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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Teachers Rally Against For-Profit Ed Company

Teachers at New York's Merrick Academy charter school are ticked off. The charter school, operated by the for-profit Victory Schools, Inc, is sending over a million per year to the profiteers at Victory, which obviously cuts into their salaries and robs children of educational opportunities (in this case, that means heating systems, a gym, and certainly other necessities). Sure - Victory uses some of this million-dollar slush fund to pay the bills, etc, but they also keep a hefty chunk for themselves. Here are a few quotes from an article from the Queens Chronicle:
1) But according to James Stovall, chief administrative officer for Victory, the teachers have received their full salaries plus an annual 3 to 5 percent raise for the last seven years. It was only when they decided to join the United Federation of Teachers that their pay became stagnant, which he said the law allows while union members are in the process of negotiating a contract. Once the negotiations are completed, raises can resume and may even be retroactive.

2) “If you look at the results of Merrick students, you will see why they hired us and why they retain us,” Stovall said. “They have the highest test scores in the state.”

3) The teachers also claim that they consistently receive threats to their days off, job security and paychecks and that the children must go without essential services and supplies —classrooms do not have heat, there is no gymnasium and teachers are forced to Xerox existing textbooks, rather than order additional copies.

4) The management firm provides instructional support services that include: helping teachers understand and convey state curriculum requirements through their lesson plans, providing professional development and classroom management, ensuring that the student test assessments are aligned with state standards and helping teachers interpret the results of the exams and alter their curriculum accordingly.
As Stovall makes quite clear, all Victory cares about is test scores (and profits, of course). It's the outcome that matters - not the process (and, unfortunately, I see some parallels between Stovall's statement and the philosophy of Duncan and pals). The Victory teachers, at least in Stovall's world, can either have union representation or higher salaries - but, even with their union representation, teachers are threatened while kids get screwed over.

As for what Victory provides, it all revolves around test scores. Does this help teachers grow as professionals? Does it contribute to genuine learning? Of course not - Victory is all about test scores. De-professionalization of the teaching force is the result.

According to their most recent 990 form, Victory took in $1,744,897 for their "management." The school's total expenses were roughly $5.7 million. The public - including teachers - must learn that for-profit schemes are bound to fail in public education. It doesn't improve the teaching profession, doesn't provide children with a quality education - but it certainly lines the pockets of Victory.

Former LAUSD Teacher Critiques Race to the Top

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Obama’s Race to the Top competition won’t fix public schools

Competition may bring out the best in business and sports, but that logic doesn’t necessarily apply to public schools. The practical way to mend the educational system is by implementing economic and social reforms that focus on the children.

By Walt Gardner
posted December 30, 2009 at 12:58 pm EST

Los Angeles —

For taxpayers who are frustrated and angry over the glacial pace of school improvement, it’s easy to understand the appeal of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative. Patience, after all, has its limits. But distribution of $4.5 billion in discretionary funding to schools that qualify will not improve educational quality for all children.

This assessment is based largely on the emphasis given to competition as the centerpiece in creating successful schools.

A slew of recent commentary articles have argued that, because competition brings out the best performance in athletics and business, it should raise the quality of public education, too. Only by being patient with charter schools and by offering performance pay for teachers as the embodiment of competition can reform ever become a reality.

But since US education is at a crossroads, it’s imperative to take a close look at the assertion that competition would boost performance.


The best empirical evidence raises sharp questions about relying on charter schools and merit pay as the principal means of remedying the country’s educational ills. Yet the Obama administration seems to ignore it. If Obama were the pragmatic president he claims to be, he would realize that schools by themselves cannot possibly heal the education system.

The goal of a healthier education system can be achieved only by the implementation of economic and social reforms aimed at narrowing the differences in the backgrounds of children whom schools serve. Whether we have the will to take the unprecedented steps necessary, however, is entirely another matter.

Walt Gardner taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education.

Be sure to read all of Walt's excellent critique (here), and raise your voice in protest against the Race to Nowhere.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Penal Pedagogy for Corporate Interests: The Seeding of Violent Revolution

The hungry corporate beast advances in LA. From the LATimes, Dec. 11, on the proposed "restructuring" of Fremont High:
. . . .A similar effort was undertaken by an outside entity last year at Locke High, near Watts. Green Dot Public Schools, a charter organization, dismissed the staff -- and rehired a small percentage -- when it converted the campus into small charter schools that are operated independently of the district. Fremont, jampacked with 4,500 students, is substantially larger than Locke.

Boston College education professor Dennis Shirley called the reconstitutions harmfully "disruptive," and said "policymakers seem to think there's this limitless pool of people who want to work in the most impoverished and struggling communities."
Now at the apartheid Locke High, hired goons patrol the hall, ready at any moment to pepper spray and take down students when given the signal by the intercom code. As a separate entity ungoverned by the civil restraints and due process requirements of public schools and elected boards, Locke has been fashioned as Steve Barr's Big House, scary enough to to send Barr, himself, running for a less exposed position inside the corporate education bubble of Gates, Broad, the Waltons, etc.

This new corporate system of penal pedagogy, enabled by spineless and corrupt pols who don't give a shit about the poor, or the children of the poor, represents the squalid end of the path of least resistance for a society blinded by greed, the culmination of a generational malignant neglect of the principles of justice and social justice, thus assuring the acquiescence to a policy of segregation, containment, and constant surveillance that is worse than segregation during Jim Crow. At least then the black teachers in the apartheid schools were professionals who had the children's best interest in mind, rather than the de-certified ragtime corps of white female corporate missionaries intent upon a few years of do-gooderism before law school or breeding.

Unless this corporatization of American urban education is turned back by a society that now seems intent upon ignoring it, we will have successfully planted the certain seeds of violent revolution, or worse, the kind of terrorism that, heretofore, we have had to look abroad to war against. Any economic system that, in the end, must feed upon its own children to survive, is doomed, as it should be. Just as any political system that enables such atrocities to occur surely deserves the same end.

Today Beverly Hills decides it will take no more outsiders.

Don't Restructure: Improve Libraries

Don't restructure: Improve libraries
Sent to the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 29, 2009

"Restructuring" Fremont High ("LA Unified: It's About Time," Dec 28) means a dress code and replacing experienced teachers with inexperienced teachers. It will not touch the real problem: Fremont is located in a high-poverty area, with 42% of children living in poverty. High poverty means poor nutrition and environmental toxins, which have a profound effect on learning. Poverty also means little access to books at home or in the community, which results in little reading and low reading scores.

