward 800 or better.

Lincoln is still far from the state goal. Last August, test results from the California Department of Education showed Lincoln dipped 38 points from its previous score of 691.

It's unclear how many other schools nationwide have followed the same path, but Lincoln is not alone.

Thousands of miles away, the Community Consolidated School District 21 board in Wheeling, Ill. has rejected about $250,000 in Title I for the past three years, said Kate Hyland, an assistant superintendent. She said consultants were assigned to underperforming schools, which resulted in several meetings, but little progress.

"It's a very punitive law. ... Our board really took a stand in saying, 'We are philosophically opposed to the law,' " Hyland said.

Other California educators have inquired about refusing the federal dollars as a way to gain more local control, but it's difficult to track how many schools, if any, followed through, said Jerry Cummings, who works for the state's Title I policy office.

While rejecting Title I isn't yet a trend, "it's potentially the front end of what could be a wider movement," said Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia University Teachers' College in New York City.

Janie Castro, Lincoln Elementary's Parent Teacher Organization president, said she supports the new vision for her school. She noted Canby prepared the school to do without Title I, partly because she used previous Title I money to buy long-term resources, such as computers and software. Said Castro: "We know that she's going to make this work."

While the school can do without Title I this year, next year could bring some changes. Nancy Frank, the school's math coach, said the lack of money may mean returning as a classroom teacher. Frank said that means she may not have time to go into several classrooms each day to teach students or offer one-on-one teaching sessions with new staff members.

To help make up the difference, the school has asked for financial help -- and some is already trickling in. A citrus company provided Lincoln a $20,000 grant to help the campus be a model for rural school reform, Canby said.

Mike Wood, a science consultant who was on Lincoln's alternative governance board, said it isn't easy for the school to give up more than $240,000. But he said it's important for local educators to dictate what is best for students. Said Wood: "Let's make learning fun again."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

935 Lies

From Raw Story:
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both. . . .

M. L. King, III to John Edwards

January 20, 2008

The Honorable John R. Edwards
410 Market Street
Suite 400
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Dear Senator Edwards:

It was good meeting with you yesterday and discussing my father's legacy. On the day when the nation will honor my father, I wanted to follow up with a personal note.

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father's legacy. It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.

I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.

You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don't have lobbyists in Washington and they don't get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.

I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.

From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.

I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.

So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father's words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.

Sincerely,

Martin L. King, III

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Surveillance and Rehabilitation of NYC Teachers and the Feigned Innocence of Randi Weingarten

Part of the genius of Michel Foucault was in showing how the repressive organization or society may use intermittent surveillance or just the threat of surveillance to accomplish full social control--if the subjects are unaware of where the surveillance is happening.

In the panoptic (all-seeing) schema, those social objects who don't know whether or not they are being watched perform as if they were, thus accomplishing the goal of punishment, which in today's society is social rehabilitation.

Today's piece in the NYTimes
offers a perfect example, with ten percent of New York's teachers under surveillance, thus accomplishing cheaply what might have been expensively required by 100 percent. We can imagine, too, the anxiety that teachers will undoubtedly experience every time they consider moving off their scripted lessons designed to promote thought control and behavioral control of the children:

New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests.

The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement.

While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public.

“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”

The effort comes as educators nationwide are struggling to figure out how to find, train and measure good teachers. Many education experts say that until teacher quality improves in urban schools, student performance is likely to stagnate and the achievement gap between white and minority students will never be closed. Other school systems, including those in Dallas and Houston as well as in the whole state of Tennessee, are also using student performance and improvement as factors in evaluating teachers.

The United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, has known about the experiment for months, but has not been told which schools are involved, because the Education Department has promised those principals confidentiality.

Randi Weingarten, the union president, said she had grave reservations about the project, and would fight if the city tried to use the information for tenure or formal evaluations or even publicized it. She and the city disagree over whether such moves would be allowed under the contract.

“There is no way that any of this current data could actually, fairly, honestly or with any integrity be used to isolate the contributions of an individual teacher,” Ms. Weingarten said. “If one permitted this, it would be one of the worst decisions of my professional life.” . . . .

Well, Randi, one has permitted this, the one is you. You stood in the doorway between this nightmare scenario and the classroom teachers, and you chose to slink away into the darkness under the pretense that you had somehow protected the identities of those teachers under surveillance. Can you tell us when you became part of the mechanism?
"The panoptic schema, without disappearing as such or losing any of its properties, was destined to spread throughout the social body," Foucault explains; "its vocation was to become a generalized function" (Discipline 207). The ultimate result is that we now live in the panoptic machine: "We are neither in the amphitheatre, nor on the stage, but in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves since we are part of its mechanism" (Discipline 217).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tomorrow

we can celebrate the life and contributions of a great man, Dr. King
and
we can mark the first day in the last year of the worst President in all of our American history.

