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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Texas-Sized Charter School Corruption

The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle speaks:

Charter schools, which Texas began allowing in 1995, were supposed to set educators free — and they did.

. . . .

Unfortunately, the worst charter schools were free to fail — sometimes spectacularly, in ways that involved large amounts of money and criminal charges. In the Houston area, for instance, The Prepared Table saw its charter revoked in 2002; four of its administrators — a pastor and three relatives — were alleged to have stolen $3 million from federal and state programs. The Jesse Jackson Academy (with campuses in both Houston and Fort Worth) closed in 2008 amid charges it had misappropriated $3.2 million in federal grants. And last year, Gulf Shores Academy had to be reformulated after school administrators allegedly swindled more than $10 million from the state.

Given that dismal history, it's almost a relief that the latest bad news about Texas charter schools doesn't involve anything illegal. The Texans Can charter-school chain may be infuriating. But it appears to operate entirely within the law.

As the Chronicle's Jennifer Radcliffe recently reported, nine of the school's 10 schools are rated “academically unacceptable” by the state, and three are on the verge of being closed for repeated failure to meet federal standards. At Houston's Main Street campus, state data show that none of the 15 freshmen enrolled in 2001-02 managed to earn a high school diploma within six years. That's a 0 percent success rate.

Admittedly, the Can schools have set themselves a hard task: They cater to dropouts, recovering drug addicts and teen parents. But even when compared to other schools that serve kids with similar backgrounds, Can earns very low marks. As Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, told Radcliffe: “There's no way to maneuver the statistics around to say they've been a success.” And given that abysmal performance, we're furious about the way the Can system spends its money. Can's top six executives earned a combined $880,000. Founder Greg East, then the president, pulled down a cool $236,000 — more than twice the base salary of Mike Feinberg, the co-founder of KIPP and a leader of the most-hailed charter system in the nation. Can's vice president for branding and communication — yes, Can has one — earns $120,000.

Where does that money come from? The state provides $32 million to the schools each year, and vehicle donations account for another $8 million. Maybe you've heard Can's $2.5 million-a-year advertising campaign, which urges us to “Write off the car, not the kid.”

We say: Write off those charter schools. Their money — both the state funding and the vehicle donations — could be better spent. By continuing to support failing schools, either through tax dollars or through charity, we are writing off the kids. And they deserve better.

New Documentary, Race to Nowhere, Examines AP Testing Abuse

In 2008, 2.3 million AP exams were given in the U. S., which put $190,900,000 into the coffers of the College Board. And as family budgets shrink, along with the amount that colleges have to offer the needed number of classes for undergraduates, the AP exam seems poised to, indeed, replace many college freshman courses that offer real learning to students. Trading real coursework for cram courses that prepare students to take a test and forget it will have dire consequences, however, when it comes the important job of transmitting our culture to the next generation.

A new documentary, Race to Nowhere, examines this spreading phenomenon of AP classes replacing real learning. Here is a clip posted originally posted at the New York Times on Jan. 25:

Corporate Charter School Industry Resists Oversight at All Costs

From Suzy Oppenheimer, the Chair of NY Senate Education Committee:

. . . .State government's inability to successfully compromise and come to resolution on policy issues is unacceptable to me.

Some additional background is needed to give a fuller picture to your readers. As chair of the Senate Education Committee, I worked hard to forge a compromise that would have doubled the existing cap on charter schools, while at the same time adopting reasonable safeguards to ensure that state education dollars are used appropriately by charter school administrators.

As you know, charter schools are funded by tax dollars, yet are currently subject to almost no public oversight. The legislation I supported would have imposed modest disclosure and audit requirements on charter schools, while increasing the number of these alternative schools.

In this case, all participants in the negotiations — legislative, executive and the education community outside of state government — share responsibility for not passing a charter schools bill. The Senate and Assembly did develop a compromise bill. But charter school advocates and their allies in state government refused to agree to any changes to the charter school process that would have made it more open, accountable and transparent. . . .

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Washington State to Allow School Bus Advertisements?

Washington State children may have a new way to remember which bus to ride. Thanks to possible legislation, school kids might be saying, "I'm on the one with the Nike swoosh," or, "I ride the State Farm bus." These advertisements aren't restricted to the sides of the bus; the insides, too, can be plastered with the logos of corporate sponsors, a slick way to gain the attention of a young, vulnerable, and captive audience. In the end, however, school boards can reject or restrict advertisements.

One original bill simply includes provisions about advertisements. A second version includes a section that allows districts to put the American flag on the bus in addition to allowing corporate ads, a weak nod that seems to acknowledge, "Yes, we're selling out, but we can at least put up a flag to remember this is still a public school bus." The Senate report acknowledges the income from ads would be "a drop in the bucket" ($175,000), and that the very idea may be a distraction for the community. Another comment, which shows the wisdom is there, it's just not taken into serious consideration, cautions "Advertising to children on school buses is questionable."

Less testing, not more

Sent to the NY Times, Jan 29

The Times notes that No Child Left Behind was unpopular "party because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests …". ("Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year," January 28). Education Secretary Duncan has announced that the Race to the Top national standards plan will include national tests linked to the standards, which means far more testing than we had with NCLB.

