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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Lesson In Thinking About Education

I imagine too few of us know well Mill's On Liberty.  Let me press you to read it at the first opportunity, no, make an opportunity to read it now.  (There is a good audio version available as well.)

What is this essay about but the education of the human species and the role of social management in that education?

I hope you can at least find the time to bear with this excerpt as it seems to me most pertinent for this audience of readers and bloggers.  I am not comfortable with much of what Mill proposes, but there is no one better at convincing you that the propositions are well-considered and just.  In other words, it is hard to argue against Mill.  I would love for there to be a discussion about this.

I'll follow this excerpt with a portion from Chapter 5 of Huck Finn.

On Liberty was published in 1859 and Huck was published in 1885.  Where are we now?


This is from Chapter V: Applications.

I have already observed that, owing to the absence of any recognised general principles, liberty is often granted where it should be withheld, as well as withheld where it should be granted; and one of the cases in which, in the modern European world, the sentiment of liberty is the strongest, is a case where, in my view, it is altogether misplaced. A person should be free to do as he likes in his own concerns; but he ought not to be free to do as he likes in acting for another, under the pretext that the affairs of another are his own affairs. The State, while it respects the liberty of each in what specially regards himself, is bound to maintain a vigilant control over his exercise of any power which it allows him to possess over others. This[Pg 199] obligation is almost entirely disregarded in the case of the family relations, a case, in its direct influence on human happiness, more important than all others taken together. The almost despotic power of husbands over wives need not be enlarged upon here because nothing more is needed for the complete removal of the evil, than that wives should have the same rights, and should receive the protection of law in the same manner, as all other persons; and because, on this subject, the defenders of established injustice do not avail themselves of the plea of liberty, but stand forth openly as the champions of power. It is in the case of children, that misapplied notions of liberty are a real obstacle to the fulfilment by the State of its duties. One would almost think that a man's children were supposed to be literally, and not metaphorically, a part of himself, so jealous is opinion of the smallest interference of law with his absolute and exclusive control over them; more jealous than of almost any interference with his own freedom of action: so much less do the generality of mankind value liberty than power. Consider, for example, the case of education. Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, that the State should require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its[Pg 200] citizen? Yet who is there that is not afraid to recognise and assert this truth? Hardly any one indeed will deny that it is one of the most sacred duties of the parents (or, as law and usage now stand, the father), after summoning a human being into the world, to give to that being an education fitting him to perform his part well in life towards others and towards himself. But while this is unanimously declared to be the father's duty, scarcely anybody, in this country, will bear to hear of obliging him to perform it. Instead of his being required to make any exertion or sacrifice for securing education to the child, it is left to his choice to accept it or not when it is provided gratis! It still remains unrecognised, that to bring a child into existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a moral crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against society; and that if the parent does not fulfil this obligation, the State ought to see it fulfilled, at the charge, as far as possible, of the parent.

Were the duty of enforcing universal education once admitted, there would be an end to the difficulties about what the State should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the subject into a mere battle-field for sects and[Pg 201] parties, causing the time and labour which should have been spent in educating, to be wasted in quarrelling about education. If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer class of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those who have no one else to pay for them. The objections which are urged with reason against State education, do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking upon itself to direct that education; which is a totally different thing. That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the[Pg 202] majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State, should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence. Unless, indeed, when society in general is in so backward a state that it could not or would not provide for itself any proper institutions of education, unless the government undertook the task; then, indeed, the government may, as the less of two great evils, take upon itself the business of schools and universities, as it may that of joint stock companies, when private enterprise, in a shape fitted for undertaking great works of industry, does not exist in the country. But in general, if the country contains a sufficient number of persons qualified to provide education under government auspices, the same persons would be able and willing to give an equally good education on the voluntary principle, under the assurance of remuneration afforded by a law rendering education compulsory, combined with State aid to those unable to defray the expense.

