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

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Jersey Alert: Stop School Voucher Bill

 Action Alert

This Thursday, the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee is voting on a voucher bill that would divert more than $1 billion tax dollars to fund private and religious education.  Without strong public opposition, this bill is likely to become law by the end of February.

The bill's supporters are trying to sneak it through before the public becomes aware of the danger and before the state's budget is introduced in three weeks, when we will be told once again that there is not enough money to fund the public schools.  They hope that we don't notice that this bill would divert $1 billion tax dollars from the state's budget to create a new program to fund private and religious education while decimating struggling public school districts.

Only a mobilized public can prevent New Jersey from becoming the first state in the country to adopt such a wide-ranging and destructive voucher system.

You can stop this bill!

Come to the hearing and let the Assembly members know you oppose spending your tax dollars to subsidize private and religious schools, especially when public schools are cutting programs, increasing class sizes, and firing teachers.  The hearing will be Thursday, February 3rd at 1:30 in Committee Room 9 of the State House Annex at 125 West State Street.  Free parking is available underneath the building, from the West State Street entrance.

Bring your kids, to remind the Assembly members of who will suffer if they pass this legislation.

Let your Senators and Assembly members  know that you oppose this legislation.

Write letters to local and state-wide newspapers to let others know why you oppose this legislation.

Forward this information to your friends and family members and encourage them to come to the hearing or contact their Senators and Assembly members

This legislation is not designed to help poor children who are attending failing schools.  It is meant to be a state-wide voucher program intended to privatize public education in New Jersey.  If it passes the legislature, this will be by far the most extreme and far reaching voucher program in the country.

Education experts have highlighted the disastrous consequences that this legislation would produce.

Here are just a few of the many reasons that Save Our Schools NJ (SOSnj) opposes this legislation:

1. This legislation diverts more than $1 billion tax dollars to private and religious schools at a time when the public schools are struggling after cuts of more than $1 billion dollars last year, with more public school funding cuts expected in this year's state budget.

2. New Jersey already has a public school choice program and public charter schools that provide options for students in low-performing schools. The goal of this program is not to help those students, it is to de-fund the state's excellent public schools.

3. Students from all the districts in the state would be eligible for the vouchers, including those attending excellent schools in high-performing school districts.1

4. The entire $1 billion plus could go to subsidize students already attending private and religious schools.

5. The vouchers would decimate struggling public schools by removing both funding ($8,000 for grades K to 8 and $11,000 for grades 9 to 12) and the easiest-to-educate students.  Since private schools do not have to accept any children who require extra cost or effort, the students able to use the voucher are likely to be the easiest and least expensive to educate, whose marginal cost to their districts is much lower than the amount the districts would lose if these children receive a voucher for private and religious schools.  As a result, the public schools will be left with a concentration of special needs, very poor, and non-English speaking students, and fewer resources with which to educate them.

6. The program’s qualifications are drawn so broadly that almost half of all New Jersey families would qualify for the vouchers.  For a family with three kids, the income cut off is $64,475, which is just under the state's median household income.

7. The program won't help students learn. Even New Jersey's new Commissioner of Education admitted that research consistently shows vouchers do not improve student performance.

8. This legislation uses a gimmick to get around the separation of church and state required in our country's Constitution. Our tax dollars should not support religious education.

9. This legislation does not require private and religious schools to accept any student who wishes to go, enabling them to pick and choose the least expensive and easiest to educate or simply those of a particular religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

10. This legislation does not require participating private and religious schools to provide any special services.  Parents of special needs students must sign a waiver giving up any rights to special services if they take advantage of the vouchers.  Students in poor districts are much more likely to have special needs and require such services.

11.The public school districts are responsible for paying to transport children to the private and religious schools, even if those schools are several hours away, adding hundreds of thousands in additional costs that struggling districts must fund. 

12.This legislation does not apply any educational standards or accountability measures to the private and religious schools that would receive the public dollars. Not only is this in sharp contrast to the intense state scrutiny that public schools undergo, it also could lead to public dollars being used to pay for programs that are harmful to children and violate the moral and ethical standards of taxpayers, such as those that might teach intolerance and bigotry.

13.This legislation is wasteful.  Even its supporters admit they don't need such generous vouchers.  Plus, it spends an additional $50 million tax dollars to create and fund a new bureaucracy to oversee the program.

1 Page 8 of S1872 states: “If by August 15 of any school year, scholarship funds available for the scholarship organization remain unallocated, then the unallocated funds shall be used to provide scholarships for that school year to low-income children residing in other regions.”

Version of Senate Bill 1872 approved by the Senate Budget Committee on January 20, 2011
Companion Assembly bill A 2810

Sharon Krengel
Policy & Outreach Coordinator
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, x24
973-624-7339 (fax)

Hey Tea Partiers: We're Ready to Help You Take Our Country Back

If the angry Tea-Partiers would turn off their hate radio and Faux News for a few days, they may begin to realize that the source of their anger is not that there is black Kenyan in their White House or that Nancy Pelosi is trying to turn Stillwater into San Francisco or that the socialist-fascist-communist nexus is out to take away their Big Gulps or their closets-ful of bristling weaponry.

The real source of their anger is that their country has been hijacked by unrestrained corporate greed that has no loyalty to any people or any nation, the U.S. of A. included. The oligarchs are running the show, including their hate radio and TV, and the deepening chasm between the haves and the used-to-haves will not be addressed by blaming gays or feminists or abortion doctors or minorities or immigrants or even teachers.

The people of Egypt, from the dock workers to the cabbies to the university professors, have come to realize this in a blaze of insight that began with one street vendor in Tunisia who, at the end of his rope and his chances, set himself ablaze in a fiery metaphor that has lit up the entire Middle East.

The Tunisian people and the Egyptian people are sick of seeing their children with bad food, bad educations, and worse futures.  They are tired of the jet-setting elite parading their unearned privilege in disrespectful mockery of their hardships.  They are done with the plutocracy and the dictatorship by the obscenely rich.

Guess what?  The income disparity in Egypt or Tunisia is not as extreme as it is in the U. S.  This is what the Tea Partiers don't get.  Yet.  When they do, and when they realize their progressive neighbors are suffering from the same undemocratic rule by the Oligarchs, then, perhaps, democracy will break out here once again.  Accompanied by tar, feathers, and rails long enough to extend to the island sanctuaries where the mega-rich CEO bloodsuckers have stashed their stolen loot.

From AlterNet:
. . . .One of the driving factors behind the protests is the decades-long stagnation of the Egyptian economy and a growing sense of inequality. “They’re all protesting about growing inequalities, they’re all protesting against growing nepotism. The top of the pyramid was getting richer and richer,” said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the Middle East.

As Yasser El-Shimy, former diplomatic attaché at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote in Foreign Policy, “income inequality has reached levels not before seen in Egypt’s modern history.” But Egypt still bests quite a few countries when it comes to income inequality, including the United States:

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal country in the world, with a Gini Coefficient of 45.

