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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

John Merrow to America's Teachers: Trust Vulture Philanthropy

John Merrow will reliably parrot any corporate education scheme whose promoters will give him a spot on the stage from which to do so in a way that makes whatever fool notion he is being paid to hawk seem like his own.  From a recent self-promoting ad that introduces one of his info-tisement post at HuffPo:
Two quick notes before we blog: I'll be appearing live in conversation with Dave Levin of KIPP and Eva Moskowitz of Harlem Success Academy. This event, a discussion about the charter movement, will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 21 in NYC. If you can make it, we'd love to see you there. Tickets are going fast -- so get yours here.

And as always, remember that my February 2011 book The Influence of Teachers is for sale at Amazon.
The post goes on to promote a new educators' "faith" in technology in order to solve the cheating problem that, as predicted by social scientists, has metastisized in the high-stakes testing arena.  Predictably, too, Merrow's faith is not in educators or educational research to develop solutions for this problem, but in corporate America--specifically, the corrupt money-laundering outfit, the New Schools Venture Fund, which turns dirty corporate dough into tax breaks from vulture philanthropists:
But the best candidate might be the New Schools Venture Fund, who I think are the brightest folks on the block. That organization has never been shy about taking chances, probably because it exemplifies the spirit of its founder, John Doerr. In the Venture Capitalist world, only a small percentage of investments hit a home run, and the NSVF gets that. It's putting dollars behind a number of new approaches to teacher training, for example, in the expectation that some of them will be a distinct improvement on the current approach -- while others will fall short.

(I don't know how NSVF finances work, but maybe Apple, McGraw-Hill, et alia should be making large donations to that organization?)
Really, John?  You don't know how the finances work and you can't offer any specifics on programs supported by NSVF, and yet you recommend that CEOs wash away their tax obligations through this outfit in the name of educational innovation for teacher training?  Hmm.

The New Schools Venture Fund, Mr. Merrow, would like to clone the anti-teacher preparation program recently approved in New York that uses student score gains by teacher interns to determine if a student will get a teaching credential.  It's called the Relay School of Education, and it is an abomination to the idea of professional education for teacher candidates.  Here, John, is the list of Relay partners, all of which are dedicated to the total compliance segregated chain gang model for urban education:

Founding Partners

A non-profit organization that starts and manages outstanding urban charter public schools which close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college. Uncommon builds uncommonly great schools by developing and managing philosophically aligned, highly accountable, and geographically linked networks. Uncommon Schools currently manages 24 schools in Newark, New York City, Boston, Rochester, and Troy.

A national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. There are currently 109 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving more than 32,000 students. In New York City, KIPP operates seven schools that serve over 1,700 students.

A high-performing non-profit charter school management organization that operates a growing network of public schools in Connecticut and New York focused on providing students with the academic and character skills they need to achieve at high levels, graduate from college and become leaders in their communities.


The national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit two years to teaching in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity.

A national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by ensuring that high-need students get outstanding teachers. Founded by teachers in 1997, the organization partners with school districts and states to implement scalable responses to their most acute teacher quality challenges. Since its inception, The New Teacher Project has trained or hired approximately 43,000 teachers, benefiting an estimated 7 million students nationwide.

A non-profit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities across the country. By drawing thousands more citizens into schools each year, the organization is promoting student achievement, transforming schools, and re-imagining education in America.


Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Carnegie Corporation strives to enable all students, including historically underserved populations and immigrants, to achieve academic success and perform with high levels of creative, scientific, and technological knowledge and skill. Current priorities include upgrading the standards and assessments that guide student learning, improving teaching and ensuring that effective teachers are well deployed in our nation's schools, and promoting innovative new school and system designs.

Credit Suisse Americas Foundation’s goal is to impact students in local communities by supporting projects that represent vital educational initiatives. Based on the belief that successful philanthropy must be focused and measurable in order to achieve meaningful outcomes, the foundation concentrates exclusively on two specific areas: (1) Investing in schools that represent materially better alternatives for students; and (2) Investing in human capital to aid the recruitment and retention of effective teachers and school leaders.

JPMorgan Chase's philanthropic goal is to be a catalyst for meaningful, positive and sustainable change within its highest-need neighborhoods and communities across the globe. In 2010, JPMorgan Chase and its Foundation gave more than $150 million through grants and sponsorships to thousands of not-for-profit organizations across 28 domestic markets and 25+ countries abroad.

NSVF is a national non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to close the achievement gap by identifying and funding education entrepreneurs, and partnering with them to grow their organizations and increase their impact so that all children have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. Since its founding in 1998, NewSchools has invested $180 million in more than 40 nonprofit and for-profit organizations working to promote student achievement.

Robin Hood's mission is to fight poverty in New York City. To accomplish this, the foundation finds, funds, and cultivates programs that prove they are most effective at making a positive impact on the lives of our neighbors in need. The foundation employs a rigorous system of metrics and third-party evaluation to ensure grantee accountability. The board pays all administrative and fundraising costs, so 100 percent of donations goes directly to helping New Yorkers in need build better lives.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

John Huppenthal, Dangerous Racist Fool

With every brief and successive generation of Tea Party spokesmen and nutjob officials, particularly in Arizona, the current ones make the previous ones seem like lily-livered liberals.  If Ronald Reagan were alive today, for instance, he would have to run as a socialist.

Earlier this year John Huppenthal replaced racist Tom Horne as Arizona's Superintendent for Public Instruction, and since taking over the state's anti-cultural bureaucracy for the perpetuation of whiteness, he has made Horne's earlier efforts to end ethnic studies seem tepid.  When will the Department of Justice take notice of Huggenthal's hate speech?  A clip from HuffPo:
As a state administrative judge deliberates on the fate of Tucson Unified School District's Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies Program (MAS), Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal compared the nationally acclaimed program to the Hitler Nazi Jugend paramilitary organization at a Pima County Republican luncheon last week.

In an astounding affront to Mexican American veterans and military families, the disturbing comments were issued a week after the 61st anniversary of the Medal of Honor award for Arizona war hero Sylvestre Herrera, whose famous capture of Nazi troops was hailed as one of numerous acts of bravery by Mexican American soldiers during World War II.

While Huppenthal, who aired a controversial radio ad last fall that he would "stop la raza," is no stranger to inflammatory speech making, this latest episode comes on the heels of Attorney General Tom Horne's recent charge that the Mexican American Studies program "must be destroyed" and shocking testimony by a Tea Party activist at a Tucson school board meeting with his scenario for "civil war."

