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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Before You Apply at KIPP or Another "No Excuses" School . . .

KIPP continues its job fairs this summer, trying to fill the many slots left by teachers too exhausted or too fed up to continue.  Here is one example of a job fair in Houston:
If you are thinking about applying to work at KIPP or any other "no excuses" school, I hope you will read what 25 former "no excuses" teachers had to say about working at these schools:

Time for Sanders, or Diane Ravitch, to Pack It In? Part 2

Near the end of a recent commentary at Huffington Post, Diane Ravitch declared:
If Trump is elected, I fear for the future of our nation and the world. 
And that is why I will not join in the vicious quarrels between partisans of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I refuse to give ammunition to Trump for the campaign. Sanders and Clinton—and their allies-should focus their energies on defeating Trump, not on attacking one another.
This post followed a few days after Ravitch posted at her own blog a summary of a half-baked opinion piece by a Clinton-supporting retired teacher who declared it is now time for Bernie Sanders to "pack it in," to use Ravitch's phrase. Here is a sample of that bit of brilliance:
As I have said many times, Bernie’s background is fertile fields for criticism of the grossest kind. His love affair with socialism and attachment to some really sordid people like Fidel Castro, make Trump’s overtures to Kim Jun Un seem like child play. Just wait till the con artists get a hold of the many organizations that he joined and participated with. He will go down like George McGovern.
Not to be outdone by these slimy nit-witticisisms about Sanders, Ravitch offered her own embellished smear:
Before you say that Sanders has better poll numbers than Hillary against Trump, remember that the Republican attack machine has not touched Bernie. They are happy to let him do their job on Hillary. If he were the candidate, you would hear nonstop about his honeymoon in the Soviet Union, about Burlington’s sister city status, when he was mayor, with Yaroslavl and Managua (under the Sandinistas). This would not bother readers of this blog, but it will be catnip for the attack machine.
In an attempt, then, to save us from the Republican smear machine, Ravitch uses their same means to achieve the same goal, which is to paint Sanders as unelectable.  It's too bad that Ravitch never checked out the facts for her short list of Bernie atrocities.  If she had bothered to look beyond the gossip that Randi Weingarten provided to her, she would have found the smelly bombshell that she has lobbed to have been already defused by those who depend on facts, rather than the kind of scandalous fear-mongering that is aimed to unfairly demonize the only candidate with his integrity intact.

Below is an op-ed that appeared in Bloomberg News in February of this year, which takes up these smears that the Clinton campaign first brought to the debate stage back in October, 2015:
Senator Bernie Sanders's long-ago "honeymoon" in the Soviet Union is held up by his opponents as evidence of dubious judgment, and even Communist sympathies or anti-American tendencies. The self-described socialist was questioned about the visit during a debate of Democratic presidential candidates in October as a way to raise doubts about his electability.

Those descriptions and concerns are based on distortions and exaggerations: The trip, which began the day after his wedding with his second wife, Jane, in May 1988, was undertaken as part of Sanders' official duties as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. And in any case, most of his critics seem to have forgotten that the Soviet Union at the time was hardly the place for an admirer of communism to find comfort. 

Under Sanders, Burlington developed sister-city programs with places that reflected his sympathies, notably Puerta Cabezas, Nicaragua. That pairing was in keeping with Sanders' opposition to President Ronald Reagan's attempts to undermine the leftist Sandinista government. Sanders and the Burlington Board of Aldermen even wrote angry letters demanding that the president "stop killing the innocent people of Nicaragua."

Burlington also had a link-up with the city of Yaroslavl, in Russia. But as Sanders wrote in his 1998 political memoir, "Outsider in the White House," the motivations were quite different: 
Like the Puerto Cabezas project, the sister-city program with Yaroslavl has been very successful. Each has different constituencies of support. Puerto Cabezas mostly attracted the energy of left-wing activists who were initially involved because of their support for the Sandinista Revolution and opposition to U.S. intervention in Central America. The Yaroslavl project received more broad-based backing, including from a number of business people in the city.
The Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev was opening to the world, no longer exactly an enemy of the U.S. and more an intriguing, unknown entity. In 1987, Gorbachev effectively signed the planned economy's death sentence, permitting so-called "cooperatives" -- essentially private companies that could produce and trade goods as freely as the tired and greedy bureaucracy allowed. Thus began the second stage of what Gorbachev called perestroika, or restructuring. It also included political reforms that attempted to shift the center of power from the Communist Party to the Soviets -- a system of representative government that handled the Soviet Union's housekeeping. 

