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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chomsky Clip on Education from 25 Years Ago

Epigrams & Bromides I

  • There can be no single path to sustained learning or living; diversity and adaptation in both biological and social worlds are required for survival. 
  • The strength of a democracy is determined by the levels of participation and shared well-being of its constituents. 
  • Economic success without personal happiness is misery; personal happiness without economic well-being is a myth.
  • Real freedom is comprised of equal proportions of liberty and responsibility.
  • The greatest threat to freedom is a shortage of trust; as trust recedes, policing moves forward.
  • Civilization requires both conservation and growth.  Too much of either is the source of all moral and intellectual ill health.
  • Leadership, in the classroom or the boardroom, requires equal proportions of support and challenge. Support without challenge breeds complacency and false competence. Challenge without support breeds intimidation and withdrawal.
  • The offering of opinion serves an important purgative purpose;  understanding, on the other hand, is a metabolic act that fuels human organizations. 
  • Ethical acts occur at the intersection of cool reason and warm compassion.
  • Play that is not fun can be neither therapeutic nor constructive.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jeb Bush's Ghastly Gall and Bad Motives

As it proved to be George W's presidential calling to finish Poppy's war in Iraq, it looks as if 2016 could be the beginning and end of Jeb's crusade to finish the education privatization plan that got put on hold in 1992 by Poppy's crushing defeat.  

Actually, the plan was on life support when Poppy got beat, as the New York Times had reported in 1991 that Daddy Bush's ED secretary, Lamar Alexander, was fashioning the "education president's" reforms to fit hand in glove with the business plans of Lamar's former partner, Chris Whittle:
He [Whittle] plans to establish a laboratory called the Edison Project in Knoxville, Tenn., where his Whittle Communications empire is based, staffed by 100 yet-unselected people culled from education, business and science who will try to sketch out a blueprint for a new breed of elementary and secondary schools.

Once the outline is complete, Whittle intends to build 200 schools around the country, to open in the fall of 1996. The cost, he imagines, could approach $3 billion, which he might raise by selling shares to large companies. Within 15 years, Whittle foresees 1,000 Whittle schools educating as many as two million students. Whittle's initiative will run parallel to the new education plan unveiled by President Bush and Education Secretary Lamar Alexander (a Whittle friend and former member of the Channel One board), which calls for grants to invent experimental public schools and for the building of 535 model schools by 1996.
When Congress got wind of this emerging scandal at the heart of the thinly-veiled Bush privatization plan, Poppy's whittling of public education got zeroed out of the budget.  

In a recent book review that used up most of the space to provide a neoliberal revision of recent education history, one that softens the hard facts on Reagan, Lamar, and Poppy, it was none other than Diane Ravitch who put the blame on the Democratically-controlled Congress back then for not setting Poppy's plan into action.  

If Congress had supported the Alexander/Whittle plan, perhaps the privatization would have already been complete, and Ravitch's painful, though lucrative, "conversion" experience would have been entirely unnecessary.  From Ravitch:
Starting with President George H.W. Bush in 1988, every president wanted to be remembered as “the education president.” His plan was called America 2000, and its purpose was to encourage the American people to strive to reach the national goals set by the governors at Charlottesville. Stymied by a Democratic Congress, Bush was unable to pass any legislation, and America 2000 soon faded into obscurity.
Those mean old congressmen.  Poor Poppy.

And so now it is now Jeb's turn to do his part to eviscerate the democratic space.  Last week the puffy, angry fool was in Washington to try out his tired talking points as he girds his lardy loins for the 2016 campaign.  The speech contains a litany of lies and obfuscations, but by far, the least likely to be believed is this one:
"Nobody in this debate has a bad motive.... Even if we don't all agree on Common Core, there are many principles we can agree on."
No, Jeb, there are no principles we can all agree on because there are some in this "debate" who are without principles, and whose motives are bad.  Really, really bad.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Arizona's Education Taliban is at it Again

This time, Arizona's right to lifers, aka right wing, religious wing nuts, are at it again, wreaking havoc on the state's youngest, most vulnerable population. Today's New York Times reports the story of how  young people should have their lives and their children's lives ruined because of religious fanaticism and those who still want to live in the Dark Ages, where women and children knew their place, or else.

Ms. Smith, the school board member and parent, said she had been driving her family home from church back in January when her son told her about what was in the textbook. “I almost drove off the road,” she said. 
“I’m Catholic; we do not contracept,” Ms. Smith said. “It is a grave sin.” By including those pages in the curriculum, she added, “you have violated my religious rights.” 
She and other parents offended by the material said they thought it could be in violation of a law signed in 2012, called SB 1009, which required Arizona schools to teach in a way that favored a woman’s taking a pregnancy to term over terminating it. 
The textbook “speaks about abortion, it touches on childbirth, but there’s not a mention of adoption,” said Christine Accurso, a mother of three who moved her children out of the school district well before the issue arose but got involved nevertheless. “It was blatant. It was obvious.”

Will Nashville School Board Put More Poor Children on the Charter Chain Gang?

A compelling question is coming in early December for the members of the Metro Nashville School Board:  Will you assert the ethical responsibility that you are charged with by your positions as custodians of children's educational welfare, or will you double down on supporting a morally bankrupt school caste system, whereby children of the poor are separated and confined in total compliance corporate testing camps that no parent on the school board would ever allow for their own children?