Dann Sues Charter School As "Abject Academic Failure"

From the Columbus Dispatch:
Attorney General Marc Dann today filed suit against Harmony Community School in Cincinnati, citing the charter school for "abject academic failure, gross financial mismanagement, ethical lapses, and what amounts to consumer fraud."
It was the fourth suit Dann has filed against a charter school.

Dann, who traveled to Cincinnati personally to file the case in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, charged that the school failed to properly educate students using $31.9 million in state money it received since 1998. He asked the court to close the school “to free the students who are trapped in this failed institution.”

“During my time in office I have rarely encountered a more egregious abuse of the public trust or the public treasury than is documented in these pages,” Dann said of the allegations contained in 600-page supporting document he filed.

To critics who say the Ohio Department of Education and not the attorney general should be taking action against charters, Dann said, "...if Harmony was another type of charitable trust, if it were a non-profit hospital that routinely injured or killed patients or a charity that misused donations, the same people who are criticizing me for holding community schools accountable would be clamoring for me to act immediately and decisively."

Michelle Rhee: If Full-time Test Prep Doesn't Work, Let's Try Some More on Saturday

Desperate to show some improved test scores in the Spring, Fenty-Rhee are pulling out all stops with gimmicks to make sure that the children sitting on the bubble get extra test prep. The ones above or below the bubble? Not interested. From WaPo:
D.C. public schools will launch a weekend academic program this month to help more than 7,500 students at 91 schools pass standardized tests in the spring, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced yesterday.

Saturday Scholars, a 14-week program that will cost $1.5 million, is designed for students who are on the verge of passing the reading and math tests but need extra help, officials said. The program is voluntary and will take place on Saturdays at 47 schools citywide starting Jan. 26.

The announcement came one day after Fenty (D) and Rhee held 23 hearings on their school closure proposal, which has raised concerns among some parents who question the academic benefits of closing and combining schools.

By August, 27 of the city's academically troubled schools must have undergone an academic overhaul to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Rhee said the Saturday program is one way to help schools satisfy the federal law, but she said it also will lift the achievement of the school system's students. In addition, Rhee said, it is meant to address parent concerns that the number and range of special programs differ from one school to another. . . .

Friday, January 18, 2008

NY's Mayor Gradgrind and Mr. M'Choakumchild Announce New Dropout Incentive

Obviously Mayor Gradgrind believes the only way to end illegal immigration in a business-friendly way is to grow our own supply of desperate, undereducated, and impoverished underclass citizens to do their work when the supply of exploited foreigners is cut off.

The new 8th grade proficiency test, aimed to further discourage the poor, will be key in obtaining that political end.

From the NY Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Thursday unveiled strict new criteria for promotion to high school that could, if current testing patterns hold, put nearly a quarter of New York City’s eighth graders in danger of spending an extra year in middle school.

The new policy, which Mr. Bloomberg announced in his State of the City address, would require next year’s eighth graders to score at a basic level on standardized English and math exams, and to pass their classes in core subject areas in order to be promoted. It is stricter than similar policies that the mayor has put in place in the third, fifth and seventh grades, all in an effort to end the practice of social promotion, in which students are moved ahead despite academic problems.

The mayor has staked his legacy on his ability to overhaul the city school system, and when it comes to judging his work, the most crucial figure is the high school graduation rate. The rate under Mr. Bloomberg has edged up, but roughly half the city’s high school students fail to graduate in four years.

The new eighth-grade policy effectively acknowledges that the city’s middle schools share the blame for the dropout problem. “What this is designed to do is to candidly announce that the middle school has ownership of the high school readiness challenge for each one of our students,” Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said on Thursday at a briefing. “There is no purpose to go to high school if the function of high school is not to complete it successfully.” . . . .


Any translators for M'Choakumchild's koan?

New Research from Civil Rights Project

From the Civil Rights Project:
Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., two new studies were released today that are part of the Initiative on School Integration, recently created by the CRP/PDC after the Supreme Court’s June 2007 decisions limited voluntary integration in our nations’ schools. The Last Have Become First: Rural and Small Town America Lead the Way on Desegregation, by Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg, is the latest in a series of CRP annual reports on desegregation trends. Are Teachers Prepared for Racially Changing Schools? by Erica Frankenberg and Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, reveals the challenges for teachers and school leaders as they face many different kinds of situations with regard to race, ethnicity and class. January 18, 2008

Inaugural Issue of "The Integration Report"

The first issue of The Integration Report, a new biweekly web "toolkit" launched today, links readers to the most up-to-date integration news and illuminates key issues in diversity at our nation's K-12 schools. The Integration Report is part of CRP/PDC's new Initiative on School Integration, made possible with the support of the Open Society Institute. January 15, 2008

Still Looking to the Future - School Integration Manual

Honoring the nation's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, The CRP/PDC and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) release Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration; A Manual for Parents, Educators and Advocates. This Second Edition of The Manual provides valuable guidance and information about how communities and school districts can promote racial diversity and address racial isolation in schools nationwide. Download the manual here or request a hard copy from LDF by sending an email to manual@naacpldf.org. January 15, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Spellings Propaganda and the Mysterious and Phony PBS Link

Armstrong Williams, eat your heart out. ED is no longer farming out their covert propaganda but, rather, producing it in house as fake newscasts through something called ED TV. The latest effort by Spellings and her the-not-ready-for-4-AM players features a one-hour infomercial for NCLB.

