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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eli Broad's Jim McIntyre Goes After More Tax Dollars to Fund Broad Initiatives

Knoxville's Branch Office of the Billionaire Boys Club has a new campaign to come up with $35,000,000 over the next five years to push forward the corporate reform agenda in East Tennessee.  Local Broadie, Supt. Jim McIntyre, has placed the first bug in the ear of Knox County taxpayers at a televised meeting at Fulton High School:
"You get that raise one time, but (it) continues in your base salary," he said during a community forum held at Fulton High School. "Knox County Schools is asking for a raise of $35 million and that's probably the simplest way to put this."  
So if Knox County children and parents are the recipients of this $35,000,000 raise, they, too, are also the ones to pay for that raise. Simple, indeed.  Or simple-minded? 

What is Slim Jim planning to do this "raise?"  Well, the biggest chunk and the largest increase by far will go to "strategic compensation," which is to say bonus pay for test scores.  (Knox County citizens should go here to download the research report from Vanderbilt University that shows no positive effect of bonus pay for raising achievement as measured by test scores.) That amount goes from $0.00 in FY13 to $11,000,000 in FY17, for a total of $27,000,000 over five years.  Another big increase will go to "technology," which means in Broadie talk, getting all schools wired to do year-round testing online, as envisioned by Broad/Gates and the rest of BBC.  And then there is the huge increase for instructional time, which translated means longer school days and/or school year.  That goes from $500,000 to $7.25 million over five years, for a total of $23 million. 

If my math is right, these increases alone have just eaten up about $58 million.  Wonder what programs will be cut to pay for the amount in excess of the 35 million dollar "raise."  Stay tuned for announcements on the next public forum.  (Click chart to enlarge)

Krash Course #4: Bizarro Robin Hood

In the DC Universe exists an opposite (of sorts) to Superman—Bizarro Superman.

In the corporate education reform universe exists an opposite to Robin Hood—Bizarro Robin Hood.

This opposite, the school choice advocate, lacks the irony and dark (and sometimes slapstick) humor of the comic book alternate universe because school choice Bizarro Robin Hoods steal from the poor to give to the rich—while claiming they are serving the poor. Yes, these Bizarro Robin Hoods are real-world personifications of George Orwell's doublespeak and doublethink.

South Carolina appears closer than ever to falling for the school choice propaganda. School choice advocacy, funded by Howard Rich and Koch money across the U.S., has become a moving target, but the newest bizarre ploy has been to claim that choice is primarily for the impoverished children and their families—a beacon of hope to lure the public into believing in both the power of the free market and (ironically?) the power of the government to afford people in poverty the same choices as the affluent.

A typical argument comes recently from Randy Page, president of the Orwellian-named South Carolinians for Responsible Government: Private choice helps students, schools.

This, however, is Bizarro Robin Hood propaganda. Here is what the school choice advocates always fail to share:

Private schools (of the free market) do not outperform public schools when student characteristics are considered.

School type (public, private, or charter) is not the determining factor in educational outcomes, but the most powerful influence on student achievement remains the home and community of the child.

• Throughout the history of choice models, the outcomes have never lived up to the choice advocates' claims; see Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Florida (despite the claims otherwise). Choice has, however, produced some corrosive outcomes, including re-segregating schools.

• School choice involves much more than tuition or per-pupil expenditures. To have choice, families must have access to transportation and often have to incur costs related to supplies. No current choice package provides families in poverty the enormous funding needed to produce genuine leveling of the playing field.

• Tuition tax deductions are available ONLY to those families paying taxes, result in only a small percentage of the deduction amount, and are therefore in practice lining only the pockets of the affluent.

• Choice plans always create transient student populations. Few parents ever take the choices offered, and then those few who do, tend to return to their home schools in just a few years. This shifting of populations isn't healthy for students and distorts the data needed to determine if educational quality is being addressed.

• Parents often (if not primarily) choose schools based on factors other than educational quality—factors including religion and socio-economic stratification.

Beware Bizarro Robin Hood claiming that school choice is for poor families...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Does Aljazeera Have Better Programming on U. S. Education than U. S. Media?

Monty Neill, Andrew Carnevale, and Bethany Little on testing and reform.  Why do we have to look to Aljazeera to get this kind of quality exchange on education???

Oh yes, I forgot, Education Nation is on Microsoft-NBC and brought to you by the University of Phoenix.

Diane Ravitch and the Pattern in the Rug

On June 5, 2012 FairTest will honor Diane Ravitch with the Deborah W. Meier Hero in Education Award at the Julia Richman Educational Complex, 317 East 67th St., New York City.  If Ravitch's longtime nemesis, Gerald Bracey, were alive today, I think he would applaud this choice--or at least not protest it.  For even though she helped to sew the rug whose emerged pattern now horrifies her,  Dr. Ravitch's transformation is testament to the capacity of humans to learn from our mistakes and, more importantly, to exhibit the guts and fortitude to share that learning with others.  Diane has done both with grace, under pressure.  From FairTest:
Diane Ravitch is an internationally renowned and respected historian of education. Formerly a supporter of testing, test-based accountability, and school choice, she had the courage to publicly renounce her previous position after seeing the wreckage caused by No Child Left Behind. For the past two years, she has tirelessly toured the nation, encouraging educators, parents and other citizens to stand up against the relentless encroachment of high-stakes standardized testing on the minds of children and the lives of educators.
I would argue that without her 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System . . ., this weekend's OCCUPY the DOE in DC would be a much smaller event--perhaps not an event at all.  Her book has served as a central primer for educatng a generation of future teachers and parents on the reality of the status quo corporate education reform non-movement, and her continued commentaries grow stronger as they help to catalyze a real movement that grows wider and deeper by the day to put the public back into public education.

Just the fact that she is drawing extensive smears from pencil-necked commie-baiting brats like Kevin Carey in the once-respectable New Republic is a sure sign that she has hit her target, which is, of course, the Billionaire Boys Club and the network of academic has-beens and bought entrepelectuals that provide the press releases, phony research, and talking points for Gates and a tiny band of obscenely wealthy oligarchs intent on engineering society to the advantage of the advantaged.  Carey's smear begins with this sentence, which effectively attempts to tie together teachers, unions, communists, and Diane Ravitch:

On July 30, 2011, thousands of public school teachers rallied on the southwest corner of the Ellipse, near the White House. Union members mingled with the occasional communist pamphleteer, and, on a temporary stage, a series of activists, students, scholars, and teachers put forward variations on a theme: Standardized tests and corporate interests are ruining public education.
At least Carey got one thing right: Standardized tests and corporate interests are ruining public education.

So here's to Diane Ravitch.  This weekend as teachers and parents from all over the country gather to reclaim public education for the public, we will be toasting you, Diane. Cheers! From Bridging Differences:
There comes a time when you look at the rug on the floor, the one you've seen many times, and you see a pattern that you had never noticed before. You may have seen this squiggle or that flower, but you did not see the pattern into which the squiggles and flowers and trails of ivy combined.
In American education, we can now discern the pattern on the rug.

Consider the budget cuts to schools in the past four years. From the budget cuts come layoffs, rising class sizes, less time for the arts and physical education, less time for history, civics, foreign languages, and other non-tested subjects. Add on the mandates of No Child Left Behind, which demands 100 percent proficiency in math and reading and stigmatizes more than half the public schools in the nation as "failing" for not reaching an unattainable goal.

Along comes the Obama administration with the Race to the Top, and the pattern on the rug gets clearer. It tells cash-strapped states that they can compete for federal funding, but only if they open more privately managed schools (where few teachers have any job protections), only if they adopt national standards that have never been field-tested, only if they agree to evaluate teachers by student test scores, and only if they are ready to close down low-performing schools, fire the principal and staff, and call it a turnaround.

