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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Obama's Charter Policy Built on "Sketchy Evidence"

Could it be more than coincidence that while Bill the Oligarch huddled with corporate charterites that a national study would be released showing the bankruptcy of the charter solution? The Christian Science Monitor's caption for the AP photo: "Bill Gates shakes hands with Nelson Smith, President and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, at National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago Tuesday, the same day that a government study found that charter schools do no better than public schools in student outcomes."
Photo Kiichiro Sato/AP.

A clip from the Monitor article, which is the only newspaper so far to report the new study:
. . . But others believe that, while there still may be a place for some charters, research like this study doesn’t justify the massive public-policy push to create more charters quickly.
“The worry is that President Obama and others are getting seduced by the movement because they’re looking at the results from boutique charters [like KIPP and Aspire] rather than at the wide array of charters that don’t outperform regular schools,” says Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Fuller remains “cautiously optimistic” about charters and says they seem to do some things well, such as attracting energetic young teachers. But, he adds, “It’s irresponsible that President Obama would [push] all 50 states to create more charter schools in light of such sketchy evidence.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Research Finds Over-Subscribed Charter Schools with More Negative than Positive Effects

The "gold standard" for research that the corporate charter reformers like to point to involves comparisons of lottery winners and losers in charters that are over-subscribed, i.e., more student apply than are accepted.  These are the high flyers of the corporate charters, and the new study by the Feds compared lottery winners with lottery losers who attend public schools.  These new finding have just quashed any remaining delusion that these test prep chain gangs can serve as replacements for public education, for either high performers or low performers. It should be noted that the research team include some rabid supporters of charters, including Paul Hill.

The one positive note for Team Charter in terms of test score comparisons comes with math score comparisons for charters with lower achieving students, while reading scores were a wash.  In charters with higher achieving students, the results are demonstrably awful in both reading and math (click chart above to enlarge).

Below are the key findings from the Executive Summary:

Key findings from the evaluation include: 
On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress. Participating schools had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores either a year or two years after students applied, other measures of academic progress (such as attendance or grade promotion), or student conduct within or outside of school. Being admitted to a study charter school did significantly and consistently improve both students’ and parents’ satisfaction with school.

The impact of charter middle schools on student achievement varies significantly across schools. Across 28 sites (covering 32 schools), the effects on reading scores after two years were estimated to be greater than zero in 11 sites and less zero in 17 sites (with magnitudes ranging from -0.43 to +0.33 standard deviation units), with 4 of the individual site estimates statistically significant. The estimated effects on math scores were greater than zero in 10 sites and less than zero in 18 of the 28 sites (-0.78 to +0.65 standard deviation units), with 10 of the site estimates statistically significant.  

In our exploratory analysis, for example, we found that study charter schools serving more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores, while charter schools serving more advantaged students—those with higher income and prior achievement—had 
significant negative effects on math test scores. Charter middle schools in large 
urban areas also had significant positive impacts on math achievement compared to 
negative impacts in other locales, although urbanicity was no longer an influential factor 

once such characteristics as students’ demographics and income levels were controlled 
for. There were also differential effects on reading achievement, with negative and 
significant impacts for study charter schools serving more advantaged students and no 
impacts for study charter schools serving fewer advantaged students.

Some operational features of charter middle schools are associated with more 
positive (or less negative) impacts on achievement. These features include smaller 
enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes. Although impacts 
differed for study charter schools with longer- versus shorter- hours of operations or
higher versus lower revenue per student, these features were no longer significant once 
other school and student characteristics were controlled for. We found no statistically 
significant relationships between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy 
environment, including the extent of its decision-making autonomy, the type of 
authorizer and how the authorizer held the school accountable, and whether it was 
operated by a private organization. 

Jay Mathews wants more summer school: I suggest libraries

Summer school or an increased investment in public libraries?
Sent to the Washington Post, June 28, 2010.

Jay Mathews notes that that academic achievement declines for low-income students over the summer and concludes that "Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it" (June 28). The decline in reading achievement over the summer, however, is actually an argument for increased funding for public libraries, not summer school.

Some of the research reports on the summer slump, including Barbara Heyns' original study of summer learning published in 1975 and Jimmy Kim's more recent research, strongly suggest that scores go down during the summer because low-income children have less access to public libraries and other sources of books and don't do as much pleasure reading.

The implication: More funding for public libraries in low-income areas, and a more cautious approach to increasing time dedicated to traditional instruction. Too much traditional instruction could limit time for wide, self-selected voluntary reading, the single most important factor in improving reading achievement.

Stephen Krashen


Heyns, Barbara. 1975. Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.
Kim, Jimmy. 2003. “Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 2:169-188.

Jay Mathews: Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cuts Coming to Portland (OR) Schools

From Carole Smith, Superintendent of the Portland Public Schools (OR):

Central support and operations: $3.1 million
PPS central services and operations — including administration, finance and payroll, transportation, building maintenance and more — will cut spending on materials and services, as well as reduce staff by the equivalent of 25 full-time positions (or FTE).

