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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Push-Outs on the Rise Under Bloomberg-Klein

From the New York Times:

Almost six years after a lawsuit forced the city to pledge to keep better track of students who leave public schools without graduating, the number leaving high schools has continued to climb, according to a report to be released Thursday by the public advocate’s office.

The report raises questions about why more than 20 percent of students from the class of 2007 were discharged — the term for students who leave the school system without graduating — but 17.5 percent from the class of 2000 were. Much of the increase has come from students who are discharged in the ninth grade, which has gone up to 7.5 percent for the class of 2007, but was 3.8 percent in 2000.

Though students can be classified as discharged for a number of benign reasons, including a transfer to a private school or a move out of the city, the Education Department has been sued several times for pushing out students who are struggling and are unlikely to graduate, a practice that can help raise the school’s test-score averages and graduation rates.. . . .

Sanity Prevails in Oklahoma with Governor Henry's Veto

For background on this Republican bill, go here.

News today:
Saying the measure provided no evidence of educational improvements and voicing concerns about increased costs and constitutionality, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a bill Wednesday to move control of education standards and testing from the state Education Department.

Supporters tried to salvage Senate Bill 1111 on Wednesday until Henry vetoed it about 8:15 p.m. Backers offered changes in a separate bill, but none of the proposals addressed concerns cited in the governor’s veto message.

It was the seventh veto the Democratic governor has issued in his first year of dealing with a Republican-controlled Legislature. It’s the same number of vetoes he issued during the entire 2006 session when the Senate last was controlled by Democrats.

The Republican-backed proposal was opposed by the state Board of Education. State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett, a Democrat, also opposed the measure. . . .

KIPP and KIPP Knockoffs

Think of as Gucci goes to the street fair.

In the world of false advertising, the corporate charter lobby has carved a place for itself that must be respected. Broad and Gates and the corporate media that they own gush about the testing exploits of KIPP as the model to be emulated in Arne's Rush Over the Cliff Billion Dollar Giveaway: no unions, disposable teachers, no integration, disposable students (40-60% washout rate), no special ed, no facilities, and no lip. Work Hard Enough and Be Nice Enough, become helpless and positive enough, and score high enough, and we will let you join the white folks in their fierce clawing toward that fabled middle of that economic world owned by the Few.

It is a model for American urban education that all of the Few embrace without exception or moral reservation. And, of course, it is a lie, a very basic lie because KIPP cannot be "scaled up," as the vulture philanthropists might say if they were telling the truth. Besides the 50% attrition difficulty, the shortage of instructional martyrs, and the fact that the majority of parents and students would never accept the KIPP abuse as a form of education, there is the extra money problem that now the enthusiastic Few continue to give to prop up the lie, even as the Few's tax obligations continue to receive. From the LA Times:
. . . .Local KIPP leaders are relying on philanthropy to pay for their extras and also to help front the start-up costs charter schools face. Charters are independently run public schools that are exempt from some provisions of the Education Code.

The Karsh gift comes a year after a $12-million pledge from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Bruce Karsh heads Oaktree Capital Management, an international investment firm. Martha Karsh is an attorney with extensive experience in nonprofits. Their family foundation has made gifts and pledges totaling more than $50 million to support education.
There are about a hundred of these KIPP cults in operation at this time around the country. There are over 600 public schools in Chicago, alone. There are over 90,000 schools nationwide, with most of them in urban areas. Do the math. Even Bill Gates doesn't need that much of a tax break.

What the buyers of the KIPP model will get if they are suckered into this deal is a Model T sold as a Mercedes. The only thing that the KIPP boutiques and the mass-produced KIPP knockoffs will have in common is the behavioral code, the learned helplessness, and the glassy-eyed renditioning by the positive psychologists who are the trainers in the KIPP summer teaching camps. But then, that is the important part, anyway, and the point of this new era of eugenical interventions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Latest Untested Solution: National Testing

The dolts who put Bill Gates and Eli Broad in charge of saving American education are on the brink of rushing over the cliff with the rest of the clueless lemmings who have doubled down on ignoring poverty while promising harder tests as an antidote to the current 30% test failure rate of American schools.

Here is nice summary by Monty Neill (posted at ARN) of a the goings on today at George Miller's Club:
If you go to this link, you can click to presentations of five people (plus one more who did not testify in person), every one of whom spoke in favor of some sort of national standards - though largely through various collaborations among states (my very quick scan did not show anyone calling for the feds to do the job).

Not one presenter questioned the idea, challenged whether it would solve much of anything. Some made it clear that standards alone would not do the job, but no one seemed to point to really addressing poverty, implying that all students could meet what more than one presenter termed 'fewer, clearer, and higher' standards through schooling alone. No one seemed to ask what would happen when the higher standards mean every school will 'fail' (as the CA dept of Ed has projected for CA, which is being touted these days for its 'high' standards). [Note that two years ago Ed Trust called for 'thougher' 'college ready' standards with states -- that is to say, schools and educators since nothing at all happens to states - given more time for all students to reach them.]

Of course, most speakers also called for "aligned" tests - which means a national standardized test, or maybe a few tests among large consortia of states. Put together it means a national curriculum. And even if the resulting exam is in some ways better than the current exam, it implies a very narrow range of possibilities of demonstrating learning, a centralization of control over learning (which will largely be exerted through testing companies), and a further diminution of variety and the trying out of new things. We will be closer to the "Singapore problem" in which students score high on tests but in whom creativity is stamped out, closer to what Robert Sternberg called (paraphrasing) a perfect means to eliminate creativity in schools. NCLB certainly got us far closer.

One speaker referenced a recent Duncan-organized meeting on this which included makers of college admissions testing. Are we headed toward test-prep for the SAT or ACT to be the national curriculum (well-disguised, I am sure)? Do note that these tests only predict small amounts (about 16%) of the variance in college grades in the first year, far less for later years; and various studies (including by Achieve) have shown the tests simply do not measure much of what students are required to know and be able to do to succeed in college. Yes, that is just high school, not elementary and middle, but the concept floating around is to "build back" from college entry requirements.

BTW, after the stimulus funds go away, the current signs are the feds will revert to their meager funding of education, leaving behind 'tougher' standards with no means to get there, and coming in the wake of the devastation of at the least a major recession and what Economic Policy Institue projects as a rise of poverty to one quarter of all children and to one half of black children. (Recall recent studies emphasizing the cognitive damage caused by poverty through factors such as high levels of family stress, adding to ones pointing to power of nutrition, good and stable housing, etc.)

Since NAEP results have repeatedly shown that standards, tests and punishment do not produce increased learning on NAEP's independent standardized tests (never mind richer measures), it seems the "solution" is to get tougher, create 'internationally benchmarked' standards and tests - and soon forget about the money for schools....

Even if one thinks the idea of national standards and tests in reading and math would be better than the plethora of crap we now have, I hope the pell mell rush toward 'tougher,' especially absent any evidence there will be within-school or out-of-school funds to resolve the massive array of issues that contribute to weak school learning, will give you great pause.

The road ahead will be difficult - the chorus of presenters at this hearing sang the same song; Fordham has an all-day meeting to further promote the national standards and test idea coming up soon; Duncan is pushing it.... We can see here signs of a pell-mell rush to institute the latest silver bullet, absent real evidence it will help children and absent real commitment to create conditions to make what is at best a questionable idea a useful idea in practice.


Here is more info taken from the committee page - maybe the links will work:

Archived Webcast »

Rep. George Miller (CA) Opening Statement »
a.. The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr. » Former Governor of North Carolina and Foundation Chair James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Durham, North Carolina
b.. Ken James » Commissioner of Education Arkansas Department of Education Little Rock, Arkansas
c.. Greg Jones » Chair California Business for Excellence in Education (CBEE) Sacramento, California
d.. Dave Levin » Co-Founder KIPP: Knowledge Is Power Program New York, New York
e.. Randi Weingarten » President American Federation of Teachers New York, New York
Additional Items Submitted for the Record:

a.. The Honorable Sonny Perdue, Governor of Georgia, on behalf of The National Governors Association

Florida's Corporate Welfare Charters Want Ads on School Buses

From the Orlando Sentinel's blog:
This post comes from ace Sentinel reporter Mary Shanklin:

Charter-school accountability bills that passed the Florida Senate unanimously now face a number of House amendments, including one by Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, to allow advertising on school buses.

