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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Repairing "Repairable Harm"

"Repairable Harm" (Olson, 2010) suggests that the solution to the problem of students who remain classified as English Learners for long periods of time consists, among other things, of more careful preparation on tests of their progress, careful tracking, and "rigorous" instruction that includes explicit and direct teaching of the vocabulary, grammar and text structure of academic language. These proposals are quite similar to those presented by the current US Dept of Education in the form of Race to the Top, and the LEARN Act, now in committee in congress.

There is an alternative. Most long term English Learners live in poverty. Decades of research confirm that poverty has a huge impact on student learning, resulting in lower scores on all measures of school achievement. Poverty means food insecurity, poor health care, higher levels of pollution, and far less access to books, at home, at school and in the community.

The latter is especially important when discussing California, which has among the worst supported school and public libraries in the nation, and by far the lowest number of librarians per student. It is also easy to deal with. Studies in California (Achterman, 2008) and throughout the world (Krashen, Lee, and McQuillan, 2010) show that providing access to quality school libraries can mitigate the impact of poverty on reading achievement and subject matter learning (grade 11 US History in Achterman, 2008).

Increased access to books means more self-selected recreational reading, and more self-selected recreational reading has a powerful effect on the development of just those aspects of language that Repairable Harm is concerned with (Krashen, 2004). Through extensive reading, students acquire (not learn, but acquire) an enormous amount of grammar, vocabulary and text structure, enough so that the academic language of textbooks becomes far more comprehensible. Studies also show that wide reading results in more school knowledge as well as knowledge of the world (Ravitch and Finn, 1987; Krashen, 2004).

There are severe limits to the amount of vocabulary, grammar and text structure that can be explicitly taught and learned: The systems to be acquired are vast, and have not even been fully described. In addition, studies so far strongly suggest that reading is a more effective and efficient means of developing competence in these areas than direct instruction is (Krashen, 2004; 2010).

Repairable Harm makes some very good suggestions. It supports the use of the primary language in school, both early in the students' career to build background knowledge and literacy, and later, for the advantages of full bilingualism. It also calls for more efforts to end the social isolation experienced by many English Learners, a problem carefully described in Repairable Harm author Laurie Olsen's study, Made in America (1997). But the tasks faced by English Learners and their teachers would be greatly facilitated by providing greater access to interesting and comprehensible reading, and the easiest way to do this is to strengthen school library collections and school library staffing, especially in areas of high poverty.

References:

Achterman, D. 2008. PhD dissertation, http://digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-9800:1
Krashen, S., Lee, SY, and McQuillan, J. 2010. An analysis of the PIRLS (2006) data: Can the school library reduce the effect of poverty on reading achievement? CSLA Journal, in press. California School Library Association.
Krashen, S. 2010. Comments on the Learn Act. http://www.sdkrashen.com.
Olsen, L. 1997. Made in America: Immigrant Students in US High Schools. New York: The New Press.
Olson, L. 2010. Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners. California Tomorrow.
Ravitch, D. and Finn, C. 1987. What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? New York: Harpercollins.

Friday, May 28, 2010

preschool will be school in Kalamazoo

In Kalamazoo, preschool will be school

Sent to the Detroit News, May 24, 2010

Kalamazoo is now putting more focus on literacy in preschool to prepare children for a more demanding kindergarten, which will include more instruction on reading, writing, science, history and math ("Kalamazoo schools create college culture," May 24).
Clearly, in Kalamazoo, preschool will no longer be preschool. It will be school.

If we toughen up preschool, will there soon be pressure to toughen up (and require) toddler programs to prepare for preschool? And then what? Prenatal literacy training?


Stephen Krashen

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100524/SCHOOLS/5240313/1026/schools/Kalamazoo-schools-create-college-culture#ixzz0oyfpvlAk

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Noguera, The Nation Nail It

A New Vision of School Reform

Before his election President Obama carved out what many regarded as a more progressive and enlightened position on education reform. Recognizing that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had become widely unpopular because of its overemphasis on standardized tests, he declared, "Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of the year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test." He pledged to lead the nation in a different direction.

We are still waiting for a change of course. Since the election, the president and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, have adopted policies that, to the chagrin of many of their supporters, have had far more in common with the previous administration than expected. Market-based reforms like performance pay for teachers, the excessive emphasis on charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools and the distribution of federal funds—once treated as entitlements to compensate for poverty—through competitive grants all represent a disturbing continuity with the policies of the past. The Obama administration gets some credit for not ignoring education despite being preoccupied with several formidable challenges. But the new initiatives do not reflect the change many hoped Obama would deliver.

... [Continued here]

There are also a number of other interesting critiques of the Obama/Duncan education agenda. Ravitch, Darling-Hammond, Philissa Cramer, David L. Kirp, and Susan Eaton all lend their voices. Their essays are available here, but a few require a subscription to The Nation.

For a very different take on education reform, you can listen to the data-driven dweebs babble over at EdWeek. Klein offers his non-educator voice, and the Broad Foundation's Dan Katzir spews some corporate nonsense.

Jay P Greene Joins Bush "Think" Tank

Conservative propagandist Jay P Greene will join Sandy Kress at the George W. Bush Institute. Kress is currently a lobbyist for TFA, NCTQ, Wireless Generation, Pearson, Texas Charter School Assocation, and more. Greene, of course, is one of the major proponents of privatization and anti-public school rhetoric, much of it funded through the Wal-Mart family (which provides ample funding to the University of Arkansas).

The Bush Institute, which is the think tank arm of former President George W. Bush's future library, named three new education fellows Tuesday.

