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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Testing Front for 2015 Will Not Be About Annual Testing

Reading a piece in Politico this morning by Caitlin Emma puts into focus a number of potential developments for the lucrative world of testing accountability in 2015.  There is, of course, the Republican feint led by the ethically-challenged Lamar Alexander, who is trying to cut a deal with the ethically-challenged Rhonda Weingarten to get approval on a new ESEA reauthorization that would hasten the charter takeover. 

Will Weingarten cut a deal to reduce the number of tests in exchange for support of Alexander's plan to kill Title I by passing the money down to his red state cronies to use for school privatization ventures?  Alexander, Obama, and the rest of corporate Washington have no intention of ending high stakes testing at this point, so anything they have in mind as a compromise should be dead on arrival. 

Meanwhile, the bloodsucking education industry is coming up with new "audit tools" to help states decide if they are testing too much, and the College Board has a full court press on to make the SAT the global high school achievement test.  Everyone wants a piece of the action, per usual.

The big hope for 2015 rests with parents, students, school boards, and teachers (at least the teachers who don't waste their money on Lily's and Rhonda's corrupt corporate union fiefdoms).  The OPT OUT movement has the potential to shut down high stakes testing in the United States of America.

No data, no game.  So don't be tempted by the siren songs of the scumbags.  Don't be tempted to cut deals.  Parents want their schools back, and the teachers that matter want their profession back.  And children want to learn, rather than test.

Don't think, however, that CorpEd is going away any time soon.  The next big money making push come in the form of standardizing school courses, and for that they will need standardized end of course exams to arrive at grades.  Remember grades?  Those measures that are more reliable than SAT or ACT in predicting college success.  Gates has already noticed, and his drones are working on a way to operationalize grade accountability nationwide that makes annual testing irrelevant.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Education Faculty at University of Memphis Demand Answers from Rudd

It was earlier in this fall semester that education faculty at the University of Memphis awoke to find that the new university president and corporate foundation lackey, David Rudd, had a plan for a new teacher non-preparation program that would be run by Relay School of Education, a New York based scam to "prepare" young, unsuspecting college students for teaching a couple of years inside the segregated charter hell schools that are planned to replace education in urban America. 

Relay's program is internship-based, with a liberal sprinkling of Doug Lemov's version of Teaching for Dummies.  This text, prepared by non-educators for non-educators, is intended to replace child development, educational psychology, theory, history, philosophy, methods, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment.  By learning nothing beyond punishing and testing, clueless young people are indoctrinated to commit crimes against children in the name of civil rights!

A storm is brewing, however, over on campus, and legitimate educators will not allow the renegade and bully, David Rudd, to run their university into the ground to advance his status among the philanthro-capitalist predators that now threaten every American public institution.

Instruction & Curriculum Leadership
College of Education, Health and
Human Sciences
404 Ball Hall
Memphis, Tennessee 38152-3570

December 10, 2014

Dr. David Rudd, President
University of Memphis
Administration Bldg.
Memphis, TN

Dear President Rudd:

Based on the receipt of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of Memphis and the Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE) obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request and dated November 06, 2014, we, the faculty of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership (ICL) wish to express our deep concern regarding the decision to provide support and space to the Relay's effort to recruit and prepare undergraduates for their Masters of Art in Teaching Degree (MAT). This decision is literally bringing a direct competitor onto our campus and promoting them as an option for our undergraduates to move into Relay’s MAT program upon graduation. The decision undermines our ongoing program enrollment as well as our recruiting efforts of new MAT students from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and other colleges.

Of perhaps even greater concern and cause for alarm is the secretive manner in which the University’s administration has undertaken this endeavor, after indicating that we would be informed as details were put into writing earlier this academic year.  The teacher education faculty at the University of Memphis has always had the children our graduates will teach as the ultimate client we serve. The ICL Dept. has indicated repeatedly that we want to be part of the solution and participate in the conversations and planning, but we, as a department, continue to be excluded from any discussions or planning for reasons that have never been made clear to us directly. As we firmly believe that ICL can contribute in a positive manner in determining strategies to best serve the students, the schools and the communities of Memphis City, Shelby County, the surrounding areas, and beyond, again we openly seek and solicit the opportunity to participate.