We can do something about the lack of access to books. Research shows that library quality and the presence of a credentialed school librarian are related to reading achievement. LAUSD provides zero funding for elementary school librarians and LA ranks 70th out of 75 cities in library quality.

For a fraction of the price of restructuring, LAUSD could improve school libraries in Fremont and its feeder schools and hire credentialed librarians.

Stephen Krashen

Library quality, credentialed librarian:
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Second edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co. and Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited
Lance, K., Rodney, M., Hamilton-Pennell, C. 2000. How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards. Denver: Library Research Service, 2000.
McQuillan, J. 1998. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims and Real Solutions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Company.

70th out of 75 cites - http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=5390

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arne Turns Sour On Testing?

(Click chart from Washington Post at right to enlarge for viewing)
Some of us knew that Arne Duncan's claims of a Chicago Miracle were fraudulent when he went before a Congressional Committee to make his case for his style of "portfolio management."

I am thankful that the big dogs have come off the porch finally to see what we have been barking about out here in the yard for a year now. From Nick Anderson's story today in WaPo:
Soon after Arne Duncan left his job as schools chief here to become one of the most powerful U.S. education secretaries ever, his former students sat for federal achievement tests. This month, the mathematics report card was delivered: Chicago trailed several cities in performance and progress made over six years.

Miami, Houston and New York had higher scores than Chicago on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Boston, San Diego and Atlanta had bigger gains. Even fourth-graders in the much-maligned D.C. schools improved nearly twice as much since 2003.

The federal readout is just one measure of Duncan's record as chief executive of the nation's third-largest system. Others show advances on various fronts. But the new math scores signal that Chicago is nowhere near the head of the pack in urban school improvement, even though Duncan often cites the successes of his tenure as he crusades to fix public education.

Now up until this time, before reporters finally began to ask Duncan about the details of the Chicago Mirage, the Secretary has loved testing. More testing, bigger testing, harder testing. National testing. And testing used to pay teachers and to fire them as well. Testing to tell which schools to turn over to charters. Testing to get ready for the test, and testing in kindergarten. Why, Duncan has loved high-stakes testing so much that conservative historian, Diane Ravitch, has called him Margaret Spellings in drag:
. . . .based on what I have seen to date, I conclude that Obama has given President George W. Bush a third term in education policy and that Arne Duncan is the male version of Margaret Spellings. Maybe he really is Margaret Spellings without the glasses and wearing very high heels. We all know that Secretary Spellings greeted Duncan's appointment with glee. She wrote him an open letter in which she praised him as "a fellow reformer" who supports NCLB and anticipated that he would continue the work of the Bush administration. (Recall, Deborah, that the media today defines an education reformer as someone who endorses Republican principles of choice and accountability.)
Now all of a sudden--overnight, you might say--these reporters with their rude questions may have just spoiled Arne's love for testing. Arne seems, in fact, to be rethinking his commitment to testing entirely, or at least when it comes to his own "accountability" in Chicago as CEO. Hoist with his own petard, shall we say?
"Obviously, you always want to get better faster," Duncan said in an interview when asked about the federal math scores. "I was focused on outcomes -- improving graduation rates, making sure that students who graduated had a chance to pursue higher ed. You can have the best test scores in the world, but if kids aren't going that next step, you're not changing their lives."
Remember that, teachers. Focus on changing lives, rather than the stupid test. Arne says so, after all.

Bank with You Feet: Move Your Money to Community Banks

Get the back story at HuffPo, get the details here:

Building vocabulary at Carver Elementary

Sent to the Pioneer Press (Twin Cities, MN)

One of the strategies Carver Elementary is using to increase its unsatisfactory test scores ("A school on the edge," Dec. 28) is "vocabulary study." Research consistently shows that by far the best way to boost vocabulary is through wide, self-selected reading. Picking up words by reading is faster than word study and gives children more complete knowledge of words. Wide reading, in fact, has a positive influence on nearly every subject taught in school.

Wide self-selected reading requires access to lots of books. For many children, especially children of poverty (38% of the Carver student population receives free or reduced price lunch), the school library is the major source of reading material. Study after study confirms that school library quality and the presence of a credentialed librarian are positively related to growth in literacy.

Carver Elementary is in a district that let all their elementary school librarians go four years ago. Now one middle school librarian is also responsible for three elementary schools. Firing the librarian and then instituting vocabulary study is like stealing all your money and then giving you a bus token to get home with.

Tori Jensen
President Elect, Minnesota Educational Media Organization

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

Original article at: http://www.twincities.com/ci_14070492?source=email

The Economist: Unsubstantiated Statements (surprised?)

From a recent story by the Economist (and quoted by the folks at Fordham):
For good public schools and subsidised cycle paths, try Portland, Oregon.
Considering the Economist's story is about America and immigration, here's a little tidbit that's left out of their analysis: the Portland Public School is one of the only (and I believe the biggest) district to have federal funds withheld for the inadequate services provided to English Language Learners (ELLs). This isn't some new development, which makes it all that more concerning. From Betsy Hammond at the Oregonian:
State monitors are upset with Portland's performance because the state notified the district in 2005 that it was violating federal education law. The district fixed the problems to the satisfaction of state monitors in 2006, but when the state checked again in 2009, the district had slipped back into some of its old ways.
And, no, PPS wasn't dodging some NCLB mandates in a way that genuinely helps kids - they were doing a really shoddy job of helping out ELL kids.

Just to add a little more intrigue to the story, guess who was in PPS during part of this time? None other than Gates Education Head, Vicki Phillips. Glad she "fixed" this problem before hopping off to the philanthropy world...

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Question for Dennis Bakke

"I spent 20 years telling Wall Street that profit is not God, and now I'll probably spend 20 years in education telling people that it's not Satan, either." - Imagine Schools CEO Dennis Bakke, Interview with the Washington Business Journal, 9/9/2005
Dennis Bakke - he's quite the character. The above quote, taken from a September 2005 interview, is puzzling considering the Imagine Schools claim to be a non-profit: the "about us" section of their website claims the group "initiated a process to replace the business entity Imagine Schools, Inc. with the new nonprofit as the operator of public charter schools nationwide." When did this happen? The website claims this began in August of 2005. So he started to convert to a nonprofit, then spoke up about the non-evils of for-profit education. I'm scratching my head - and it's not 'cause my scalp is feeling itchy.