Special education and English as a Second Language: $4.6 million
Reductions to these services, staffed centrally but touching all schools and programs, include elimination of the equivalent of 52 full-time teaching positions through shifts in staffing assignments and a delay of program enhancements.

School staffing: $11.6 million
This cut will eliminate the equivalent of 126 teaching positions in PPS schools — further reducing already lean school staffing.

To ensure all students have access to the same core educational program, PPS will provide specific direction on what schools should cut. For grades K-8, the district will take a uniform cut to a common program so that all schools face the same challenges. For example, all schools would cut PE or enrichments and library staffing to maintain greater equity and more consistent programs across schools. The loss of PE instruction by specialists could be mitigated by having classroom teachers lead students in physical activity, or through other strategies. The approach will not be decided and acted upon until the school board provides clear direction. High school staffing also will suffer substantial cuts and significant increases in class sizes, particularly in core classes.

Cuts to the English as a Second Language department are particularly concerning given the district's long history of inadequate service for these students.

It will also be interesting to see if schools in wealthier communities raise funds to mitigate these cuts. PPS - like many other districts - allows parents to privately fundraise for their child's school, and it doesn't take a genius to see how this allows more affluent schools to beef up programming while low-income schools are stuck with the bare bones "core" program.

Rotten to the Common Core: When Will Parents and Teachers Revolt?

Below is a letter from Georgia teacher, Cindy Lutenbacher, reprinted from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The Business Roundtable's national standards movement is on Go, and coming along with it is the national testing movement, as announced last week, with two groups of corporate interests vying for control by leading two groups of governors by the nose to the $160 million that will pay the corporations to develop the national tests from which they will then profit mightily:  "Two big coalitions of states are competing for federal dollars to create a series of new national academic tests to replace the current patchwork system."

So please read Cindy's letter and take action through your PTA, your church, your PAC, or individually by calling your elected officials.  Let Duncan know the depth of the opposition.  This is not a foregone deal:
By Cindy Lutenbacher
Amid great fanfare in our state earlier this month, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced the release of the “Common Core Standards.”
So, I have a few questions for those who back the standards — including our own governor, Sonny Perdue, who co-chaired the Governors Association effort. In the general celebration over the release of these new standards, it seems very few people are asking what Common  Core Standards will actually mean for our children. And that is a mistake because the Common Core Standards are simply the forerunner to even more (and likely worse) standardized testing.
Why are so few investigating the origin of Common Core, which is largely a creation of Achieve Inc., an outfit that is driven by a dozen or so governors and CEOs of major U.S. corporations?
What do these people know about educating our children? Why would we trust them? Why do we simply accept the claims of “research- and evidence-based” support for the creation of Common Core Standards? Why are we not doing as we were admonished to do during Watergate … that is, to follow the money? Where is this independent research, unattached to corporate monies?
In creating these standards, Achieve, the governors and the school officials ignored the vast body of truly independent research that shows such “standards” and their inextricably linked standardized testing are worse than folly and are sending our children in the exact opposite direction of what they need.
This group of very rich people ignored this body of research that shows that the single most powerful factor in education gaps is poverty and not standardized testing.
Did they forget that the United States has the second highest rate of children in poverty of any industrialized country in the world? In fact, these purveyors of Common Core disregarded everything that at least every great teacher I have ever known believes, says and lives in his/her classroom. What we should be doing in Georgia and the rest of the country is focusing on filling our classrooms with great teachers, rather than with thousands of new standards.
We should be supporting our great teachers, rather than driving them from our schools, as will certainly be the outcome of an even greater emphasis on testing. Why does anyone cite the “A Nation at Risk” report in pushing for national standards even though it’s been so thoroughly discredited? Where is the hue and cry over the million dollars that the Gates Foundation gave to the National PTA in order to promote Common Core?
Who appointed Bill Gates Emperor of Education?
Is money being spent, to borrow a Bushism, to “catapult the propaganda”? Or is that last question simply rhetorical?
The architects of these Common Core Standards did not seem to consider all the research that amply demonstrates that having access to a variety of reading materials and having the time and safe space with which to read are the factors that help children become readers.
Instead, the standards rely on the absurd drilling tactics advocated by the politicians and corporations happily taking our tax dollars for their testing and related materials.
Who is really getting the money from turning our schools into Common Core drill-and-kill testing factories? Will Perdue be willing to read the list of literary texts listed in the 183-page Appendix for English Language Arts and allow me to test him on them? Will Perdue even take the 12th-grade exit exams and allow his scores to be made public? Can Perdue explain to me how “Tartuffe,” Euclid’s “Elements,” Paine’s concept of “ground-rent,” and a bivariate polynomial have helped him in governing our state?
And in related news, we learn that Perdue has vetoed the excellent bill that would have saved millions of dollars for our state and, more importantly, released our first- and second-graders from the hideous spectacle of useless standardized testing. Will he be willing to sit in a desk with 30 other governors, who, like hapless 6-year-olds, will be forbidden to speak to one another and must suffer silently as they are endlessly drilled in preparation for the CRCT?
Furthermore, when will Georgia get a state schools superintendent who actually understands children and how they learn, rather than, for example, one who understands politicians and chambers of commerce?
Will the new superintendent be willing to sit obediently through first-grade test prep for Common Core Standards? Is there anyone, anyone, who actually believes that Common Core Standards and its murderous standardized testing will not lead to even more fanatical requirements that cause teachers to have to teach to the test? There’s no evidence that these “standards” will help my children be lifelong learners.
When will we as a state and we as a nation wake up to the destruction of our children that is being carried out under the sanctimonious and specious names of accountability and reform?
And most important of all, for the sake of our kids, when will we revolt?