In contrast:

– Tunisia is ranked the 62nd most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of 40.
– Yemen is ranked 76th most unequal, with a Gini Coefficient of 37.7.
– And Egypt is ranked as the 90th most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of around 34.4.

The Gini coefficient is used to measure inequality: the lower a country’s score, the more equal it is. Obviously, there are many things about the U.S. economy that make it far preferable to that in Egypt, including lower poverty rates, higher incomes, significantly better infrastructure, and a much higher standard of living overall. But income inequality in the U.S. is the worst it has been since the 1920′s, which is a real problem.

Currently, the top one percent of households make nearly 25 percent of the total income in the country, after they made less than 10 percent in the 1970′s. Between 1980 and 2005, “more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent.”

According to the latest data, “the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007.” And there’s even a stark divide within that one percent. “The share of the nation’s income flowing to the top one-tenth of 1 percent of households increased from 7.3 percent of the total income in the nation in 2002 to 12.3 percent in 2007,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted.

Yale economist Robert Shiller has said that income inequality “is potentially the big problem, which is bigger than this whole financial crisis.” “If these trends that we’ve seen for 30 years now in inequality continue for another 30 years…it’s going to create resentment and hostility,” he said. But tax and spending policies that provide adequate services and allow for economic mobility — along with a robust social safety net — can head off trouble that may come down the road.

Christie's Charter Miracles Turn Mirage Under Closer Inspection

From Bob Braun at Star-Ledger:
So — what’s the problem? Why can’t the state tell the truth about charter schools?

Why does the governor have to be asked repeatedly to be fair about comparing charter schools with conventional schools? He’s such a fan of charters, you’d think — prosecutor that he was — he’d jump at the chance of blowing away critics with facts.

Instead, he publishes only selective facts that support his arguments.

After declining to provide that statistics for the past two weeks, his spokesman said vaguely late Friday night that they would be released "in the normal course."

When? After a compliant and clueless Legislature gives him the "reform" he wants — privatizing public education? Pouring billions into the hands of unregulated, privatized schools — charters and vouchers — some run by politicians? Ignoring the state constitution?

Another gimmick solution instead of the persistent and expensive work of improving public schools?
Chris Christie doesn’t like public schools with their unions and tenure, no matter how successful they are. But he’s only one guy in a state of 8.5 million and, even if his ersatz "Jersey attitude" plays well with Republicans in Peoria, people here still have a right to decide.

If the governor can prove charters are better, fine. If he thinks they’re the final solution to the education problem, go for it. Prove it. But right now, he’s hiding the truth. He’s ducking.

Put up or shut up. Come on, Jersey guy, even Snooki can get make a better argument.

Here’s what we know: Many high scoring charters in New Jersey enroll far fewer of their towns’ poorest children than the traditional public schools that must take all comers.

"Regular public school students are often much poorer than charter students," said Liz Smith, head of a statewide group of urban public school parents.

We also know low-income students drag down scores. For example, while 78.4 percent of the general population passed the sixth grade language arts test, the percentage of "economically disadvantaged" who passed was 48.2 percent.

Add in those with learning problems, and that statewide score average drops to 69.8 percent. Happens in every grade. Works with individual schools, too. The more poor and classified children, the lower the scores-the fewer, the higher.
When Christie recently released a report touting the success of charters, he didn’t mention how few poor students the best-performing charters enroll. Selective facts.

Without accounting for income and other factors, said Rebecca Cox, president of the Princeton Regional school board, "The recently released state statistics on charter and traditional public schools are comparing apples and oranges."
Let’s look at high-performing charters. Christie especially likes Newark’s Robert Treat Academy, founded by Steve Adubato, a Democratic boss who nonetheless helped him get elected, and Elysian in Hoboken. Christie visits both to promote charters. In the report the governor released weeks ago, their scores were 40 to 50 points higher than traditional schools.

But only 45 percent of Robert Treat students are eligible for free lunches — meaning the poorest students — compared to 73 percent in Newark. At Elysian, 14 percent are eligible, compared to 58 percent for Hoboken’s traditional students. Both schools also have smaller special education and language-limited enrollments. That’s not a fair comparison.

Other alleged high performers are the same. Northstar-53 percent free lunch compared to 73 percent in Newark; Red Bank, 28.3 to 64.2 percent; Hoboken Charter, none versus 58 percent; LEAP Academy in Camden, 64 to 78 percent; Soaring Heights in Jersey City, 44.4 to 64 percent; Learning Community in Jersey City, 29.7 to 64 percent.

This newspaper asked for fair comparisons. It asked — seven times — for a report comparing similar students. After a week, the administration issued a revised report, but still didn’t account for income differences. The newspaper asked again — three times — but still the administration wouldn’t publish data residents have a right to know. The Star-Ledger finally had to file a formal request under the state’s Open Public Records Act.

Then, his spokesman Michael Drewniak told an editor here — not me — the newspaper would get the facts "in the normal course." He had to say that. It’s the law. Christie, Mr. Law-and-Order, must either tell the truth or break the law.

Everyone knows income affects scores. But what we get are not facts, but assurances like this one from a charter spokesman: "In urban districts, charter schools on average have a similar percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches," said Bruno Tedeschi.

But he’s combining families eligible for reduced lunches — making $41,000 — with families eligible for free lunches. They make less than $28,700, a lot poorer.

That just doesn’t mean lower public school scores. Charters that want to help poor students — and that was a reason for creating them — look bad because their scores are so low.

Bruce Baker, a Rutgers researcher, contends that, if all factors are honestly considered, score differences would be a "statistically insignificant" 3 points, not the huge differences found in the state report. Charter schools — and Christie — wouldn’t look so good then. Not in Peoria, not in Piscataway.

"The education department should produce accurate studies and not hide data," Baker says.

Democracy Breaking Out in Land of the Oligarchs

Note: The article below reprinted from FireDogLake by David Dayen recounts the events of Sunday's protest against the Koch brothers in Rancho Mirage, CA. The demonstration signals a series of promising developments for progressive groups and activists. Notably, the event was marked by an impressive coalition effort by the participating organizations, positive energy and activism by the attendants, and the wide-held understanding that it is the Koch's ill-gotten, obscene wealth that has made the Tea Party and hundreds of right-wing abuses of our democratic system possible. Author Jim Hightower said it well in the kick-off event  in a packed large movie theater before the protest; the problem the Kochs represent is what the 19th century populists used to call "the money power," and our right to speak out against it is rooted in our "democratic authority" as citizens concerned with the general welfare of the country.

Twenty-five protesters were arrested in Rancho Mirage, California on Sunday, at a protest in front of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, site of the “Billionaire’s Caucus,” an annual meeting put on by the Koch Brothers and other corporate entities and conservative movement operators.