Will you read this book and see how well-positioned you are for making the new Nashville another Wake County, NC?  Review here.  I think you have a group of citizens who are willing to try.

Two Teachers in Tulsa Represent the Conscience of Teaching

As the NEA and AFT suits cut deals with corporate education child abusers to impose more of their lucrative and immoral business solutions on school children and teachers, the new voices of teaching are stepping forward to protect children and themselves from the rapacious privatizers who are in charge of public education.

From the Tulsa World:
Why are two first-grade teachers risking the jobs they love to take a stand against new student tests and surveys?

Because they know they’re not alone.

“It’s definitely not about my evaluation,” said Skelly Elementary School’s Nikki Jones.

“It’s about watching kids cry and throw chairs and pee their pants and scratch their face until it turns red or they bleed. That’s what it’s about — that’s all that it’s about.”

Jones, 33, and her colleague at Skelly, Karen Hendren, 23, were first featured in a Nov. 16 Tulsa World story about the new use of K-12 student surveys in Tulsa Public Schools’ teacher performance evaluations. They are among dozens of local teachers who have been writing emails to district officials and contacting principals and the local teachers union to raise red flags about the new surveys.

Jones and Hendren followed up with an open letter to parents detailing how “developmentally inappropriate” they feel the surveys are for their 6-year-old students, as well as how new tests are robbing their young students of a significant amount of instructional time.

The stand they have taken has landed them on national news outlets, including the Washington Post and Fox News, plus a host of national education blogs.

Parents and other teachers are calling them heroes for speaking out with the same concerns that have led to organized parent opt-outs and student walk-outs in several other states.

Regina Kelly, whose daughter was in Hendren’s class last year, said the information about the new surveys and the emotional and behavioral toll that new tests are taking on young students were revelations that sent her to Tulsa Public Schools herself on Friday.

“I have been feeling physically ill ever since I read their letter and heard about these children and what they were going through taking these tests and surveys,” said Kelly. “I went to TPS because I wanted to see the survey for myself, but they said they didn’t have any — they shredded all the extras. I really feel as parents we have been left in the dark. These are minor children, and TPS is asking them questions they should be asking parents.”

Jennifer Thornton, a veteran third-grade teacher at Emerson Elementary School, said Jones and Hendren simply expressed what most teachers feel — that they are smothering their students with required assessments.

“I’m not saying all of us should refuse to do our job, but our job is to teach kids,” said Thornton.
“All of this testing has created mounds and mounds of administrative work — printing reports and filing reports, and checking reports and then analyzing reports. There is no balance to be found, and that is devastating because you feel like you’re failing your kids.”

Why don’t more teachers speak out? Thornton says teachers in TPS fear for their jobs.

“We have a lot of administration, and our principals are getting pressure from (their bosses), who I assume are getting pressure from the superintendent. Principals are afraid so then we become afraid, and we have seen TCTA (Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association) leadership speak up on behalf of teachers and get slammed by the superintendent — and that also provides a level of fear for the rest of us to speak up,” she said.

Before the teachers’ story went viral

What many people don’t know is that Jones and Hendren first took their concerns and their pledge not to continue with the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, and Tripod student surveys for teacher evaluations directly to Superintendent Keith Ballard in emails they each sent on Nov. 9 and 10.

They did so knowing they would be seen as insubordinate.

“The biggest consequence would be losing our job,” said Hendren. “But I just think we’re really in it for the kids — that’s why we’re here, is to do things for kids.

“And so if that means we’re on the line for that, we’re really sticking up for our kids and to us, that’s worth it.”

Jones said her hope was that Ballard would hear about the emotional and behavioral toll the new surveys and MAP tests have had on their students. And that he might consider letting them or other early childhood education teachers find more appropriate accountability measures.

Instead, Jones and Hendren said, the only response they received from the emails to Ballard was a visit from their principal’s boss a few days later. They said they got no real answers to their questions and concerns.

After the teachers took their concerns public, Ballard responded by publicly questioning their experience level and saying refusing to participate “is not an option.”

Thornton said most teachers she knows found his remarks offensive.

“To say they just don’t know how to use the data — that is just so offensive,” she said. “They are amazing teachers. They are poster children — they epitomize what we need in our profession because of the fact that they have the guts to speak up for what they feel is right and risk their jobs.”

New audit underway

Coincidentally, Ballard last week had his monthly advisory group meetings with elementary and secondary school teachers.

“I am willing to listen to teachers and I asked them, point blank, are we doing too much assessment, and I heard in many cases we are,” he said.

“Maybe we are asking too much in assessments. I don’t want to overburden teachers.”

As a result, Ballard said, he has ordered an audit of all tests being done, including all district- and individual school-site-mandated assessments.

Ballard said he has heard the criticism of his initial response to the Jones and Hendren case, but he said his defense of the expansion of MAP testing into the early grades is a direct result of 1,128 Tulsa third-graders failing the state reading test last year. About half were held back because of a new state law.

“I do believe there are high-stakes tests that are onerous, and I think we can do too much assessment. I was against having third-graders retained for one test on one day, and I led opposition to the end-of-instruction tests (required for high school graduation),” Ballard said. “This is no contradiction whatsoever. I truly believe in having the MAP assessment to inform instruction, and many of our teachers believe in that, as well. We must do all we can to eradicate this reading problem we have in TPS.”