Mitch Daniels Wants Public Schools to Give Away Property to KIPP

If you think that that the apartheid charter chain gangss of KIPP, Inc. and the KIPP wannabes get special treatment by conservatives in search of a solution to the inevitable browning of America, you would be right, of course.  And even though KIPP, Inc. sits on a billion dollar empire with unlimited corporate foundation backing in the future, Gov. Mitch would like to see cash-starved public schools give away their property to these segregated mind sterilization camps:

"If any school district in this state is sitting on perfectly useful school buildings that it isn't using and doesn't have any prospect of needing, people say, 'Well, they should have to sell them. They refuse to sell them; they should have to sell them'," Daniels said. "Sell them? Hell, they should give them away. The public already paid for them once."
Daniels cited the Gary Community School Corp. as an example in his remarks. When he visited KIPP LEAD Charter School in April, Daniels noticed the Gary charter school had to move a meeting to a nearby bakery because the school didn't have a room large enough to accommodate the group.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How Segregation Cheats Learners

The 100 million dollar PR machine behind KIPP could almost make you forget that KIPPsters attend schools that are black enough to get a George Wallace seal of approval. 

I came across the work of Scott Page again this evening, and when I checked, I had somehow forgotten to post this interview article in the NYTimes back in 2008.  As the lunatic segregationists take center stage in politics, it is good to note that there is good science behind the argument for diversity.  But then, when did science matter to the Gang of Five in Wake County?

In the long-running debate on affirmative action, Scott E. Page, a professor of complex systems, political science and economics at the University of Michigan, is a fresh voice.
His recently published book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies” (Princeton University Press), uses mathematical modeling and case studies to show how variety in staffing produces organizational strength.
Rather than ponder moral questions like, “Why can’t we all get along?” Dr. Page asks practical ones like, “How can we all be more productive together?” The answer, he suggests, is in messy, creative organizations and environments with individuals from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences.
“New York City is the perfect example of diversity functioning well,” he said in an interview. “It’s an exciting place that produces lots of innovation and creativity. It’s not a coincidence that New York has so much energy and also so much diversity.”
An edited version of the interview and a subsequent phone conversation follow:
Q. In your book you posit that organizations made up of different types of people are more productive than homogenous ones. Why do you say that?
A. Because diverse groups of people bring to organizations more and different ways of seeing a problem and, thus, faster/better ways of solving it.
People from different backgrounds have varying ways of looking at problems, what I call “tools.” The sum of these tools is far more powerful in organizations with diversity than in ones where everyone has gone to the same schools, been trained in the same mold and thinks in almost identical ways.
The problems we face in the world are very complicated. Any one of us can get stuck. If we’re in an organization where everyone thinks in the same way, everyone will get stuck in the same place.
But if we have people with diverse tools, they’ll get stuck in different places. One person can do their best, and then someone else can come in and improve on it. There’s a lot of empirical data to show that diverse cities are more productive, diverse boards of directors make better decisions, the most innovative companies are diverse.
Breakthroughs in science increasingly come from teams of bright, diverse people. That’s why interdisciplinary work is the biggest trend in scientific research.
Q. The term “diversity” has become a code word for inclusion of racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. Is that what you’re talking about?
A. I mean differences in how people think. Two people can look quite different and think similarly. Having said that, there’s certainly a lot of evidence that people’s identity groups — ethnic, racial, sexual, age — matter when it comes to diversity in thinking.
Here’s the bottom line: I myself am an affirmative action child. I got into the University of Michigan in the 1980s on a program. I’m from a rural part of Michigan. No calculus in high school. So I was given bonus points toward undergraduate admissions.
If the policy had been to consider mainly grades and SATs and not to make room for some geographic diversity, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten in.
Q. Give us an example of where diversity has improved an organization or profession?
A. I’ve seen it in my own field, economics. Before women got really involved in the 1970s, a lot of the actual labor of women wasn’t included in calculations of the gross domestic product. It was as if you had Ma Ingalls sitting around the Little House on the Prairie, eating bonbons, and only Pa Ingalls’s labor was counted in.
After you got women into the profession, they started saying: “What if Ma Ingalls opened up a business and charged for the cleaning, pie making, tending of the animals. Wouldn’t there be a lot of G.D.P. in there?”
When you only had men thinking about the economy, they were ignoring the productivity of half the population. By including the perspectives of females, the estimates got more accurate. This was important for looking at the American past and for understanding contemporary societies like those in Africa, where women are usually the farmers.
Q. In your book, you advocate affirmative action, an unpopular social policy these days. What’s your argument?
A. That it’s a flat-out good because, as I said earlier, it makes everything we do more powerful.
For a while, I chaired admissions in the graduate political science department at the University of Michigan. We didn’t just look at high test scores. We looked at things like whether an applicant had worked with Teach for America. We wanted to bring in people who had experiences and modes of thinking that would improve everyone else.
At a university, people learn from each other as well as their professors. Another suburban kid who was raised to score high on tests doesn’t add all that much to the mix.
Q. What’s your critique of standardized testing?
A. After a certain threshold, it doesn’t give you enough information. Anyone who scores above 600 on a Graduate Record Exam will probably do well in graduate school. But we were looking for future social science researchers. The ability to do innovative research requires creativity and originality, something the G.R.E. won’t predict.
Q. How do you know you’re right about diversity?
A. One of the things social scientists do is create math models to prove our theories. With Lu Hong — she’s an economist at Chicago’s Loyola University — I constructed a formal model that showed mathematically that diversity can trump ability, and also when it does.
Our models were similar to what people are doing to predict the financial markets and voting patterns, and our paper was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What the model showed was that diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups of the best individuals at solving problems. The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.
The other thing we did was to show in mathematical terms how when making predictions, a group’s errors depend in equal parts on the ability of its members to predict and their diversity. This second theorem can be expressed as an equation: collective accuracy = average accuracy + diversity.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New KIPP Study Flawed