At the same time, Huppenthal recently endorsed the recall campaign of disgraced Senate President Russell Pearce, who has openly associated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations.

The questions beg:: Have the extremist Arizona politicians and their Tea Party supporters gone too far in their witch hunt of the Ethnic Studies Program, and at what point will the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice be summoned for an investigation?

Or, at the very least, does Huppenthal owe Mexican American veterans and MAS supporters an apology?
The Arizona Independent Daily blog posted Huppenthal's comments from the GOP gathering last week on the Tucson Citizen site:
"Huppenthal discussed the MAS practice of victimizing, or "racismizing" students. He stated that these same practices were used in the development of the Hitler Jugend. He talked about Nazi's efforts to demonize one group of people in young people's minds. He stated that sheer intellectual power will win over the public when they look at the anti-intellectual nature of the MAS program."
According to the Wikipedia entry, the Hitler Jugend was the second oldest paramilitary organization in Nazi Germany that trained youth in weapons training and assault tactics, and propagated white supremacist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

The comment is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that the Arizona Anti-Defamation League came out against Arizona's controversial Ethnic Studies ban and declared the Mexican American Studies program "so obviously resuscitated the desire to learn in so many students."

Earlier this summer, in fact, an independent audit commissioned by Huppenthal found that the Mexican American Studies program did not violation the state ban, and concluded: "No observable evidence exists that instruction within Mexican American Studies Department promotes resentment toward a race or class of people. The auditors observed the opposite, as students are taught to be accepting of multiple ethnicities of people." The audit noted that courses in the Ethnic Studies Program "graduate in the very least at a rate of 5 percent more than their counterparts in 2005, and at the most, a rate of 11 percent more in 2010," and "are designed to improve student achievement based on the audit team's finding of valuable course descriptions aligned with state standards, commendable curricular unit and lesson plan design, engaging instruction practices, and collective inquiry strategies through Approved State Standards."

Despite the findings of the costly audit, Huppenthal kept his campaign promise and disregarded the report in a bizarre press conference this summer and charged that the MAS program was non-compliant. As part of the appeal process, TUSD and MAS administrators have appeared before a state administrative hearing, which will recommend a decision to the state superintendent. In essence: Once the shoutin' is over, Huppenthal still has the ultimate power over whether the MAS program should be banned or not. . . .

Melinda Gates: High Test Scores Indicate Good Teaching Because Good Teachers Have High Test Scores

In the education universe of the testocratic technocrats, the world is a circular closed system that begins and ends with test scores.  Meanwhile, the insatiable Ouroboros of testing continues to eat on its own disgusting tail in an inextinguishable feast of unsavory diminishing returns.

And so welcome to this week's Education Nation, sponsored by Microsoft (creator of Windows) and University of Phoenix (creator of exploitative and worthless degrees for the poor who we deem without worth--except for their Pell Grant checks).

Anthony Cody has a good post yesterday on the Melinda interview with Education Nation's corporate emcee, Brian Williams.  Apparently, her script was provided by the psychometricians' Wizard of Oz, Bill Sanders, who also believes that high test scores indicate good teaching because good teachers have high test scores.  Here's how Richard Rothstein sums up the informational value of value-added, when it comes to telling us anything about improving teaching:
Value-added analysis does not claim to identify the characteristics of good teachers other than by a circular description--good teachers can raise student student achievement but teachers are defined as good if they raise student achievement (p. 66, Class and Schools . . .)

Arne Duncan's position on education and poverty

Arne Duncan's position on education and poverty

Stephen Krashen and Susan Ohanian

Council Chronicle 2

Posted on the NCTE connected community; OK to share

"The way you end cycles of poverty is through educational opportunity …" (Arne Duncan, in "A conversation with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan," in the NCTE Council Chronicle, 2011).

The US Department of Education says that with better teaching, we will have more learning (higher test scores, according to the feds), and this will lead to major improvements in the economy. This is a core concept that drives US Department of Education policy. It also suggests that our economic problems are because of low-quality education.

The US DOE philosophy is identical to Bill Gates' view: "There's a lot of uncertainty today about our nation's economy, but there is no uncertainty that a high-quality education is key to economic prosperity for all of our people--and for us as a nation" (Gates, 2011).

But there is good evidence supporting the view that the relationship is the other way around, evidence that agrees with Martin Luther King's position: "We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).

Research tells us that there is no correlation between improved test scores and subsequent economic progress (Baker, 2007), that high unemployment in an area results in decreased school performance of children, even those whose parents are still employed (Ananat et. al., 2011), and it also tells us what we already should know: High poverty means poor diets, inadequate health care, and little access to books: All of these conditions are related to school performance (Berliner, 2009; Krashen, 2004).

We are all committed to improving teaching, but the best teaching in the world will have little impact when there is high poverty, when children are under-nourished, in poor health, and have little or nothing to read.

The consequences of the US Department of Education philosophy are serious: They define school success in terms of test scores. Among other negative consequences, money is being invested in new tests instead of invested in protecting children from the effects of poverty.

Neither Secretary Duncan nor any of the NCTE participants in the conversation appear to be aware of even the possibility of the alternative, of the view that reduction of poverty, or at least protecting children from the effects of poverty, will improve educational outcomes.


Ananat, E., Gassman-Pines, A., Francis, D., & Gibson-Davis, C. 2011. Children left behind: The effects of statewide job less on student acbievement. NBER Working Paper No. 17104, JEL No.12,16. http://www.nber.org/papers/w17104

Baker, K. 2007. Are international tests worth anything? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2), 101-104.

Berliner, D. (2009). Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential

Duncan, A. 2011. A conversation with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: Learning from one another. The Council Chronicle 21, 1: 22-24.

Gates, B. 2011. The US economy and public education. http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2011/09/The-US-Economy-and-Public-Education

Krashen, S. (2004). The power of reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Test the Homeless!

Test the Homeless

Posted as a comment on The Answer Sheet, 9/25/11



how about a little funding for adult literacy and GED programs in poor areas. kids who's parents are avid readers are far better readers than children of illiterates. family literacy programs are carrying a pretty good success rate as they teach young children and parents at the same time. the seriously at risk groups of children come from homes where reading and education in general, are not valued. and then there is the group that is homeless - our nation's biggest shame - but that a comment on an article no one wants to write about

Comment by S. Krashen:

More funding for adult literacy and GED programs in high poverty areas? Absolutely. A big part of this should be increased funding for public libraries in high poverty areas. "Seriously at-risk" children are often those who have little access to books. Providing books has a very strong impact on language development, as demonstrated by the success of Reach Out and Read.