Race to the Top seems to have catalyzed a national narrative, at least among the mainstream media. The good guys open charter schools and fire bad teachers. The bad guys are lazy teachers who get lifetime tenure just for breathing and showing up. Most evil of all are the unions, who protect the bad teachers and fend off any effort to evaluate them. Anyone who questions the headlong rush to privatization and the blind faith in standardized testing will be smeared as "a defender of the status quo" who has "no solutions." Even if all the "reformers'" solutions are destructive and stale, even though they consistently have failed to produce better education, the reformers never think twice about their palette of "solutions."

Just by happenstance, a major documentary appears in September 2010 ("Waiting for 'Superman'") to recapitulate this narrative to millions. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation puts up the money to ensure that this morality tale of good reformers and bad teachers is shown to state legislatures, to civic groups, to people living in housing projects. The movie itself is financed in part by an evangelical billionaire (Philip Anschutz) who contributes heavily to libertarian and ultra-conservative causes.

At the same time, a small group of high-profile figures, led by Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, proclaim that low test scores are caused by bad teachers, and if they had their way, they would abolish tenure, seniority, and any other job protections for those greedy, lazy teachers. Freed of those encumbrances, teachers would hold on to their jobs only if their students' test scores went up. Economist Eric Hanushek adds another twist to the emerging scenario: fire 5 to 10 percent of the teachers whose students get the lowest scores, and amazing things are sure to happen: Bad teachers will be replaced by average teachers, test scores will rise to the top of the world, and the nation's gross domestic product will rise by trillions of dollars.

Governors and state legislatures heed these messages. How could they not? In state after state, men with vast personal fortunes invest in campaigns to end teachers' tenure, end seniority (now called Last In, First Out, or LIFO), and clear the way for private takeovers of public schools, where teachers work with no job rights at all. Understandably, the message is embraced by right-wing governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Rick Scott of Florida, but also by Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Daniel Malloy of Connecticut, as well as independent Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, the richest foundation in the United States, the Gates Foundation, pours hundreds of millions of dollars into a project to find the perfect teacher evaluation system, thus reinforcing the "reform" narrative that the best way to fix what ails public education is to create a foolproof way to find and fire those malingering bad teachers. Where the Gates Foundation leads, many other foundations follow, sure that this philanthropic behemoth is wisest because it has the most money and presumably the best thinking.

Just recently, the fabulously rich foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, released an accounting of its grants in the education sector. This foundation is known for its love of all things private, and its antipathy for unions, government regulation, and public education. This year, Walton handed out $159 million to its favorites. Tidy sums were paid to the KIPP schools (mostly non-union) and to Teach For America, which claims that neither training nor experience is necessary to succeed in the classroom. And along with grants to "right to work" organizations, libertarian think tanks, and promoters of voucher and charters, there were grants for allegedly liberal or nonpartisan organizations like Education Trust, the Brookings Institution, Education Week (the weekly newspaper for K-12 news, which hosts our blog), Bellwether Education Partners (home to Time magazine columnist Andrew Rotherham), the United Negro College Fund (which helps explain, along with over $1 billion from the Gates Foundation, why the president of UNCF recently urged wavering legislators in Georgia to vote for charter legislation), and Stand for Children (whose founder Jonah Edelman, son of civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman, gets hefty donations from equity investors, promotes charter schools, and led the successful battle to curtail teachers' job protections in Illinois). Walton granted $2.2 million to IFF, an organization that recently drafted a report to redesign the District of Columbia's public schools by increased privatization, and awarded $500,000 to Mind Trust of Indianapolis, whose plan proposes to eliminate the central school district and privatize public schools in that city. Walton gave $1 million to Michelle Rhee's Students First campaign, which works with Republican governors to oppose teachers' unions and job protections for teachers and to advocate for vouchers and charters.

The bitter fruit of the past few years of reform: The latest survey of the attitudes of American teachers shows a deeply demoralized profession. Job satisfaction of our nation's teachers has plummeted since 2009, the period in which attacks on teachers soared while budgets shrunk. Nearly one-third of teachers—1 million teachers—are considering quitting. That's a 70 percent increase since 2009. Who will replace them? The latest survey published by Gates and Scholastic found that: "Only 26 percent of teachers say that the results of standardized tests are an accurate reflection of student achievement most teachers."

Our policymakers claim that they are infusing business values into education, but what smart corporation purposefully demoralizes its employees and measures their worth with a metric the employees don't believe to be valid or accurate?

And while the new value-added assessments are supposed to identify the best and worst teachers—those likeliest to get a bonus or a pink slip—the public release of teacher data reports in New York City demonstrated how inaccurate and unreliable these ratings are. While policymakers eagerly await the evidence they need to begin firing the lowest-rated teachers, a new study by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER, finds that teacher turnover demoralizes the entire staff and lowers achievement, not just for students whose teachers were removed, but for all the students in the school.

Last week, I met a principal from Tennessee at the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She said her school is one of the highest-performing in the state and has been for many years. Every year, it gets an A for achievement and an F for value-added. She spends most of her time evaluating teachers to meet the demands of Tennessee's Race to the Top award. She reminded me that Tennessee has been doing value-added for 20 years, that it started this process under the auspices of William Sanders. She reminded me that he was trained as an agricultural statistician. She said, he thinks that children are like wheat, and their test scores should be equally predictable. She's retiring in a few months.

The pattern on the rug grows clear. Teaching will become a job, not a profession. Young people will typically spend a year or two as teachers, then move on to other, more rewarding careers. Federal and state policy will promote online learning, and computers will replace teachers. Online class sizes will reach 1:100, even 1:200; the job of monitoring the screens will be outsourced, creating large economies for state budgets. For-profit companies will make large profits. The Common Core standards will create a national marketplace for vendors, as Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff, Joanne Weiss, predicted. Entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of the new American style of education. As profits grow, the cost of education will be contained. Public education will increasingly be handed over to businesses designed to maximize economic efficiency and produce dependable profits for investors.

The report last week from the Klein-Rice commission of the Council on Foreign Relations reveals how this manner of thinking about education has become the conventional wisdom. Public schools as we know them, the commission suggests, are a threat to national security. What's needed to protect us from foreign enemies is more competition and choice, more privatization of our public schools, more No Child Left Behind, more Race to the Top. Big commissions tend to reflect the status quo. This one does, for sure.

See the pattern on the rug? It grows clearer every day. It is not about improving education. It is not about helping our society become more literate and better educated. Follow the money. We are indeed a nation at risk.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How Corporate Ed Reform is Chipping Away at Democracy

An article in Dissent Magazine by Joanne Barkan explains why the current corporate education reform movement, is not only poisoning an entire generation of children and destroying democracy, but is making lots of greedy people very rich. The irony is that those who hold the power of the purse strings are accountable to no one. However, as thousands of people gather this weekend to Occupy the Department of Education in Washington, DC, it is increasingly clear that the real threat to our national security are the private, for-profit interests who have hijacked meaningful education and the creativity and thinking skills needed to move this country into the future and to find solutions to real problems such as climate change, poverty, inequality and progress in general.

HT to Stan Karp at the Education Law Center.

Chipping Away at Democracy

Yes, the policies of ed reformers are wreaking havoc in public education, but equally destructive is the impact of their strategy on American democracy. From the start, the we-know-best stance, the top-down interventions at every level of schooling, the endless flow of big private money, and the imperviousness to criticism have undermined the “public” in public education. Moreover, the large private foundations that fund the ed reformers are accountable to no one—not to voters, not to parents, not to the children whose lives they affect. The beefed-up political strategy extends the damage: the ed reformers (most of whom take advantage of tax-exempt status) are immersing themselves in the dollars-mean-votes world of lobbying and campaigning.

