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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Regarding this last sentence of the article:

Booker T. Washington spent his life never bothering to ask that question, and it appears that Dana Goldstein’s book, which no doubt will earn the seal of approval from Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten, has charted a similar track.

Apparently there is an ongoing mentoring of Ms. Goldstein by Randi Weingarten and Bill Gates.

This interview from March 16, 2012 by Ms. Goldstein shows Randi Weingarten at her best, expressing common ground with those of us in the corporate education resistance, and then spinning this into support for corporate education reform. 

Going even further back in time to March 20, 2009 there is this profile of Randi Weingarten by Dana Goldstein: 
In this article you find Randi right at home in the corporate reform world in an appearance at the National Press Club. Portrayed as a neophyte in this world, she in fact has worked with these people for years to disarm the AFT as the corporate assault on public education proceeds. All through the article are people mentioned in my article “Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education?” as people affiliated in some way with the Broad Foundation. Randi is portrayed as someone who just wandered onto their plantation for a chat when in actual fact she has been working with them since 2002 when she was UFT President and since 2008 when she became AFT President.

And then there is this article by Dana Goldstein at the New America Foundation from January 31, 2013.

And look at the SourceWatch listing for the New America Foundation. NAF is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation. (See the middle of the page.)

Check out the link to the article at SourceWatch for Peter G. Peterson Foundation, another funder of The New America Foundation, to see who these people are.

It looks like Dana Goldstein is being trained as a shill for the corporate ed reformers and is learning their method of hiding the corporate education agenda in plain sight.

Comments on Naomi Klein's New Book

A clip from comments on Naomi Klein's new book at Nation of Change:
Klein starts with a blunt statement of the problem: “[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life.” (21) Human survival requires a new economics, which explains why climate-change denial is strongest among conservatives. Klein points out that while deniers are wrong about science, “the right is right” when it says that climate change demands a full frontal assault on free-market ideology. The minimizers—often liberals, usually self-professed environmentalists—dream of technological fixes and peddle policy changes that don’t upset the status quo, such as the carbon-market shell game of cap-and-trade. Klein’s reproach: Trying to protect existing lifestyles through existing economics “is either dishonest or delusional because a way of life based on the promise of infinite growth cannot be protected, least of all exported to every corner of the globe.” (58)

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Neo-Liberal Historical Revisionism in Education

Dana Goldstein studied intellectual history at Brown before she became a reporter, then a grad student at Columbia, and now another author among the growing tribe of young, privileged white folks with new books intended to make the world safe for corporate education reform.

Goldstein joins Cornellian Amanda Ripley, Yalie Anya Kamenetz, and fellow Columbia alum, Elizabeth Green, in offering their non-educationist and non-scholarly takes on issues ranging from how to make "smart kids," "build great teachers," referee the "teacher wars," or understand "the test." All of this recent and ongoing corporate education popularizing takes place from within the safe confines of Lumina-Gates-supported foundations, where those born of the assurance that there is nothing that don't know go to live up to that reputation.

This is not a review of Dana Goldstein's book on the "teacher wars," which must wait for another time.  It is, however, a moment to recall all that Dana Goldstein doesn't know or pretends she doesn't know about No Excuses schools, Booker T. Washington, or the black industrial education model, a term that might be new to her, since she never bothers to use in describing the philanthropist-approved model for African-American education from the end of the Civil War into the early 20th Century.