The add-ons may be enough to sink any opportunity for the two legislative bodies to come together on making the publicly funded schools face similar regulations as traditional schools, said an aide to Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. The senator has championed the reforms for the last two sessions following an Orlando Sentinel investigation into Florida’s 350-plus charter schools.

As approved in the Senate, the bill would prohibit nepotism and increase financial reporting among the schools, which are privately operated, often by management companies.

Nelson recently commented on the legislation, saying he was working with other representatives to strengthen the bill and “ensure that we have the strong safeguards necessary to ensure accountability of our charter schools."

FairTest: New NAEP Scores Show NCLB Continuing Failure

Posted at Common Dreams:

April 28, 2009
12:07 PM

Monty Neill 857-350-8207 or 8208 x 101
Lisa Guisbond 617-730-5445

NAEP Results Produce More Evidence of NCLB's Failure;

Thorough Overhaul of Federal Law an Imperative for Obama Administration and Congress

BOSTON - April 28 - Despite billions of dollars spent on a test-and-punish approach to school "reform," today's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report provides more evidence that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) is a failure. With few exceptions, across three age groups and two subjects, the rate of improvement slowed compared with the previous period while gaps between blacks and white as well as Hispanics and whites ranged from widening to unchanging to slightly closing.

"NCLB is demonstrably unable to produce sustained and significant improvements even on a standardized test in the two subjects on which it focuses, reading and math. It also fails to make a real dent in the wide gaps between whites, African Americans and Latinos," said Monty Neill, Ed.D., FairTest's Deputy Director. "It is time to completely overhaul this educationally destructive law. The Forum on Educational Accountability has produced a blueprint to rewrite the law to focus on improving schools not just inflating state test scores." Neill chairs the Forum, whose Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB is endorsed by 150 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, labor and civic groups.

Since NCLB, state test scores have typically increased, but NAEP results have failed to show similar increases. "This is a clear sign that schools are pressured to narrow curriculum and teach to the state tests. That inflates state test scores but the inflated scores don't mean real learning has improved," explained FairTest's Lisa Guisbond. "NCLB has proven to be counter-productive. The Obama administration and the Congress must take the necessary steps to craft helpful, not harmful, federal legislation."

Numerous research reports have shown NCLB has led to narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, organizational chaos, educator resentment, and other educational damage. Public opinion surveys have shown increasing public dislike of the law and strong opposition to the law's emphases on testing and sanctions.

Summary of results from the NAEP 2008 Long Term Trend report, released April 28, 2009


Age 9 reading: reading scores did go up 4 points from 2004 to 2008, but they went up 7 points from 1999 to 2004 (more than 1.5 points/year). That is, the rate of improvement has slowed substantially since NCLB took hold compared to a period when at most NCLB might have had some impact at the very end of the period (2003-04). This tendency is common across subjects and age levels.

The black-white reading gap closed 3 points (statistically significant) while the Hispanic-white gap closed 4 points, also statistically significant. However, the Hispanic-white gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004, and the black-white gap closed 9 points from 1999-2004, about three times as fast. That is, while the racial gaps keep closing, the rate of closure has slowed dramatically. Similarly, there have been score gains for blacks and Hispanics, but the rate of improvement for both groups slowed in the 04-08 period compared with the 99-04 period. Age 13 reading: scores rose modestly but were approximately level with the scores of the early to mid 1990s.

The black-white gap closed 4 points from 2004-2008, but that gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004. The Hispanic-white gap actually widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after widening one point in the 99-04 period. Actual scores have improved for blacks, but not for Hispanics. Age 17 reading: again, scores gained modestly, but in this case they have not returned to the higher levels reached from the late 1980s through the 1990s.

The black-white gap widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after narrowing 2 points from 1999-2004; and the Hispanic-white gap widened by 4 points from 04-08 after widening by 5 points from 99-04, with NCLB failing to reverse a negative trend. The black-white gap remains far wider than it was at its narrowest, in 1988, and black scores are still below their 1988 peak. The same is true for Hispanics, with 1999 their peak year and the smallest gap with whites.


Age 9 math: the largest gains in the past were from 1986-90 (8 points) and 1999-2004 (9 points) - both 2 points per year gains. However, the 4-point gain from 2004 to 2008 averages only 1 point per year, showing that improvement rates have declined in age 9 math since NCLB took hold.

From 2004-08, the black-white gap widened by 2 points and the Hispanic-white gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant. Age 13 math: in the five-year span from 1999 - 2004 NAEP rose 5 points, or 1 point per year. In the four years under NCLB, from 2004 to 2008, NAEP gains were only 2 points, or half the rate of improvement in the previous period.

From 2004 to 2008, the black-white score gap closed 2 points and the Hispanic-white score gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant.

Age 17 math: score have been essentially flat and are now slightly lower than the previous high point in 1999, prior to NCLB.

The black-white gap closed one point from 2004-2008, while the Hispanic-white gap widened by two points, with no changes being statistically significant.

The NAEP results are at http://nationsreportcard.gov/ltt_2008/ with links to overall trends and trends by racial groups.

FEA materials are available at www.fairtest.org and www.edaccountability.org.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CRP Report: NCLB Increasing Segregation and Damaging Learning

Press Release from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA:

Heinrich Mintrop: (415) 250-0156
Gail L. Sunderman: (571) 217-7004

Los Angeles—April 22, 2009—A new report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, a non-partisan research center which has been systematically studying the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) since its inception, finds that some of the basic assumptions of the law are not working and may well be making things worse. In this study, Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn't Work-- And Why We Keep on Doing It Anyway, commissioned by the Civil Rights Project, Researchers Gail Sunderman and Heinrich Mintrop evaluate whether the accountability system endorsed by NCLB is likely to succeed or fail, and whether it is compatible with what researchers across the country have learned about the conditions needed for lasting school reforms.

The report finds that NCLB is failing on three fronts. First, there is little evidence that high stakes accountability under NCLB works. It has not improved student achievement and the sanctions have had limited effects in producing real improvement. The law also is not very good at accurately identifying schools needing improvement and far outstrips the ability of states to intervene effectively in the schools it sanctions. Third, the law has failed to connect in a meaningful way to the educators who must implement it -- they do not see the accountability goals as realistic and consider the sanctions to be misguided and counterproductive for improving schools.

The most important finding is the damage the NCLB is doing to our educational system. Under NCLB, the system "works" when education systems operate within only a basic skills framework and with low test rigor. The cost to our nation is revealed in an educational system stuck in low-level intellectual work.

Civil Rights Project Co-Director, Gary Orfield, concludes, "The new administration has a unique opportunity to address the serious structural problems of NCLB and to forge a more constructive and effective federal role. To persist in sound-bite educational politics that sound tough but have failed for a generation would be a tragic mistake. To claim that it would further the civil rights of children increasingly segregated in schools that have been officially branded and sanctioned as failures -- but not provided help that makes a real difference -- would be a blunder."

Even though the law is failing in some critical respects, the authors argue that we may maintain NCLB anyway because many derive secondary benefits from the system, specifically those who are politically and ideologically committed to NCLB and those deriving economic or political benefits from the law.

A copy of the full report can be found at the link below.

The Executive Summary and Foreword (by Gary Orfield) follow at the end of this press advisory. Copies of CRP's previously released NCLB reports may also be found on our Web site.

About the Authors:

Heinrich Mintrop, Ph.D. taught middle school and high school for over a decade in both the United States and Germany. He received a Ph.D. in education from Stanford University in 1996. He is currently an associate professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley. As a researcher, he explores issues of school improvement and accountability in both their academic and civic dimensions. He has recently published the book Schools on Probation: How Accountability Works (and Doesn't Work) at Teachers College Press. At UC Berkeley, he is involved in programs that prepare strong leaders for high-need urban schools.

