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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Long Island Principals Oppose Teacher Evaluation Based on Value-Added Modeling

From Long Island Principals:
Across Long Island, there is growing concern about the direction being taken by the New York State Education Department. In breathtaking speed, State Education officials have made sweeping changes to how our schools operate, how our teachers and principals are evaluated and how our students are assessed.

As building principals, we applaud efforts aimed towards excellence for all of our students. We cannot, however, stand by while untested practices are put in place without any meaningful discussion or proven research. This is why we have prepared an Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York State's APPR Legislation for the Evaluation of Teachers and Principals. Written by two high school Principals (Dr. Sean C. Feeney and Dr. Carol C. Burris) and reviewed and edited by Elementary, Middle School and High School principals across Long Island, this letter states why everyone who cares about schools should be concerned about New York's APPR Legislation. The letter also articulates a better path forward for our schools and students.

Visit the links on the side to read the paper, support the paper and read the research behind the paper. The key to change is to make your voice heard! Be sure to contact your local legislators in order to express your concerns about the APPR legislation.

As the Stakes Rise, So Does the Cheating

From the NY Times:
Complaints of tampering with the state Regents exams have ballooned since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of New York City’s schools, newly released data show, placing in stark relief the conflict between allowing teachers to grade their own students’ tests and raising the stakes on the results.

As the city and state turned test scores into make-or-break indicators of school and student success, the portion of city public high schools facing allegations of test tampering rose to 7 percent in the 2009-10 school year, from 1 percent in 2002-3. Over all, the state has recorded complaints of cheating by educators in more than 100 city high schools, about a fifth of the total, since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. During the same time period, the number of complaints in the rest of the state’s high schools tripled.

While it is unclear how many of the allegations were ultimately proven, the steep rise in complaints itself is notable at a time when cheating scandals have engulfed other districts and  state officials are acknowledging a failure to adequately detect and prevent cheating.

The previously undisclosed database containing the allegations, a 62-page printout of which was obtained by The New York Times last week, provides a window onto the ways that high-stakes testing is roiling school communities, with principals accusing teachers, teachers accusing principals and teachers accusing other teachers.

Brief narrative descriptions illustrate the ways in which educators are alleged to be inflating student scores — which can help save their jobs, earn them bonuses or keep their schools from closing — and, in some cases, deflating scores to spite colleagues. Parents are frequent whistle-blowers but are occasionally implicated as well, suspected of taking exams home to help children or conspiring to keep a child’s failing score off the books.. . . .

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tata Pushing Rejected Right Wing Agenda

When the Resegregationist Gang of Five chose Michelle Rhee's COO, Gen. Tony Tata, as superintendent of Wake County Schools, they could have have chosen a more loyal general to carry out the orders of the social antiquarians, John Birchers, and efficiency zealots who would like to return to an era of single gender schooling and class and racial segregation.  Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of the resegregation agenda, not even an election that repudiated the Gang of Five, and not even more pressing needs such as "critical" food safety violations in 60 percent of Wake County Schools.

Tata has gone all in to get the resegregation policy in place before another of the Art Pope puppets can be voted out next week, which will signal the beginning of the end of Tata's tenure.

But never fear: someone with the loyalty of General Tata will move on to more lucrative ventures.  Word has it that Rupert Murdoch is still building his Board of corporate education stooges for the next phase of the war on public schools.

From http://www.carynews.com/2011/10/23/45715/tatas-prestige-rides-on-plans.html:

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata won the biggest gamble of his ninth-month tenure Tuesday, but he could still face fallout in the months ahead.
Tata accomplished his mission of getting the school board to agree on a new student assignment plan after two years of fighting about the best way to determine where students will go to school.

When opposition rose in the past month, Tata stuck his neck out by telling board members and the community that they couldn't afford any delay in adopting the plan.

With the plan now so closely identified with Tata, he'll get the credit if it works out or take the heat if he doesn't.

The first test will come next month, after a Nov. 8 runoff election - between Democratic school board member Kevin Hill and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo - decides who will hold the majority on the officially nonpartisan nine-member board.

For the past two years, the board has been controlled by Republicans - a group that brought in Tata and pushed for the new plan.

Last week's election ensured seats to four Republicans and four Democrats, leaving the runoff in North Raleigh's District 3 to determine the direction of the school system.

Partisan dynamics
Losurdo, who initially said she couldn't vote for the plan, announced this week that she was joining her fellow Republicans in supporting the plan.

A Losurdo victory would preserve the Republican majority. A GOP board majority would likely defer to Tata on making the changes he and his staff feel are needed.

Hill voted against the plan Tuesday. If he wins the runoff next month, Tata's plan will be in the hands of a new Democratic board majority. Most of the Democratic members, including those who were elected last week, have raised concerns that the new assignment plan doesn't do enough to avoid creation of low-performing schools.

Some of the new Democratic board members had urged the board to delay adoption of the plan, leading Tata to remark that it would be "insulting" to the outgoing members to take the decision out of their hands. Tata warned Tuesday that a delay would only hurt parents and students.

A new Democratic majority is more likely to make changes to the plan to beef up the student achievement component, a change that Republican board vice chairman John Tedesco has derisively said would lead to a quota system for diversity.

The extent of the changes a Democratic majority would request could delay the implementation of the new plan for the 2012-13 school year.

A target for critics
During his honeymoon period, Tata met with groups all over the county to listen to their concerns.

His willingness to sit down and talk with groups that had previously been skeptical about him because he was hired in a party-line vote by the Republican board majority won him grudging respect.

Tata's presence also seemed to ratchet down the public bickering on the school board as he became the public face for the school system.

But the new student assignment plan, along with Tata's support for implementing two new single-gender leadership academies, has eaten away at some of the retired Army general's support.

Public criticism from community members about Tata, which largely disappeared after he started work on Jan. 31 and began winning people over, has reemerged.

As work on the student assignment plan progressed - and as Tata stood fast on the need to adopt the plan Tuesday - more people began to publicly question his actions.

Patty Williams, a member of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, challenged Tata's statements that the process has been nonpolitical as she charged that holding the vote now "makes the whole process smack of politics."

But Tata knows he'll be working with at least one new board member, Jim Martin, whom he took the unusual step of criticizing days before the election.

Tata had accused Martin of misleading the public in a press release about how the school system has responded to complaints about candidates politicking at schools.