Here's what Goldstein told a Salon interviewer recently:
Salon: Aside from your own personal estimation of the virtues and shortcomings of public education, did you come across anything else in your research that really surprised you or caused you to see parts of the school reform debate in a different light?
Goldstein: Yes. One [discovery] was how so many of the roots of today’s “No Excuses” school reform movement — which focuses on strict discipline for kids, has a big emphasis on college attendance and a big emphasis on measurable student achievement — a lot of this actually came from ideas of African-American educational theorists working as far back as the Civil War. One of the interesting things was that this whole ideology of “No Excuses” and tough expectations, strict discipline, I think there’s a difference of hearing no excuses from someone who comes from your own community and hearing no excuses from an outsider. So it’s interesting how these ideas that started in the black community are now part of interracial, multiracial school reform movement.
It is fortunate, here, that Goldstein does not cite any of those "African-American educational theorists" during the Civil War, since there were not any doing any such thing. Indeed, discipline was strict during that era and before in all schools, a time when it was not uncommon to cane children for various rule infractions at school until urine ran down their legs.  But this was part of the "values" of the age, not part of a theoretical positioning by non-existent theorists.

The closest I can come to guessing what Goldstein is talking about is found in her discussion of Anna Julia Cooper, who was born a slave but fortunate enough to attend St. Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, NC.  Cooper later went on to earn a PhD from Oberlin and was hired to teach Latin at the most prominent black high school in Washington, DC, where she was principal in 1901when a French visitor admiringly noted students walking silently to and from classes.   Now from this, Goldstein makes the Grand Canyon leap that Cooper's school was similar to the No Excuses corporate chain gangs that are replacing schools across urban America.

How does Goldstein know this?  She offers no references in the text or in her skimpy bibliography that she has any firsthand or secondhand knowledge of No Excuses schools, or that she has even read a book that spells out the no excuses ideology--such as the Thermstroms' book, No Excuses (2004).  What she knows about no excuses schools appears to have come from KIPP shill, Jay Mathews, or other advocates of segregated institutions for cultural sterilization and behavioral neutering of poor kids.

So, Ms. Goldstein, these ideas did not start in the black community in the 19th Century as you claim, despite whatever your guesswork tells you.  Following the Civil War, the systematic indoctrination of black children to accept and become complicit in their own oppression and subjugation started at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, where Booker T. Washington came as a adolescent and earned entrance to the school by cleaning principal Samuel Chapman Armstrong's house in 1872.  Armstrong, a former Union general, had learned what he knew about pedagogy from his father, who was superintendent of the plantation schools of Hawaii, where children were taught to value hard labor over book learning.  Hampton's inglorious and dark stain on American educational history is told by James Anderson is his book, which did not make Goldstein's bibliography, either.

Here is Goldstein's take on Hampton, where black industrial education was born, where students were taught they were morally behind by 2000 years, and that it was irresponsible for black people to vote because of their inferiority--that Hampton that Goldstein describes as "the black normal school where Washington trained" (p. 55).

Sounds nice, doesn't it?  Like maybe Washington took courses in teaching methods or child psychology?  Actually, Washington was trained.  Trained in the value of hard labor, trained that slavery had saved him from moral ruin, trained that social equality was extreme folly, trained to accept his moral depravity, trained that those who are at the top of the social hierarchy have earned that place by their white superiority.  But most importantly, Washington was trained to take what Armstrong had driven into his head and to become the spokesman for segregation and economic exploitation of black folks for generations to come.

Armstrong and the white northern philanthropists that backed Hampton put Booker T. Washington in charge at Tuskegee Institute, which was built on the Hampton Model.  Ditch, hoe, grub, clean, launder--these were the principal "skills" that students learned there for decades.  They also earned a teaching certificate so that became broadcasters of the Hampton-Tuskegee ideology across the South.

Goldstein tells us that Hampton and Tuskegee offered "basic education in reading and numeracy, as well as hands-on vocational training in brickmaking, tailoring, and carpentry."  Tailoring, hah!  Girls learned to sew and knit, enough to make and ship tens of thousands of pairs of mittens for white businessmen who used student labor at Hampton--students who were paid 10 cents an hour. These girls learned enough sewing to serve as domestics in white households--they were not trained as tailors.

And carpentry?  Boys learned to use a hammer and do piecework, but they were not trained as carpenters or builders.  There were not even any vocational certificates offered until almost 30 years after Hampton opened.  These students learned the value of labor and to celebrate their new "character training."