Professors Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas,
Michael J. Podgursky of the University of Missouri, and Matthew G. Springer of Vanderbilt University, will join James W. Guthrie, Sandy Kress, and Beth Ann Bryan, who are also education fellows.

Bush officials say the new fellows signal the former president and first lady's ongoing interest in education policy. Bush made public school accountability a centerpiece of his terms as governor and president.

The focus of the policy institute's work has begun to take some shape. According to the statement, "The Institute will pursue education reforms by initially concentrating on two areas: (1) improving the leadership capacity of America's school principals and (2) strengthening middle schools to keep students on the path toward college/career readiness."

I suppose there's no room for alcoholic beverages or pretzels (deadly!) at Bush Institute gatherings - they're already drunk off the edu-idiot Kool-Aid.

[Kress is such a legend in Texas that he even has a burial spot reserved at the Texas State Cemetery.]

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

$50 Million for CMOs

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (i3) recently announced $50 million in competitive funding for non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs).

A few interesting tidbits:

1. Only non-profit CMOs are eligible. That would exempt Imagine (although they still claim to be a nonprofit), White Hat, etc.

2. Even if Imagine claims to be a non-profit, they might be exempt because the program specifies the CMO must not have "significant issues in the areas of student safety, financial management, or statutory or regulatory compliance. For purposes of this competition, significant issue means something that did, will, or could lead to the revocation of a school's charter."

3. The applications will be awarded up to 50 points with an additional 30 bonus points possible. CMOs can earn 10 bonus points for partnering with outside funders, including philanthropic organizations. Added funds (which must be equal to or greater than 25 of the grant award) will give applicants a "competitive preference priority".

4. The grant outlines performance measures as:
  1. Number of charter schools in operation around the Nation
  2. The percentage of fourth- and eight-grade charter school students who are achieving at or above the proficient level on State examinations in math and reading/language arts
  3. As a measure of efficiency, the Secretary will use Federal cost per student in implementing a successful school (defined as a school in operation for three or more consecutive years)
5. Unlike many other programs, the Secretary will not be taking public comment on the priorities, selection criteria, requirements, and definitions. This program is exempt from the public comment requirement because it is the first charter replication grant.

6. The Charter Schools Program budget has a $256,031,000 budget for FY 2010. This grant uses $50 million of those funds.

7. An estimated 5-8 grants will be awarded, with a range of $1 million to $15 million.

8. CMOs can also receive preferences for competitive preference priorities, including working with LEAs "in implementing academic or structural interventions to serve students attending schools that have been identified for improvement, corrective action, closure, or restructuring under section 1116 of ESEA..."

9. Keep in mind this grant is awarded through the Office of Innovation and Improvement, which is headed by former Gates employee Jim Shelton.

Are we participants or just an audience?

A "conversation" with the Dept of Education: Are we participants or just an audience?


I just participated in the "conversation" between members of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and the US Dept of Education. It was supposed to be a conversation, and we had interactive software set up.

It wasn't a conversation. Even though only a few people were involved, maybe a dozen or so (not counting staff members), there was apparently no time for any interaction. The feds wasted a half hour telling us what we already knew, that is, what was in the Blueprint, then discussed (at length) a few of the questions that were sent in that they had selected. They even took time to discuss a question that wasn't sent in that a staff member thought was interesting.

I send in my questions in advance, as requested. None were answered.
I resent them during the session, as requested. None were answered.
I "raised my hand" electronically three times and got no response. Each time, my "raised hand" was electronically shut off.
None of my questions significantly overlapped with those chosen.
I asked how the feds could justify so much testing, more than we have ever had before.
I asked if they were aware of the evidence showing that the real problem in American education is poverty, not a lack of standards and tests.
I asked why there was such a push for STEM when we clearly have a surplus in these fields and are doing quite well in technology and science.
I asked why there was so much focus on college, why a high-school diploma will soon be a certificate of qualification for college when college is not for everybody: people have different interests, different talents.

Full version of the questions I sent in:

Questions

NUMBER ONE:

According to the Blueprint for Reform, released by the US Department of Education, the new standards will be enforced with new tests, which will include "interim" tests in addition to those given at the end of year.

No Child Left Behind only required reading and math tests. The Blueprint recommends testing in other subjects as well. The Blueprint also insists we measure growth, which could mean testing in the fall and in the spring, doubling the number of tests.
This means billions of dollars will be spent on test construction, validation, revision, etc. at a time when school are already very short of funds, when many science classes have no lab equipment, school libraries (those that are left) have few books, many school bathrooms lack toilet paper, school years are being shortened, and teachers are losing their jobs.
How can this increase in testing be justified, in light of the fact that schools are so short of money, and the fact that there is no evidence that increasing testing increases learning?
Do we have to test every child every year to see how our schools are doing? When you get a check-up, they don't take all your blood, just a sample.
NUMBER TWO:
The current administration is insisting on college for everyone. The standards are clearly college-prep oriented and a high school diploma will soon certify the completion of a college prep program.
This will have the effect of making a high school diploma irrelevant for all those who are not interested in college, who have different interests, talents and career paths. It will also mean a continuation of the decline of vocational classes of all kinds, and a disrespect for vocational education.
Former US Cabinet member John W. Gardner pointed out that we all lose when we lose respect for non-academic work: "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

Has the administration considered this? Have they considered the data showing that most new jobs will not require a college degree (see J. Steinberg's recent article in the NY Times summarizing this data, ("Plan B: Skip College" May 16).

QUESTION THREE

The administration has assumed that education in the US is in trouble, based on student performance on international tests. This is not so.