Riverside Sheriff’s deputy Melissa Nieburger said that the sheriff’s department did have contacts with protest organizers, which included the California Courage Campaign, CREDO, MoveOn.org, 350.org, the California Nurses Association, United Domestic Workers of America and the main sponsor, the good-government group Common Cause, prior to the event, and that they were aware that some protesters would seek to be arrested for trespassing. She would not guarantee that all 25 who were arrested were part of that coordinated operation. The police, who wore riot gear, batons and helmets, did put the arrested into plastic handcuffs. Nieburger described them as “passive restraints.” They were being processed at press time, and Nieburger would not say whether they would be released or would spend the night at the jail in Indio. . . .

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Duncan's Plans: NCLB on Steroids

Sent to The Hill (thehill.com)

Education Secretary Duncan thinks that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is "too punitive, too prescriptive, it’s led to a dumbing down of standards, and it’s led to a narrowing of curriculum." (Education secretary: 'No Child Left Behind' has led to a 'dumbing down', 1/28).

But his plan is far more punitive, prescriptive and narrowing, and will finish the job of turning schools into test prep factories.

NCLB requires reading and math tests at the end of the academic year, which most people agree is far too much standardized testing.

According to the Department of Education's Blueprint for Reform, the new standards will be enforced with an astonishing increase in testing:

The Blueprint recommends testing in all subjects, not just math and reading.

The Blueprint insists we measure growth, which means testing in the fall as well as in the spring (spring to spring comparisons won't work because of summer learning and forgetting).

The Blueprint insists that we include "interim" tests given frequently during the school year.

In other words, everything that goes on in classes will be constantly tested by outside federal tests, a narrower and more prescriptive approach than has ever been used in the history of education.

This is an astonishing development, increasing testing and outside control far beyond the already excessive level demanded by NCLB. It is also a waste of money: There is no evidence that increasing testing increases learning.

Duncan's approach is not a change of direction. As Leonie Haimson recently commented on twitter, it is NCLB on steroids.

Stephen Krashen

Interview with Duncan: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/the-administration/140977-interview-with-education-secretary-arne-duncan

Good Op-Ed on Christie's Charter Scam

Asbury Park Press:
It is well known that many New Jersey schools are failing. They suffer high dropout rates and have many students who cannot read or do math at grade level.

Criticizing our schools this way is far too easy, however; it is like taking candy from the young children of New Jersey.

Yet this is essentially what Gov. Chris Christie did recently when he announced 23 new charter schools for the state.

To support his decision, he cited a New Jersey Department of Higher Education study comparing charter schools to all schools in the same district.

The study, "Living Up to Expectations," showed that out of 40 charter schools, about 24 did better than average and about 16 did worse than average.

This is not a large difference, especially given several red flags in the report — charter schools with scores of 100 percent or close to 100 percent. It also is not a fair comparison.

Charter schools are privately managed schools that receive public money to operate. Most are located in low-income neighborhoods, with students selected by lottery, so only motivated students will enroll. Many have corporate sponsors, which lets them devote more resources to education and provide smaller classes.

Charters also can limit special-education students and students without English as a first language. Several have even figured out how to select only very good students.

When charter schools take some of the best students, and exclude problem students, the quality of students in regular public schools (which, by law, must take everyone) falls. This favors charter schools in any simple comparison, such as the one done by the state.

Studies controlling for this bias have come to a very different conclusion. They have found that charter schools do not do any better than public schools and probably do worse.

The RAND Corp. found that charter students in Philadelphia did not do any better than a comparable group of traditional students. A 2008 study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools had a positive effect on mathematics scores in 17 percent of cases, no impact in 46 percent of cases and a negative impact in 37 percent of cases.

There is a ready explanation for this result. Charter schools tend to pay teachers much less than public schools, so they don't attract or keep the best teachers. Many tend to teach mainly test-taking skills.

Another problem is that some charter schools are known to cheat (hence my red flags) on the tests that will be used to evaluate them.

Even worse, charters seem to attract scoundrels seeking to make a quick buck at the public expense. The Mandalla School of Science and Math in Milwaukee had to be shut when its founder went to jail for padding enrollments and stealing $330,000 in public money, while teachers went unpaid. In California, in 2004, the largest charter school chain went bankrupt due to mismanagement, stranding 6,000 students, while its owner made $100 million.
Most underperforming New Jersey schools have a large fraction of students who live in poverty. They come to school hungry, lack adequate nutrition, live in unhealthy environments and suffer from health problems such as asthma and ear infections. Learning is hard enough under even the best of circumstances; under these circumstances, a great deal of learning is not likely to occur.

. . . .

The one pronounced difference between the U.S. and other developed countries is that we have a much larger fraction of schoolchildren who are poor. The close relationship between child poverty and international scores on math and reading is striking, and parallels what we know about child poverty rates and school performance in the state of New Jersey.

Rather than wasting money developing charter schools, Christie would accomplish much more by focusing on how to aid low-income households in New Jersey.

Steven Pressman is an economics and finance professor at Monmouth University.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wake County Gang of Five and AFP Push Forward to Corral Poor Children in Charters

As the Tea Partiers in Wake County celebrate the return to segregated high-poverty and low achievement schools, the local Republican Women's Club is spreading the word on the corporate solution--charter testing camps--for the "failing schools" that will doubtlessly result from this new policy of containment and segregation of the poor.

So besides the social preference for apartheid schools at the John Birch Locke headquarters in Wake, there has been, all along, a financial incentive to breaking up the socioeconomic diversity plan of Wake County:  black and brown children can be ethnically cleansed in corporate charters within Raleigh, and the white children can be nurtured and sheltered behind the gates of their leafy communities on the outskirts of Raleigh, all at public expense and under corporate direction.   The unacknowledged goal, of course, is to make sure that North Carolina never again provides a majority of its presidential votes for a black man.  That result in 2008 was just too much for the white racist power structure.

The Koch Brothers' goons and their front group, Americans for Prosperity, are now criss-crossing the state buying up votes where they can and strong-arming legislators where they cannot.  Their crusade is all about removing charter school caps.   Have a look at this video to see and hear the plan that the Koch Brothers have paid to have put in place in North Carolina.

Below is a Press Release from a coalition of concerned citizens of Wake County.  They had better do more than issue press releases--their public schools are in grave danger.

Contacts: Yevonne Brannon/Patty Williams 
Tel: 919-244-6243/919-696-8059
Email: info@greatschoolsinwake.org


Students Who Live in Poverty Shoulder Burden, Board Lessening Access to Magnets
Raleigh, NC—January 27, 2011—Continuing on a path that flies in the face of public feedback received at five January hearings, the Wake County School Board fine-tuned its plan to move more than 4,000 students in the coming school year. The majority of those to be affected —nearly 90%—are economically disadvantaged students who are being reassigned to high-poverty schools.

The 2011-2012 assignment plan calls for the move of over 3,600 economically disadvantaged students to high poverty schools, as well as an increase of base students at magnet schools. In 2010-2011, the second year of the assignment plan, 1500 students were moved, affecting 46 schools.  Increasing the number of base students limits the number of applicants who can apply to magnets from outside the base attendance area, significantly impacting overall access to
the 28-year old, award-winning program. Nearly 30,000 students are currently enrolled in Wake’s magnet schools.