As for parents like Kelly, who just last week found a parent opt-out form letter on the website of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing that she said she will be using and encouraging other parents to consider, Ballard said TPS has yet to formulate a response.

“We do not have a policy that permits that, but we would listen to that parent and we would work with them,” he said.

And what will happen to Jones and Hendren?

“‘I’m not going to discuss individual personnel,” Ballard answered.

Newly certified, but not novices

Jones, who is in her third year teaching at TPS, worked in preschools for years before she went back to school herself and got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, where she is working on her master’s degree.

She worked previously as a prekindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Early Childhood Development Center-Porter, in west Tulsa. When National Public Radio’s national education reporter came to Tulsa last spring to illustrate how the school district led the state of Oklahoma in the establishment of prekindergarten programs, it was Jones’ classroom at Porter where TPS directed the news crew for its weeklong project.

Hendren is a year and a half out from earning her bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University, and she worked in early childhood education all four years of college. She taught at the Sand Springs Early Childhood Center and later worked as a teaching assistant at Tulsa’s Educare I.

Jones said she first began to be concerned about the expanded use of formal assessments with her own three children about five years ago. Networking with other parents who were trying to opt out their own children in a state with no formal policy for doing so led her to United Opt Out National, a nonprofit organization of parents, educators, students and other “social activists” seeking the elimination of high-stakes testing in public education.

She eventually agreed to serve as Oklahoma’s state representative for the organization, which has led her to assist other parents around the state.

The pair said they have received only positive feedback from their colleagues and their current students and their parents.

“Our kids have asked for our autographs,” Jones said, laughing.

“They’ve seen us on TV, and one parent even called out in front of the whole lunchroom to congratulate me. One little boy came to school and said, ‘My mom saw you on TV and said you said we don’t have to take tests in our class anymore.’”

‘Tip of the iceberg’

While parent-opt groups have exploded in states including California, Texas, Florida and Washington, the idea of pushing back against the use of formal assessments and student data collection is still new and officially discouraged in Oklahoma.

In 2013, the state Department of Education investigated and ultimately said it found evidence that Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller initiated a parent movement to opt out students at his school from all field tests, which were being used by the state testing vendor to evaluate questions for future use.

Parent leaders at the school said they were behind the opt-out movement, which resulted in 800 students skipping the field tests.

This May, the Bixby school board adopted a policy to allow parents to opt their children out of state standardized testing — not to encourage the practice — but simply as a response to numerous parent inquiries about how to do so.

Under state law, public school students risk retention in third grade for not taking and passing the state reading test and not receiving a high school diploma despite their course grades for not taking and passing at least four of seven state exams in core subjects.

Additionally, state officials have said that schools’ own accountability ratings and even federal funding could be jeopardized if a substantial number of students don’t participate in state-mandated tests.

In July, the Oklahoma PTA adopted a resolution that calls for a ban on policies that force the state’s public schools to rely on high-stakes testing.

Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow estimated that 25-30 parents in his district opted out of state testing last year, and they couldn’t find a bigger ally than Snow and the Sand Springs board of education, which also adopted the Oklahoma PTA resolution.

“If you look across the country, parents are waking up and wising up about the lost time for instruction and the counter-productive impact it has had,” Snow said of excessive testing, noting that his school district only participates in “the minimum required by the state.

“There are going to be bigger and bigger numbers across the country, and our state and certainly across Tulsa of people who are going to opt their kids out — or they’ll take their kids out of school. And we’ve seen some of that already, too.”

Snow said he respects Ballard and the Tulsa school board for doing what they feel is right, but he is going to be advocating for the Legislature to repeal the requirement for “quantitative” measures on new teacher evaluations, which are the basis for Tulsa’s student surveys and partially for the expansion of student assessments.

“I don’t think it’s developmentally appropriate and meaningful. I respectfully disagree with those,” Snow said.

“What happened with those two teachers was inevitable. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
“And it wouldn’t take a whole bunch to have those two become 200. Teachers are not on board with this — they were uninvited to the conversation about assessments. My view: This is just the tip of the iceberg. . . .

Andrea Eger 918-581-8470

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our concerns about the common core are not just "noise"

Sent to Reading Today, November 27, 2014

"Moving beyond the noise of the common core" (Nov/Dec 2014) reads like advice from a mature adult to excitable children: don't pay attention to the critics, just embrace the core. Focus on implementation, on making the common core work. 

But many of us are convinced that the common core is a disaster, a tsunami that could destroy American education.  Our concerns are not "noise." They are very serious.

Briefly, there is no need for the common core: The problem in American education is not teacher quality, nor is it a lack of tough standards. The problem is our unacceptably high rate of poverty.  Poverty has a devastating impact on school achievement. When scholars control for the effect of poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests.

The common core makes no attempt to protect children from the effects of poverty. Instead it imposes, as Susan Ohanian accurately describes it, “a radical untried curriculum overhaul and … nonstop national testing," a plan that is already costing billions, and, thanks to the requirement that testing be online, will cost billions for years to come.

The common core promises to bleed every spare dollar from education, all to profit computer and testing companies, without a shred of evidence that it will help students. 