Dennis' claim that profits aren't God should be taken with a major heaping of salt - this is the same guy that pushed for major energy deregulation and forged partnerships with authoritarian regimes like the one in Uganda, which netted his energy company a $500 million contract (AES is one of the largest independent energy company in the world - but it's not about your $16.1 billion in revenue, right?). And, in a case that could match the potential unraveling of Imagine's for-profit chain, some notes from a City Council meeting in Peoria, IL show that one council member had this to say about a company owned by Bakke's AES Corp.:

...citizens were demanding him [Bakke] to be true to his own words by leaving a legacy to this community by letting local citizens and investors regain control of its energy future. He added that only local control would be acceptable.

Mr. Bakke has been involved with "The Family," a fundamentalist group comprised of high-ranking politicians and businesspeople (yes, the ones in the C-street house that recently lost their tax-exempt status; Bart Stupak is part of this group, too). If you're interested in further reading, check out Jeff Sharlet's The Family for a truly horrifying piece of investigative work. One can only wonder how long Mr. Bakke's charter school scam can go on - more on the Imagine Schools sure to come...

So here's my question for Mr. Bakke: what's the real deal here? I somehow find it hard to believe you're the CEO of a non-profit CMO while claiming for-profit education isn't a Satanic idea...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Corporate Charters Pillage Public Property: Can the Media Be Bothered to Report It?

From Danny Weil's new offering at Dissident Voice:

The Los Angeles Board of Education, little more than a managerial club belonging to LA Mayor Villaraigosa and his privatized charter crew, including Green Dot Schools, other educational maintenance organizations (EMO’s) and deep pocket entrepreneurs approved a resolution in August of 2009 to turn over 12 long-struggling campuses and 18 new ones to bidders from inside or outside the district, including some charter operators.1 The effort is all part and parcel of the capitalist “reform of education” that is sweeping the nation below the radar screen of any national news. It includes using the government, which the neo-liberals say they abhor, to asset strip the public realm; in this case to orchestrate the legal seizure of actual public buildings that house public schools paid for over the decades by public taxpayers.

The insurgency is brutish and the mugging unconscionable as the hostile takeover of public schools is happening precisely at the same time that many schools are being closed and shuttered under the insidious No Child Left Behind provisions that allow for such pernicious disinvestment. Of course the efforts of the neo-liberals are hastily moving along with the disastrous loss of public funds for public schools and the horrific budgetary crisis slamming the state like a virtual Tsunami. Feasting on disaster is the model for these corporate market fundamentalists who see huge profits in the for-profit or non-profit ownership and management of public schools by educational maintenance organizations who want the actual building titles for the public schools and thus the imminently the facilities themselves. This is asset stripping done in broad daylight, a public pillaging that goes unreported by national media on both the ‘left’ and the ‘right.’

Coupled with this is public pillage is the huge amount of authority and autocratic decision-making that the Race to the Top, the neo-liberal brainchild of Arne Duncan and his corporate advisors, will have for the privatization of education. In order for states to qualify for any federal monies under Race to the Top, itself an insidious yet logical rhetorical label for the super-competitive ethos underlying capitalism and its ideological culture, they must meet four assurances that will open up a huge private market in teacher and student surveillance, ala longitudinal test score tracking, supplemental educational materials, merit pay for teachers tied to NCLB accountability and a chokehold on learning and assessment. Reconfigurating education in accordance with Race for the Top will also, of course, be a godsend to the makers of canned curriculum (“best practices”) that will need to be produced in alignment with the new state and federal standards to assure students pass the regimented tests which scores will be then used to rate the teachers and the new primary providers, the charter school EMO’s. Then there is the test prep industry that will dine like vultures off the new assessment obligations imposed on the states by Race to the Top.

UTLA files suit

The good news is that the union representing Los Angeles Unified Teachers (UTLA) filed a lawsuit December 21, 2009 to block the potential hand-over of new campuses to charter school EMO’s and their minions.. . . .
Read the rest here.

RTTT, the Borg, and the Beehive

The Edu-Oligarchs, led by Gates, Broad, and the Waltons, are pushing states hard to get them in on the 4.35 billion-dollar pettifogging bribery scheme and fund-funneling frenzy of Duncan's Race Over the Top (ROTT). Not only have the Bold Deformers laid out the race course and named the judges, but they are now in the process of training the race entrants and creating the betting form with their own handicapping. Nothing is being left to chance in this race. Resistance is futile.

The New Teacher Project, an outfit funded by Gates and the Feds to undercut teacher unions and professionalism, is in charge of the betting and handicapping. NTP is where Michelle Rhee cut her fangs, and they put Louisiana and Florida as the heads-on favorites. Louisiana, first to use standardized tests to make or break 4th graders, has already adopted pay-per-score and is now evaluating their teacher preparation programs based on test scores. Florida is a leader in corporate charters, a pioneer in corporate voucher programs, and a stalwart in the promotion of year-round high-stakes testing. (Florida and Louisiana rank 36th and 45th in education attainment, respectively, and both rank among the top 10 states with the highest percentages of high school dropouts.)

Sam Dillon captures the excitement for the NYTimes:

. . . .One of the most time-consuming tasks has been lining up written statements of support signed by superintendents and other officials in every school district that would receive grant money. California alone has about 1,000 districts, so getting the word out to each of them and cajoling their local leaders to send in signed agreements has taken much of Mr. Miller’s time, he said.

“It’s what I do every day — I’ve talked to four superintendents this morning,” Mr. Miller said by telephone. He thought a moment, then added: “Sorry, I’ve got to get off the phone. I’m wasting time — you’re killing me with all these questions!”

Illinois has 870 school districts, said Darren Reisberg, a deputy superintendent at the Illinois State Board of Education, so he, too, along with the state superintendent, Christopher Koch, has been talking up Illinois’ proposal with officials in hundreds of districts.

“That’s something Dr. Koch and I are doing just about every day, all day,” Mr. Reisberg said.

Competition for the federal grants is especially intense because state budgets are distressed and awards for states the size of Illinois could be $400 million. Several nonprofit organizations have handicapped states’ chances in the competition. The nonprofit New Teacher Project, for instance, months ago rated Illinois as “somewhat competitive.” Florida and Louisiana were the only two states the project rated as “highly competitive.”

Florida officials say they know they have a shot at the prize money. “But our commissioner has directed us to pretend that we’re not even hearing that,” said Holly Edenfield, an executive director at the Florida Department of Education who is coordinating work to prepare the state’s proposal. She has not calculated how many hours she and her colleagues have logged so far.

“We just know our effort is immense and time-consuming,” Ms. Edenfield said.

The Florida department headquarters in Tallahassee has become a 17-story beehive of Race to the Top activity, said Tom Butler, a spokesman.