I think this administration would be more enthusiastic, however, for funding a massive testing program that would test adults in high poverty areas beginning with the homeless rather than provide them with classes and more support for libraries, in agreement with feds' desire to weight the animal rather than feed it: TEST THE HOMELESS! In fact, the feds would probably like to test every adult suspected of low literacy. In fact, how about testing everyone in the country? Think of the huge amounts of taxpayer money that would be spent, all going directly to Pearson and McGraw Hill. When this program fails to increase adult literacy, as measured by tests, the response will be to do it more.

Of course the first step will be to set common core standards for adult literacy (and math skills etc) for the entire lifespan.

Spellings and the Perpetual Obfuscation

While I hesitate to acknowledge former Secretary of Education Spellings, her comments, and the source of those comments, let's not forget that Spellings herself either has no understanding of statistics, has the propensity to distort evidence. . .or both:

"A Question of Power": Of Accountability and Teaching by Numbers

[originally published in OpEdNews, 12 March 2011]

The speaker in Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck" confronts the contrast between land and sea--"the sea is another story/ the sea is not a question of power"--leaving the clear message that our world is "a question of power."

Over the past thirty years, the education reform debate and the rising calls for education reform have exposed themselves as a question of power.

The past two years have evolved into intense clashes about policy and commitments in the field of education, exposing that the education reform debate is about more than our schools; it is a question of power. Unless the sleeping giant--the voice of educators--is awakened, the power will remain in the hands of the inexpert.

As many ignore or marginalize the rallies in Wisconsin about teachers' rights and the role of unions in our public education system (a role that is not nearly as unified as the public believes since many states are non-union), the corporate and political elite continue to speak from positions of celebrity and authority that lack expertise and fly above the accountability that they champion. The celebrity tour has given Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Billionaire Bill Gates, education hobbyist Geoffrey Canada, and self-promoter Michelle Rhee a free pass with their claims, but the worst lies ahead of us.

Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has again weighed in about reauthorizing No Child Left Behind: "However, any new law must be a step toward stronger, more precise accountability." And her audacity is even bolder than what the new reformers have been perpetuating through film and popular media.

During President George W. Bush's tenure, NCLB was a corner stone of his agenda, and when then-Secretary Spellings announced that test scores were proving NCLB a success, Gerald Bracey and Stephen Krashen exposed one of two possible problems with the data. Spellings either did not understand basic statistics or was misleading for political gain. Krashen detailed the deception or ineptitude by showing that the gain Spellings noted did occur from 1999 to 2005, a change of seven points. But he also revealed that the scores rose as follows: 1999 = 212; 2000 = 213; 2002 = 219; 2003 = 218 ; 2005 = 219. The jump Spellings used to promote NCLB and Reading First occurred from 2000 to 2002, before the implementation of Reading First. Krashen notes even more problems with claiming success for NCLB and Reading First, including:

And for this, how was Spellings held accountable? Not at all, as this was primarily ignored by the mainstream media.

And herein lies the problem with the accountability mantra coming from the new reformers and not being challenged by the media or the public. The premise that our schools are failing is a distortion, especially when based on further misuse of data such as international comparisons , but the claim that education is failing because of "bad" teachers and powerful teachers unions is more disturbing since no one ever offers any evidence, even manipulated evidence, to show that the most pressing change needed is teacher quality and disbanding unions.

In fact, the entire history of the current accountability era has been destined to fail because the reforms are never couched in clearly defined problems. Instead, solutions are driven by ideology and unsupported claims.

Calls for higher standards and greater accountability suggest that educational failure grows from a lack of standards and accountability--but where is the evidence those are the sources?

Calls for changing teacher pay scales and implementing merit pay suggest that current pay scales and a lack of a merit pay system are somehow causing educational failures-- but where is the evidence those are the sources?

Charges against union influence and claimed protection of "bad" teachers also suggest that unionization of teachers has caused educational failure--but where is the evidence those are the sources?

The truth is that the new reformers are attacking teachers and unions because this is a question of power--maintaining power with the corporate and political elite at the expense of the ever-widening gap between them and the swelling workforce that is losing ground in wages and rights.

De-professionalized teachers stripped of the collective bargaining is the path to a cheap and compliant workforce--an essential element in replacing the universal public education system with a corporate charter school and privatized education system. There is money to be made, of course, but better yet, the corporate takeover of education helps solidify the use of schools to generate compliant and minimally skilled workers.

In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the unnamed main character finds himself in a hellish nightmare after being kicked out of college and sent on a cruel quest for work in New York. He then turns to a paint manufacturing plant for employment:


The exchange between the main character and his supervisor, Kimbro, when the main character is first learning his job is important at this moment in the history of U.S. public education:

"'Now get this straight,' Kimbro said gruffily . 'This is a busy department and I don't have time to repeat things. You have to follow instructions and you're going to do things you don't understand, so get your orders the first time and get them right! I won't have time to stop and explain everything. You have to catch on by doing exactly what I tell you. You got that?'"

What follows is the main character being told by Kimbro that Liberty Paints' prize item, white paint, requires ten drops of black. The process makes no sense on many levels to the main character, but he is chastised for questioning doing his job as told:

The scenes that follow include the main character being reprimanded for a decision although the compared paint samples look identical--the only difference being one is the result of his choice and the other is the work of the supervisor. (Later, Ellison examines the role of unions at the plant, also sections valuable to the debates today.)

But for now, I want to emphasize that this scene from Invisible Man is little different from the accountability dynamic begun in the early 1980s. For nearly three decades teachers have been mandated to implement standards and to prepare students for tests that those teachers did not create and often do not endorse. Like the main character in Invisible Man, they are told daily, "You just do what you're told and don't try to think about it."

And like the main character above, they are now being held accountable for the results--disregarding the power structure that mandates the standards and the tests, disregarding the weight of evidence that shows test scores are more strongly aligned with poverty than teacher or school quality .

The question of power in the U.S. is that voice, thus power, comes from wealth and status

At the end of his ordeal, the main character in Invisible Man has been rendered not only silent but also invisible. He hibernates and fights a covert battle with the Monopolated Light & Power company by living surrounded by 1369 lights. His story is a question of power, a struggle to bring the truth to light.