This is not the time for blind obedience.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: Hall, April. 2014.Moving beyond the noise of the common core.  Reading Today 32(3): 18-21
This letter posted at: http://tinyurl.com/mat9gvh

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UVA and the Culture of White Male Privileged Rapists

Grizzly story in Rolling Stone.

Common Core Drives 57% Increase in Testing Business Since 2010

Link to the study here, well worth reading:

Federal Plans to Suck Remaining Air from Teacher Education Classrooms

Last summer corporate lackey, Arne Duncan, acknowledged that  "testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools."  

In order to make his statement truer still, Gates and the USDOE just announced a 60 day comment period on a plan to use K-12 student test scores to grade teacher preparation programs.  

With student assistance tied to K-12 student test scores where teacher candidates eventually end up teaching, the most obvious effect will be that prospective students applying to university programs that send lots of students to poorer schools will not get their scholarship money--since this is where the low test scores have always been and will always remain:

The regulations would require programs to track data on their graduates that includes job placement and the performance of students those graduates eventually teach. Programs would have to earn ratings of effective or higher for at least two of three years to qualify for TEACH grants, which provide up to $4,000 annually for individual students to put toward their teacher training. In 2014, the department gave out about 34,000 TEACH grants totaling nearly $100 million.

The second most obvious effect is that teacher education programs that depend upon federal dollars will focus their curricula even more on test prep techniques for prospective teachers, thus shoving even further to the periphery the science, history, theory, and philosophy of teaching. Those programs with large endowments that prepare teachers for private schools and the best public schools in the leafy suburbs will continue to prepare teachers who understand curriculum, child development, special needs, and all the other important pedagogical elements that TFA and other alt cert corporate missionaries remain clueless about, even as they ply their test prep trade in schools where children's needs are most demanding.  Here, again, is institutional racist planning on a grand scale.  

Wonder is Uncle Barack will be be called out on the porch to make this announcement? 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

U of Memphis President David Rudd Sells Out Education Students and Faculty to Wall Street Hedge Funders

I'm imagining coming in to work tomorrow morning to find out the president of my university has cut a deal with some Wall Street investors to give space in our department to sell a corporate freak show packaged as a teacher education program. 

Oh, didn't notice because you are out of town for the holidays or a conference?  That's the way President David Rudd planned it.  From the Commercial Appeal:

Relay Graduate School of Education, a partner in a new undergraduate teacher training residency the University of Memphis plans to offer, has filed an application with the state to offer 11 master’s degree programs starting next summer.

The university offered Relay free classroom and office space, at least initially. Instruction would be provided by a program dean whom Relay intends to hire, plus four or five adjunct professors.

The Commercial Appeal obtained the 448-page Relay application through the Freedom of Information Act.

Relay’s approval is central to the university’s plan to offer an alternative certification program geared to undergraduates entering their junior year. The university and the philanthropists envision attracting bright, dedicated students from other majors on campus and from schools around the nation who would be interested in teaching in the city’s high-need schools.. . .
My advice to U of M education students: Get your signs made and your speeches written: December will be about more than shopping.  


TCR Reviews The Mismeasure of Education

 A clip:

. . .The Mismeasure of Education is a conceptually wide-ranging, empirically detailed, and methodologically innovative approach to addressing persistent challenges of education reform and the current climate of high-stakes testing. Charting a new course away from determinism (biological or socioeconomic) is not easy, yet Horn and Wilburn's account reminds us that we're not driving on an already-paved road, but rather making the road as we go along.

Saturday, November 22, 2014



From what we attribute

To joy’s part of time’s terrain,

Measured and imagined; 

We disinter from this plot

Our moldering potential

For dishonoring disaster—

Defiance undiminished, 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Conservative Revolutionaries and Revolutionary Tories

As someone who spent most of her career on the wrong side of the education history that she wrote about through the rose-colored glasses of a pampered conservative, Diane Ravitch has found real solace, I think, in acknowledging the truth laid bare by the facts that she could no longer deny.  The acknowleged truth, however, will set you free or give you real solace only when it is acted upon.

The American colonists found solace, for sure, in knowing that King George was a bully and a tyrant, but it was only when they began dumping tea into Boston Harbor that their knowledge and truth began to set them free.  Making speeches or encouraging people to make noise was not going end the oppression by the smug and greedy Royalists.  Ravitch, it seems, has not yet reached the point of understanding that.  Maybe she won't.

So far she has been content to bask in the self-congratulatory glow of someone whose new knowing is entirely removed from any doing, and her speeches carry the clear insinuation that King George's men are good people who just don't understand that they're wrong.  That's a Tory's position, not of someone who stands at the forefront of a democratic revolt.

Her blog post this morning offers an example of Ravitch at her most tepid, while providing no rationale for maintaining her false distinction between "good" non-profit charters and "bad" for-profit charters.  Her lead sentence:
Peter Greene explains why an all-charter district or state will never succeed. 
After a brief intro, Ravitch shares a clip from Peter's good post, which references another good post by Mark Weber.  Both are bloggers I respect highly.  And both, along with Ravitch, are right, of course, if "never succeed" means the failure to provide a functional system where all kids have decent school achievement.  

If, however, "succeed" means making billions of dollars for corporate reform schools, then we have to acknowledge that the charter industry has been wildly successful.  Which do you think feels better to the charter industry--our definition of their failure or their definition of what it means to hit the jackpot?