Gail Sunderman, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist at the George Washington University Center on Equity and Excellence in Education where she directs the Mid Atlantic Equity Center (MAEC). Prior to that, she directed a five-year study examining the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 for the CRP. She is co-author of the book, NCLB Meets School Realities: Lessons from the Field (with James S. Kim and Gary Orfield, 2005) and editor of Holding NCLB Accountable: Achieving Accountability, Equity, and School Reform, published in 2008. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to Afghanistan and received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Download the Report: Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn't Work-- And Why We Keep on Doing It Anyway (in PDF Format) What is pdf?

Download the Press Release: New Study by UCLA's Civil Rights Project: NCLB Ignores What We Know about School Change and Is Motivated by Politics (in PDF Format) What is pdf?

Bracey Offers to Tutor Sandy Kress on the NAEP Numbers

It is not unexpected to see the defenders of the testing factories to see sunshine in the headlights of the locomotive that is bearing down from the other end of the NCLB tunnel.

Here is little corrective from Jerry Bracey, posted at Assessment Reform Network listserv:
From: gerald bracey
Date: 4/28/2009 12:41:29 PM
To: Kelly Flynn
Subject: Re: NAEP?

Ms. Flynn,

You say that you are not a statistician. Clearly, neither is Mr. Kress. In fact, his own statement disproves his conclusion. He points to "big gains over the past 16 years." That cannot be a typo because there is no six year period--the period of the existence of NCLB up to the time of the latest testing--in the data. So he's giving NCLB credit for improving scores for a full 10 years when it did not exist.

Looking at the reading data, I see a one-point---one point!--gain for 17-year-olds between 2004 and 2008, a score that leave this age 4 points below their highest scores which occurred in the late 80's and early 90's.

I see a one-point--one point!--gain for 13 year olds, leaving them with precisely the same score as they had in 1992.

I see a one-point--one point!--gain for 9-year-olds. This is an all-time high, true. But most of the gain occurred between 1999 and 2004. As I have pointed out, NCLB came into existence only in 2002, experienced great implementation chaos early on--most states didn't even have their plans in to USDOE for the 2002-2003 school year, leaving only the fall of 2003 for NCLB to work its magic. Thus, most of the gains would have occurred during the Clinton administration, pre NCLB.

Looking at math, I see a one-point DECLINE for 17-year-olds from 2004 to 2008. This leaves them two points behind their all-time high in 1999.

Thirteen-year-olds show no change from 2004. Note that except for the extrapolated period between 1973 and 1978, scores for 13-year-olds had been rising since 1978.

Nine-year-olds show a 2-point gain. Again an all-time high, but for 9-year-olds math scores had been rising since 1982 and had risen 13 points by 1999. A jump occurs from 1999 to 2004, again, mostly occurring during the Clinton years for the reasons given above.

Bob Linn once observed that given the existing NAEP gains, it would take 166 years for 100% of the students to reach proficiency. We can see by the most recent data that Bob underestimated the duration needed.

It must also be remembered that while it is de rigueur currently to demean state standards, states had been raising their standards for some time, shortly after the appearance of A Nation At Risk. Such efforts render it tricky indeed to attribute any gains to NCLB

My statements are all predicated on data from the original format, but the conclusions would hold even if we used the revised format--the gains are tiny over the period considered. They are especially disappointing given the attention given to NCLB by the feds, the states and the media. I don't know why the USDOE didn't shift to the revised format reporting in 2004. Probably because it would have completely discredited Secretary Spellings' hyperbolic claims for the efficacy of NCLB at the time. Until I see some technical reports from disinterested parties, I'm treating it as statistical sleight of hand.

Actually, the national NAEP data are not all that meaningful because of the changing demographics of the nation. In 1975, 80% of 9-year-olds taking the test were white. In 2008, it was 58%. This leaves NAEP vulnerable to Simpson's paradox in which the who group shows one pattern, the subgroups a different one. The only ethnic subgroup to show stability is 17-year-old whites. All the others are up, some a lot, but they all started their rise well before they had to suffer under NCLB.

Incidentally, NAEP can be gamed. The easiest way is in terms of the percentage of students excluded from the sample for a variety of reasons.

Please feel free to share this in its entirety with Mr. Kress or, if you prefer, provide me an email and I will forward it.

Jerry Bracey

After 7 Years in the NCLB Pressure Cooker, Achievement Gaps Essentially Unchanged

The new NAEP numbers, as reported in the New York Times today:

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.

Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s. That was well before the 2001 passage of the No Child law, the official description of which is “An Act to Close the Achievement Gap.”

“There’s not much indication that N.C.L.B. is causing the kind of change we were all hoping for,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association in Portland. “Trends after the law took effect mimic trends we were seeing before. But in terms of watershed change, that doesn’t seem to be happening.”

The results no doubt will stoke debate about how to rewrite the No Child law when the Obama administration brings it up for reauthorization later this year. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he would like to strengthen national academic standards, tighten requirements that high-quality teachers be distributed equally across schools in affluent and poor neighborhoods, and make other adjustments. “We still have a lot more work to do,” Mr. Duncan said of the latest scores. But the long-term assessment results could invigorate those who challenge the law’s accountability model itself.

Obama and Duncan could actually do something by pushing for the end of apartheid schools and by pushing to end poverty. But these guys don't have any bailouts for poor folks in poor communities, who are offered only one choice: more apartheid chain gangs run by corporations. No shame, no apology, no caring for the end of care, and if you are Margaret Spellings, you expect the Medal of Freedom.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stereotype Threat and Jack O'Connell's 22,000 Annual Failures

From the Fresno Bee:
New questions are being raised about California's high school exit exam after a recent study -- which examined test results for Fresno Unified and three other large school districts -- found the test disproportionately hurts minority and female students.

The exam, a state graduation requirement since 2006, is keeping diplomas each year out of the hands of as many as 22,500 students who would otherwise fulfill all their graduation requirements in California, the study estimated. The study was released last week by the Institute for Research on Education Policy & Practice at Stanford University.

Sean Reardon, associate professor of education at Stanford and the study's lead researcher, said the test has not boosted achievement, especially among low-achieving and minority students.

"I'm all for having high standards," he said. "But what I'm not for is high standards that [differ] by race or gender."

The study looked at school districts in Fresno, Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco but did not report the findings by district. The patterns were similar in all four, Reardon said.

"It's not a Fresno problem. It's a statewide problem," he said.

Girls and minorities failed the exam more often than white boys who are their academic equals, based on other standardized test scores, the study concluded. Girls struggled more on math.

Part of the failure, according to the study, is consistent with "stereotype threat," a theory that negative stereotypes become self-fulfilling. Reardon said girls assume they can't do well in math and minorities assume they aren't as smart as whites. The added stress and worry about confirming negative stereotypes may hurt their performance on the exit exam, he said. . . .

NCLB: Mind-Boggling and Absurd

From the Boonville Standard in the heartland of Indiana:

Warrick County Superintendent Brad Schneider criticized the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act last night at the school board’s regular meeting, going as far as calling it “mind-boggling” and “absurd.”

Schneider railed on the federal accountability law saying that it isn’t right that if a school meets 20 of the 21 required standards that they are labeled as a failing school.

These standards include things such as the categorization of certain student groups — free/reduced lunch, special education, race, etc.

“I don’t think people understand that,” he said. “If you’re below that cut score of the percentage of students passing (in one subsection), you are considered a failing school. That’s about like telling GM or Ford that if they have one lemon car, they are failing and we are going to put you under sanctions.”

Schneider added, “But that is No Child Left Behind.”

. . . .

The provisions set within NCLB state a goal of 100 percent proficiency by all students by 2013-14.

“Hopefully, we can get some changes to that law,” he said. “Trust me, I’m not sitting up here trying to put down any accountability because I am one that believes in accountability. We as educators need to be held to a high standard, but I think that we ask to be measured in a fair manner. Let’s be judged on what we teach our children and what our children achieve, not some number that somebody came up with in some ridiculous rule that we have to abide by.”