“Every time I ride the elevator in the morning, and every time I leave at night, there’s a common conversation about Race to the Top that you can have with any of the 1,000 people who work here,” Mr. Butler said, “because every person is involved.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

From Texas...

We can always count on the good folks in Texas to provide America with a roadmap to guaranteed educational stupidity and, yes, profits for groups like Pearson.
It's more than a stretch to believe the folks at Pearson really want to help children develop a life-long love of learning - they're in it, obviously, for the obscene profits they can reap from churning out educational products for younger and younger children. I'm not a gamblin' man, but smart money says we'll see a similar story about textbooks for preschoolers in just a few years.
And the accompanying text from KIAH-TV in Houston:
Remember when Kindergarten meant naps and a snack break? Well things are getting ready to change. Starting next school year, Kindergartners in Texas will have a new textbook to use in class. It's all part of an effort to reach students earlier.

Pearson, which supplies education materials in Texas, will provide both print and digital material for the new curriculum. The six-volume collection, called Reading Street Texas, allows students to learn and apply new skills, as they get ready to read. All materials are aligned to meet state standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

"Educators around Texas have for some time felt like Kindergarten should be the new first grade. Waiting until first grade to really start teaching children aggressively how to learn is the wrong thing to do," said Terry Abbott, Pearson spokesman.

The goal is to make the reading material fun for the students and help them to develop a life-long love of reading.
The sincerest condolences to my friends in Texas and the children of the state - may you find real books, libraries, and non-scripted materials in the coming year.

What I would do with stimulus money

What I would do with stimulus money
Stephen Krashen
Sent to Language Magazine, invited commentary in answer to the question "What would you do with the stimulus money?"

My first priority is improving libraries in high-poverty areas.

Better libraries are related to better reading achievement. This has been confirmed at the state level, national level and international level when researchers control for the effects of poverty. The reason for this is obvious: Children become better readers by reading more and the library is a major source of books for children.

Keith Curry Lance's studies confirm that the presence of librarians and overall staffing contributes to reading achievement independent of other measures of library quality. The most obvious way librarians contribute is helping children find books, in addition to selecting books and other materials for the library and collaborating with teachers.

The library is especially important for children of poverty, because they have very little access to books at home, at school, and in their communities. The school library is often their only source of books. Unfortunately, children of poverty are the least likely to have access to quality school libraries, and are less likely to attend schools that have libraries with credentialed librarians.

No stimulus money is needed. It has been repeatedly shown that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has not made any difference for literacy development. If one year's worth of NCLB federal funding ($26 billion) were invested at only 2%, it would generate about $500 million per year, about $30 for every child in poverty (There are currently about 15 million children living in poverty in the US.). Dedicated to school and classroom libraries, and to support for librarians, this would make a powerful, and never-ending contribution toward closing the achievement gap.

Oligarchs Push Ohio To Change Licensure Rules to Suit TFA and KIPP

(Photo by Brooke LaValley for Post-Dispatch)
With billions in tax-credited corporate cash and taxpayer money behind the total compliance apartheid testing camps of KIPP and the KIPP knockoffs, it is easy to buy stories that make the utterly ridiculous sound entirely sublime. See today's effort in the Columbus Post-Dispatch, which offers a "news" story that reads like an op-ed in favor of the oppressed white missionary KIPPstresses as they do battle against the big bad State of Ohio teacher rules. How about this for a title:

Teacher technicality: Educators with high-level training and experience seek change in state rules to allow them full licenses

The technicality, of course, is the approved licensure process that everyone else seeking a teaching license in Ohio must abide by.

It seems that KIPP and TFA are willing to accept Ivy League missionaries into their sects who know nothing about teaching or children, and who have no coursework in child development, curriculum, assessment, educational psychology or sociology, history, or educational philosophy, no methods courses or student teaching. After 5 weeks of TFA's Miracle Summer course, the new missionaries are turned loose in urban schools that need the most experienced and highly-trained teachers.

So why shouldn't the bad ole rules of the State of Ohio be changed to suit, nay, embrace this new containment and control model of urban indoctrination led by white privileged former debutantes with a corporate script? It all seems like a mean old mystery to Jenna Davis who, despite her two degrees, can't quite seem to figure it out:

KIPP teacher Jenna Davis graduated from the University of Dayton with bachelor's and master's degrees in education but has been told she doesn't qualify for a full license.

"I stayed in Ohio (to train to become a teacher), and I'm not even recognized as a teacher at all," she said. "It's the enigma of it all. Just tell me what I need to do."

The enigma of it all, indeed. Someone just tell Jenna what to do, please.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Andy Rottenham, Screwge of the Year

I know, I know, what about Bill Gates and Eli Broad. They are in a bigger category and in the running for Screwge of the Decade.

Rotherham, better known as Eduwanker around the house, has a long and undistinguished history with the Clintonians of the 90s, enough distinction, however, to get his tushes into the federal education feeding trough. When Bush came to town, in fact, Andy was one of the few Democants who could pass the neocon smell test, thus assuring a nice nest egg from cuts of the Education Leaders Council federal piggy bank that siphoned millions from the federal education pot, with nothing of educational value ever to show for it.

With his retirement funds guaranteed, then, Rottenham has moved on to become Obama advisor and edupreneurial spokesman for the apartheid charter school blueprint that is being applied in DC, New Orleans, and NYC, and he stands to become fabulously wealthy if the Broad plan for urban school charterizing is realized across the nation. The fruition of that neo-Jim Crow plan hinges, largely, on the oligarichs' ability to crush the teaching profession and to nullify collective bargaining and school board governance.

And so it is that Rottenham puts his putrid pen to the yellow corporate rag, the Detroit News, to castigate the same teachers who have just before Christmas agreed to accept a pay-per-score plan, to gut their own health benefits, and give up $500 a month for the next 20 months in order to pay down the Detroit Schools deficit that none of the philanthrocapitalists could be bothered to even mention as a problem.

Rottenham uses this opportunity two days before Christmas to kick Detroit teachers in the teeth while they are down. So for choosing to ignore Detroit teacher sacrifices, and for blaming them, instead, for 80 years of racist segregation policies, poverty creation, and malignant neglect, here's to you, Andrew Rottenham, Screwge of the Year.

Merry Learning to All, Together, Really

Day before yesterday, North Carolina's governor threw her unequivocal support behind the diversity policies in her state that have brought about improved learning for all and increases in student achievement scores:

As Wake County and other school districts across North Carolina shift away from busing students to achieve socio-economic diversity, Gov. Beverly Perdue and other officials fear the districts will become racially segregated.

"It's the most troublesome thing I think that's happened," Perdue said of the push toward neighborhood schools from Goldsboro to Charlotte.