Aiming for 85 percent
If there isn't much change in the plan, Tata will take heat from the public if there's any dissatisfaction, particularly from families who don't get their top choice.

Tata has estimated that they can provide 85 percent of families their top choice. But in a district with 146,000 students, that's potentially a lot of unhappy families.

Tata has won some breathing space by guaranteeing that current students don't have to change their school next year. But if more than just a small number of incoming kindergartners don't get their top choice next year, then there could be some backlash.

But if the plan works as well as Tata has touted, it will be the signature piece of his tenure leading one of the nation's largest school systems.
Hui: 919-829-4534

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cutting Libraries in a Recession...

"Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague." — Eleanor Crumblehulme

"Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague." — Eleanor Crumblehulme

HT/4LAKids

At the Chalk Face Blog Talk Radio!



Listen to internet radio with Chalk Face on Blog Talk Radio

Tennessee Charter School Data Gives Good Reasons to Go Slow or Begin Backing Up

On Monday the Commercial Appeal in Memphis carried a story on efforts by local officials to take a deep breath and assess the charter school situation as these same officials work to create a Metro school system out of separate city and county systems.  This seems to be a reasonable proposal, but, of course, the hedge funders, vulture philanthropists, Koch Brothers puppet, Gov. Haslam, and other corporate welfare bottom feeders are in an instant lather to block any effort to call a timeout on the spread of the intensely segregated (by race and class) exclusionary charter schools in Memphis, with their punishing protocols that no middle class parent would consider for their own children.

Greg Thompson, former investment banking analyst and new chief of the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, is leading the charge for the uninterrupted flow of public money into these corporate charters.  He and the front office of KIPP, Inc. and TFA, Inc. argue that the spread of these urban chain gangs should remain unhindered by planning, evaluation, or just a little common sense. To bolster their insistent whine, they refer to "a report issued this month on behalf of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University," even though the State has yet to produce such a report despite repeated requests to various offices within Commissioner Kevin "TFA" Huffman's Department of Education.

So far, all that we have is a joint press release from TN's Achievement School District/New Schools for New Orleans, both of whom are supposedly contracting with CREDO for some kind of services to help determine which schools get the federal "innovation" grants.  The Press Release has never even been posted to the Web, even though it is dated September 30, 2011 (email me if you want a copy of it).  From the Press Release:


   So if a school does not have three years of data, then its "effect size" cannot be determined, right?   Again, from the Press Release:

Now here is the first oddity in this.  Of the 15 Memphis charter schools on the list of high flyers from 2008-2011, there are 5 schools with only one year of data, having opened only in the Fall of 2010:

Memphis School of Excellence
New Consortium of Law and Business
Circles of Success Learning Academy
Omni Prep Academy

Two others, Freedom Preparatory Academy and Promise Academy, have only been in operation for two years and, thus, have only 2 years of data.  Promise Academy is listed as the school with the highest math growth, and Veritas, just opened last year, is listed the school with highest reading growth.

Second oddity: Three of the schools on the "CREDO" list have simply awful results on the state TCAP tests, which are supposedly used by "CREDO" to arrive at the list of schools that are outperforming public schools:

Memphis Academy of Health Sciences in Memphis
Soulsville Charter School
Memphis Business Academy

The TCAP Composite Scores for these three schools are below, as they appear on the State's public site:

2011 School Value Added

Memphis Academy Of Health Sciences in Memphis

TCAP Composite

In 2010, the Tennessee Department of Education implemented significant changes in state testing. For the purposes of these analyses, the new testing has been equated so it can be reported on the same scale. The Growth Standard reflects these changes and is based on statewide student achievement in 2009.


Estimated School Mean NCE Gain
Grade678Mean NCE Gain over Grades Relative to
Growth Standard0.00.00.0
State 3-Yr-Avg0.2-0.4-0.6Growth StandardState
2009 Mean NCE Gain12.1 G*1.6 G*-4.4 R*3.13.4
Std Error1.10.80.80.50.5
2010 Mean NCE Gain8.8 G*-5.5 R*-7.3 R*-1.3-1.1
Std Error1.00.80.70.50.5
2011 Mean NCE Gain11.1 G*-0.9 R1.6 G*3.94.2
Std Error1.20.80.80.50.5
3-Yr-Avg NCE Gain10.6 G*-1.6 R*-3.4 R*1.92.2
Std Error0.60.50.40.30.3
Estimated School Mean NCE Scores
Grade678
State Base Year (2009)50.050.050.0
State 3-Yr-Avg47.147.046.7
2008 Mean


2009 Mean48.648.441.6
2010 Mean44.143.141.1
2011 Mean46.043.244.7
G*Estimated mean NCE gain is above the growth standard by at least 1 standard error.
GEstimated mean NCE gain is equal to or greater than growth standard but by less than 1 standard error.
YEstimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by 1 standard error or less.
REstimated mean NCE gain is more than 1 standard error below the growth standard but by 2 standard errors or less.
R*Estimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by more than 2 standard errors.


Soulsville Charter School in Memphis

TCAP Composite

In 2010, the Tennessee Department of Education implemented significant changes in state testing. For the purposes of these analyses, the new testing has been equated so it can be reported on the same scale. The Growth Standard reflects these changes and is based on statewide student achievement in 2009.

Estimated School Mean NCE Gain
Grade678Mean NCE Gain over Grades Relative to
Growth Standard0.00.00.0
State 3-Yr-Avg0.2-0.4-0.6Growth StandardState
2009 Mean NCE Gain2.6 G*-0.5 Y-0.4 Y0.50.8
Std Error1.30.90.90.60.6
2010 Mean NCE Gain-8.4 R*1.1 G*-3.5 R*-3.6-3.3
Std Error1.91.00.90.80.8
2011 Mean NCE Gain5.7 G*-2.9 R*-2.3 R*0.10.4
Std Error1.71.00.90.70.7
3-Yr-Avg NCE Gain-0.1 Y-0.8 R-2.1 R*-1.0-0.7
Std Error0.90.60.50.40.4
Estimated School Mean NCE Scores
Grade678
State Base Year (2009)50.050.050.0
State 3-Yr-Avg47.147.046.7
2008 Mean


2009 Mean35.640.544.7
2010 Mean31.336.737.0
2011 Mean44.728.434.4
G*Estimated mean NCE gain is above the growth standard by at least 1 standard error.
GEstimated mean NCE gain is equal to or greater than growth standard but by less than 1 standard error.
YEstimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by 1 standard error or less.
REstimated mean NCE gain is more than 1 standard error below the growth standard but by 2 standard errors or less.
R*Estimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by more than 2 standard errors.