Here are a few other questions that I would post at Ravitch's blog if she didn't have me blocked already:

Are we supposed to take some consolation in the fact that CorpEd charterizers will continue to need a handful of public schools of last resort, where recalcitrants and low scorers are booted to from schools of choice that have de-chosen them?  Does anyone believe that CorpEd is not aware of this small flaw in an, otherwise, perfect plan to collect and cash in on every public school student?  Is there some kind comeuppance for CorpEd that follows from our ability to make the point that they will "never succeed?"  Is there some significance to having public education dismembered and devoured by a non-profit corporate charter monster that leaves a few twitching parts, rather than a for-profit corporate charter Frankenstein that does the same thing?  

My point is this:  Ravitch has known these charter facts for a long time, much longer than she has been riding the fence of anti-deform and longer than she has engaged in public dissembling to protect the enemies of public education that she ostensibly disagrees with.  Knowing, too, the facts have been the corrupt bastards she worked with during her years in Washington as servant to the kinder and gentler fascist, GHW Bush.  So what is she going to do about it all now, besides continue to post her same tired remarks that make suffering teachers feel good until they return to the pressure cooker of their classroom? 

What is she going to do with all that inside knowledge and corrosive information that she has about the inner working of the ed conformers, sleazebags, and corporate welfare kings?  Is she going to write a real book, or is she going to continue to mine all the free research she can find from bloggers who do her work for her, until she has enough to assemble into another lucrative piece of bombast?

The strides being made in Memphis and elsewhere that have led to KIPP, Aspire, and Green Dot backing out of lucrative contracts have not been made by "raising your voice," as Ravitch suggests but, rather, by concrete, unwavering demands and hard facts rubbed into the faces of the pretenders, profiteers, and corporate drones.  It has been done by parents and teachers and students willing to put their asses on the line because they know it's now or never. 

Where will Ravitch's Network leaders be when the declaration is made and the war is waged?  Will they be signing books, having another conference, singing songs, speaking into gold-plated bullhorns, making more excuses for the frozen resistance?  Or will they be making tea and receiving guests over on Tory Row?  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Does Diane Ravitch Continue to Support Charter Schools?

About 1 in 6 charter schools is the for-profit variety.  By a wide margin, most of the damage, destruction, and abuse is being done by the 5,000 or so "non-profit" charter schools. The vast majority are more segregated even than the public schools they replace, and most of the punishing "no excuses" abuse is committed in these "non-profit" chain gangs.  And most of the public money intended for public education is being sucked up by the corporate welfare artists and ideologues whose aim it is to dismember government and to devour each piece as they go.    

And so it is a puzzle to many people why Diane Ravitch continues to disparage only the small minority of charters that are openly "for profit."  Is it because her conversion from the deform agenda is incomplete?  Is it because her union supporters still stubbornly support charters, even though their members are being replaced daily by the charter business?  Is it because one or two of Diane's friends own boutique charter schools that purport to be the kind the John Dewey would support.  Please!

St. Diane was in Nashville last night doing the same speech she has been doing since 2011, with a few new riffs that she has ripped off from the blogs.  In sticking to the tired script that stupidly assumes that CorpEd are just well-intentioned bumblers, she continues to leave openings to the charter welfare kings who point out, accurately, that they are beyond Ravitch's criticism.

See below, from Joey Garrison at the Tennessean.  By the way, when Ravitch was asked what actions she would recommend to fight the education conformers, she said, "Be noisier."  Really?  Is that it?
On Wednesday, she said “so-called reformers” do not object when millions of dollars in public funds are diverted to consultants, investors and entrepreneurs. She also said she believes for-profit charter schools — which aren’t authorized in Tennessee but are in other states — should be banned.

Though acknowledging there are “some good charters,” she accused some of making sure low-performing students don’t attend them. And she said public school teachers today are seen as “public enemies,” pointing to evaluation systems, like the one in Tennessee, that measure teachers in part by test scores.

“Reformers say their plans will elevate teaching as a profession, but their plans are destroying teaching as a profession,” she said.

A coalition of like-minded public school advocacy groups — Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, the TN BATs and Momma Bears of TN — sponsored the event Wednesday.

Ravitch’s remarks, met with applause throughout, came at at time when education has never been more debated in Nashville and in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Charter School Center was ready with a statement: “Based on all credible data, Nashville charter schools are among the highest performing public schools in Davidson County. Ms. Ravitch’s divisive rhetoric and criticisms of the national charter school movement do not reflect what is happening on the ground in Tennessee.  . . .

Suck It, Green Dot!

Goes to show what concerted public protest can accomplish.  The task is not over, but just begun.

From the Commercial Appeal moments ago:
Shelby County Schools will keep Raleigh-Egypt High School next year, a major change for the community, which has been protesting since late October the state’s plan to take over the school next fall.

Green Dot Public Schools was the charter assigned to the takeover. . . .

Opt Out Movement Growing in Philly

from the . . .Notebook:

In a sign that the movement to opt out of testing is gaining traction, the Philadelphia City Council Education Committee on Wednesday heard parents, teachers, and education advocates decry state and federal officials' emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.