I find Goldstein's facile reading of the Dubois-Washington debate particularly irksome.  Dubois had the temerity to advocate for equal educational opportunity for black folks, while Washington was bowing and scraping his path to be the first black man to lunch at the White House under a president, Teddy Roosevelt, who was an avowed social darwinist and eugenics enthusiast.

Here is Goldstein's gossipy spin on why Dubois was bitterly opposed to Washington's advocacy for second class citizenship and third class education for blacks:
Dubois's bitterness toward Washingto was partly motivated by the fact that the Tuskegee founder's huge success in defining the turn-of-the-century educational philanthropic agenda as a vocational one meant there was little private mondy left over to provide children like Josie with access to higher education" (p. 57).
Really, Ms. Goldstein? Is this what you think?  Do you not know that Washington defined nothing of the philanthropic agenda but, rather, was himself a creation of that same agenda.  Washington took orders from Northern funders and curried favor where he could.  Until he died, he remained a devoted follower of the Northern philanthropists' educational "solution to the Negro problem," which was, of course, to work hard at whatever job was given you and keep your mouth shut. 

Which leads me the last point until I have more time to devote to a proper review.  On page 58, Goldstein goes over the edge with her historical supposing.  In talking about a particularly explicit racist letter that Washington received at Tuskegee from one of his white handlers, Goldstein says, "Villard's racism would have lit a fire under a man like Dubois, but Washington, ever the pragmatist, likely hoped to secure more funding from the industrialist (p. 58).

No doubt Washington did want more funding, but it doesn't seem to occur to Goldstein that Washington grew up being taught by racists whose ideology he came to accept early in life as the way the world works.  If Goldstein wants to call this "pragmatism" or the standing up against racists as hot-headed, she clearly has the most simplistic idea of what pragmatism requires.  Yes, it requires us to do what works, but it forces us, as John Dewey knew, to ask, "works for whom?"  Booker T. Washington spent his life never bothering to ask that question, and it appears that Dana Goldstein's book, which no doubt will earn the seal of approval from Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten, has charted a similar track.

On Rhonda of the Hamptons

A nice piece from Perdido Street School:
Lyndsey Layton reports the Center for Union Facts is attacking AFT President Randi Weingarten again:

The 11-page mailing, on expensive paper stock, was sent first class to 125,000 households across the country this week.

“I’m writing to you about Randi,” the letter began. “You probably don’t know who Randi is. Most people don’t. The terrible impact Randi has on America’s educational system is something that I hope you will give me a few minutes to explain.”

The writer, Richard Berman, is a D.C.-based corporate communications consultant who is waging a national campaign against Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Berman has run a highly personal attack on Weingarten for the past year, paying for two billboards in Times Square that featured an unflattering two-story image of her, a full-page ad in the New York Times, radio spots and, now, lengthy mailings. He also paid workers to hand out anti-Weingarten flyers during Labor Day weekend in East Hampton, N.Y., where she has a home.

In the mailing, Berman refers to Weingarten as “a vicious individual” who is “on a crusade to stymie school reform and protect the jobs of incompetent teachers — the bad apples that drain so much of our tax resources and sabotage the efforts of parents and caring teachers.”

This is a nasty attack on Weingarten, just as the billboards and other attacks Berman and the Center for Union Facts have launched against her were nasty.

But to be frank, I agree with one part of Berman's attack:

Weingarten and the teachers unions are ruining public education - but for the exact opposite reason Berman gives.

Want to know why there are so many tests in public schools these days?

Because Weingarten and the teachers unions have embraced test-based accountability and the Endless Testing regime.

Want to know why teachers are evaluated using error-riddled value-added measurements based upon test scores?

Because Weingarten and the teachers unions embraced VAM a few years ago and haven't mounted much of a challenge to these accountability systems even now that they're claiming "VAM is sham!"