In 2011, teachers, educators, scholars, and everyone concerned about democracy and freedom must reject the urge to hibernate and wage silent battles. Instead, voices must be raised against the powerful who have now set their sights on teachers, schools, students, and ultimately the majority of us standing on the other side of the widening gap between the haves (who have their voices amplified) and the have nots (who are silenced, invisible).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Obama-Gates-BRT 10-Year Priority Plan for Urban School Privatization

A piece in this morning's NYTimes reports on legions of small donors who have given up on Obama in his bid to raise $1,000,000,000 for the 2012 campaign.  Why, indeed, should I or anyone who pays taxes send money to Team Obama when the hedge-funders and oligarchs who pay none are sending him all he needs?  Why should any of us educators, in fact, send Obama a nickel when his education policies are designed to benefit only corporations, corporate foundations, privatization ideologues, and the education industrial complex?

Monty Neill has done a terrific initial analysis of Duncan's behind-the-back bounce pass to his corporate teammates who are driving in to score big, and I won't repeat what Monty has said here.  Monty's opening:
The Obama-Duncan plan for ―flexibility in the administration of the ―No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education law offers little more than a leap from the frying pan to the fire – and even adds gasoline to the fire.
The Administration offers no relief from NCLB’s massive over-use of testing —more testing than in any other advanced nation. In fact, it will require more ―assessments in more subjects and grades in exchange for ―flexibility. It uses test scores to holds individual educators rather than schools ―accountable. . . .
What I want to focus on are a few of the details that remain unspoken aspects of TeamObama's "flexibility" plan.  As Monty points out, this plan elevates the role high-stakes standardized tests, even as the dreaded testing targets of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) have been dropped. We see a call for adoption of the Common Core national curriculum and testing, which Duncan attempts to disguise as "college- and career-ready standards and assessments."

Rather than calling for expanded use of "growth models" or "value-added" testing, which the scientific community has pointed out are not nearly ready for prime time high stakes purposes, Duncan uses "Systems of Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support." Right.  With urban schools now blown up by the AYP testing targets over the past 10 years, and with the charter school caps now removed in many states, it is time to offer an  "accountability" plan that will allow for the continued expansion of charters, without the threat of facing closure for low test performance.  Alas, we have arrived at the edu-era that requires a focus on "growth," a system within which poverty will become even more invisible than it has been.

And instead of admitting support for teacher evaluations based on those not-ready-for-prime time "growth models," the Gates wordsmiths use the innocuous-sounding "Evaluating and Supporting Teacher and Principal Effectiveness."  Translation: requiring teacher evaluation to be tied to test scores, as in Tennessee, where Obama's golden boy, Gov. Bill Haslam (R), has ushered in a Gates-approved "value-added" system where test scores count half of the teacher's evaluation, and where teachers may be dismissed after one year of bad scores.  This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

But what of Obama's previous support for segregated corporate charter schools?  Has this corporate commitment to resegregation and containment of minorities disappeared overnight?  Unfortunately, not at all, even though "charter school," as a politically toxic term, is not mentioned in the Obama speech or in any of the supporting documents.  And yet we find that this plan represents a renewed opportunity to use the charter or private management options contained in ED's School Improvement Grant (SIG) guidance issued in February of this year.  In fact, the new "flexibility" plan requires states (SEAs) and districts (LEAs) to use the current turnaround plans for the five percent per year of lowest scoring schools.  From ESEA Flexibility (MSWord):

A priority school that implements one of the four SIG models is implementing an intervention that satisfies the turnaround principles.  An SEA may also implement interventions aligned with the turnaround principles as part of a statewide school turnaround strategy that allows for State takeover of schools or for transferring operational control of the school to another entity such as a recovery school district or other management organization (p. 9).
The second sentence just above represents an effort to not derail the efforts by proto-fascists in Michigan and Louisiana to allow corporate takeover of public functions, as in the charterization of New Orleans Schools or the corporatization of Michigan's lowest scoring schools under Broadie, John Covington.

We know that more than half of American public school children go to schools in urban areas.  Now it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that, with 5 percent of schools identified for turnaround each year (with another 10 percent required to be in the queue), it will take no more than 10 years for half of American public schools to be converted into the Business Roundtable image of school.  So goodbye AYP and hello SIG: Welcome the new corporate welfare feeding frenzy.

Wake County's Tea Party School Board Approves $8 Million for Gender Stereotyping Schools

At a time when Wake and other counties across the nation are laying off staff and stuffing more children into classrooms, the Tea Party social antiquarians in charge of schools in Wake County are finding millions to follow a pedagogical practice of gender segregation that pre-dates Horace Mann in the middle of the 19th Century.  And the cost of busing, which was an unsustainable burden when it came to achieving socioeconomic diversity in Wake County, is just fine for the purposes of segregation and the propagation of sexism:
RALEIGH – Wake County will have two single-sex schools next year. One Leadership Academy for grades 6 through 12 will be for boys and the other will be for girls.

The school board agreed to fund the schools Tuesday night. The cost is estimated at $7.9 million but some members said the project was moving too fast.

“I think we ought to go out and look at a couple of them. We ought to get experience, talk to people who have had experience in these. I think they are not bad, I'm inclined to vote for them but I don't vote the first time I've heard anything,” said Wake County School Board member Dr. Anne McLaurin. . . .
Experience, yes. And how about a little research other than the self-serving, sexist pseudoscience approved by the John Birch and John Locke Societies. Why lookie here, a brand new study from the Science, reported by Ed Week:
A team of neuroscience and child development experts sent a shot over the bow of single-sex education this afternoon, arguing in a new Science article that there is "no empirical evidence" that segregating students by sex improves education—but that there is compelling evidence that it can increase gender stereotyping among students and adults.

The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education estimates more than 500 schools nationwide separate boys and girls for at least some classes. The format has gained ground in public schools since 2006, when the U.S. Education Department reinterpreted Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972—the law which bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education— to allow segregated classes within coeducational schools in some situations. Moreover, dwindling district budgets have convinced districts such as Wake County, N.C., to try out single-sex academies as a way to raise achievement at low cost.

"A new curriculum, like a new drug or factory production method, often yields a short-term gain because people are motivated by novelty and belief in the innovation," the authors noted. "Novelty-based enthusiasm, sample bias, and anecdotes account for much of the glowing characterization of [single-sex] education in the media. Without blind assessment, randomized assignment to treatment or control experiences, and consideration of selection factors, judging the effectiveness of innovations is impossible."

The authors, led by Diane F. Halpern, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., and author of Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities, found that brain-based sex differences often cited by single-sex education advocates—such as differences in memory tasks and brain activation patterns—have been small and generally the studies focused on adults, not children.

"There are some definite brain differences in boys and girls as children, but there are a lot of overlaps, and there's absolutely nothing to suggest that they learn differently," Halpern told me. "The underlying biology of learning is the same.... Really, experience is the chief architect of the brain."