The Supreme Court decision in
Citizens United (January 2010) and a related federal appeals court ruling in SpeechNow.org (March 2010) created loopholes for nonprofit organizations that effectively abolish all limits on campaign contributions. Ed reformers exploit the new legal framework exactly like other political operatives. This has two marked consequences. First is the fate of the original deal established by Congress—tax-exempt status in exchange for staying away from politics while serving some public good. The deal was eroded before Citizens United; now it has collapsed. In the world of ed reform, the political strategy makes a mockery of the tax-exempt privilege of the foundations and nonprofit groups involved. Second, most ed reformers have benefitted from branding themselves as progressives or “lifelong Democrats” (“I love labor unions—just not teachers’ unions”). This has given them credibility with liberals who, like most voters, haven’t paid close attention to the content and results of the ed reforms. The labeling has always been a ruse, but the politicking reformers have obliterated dividing lines: they work in local and state campaigns alongside corporate free-marketers and right-wing social conservatives who’ve long and openly supported privatizing public education, ending social programs, and eviscerating labor unions. In practice, they are one team.

Some funders and their tax-exempt grantees have hesitated to get more involved in politics. On occasion the reluctance has been cultural: they’ve always shied away from public debates on government policy and advocacy in general. More often it’s fear of jeopardizing their tax status. According to IRS regulations
• private foundations—a type of 501(c)3 organization—cannot lobby (defined as trying to influence legislation); they cannot campaign (defined as supporting or criticizing a candidate for public office); they can, however, “educate” anyone, including lawmakers, on any issue;

• most of the recipients of foundation money for ed reform are nonprofit groups with a different 501(c)3 status; they can do a specified amount of lobbying but no campaigning for candidates.

Here is the loophole: this second type of 501(c)3 can set up affiliated groups that do lobby and campaign. It can set up the following:

• political action committees (PACs), which have limits on the size of contributions accepted

• Independent Expenditure Committees (super PACs), which can accept unlimited contributions but cannot “coordinate” work with a candidate or party (an almost meaningless restriction)

• 501(c)4 “social welfare” organizations, such as the AARP and NAACP, which can accept unlimited contributions as long as political activity is not their “primary” activity (another weak restriction)

• 527 organizations that advocate only for issues, not candidates, and can accept unlimited contributions (the line separating issues from candidates is fuzzy)

Pro-politicking ed reformers routinely set up a full array of such groups and solicit contributions for each. In this way, they can collect unlimited funds from many donors for different purposes. Having mastered the nitty-gritty of political money, these reformers have been trying to convince their hesitant colleagues to join in and pony up.

Robichaux Calls Out La. Fascists, While Scott in Florida Pays Corporations to Privatize Schools

New Orleans has a defender of democracy in Orleans Parish School Board President, Thomas Robichaux.  Robichaux is clearly aware that as the public space recedes in these late days of casino capitalism, corporate fascism advances, and he is unafraid to say as much.  He is also keenly aware that for schools to be public, they must have public governance. For all intents and purposes, the vast majority of corporate charters, whether for profit or non-profit, fail this crucial test. 
Robichaux is as insistent as anyone, arguing that public education is not really "public" unless local voters have a say in who governs it. Charter schools in New Orleans, he says, should answer to the local board, not a state board that meets most of the time in Baton Rouge and has only two members with constituents in the city.

Robichaux takes the argument further than most, though. He worries that Gov. Bobby Jindal is out to charter every school in the state and sees the Republican bent for privatization as a cousin of the fascism that Benito Mussolini imposed on 1930s Italy.

"The modern Republican party is very fascist-oriented," Robichaux said. "It's modern fascism -- corporations taking over the government." 
And then there is Florida, whose portfolio of school privatization tools is more balanced between non-public charters and private school vouchers.  There, the nation's second most unpopular governor has signed a new bill to give even more millions next year in dollar for dollar tax credits to businesses that provide money for private school vouchers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Former KIPP Student Remembers Humiliation and Culturally Unresponsive Pedagogy

A clip from the Lindsay Gary's commentary at the Daily Cougar:
. . . Of my graduating class at KIPP, I was one of about 20 black students in a mostly Hispanic population. Being the minority wasn’t easy, and some of the teachers at KIPP didn’t make it any easier. There are a few incidents that vividly stand out to me.

I can still remember “judgment day” as I once called it. It was the day that students would learn their fate in attendance at the end-of-year trip. As an extremely well-behaved and straight-A student, I had no worries about my fate. But something was different in the teachers’ eyes when I met them at the judgment table. They told me that I was not on the list to go on the trip. I was shocked and embarrassed. It was heartbreaking news for a former “Student of the Year.” They explained that I had made an improper comment. As I searched my memory bank for any recollection of anything improper, one of my teachers explained my wrong-doing. The improper comment: “I understand and love learning about Jewish history, and I understand our founders are of Jewish heritage. I was just wondering if we could ever learn about black history or more about Hispanic history, since most of us are black and Hispanic.” I fought back tears as my fate was unveiled. I couldn’t understand what was so wrong about that statement. Did the opinion of a little black girl matter in such a school?

There were many other instances when I felt this intolerance, such as the time we were told our black hair products were a joke, the favoritism Hispanic students received, the lack of information we learned about black history, the fact that we were often targeted for misconduct, and the fact that at least one of the school’s plays was about Hispanic culture and none were about my own. But Judgement Day was by far the most hurtful of all my culturally negative experiences at KIPP.

. . . .

After such negative experiences, I vowed to never express my opinion at KIPP again. In fact, my teachers eventually allowed me to go on the trip. But they threatened that if I ever made remarks like that again, I’d be put on a plane, alone, from California to Houston. It wasn’t until Harriett Ball passed, that I decided to openly voice my opinion again.

In February, I received the monthly newsletter from a KIPP Alumni Association representative and was extremely disappointed with what the newsletter mentioned, or should I say failed to mention. The newsletter highlighted Valentine’s Day and internships among other things, but made absolutely no mention of Black History Month, which as its name states, spans the course of the entire month. I was already disappointed with my recent discovery that the woman who had inspired and mentored the KIPP co-founders, was in fact a black woman. It wasn’t until Ball’s passing, seven years after I had completed my KIPP education, that I would learn anything about her. Don’t you think knowing this would have made a world of difference, created a pool of inspiration, for a little black girl at KIPP? Was it merely an accident or pure neglect that the newsletter failed to mention something so important to black people? . . .

Guest Post: LAUSD Should Fund Schools in Need, Not District Offices

David Lyell is a 13-year veteran LAUSD teacher, and secretary of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA).By David Lyell

First published in the Huffington Post

Dear LAUSD School Board Members, Superintendent Deasy, Secretary Duncan, and President Obama,

We all want to provide the educational opportunities for children and our communities. Please help me receive clarity on the following:

Instead of sending Title I, II, and III money to school sites, as is intended under these programs, LAUSD senior management has chosen to keep this money at central district offices in order to fund unproven, costly initiatives such as the Teaching and Learning Initiative, commonly known as the Value-Added Teacher Evaluation model.

Due to a lack of transparency (the dust hasn't yet settled), it's not even clear yet how much will be spent centrally on these unproven programs, but it appears to be well over $175 million.

Is this legal?

I am in no way questioning the integrity of LAUSD senior district management. Perhaps cutting these programs so we can hire more consultants was a mere oversight.

Isn't this decision a clear violation of the 2011 Voluntary Resolution Agreement between LAUSD and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights? If not a clear violation, and I think it very well may be, at the very least, does it not violate the spirit of the agreement?

LAUSD's English learners and African-American students disproportionally suffer when money is spent at LAUSD's central administrative offices rather than at schools in our most under-served communities. Schools with well-funded PTAs that have deep pockets will be okay, but schools that can not provide these essential supports will continue to go without libraries, nurses, and counselors, among other services.

Is this really what we want for our communities? When children in affluent communities have all the best supports as they grow and learn, and children in our most economically depressed neighborhoods aren't afforded the same opportunities -- we can not even begin to approach using words to describe such an injustice.