. . . .

Perdue said neighborhood schools that are almost all-black or all-white won't provide all students with a quality education, saying schools in low-income areas will be at a significant disadvantage.

"Whether it's racially done or economically done, there has to be some kind of momentum to continue to have diversity in our schools," she said. . . .

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oregon's Race to the Top, DIBELS Knockoff, Corporate Taxation, and Philanthropic Stupidity

The educational landscape in my home state of Oregon is likely to be greatly impacted by two issues: the Race to the Bottom and a pair of important ballot measures that will be voted on in January of 2010. To my fellow Oregonians out there (or anyone concerned about public education), there are some fine print details about how these issues will impact the lives of our children (and teachers). Predictably, local philanthropists are involved in these issues, and their activity is, well, quite concerning. Let's begin with the ballot measures, but be sure to read all the way down to the discussion about a program called "Easy CBM," a reading program put together by the fools down at the University of Oregon (hint: it's DIBELS, but attached to longitudinal data systems - scary, eh?).

Oregon voters will vote on two ballot measures, 66 & 67, in a January election. The two measures will 1) raise taxes on families earning over $250,000 (2.5% of families) and 2) raise the corporate minimum tax, which currently is set at an astonishing $10 (set in 1931 and unchanged since). Yes, that's ten dollars, which is the likely tax bill for large corporations like Nike, Intel, and the other corporations doing business in our state. The right-wingers and libertarians have, not surprisingly, come out against these measures, which would help the state raise over $700 million, half of which would go towards public education and much of the rest to essential social services.

Here's where local philanthropies come into play. For the sake of this posting, I'll stick to the agenda of the Chalkboard Project, an education advocacy group that bills itself as "Uniting Oregonians to make our public schools among the nation's best." One might think that advocating for the passage of these ballot measures would be a top priority for any education advocacy organization, but the Chalkboard Project has remained entirely silent about these essential funding sources. I asked why, and their communications manager put it this way:
Chalkboard has taken a position on very few ballot measures in the past and the Board of Directors has not taken a position on Measures 66 and 67. [E-mail correspondence, 12/21/09]
Their board of directors includes representatives of Oregon's six biggest philanthropic organizations, and each group is represented by high-wealth individuals (listed here). It should not be surprising to see the Gates Foundation is another funder of this group, and you can tack on a bank and other large corporations to their list bankrollers. Do you honestly believe any of these people would advocate for higher taxes? Not a chance - they're all about a public education system where they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes.

While sitting quietly on the sidelines about the important tax measures, the Chalkboard Project is a prime cheerleader for Oregon's Race to the Bottom application. Also from their communications director:
Superintendent Castillo has said that preparing a Race to the Top proposal is not just about winning the money, it is about creating a plan to improve education in our state. The money would allow us to move faster, but without it the state still plans to pursue reforms that would support effective teachers, turnaround low performing schools, etc. As you've seen in the news, states are making changes already before any federal money has been given out. [E-mail correspondence, 12/21/09]
Oregon MIGHT win a one-time donation of a few hundred bucks per kid (a paltry sum, and hardly enough to make any kind of real changes), but just the temptation of this Race to Stupidity is enough to entice a competition to see who can draw up the most awful reform package. Oregon isn't pushing a Louisiana-like agenda, nor are we explicit about expanding charter schools (although it's implied in the application), but we have pretty much everyone beat when it comes to the most awful reading programs. Get a puke-bag ready, you'll need it.

You remember DIBELS, right? Meet Easy CBM, yet another "reading" program cooked up by the idiots at the University of Oregon. The current RttB draft for my state involves using this program with our longitudinal data system, a perfect way to track how many words kids can spit out in 30 or 60 seconds. This is considered formative assessment, but, of course, it's little more than mindless test prep, complete with multiple choice questions and timed reading quizzes, all feeding into Oregon's data-driven insanity. Easy CBM is programmed to use these kinds of assessments for all Oregon students in grades K through 8. Good luck finding the words "book" or "library" in Oregon's application - those are relics of the past, evidently.

One of the major "researchers" for this program is none other than Dr. Gerald Tindal, who sat on the Secretary's Reading Leadership Academy Assessment Committee with Dr. Edward Kame'enui, Deborah Simmons, and Roland Good, three other notorious U of O edu-idiots. The other main researcher, Julie Alonzo, is a 2007 U of O grad, which means she probably had the chance to study under the aforementioned reading terrorists cooking up assessments down in Eugene. What'd she do before going to U of O? Worked as a high school teacher, but now she's helping decide how Oregon's K-8 kids should learn how to read. Brilliant, just brilliant.

In the future, maybe Oregon kids will ask, "Teacher, what's a book? What's a library? I saw this word the other day, l-i-b-r-a-r-i-a-n. What does that mean?" And Oregon teachers, if they're able to smuggle in some legitimate reading material into their classroom, might be able to dust off a real book and show kids, "This is a book, kiddos. It tells you a story, it can make you lose track of time and the things going on around you...and you can learn from them." The confused children, used to the endless test-prep and 60 second reading quizzes, might be lucky enough to get their hands on one or two of these relics of the Gutenberg press. That is, if we even have a school system to speak of, lest it be privatized or dismantled at the altar of low corporate taxes and trickle-down economics.

It shouldn't be surprising, of course, that the Chalkboard folks, including their executive director, had never heard of the Broader, Bolder Approach when I was quizzed by them at a meeting earlier this year. They're shills for the EEP fools, the more-testing-less-literacy crowd, and small-government fanatics, not to mention some of the wealthiest foundations in our state (which, of course, are tax-free havens full of stock in some of the most offensive companies, including healthcare giants and multinational corporations).

So, just to summarize, one of Oregon's most influential education advocacy groups, which is an arm of the state's six major philanthropic organizations and takes their marching orders from the Gates Foundation/Duncan's DOE, will remain entirely silent on important ballot measures, but they'll push an education reform package that pushes a DIBELS-on-steroids program for our K-8 students.

Good luck, Oregon kids and teachers. You can thank Race to the Top, philanthropic stupidity, the federal DOE, and the U of O idiots for the shoddy education you'll be offered, particularly if you grow up in one of the less affluent parts of the state. Schools matter - and so do our funding streams, fair taxation, and literacy based on books and libraries. Our kids deserve so much better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What President Obama Did Not Campaign On

If the President, as he unconvincingly claims, did not campaign on a public option, then he certainly did not campaign on forcing 30 million new customers into the clutches of the insurance corporations to charge whatever they like, with us, the taxpayers, picking up the tab for all the citizens who can't afford it. But that's what he is vigorously supporting. You decide:

Beating Back the Propagandists

From EPIC:

December 23, 2009

TEMPE, Ariz. and BOULDER, Colo. (December 23, 2009) -– This past week, two new reviews of think tank reports were published online: by Teacher Magazine and by Teachers College Record. Neither of these reviews was published as part of the Think Tank Review Project, but both further the project's goal of advancing discussions by providing the public, policy makers, and the press with timely reviews of think-tank publications.

