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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Success Academy Finds Its Scapegoat

Social media is ablaze with comments about the Success Academy's "Got to Go" lists, which include names of students targeted for shoving back into the public schools from which they came.

Those who have studied the high-scoring "no excuses" schools have known for years that part of the lockdown charter school miracle has resulted from selective enrollment and effective weeding of special education students, English language learners, and students with behavior and learning problems.  When combined with millions more in corporate dollars for resources, extended contracts for teachers, longer school years and school days, and year round test prep, the charter miracle seems much more like the manipulated marketing campaign that it truly is.

Yesterday the toxic Eva Moskowitz called the "Got to Go" list that the NYTimes turned up an "anomaly."  Afterward, she threw on the media altar a brow-beaten and contrite sacrifice, who denied that the "organization" ever told him to do what what he did.   How fitting that Eva would blame someone else for the caustic practices that her bottom line demands!

The real anomaly, however, is the fact that the exclusionary practice that Success Academy silently demands in order to "succeed" ever was mentioned in the New York Times, which has an editorial board that remains entirely enthusiastic about the paternalistic segregated charter reform schools that corporate America promotes as a hideous manifestation of educational justice in blackface.

Friday, October 30, 2015


When she reminded us the other day of Arne Duncan's spin after the 2013 bump in NAEP scores and after the 2015 dip in NAEP scores, Valerie Strauss captured for us what blatant ideology can breed in the ethically septic mouth of a fool:
. . . . reformers who have touted NAEP score increases in the past as evidence of  success are now trying to spin the newest results as anything but their the failure of their reforms. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in 2013 for example, credited Common Core implementation for higher NAEP scores in some states. He said:
“In 2013, reading and math scores edged up nationally to new highs for fourth and eighth graders. It is particularly heartening that reading scores for eighth graders are up, after remaining relatively flat for the last decade. Achievement among the largest minority group in our nation’s public schools—Hispanic students—is also up since 2011. And higher-achieving students as a whole are making more progress in reading and math than in recent years.

“While progress on the NAEP continues to vary among the states, all eight states that had implemented the state-crafted Common Core State Standards at the time of the 2013 NAEP assessment showed improvement in at least one of the Reading and/or Mathematics assessments from 2009 to 2013—and none of the eight states had a decline in scores. [Emphasis added]
Fast forward to today, and Duncan has a different explanation for the lower scores. Brown reported:
Duncan defended those policies in a call with reporters Tuesday, saying that massive changes in schools often lead to a temporary drop in test scores while teachers and students adjust. But the new standards and other policies, Duncan said, are poised to improve student achievement — and students’ lives — in the long term.

“Big change never happens overnight,” Duncan said. “I’m confident that over the next decade, if we stay committed to this change, we will see historic improvements.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Black Lives Matter Wrecked at Intersection with TFA

With unlimited corporate funding going to TFA, you can bet these kinds of cooptation meetings are happening everywhere that poor folks need to be contained and controlled.  

The hijacking seems to be on schedule.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hey! The New SAT is More Racist than the Old SAT!

A clip from the NYTimes:
Some expect that the new SAT will be even more challenging for the disadvantaged. By weaving more tightly into high-school curriculum, the test would seem to best serve students at high-performing schools, with the strong teachers who prepare them for state standards, as well as affluent students with access to test prep.

Fiction: The hottest topic of all?

Sent to Literacy Today, October 28, 2015

The current issue of Literacy Today (September/October 2015) contains somewhat contradictory messages: reading "informational texts" is considered "a hot topic" that "should be hot," a view that coincides with the common core's heavy focus on nonfiction ("What's hot in 2016").  Fiction is not mentioned.

But college student Brandon Dixon ("Literacy is the answer") tells us that fiction has made the difference in his life, contributing not only to his knowledge of the world but also to his ethical development and understanding of other people's views. 

Mr, Dixon is not alone. In a recent interview in the Guardian (October 28), President Obama gives fiction the credit for his understanding that "the world is complicated and full of greys ... (and that) it's possible to connect with someone else even though they're very different from you."

Research solidly supports both Mr. Dixon's and President Obama's conclusions:  Studies confirm that fiction readers develop high levels of literacy, a great deal of knowledge in many different areas, the capacity to empathize with others and a greater tolerance for vagueness. In a recent study from the University of London, fiction reading was a very strong predictor of adult vocabulary knowledge, stronger than reading non-fiction.

With these powerful testimonies, supported by empirical evidence,  fiction should be a hot topic in literacy, maybe the hottest one of all.

Stephen Krashen


Interview with President Obama: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/28/president-obama-says-novels-taught-him-citizen-marilynne-robinson?CMP=share_btn_tw

Fiction and literacy development: Krashen, S 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.  Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London

Knowledge: Stanovich, K., and A. Cunningham. 1992. Studying the consequences of literacy within a literate society: the cognitive correlates of print exposure. Memory and Cognition 20(1): 51-68.
Stanovich, K. and A. Cunningham. 1993. Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(2): 211-229. Stanovich, K., R. West, R., and M. Harrison. 1995. Knowledge growth and maintenance across the life span: The role of print exposure. Developmental Psychology, 31(5): 811-826. Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2014). Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London. West, R., and K. Stanovich. 1991. The incidental acquisition of information from reading. Psychological Science 2: 325-330. West, R., K. Stanovich, and H. Mitchell. 1993. Reading in the real world and its correlates. Reading Research Quarterly 28: 35-50.