I've taught in schools in our most under-served communities, and I've taught in schools where children have every kind of support service at their disposal, and the difference in opportunities provided is unconscionable.

It is simply disingenuous at best to suggest that we can bridge the achievement gap by simply raising expectations. Yes, expectations should be high, for students, teachers, administrators, and parents, but such an argument diverts attention away from the vast inequality in services afforded students.

A school is not a spreadsheet. A school is not data we can examine on a page so that a six-figure consultant who doesn't even live or work in the neighborhood can make snap judgments about what the community most needs.

A school is a community where relationships form, and through these bonds, children, teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, parents and administrators establish trust, and nurture, foster, and create an ever-changing, constantly growing, always tenuous environment where mistakes become opportunities, and the insurmountable becomes possible.

These relationships only form and grow when schools foster an environment where children who otherwise would drop-out have a reason to stay in school.

Children need libraries, nurses, counselors, arts programs, access to adult education opportunities, vocational classes, early childhood education, music, dance, band, and sports programs. For 20 years, leaders across the country have been saying that the first five years of life are vital to child development, yet right now, today, the LAUSD school board is poised to decimate early childhood education.

Instead of fostering and growing the above programs, LAUSD is proposing to cut all of the above programs, either entirely eliminating them or decimating their funding to roughly 10% of their previous levels.

They say they don't have the money, but they recently found private foundation money to hire a social media director at a cost of $93,000 per year.

The argument that they don't have money would make a little more sense if the district wasn't proposing to spend $175 million at central district offices rather than providing this money as intended under Title I, II, and III to students in our most underserved communities.

Please tell me this was simply an administrative error. I'll repeat the question once more:

Isn't the decision to spend Title I, II, and III money at LAUSD central district offices rather than at school sites in our most under-served communities a clear violation of the 2011 Voluntary Resolution Agreement between LAUSD and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights?

David Lyell is a 13-year veteran LAUSD teacher, now serving as Secretary of United Teachers Los Angeles, after being elected March 29, 2011. He blogs at Intersections South LA, LA Progressive, and huffingtonpost.com.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Full Schedule for Occupy the DOE March 30-April 2

Be in DC this weekend! 
But if you can't, watch it all on LiveStream.  

Occupy the DOE in DC, Friday, March 30th: Take Our Message to Capitol Hill

10:00 a.m. Welcome Rally at the DOE!!!!  United Opt Out Administrators speak up:   Morna McDermott McNulty, Laurie Murphy,  Peggy Robertson, Tim Slekar and Ceresta Smith.  Why we are here and what we hope to accomplish – we plan to create a greater awareness of the negative effects of corporate education reform and share tools for action. We opt out of corporate education reform.

11:00 a.m. Mic-check: Share our stories, our dreams for public education and more.

NoonALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) awareness session by United Opt Out Administrators
1:30 p.m. March to Capitol Hill to share our demands.  Route/guidelines/permit for march to Capitol Hill can be found here. Map can be found here. We will share a copy of the Parental Rights Opt Out Bill (currently going to committee to allow a parent the right to opt a child out of the state test with no punitive consequences to the child, school or district) from Colorado – we suggest this bill become a model for opt out bills in every state.  This is a proclamation for issuing bills across the land; opting out needs to be protected in all fifty states. We will share our concerns regarding ALEC legislation, NCLB, RTTT and our demands for a public education system that provides a whole and equitable education for all children – without high stakes testing and punitive consequences for students, teachers, schools, communities and our democracy.

3:00 p.m. Appointment with Senator Sanders educational counsel, Jessica Cardichon.

4:00 p.m. Return to the DOE to continue our occupation.

9:30 p.m. at Saint Stephens with Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign: Strategy, Conflict, & Creativity – Tools for Harmonizing Grassroots Power 
In the wake of a tumultuous Fall and in anticipation of a vibrant Spring how will the populist uprising manifest and draw new members to the cause? How can we build movement identity that is sympathetic and inviting? Overcoming obstacles, misconceptions, and confusion about the nature of conflict, the activist-organizer’s role in building movement power, and understanding grand strategic principles are essential if we are to deliver meaningful victories.

Occupy the DOE in DC, Saturday, March 31st: We OCCUPY the DOE
10:00 a.m. Wake Up Call – Join us in the morning to rally and mic-check at the DOE.  We want to hear your voice!!

11:00 a.m. Liza Campbell, teacher and education organizer in NYC and Brian Jones, teacher and co-narrator for the Inconvenient Truth about Waiting for Superman:  Building a Grassroots Movement to Defend Public Education
NYC public school teachers Liza Campbell and Brian Jones will describe their experiences fighting privatization, charter school co-locations, school closings and high-stakes standardized testing. These activists will share lessons from the struggle in New York, and discuss the challenges facing our movement today.

Brian Jones is a teacher, actor and activist in New York. He is the co-narrator of the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, and a contributing author to the new book, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation (Haymarket Books).

Liza Campbell is a teacher and education organizer in New York City. Currently she focuses her activism energy on building a movement of parents and teachers to fight high stakes testing, combating the school-to-prison pipeline while pushing for restorative alternatives, and occupying the New York City Department of Education. She teaches high school math.

1:30 p.m. – Linda Nathan, Ann O’Halloran, Ruth Rodriguez-Fay.  Getting Beyond the Madness of High-Stakes Testing: Occupy the Classroom!
Linda Nathan is the founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy, the city’s first and only public high school for the visual and performing arts. Dr. Nathan has written a widely-praised book about teaching and leadership in urban schools, “The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test,” which was recently published in Spanish. Ann O’Halloran was the 2007 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year and is a member of Citizens for Public Schools.  Ruth Rodríguez-Fay (pictured here) is past President of Citizens for Public Schools and a “Save Our Schools” interim committee member.

2:30 Jim Horn:  KIPP and the Total Compliance Model of Schooling the Poor:  Ending the KIPP-nosis
Since 2000 when KIPP, Inc. presented a student skit at the Republican National Convention, thus making its debut onto the world political stage, this corporate charter franchise has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars to promote KIPP and the KIPP pedagogical model as the segregated, no-excuses solution to urban schooling. This presentation will share research on KIPP schools that tells a very different story than the one presented in the corporate media.  Also included will be excerpts from firsthand accounts of former teachers who taught within the KIPP organization and lived to tell about it.

Jim Horn is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Foundations at Cambridge College.  He also publishes and contributes to Schools Matter, a weblog devoted to the preservation and renewal of public education. He has close to four decades of experience as a K-12 educator and as professor of social foundations and research.  He publishes opinion pieces regularly in various venues, and he is committed to the social justice leadership mission in schools here and abroad.

3:30 p.m. Dave Greene:  The Inconvenient Truths behind TFA and its Inadequate Version of Teacher Training.
SUMMARY: Most CM’s (TFA teachers) are nice, well intentioned, upper middle class suburban white kids with no bicultural literacy. They usually see their two years as “community service” on the road to a “higher” calling. Many of them would make excellent teachers, if they stayed.

They, and we, are told they are the solution to the problems facing education. TFA propaganda is all we see. TFA is very good at marketing their product, which is not education; it is TFA.

TFA is the Emperor with no clothes. It’s time to tell the Emperor we see.

David Greene is a former Social Studies teacher and coach in NYC, Woodlands HS, and Scarsdale HS. He presently is a field supervisor for Fordham University, mentoring Teach For Americans in the Bronx. He is a staff member of WISE Services, an organization that helps high schools create and run experiential learning programs for seniors. He is an advisor to the Foundation For Male Studies and The Boy Initiative, a HS football coach, and was a member of the Save Our Schools Call to Action Conference and Rally Program Committee.

Mr. Greene co-presented a workshop on TFA at the SOS Conference last July. He has had work published in Ed Week on line and has also been referenced by Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post web based column, The Answer Sheet. He has given several talks on how NCLB and RTTP have negatively affected the success of boys in public schools. He is a regular contributor to The Teachers Talk Back Blog, was featured on “Bronx Talk”, blogs at his website, DCG Mentoring, and is still working on a book tentatively titled, So You Think You Know Education, A Teacher’s Perspective.