2011 School Value Added

Memphis Business Academy in Memphis

TCAP Composite


Estimated School Mean NCE Gain
Grade678Mean NCE Gain over Grades Relative to
Growth Standard0.00.00.0
State 3-Yr-Avg0.2-0.4-0.6Growth StandardState
2009 Mean NCE Gain6.6 G*-2.9 R*-2.1 R0.50.8
Std Error0.90.91.20.60.6
2010 Mean NCE Gain7.0 G*-5.4 R*-10.0 R*-2.8-2.6
Std Error1.10.80.80.50.5
2011 Mean NCE Gain8.9 G*-3.4 R*-2.5 R*1.01.2
Std Error1.20.80.70.50.5
3-Yr-Avg NCE Gain7.5 G*-3.9 R*-4.9 R*-0.4-0.2
Std Error0.60.50.50.30.3
Estimated School Mean NCE Scores
Grade678
State Base Year (2009)50.050.050.0
State 3-Yr-Avg47.147.046.7
2008 Mean


2009 Mean45.242.637.2
2010 Mean43.036.631.7
2011 Mean42.132.431.4
G*Estimated mean NCE gain is above the growth standard by at least 1 standard error.
GEstimated mean NCE gain is equal to or greater than growth standard but by less than 1 standard error.
YEstimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by 1 standard error or less.
REstimated mean NCE gain is more than 1 standard error below the growth standard but by 2 standard errors or less.
R*Estimated mean NCE gain is below the growth standard by more than 2 standard errors.


Finally, consider the case of KIPP, which is listed as #2 on the list of "CREDO" high flyers.  It is hard to say which public schools they were matched with, but when matched with the state average, they did not do so hot, or at least there were no detectable differences (NDD) between KIPP's Explore Math scores or their End of Course Algebra I scores when compared with the State Averages.  Again, from the State's public site:


















































What IS Left Behind Redux


Left behind by 'No Child Left Behind'…

We have reached a critical crossroads in our educational and national history. As No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) reauthorization or expiration takes center stage in Washington, American citizens who care about the future of our public schools and our democracy must be heard. Our shared future is not an abstract political possibility but, rather, one that breathes in every son or daughter, every niece or nephew, every grandson or granddaughter, every neighbor’s child, and every one of our own students who enters the schoolhouse door.

While [the Secretary of Education] and legislators from both parties stubbornly proclaim that NCLB is working [or has been beneficial] —despite of all the empirical evidence indicating otherwise — and as politicians boast that no child is being left behind, let us pause to consider what has been jettisoned. Let us take a moment to think about what has been left behind, what has been dumped, what has been pushed out the door because there is no longer space or time for it in the school day.

Now if your school still has some of these things, I say congratulations. At the same time, however, I say beware. Beware, because the unattainable goal of 100 percent proficiency that is the bedrock of NCLB makes it most likely that over the next seven years, your school will join the 30 percent [now 60 percent] of schools today where these crucial elements of school have already been left behind.

As American citizens deeply concerned about the health of our democratic republic, we are, of course, concerned and horrified that the social studies have been left behind. In Florida and other states, social studies teachers, afraid of losing their jobs, are lobbying for social studies to be tested, so that their work will survive.

The emphasis on math and reading tests has meant less geography, civics, and government, which leaves children ignorant of how public decisions are made or where their community fits into state, national, and global contexts — or even that there is a context beyond their street and TV screens. Children are left, in effect, stranded on lonely islands of ignorance, without the impetus or skills to have their voices heard in ways that make the world listen.

History, too, has been left behind, making it assured that this next generation will grow up more likely to be swayed by the mistakes and misdeeds of the past to which they remain clueless. What is a democratic republic and where did it come from? Sorry, that’s not on the test, either.

And economics? While children in wealthy communities — the ones without AYP worries yet — play stock market games and learn about hedge funds, the economic education of children in schools under the testing gun consists of collecting “Scholar Dollars” that they trade in for bags of Skittles, a pittance of pay for a meaningless labor whose significance remains a mystery to them.

Health and physical education have been left behind, too, leaving children out of shape and subject to diseases associated with obesity and inactivity. At the same time, children are left in the dark about the importance of healthy foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, the kinds of foods that are scarce in the small stores of poor neighborhoods. And left behind, too, is information about the hazards of a never — ending diet of Taco Bell and McDonalds — because that’s not on the test, either.

Art and music have been left behind, leaving in their crossing wakes an imagination gap, a creativity gap, and expression gap, an aesthetic gap — a souls gap. We can add these gaps to the achievement gap that parallels a widening economic gap — despite years and years of increased testing and accountability in those schools where the economic gaps are at their deepest points.

Diversity of thought has been left behind. What remains in failing schools and the ones teetering on the testing bubble are collections of remote and desiccated facts that represent not even a single culture, but rather, an anti-culture that has essentially eradicated cultural values as a discussable issue.

Science has been left behind, too, and thus the primary tool for understanding how the modern world is organized. Where science survives, it is where it is tested, and the kind of science that remains is the kind that can be fit into a multiple-choice format, not the kind that exercises children’s ability to think, solve problems, conduct experiments, and make good decisions.

Literature has been left behind, and with it the love of reading and books and the curiosity that is spawned and kept alive by the life of the imagination. Stories are now substituted by the measured mouthing of nonsense syllables and the framing of comprehension responses that the children who utter them do not understand.

Recess has been left behind in a third of all American elementary schools, and as the percentage of failing schools increases, we may expect that number to rise. Play, itself, then becomes left behind, and along with it one of the most useful skills of all—to think as if, what if, as in what if life were somehow different than, or what if there were a choice beyond a, b, c, or d?

Nap time has been left behind in kindergarten and even in pre-K, as teachers focus on replacing dream time with skill practice time for a future of testing.

Field trips, holidays, and assemblies have been left behind unless they can be used for test preparation, or unless they come after the test, those short precious weeks when smiles may be seen to return to teachers’ lips and to students’ eyes.