The authors also found studies on the effectiveness of single-sex education programs have not accounted for differences in the students entering them. They found students in single-sex classes did not perform significantly better from those in mixed-gender classes, once the students' prior performance and characteristics were taken into account.

"At a time when we are questioning the quality and effectiveness of our public schools, people are screaming for innovation and looking for the magic bullet, but many of the innovations being put forth are not evidence-based, and single-sex education is not evidence-based," said co-author Richard A. Fabes, director of the Arizona State University's school of social and family dynamics. "All the evidence is that high-quality teaching and high-quality learning environments are equally effective for boys and girls, and what we need to be doing is increasing the quality of instruction ... in coed classes."

Fabes and Arizona State colleagues, professor Carol Lynn Martin and associate professor Laura D. Hannish, study children's interaction in same-sex and co-ed playgroups. They have found that "separating boys and girls raises the salience of gender, and when you do, that increases sexism."

For example, co-author Lynn S. Liben, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania State University, also found in a 2010 study that preschool students divided into separate groups by sex for two weeks showed more gender-stereotyped attitudes and played less with children of the opposite sex.

The co-authors include a who's who of experts in the fields of sex-based differences:

• Lise S. Eliot, an associate professor in neuroscience at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Ill., and author of the 2009 book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps, and What We Can Do About It;
• Rebecca S. Bigler, director of the Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab at the University of Texas;
• Janet Hyde, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studies sex differences in adolescent depression.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Deasy's Queen Antoinette moment: "let them eat ebooks"

"Right now, only higher-income readers can afford ebook readers and ebooks." — Dr. Stephen Krashen

Plutocratic priest of privatization LAUSD Superintendent John DeasyOn September 14, 2011 former Gates Foundation executive and Broad Superintendents Academy graduate John Deasy gave a much ballyhooed speech at Occidental College. While I may have time in the future to critique his mendacious stream of business-speak, which amounted to a clever corporate couching of school privatization in the language of "civil rights," it was his aloof response to an attendee's pertinent question on school libraries that deserves an immediate response. Here's a quote from an attendee who endured Deasy's verbal assault on public education:

"[O]ne of Rosemary's questions about his shutting school libraries got through. He said libraries would be irrelevant soon as books will move to electronic format. This was after he lamented about the plight of a homeless student living in a tent. I kid you not. I guess the kid in the tent will have to access books on the $800 I-Pad he can't afford."

A pointed and poignant question indeed to Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy, a man who deliberately gutted LAUSD's libraries in defiance of California's Assembly Bill 114, which was supposed to mandate the district spend its copious surplus funds on retaining the very personnel Deasy and company gleefully laid off. Laid off in a most ignominious fashion by the way, as Hector Tobar's The disgraceful interrogation of L.A. school librarians chronicled. Deasy's vapid and vacuous response to the library question sums up everything about corporate education reforms and shows why Deasy was hand selected to implement the neoliberal agenda in Los Angeles.

As disgusting as Deasy's quote about libraries being irrelevant was, it wasn't surprising considering his astonishing wealth and privilege. For wealthy white males like Deasy, poverty is something you see on television and it's easily solved by applying forms of the meritocracy myth via vile "no excuses" rhetoric and corporate privatization policies cloaked as promoting "high expectations." Deasy's own phrasing of the threadbare right-wing no excuses rhetoric reads as follows: "I actually believe that no other issue—circumstances of poverty, one parent, no parent, race, language proficiency, special need—none of that has a greater affect on the achievement gap than our belief about the ability of youth."

More to the point, Deasy's flippant remark that electronic format books would soon replace libraries has no grounding in reality. Such thinking and policies exacerbate the inequality of access to books in a way that is both classist and racist. A brief, but fact packed essay by Schools Matter's own Dr. Stephen Krashen entitled Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete? patently disproves everything Superintendent Deasy claims. Let's look at some of the important facts the essay presents.

Data shows that "ebooks appear to be capturing some of the paperback book market, but certainly not all of it, and not the hard cover or tradebook market. Thus far ebooks make up only a tiny percentage of total school library collections." [1] In other words, while ebooks are making inroads in the profitable popular paperbook sector, there hasn't been a great deal of investment in the more costly and lower volume textbook and hardcover sectors. As a consequence "ebooks only account for one-half of one percent of school library collections, and this is predicted to increase to only 7.8% in five years." [2]

It isn't just that ebooks aren't widespread enough to be considered a suitable replacement for school libraries. It's that access to ebooks is strictly class based:

The problem is the expense. Right now, only higher-income readers can afford ebook readers and ebooks. Kindles, for example, cost at least $100 each, and ebooks cost about $10, beyond the budget for those living in poverty. [3]

A table in Krashen's paper shows only four percent of people with household incomes under $30,000 owned ebook-readers, and that percentage remained constant for the nineteen months prior to publication of the paper. Krashen's conclusion is equally revealing:

The cost of ebook readers and ebooks makes them much less available to students from high-poverty families and under-funded school libraries. (Note that it is usually not possible to share ebooks.) Ebooks are allowing the print-rich to get even print-richer. [4]

It isn't surprising that people who get doctoral degrees from Cracker Jack boxes, or worse, purchase them from convicted criminals like Robert Felner in exchange for six figure grants, might be unaware of such research. More cynical readers might be tempted to suspect Deasy's deep ties to monopolistic software moguls like Bill Gates and technobabble charlatans like Tom Vander Ark as possible explanations for his intentional razing of school libraries in favor of profitable, but income exclusive, ebooks. Those things said, one would like to think the head of one of the largest school districts in the country would have a grasp of the basic fundamentals surrounding pedagogical issues and would be immune from pandering to his deep pocketed associates. Given the frightening lack of capacity of California's schools, outlined in UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access "The Train that is about to Hit," Deasy's notion of "let them eat ebooks" borders on criminal.

Research emphatically puts to lie Deasy's assertion that "libraries would be irrelevant soon as books will move to electronic format." In a state where the ratio of students to librarians is nearly 5,500 to 1 [5], Deasy's outright dismissal of the importance of libraries and books, combined with policies that exacerbate the problem, strongly convict him in his role in neoliberal dismantling of public education. Of course that's Deasy's capacity, he wasn't brought in by the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate to fix LAUSD, he was brought in to destroy it. Collectively we need to reject Deasy's false narrative and demand he spend our funds on libraries and classrooms, not he and his fellow administrators' lavish lifestyles! Collectively we need to fight the privatization of public education!