6:30 p.m. Movie – TEACH at American University 6:30 p.m. followed by a panel with Bob & Yvonne Lamothe, Ann O’Halloran,  and Ruth Rodriguez.
Location: American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016

The TEACH documentary, TEACH, Teachers are Talking, Is the Nation Listening? is a film that features conversations about the art of teaching and learning by teachers themselves. We have interviewed over 40 teachers from many school districts including Boston, Brooklyn, NY, Madison, WI, Key West, FL, North Conway, NH, Cambridge, MA, Newton, MA, Lincoln-Sudbury,MA, and others. Additional parts of the movie include legislative hearings, speeches by Bradley Whitford, Diane Ravitch, and others, debates between union and school officials, various public hearings about school closings, and various teacher rallies. Recently we traveled to Wisconsin to take part in the rallies and document the multitude of happenings there to fight to protect their unions. We have interviews and many scenes from their recent protests there including the rally of more than 100,000 people on February 26.
Robert Lamothe and Yvonne Lamothe are teachers in the Boston Public Schools. Since we started this movie around 4 years ago we have become increasing concerned and dismayed by what has been happening to our schools and education in general. People are making decisions about our schools that don’t really know what they are doing and don’t have the interests of children and our schools as the determining factor in setting our education policies. The joys of learning and teaching are being destroyed by this terrible emphasis on testing and standards. We have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that very seldom do teachers voices get heard. Teachers who should be a leading part of education policy and “reform” are for the most part not part of the process, not part of the national and local debates.

Each day we hear about teaching and teachers through the eyes of administrators, politicians and business leaders. Public education in the US is under attack. Seldom is voice given to those dedicated and experienced teachers who work in our public schools.  Interviews with teachers from many school districts illuminate what’s happening to schools across the country, what is impacting their performance, and offers their analysis of the performance and purpose of the charter movement. This documentary hopes to give dignity and appreciation to the passion, commitment and insight of those who make the choice to devote their lives to educating all of our nation’s children.
As stated in the subtitle, Teachers are Talking, Is the Nation Listening. We hope to bring the voices and wisdom of teachers to the nation.

Robert Lamothe and Yvonne Lamothe
Director / Producer
Film Our Way Films

Occupy the DOE in DC, Sunday, April 1st – April Fools Day – We OCCUPY the DOE
April Fools!  No Child Left Behind – Fool Me Once.
Race to the Top – We Won’t be Fooled Again.

10:00 a.m. Wake Up Call – Join us in the morning to rally, mic-check and wake up America with our stories, our hopes and our demands!

11:00 a.m. – Jesse Turner:  Children More than Data

Jesse will discuss how the current NCLB/RTTT assessment framework is both unethical and unbalanced.  He wants to engage participants in an interactive dialogue – what does an Inclusive Balanced Assessment Framework look like? A balanced framework using authentic measures that values the voice of students, teachers, and parents is within our reach.
Dr. Jesse Turner is the Director of the Central Connecticut State University Literacy Center, teaching advanced clinical graduate courses for literacy specialists. As part of his department’s community engagement mission, the Literacy Center at CCSU provides over $130,000.00 worth of tutoring by certified teachers to local children, free of charge, every year. Dr. Turner works closely on a daily basis with children, parents, and teachers and is an activist and advocate for children, parents, and teachers. He has spoken to audiences across the nation about the problems created by the No Child Left Behind Act, In 2010 Jesse created the Facebook group “Children Are More Than Test Scores” as a way to connect individuals and communities struggling against the NCLB law. Two years ago Jesse walked 400 miles in 40 days from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of the negative impact NCLB/RTTT was having on children, parents, teachers, and schools. With a core group of people he met on his walk, and online Jesse helped build the coalition that became the Save Our Schools March, and Week of Action. His work includes advocating for children, parents and teachers, chairing conferences, writing grants, and organizing community based projects.

1:30 p.m. – Mark Naison and Ira Shor: The Occupy Movement and the Struggle to Save Public Education in the United States
Mark and Ira will discuss the intense attack on public education while connecting it to larger policy campaigns in a class war underway in America. Further discussion will focus on the banning of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed in the MAS program at Tuscon.

Mark Naison is Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University. He is the author of four books and over 100 articles on African American politics, social movements and American culture and sports. Dr. Naison is the Principal Investigator of the Bronx African American History Project, one of the largest community based oral history projects in the nation and has begun work on an book of oral histories from the BAAHP, with Robert Gumbs, entitled Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1030’s to the 1960’s. His articles about Bronx music and Bronx culture have been published in German, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese as well as English. When not doing historical research, Naison likes to play tennis and golf, post commentary on his blog “With a Brooklyn Accent” and make periodic forays into the media. He has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, the Discovery Channel’s Greatest American Competition (as Dr King’s advocate), and on the Dave Chappell Show, where his “performance” has been preserved on that show’s Second Year DVD. Most recently, he has begun presenting historical “raps” in Bronx schools under the nickname of “Notorious Phd” and was the subject of stories about his use of hip hop in teaching in the Daily News, and on Bronx 12 Cablevision, and Fox Business.

IRA SHOR works with Prof. Mark Naison of Fordham University on starting “99% clubs” affiliated with the Occupy movement. Shor is a Professor of Rhetoric/Composition at the City University of NY’s Graduate Center(Phd Program in English) and in the Dept. of English at the College of Staten Island/CUNY. Shor started the new doctorate in Rhetoric/Composition at the CUNY Grad Center in 1993. There, he directs dissertations and offers seminars in literacy, Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy, whiteness studies, composition theory and practice, and the rhetorics of domination and resistance. At the College of Staten Island/CUNY, he teaches first-year writing, non-fiction, coming-of-age narratives, multicultural literature, and mass media.

His 9 published books include a 3-volume set in honor of the late Paulo Freire, the noted Brazilian educator who was his friend and mentor: CRITICAL LITERACY IN ACTION(college language arts) and EDUCATION IS POLITICS(Vol 1, k-12, and Vol. 2, Postsecondary Across the Curriculum). Shor’s work with Freire began in the early 1980s and lasted until Freire’s unfortunate passing in 1997. He and Freire co-authored A PEDAGOGY FOR LIBERATION in 1986, the first “talking” book Freire published with a collaborator. Shor also authored the widely used EMPOWERING EDUCATION(1992) and WHEN STUDENTS HAVE POWER(1996), two foundational texts in critical teaching. His CRITICAL TEACHING AND EVERYDAY LIFE(1980)was the first book-length treatment of Freire-based critical methods in the North American context. That book grew out of Shor’s teaching for Open Admission students in the City University in the 1970s, where he helped build an experimental writing program recognized as one of three successful efforts in higher education. Coming to the CUNY in 1971 after a PhD at Wisconsin, he experimented with critical literacy, taught Basic Writing for 15 years, and now offers doctoral courses.

Born into a working-class family in 1945 in the South Bronx of New York City, Shor attended mediocre local public schools until he was selected for the premier public high school then in the nation, New York City’s Bronx High School of Science. There, he saw how differently education for the elite is managed compared to the education for the majority he took part in before. In the Jewish South Bronx of the 1950s, he grew up in a rent-controlled apartment among Eastern European families, his being Russian. Shor’s father, a son of immigrants, became a sheet-metal worker after he dropped out of school at 15. He learned his trade from a family friend; during World War II and the Korean War, he built battleships and aircraft carriers at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. Shor’s mother, also first-generation, was a bookkeeper for small businesses who finished high school but could not afford to go to college, which broke her heart.