The preliminary findings of a new study of KIPP schools were released this week by Mathematica Policy Research, the company contracted by KIPP, Inc. to conduct this longitudinal examination of the KIPP’s effects on student test scores.  To no one’s surprise, these new finding show KIPP students have higher test scores than students from a matched group of public schools. In fact,
. . .the black-white test score gap in math is typically estimated as approximately onestandard deviation at fourth grade and eighth grade (Bloom et al. 2008). Half of these KIPP schools are producing impacts large enough to cut that gap in half within three years (p. xv). 
So what does this study tell us that we did not already know, since KIPP’s high test scores have been acknowledged even by its harshest critics?  

We find out that KIPP schools have higher levels of grade repetition, i.e., failures, than the public schools. In the 22 fifth grade cohorts, for instance, the average failure rated was 9.5 percent, ranging from as low as 2% and as high as 18%. In public schools, repeaters in 5th grade ranged from 0% to 3%, with an average of 1.7 percent.  In 6th grade KIPPs, these numbers were slightly lower but still much higher than their public counterparts.

We find out that KIPPs are more segregated than demographically matched public schools, ranging from 5 to 50 percent more segregated.  Twenty of 22 of the KIPPs were significantly more segregated (pp. 2-3).

We find out that 12 of 22 schools had lower significantly lower percentages of special education students, with only one significantly higher.

We find out that 13 of 17 schools had significantly lower percentages of English language learners, and only two with higher percentages (pp. 12-13)

We find out, too, that this study appears to have made an attempt to account for high attrition rates among low performing students, rates that have been central to the criticism of the KIPP model.  This study makes the case, in fact, that KIPP attrition rates that are measured by transfers among low performers are in line with the public schools:  
 . . . Students who transfer within-district tend to have lower baseline test scores than students who do not transfer at all. For KIPP, the baseline scores of students transferring in-district were significantly lower at 12 schools (in at least one subject); none of the KIPP schools recorded higher baseline scores for students transferring in-district. The pattern at non-KIPP schools was even more pronounced: compared to those who do not transfer, students transferring in-district had baseline scores that were significantly lower in at least one subject in all 22 sites (p. 16).
What we don’t know, however, is if the 12 KIPP schools with significantly lower baseline scores mentioned in the above quote are some or all of the “approximately half of KIPP schools [that] attract students with significantly lower baseline test scores than the districtwide average” (p. 14). In other words, is KIPP attrition higher in the KIPP schools that have significantly higher numbers of lower performers in its general population?  Put another way, are the higher attrition rates in some KIPPs the same KIPPs that have higher percentages of lower-achieving baseline students?  This we do not know, for the researchers are mute on this question.

What we do know from this study is that KIPP is not alone in dumping its low performers.  All of the 22 public schools used in the comparisons, in fact, are playing an unending game of swapouts, where low-performing students that might threaten the schools’ AYP scores are moved from school to school in a never-ending shell game of the left behind. 

What Gary Miron astutely points out in his early critique of this study is that the KIPPs, unlike the public schools, are immune from this loser swapout game played in the publics, in that KIPPs do not accept just any student who shows up in the outer office:
The KIPP study's description of attrition only considers half the equation, when comparing KIPP schools to matched traditional public schools. The researchers looked at the attrition rates, which they found to be similar - in the sense of the number of students departing from schools. But they never considered the receiving or intake rate. Even though the researchers agree that the students who are mobile are lower performing, they do not take into account the reality that KIPP schools do not generally receive these students.
Professor Miron conducted his own quick analysis, using the Common Core database, and concluded that there is a 19% drop in enrollment in KIPP schools between grades 6 and 7 and a 24% drop in enrollment between grades 7 and 8. (This analysis only included KIPP schools that had enrollments in all three grades). In comparison, traditional public schools in these grades maintain the same enrollment from year to year.