[1] Krashen, Stephen. 2011. Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete?. Books and Articles by Stephen D. Krashen. Accessed September 20, 2011. http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/kindelization.pdf

[2-4] Ibid.

[5] This wonderful infographic from the UCLA IDEA article mentioned above illustrates what the plutocrat class has done to California's education system.

UCLA IDEA "The Train that is about to Hit"

NCTE claims that toxic sludge is good for you

Council Chronicles, Sept 2011, part 1: Toxic sludge is good for you

Stephen Krashen and Susan Ohanian

We are probably among the 1 percent of NCTE members who have read every word of the current issue of the Council Chronicles. We think it is unprofessional and a violation of the position that NCTE itself has taken on the Common Core. NCTE has spent our money, from our dues, to pay professional writers to write PR pieces in support of policies that many NCTE members object to.

The lead article in the journal was written by a professional writer, not an NCTE member, not an educator, and is a defense of Common Core that, at best, can be described as a public relations article, in the style of "Toxic Sludge is Good for You." This article could have been written by the US Department of Education staff. The NCTE does not officially support the Common Core, and a sense of the house motion was passed at the last NCTE meeting opposing NCTE support for the Common Core.

The Council Chronicle included only a brief mention of the Save our Schools March, buried on page 30, an event that promoted a message very different from the one promoted by the editors of the Chronicle. The Save our Schools march was a major event that was reported in the national media and many NCTE members were active participants.

The Chronicle has rejected previous attempt to present positions opposed to the activities of NCTE, and it is unlikely that they will present responses to the articles that appeared in this issue. We therefore take the only route open to communicating with NCTE members and post our detailed comments here. We will discuss the lead article, the interview with Arne Duncan, and the Policy Research Brief that winds up promoting the Common Core, and well as the fact that PresIdent's column, on the important topic of libraries, was pushed to the back of the issue.

Permission given in advance to share this post and any subsequent posts with anybody.

The posts will also be available on schoolsmatter.info, susanohanian.org, and linked to from twitter.

Access to Council Chronicle:


Duncan, Hastings, and Gates: The Digital Promise-Keepers and a DreamBox for Every Urban Kid

In anticipation of the new NCLB initiative rolled out yesterday (my response in the making), Arne Duncan announced recently a new corporate ed reform money maker called "Digital Promise," which promises to fill the pockets of some of Duncan's favorite techie sidekicks who are already lining up at Duncan's "innovation-inspiring" federal ATM machine at the U. S. Department of Ed.  Take Reed Hastings, for instance (please), whose rattle-trap outfit, NetFlix, is beginning to flicker toward extinction just as Hastings moves into the edu-biz in a big way.

As the Godfather of the corporate welfare charter movement in California and initial backer of the corrupt Green Dot, Inc., Hastings, who sits on Microsoft's Board of Directors, became quick friends with Arne Duncan when Duncan became Secretary of ED.  In 2009, Hastings was picked by Duncan to head up turnaround planning for the thousands of urban schools that poverty and NCLB testing have blown up in recent years. Most of the planned replacement schools for the bottom 5% per year (four to five thousand schools nationwide) of low test score schools are planned as corporate welfare charters, and edupreneurs are looking for ways to further cut personnel costs and increase the bottom line beyond the typical charter school cuts to teacher salaries and benefit packages.  Enter the techno-twits with a plan to essentially cut the urban teacher corps in half by hooking children up to "dream machines" for half the school day.

Duncan (Gates and the BRT) are keen to develop digital tutors that use technology that analyze student response patterns in order to customize their "dream box" drill and kill sessions.  They are also interested, as Arne's press release indicates, in getting these systems into classrooms before their effectiveness can ever be ascertained:
Learning faster what's working and what's not. Internet startups do rapid evaluations of their sites, running test after test to continually improve their services. When it comes to education, R&D cycles can take years, producing results that are out of date the minute they're released. Digital Promise will work with researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new approaches for rapidly evaluating new products. 
And who owns that the technology that examines customer, er, student response patterns ?  That's right--Reed Hastings:
* Courses that improve the more students use them. Internet companies like Netflix and Amazon have devoted significant resources to develop tools that analyze consumer data to identify patterns, tailor results to users’ preferences, and provide a more individualized experience. Researchers are exploring whether similar techniques can be applied to education. For example, after developing software to teach fractions, researchers could study the learning patterns of how tens of thousands of students mastered different concepts. This ―virtual learning laboratory could draw on this data when presented with new users—taking what it knows about how students learn to tailor material based on how similar individuals successfully mastered those same concepts. The data collected by such software could also provide powerful new insights for practitioners about ways to guide traditional classroom instruction.
That Reed Hastings doesn't miss a beat, does he!  Proving as much, Hastings has bought up a company that is already in the remediation business:
DreamBox (acquired) — $10 million — Reed Hastings (The Charter School Growth Fund), NeXtAdvisors
With poverty on the rise and segregated corporate charter schools uncapped in the many states, growth potential for leashing poor urban kids to DreamBoxes appears unlimited. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Broad Prize for Corporate Domination Goes to Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Why is everyone smiling except the two school officials?
That photogenic charlatan and former superintendent, Peter Gorman (Broad Class of '04) caused all sorts of grief for Charlotte educators, parents, and students before he was scooped up by Rupert Murdoch (Aaaargh!) to serve as one of Murdoch's chief edu-lackeys. Just in time, too, as Charlotte parents and teachers were ready last Spring to tar and feather Broad's man,  Gorman, for introducing 52 new tests to enable a new teacher evaluation scheme based on, what else, test scores:
Skeptical parents and adamant administrators are squaring off over a surge of new testing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, as teachers watch warily and brace for hours of new work.

Next week CMS will launch trial versions of 52 new tests, including an exam for kids as young as kindergarteners who must be tested one-on-one. The tests will be used to evaluate teachers, as the budget shrinks and officials prepare to lay off faculty.

In order to try to salvage the corporate reform schooling PR train wreck in Charlotte, Broad produced $3 million in pocket change to pay for the 52 tests, and three days ago the bare-knuckled philanthrocapitalist picked CMS as winner of the Broad Prize for their continued loyalty to corporate money.
The Broad Foundation has given CMS about $3 million to analyze data and test students, some of that with an eye to crafting the district's Pay for Performance plans.

Mark Anderson, a principal at Crown Point Elementary school, isn't so sure what he thinks about all that money, but he's proud of the district for taking the top prize.