The ability to empathize: Kidd, D. & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342 (6156), 377-380.

Tolerance for vagueness:  Djikic, M., Oatley, K. & Moldoveanu, M. (2013). Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal, 25(2), 149-154.

More Than Half of America's Professors Are Temps Without Benefits or Protections

President Spellings

Anyone with the intellect to appear brilliant to George W. Bush is probably not smart enough to stay out of the public eye.  The re-emergence of Margaret Spellings as president of a prestigious state university system proves as much.

Having ballooned her bank accounts since 2008 as she criss-crossed the nation serving on executive boards and offering corporate education consultation as chief proprietor of her modestly named company, Margaret Spellings, Inc., it appears that Spellings has once again been called upon by the billionaires to use her hammy fists and her drunk cowgirl persona to beat down one of the last remaining civilized institutions of our dying planet.

When Spellings left the White House, she carried with her the knowledge of how to become the most despised education official in the land to everyone, at least, who does not fly on a corporate jet.

Along with Bush's bagman, Sandy Kress, Spellings used her extensive knowledge (a B.S. in poly-sci) to craft an education policy for the nation that would deconstruct public education and hand out the remaining chunks to billionaires and their underemployed Ivy League drones.  By the time she left her office at ED, billions in ed funds were going into the pockets of Bush cronies, almost half of U. S. schools were on the NCLB failure list, and the charter school industry was draining public school budgets in 40 states.

A few of the other Bush accomplishment that Spellings oversaw:
Since NCLB became law in 2002, Bush budgets have underfunded NCLB by nearly $90 billion dollars (pdf). Head Start has been cut back by 11 percent. Career education programs, educational technology, and other programs like Reading is Fundamental have been zeroed out in Bush budgets. While cynically demanding that special ed students perform at the same levels as other students, $30 billion has been cut from the authorized amount in the 2004 IDEA Improvement Act. In short, the poor, the disabled, and the immigrant children have been sacrificed to make an ideological case against public schools and for vouchers and charters (even as research shows they are no better at producing test scores than the schools they would replace.
Let's not forget, too, that it was Spellings oversaw illegal interest payments to the student loan kingpins at Nelnet, and then in 2007 she went against her own Inspector General's recommendation in order to make sure the profiteers at Nelnet could keep $278,000,000 in illicit student loan interest payments.

But it was the work of the Spellings Commission that no doubt put Spellings at the top of the Koch heads' list of candidates for UNC president.  The Commission, which was headed by the surly Charles Miller (the John Bolton of higher education), offered a plan to turn higher education into research centers for corporate R&D, human capital training centers, and revenue streams for corporate contractors and student loan companies.  Let's remember, too, that the Spellings report was keen to create the same intrusive accountability procedures in higher ed that devastated K-12.

Perhaps it is time for the tenured faculty to finally get off their asses and to mobilize against the impending Spellings disaster.  It is now or never.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Racist Police Brutality Goes to School


Don't ignore vocational education

Don't ignore vocational education
Published in the South China Morning Post, October 28, 2015 as “need good plumbers and philosophers”

Paul Yip is concerned about the over-emphasis on examinations and preparation for the university in Hong Kong schools, and the lack of emphasis on vocational education ("Poverty rate has fallen, but has quality of life risen in HK?" October 24).  The same unfortunate trend exists in the United States. 
    Former US Secretary of Heath, Education and Welfare John Gardner warned us of the consequences of this policy:
   "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

Stephen Krashen
original article: Original article:  http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1871276/hong-kongs-poverty-rate-may-have-fallen-has-peoples-quality

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Nashville KIPP Student to Parents: "DO NOT send your kids here"

This comment was posted to Why Kids Call KIPP the "Kids in Prison Program:"
I go to a KIPP school right but mine is KIPP NASHVILLE COLLEGE PREP we have to work long hours on days end and when we get home it could be between 6 or 7 then we have to do homework that takes up half the night all the students could be sitting down and the teacher just starts yelling out of no where becuse someone isn't on S.L.A.N.T or they teacher asks a question and a student answers the teacher tells the student to get out of the room because they don't want to hear them that's why i can't wait to leave this school! so parents DO NOT send your kids here it's on your on risk to send them!!!! on Why Students Call KIPP the Kids In Prison Program

Beware the Corporate Media Spin on the Obama Adminstration's Change of Course on Standardized Testing

By Ken Derstine @ Defend Public Education!