All educators understand the necessity of assessment, but it is our obligation to do the minimum amount of testing necessary, and no more. Every minute spent testing that is not necessary bleeds time from learning, and every dollar spent on testing that is not necessary is stolen from investments that really need to be made in schools.

Any new education law should result in less testing, not more.

Stephen Krashen

Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year
By SAM DILLON Published: January 28, 2010

In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Absolutely Amazingly Dumb Arne Duncan

When NOLA school board chair, Phyllis Landrieu, gave thanks to a Category 5 hurricane that killed over a thousand people and led to the greatest Aftrican-American diaspora of the 20th Century with her "I say, 'Thank you, Katrina' all the time" in 2006, everyone surely knew that the corporate charter school ideology had become fixed in the area of Landrieu's head where a brain was supposed to be.

Three and half years later, we have a Secretary of Education uttering the same callous blessing in praise of Katrina's devastation. From Nick Anderson at WaPo:

Duncan was quoted as replying: "It's a fascinating one. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'We have to do better.' And the progress that they've made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that -- that city was not serious about its education. Those children were being desperately underserved prior, and the amount of progress and the amount of reform we've seen in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing."

Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya confirmed the accuracy of Duncan's quote.

SCOTUS Declares, Democracy Be Damned

Posted at HuffPo:

And check out this commentary on NPR's Marketwatch:

JUSTIN FOX: Economist Milton Friedman once wrote that an individual has lots of responsibilities: responsibilities to family, to conscience, to charity, to church, to country. A business, he said, was different. It's one and only responsibility was "to engage in activities designed to increase its profits, so long as it stays within the rules of the game."

Friedman's point was that CEOs should not go around imposing their notions of social responsibility on corporations owned by many shareholders. Since the only interest that could possibly unite all those shareholders was making a profit, that was what executives should focus on during their working hours.

Think about this in the context of the Supreme Court's decision last week. In a landmark ruling, the court struck down long-standing restrictions on political spending by corporations.

The ideal corporation Friedman described is out to do nothing but make as much money as it can, "within the rules of the game." It is supposed to behave in a supremely selfish and single-minded fashion. An individual who acted like that would be considered really unpleasant, maybe even psychopathic. The Supreme Court's decision frees corporations to play a potentially decisive role in shaping the "rules of the game," rules that they have to obey. It's a little like putting inmates in control of the asylum.

It's true, corporations are made up of individuals. That makes it hard to draw a line between what corporations do and what their individual employees do. It is even harder to draw a line between free speech and outright political activity. The Supreme Court majority cited this as the main justification for its decision.

But equating corporate rights with individual rights, as the Court did, just doesn't smell right. If corporations are individuals, they are individuals with some pretty serious mental and emotional problems. You'd think any self-respecting judge would want to declare them incompetent.

KIPP and the Science of Psychological Neutering

Does your KIPP teacher scream at you? Does your KIPP principal make you bark like a dog? Does your KIPP teacher throw chairs through plate glass windows when you don't make amends for not doing homework properly? Well, KIPPsters, don't get angry, don't get scared, or don't get depressed. Just work hard and be nice, and things are sure to get better.

KIPP-notizing is a core component of training within the KIPP total compliance sects. The first big dose occurs in the three week summer sessions that KIPPsters must attend to get them ready for initial entry or for the next grade up within the sect. From a Washington Post article (August 24, 20005) that is no longer available from their website. Hmm:

Mornings at the summer program at one of the District's newest public charter schools typically began with the principal, Khala Johnson, striding down the aisles between tables in the cafeteria/auditorium/gym commanding the students to get funky. "Give me a beat!" she shouted, her shoulder-length dreadlocks shaking.

The 80 or so fifth-graders obliged, stomping their feet and pounding on the tables. On the fourth beat, the chanting began: "You got to read, baby, read! You got to read, baby, read! 'Cause reading is knowledge and knowledge is power, the power for college and I want it!"

It's called "KIPPnotizing" -- what officials at KIPP DC: AIM Academy say is their way of indoctrinating students into a culture of high expectations.

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the country.

Another part of KIPP-notizing that the Post's Jay Mathews doesn't talk about is the constant monitoring and correction for the slightest rule infringement during KIPP-notizing, the constant surveillance and certain punishment that a part of every 9-10 hour day. This is a part of breaking children down into small puddles of compliance, and it is inspired by Dr. Martin Seligman's research on learned helplessness. From the Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence:

The concept of learned helplessness was developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Martin Seligman (1942- ) at the University of Pennsylvania. He found that animals receiving electric shocks, which they had no ability to prevent or avoid, were unable to act in subsequent situations where avoidance or escape was possible. Extending the ramifications of these findings to humans, Seligman and his colleagues found that human motivation to initiate responses is also undermined by a lack of control over one's surroundings. Further research has shown that learned helplessness disrupts normal development and learning and leads to emotional disturbances, especially depression.

Visitors to KIPP schools are always impressed by children who continue to work, with or without their teachers in the room. To counter the depression among KIPPsters that results from doses of learned helplessness, Dr. Seligman and his disciples inject intermittent treatments of "learned optimism" between the reading and the math, and the math and the reading. Thus, the chanting and the clapping that we see in the 2005 WaPo piece.

