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

Friday, April 19, 2013

America Awakening to Refreshing New Possibility: Tell Bill Gates to Take His Money and Go to Hell

When the LA Times starts having doubts about the wisdom of His Aged Geekiness, Billy Gates, then you have to know the worm is turning quickly.  After all, it was the LA Times that published Gates-approved teacher ratings that ended in the suicide of Rigoberto Ruelas in 2010.

Perhaps Team Obama should have a second look at its decision to put corporate foundations in charge of U. S. education policy.  Just perhaps there is something to be learned from a hundred years of academic research that the corporate drones have summarily dismissed.  From the LA Times editorial page:
. . . .Prodded heavily by reform groups, many of which receive funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, states and school districts have in some cases taken the use of students' scores to extremes that have no grounding in research, making them count for half or more of a teacher's rating, or hastily concocting tests to measure unmeasurable subjects — and then applying the results to teachers. The most mocked example is Ohio's extensive new exam in physical education, which includes measuring whether students' movements while skipping are adequately smooth. 
In 2010, California was denied $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds, largely because it declined to require that student test scores be linked to teacher ratings — something the Obama administration had demanded in return for the money, even though there was little if any evidence that the scores had value as indicators of a teacher's work. 
. . . . When philanthropists have potentially useful ideas about education, they should by all means try them out, establish pilot programs, put their money where their mouths are. But before government officials incorporate those ideas into policy, they must study them carefully and make sure that what sounds reasonable in theory works in practice.

Schools Matter and @thechalkface to Join Forces

Schools Matter will be moving to a new home in a few days.  We will be partnering with @thechalkface to begin a renewed and re-fortified effort to eradicate high stake testing and corporate control from our public schools.  Stay tuned for details.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Orleans Shows the Limitations of "No Excuses" Schools

The debate over "No Excuses" schools has focused on their attrition rate and their potential for being scaled up. Schools such as New Orleans Sci Academy have produced great college acceptance rates for students who are dedicated enough to meet their goal of "100% of cultural expectations 100% of the time." It is too soon to tell, however, whether their culture prepares their graduates for life beyond the classroom.

An important subtheme of Sarah Carr's Hope Against Hope, a narrative of a year in three New Orleans schools, includes a preliminary exploration of whether the "No Excuses" rigor will help their charter graduates flourish in higher education. She raises questions as to whether structured school environments, where motivation is encouraged through external rewards and punishment, will produce long term benefits.

Carr describes Sci Academy and KIPP Renaissance high schools. Both embody the "No Excuses" commitment to "sweat the small stuff." It is based on the "broken windows" theory that small signs of disorder can undermine an institution's culture. So, consequences must be predictable and consistent.

To their credit, the leaders of both schools understand that their procedures could backfire when college professors do not employ the same system of demerits and prompts. A key to KIPP is instilling a value system of "self-advocacy." So, strangely, it focuses completely on a comprehensive system of external loci of control of students, while focusing completely on the opposite goal - preparing students to exercise an internal locus of control.

Similarly, Sci Academy seeks to wean upperclassmen from some of its structure by freeing them from the requirement of walking down the halls in straight lines. While there is no tolerance in assessing demerits for cursing or uniform violations, Sci teachers will allow a student to learn by failing rather than strictly assign demerits for sleeping in class. (I would have thought that their priorities would be reversed.)

Sci Academy makes college the overriding goal. And, as one teacher asserted, minor behavioral infractions are "broken windows" and "a broken window means a broken path to college." Students were addressed as "scholars," and freshmen were divided into groups known as "Harvard" and "Chicago."

At the end of the year, six of the most promising students took a field trip to Harvard, Columbia, and other great universities. Even their true-believing teacher was troubled by the students' lukewarm response to the elite institutions of higher learning. Some students saw college as a "paycheck enhancer," and all saw it as a means to an end. The teacher recognized Sci Academy's share of the blame for the attitude that students "endured Sci's rules so you could someday be a college graduate. That was where the story stopped."

Although the jury is still out on whether the high acceptance rates of Sci Academy and other charters will translate into high percentages of college graduates, Carr's narrative gives some hints as to the answer, as well as the question of whether it makes sense to try to scale up KIPP.

The first premonition that KIPP's model is flawed is found in one of New Orleans' other success stories. Carr profiles a student who excelled at KIPP Believe Middle School. When Geraldlynn moved up to KIPP Renaissance High School, however, she was more likely to act out. She even found herself exiled to KIPP's "Bench" where offenders are isolated.

While Geraldlynn loved the middle school structure, she had mixed feelings about the high school. Perhaps the problem was the school's failure to recognize that "this is high school," and the students are older. Or, perhaps, the problem was that KIPP Renaissance needed to tighten up even more. (After all, Geraldynne did not flourish at KIPP Believe until after two of her disruptive peers had been held back or expelled.) Carr reports, however, that many of its "troublemakers" were graduates of the KIPP middle school.