The complete absence of specific information officially released by the University that could directly and indirectly affect the faculty and student enrollment in the University of Memphis’s MAT program has resulted in an environment of suspicion, fear and overall distrust of the University’s intentions. Therefore, the faculty of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership, an integral part of the larger University community, respectfully request a thorough, honest and professionally deserved written response by you to the information heretofore withheld.


The Faculty of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership
A Tennessee Board of Regents Institution
An Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action University

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another Duncan-Gates Plan Aims to Undercut Its Own Initiatives

When Obama and Duncan came to Washington, they went throttle up on the Bush-Spellings initiatives that had blown up public education in the U.S.  They embraced the worst kinds of alternative certification no-prep teacher ed programs, gave a hundred million or so to the TFA fascist cult, attacked legitimate university teacher ed programs, helped to make accreditation a joke so that online diploma mills could get their stamps of approval, initiated VAM based teacher evaluation that sent the best remaining teachers in poor schools running for the leafy suburbs to survive the corporate ax, and made "highly qualified" synonymous with test score production.

Gee, wonder why there are no experienced, caring, and professional teachers left in the urban corporate reform schools??

Never fear, though, for Duncan has a new initiative that pretends to address the problem that he and his predecessor created with a vengeance.  And guess what--it has no teeth in it. So things may proceed as planned while pretending to do something about the corporate status quo.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

American anti-intellectualism more popular than ever, and why not?

First published on K12NN Wire on December 28, 2014

"The capitalists, from the start, complained that universities were unprofitable. These early twentieth century capitalists, like heads of investment houses and hedge-fund managers, were, as Donoghue writes "motivated by an ethically based anti-intellectualism that transcended interest in the financial bottom line. Their distrust of the ideal of intellectual inquiry for its own sake, led them to insist that if universities were to be preserved at all, they must operate on a different set of principles from those governing the liberal arts." — Chris Hedges

American anti-intellectualism more popular than ever, and why not?Last week I came across a two year old essay written by Professor Patricia Williams for The Guardian. I recall reading her piece some time ago (the Arizona book bannings being covered by Schools Matter as well), and reposted it on facebook with a bit of my own commentary. The post received a few interesting comments. A teacher posted the link and my commentary to the "Badass Teachers Association" (BATs) page, and to my surprise it garnered over 180 "likes" and more than 55 comments.

I believe that this is because this is a critical conversation we should be having publicly, over and over. I'm going to reproduce my commentary here, and rather than expand on it, I'll leave it to readers to add their own thoughts.

We see this anti-intellectualism in Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal's shuttering of Ethnic Studies programs and book banning. We see it in the proliferation of adjunct professors in higher education, and the spreading infestation of predatory, for-profit schools. We see it in corporate curricula like Common Core State Standards (#‎CCSS), and the proliferation of the K-12 privatization project embodied in charters and vouchers. The war on tenure at all levels of education is further evidence. It isn't just right-wing, religious reactionaries fueling anti-intellectualism, as the demands of neoliberalism require that both critical thinking, and the institutional memory of the working class be squelched. Anti-intellectualism is a prelude to the unchallenged dominance of the plutocrat class and their corporate state. — Robert D. Skeels

Two quick things. My compañero in struggle, Jose del Barrio, had commentary I felt worth reproducing here:

"There has been an unfortunate uptick in academic book bannings and firings, made worse by a nationwide disparagement of teachers, teachers' unions and scholarship itself. Brooke Harris, a teacher at Michigan's Pontiac Academy for Excellence, was summarily fired after asking permission to let her students conduct a fundraiser for Trayvon Martin's family." — Jose del Barrio

Lastly, a perfect example of anti-intellectualism. Here's a direct quote from a racist that has been trolling me on twitter: "Professors are failures at life, thus they teach"

Yet Eli Broad, the Walton fortune heirs, Bill Gates, David F. Welch, Charles and David Koch, Richard M. DeVos, and their ilk aren't waging a war against teachers, professors, and intellectuals?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Schools Matter 2014 Awards