October 25, 2015

Latest link update at the end of the article is October 29, 2015

On October 24, 2015 the Obama administration announced a shift of its education policy when it announced a change in the Department of Education’s position on standardized testing. As reported by Kate Zernike in The New York Times, 

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

This is being promoted in the corporate media as a dramatic shift in the Obama administrations support for standardized testing. It should be greeted with a high degree of skepticism and caution, however. The over two-decade siege on public education codified into education policy by No Child Left Behind followed by Race to the Top is not going to suddenly be scaled down in one day. There are too many corporate interests, such as Pearson, the Gates Foundation and others, which have made standardized testing the center of their method of privatizing public education, for the corporate agenda to be given up.

According to The New York Times article, the change in policy was prompted by a new survey from the Council of Great City Schools. The Council is made up of 68 large school districts with enrollment of over 35,000 students.

The average student in America’s big-city public schools will take roughly 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and high school graduation, a new study shows.

The average of roughly eight standardized tests per year consumes between 20 and 25 hours each school year and frequently produces overlapping results. There were about 401 test titles being used in the nation’s largest urban school systems in the 2014-15 school year and students sat over 6,500 times for tests across the 66 school systems studies, the research found.

The two year study, believed to be the most comprehensive ever undertaken to ascertain the true extent of mandatory testing in the nation’s schools, was conducted by the Council of Great City Schools at the request of its board of directors, which wanted a full picture of the testing practices in its big-city school systems. The Council’s board requested the inventory in 2013 to better inform the public debate and to shape needed reforms.

The Council of Great City Schools met with Obama on March 16, 2015. In its press release the Obama administration gave an outline of the policy which it announced October 24, 2015.

The October 24th announcement comes at a time when a bipartisan Congressional conference committee is trying to come up with a revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The rewrite is getting lost in the chaos on Capitol Hill and this must be factored in as the reason for this announcement now. The Republicans would like a bill that would implement competency-based learning and online education based on an ALEC-inspired return to state control of education. The Democrats, on the other hand, had been promoting an increase in standardized testing as a continuation of the neoliberal education agenda started by President Bill Clinton, and disguised as the next civil rights issue.

In its press release, the Council of Great City Schools concludes,

The Council released preliminary recommendations with the report that call for retaining current annual tests in core subjects but eliminating tests that are either redundant or low quality.

In addition, the Council announced that it will launch a commission of researchers, school leaders, teachers and parents to develop “a more thoughtful approach to assessing the academic needs of urban schoolchildren.” Casserly indicated that commission chairs would be named in the next two weeks.

Since the Obama administration is responding to the Council’s report (and it may be coordinating this report to promote its agenda), this must be carefully watched to see if the Council is taking an independent stand in defense of public schools or if this is a fine-tuning of the neoliberal agenda for privatizing public schools. Who they put on the commission they are forming will tell us a lot about the course they and the Obama administration are taking.

If, according to the Council of great city Schools, the average amount of time devoted to taking mandated tests during the 2014-15 school year was 2.34 percent of school time for the average 8th grader—the grade with the most mandated testing time, what indeed is the Pres offering? A real reduction of .34%?

A real reduction of .34 percent? Seriously?

Two percent is 20 hours of instruction time given to standardized testing.

As always, the corporate media plays a crucial role in framing people’s perception of these developments. The New York Times article announcing the changes in the Obama administrations policy on standardized testing is a case in point. Nowhere in the article is the growing Opt Out movement mentioned as a factor. Nowhere to be found are teachers, or the huge education blogging community that has been at the forefront of opposition to corporate education reform, or university professors who have been increasingly speaking out about market-driven education policies.   

Instead we get comments from corporate supporters of standardized testing like Michel Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a strong promoter of charter schools and the Common Core. After years of peddling standardized tests, an obviously prepared-with-talking-points Petrilli said,

There’s plenty of agreement that there’s too much testing going on.” But, he added, “we have to be careful, as with anything federal, that it doesn’t lead to unintended consequences.

The biggest mischaracterization of the “mounting bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s schools” in the New York Times article, however, is the nature of the opposition to standardized testing. The reporter says,

Teachers’ unions, which had led the opposition on the left to the amount of testing, declared the reversal of sorts a victory. “Parents, students, educators, your voice matters and was heard,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

This is corporate media spin of the nature of the grassroots opposition to standardized testing and Common Core. This opposition is not coming from the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association. Though Randi Weingarten makes milk-toast statements about standardized testing and Common Core to play her role as spokeswoman for teachers for the corporate media, behind the scenes her role is quite different. Far from being “left”, she collaborates with the right-wing, anti-public education American Enterprise Institute and promotes the Gates and Broad agenda of corporate education reform. See these posts on Defend Public Education! for detailed reporting on how she has been collaborating with these interests to promote standardized testing and using those tests for teacher evaluation.

There can be no doubt that it is the grassroots opposition to standardized testing and Common Core that has led to this change of tactics on standardized testing by the Obama administration. Hundreds of parent organizations in schools across the country have been garnering increasing support for opting out of standardized tests and for a return to community control of schools. Rank-and-file teachers through such organizations as United Opt Out and BATs, have been organizing independently to fight the disastrous impact of corporate education reform.