The instrument for enforcing the law could be no other than public examinations, extending to all children, and beginning at an early age. An age might be fixed at which every child must be examined, to ascertain if he (or she) is able to read. If a child proves unable, the father, unless he has some sufficient ground of excuse, might be subjected to a moderate fine, to be worked out, if necessary, by his labour, and the child might be put to school at his expense. Once in every year the examination should be renewed, with a gradually extending range of subjects, so as to make the universal acquisition, and what is more, retention, of a certain minimum of general knowledge, virtually compulsory. Beyond that minimum, there should be voluntary examinations on all subjects, at which all who come up to a certain standard of proficiency might claim a certificate. To prevent the State from exercising, through these arrangements, an improper influence over opinion, the knowledge required for passing an examination (beyond the merely instrumental parts of knowledge, such as languages and their use) should, even in the higher class of examinations, be confined to facts and positive science exclusively. The examinations on religion, politics, or other disputed topics, should not turn on the[Pg 204] truth or falsehood of opinions, but on the matter of fact that such and such an opinion is held, on such grounds, by such authors, or schools, or churches. Under this system, the rising generation would be no worse off in regard to all disputed truths, than they are at present; they would be brought up either churchmen or dissenters as they now are, the state merely taking care that they should be instructed churchmen, or instructed dissenters. There would be nothing to hinder them from being taught religion, if their parents chose, at the same schools where they were taught other things. All attempts by the state to bias the conclusions of its citizens on disputed subjects, are evil; but it may very properly offer to ascertain and certify that a person possesses the knowledge, requisite to make his conclusions, on any given subject, worth attending to. A student of philosophy would be the better for being able to stand an examination both in Locke and in Kant, whichever of the two he takes up with, or even if with neither: and there is no reasonable objection to examining an atheist in the evidences of Christianity, provided he is not required to profess a belief in them. The examinations, however, in the higher branches of knowledge should, I conceive, be entirely voluntary. It would be giving[Pg 205] too dangerous a power to governments, were they allowed to exclude any one from professions, even from the profession of teacher, for alleged deficiency of qualifications: and I think, with Wilhelm von Humboldt, that degrees, or other public certificates of scientific or professional acquirements, should be given to all who present themselves for examination, and stand the test; but that such certificates should confer no advantage over competitors, other than the weight which may be attached to their testimony by public opinion.

It is not in the matter of education only, that misplaced notions of liberty prevent moral obligations on the part of parents from being recognised, and legal obligations from being imposed, where there are the strongest grounds for the former always, and in many cases for the latter also. The fact itself, of causing the existence of a human being, is one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life. To undertake this responsibility—to bestow a life which may be either a curse or a blessing—unless the being on whom it is to be bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desirable existence, is a crime against that being. And in a country either over-peopled, or threatened with being so, to produce children, beyond a very small number,[Pg 206] with the effect of reducing the reward of labour by their competition, is a serious offence against all who live by the remuneration of their labour. The laws which, in many countries on the Continent, forbid marriage unless the parties can show that they have the means of supporting a family, do not exceed the legitimate powers of the state: and whether such laws be expedient or not (a question mainly dependent on local circumstances and feelings), they are not objectionable as violations of liberty. Such laws are interferences of the state to prohibit a mischievous act—an act injurious to others, which ought to be a subject of reprobation, and social stigma, even when it is not deemed expedient to superadd legal punishment. Yet the current ideas of liberty, which bend so easily to real infringements of the freedom of the individual, in things which concern only himself, would repel the attempt to put any restraint upon his inclinations when the consequence of their indulgence is a life, or lives, of wretchedness and depravity to the offspring, with manifold evils to those sufficiently within reach to be in any way affected by their actions. When we compare the strange respect of mankind for liberty, with their strange want of respect for it, we might imagine that a man had an indispensable[Pg 207] right to do harm to others, and no right at all to please himself without giving pain to any one.


   I HAD shut the door to. Then I turned around. and there he was. I used to be scared of him all the time, he tanned me so much. I reckoned I was scared now, too; but in a minute I see I was mistaken -- that is, after the first jolt, as you may say, when my breath sort of hitched, he being so unexpected; but right away after I see I warn't scared of him worth bothring about.

   He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. There warn't no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body's flesh crawl -- a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. As for his clothes -- just rags, that was all. He had one ankle resting on t'other knee; the boot on that foot was busted, and two of his toes stuck through, and he worked them now and then. His hat was laying on the floor -- an old black slouch with the top caved in, like a lid.

   I stood a-looking at him; he set there a-looking at me, with his chair tilted back a little. I set the candle down. I noticed the window was up; so he had clumb in by the shed. He kept a-looking me all over. By and by he says:
   "Starchy clothes -- very. You think you're a good deal of a big-bug, don't you?"

   "Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," I says.

   "Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say -- can read and write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'll take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut'n foolishness, hey? -- who told you you could?"

   "The widow. She told me."

   "The widow, hey? -- and who told the widow she could put in her shovel about a thing that ain't none of her business?"

   "Nobody never told her."