“For the second year in a row, the School Board is not listening to the public, undermining magnet programs, and making expensive decisions—with much of the burden borne by our economically disadvantaged students, who are being reassigned annually,” observed Yevonne Brannon, Chair, Great Schools in Wake (GSIW). “The costs and consequences of creating high poverty schools will be devastating to our community,” she continued. “We could lose millions of dollars in supplemental funding from the state, and will continue to be ineligible to apply for many federal grants, grants we’ve come to rely on. It costs substantially more to educate children in high poverty schools, and the data shows conclusively that academic achievement suffers in that challenging environment.”

According to a New York Times article (“Stronger Schools With an Income Mix,” January 26, 2011), “High poverty schools are 22 times less likely to be high performing than middle-class schools. Low-income students stuck in high poverty schools are two years behind low-income students who have a chance to attend more affluent schools.” And recently released per pupil expenditure data from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools supports the substantial costs of high poverty schools, which are, in effect, subsidized by low poverty schools. With a 95 percent poverty rate, Thomasboro Elementary spends $10,393 a year to educate its students, while $4,406 per pupil is spent at Ballantyne
Elementary, which has a 16 percent poverty rate.

“Parents came out in great numbers to the public hearings, made pleas for stability in the final year of a three-year assignment plan, but are being ignored by the Board,” noted Brannon. “Assignment stability was a campaign promise made by Board majority members. Why children are being moved—especially in the absence of a long-range, comprehensive assignment plan—is beyond comprehension and defies common sense.  With substantial growth and the need for a minimum of 33 new schools projected in the next decade, it’s clear that ALL students will be repeatedly reassigned. With a new assignment plan due next year, why wouldn’t we want to forestall the upheaval of our students?”

About Great Schools in Wake Coalition:
A project of WakeUP Wake County, Great Schools in Wake Coalition (GSIW) is a community coalition of organizations, business leaders, parents and citizen advocates who are working to ensure educational excellence in the Wake County Public School System. GSIW’s mission is to provide accurate information to educate the public about policy initiatives that would impact the quality of education, foster well-informed discussions about critical education issues, and advocate for policies that improve public education in Wake County. For more information on the Coalition or to join, please visit: greatschoolsinwake.org.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Reading

New: Adding Up the Spending: Fiscal Disparities and Philanthropy Among New York City Charter Schools by Bruce Baker and Richard Ferris is a must-read.

The Department of Ed launched an education dashboard earlier this week. The DOE will soon be unveiling another tool to track school improvement grants.

Russo makes a few interesting points about progressives resisting education reform. One might fairly answer that there are alternatives out there, but they are not supported by the current administration nor pushed through big screen/TV exposure. There are active Twitter discussions about genuine progressive education reform and a variety of blogs out there (Cooperative Catalyst, for instance), but these outlets aren't wonkish and policy-focused like the well-funded think tanks that tend to dominate education policy circles.

Speaking of progressives, Cornel West responds to Obama's STOU address on the Smiley & West show. George Lakoff over at TruthOut asks how Obama's focus on competitiveness fits (or doesn't fit) with a progressive agenda. With George Will calling Duncan this administrations "redeeming feature" and Petrilli praising the "new 'Washington Consensus,'" real progressives should be wary of possible edu-bedmates.

KIPP Has Always Abandoned the Neediest Children

The master of soft pretzel logic, Jay Mathews, uses his national stage at the Washington Post to promote the testing industry, the online diploma mill, Kaplan U., (whose profits keep WaPo afloat), and KIPP, Inc.

Ever since Cheney's boys rolled the KIPPsters onto the stage of the 2000 GOP Convention for the world to see what two good white boys can do with a room of unruly multicultural renegades, KIPP, Inc. has been the favorite charity for white conservatives and neoliberals who view KIPP's anti-cultural, total compliance and segregated workhouses as just what the new eugenics demands.

KIPP, in turn, has collected hundreds of millions of bucks from philanthro-capitalists and is now operating a hundred or so schools, staffed primarily with white female missionaries fresh from Brown and Bowdoin who sign up for a two year stint to learn how to teach on poor people's children, all the while cementing their overbearing entitlement as cultural imperialists aimed to convert the urban heathens into positivized, happied-up drones who answer "how high?" when the overseer says "Jump." It's sort of junior corporate training camps within minimum security prison environments. Everyone gets a check based on behavior that can only be cashed at the KIPP company store.

From George Bush to Arne Duncan to Bill Gates, KIPP has been and is the cat's meow when it comes to re-educating the black and the brown for corporate consumption.  KIPP offers a bargain-basement solution for what Duncan refers to as the "civil rights issue of this generation."  It proves that children can be successfully blinded to the ravages of their own poverty, except, of course, when they are shot down on the way home after a 10 hour day of being KIPP-notized.  Otherwise, they can aspire to the fate of those who have achieved cultural neutering while remaining racially oppressed.  They will become the cabin boys (and girls) of their own fate, sailing on a prison ship toward a land where freedom beckons to those who can afford it.

And so when Jay Mathews asks the question, "Is KIPP abandoning its neediest students?" there is the presumption that KIPP at some point has done otherwise.  From where I sit, they have always abandoned the neediest students by offering, as an existential choice, a segregated confinement accompanied by psychological sterilization, rather than a humane and liberating learning environment that is based on teaching children how to be captains, rather then cabin girls.

As for those children that KIPP regularly throws overboard for posing a threat to the well-oiled routine of the prison ship, well, this represents a second level of abandonment--although there were those during the time of the Slave Trade who preferred to take their chances with the sharks, rather than risk the benefits offered by the ship's crew.

And the third level of abandonment comes from turning back those who unknowingly clamor to get aboard the KIPP hell ships after they have left the dock:

Mathews' present assignment is to put the best face on KIPP's failed mission and to announce a new emphasis on K-4 brainwashing, rather than 5-8.  At the same time, Mathews and the oligarchs who make their millions in tax breaks for supporting these penal colonies want to make the pitch that the public schools should pick up where KIPP has failed and, thus, become KIPP-like.
Now it [KIPP, Inc.] is opening elementary schools, including three here, so it can start raising achievement in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

The thought is that by fifth grade there will be no need for hero teachers who work ten hours a day, plus summers and some Saturdays, to save kids who have fallen so far behind. There will be less stress on staff and more hope for kids.
It makes sense, and conforms with a movement in many city school systems and charter networks to create kindergarten-through-eighth grade schools that will give urban and rural children the consistent support and high standards found in many suburban public schools. But I see a problem. This envisioned clean progression from making pre-K the main intake point overlooks the messiness of life in the communities being served.