"Standardized tests negatively impact students living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs, of which Philadelphia has many," said Alison McDowell, a District parent who has led Philadelphia's opt-out movement and helped organize the hearing with Councilman Mark Squilla.

Of particular concern to the crowd gathered in Council chambers is the requirement that, beginning with the Class of 2017, Pennsylvania's students must pass Keystone exams in literature, Algebra I and biology to graduate from high school.

This could have a profound effect on families, not just in Philadelphia, but statewide; recent data show that many students are not scoring at a proficient level on the exams, especially biology.

"What is the value of this test? Is this test an adequate tool? We paid all this money for it. Do we really think half the students in the state who are passing their courses should not get to graduate?" said McDowell.

"It's a colossal waste of classroom time," said Robin Roberts, a District parent who opted out of testing last year, instead using the days to take her children to the city's museums.

If students can't pass the Keystone exam after two attempts, they can elect to complete a project assignment to be overseen by their teachers and then graded by other teachers from outside districts.

Families can choose to exempt their children from state testing on religious or philosophical grounds. If 5 percent of students within a district opt out of the tests, a district's test score results would be nullified.

State Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Berks, testified that the Keystone graduation requirement should be decided at the local level.

"We believe that school districts should have more autonomy," said Tobash. "They should be given the option."

He added that the tests themselves (not the graduation requirement) are federally mandated through the No Child Left Behind law.

Tobash confirmed that it cost the state $65 million to $80 million to develop and implement the three existing Keystone exams. The state is planning to develop two more, in civics and writing.

Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, submitted testimony saying that the opt-out movement has "inherent wisdom," based on the idea that schools often base instruction on "test prep rather than holistic instruction."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CorpEd Reeling in Memphis as ASD's Barbic Threatens the Impossible

The corporate school takeover model in New Orleans that has failed everyone except for corporate socialists is not going down so well in the attempted replication in Memphis.  The lawyer/superintendent, Dorsey Hopson, who was put in charge of coordinating the giveaway of Memphis schools to the corporate welfare kings and queens of the charter school/real estate industry, is finding his task a bit more complicated than delivering the closing argument that he anticipated would win the day for the corporate reform schools.  

At this point, parents, teachers, and students in Memphis don't know which liar to believe less, as Hopson and ASD superintendent, Chris Barbic, bob and weave and blame one another in order to avoid getting hammered by citizens with hard questions.  Parents want to know why some their schools are being given away, at least the ones with better facilities--the ones that the profiteers want to confiscate for their charter school prison programs.  

Parents and teachers want to know why SCS plans to crowd hundreds of their children into surviving public schools so that a handful of charter school students can occupy entire school buildings, one class at a time. 

They want to know why, if there is an education crisis in Memphis, that KIPP and Yes Prep and the other corporate reform schools are given four years to get a whole school up and running.  

They want to know which politicians are getting paid commissions for every child handed into into the charter chain gangs.  

They want to know why a segregated straight jacket model of school is being imposed only on their children. 

They want to know why they are being manipulated and disrespected by being talked down to by the paid corporate lackeys from the dissemblers from Stand for Children and the Uncle Toms and Aunt Thomasinas from BAEO.  

They want to know why the SCS superintendent is calling their schools "bad" based on junk test scores that reflect the low income of the neighborhoods.  

They want to know why caring, mature teachers are being replaced by white corporate missionaries who learn to teach on their children before moving into new jobs in the Central Office.  

They want to know why SCS has replaced every educator in Central Office with people without leadership or school administrative experience.  

They want to know why investment banker and school board member, Chris Campbell, is so prominent in this giveaway of public resources.

They want to know why the Governor allows the corporate hoodlum, Chris Barbic, to strut around the communities and make such ridiculous and mean-spirited threats:

“I think it’s important to remind everyone that a lot of things we are doing are by choice.  If we wanted to, we could take over all 85 schools next year." 

Meanwhile the confused and deep-into-the-weeds, Dorsey Hopson, seems to think that his best route is make more appearance and tell more lies more prominently in the community.  He has spent the last year and half surrounding himself with more Huffman-like drones from TFA, and now he has this to say in the Commercial Appeal:
"The last six to seven months have been tied up in building an academic team," Hopson said, adding that his focus now will be on community engagement.

"We are going to go out and have discussion about the schools, and about the data and what it means. I am going to ask board members to participate and really make sure the community knows if the data at your school is low, that means you are not attending a good school.
Can a person put in charge of so many children's educational fate really believe that people are as stupid as he pretends they are?  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Philadelphia Teacher Carol Heinsdorf Where Have All the Libraries Gone?