   "Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky here -- you drop that school, you hear? I'll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better'n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear? Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write, nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't before they died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it -- you hear? Say, lemme hear you read."

   I took up a book and begun something about General Washington and the wars. When I'd read about a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack with his hand and knocked it across the house. He says:

   "It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for you, my smarty; and if I catch you about that school I'll tan you good. First you know you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son.

   He took up a little blue and yaller picture of some cows and a boy, and says:

   "What's this?"

   "It's something they give me for learning my lessons good."

   He tore it up, and says:

   "I'll give you something better -- I'll give you a cowhide.

   He set there a-mumbling and a-growling a minute, and then he says:

   "Ain't you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A bed; and bedclothes; and a look'n'-glass; and a piece of carpet on the floor -- and your own father got to sleep with the hogs in the tanyard. I never see such a son. I bet I'll take some o' these frills out o' you before I'm done with you. Why, there ain't no end to your airs -- they say you're rich. Hey? -- how's that?"

Newark Teachers: Reject Weingarten's Betrayal of Teachers

Everywhere AFT's lead lawyer goes to "help" negotiate for teachers, she leaves a wake of destruction for the profession.  But, then, that is what she is paid to do, as she works off her debt to Bloomberg and the plutocrats for making her president of AFT in the first place.

In Newark, she has now added to her impressive list of betrayals by cutting a deal with Cory Booker and the Facebook chief twink to offer a meritless bonus pay plan that has a demonstrated failure record in New York, Chicago, and Nashville, where paying teachers for higher test scores did not raise test scores.  What it can do is end job security for teachers and create an endless stream of temporary pedagogical sharecroppers that school CEOs can manhandle in their corporate reform schools.

Weingarten and her traitorous lieutenant, Joseph Del Grosso, are telling teachers this is good deal because they are ones who can apply the lipstick to this pig.  In other words, teachers will be given the  detailed checklists developed by the corporate reform schoolers to score their colleagues.  What the membership does not know is that the checklists provide no leeway for professional discretion in evaluating a teacher based on a what a small cadre of corporate crackpots consider good teaching.

If Newark teachers ratify this contract, they will have proved themselves as stupid and/or desperate as Weingarten believes them to be.  Newark teachers need to consult with their Chicago colleagues for their next steps, dump the traitorous Del Grosso, and run Randi Weingarten back across the Hudson River before they tear up this contract and start over.  Once they allow their pay to be determined by test scores, years of work will be unraveled overnight and their profession will be further denigrated.

Newark teachers need to stand up and say what is good for students in order to earn the respect of their communities.  This is not good for students, and parents will view ratification as a cheap sellout by teachers more interested in cash than caring, compassion, and collaboration.

Story from the NYTimes:           

By NEWARK — On one side of the table was the union firebrand Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. On the other was the state education commissioner handpicked by Gov. Chris Christie, who became a star among fellow Republicans for aggressively taking on public employee unions.