Indeed, in 2008 Weingarten happily okayed the Teacher Data Reports in NYC that saw 4th-8th grade ELA and math teachers rated using a value-added system with margins of error as high as 87%.

Those reports were published in the New York news media, exposing teachers who had been rated with this error-riddled data system Weingarten collaborated on to public humiliation.

Want to know why Common Core math is confusing children nation-wide and Common Core informational texts have replaced literature in ELA classrooms and children are crying at night over the Common Core homework they're given that doesn't make any freaking sense?

Because Weingarten and the teachers unions have embraced Common Core, have taken money from Common Core proponents like Bill Gates to shill for the Core and have threatened to punch anybody who opposes Common Core in the face.

Want to know why pro-ed deform teacher-hating politicians like Andrew Cuomo are in power and doing all the damage they're doing to public education and the teaching profession?

Because Weingarten and the teachers unions are backing them, engineering putschs when certain union leaders turn against them, then ensuring that there will be no third party candidates to run against them and making robocalls for them when it turns out a primary is closer than it was supposed to be.

Sure, Weingarten and the unions aren't solely responsible for these crimes against children, teachers and public education, but they certainly helped along the way and you can make a pretty good argument that without union collaboration from Randi and the other teachers union leaders, they wouldn't have happened at all.

So I agree with Berman and the Center for Union Facts - Weingarten is ruining education and teaching.

I just don't agree with Berman's rationale for how she's ruining it.

It's not because Randi is out to "stymie school reform."

It's because she is so willing help out the reformers, to collaborate with and shill for the corporate entities, NGO's, billionaires and politicians focused on privatizing the school system, standardizing the nation's curriculum and turning the teaching profession into at-will work with no job protections.

I can't get all worked up over this attack on Weingarten from the anti-union guy - she's done too much damage, engaged in too much duplicity and shilled for too many deform causes and entities for me to put up the barricades and defend her. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Aspire Charter Schools: Busing to Maintain Segregation

When parents showed up last week to enroll their children at the Aspire (Coleman) charter school in Memphis, they were told there were no more seats, due to plans to expand next year to take in 6th grade.  Even if there were no expansion plans, you can't have too many children of parents who weren't there months ago to squeal with delight at the prospect of getting their children into a new segregated corporate reform school. Protect the brand.

The solution provided: Bus these 30 or so children an hour away to another Aspire store called Aspire Hanley, which last year had worse test scores than the public school it replaced in the same building.  Aspire is looking for some to pat them on the back for providing the bus cost of a bus--$50,000. 

Considering that 30 kids are worth $9,000 each to Aspire's bottom line, it doesn't take an accountant to see that Aspire could afford limos if they wanted to and still make money. 

Wasn't the ostensible purpose of turning Memphis schools over to corporations to provide better education?  What middle class school board would ever allow such corruption, mismanagment, and miseducative abuse for middle class children??

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Peg Robertson Says No to Common Core Testing in CO

Posted here earlier:

Citizens of Colorado, I address this letter to you, because you are my community, my people. You have the power to shift the momentum in our public schools – where our students are increasingly being taught to the test under the intense high stakes conditions created via Race to the Top. Meanwhile, child poverty is ignored. I send this letter to you because I have made attempts to have a dialogue with the decision-makers. I have spoken with Secretary Arne Duncan, I have written to President Obama, and I have spoken in front of the Colorado Legislative Education Committee, all to no avail. So, I address this letter to you, in the hopes that my words and my actions will create momentum across our beautiful state for the children of  Colorado.  Thank you. 

Dear Citizens of Colorado,

I am a teacher in the Aurora Public School District. I am writing to let you know that I will be refusing to administer the PARCC in the 2014-2015 school year. I do not stand alone in my refusal of this high stakes test. I join the ranks of educators across the country who are fighting back against policies and mandates that ultimately harm our children and destroy our children’s opportunities to become confident, active, problem solving citizens.