Students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore all or nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. The US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's 3%). Our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.

If this is true, our first priority should be to deal with poverty and to help schools give high-poverty children at least some of the advantages middle class children have: e.g. nutrition and access to books. Our first priority should not be more "rigorous standards" and tests.

Is the administration aware of this?

QUESTION FOUR

One of the major priorities of the Race to the Top is to "Prepare more students for advanced study and careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics." There is, however, no shortage of STEM-trained professionals in the United States. In fact, studies show that there is a surplus.

In addition, the US ranks at or near the top of the world on all categories related to STEM education and availability of expertise: According to the World Economic Federation, the US ranks 5th out of 133 countries in "availability of scientists & engineers," second in "quality of scientific research institutions" and first in "university-industry research collaboration."

Why the push for STEM?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Education Cuts in Oregon?

From the Oregonian:

Oregon revenue drops sharply, rips $563 million hole in state budget

By Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

May 25, 2010, 11:43AM

SALEM -- Oregon’s stubbornly bad economy has left a huge hole in the state budget, distressed lawmakers learned today -- $563 million that must be cut from schools and other programs over the next year unless more money comes in.

The figure was reported during the quarterly economic and revenue forecast, delivered minutes ago to a somber gathering of House and Senate revenue committees.

The bad financial news means that either Gov. Ted Kulongoski or the Legislature must take steps to balance the current two-year budget, which goes to the end of June 2011.

If the cuts are proportional across all state agencies, public schools would lose about $230 million -- a situation that could lead to layoffs, bigger class sizes or a shortened school year next year.

Kulongoski has scheduled a noon news conference at which he is expected to argue against a special legislative session, leaving the budget-balancing task to him and his staff.


Attacking Colleges of Education

From Henry A. Giroux, via Truthout:

As the Obama administration's educational reform movement increasingly adopts the interests and values of a "free-market" culture, many students graduate public schooling and higher education with an impoverished political imagination, unable to recognize injustice and unfairness. They often find themselves invested in a notion of unattached individualism that severs them from any sense of moral and social responsibility to others or to a larger notion of the common good. At the same time, those students who jeopardize the achievement of the quantifiable measures and instrumental values now used to define school success are often subjected to harsh disciplinary procedures, pushed out of schools, subjected to medical interventions or, even worse, pushed into the criminal justice system. Most of these students are poor whites and minorities of color and, increasingly, students with special needs.
Continued here.

Ravitch's Top 10 Reasons for Refusing RTTT

From Bridging Differences, ht to Monty Neill:

. . . . As I listened to teachers and principals, I concluded that states and districts should not participate in the Race to the Top. It might better be called the Race to Nowhere, or as some have dubbed it, the Race to the Trough or the Dash to the Cash.
Here are my top 10 reasons for saying no:
  1. The money that states win cannot plug budget gaps, but must be applied to meeting the requirements of the Race.
  2. The Race demands that states evaluate teachers by their students' test scores. Some states are legislating that 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation be based on student scores. There is no basis in research or science for 50 percent or 20 percent or any other number. Of course, supervisors should take test scores into account when evaluating teachers, but they should not be required to use a fixed percentage, determined arbitrarily by legislators.
  3. The issue of how to evaluate teachers should be resolved by professional associations, working in concert, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and other professional groups. The state legislatures do not determine how other professionals should be evaluated; they don't know. Nor do they know how teachers should be evaluated. Why doesn't the U.S. Department of Education convene the leading professional organizations and give them a grant to design the ideal method of evaluating teacher performance? Why should such an important issue be determined by political negotiation rather than by professional standards?
  4. The NCLB-induced obsession with testing and test-prep activities will intensify under Race to the Top because teachers will know that their future, their reputation, and their livelihood depend on getting the scores higher, by any means necessary.
  5. By raising the stakes for tests even higher, Race to the Top will predictably produce more teaching to bad tests, more narrowing of the curriculum, more cheating, and more gaming the system. If scores rise, it will be the illusion of progress, rather than better education. By ratcheting up the consequences of test scores, education will be corrupted and cheapened. There will be even less time for history, geography, civics, foreign languages, literature, and other important subjects.
  6. The Race requires states to increase the number of privately managed schools. There is no basis in research for this requirement. Privately managed schools have been compared with regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress since 2003, and they have never outperformed them. The Stanford CREDO study found that 17 percent of charter schools were better than matched traditional public schools, 46 percent performed about the same, and 37 percent were worse than traditional public schools. Not an impressive showing.
  7. The Race promotes the de-professionalization of education by encouraging alternate paths into teaching and leadership. No other nation has built a successful public school system by increasing the number of non-professionals in the classroom or in the job of principal or superintendent. We need better-educated, better-prepared teachers; we need principals who are master teachers; we need superintendents who are knowledgeable educators.
  8. Many public schools will be closed down to comply with the demands of Race to the Top. These schools will be heavily concentrated in poor and minority communities, robbing them of their social capital. This will destabilize communities without any assurance that better schools will be created. Schools that enroll large numbers of low-performing students will be heedlessly closed, even if their staff is doing a good job in the face of difficult challenges.
  9. Race to the Top erodes state control of public education, a basic principle of our federal system of government throughout our history. Now, states will dance to whatever tune the U.S. Department of Education feels like playing. Will a different administration demand school prayer and vouchers in exchange for billions?
  10. Race to the Top erodes local control of education by prompting legislatures to supersede local school boards on any issues selected by federal bureaucrats.
I hope I am wrong, but I believe that 10 years from now, we will look back with regret and even shame on this misuse of federal power. Books will be written analyzing where these ideas came from and why they were foisted on the nation's public schools at a time of fiscal distress. And we will be left to wonder why so much money and energy was spent promoting so many dubious ideas. Diane

NYTimes Reports on Growing Charter School Corruption

A clip from NYTimes:

. . .Charters, for example, are not specifically prohibited by state law from hiring their own board members or employees as consultants. While the state comptroller’s office — the government’s fiscal watchdog — can audit public schools, it is barred by a court ruling from examining charter schools.