Now in 2010 the UPenn disciples of Seligman like Dr. Jane Gillham have an entire research program devoted to these psychological techniques, and KIPPsters, in their urban containment camps of corporate colonialism, are their chief guinea pigs--all, of course, with the blessing of Levin and Feinberg. No longer is there just a never-ending supply of reading and math worksheets, but now there are "thought-emotion" worksheets that can be used in the few moments between math test prep and reading test prep.

In the cartoon (click it to enlarge), KIPPsters see a student faced with an angry coach. We may think of the sadists who ran KIPP Fresno, where the principal screamed at children all day, or when he no longer wanted to scream at them, made them stand outside in the sun all day. Now instead o feeling angry or sad, students learn that they can feel "okay." They just need to work harder and be nicer, and maybe the "coach" will stop being a sadist. The most insidious part of this brainwashing technique, of course, is that the screaming, berating, and constant monitoring never stops, regardless of how much KIPPsters work hard and be nice. And that becomes the fault of the child, who just isn't trying hard enough.

We can only imagine how the 50-60 percent of KIPP washouts feel about themselves and their failure to measure up to the KIPP standard. We can only imagine, too, how unprepared KIPP graduates are beyond test-taking skills, out there in the non-apartheid world where there is no constant monitoring to make sure that work gets done. These adults must surely miss that constant surveillance. Ah, the good ole days.

And, surely, we must imagine how these psychological tactics get translated in the KIPP knock-offs where untrained and uncertified teachers in the corporate charter chains turn these brainwashing experiments into sadistic excess. Welcome to the future of urban penal pedagogy.

Here is a clip from a recent and enthused NPR story on this new and accepted practice of psychological neutering of urban children:

. . . ."It's not just about telling yourself positive things over and over," says Gillham. That could be delusional. "It's reality-based," she says. Gillham says there are other strategies, too. She wants kids to learn to take a step back and reflect before reacting to disappointing events.

Bryce says he's really trying to use what he's learned. "It's come in handy when I get mad," he says. A few weeks ago he was furious with his sister when he came home from school and found his video game on the floor, broken.

But before he started a fight, he took a deep breath. "I went into the bathroom, and I looked into the mirror and calmed myself down," says Bryce.

And if he hadn't taken that moment to reflect? "I would have got grounded," he says, "because I would have been yelling, and it would have been a big mess."

Gillham says this is a great example of a kid learning to be more emotionally resilient. "That's really what we hope for, is that kids will internalize the skills enough that they can use them in the moment," she says.. . .

So, boys and girls, don't think about resisting your oppressors or changing your rotted communities. And instead of getting sad or angry, reflect and become emotionally resilient. Work hard, be nice, and you are sure to stay out of trouble. And if you get in trouble, just reflect on what you did to get yourself there. When you get out, we'll all meet up at the Chestnut Street Cafe.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Billionaires, Uganda, and Anti-Gay Legislation

A few days ago, Jim wrote about Billionaire Bill's refusal to address the Uganda "Kill the Gays" bill, a piece of legislation that has most definitely received support from stateside fundamentalists. In a Seattle Times interview, Bill says this:
There's a tendency to think in the U.S. just because a law says something that it's a big deal.
Bill's logic - about as reliable as any version of Windows - simply brushes aside the legislation. "I mean, it just says they'll kill/imprison gays. Doesn't mean they'll do it," is the translation of Bill's verbal meanderings. You're spineless, Bill, spineless.

But there's a different billionaire involved in education with pretty strong ties to the Uganda bill, or, at the very least, with a direct line to the Ugandan government.

Yes, the Imagine Schools CEO, Dennis Bakke, is pretty friendly with Uganda's President Museveni. The picture at the top, which is also printed in Bakke's "Joy at Work," shows Dennis and wife Eileen posting with the African leader, a man that helped Bakke's AES Corp. secure a $500,000,000 project to build a dam in Uganda (according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family, AES employee Christian Wright - a man Bakke claims was doing "God's work" - used some good ole' fashion bribery to seal the deal). Museveni is considered The Family's "key man" in Africa - and Mr. Bakke is clearly pretty high up in the Family.

Let's hope Bakke is using his influence (and money) to push Uganda to not pass anti-gay legislation, which, unfortunately, is about as likely as Bill Gates supporting real public schools. So let's be real: Bakke is a wingnut fundamentalist, a "cultural imperialist." His lack of action - at least publicly - to come out against the Uganda bill is just as, if not more, appalling than Billionaire Bill's refusal to stand up for the rights of all human beings.

These are men with money and power. Hell - a simple Twitter posting from Bill would go a long ways, but he doesn't care about laws. Just 'cause they say something - like gay people should be killed - doesn't mean it's a big deal, right Bill?

The Obama Education Agenda Is the Corporate Education Agenda: The War Against the Weak, Cont'd

If politics makes strange bedfellows, then enough money makes all strange bedfellows whores. Such is the reality in Washington today, where the US Department of Education cannot speak without sloshing cash from their philanthrocapitalist sugar daddies.