Schools Matter 2014 Awards

Most Unconvincing Ideologue In the Role as Scholar
Mike Petrilli

Most Flagrant Political Organization Posing as a Legitimate Research Association

Lifetime Achievement Award
Walt Gardner

Self-Aggrandizement Award 2014 (tie)
David Coleman
Michelle Rhee

Education Book of the Year
Fear and Learning in America, John Kuhn

Biggest Corporate Losers of the Year

Most Dangerous Pseudo-Science Title
Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence, Laurence Steinberg

Most unread Twitter posts
Larry Ferlazzo

Fewest Redeeming Qualities
Arne Duncan

Most self-congratulations in a single blog post
Mercedes Schneider

Most un-appreciated real education news outlet
Pennsylvania Education Crisis Highlights

Most ethically-compromised
Broad Foundation

Most promising education dean
Jaekyung Lee

Least avoidable plague
Bill Gates

Most celebrated political retirement (tie)
Kevin Huffman
John King

Most promising new mayor
Ras Baraka

Most Missed Education Warrior
Gerald Bracey

Best blog
Perdido Street School

Most traitorous union leader
Randi Weingarten

Science Fiction Award
Doug Lemov and Norman Atkins, Teach Like a Champion, 2.0

Most poisonous brand name

Most hated CorpEd reform (tie)
Common Core

Most likely to be sued
States and LEAs using VAM to evaluate teachers

Imminent Sunset Award
Teach for America

Education Writer Award
George Schmidt

Emerging Leader Award
Jesse Hagopian

Most Harm by an Individual Achievement Award
Bill Gates

Segregation Award
New York City and New York State

School Board Member of the Year
Karen Brill, Palm Beach County

Education Research Corruption Award

Teacher Courage Award
Susan Bowles, Orlando, Florida
Karen Hendren, Tulsa, OK
Nikki Jones, Tulsa, OK

Most Corrupt State Politician (tie)
Tom Corbett, PA
Chris Christie, NJ

Most Corrupt Politician on National Stage
Jeb Bush

Courageous Student Award
Kyle Ferris

Best Education Reporter, Past or Present
Michael Winerip, NYT

Worst Education Reporter
Jane Roberts, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Most Outrageous Education Editorials
Wall Street Journal

Most Irrelevant Education Reporter
Jay Mathews

Best Model for National Union Movement
Medford Education Association

Most Prolific Education Writer
Carol Burris

Most Influential Education Org
United Opt Out National

Best Schools Matter Blogger
Stephen Krashen

Biggest New Loser Idea for 2014

Haslam's Crony Protector, Brad Martin, Pushed for David Rudd's Appointment as U of M President

Bill and Brad
During a dicey political year, 2013, that found the Haslams paying $92 million to keep its Pilot J employees out of jail for fraud, Bill Haslam and Brad Martin were entirely preoccupied with scratching each other's backsides. 

Brad is an old family connection, going back to the day when Bill was wasting away in the family truck stop business over piles of oil and gas receipts.  

Brad made little Bill a big shot with Saks in New York, thus launching him into a political world that likes its predatory capitalists to look like aging schoolboys.  See Bill Gates.  See Bill Haslam.  Charming.

In 2013, Haslam returned the favor by putting Martin in the interim President's chair at the University of Memphis, just a couple of months after Martin had been handpicked to head the "internal" company investigation for Pilot Flying J Oil Company, which the FBI charged had a history of keeping millions of dollars in diesel fuel rebates that belonged to trucking companies.  These charges proved to be correct, and the case remains open even today.

Martin was surely a good pick, as he had his own experience in surviving a fraud investigation at Saks some years earlier.  From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- R. Brad Martin was chief executive of Saks Inc. a decade ago when the luxury retailer was embroiled in a fraud investigation that found the company wrongly kept millions of dollars owed to clothing suppliers.

Martin today is the board member at Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J who will sign off on an internal investigation into whether Pilot kept millions of dollars in fuel rebates owed to trucking companies.

The similarities between the two cases and the close ties between Martin and Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam -- for years they've moved in the same social circles and their family summer homes are a stone's throw from each other in the Smoky Mountains -- make some question whether Martin can be objective about any findings of fraud at Pilot.