Why I Am a Conservative

During the past few days, I've taken some time to take inventory inside my own bubble and to get rid of some of the clutter. In so doing, I've found a few cherished relics that I can't seem to part with. Here are a few:

I found that I cannot toss the rule of law or honor for the Constitution. Unlike the tsking talking heads on TV, I believe we are capable of prosecuting our own war criminals and torturers, just as we did those from Japan and Germany after World War II. Whether we are willing to do so will determine the fate of the rule of law and the Republic.

I found that I have this old-fashioned belief that I cannot put in the garbage about citizens having choices about how their public institutions are run, even if it is a messy process. We are doing our children no favors by teaching them to choose autocrats and oligarchs and corporations to relieve them from their democratic responsibilities, all in the name of economic efficiency and higher test scores and beating out the Chinese in their rush toward the moral cliff.

I found that I cannot shake this belief in school as a place where we should nurture intellectual, emotional, and ethical growth, rather than a place to train unengaged drones to do jobs they hate and keep their mouths shut about their own abuse. If this is what school is to be, we need to make sure children don't go there.

I found that I still share Paul Tillich's view that religion reflects our ultimate concern, and from what I see, I am worried. There is hope, yes, but dire circumstance has not yet translated that hope into concerted action. And there are way too many death worshippers calling for Armageddon to make that necessary step a likely outcome at this time. That is why all efforts must be redoubled. I found that I cannot believe otherwise--there is too much to preserve, too much we cannot let go of that makes us human.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pioneering Privatizer to Mediate DC Teacher Talks

Michelle Rhee's choice to mediate negotiations in her ongoing campaign to to de-professionalize teaching in DC? Former Baltimore mayor (and Yalie), Kurt Schmoke, who pioneered mayoral autocracy and privatization of public schools during his 1990s tenure as Baltimore's mayor. With so many poverty-related problems facing Baltimore residents then and now, Schmoke focused on school privatization as the solution, preferring to bring in Education Alternatives, Inc. under a no-bid contract to manage nine Baltimore schools:
A University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) evaluation of the EAI experience found that "the management expertise that the private sector should be able to bring to bear on a public enterprise has not been sufficient for the expected level of transformation of the [EAI] schools in Baltimore City."

. . . .University researchers evaluated seven EAI-managed schools and seven "matched" public schools. Williams, L.C., and Leak, L.E. The University of Maryland Baltimore County evaluation of the Tesseract Program in Baltimore. Baltimore: Center for Education Research, University of Maryland Baltimore City, August 1995.
Yes, EAI could efficiently provide pencils and paint, but the only gains they could achieve were in the stock prices of EAI, Inc., whose stockholders made a killing during the 3 year experiment.

So now Mr. Schmoke is Dean Schmoke of Howard Law School, and he will be the "neutral" mediator in the DC teachers' union talks, which are holding up the current privatization plan that uses the Trojan horse charter schools to do exactly what Schmoke wanted to get done in Baltimore fifteen years ago: privatization.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Lies of Eli Broad (rhymes with toad)

The oligarchs that Obama now allows to direct national education policy continue to place their handpicked goons as titular heads of the major urban school systems. The latest example is Detroit, where Robert Bobb, a stock hustler, er, investment consultant, has been named as "emergency financial manager." Two days ago, leading vulture philanthropist, Eli Broad, forked over $450,000 "to support Bobb's efforts." The announcement came in an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, where Broad repeated the standard lies that are used to make case for dictatorial governance and thorough charterization of urban systems.
Detroit now has the opportunity to join the ranks of New Orleans and other city school systems nationwide -- from Boston to Chicago to New York City to Washington, D.C. -- that have successfully turned around after producing abysmal student outcomes.

In every one of these cities, real changes for students happened only after mayors or governors took over and put in place strong leaders who had a serious desire to rebuild.

In every one of these cities, new leaders took advantage of best practices that are proven to work for students nationwide, including challenging academic standards, longer school days, and public charter schools -- practices for which President Barack Obama has expressed his strong support. And in every one of these cities, leaders based every decision on student interests, rather than adult politics.
In a sweet irony, today the Free Press reports that Michigan's system of assessing how charters are doing in comparison to public schools has an basic flaw that simply helps to promulgate the basic lie of the charter industry:
The state's official method compares all 232 charter schools to 20 "urban host districts" in whose boundaries sit 75% of the state's charter schools. Most are larger districts -- including Detroit and Grand Rapids -- that generally have lower test scores.

Some experts say the state's method skews the comparison in favor of charter schools by comparing charters in more affluent areas to those urban districts. When the charter schools are compared with the districts in which each actually sits, about three out of five fall short on the MEAP.

"The findings are misleading and misrepresent the evidence in the report," Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University wrote to the state Board of Education.

On the MEAP math test, for example, a Free Press analysis found 20% of charter schools did better under the current MDE formula but scored worse when compared with their local districts.

Concord Academy in Antrim, east of Grand Traverse Bay, illustrates the gap. It beat the 20-district average for math MEAP scores on which the MDE based its report. But it did worse than Alba Public Schools, the district in whose boundaries the school sits.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Oklahoma House Set to Vote on Demolishing Public Education

A few days ago I posted the full text of a piece of right-wing legislation zipping through the Oklahoma legislature. It is aimed at destroying the state statutory system that maintains standards and practices for public schools--everything from state curriculum frameworks to rules for class size, teacher credentialing, to school libraries, to the qualifications of school nurses and bus drivers. The legislation, Senate Bill 834, just sailed through the Oklahoma Senate on a party line vote, and has passed the first committee hurdle in the House.

According to News Channel 8 in Tulsa, the vote in the House is expected on Wednesday. Now is the time to call your State Representatives and let them know your opposition to this backdoor school privatization plan. This insightful comment was posted after the text of the story at Channel 8's website:
posted by: spinsanity on 4:30 pm on 04/13/09
Enron coming to a school near you...this is more than union busting.

This bill may not seem like much, but it is a big deal -- no other state has even come close to experimenting with its ENTIRE public school system like this bill proposes. What California did to its energy markets with deregulation is pretty much what this bill proposes we do with Oklahoma's public education system-- 20% of the schools districts randomly selected now, with more to follow in short order.

I hope that even most most Republicans can see that this large scale experiment using our kids education system is likely to lead to a train-wreck, which in turn will lead to lower education performance and higher amounts of tax money going to a private corporation to run our education system, when the local school boards one by one fail at their newly assigned task.

If you have kids in our schools or not, you do need to contact your local school board and/or state representatives and tell them this is just too big of a risk.

I have not heard mention of Governor Henry saying one way or another if this is something he would veto, I hope it doesn't come to that.

Kozol on America's Segregated Schools

From Inside Ed at the Baltimore Sun:
I had a great conversation with Jonathan Kozol before his talk last night at the University of Baltimore law school's Urban Child Symposium on the dropout crisis. He says the heart of the problem is segregation. Of Baltimore, he told me, "this is one of the most segregated school systems in America... this must be one of the closest to absolute apartheid." (I told him there are some schools in the city that are an exception to that. Folks at City Neighbors Charter had wanted to give him a tour of their well-integrated school, but it didn't fit into his schedule.)

Kozol quoted a recent speech by President Obama who said high school dropout rates have tripled since the early 1980s -- when, Kozol says, the schools began to "massively resegregate" and Brown vs. Board of Ed was effectively dismantled. He says black and Latino children are more segregated now than they have been since 1968, the year of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

"I'm utterly out of fashion these days in that I actually believe Dr. King was right," said Kozol, 72, who doesn't use a computer and had hand-written notes for the address he was about to deliver to more than 100 people in a university auditorium. He says segregated schools convey the message to the children there that "you have been sequestered in this institution so you will not contaminate the education of white people." Children get this message from the condition of the buildings (often "squalid surroundings") and from dispirited teachers who have to "give up joy and creativity to become drill sergeants for the state." (Kozol went on a hunger strike in 2007 to protest No Child Left Behind.) He says the most successful African-Americans he's seen -- including Obama and Kurt Schmoke (a student of Kozol's once upon a time at Yale) -- did not have to attend segregated inner-city schools.