"The pay for performance, well, that varies, but I'm just happy that $550,000 will be used to send kids to college. That's the most important thing to me," said Anderson.

The scholarships will range from $5,000 to $20,000 for needy seniors to help pay for college or trade school. All of the money must be awarded to this year's seniors.

CMS sent several administrators to the ceremony with the help of a grant from the local CD Spangler Foundation. Former Superintendent Peter Gorman was also there. He graduated from the Broad's superintendent training academy seven years ago.

With the search on for a new superintendent and school board elections in November, it's not clear what the district's direction will be. Critics say the Broad foundation and other private donors are trying to take local control away from public schools by influencing education leaders and rewarding certain policies.

Eli Broad, the wealthy businessman who founded the group, says he hopes this award will help convince the public that CMS is on the right course.

"I think if they look at the record and recognize they were chosen as the best district in all districts of urban America, that they'd want to continue with the successful policies they've had," says Broad.

The panel that chose CMS includes three former US education secretaries and the former president of the Service Employees International Union.. . .
At left is Broad, Steve Barr, and the then-president of SEIU, Andy Stern, at a fundraiser for Green Dot Public Schools, Inc. in  2007

Thursday, September 22, 2011

IRA's Richard Long defends the LEARN Act: Susan Ohanian responds

The politicos in Washington D. C, the folks who already make a colossal mess of reading instruction with Reading First, are at it again--spelling out all these details about how reading should be taught. Sadly, lobbyist Rich Long's current support of the LEARN Act is just the latest iteration of our professional organizations trying to curry favor with members of Congress. The truth of the matter is that the LEARN act will produce lots of professional development monies and our professional organizations--IRA and NCTE--will never bite the politico hand that feeds them.

We should demand that our professional organizations explain why political overreaching weighs far heavier in their decision-making than research, teacher experience, and children's needs--the things that add up to professional integrity.

It comes as no surprise that this current support of the LEARN act sounds very much like IRA lobbyist Rich Long's appeal to IRA members some years back to write members of Congress in support of Reading First. I once heard Long say, "We never tell Senator Kennedy or Representative George Miller [at the time, chairs, respectively, of the Senate and House education committees] anything they don't want to hear." I thought I must have misunderstood so I e-mailed him. He e-mailed back confirmation of the statement.

Lobbyists call this "keeping a seat at the table." It is a table where all the silverware is aligned--neat and tidy-- but children are left with empty bowls. And our professional dues are keeping these children starved of what they need.

IRA's Richard Long defends the LEARN Act, Krashen responds

Richard M. Long, director of government relations of the International Reading Association, has posted a defense of the LEARN Act on Valerie Strauss' blog, The Answer Sheet.


I present here Mr. Long's arguments, and my point by point commentary:

Richard Long's essay:

Many students either graduate from high school not ready for the literacy demands of college and the workplace or fail to graduate. Why is that? Don’t we know how to teach reading and writing?

The answer is that although we know how to teach reading and writing, we are not matching what we know to each school and to each child in a coordinated way. Federal initiatives over the past 40 years, each offered as a solution, have provided only a piece of the puzzle.

Initiatives have included the Right to Read Initiative, the Basic Skills Program, Reading Excellence, Reading First, programs in Head Start and other child care programs, Title I, job training programs, and even programs offered for new recruits in the military. Although each has helped some students to learn, none made systemic changes at and across each grade level for each student.

The introduction earlier this year of the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act (or the LEARN Act) in the House and in the Senate is an important step in literacy policy for our nation.

Like the current pre-curser program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, LEARN takes the best elements from earlier programs, adds new knowledge about writing and reading, and requires each state to bring together professionals from a wide array of disciplines and professions to identify needs and present ideas for meeting those needs.

The resulting state literacy plans, already begun in 46 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), include assessments at all levels that will help instruction and keep the programs on track. Districts then situate their requests for program funding within a coherent state plan, generating the kind of alignment needed for consistent and genuine change.

Rather than a piecemeal federal policy, LEARN establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects. Extending features of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, LEARN emphasizes smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school.

It provides professional development about literacy and assessment of literacy for teachers in all content areas and for principals who collaborate on building instructional programs based on teacher knowledge and scientific evidence.

In addition, LEARN enables schools to intervene directly when the needs of learners demand even more to make a difference.

In short, LEARN is not a souped-up Reading First or Right to Read Program. It uses lessons from these past programs in the context of new knowledge about learning and change to build a future in which literate students graduate from high school ready for college, work, and citizenship.

My comments on Richard Long's defense of the LEARN Act.

RL = Richard Long's statements

SK = my comment

Note: Please read my detailed critique of the LEARN Act, posted on http://sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=4

RL: "Although each has helped some students to learn, none made systemic changes at and across each grade level for each student."

SK: No. Each component of LEARN has a disappointing track record.

RL: "Like the current pre-curser program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, LEARN takes the best elements from earlier programs, adds new knowledge about writing and reading, and requires each state to bring together professionals from a wide array of disciplines and professions to identify needs and present ideas for meeting those needs."

SK: All previous studies of the impact of Striving Readers have shown weak or no effects (Krashen, 2011, citation below). What are the "best elements"? There is no document that presents provides evidence for "the best elements of earlier programs" that I know of. What is the "new knowledge"? Does it include lots of self-selected reading and read-alouds? I hope so, but this certainly isn't new.

RL: "The resulting state literacy plans, already begun in 46 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), include assessments at all levels that will help instruction and keep the programs on track. Districts then situate their requests for program funding within a coherent state plan, generating the kind of alignment needed for consistent and genuine change."

SK: In English, this means there will be lots more testing, including lots of interim testing. This is the last thing we need.

RL: "Rather than a piecemeal federal policy, LEARN establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects. Extending features of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, LEARN emphasizes smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school."

SK: In English, this means a national language arts curriculum from K-12, based on a program with an unimpressive track record. (Again, see Krashen, 2011, citation below)

RL: It provides professional development about literacy and assessment of literacy for teachers in all content areas and for principals who collaborate on building instructional programs based on teacher knowledge and scientific evidence.

SK: This means make sure everybody is trained to do what LEARN says they should do.

In previous years, "scientific evidence" meant any study that concluded that heavy phonics is great. Now it will mean any study supporting phonemic awareness, phonics, direct instruction of vocabulary and direct instruction in text structure. (Read the actual LEARN Act, and also my comment on it, on www.sdkrashen.com) Studies showing that phonemic awareness, most phonics, much of vocabulary and nearly all of our competence in text structure are a result of massive reading, no matter how they are done, are not "scientific."