Before that court ruling was issued last year, the comptroller’s office completed audits of 18 charters around the state. Fourteen had significant financial irregularities, including one school that spent $67,951 on staff trips to the Caribbean, according to officials. “We don’t have enough oversight, and that is clear,” said State Senator Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat and charter critic. “I’m not suggesting that this is rampant, but it undermines the integrity of the public’s faith in charters.”


Several New York agencies can issue charters: the state Board of Regents, the State University of New York and, in New York City, the city’s Education Department. In other cities, local school boards also have the ability to allow charter schools to open.


The issue of accountability has emerged as a major sticking point in negotiations over the bill, which would raise the cap on charters to 460 from 200. The bill has been passed by the Senate but remains hung up in the Assembly.


Even as the Obama administration promotes charter schools as integral to its education agenda, the inspector general in the federal Department of Education has raised concern about growing allegations of financial fraud at schools around the country. . . .

Monday, May 24, 2010

Track or educate?

Track or educate?
Sent to the Topeka Capital-Journal, May 24
There is rejoicing in Kansas because the state has received a grant to help track progress of individual students on standardized tests "from birth to college" ("Ks. Receives ed data grant," May 22). I think this is a tragic waste of money.
We already know which students and schools are doing well and which are not, and we know why: Research tells us that students from high-income families who attend well funded schools score as high any students in the world on international tests. Children of poverty in poorly funded schools score below international norms.
At a time when schools are badly under-funded and when money is tight, we are, apparently, eager to spend millions tracking and testing students when we should be spending money on educating them.
Stephen Krashen

Ks. receives ed data grant
The Topeka Capital-Journal, May 22 Cjonline.com
Kansas will receive $9.1 million to help fund a statewide data system that will better measure the progress of students.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Kansas is one of 20 states receiving a piece of $250 million in grants to develop a longitudinal data system funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Data gives us a road map," Duncan said. "It tells us where we are, where we need to go and who is at risk. Data helps expose the good, the bad and the ugly about our current state of education."
A longitudinal data system has long been a priority in Kansas. One of the concerns about data reported through the federal No Child Left Behind Act has been that it focuses on groups of students that change from year to year.
State officials have talked about preferring a system that would allow them to track the growth of individuals as they move through the system, and improved data collection would be an essential component of that. The state made steps toward a comprehensive statewide data system with the implementation of the Kansas Individual Data System (KIDS) in the fall of 2005.
Duncan said the idea is to create and implement systems that will allow states to follow student progress from early childhood to career, including matching teachers to students. At the same time, student privacy and confidentiality are to be protected.
Improving the quality of data, he said, is essential to judging improvement efforts, identifying the best teachers, helping teachers spot students falling behind, aiding principals in evaluating curriculum and turning around low-performing schools.
"Tracking student progress from birth through college helps teachers in the classroom, helps principals manage and improve their schools, and helps parents better understand the unique educational needs of their child," said Duncan. "It's one of the core reforms at the heart of our agenda, and we are eager to work with states to put these systems in place."
The first State Longitudinal Data Systems grants were awarded in 2005, and they are independent of the Race to the Top grants that the Kansas State Board of Education has decided to stop pursuing after being denied in the first round.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Duncan Opposition from the Honorable Congresswoman Judy Chu


A new plan for school improvement that actually makes sense. Call you Congressman to back the Chu Plan as an alternative to the corporate takeover plan.
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) officially unveiled a plan today to improve our nation's education system using a new framework of school improvement grants, a proposal that is being supported by AFT, NEA, PTA and the National Association of School Psychologists, among other groups.

The Congresswoman's new framework constitutes a radical departure from existing guidelines on School Improvement Grants, replacing the overly punitive and restrictive model with a more flexible, holistic approach and giving schools a broader menu of research-driven options and more time to show improvement. Under the new framework, school closure would strictly be a last resort option.

"The current school improvement grant program is admirable in theory, but some of the tactics haven't been successful in practice," said Rep. Chu, noting as an example the recent mass firings, and subsequent rehiring, of staff at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. "What we need is a system that promotes flexibility and collaboration instead of tying the hands of administrators, teachers, and parents. We must remove barriers to student success instead of ignoring them.  And finally, we must support teachers and leaders, instead of breaking them down."

That is the approach taken by Rep. Chu's proposed new framework, called Strengthening Our Schools (SOS) (see attached report). The plan would promote flexibility and collaboration between schools, parents, community leaders, businesses and other stakeholders; provide support to students facing crisis, both inside and outside of the classroom, by offering mental health services for behavioral problems, ESL resources and other wrap-around services; and giving teachers the tools they need to reconnect with disengaged students and help improve performance through personalized teacher training and specialized instructional support.

"In the upcoming ESEA Reauthorization I will be pushing for a complete revision of school improvement grants that is based on Strengthening Our Schools," said Rep. Chu, who was joined by representatives of major national education associations, teachers groups, former administration officials, parents and others as she unveiled the details of SOS at the Rayburn House Office Building. "As a Member of the Committee on Education and Labor, I plan to work with Chairman Miller on school turnaround and push for this framework to be adopted in ESEA Reauthorization."