During months of intense and late-night negotiations for a new teachers contract for the chronically troubled Newark school system, the parties settled on what they believed would be a landmark compromise.
At the center of it was merit pay — the idea of paying teachers based on performance that has long been a flash point between critics of teachers’ unions who believe it would increase accountability, and union leaders who fear that performance would be based on test scores rather than the subtleties of classrooms.
Though Ms. Weingarten had criticized what she calls “merit pay schemes,” she and the other union leaders agreed to embrace the concept in exchange for a promise that teachers would have a rare role in evaluating performance, declaring it a way to rebuild respect for a $1 billion school system that has bled students and money to the suburbs and, increasingly, to charter schools.
Joseph Del Grosso, the leader of the local union who was jailed for striking 40 years ago, has been telling his members that approving the contract will turn them into “heroes.”
But suspicion tends to run high in this New Jersey city, long rived by politics of race and class. Many teachers worry that the bonuses will never appear. And a faction has staged an insurrection against union leaders, saying the contract will weaken job security and pit teacher against teacher.
“This is how they will break our union,” said Renee Pulliam, a high school special education teacher in her 24th year in Newark.
On Monday, the city’s 4,700 union members are scheduled to vote on the contract. Both sides say they cannot predict the outcome, but either way, what happens here will echo among teachers’ unions across the country.
If the contract is approved, it could prompt other districts to push for pay-for-performance, by suggesting that merit pay is no longer so symbolic a fight among the rank and file.
Newark’s deal itself was prompted by recent changes to the state’s tenure laws that were once considered unthinkable. And both sides insist that this deal could be a model for union-management collaboration, giving teachers a voice they have often felt was denied in reform.
If it fails, beleaguered union leaders could take it as a new sign of strength in contract negotiations — similar, some teachers said, to the example of the Chicago teachers’ strike last month.
From novices to the most senior, Newark teachers would remain among the highest paid in the nation, earning average raises of more than 13 percent in the three-year contract. But teachers evaluated as “ineffective” would have to improve before they could earn the raises that under previous contracts have come automatically every year.
Teachers could earn bonuses of $5,000 if they are evaluated as “highly effective,” and an extra $5,000 if they agree to teach in the district’s lowest-performing schools, or an extra $2,500 for teaching subjects like math and science that have a lack of qualified teachers. The money for bonuses will come from the $100 million gift that Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook, pledged to the city in 2010.
As the union has mounted a push to pass the contract, Ms. Weingarten has insisted that the bonuses are not strictly “merit pay,” wanting to avoid the impression that the union sold out on a long-held principle.
The local president, Mr. Del Grosso, worries less about semantics. “I’ve always found it strange that any union, when it heard the word ‘pay,’ would reject it,” he said in an interview.
In presentations to members last week, Mr. Del Grosso argued that the contract would affirm teachers as professionals, like doctors or lawyers.
“The doctors take away another doctor’s license, lawyers disbar lawyers,” he said. “Why shouldn’t teachers be the judges of their own peers? My doctor tells me he gets bonuses, lawyers at law firms get bonuses. Why shouldn’t teachers?”
But at the first meeting last week, teachers challenged Mr. Del Grosso, calling him a “liar” as he tried to argue the merits of peer review.
“I’ve been a distinguished teacher for years; I’ve bought kids clothes,” said Donna Tollinchi, an eighth-grade math teacher, still shaken outside the meeting, at a performing arts center downtown, where she confronted Mr. Del Grosso. “For them to turn around and say I don’t deserve my salary?”
Some teachers, speaking anonymously out of fear of retaliation, argued that few will actually get the performance bonuses — not because they are ineffective, but because the system has had a way of wasting money fast. Others worried that even peer evaluations could be unfair.
And even supporters of the contract acknowledge that there are about 650 teachers — those with more seniority or advanced degrees — who will lose the potential to earn as much as they did under the old contract. Those teachers could opt for a separate salary scale that pays somewhat more generously but does not offer the potential for performance bonuses.
Branden Rippey, 41, a high school history teacher, is one of those.
“I’m opposed to the principle of merit pay, and losing money to a new contract,” he said. The proposal, he argued, would just pave the way to staff the schools with young Teach for America teachers, “who get six months training and don’t work for more than 3, 4, 5 years.”
He is among a coalition of union members who held their own meetings last week, urging their colleagues to vote no, oust Mr. Del Grosso and choose new leaders to negotiate a better deal.
“I can’t believe I have counted on this union to negotiate all this time,” said Ms. Tollinchi, the math teacher. “This is the best they can do?”
Supporters of the contract reply, bluntly, yes. (Trying to emphasize their respect for the teachers’ union, and its autonomy, the Newark schools superintendent, Cami Anderson, and the state commissioner, Christopher Cerf, have declined to comment on the contract in advance of the vote.)
Governor Christie recently warned the city that it will see a significant cut in state aid next year. The state is struggling with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and lagging economic growth.
Given the alternatives, is it not better, Mr. Del Grosso asked, to be known as the union that embraced change?

“I’ve heard the people who call the Facebook money ‘blood money,’ ” he said. “But if I don’t take the money, I wonder who will get it.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Romney's Education Plan

by Robert Rendoartwork88@aol.com

How the VAM/AGT pseudoscience worm turns

While value-added models are intended estimate teacher effects on student achievement growth, they fail to do so in any accurate or precise way — Dr. Bruce D. Baker

VAM and AGT are discredited and harmful to public educationMaybe it's karma, but Kyle Hunsberger of the Gates Foundation backed astroturf TeachPlus, and one of Los Angeles Unified School District's biggest cheerleaders of the highly discredited VAM/AGT pseudosciences, is now a victim of that selfsame modern phrenology.

This quote is pretty amazing coming from a bona fides member of the "no excuses" camp.

"I have to be reassured that I don't have to lobby for honors students," Hunsberger said. "I have to know that I have a shot at a good evaluation if I teach lower-performing kids."