Schools like KIPP . . . are likely never to enroll more than a fraction of the population. What happens to the many fifth graders who are still far behind but find the doors to KIPP, or Uncommon Schools, or Achievement First, or any of the other successful charters, are closed because they filled those classes back in pre-K and kindergarten? . . . .
And so now Jay's clincher:
. . . .KIPP is too small to ever be the savior of inner city schools, but it can help the regular schools that must play that role see how they might do it.
One may assume that if all urban public schools were to become KIPP knock-offs, there would have be a lower level of hell for dumping all the children who cannot or will not flourish in the total compliance cult environment--in much the same way that KIPP dumps children today back into the public schools.  This could present a whole new charter industry opportunity for reform charter schools, designed on the old reform school model wherein children worked for free or pennies to produce goods whose sale went to sustain the school's operation and its CEOs. Sort of China in miniature, without the poisoned products I would hope. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Schott Foundation Slams Obama's Planned Renewal of ESEA as RTTT

If there could ever be a plan purely antithetical to the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act that President Johnson pushed through Congress in 1965, the Oligarchs' Race to the Top (RTTT) is it.  Rather than a universal treatment for a universal acknowledgement of poverty and segregation as the problem in schools, RTTT is a competition based on selection of those willing to accept the high-dollar bribes for transforming their systems into segregated corporate charter schools that ignore poverty and treat children as malleable inmates in total compliance minimum security prisons, i. e., KIPPs.  How these times have a-changed.   And yet it is this Gates-approved bribe-acceptance method chosen by Obama as the strategy to address what he calls our Sputnik moment.  Very bad joke and not funny.

While the Schott Foundation supports, wrongly I think, Obama's goal of being first in the world in college graduates by 2020, the Foundation see a huge disconnect between this "audacious goal" and the cheap, exclusionary policy of Race to the Top (my bolds):
. . . .Schott applauds the President for refocusing the nation on this audacious goal.

Recognizing the size and depth of the challenge that states, districts, schools, teachers, parents, and students are being called to address, with an equally high level of resolve Schott rejects the President's call to use Race to the Top (RTT) as the approach to follow as we reauthorize the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/No Child Left Behind law. This approach will not meet that goal.

Piecemeal programs like RTT, that require states to compete for resources in the form of grants, have not systemically solved the problems of American education over the past two years, nor will they in the future. The role of the federal government is not one of a foundation, but as an agent of the people working to ensure opportunities for all.  To date, 39 states either were non-participants or losers in RTT. How can the United States win if 39 states lose, let alone stay on a trajectory to increase the number of college graduates by 23 million above the current number?  After two years of implementation and allotting close to $4 billion dollars, the initiative has only distributed resources in states with just 24% of African American students, 15% of Latino students, 5% of Asian students, 0% of American Indian students, and 6% percent of ELL students. Additionally, poor rural states and their students have been grossly underrepresented in RTT. 

In this "Sputnik moment," pairing the nation's 2020 goal with a RTT policy frame is analogous to challenging the nation to reach the moon and forcing states and communities to develop their own rockets to get there.  As one Long Island grandparent passionately stated after New York Gov. Cuomo announced a similar competitive plan for that state, "Our kids are not game show contestants where parents should be forced to compete on getting them in the right districts or schools."

Education is a civil right and the federal government has the obligation to ensure all students' right to an opportunity to learn are protected, whether in strong or strained fiscal climates. 

A competitive-based frame like RTT works against the very purpose for which ESEA was created in 1965 as a part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty-to prevent states, districts, parents, and America's children from competing to have their right to an opportunity to learn protected. We urge the President not to lead America back to the pre-ESEA status quo days of states jockeying and politicking for federal funding; this approach has historically proven to do what the first two years of RTT has-leave poor, disadvantaged, and rural citizens behind.

The time has come for us to end the practice of avoiding the size of our challenge by creating limited initiatives like RTT that work only on the margins. As the President proclaimed, "America does Big Things," and a race that only impacts 11 of 50 states is far from "big." The big 2020 goal requires a plan with the breadth, depth, and scope to address systemic issues and place and sustain America on a trajectory to achieve the goal.

That plan must address the fact that the rate at which America suspends, expels, pushes out, and eventually incarcerates its youth and citizens is neither sustainable nor aligned with a country seeking to be a global leader by 2020. The United States leads all countries in the percentage of its citizens incarcerated.

The tone in which the country approaches the teaching profession or the rate in which teachers are being laid off or are leaving the profession is neither sustainable nor aligned with a country seeking to be a global leader by 2020.

The lost opportunities that result from denying the children of undocumented parents access to the resources needed to attend our colleges and universities, preparing them to help further build the nation's capacity, is neither sustainable nor aligned with a country seeking to be a global leader by 2020.

The level of resource inequities and the lack of states' capacity to administer educational reforms and initiatives are neither sustainable nor aligned with a country seeking to be a global leader by 2020.

The Schott Foundation calls upon the President to outline a comprehensive, evidence-supported plan outlining the policy proposals and investments necessary over the next ten years to systemically provide all students-in all states-an opportunity to learn.

We know how to provide quality education for every American child. Teaching professionals and American researchers developed proven methods for comprehensive education systems decades ago. Unfortunately, these methods and reforms have been primarily adopted and implemented by countries with education systems we now look to with envy-while the methods and reforms have been largely ignored here at home.

South Korea, China, Singapore, Finland, and Ontario, Canada all have outcompeted the United States by investing in core Opportunity to Learn components: (1) high quality early education for all; (2) holding their teaching professionals in high regard as "nation builders" by investing in the proper supports to build teachers up, not tear them down; (3) requiring students to meet high standards; and (4) providing more equitable distribution of its resources. These education reforms aren't in the press as often as mass firing of teachers, or stories about a single school where students perform well, but they systemically open the doors of opportunity for other countries' children and they can do the same for our children. 

Schott is well aware that achieving these investments in this fiscal climate will require tough choices. One primary choice that must be made is between babies and books or bullets. Our national defense budget remains almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined. Lowering the deficit can't be on the backs of our children and their opportunity.  As the United States looks for ways to address our national debt and deficit, reducing education supports to states and districts is not the answer and only creates a greater national security challenge. The time has come for our country to choose whether we will be a generation that destroys or builds. Schott applauds the President's willingness to reduce defense spending to address our fiscal challenges and calls on him to propose at least a 25 percent cut in the defense budget. Our nation's educational future should be one of its greatest national security goals. 

If our country is going to rise out of its strained economic climate, the next two years can neither be about the political left nor the right, but intently focused on the issue squarely in the center for so many in America-opportunity. While extending the "opportunity for success" can be primarily addressed in the short term by creating new jobs, the only sustainable way to ensure America's social, democratic, and economic growth is by providing all in America a fair and substantive opportunity to learn, rather than only an opportunity to compete. 

Time Magazine, The Tiger Mom, and Inaccurate Reporting

American Schools, Test Scores, Poverty and Patents

Sent to Time Magazine, January 27, 2011

"The Roar of the Tiger Mom" (Jan 31) reports that the US was "mired in the middle" in on the PISA examination, given to high school students in 60 countries, and that China will soon overcome the US in patent applications. Both statements deserve more comment.

Middle-class American children attending well-funded schools outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. American children attending schools with less than 10% of students living in poverty averaged 551 on the PISA reading test, second in the world.