The Congresswoman's plan was lauded by prominent members of the educational field.

The goal of SOS is nothing less than to achieve dramatic improvements in student achievement  at priority schools, said Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association.

"The only way for schools to succeed is if all the adults involved in public education work together collaboratively and make decisions based on our common purpose to give students what they need to succeed," Eskelsen said.

"Congresswoman Chu has developed an excellent framework for redefining the federal role in K-12 education. Her proposals recognize that the path to school improvement is through positive, not punitive, measures. She understands that teachers do their best in atmosphere of respect and encouragement, rather than incentives and sanctions," said Diane Ravitch, education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education. "The federal role should be to support school improvement, not to mandate closings and firings. She is a breath of fresh air in a stale and nonproductive discussion."

"PTA is appreciative of the opportunity to provide input on the proposal and the framework's
inclusion of family engagement and collaboration with parents," said PTA National President Charles J. "Chuck" Saylors. "We cannot turn around struggling schools without parents at the table."


Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, UCLA researchers who have investigated many of the successful methods included in the Congresswoman's proposal, lauded the new SOS framework and its holistic, multi-tiered approach.
"Good teaching and, indeed all efforts to enhance positive development, must be complemented with direct actions to remove or at least minimize the impact of barriers, such as hostile environments and intrinsic problems," said Adelman and Taylor in a written statement. "Without effective direct intervention to address barriers to learning and teaching, such barriers continue to get in the way for many students and interfere with teachers' efforts to close the achievement gap."

The goal of SOS is nothing less than to achieve dramatic improvements in student achievement  at priority schools, said Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association.

"The only way for schools to succeed is if all the adults involved in public education work together collaboratively and make decisions based on our common purpose to give students what they need to succeed," Eskelsen said.

 CLICK HERE to see full SOS Report

Republican History: The Great Texas Whiteout of 2010

The Texas textbook Tea Party just wound down, and history will never be the same, or for ten years at least.  All the more reason to save an incredible amount of money by discontinuing the purchase of these super-sized tomes of snooze-worthy pablum that corporations have foisted on school children for 150 years at least. Until states get smart by hiring teachers to create custom texts using the myriad sources available free on the Web or for a minimal charge for educational use, we will have these social antiquarians shaping the future.

Here is the best summary I have found, and, of course, it is not from an American paper, but from the Independent:
By Guy Adams in Los Angeles

The slave trade was in fact the "Atlantic triangular trade". Capitalism, with all its negative connotations, should in future be referred to as the "free enterprise system". And don't even think about buying into the theory of evolution: children must instead be taught that God created Earth using a euphemistically-titled technique known as "intelligent design".

It may sound like the backdrop to a comedy sketch, but these are instead the guiding principles by which teachers in America's second-largest state will be forced to go about the business of education, according to critics of proposed changes to the school curriculum.

After months of increasingly fractious debate, the 15-member school board of Texas is expected today to approve more than 100 pages of new guidelines governing the teaching of social studies. They changes cover everything from Cold War history to the "correct" interpretation of the US Constitution.
The proposed rules stipulate, among other things, that Republican superstar Ronald Reagan should be added to a list of "great Americans". Country music can be described as an important cultural movement, but hip-hop can't. And speeches by Jefferson Davis, the slave-owning president of the Confederacy, should be taught alongside those of Abraham Lincoln.

Elsewhere, the new curriculum changes references to American "imperialism" to "expansionism", and forces teachers covering post-war politics to tell students that Senator Joseph McCarthy's notorious anti-Communist show trials during the 1950s may have been justified.

Most controversial of all is a rewriting of a passage in the syllabus dealing with economics. Previously, it stipulated that eighth-grade students must learn how to, "explain reasons for the development of the plantation system, the slave trade, and the spread of slavery". In the re-worded version, the words "slave trade" were replaced with: "Atlantic triangular trade".

The elected school board includes dentists, housewives, and other laymen who have little teaching experience. Like a growing number of legislators in an increasingly-polarised country they are, however, politically divided: every one of the 10 Republicans on the committee support the proposed revisions; all five of the Democrats oppose them. At stake is education in not just the Lone Star State, but across the entire country. Texas has almost five million students, and is the largest market for new textbooks in the US. It is also one of the few states that gives its school board power to rewrite, rather than just rubber stamp, the curriculum.

In recent years, the board's annual meetings - they review a different subject each year - have turned into a noisy media circus, as lobbyists from both left and right seek to exert influence on the increasingly conservative committee. A record 206 people signed up to testify during this week's hearing.

Among the critics of the proposed changes was Rod Paige, the first African-American education secretary, under George Bush. "In Texas, we've allowed the pendulum to swing backwards and forward," he said. "I'm asking that the swing [should] be narrower and let history speak for itself."

Social conservatives, however, accuse the left of cherry-picking tiny passages from a wide-ranging document to criticise the new syllabus in its entirety.

"Most of the complaints are coming from a liberal fringe," said Jonathan Saenz, a spokesman for the Liberty Institute. "They're making a huge issue out of some very small changes. The people of Texas are simply trying to stop atheists and the extreme civil liberties lobby from taking over their history."

Triangular trade
Taking place from West Africa to America, America to Europe, and Europe back to West Africa, the lucrative international transactions from the 17th to 19th centuries were indeed triangular - and also reliant on slavery. First, slaves were shipped to North America, where they were put to work growing cash crops - such as tobacco - which were exported to Europe. The Europeans who made use of those crops went on to use their goods - such as rum, distilled from Caribbean sugar - to buy slaves in Africa. There have been other examples of triangular trade, but few so ruthlessly efficient.