In a summary of a radio interview with Richard Rothstein and Duncan's Communications guy, Peter Cunninghem, Caroline Grannan notes that ED spokesperson Cunningham conceded every major point made by Rothstein, whose research to back up his arguments is impeccable: 1) high-stakes testing has caused great harm to children, with a disproportionate amount of the harm done to disadvantaged children in the form of stress, reduced quality of teaching, and shrunken curriculums; 2) charter schools (National Charter School Study Full Report) are more often than not worse than the public schools they replace; and 3) standardized tests are not good measures of teacher quality.

And yet the same agenda moves forward with the same failed policies as top priorities, all undeterred by facts, research, or sound opinion. See the Obama speech last evening.

What separates the Republocrats from the Democants on education are the tactics (muscle or money) used to achieve the same end: whereas Bush preferred the big stick based on tests and sanctions (NCLB), Obama prefers the carrot-bribe and test strategy (RTTT). Both lead to the same dead end that fits the Oligarchs' ideological agenda (with disadvantaged children deader than most), which will leave American children and our future further behind the curve in terms of being creative problem solvers and engaged citizens, both skills that are not measured on standardized tests. Those children who will not be damaged are the children of privilege outside the testing factories, the ones who will grow up to make the decisions for the permanent underclass that grows more helpless and more stupid the more they are schooled.

Caroline Grannan's piece:

A spokesman for the Obama administration's Department of Education, appearing on a Jan. 12 radio broadcast, readily agreed with the views of another program guest who sharply criticized jhis department's Race to the Top school reform program.

Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary of communications for the U.S. Department of Education, appeared on the program "To the Point" on radio station KCRW with education researcher Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute. Cunningham willingly concurred with Rothstein that overreliance on standardized testing is detrimental to students, and that "many" charter schools, a model being promoted as a solution for troubled schools, are not successful. Rothstein spoke forcefully about the "major harm" done by administration policies, getting no argument from Cunningham.

The Obama administration's education department is promoting policies that are "actually harming the education of students in this country," Rothstein charged, and "education has been corrupted" by those policies. "A major consequence of No Child Left Behind that's done major harm to American education is the narrowing of the curriculum," he said. Sciences, history, social studies, music, the arts and physical education are neglected or abandoned as educators struggle to adhere to NCLB's emphasis on math and reading, Rothstein explained, and "Race to the Top doesn't change that." Abandoning important subjects "does the most harm to disadvantaged students," Rothstein added. Race to the Top, he said, is "accentuating the harm that NCLB did."

"Absolutely that's a very real issue," Cunningham admitted.

When Rothstein pointed out that "charter schools on average don't have better student performance than regular public schools," Cunningham responded, "We 100% agree that many of them are not good."

Moderator Warren Olney asked Rothstein: "Are standardized tests a good measure of teacher performance and ultimately of school performance?"

"No, they're not," Rothstein responded. "Education has been corrupted. In addition to narrowing the curriculum by abandoning other topics, what this kind of system does is create incentives to game the system. We're actually harming the education of students in this country."

Rothstein is a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, a former education columnist for the New York Times, and the author of many books and studies about education policy.

Cunningham was previously a communications consultant for the Chicago Public Schools during the time when his current boss, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, was head of that school system.

"To the Point" was part of the Jan. 12 KCRW broadcast of the program "Which Way, L.A.?" which also covered the issue of outside groups' efforts to take over a number of Los Angeles schools. Thanks to Mike Klonsky for spreading the word about this program.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GOP Reply to Obama from the Capitol of the Old Confederacy

The symbolism could not be more transparent, nor the theater more absurd. How does the Grand Ole Party solidify its fundamentalist nutjob wing with its racist nutjob wing? The U. S. Chamber of Commerce, er, the GOP is looking to Bob McDonnell to pull it off, the newly minted Virginia governor chosen to placate all those hard-working white Americans who "want their country back." Will McDonnell be the Great White Republican Hope for 2012? From Faux News:
McDonnell is to deliver the Republican response after President Obama's speech Wednesday evening. McDonnell will speak live from the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond before a friendly audience of about 300.

Bloomberg Public Schools Policy: Let them Crumble or Make Them Fail

In the big Albany compromise last fall that renewed Bloomberg's dictatorship of NYC Schools, a new Panel of Educational Policy was constituted that was supposed to give parents a voice in school matters. By some coincidence, Bloomberg ended up with power to appoint 8 of his own stooges to the 13 seat panel. Game, set, match.

Bloomberg is now free, then, to ignore the rotting buildings that are not yet to be axed, and for the rest, there is forced closure. And so it was last evening that large numbers of parents showed up as part of their role to protest school closings in Bloomberg's evening of kabuki theatre, with both sides playing out their allotted roles as angry citizens and students or calm rubber stamps for the Little Dictator. This clip from Joel Shatzky at Huffington Post:

. . . .The pattern followed by the Department of Education and Chancellor Klein is, at least to me, fairly obvious: many of the public schools being closed were "made to fail" by the conditions in which the teachers were forced to teach:

1. A successful school is suddenly burdened with an influx of students from another school that has been closed. Many of these newly arrived students have high needs but the DOE does not give sufficient support to enable the school to accommodate these students with some chance of success.