The love of the teacher for her craft has been left behind in so many schools, replaced by the burdensome regimen of the pacing guide and the production schedule and the script. And time for teacher-led discussion, exploration, reflection? There is only time for teachers to learn their lines, trying to become good actors in a very bad play where the audience is compelled to participate. And time to weigh the results of the practice tests in order to get ready for the real tests.

Left behind, too, are teacher autonomy and professional discretion. Now whole hallways of fourth grade classes are on the same page of the same scripted lesson at the same moment that any supervisor should walk by, supervisors who are identically trained to look for the same manifestations of sameness, from bulletin boards to hand signals to the distance that children are trained to maintain from one another as they march to lunch, with their arms holding together their imaginary straightjackets.

Most troubling, however, of all that has been left behind is the teacher’s nurturing care, the teacher whose advocacy for and sensitivity to every child’s fragile humanity has been a trademark of what it means to be the teacher of children.  With the current laser focus on avoiding test failure, even as expectations become higher with each passing year, the child who cannot do more than a child can do now becomes viewed as the stumbling block to a success that is increasingly elusive.  Instead, then, of being viewed as the reasons we have schools to begin with, the needful child who is, indeed, behind, becomes the obstacle to a proficiency that becomes further and further out of reach. When this occurs, as it surely does every time teachers and principals fall prey to the pressure, children become the burden that must be reluctantly borne, obstacles to a success that their own disability, poverty, or language issues complicate— and that even the best teacher can never compensate for.

Students, then, come to be seen as complicit in creating the failure that, in fact, no one, teacher or student, can remedy, because there is a monstrous system that has made child failure and, thus, school failure inevitable, a monstrous system that has traded and treated this generation of children as a means to attain a political end—a political end that, in fact, threatens our future as a free people who are able to think, to solve problems, to care, to imagine, to understand, to have empathy, to participate, to grow, to live.

So as you listen to the growing debate this fall in Washington, please do not leave your political responsibility behind and your good sense with it. Go online tonight and order the Linda Perlstein book, Tested. . .. Read it and, as you do so, keep in mind that the horror that she so ably describes occurred in a school that is considered a success, a “lighthouse school.” Think, then, of what it must be like in the thirty percent [now sixty] of American schools that are now labeled failures.

Recently, a quote by Cal State professor, Art Costa showed up on one of internet discussion groups, a quote that is horribly relevant today: “What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value.”

Call and write and visit your school boards and your Congressional delegation. Remind them what you value and what you believe to be significant for now and for our future, and what you know that now and finally must to be left behind.

Jim Horn
October 2007

A similar version of this speech was delivered September 27, 2007, at Monmouth University's Pollack Theatre for the Central Jersey chapter of Phi Delta Kappa.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

99% Educator Sarah Knopp interviewed at OccupyLAUSD

Teachers and students and parents are part of the 99% and that we're really one of the groups that has taken the brunt of the economic crises... In reality public employees and our unions are being blamed for a problem that was caused by the banks. Where the banks are getting a 700 billion dollar bail out, whereas the banks, Chase Bank in particular owes the City of Los Angeles 15 million dollars in unpaid property taxes, and yet 1,200 Los Angeles schoolteachers have been laid off, and 400 clerical staff, and we think there's the money exists to hire them back if there's the political will to do so. — Sarah Knopp (Educator and Activist)



[click here if you can't view this video]

High school teacher, UTLA member, and renowned activist Sarah Knopp was recently interviewed at OccupyLAUSD. Sarah and her class were one of the case studies in Jonathan Kozol's watershed Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, and in turn, she has interviewed Kozol on several occasions.

A lifelong proponent of social justice, Sarah has championed for her students and their families for years, and she even ran for California State Superintendent of Schools in 2006. Her many articles articles and reviews can be found in the International Socialist Review, Counterpunch, United Teacher, and Rethinking Schools. Sarah is also the coeditor of the forthcoming Education and Capitalism title being published by Haymarket Books.

Disclaimer: Sarah was one of my most important political mentors and played an integral role in my becoming a social justice writer.

Dana Goldstein "Hearts" Yellow Unions and Company Crafted Contracts

California is the only state that does not tax oil extraction, we need to fund education.Dana Goldstein is a widely read journalist and a fellow of the right-of-center New America Foundation think tank. Her education writings are occasionally mildly skeptical of the corporate reform clique's claims of miracles, but at the same time she has no problem casting vile villains like Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Eva Moskowitz, and Joe Williams as individuals with legitimate concerns and ideas for public education, rather than the insatiably greedy opportunists they are.

She discusses KIPP's so-called "successes" without ever mentioning their abysmal attrition rates, uses the factually incorrect construct "public charter school," and has no problems calling arch-reactionary Rick Hess of the fringe-right American Enterprise Institute think tank an education expert. Hess may write extensively on education, but his "expertise" is confined to privatization policies. No serious scholar considers him anything more than a shill for Ayn Rand's long disproved ideas.

Goldstein, while not as deceptive or reactionary as Matt Ygelsias, nonetheless provides a progressive veneer to reactionary right wing education policies espoused by nefarious organizations like the billionaire funded Democrats for Education Reform and Communities for Teaching Excellence.

With all of that in mind, we consider Goldstein's latest essay, Meet the Teachers' Union Contract of the Future, in which she lionizes one of the higher profile corporate reform outfits — Green Dot Charter Corporation.

The essay is a fluffy cheerleading piece for Value Added Measures and other discredited corporate reforms. It posits that Green Dot's machiavellian management has somehow created a "highly-vetted workforce operating in an environment that emphasizes collegiality and professionalism." At no point does she question Green Dot Public Schools' assertions or slick marketing materials, whether on look into the real history of the colossal charter chain's real record on labor relations. I left Ms. Goldstein the following note after her post:

What a wonderful Public Relations piece for a lucrative Charter Management Organization! Those of us that follow Green Dot Charter Corporation in Los Angeles can shed a little light on the yellow unionism that Green Dot holds up as a model for the future. AsociaciĆ³n de Maestros Unidos (AMU) has never had single case of successfully defending a teacher against termination by Green Dot Corporation's capricious unelected board of trustees.