Eli Broad's Robert Bobb Pleads in Court to Hold On to Bonuses

Wherever big privatization moves are happening in America's urban schools, you will find the hand, or the underhand, of the BBC (Billionaire Boys' Club). Case in point, Detroit, and the Broad Foundation, which runs its own superintendents' indoctrination academy that teaches the corporate junk yard dog style of ed leadership.  

In Detroit, the puppet in charge is Robert  Bobb (Broad Class of '09), who continues defending his case in court to hold on to the $145,000 in sweetener that he collects from Broad and the infamous Kellogg Foundation, whose eugenicist namesake, John Harvey Kellogg, was co-founder of the Race Betterment Foundation and an early proponent of clitoral mutilation using carbolic acid.  One other oligarch providing Bobb's bag bonus money remains unnamed. 

Surely Bobb was not to be influenced to follow the wishes of his patrons when he came up with Detroit's segregation/containment/cognitive sterilization school plan to increase class sizes in Detroit by shutting down 55 schools and to shoving out all the experienced teachers and cutting the pay and benefits of those remaining. Nah, no judge would make that connection.  From the Detroit News:

TOM GREENWOOD
The Detroit News Detroit -- Wayne Circuit Court Judge Susan Borman indicated today Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb is entitled to receive part of his pay from private foundations.

The issue -- challenged by the district's school board, a civil rights group and a coalition of teachers who oppose charter schools -- was whether Bobb was in conflict of interest for accepting $89,000 of his salary from a foundation that supports private and charter schools. Bobb receives $280,000 in salary and $145,000 in supplemental income from foundations for fixing the school district's finances.

"There's no evidence Mr. Bobb has any interest in these foundations," Borman said.

Arguing on behalf of the Board of Education was attorney George Washington, who said the constitution trumps the statute allowing Bobb to collect pay from foundations.

"The precedent would be the same as if you had the British Petroleum Foundation paying one-third the salary of oil inspectors," Washington said. "One-third of that salary is being paid by people who want to deconstruct the schools. They believe charter schools and private schools can do better. It's OK to believe that, but it's not OK to pay Bobb's salary.

"This has never been done before in Michigan. Because we don't sell public officials," Washington added. "As far as I'm concerned, this is one step removed from accepting money in a paper bag."

Under his one-year contract extension approved in March by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Bobb receives $56,000 from the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation. The Broad Foundation paid Bobb $28,000 last year. The sources of the remaining $89,000 in this year's contract were not identified. But the W.K. Kellogg Foundation said this week it's chipping in $39,000 to retain Bobb in Detroit, compared to $56,000 it gave him last year. It is unclear who else is paying the remaining $50,000. The governor's office has yet to release the names of the other donors.

Borman is expected to issue a ruling next week.

tgreenwood@detnews.com">tgreenwood@detnews.com (313) 222-2023 Detroit News Staff Writer Marisa Schultz contributed

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cutting Imagine a Check

You've got to be kidding. From the Journal Gazette:

Grant to help pay rent at Imagine

The Imagine MASTer Academy on Wells Street has received a unique federal grant the school will use to help pay its rent.

As part of the grant, the school will receive $229,800 each year for five years, Jason Bryant, vice president of Imagine Schools, told the board Wednesday. Bryant said Indiana and California were the only states to receive the federal money, earmarked for charter schools. He said Indiana was given $30 million for the program.

“This is a very unique situation, historically,” said Guy Platter, regional director for Imagine Schools. Platter and Bryant said the board will use the money to pay rent so that it can free up money in the schools’ general fund for staff salaries and other expenses.

[Continued]

Remember: Imagine MASTer Academy was put on probation just a few months ago by their authorizer after the good folks at the Journal Gazette wrote up a three-part series on the various troubles with the school [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3].

Imagine MASTer teachers are paid over $10k less than their Indiana counterparts.

Here's a quick rundown of where the money is really going at Imagine MASTer Academy: $342,757 in "professional services" to Imagine Schools, Inc. (the for-profit arm), $746,144 for occupancy (owned by Entertainment Properties Trust), and according to their most recent 990 tax form (07-08), the school was operating $268,711 in the red. For a little more icing on this cake, the 990 also says the school owed $760,513 for "capital lease obligations" to - you guessed it - Imagine Schools, Inc.

The Tea Party's Great White Dope

From Sam Stein at HuffPo:
In attempting to close the book on his controversial statements about the scope of the Civil Rights Act, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul invited another round of intrigue and critique on an entirely unrelated front.

The Tea Party favorite, in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday morning, accused the Obama administration of being too tough on BP -- the oil company directly responsible for the massive spill in the Gulf.

"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business," he said. "I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen." . . .

The "Enough Is Enough" Generation Shuts Down Entire UPR System: Parents and Professors Provide Support

The eleven campuses of the University of Puerto Rico have been shut down by students who are calling for an end to the austerity measures that threaten to cripple the gem of higher education in the Caribbean region.  Meanwhile, riot police gather outside the gates. 

From Democracy Now:

NAEP Urban Reading Scores 2009: Measuring Poverty, AGAIN

At the very end of an article in Ed Week that featured various pundits verbally gesticulating on the various meanings that may be attributed to NAEP reading scores comes this nugget below, which, of course, should have led the story.  But then if it had, we might feel the need to do something about poverty, rather than treating it as just another reason to strike out on the noble road to corporate education reform. 