2. The school begins to perform badly in standardized tests, four-year graduation rates, and other indicators of "success," as determined by the DOE.

3. Parents of many of the high-achieving students withdraw their children from the school because it now has a "failing" reputation.

4. The school, now completely overburdened by special needs students and inadequate staffing and support, is judged a "failure" and is closed.

5. Smaller schools, many of them charter schools, replace the "failed" school and the cycle begun when the first school was closed repeats itself.

This is like a swimming coach requiring a successful swimmer to wear concrete shoes at all future competitions and then kicking him off the team for "poor performance."

. . . .

Joy Blakeslee, a teacher at New Day Academy, one of the "new" smaller schools that is going to be closed, expressed her confusion at the treatment of her school. (I "embedded" myself in the line of those waiting to enter the building and was struck by her students' sophisticated awareness of what was happening to the school, especially when one of them referred to the school as "our family.") In November, New Day, she explained, which is a member of a progressive consortium that relies more on the portfolio system than drilling students on test scores, was given a new principal, who has an excellent reputation in "turning around" a school to make it successful; three weeks later, it was announced that the school would be closed.


Students from New Day Academy.

There are many more stories about the mismanagement by the DOE of these so-called "failed" schools which I plan to include in a following article. But my strong impression from the evidence I have gathered from students, parents and teachers over the past few years is that the Bloomberg Administration is practicing a form of "educational colonialism" on our school system. Whatever good he believes he is accomplishing, in favoring those students who are fortunate enough to have parents or other people who can look out for their interests at the expense of those students who do not, he is making a terrible mistake.

Temporary Teachers in Texas

Charter Churn
by Brian Thevenot
January 27, 2010

At some charter schools in Texas, it’s the teachers who can’t wait to clear out at the end of the school year.

At Accelerated Intermediate Academy in Houston, 79 percent of the faculty turned over before the 2008-09 school year, according to recently released state data. At Peak Preparatory in Dallas, 71 percent did not return. At Harmony Science Academy in College Station, part of Harmony’s nine-school statewide network, 69 percent of teachers split. (Officials at all three schools did not respond to requests for comment.)

In all, more than 40 of nearly 200 charter operators the state tracked — some which oversee multiple schools — had to replace more than half their teaching staffs before the last school year. Even more established and successful operators, including KIPP and YES Prep in Houston, lose nearly a third of their teachers annually. In contrast, just six of more than 1,000 non-charter school districts statewide had more than half their teachers leave, and none of the 20 largest school districts had a turnover rate higher than 16 percent. (Austin ISD had the highest.)

While the new state data provides figures for individual school districts and charter operators, it doesn't include comparative statewide averages. However, a study of 2006-07 data by the Texas Center for Educational Research put the average teacher turnover for all charters at 43 percent, compared to 16 percent for traditional public school districts that year.


YES Prep, for instance, almost exclusively hires younger teachers who they expect to move on to other careers. They average teacher on their seven campuses averages only about 25 years old. Many are recruited by the Teach For America program, which requires only a two-year commitment to teaching.


According to the TCER study, the average charter school teacher made $35,556 compared with $44,897 in traditional public schools. That difference likely owes both to lower rates of pay at charters and to their practice of higher younger teachers.

[Entire article available here]

Be sure to check out Brian's coverage of Texan education issues, particularly the shenanigans of the Lone Star State's Board of Education and their revisionist version of American history.

Racialist Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer Campaigns on Starve the Poor Platform--to Keep Them from Breeding

When I share with my students the graphs showing the direct correlation between poor student populations and their standardized test scores, no student has ever suggested that the consumption of free and reduced priced lunches causes students to perform poorly. And yet there is a cracker Lieutenant Governor in South Carolina by the name of Bauer who is preaching that racist message. From NewsVine.com:

At a town hall meeting recently, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer distinguished himself with this theory of social services -- specifically the government program that makes sure poor kids get enough to eat while they're in school. Bauer told a crowd of lawmakers and citizens:

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

Bauer added:

"I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina. You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I'll show you the worst test scores, folks. It's there, period."
Don't miss Jay Bookman's deconstruction of the Bauer's "starve the poor" philosophy in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Fact Checking the Bill Gates Blog on KIPP

Whoa, Mr. Gates blogs! And his Jan. 21 entry does a creditable job of squeezing some more propaganda mileage from the Jay Mathews KIPP celebration that I reviewed last March. The first misleading thing about the post is the photo (above), which shows a Seth-and-Caitlin-looking pair of white children, when, in fact, almost all the children in the KIPP total compliance camps are brown and black. Score one for misleading.

Point 2: Mr. Gates thinks middle school includes grades 5-9: "Great teaching in 5th-9th grade is very hard because it’s challenging to get all of the kids engaged and because dealing with kids who cause trouble or are bored requires special skills." But, yes, Mr. Gates, total containment and force-fed doses of positive psychology requires special skills, indeed. Score one for ignorance.