When you go this page from ED's website, you will see PBS listed promimently as an outlet for this most recent fake news program with a NewsHour-looking set, the round interview table, and Doris McMillan (from McMillan Communications) playing the role of newscaster.

After watching this first episode via a webcast, oh my god, I could not believe that PBS could have anything to do with this, even though they are listed on the front end as partner and at the end with the claim of PBS member stations as contributing partners. I called PBS TeacherLine to get details on the broadcast schedule, and as I had a hunch, PBS TeacherLine knows nothing of a relationship with ED to show or produce Education News Parents Can Use.

When I dug a little further, I found out that PBS TeacherLine was created by the generosity of an ED grant in 2000. It remains a mystery which one of ED braintrust came up the bright idea to list PBS as a partner in this most obvious propaganda series.

Parents to Shut Down Michelle Rhee's Privatization Plan?

From WaPo:
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said yesterday that she intends to make "significant changes" in her school closure proposal, but she declined to say whether any of the 23 schools would come off the list, as numerous parents are demanding.

In tackling this highly charged issue, Rhee is facing her biggest challenge to date in her seven-month tenure, and using unprecedented powers in a school system now under the control of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

The chancellor is facing mounting criticism from parents, teachers and some D.C. Council members who say she and Fenty (D) are shutting them out of the decision-making process. That tension is illustrated in tonight's competing public assemblies on the closure proposal: Two council members will host a citywide "Peoples Meeting" that parents called for in opposition to 23 simultaneous hearings that Rhee has scheduled.

As of last night, the "Peoples Meeting" was winning the battle for participants, with 100 scheduled to attend the session at the District Building. Only 75 had registered for the 23 hearings across the city. . . . .
This is likely the only real social studies lesson DC children have had all year. Might this unit be called "Fight the Power?"

The Crash of the Phoenix Fraud

While a Federal court has decided on restitution for stockholders based on a jury's determination of fraud, one has to wonder if there will ever be restitution to the tens of thousands of youngsters recruited by bounty hunter "counselors" to waste their money in an effort to attain a credential of marginal value.

From the AP via the NY Times:

PHOENIX (AP) — The Apollo Group Inc., the company that owns the University of Phoenix, fraudulently misled investors in 2004 about student recruitment policies, a federal jury decided Wednesday. The panel ordered the company to pay shareholders about $280 million.

Jurors said Apollo officials “knowingly and recklessly” made false statements in a news release, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and four conference calls with market analysts. By doing so, jurors said, Apollo violated federal securities laws.

The verdict, which comes after a two-month trial in Federal District Court in Phoenix, specified that the company pay certain investors $5.55 a share.

Apollo, based in Phoenix, reported $780.7 million in revenue in the first quarter. The company said it had not decided whether to appeal.

Shareholders claimed that Apollo misled investors four years ago when it kept secret a 2004 Department of Education report that criticized the University of Phoenix’s recruitment policies. The report concluded that the university paid enrollment counselors solely based on the “recruiters’ success in securing enrollments,” which violated federal regulations.

The shareholders singled out a former chief executive, Todd S. Nelson, and a former chief financial officer, Kenda B. Gonzales, as the Apollo officials who failed to inform investors about the report. Investors had sought $5.55 a share in restitution, which company officials estimated would total $280 million.

Schools Where Half Graduate Now Moving to College Prep?

It is really the saddest and most persistent reality in the long history of urban education reform : as one foundering reform is replaced by another lined up to take its place, each high-sounding plan remains persistently blind to the effects of poverty that assure its failure beforehand and the failure of each subsequent reform.

Now in school systems where only half of the students graduate in four years, plans are underway to turn all these schools in college prep academies. Another grandiose sweet smelling illusion that ignores the unassailable truth that continues to be stringently denied by those hoping to staunch the hemorrhage with a never-ending supply of expensive band-aids.

ENDING POVERTY WILL ALLOW EDUCATION REFORMS A CHANCE TO SUCCEED, WHEREAS IGNORING POVERTY WILL ASSURE THEIR CONTINUED FAILURE.
Hoping to end poverty by improving education places the cart exactly in front of the horse.

Another blind example from the NY Times:

BOSTON — At Excel High School, in South Boston, teachers do not just prepare students academically for the SAT; they take them on practice walks to the building where the SAT will be given so they won’t get lost on the day of the test.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., the schools have abolished their multitrack curriculum, which pointed only a fraction of students toward college. Every student is now on a college track.

And in the Washington suburb of Prince George’s County, Md., the school district is arranging college tours for students as early as seventh grade, and adding eight core Advanced Placement classes to every high school, including some schools that had none.