So what's the solution? Kozol likes what Dr. Alonso often says in jest about closing down all the private schools of the city. And he supports cross-city busing to integrate schools. But clearly, those things aren't going to happen anytime soon. Kozol says that when he began his work in education decades ago, he thought he could effect change. Now, he says, he's just a witness.

On another note: Kozol is also on the same page as Alonso in saying that good schools don't resort to suspension or expulsion as punishment for truancy and other non-violent offenses. "Nothing could be more Orwellian in its absurdity," he told the crowd at UB. He also says that full-day pre-kindergarten (preferably for multiple years before kindergarten) is essential, and holding children back for failure increases their chances of dropping out of high school exponentially. We're willing to hold an 8-year-old accountable for her performance, he said, yet we don't hold government leaders accountable for their failure to give inner-city children the same resources as they insist on for their own children.

Sallie Mae Digs in to Protect Student Loan Gold Mines

With the federal government threatening to return to a time when the people's people actually handled the administration of the people's student loans, the leeches in the student loan biz have rolled out the big guns to protect their gold mines. From the New York Times:

. . . .To press its case, the nation’s largest student lender, Sallie Mae, has hired two prominent lobbyists, Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, led the Obama transition, and Jamie S. Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

For lenders, the stakes are huge. Just last week, Sallie Mae reported that despite losing $213 million in 2008, it paid its chief executive more than $4.6 million in cash and stock and its vice chairman more than $13.2 million in cash and stock, including the use of a company plane. The company, which did not receive money under the $700 billion financial system bailout and is not subject to pay restrictions, also disbursed cash bonuses of up to $600,000 to other executives.

Sallie Mae said that executive compensation was lower in 2008 than 2007 and that the stock awards were worthless in the current market.. . .

Yes, things are rough. From 2002 to 2007, Sallie paid its CEO, Al Lord, $280,000,000 in salary and then came with a platinum parachute for Lord worth $225,920,802 (details from Inside Higher Ed).

Critics of the subsidized loan system, called the Federal Family Education Loan Program, say private lenders have collected hefty fees for decades on loans that are risk-free because the government guarantees repayment up to 97 percent. With the government directly or indirectly financing virtually all federal student loans because of the financial crisis, the critics say there is no reason to continue a program that was intended to inject private capital into the education lending system.

Under the subsidized loan program, the government pays lenders like Citigroup, Bank of America and Sallie Mae, with both the subsidy and the maximum interest rate for borrowers set by Congress. Students are steered to the government’s direct program or to outside lenders, depending on their school’s preference.. . . .

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Latest Imported Poison From China: Drywall

From the AP:

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) - At the height of the U.S. housing boom, when building materials were in short supply, American construction companies used millions of pounds of Chinese-made drywall because it was abundant and cheap.

Now that decision is haunting hundreds of homeowners and apartment dwellers who are concerned that the wallboard gives off fumes that can corrode copper pipes, blacken jewelry and silverware, and possibly sicken people.

Shipping records reviewed by The Associated Press indicate that imports of potentially tainted Chinese building materials exceeded 500 million pounds during a four-year period of soaring home prices. The drywall may have been used in more than 100,000 homes, according to some estimates, including houses rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.

"This is a traumatic problem of extraordinary proportions," said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat who introduced a bill in the House calling for a temporary ban on the Chinese-made imports until more is known about their chemical makeup. Similar legislation has been proposed in the Senate.

The drywall apparently causes a chemical reaction that gives off a rotten-egg stench, which grows worse with heat and humidity.

Researchers do not know yet what causes the reaction, but possible culprits include fumigants sprayed on the drywall and material inside it. The Chinese drywall is also made with a coal byproduct called fly ash that is less refined than the form used by U.S. drywall makers.

Dozens of homeowners in the Southeast have sued builders, suppliers and manufacturers, claiming the very walls around them are emitting smelly sulfur compounds that are poisoning their families and rendering their homes uninhabitable.

"It's like your hopes and dreams are just gone," said Mary Ann Schultheis, who has suffered burning eyes, sinus headaches, and a general heaviness in her chest since moving into her brand-new, 4,000-square foot house in this tidy South Florida suburb a few years ago.

How do the Chinese train their population to have no regard for producing products that poison those who buy them? Could the thoroughness of the corruption start with the cutthroat culture of schooling based on test cheating? From the Guardian:

Eight parents and teachers have been jailed on state secret charges after using hi-tech communication devices to help pupils cheat in college entrance exams, Chinese media reported today.

The conspirators used scanners and wireless earpieces to transmit exam answers, indicating the lengths to which people go to ensure success in the make-or-break "gaokao", which determines the future of 10 million 18-year-olds each year.

Concern about cheating is such that papers are kept under armed guard, and last year their classification was upgraded from "secret" to "top secret".

But three separate scams operated in a single school in Zhejiang province. Those involved were sentenced to between six months and three years for illegally obtaining state secrets. It is not known whether any children were punished.

The Legal Daily newspaper said the parents began plotting in 2007 because their children's achievements were "not ideal". One group bribed a teacher to fax them the test paper and paid university students to provide answers, which were transmitted to the children through earpieces. The ruse was discovered when police detected "abnormal radio signals" near the school.

Another man had created an even more elaborate ‑ and expensive ‑ system. He bribed a student to send him the questions using a miniature scanner and hired nine teachers to answer them. He then sent their work back to his son and the other boy.

A teacher was also jailed for charging parents to deliver answers to students. The equipment he used failed on the day. . . .

Vulture Philanthropy Descends on Detroit Schools

From Jack Gerson to Oakland teachers:
[A] school district's financial debt [is] used as the excuse to put it under the control of a state-appointed dictator recommended and trained by Eli Broad. The local school board is stripped of its authority and reduced to advisory votes. The state appointee immediately implements a program of school closures. layoffs, and more charter schools. Does this sound like Oakland circa 2003? Well, it's deja vu all over again.

The city is Detroit. The new school czar is Robert Bobb, former Oakland City Manager who went through the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy a few years back (following in the footsteps of Randy Ward, Kim Statham and Vincent Matthews). Bobb has emerged as the $260,000 / year (plus $84,000 in moving expenses) state-appointed tyrant of Detroit Public Schools. The campaign to exterminate public education in Detroit is even more savage than what's been done here in Oakland. Read Diane Bukowski's account in the Michigan Citizen:

By Diane Bukowski
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — The alliance to completely dismantle the Detroit Public School system is rapidly growing, including both foes and ostensible friends.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s DPS czar Robert Bobb has announced that Detroit’s children can expect to see at least 50 more schools close in the coming year, accompanied by thousands of lay-offs, to offset an alleged $306 million deficit.

“The unions aren’t involved so far in discussions on the closing process,” Phil Schloop, Business Agent for Operating Engineers International Union Local 547, said. “We know schools are going to have to close, because we are losing another 10,000 students, but we must maximize our retention and offer programs that will attract Detroit students.”

Agnes Hitchcock of the grass-roots group Call ‘em Out differed with Schloop’s acceptance of the proposed closures.

“It appears to me that the state has completed the destruction of Detroit’s public school system through its ongoing takeover, and that a largely insensitive school board contributed to this process, while malfeasance and corruption ran rampant,” she said. “It’s up to the residents of Detroit to re-build our own school system using the money the state and the private corporations have stolen from us.” . . . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gradgrind and McChoakumchild On the Ropes

From EdNotesOnline:
In a brilliant new video, Angel Gonzalez of ICE and the Grassroots Education Movement exposes the hypocrisy of mayoral control and the phony mantra that their critics are all about adults and they are all about children. And yes, that's Michael Fiorillo with the sign at the end. A must see.