Maybe he'll be a former member of that camp from here out, now that he's experienced the practical application of his faulty theoretical framework. That framework incorrectly posits that "effective" teaching "overcomes" any other factor including poverty, student motivation, or even English Language Learner status.

Call me cynical, but I doubt Michael Stryer and James Encinas, Hunsberger's TeachPlus coauthors of this fact-free Op-Ed shilling for value added measures will stand by him now that the worm has turned. Corporate reformers are just like that, they're snakes and most venomous to anyone who break ranks and start telling the truth.

Let's stop testing children and start teaching them. Standardized tests are a perversion. NCLB/RTTT/CCSS are the real "status quo" and an abject failure at that.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Brewing Over KIPP Re-Vote in Camden

We posted here in August on the corporate reform school plan for Camden, and we posted here on the School Board's courageous vote to say NO to the KIPP correctional facilities at the center of the Norcross Plan.

Now apparently Norcross and his army of lawyers can't take NO for an answer, and they are planning a meeting whose date and location they would like to keep as closely guarded as possible.

Now the KIPP plan is tentatively planned to be heard again tomorrow at the Camden School Board meeting.  

Please use this list below to call or email Camden school board members to thank them for supporting public education in NJ, rather than the total compliance corporate reform schools that Norcross and KIPP have planned for urban children.

Administration Building
201 North Front Street 8th floor
Camden, New Jersey 08102
(856) 966-2000

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Insanity Chart of "No Excuses" Reform

Often cliches are cliches because their being repeated grows from truth:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Traditional public education and the "No Excuses" Reform movement share the insanity:

Public School Problem
“No Excuses” Reform
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned disproportionately inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers
Assign poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students Teach for America recruits (inexperienced and uncertified)
Public schools increasingly segregated by race and socioeconomic status
Charter schools, segregated by race and socioeconomic status
Three decades of standards-based testing and accountability to close the test-based achievement gap
Common Core State Standards linked to new tests to create a standards-based testing and accountability system
Inequitable school funding that rewards affluent and middle-class schools in affluent and middle-class neighborhoods and ignores or punishes schools in impoverished schools/neighborhood
Drain public school funding for parental choice policies that reinforce stratification found in those parental choices
State government top-down and bureaucratic reform policies that ignore teacher professionalism
Federal government top-down and bureaucratic reform policies that ignore teacher professionalism
Rename high-poverty schools “academy” or “magnet” schools
Close high-poverty public schools and open “no excuses” charters named “hope” or “promise” [see above]
Ignore and trivialize teacher professionalism and autonomy
Erase experienced teachers and replace with inexperienced and uncertified TFA recruits [see above]
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned disproportionately to overcrowded classrooms
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned to teachers rewarded for teaching 40-1 student-teacher ratio classrooms
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students tracked into test-prep classrooms
Poor and Latino/Black students segregated into test-prep charter schools; special needs and ELL students disregarded [left for public schools to address—see column to the left]
Teacher preparation buried under bureaucracy at the expense of content and pedagogy
Teacher preparation rejected at the expense of content and pedagogy
Presidents, secretaries of education, governors, and state superintendents of education misinform and mishandle education
Presidents, secretaries of education, governors, and state superintendents of education [most of whom have no experience as educators] misinform and mishandle education
Fail to acknowledge the status quo of public education (see above): Public schools reflect and perpetuate the inequities of U.S. society
Fail to acknowledge the status quo of public education [see above and the column to the left]: NER reflect and perpetuate the inequities of U.S. society

"Is Demography Still Destiny?" - Annenberg Institute for School Reform

"Is Demography Still Destiny?" - Annenberg Institute for School Reform

From opening summary:

"Yet a new study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University indicates that the college readiness of New York City high school graduates is still very highly correlated with the neighborhood they come from. In particular, the racial composition and average income of a student’s home neighborhood are very strong predictors of a student’s chance of graduating high school ready for college. The gaps between neighborhoods are enormous."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Corporate Education's Anti-Democratic Effects

From the NEPC at the University of Colorado, Boulder:

BOULDER, CO  October 16, 2012 – “Local control” has been a bedrock principle of public schooling in America since its earliest days, but a new report concludes the concept “has all but disappeared” in discussions of education policy.
The report, Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Education Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Education, by Kenneth Howe and David Meens of the University of Colorado Boulder, examines the impact on democratic ideals of vanishing local control over education. The report examines the making of education policy as well as the decisions about what schools teach and how they teach it.
The report is published today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
In a healthy democracy, schools play a key role in preparing citizens.  A healthy democracy also depends on citizens engaged in democratic governance. And since schools sit at the center of most communities, local democratic control over schooling has long been highly valued in the United States.
Howe and Meens describe local control as “the power of communities, made up of individuals bound together by common geography, resources, problems and interests, to collectively determine the policies that govern their lives.” As regards schooling, this typically refers to control by elected school boards and their constituents.
Yet the No Child Left Behind Act and subsequent federal policy has forced a surrender of local control. The local role under these systems is largely to be held accountable by state and federal officials. While local discretion is allowed for how to comply with state and federal mandates, the constraints imposed by those mandates have been enormous. Consequently, Howe and Meens contend, NCLB and its progeny have been fundamentally anti-democratic.
The same is true of the reform policies that have been advanced by President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan. “Despite Obama and Duncan’s rhetorical support for greater local control of schools, the reform instruments that their policies are based on are clearly antithetical to it,” the authors write.  They point in particular to Race to the Top, which puts states in competition with one another for federal funds to induce them to expand testing, including using student test scores as a substantial portion of teacher evaluation, and to expand the number of charter schools.
Howe and Meens explain the importance of a balance between local control and federal and state regulation. In a democracy, there is a presumption of local control, which may be overridden when it has undemocratic consequences, as in de jure segregation. But such a justification does not exist for the recent federal education policy take-over.
The authors also warn that current reform approaches are marginalizing community involvement. “Democratic reform should involve local stakeholders, especially marginalized members of society, because inclusion is a democratic value that increases not only the likelihood that policies will be just, but also the likelihood that reform will succeed,” Howe and Meens write. “Such inclusion also helps create the conditions in which all students can attain the democratic threshold.”
They conclude with a series of recommendations, urging schools and education policymakers to take three key steps.
  • First, move away from a punitive model based on threats to withhold funding. This should be replaced by a participatory model – such as support and incentives for school employees, parents and community members to collaborate together on resolving educational problems.
  • Second, encourage states and local communities to adopt curriculum standards “that include a conscious and substantive focus on developing the deliberative skill and dispositions required of democratic citizenship.”
  • Third, curtail the privatization of public education resources. Instead, build up democratic values by holding schools receiving public funds accountable to the public through democratically elected school boards and other democratic institutions.
Find Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Education Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Education, by Kenneth Howe and David Meens, on the web at
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.
This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (greatlakescenter.org).


When corporate education antiquarians reformers talk about the virtues of charter schools, high on their list is charter freedom from bureaucratic red tape and regulations that rule the "government" schools.  Without such restrictions, the story goes, charter schools are free to innovate, adapt to changing needs locally, and improve learning.  Sounds great, right?

What this means in reality is that charter school corporations, both nonprofit and forprofit, are unconstrained in opening schools in any discarded shell of a building, without libraries, gyms, art rooms, clinics, or any of the other humanizing elements we associate with public schools in the suburbs.   They are also without restraint in the way they hire and fire teachers without due process, unregulated in the way they deal with parents or keep their books, and most importantly, they are unregulated in the way they run these urban reform schools based on a 19th Century instructional model and an 18th Century behavioral catechism.

 Children with special education plans (IEPs) are left without special education teachers, and children who cannot read are dumped into classes where all children are treated with the same distant disregard that the lockdown behavioral system requires.

I recently visited one of these chain gangs (location anonymous to protect the person who made my visit possible), where I found these same realities.  What impressed me first was the "library," which was comprised of a single deserted cart, and not a book cart, of paperbacks in the most distant corner of the commons area on the first floor.

I saw classes run by TFA teachers who acted more like detached prison guards than teachers.  The closest they came to students was to sign their discipline forms that offenders carried from class to class. Their most obvious concern was a form of behavior that required total compliance, and in one class a sixth grader who could not read looked on as the over-animated TFAer expostulated on the vagaries of correlative conjunctions.  When a child's attention strayed from the "teacher," she responded with a sharp "TRACK ME!  All students snapped to attention in their seats, leaning forward slightly with hands folded, and staring intently at the teacher as she moved across the front of the room.

So while the students in these schools that no middle class parent would allow their children are doing lots of TRACKING, we find now what we knew all along:  no one, from the U. S, Dept. of Ed on down, is tracking the scammers and corporate welfare kings whose school businesses are draining public school coffers while effectively resegregating African-American children in corporate-run reform schools.  (Remember the $212,000,000 hole that will be created in Memphis during the next five years for the massive charter expansion?)