Finally, on the subject of who goes to college and who doesn't, Mr. Gates's information appears to be based on the same Jonathan Alter lies published in Newsweek in 2008, which were subsequently debunked by reporter, Caroline Grannan. From Mr. Gates:
One example of KIPP’s success: while only 20 percent of low-income students in the U.S. attend college, the rate for former KIPP students is 80 percent.
On the other hand, here are the facts from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008:
In terms of family income, 91% of high school students from families in the highest income group (above $100,000) enroll in college. The enrollment rate for student from middle-income families (from $50,001 to $100,000) is 78% and for those in the lowest income group ($20,000 and below) the rate is 52% (p. 7)."
Mr. Gates is also incorrect about the number "80 percent" of KIPPsters going to college. Based on information supplied by KIPP's home office and reported by Caroline Grannan, “the actual number of KIPP alumni who had started college [by 2008], KIPP spokesman Steve Mancini said at that time, was 447.” Score two big ones for irresponsible lies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bill Gates Honors His Empire's Prime Directive on Uganda's Kill The Gays Bill

With Bill and Melinda softening any resistance to good old fashioned corporate colonialism in Africa with their foundation's unlimited supply of tax-sheltered handouts, Microsoft has established a lock on educational technology in Uganda and elsewhere on the continent. And just this week, Forbes reports that Gates has teamed with Coke and TechnoServe to assure Coca-Cola global advantage in the fruit juice market.

The project seeks to help local farmers whose fruit will be used for Coca-Cola's locally produced and sold fruit juices. TechnoServe will train farmers in improving quality, increasing production and getting organized into farmer groups, and it will facilitate gaining access to credit.

U.S.-based TechnoServe's corporate partners include Cargill, Kraft, Nestle-Nespresso, Olam International, Peet's Coffee & Tea and Unilever. Since its founding in 1968, TechnoServe has helped to create or expand thousands of businesses in more than 30 countries.

Hey, I wonder if TechnoServe will offer Ugandan farmers any "training" in workers' rights or union organizing. You think?

But while economic exploitation and corporate indoctrination continue to be greased by social entrepreneurship and vulture philanthropy that can be written off from GatesWorld tax obligations, when it comes to the Kill the Gays legislation under consideration in Uganda, Bill Gates suddenly sounds as hands off as a Starfleet captain honoring the Prime Directive of "no interference with the internal development of pre-warp civilizations." From ThinkProgress:

. . . .in a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Gates passed on an opportunity to denounce the potential law, suggesting that it’s not very important:

Q: Looking at health efforts in Africa, such as HIV prevention and treatment, are you concerned about the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill, and have you spoken to anyone there about it?

A: The spread of AIDS is a huge problem and obviously we’re very involved. I talk in my letter about the great success with this male circumcision effort, and preventative drug trials. There’s a tendency to think in the U.S. just because a law says something that it’s a big deal. In Africa if you want to talk about how to save lives, it’s not just laws that count. There’s a stigma no matter what that law says, for sex workers, men having sex with men, that’s always been a problem for AIDS. It relates to groups that aren’t that visible. AIDS itself is subject to incredible stigma. Open involvement is a helpful thing. I wouldn’t overly focus on that. In terms of how many people are dying in Africa, it’s not about the law on the books; it’s about getting the message out and the new tools.

The bill has been strongly condemned internationally and should be especially troubling to Gates because it “in effect bans organizations working in HIV and AIDS prevention,” which it considers “promotion of homosexuality.” The U.N.’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa blasted to legislation, saying, “The law will drive [patients] away from seeking counseling and testing services.” AIDS activists in Uganda and the U.S. have protested the bill, and the U.N. has threatened to scuttle plans to build an AIDS research center in Uganda if the bill becomes law.

That's right, Bill--just keep on the sunny side of that corporate psychology and don't make waves for the despots who most enjoy your generosity--and let your Empire do the rest.

Monday, January 25, 2010

To Whom Has Michelle Rhee Lied?

Last summer Rhee told DC Council that economic necessity was behind the firing of 266 experienced teachers and other school personnel. Now she is telling the media that the fired teachers were miscreants, abusers, and/or child molesters. If they were child molesters or abusers, why have no police reports been filed? If they were not child molesters, why is Rhee lying to the media and slandering the 266 fired DC teachers? Is she desperate to shift the focus from her own role of damage controller for her beloved, Kevin Johnson, who stands accused by the Inspector General of Americorps of sexual misconduct with students of his St. Hope School in Sacramento?

Video from ABC News7:

Bill Turque's story today from WaPo:

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray called on Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee Monday to provide the names of teachers who sexually assaulted or hit children before they were laid off in the October budget cuts. Failure to do so, he said, unfairly taints all 266 teachers who were dismissed.

"The names of the people who did this need to be made public in deference to the others who had absolutely nothing to do with this," Gray told WTOP's Mark Segraves
Gray's demand was part of the rapidly mounting pressure for Rhee to explain remarks attributed to her in the February Fast Company magazine. She said that some of the 266 teachers laid off in October budget cuts had sex with students, hit them or were persistently absent without authorization.

Gray said he would be sending written questions today to Rhee, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and D.C. Child and Family Services Agency director Roque Gerald. Depending on their response, Gray said, he would decide whether to hold hearings on the matter.