Angel sent this along as an intro:

4-3-09 Sharpton-Klein NAN / EEP Forum with pro-mayoral control and pro-charter school panelists from across the US. Councilman Barron condemns their privatization of public schools agenda. After protests from the NO Mayoral Control Coalition, Sharpton conceded Barron's address prior to the speeches of the panelists. Barron condemns the profiteering & the educational devastation promulgated by the BloomKein Dictatorial Control of public education in NYC.
Angel Gonzalez

Two Americas But Only One With Advantages

From another piece in WaPo on the new challenges faced by the College Board to maintain a system rigged against the poor:
. . . . After years of muted criticism, there has been a growing chorus of concern about increasing inequalities in access to higher education. Much of the debate centers on how to make college more affordable for lower-income students. But some educators also argue that standardized exams are a more accurate measure of economic privilege than of the potential to succeed in college and in life. Meanwhile, more nonprofit and government programs are cropping up to give disadvantaged students test preparation and other help getting into college.

Last fall, the National Association for College Admission Counseling broke new ground by urging colleges and universities to rethink their reliance on standardized testing and switch to exams that are more closely tied to high school achievement. The counselors' report suggested using measures such as Advanced Placement exams, the SAT subject tests, and tests linked to the specialized International Baccalaureate program.

"It is nothing even remotely like a level playing field," said William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, and leader of the commission that studied the issue.

Among wealthier families, he said, "parents might be more into test prep, your peers are more likely to be into it, many of the better schools, whether they think this way or not, tend to teach to the test . . . There are at least two Americas out there, and the advantages are all in one of them."

Bob Schaeffer, co-founder and public education director for the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, has long urged colleges to reconsider the entrance exam requirement, saying the tests are stacked against kids without financial resources. He cites studies that show these students can easily slip behind their more affluent peers when tackling the college admissions system.

"Our biggest concern about the SAT is that the SAT, rather than a gateway to opportunity, reinforces the factors that hold kids back from access to college," he said. SAT scores "march up -- it varies -- by about 30 to 50 points for every $20,000 in family income. Kids whose families earn less than $20,000 per year have an average combined score of 1320 on the SAT; those with income of $80,000 to $100,000 have a combined score of 1543; for those who reported family income of $200,000 or higher, the combined score is 1676." A perfect score is 2400.

More than 800 colleges have already deemphasized test scores in the admissions process, Schaeffer said, many of them "very fine schools."

Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College, which stopped requiring standardized tests in the 1960s, said this approach has worked well for the highly selective college in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin receives about 6,000 applications for almost 500 spots in its freshman class, he said, and each applicant's package is read at least twice.

"When we look at the students who have done well, or moderately well, there is a huge correlation between our reader ratings, and a lesser correlation with SATs," he said. He acknowledged that such personal attention is easier to provide at smaller colleges such as Bowdoin, because the applicant pool is relatively small.

A student's overall record in high school is crucial, too, he said. "Often what we find is how a kid does in high school, even with grade inflation, is a much more accurate reflection of how they are going to do in college than SATs."

A spokeswoman for the College Board acknowledged that economic and academic inequalities affect tests scores, but says the tests themselves are not to blame. "The unfortunate reality is that underrepresented students, such as low-income students, often don't have the same access to the educational opportunities, rigorous courses and resources as other students do," said Alana Klein. "Their performance on standardized admissions tests, as well as on other educational assessments, often reflects this." . . . .
You are right, Ms. Klein, the tests are not to blame--it is the use of the tests by your kind of technocratic deniers to determine poor people's educational opportunities that is to blame. And Ms. Klein, or Alana if I may, your preferred "rigor" solution of turning poor schools into anti-thinking testing camps devoid of the arts, humanities, or humanness (think KIPP) is not a morally-defensible alternative to addressing the shame of poverty in the richest country in the world. So, you see, your "solution" simply offers to perpetuate the College Board's punishing of the poor as the basest and most malevolent form of class warfare against children. We need to change the unfairness of the system, Alana, rather than changing the children so that we can continue to pretend that what you are doing is fair.

The College Board's Win-Win: For Themselves and the Privileged

For the coached and the coddled, the importance of socioeconomic advantage just got more so. The new SAT rules that just went into play will allow the College Board to collect millions more on the repeated tests as those who can afford to sit for them and then sort their best score to send to the Ivy League. (Of course, the real Ivy Leaguers have legacy privileges that make such scrambling unnecessary, as documented in Karabel's The Chosen). From WaPo:

Legions of high school students equipped with No. 2 pencils have done battle with the SAT, but a new policy is easing the stress for college-bound teenagers. If they take the test more than once, they can send their favorite set of scores with applications and ignore the rest.

Before the policy took effect last month, students had no option: All their SAT scores were reported when they applied to college.

The first time Gabby Ubilla took the test, she said, she fared well on the verbal section but was dissatisfied with her math score. The College Board's "score choice" policy will allow her to push the reset button with most colleges. "Now that I know what I need to study and what's on the test, I can study different types of math questions" without worrying about the old score, said Ubilla, 16, an 11th-grader at Dominion High School in Sterling.

But critics say score choice encourages students to take the test as many times as they want without consequence, giving an unfair edge to the wealthy and injecting an additional level of strategy into an admissions process that can already feel like a cabalistic ritual. Some question whether the change was made simply to compete with the ACT, the other major admissions test, which has been gaining market share in recent years and has had a de facto score-choice policy. A quarter of more than 700 colleges tracked on the SAT Web site are asking students to send all their scores regardless.. . . .

So what unfair advantage of the wealthy are you talking about?

SAT Scores 2002 from the College Board

Family Income Verbal/Math Scores

Less than $10,000/year-----417/442
$10,000 - $20,000/year-----435/453
$20,000 - $30,000/year-----461/470
$30,000 - $40,000/year-----480/485
$40,000 - $50,000/year-----496/501
$50,000 - $60,000/year-----505/509
$60,000 - $70,000/year-----511/516
$70,000 - $80,000/year-----517/524
$80,000 - $100,000/year----530/538
More than $100,000/year---555/568

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cheap Charter Schools Rule Where Poverty Is Served

Last week WaPo ran a story that explored the inpenetrable mystery of why the leafy suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland are not in a rush to turn over their children's education to the unregulated and unsupervised whims of the CEOs and EMOs from the corporate welfare charter school industry. According to the head of the national charter outfit, the reason is simple: those antiquated elected school boards are afraid of the competition:
"Anytime you see a school board that is afraid of competition, they will invent any grounds that are needed to deny a charter application," said Nelson Smith, president of the D.C.-based National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Thus, any reason that is offered to deny the spread of the Wall Street Schooling Model is just another excuse to disguise the real reason that school boards and the parents they represent don't want charter schools: they are afraid of something better.

So any time you hear parents use any of these excuses listed below to urge their Board members to resist the charter plague, remind yourself that it's just another excuse they have cooked up to cover the fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on schools with libraries and librarians, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on guidance counselors and psychological services, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on drama programs and facilities to stage plays, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on athletic programs, sports fields, and gymnasiums, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist that they be able choose the people who will oversee their schools, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on quality programs for the disabled and gifted, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on quality meals prepared on site for their children, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on safe transportation for their children to and from school, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on teachers who have been educated, trained, and certified, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on school leaders who are educators rather than CEOs, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on curriculums that include music, art, vocational subjects, social studies, PE, drama, and electives, it is to cover their fear of competition.
  • When parents insist on facilities that are designed as schools, rather than as pizza joints in strip malls, it is to cover their fear of competition.
So yes, it would seem that the vast majority of Americans are cowards. Where you will find parents willing to show their bravery, however, is where you will find desperate parents whose schools have been neglected for generations and where poverty seeps through the school walls like a virulent mold, where malignant neglect creates special conditions that have long been unaddressed. This is where the test and fail regimes have been most effective in melting away the last vestiges of resistance to the CEOs and the EMOs and the other corporate blood suckers of the testing industry, along with their henchmen who have been trained in the new big business of schooling.

Yet now with charterization approved by Dunc and his oligarch handlers in systems like DC, where public school demonization has been inspired by the fuming and snarling Michelle Rhee, the next step must be taken now to stage a PR campaign to get back all the parents back that she and the Washington Post scared away. So welcome back, parents, to a new beginning for DC schools. And thank you for your courage. From WaPo:

It's the rarest of species: a good-news advertisement about D.C. public schools.