"At the very least there was a cloud over his tenure at Saks," said Christopher Ideker, a forensic accountant who has participated in many audit committee investigations for companies. "To me, you have a guy calling the shots on an investigation about stealing from customers who was investigated for stealing from vendors. That seems pretty straightforward.". . . .
As interim president at UofM, Martin set out to initiate as many of corporate education's losing ideas as he could.  Chief among them was to get the Seligman-KIPP connected, David Rudd, involved in the scheme to set up the bogus teacher training corporation, Relay, in the middle of the College of Education.  Martin was also instrumental in making sure that the Chancellor of Higher Ed, John Morgan, was entirely briefed on Rudd's work and close ties with local and national oligarchs, including the Hyde family and Bill Gates.  

Below is the final paragraph of a letter sent by Martin to Morgan during the final days of the selection process, during the time Morgan was strong-armed into choosing Rudd as President over more qualified candidates.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Jeb Bush Staking His CorpEd Business Model on "Abject Failure" from Common Core Tests

My favorite part of this Bush clip from 2013 is this unintended candor, where Bush admits the purpose of the Common Core tests is to demonstrate "abject failure":

When the NGA and NCSSO came together to approve Common Core, 
"there was a sense of urgency that our nation is at risk unless we raise expectations significantly higher, assess where you are in a meaningful way, and then recognize that we have abject failure across the board and we'd better do something about it."

Barbic and ASD Corporate Skinheads Draining Public Funds

Former charter CEO and current ASD superintendent, Chris Barbic, collects a salary that is larger than the superintendent of Shelby County Schools, which has over 100,000 students.  Barbic oversees 10,000 students and a staff of 30 at ASD's downtown Memphis location.

Barbic collects $116,110,000 from taxpayers each year for the charter chain gangs that are run by Barbic's out-of-state cronies.

With the federal grant now gone that has been paying salaries for the 30 skinheads at their central office downtown, that $3,000,000 they have collected each year must now come out of public funds.
Barbic, who was hired in 2011, makes more than $215,000. That money and all the other salaries will need to come out of the per-pupil funding, which will mean less for the schools. 
With the test scores at most of the ASD charter hellholes lower than the schools they replaced, it's hard to see how that horror story is going to be helped by Barbic siphoning off more funds intended for students.

When will Memphians run these corrupt bastards out of town and reclaim their schools?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FIGHT OR PERISH: A Guest Blog by Harris Lirtzman