Those efforts, and others across the country, reflect a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. Now, educators say, even as they struggle to lift dismal high school graduation rates, they must also prepare the students for college, or some form of post-secondary school training, with the skills to succeed.

In affluent suburbs, where college admission is an obsession, some educators worry that high schools, with their rigorous college preparatory curriculums, have become too academically demanding in recent years.

By contrast, many urban and low-income districts, which also serve many immigrants, are experimenting with ways to teach more than the basic skills so that their students can not only get to college, but earn college degrees. Some states have begun to strengthen their graduation requirements.

“This is transformational change,” said Dan Challener, the president of the Public Education Foundation, a Chattanooga group that is working with the area public schools. “It’s about the purpose of high school. It’s about reinventing what high schools do.”

What is required, educators say, is nothing less than revolutionizing schools built for another century, when a high school diploma was a ticket to social mobility in a manufacturing economy, and students with only basic skills could make it into the middle class. But the task is daunting, and the outcome uncertain, experts say.

“We don’t know yet how to get everyone in our society to this level of knowledge and skills,” said Michele Cahill, a vice president at the Carnegie Corporation, which, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is financing many of the new efforts. “We’ve never done it before.” . . . .

ENDING POVERTY WILL ALLOW EDUCATION REFORMS A CHANCE TO SUCCEED, WHEREAS IGNORING POVERTY WILL ASSURE THEIR CONTINUED FAILURE. Helloooooooooooo.




Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We don't need no stinking civics lesson--can't you see we're taking a test!

From the Houston Chronicle:
Some Texas schools are considering passing up on a front-row seat in a democracy lesson during the March 4 primary to keep their campuses visitor-free and church-mouse quiet during the opening day of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Leaders of some Houston-area school districts, including Katy, have informed Harris County officials that they're reluctant to fill their normal role as polling sites because of this year's scheduling conflict.

"Sites that are normally used as polling locations may not be available because of administrative policy that prohibits visitors on school campuses during testing," said Hector de Leon, spokesman for the County Clerk's Office. "However, at this point, the use of schools as polling locations has not been ruled out."

Questions remain about whether public schools can refuse to serve as voting locations, an issue state leaders are trying to iron out.

The matter came to a head this week when the Fort Worth school district officially rejected Tarrant County's request to use 34 campuses as polling places. The district softened its stance on Friday, however, agreeing to allow voting on some campuses or help the county find sites nearby. . . .

High Quality Teaching Declining Since NCLB

From AScribe Newswire:

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Jan. 15 (AScribe Newswire) -- New research by University of Maryland Education Associate Professor Linda Valli provides clear evidence that the No Child Left Behind Act's focus on high-stakes testing has "actually undermined the quality of teaching in reading and math." Valli says that declines her research found in high quality teaching are directly related to "the pressure teachers were feeling to 'teach to the test'. Of course this runs counter to the stated idea of NCLB, which is for students to achieve rigorous standards. It is not what we set out to find, but it is what we discovered."

In a recent interview by the College of Education's Bruce Jacobs, Valli talked about her research and recent appointment as the inaugural holder of the Jeffrey and David Mullan Professorship in Teacher Education-Professional Development at the University of Maryland.

Q - Congratulations on your appointment. What was your reaction to being selected?

My initial reaction was amazement. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to pursue further work in strengthening teacher education. I feel real gratitude to Jean Mullan for being so generous and for affirming the importance of teacher preparation.

Q - What are your plans for this new position?

I am now finishing up a five-year study on fourth and fifth grade reading and math instruction, trying to better understand what good teachers do to help students who are struggling at grade level. Teachers-in-training often understand teaching concepts but do not know how to implement them in the classroom. I will use my new professorship to work with my colleagues here in the department to create computer-simulated experiences of teacher learning - classroom scenarios where pre-service teachers would have to decide what to do based on teacher theory and best practices. These new teacher training tools will help us put into practice what we have learned from our latest research.

Q - What have you learned from that research?

We started planning the study in 2000, before the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the subsequent emphasis on testing. We were simply looking for good teaching practices, but what we found during the study was the shift to high-stakes testing actually undermined the quality of teaching in reading and math. Our data show that what we would call high-quality teaching decreased over that period of time. There were declines in teaching higher-order thinking, in the amount of time spent on complex assignments, and in the actual amount of high cognitive content in the curriculum. We believe these declines are related to the pressure teachers were feeling to "teach to the test." Of course this runs counter to the stated idea of NCLB, which is for students to achieve rigorous standards. It is not what we set out to find, but it is what we discovered.

Q - Much of your work over the years has focused on what you call "challenging environments" for teachers. How do you define "challenging?"