"Did you know," the announcer intones on the ads, which aired last month on WPGC (95.5 FM) and are scheduled to run again next month, "that the only school in D.C. to earn a national ribbon for excellence last year was a D.C. public school? Go public and get a great free education!"

Those terms -- describing Key Elementary -- aren't usually associated with a system that ranks among the bottom in test scores nationwide. But the campaign, titled "Rediscover DCPS," has been launched by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee as one step toward stemming the decline in public confidence in a system whose enrollment has plummeted from 80,000 students three decades ago to 45,000 this year.

In addition to the radio spots, the $9,000 campaign, which makes a particular push for special education students, includes a section on the school system's Web site featuring 13 elementary and middle schools, and earlier school registration dates, officials said at a news conference yesterday.

"A positive marketing campaign about the school system . . . is long overdue," said Jeff Smith, president of D.C. Voice, an advocacy group that circulated a petition in November urging the media to report on positive school system developments. "No one has been willing to own the system. It continues to be the same talk about what's wrong with the system. Lots of things are wrong. If you're the CEO of any company, you have bad spots, but what's good is what you sell."

D.C. Voice is one of those non-profit tax dodges that has taken its marching orders from the Gates Foundation since 2008. What's good is what you sell.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rhode Island "Reformers" Out to Axe Teacher Pay and Benefits

From the Providence Journal:
. . . . Under the proposal –– nestled in Governor Carcieri’s budget plan for the coming year –– charter schools would not be bound by prevailing wage, tenure and retirement-system clauses that govern other public schools.

Removing those requirements, supporters including the governor say, would eliminate the red tape that can hamper classroom innovation. Such freedoms give charter schools greater control over budgets and personnel and allow them to attract and pay for top teaching talent.

But teachers union representatives vehemently object, contending it amounts to an end run around collective bargaining units, giving management an excuse to pay lower wages and do away with seniority protections.

“It’s wrong, it’s unfair, it’s unconscionable, it’s absolutely unnecessary and it wasn’t the deal that was struck when the original charter law was put into place,” James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, told the House Finance Committee in a hearing Tuesday.

The original charter law, drafted more than a decade ago as Rhode Island looked for new ways to foster innovation in its public education system, called for the new class of schools to be tied to local districts. It was later amended to liberate such schools from district oversight, making it easier for independent groups to start new institutions.

A year ago, the legislature approved yet another new class of schools, known as mayoral academies, which unlike the state’s existing 11 charter schools did not require specific salary or tenure structures, or obligations that teachers contribute to the state retirement system.

The governor’s budget proposal, if approved by lawmakers, would extend that flexibility to all charter schools. (It would also add $2.8 million for existing schools and $1.5 million for new or expanding schools, including the first proposed mayoral academy, in Cumberland.)
. . . .
The House Finance Committee made no decisions on the proposal, though members including Chairman Steven M. Costantino raised questions about how the state Board of Regents selects which charter schools to approve and fund. Union leadership has accused the mayoral academies of trying to leapfrog other charter applications now pending.

Abbott conceded that while the process was not always competitive, a moratorium that temporarily banned the creation of new charter schools until last year generated a backlog of applications. It is now up to the Regents to decide which new schools to approve and how to divvy up the funding, he said.

The unions say now is not the time to thinking about funding new schools.

“What I don’t understand,” Parisi said, “is how the governor could propose expanding charter schools when the public school districts are hurting as much as they are hurting.”

EEP: Front Group for Business Roundtable

The New York Times had the story about the recent neo-lib and neo-con party in New York to put together a strategy so that profiteers of all political stripes can cash in on part of the Dunc's $5 billion that is up for grabs in the Race to the Cash contest sponsored by ED. The front group is called the Education Equality Project, and if the odd political bedfellows such as Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton, Joel Klein, and Randi Weingarten have their way, the poor in this country will be equally subjected to a universal change-the-child punitive pedagogy that puts the full weight of altering our racist and classist society on the shoulders of children, teachers, and parents. Meanwhile, the casino capitalists and their apologists accumulate tax money to fund the corporatization of American public schools. Here is a clip from the Times:

. . . .Now Mr. Klein and Mr. Sharpton “have rounded up Education Secretary Arne Duncan, several big-city mayors and former Clinton nemesis Newt Gingrich to appear with them at a convention this week,” Ms. McAdoo said, “where they will surely move to create a national presence for themselves as the defenders of children against, oh, say, the teachers’ unions.”

Back to strange bedfellows: Ms. McAdoo’s criticism notwithstanding, the teachers’ union president, Randi Weingarten, was on stage with Mr. Duncan, Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Klein at Thursday’s conference, which the union had helped to sponsor.

“Nobody is supporting us more financially than Randi Weingarten,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Ms. Weingarten said that the union had given about $10,000 a year for the last eight years to the National Action Network, Mr. Sharpton’s civil rights group — not to the Education Equality Project.
It is heartening to see others writing about the takeover of education by the oligarchs. Clay Burrell has this:
It hasn't been a good week for NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Education Equality Project (EEP) he co-founded (under suspicious circumstances) with Al Sharpton. (The EEP is the "test the students, silence the parents, close the schools, blame the teachers, ignore the socio-economic factors" wing of education reform.)

Not quite the party they'd planned? They held a conference this week - their biggest ever platform for the EEP, according to the pre-conference fanfare - that didn't seem to go over very well. Arne Duncan was met with boos when he announced his support of Mayor Bloomberg's control of NYC public schools. Al Sharpton himself backed away from supporting Klein's boss. A Q&A session featured critiques of Klein's claims of improvement and calls for his dismissal. See New York City Public School Parents for a good summary and web roundup about the event.

The EEP website doesn't pass the test for accuracy and rigor: Aaron Pallas at Gotham Schools saved me the labor of fact-checking the Education Equality Project's website, and here's the score: out of its 8 featured facts about the achievement gap, Pallas finds four are false, two are "toss-ups," and two are true. By my count, the Klein-Sharpton site would score 25% if this were a test. (Since two are toss-ups, I might make excuses for them and inflate the grade to a 40. But that goes against the "no excuses" mantra.)

Shades of AIG in NYC schools fiscal management: Klein's status as poster-boy of Eli Broad's "business administration" solution to urban school district administration may have taken a hit if the report by City Comptroller Bill Thompson on $700 million in contracting overruns for a two-year period is even partly accurate. (Thompson is running for mayor against Bloomberg.) Fred Klonsky highlights some whoppers:
  • Contracts for goods and services that have exceeded their cost estimates by nearly $700 million over the past two years.
  • A single $1 million contract with Xerox to lease copiers that ended up costing the DOE nearly $68 million.
  • A contract for cafeteria equipment that ballooned from roughly $15,000 to $850,000.
  • A software deal that went from $135,000 to $5.5 million.
And Sharon Higgins has this most recent addition at Education Notes Online to the growing literature on the misanthropic oligarchs, or as she calls it, vulture philanthropy:
From Sharon Higgins

Here’s a scholarly and informative article to share with you: "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy," by Janelle Scott (Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, formerly NYU) and published by SAGE. It will take a while to read (32 pages), but I believe it will be worth your time.

Scott explains the billionaires' strategy to push charter schools onto communities and how they are maneuvering their immense foundation-giving to achieve this result. She also describes the not-always-well-intentioned, and/or misguided, history of foundation "giving" which has targeted communities of color in the past.

The foundation-giving programs of today require an important trade-off from the local communities: namely, the relinquishment of interest and power over their own public schools to the public education notions of a few immensely wealthy oligarchs. What does it tell us that the communities where this is occurring necessitated first being placed under authoritarian rule?

Scott’s article explains how the "gifts" of these foundations are going to a broad range of charter advocacy groups, pro-charter research organizations, alternative teacher and principal training programs, charter school development organizations, etc. EdVoice, Center for Education Reform, TFA, NewSchools Venture Fund, NewLeaders for New Schools, KIPP, Green Dot, Democrats for Education Reform, and the EEP are just the teeny tiny tip of the you're-going-to-have-charter-schools-if-you-want-them-or-not iceberg.