Innovation "Report Card" - On December 16th, Teacher Magazine published a review by Alaska 2009 Teacher of the Year Bob Williams, who examined the goals and methods underlying a report that had assigned each state an "innovation" letter grade. The report, called "Leaders and Laggards," was a follow-up to a 2007 report from the same group that had been published in November by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess.

Williams focuses his review on aspects of the report concerning alternative teacher certification and teacher tenure. He notes that the report's authors begin with the premise that "improving education requires weakening teacher tenure and union influence while supporting alternative certification and national programs to place inexperienced people ... into teaching positions with minimal training." Williams explains how the report distorts the data in order to create state-by-state ratings that fit the authors' pre-determined agenda. The 'innovation' ratings are really little more than a fa├žade for the authors' advocacy for privatization and marketization of public education.

The Williams review can be accessed through the website of Teacher Magazine, which requires (free) registration, or on the Epicpolicy.org website, where it was republished with permission of the author.

Fordham Detracking Report - On December 14th, the journal Teachers College Record published a commentary by University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Kevin
Welner, who co-directs the Think Tank Review Project. Welner provides a brief review of a new report authored by Brookings' Dr. Tom Loveless and published by the Fordham Institute. Loveless' key conclusion is that each additional track in eighth-grade mathematics in Massachusetts is associated (in a regression model he presents) with a 3 percentage-point rise in students scoring at the advanced level on the state exam, after holding constant the school-level percentage of students receiving free- or reduced-price lunch, which he calls "socioeconomic status."

Welner's review describes how the Loveless report combines weak data with questionable analyses to manufacture an argument against detracking. For instance, even using just the limited control of free- or reduced-price lunch rates, the purported benefit to high-achieving students disappears when one compares the option of a school with two math tracks versus an untracked school. Overall, better treatment of these same data would likely show that high-achieving Massachusetts middle school students in heterogeneous, untracked schools do as well or better than those in two-tracked schools -- certainly in language arts (English) and maybe even in mathematics. Welner concludes that the report misleads in an attempt to convince policymakers to maintain tracking policies.

The Welner review is available here. It can also be accessed through the website of Teachers College Record (subscription required).

About the Think Tank Review Project

The Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org), a collaborative project of the University of Colorado at Boulder Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) and the ASU Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU), provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center
for Education Research and Practice.

Kevin Welner, the project co-director, explains that the project is needed because, "despite their garnering of media attention and their influence with many policy makers, reports released by private think tanks vary tremendously in their quality. Many think tank reports are little more than ideological argumentation dressed up as research. Many others include flaws that would likely have been identified and addressed through the peer review process. We believe that the media, policy makers, and the public will greatly benefit from having qualified social scientists provide reviews of these documents in a timely fashion." He adds, "we don't consider our reviews to be the final word, nor is our goal to stop think tanks' contributions to a public dialogue. That dialogue is, in fact, what we value the most. The best ideas come about through rigorous critique and debate."


Kevin Welner, Professor and Director
Education and the Public Interest Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
(303) 492-8370

Senate Offers 23 Million Lumps of Coal

Click here to find out more!

From Huffington Post by Jason Linkins:

. . . .And the fact is, if the Senate language survives to be signed into law, America will still be in the throes of a massive health care crisis that will need to be reformed with all immediate haste. This is evident in this portion of a graphic created by Igor Volsky, promoting the virtues of the Senate bill:

[The word "reform" sort of belongs in scare-quotes, frankly.]

As you can see, by treading right up to the line set by Joe Lieberman, the Senate leaves 23 million Americans without insurance. No one is hallucinating this! And unless Volsky is saying that the 23 million who will remain uninsured represent an acceptable number of needless deaths, I'm sure he'd agree that this means that America will still be in dire need of health care reform on the very next day after "health care reform" is signed into law.

But the problem is, after the health care bill is signed, all of the momentum to reform the system is going to drain away. Legislators will have come through what will be regarded as a grueling fight that they won't be too keen on taking up again. The president is likely to celebrate the event as a momentous historical accomplishment instead of doing the right thing -- offering the correct and sober assessment that his efforts led to a bill that is sorely lacking.

And the media, embodied by simps like John Harwood, will declare the matter settled and get on with the process of writing the stories they are good at writing -- who won and who lost politically in the health care fight. The historical achievement of politicians will outweigh the matter of how that supposed achievement falls on those 23 million uninsured.

If you want to know who is really drug-addled, it's anyone who seriously believes that the John Harwoods, Chris Matthewses, Jon Meachams and Fred Hiatts of the world give a tinned shit about how this legislation actually affects real Americans. If you don't stand to gain or lose political capital, you just don't show up in their reporting.

And so, all the "bill-killers" hope to achieve here is the maintenance of the very real urgent needs of their fellow citizens, before everyone rushes to drown themselves in the waters of Lethe.

Reading more but test scores stagnant? Reply to Willington

A response to Daniel Willington, who asks "Why doesn’t reading more make us better readers?" Why are we reading more but NAEP scores are not improving?

Controlled studies consistently show that more reading leads to better reading, and there are a lot of them (see Krashen, S. 2004, The Power of Reading, second edition, published by Libraries Unlimited and Heinemann Press). These scientific studies are more telling than crude correlations with large populations.

1. Quantity of reported voluntary reading has correlated with NAEP scores over and over. See the many reports for individual NAEP tests in past years.

2. Overall, there is more reading going on. But there is also more child poverty, now at 25% (the largest of all industrialized countries, compare to Denmark at 2%). Children of poverty have very little access to books at home, school or in their communities, and thus have lower NAEP scores. The low scoring high poverty group lowers the overall score to a greater extent every time the NAEP is given. This is more likely the reason more reading has not resulted in higher NAEP scores over the years, not the suggestion that we are doing more "lighter" reading.

But Willington raises a good question: Are children and adults reading more "lightweight" reading than before? This is an empirical question that should be investigated scientifically.