Our overall scores are unspectacular (tied for 10th out of 60 on the PISA) because we have a high percentage of children living in poverty, over 20%. This is the highest among all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is less than 4%.

Poverty means poor nutrition, substandard health care, environmental toxins, and little access to books; all of these factors have a strong negative impact on school success. The problem is poverty, not the quality of our schools.

The US ranks third in the world in the number of patents for new inventions per capita, slightly behind Taiwan and Japan. In contrast, China ranks 50th.

Stephen Krashen

New Jersey's Fat-Headed Governor Determined to Smash Teachers at Any Cost

After years and years of litigation, the Abbott Decision in New Jersey to establish equity in funding New Jersey schools is finally starting to have some discernible effect in narrowing the achievement canyon and the education debt to the poor. 

Just in time for a morbidly-obese loudmouth bully governor to bust in to tear down one of the nation' best public school systems, albeit still largely segregated, as recent NAEP science scores verify.  New Jersey was one of only two states scoring above the national average in all socioeconomic and ethnic categories at the 4th grade level.

Now LardArse Christie is snapping and screeching his way toward a showdown with the New Jersey citizenry on his plans to wage a two-front war on the schools, using both vouchers and charters.

Will the people of New Jersey allow this pompous ideologue to destroy their schools just to get revenge against the teachers' union for not supporting him?

From Bob Braun at the Star-Ledger:
TRENTON — It is happening again. Once more, promises — promises backed by law — made to New Jersey’s neediest children have been broken.

This time, it’s school choice — from charters to vouchers. Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to use it to rescue 100,000 "trapped" students in "failing schools.’’

Then he issued a report he said proved charter schools were the answer — but all it did prove was that the charter schools best able to exclude the neediest students got both the highest test scores and, as a consequence, the highest praise from a grateful governor.

Breaking promises predates Christie. And predates charters. Politicians of both parties—abetted by faint-hearted courts—have ensured that promises made remain unkept.

In 1954, the United State Supreme Court ruled separate but equal schools were "inherently unequal" — and inherently inferior. New Jersey long before banned statutory segregation, but both federal and state courts here also banned segregation based on housing patterns.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the education commissioner had the power to dissolve district lines to enforce integration. In 1971, when Morris Township officials tried to withdraw their children from Morristown, the court ordered the state to create a unified—and racially integrated—district. Promise made.

The commissioner then—Carl Marburger—insisted that, if integration were to be accomplished, school district lines "would have to be challenged.’’ Plainfield school officials, chafing at an integration order they said was impossible to enforce within the district, sued, demanding regionalization of schools in Union and Middlesex counties to achieve racial balance. School board meetings throughout Central Jersey were packed with panicky parents fearful their children would be bused far from home.
But nothing happened. In cases involving Plainfield, New Brunswick and Englewood, both the state and the courts backed off. School desegregation, and whatever it might have done for school achievement among our poorest children, faded as a solution—and as a reality.

Public schools are more segregated than ever. In Essex County, East Orange schools are 99.8 black and Hispanic. Irvington, 98 percent. Newark, 92 percent. Millburn schools—a short bus ride from these cities—are 98 percent white. New Jersey tolerates racial isolation.

That’s why regionalization will never come, why, unlike Maryland, New Jersey will never have county school systems, no matter how much money would be saved.

Just as the state was backing away from integration, a lawyer named Harold Ruvoldt, Jr. filed the first Robinson v. Cahill case. In 1972, Superior Court Judge Theodore Botter struck down the school aid law both because it denied urban children a "thorough and efficient" education and because it denied them the equal protection of the law.

Forty years and scores of rulings later, the issue is unresolved. Aid formulas held to be constitutional,including the last one, rarely are fully funded. Last year, Christie cut $1 billion from the public schools and has asked to Supreme Court to ratify his decision.

Then the state vowed it would take over failing schools and put the full resources of the state behind urban systems, make them laboratories for innovation, transparency, and accountability. It seized three—Jersey City, Newark and Paterson—then lost either its interest or its nerve.

So, first, ending racial isolation in schools was an unkept promise. A price the state wouldn’t pay. Aid reform designed to ensure achievement despite segregation became another price the state refuses to pay, another unkept promise. Takeovers—a third.

School choice—that’s the latest ticket to "equal educational opportunity," according to the governor. Finally, a solution that won’t require children to be with other children who don’t look like them. A solution that won’t require a lot more money or state effort.

But it’s not helping, either. It’s just further isolating the neediest children. Charters enroll far fewer very poor children with educational problems than do the traditional schools.And, while a few charters might be helping a small number of inner-city children, their test scores, like those of traditional schools, still lag behind the rest of the state.

So, now, the latest promise has proven to be, like all the others, unkept.

At a legislative hearing on charters the other day, one legislator expressed concern that the poorest children are left out because there’s no one to press their case with the schools.

"These children need advocates to get them through the process,’’ said Assemblyman Joseph Malone III (R-Mercer).
They always have needed advocates.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Bloomberg Picked Cathie Black: Larry Flynt Was Not Available

Until David Berliner wrote the op-ed below, "Soft Core Porn and the Crisis of School Leadership," I had never considered Cathie Black an educator, but educator she has been for teens and wives around the world, I now realize.  Her flagship pub, Cosmopolitan, still beckons (if you find drugged anorexics alluring) from the the checkout stand of every supermarket, with a new collection of articles each month on how to be an inventive whore for your husband or your man in order to keep him from going to whores he would, otherwise, have to pay for.

Offering an on-going seminar, you might say, on domestic tranquility through womanly debasements, Black's Hearst publications, including, Seventeen, are educational mainstays in how to appear weaker and dumber than your man while keeping him wrapped around your gilded cage panting to get in.  Cathie's mags have offered educational guidance on female preening and posturing and manipulation for generations of women who are now sending their children to schools that Cathie runs.  To call her a non-educator is clearly wrong-headed, and for my earlier angry grousing on the matter, I sincerely apologize to her and to her patron, Prince Mike.

With that preface, Dr. Berliner:
by: David C. Berliner, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

I must state at the start of this essay that I am no prude, no Victorian. In fact I am generally quite tolerant of contemporary mores in the area of sexuality. But I have my limits. I still expect my school leaders to behave with sobriety, to be prudent, to not push the limits of our secular and permissive society and to model more of what might be called traditional American values. Although I choose to live my personal life according to more modern and secular values, I do not see my position to be hypocritical. I think modern youth needs some grounding in prudence, restraint and responsibility, before their involvement in the difficult work of becoming a responsible young adult in our tumultuous times. Perhaps this belief is shared by others and is why there is such a furor over the new MTV show "Skins." The blatant sexuality of the young people in this TV show, understandably, is scandalizing many of those who worry about the moral behavior of our youth. But for some reason they let another questionable event go without protest.