One challenge for teachers today is they need to know how to teach a much more racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse range of students - students coming from an increasingly broad range of relatively disadvantaged or advantaged backgrounds: children in poverty, children whose first language is not English, children from well-off families. Another challenge is, because of NCLB, teachers are now called upon to produce very concrete outcomes for students that work against good teaching. Their jobs are increasingly stressful and dissatisfying. They often don't feel supported, they feel the expectations are unrealistic, and they feel they are not able to establish good, human teaching relationships with students because everything is so driven by testing. The task for teacher educators is to help teachers meet these new challenges in ways that are healthy for both them and their students.

Q - How do you see teacher educators accomplishing this?

It is increasingly important for us to help teachers create supportive communities in their schools, to involve parents and to find oases of support among other teachers and administrators. New teachers need to anticipate the necessity to do that. They cannot survive in today's challenging situations without that kind of support. Without it they will continue to flee to higher income suburban schools. It's just too hard for them. That is why I think our simulated environments will be so important as a way of preparing teachers for what they will face.

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

Prof. Valli is the inaugural holder of the Jeffrey and David Mullan Professorship in Teacher Education-Professional Development at the University of Maryland. Find the release at http://www.education.umd.edu/news/news2007/wnr0709MullanEndProf.html . Her research looks at what constitutes good quality teaching.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Edwards Still the Only Electable Democrat

A clip from Jayne Lyn Stahl at Huffington Post:
So, maybe the media has timed out on John Edwards. Maybe the pay for view press has decided to shrink the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination to two candidates, but this would be premature evacuation. Every contender with the stomach for it has the right to remain in the race for as long as he or she wants without the benefit of primetime postmortems.

Isn't it bad enough that we try, and convict, those who are only suspected of committing a crime on our TV newscasts? Is this any way to run a democracy? Yeah, into the ground, I think.

If we, in this country, weren't so insistent upon novelty, and looked instead to competency, John Edwards would be, by far, the clear leader as the nominee of the Democratic Party. Yet, in keeping with their time-honored tradition, the Democrats will instead show their uncanny ability to foul it up all just when a victory is most needed, and instead of delivering an end to a war which has lasted longer than Vietnam, we will, yet again, deliver a nominee who is guaranteed to pull an LBJ and keep fanning the flames of war in the name of bringing the boys home. The lies are the same; the only thing that's changed is the calendar.

While it's true that any Democrat nominated must secure as many crossover Republican votes as possible, if we think of government as a large ship, what happens when all the weight is in the center?

As long as any candidate places his, or her tonnage solely in the middle, the ship of state must sink. That was John Kerry's problem; not willing to go out on a limb, sticking with the tried and true -- is this what it means to be experienced? But, even more daunting for him, Kerry wasn't a fighter. If Kerry were a fighter, he'd have held out for every last vote to be counted, in Ohio, and we would not have had a second term of George W. Bush who didn't even deserve a first term.

It would be ingenuous to think, even for a minute, that only the experienced stick with the tried and true. No one who is unprepared, or unwilling, to take a risk belongs in the Oval Office, in the first place. George Washington took risks; John Adams, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy -- even Richard Nixon took risks; not all risks are created equal, after all.

Make no mistake, whether one likes Hillary Clinton is beside the point just as whether one likes Barack Obama is also beside the point, the only candidate who has stated emphatically that he will withdraw all troops from Iraq is John Edwards. The only candidate not beating the war drums with respect to Iran or Pakistan is John Edwards.

Moreover, the only Democratic contender not luxuriating in generalities and abstractions is John Edwards. And, ultimately, the candidate, besides Dennis Kucinich, who poses the greatest risk to the corporate lobbies, and big business in Washington, is John Edwards. Edwards is a fighter which is what the Democratic Party needs if it's to win the presidency in 2008. Edwards will fight for economic equity, he will fight for the working man and woman in this country at the expense of the corporate elite. He will see to it that more of our sons and daughters are in college than on the front lines of battle.

Yes, and go figure, John Edwards just happens to be the guy the corporate media machine is intent on writing off, trying to figure out how to siphon off his votes while they're ratcheting up John McCain. Well, guess what, winning one or two primaries doesn't make a presidential candidate anymore than losing one or two breaks one. . . .

Georgia Charter School Stores Investigated as Home Office Shuffles Managers

What could the problem be--this business model worked great for Pizza Hut and Burger King??

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
By DIANE R. STEPP
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/14/08

Top executives of one of Georgia's largest charter school operators have been summoned by state charter officials for a meeting today at the Department of Education to discuss "operational issues."

The Arlington,Va.-based company manages four schools in Cobb and Marietta. All have lost their principals to resignations or reassignments since June as well as the company's southeastern regional director.

The latest was Reginald Flenory, principal of Imagine International Academy of Smyrna. He was hired in February to head one of Imagine's two new start-up schools in south Cobb. He cited family issues as his reason for leaving. Kennesaw Charter Schools' former principal Catherine Montini, hired in August, lasted less than four months.

"We have concerns when we see a lot of turnover. You've got to have stability for a school to move forward," said Andrew Broy, state Department of Education charter director. . . .