We must be abolitionists when it comes to standardized testing. There can be no more talk about “reducing the amount of testing.” The Obama administration has adopted this characterization by some of the opponents of corporate education reform to defuse the Opt Out movement. It is promoting the same corporate agenda it always has.  

Standardized testing is NOT to the benefit of students, parents, or teachers. They get no information from standardized tests that is useful to the student in improving their education. The students and teachers never see what students got right or wrong on a test and what should be remediated in their education. The sole purpose of corporate standardized tests is to rank students and schools in order to advance a privatization of public schools agenda.

Also see:

U.S. student performance slips on national test
The Washington Post – October 28, 2015

NAEP: Further Evidence of Reformy Failure
Curmudgucation – October 28, 2015
“Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute has gone so far as to call the new NAEP scores “heartbreak”.

For Whom the Bell Tolls; It Tolls For Rhee
Gary Rubinstein’s blog – October 28, 2015

The Correct Number of Standardized Tests
Curmudgucation – October 26, 2015

Standardized Tests are a Form of Racial Profiling
Common Dreams – October 26, 2015
“Test refusal is refusing racial profiling and saying yes to dignity and anti-racist, humanizing schooling.”

What will Obama’s new testing plan mean for American students?
PBS NewHour – October 25

An interview with NYT reporter Kate Zernike whose NYT article was quoted in the above post.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Disaster Capitalism and Teach for America

by Jim Horn

During the eugenics glory days of the 1920s, American elites who deemed themselves the only citizens fit for democracy argued that, for the Republic to work, a new class of leadership was required to efficiently steer society in directions that the great unwashed herd was incapable of doing through real democratic governance.   Walter Lippman was a chief spokesman for this new American variety of practical fascism under the guise of democracy, and he carried on an active debate in the press with John Dewey.  

As conditions coalesced for the horrific rise of the Third Reich, Dewey persistently argued that the goal of democratic governance is not to prepare a super-corps of efficient administrators to run society but, rather, to educate the citizenry so that they can adequately judge the worth and implications of policies, knowledge claims, and actions.

Lippman was the first to argue for what he termed the "manufacture of consent," by which he meant the manipulation of public opinion along the lines of the technocratic elites' chosen policies.  Now almost 100 years later, and with the help of social media manipulation, "knowledge" production by think tanks, and corporate philanthropists' paternalistic creations like TFA and KIPP, Lippman's democratic dystopia is coming to its propagandistic fruition.

The difference between then and now is that there is no widely-circulated public debate being waged about the desirability of societal leadership by a privileged corps of elite Adderall-addled converts whose humanity and empathy have been displaced by a bare-knuckled arrogant zealotry aimed at socioeconomic solutions that strengthen the inequality and steroidal hierarchies undergirding capitalism.  

The debate so far about Teach for America, for instance, has been focused narrowly on how TFA harms public schools, children, and the teaching profession.  Important for sure, but the focus has had little to do with TFA's primary thrust toward brainwashing a new generation of "leaders" who have drunk the TFA kool-aid and who will carry corporate America's paternalistic values far beyond schools and into every social and political niche.   Once a Corps member, always a Corps member!

It is obvious, too, that the continued battering that TFA has taken regarding its negative effects on educational matters has had an impact, so much so that TFA has had to look for new opportunities to recast itself as a protector of the undertrodden, rather than as a exploitative tool of capitalist hegemony.  

Such an opportunity presented itself with the disastrous string of unnecessary deaths of young black men at the hands of the police.  As the Black Lives Matter movement began to take shape, so did the desire to use the accompanying tragedies to embed TFA alums into leadership positions of the new movement.  Below are links to some recent articles by activists who have witnessed this attempt to use BLM as a device to advance the agenda of TFA and to subvert the battle against institutionalized racism.  Read carefully.  Think hard.  TFA is poison of the most dangerous kind.

Grading TFA.  (This blog post by Orchestrated Pulse offers a TFA communication complaining about the outing of two TFA stooges in Black Lives Matter)

Also, see an article prior that got TFA's attention:  Teach For America’s Embedded In Black Lives Matter

This article has much of the same information but with a few more details:  The Movement Lives in Ferguson 

And finally, below, a letter to TFA stooge, DeRay Mckesson:

Dear Mr Mckesson,

As the social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we were surprised to see that you are coming to Philadelphia to speak alongside leaders of Teach For America (TFA). The Caucus of Working Educators is committed to racial justice in our schools and society, and we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

We see Teach For America as working in opposition to the goals of publicly funded education for all students in Philadelphia and to the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color and teachers who are committed to building relationships with communities over the long term, which we see as an integral component of culturally responsive teaching.

We view the hiring of cadres of racial, cultural, and geographical outsiders with very little teaching preparation as part of a larger neoliberal effort to privatize education and replace unionized teachers (many of whom are teachers of color) with young, inexperienced teachers (most of whom are white and do not intend to stay in the teaching profession and commit to the long-term improvement of their teaching practice).

This practice of displacing African-American teachers, in particular, is already underway. While Philadelphia’s teaching force increased by 13 percent from 2001–2011, the percentage of black teachers dropped by 19 percent. This has contributed to Philadelphia having the greatest disparity between the race and ethnicity of the student body and those who teach them. Only 31 percent of Philadelphia teachers are of color compared to 86 percent of the student body they are teaching. This is unacceptable.