Yesterday a story emerged on a recent federal audit of the U. S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) run by corporate stooge, Jim Shelton.  In recent years the OII, which is directed by Gates and Broad, has gone all in on charters as the best tool for segregated corporatization of urban schools.  Since 2007, OII has handed over $909,000,000 to state education agencies (SEAs) and others (non-SEAs) to open and run charter schools.  And true to the Wall Street philosophy of free and unrestricted greed, the OII has provided no oversight, no regulation, and almost no guidance for the hundreds of millions OII is shoveling to the corporate welfare kings who are operating these urban penal schools. Click chart to enlarge.
Below is the sobering summary of the OIG report findings, which will be presented in more detail in the coming days.  You may download the report here.
We determined that OII did not effectively oversee and monitor the Charter School Program grantees and did not have an adequate process to ensure SEAs conducted effective oversight and monitoring over subgrantees. Specifically, OII did not have an adequate corrective action plan process in place to ensure grantees were correcting deficiencies noted in annual monitoring reports, did not have a risk-based approach for selecting non-SEA grantees for monitoring, and did not adequately review SEA and non-SEA grantees’ fiscal activities. We also found that OII did not provide the SEAs with adequate guidance on the monitoring activities they were to conduct in order to comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations. In addition, OII did not ensure SEAs developed and implemented adequate monitoring procedures for properly handling a charter school closure. Specifically, OII did not ensure SEAs had procedures to properly account for SEA grant funds spent by closed charter schools and disposition of assets purchased with SEA grant funds in accordance with Federal regulations (p. 9).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NCLB Waivers Allow Hostile Corporate Takeovers of Schools

Thanks to Stan Karp for this compilation:

The Record
Paterson would gain control of its public school system for the first time in 21 years under legislation introduced by Democrats that also would limit future state takeovers to five years, lawmakers announced Friday. "It's time for the state to admit that the prolonged takeover of a local school district is a failed experiment, and it's time to return the school districts that have languished under state control back to the people in those school districts," said state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who has sponsored the bill with Nellie Pou, D-North Haledon.

Darcie Cimarusti, NewsWorks
Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) have been set up all over the state, with some of the funding coming from private donors such as the Broad Foundation, to oversee and "turn around" the Priority and Focus Schools, and potentially take over the management of the schools that don't improve within the two year time limit.

Education Week (subscription required)
As school closures are increasingly used as a remedy to budget woes and a solution to failing schools in many cities, debates are intensifying about their effect on student performance and well-being, on district finances, and on communities and the processes districts use to choose which schools will be shuttered. Student and parent groups in Chicago, the District of Columbia, New York, Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia gathered in Washington late last month to call for a moratorium on school closings and filed separate complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights.  The advent of the federally funded School Improvement Grant, or SIG, program in 2009, brought school closings into the spotlight as one of four turnaround strategies districts could use to revive struggling schools. Only 18 of the more than 3,700 closures from 2009 to 2011 were financed through SIG, according to the federal Education Department, but the program's emphasis on dramatically restructuring traditional public schools is apparent in many districts that are pushing ahead with large-scale closures.

Center on Education Policy
The Next Step: Monitoring the Implementation and Impact of Waivers
If the NCLB waivers stay in place, the next few years will be characterized by policy churn. A majority of states will be experimenting with diverse approaches to accountability using waivers, while other states will be maintaining their current systems as the 2014 timeline draws near. During this period, it will be critical for ED, states, and independent groups to monitor how well the accountability systems in waiver states are working, what unexpected issues arise, how well these systems are understood by the people they affect, and what impact they have on student achievement and school performance, among other issues.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Common Reading of the Insidious State

Dear Principal,

My child will be absent for three days to visit grandparents out of state.  Besides this form of notification (email) is there anything else that needs to be done to assure you take proper note of this absence?


Child's Parent


Dear Child's Parent,

Thank you for this communication.

Per School Board Policy students are allowed 10 excused/unexcused absences before any action would be taken.

This Student will be allowed out of school for three days and our Attendance Secretary will account for it.  Have a fun and safe trip!

Template Signature Line


Dear Policing Representative,

Let me offer some responses to your note believing that your only intention was to inform me of a policy directly related to the action I am taking as regards my child.  Also, let me state that I am offering this as a (reasonably informed) parent.  Again, as I believe instruction and correction must be allowed to move in many directions I hope you allow this from me as simply a "reading" that you might take into consideration and possibly integrate into your store of useful materials.