Parents and Teachers Standing Up in Olympia, WA Against WASL

From the Olympian:
Education WASL battle continues

The issues: One major issue that doesn't look likely to go away is the fight over high-stakes testing for high school students. Last year, lawmakers delayed a requirement that seniors pass the math WASL in order to graduate. Similar pressure will be brought to bear by teachers groups, parents and skeptical lawmakers to suspend the reading and writing requirement for graduating seniors this year. Also on tap: Washington Education Association requests for belated cost-of-living pay raises to cover increases teachers didn't get in 2003-04, when raises for all state-paid workers were skipped to help balance the budget without general tax increases. Lawmakers also are likely to keep talking about school-funding issues and ways to bolster math instruction.

What's at stake: For this year's high school seniors, the right to graduate with classmates is one concern. But so is the education establishment's effort to raise learning standards, elevate student performance and make Washington more prepared to compete economically.

The players: The WEA long has had questions about using the WASL as a graduation test, and in October the state Parent Teacher Association took a position against using it as a graduation requirement. The business-oriented Washington Roundtable, Gregoire, state schools Superintendent Terry Bergeson and other advocates of higher performance have been adamant in wanting to push forward with testing.

Likely outcome: The testing has survived many attacks over the years, and Gov. Chris Gregoire gets the last word with her veto pen. Chopp put it this way: "I think there are going to be vigorous discussions about keeping the WASL as a graduation requirement. That doesn't mean we do away with it. … The governor has been very clear on that."

DC Charterizing Depends on School Closures

Parents are getting up, standing up in DC against the Fenty-Rhee plan to convert public schools into corporate and Catholic charter chain gangs. From WaPo:
. . . .The demonstrators said they plan to boycott the 23 assemblies Thursday. They said they will instead attend "The People's Meeting" that evening at the Wilson Building.

Opponents also have have questioned the legality of the Fenty administration's meetings, asking whether they can be considered official public hearings without the participation of city leaders. Fenty signed a mayoral order Jan. 9 delegating authority to two dozen senior education officials to "chair" the meetings.

The well-organized assembly was an indication that Fenty and Rhee face strong, vocal opposition to the school closings. The administration says the closing of under-enrolled schools is the first step in education reform, to be followed by the creation of consolidated schools with special programs, such as those for gifted and talented students.

Leslie Saravia, a 10-year-old fifth-grader in bangs and ponytail, timidly read her speech from notebook paper in English and Spanish as Thomas held the microphone for her. Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" rang out before she started speaking. "Please, please. I am begging you not to close down my school," said Leslie, who attends John Burroughs Elementary School. "This is my second home."

Lee Glazer, mother of three public-school students, said the proposal targets "children of color." No school on the closings list is in predominantly white Ward 3.

Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for Rhee, said Ward 3 schools do not have the enrollment decline seen in some schools in other wards.

Several speakers questioned what would happen to the closed schools. Some speculated that the buildings would find their way into the hands of developers and be converted into condominiums unaffordable to middle- and low-income residents. Those accusations spilled over into the hearing.

Parents at the hearing made the case for keeping particular schools open. Burroughs Elementary, which is in Ward 5, had the biggest presence. Gray said organizers had originally requested that the council hear testimony from 288 people in support of Burroughs but agreed to whittle it down to a dozen. Ward 5 has the largest number of schools slated to close, with seven.

Maria P. Jones, head of the Local School Restructuring Team at Burroughs, rattled off the school's statistics. She said that enrollment was up and that Burroughs was among the top 20 elementary schools in math and reading scores. "Why is Burroughs on the [closing] list?" she asked.

Rhee said schools were selected based on their "walkability" and other factors, including declining enrollment. Noting the school system's $50 million utility bill, she said the closures would save money that could go toward teachers and programs.

But several education advocates testified that the cost savings would be less than the approximately $23 million Fenty and Rhee have projected. "If these 23 schools are closed, it isn't really going to save us a lot of money, and it's not going to allow us to do exciting new enrichment programs," said Mary Levy, director of the Public Education Reform Project for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Levy put the savings at about $14 million, based on her own analysis. Because finance officials have projected a deficit in the nearly $1 billion school budget, Levy said any savings would probably first be put toward closing that gap.

"Unless the council comes up with some other funding source, there's not just going to be the money there, for anything," Levy said. . . .

Monday, January 14, 2008

20 Years of Miseducation on Global Warming

From MeteorBlades at Daily Kos:
In the hot summer of 1988 - while Americans prepared to decide whether Vice President George H.W. Bush or the "Atari Democrat" – Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis – would replace Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified at a congressional hearing that he was convinced the earth’s atmosphere was warming up, that the warming was caused by human activity, and that severe shocks would result. A three-scenario graph accompanying his testimony sent a clarion warning.

The smears and propaganda began almost immediately from contrarians such as Patrick Michaels and a snake-oil salesman named S. Fred Singer. Eventually, it became known that both men (and others) were part of a well-financed campaign on the part of fossil-fuel companies to persuade Americans (and politicians) that global warming was a hoax and that Hansen and other scientists sounding the alarm were fools or worse.