TFA has ties and parallels with the charter school movement, which we see as undercutting public education. The mass charterization of public neighborhood schools has led to the outsourcing of public school management to private operators. Just weeks ago Philadelphia Public Schools announced yet another wave of school closures and conversions of public schools into charter schools affecting upwards of five thousand students. This is in addition to the twenty-three public schools that were closed in Philadelphia in 2013.

The decision to turn a district school into a charter is often made by the highest levels of administration without consulting with the school community, including parents, teachers, students, and leaders. Your support of Teach For America represents a support of these same kinds of outsourced and contracted paradigms for educating our children.

Rather than hiring experienced professionals that will stay in the profession for a long period of time, Teach For America hires individuals with little or no experience in classroom settings via external channels such as private universities and corporately sponsored recruitment. Teach For America and charter schools both represent a failure of public leadership to lead and create change in our public schools, and prioritize outsourcing teaching and school governance over public responsibility to realize every student’s right to a fully funded, culturally relevant education in their neighborhood.

Instead, TFA contributes to the dangerous and misleading discourse that claims poverty and structural inequality have little to no impact on educational outcomes. This irresponsible explanation provides Democrats and Republicans alike with a pretext to continue vicious budget cuts to public services and institutions under the guise that “personal responsibility” and “grit” are the main factors in determining a child’s success or failure.

We live and work in a state that has the largest funding disparity between wealthy and poor districts and in a city whose externally appointed school governance commission is proposing to continue to close down schools that primarily serve low-income African-American families. In Philadelphia, where 79 percent of the city’s students are black and Latino, $9,299 is spent per pupil compared to the $17, 261 spent just across the city line in Lower Merion, where 91 percent of the students are white. This is the civil rights crisis of our generation.

In this context, we believe that it is essential that those who are committed to racial justice take a critical stance against organizations that aim to further privatize education and/or replace fully prepared unionized teachers with underprepared novices who are likely to leave teaching in two to three years.

The Black Lives Matter movement has served as an inspiration and instruction on how to confront racism and inequality throughout our country. Part of that inspiration is the way that the movement has looked at the connections between police violence and racism and other inequalities faced by African Americans.

We consider the attacks on public education to be a part of the “state-sanctioned violence” that the movement has done so much to highlight over the last year. We do not believe that the white billionaires that bankroll Teach For America and the corporate education reform movement are any more interested in the education of poor and working-class black and Latino children than we believe they are interested in ending police violence in black and brown communities. If they were, these crises would no longer exist.

We are glad that you are visiting Philadelphia, and we hope that you will use your platform to engage in a critical dialogue about whether TFA supports — or as we believe undercuts — the goals of a fully funded education for every student in Philadelphia with teachers who know their community and are committed to staying for the long haul.


Members of the Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Courage Campaign takes on TFA-cum-StudentsFirst's Michelle Rhee's predator husband, Kevin Johnson

“Had Michelle Rhee only taped the mouths of predator Kevin Johnson’s victims shut…” — Robert D. Skeels

We all owe Deadspin a huge debt of gratitude for bringing all of these long-standing issues of Kevin "hands-on" Johnson's past misdeeds back into the light of day. The persistent rumors that StudentsFirst-cum-Teach for America darling Michelle Rhee used her White House connections to cover up all the ugly truths about this man for whom she abandoned her own children still loom. Let's always bear in mind that Kevin Johnson, like many neoliberal corporate education reformers, runs privately managed charter schools where he has unfettered "access" to young students. Since charter schools are subject to essentially negligible oversight or public accountability, it's no surprise that they are havens for child abusers.

Amendment to original post

Courage Campaign's Executive Director Eddie Kurtz reached out expressing concern that this post contained "false information," and asked me to contact him. I did, and provide the gist of our conversation here. I was asked to explain my perspective and I informed him that it came when I received an email in the spring that seemed to imply that Courage Campaign had endorsed neoliberal corporate education reform profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. I remember being shocked since Courage Campaign was good on other issues; so I reached out to some contacts who explained that Jamie Alter-Lynton, one of Los Angeles' most vehement enemies of public education, sat on Courage Campaign's Board of Directors. I checked her biography, and the board membership is a point of pride for the neoliberal operative. For those who don't remember Alter-Lynton and her husband cashed in big on the fact that they had Pearson PLC inside trade information via the disgraced John Deasy. They use their resources as members of the 1% to attack public education on every front.

Kurtz pointed out that Alter-Lynton hadn't been on their board for two years, and that the organization disagrees with her views on education policy. Moreover, he stated that Courage Campaign actively opposes neoliberal corporate education reform. To wit, he sent me an email that went to their entire list opposing Eli Broad's operative Marshall Tuck. The email was on point, here's a passage:

Here at Courage Campaign, we DON'T endorse candidates, but we DO make sure to alert our members if there is someone on the ballot who OPPOSES progressive values. And Marshall Tuck is that candidate.