This testimony of Carol Heinsdorf, member of APPS (Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools) and the PSLA (Pennsylvania School Librarians Association) Legislation Committee, has been accepted as written testimony in the Basic Education Funding Commission hearings. This is a strong advocacy plea for improved school library programs with certified school librarians for the School District of Philadelphia. SDP is the 8th largest school district in the nation with 214 schools and this school year, 2014-2015, has only 11 remaining school librarians. Many of the talking points and cited research can be used in other school settings.
This document has also been posted on SchoolLibraryAdvocacy.org.
Basic Education Funding Commission Testimony
Philadelphia, November 18/19, 2014
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf, representing Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS)
My name is Carol Heinsdorf. I am a retired certified librarian having been employed by the School District of Philadelphia for 26 years. I hold a Master’s degree from Drexel University and am a Nationally-Board Certified Librarian (http://www.nbpts.org/library-media-ecya). Today I am representing a grassroots organization called Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) of which I am a member serving on its Research Committee.
APPS (http://appsphilly.wikispaces.com) is an organization of parents, community members, and school staff—including teachers, school nurses, certified librarians, counselors and safety staff—dedicated to the preservation of public schools. APPS supports full and equitable funding that provides students with the high-quality education to which they are entitled. APPS believes that public schools are the foundation of a democratic society.
As a school librarian, I witnessed the gradual erosion and deprivation of educational opportunities for students of the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the eighth largest school district in our nation. In 1991, there were 176 certified librarians serving students in SDP schools. Today is a different story.
A recent online article appeared about Houston Elementary, an SDP school in the Northwest part of the city. There had been a clerk in the library as late as 2004, but more recently, there had been no library activity for at least the last two years. A small group of retired parents began accepting donations to try to reopen the school library last year. It's open for three half-days throughout the week with volunteers checking out books to students. However, there is no heat, so when it is too cold, the library is closed.
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 1Community member and library volunteer Elayne Blender stated in the article, “I feel embarrassed that our kids have to get second-hand things, but at least they are getting them. We cannot take the place of a trained librarian who knows what they are doing. We are just trying to be a Band-Aid. (Roshania)"
Is this what we really want for our children? When did we become a Third World country dependent on donations, hand-me-downs, out-of-date information, and lacking basic conditions like heat?
This erosion of school library programs has dramatically increased over recent years.
During research for a Pennsylvania State Board of Education study in 2011, it was discovered that 128 schools in Pennsylvania did not have a school library, representing 6% of all school buildings in the state. Of those 128 schools, 103 or over 80% were in one district–the School District of Philadelphia. Most of those libraries had been closed for three or more years, due to staffing and budget cuts and the need to use the library space for other purposes. (PA School Library Study, p. 2)
In 2012, there were 43 certified librarians in SDP serving students in only 17% of its schools.
This school year, 2014-15, there are only 11 certified librarians left in SDP--4 of whom are known to be teaching in their school libraries. Even if all 11 certified librarians were teaching in school library programs, they would still only be serving 5% of SDP schools and its students.
Why is this loss of school library programs so devastating to students in SDP? In recent years we have learned a great deal about the impact of school library programs on student learning and standardized test scores. In 2012, a Pennsylvania research study was released that examined the scores of the PSSA Reading and Writing tests on the availability of school library programs and certified school librarians. Here are some relevant findings.
Students perform better in both Reading and Writing PSSA tests when their schools have full-time certified librarians—specifically, students are more likely to have Advanced scores and less likely to have Below Basic scores than students in schools without librarians.
The PA study was the first study of its type to examine test scores of sub- groups of students. The 2012 study found that school library programs with certified librarians have an even greater impact on students who are economically disadvantaged, Black, Hispanic, and students with disabilities. Although both Reading and Writing scores are better for all students at all the tested grade levels in schools with a school library and
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 2
certified librarian, the tested sub-groups of students benefit more proportionally than the general school population. For example,
o African American students in schools with certified librarians are two times as likely to earn Advanced Writing scores as those in schools without librarians (Lance and Schwarz, p. 15).
Almost 60% of SDP students are African-American and multi-racial and could benefit from school library programs.
o Hispanic students in schools with certified librarians are three times as likely to earn Advanced Writing scores as those in schools without librarians (Lance and Schwarz, p. 15).
Nearly 20% of SDP students are Hispanic and multi-racial and could benefit from school library programs.
The Pennsylvania study was not the only study of the impact of school libraries on student learning. Statewide studies in 24 states have verified that school libraries staffed with a trained librarian who teaches students and works with teachers to develop information and research skills have a steady and consistent effect on student learning and achievement regardless of demographic and economic differences among students (Kachel).
Despite all this research, Pennsylvania has NO requirements for either certified librarians or school libraries for its public school students. Whether a school provides these basic educational necessities is entirely dependent on each school district and sometimes, as in SDP, dependent upon each building’s principal to fund them. Yet, nursing programs, barber and cosmetology schools, and juvenile facilities and adult prisons are required to have full-time professional librarians and collections of a required size. (Zelno, p. 4)
How could certified librarians and well-stocked school libraries with access to the Internet and computers improve student achievement among SDP students?
87 percent of SDP students are considered economically disadvantaged. Students living in poverty have less access to books and other reading materials in the home and less access to public libraries. Yet, research tells us that access to books is as strong a factor in school success as poverty (Krashen, Free Voluntary Reading, p. 7). The more students read, the better they will perform in reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar (Krashen, The Power of Reading, p.17). School libraries provide a wide range of reading resources to match students’ reading abilities and interests.