Once again, I sent my own questions to Chancellor Rhee this morning.

"We'll get back to you," spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway replied.

Shortly before going on the air, Gray said he was stunned by Rhee's disclosure about sexual assaults, because she mentioned nothing about it in the October hearing on teacher layoffs, or in the course of a one-hour meeting he had with her last week.

"Educators are mandatory reporters of incidents like this," Gray said. "What she needs to do is very quickly corroborate this." If there is proof, it raises another question, he said: "Why was an alleged budget problem used as a basis for dismissing people who, according to her, engaged in abuse and sexual molestation of children?"

Gray was joined in his demand by Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), who said he was "outraged" by Rhee's comments. "I want to know who these teachers are," Brown said in a phone interview.

When Segraves suggested that the legal barriers to a government agency releasing such names were enormous, Gray invoked the last week's announcement from Sidwell Friends that it had fired a long-time social studies teacher, Robert A. "Pete" Peterson.

But Gray, a possible mayoral candidate, was either misinformed or being disingenuous when he asked why DCPS hadn't proceeded like Sidwell Friends. Peterson, he said, "was immediately dealt with and I don't understand why it wasn't done in this situation."

In fact, Peterson had been on leave since the beginning of the school year, and was terminated only after Montgomery and Queen Anne's county authorities charged him with sexual abuse of a minor and other sex offenses.

Texans Can, Inc.: Another Charter Chain "Innovation" Story

Photo from Texans Can website: The Dallas chapter of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) honored Richard Marquez, CEO of Texans Can!, as the 2009 Distinguished Business Leader in Education at a November 12 luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas (11/19/09).

Here is the summary of Texans Can, Inc.'s amazing success, from the Houston Chronicle (January 25, 2010)

• Number of campuses: 10

• Number of “unacceptable” schools: 9

• Total enrollment: 4,380

• Revenue from state funding: $32 million

• Revenue from car donations: $8 million

• Advertising budget: $2.5 million

• Combined salary of top six executives in 2008: $880,000

Source: Texas Education Agency, Texans Can Academy

Texans Can's partners in corruption: Collabrian, Wal-Mart, Park Cities Bank, Trinity Floor Covering, and Kimberly-Clark. Another item that deserves to go in the bullets above: Texan Can, Inc. teachers make on average $10,000 per year less than public school teachers in Texas.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Former Dallas Cowboys and local celebrities take to the airwaves each year imploring Texans to donate their used vehicles to Texans Can, a charter school system that caters to dropouts, recovering drug users and teenage parents.

“Write off the car, not the kid,” urges the campaign, which generates about $8 million in annual revenuefor its 10 campuses in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

While tugging at donors' heartstrings with success stories, the 4,400-student system is strapped with its own problems: declining enrollment, dismal academic results and a history of top-heavy spending.

Three of its schools — including the Houston Main Street campus — are on the verge of being closed for repeatedly failing to meet minimal federal standards, and the former celebrity spokesman for the Dallas campuses has turned his back on the nonprofit, advising would-be donors to find other charities to support.

“The mission is good. The purpose is good. They just lost their way,” said Dale Hansen, a longtime sportscaster in Dallas who raised millions as the face of Dallas Can over 15 years.

Its top six executives earned a combined $880,000 in 2008, with founder Grant East topping the list with a salary of $236,000 as president emeritus, according to tax documents for that fiscal year. Grant has since retired, and is now drawing $50,000 a year, officials said. Current president Richard Marquez earns more than $190,000 a year. . . .

. . . .Teachers at the Main Street campus earned an average salary of $41,778 in 2009, about $10,000 less than the typical Houston ISD teacher.

Texans Can also spends $2.5 million a year on advertising, primarily to attract vehicle donations. Retired Dallas Cowboys who have appeared in TV commercials include defensive lineman Tony Casillas and backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg. . . . .

. . . .

“They've done a great disservice to the general public,” said Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a Houston advocacy group. “They're basically preying on the good intentions of Houstonians.”

Several other charter schools and traditional public schools that serve at-risk students produce better results — casting doubt on whether Texans Can is a good use of tax dollars, he said.

“People do want to support public education, but unfortunately this has become the wrong way to do it,” Sanborn said. “There's no way to maneuver the statistics around to say they've been a success.”

The schools were the brainchild of East, who served three years in prison for bank robbery in the 1960s. After time in the oil and computer industries, East established a nonprofit in 1976 to educate adult and juvenile prisoners in the Dallas area.

In 1985, he opened the first Can academy. Ten years later, he earned one of the state's first charters to operate it as a public, tax-funded school. The Can system has since enrolled 62,000 students and produced 9,800 graduates.

9 of 10 ‘unacceptable'

Now, nine of the 10 schools in the system are rated “academically unacceptable”by the Texas Education Agency. The Main Street campus failed to meet standards so frequently that law required the school to be restructured with a new principal and several new teachers last year.

Only 18 percent of students there passed the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in 2009. A TEA adviser clocked about 120 hours on the campus last year, and state officials are also advising district leaders on how to improve. . . .