Interestingly, the KIPP high school principal questioned the "old-school" KIPP middle school model full of "paychecks," and positive and negative reinforcement. He explained, "We're not training kids to run mazes in a laboratory, and that's all carrots and sticks do."

Carr also offers a tantalizing glimpse at more normative methods of preparing students for life beyond their schools' structures. Geraldlynn had loved KIPP Believe's field trips to the opera, to climb rocks, and to Selma, Alabama, New York City, and Washington D.C. She had also blossomed after her favorite teacher took her and her friends to lunch and they visited their teacher's house to bake cookies. Also, high points at KIPP Renaissance were field trips to Florida A&M and Dilliard University. Both are "HBCUs" or Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

And, that leads to another subtheme in Carr's subtle narrative. As she chronicles public education reform, Carr briefs readers on a parallel reform of higher education. "Reformers," like Governor Bobby Jindal attacked the State University of New Orleans, a HBCU, in the same way that they had assaulted the city's public schools. S.U.N.O. had a terrible graduation rate, and it left many students with crippling debt. As Carr explains, that the historically black college "lived up to both the best and the worst of its reputation."

Carr uses the S.U.N.O. digression to reinforce her main theme. There was a lot wrong with schools in New Orleans. There also is a lot of strength in the black culture of New Orleans, but, mostly white reformers ignored that asset. Whether the issue was rebuilding public schools or fixing unresponsive colleges, reformers sought to replace the culture that students brought to school with the school culture that the reformers' respected. It is thus hard to see Sci and KIPP as not engaging in cultural imperialism.

Reform has increased New Orleans' test scores. "No Excuses" advocates recognize that those metrics will mean nothing, however, if the life outcomes of students are not also raised. These sincere crusaders have imposed technocratic solutions. When, inevitably, those systems need to be adjusted in order to prepare students for the unpredictability of life outside of schools, reformers will continue to make technocratic adjustments. While Hope Against Hope cannot prove that the "No Excuses" part of their model is inherently flawed, it implies that it may be destined to join previous technological fixes to human problems on the ash heap of history.

Coverage of Opt Out's Occupy DOE 2.0

From Education Opportunity Network:

Occupy The Department Of Education Ushers In America’s Angry Spring

No offense, but the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building in Washington, DC is not a pretty sight.
Crossing the National Mall on 4th street, you pass between the glisteningly modern National Air and Space Museum and the sculpted brown stone of the National Museum of the American Indian to come face to face with what can only be described as a monument to bland austerity.
It was at the base of this concrete and glass slab that a band of public school teachers, university professors, librarians, parents, and students gathered to speak out against the nation’s current regime of testing students, firing teachers, and closing public schools.
For four straight days, speaker after speaker spoke, shouted, and sang into a microphone placed near the entry way of a building bearing the name of an American president who arguably did more to advance the well being of poor people than any other political leader in American history. The group railed at the building and its occupants – especially Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The speakers exhorted the audience to chant protestations to the building, turn their backs to it, shake their fists at it, and curse it.
Why so much anger thrown toward a very big, ugly building?
“You’re hurting children!” The crowd shouted. “You’re spreading injustice! You’re harming teachers! You’re ruining schools! You’re shredding democracy! You’re selling out the common good to private corporations!”
These are things, it would seem, worth getting upset about – if it weren’t happening in a capital city where getting upset is viewed as unseemly.
Of course, like most undernon-funded grassroots efforts, the speakers were not vetted through a PR staff that would normally accompany a DC event. So one speaker said something reprehensible that everyone else participating in the event deeply regretted.
But even though the agitators gathered on the plaza in front of the DOE were mostly ordinary citizens of no obvious distinction, the speakers were anything but that. As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss observed, the speaker roster included education historian and NYU professor “Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, veteran educator Deborah Meier, early childhood expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and language acquisition expert Stephen Krashen.”
Writing at Strauss’ site, Amy Rothschild noted the event, called Occupy the DOE 2.0, drew “leading scholars and teachers, who have decades of classroom, school, and university leadership guiding them. They are demonstrating in front of the Education Department because the people working inside have ignored their message.”
At the website of Mother Jones, one of the event organizer, Peggy Robertson explained the protest was organized because “liberal school advocates are deeply unhappy with President Barack Obama’s education reform agenda.” She called policies such as Race to the Top “No Child Left Behind on steroids.”
Writing at the online site of Empower Magazine, Occupy participant, Denisha Jones explained that this was the second anniversary of the event. The original rationale for the event was to raise people’s awareness “about the dangers of high stakes standardized testing, school closings, for-profit charter schools, and the billionaires club that is destroying public education.”
Although the crowds for both events have been relatively small, the organizers and participants this year, Jones, maintained, have been pumped up significantly by recent events, such as the successful Chicago teachers strike and the boycott of standardized testing in Seattle and elsewhere.
The resistance tactic of boycotting or “opting out” of high-stakes testing was a focal point of the event. The first four speakers, who were the principal event organizers, each exhorted parents to exclude their children from the tests, teachers to refuse to give them, and students to refuse to take them.
But based on what the rest of the event’s speakers said, and conversations heard in the audience, it’s broadly acknowledged that problems with current education policies extend way beyond testing alone, and just saying no to tests is not viable in every situation.
Parent activist Leonie Haimson, and founder-leader of a grassroots group Class Size Matters, warned that current education policies are headed toward a “two tiered system” in which more well-off parents get to send their children to schools with small class sizes and well-rounded curriculum, while less well off parents are relegated to schools with big class sizes, narrow, test-driven curriculum, and governance dominated by “big data” rather than research-based practices.
Early childhood education expert Nancy Carlson Page warned that the same kind of reforms damaging elementary-secondary education are being pushed down to the classroom of youngest children.
While she applauds the Obama administration’s recent proposals to make pre-K education more accessible, she worried that the designs of programs being pushed by the new policies would follow the same mistaken guidelines of Race to the Top and other edicts that mandate standards and accountability without regard to the developmental needs of young children.
“The expectation that little kids are going to learn the same things at the same rate at the same time is wrong,” Page declared.
Literacy expert Stephen Krashen warned about the unprecedented level of testing in American schools – “more than we have ever seen on the planet.” Krashen decried the “enormous costs” of the testing mandates – New York City and the state of Florida alone are expected to spend more than half-a-billion dollars each just to enable the Internet connections the tests require. He pointed out how in tough economic times these expenditures take away from more worthy basic needs like expanded breakfast and lunch programs, school nurses, and libraries with books.
And then there were the stories. Counter balancing the current fad to base education policy solely on numerical data – regardless of the merit of the source – this event offered an abundance of stories about the reality in schools today.
Katie Osgood who currently works on a child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit in Chicago recounted her experiences in dealing with the traumatic fallout of school reform measures.
“Every year I am getting more kids coming into our unit as a direct result of the pressures of high stakes testing,” she explained. “Kids not only feel the pressure themselves but they understand the pressures being put on teachers.”
“The busiest admission weekend in the history of our hospital was the week before the tests this year,” she observed.
Osgood also relayed incidents of children being traumatized by school closures and harsh discipline policies employed in charter schools that don’t follow the regulations that are required of traditional public schools.
“We’ve had incidents where students actually die when schools are closed and the children have to cross dangerous neighborhoods to get to their new schools,” she recounted. “Children also come to my hospital because they are depressed and angry that their friends have been physically hurt when they are transferred to new schools. One kid who was so afraid and angry he stopped going to school and was classified as mentally ill by the school administration.”
“We also see students traumatized by harsh discipline policies in charter schools – schools that punish students by making them run up and down stairs or stare at walls – and schools that charge parents fees for their children’s misbehavior. Then when kids refuse to go to these schools they are called sick. They aren’t sick. The charter school is sick.”
Numerous teachers and administrators spoke about being compelled to engage in education practices they believe compromise their professional ethics.
Teacher Kris Nielsen, formerly with Union County Public Schools in North Carolina and now in New York, compared academic targets based on test score results to retail sales quotas. “Kids are not dealt the same hands but have to meet the same quota, which isn’t fair,” he maintained. “Also the targets are meaningless to students.”
Chicago teacher Phil Cantor spoke about children in his school being rated and grouped by test scores with the “bubble kids” being targeted for more intense instruction because they have “the best chance of moving out school off probation.”
“Our students aren’t test scores,” Cantor declared. “Policies that only see them that way harm kids, and these policies are destroying public education around the country.”
Amidst the critiques of the current administration there were proposed solutions as well, including smaller class sizes, services that attend to students’ health, nutrition, and emotional needs, and increased access to libraries, art and music programs, and other academic pursuits that are often cast aside due to wave after wave of testing.
But make no mistake, the mood of the crowd was indeed angry, and when the throng gathered to march to the White House, their numbers grew from a few score to 200 – 300. As a police contingency escorted the demonstrators along the National Mall, onlookers shouted encouragement, with some jumping off the sidewalk to join in, so the crowd grew as it advanced down the street.
Do such outpourings make a difference? Who knows, but progressives everywhere need to understand that we are about to head into a very angry season. The same administration assaulting public schools is about to be the first Democratic presidential office to cut Social Security and Medicare – the New Deal compacts that support the nation’s poor and middle class.
We should be angry. But this anger is too readily dismissed by the current cynicism dominating media outlets these days.
As Richard Eskow recently observed, “It has become a tired rhetorical gambit of self-described ‘centrists,’ . . . to paint their opponents as agitated (presumably as a contrast to their own calm rationality). This maneuver is routinely deployed to imply that anyone who doesn’t embrace their ideology – and it is an ideology – is overly emotional and therefore somewhat less rational than they are.”
Progressives who believe in the need for change can’t be deterred. . . .