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 3
Over half (55%) of 3rd graders in SDP are not proficient in Reading according to the 2012 PSSA tests (2011-2012 PSSA). Research tells us that students who don't read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than students who are proficient readers (Double Jeopardy). Certified librarians guide and inspire students to read and help students to develop a habit of reading and inquiry.
9 percent of SDP students are English language learners. Students who are learning English have special requirements for reading materials in native and English languages, high/low reading materials, and materials that reflect their cultures; certified librarians are specifically trained to address these specialized needs.
Despite public perception, not all students have smartphones or up-to- date computers, access to the Internet, and know how to navigate the Internet safely. According to a 2013 U.S. Department of Commerce report, 46% of households with reported incomes of $25,000 or less cannot afford home Internet service (Exploring the Digital Nation, p. 20) and 53% of urban households in that same income group do not own a functional computer (Exploring the Digital Nation, p. 27). School libraries provide these necessary technologies with a supportive guide in the certified librarian to teach and assist students.
Some people expect the Free Library of Philadelphia to fill the gap left by the loss of certified librarians and school libraries in SDP. And, while some valiant attempts have been made, regularly scheduled trips to a public library are problematic on many levels, including travel time and distance, safety, availability of public library staff, and the loss of instructional time if scheduled during the school day, which also requires permission slips and chaperones. In an informal survey conducted several years ago, it was determined that only 12% of public school students visited the local public libraries in Philadelphia for afternoon programming (Malloy). The fact is that certified librarians are trained and tasked with educating and teaching students to meet academic standards and educational competencies; public librarians are not. Certified librarians are educators with a specialization in instructional resources and technologies, and work with teachers to ensure that students achieve academic targets.
In conclusion:
The bottom line is that school library programs and certified librarians positively impact student achievement. The research is clear and compelling. The highest achieving students come from schools with certified librarians and well-resourced school library programs. And students who are the most at- risk—those in poverty, English language learners, those with disabilities, and
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 4
those struggling academically—benefit the most by certified librarians and strong school library programs. School libraries are the great equalizers in providing print and technology tools with a trained professional, the certified librarian, to guide and teach students.
All students deserve an equal opportunity to learn and have the resources to do so. To deny our students access to quality school library programs, which can only be implemented by qualified, certified school librarians, is to force our young people to incur a deficit in learning opportunities--a hardship and disadvantage that could position them behind millions of their school-aged peers throughout not just Pennsylvania, but globally.
It is my hope that you will seriously consider requiring all schools to have a well-resourced school library and a certified school librarian for all students as essential components for learning. Thank you.
Cited References
2011-12 PSSA Math and Reading Results - All Students - District Totals
Pennsylvania Dept. of Education.
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/school_asse ssments/7442
AASL Urban Schools Task Force Survey Report. American Assn. of School Librarians, January 8, 2011. http://www.ala.org/aasl/files/researchandstatistics/AASL Urban Schools Taskforce Report_v2.pdf
Hernandez, Donald J. Double Jeopardy: How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2012. http://www.aecf.org/resources/double-jeopardy/
Kachel, Debra E. School Library Research Summarized: A Graduate Class Project. Rev ed. Mansfield University, 2013. http://paschoollibraryproject.org/content.php?pid=289948&sid=238295 6 - 8355127 [Note: South Carolina just completed a 2014 study yet to be published.]
Krashen, Stephen. Free Voluntary Reading. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 5
Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. HSLC, Oct. 2012. http://paschoollibraryproject.org/research
Malloy, Janet, President, Association of Philadelphia School Librarians. Letter to Dr. Lori Schorr, Chief Education Advisor, City of Philadelphia. May 10, 2008. http://apsl.wikispaces.com/file/view/Lori Schorr.pdf/530913848/Lori Schorr.pdf
National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Economics and Statistics Administration. Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, June 2013. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/report/2013/exploring-digital-nation-americas- emerging-online-experience
Pennsylvania School Library Study: Findings and Recommendations. Pa. State Board Of Education, September 2011. http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/research_re ports_and_studies/19722/school_library_study/941391
Roshania, Neema. “District, Community Work to Restore Heat to Volunteer- Run Library at Mt. Airy School.” Newsworks. 3 Nov. 2014. http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/74664-district- community-work-to-restore-heat-to-volunteer-run-library-at-mt-airy- school?linktype=hp_topstory
Zelno, Sandra L. Testimony Presented to Pennsylvania House of Representatives House Education Committee on School Libraries in Pennsylvania, August 22, 2012, by Sandra L. Zelno, School Reform Associate Education Law Center. http://libraryschool.libguidescms.com/content.php?pid=244879&sid=20 81529 - 11271546
Testimony of Carol Heinsdorf to the BEF Commission, 11/18/2014 6

Philadelphia Hearing on High Stakes Standardized Testing Wednesday

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

Tomorrow Philadelphia teachers, parents and students, the community, will be ringing the Liberty Bell
in front of the Education Committee of the Philadelphia City Council at City Hall.

Democracy in action. Education for Democracy. Democracy for education.

Pennsylvania Education Crisis Highlights - November 18th, 2014
Philadelphia Links
Standardized Testing Hearing in Philadelphia
Wednesday, November 19th, 3pm, City Hall Room 400
A public hearing on the impact of standardized testing on teaching and learning will be held before the Education Committee of Philadelphia's City Council on Wednesday, November 19th at 3pm.
The hearing will be held at Philadelphia's City Hall in Room 400 (4th Floor), Broad and Market Street.
Please enter at the NE corner of the building and bring a photo ID for the security check in. A dozen educators, parents, and community stakeholders will share their perspectives on the ways in which high-stakes testing is transforming our children's classrooms.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Real educators can only hope this is ground zero for ending the madness.