The quote also makes clear that they do not endorse individual candidates, meaning the email I received didn't come from them. In retrospect it's likely that the Rodriguez campaign implied the endorsement, like the multiple mailers he sent that implied Governor Brown had in endorsed him. Truth seems to be some that Rodriguez is pathologically averse to. My fact checking of Courage Campaign, which stopped at the connection with Alter-Lynton, was insufficient in that it led me to the wrong conclusion. In my defense, I was very busy studying for, and somehow passed, this awful thing. That doesn't excuse the fact that I had Courage Campaign's education stances all wrong. I apologize, and am glad that this issue is cleared up. I'm leaving my original prose in the following paragraph intact so that there's evidence of my error in regards to Courage Campaign. The other entities I attack in that paragraph are more than deserving of what I said about them.

Courage Campaign has typically been quite bad on issues surrounding education. Frequently supporting neoliberal corporate education reforms, and endorsing greedy charter school industry candidates for office, they have betrayed the progressive veneer they claim. Perhaps this rare, principled stand against an education reformer by Courage Campaign is a sign that they are going to adopt a progressive education policy and stop supporting the corporate takeover of our schools. Even if that's not the case, at least they recognize that unscrupulous individuals like Johnson have no place in public office. We still need to get the word out about Antonio R. Villaraigosa's crimes against the poor.

SIGN THE PETITION: Demand mayor of Sacramento resign for allegedly sexually abusing a 15 year old

The video is chilling.

A teenage girl sits on her hands and speaks to a Phoenix police officer in a gloomy room, describing sexual abuse.(1)

The man she describes lying naked with her, fondling her, and asking her to promise not to tell anyone is Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

This isn’t a new case. Many people in Sacramento had been aware of her words and allegations, but had never seen her face before or heard her voice telling a first hand account of her story. We can’t keep ignoring these serious allegations of child sex abuse.

Demand that Mayor Kevin Johnson immediately resign in the face of this horrific video and numerous allegations of other crimes of sexual abuse by him.

I worked as a social worker advocating for survivors of rape and domestic violence for years, and I know first hand how hard it is for survivors to speak out about the sexual violence committed against them -- especially when the perpetrator is a powerful man. But, as has been publicly recorded, the girl in this newly surfaced video, Mandi Koba -- who was 16 years old at the time of the interview and 15 during the time of the abuse -- had the courage to come forward and tell her story publicly after 20 years.She says she is a "grown-up now" and tired of "protecting [Mayor Johnson]," despite his attempt to buy her silence with $230,000, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.(2)
Mandi -- who is now an advocate for survivors of rape and sexual assault -- first reported the abuse as a teen and has publicly said it was because she feared Johnson was abusing or would abuse other young girls. And she wasn't wrong.
Allegations of sexual abuse and harassment have followed Mayor Johnson from Phoenix to Sacramento, where Johnson was accused of assaulting five young female students at his charter school, St. HOPE, as well as groping and making unwanted sexual advances at a colleague.(3) But many believe these cases of abuse and misconduct never impacted his rise to mayor of Sacramento because, like with Mandi, and as has been publicly recorded, he made legal settlements that forced the survivors of his alleged crimes to hush up.(4)

Kevin Johnson has never had to confront these allegations. And the survivors of his alleged assaults have been forced to watch him rise to fame and success without publicly responding to the numerous allegations of sexual abuse. Well, enough is enough.
In the face of these newly surfaced reports of sexual crimes and the media frenzy surrounding them, ESPN recently canceled the debut of a documentary that deified Mayor Johnson for his role is securing Sacramento's NBA franchise, but totally ignored his well-documented history of sexual assault.(5)
And just this week, Mayor Johnson announced that he would not be seeking re-election next year.
It has never been more clear, in the face of these allegations, Kevin Johnson does not deserve to represent the people of Sacramento. And Sacramento cannot wait until next year for Johnson to step down. He should not be allowed to remain in office one more day!
JOIN US and demand Kevin Johnson immediately resign as mayor of Sacramento.

Laura, along with Annie, Eddie, Emma, Kelsey, Lindsay, Moonyoung, Paul, Scottie, and Tim (the Courage team)
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Weingarten's New Job

Since setting off a storm of protest with her autocratic endorsement of corporate shill, Hillary Clinton, Randi Weingarten has tacked away onto a less obvious political course that will, no less, serve the needs of the Clinton campaign and its billionaire funders.  

Randi's new assignment is to solidify, if she can, black working class support for Hillary, and in order to do so, Weingarten has on board with her the "Black Lives Matter" crew, along with a full contingent of Oreo bloggers, TFA provacateurs, and plenty of white corporate foundation check writers to keep everyone entirely united and on message. 

Randi Weingarten's latest commentary at HuffPo is titled "Race in America: Changing Reality by Facing It." After reading her post, along with the hot-off-the-press report from the AFT's Racial Equity Task Force, I am suggesting a revised title to something that better captures Randi's modus operandi: "Race in America: Whitewashing Reality by Ignoring It."