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Common core: An attempt to solve a problem that doesn't exist

No decline in reading
Sent to the Cincinnati Enquirer
The first line of “Common Core a ‘monumental shift’”(April 16, 2013) is not supported by any real data. There is no evidence that “reading has been declining in the nation’s schools for more than two decades.” Students are reading as much as ever. According to my analysis, teenagers today are reading as much as teenagers did in 1999 and in 1946. In addition, reading scores on our national test, the NAEP, have been increasing modestly since 1992.
The Common Core appears to be an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
Stephen Krashen
Source: Krashen, S. 2011. Why We Should Stop Scolding Teenagers and Their Schools: Frequency of Leisure Reading Language Magazine 11 (4): 18-21.
Original article: http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130416/NEWS0102/304160017?nclick_check=1

Will the common core claim credit for bogus test score improvement?

Sent to the New York Daily News.

We have been told that the new tests based on the common core will result in low scores (“Just what the kids need,” April 15). What has not been mentioned is that new tests typically result in low scores, and then scores rise for the next few years as teachers and students get used to the test format and content, and teachers learn how to teach to the test. This has been confirmed in studies by Prof. Robert Linn of the University of Colorado.

The common core will claim the credit for this bogus “improvement.” The improvement will stop after a few years, but by then the apparent success of the common core will be considered “proven.”

Stephen Krashen

Source: Linn, R., Graue, E., & Sanders, N. 1990. Comparing state and district test results to national norms: The validity of claims that "everyone is above average." Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 10: 5-14.

Original article: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/kids-article-1.1315486

Is there really a crisis in science and math education?

Sent to the Austin-American Statesman, April 16, 2013

Lonny Stern’s claim that “Investment in science, math is good business” (April 15) is based on his assertion that there are 2.5 STEM jobs available for every unemployed person.

Mr. Stern may want to consult research done by Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, who concludes that there are two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening: There appears to be surplus, not a shortage, of STEM-trained workers.

Studies have also shown that there is a “PhD glut”: According to the Atlantic (Feb, 2013), the US is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/stern-investing-in-science-math-and-engineering-ed/nXMZ2/

The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/
Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
See also:
Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Duncan Celebrates Three Decades of Failed Testing and Accountability Policies

On April 16, it will have been 30 years since the publication of A Nation at Risk (ANAR), the discredited scare document produced by the Reaganites in 1983 to introduce the beginning of the end of public education in America.

Now here is your quiz to test your capacity to predict outcomes based on past history.

To acknowledge the beginning of fourth decade of failed education policies inspired by ANAR, Duncan will meet with

a) public school parents

b) public school teachers and students

c) public policymakers from local to federal levels

d) CEOs from the Business Roundtable at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

If you answered a, b, or c, you need your head examined.  If you answered d, then you have earned the the opportunity to protest at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., next Tuesday beginning at noon.

How many protestors will show up to throw water balloons filled with red ink as the speakers enter the building? 

Any of those SOS "artful resistance" folks interested?
Event Date: April 16, 2013 02:00 pm - 04:00 pm 
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will address the Business Coalition for Student Achievement's event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation At Risk, on Tuesday, April 16, at 2:00 p.m. ET, in Washington, D.C. 
Addressing more than 50 CEOs from an array of diverse businesses, Duncan will discuss progress and challenges facing education today, the Obama Administration's focus on the return in investment in our education policies, and the President's Preschool for All proposal to provide high quality preschool for 4-year-olds from low and moderate-income households.

Michelle Rhee's Situational Ethics

The immediate takeaway of "Michelle Rhee's Reign of Error" is that PBS's John Merrow found “the smoking gun,” or the confidential memo warning Michelle Rhee of the extent of cheating that may have occurred in Washington D.C. schools in response to her draconian “reforms.” He concludes with the question that merits a real federal investigation, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” In the long run, that is Merrow's third most important revelation.
Merrow has been reporting on D.C. schools since 2007 and, even now, his prime expose is the ongoing story about the nonstop test prep that was made inevitable by Rhee. In his latest, Merrow reports what an associate superintendent knew about principals who, as a result of Rhee's obsession with accountability,  had “no focus” on instruction, and when he knew that the total focus was on test scores.

The second most important story in Merrow’s ongoing reports is Rhee's situational ethics. He recalls her outrageous statement, “If there are rules standing in the way of that, I will question those rules. I will bend those rules.”

I don't want to sound like an old stick-in-the-mud, but Rhee reminds me of a lot of college buddies.  It used to be that many of my generation once had a Trotskyist roommate with a simple answer for every complex problem.  If the system couldn't recognize the wisdom of our zealous friends then, it used to be proclaimed heroically, "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."

Being a liberal in Oklahoma changed me, however.  The only way that progressives had a chance to work within the system was being true to our word.  If we sought to wedge out some space for peace and justice, our handshake had to be good. We did not have to agree with the person who we were compromising with, but we had to honor our agreement.

So, I learned that we had to respect the system - even the rules we didn't like - if we wanted to build a better future.  Rhee, however, clearly takes the position that she is above the rule of law.