1. A response might be, "whatever" (or more politely, "thanks, whatever").  I wanted you to know something so that you wouldn't be concerned as regards a student in your daily charge being absent for an extended period and I needed you to acknowledge that you received this from me.  In other words, I might read this in an unthinking manner as achieving my purpose.

2. You offered an official limitation, "a policy," to me as a parent as regards the school and its ability to "take action" against me as a parent in consideration of my decisions as a parent.  In other words, similar to the standardized testing "opt out" responses, the state, through you, is making clear it can and will "take action" against a parental choice.  As the state makes the laws this action is declared "valid" and appropriate though clearly a form of bullying.  In short, you are asserting a "guardianship" right over my own "familiar" rights.

3.  This phraseology is revealing.  It is a little more than vaguely threatening if the reader is paying attention.  (Though I assert that I do not think this your intention, this very assertion of mine is irrelevant to the possibilites inherent in the reading of this text.)

4. I know that there is a kind of dictum from the State Dept of Education that is given a "local" imprimatur via the "elected" school board which uses attendance as a factor in how the state "grades" the school.  This seems a factor in your response.

5. I also know that this state is a lenient "homeschooling" state and it would not be in your best interest to encourage dissatisfaction in a parent with a child who "helps" your school statistics in those particular testing scenarios.  (Though I can't say how much "improvement" is on display as "evidence" of the great work of educational systems.)

So, I know enough to be able to read your message in many ways.  Would it be worthwhile to offer a parent a justification that might assuage the sense of "threat" in the message?

I would further say that I think your closing "well-wishes" is likely the thing that you personally want to say; that is, from you, a human being living among other human beings in a community where you will be seen and known, to me, the parent of the child and student, who is also a community member with ostensibly similar social goals.  The rest is institutional coercion for which I do not hold you responsible outside of the high bar that Thoreau sets for each of us in "Resistance to Civil Government."  (In that analogy, both of us are failing.)  I implore you to commit this particular text to memory or at least read it enough so that you are extremely familiar with it.  Thoreau was an institutional representative too, briefly.

Again, my goal here is to help you understand the ways in which we might come to a "common" understanding of your meaning in this message by using some core strategies.


Unprotected Powerless Nobody


Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

[Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.]

Cup-stacking: Latest educational break-through?

According to St. Louis Today, stacking cups as fast as possible “is helping students in the Wentzville School District (Missouri) stay physically and mentally fit” (“Wentzville students stack up competition,” October 17, 2012). The only evidence supplied in the article is the testimony of a fifth-grader who says it helps her memorize, and a physical education teacher who asserts that cup stacking stimulates both sides of the brain. This is apparently good enough for the newspaper. It was also good enough for the ASCD, who included this article in their October 22 SmartBrief review of “news for the education profession.”

Why are we so fascinated with bizarre approaches to learning that have zero scientific evidence while we ignore common-sense approaches that are well-supported by research?

Can we expect that the makers of speed stacking cups will claim that their product meets the common core standards?

Stephen Krashen

Monday, October 22, 2012

US leads world in downloading scientific articles: Evidence against the “STEM crisis”

US leads world in downloading scientific articles: Evidence against the “STEM crisis”
Stephen Krashen

Wang et al (2012) calculated the number of scientific articles downloaded over a 24 hour period (April 12, 2012) by individual country. Here are the top ten, with the number downloaded and the country’s share of the total, from Wang et. al. table 1.

United States: 61,361 (29.62%)
Germany 31,122 (15.02%)
China 19, 826 (9.57%)
UK 8066 (3.89%)
Japan 6915 (3.34%)
Canada 6752 (3.26%)
Australia 6020 (2.91%)
India 5552 (2.68%)
France 4880 (2.36%)
South Korea 4630 (2.23%)

The US was the clear winner. In terms of downloads per capita, Germany is first and the US second.

The US also leads the world in “prestige” journal publications (SCI/SSCI approved journals), with 474,306 in 2011. Second place China had 170,896.

We are constantly told that the United States is suffering a crisis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). This data, however, suggests that the US is the world leader in STEM.

Wang, X. W., Xu, S. M., Peng, L., Wang, Z., Wang, C. L., Zhang, C. B., & Wang, X. B. (2012). Exploring Scientists’ Working Timetable: Do Scientists Often Work Overtime? [J] Journal of Informetrics, 6(4), 655-660.