This one factor must represent an important difference when comparing KIPPs’ performance and the publics, but how much we don’t know.  Again, the researchers are mute on this one, too.

One other potential problem that pops out in this study is the participation rate among parents for the various schools.  The average consent rate for all schools participating was 71 percent, but in some schools it was as low as 37 percent.  Did these schools solicit participation from all parents, or were some more encouraged to participate than others?  With the stringent contractual obligations that parents sign off on, and with the total compliance that KIPP demands of students and parents, it is, indeed, odd that consent rates vary so widely (p. 40). Again, the researchers do not speak to these variations.

So KIPP schools have high test scores, and there is no one in the media who seems to care about anything else that happens, or doesn’t happen, at the KIPPs.  Meanwhile, the corporate reformers are pouring in hundreds of millions to perfect a total compliance model that the general public will buy for urban America.  And it does not matter if disenfranchised children are having their childhoods stolen away and their minds altered for the benefit of demonstrating that poor children can be manhandled into responding on a test like middle class children. 

Most everyone seems content to let the neo-eugenics methods have their way with these children whose poverty is not considered in any intervention or any treatment approved by KIPP, or any of the wannabe knock-off chain gangs modeled on total compliance and offered up to replace urban public schools. The following is a short list of factors that are not mentioned in this new study, and they are factors that no one seems to think are very important to talk about:
  • KIPP students attend school approximately 50 percent longer during the school year than public school students;
  • KIPP students have 9-10 hour days and 2-3 hours of homework, with school on Saturdays;
  • KIPP students become part of a harsh total compliance organization through a 3 week summer program of indoctrination referred to as KIPP-notizing;
  • KIPP classrooms are without distractions, since offenders are segregated or offered the opportunity to choose another school;
  • KIPP schools have a laser beam focus on improving test scores that is unrelenting;
  • KIPP students are regularly subjected to a regimen of “positive psychology” that combines alternating treatments of learned optimism and learned helplessness in order to instill a sense of individual responsibility and unerring behavioral control.

2 Million Workers Without Unemployment Benefit by July 3

Trillions for Wall Street.  Main Street?  Not so much.
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers have already lost their unemployment insurance benefits as a result of Congress’ failure to approve a measure that would maintain extended benefits to the long-term unemployed. 
EPI is tracking the number of affected workers and will provide regular updates.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

invest in libraries, not tests and standards

Invest in libraries, not standards and tests
Sent to the Washington Post, June 24, 2010
Missing from "Libraries fading as school budget crisis deepens," June 24, is the overwhelming and consistent evidence showing that school library quality and the presence of a credentialed librarian relate to reading achievement as well as to other measures of school success. This has been demonstrated at the state, national and international levels.
Also missing is the fact that while library funding is being cut, we are planning to spend billions on new standards and national tests, which will result in far more testing than we have ever done before and far more than we need.
We are apparently much more interested in measuring than in solving problems.
Stephen Krashen

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slow learners

The group of reading specialists invited to present at the US Dept of Education's special meetings on reading (see http://susanohanian.org/outrage_fetch.php?id=698) look pretty much like the same gang that brought us Reading First, a program that failed every empirical test. The feds are really slow learners.

What's next for this administration?
Bernie Madoff as secretary of the treasury?
Sarah Palin as ambassador to Russia?
Rush Limbaugh as chair of the Democratic Party?
Or some basketball player with no teaching experience as secretary of education? (Wait, they did that already.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mass Civil Rights Demonstration Planned for Raleigh July 20

The vote by the Tea Party Five to destroy the most effective socioeconomic school integration plan in America has spawned a new era of civil disobedience in Raleigh and a re-connection of the state NAACP with the flowering of the Civil Rights Movement.  From the News and Observer: 
 In an attempt to draw parallels with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., a pair of local activists issued a letter today explaining why they were willing to be arrested to oppose the end of Wake County’s school diversity policy.
In the letter, the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, and the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, write that their actions were decided to force the community to confront the issues now facing the school system. They were among four people arrested for disrupting last week’s school board meeting.
Their letter is a direct play on Rev. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote in 1963 after being arrested for protesting municipal segregation in Birmingham. Ala. King argued in the letter that direct action through non-violent demonstrations were needed to combat segregation.
“In the best American traditions, from Henry David Thoreau to Ella Baker to Martin Luther King, Jr., we recognize the necessary place of civil disobedience: breaking a small and unjust law in order to protect a larger and broadly significant law,” Barber and Petty write.
Their letter is called “Thoughts While we were Being Handcuffed, and Processed at the Wake County Jail on June 15 after Engaging in an Act of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience.”
Supporters of Wake’s diversity policy have repeatedly tried to link their fight with that of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They’ve argued that the school board majority’s elimination of the socioeconomic diversity policy will lead to racial resegregation of Wake’s schools.
“Our actions are a call to the community,” Barber and Petty write. “There is a tragedy unfolding in Wake County, but it is not confined to Wake County. What is happening in Wake County is a national issue.”
Opponents of the board majority have held mass protests, engaged in acts of civil disobedience and sung civil rights era songs at school board meetings and rallies. Tim Tyson, a Duke University historian and author who was among those arrested at last week’s board meeting, has repeatedly tried to tie the call for neighborhood schools with George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama.
Barber announced Monday a mass demonstration in Raleigh on July 20 to coincide with that day’s school board meeting. . . .                           