And, there is another reason why Rhee's refusal to respect the ways of our constitutional democracy is disturbing. This disrespect for the rules law is bad enough when it occurs in the corporate world.  The prime purpose of  public schooling, however, is teaching children how to live in an Open Society.  The first rule of teaching is that the students are watching. Do we want them learning by watching school leaders who proclaim that the ends justify the means?

Evaluations Based on Test Scores Goes to Court in Florida

Take heart, teachers.  Be brave.  Emulate your colleagues in Florida.  Go to Court!  By the way, Randi and Dennis, you could be using some of those high-priced AFT/NEA lawyers who protect your 400 thousand dollar benefit packages to help these teachers bring this craziness to a halt.

See teacher below who won Teacher of the Year holding up her "unsatisfactory" sign.

Story by Valerie Strauss:

Teacher Kim Cook ((By Brian Kuger)
Teacher Kim Cook (By Brian Kuger)
A group of teachers and their unions are filing a lawsuit against Florida officials that challenges the state’s educator evaluation system, under which many teachers are evaluated on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach.
The seven teachers filing the lawsuit include Kim Cook, who, as this post explains, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where she works and was named Teacher of the Year last December. But 40 percent of that evaluation was based on test scores of students at Alachua Elementary, a school into which Irby feeds, whom she never taught. Really.
The other teachers filing the lawsuit all claim that they have been and/or will be evaluated on the scores of students they haven’t taught and on subjects they don’t teach. The lawsuit, also being filed by the National Education Association and the Florida Education, claims that the evaluation of teachers based on test scores of students they don’t teach or from subjects they don’t teach is unfair and violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause of the Constitution.. . . .

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tennessee Republicans Trade Local Control for Corporate Domination

If there's anything Tennessee conservatives hate more than minorities who refuse to serve as doormats, it is anything public that is not controlled by corporate overlords.  Local control?  Only if corporations make the "local" decisions.  To make sure of it, see what is happening with proposed legislation to take charter school decisions out of the hands of local boards of education and put them in the hands of Haslam and Huffman's henchmen.  From Tom Humphrey at the News-Sentinel:


NASHVILLE — A bill to create a new state panel that could authorize charter schools when local school boards reject them has been revised to apply only in five counties, including Knox, and remains a contentious issue as legislators push toward adjourning the 2013 session.
The bill (HN702) is a high priority for House Speaker Beth Harwell, who was upset when the Metro Nashville school board last year rejected a charter school application she thought should have been approved. Under current law, local school boards decide whether a charter school can be established within its jurisdiction.
The bill has been revised as it moved through committees, at one point applying only in Nashville and Memphis and at another applying statewide. The current version, awaiting a floor vote in the House while stalled in the Senate Finance committee with a vote rescheduled for this week, will apply in school systems that have a school ranking in the lowest 5 percent of all schools in the state — deemed “priority schools” under current state law.
That brings in Knox County, which has one school — Sarah Moore Green Elementary — meeting that criteria as well as Hardeman County, which also has just one school meeting the “priority school” standard. It would also apply in Shelby, Hamilton and Davidson counties. In other counties, the state Board of Education would hear appeals when the local school board rejects a charter school application.
During House committee debate, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, asked whether a school system such as Knox would escape the statewide “state authorizer” jurisdiction if its priority school later improves on student achievement scores and is promoted out of the “priority school” classification. He got no answer from bill sponsor Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, or anyone else in the meeting.
In interviews later, Jim Wrye, lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association and Lee Harrell, lobbyist for the Tennessee School Boards Association, said the bill provisions assure that Knox County would be covered for at least six years after Sarah Moore Green students do well enough on state tests to escape “priority” classification.
“Knox County is in the cross hairs,” Wrye said.
He and other critics say the bill would open the door for multiple charter schools, entitled under current law to state funding, to siphon off taxpayer dollars from public schools, including money for infrastructure “even if they’re operating out of a church basement.”
Wrye contends the board making decisions is designed to have a “pro-charter bias,” assuring that local boards will often be overridden. The panel would have nine members — three each appointed by the governor, the House speaker and the Senate speaker. . . .

Chicago Corporate Media Ignore Teachers' CORE Candidates

At this point in the U. S., there is one urban teachers' union that represents the social justice agenda of equal opportunity, quality public schools for all, and quality professional teaching before deal cutting and kowtowing to the Gates Foundation.  That is why the corporate media has chosen to ignore them. That, however, will not stop progress.  Please spread the word to every corner of America that teacher organizing is alive and well in Chicago, at least.   From Substance News:

Plutocrats' press pawns and propagandists from Sun-Times, Tribune and Catalyst ignore major union event... CORE launches election campaign with spirited rally and meeting at the Haymarket, noting the links to Chicago union history