Moreover, AMU's CTA/NEA affiliation notwithstanding, tell us of a single "right" AMU has in their contract that isn't superseded by the unchecked power of their unelected corporate board. Anyone who has actually read the corporate contract knows the answer to this since they're familiar with article 4.1 which states:

"It is understood and agreed that the Board retains all of its powers and authority to direct, manage and control to the full extent of the law. While input from the staff will be considered and decisions will be derived in a collaborative model; final decisions will rest with the Board." (emphasis mine)

That's some real collective bargaining! That's why the pernicious former hedge fund manager, Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Corporation was able to close Animo Justice by fiat, and neither the school community, parents, students, nor the supposedly "unionized" teachers were able to do a thing about it. Some "culture of fairness."

Let's hope that this isn't the "contract of the future," since all it does is further consolidate power into the hands of those that are the least knowledgeable and most unqualified to be making decisions about pedagogy. Their only concern? The bottom line and the bloated salaries of their executive staff.

Rest assured that Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Walton fortune heirs, and all the other funders of the corporate Green Dot model to educate impoverished children on the cheap really appreciate your article though. We know how much those plutocrats care about kids.

The 1% Get a 275% Raise

The Congressional Budget Office has officially confirmed what we already knew: The income distribution has been getting more unequal in recent decades. A new report (PDF) on changes in the distribution of income from 1979 to 2007 shows that average income for the top 1 percent "grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007." In the same time period, the rest of the top 20 percent saw their average income grow by 65 percent. Those in the middle—60 percent of Americans—had average income growth of just under 40 percent. And, of course, the 20 percent with the lowest income saw the smallest income growth between 1979 and 2007, at just 18 percent.
Government policy increased the tilt toward the very richest:
“The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes,” the budget office said.
Also, it said, federal benefit payments are doing less to even out the distribution of income, as a growing share of benefits, like Social Security, goes to older Americans, regardless of their income.
The end result is that, as the graph above shows, after transfers (like Social Security) and taxes, the richest 20 percent were taking in 53 percent of the income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. The increase was even greater for the top 1 percent, whose share of income more than doubled in those years, from just under 8 percent to 17 percent. By contrast, of course, the 20 percent of people making the least money saw their share of after-tax income drop from 7 percent in 1979 to 5 percent in 2007. The broad middle class, too, lost ground on its share of after-tax income.
All of which is just as congressional Republicans want. They're just looking to finish the job.

In SC (and across US), don’t jump from NCLB to more of the same

Don’t jump from NCLB to more of the same

South Carolina appears poised, along with the majority of states, to opt out of the controversial and punitive No Child Left Behind law.

Education Superintendent Mick Zais, Gov. Nikki Haley and state legislators should proceed with caution with this the U.S. Department of Education’s offer to grant waivers, as it’s unclear whether this opportunity will prove to be positive or negative. It could be yet another bureaucratic disaster for public schools, or it could signal a shift away from partisan politics and toward evidence-based school reform.

No Child Left Behind has been used by administrations of both parties to force states into policies and practices that do more harm than good — for example, Reading First under George W. Bush and Race to the Top under President Obama. Opting out should be a move by states to challenge the use of education policy and funding to control state governments, but elements of the waiver option appear to be yet more of that failed practice.
As states seek fewer mandates from the federal government, they should acknowledge that we have had almost 30 years of education accountability based on standards and testing. After three decades and 50 separate experiments in accountability, all states have the same concerns about student outcomes that they had in the early 1980s — and throughout the past century, for that matter.

A growing body of research shows that accountability, standards and testing either have had no positive impact on student outcomes and closing the achievement gap or have actually created a test-prep culture that asks less and less of students.

These sobering realities are reinforced by international comparisons that should influence each state seeking more flexibility from Washington.

A key model for South Carolina and the nation is Finland. First, Finland demonstrates that the social conditions of children’s lives are the primary influences on student learning. In order to reform education, states must address the plight of childhood poverty that is high in the United States compared to other countries and increasing.

Yet Finland also shows that social equity alone is not enough to raise student achievement. Educator and blogger Joe Bower has produced a well-respected analysis of the similarities between Finland and Norway in social conditions and the differences these two countries produce in their education systems — with Finland often at the top of outcomes and Norway far less successful. The difference: Norway has implemented education policy similar to that in the United States; Finland has not.

Consider:

•   Finland uses brief and guiding standards that support teacher autonomy and expertise, not elaborate and prescriptive standards that drive a testing culture.

•  Finland implements virtually no standardized testing, and never uses test data to label or rank students, schools or teachers.

•  Teachers in Finland are trusted, given professional autonomy and offered collaborative environments in which to address the needs of every single child.

•  Finland rejects tracking, and instead seeks to offer all children a high-quality education, with funding equity from school to school, regardless of the economic status of the community.

If South Carolina opts out of No Child Left Behind to pursue narrow partisan goals — such as private school choice or increasing charter schools — or to implement more of the same — such as test-based accountability, increasing competition among teachers, students and schools, or further de-professionalizing teachers — then opting out is yet another waste of time at the expense of South Carolina’s children and our entire state.

Opting out must be a courageous and nonpartisan call to reform not only our schools but the reform movement itself. We have ample evidence of what we must do if we’ll only allow ourselves to see beyond party loyalty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parents and Schools Sue Texas and California

From the Education Law Center:
Schools and parents have taken the states of Texas and California to court, accusing them of violating their own state constitutions because they are not providing the basic level of education that the constitutions require.

Both states have slashed school funding, and both have created gaping holes in opportunity for children in many communities by enacting funding systems that favor wealthier school districts.

On Oct. 10, 2011, the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition (TT&SFC) filed TT&SFC v. Scott, in state court. Two weeks earlier, on Sept. 28, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators, and three representative school districts filed CSBA, et al., v. State.

While education in all states is vital, these two states enroll about 20% of U.S. students, enough to impact the whole nation.

Texas Reverses Robin Hood: Take from the Poor, Give to the Rich

The TTSFC petition to the court relies on the earlier Texas cases, Edgewood and West Orange Cove, and alleges that the latest state budget is a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Plaintiffs ask the court to declare that the school finance system: violates the "efficiency" and "suitable provision" parts of the Texas Constitution; creates an unconstitutional state tax; and, fails to provide legally required "equal protection" to students in low-wealth districts.

Although the school district plaintiffs vary greatly in size and location, they all allege that they receive inequitable funding under the current state funding system and their taxpayers and school children suffer adverse consequences. For example, the Austin School District has $100 million more to spend than Fort Worth, although the number of students is about the same and local property tax rates are exactly the same, according to the plaintiffs.