Why high-tech high has low enrollment

Why Phoenix high-tech high has low enrollments

Sent to the Arizona Republic, Dec 22, 2009:
I suspect that the reason that Phoenix's new "high-tech school (is) off to (a) slow start," (Dec 20) is that prospective students know something that school administrators don't: There is no shortage of experts in science and technology in the US. A number of recent studies, in fact, conclude that there is a surplus. Students are not interested in preparing for jobs that don't exist.
Stephen Krashen

Some sources:
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Vs. Reality. Alexandra, VA: Educational Research Service.

Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007

Toppo, G. and Vergano, D. 2009. Scientist shortage? Maybe not. USA Today, August 9, 2009

High-tech school off to slow start
CREST in northeast Phoenix still aims to enroll 150 for its 2010 freshman class
by Eugene Scott - Dec. 20, 2009
The Arizona Republic
A new high school expected to boost the number of Arizona's science and technology professionals has attracted interest from only about half of the number of students it plans to enroll in the fall.

The Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology hopes to enroll as many as 150 students in its freshman class when it opens in northeast Phoenix in fall 2010, but so far slightly more than 60 students have submitted applications for the "small, specialty" school.

CREST will be part of the Paradise Valley Unified School District but will be open to students who live outside the district's boundaries. School officials have visited every district eighth-grade science class to talk about the school.

"We're working with some marketing people that are helping us understand the best way to go forward with sharing this with students outside of our district right now," said Kathy Lahlum, an adviser to the school.
The school, on the campus of Paradise Valley High School at 40th Street and Bell Road, will focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Phoenix proposed a grant two years ago to encourage Phoenix high schools
to offer programs that could increase the number of high-school graduates planning to pursue STEM-related careers and post-secondary education. Having a limited number of students graduating from Arizona colleges entering STEM-related fields is a major threat to Arizona's economy, said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon at the school's groundbreaking.

"This has been about job creation, too," he said. "Now we get to put lots of people to work."
School officials hope to partner with professionals in the Valley's technology- and engineering-related industries to provide instruction, internships and community service activities.

"I retired recently after 47 years working for some of the electrical-equipment manufacturers in the area, so I'd be interested in helping in whatever way I can," said Peter Kienast, a former electrical engineer who has worked with Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project. "I feel like what they are trying to do is a very good thing."

The school will have a hands-on curriculum allowing students to research and develop biotechnology projects while spending a lot of time in laboratories, possibly at local colleges and universities. Officials have met with individuals in the state's university communities to ensure that CREST students will transition seamlessly into the schools' STEM programs.

"I've heard nothing from the sustainability and biotechnology sectors," Lahlum said. "I'm pushing really hard in that direction, with plans to do that right after the beginning of the year."

Raising test scores without learning

Sent to the Harold-Tribune, Dec 23, 2009:
Test-Prep: Higher test scores without increased learning
FCAT test preparation will begin earlier at several schools ("This year's FCAT lesson: Plan ahead," Dec. 20). This may raise test scores but it won't help children. All too often, "test preparation" refers to methods of increasing students' test scores without increasing learning (e.g. when to guess, when not; answer easy questions first or questions with higher point values, on true/false tests choose "true" if you are not sure, because most true/false tests have more true answers than false answers, etc).

Raising test scores through test preparation is like claiming you have raised the temperature of the room when all you have done is light a match under the thermometer.
Stephen Krashen

"This year's FCAT lesson: Plan ahead," (Dec 19)
Herald Tribune, Sarasota, FL
By Tiffany Lankes
Published: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Teachers at Sarasota's Brentwood Elementary used to save their FCAT preparations for after the winter holidays.

But lagging reading scores on last year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test prompted the school to start getting ready much sooner this year. They began identifying and offering extra help to struggling students shortly after class started in August.

"We didn't want it to come down to January and we're scrambling," said Principal Michelle Henderson. "This year we just hit the ground running."

Like Brentwood, schools all over the region are already deep in their FCAT preparations, starting remedial classes, intense practice camps and motivational activities earlier in the school year.

The change comes with increasing state and federal pressure to do better on the standardized tests, which determines extra funding, a school's reputation and whether some students get promoted. This year's budget cuts have also forced schools to try to figure out how to get better results with fewer resources.

For many schools, the solution was to begin working with students sooner. Students take the writing FCAT in February. The reading, math and science sections are in March.

Third-graders at risk for failing at Englewood Elementary received letters about two months into the school year that they would no longer attend science and social studies classes. One Manatee County middle school started its weekend FCAT boot camp last month.

"It's never too early," said Omar Edwards, principal of Manatee's Johnson Middle School.

These efforts, however, raise concerns among parents, testing critics and even lawmakers who last year passed a law intended to cut back on how much time schools spend preparing for the FCAT.

"It does seem to fly in the face of what we were at least claiming we were trying to do with that legislation," said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota.

Some thought the law, which banned schools from stopping instruction to prep kids for the test, would keep schools from holding activities like pep rallies, drill sessions and boot camps. But that has not been the case. The law allowed exceptions for schools to target students who are behind, give practice tests and even hold motivational activities.

"It didn't change any of the incentives for schools to get ready," said Fitzgerald, adding that the law is nearly impossible to enforce.

"You're saying don't put pressure on the kids, but on the other hand the schools, the students and the teachers are all evaluated by this measure."

Educators also defend their preparations by saying they are not drilling students for the test, just making sure they have the skills they need to succeed academically. The FCAT helps measure that, and preparing students eases the stress level when they sit down to take it.

That is part of the reason Johnson Middle started its voluntary Saturday morning FCAT boot camp last month for students who want some extra practice for the February test.

Students who attend the camp get individual attention from teachers in the areas they most need it.
"We just make them aware of the areas where they need extra help and we work with them on it," said Edwards, the principal.

Last month, parents of Englewood Elementary third-graders at risk for failing the test received letters from Principal Pam Buchanan letting them know their children will receive extra help -- in place of science and social studies.

"Though we believe social studies and science is of great importance, we recognize that reading and math instruction must take priority," Buchanan wrote in the letter.

Buchanan notes that students receiving the extra help will still participate in science labs and that teachers weave science and social studies lessons into their reading instruction.

"Every principal has been charged with making sure every single one of our students is on grade level," Buchanan said. "With all of the state and federal mandates, we have to use every minute wisely."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wake County Board Chair Chooses Jesse Helms Loyalist as Board Lawyer

(Photo by Ted Richardson of NewsObserver.com) With the new segregationists now holding a 5-4 majority on the Wake County School Board, Wake's long-standing and exemplary economic integration policy could be on the chopping block at tonight's Board meeting. Offering legal advice to the new majority will be GOP insider, Thomas Farr, who learned about civil rights at the knee of world-famous segregationist, Senator Jesse Helms. From NewsObserver.com:

The Wake County school board's choice of a prominent Republican lawyer to take a hard look at the school system's legal contracts and fees has ignited a wrangle about whether the move amounts to overt partisanship or just sound government practice.