With the certification of candidates for the upcoming (May 17, 2013) Chicago Teachers Union election completed as of the April 10 meeting of the union's House of Delegates, CORE, the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators, launched its 2013 re-election campaign with a morning and early afternoon rally and party on Sunday, April 14, at the Haymarket in Chicago. The event heard speeches from the CORE leadership, including the four candidates for elected union office, and organized for the upcoming election.
The leaders and leading candidates of CORE took the stage at the Haymarket in Chicago on April 14, 2013. Left to right, Al Ramirez (caucus so-chair), Kristine Mayle (CTU financial secretary and candidate for re-election), Karen Lewis (CTU president and candidate for re-election), CORE co-chair Nate Goldbaum, Michael Brunson (CTU recording secretary and candidate for re-election), and Jesse Sharky (CTU vice president and candidate for re-election). Substance photo by Howard Heath.After the event began with the singing of the union song "Solidarity Forever," led as be CORE tradition by Michelle Gunderson, the candidates for re-election as CTU officers were introduced by the co-chairmen of CORE, Al Ramirez and Nate Goldbaum.
Michael Brunson told the group about many of the issues facing the union and the need to re-elect the leadership that had brought the union's members to the first strike in a quarter century and a contract that provides more powers at the local school level than every before.
Kristine Mayle, recording secretary, reminded the group that the struggle against the school closings was still a priority, telling everyone how she first worked with CORE as a result of the move by the Board of Education to close De La Cruz Middle School, where she was working at the time. Vice President Jesse Sharkey provided some historical detail on recent union elections. "No candidate that brought a contract to the membership has been re-elected since 1998," Sharkey said. Tom Reece (and the United Progressive Caucus, UPC) brought in the 1998 contract at the behest of Mayor Richard M. Daley, and was defeated by Deborah Lynch (and the ProActve Chicago Teachers, PACT caucus) in the May 2001 election. After the contract that Lynch negotiated in 2003 disappointed the membership, Lynch was defeated by Marilyn Stewart and what was then calling itself the "New UPC" in the 2004 election. Stewart did not have to negotiate a contract during her first term, and so her contract wasn't finalized until after the 2007 union election, when she was re-elected. But in the 2010 election, Stewart and her "New UPC" were ousted by CORE.
Now, in 2013, the CORE incumbents are facing a coalition composed of the two former adversaries, Deborah Lynch's PACT people and the remnants of the UPC (Marilyn Stewart is retired and not active). The new group, calling itself the "Coalition To Save Our Union" is headed by two former UPC stalwarts (Tonya Saunders Wolffe and Mark Ochoa) and two people from PACT (Mary Ellen Sanchez and Kelly McFarlene). Sharkey reminded those at the Haymarket that they will have to work very hard between now and election day to ensure that the history doesn't again repeat itself.
Karen Lewis's speech was an outline of all the challenges still facing the union in the aftermath of the first strike in a quarter century and the complex contract that she and her team negotiated with the help of an unprecedented "Big Bargaining Team" consisting of members from every major group in the union.
The crowd, which continued growing until early afternoon, not only enjoyed the event, but also continued planning for the election campaign. At the end of the event, Al Ramirez reported that more than $1,000 had just been raised for the election campaign.
The CORE election launching party, which was advertised to Chicago's corporate media, saw present only ABC News (which sent a camera but no reporter) -- plus Labor Beat, Socialist Worker, and Substance. More than 100 people (including several children of the CORE candidates and supporters) took their time off on a Sunday morning (and early afternoon) facing the parking challenges of Halsted and Randolph on the day of the Greek parade. In contrast to the February announcement of the "Coalition to Save Our Union" (which was reported as news on the front page of the Chicago Tribune), the CORE event was ignored by the ruling class media. The URL for the Substance story about the February "Coalition" coverage is: http://www.substancenews. net/articles.php?page=4004§ion=Article
One of the leading organizers for CORE in the 2013 election, and a candidate for Area Vice President, is southeast sider Sue Garza, whose father joined Karen Lewis at the April 14 event. Ed Sadlowski was a leader of the Steelworkers Union for most of his life before retiring. Substance photo by Howard Heath.Each of the four candidates for union officers gave a brief speech, people talked and planned at length, and the election campaign now goes into the schools for a Chicago-style election campaign which will last for the next four weeks. The voting will take place in all schools on Friday, May 17.