After graduating from Bronx Science High School, Shor attended the University of Michigan(BA, English, 1966), then the University of Wisconsin(MA, 1968, and Phd, 1971), both sites of vigorous student activism in the 1960s. Shor joined the antiwar, civil rights, and students’ rights movements of that time. His dissertation was on Kurt Vonnegut whose fiction stood for equality, peace, and kindness. After finishing his Phd, Shor started teaching comp and basic writing at Staten Island Community College, then a 2-year unit of CUNY. He joined the CUNY faculty when the democratic policies of Open Admissions and Free Tuition were under attack. Shor joined the long defense of democratic rights at CUNY, 1971-1976, while also experimenting with critical literacy for his working-class students. He worked with Paulo Freire in the 80s and 90s, when Freire and he co-authored A Pedagogy for Liberation.

2:30 p.m. – The Education of Sam Sanders with author Thomas S. Poetter
Set in 2029, The Education of Sam Sanders tells the story of an 8th grader searching for meaning in his school experiences. In a public school system beset by the finality and rigidity of standardized tests and curriculums, Sam Sanders, with the help of his teacher and mother, defies the system and creates something new: a curriculum that enlightens rather than categorizes students. In this hopeful yet frightening look at an educational future not too far from our own, we encounter the high cost of inquiry-oriented learning and the even higher cost of a system that suppresses it.  The Education of Sam Sanders is a valuable book for young adults in schools, students of teaching, teachers, and parents/citizens concerned by current trends in public education. This inspiring work offers a unique and in-depth analysis of the high stakes testing and standardization movements and surfaces ideas for how we might change our current direction.

Thomas S. Poetter is a Professor of Curriculum Studies in the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.  A longtime public school advocate and partner, Poetter continues to write and teach with remarkably talented,focused students and colleagues at Miami in the areas of curriculum, teaching, and public education renewal.  Among his many published journal articles and books is his recent edited book with doctoral students, 10 Great Curricula:  Lived Conversations of Progressive, Democratic Curriculum in School and Society (2011, Information Age Publishers).   He can be reached at poettets@muohio.edu.

3:30 p.m. – Stephen Krashen
Is American Education Backing the Wrong Horse? (Yes)

The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students’ scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests that enforce the standards, and rate teachers on the basis of student performance (value-added measures). Each of these claims is unfounded. Dr. Krashen will discuss each claim and how to refute it. And – Stephen has a solution – join us to hear more.
Stephen Krashen is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Southern California. He is best known for developing the first comprehensive theory of second language acquisition, introducing the concept of sheltered subject matter teaching, and as the co-inventor of the Natural Approach to foreign language teaching. He has also contributed to theory and application in the area of bilingual education, and has done important work in the area of reading. He holds a PhD in Linguistics from UCLA, was the 1977 Incline Bench Press champion of Venice Beach and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He is the author of The Power of Reading (Heinemann, 2004, second edition). His recent papers can be found at http://www.sdkrashen.com.

7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Bus Boys & Poets:   Barry Lane Cabaret
Location: Cullen Room @ Busboys and Poets, 5th & K

Barry Lane is an author, teacher, comedian and singer.  Barry’s Cabaret celebrates teachers.  He states: These are difficult times for teachers.  There are serious issues in educational accountability and instruction raised by the new Common Core Standards. There are one-size-fits-all bubble tests that rank teachers.  There are politico-pundits who blame teachers for all the problems of public education. Time to forget about all that, let your hair down, and concentrate on what’s real.  Time to DANCE, LAUGH, SING.
After years of doing stand-up and parody karaoke singing as part of his academic presentations, Barry Lane has put together a genuine interactive, improvisational, nightclub act for teachers. You will sing, you will dance and you will learn to laugh at yourself and the crazy world around you.  You may also begin to realize once again, that you have the most important job in the world.

Occupy the DOE in DC, MONDAY, April 2nd – Let’s Bring Real Learning to the White House: Real Hope. Real Solutions.

9:00 a.m. Join us at the DOE – Poster Making Party, Mic-check and more.

10:00 a.m. Solutions for Communities – Mike Klonsky:  “This is how we do it: Parents Organizing to Save Our Schools”

Michael Klonsky, Ph.D. is on the education faculty at DePaul University in Chicago. He currently serves as the national director of the Small Schools Workshop and is a member of the National Steering Committee of Save Our Schools (SOS).  Dr. Klonsky is a teacher educator who has spoken and written extensively on school reform issues with a focus on urban school restructuring. He is also the parent of three children who have been educated in Chicago’s public schools.  His latest book (with Susan Klonsky), Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society (Routledge), is a critique of top-down school reform and the push towards privatization of public schools. He is also the author of Small Schools: The Numbers Tell a Story (University of Illinois Small Schools Workshop) and co-author of A Simple Justice: The Challenge for Teachers in Small Schools (Teachers College Press).  He has served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Youth Violence and is past president of the board of Catalyst, Chicago’s school-reform journal. He has also written extensively on the history and progress of Chicago’s school reform movement and has assisted teachers, parents, and community groups in efforts to save, rethink, and transform their public schools.

His work is profiled at http://klonsky.blogspot.com/
His SmallTalk blog can be found at http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/
His Schooling in the Ownership Society blog is at http://schoolingintheownershipsociety.blogspot.com/
mail: smallschoolsworkshop@yahoo.com

11:00 a.m. Solutions for Educators – Bess Altwerger, Morna McDermott McNulty and Peggy Robertson (more info. to follow):  Professional Schools of Conscience for Educators and the Declaration by Ken Goodman

12:30 p.m. March to the White House – Share Real Learning…..Real Assessment….Real Teaching…Real Democracy.  Solutions for the 99% – Not Profit for the 1%.
Tell Me What Real Learning Looks Like?  This is What Real Learning Looks Like!!!
Share our DEMANDS.
Mic-Check – Share our stories from students, teachers, parents and community members.  Let’s tell them what we know about quality learning and teaching.  Let’s tell them what we demand in return.  Let’s share our posters – our visuals of real teaching and learning. Bring student work, bring STUDENTS!!!  Bring instruments (hand held), art displays, history, science and math projects (on poster displays that can be hand held) – let’s share quality learning experiences. Our children are more than a test score. Our teachers are not robots reading a script.  Let’s bring it the White House and let them see.

Return to the DOE where we pass the torch to Save Our Schools:  A national movement dedicated to saving, rethinking and transforming public schools. 

4:00 p.m.  Save Our Schools Steering Committee members announce the next action.  (current steering committee members attending: Don Bartalo, Peggy Robertson, Ceresta Smith and Jesse Turner)

Petrilli's polemic against Alfie Kohn: Half-reactionary, half-mendacious

"What a teacher can do – all a teacher can do – is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with..." — Alfie Kohn

Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity. -- Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002).With a shameful broadside against the esteemed Alfie Kohn, Fordham's Michael Petrilli demonstrates once more why he's the darling of The Hoover Institution and all the other fringe-right think-tanks. I don't know what I found more disturbing about Petrilli's recent piece: the endless parade of straw-men he marshals, or his constant allusion to long discredited meritocracy myths.

What made me retch was this passage: "...KIPP network, which boast high student achievement and a well-rounded curriculum." As someone who writes alongside professors most familiar with the cultural sterilization and criminal attrition rates that KIPP has the dubious distinction of being renowned for, the passage was incredulous. In the end, of course, Petrilli's choice of corporate charters is proof positive of all Kohn's arguments. The latest from the KIPP front only serves to make Petrilli's shrillness on this more glaring.

In a way I was glad to see Petrilli wax honest about how there's a concerted effort to train the poor, while teaching the affluent, as evidenced by his reference to Hirsch et al. When social justice insists that testing is not teaching, we forget that the right-wing doesn't want entire swaths of the populace educated (at least in terms of critical thinking), but rather wants them trained to be compliant. In that context, Petrilli's gushing about the wonders of standardized tests for what he terms "importance of basic knowledge and skills" (read as teaching minority children to say "would you like fries with that?") makes perfect sense. This theme is compounded by Petrilli's unsubstantiated assertion that somehow the right kind of education leads to a "path to the middle class," when we know that schools alone can't fix the ills of our our society. Only Petrilli could write that the right-of-center Education Trust is "very liberal" without one iota of irony. Truth is, EdTrust—West's Arun Ramanathan is easily as reactionary as Petrilli is, maybe more so.