The selection of Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr, a former nominee for a federal judgeship with strong GOP ties dating to the Jesse Helms organization, is just one matter of dispute between the board's ruling coalition and members who previously held sway. The new five-member majority, which received strong backing from the county Republican Party, favors killing the current policy of mandated socio-economic diversity in each school, as well as mandated year-round schools.

Board member Kevin Hill, ousted as chairman during a tumultuous Dec. 1 meeting, said naming Farr signals an excessive role for partisan politics on the officially nonpartisan school board. In addition, Hill said, the board should not have named Farr to the job without establishing his fee for the work.

"I do believe it doesn't look good for the board," Hill said. "He is closely identified with the Republican Party at the state level. His law firm has a minimum amount of experience with school law."

Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said Friday that he has not started negotiating money with Farr. The measure is up for renewed discussion at Tuesday's board meeting, which will also likely include a showdown between advocacy groups. State members of Americans for Prosperity say they'll rally support for the new board majority, while BiggerPicture4Wake and at least one other group have promised to show up in support of the existing diversity policy. . . .

And today the News & Observer published another story detailing Farr's involvement in a black voter intimidation scheme in 1990:

. . . .A 1992 U.S. Justice Department complaint said the Helms campaign sent postcards designed to intimidate tens of thousands of registered voters in heavily black districts during the 1990 U.S. Senate election. The complaint described Farr as a participant in meetings about the mailing and said he had been involved in earlier "ballot security" efforts.

However, Farr said on Monday that he had limited contact with campaign officials before the 1990 mailing and advised them not to send the postcards. His chief involvement was representing the defendants in negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department under which the defendants agreed to take no further actions to intimidate black voters, he said. . . .

The News & Oberver story also links Teabagger organizer and right wing hack, Art Pope, to the GOP strategy to win a majority of Wake County Board seats. Since when does a local school board election merit national attention by GOP wingnuts? Think about it:

. . . .Pope was credited by a local GOP party official with crafting strategies in an October election that earned school board seats for three Republican-backed candidates and landed an allied candidate, John Tedesco, in a runoff that he ultimately won. In an Oct. 7 e-mail from Wake County Republican Party finance chair Marc Scruggs to incumbent board member Ron Margiotta, Scruggs said the GOP had implemented Pope's plan and that it "worked very well."

The election resulted in the new members' and Margiotta's gaining a majority on the nine-member board, with the ability to advance their agenda, including ending the system's diversity policy and mandated year-round schools. Margiotta is now chairman of the school board. . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

ROTT: Arne Duncan's "Moon Shot" Turns into a Scud Attack

The education deformers' lapdog, Arne Duncan, has sent Newt and Rev Sharpton home for the holidays, and all is quiet around Washington except for the continued quiet counting of health industry dollars in the back rooms of the Senate Building. Even so, Duncan's inspiring rhetoric regarding his Race Over the Top (ROTT) still rings out in the messages from political prostitutes like Governor Phil Bredesen, who has called for a special one week session of the Tennessee Legislature in early January to change state law to force teacher pay and tenure to be decided by a test score.

If Tennessee lawmakers bow to the Governor's brass-knuckled tactics, it will constitute an act that defies the best scientific evidence and advice regarding the Oligarchs' unproven and reckless strategy that has almost no backing among most everyone who knows anything about schooling. Today's Ed Week piece announces, yet, another smackdown for the irresponsible, unethical, and grossly underfunded moon shot that looks every day more like a reckless Scud attack:

A Washington research group is raising questions about the wisdom of the U.S. Department of Education’s favored strategies for turning around the lowest-performing schools with stimulus funding, saying that its research shows that similar federal approaches to school restructuring have not been effective.

The questions raised by the new study were on the agenda last week as the Center on Education Policy , which issued the report, hosted a forum on its findings that included a top Education Department official. . . .
Bredesen, like many other governors hungry for cash, pushes on. From the CityPaper:
. . . .Last week, Bredesen called a surprise seven-day special session of the legislature beginning Jan. 12 to adopt this sweeping change. If lawmakers refuse to go along, the governor warns, the state will blow its opportunity to cash in on up to $400 million in federal economic stimulus money in the Race to the Top competition.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls it “education reform’s moon shot.” Across America, state governments are scrambling to make reforms to qualify for shares of the $4 billion available. The deadline for entries from the states is Jan. 19, the last day of the special session.
Yes, the moon shot--Arne's $4.3 billion moon shot. The real moon shot cost $25 billion in 1969 dollars, which means that in 2005 dollars, it would cost $135 billion--which is $565 billion less than the Wall Street Shot that was launched in 2008. Looks more like a mooning than a moon shot, Arne.

Obama’s initiative, Bredesen said, “has made the stars line up to create some opportunities that no one has really expected. I have a little sign on my desk. It says ‘carpe diem’ — seize the day — and that’s what I’m trying to do here with education. … There is a lot at stake here.”

Pulled in two directions

Bredesen’s high-pressure gambit — giving lawmakers one week to act, with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line — puts the statewide teachers’ union, the Tennessee Education Association, in a nearly impossible position. Either the TEA caves and accepts legislation that’s anathema to much of its membership, or the union could look like the villain in the loss of federal aid.

Teachers are complaining about strong-arm tactics from the White House all the way down to the governor’s office. On its Web site, the TEA is asking its members to complain to their state legislators. Lawmakers are themselves grousing over the speed of the special session.

The crux of the controversy is how much weight should be given to student test scores in evaluating the performance of teachers.

. . . .

The governor insists, therefore, that tests should be made the largest factor in tenure decisions and teacher evaluations. The TEA says that’s unfair and would force teachers to “teach to the test” — that is, restrict instruction to the subject matter that’s going to be tested, at the expense of all the other things students need to know. The Obama administration’s guidelines for the stimulus money are vague, asking only that tests play a significant role.

Governor plays tough

“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say it’s heavy-handed,” TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters said of Bredesen’s call for expedited new legislation. “It’s really a lot of pressure. … Our position is we can’t sell our souls in this process. If there are some changes that we can make that will make the state eligible for $400 million, we don’t want to be viewed as the obstructionist in that process. But on the other hand, we can’t throw our members under the bus. I firmly believe that’s it’s totally unfair to take one test score, one snapshot, and base a teacher’s future on that one particular day.” . . . .