Weingarten's protege, co-author, and TURNcoat Executive Vice-President of AFT, Mary Catherine Ricker, has this endorsement of the Report:
AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker called the report "the grounding for the work we do in our classrooms and workplaces to better meet the needs of African-American students, their families and the community at large," adding that it could be "the launching pad for our advocacy and fight forward to defend the rights of all working Americans, including women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community."
Please do download the Report and read it, for it encapsulates the bone-tired neoliberal non-solutions to racism and inequality that the Clintonites have trotted for years now.  Included in the report are clipped charts and graphs from other reports that are badly blurred or entirely unreadable, along with the skimpiest of documentation, no reference list, and not a whit of new research offered.  

Unlike the comprehensive approach in other recent reports such as the one by the Ferguson Commission, the AFT's entire report is a meager ten pages of public relations mush.  It culminates with this closing remark and a "to do" list, which oddly focuses only on the needs of black males:

Therefore, as we move closer to our 100th anniversary as a union and our convention in July 2016, the time has come for the AFT to take on this issue in a bold, decisive way that results in real change in our nation, our communities and our schools. We ask the AFT executive council to approve this report and the recommendations as a first step in our fight forward. We believe the following recommendations provide a framework for the development of policy— in national and state legislation, at the local school board level and inside the AFT:

  • Fund programs that provide alternatives to out-of- school suspensions that offer meaningful educational opportunities for black male students.
  • Change school discipline policies to include restorative justice and fairer enforcement.
  • Develop and implement programs to intentionally help identify, recruit, develop and retain black male educators and staff.
  • Provide professional development and cultural competency training that helps teachers and other school staff understand their own personal biases.
  • Create review processes in schools to ensure that black male students are treated fairly.
  • Develop funding, mentoring and counseling to create greater opportunity for black males to attend college.
  • Establish partnerships with trade unions to develop apprenticeship programs that provide job training and placement in trade careers that open the door to economic opportunity and independence for black men.
  • Continue and expand our work with the Conferences of Chief Justices to help establish engagement strategies to bridge the gap between minority and low-in- come communities and court leadership through collaborative efforts that will increase public trust and confidence in the states’ courts.
Fight, what fight?  This list is striking for its total absence of any mention of the real issues driving inequality, exclusion, inequity, and racism in education.  For instance, there is no mention of the growing racial and class inequality inside or outside of school, except to boast that AFT was the only union to file an amicus brief in favor of Brown v Board in 1954.  

Sixty years after Brown, however, AFT remains entirely silent about resegregation in public schools or the viral spread of apartheid charter schools, just as AFT remains silent about social class and racial sorting by standardized testing regimes.  

How can AFT pretend to break down institutional racism to benefit black males or anyone else, when AFT remains entirely complicit in corporate education's minstrel show? If "silence is akin to consent," as Weingarten reminds us in her HuffPo commentary, what does this say about Randi's role in the perpetuation of institutional racism in education!

Where is AFT's support for racial or socioeconomic integration in housing and schooling?  When will AFT or NEA use some of their hundreds of millions of dollars to advocate for children's rights to equal, multicultural education, rather than pretending to address the "lingering effects of racism and inequality" with more empty and inane pronouncements?  

"Lingering effects," really? Such verbiage offers the picture of some long ago incident, for which there continues some remaining cause for grievance.  How long will Weingarten continue to use a threadbare veil of social justice to attempt to conceal her flagrant neglect of the needs of children, parents, and teachers alike? 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Extending the College Caste System with Online Diploma Mills

Good read.
Digital diploma mills: The automation of higher education 
by David F. Noble
In recent years changes in universities, especially in North America, show that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. Automation — the distribution of digitized course material online, without the participation of professors who develop such material — is often justified as an inevitable part of the new “knowledge–based” society. It is assumed to improve learning and increase wider access. In practice, however, such automation is often coercive in nature — being forced upon professors as well as students — with commercial interests in mind. This paper argues that the trend towards automation of higher education as implemented in North American universities today is a battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrations and companies with “educational products” to sell on the other. It is not a progressive trend towards a new era at all, but a regressive trend, towards the rather old era of mass production, standardization and purely commercial interests.

The classroom vs. the boardroom
The birth of educational maintenance organizations
Education as a commodity
Redundant faculty in the virtual university
Student reactions

Donna Connelly Dumps Teacher Desks and Filing Cabinets

In 2010 Bronx the school led by principal Donna Connelly was listed as 27th worst in all of New York City for learning environment.  In common parlance, that's an "F."

Donna's claim to fame was based largely on her refusal of two year music appreciation grant for her school that she turned down because "there was educational value to it."

It seems Donna, who holds a doctorate in psychology, is out to make more environmental modifications to "motivate" her teachers.  Seems she has dumped all teacher desks on the curb, along with all their filing cabinets.  Is it time for Donna's straightjacket to be laced up?  Think so.