The other day, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Director of State Operations, Jim Malatras, sent this letter to Chancellor Merryl Tisch, demanding that the Board of Regents answer twelve fundamental education-related questions by the end of the month.  In the letter, the Governor threatened to use his control over the state budget to impose unilaterally his own education policies to break “the monopoly of public education” at a special session of the Legislature next month.
New York State United Teachers, the body that represents public school teachers for legislative and political purposes in Albany, responded to the letter with one great snit.  Rather than call teachers together in any meaningful way to oppose the governor’s agenda for the special session and work to gain parental support, NYSUT preferred to do what many paper tigers do—which is to climb up on the highest horse available and issue a polemical call to a war that it cannot win. NYSUT said this to the governor:
“The governor says he wants to put students first. If that were even remotely true, he would listen carefully and act on the advice of the real experts – parents, educators and students – about what’s best for public education. Instead, New Yorkers get clueless, incendiary questions that do the bidding of New York City hedge fund billionaires who have letterhead and campaign donations, but know absolutely nothing about how public education works. If the governor wants a battle, he can take the clueless New York City billionaires. We’ll take the parents, teachers, higher education faculty and students in every ZIP code of the state.”
NYSUT’s letter is simply not a serious response to a very serious situation.  It is an angry and “thought-less” response to the throw-down that the governor has tossed at teachers around the state, responding to it in a way that is familiar to almost any middle school teacher: “Nah, nah, you’re stupid and we know better.”  NYSUT’s response is juvenile and its intemperate tone only demonstrates to its members that it has no idea what to do in the face of the existential threat to public education that now stares back at us in New York State.
I can assure anyone who read NYSUT’s plaintive scream that giving vent to fear by yelling “you’re stupid” at the governor is not how serious organizations shape political and education policy in New York State.
The battle has been framed.  We cannot simply assert the superiority of the public education system as it exists without thinking comprehensively and strategically about what we would hold onto, what we would change, what is non-negotiable and what is negotiable.
Rather than deride the governor’s self-serving ultimatum to the Regents, I propose that we try to answer some of the questions he put to the Regents ourselves:
  • What do we have to say that is a solution to Common Core other than that we “hate it?”  How do we make the persuasive case that much of it is entirely inappropriate developmentally for the students we teach?
  • What do we do to make sure that students with disabilities are fairly treated in a system that forces them to learn Common Core standards that may not be appropriate for the most severely disabled of them?
  • Do we oppose all charters or only those charters that refuse to make their operations transparent, include special education students and ELLs and which do not counsel out their students or refuse to back-filling cohorts?
  • Do we support community schools in the manner that the mayor has proposed in his “School Renewal Program” with its requirement for teachers to re-apply for their positions or do we oppose that part of the program and have an alternative to offer the children of failing schools across the City and State?
  • Do we support fair funding of public schools required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court settlement or do we have other suggestions about how to fund public schools so that every child across the state has access to a first-rate education?
  • How do we promote a teacher training and certification process that ensures a diverse pool of teachers of color in our schools?
  • What do we want education schools to do to help new teachers survive the terrible landscape they’re thrown into after they graduate?  What skills should they be taught?  How should their competence be demonstrated?
  • Do we simply oppose the APPR as a state teacher evaluation system or do we oppose “junk science” altogether and have an alternative process for evaluating teachers?
  • How do we make the case for due process persuasively and explain to the public how pervasive the arbitrary and capricious behavior by administrators is in our schools?
  • How do we effectively protect teachers illegitimately placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve, almost all of them there because of the previous administration’s determination to close, rather than support, struggling schools and the City’s unwillingness to defray the personnel costs of the more senior members of the ATR who cannot be hired into schools because school budgets make that impossible to do?
  • The Regents appointment process is a complete sham. What do we propose as a replacement?  Election by district?  Appointment by a panel of educators appointed jointly by the Governor, Speaker, Majority Leader of the Senate, Comptroller and AG?  I don’t know the answer but almost anything has got to be better than the process we have now.
  • How DO we force open the selection process used to appoint a new State Education Commissioner to replace the benighted John King?
Simply saying “public education” is a right without recognizing that many public schools are failing is a losing proposition for teachers to make to the public and to other community and parent organizations that may want to support us.  We need to make an affirmative case about what we, believe works or should be tried in our schools and what doesn’t work and should be changed.
I assure you that because we believe that our cause is “righteous” or “self-evident” does not mean that anyone else thinks does.  We need to make a powerful and intelligent case for what we want to do to preserve the foundational democratic aspects of public education while making clear that there we want to improve public schools while protecting teaching as a profession.

I may sound too “pragmatic” for many of you.  I know why I fight and am idealistic in a way that also is clear-eyed in its recognition of the reality that now confronts us all.  We are about to do battle with some of the richest and most powerful people in the state, and we need to recognize our peril and plan, strategically, to defend ourselves in a way that the public, the media and, our allies in the legislature can hear and understand.  If we do not, our children will be victims, and we will perish.

Manhattan Institute extremists credit anti-racist activists with Marshall Tuck's defeat

"Robert D. Skeels, writing in L.A. Progressive, rips Marshall Tuck for closing down ethnic studies programs and heritage language studies programs while running the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. He reviews Tuck’s record at Green Dot charter schools and the Mayor’s Partnership and renders a scathing judgment." — Professor Diane Ravitch

Manhattan Institute loved Marshall Tuck's support of right-wing ideas including charter schools and public school choiceRight-wing reactionary Ben Boychuk's profound disdain for public education is somewhat legendary, and his tenures at the fringe-right think-tanks Heartland Institute, and now Manhattan Institute are testament to that. When he's not cheerleading for book banning, hosting privatization forums with the Walton Foundation funded Parent Revolution and its former Executive Director Ben Austin, or solidifying the vile Parent Trigger as ALEC template legislation, he's writing political analysis for his fellow baggers, birchers, and neoliberal corporate education reformers.