Several present noted an irony in the manner in which the election has so far been covered by Chicago's corporate media. On February 20, 2013, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Catalyst all covered the announcement that the new opposition group -- the "Coalition to Save Our Union" -- were going to try to run. That day, the Tribune and Sun-Times featured photographs of the four candidates for union office from the "Coalition to Save Our Union" -- striding down the Merchandise Part hallway towards the union offices. Catalyst provided equally extensive coverage. All Chicago media were informed of the April 14, 2013 CORE event, and were told that not only could their reporters interview Karen Lewis and the four officer candidates, but that dozens of rank-and-file members of CORE -- all classroom teachers or school-based PSRPs -- would be available to talk about the issues.
More than 50 of those at the Haymarket on April 14 were candidates for the Chicago Teachers Union executive Board or candidates running on the CORE slate for the convention delegations to the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in July 2014 and the convention of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) next year. [Disclosure: This reporter is a member of the CORE steering committee and a candidate for AFT/IFT convention delegate].
The selection of the Haymarket for the event was conscious, the leadership making sure that CORE activists and candidates understood the place that their militant union and union leadership have in Chicago and labor history. During and after the event, several people walks across the Kennedy Expressway to the site of the so-called "Haymarket Massacre", where striking workers and police confronted one another on May 4, 1886 and where a bomb exploded, killing seven police officers and four others.
Although there was no evidence that any of the organizers of the rally at the Haymarket (which had been organized in support of striking workers at the McCormick Reaper plant on the city's southwest side, the organizers were indicated and convicted to conspiracy, a common charge against union leaders by the plutocracy, both then and since. The resulting legal lynching of labor organizers helped prompt the launching of May 1 as the annual "International Workers Day" around the world. One of the widows (Lucy Parsons) remained a leader in the socialist, communist and labor movements until her death in Chicago during World War II.
Born a slave in Texas, Lucy Gonzalez Parsons (above) remained a labor activist for more than a half century after her husband Albert Parsons was legally lynched by Chicago's ruling class, egged on by the Chicago Tribune. following the "Haymarket Riot" of May 4, 1886. The memory of both Parsons was alive and well during the April 14, 2013 Haymarket event by CORE. Lucy Parsons died in Chicago in 1942.Several of those at the CORE event noted that the launching of the 2013 CTU election campaign on the site of the Haymarket was a reminder that generations of union activists have proudly called Chicago home, and that the campaign for the eight-hour day which began in Chicago was what birthed the May Day celebration around the world. CORE leaders also noted the poignant confluence of labor, women's, African American, Mexican American and working class histories at the site, especially in the context of the memory of Lucy Parsons:
"Lucy (or Lucia) Eldine Gonzalez was born around 1853 in Texas, probably as a slave, to parents of Native American, African American and Mexican ancestry.[1]" Wikipedia reports. "In 1871 she married Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier. They were forced to flee north from Texas due to intolerant reactions to their interracial marriage. They settled in Chicago, Illinois.
"Described by the Chicago Police Department as "more dangerous than a thousand rioters" in the 1920s, Parsons and her husband had become highly effective anarchist organizers primarily involved in the labor movement in the late 19th century, but also participating in revolutionary activism on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, the homeless and women. She began writing for The Socialist and The Alarm, the journal of the International Working People's Association (IWPA) that she and Parsons, among others, founded in 1883. In 1886 her husband, who had been heavily involved in campaigning for the eight-hour day, was arrested, tried and executed on November 11, 1887, by the state of Illinois on charges that he had conspired in the Haymarket Riot — an event which was widely regarded as a political frame-up and which marked the beginning of May Day labor rallies in protest..."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Exxon-Mobil Concerned with Teachers As Its Tar Sands Oil Spreads in Arkansas