Near the end of his tirade Petrilli attempts to absolve the reactionary plutocrats comprising the "Billionaire Boys Club" of malfeasance by trotting out names from the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) as supposed evidence that their funders and the rest of the corporate cabal somehow support "civil rights." Absent from Petrilli' obsequious defense of the one-percent — who are bound and determined to privatize everything in sight — is the whole fund-to-advocate paradigm that most NPICs operate under today. I touch on fund-to-advocate in NCTQ's LAUSD report's highly questionable veracity shows Bill Gates' pervasiveness and perniciousness, but a longer treatment is indicated in the near future. In Los Angeles, this trend of NPICs pedling their donors' ideologies in order to secure revenue streams is so bad, activists started the Occupy United Way! group in response.

The proliferation of cash strapped 501C3s willing to advocate any policy their donors dictate is one of the most odious and insidious ways that the "Billionaire Boys Club proper" and their like-minded counterparts with names like DeVos, Bradley, Koch, Hastings, and Scaife, control both policy and discourse. This comes with the added benefit of providing the appearance of support from groups ostensibly associated with civil rights. Naturally advocating policies that exacerbate segregation by both race and class are anathema to civil rights, but that doesn't stop opportunists nor funding hounds in the non-profit sector from being willing mouthpieces for the plutocrat class. For the real civil rights perspective on corporate education reform, see Brian Jones essays on how charter schools claiming "civil rights" is incongruous with reality.

Given the time, I'd dismantle Petrilli's entire diatribe against Kohn paragraph by paragraph. That said, I'm in the midst of my school board campaign, helping community members and United Adult Students in their struggle to save LAUSD Adult Education, assisting Micheltorena families fight a charter colocation, and providing material support for Adelanto families successfully fighting the Parent Revolution's hostile takeover of their school, so time is at a premium right now.

The Tragedy of Education Transformation: Leadership without Expertise

The Tragedy of Education Transformation: Leadership without Expertise

South Carolina's Superintendent of Education Mick Zais makes several claims in The State (March 25, 2012) that build on one central argument: "The most important information about teachers isn’t the degrees they have or their years of seniority. Their effectiveness in the classroom matters much, much more."

Like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Zais has no experience teaching children in K-12 public education. This complete lack of teaching experience and degrees in the field of education is a suspect position from which to claim that these two characteristics do not matter. In fact, political appointees and elected officials sit in unique positions often above both accountability (the mantra du jour of the political elite regarding education) and qualifications—unlike the real world markets they often praise.

Leadership without Expertise?

Since the early 1980s, U.S. public education has been experimenting with accountability, standards, testing, and school report cards. In 2012, every single state as well as educational leaders at the federal level have declared those public schools failures or inadequate.

Zais's solution to this dynamic echoes the national argument now facing our public schools:

Accountability, standards, testing, and school report cards have failed, they argue, thus the solution is more and different accountability, standards, testing, and report cards!

This complete failure in logic and context resonates only with those without the exact qualities Zais and Duncan reject—teaching experience and formal preparation in teaching and learning.

I have taught now for 28 years, including 18 years teaching public high school English in rural SC. What has benefited me most in those years teaching?

Without question, the single greatest contribution to my effectiveness as a teacher has been experience. I am significantly superior today to the teacher I was nearly 3 decades ago, and I am certain I am now a pale version of what I'll be in the coming decade.

Inextricable from the importance of experience are my degrees in education and my scholarship over my career.

In what profession does experience and knowledge of the field not matter? Do we want medical doctors without experience and education in medicine? Airplane pilots without experience flying planes?

But our elected and appointed education leaders are not alone in this total lack of credibility to portray education accurately or to pose solutions needed for our persistent challenges to teach and learn in our public schools. Political leadership would have much less power and influence if our media took the responsibility to challenge and confront the repeated false claims and hollow solutions coming from our state and federal government concerning schools.

Secretary Duncan and Superintendent Zais, for example, are allowed the bully pulpit of their positions, without regard to their lack of experience or expertise. As a result, the public is fed a continuous stream of misinformation and jumbled logic. Let's consider a few in Zais's commentary.

• Teacher experience and degrees do not matter, but classroom effectiveness does? This claim falls apart when we examine what constitutes classroom effectiveness. Ample research shows that teacher effectiveness includes significant correlations with experience and degrees (see HERE), thus the initial claim poses a false dichotomy and a disturbing lack of awareness of the field of education.

• Measuring teacher effective on fixed test scores is a failure but value added methods solve that problem? Again, this is a common-sense sounding argument that has power among those who haven't taught and those without knowledge of the field. But the overwhelming patterns of evidence concerning VAM-style teacher and school accountability, even by those advocating the practice, show that VAM is unstable and not a credible avenue for guiding accountability policy. [1]

• School report cards fail because they have used "ambiguous terms," but new report cards will work because they will label schools with A through F ratings? This is the most troubling and illogical argument I have seen recently. How is an "A" less ambiguous than "Met"? Both require that anyone wanting to know what either means has some sort of rubric for how this singular notation captures some set of criteria. The problem is not the labeling format, but the act of labeling and the failure to acknowledge that all labeling and ranking systems used to sort children, teachers, and schools overwhelmingly reflect the status of the student's life outside of the control of the student, teacher, or school. Test-based data remain in 2012 a proxy for the socioeconomic conditions of any child's life more so than an accurate representation of teaching or learning.*

And this leads to a final similarity between Zais and Duncan. In Zais's commentary, he fails to acknowledge or mention poverty even once (although SC sits in the bottom quartile of affluence in the nation)—just as Duncan is apt to do in his many speeches.

The unacknowledged truth about education in SC and across the U.S. is that schools that struggle are burdened by the weight of poverty and too often fail to confront social inequity by perpetuating inequity through policies such as standardized testing, tracking students, and disproportionate disciplinary practices.

Leadership without expertise is no leadership at all, and it leads only to more troubling and ironic conclusions. Zais ends his commentary with: "Student learning is at the heart of accountability and educator evaluation. Our new evaluation system puts students first. It has the potential to transform education in South Carolina."

Yes, if the new evaluation system is mandated, transformation will occur, that is if we are willing to consider destroying teacher autonomy and morale, student engagement and deep understanding, and public school stability as transformation.

[1] See Bruce Baker's detailed examinations of value-added methods at School Finance 101. Also note that Dr. Baker has experience and formal training in the areas about which he presents information.

* Leaders without experience, preparation, or scholarship in the field of education have neither current nor historical context for their claims. Even a cursory examination of the Poverty Index and school report cards used in SC reveal the powerful connection between poverty and measurable student outcomes. This same dynamic is revealed in the data from the College Board in every single year the SAT has been administered as well.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Students Call KIPP the Kids In Prison Program

This morning the Vanderbilt Press Office issued a press release announcing a speech by KIPP's chief child abuser, Mike Feinberg, who recently relinquished his Superintendency of KIPP Houston to go on the road full time to promote the penal pedagogy system of KIPP, which represents the second coming of eugenics in America: segregate, contain, culturally neuter, psychologically sterilize, and behaviorally program the children of the urban defectives.