Scott describes the flow of money to these organizations with the intent to have them work as a network in unison to further the billionaires' goal. Very few of the donations go directly to individual schools and their students, but just enough to make them look a lot better than their traditional school neighbors. The majority of the dollars go toward advocacy, propaganda, and the building of a national pro-charter school structure.

I've recently learned how Broad has bought off large, important portions of PBS, and how Ms. Gates is on the board of the Washington Post. The extent to which the media has been co-opted by this force would be a good topic for someone to track. We know how heavily they have influenced the White House.

I was especially interested to learn that one of the official techniques used to push charter schools, and described in a 2004 Philanthropy Roundtable donors guide, is "...the sponsorship of efforts that put parents of color out front instead of 'rich, white Republicans.' " The technique is exactly described here and here.

This general strategy may also explain why a deeply-in-debt-to-the-IRS Al Sharpton was persuaded to join the pro-charter force.

Another small item that may be of interest to some of you is that the Broad Foundation paid the Century Foundation $100,000 (in 2004) and $29,973 (in 2007) to "support research on the late union leader Albert Shanker." You may view The Broad Foundation 990's here.

Perhaps this is the "why" it has come about that pro-charter forces mention Albert Shanker so frequently for being responsible for the idea of charter schools. They use this statement to both justify the existence of charter schools, and to attempt to disarm the teachers' union complaints about them.

The details of these maneuvers are extensive, and won’t be easily grasped by the American public, not to mention the lesser educated parents in the communities now being targeted. The word about what is really going on desperately needs to get out more broadly.

Download the article here. But you have to register first. I have the pdf. Email me if you want a copy.


Susan Ohanian reports on Broad takeover of Phi Delta Kappan

Note: These are the people Weingarten and the UFT/AFT want to partner with.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How Obama Became a One-Termer

Continuing the idiocies of the Bush education policy is one thing, but continuing and accelerating the Bush evisceration of the Constitution is quite another kind of thing, one that will not stand with enough of those/us who put Obama where he is. Scrape your bumper--this honeymooner just moved for annulment.

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

New and worse secrecy and immunity claims from the Obama DOJ

When Congress immunized telecoms last August for their illegal participation in Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program, Senate Democratic apologists for telecom immunity repeatedly justified that action by pointing out that Bush officials who broke the law were not immunized -- only the telecoms. Here, for instance, is how Sen. Jay Rockefeller justified telecom immunity in a Washington Post Op-Ed:

Second, lawsuits against the government can go forward. There is little doubt that the government was operating in, at best, a legal gray area. If administration officials abused their power or improperly violated the privacy of innocent people, they must be held accountable. That is exactly why we rejected the White House's year-long push for blanket immunity covering government officials.

Taking them at their word, EFF -- which was the lead counsel in the lawsuits against the telecoms -- thereafter filed suit, in October, 2008, against the Bush administration and various Bush officials for illegally spying on the communications of Americans. They were seeking to make good on the promise made by Congressional Democrats: namely, that even though lawsuits against telecoms for illegal spying will not be allowed any longer, government officials who broke the law can still be held accountable.

But late Friday afternoon, the Obama DOJ filed the government's first response to EFF's lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush's NSA program. But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the "state secrets" privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and (2) a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim of breathtaking scope -- never before advanced even by the Bush administration -- that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is "willful disclosure" of the illegally intercepted communications.

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned.

There are several notable aspects to what happened here with this new court filing from Obama:

(1) Unlike in the prior cases where the Obama DOJ embraced the Bush theory of state secrets -- in which the Obama DOJ was simply maintaining already-asserted arguments in those lawsuits by the Bush DOJ -- the motion filed on Friday was the first response of any kind to this lawsuit by the Government. Indeed, EFF filed the lawsuit in October but purposely agreed with Bush lawyers to an extension of the time to respond until April, in the hope that by making this Obama's case, and giving his DOJ officials months to consider what to do when first responding, they would receive a different response than the one they would have gotten from the Bush DOJ.

That didn't happen. This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ's, and the ample time that elapsed -- almost three full months -- makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials. Yet they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have. This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used -- not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance. Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ -- using an absurdly broad rendition of "state secrets" to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity -- are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

(2) It is hard to overstate how extremist is the "soverign immunity" argument which the Obama DOJ invented here in order to get rid of this lawsuit. I confirmed with both ACLU and EFF lawyers involved in numerous prior surveillance cases with the Bush administration that the Bush DOJ had never previously argued in any context that the Patriot Act bars all causes of action for any illegal surveillance in the absence of "willful disclosure." This is a brand new, extraordinarily broad claim of government immunity made for the first time ever by the Obama DOJ -- all in service of blocking EFF's lawsuit against Bush officials for illegal spying. As EFF's Kevin Bankston put it:

This is the first time [the DOJ] claimed sovereign immunity against Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act claims. In other words, the administration is arguing that the U.S. can never be sued for spying that violates federal surveillance statutes, whether FISA, the Wiretap Act or the SCA.

Since EFF's lawsuit is the first to sue for actual damages under FISA and the Wiretap Act, it's arguable whether this immunity argument applied to any of the previous lawsuits. What is clear, though, is that the Bush DOJ, in any context, never articulated this bizarre view that all claims of illegal government surveillance are immunized in the absence of "willful disclosure" to the public of the intercepted communications. This is a brand new Obama DOJ invention to blanket themselves (and Bush officials) with extraordinary immunity even when they knowingly break our country's surveillance laws.

(3) Equally difficult to overstate is how identical the Obama DOJ now is to the Bush DOJ when it comes to its claims of executive secrecy -- not merely in substance but also tone and rhetoric (at least in the area of secrecy; there are still important differences -- no sweeping Article II lawbreaking powers and the like -- which shouldn't be overlooked). I defy anyone to read the Obama DOJ's brief here and identify even a single difference between what it says and what the Bush DOJ routinely said in the era of Cheney/Addington (other than the fact that Bush used to rely on secret claims of national security harm from Michael McConnell whereas Obama relies on secret claims filed by Dennis Blair). Even for those most cynical about what Obama was likely to do or not do in the civil liberties realm, reading this brief from the Obama DOJ is so striking -- and more than a little depressing -- given how indistinguishable it is from everything that poured out of the Bush DOJ regarding secrecy powers in order to evade all legal accountability.

Don't take my word for that. I mean: really, don't. Instead, I'm going to excerpt just a few of the key passages from the Obama DOJ's brief to convey a sense of how absolute is the Obama administration's claims of executive power and secrecy rights -- remember: all advanced in order to demand that courts not consider any claims that the Bush administration broke the law in how it spied on Americans (click on images to enlarge):

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 2:

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 12:

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 13:

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 15:

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 16:

Obama DOJ Brief - Page 18:

Every defining attribute of Bush's radical secrecy powers -- every one -- is found here, and in exactly the same tone and with the exact same mindset. Thus: how the U.S. government eavesdrops on its citizens is too secret to allow a court to determine its legality. We must just blindly accept the claims from the President's DNI that we will all be endangered if we allow courts to determine the legality of the President's actions. Even confirming or denying already publicly known facts -- such as the involvement of the telecoms and the massive data-mining programs -- would be too damaging to national security. Why? Because the DNI says so. It is not merely specific documents, but entire lawsuits, that must be dismissed in advance as soon as the privilege is asserted because "its very subject matter would inherently risk or require the disclosure of state secrets."

What's being asserted here by the Obama DOJ is the virtually absolute power of presidential secrecy, the right to break the law with no consequences, and immunity from surveillance lawsuits so sweeping that one can hardly believe that it's being claimed with a straight face. It is simply inexcusable for those who spent the last several years screaming when the Bush administration did exactly this to remain silent now or, worse, to search for excuses to justify this behavior. As EFF's Bankston put it:

President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties. But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a "secret" that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again.

This is the Obama DOJ's work and only its work, and it is equal to, and in some senses surpasses, the radical secrecy and immunity claims of the Bush administration.