If you were watching golf for the past 4 days, you would see hundreds of millions spent by Exxon-Mobil to push the Common Core Corporate Standards and to convince Americans there is some educational emergency in our schools.  I guess I would be trying to change the subject at hand, too, if I were responsible for ruining another American community with a flood of dirty oil.  From Nation of Change:

Cleanup Workers Collect Oil Faster than Media Collect Information
Ten days after the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline burst, spewing thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sands oil into the North Woods residential development in Mayflower, Arkansas, much of the oil spill has been collected, although it continues to spread slowly, seeping into wetlands and nearby Lake Conway. 
Slow as the oil’s movement may be, it seems to move faster than news related to the spill, the cleanup, or ExxonMobil and the local, state, and federal agencies who keep tight control over information that, in ordinary circumstances, the public would expect to hear in a timely fashion. 
Even those directly affected say they are told little, mostly generalities from ExxonMobil public relations people.  As RT.com reported April 7, “Town residents say they are being kept in the dark over compensation and the cleanup by Exxon.”    
Over at Lighthousesolar.com, the sardonic view of this tight-liddedness was that the news control machine was working:
“The big news is that for the most part, only fringe online new outlets are reporting on the disaster! The federal and state government appear to be working together to keep the news of the spill from making it onto front page news.  Consider this: 
“The oil spill was kept off front page news on all major new outlets. 
“Exxon has asked the FAA to enforce a no-fly zone over the area, most likely to
prevent aerial photography.  The FAA did as Exxon asked. 
“Local and state police are keeping the media and public away from the spill
This situation continues to raise questions like these, increasingly in need of future refinement. 
Who’s taking care of the 40 or so people evacuated from 22 houses close to the spill?    
They seem to be pretty much taking care of themselves as far as one can tell.  Despite a wide range in their ages, and hence vulnerability to the toxic exposure they’ve suffered, there’s no word that they’re being screened by public health officials or anything like that. 
Members of the Pipeliners Union 798, who work on pipelines like the one that burst, have given a check for $1,000 to each of the 22 families who were evacuated. 
ExxonMobil has repeatedly promised to pay all valid claims from anyone harmed by the spill, but there’s no report that they’ve paid anyone a food allowance or anything else yet. 
As of April 8, four families were allowed to return home.  One said he was glad he didn’t need to weak a gas mask on his return. 
Why did ExxonMobil deny it was dumping oil in nearby wetlands? 
Perhaps because it didn’t do that. 
ExxonMobil tweeted on April 7: “Claims that ExxonMobil is dumping oil into wetlands are completely unfounded. Cleanup in Mayflower, AR continues.”    
A quick search turned up no such claim.  But there is a report on Treehugger.com that members of the Tar Sands Blockade have “heard reports” of some dumping, which RawStory tried to clarify: 
“… the activist group, Tar Sands Blockade, has members on the ground in Mayflower risking arrest to show the public areas even local media have not seen, such as this "dumping ground" in the wetlands near the spill site. Tar Sands Blockade says they've heard reports that ‘because Exxon had already partially destroyed this wetland, they pumped diluted bitumen spilled in other areas here to get it all in one place and keep it out of sight of the media.’ 
As RawStory notes, ‘While it’s not clear if the oil was intentionally moved into the wetland, the company says it is cleaning pavement with power washing devices, which could cause some of the oil to be pushed off neighborhood streets and into other areas.’  Whether this area has been used as a place to put oil so it can be cleaned later or it was just polluted with oil during the initial spill, it is clear the wetlands are highly contaminated and will be a massive challenge to clean.” 
So for ExxonMobil to say the claims “are completely unfounded” really isn’t true?    
It’s misleading.  It leads a listener to conclude that maybe the wetlands are not polluted with ExxonMobil’s highly toxic, hard to clean up tar sands oil known as Wabasca Heavy. 
THAT is untrue.  An area of wetlands were clearly polluted almost as soon as the pipe ruptured.  There are pictures all over the internet, including many on the Environmental Protection Agency website. 
Article image
Because water is a dynamic environment, it’s probably also true that the spill is continuing to spread, however slowly.    Runoff from power washing paved areas also seems to have reached wetlands.
So the “claims” are founded, but there’s nothing but rumor to suggest that ExxonMobil did any deliberate dumping.  Whether ExxonMobil was negligent with its power washing or any other technique remains an open question. 
What about Lake Conway, is there tar sands oil in Lake Conway?
The short answer is yes. 
The more nuanced answer is that there’s tar sands oil from the spill in an area of Lake Conway known as the Cove, and ExxonMobil has equipment in place to keep it contained in that area. 
But Lake Conway is a single hydraulic system, so the more nuances answer may not be very meaningful. 
ExxonMobil seems perfectly aware of that, emphasizing in an April 8 press release that the fish are OK: 
“Fish in the main body of Lake Conway have not been affected. There is a series of seven containment booms deployed in the cove to protect the main body of Lake Conway.  Tests on water samples show the main body of Lake Conway is oil-free.” 
Of course it takes awhile for spilled oil to show up in fish.  And there’s nothing here about how to keep fish out of the Cove. 
So is the cleanup being done well or not?  And is it almost done? 
There’s no reason to think it’s not being done as well as it can be done.  There’s also no reason to think it’s an easy job or that the after effects, perhaps very minor, won’t be felt for years to come.
ExxonMobil has posted a slickly-produced “Newsletter to Residents” on the Mayflower, Arkansas, Facebook page on April 7.  The newsletter is very upbeat as it recounts progress to date and, near the end,  is quotes Gary W. Pruessing, President, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company: 
“We will be working here in Mayflower and on the
site for as long as it takes to get the job done.”  
The nature of oil spill cleanups is that they’re never “done.”  But at some point somebody decides to stop. 
So the people whose homes lose value or whose health is affected, people like that will never be made whole?    
ExxonMobil has made promises that are designed to assure people that they will be made whole. 
And there is a class action lawsuit filed in federal court to give ExxonMobil another incentive to keep those promises.   The plaintiffs’ 15-page filing was made April 5, ExxonMobil has yet to answer, and no hearing is yet scheduled. 
And what about the pipeline, what are they doing about that?    
There is a plan to uncover a length of the pipeline that includes the rupture.  That section will be cut out, removed, and examined to determine the cause of the failure. 
There’s a hitch.  There’s about 18 miles of pipeline between the two pumping stations that were used to shut of the flow after the spill was discovered. 
There’s still oil in that 18 miles of pipe that will have to be drained before any pipe is removed. 
Where can I get a good ten minute summary of the main issues raised by this pipeline spill? 
On April 3, the PBS News Hour ran an eleven-minute segment that is reasonably comprehensive, balanced, and inconclusive. 
If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the oil industry spokesman make a basic, two-part argument.  The first part of the argument (which passes without challenge or examination) is that since America needs all this tar sands oil, the safest way to ship it is by pipeline. 
The second part of the argument is: Trust us.   
So now I have to listen to Public Television?
No, you can listen to anything you want, even Stephen Colbert’s take on April 6.
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