Detroit is dying with 17 percent unemployment, and the corporate solution is more charter schools and holding teachers accountable for the crimes of corporations that have left the children in rags and their parents homeless.
Tom Loveless, a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, offered some cautions about making direct comparisons between the performance of individual districts on NAEP. For one, he said, the exclusion rates for English-language learners and students with disabilities differ considerably across the 18 districts.

Also, he noted that there appears to be a close relationship between the poverty rate of a district’s student population and its performance on NAEP.

In fact, the five districts with the highest NAEP reading scores for 8th graders in 2009 were also the five with the lowest student-poverty rates, as measured by free- and reduced-price lunch count, though they did not match up in rank order.
For instance, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, had the lowest poverty rate for 8th graders of all 18 participating districts, at 46 percent, and Austin’s poverty rate was tied for the second-lowest, at 54 percent.

“Just in terms of the rank ordering of the districts, it’s highly correlated with their free- and reduced lunch [counts],” Mr. Loveless said. “You have to take demographics into consideration.”

CORE

Big day in Chicago with a major union vote taking place. Below is the slate for the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE). Be sure to check them out.

If we pull together, we can win!

CORE’s plan for CTU

1. Get everyone on board with a common strategy.

  • Get the 5 caucuses and other leaders together in the same place and come up with a series of steps on which we can agree.
  • Mobilize our Union into fighting shape for contract negotiations in 2012.


2. Mobilize the union against the Budget Cuts.

  • Inform the membership on the specifics of CPS/Chicago waste (TIF budget, the money for charters and turnarounds, the capital reserves, etc.)
  • Get teachers out into the public debate. Show the public our side of the story and give confidence to our own members.
  • Don’t let CPS divide us—new teachers facing layoffs and veteran teachers facing the threat of re-opening the contract have to fight these cuts together.
  • Plan a summer of trainings, outreach and strategy sessions.

3. Fix the public image of teachers and teachers unions.

  • CPS sets up many schools to fail and then blames teachers and other school employees. Publicize the root causes of low achievement and organize around solutions to those causes.
  • Mobilize the union so the press cannot ignore us.
  • Go on the offensive against charters, turnarounds, and CPS privatization schemes. Every major study has found that they DO NOT produce better results!
  • Use the alternative media, new media, and web 2.0 to get our message out.
  • Use call-in shows, letters to-the-editor, blogs, and similar opportunities to get our side of the story out.

4. Reach out to community groups, parents and students.

  • Help every school make connections to community, parent and student groups and ask them to join the fight against the destruction of our schools.
  • Enlist other labor unions in the fight.

5. Improve contract enforcement.

  • Set clear job expectations for field reps and let CTU members evaluate those who work in the office.
  • Get substitute coverage for members so that union delegates and other teachers can learn more about contract enforcement. They will then be empowered to handle routine contract violations directly.

6. Improve internal Union communication.

  • Establish a letters section, an ‘answers to commonly asked questions,’ and meaningful discussion of key questions that face our union in the Chicago Union Teacher.
  • Bring the website into the 21st century. Give members instant access to news, updates, leaflets, and establish a member-to-member discussion board.
  • Contract orientation for every new union member.
  • Organize calls to delegates at least once a month for information on their school issues.

7. Develop a legal strategy.

  • Sue the state of Illinois over unequal funding, as those in other states have done successfully.
  • File more disparate impact lawsuits to force CPS to bring back veteran teachers displaced from closed and turned around schools. We have lost two thousand African American teachers in six years.
  • Take legal action against large class sizes and other issues.

8. Develop a Political strategy.

  • Stop giving money to state and local politicians who hurt us.
  • Take on Daley, head-on; not behind closed doors.
  • Report cards for elected officials. If you bring charter school pork-spending to the city, you FAIL!

9. Fight for our contract.

  • Doing all these things will put us in shape to win against the city by building the power of our union.

For a Union with a clear vision of what we need to be strong again,

VOTE CORE THIS FRIDAY, MAY 21st!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tea Party Celebrates Two Big Victories This Week

The Tea Party celebrated another victory last evening for the corporate virtue of selfishness and the good ole era of Jim Crow exclusion.  With the nomination of Rand (can you guess the origin of that name) Paul, self-described libertarian, the Tea Party faithful moved another inch toward their twin goals of unrestrained greed and racial purity.

Some people seem shocked at Mr. Paul's public pronouncements in support of legalized discriminatory behavior, but these backward-embracing views are exactly the values that won him the support of the conservative base and corporations like Fox News that continually feed the hatred and misinformation of the base.  It is no surprise that Paul would mention Kentucky one time in his acceptance speech and the Tea Party nine times.  He owes his victory to the powers of unrestrained greed and racist manipulation, rather than to the good people of Kentucky.

This week had another Tea Party victory of sorts, when the Wake County School Board took the official vote to end the largest and most successful diversity school program in America.  It was, after all, the Tea Party's money and organization (and a pitiful voter turnout) that allowed the social antiquarians to establish the Gang of Five Republicans that brought down socioeconomic integration in Wake County Schools. 

The spokesman of the new majority is the dangerous fool, John Tedesco, who listens to enough talk radio to have his talking points down pat, even if they sometimes get a bit mixed-up.  In a recent comment on the return to segregation based on a neighborhood school policy that will mirror the segregated housing patterns of Wake County, Tedesco said:
"We're letting . . .  families go to the school nearer where they live," said Tedesco, the board member. "What's wrong with that?"
In most of Tedesco's public comments, however, he attempts to mask the racism with a saccharine concern for the "all children:" 
"We need to focus on all, all, all students," member John Tedesco said. The district has told some poor students they cannot go to their neighborhood schools, "and I don't think that's fair." 
Yes, yes, all children.  There are other more outrageous examples, such as this one in this clip from the Progressive Pulse that truly captures the Tedesco logic that was in full view leading up to Tuesday night's vote:
It’s one thing to simply be against public policies that intentionallly promote socioeconomic diversity. It’s quite another to purport to base one’s opposition on, of all things, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education! But that’s just what Wake County School Board member John “Tea Party” Tedesco attempted to do tonight as part of the debate surrounding the Board’s final vote to eliminate diversity as a factor in student assignment.