Global Actions Against Commercialism in Education

"Global Wave of Action for Education"
[October – November 2010]
During one of the last international chat meetings [March 7th] of the „International Student Movement“, which was attended by activists in Sierra Leone, the U.S. of A., Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Kosovo, we decided to call for a „Global Wave of Action for Education“.
The participants suggest that this „wave“ kicks off with co-ordinated protests in some regions of the world - such as occupations in schools across Italy, which are expected to begin in the middle of October. October 7th will also see a huge day of action in the U.S.A..

Valerie Strauss Interviews Diane Ravitch

Here's a clip:

Q) You know the history of education policy -- and the effects -- as well or better than anyone. What are the biggest mistakes the Obama administration is making right now?
A) The biggest mistake they have made is that they bought into the consensus around high-stakes testing, this NCLB belief that someone must be punished if scores don’t rise every year, especially "bad" teachers. They adopted Republican ideas about accountability and choice, and they have used Race to the Top to promote more privately managed schools and more high-stakes testing.

Living outside the Beltway, I am struck by the fact that the education think tanks in DC are like an echo chamber. Almost all share the "consensus," and because they agree with one another, they think they are right. The Obama administration bought into that consensus, and seems utterly tone-deaf to how their agenda is received outside the Beltway.
Teachers -- not just union leaders -- are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.
Q) Have you met with any Obama administration officials? Members of Congress? What do you say? What did they say?
A) I was recently invited to meet with high-level administration officials in the White House. I told them my concerns. I told them what I have heard from teachers and parents. They told me I was misinformed. I think they should listen more to the grassroots, not just to the think tanks and the media. Over the past few weeks, I have met with many Democratic members of Congress. I have met some really impressive members who understand how destructive the current "reform" movement is. Many agree with me that the emphasis on evaluating teachers will simply produce more teaching to the test, more narrowing the curriculum, more gaming the system. They have heard from their constituents, and they don’t like what is going on.

But frankly, these same Congressmen and women tell me that they are probably helpless to stop the President’s agenda. The Democratic leadership will give the President and Secretary Duncan what they want, and they will have the support of Republicans. That leaves the Democrats in a quandary. They were not happy to see Secretary Duncan campaigning for his approach with Newt Gingrich. Maybe it will turn out to be a winning strategy for Secretary Duncan. He may get what he wants. It just won’t be good for American education or our kids.

Q) When the administration officials told you you were mistaken, what did they say you were mistaken about?
A) I asked why they are pushing states to increase the number of charter schools, when studies and NAEP show that charters don’t get better results on average than regular public schools; they said they are not pushing states to increase the number of charter schools. I was incredulous because many states lifted their charter caps in hopes of getting RTTT money. When I asked if they thought it was a good idea for state legislatures to set professional standards for evaluating teachers, they again disclaimed any connection with what states are doing to get RTTT money, even though the administration wrote the criteria and the states are responding to them.
Q) If you got a chance to talk to President Obama, what would you tell him?
A) I would urge him to change course before it is too late. I would tell him that charter schools in the aggregate don’t get better results than regular public schools. I would tell him that his push to have teachers evaluated by student test scores is wrong, and that standards for evaluation should be designed by professionals, not by politicians. I would urge him to stop using language of failing, punishing, closing, and firing and speak instead of improving, building, supporting, and encouraging.

I would urge him to think about ways of strengthening American public education because it is one of the foundational elements of our democracy. I would urge him to speak about the importance of a strong curriculum for all kids in every school, one that includes the arts, history, literature, foreign languages, civics, economics, physical education, science, and mathematics. I would urge him to recognize that high-stakes testing in basic skills steals time from everything else that should be taught and that it is thus undermining education. I would also implore him not to recommend testing every other subject, as there would soon be no time for instruction, only testing.
Q) Do you think there will be political consequences for the administration’s education policy?
A) The administration’s alienation of teachers is a really bad idea politically. There are four million teachers, and they vote. They have families. There are retired teachers, who care deeply about our public education system. The President is heading into a tough mid-term election. I don’t see the point of cultivating Republicans and endorsing their agenda of privatization and tough accountability, because they won’t vote for him anyway. And I don’t see the point of disrespecting public school teachers, who are one of his core constituencies.

They still don't get it

They still don't get it: A comment on the "Reading for Understanding" Research Initiative
Stephen Krashen

Submitted for publication

Reading the description of the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative, it is clear that the US Department of Education has (finally) recognized the limits of research on decoding skills and is prepared to move on (see age 5).