The hearings in June 1988 weren’t the first time Hansen had said trouble was brewing. Nor were they the first time other scientists had publicly spoken of the potential crises warming might cause. But 1988 demarcated two periods. Before then, the science of climate change was tentative and the political opposition was mostly directly toward keeping data from being gathered in the first place, much less analyzed. Afterward, with the science ever more sure and cohesive, a cabal of petro-industrialists paid aggressive liars to attack the science and, sometimes, the scientists. Chief among those in the crosshairs were Hansen and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the research organization set up in that same watershed year by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program.

With the express purpose of casting "doubt on the theory of global warming," front groups with misleading names such as the Global Climate Coalition, the Global Climate Information Project, and the Cooler Heads Project (as well as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Consumer Coalition) spread fabrications while their corporate sponsors paid tens of millions of dollars for public relations campaigns, advertising, and contributions to Democratic and Republican politicians.

These slick propagandists were immensely successful. In the ‘90s, President Bill Clinton – under assault by retrograde ideologues over a wide range of issues – chose to invest only a smidgen of his political capital to deal with a crisis many in the chattering classes still claimed was bogus. Throughout the ‘00s, the propagandists’ comrades-in-avarice have directly controlled the federal machinery, censoring, distorting, threatening and dragging their feet. The professional deniers’ favorite targets, from the IPCC to Hansen to Al Gore, have been repeatedly vindicated. Global warming has become the worst nightmare of the deniers and delayers: a household word.

Yet their two-decade-long assault on science and sound policy continues its negative impacts. Key world leaders, even including Mister Bush, say they understand that global warming is a crisis. But their acknowledgement hasn't been transformed into a passionate commitment for what matters: bold action.

Scientific interest in climate change goes back nearly two centuries, but the politics of global warming are only 50 years old. . . .

Charter Schools: "publicly funded private entities" that are resistant to state audit

Unreserved public spending with little oversight was once called Big Government by conservatives. Now that those same tax dollars are flowing to corporations, both for profit and for nonprofit tax credits, bad Big Government has become good Big Corporate Welfare, and it comes highly recommended by the same conservatives who now see state audits and accountability as intrusions on private innovation and initiative. Government meddling, you know.

With larger and larger chunks of American capital going international, the remaining domestic capitalists have to make a living somehow--and the half-trillion that Americans spend on education each year is a prime target for the education-industrial complex that will figure significantly in the Bush legacy that Rudy (911) will carry forward in the unlikely event he becomes president.

From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
(January 12, 2008) — ALBANY — The New York Charter Schools Association and more than a dozen of its members will make their case Friday against having state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office audit their institutions.

The association, the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, and 13 New York City-based charter schools contend that the comptroller does not have the statutory authority to conduct "performance" audits, that is, anything that falls outside of a financial-statement audit.

That can include examining whether they are meeting the goals set forth in their charters, their efficiency and practices they use to safeguard the institution.

"These performance audits are duplicative of the extensive academic review of charter schools already undertaken by the New York State Department of Education, the New York City Education Department and the charter schools' 'charter entities,'" said John Henry, an Albany attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Another argument the groups and schools are advancing is that DiNapoli doesn't have constitutional power to do any auditing of charter schools, which are publicly funded private entities.

Last summer, the Comptroller's Office sent letters to charter schools authorized by New York City's Department of Education about its intent to conduct "performance" audits.

The move was prompted by an audit of the city Board of Education that determined annual reports that charter schools had filed lacked "critical, required performance information." The Comptroller's Office found that the department did not have a formal process to review information or develop corrective action. . . .

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Who Needs Gated Schools When You Have Bounty Hunters?

As the houses, cars, and people in the burbs get bigger and bigger, there is an accompanying shrinkage in taxpayer willingness to support increases to fund what was once known as the public good. The result in New Jersey middle class enclaves where the school systems are small enough to have historically maintained segregation? Bounty hunters to locate and roust out cheaters from poor communities who are trying to enroll their children in schools that are not dead end testing factories. What else. From the NY Times:

At 8 o’clock one morning, Juanita Ludwig and Vincent Constantino, employees of Clifton Public Schools, are knocking on the door at a house to check a tip. Someone had said a Clifton elementary school student did not really live there and was sneaking in from another district.

Ms. Ludwig, the supervisor of counseling and student services, explains to the parent who answers the door that the district must check to see that the child lives there most of the time. “We made sure there were age-appropriate toys for an 8-year-old child,” she said. “We explain to the parents that the child must stay at the house at least four nights a week.”

. . . .

And there are many ways to find students who don’t belong. Bounties, detectives, stakeouts with cameras, and hot lines that receive tips from anonymous callers are tools that some school districts use to combat the perennial problem of illegally enrolled students.

. . . .

Under state law, a student a student may legally attend the school in the district where he or she resides the majority of the time. Out-of-district students are required to pay tuition.