Tedesco attempted to draw a tortured analogy between the situation of a lower income student in Wake County who is transported to an integrated, lower poverty school further from his or her home . . . to one of the plainitiffs in Brown case who was barred from attending an all-white school near her home becasue of her race.
Here’s Tedesco:
So what we’ve done in this county at some time now, is told many of our children and many of our families even if they live near a school, because their mom and dad doesn’t have enough money in their pocket, they’re not welcome to go to school with their friends and their neighbors. And I just don’t find that fair. I find that inherently unfair. That if a section of children should exceed that fifty per cent or fifty-one per cent or fifty-two percent, that we have to tell that two per cent ‘you got to get on a forced bus ride out of town cause you’re not welcome in your neighborhood.’”
Got that? This is the person drafting THE PLAN to totally remake one of the largest and most successful school systems in the United States: a man who has such a twisted and confused view of American history that he’s willing to cite the most important anti-segregation case ever handed down by the Supreme Court as grounds for intentionally re-segregating the schools!
But the real Tedesco can be seen here in this clip speaking up to the microphones at, yes, a Tea Party rally back in April, just shortly after the initial vote to end socioeconomic integration in the Wake County Schools.  Note the wildly popular return to segregated schools is masked by the phrase of "ending a generation's worth of social engineering." 

Warning: do not read this Forbes piece if you recently finished eating:
What Educators Are Learning From Money Managers
Daniel Fisher, 06.07.10, 12:00 AM ET

Brownsville Elementary School in Brooklyn is surrounded by neighborhoods with the highest murder rates in New York City. But inside the charter school at 10:30 a.m. everything is tranquil. Dressed in identical uniforms of green polo shirts and khakis, students walk carefully along tape strips in the halls before sitting down at their desks. Except for controlled bursts of excitement, as when a teacher asks kids to yell out their goals for a lesson, classrooms are hushed in concentration. Children perform tasks like organizing papers on their desks and placing pencils next to their books with precision.

The emphasis on polite manners and discipline is straight out of the 1930s. Except for what is going on behind the scenes: From quiz scores to homework and attendance records, every detail of a student's performance at Brownsville Elementary is fed into computer databases where teachers and administrators examine the constantly unfolding record and quickly adjust lesson plans and individual teaching strategies in response. Achievement First, the New Haven, Conn. nonprofit that operates Brownsville Elementary and 16 other schools in Connecticut and New York, is more like an information-driven company than an old-fashioned school district. "We're obsessed with using data on an ongoing basis," says Douglas McCurry, Achievement First's co-chief executive and a frequent presence in school halls. "Schools are fundamentally undermanaged."

American education is, as always, in a state of crisis. In the past four decades spending per pupil (adjusted for inflation) has gone up 2.6 times, but sat scores have not budged. Despite the $661 billion a year this country puts into public K--12 education, we are churning out a nation of mediocre graduates ill equipped to meet global competitors. Thousands of teachers are being laid off. Central Falls, R.I. fired all of its high school teachers (half will be hired back); in Kansas City, Mo. half the schools are closing. Reformist politicians in Florida, Colorado, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey are confronting teachers' unions and the sacred rights of tenure and rising compensation.

Away from the angriest national debates, however, a quiet revolution in American public education is occurring at organizations around the country like Achievement First. Most were launched by idealistic liberals with dreams of social equality. But with annual budgets exceeding $50 million, sophisticated computer systems and hundreds of employees, they are starting to resemble corporations--tracking and responding to minute changes and putting resources to efficient and innovative uses. The question is whether these strategies can be writ large, like Wal-Mart, to work in thousands of schools with millions of students nationwide. There are plenty of doubters.

...

Can best practices be replicated across America? "It's pretty much the same recipe you would have had putting a school together in 1910--an execution-based model," says Frederick Hess, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Education Unbound (ASCD, 2010). He has doubts. "It's bumping up against natural limits." Whereas Wal-Mart can achieve superior results with the workforce it finds in any region, Achievement First and its peers rely on young, inspired teachers coming out of training programs like Teach for America. [Ken's note: I included the Hess quotes only to provide some context for the Wal-Mart/TFA comparison.]

...

It's lamentable how many defective products the U.S. education industry sends out of its $660 billion factory. But it's encouraging to see that there are ways to boost the output.

The Forbes followers, corporate stooges, and hedge fund-backed "reformers" will always define students as products, learning as test scores, and good schools as quiet schools. That's their model, the only way they're capable of thinking (and, hence, the only way they can "solve" the problems faced by public schools). It's a form of intellectual sterilization reserved only for the poor, black, and brown - not for the children in affluent suburbs or private schools like Sidwell Friends. Most educators - particularly those with real classroom experience and knowledge of child/human development - are smarter than these crooks and corporatists, but their wisdom is disregarded in favor of "data" and "scientific management" imposed by MBAs and their ilk. The fact that schools like this are pushed by "idealistic liberals with dreams of social equality" is yet another piece of convincing evidence that liberalism has severe limits, and certain branches of liberalism are practically indistinguishable from the neoconservative/ultra right-wing philosophy that disdains any forms of social progress and genuine equity.