But they still don't get it.

They now claim that decoding is necessary but is not sufficient for reading comprehension (and, I assume, that methods that focus exclusively on decoding are not the way to go), and will invest $100 million on research that will contribute to developing ways to "accelerate growth in oral language and word knowledge in ways that are likely to close reading comprehension gaps" (page 11).

Unmentioned is the slightest hint that "decoding skills," word knowledge, oral language development, reading comprehension itself, and a host of other competencies (e.g. spelling, grammar, writing ability, knowledge of the world) might be the result of actual "Reading for Understanding," the result of children reading a wide range of interesting and comprehensible texts.

Unmentioned is any realization that our "literacy crisis" could have one fundamental cause: Children of poverty, the group with the low reading scores we are concerned about, suffer from a profound lack of access to reading material.

That $100 million could be used to help solve the problem. It could go toward supporting libraries and librarians in high-poverty areas, and would represent more than five times the current annual federal government investment in school libraries in high-poverty areas.

But my first suggestion is to use about $100 of the $100 million to buy government education advisors copies of books by Frank Smith, Kenneth Goodman, and Jeff McQuillan. I'll be happy to donate a copy of the Power of Reading. (Important writings by Keith Curry Lance and Doug Achterman are available for free on the internet.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Smarick Eager to Accept Public Position of Power to Privatize New Jersey's Schools

His Lardness, Gov. Chris Christie, appointed another ideologue like himself, Bret Schundler, to run what has been up until now one of the best state systems of public education in the country.  Highly unionized and highly funded, New Jersey has made a reputation for itself, one that the corporationists want to demolish.

To do their work for them, Christie and Schundler have called upon sludge tank propagandist, Andy Smarick, who offered this summary in 2008 of how to charterize the world.  So here's the plan, introduced by Ken Libby:

This is part of an essay written in early 2008 by AEI/Fordham'sAndy Smarick, a former Bush II Domestic Policy Council member tasked with K-12 and higher education issues:
Here, in short, is one roadmap for chartering's way forward: First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to asecondary provider. The target should be 75 percent. Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). For example, in New York a concerted effort could be made to site in Albany or Buffalo a large percentage of the 100 new charters allowed under the raised cap. Other potentially fertile districts includeDenver,Detroit,Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis,New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.
Third, secure proven operators to open new schools. To the greatest extent possible, growth should be driven by replicating successful local charters and recruiting high-performing operators from other areas. Fourth, engage key allies like Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and national and local foundations to ensure the effort has the human and financial capital needed. Last, commit to rigorously assessing charter performance in each community and working with authorizers to close the charters that fail to significantly improve student achievement.
In total, these strategies should lead to rapid, high-quality charter growth and the development of a public school marketplace marked by parental choice, the regular startup of new schools, the improvement of middling schools, the replication of high-performing schools, and the shuttering of low-performing schools.
As chartering increases its market share in a city, the district will come under growing financial pressure. The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district's per-pupil costs will skyrocket.
At some point along the district's path from monopoly provider to financially unsustainable marginal player, the city's investors and stakeholders--taxpayers, foundations, business leaders, elected officials, and editorial boards--are likely to demand fundamental change. That is, eventually the financial crisis will become a political crisis. If the district has progressive leadership, one of two best-case scenarios may result. The district could voluntarily begin the shift to an authorizer, developing a new relationship with its schools and reworking its administrative structure to meet the new conditions. Or, believing the organization is unable to make this change, the district could gradually transfer its schools to an established authorizer.

More Bush BS - Sponsored by Waltons

Plug your nose before reading this recent Jeb Bush verbal excretion. From 2TheAdvocate:

Wednesday’s talk by the former Florida governor was organized by Baton Rouge Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister and sponsored by the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walton Family Foundation.

After leaving office in 2007, Jeb Bush launched his own education organization in Florida, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, on which he serves as president and chairman. From that platform, Bush has continued to advocate across the country for the conservative “free market” education reforms he promoted in Florida.

Bush said changes in public education undertaken by Florida since 1999 have been successful and should serve as a model for other states, including Louisiana, which he noted is on a similar track.

He said strong reforms like Florida’s have five components: accountability with a “hard edge,” tougher and more-focused academic standards, increased school choice, more-effective teachers and greater use of instructional technology.

[Ken's note: by "instructional technology," does Jebby Boy mean something like his brother's COWs disaster?]


“I’m either really blinded or just believe in free markets so much,” he said. “I don’t see why this is such a controversial thing or courageous or extreme or other things I was accused of.”

During the question-and-answer session, Bush noted that Florida had to keep a tighter rein on quality as it expanded school choice and made sure charter and private schools were financially stable. He urged avoiding such pitfalls because early problems make it easier for critics.

“They use the failure of one school to try to destroy school choice across the entire state,” Bush said.

He did note that the “Berlin Wall is cracking,” crediting President Barack Obama for pushing states like Louisiana to start measuring teacher performance, over the resistance of teacher unions.