Last month Boychuk penned a postmortem on Wall Street banker Marshall Tuck's failed bid in California to join Arizona's Tom Horne and John Huppenthal as an ideologically charged non-educator holding a Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. Amidst his anti-union screed Boychuk admits, somewhat surprisingly, that Tuck's wrongheaded championing of plutocrat David F. Welch's Vergara lawsuit was a major misstep. Boychuk then makes a statement that is breathtaking inasmuch as he places the blame for Tuck's loss squarely on the anti-racist crowd. My commentary to follow, but let's look at his statement and my November comment in response.

The teachers’ unions and their surrogates, such as Diane Ravitch, used Tuck’s charter school ties to paint him as a racist, a bigot, and a tool of “the power elite.” Their attacks bordered on defamation, but they worked.

Addressing his misinformed and churlish assertions regarding defamation, I responded thusly:

Robert D. Skeels November 13, 2014 at 2:47 PM
There was no need to 'paint [Marshall Tuck] as a racist, a bigot, and a tool of “the power elite”', since an honest account of his actual record did just that by itself. No one was more forthcoming about Tuck's record than I was, because as a law student I am well aware that truth always serves as an affirmative defense to defamation, and every statement I made about Tuck was a well documented truth.

I, for one, think it's wonderful that the fringe-right wants to credit anti-racists with Marshall Tuck's defeat. Even more so because corporatist Tuck would have defended, in Boychuck's words, "charter schools and public [sic] school choice." While Boychuck uses Professor Ravitch's name, it's irresponsible and inaccurate to say that she made all the comments that he credits her with. What is true, and the link he provides is a good example of it, is that Professor Ravitch was sure to disseminate all of the wonderful essays and articles about Tuck that weren't going to be published in the corporate media. The RedQueeninLA, Ellen Lubic, Cheryl Ortega, Dr. John Fernandez, Jose del Barrio, and many other social justice activists wrote about Tuck's abject record, bigotry, and veritable crimes against students.

I too wrote a bit about Tuck. In exposing his bigotry and myriad failures, I had to put up with abuse from his obtuse Hollywood supporters, some profoundly ignorant rich white guys, and even had to block some abusive Tuck supporters on twitter. One of the more intriguing critics of my work was Conor P. Williams of the right-of-center think-tank New America Foundation. My friends at PESJA forwarded me this tweet by Williams, in which he took issue with an excerpt from one of my polemics against Tuck.

Neoliberal corporate eduction reform apologist Williams rarely has anything substantive to say when confronted by facts, and here when the PESJA folks grilled him he went into derailment mode. I'd challenge him to an honest debate in which he could try to make the case that shuttering Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language Programs, and Dual Language Immersion Programs isn't racist, but he isn't the type to engage in actual debate. For example, his laughable straw man arguments against Corey Robin's brilliant 2012 essay. I would hope that Williams would be astute enough to know that Robin's point speaks to the attitudes of the type of well-heeled folks that fund Williams' employer. Williams' big paychecks (despite his persistent whining about still paying student loans), are, of course, derived in large part from the anti-public education plutocracy. By making everything about himself, he effectively deflects the conversation about the neoliberal corporate elite he works for.

Many of us worked tirelessly to keep Marshall Tuck from being elected. My first semester of law school suffered mightily until, ostensibly, after the election. With money flowing in from the wealthiest white men in the world, Tuck had every advantage except the truth. We told the truth about Tuck, and if Tuck's fringe-right supporters like the Manhattan Institute want to say that "worked", then it makes it all worth it.

2014 was a wonderful year in which bigots Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal all lost their elections.

2014 was a wonderful year in which bigots Marshall Tuck, Tom Horne, and John Huppenthal all lost their elections.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ravitch and Cody Announce the Imminent Demise of CorpEd With No Evidence to Back It Up

On December 16 Diane Ravitch reported, incorrectly as it turns out, that Teach for America has closed its New York offices.  The next day Anthony Cody took that incorrect news to spin a tale about the impending collapse of CorpEd's empire. 