A Bronx principal ordered her teachers to give up their desks last week, and had the furniture dumped at the curb — telling staff she doesn’t want them sitting in class.
Donna Connelly, principal of PS 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, also told teachers to empty their filing cabinets, which she then discarded.With class in session, teachers were told to push their desks and cabinets into the hallway. Custodians then hauled them outside and piled them like trash on the blacktop of a school across the street.
“It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.
The diktat demoralized staff at the K-5 school, where diverse students perform well above the city average on state exams.
Modal Trigger
Filing cabinets and desks were hauled outside by custodians.
Connelly told teachers she “does not want them sitting,” an insider said, although though no chairs were tossed.
“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said. . . .

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Moving from Teacher-proof to Teacher-less Schools

The biggest costs, of course, for universities and K-12 schools are professors and teachers. The corporate bean counters and their profiteer bosses know this, and as a result, there is now a race to the bottom in terms of instructional quality, curricular integrity, and the overall learning experience.  

Digital worksheets have replaced the paper ones, junk tests measure "competency," and the efficiency zealots' dream of teacherless schools or schools staffed by techs and pedagogical sub-contractors has turned into a very real nightmare.  

Read Emily Talmadge, who is dealing with this in Maine public schools.

Child Labor to Build Charter Real Estate Empires

The real estate part of charter scam has always been the germinating monstrosity underneath the self-serving do-gooderism of the billionaire tax-sheltering paternalists whose aim has been and remains to convert the children of the poor into productive robots in the multi-billion dollar testing sweat shops that have replaced schools across urban America. 

It is a movement that occupies the moral bottom of a cavernous culture of greed and cynicism that would make the most jaded and inhumane 19th Century baron blush, and the movement is manned by privileged fascist camp guards who falsely claim to be educators.  No educator would quietly submit to the degradation and inhumanity that is at the heart of the "no excuses" charter movement that routinely dehumanizes children for the sake of creating brand names based on test score production and robotic behavior.

There a special circle of hell reserved for these monstrous capitalists, pious pretenders, charlatans, and crass abusers of the public trust, who are intent upon building profitable empires with public dollars on the backs of the most vulnerable children of America. 

From the Wall Street Journal:
Real-estate investors are showing an increasing interest in charter school development as the demand grows for classroom seats and some state and local governments become more willing to help finance charter-school projects.

Almost all charter schools are operated by nonprofit organizations. But these groups often rent and buy their buildings from private real-estate developers, and that is creating a new niche asset for some investors.

One of the latest entrants to the charter real-estate business is Northstar Commercial Partners, a Denver-based private-equity firm that is raising a $100 million fund. It will focus on converting charter schools out of vacant office, industrial and retail properties that can be purchased for less than half of what they would cost to build, according to Northstar Chief Executive Brian Watson.

Meanwhile, investment manager Bobby Turner, who founded Turner Impact Capital LLC in 2013, is raising his second fund with tennis legend Andre Agassi for building new charter schools, this one with a goal of $400 million.

And established players in the business are seeing volume increases on charter school developments. For example, a venture of HighMark School Development and EPR Properties, a real-estate investment trust, spent more than $118 million in 2014 on acquisition, renovation and construction, compared with $34 million in 2011.

“There’s no shortage of cash,” said Patrick Beausoleil, a HighMark vice president.

The rise in investment activity partly reflects the growth of the charter school movement, which has been overcoming political opposition in many states. During the 2014-2015 school year, 500 new public charter schools opened nationwide, for a total of more than 6,700 enrolling about 2.9 million students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Some states are beginning to make financing tools available to charter schools that had been limited to traditional public schools. For example, the states of Texas, Colorado and Utah now backstop tax exempt bond issues for some charter schools, reducing their capital costs when acquiring facilities, according to Scott Rolfs, managing director of B.C. Ziegler & Co., a niche investment-banking firm that has underwritten more than $600 million in charter school bonds.

But the growing role of for-profit real-estate developers has added a new dimension to the debate over charters, which are taxpayer funded and independently operated schools that are largely free of union rules. Critics say charter schools are in danger of cutting costly deals with developers who are more concerned with investment return than educating children. The result can lead to failed schools.

Even people in the business warn that the charter school owners need to beware when agreeing to lease and buy buildings from private players. Charter schools often are launched in church basements or donated space by well-intentioned people who lack the financial sophistication to take their operations to the next level.

“There is a ton of capital coming into the industry,” Mr. Rolfs said. “The question is: Does it know what it’s doing? I don’t know yet.”

People involved in the charter school movement say for-profit participation is critical for the industry’s growth. The capital sources available from foundations and other nonprofit sources aren’t sufficient to keep up with demand, they say.

“The challenge is too large for the nonprofit sector to solve,” said Reena Abraham, a vice president with Local Initiatives Support Corp., a nonprofit that has helped about 189 charter schools obtain some $276 million in grants, loans and tax credits.

Some of the newer entrants to the business say investors in charter schools can do well by doing good. For example, Northstar tries to structure its deals with school operators so that no more than 12% of their revenue goes to facilities.

At the same time, Northstar believes it can give its fund investors more than a 10% return on their money. Part of its formula is buying buildings for a fraction of their cost and cutting deals with operators with a proven track record. . . .