Soviet newspapers and magazines were beginning to publish documents and eyewitness accounts from the time of Stalin's purges. It was dawning on a large part of the Soviet people that their own Communist state, and not the West, was, and had long been, their biggest enemy. Rallies and marches against the Communists' monopoly on power were springing up across the country. (Two years later, I attended one such gathering in Moscow with more than 1 million others -- still the biggest protest I've ever seen.)

At the same time, of course, the economy was falling apart, not just because oil prices were at record lows and the Soviet government was beginning to print money desperately to finance essential programs, but because the centralized planning system was rotten: Essentially, bureaucrats across the country were falsely reporting that plans and quotas were being met, when in fact workers were stealing all they could, and their bosses were either lost in a stupor of incomprehension or trying to figure out how the new "cooperatives" could help them get rich.

During the "honeymoon" in Yaroslavl, Sanders interviewed Alexander Ryabkov, head of the city's executive committee -- the Soviet equivalent of a mayor -- for a Burlington radio station. Ryabkov, a career bureaucrat obsessed with construction, gave a stilted account of the city's plan to build an apartment for every family in the city by 2000 -- a year that lay in a too-distant future in a country where no one, not even Gorbachev himself, could predict what would happen the following week. My grandmother's sister lived in a communal apartment in Yaroslavl, where the kitchen and other amenities were shared with her neighbors, and she never expected to move into a place of her own. Less than a year after the Sanders visit, Ryabkov stepped down after being accused of pripiski, the common practice of reporting an inflated rate of compliance with the central plan that many bureaucrats used to appropriate scarce resources.

Judging by the interview, Sanders wasn't particularly impressed by Ryabkov's claims. He noted that the quality of housing and health care in Vermont was far better than in Yaroslavl. In response, Ryabkov told him that a typical Yaroslavl family only spent 3 to 4 percent of its income on rent and utilities and that health care was free. Unsurprisingly. Sanders sounded as if he liked that part, on principle.

Sanders was doing what every American who witnessed the perestroika-era Soviet Union or even read about it in a newspaper did: trying to make comparisons and find similarities. Yaroslavl's Kirov Street looked to him like Burlington's Church Street: both led to a church. In Yaroslavl, housing and health care were the most important issues; they were important in Burlington, too. After decades of hostility, it was finally possible to travel and talk to people. That wasn't trivial: In 1988, foreign correspondents based in Moscow still had to ask the Foreign Ministry for permission to travel outside the capital. Most Russians were meeting Americans for the first time. There was a sense of new opportunities, of an emerging warmth between the two nations. "We never knew what friends we had until we came to Leningrad," Billy Joel sang after touring the Soviet Union in 1987. 

Nonetheless, Yaroslavl in 1988 wasn't a pretty picture: an exhausted industrial city on the Volga, its only attraction the ancient churches that were kept shining white and gold for the tourists' sake. The infrastructure was threadbare, falling apart like everything in the Soviet economy in those days. Just four months before Sanders' visit, a freight train derailed in Yaroslavl, spilling almost a ton of heptyl, a highly toxic rocket propellant that was such an extreme danger to locals that some neighborhoods had to be evacuated while more than 1,000 people dug up the contaminated earth and removed it in trucks to be burned.

There is nothing Sanders could have seen in the Volga River city that he would have wanted to transplant to Vermont. And he never sang the Soviet Union's praises. In his book, he only said that his "honeymoon" -- actually, a working trip with a delegation of 10 -- had been "very strange." He never became a Russophile, either. As senator, he backed U.S. sanctions against Russia after it annexed Crimea, calling for the political and economic isolation of President Vladimir Putin. 

To his credit, however, Sanders has continued to meet with Yaroslavl delegations that kept coming to Burlington long after he ceased to be mayor. Irina Novikova, who is in charge of the exchanges in Yaroslavl, last saw him in the U.S. in 2013. She was impressed. "He's a man of global thinking," she told me. "An uncommon man, with this broad perspective on the whole world."

Sanders is unashamed of his leftist views, which seem to appeal to a large number of Democratic voters. His Russian trip, though, wasn't about leftist ideology: In 1988, that was much easier to find in Nicaragua or Cuba than in the Soviet Union. Rather, it was about keeping an open mind about a bizarre land that was slowly emerging after decades of oppression and isolation. I appreciate the open-mindedness: My country has since sunk back into a Soviet-style mire, and when it opens up again, people like Sanders will be welcome. They always are the first to show up.

I just hope he understood during that 1988 trip that free health care and housing aren't really free. I can't tell from his speeches if he did.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Time for Sanders, or Diane Ravitch, to Pack It In? Part 1

This post is about Diane Ravitch's recent smears against Bernie Sanders, which she posted first at her blog.  I will speak specifically about her remarks in the next part of this piece, but first a few preliminaries.