The group of more than 150 school districts represented by the coalition continues to grow, and more districts, taxpayers, and parents are expected to formally join in the coming months.

The non-profit Equity Center is facilitating the development and operation of the coalition. This case has been expected since the legislative session ended, and another parallel suit is also anticipated.

California

California's plaintiffs claim that the 2011-12 state budget violates the state constitution's "Prop 98" provision and the statutes implementing Prop 98 by $2.1 billion, thereby underfunding public schools throughout the state. Voters passed Proposition 98 in 1988, thereby amending the constitution to guarantee California public schools---K-12 and community colleges---a certain minimum level of funding each year. Plaintiffs requested court order would apply to all districts in the state.

At a press conference, Carlos Garcia, superintendent of the San Francisco School District, said his district would use recovered Prop 98 funds to restore reduced school days, counter increased class sizes, and reinstate staff development.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in California Superior Court against the State of California and the state controller, director of finance, and superintendent of public instruction.

Other States

Parents, students, and school districts have also challenged funding cuts in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Kansas. Others would like to do the same in lots of states.

Court orders in New Jersey and North Carolina ordered those states to restore certain funding, and the Kansas case is preparing for trial. The NC decision is on appeal.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19
www.edlawcenter.org

Statement from ASA: Political Dissent in a Time of (Economic) Crisis

Political Dissent in a Time of (Economic) Crisis

A Statement by the Council of the American Studies Association
20 October 2011

We are the public. We are workers.  We are the 99%.  We speak with the people here in Baltimore and around the globe occupying plazas, parks, and squares in opposition to failed austerity programs, to oligarchy, and to the unequal distribution of wealth and power.  The loss of jobs, healthcare, and homes, the distressing use of mass incarceration and mass deportations, and the destruction of environments have brought so many households and individuals to crisis. We join with people re-claiming commons rights to public resources.  We join in the call against privatization and for a democratic re-awakening.

As educators, we experience the dismantling of public education, rising tuition, unsustainable student debt, and the assault on every dimension of education.  As American Studies scholars, our work includes, among other things, addressing the problems and challenges societies face, drawing lessons from the past, comparing across polities, and making informed recommendations that will spark open debate.  We draw inspiration from earlier social movements that have challenged the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and authority. Today’s movements continue this necessary work. The uprisings compel us to lift our voices and dedicate our effort to realizing the democratic aspirations for an equitable and habitable world.  We are the 99%.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Testing Support for TFA and KIPP: Whose Children Matter?

Testing Support for TFA and KIPP: Whose Children Matter?

During the first years of the Obama administration, Secretary Arne Duncan has risen to the forefront of public debates about education reform, paralleling the growing public nature of that debate that includes the entrepreneur reformers such as Bill Gates and Geoffrey Canada along with a harbinger of things to come with the popularity of the documentary Waiting for “Superman.”

At the center of the reform debate has been a growing endorsement of two reforms that work against traditional views of teacher preparation, Teach for America (TFA), and public schools, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools.

One of the teachers raising a voice of protest against the new reformers has been Anthony Cody, specifically through his Education Week/Teacher Magazine blog, Living in Dialogue. Recently, he has posted one blog confronting the “highly qualified” designation of TFA teachers, and then in a second post, he concludes:
“In my view, it is our job to seek the best possible solution for our students. I do not believe we have that with the status quo of high turnover, and the band-aid offered by Teach For America and other programs playing this role.”
While I support and agree with Cody’s concerns about endorsing TFA, I think we need to go one step further, notably acknowledging that TFA shares some important characteristics with KIPP.

First, both TFA and KIPP are targeting student populations primarily composed of high-poverty children, children of color, and children speaking home languages other than English. TFA and KIPP are also both philosophically and theoretically controversial in terms of how to best prepare teachers and how best to teach challenging populations of students.

Most importantly, however, is that the new reformers who are endorsing TFA and KIPP—such as Duncan, Gates, and Michelle Rhee—either had school experiences unlike what TFA and KIPP offer or their children are in schools unlike what TFA and KIPP offer or both.

In short, those people endorsing TFA and KIPP are doing so to promote how other people’s children should be educated.

What We Know about School Equity, Class, Race, and Native Languages

The education reform debate is being driven by the elite in U.S. society, people who themselves have benefited from selective private schools at all levels—private schools that gain part of their status from characteristics unlike what TFA and KIPP offer. These private schools emphasize teacher experience and certification, promise low student-teacher ratios, and offer individualized programs and rich curriculums, often absent the intense focus on testing and standards found in public schools.

Along with the rising tension related to school reform under Obama, I have identified a disturbing refrain of concern about public schools cheating our top students. At the center of both support for TFA/ KIPP and claims that top students are being ill-served is a masking of the realities about educational inequity in the U.S.

Peske and Haycock (2006) have identified the stratified school system common in the U.S. that disproportionately benefits elite students and cheats students coming from poverty, students of color, and students speaking home languages other than English:
“Certainly, there are fine, dedicated teachers who have devoted their lives to low-income and minority children, but they are the exception. Overall, the patterns are unequivocal. Regardless of how teacher quality is measured, poor and minority children get fewer than their fair share of high-quality teachers. 
“For example, despite clear evidence that brand-new teachers are not as effective as they will eventually become, students in high-poverty and high-minority schools are disproportionately assigned to teachers who are new to the profession. Children in the highest-poverty schools are assigned to novice teachers almost twice as often as children in low-poverty schools. Similarly, students in high-minority schools are assigned to novice teachers at twice the rate as students in schools without many minority students.
“Students in high-poverty and high-minority schools also are shortchanged when it comes to getting teachers with a strong background in the subjects they are teaching. Classes in high-poverty and high-minority secondary schools are more likely to be taught by ‘out-of-field teachers’ – those without a major or minor in the subject they teach.”
Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, and Heilig (2005) have identified that same inequity, but also include how that inequity is perpetuated by TFA:
“We found that teachers without standard certification, including TFA teachers, were disproportionately likely to be teaching African American and Latino students and low-income students. Although the percentages of Houston students being taught by standard-certified teachers rose substantially over the years covered by this study, the racial/ethnic and economic disparities associated with students’ access to certified teachers also increased substantially.”
Further, Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, and Heilig show that teacher certification does matter:
“Overall, teachers without certification or with non-standard certification were found to be less effective in raising student test scores than teachers with standard certification in 22 of 36 estimates (p<.10). In general, relative to teachers with standard certification, teachers lacking full certification slowed student progress over the course of a year by about 1/2 to 1 month in grade equivalent terms on most achievement tests. However, some categories of teachers with substandard certification (those who had not passed the certification tests or who had no record of being certified) had an even larger negative effect on the Spanish-speaking students who took the Aprenda, slowing their progress by 2 to 3 months within a year in comparison to the progress they would be expected to make with a fully certified teacher. The effects of certification status were generally much stronger than the effects of teacher experience. For example, on the SAT-9 and Aprenda tests, the positive effect of an additional year of teacher experience was about one-tenth the size of the effect of having a fully certified teacher.”
If we put all of this in context, then, top students are currently receiving inequitable access to the best teachers, and TFA along with KIPP is not addressing that inequity, but increasing it by funneling underprepared, young teachers who leave the profession quickly to the students who need top teachers the most and by re-segregating schools and trapping students from challenging backgrounds in the narrowest possible opportunities to learn.