Apparently, Cody still believes the multi-billion CorpEd empire will collapse as soon as he points out on his blog that none of the reforms do what they said they would do.  Really?  Wonder if Bill Gates knows that.  Blog, blog, blog.

Is he serious, is he naive, is he stupid, or has he gotten a memo from Randi Weingarten letting him know that the resistance needs to be mollified and shushed in order that the corporate unions' places at the oligarchs' table be protected?  

Meanwhile, in the real world, United Opt Out is planning the next phase to nullify the Common Core tests that will begin in earnest this coming spring. 

This war is far from over, and there can be no let up until high stakes testing is eradicated, segregated classrooms are eliminated, and corporate education is no more.  

Don't be duped.  Build a fire on the ridge to let everyone know you are ready to move out.

United Opt Out Declares "The #PublicEdRevolution will not be on FB"

From United Opt Out:
We, at UOO, have been saying for over a year now that the 2014-2015 school year is the tipping point.  With PARCC, SBAC and other common core tests rearing their ugly heads this year we know that the time is prime for corp. ed. reformers to  push the business model of public education, as they state once again, that our students, teachers, and public schools are failing.  We can anticipate a 70% failure rate on these common core tests – one simply need look only to New York’s scores for the last two years.

The UOO conference is truly a working session for local and national activists who hope to take new learning and plans of action back home to their communities. Yes, we have speakers, and yes we have Q/A panels. But we also provide the time and opportunity for locals to gather and formulate a campaign to reclaim their public schools while also determining what they want for all children once we tear down the corporate reformers’ agenda. All of the speakers STAY for the full event,  and they are available to sit in on working sessions and provide insight into campaign planning.

As Martin Luther King said, The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

The #PublicEdRevolution will not be on Facebook, as much as it is a great tool for organizing. True change requires hard work on the ground. It requires standing tall and strong in the face of continued backlash. It requires being prepared to help others who want to act as they look to each of us to support them in determining how to move forward. It requires hours and hours of unpaid work. It requires building relationships. At UOO we have always worked hard, we have always consistently stepped up for action when it was necessary, and we have been successful due to our one on one conversations with students, parents, teachers, and community members all over the country. And again, we will build community, forge relationships, and create action in Florida as we help locals reclaim their public schools from years of corporate ed. reform destruction.

The UOO conference in Florida is open to everyone. We will have national and local activists there to help organize campaigns for local communities and for the state of Florida. Our conference is very different than the typical conference because we do not manage it “top-down.”  When folks arrive, we have them share what they hope to learn and accomplish during the conference, and then, we simply tailor the conference to meet their needs – just like a democratically-run public school classroom should work! Currently we have potential working groups identified, but this may change based on the needs of participants.

For more information on attending the event, viewing the schedule, finding out about working groups and speakers,  please go HERE

Saturday-only registrants for the “Testing Refusal 101″ workshop is only is $20.00. Please RSVP on FB and pay the resistration fee ON SITE at the welcome table.

In solidarity,

UOO Team

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Innovative Segregation at Menlo Park Charter School

Story from Menlo Park, where white folks insist in their own cut of that charter cash:
Split vote gives Cleveland school levy dollars to charter school for gifted - and mostly white - kids

The Menlo Park Academy charter school for gifted children is now a partner with the Cleveland school district, after a split vote Tuesday night.

Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer

on December 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM, updated December 20, 2014 at 1:19 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland taxpayers are now contributing some of their property taxes to Menlo Park Academy -- a West Park charter school for gifted students that hopes to add more Cleveland students if it can move to a building  closer to downtown.

The school board voted Tuesday to partner with the highly-rated elementary school and add it to the list of charter schools that share a portion of the Issue 107 school levy that voters passed in 2012.

The 4-3 vote was a rare split for a board that usually passes items with little dissent.

Board members debated whether they should share money with a specialty school whose enrollment does not reflect the students of the district: Menlo Park has only gifted students that are mostly white and Asian, with few black students and almost no Hispanic students.

It also has a staff and board that is almost all white.