This firsthand account below was posted this morning at NYC Public School Parents.  This account mirrors some of the same themes that emerge from the interviews I am doing with former teachers of KIPP.  Note that special education students are regularly treated with the identical disrespect and test prep curriculum as the rest of children silently imprisoned each day in 109 of these total compliance isolation camps that receive public dollars to support this social control strategy that is top priority with Gates, Broad, and the Walton Klan:

A few months ago, Class Size Matters met with a former KIPP student who lives in the Bronx and her mother to hear about their experiences at the celebrated charter school. What follows are excerpts from this interview.  The girl’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Mom: Students who are accepted to KIPP and who have IEP's [individualized education plans] do not get the correct services or help to be successful.  The school would rather make it difficult, leaving the parent frustrated and forcing her to remove her child. The principal always invited me to take my child out if I did not like the way she was being treated.  My response was always, "She has a right to be here just like any other child who went through the lottery system.  She will stay until she finishes."  My reasons for her to continue were because the curriculum was good and I knew that she could benefit academically from the rigorous demands, but sometimes they went to the extreme and she suffered for it.
At the very first, I saw the way they were talking to some kids in the line as they’re going in. They’re like (shouting) “Oh you know you’re not supposed to come in here with those!” And I'm saying to myself, it doesn’t have to be like that – they were screaming at them. I said to myself, you know, I really have to find out about this school. So I decided that I was going to be very active. 
Well, that’s where my problems started. Because then it became war. I wasn’t welcome there, and I noticed it. Because I used to pop up unexpectedly and I would hear these teachers really being mean! And they would say, “You can’t be here, you’re interrupting, they’re in class, they’re in session” And I said, “I have a right to be here.” 
One day Celeste [her daughter] was sick. She was out for three days with a doctor's note. When she returned the teacher tells her, “Oh, take the test, it won’t be counted.” Celeste brings me the test, because parents had to sign the exams. So I said to her, wait a minute, you were out – why did you take the test? And she said, “The teacher said it wasn’t going to be counted.” And I said, “Yea, it’s counted!” So I went to the school and I said to her teacher, “I understand you told Celeste that this test wasn’t going to be counted. She’s been out for three days, you should have given her a chance to study and make up the material.” And she said, “Well, she should have had notes…she is having difficulty in science.” I said, “She was told it wasn’t going to be counted. I think you should give her a make-up.” And she said, “Well I don’t give make-ups.” 
So I told the principal that I think it’s unfair.  And she goes, “Well-” – here comes the double talk – “you know, Celeste is struggling.” And I said, “I know she is struggling and I don’t think you understand. She has a right to be here just like every other kid. And you guys, as educators need to understand that there are strategies to working with these kids.” But, you see, their strategy is “We’re not working with any difficult kid. We’re here to demand, and you perform.” That’s the attitude. 
You know what happens to the “difficult kids”?  The parents take them out. And nobody hears about them again. But I’ll be damned if I was gonna take her out. You know why? Because every child has a right. 
I knew there was something Celeste needed help with but I didn’t know what it was. So I said to her teacher, “Do you think you could proceed with recommending her for an evaluation and stuff?” I was thinking that maybe they provide the same services as the Dept. of Education. 
They said, “Well we don’t do that; we don’t have any help for her. So I submitted an application to have her evaluated with the Dept. of Ed, downtown, and they realized that she did need the help.  She started having someone to come in for a half hour every day to work with her on math, English, and whatever other problems. He was a SETTS [special ed] teacher.  He confirmed everything that I thought was going on. He said to me, “I can’t believe what goes on in there.” And I said, “Like what?” And he said, “Well there’s a lot of corporeal punishment.”
Celeste:  When my mom first told me about KIPP I was happy because they have the orchestra, and I really like music and I love playing the instruments and all of that. Towards the end of that first year [5th grade] is when I started really feeling the impact of it. They give so much homework, and I'm there for so long. I wasn't used to it. In elementary school you get a little bit of homework and you're there for, like, 8 hours. But there you were there for 13 hours. You do five hours’ worth of homework. And then I really started disliking the school

I had to sit like this. [demonstrates] It’s called S.L.A.N.T.: Sit straight. Listen. Ask a question. Nod your head. Track. Track is, if the teacher is going that way you have to… [demonstrates] follow… If you didn't do that, they'll yell at you: "You're supposed to be looking at me!" [points to demerit sheet] "No SLANTing." They'll put that on there. 
If I got into an argument with a teacher, I would have to stand outside the classroom on the black line, holding my notebook out. [Stands up and demonstrates, holding arms out] I would have to stand there until they decided to come out. For 20 minutes, 30 minutes, sometimes they’ll forget you’re out there and you’ll be there the whole period –an hour and forty minutes standing. if you have necklaces you have to tuck them away so they can’t see them – or else they’ll have you write four pages of a sentence about KIPP – “I must follow the rules of the KIPP Academy” or “I must not talk” for four pages.
They would have us stand on the black line for as many minutes as they felt was right for what I did. I would never get my homework during that hour when I was outside on the line. And I'd ask for the homework, they'd be like "I'll give it to you later". And the next day I would come in without homework and it goes directly on my paycheck [the demerit system]. 

My science teacher got mad once because I sneezed. He said "Get out of class!" And I said, "No, I won't get out of class for sneezing" And he was like, "Yes, you are." He called the principal and I still didn't leave. So they were like "We're going to call your mother. So let's go." And I was like, "Fine." And I just walked out. Then the teacher wrote down everything, like 'Not paying attention.'  He would write 'Talking' 5 times so I could get -5 points. He was saying I had a negative attitude.

I noticed that a lot of kids left.  In 5th grade, there were about 50 students. 6th grade, I came back and there were 30. 7th grade: 20. About 10 of them were held back and a lot of them left.

A lot of the teachers left too. When I got to 6th grade, the 5th grade teachers had all changed. By the time I got to 8th grade, there were only about four teachers left that I knew. And now it's all new teachers. None of them are there that I went to school with.

The teachers said, "We want you to be the best you can be. No attitude.” But they're the first ones to give you attitude. They're hypocrites.  We used to have 'Character Class' on Fridays where they would tell you to be open-minded and stuff. But they weren't open-minded. They were closed. If I needed help, they would say, 'Oh, well you have to figure it out.'

Teachers would scream at us all the time. Sometimes for things we did, and sometimes for things we didn't. A kid would raise his voice. Then the teacher would raise his voice. Kid would raise his voice higher and the teacher raised his voice higher.  Until it was a screaming match between the kid and the teacher. And then the principal comes in, and it's three people all screaming at each other. It would give me such a headache!

At KIPP, I would wake up sick, every single day. Except on Sunday, 'cause that day I didn’t have to go to school.  All the students called KIPP the “Kids in Prison Program.”

And now that I'm in this [district high] school I'm relieved. I'm glad I didn't go to KIPP high school. Now, I wake up and I want to go to school. I want to see my friends. I want to see my teachers. It's more welcoming. You walk in there, it's like "Hey! How are you doing?" 


Anonymous said...
I was a teacher at a KIPP school for 1 /1/2 years. (Not in NYC) It was the most horrible experience of my life. The teachers and students are literally in school for 11 hours a day. You basically have no personal life as it is all about KIPP. The school has a cult like mentality with chants, rituals, and an obsessive focus on "being nice, work hard, get into college". I saw numerous teachers experience nervous breakdowns from the extreme pressure and harassment of administration. There was a 50% turnover for staff each year. They made me chaperone a week long trip to another city to visit colleges. I had to sleep in the same room as the students. (They do NOT pay anywhere near what would be expected from a district school.) KIPP also made me go door to door in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods on the city that I worked in to recruit students. The most crazy thing I witnessed was at a KIPP summer seminar that had KIPP teachers from throughout the United States present. One of the main speakers asked the audience of KIPP teachers to stand up if they were first year teachers. About 30% of the audience stood up. Then they asked teachers with 2-5 years of experience to stand up. At that time 60% of the teachers stood up. Then they asked teachers with 5-10 years experience to stand up and 10% stood up. Then they asked teachers with more than 10 years of experience to stand up. At that time I WAS STANDING WITH 2 OTHER TEACHERS OUT OF AN AUDIENCE OF 500 TEACHERS!