Testing Support for TFA and KIPP

With these facts in mind, I suggest that we test the new reformers’ commitment to TFA and KIPP. How?

Let’s fully fund TFA and KIPP initiatives, but only if TFA and KIPP serve top students, releasing the most experienced and well-qualified teachers to teach students living in poverty, students of color, and students speaking home languages other than English.

Currently, the new reformers support TFA and KIPP as long as they serve other people’s children. I suspect if TFA and KIPP suddenly become the norm for a different population of children, the tune from the top will change.

References

Darling-Hammond, L., Holtzman, D. J., Gatlin, S. J., & Heilig, J. V. (2005). Does
teacher preparation matter? Evidence about teacher certification, Teach for America, and
teacher effectiveness. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(42). Retrieved 23 October 2011 from http://epaa.asu.edu/...

Peske, H. G., & Haycock, K. (2006, June). Teaching inequality: How poor and minority students are shortchanged on teacher quality. Washington DC: The Education Trust, Inc. Retrieved 7 September 2009 from http://www.edtrust.org/...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Teachers Want Corporate America Assessed

Last updated 9:25 pm
It has been a week since I stood in Times Square penned in behind barricaded fences in a sea of tens of thousands protesters at the Occupy Wall Street rally. As an education blogger, I was on the lookout for teachers when I saw a man with a large yellow sign that read, “Teachers Want Corporate America Assessed.”
The message was loud and clear -- it is time for educators to turn the table on the corporations and politicians and begin evaluating, measuring and assessing their performance. Here are some well-known statistics: 25 million people are out of work or underemployed, 50 million people have no access to health insurance and one in five children in the U.S. is living in poverty and four of every ten black children living in poverty. Everyone but the wealthy are corporate America's collateral damage, and the country is on the brink of revolution. So far, the protests have been relatively peaceful, but unless there is real change, if history is any guide, the anger and outrage will inevitably turn to violence.

Despite the potential consequences of joining in the protests (like being fired), teachers are also standing up and participating in the OWS movement. Teachers have finally had enough. After years of subjection to standards and accountability for student test scores in a country that has no accountability for the perpetrators of endless wars and economic collapse, teachers are beginning to hold those in power accountable and making their voices heard.

Since its inception in 2001, teachers have known that No Child Left Behind was bad policy, but no one was listening or even cared. In fact, four years ago Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute summarized his findings on NCLB. Rothstein, along with many others did the math and concluded the research showed the damage to American education by NCLB included:
- the conversion of struggling elementary schools into test-prep factories;
- a narrowing of curriculum so that disadvantaged children who most need enrichment would be denied lessons in social studies, the sciences, the arts and music, even recess and exercise, so that every available minute of the school day could be devoted to drill for tests of basic skills in math and reading;
- demoralization of the best teachers, now prohibited from engaging children in discovery and instead required to follow pre-set instructional scripts aligned with low-quality tests;
- and the boredom and terror of young children who no longer looked forward to school but instead anticipated another day of rote exercises and practice testing designed to increase scores by a point or two.
Perhaps four years ago when people still had jobs, most found it difficult to see through the smoke and mirrors put up by politicians and their corporate sponsors. Maybe they were just too busy to stop and look around to peek behind the curtain of adequate yearly progress, accountability and labeling schools in the poorest neighborhoods as failures. The writings of academics like David Berliner who wrote about the manufactured crisis and why poverty has always been the elephant in the room were dismissed and marginalized. The voices of reason and truth were intentionally drowned out by the corporate media who jumped on the bandwagon, intensified the drumbeat of failed public schools, and blamed teachers and public education for our nation's problems. The fake research reports and slogans generated by savvy marketing and PR professionals were funded by large corporations and foundations with the ultimate goal of privatizing education and destroying teacher unions. These myths have all been shattered and the reality can no longer be ignored.

What a difference a few years makes. OWS has catalyzed a long overdue conversation about the abuses of corporate power and, it is the spark that has also ignited the pent-up anger and frustration brewing in the education community for a decade. The pushback against corporate abuse in all areas of our lives, including education, is well underway and gaining momentum.

In the past year, three newly established grassroots education movements have been organized as parents, teachers and citizens begin to focus on ending the reign of terror in schools. Save Our Schools and National Call to Action held a march and conference in Washington over the summer and is now a national organization with chapters in more than 30 states. Parents Across America and United Opt Out National are gaining traction by shining a spotlight on legislation, generating excitement and political action, and keeping a close watch on the education policy positions of candidates running in local school boards and all the way to Congress. What they all have in common is a passion for children and authentic learning. This translates into their core demands to end the abuse and misuse of high stakes testing, return to well-rounded curriculums and community control over local schools. These are only three of many organized political groups providing a platform for the millions of Americans who see how corporations have hijacked the country and our political leaders.
These patriotic citizens are passionate and determined, not because of self interest, but because they understand that the destruction of a sound public education system is a direct assault on democracy itself. They want their country back, they want their lives back, and they want their schools back. Parents are beginning to support teachers because they see how the the test and punish model is aimed at indoctrinating their children into becoming mindless, well-behaved obedient corporate citizens and consumers. Parents are tired of seeing their children humiliated and used as guinea pigs, measured, assessed, and labeled as early as kindergarten. And teachers with a conscience who have professional integrity are no longer willing to mindlessly execute orders from powerful moneyed interests that are harmful to their students and their profession.