I have watched the testing increase over my 18 years of teaching in the public schools. I have watched what it has done to my ability to meet children’s needs and to allow children the opportunities to engage in learning that is authentic – learning that furthers the purpose of these children’s lives. This year, in particular, I am watching an onslaught of common core curriculum infiltrate our schools, along with additional tests and test prep to add to the test load which permeates every minute of every school day.  I hear again and again that I should find the “good” in this curriculum and make the best of it. I am a literacy coach, therefore, I work with many teachers and children in our building. I believe our children deserve better than simply, my ability to find the “good” in this common core test prep curriculum. I believe our children deserve what President Obama’s children have at Sidwell, where teachers have autonomy to teach without scripted common core curriculum and common core high stakes testing.  I take objection to the fact that our children are being used as guinea pigs in an experiment to implement standards which were never field tested, are copyrighted,  were not created using a democratic process, and were not created with the input of classroom teachers. Furthermore, the Common Core standards have placed unrealistic expectations on our youngest learners, many who now view themselves as failures, because they are unable to meet the developmentally inappropriate expectations set by the Common Core standards.

I also refuse to administer the PARCC because I believe that participation in such testing gives the test credibility – of which it has none. The PARCC test was designed to assess the Common Core standards which are not grounded in research, nor are they internationally benchmarked.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Common Core standards, Common Core curriculum and Common Core testing, will in any way close the achievement gap. It will do the opposite. By funneling all of our tax dollars to corporations for curriculum, tests and technology to implement the test, we have ignored the elephant standing in the middle of the room – the number of homeless school children in Colorado, which has more than tripled in the last decade.  The poverty rate of black children stands at approximately 40% while the poverty rate of  Latino children is approximately 30%. Colorado also has the third fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the nation. We know quite clearly that children who have quality nutrition, healthcare, as well as access to books via libraries with certified librarians, and all the other resources provided to children in particular zip codes, actually, have done quite well on standardized tests in the past. Yet, we continue to ignore this fact, and we continue to feed our children living in poverty only tests. In order to pay for these tests, technology, and curriculum, we strip our schools of much needed resources such as books, small class size, librarians, nurses, counselors and more. Closing the achievement gap requires closing the resource gap.

As we consider closing the achievement gap, it’s important to recognize that New York has administered the Common Core test two years in a row, both years resulting in approximately a 70% failure rate state-wide. Our achievement gap is increasing. And we continue to funnel our money away from the schools and directly into the pockets of profiteers.

I am responsible for making pedagogical decisions to support the learning of students and adult learners on a daily basis; the state and federal mandates currently in place hamper my ability to do what is best for learners. There are better ways to assess children. Currently, the assessments being used assess only narrow learning, derived through continual test prep in our classrooms. They assess what matters least, and such learning will not create innovative thinkers or citizens who can salvage our democracy.

I believe that refusing PARCC is the first step in taking down the Common Core boondoggle which streamlines student data (violating the privacy of children) to create more profit for the corporations. I also believe that refusing to administer PARCC is the first step in saving our profession, which is being hijacked in numerous ways by those who know a lot about increasing profit, but who know nothing about teaching children.

Our children are not gaining from the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing; instead, I see corporations profiting immensely, along with politicians and various other individuals who have jumped on the Common Core train. The link between the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing, is inextricable. They are linked together intentionally in order to increase profit. Public education is the new cash cow; privatization is the end goal. We must begin to take down this profit machine by beginning with the data the corporations so dearly love. No data. No profit. I will not hand over Colorado’s children (and their data) to the corporations via federal mandates.

I encourage everyone who stands with me to sign in the comment section below. I also encourage everyone to share the letter with national and state leaders.  However, I do not believe that change will come from the top, which is why I have addressed this letter to you, the citizens of Colorado. We must be the change.  Sometimes change requires risk.