RL: In addition, LEARN enables schools to intervene directly when the needs of learners demand even more to make a difference.

SK: In other words, if it isn't working, do it harder.

RL: In short, LEARN is not a souped-up Reading First or Right to Read Program.

SK: LEARN extends the underlying philosophy of Reading First to all language arts instruction.

Krashen, S. 2011. A Suggestion: Dump Striving Readers, Give the Money to School Libraries in High Poverty Areas http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/02/suggestion-dump-striving-readers-give.html

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Using Federal Power to Resegregate American Schools

Using Federal Power to Resegregate American Schools

Prior to passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) in 1965, a savvy Lyndon Johnson, who knew the South would never willingly desegregate schools, crafted the federal legislation so that large sums of money would go to any of the segregated systems of the South that would comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, of course, banned racial discrimination in any public institution receiving federal funds.  This strategy of carrot (ESEA) following stick (Civil Rights Act) worked like a charm, and the “segregation now, segregation forever” crowd quietly resolved to accept the federal millions and, in doing so, reluctantly complied with the Supreme Court’s mandate handed down in the unanimous 1954 Brown decision, which had been largely ignored in the South. 

I was a sophomore in one of those small segregated Southern high schools in 1965, and I remember the first black kids who, until that time, had had a 60-mile roundtrip daily bus ride to endure if they wanted to go to high school.  As a legacy of that ESEA carrot, then, my little school and the rest of the schools in the Old Confederacy became and remain less segregated than many schools in the North, where housing patterns maintain de facto segregation even where the law cannot. By the early 1970s, apartheid schooling in the 19 Southern states was over, or so we thought.

Johnson’s creative use of federal funding, then, was able to accomplish for the commonweal what federal mandates and court rulings could not.  Congress amended ESEA in 1966 and 1967 to provide big carrots, too, for special education and English language learners.  Major reauthorizations of ESEA followed in 1981, 1994, and in 2001 with No Child Left Behind, with the power of the federal purse strings made more figural in each subsequent reauthorization.  

Then, following the 2008 calamity brought on by Wall Street’s casino capitalists, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used a newfound power of $4.35 billion in federal discretionary Race to the Top (RttT) grants to sidestep the legislative gridlock holding up changes to NCLB that were being advanced by the corporate foundations and the Business Roundtable:  1) uncapped expansion of charter schools (minus any regulations or incentives for maintaining diversity or inclusion of special populations or ELL), 2) proliferation of testing data tracking systems, 3) more value-added standardized testing, and 4) teacher evaluations based on student test scores. Any state or LEA that wanted to get a chunk of Duncan’s 4 billion dollar carrot would have to comply with these four conditions. 

In an ironic twist of policy fate whose impending impact remains as ignored as it is misunderstood by the public, ESEA monies were used, for the first time, as the carrot to re-ignite the policy that the original ESEA had been designed to extinguish: school segregation and poor performance.  In peer-reviewed research studies (here, here, and here) that examine the effects of charter schools on school diversity, researchers have found, in fact, that both for-profit charter schools and non-profit charter schools have significant segregative effects when compared to public schools. And study after study after study has shown similar negative effects on school performance as measured by test scores of students in charter schools when compared to matched public schools. 

No amount of empirical, reality-based evidence, however, can seem to derail or even slow down the charter train, fueled and driven as it is by conservative ideologues, neoliberal efficiency zealots, and the profiteers of the education-industrial complex like Pearson and McGraw-Hill.  And now Congress is getting into the act (pun intended) as well, with House passage of H. R. 2218, whose clone is under consideration by the Senate to provide new segregative charter funds, including monies this time for charter school facilities.  In these legislative efforts, inspired as they are to break up the ESEA reauthorization into smaller chunks that Team Obama can never claim credit for (or be blamed for, as the case may be), unwitting or uncaring elected officials of our national government are, in fact, promoting the expansion of school resegregation through the expansion of charter schools that, in 4 out of 5 instances, are worse or no better academically than the public schools they are replacing.  And neither House nor Senate versions offer a syllable to demand or incentivize the creation of diverse, inclusive charter schools, thus choosing to make ESEA’s most effective social steering mechanism a tool now of segregationists and social control advocates whose agendas appear aligned with the eugenics era that flourished a hundred years ago.

If these federal bills in support of corporate reform schooling arrive on the desk of the first African-American President of the United States, will he, too, embrace their silent support of the return to apartheid education?  Will Barack Obama show up on the wrong side of history?

Jim Horn

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Florida Toughens Pre-K Standards

Florida's State Board of Education is coming down heavy on those 3 and 4-year- olds and the lousy teachers who are not holding these kids accountable for performing on standardized tests.

In fact, the low performing preschools in Florida are in danger of being closed or taken over if they fail to meet the new tough standards.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

The number of pre-K providers who fail their review and are deemed "low performing" under the new standards could hit 2,500, up from just under 800 this year, the Florida Department of Education estimated.

That means 39 percent could end up labeled as poor performers. Those providers would have to follow state-dictated improvement plans and could lose their contract to run Florida's pre-K program within two years.

The new benchmark requires that 70 percent of pre-K students test "ready" on both kindergarten tests. Department staff had recommended a 60 percent standard.

Currently, there is no set standard since the pre-K law had initially allowed pre-K providers to be graded on a curve so that no more than 15 percent failed. This spring, however, the Legislature changed the law, stripping out the language that meant an 85 percent passing rate, and requiring the state board to set a new, specific standard.

Several board members said they were dismayed that poor-performing schools and child-care centers could keep taking state money if they weren't doing a good job preparing youngsters for kindergarten.

"I'm really troubled by the fact that we are accepting providers who are low-performing," said board member Barbara Feingold. "We are giving them our money to provide a very poor delivery system."

Other board members agreed, and the vote to adopt a 70 percent standard was unanimous,

If we lived in a civilized society, the Florida legislature, along with the knuckleheads at the FSBE would be tossed into the looney bin or put on trial for crimes against children. Reading this story from the sunshine state makes one wonder if the entire country has gone crazy mad.

In a country with one of the highest child poverty rates, unaffordable healthcare, an economic and jobs crisis, and inequality not seen since the Gilded Age, perhaps it's time to hold these evil legislators and the idiots on the state board of education accountable.

There are no more excuses for this outright abuse of toddlers and the underpaid women taking care of them while their parents are working two and three jobs just to survive. The outright attack on pre-schoolers who attend state funded preschools just to funnel more money into the coffers of testing companies and private corporations is more than a cheap shot -- it's criminal.