A Case Study in Corporate School Reform

Ten years of accountability by high stakes testing, all accompanied by public school dismantling through unregulated corporate charter schools, has created a lethal cocktail of poisonous pressure and inevitable corruption that remains irresistible to politicians, nonetheless. The Robert M. Hughes Academy in Springfield, MA offers a prime example that what is in store for American schools, at least in those states where the Business Roundtable strategy supported by federal bribery (RTTT) has brushed aside state laws that once disallowed or restricted the creation of tax-draining corporate charter segregated containment camps for the poor.

In Massachusetts, where the high-powered venture philanthropy organization, the Boston Foundation, and the charter public relations organ, the Boston Globe, form a formidable phalanx for pushing forward the charter agenda, most resistance to the apartheid public dollar sinks like the Hughes Academy has been ignored or bought up. Somehow the Hughes Academy continued to operate with impunity for years as a state-approved hothouse of "innovation," even though this corporate chain gang was called out four years ago "by the state auditor [who] discovered financial mismanagement related to operating deficits, questionable lease payments, no-bid contracts, undocumented expenditures on building improvements, and possible conflict of interest."

Nothing was done, even though the teacher turnover rate was between 30 and 50 percent per year, as the school's CEO was free to hire and fire anyone they wished, certified or not. By the way, the school's annual report for 2008 shows four paraprofessionals, a custodian, and three administrators for a school with 19 teachers. Talk about job creation!

It wasn't until the corrupt insiders hired a convicted felon to replace the principal, who had been placed on leave during the most recent testing scandal, that the media could no longer ignore the situation. Welcome to the 21st Century solution to schooling for the poor:

Fred Swan takes over at Charter School

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Michelle Rhee's Slime and Smear Tactics Against DC Teachers

DC's Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, appears intent upon diverting attention from her own fiance's sexual exploits with students at St. Hope School by now widely broadcasting unsubstantiated smears against the same DC teacher corps for which she so far remains the titular head. There is a quote somewhere about people who live in glass houses not throwing stones, but it could be that Rhee feels entirely insulated from potential damage by the Gates and Broad Machine, which has adopted Rhee as the Poster Girl for the Business Roundtable's plans for segregation and psychological neutering of poor children. From Bill Turque at WaPo:

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told a national business magazine that some of the 266 teachers laid off in October's budget reductions had sex with children or had hit them, a claim immediately and angrily challenged Friday by leaders of the Washington Teachers Union.

Rhee's comments appear in the February issue of Fast Company, a magazine aimed at young entrepreneurs and change-minded corporate executives. In a brief item, Rhee addressed the union allegation that she contrived the budget crunch to circumvent seniority rules and rid the system of older teachers.

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" she said.

Rhee declined to provide specific numbers Friday or details to substantiate her remarks about sexual misconduct and teachers striking students. Neither did she respond when asked by e-mail why such teachers were allowed to remain in the school system before the Oct. 2 job cuts. D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said late Friday that she was researching the matter.

"I cannot comment at this time," she said.

George Parker, president of the teachers union, called Rhee's statements "reckless" and without basis in fact. The union usually receives notice from the District when a teacher faces disciplinary action, Parker said, and he has received no information that any of the 266 had been under investigation for sexual offenses against children. One of the 266 faced action for administering corporal punishment, he said.

"This paints all teachers as being a group of child molesters who assault children and don't come to work," Parker said. "It damages the reputation of a lot of innocent, hardworking, dedicated teachers."

Rhee said she had made similar statements in other venues, including her stormy Oct. 29 appearance before the D.C. Council. Rhee's sworn testimony then did not mention teachers having sex with students. When council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) asked whether she would fight any attempt to reinstate the 266 teachers, Rhee said she would.

"There were some promising or effective people who were [laid off], but there were also some people who, quite frankly, if you saw what was in their file and what their situations have been in this city, you would be shocked," Rhee said. "Just to give a little sampling of this, six of the [laid off] employees had served suspensions for corporal punishment. One was suspended four times, three times for being AWOL."

As Brown attempted to cut her off, she added: "For you to say, 'Would I fight all 266 people coming back into the system,' I would, because a number of these people are not people that you or I would want to put in their classroom."

Word of Rhee's comments to Fast Company rippled through the teaching ranks, with some expressing outrage.

The union's general vice president, Nathan Saunders, said Rhee owes the city's teacher corps an apology.

"The statements are not only an affront to every single teacher that was [laid off] but every single teacher currently employed in D.C. public schools," Saunders said. "It's irresponsible, and she needs to be taken to task for it."

Other union activists said they were especially offended by Rhee's remarks, in light of the recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by her fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Before Johnson's 2008 election, the inspector general for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service filed a criminal referral with the U.S. attorney in Sacramento about Johnson. It included allegations that Johnson had inappropriately touched a minor girl and climbed into bed with a teenager who worked for the charter school he founded. The school received funding from Americorps, which is part of the community service corporation.

Johnson was not charged.

"I'm ready to recommend that Chancellor Rhee submit for a fitness for duty examination because these are the rants of either a mad or very confused woman," Candi Peterson, a teacher and member of the union's board of trustees, said on the Washington Teacher blog.