I must do right by the children of Colorado and the teachers of Colorado, therefore, I refuse to administer the PARCC.

Peggy Robertson
Public School Teacher
Aurora, Colorado

Teacher Preparation Matters for Teacher Attrition

from Ingersoll, Merrill, and May (2014), available here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New NC Standards Commission Headed by IBM Offshoring Expert and Tea Party Darling

From WRAL:
IBM executive Andre Peek of Wake County and longtime Forsyth County school board member Jeannie Metcalf were named co-chairmen of the commission.
Jeannie Metcalf is Tea Party school board member.  Andre Peek's LinkedIn page has his expertise listed as Outsourcing/Offshoring (really!).

What can go wrong?

Monday, September 22, 2014

KIPP Teaching: "Sprinting a Marathon for Two Years"

At some KIPP schools teachers ride the buses so that children come to school ready to learn and go home ready for homework. What can be effect on children who have to remain silent from when the leave home until the time they return?

From a former KIPP teacher:

It was ultimately unsustainable.  It felt like sprinting a marathon for two years.  Probably worked somewhere between 80 and 100 hours every single week for two years and that’s unsustainable, even for somebody who didn’t have a family, I was living with my girlfriend.  No kids.  The money was fine.  I had no chance to spend it.  I was literally at school from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night six days a week, and then working on Sundays as well.  It was extremely unsustainable from the time perspective. 
The second piece, the second part of that answer I think, comes not just from the hours, but the intensity of the hours. It wasn’t just working on being at the office or something like that.  It was we had to create and own an environment that was difficult to manage, and had to do that over a very long period.  I’ll give you two or three examples that will hopefully illustrate what I’m speaking about.  In the mornings, we decided, or the school decided, that kids should be reading as much as possible.  The bus drivers picking the kids up and dropping them off wouldn’t be able to discipline them or create the same kind of culture that we had expected of our students and that a lot of the culture that we’d created would break down on the way to school and after school.  We thought that if kids were unsupervised on those busses, they would inevitably lead to some sort of drama, fighting or conflict of some sort, and that would carry into the school day and distract them from their learning.   
Our kids came in performing well below grade level and we were trying to get them not just on track and caught up, but prepared academically and propel them forward.  We felt that was a risk that we couldn’t worth really taking in terms of the amount of potential disruption that might come from getting off the bus with the three conflicts, three fires to put out before 7:30 in the morning.  Our solution was to ride the bus with the students.  This is actually something that a bunch of schools do.  I don’t think we were the only ones to do it.  I don’t know how many people do this, but it certainly wasn’t something that just we were doing.   
What we did on the bus, was we had policy that we introduced that kids were not allowed to talk.  They could read their books.  They could look out the window.  They could sleep.  They could just relax.  But you’re getting ready for school, get yourself prepared.  Take a moment, gather yourself, read.  That was the policy.  As you can imagine, that’s not something that’s very typical for a group of 10, 11, 12 and 13 year-olds to abide by, especially at 6:30 in the morning.  Actually it was certainly harder on the way home from school. It became an exercise in discipline, where the teacher was expected to ride the bus each day, either going out or coming back or sometimes both.  The ride would be an hour and you had to sit there and make sure that the kids didn’t talk.  That’s an extra hour or two added on top of the school day that’s already extremely intense where as a teacher I felt like I had to be extremely focused.  I had to be extremely professional.  I had to be extremely consistent. 
In retrospect, the benefit of that policy was probably extremely limited.  But it was something we decided to do.  We were on board with it.  We executed to the best of our ability.  However, it had a long term cost of creating this experience for the teacher that was very intense.  And the experience with the kids that were very intense, too.  That created, as I mentioned briefly earlier, almost a pressure-cooker kind of environment where you felt, or I should say our strategy was trying to put our fingers on every potential leak.  But you’d feel like it’s going to explode if you’re not putting your hands in the leak.