"Diversity is a very big concern that I am having here tonight," said board member Wiletta Milam, who voted against sharing money. "What are you going to do about correcting that?"

Teri Harrison, who heads the Menlo Park school board, said the school welcomes students of all races and backgrounds, but it has few applicants that are not white. She noted the school gives admissions preference to Cleveland kids and said she hopes to increase the minority presence at the school.
"We'd certainly like to see that increase," Harrison said.

According to the school's application to partner with the district, the school at 14440 Triskett Road in the former school of St. Mel Parish, started in 2008 with 38 students. It now has 360.

In recent years, it has scored at or near the top of the region in performance scores on the state report cards.

All students must be considered gifted through a series of tests, all approved by the Ohio Department of Education. According to the school's application, classes are "designed to stretch the academic level and interests of cognitively gifted learners whose abilities exceed typical age-defined models."

Menlo Park Academy

The school is also very different demographically from the district. About 38 percent of its students are from the suburbs. The application also included a chart, shown to the right, that compares Menlo Park's demographics to the neighborhood, which is served by the district's Riverside elementary school.

That drew concerns from Milam and board members Shaletha Mitchell and Lisa Thomas, who questioned why the school does not have more diverse students and faculty.

Those three voted against partnering with the school, while board members Denise Link, Louise Dempsey, Anne Bingham and Robert Heard voted for it. Board members Ericka Abrams and Stephanie Morales were absent.

Eric Gordon, the district's chief executive officer, noted the significant difference between the populations of Menlo Park and the district. He said when the district placed the 2012 levy on the ballot, one mill of the 15-mill tax was set aside specifically for charters whose student bodies are comparable to the city neighborhoods around them.

Menlo Park does not really fit that description, he noted, but the district is committed to partnering with quality schools serving different students. . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dick Cheney's Nina Rees and the US Chamber of Charters wish you a White Christmas

Dick Cheney's Nina Rees and the US Chamber of Charters [aka The National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools] wish you a White Christmas

"Public-sector employment, where there is less discrimination in hiring and pay, has traditionally been an important venue for creating a black middle class." — Professor Carol Anderson

Arch-reactionary Nina Rees was a long-time deputy assistant to Dick "rectal feeding" Cheney. Rees was tapped for the US Chamber of Charters (aka The National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools—NAPCS) a few years back, when the lucrative charter industry needed someone adept at the same kind of public relations that spins torture as "enhanced interrogation."

Some time ago the Chamber of Charters put me on their mailing list, meaning I'm subjected to their propagandistic press releases including a recent one spinning the Ohio charter debacles as a positive. This month they've been shilling hard to get folks to attend their big June trade convention at the site where all public schools have been razed—New Orleans. Their trade show will feature Wall Street darling Geoffrey Canada, the vile individual that sacrifices entire classes of students to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of the wealthy bankers on his board.

Amid propaganda releases and advertisements, Rees sent a "holiday card" featuring, apparently, the Chamber of Charters' well-heeled executives and staff. First thing glaringly obvious in the photograph is the decided lack of melanin among its subjects. If you squint really hard, you might make out one or two persons of color in the very back of the crowd, reminding us that tokenism is still the norm in the lucrative nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC). I've included Rees' wishes for a "white" holiday above, and I may have taken some liberties to make minor edits to their text.

While there's no shortage of self-colonized types dabbling in respectability politics who are willing to work for NPICs like the Chamber of Charters, there are rarely good positions persons of color in that sector overall. Typically the top NPIC positions in the neoliberal corporate education reform project are held by wealthy whites, to wit: Rees at the US Chamber of Charters, Jed Wallace at the California Chamber of Charters (aka California Charter School Association), and Ben Austin at Parent Revolution (aka Los Angeles Parents Union). A notable exception to this rule was the snarling Teach for America alumnae who is currently married to the "hands on" Mayor of Sacramento.

Ironically, the tiny fraction of persons of color employed by the charter industry are making things worse overall in that through the aggressive privatization of public schools, they are eliminating the few remaining public sector jobs mentioned in the Professor Anderson quote at the beginning of this piece. A very White Christmas indeed from Nina Rees and the wealthy white billionaires funding the US Chamber of Charters.