Three years ago, the Clark Public School District hired a retired police officer to investigate cases of illegal students. The investigator has parked outside students’ homes to see if they come out in the morning and checked documents like licenses and car registrations.

“The key word here is domicile,” Superintendent Vito Gagliardi said. “The child must live in the house as a primary residence.”

. . . .

Ewing has one full-time attendance officer and four part-time officers, said Raymond Broach, the school superintendent. “It’s a pretty steady issue,” he said. Students have been caught coming in from Bristol and Morrisville, Pa., across the Delaware River.

In Teaneck, Al Schulz, a retired police detective, is attendance officer. Sometimes, he watches to see if students are coming over the George Washington Bridge from New York, said David Bicofsky, the district spokesman.

“You are talking $10,000 to $11,000 a year to educate a student,” he said. “You have to be vigilant for your taxpayers.”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Disordered Goals or Policy Thoughts?

No one, not even the US Dept. of Education, believes that there is the slightest chance that all school children will be at grade level in reading and math by 2014. Yet this remains the central weapon in the NCLB privatization plan and in the Bush reauthorization fantasized for later this year.

When asked about this reality in Florida the other day, here is what Sec. Spellings said:
. . . .Spellings said she saw no reason to deviate from that goal.

"If we blink at this critical moment I think it will be a tragic thing for the country," she told lawmakers. "Why would we expect something different from somebody else's kid than we expect for our own kids? I want my kid on grade level today. I damn sure don't want her waiting until 2014.
From the Merck Online Manual:
Thought disorder refers to disorganized thinking, which becomes apparent when speech is rambling, shifts from one topic to another, and loses its goal-directed quality. Speech may be mildly disorganized or completely incoherent and incomprehensible. Bizarre behavior may take the form of childlike silliness, agitation, or inappropriate appearance, hygiene, or conduct. Catatonia is an extreme form of bizarre behavior in which a person maintains a rigid posture and resists efforts to be moved . . . .

Boss Mike, State Audits, and Buying Control of Public Resources

Yesterday the NY Times had this story on the sweetheart deal underway for turning Randalls Island over to Manhattan's elite private schools. Well, let's be fair--the consortium of private schools would get control of the ball fields there two-third of the time, while the public schools would get them one-third of the time. That sounds about right, don't you think.

Bloomberg obviously has no problem with collecting cash from the big givers whose cash produces tax credits while buying them control of public facilities for their children who would not be caught dead in one of the testing chain gangs that Klein refers to as public schools.

And today the Times has this on an impending state audit for the $315,000,000 in no-bid contracts by the City's Education Department. Sounds like something Boss Mike might not be able to use on his resume for candidate-in-waiting-to-see-if-Edwards-gets-knocked-out for President.

The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, is opening an audit of the City Education Department’s increasing practice of awarding contracts without competitive bidding. In the past five years such contracts have totaled $315 million.

To keep down costs, competitive bidding is normally required of city agencies. But although the Education Department is controlled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, it is by law a state-authorized entity free from some of the more stringent city financial regulations. . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Hard Times" Comes to Pa. High School Students

From Beaver County Times and Allegheny Times:
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 7:21 AM EST
Education is supposed to make children think, not churn out better test takers.

In yet one more step toward testing-based factories that will masquerade as schools and wring all the joy out of learning, the state Board of Education is considering the adoption of a statewide graduation test.

The Associated Press reports proponents have said the rules would ensure that all students entering college and the work force meet the state’s academic standards.

The regulations, which would take effect for the class of 2014, call for students to pass a battery of state-approved tests in reading, math, science and social studies that would replace traditional final exams. Failing students would be allowed to retake the tests, but schools would have to provide remedial help for them first.

In the draft under consideration, students can demonstrate their proficiency in a given subject by passing the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests; a state graduation competency assessment; local exams approved by companies that evaluate educational tests; or Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

In a rare show of unity, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, oppose the proposal. The AP reports they and other groups that oppose the new state tests say the revised proposal doesn’t address their objections that the plan places too much emphasis on a single test and undermines local school boards’ policymaking authority.

But there’s a larger matter in regard to this issue: As the result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the PSSAs and other standardized exams, test preparation is crowding out learning in America’s public schools.

Education is no longer child driven; it’s data driven. Children aren’t being taught to be lifelong learners; they’re being instructed on how to be better test takers. Teachers are no longer instructors; they’re test preparers. Children aren’t being taught to become thinkers; they’re being turned into automatons that will vomit back what’s been poured into them. It’s not what children learn that matters: it’s how well they score on standardized tests.

As a result, American children spend far too much class time preparing for tests, leaving little room for creative thinking. They read the same books, take the same tests and think the same thoughts — the ones that they’ll be tested on. They are being conformed to think as one.

Thomas Gradgrind would be right at home in American education today. Unfortunately, he was a fictional education-reform ogre of Victorian England.

In Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times,” Gradgrind blustered, “Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

American education truly has fallen on hard times. Dickens’s nightmare has become our ideal.