For reasons I don't understand, the chairman of a large corporate entity that publishes salacious material was selected to be the leader of a major American school system. I always had considered some of this business leaders' publications akin to soft-core pornography. Thus, I wondered about the propriety of this person's appointment to lead a school system and the lack of attention to the persons publication record. The new school leader in question, while in business, published magazines with suggestive photos and articles. For example, highly sexualized, barely clothed woman stare out at you from some of the chairman's best known publications. The women often have what on the street would be called a "come hither look." Often these women are in intimate positions. Some pictures suggest bondage by the woman, to please a man.
This chairman/now school leader has published prose like this:
Mikayla felt his lips trail down the side of her neck. Her body stated tingling with anticipation. He caressed one nipple with his tongue, then the other....
He pressed his hands between her thighs, spreading her legs. She moaned as he gripped the band of her silk panties and pulled them down....
Nik led her to the bed.... Then suddenly his mouth was on her, exploring her with his tongue as he gripped her ankles with his hands.
A month later another one of the publications of the chairman/now school leader included this:
His hands, hardened and callused ... ran up her thighs, until he reached her panties. She felt a quick tug and heard a ripping sound, then felt his fingers, gentle and tender, finding her, stroking her and bringing her to higher and higher levels of pleasure.
.... He entered her slowly, deeply, but then pulled back out. He groaned with pleasure.
"Please" was all she could utter.
In what genre might we classify the prose represented by these recently published excerpts from the chairman/now a school leader? Readers may disagree but I would label them "woman's romance," soft-core pornography, or both.
On another page of a publication by the chairman/now school leader one woman tells us that the casual sex she engaged in was "so good, it was worth the guilt." One can question the wisdom of such advice to any young woman, but to teenagers still in school it is simply bad advice. In fact, in the advice realm, the chairman/now school leader seems quite enthusiastic about what is possible sexually.

For example, the chairman recommends the following as fun: That woman/girls choose a deserted corner of the parking lot and back in. Then put up their sunshade on the windshield and hang their jackets on the hooks over the back windows, so it's harder for people to see in. The chairman then recommends: "Jump his bones." Other advice to spice up relationships include light whipping, or a new high-tech form for arousing a male partner, namely, texting pictures of your vagina via your cell phone to your boyfriend across the table while dining out. Apparently, when he checks his mail, his appetite is increased!

Other advice presented is from men to women. One guy says he liked it when his date undid her shoes under the table at a restaurant and gave him "a foot job under the table." Another reported "This girl was riding me in reverse cowboy when she stopped, leaned way forward and started sucking my toes." Still another told women what he liked about his ex-girlfriend: She would "put my whole package in her mouth. Then she would hum to create vibrations."

And we also learn from the horoscope in a publication of the chairman/now school leader that Aries men, in particular, are visual and thus would like to have sex doggie-style in front of a mirror. On the other hand, the chairman apparently believes that Taurus men would prefer woman to slowly lick down their chests and nibble their thighs, before ending up at their package. Gemini men, different than others, like to take the lead, so, ladies, bend over against a wall and have these gentlemen enter you from behind and let the Gemini guys set the pace and depth for themselves. Capricorn men are equality minded so, ladies, you might want to "Guide him into 69, with you on top, using your lips and tongues to trigger insane pleasure." And if you forget all these helpful hints the corporation headed by the chairman has an iPhone and an Android application offering you the sex position of the day, allowing your phone to choose your position!

Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up! As I stated at the start of this essay I am not personally offended by any of the text cited. What I do find distasteful is that women are presented as objects in these publications, apparently under the guise of making them powerful. To me, the major publications under the chairman, now a school leader, make objectification of women their theme. A smart business person like the chairman must understand that the stories told, the advice given and the photos that accompany them could be harmful to youth. That is probably why, stuck away in an obscure part of the publications from which I drew my illustrations and in small font, the chairman cautions "The models photographed ... are used for illustrative purposes only: [This publication] does not suggest that the models actually engage in the conduct discussed in the stories they illustrate."

The former chairman, Cathleen Black, was recently appointed by Mayor Bloomberg of New York to be the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools. By all accounts she is a successful businesswoman. Among other accomplishments she was chairman of the Magazine Division of Hearst publications, whose flagship magazine is Cosmopolitan. The examples I just provided of what Black has published for girls and young woman all come from the January and February 2011 issues of Cosmopolitan magazine, selling well on newsstands across the country right now.

Although many complained about the mayor's appointment of Black because of her lack of knowledge about schooling, I was surprised there was no mention of the appropriateness of her appointment on the basis of her ethical and moral fitness to lead our schools. Doesn't that count anymore? Where were America's conservatives, such as Alan Bloom and Bill Bennett, when her appointment was announced? I expected them to be outraged. Where was the Christian right, when so clear a secularist and morally suspect person as Black was appointed? Why did Pat Robertson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council give Black a free ride? Where were the critics, now attacking "Skins," when Black was appointed? Why weren't critics pointing out that the success of Cosmo and other magazines over which Black has editorial responsibility (e. g. Seventeen, Marie Clair), is not based on their literary qualities, unless sexual titillation is the readers' goal.

I am afraid that I see a difference only in degree, but not much of a difference in kind, between Black and two other successful publishers, Larry Flynt and Hugh Heffner. But they would never be allowed to interview for the job, despite equal records of business success. My question is this: Shouldn't an appointment of this magnitude have generated more debate? Black's lack of knowledge for the position of chancellor of the New York City schools is surely matched by the questionable moral values expressed in the publishing empire she headed. But debate about her lack of knowledge has been muted and debate about her moral fitness to lead the system has been virtually non-existent and that makes me angry.

Debate should have occurred. What Chancellor Black believes and does will, literally, affect the lives of millions of American teachers and students in New York and the nation. I am appalled that a position of this significance can be obtained without proper and public vetting of the candidates qualifications, especially when it is quite clear that her knowledge and her moral vision are both questionable. Although we have been told that mayoral control of the schools would aid in reforming them, it looks to me like mayoral control of the schools simply allows for the old New York patronage system to continue.

Valerie Strauss exposes Obama's faulty education logic.

Obama’s faulty education logic: What he said and failed to say


By Valerie Strauss

Someone should have told President Obama that there were important contradictions in the education portion of his State of the Union address before he delivered it to Congress.

First, Obama rightly said that a child’s education starts at home:

“It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

Then why is his administration insisting in pushing policies that evaluate and pay teachers based solely on how well they raise the test scores of their children? How can teachers be solely responsible for what happens to a child outside of school?

Obama spoke about the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition launched by his Education Department.

“Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.“

Well, not actually.

For one thing, if parent involvement were so important to the administration, you would think it would have been part of “the most meaningful reform” in a generation. It wasn’t.

And it is far too early to say whether states have really raised their standards for teaching and learning or whether they have simply changed them. Declaring victory before victory is actually at hand is generally a bad idea.

Obama also talked about the importance of local control of education.

“You see, we know what’s possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.”


The federal government has been telling states and local districts what to do for nearly a decade, ever since No Child Left Behind was passed by president George W. Bush’s administration. Race to the Top just continued that pattern.

Obama also talked about the importance of teachers.

“Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”

Obama apparently doesn’t know that many public school teachers in the United States believe his administration is helping to demonize them. And the South Korean public school system isn’t exactly the model Americans would be happy emulating.

From an article in Asia Times Online:

"What the stats don’t tell is how drearily authoritarian classes often are. Flair and creativity are rarely rewarded. Instead, teachers drum into students a ton of stuff they must learn by rote so as to jump through hoops leading up to the all-important university entrance examination."

And then there was the subject that Obama did not talk about: the real reason that so many American public schools are troubled. It's poverty.

(Let me be clear: No, I am not saying that we don’t have a lot of lousy teachers who shouldn’t be in classrooms. We have too many, and they should be fired after a fair evaluation process. And I’m not saying that some great teachers don’t help lift poor kids into another world. But they are the exceptions, and as I’ve said before, exceptions don’t make great policy.)

The United States has a child poverty rate of 21 percent. That’s nearly 15 million children who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, now pegged at $22,050 a year for a family of four.

We can pretend all we want that great teachers can overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, bad eyesight, a lack of early exposure to books. But pretending won’t make it so.

I wish Obama had said that.

Valerie Strauss: Why Oscar snubbed "Superman" - deservedly so

Why Oscar snubbed ‘Superman’ -- deservedly so


By Valerie Strauss

The documentarians who select the films for Academy Award nominations in the feature documentary category got it right: “Waiting for Superman” was not good/accurate enough to be selected.

The snub to Davis Guggenheim’s tendentious film was well-deserved, given that classic documentaries are factual and straightforward, and don’t, as did "Superman," fake scenes for emotional impact.
Academy Award nominations are heavily political, yet this film didn’t make the cut even though President Obama called it “powerful” and welcomed to the White House the five charming students who starred in the film.

Advertising campaigns have been known to vault films into Academy contention, but not even a $2 million grant provided by the Gates Foundation to market “Superman” worked.

Though "Superman" was on the shortlist for an Academy Award in the feature documentary category, apparently the people who vote on the nominations -- people who actually make documentaries -- saw too many problems with “Waiting for Superman.”

And there are many, large and small.

Guggenheim edited the film to make it seem as if charter schools are a systemic answer to the ills afflicting many traditional public schools, even though they can’t be, by their very design. He unfairly demonized Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and gave undeserved hero status to reformer and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Guggenheim compared schools in Finland and the United States without mentioning that Finland has a 3 percent child poverty rate and the United States has a 22 percent rate.

One scene showed a mother touring a charter school -- and saying things such as, “I don’t care if we have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning in order to get there at 7:45, then that’s what we will do” -- that turned out to be staged; she already knew her son didn’t get in, according to The New York Times.

Then there was the case of one of the five students featured in the film, Emily Jones, who lives on the suburban San Francisco Peninsula and who, according to "Superman," was desperate to escape her traditional public high school, Woodside High, where she would be doomed to mediocrity.

Except that it wasn’t true. In an interview with John Fensterwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, she said that Woodside “is a great school” that she really liked; she just liked Summit Prep Charter School better.

Late last year, in a piece on Movie Line’s Web site, editor S.T. VanAirsdale asked whether education historian Diane Ravitch’s scathing review of Superman in The New York Review of Books would derail the movie’s chances of nabbing an Oscar.

Just maybe it did.

And maybe this will help persuade those who believed that "Superman" unflinchingly showed reality that, in fact, it didn't, and that it is time to take a new look at public education that doesn't demonize teachers and traditional public schools.

(For the record, the films that did get nominations in the feature documentary category are: Exit through the Gift Shop,Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo and Waste Land.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama Offers Same Tired Bromides on Education with Fewer Specifics

Same tired and misleading crap:
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. 
The science was there, but Eisenhower chose not to launch first. In 2009, NOVA presented Sputnik Declassified, which tells the story of how the U. S. could have beaten the Soviets into space, had it not been for military spy priorities that wanted the Soviets to, indeed, be first, thus establishing a precedent for our planned spy satellites that were very soon to map every Soviet ICBM launch site without fanfare or public pronouncement. So while the media frothed at the mouth and bop generation's back-to-basics chain gang school advocates whipped up new levels of frenzy and fear, Eisenhower's rocket men knew that they could have beaten the Soviets into space by a whole year. Read your history, Mr. Obama.  

The Chinese are grinding their kids into test score dust earlier and longer, so we do the same. Check.  (At least the President did not repeat the lie that ABC is promulgating that China was first in the world on the PISA test scores, when it fact it was the cram schools of Shanghai, whose children are, no doubt, cross-eyed from the pressure of their totalitarian leaders:
Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science.
Same misleading stat on new jobs requiring college educations.  Check:
Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us - as citizens, and as parents - are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
Good God, man--this is really tired and still misleading.  This from Bracey in 2009:
Obama's speech observed, "three quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma...." What it didn't observe is that those occupations produce very few jobs. For every systems engineer a computer firm needs (and we have three newly-minted, home-grown scientists and engineers for each new job), Wal-Mart puts about 15 sales people on the floor. Sales people, hamburger flippers, janitors, maids, waiters--those are the jobs that people find. Given what these jobs pay, they often they find more than one so they can feed their own kids.

Of course, that "more than a high school diploma" is a meaningless weasel-phrase usually tossed around to scare everyone into thinking that everyone needs a college degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overwhelmingly, the great majority of jobs need--and will need in the future--only a high school diploma and short-term (one week to three months) on-the-job training.

Back to the speech: 
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
And thus begins a new era of accountability for parents.   This is new.  Rahm the Reptile, if elected, has a plan to put assistant principals on the hunt for parents who aren't tutoring their children with meaningless worksheets supplied by the charter CEOs.  More on that later.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don't meet this test. That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.
You see, we know what's possible for our children when reform isn't just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.
Yes, yes.  And only 12 states got any of the $4.3 billion.  38 states got zip.  Big bribes, big fiasco.  What appears to be new moving forward is the new RTTT will be bribe local systems, rather than states.   Same segregated charters, same constant testing, same teacher bashing with test scores.
Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97% of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college. And after the first year of the school's transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said "Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing... that we are smart and we can make it."

Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Same pay per score plans that have been demonstrated by research to be ineffective.
In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child - become a teacher. Your country needs you.
Yes, you will find that are under constant attack, your benefits are being cut, retirement gutted, your job security is on the way out, your salary will be tied to test scores. Become a teacher today.
Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit - worth $10,000 for four years of college.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today's fast-changing economy, we are also revitalizing America's community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she's earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams too. As Kathy said, "I hope it tells them to never give up."

If we take these steps - if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they're born until the last job they take - we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Same meaningless goal that is sure to fire the for-profit flames that are consuming the poor children who are being preyed upon the Kaplans and Phoenixes of the world.  Will there be jobs for this overabundance of college grads?  Yes, in China and India, where Gates and the other oligarchs are sending their work.  Most of our jobs here will not require college degrees, which, of course, creates a surplus and drives down wages for those with degrees. I think they're called ant tribes in China.
One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.
And so it goes.  Goodnight, and good luck.