“If you build a first-class educational system, a lot of the other problems you face will seem small in comparison,” Bush said. “People will come, investors will come, capital will come. People that want to be in creative communities will come, too.”

Yes, Jeb, your endless faith in free-markets - especially when applied to social problems - is testament to your inability to imagine the common good. Maybe Jeb can join hand with Mayor Bloomberg (below) and encourage all students to pledge an unwavering faith to the free-market system that is incapable of tackling issues like global climate change, gross social inequity, and endless imperial wars.

The h/t for this story goes to Douglas Crets, Tom Vander Ark's right hand man and EdReformer blogger. And - surprise, surprise - the EdReformer webpage was "incubated by New Schools venture Fund with support from a donor committed to innovations in learning."

From the Asinine File...

The Little Dictator says:

Here’s the context: While discussing the proposed tightening of regulation of Wall Street, [Mayor Bloomberg] noted that some of the union protesters who staged a rally against budget cuts this week outside City Hall had railed about “getting even with bankers.”

The mayor suggested that since taxes from Wall Street earnings and bonuses pay for their salaries, “our cops and firefighters and teachers they should be out there defending the bankers.”

Yes, Mr. Bloomberg, our teachers should take to the streets to defend the casino capitalists and corrupt traders making billions off of things like credit default swaps, hedges, and other highly speculative derivatives. Keep in mind, Mr. Bloomberg, that these same hucksters pay very little in taxes despite the trillions of dollars trading hands, and they'll fight to the death to prevent any regulation, taxation, or transparency.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The College Caste System: Feeding the Corporate Welfare Colleges to Miseducate the Poor and the Homeless

Yielding to pressure from the for-profit corporate college lobbyists, earlier this year the Congress cut funding for the expansion of community colleges from $12 billion to $2 billion.  Meanwhile, the President reads the script handed him by the Chamber of Commerce to guarantee that college for the lower caste is turned over to corporate exploitation: 
Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma, and by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
So with money choked off from the community college expansion and with broke states starving out the public colleges and universities, where to turn to make the President's pledge come true?

That's right, the poor can turn to the schemers and scammers of the for-profit online diploma mills like Phoenix, Kaplan, Capella, Grand Canyon U., and Drake, any of which may be found on any given day down at the homeless shelters and soup kitchens recruiting new students.  For if you can sign your name, you can get fixed up with a federal loan that goes into the corporate pockets of these bloodsuckers, while leaving students even more destitute, with debt they can never repay, no skills, and a useless piece of paper.  All on the public dime, and all protected by the U. S. Department of Education, which just offered up new guidelines for the corporate colleges that are being cheered by the for-profit bottom feeders.  On June 16, the Wall Street Journal headline was "For Profit College Investors Cheer Education Dept Proposals":

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--For-profit college investors applauded the U.S. Department of Education's announcement Wednesday of a number of proposed reforms covering higher education, though analysts warn stocks could see pressure down the line as one issue remains unresolved.
The government-proposed reforms cover 13 major shortcomings in higher education, but the department said it will hold its recommendations on the 14th--a measure that would penalize schools for graduating students with high debt loads--until later this summer. Investors were excited to see the government take a more studied approach after industry lobbyists warned the proposal could "crush" the for-profit school sector.
Shares of DeVry Inc. (DV), a school some analysts say would be hit hard by the delayed proposal, were recently trading up 2% to $57.48, while Apollo Group Inc. (APOL) gained 2% to $49.27. American Public Education Inc. (APEI) was up 1.2% to $46.81 and Capella Education Co. (CPLA) climbed 1.2% to $86.62.
The delayed proposal, intended to judge schools on how well they prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation, was expected to force many programs to cut tuition or even shut down entirely. The Education Department has recommended that programs disclose job placement and graduation rates, as well as student debt loads, by June 2013, but said it will continue to study possible metrics by which to judge school success and will release another proposal on that subject later this summer.
"Some key issues around gainful employment are complicated and we want to get it right so we will be coming back with that shortly," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. . . .
That is to say, we don't want to offend any of the oligarchs until after the November election, and we don't want to lose any youth vote, either, by showing our hand.  Here is a thoughtful piece on the new proposed regulations that are open to public comment until August.  A clip:

The U.S. Department of Education is proposing new rules to oversee the growing field of for-profit higher education, but it kicked the can down the road on the most controversial idea: making institutions prove that their graduates find “gainful employment.”
Doing that would require some complicated and uncomfortable math for the schools: calculating “debt-to-income loads,” which is the ratio between how much a graduate owes in student loans and how much he or she earns. If the salaries are insufficient to pay off the debts – a common complaint among graduates of for-profits – the institutions would lose federal education funding and likely close.
With billions of dollars at stake, for-profit colleges lobbied heavily against a plan floated a few months ago by the Education Department to link gainful employment to an 8 percent debt-to-income load, which the industry said would put many programs out of business. The lobbying appears to have worked to shelve that proposal, at least for now: on Tuesday, the department announced new rules covering 13 of 14 areas of for-profit higher education reform, leaving the gainful employment proposal for “later in the summer.” . . . .