The battle cry is being heard from coast to coast and is already having an impact on Washington. A new flurry of activity on Capitol Hill to revamp No Child Left Behind has everyone scrambling. The reauthorization of ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is now front and center as Congress tries to fix the broken system they created -- a system that has left millions of children behind, emotionally, intellectually, physically and economically. The corporate lobbyists are on the run, jockeying to maintain a stranglehold on testing and their steady stream of profits, but the tide has turned and they are running for cover. 

There are some in the GOP and right wing ideologues who want to see the Department of Education and Title I funding for poor districts abolished altogether. This has the civil rights community and children's organization up in arms. At the same time, teachers and administrators, desperate for even the tiniest relief from the torture endured over the past several years, want meaningful reform, and with the wind behind their sails, they are ready to fight and stand up for is right. The danger between now and the next election, however, could be the desperation of teachers and administrators who give in too easily and provide another opportunity for the vultures on Wall Street to swoop in and agree to loosen the noose just enough to shut them up while finding new and creative ways to keep them teaching to the tests.

A recent New York Times article reported that the Harkin-Enzi bill grants more leniency on teacher evaluations and measuring student achievement, thus providing some hope. Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators was quoted in the Times about the Harkin-Enzi plan saying, “we couldn’t be happier. “The current law is so toxic, and they’ve had a hard time in Congress for a long while coalescing on how to fix it.” 

Before throwing any victory parties, we should recognize that the battle lines being drawn in a shrinking economy where there is less money to go around, could present new and unexpected challenges. The Times article put it this way: “Civil rights and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the legislation would so thoroughly eviscerate the federal role in school accountability that they could not support it. But powerful groups representing superintendents, principals, teachers and school boards said they were delighted.” 

What's worrisome, too, is that any compromise could come at the expense of Title I funding for the poorest, most vulnerable schools. This would give more power at the state level to impose more tests in more subjects, invest more money in data collection, and further divert the flow of funds to political corporate cronies with little or no accountability.  Hopefully, unlike 2001 when NCLB was passed during the traumatic days following 9/11, millions of people are paying close attention to education issues and are more educating about education reform policy. As this story evolves and is reported on television over the next several months with pundits and politicians honing their messages, CNN, FOX, MSNBC and the major networks may no longer be able ignore the real story -- teachers and parents are turning the tables and their message is resonating.  Catchy sound bites and shallow reporting on education reform such as "no excuses" and "no child left behind" have lost their power because it is so obvious that this emperor has no clothes .

How this will play out from now until November 2012 will depend on the ability of these grassroots organizations to hone their messages and keep this issue in the spotlight. They can learn something from their opponents by shifting the discourse surrounding education reform towards truth and justice. While most observers believe it's unlikely new legislation on ESEA will pass before the 2012 election, by focusing on electing candidates who represent the common interests of children, parents and teachers, the reign of terror by corporations over educators will end. Those with power over the airwaves will try to use the same, tired sonorous rhetoric about the importance of education for U.S. global competitiveness, how teachers are heroes, and how every child deserves a great education, blah, blah, blah, but it will ring hollow.

Amidst all the chattering on TV about education reform, teachers are hard at work each day in overcrowded, dilapidated classrooms with meager supplies and budgets. Many teach in classrooms with hungry, anxious students who lack health care and a safe neighborhood. Other teachers are seeing more homeless students whose parents lost jobs or have been deported because they came here illegally. Teachers will continue to administer the tests to children who might have one or both parents overseas fighting in Afghanistan.  Despite all this, teachers who will continue to do the heavy lifting and jump through whatever hoops necessary in order to care for their students and get up everyday to do what they love, but some who can no longer take the abuse will leave the profession as many already have.  Teachers now find themselves as the last line of defense in the battle for the souls of our nation's children. 

We are now living in a society that is literally collapsing under the weight of increasing social and economic inequality brought about by the consumer driven, for-profit culture of excessive greed that puts earnings per share above everything else. This value system idolizes the marketplace where competition, greed. and bullying constitute a way of life.  Anderson Cooper and Dr. Phil scratch their heads and hold town hall meetings on the increased bullying and suicides in elementary and middle schools, but they never go deeper than blaming the parents or holding the schools and teachers responsible for the bullying.

Teachers know and understand bullying because they have been the victims of corporate bullies and politicians like Governor Chris Christie who use bullying as a weapon and a tactic to undermine their integrity and their profession. That's why teachers will continue to occupy Wall Street and Washington as they turn the tables and demand accountability for the crimes being committed in the name of education reform. They are finally standing up to the bullies. As Congress debates No Child Left Behind and the future role of the federal government in education, this time around teachers and parents are no longer going to be silent, sitting on the sidelines. They are going to be marching in the streets, protesting, calling their congressmen and senators and making their voices heard. Teachers are finally demanding the freedom to teach and the professional autonomy and respect that they deserve.
Educators are only beginning their assessment of corporate American and they have a unique perspective and responsibility to challenge the status quo and begin to ask the important questions, questions that need to be on a test given to the nation's business leaders and politicians.
“What kind of nation is it that spends far more to kill enemy combatants and Afghan and Iraqi civilians than it does to help its own citizens who live below the poverty line? What kind of nation is it that permits corporations to hold sick children hostage while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves to save their sons and daughters? What kind of nation is it that tosses its mentally ill onto urban heating grates? What kind of nation is it that abandons its unemployed while it loots its treasury on behalf of speculators? What kind of nation is it that ignores due process to torture and assassinate its own citizens? What kind of nation is it that refuses to halt the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, dooming our children and our children’s children?”
Here’s a few more questions teacher might put into their "assessment:"
“What kind of a nation subjects poor, handicapped and immigrant children who do not speak English to a standardized test that labels them, their teachers and their schools a failure?”
What kind of a nation institutes an education policy that encourages competition between students, teachers and schools rather than collaboration, where a few Race to the Top and the rest are labeled losers?
What kinds of a nation values ignorance-inducing multiple choice tests and data tracking systems more than smaller class sizes, libraries, nurses, and teachers?
The answer and the assessment of the situation indicate a failed nation, a failed corporate state, and a failed political system.
We can do better! Join one of the many organization fighting for the future of our children and our nation. Got to their websites, make a donation, and get involved.