Many of the posts at Ravitch's blog are packaged for her by Jon Pelto, who spends a good deal of his time, it seems, scouring the blogger network of Ravitch hangers-on for any suitable Ravitch echoes that Diane can then post at her own blog.  This repackaging process gives the attention seekers of Basecamp a chance to bump up the number of visits for their blogs, Facebook pages, etc., and it allows Ravitch a chance to camp out at her computer headquarters like an old self-exiled Tory, now fully in charge of her own band of privileged revolutionaries determined to banish the current group of corporate royals that Ravitch, herself, was once a proud member, and to hand off power to another insider group with the same self-aggrandizing values that Ravitch now promotes. This arrangement also gives Diane a chance to stand behind others and push them forward to say what she will not say in her own voice.  In doing so, she can deny that she is supportive of a post if it ends up not so well received, as in a recent promotion she did for Randi Weingarten (read the comments).

Interestingly, the 2016 version of Diane Ravitch finds her where she was almost 40 years ago, when she first led an effort against the critics of public schools.  Then, however, Ravitch was lambasting the leftist historical revisionists, who dared challenge the myth passed down by the official corporate history of American schooling, the one that painted schools as the great equalizer, and the one that Ravitch happily promoted as a conservative education historian.

The Ravitch of the mid-1970s was at war against anyone who reminded readers of the conscious and unconscious pedagogical practices, organizational patterns, student grouping, curricula, assessment practices, etc. that served to reproduce the gross inequalities within American society, thus leaving the poor and minority students disadvantaged by the poverty and racism that schools ignored.  This kind of critique is now so well established that it seems hard to imagine someone arguing against it, but in 1978 conservative historians carrying on the tradition of Elwood P. Cubberly were waging war to preserve the "patriotic" myth that schools were the effective key to social and cultural mobility for the oppressed, regardless of the sociological realities of urban America.

In The Revisionists Revised..., the 1978 Ravitch work that one reviewer described as a "ham-handed polemic," Ravitch assaults, among others, the work of social scientists, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.  She claims that
. . . left-leaning authors distorted historical materials to suit their essentially subversive ends. It reaches its low point when Ravitch charges Bowles and Gintis with championing the cause of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Viet Nam war. I've scoured Bowles and Gintis' book Schooing in Capitalist America in search of the seditious references that Ravitch attributes to them, and they are not to be found.

It's also clear that Ravitch lacked the statistical knowledge to properly evaluate quantitative work that she cited in support of her position that American education is an effective agency of upward social mobility. For the most part she took statisticians' dubious assertions as demonstrably true and reported them as such, all part and parcel of her tendentious effort to diminish the credibility of critics from the left.
So don't feel so bad, Bernie supporters, for the art of the smear, you see, is nothing new for Diane Ravitch.

And so Ravitch remained a political conservative and "supporter of public schools," even when it became clear to every thinking person that Ronald Reagan brought to Washington in 1980 an agenda to dismantle public education.  By the time that Poppy Bush took over the reins from Reagan with a boast of ending the "public school monopoly,"  Ravitch had worked her way into the hive, where she was rewarded with an Assistant Secretary's slot at ED under former Tennessee governor, Lamar Alexander.  (This is the same Lamar Alexander, whose office was provided unlimited access at Diane's blog to sell the god-awful ESSA)

By 2001, when the No Child Left Behind train came roaring down the tracks with an army of corporate hacks aboard armed to the teeth to wage war, for real, on public schools, Ravitch remained ensconced back in the club car, strategizing with the likes of Checker Finn, Terry Moe, and John Chubb, on how best to best carry out the mission to privatize schools.

By 2008, Ravitch saw an opportunity to pull herself out of the quicksand of NCLB that she had promoted as a good swimming hole--and to become profitably heroic at the same time.

She would use the same strategy that she had used 30 years year before to vault herself into the limelight as the protector of public education against the "radical" revisionists, except this time around, she would protect the reputation of public schools and millions of book-buying teachers by taking on the corporate education reform empire that she had helped to formulate and spread since 1980. 

With the publication in 2010 of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch borrowed enough from critics of corporate education reform to formulate another leaden polemic, this time against an adversary she knew all too well.  Crafted in a way to protect the middle of the neoliberal road that the teachers' unions occupied, Ravitch become the overnight darling of fence-straddling lawyers and accountants who control the billions in AFT and NEA union dues.

She went on the road selling her book as the antidote to a system she helped create, all the while saying what teachers were desperate to hear.  Finally, someone who said she believed in them.  It was good to hear for those who were able to ignore the swarm of background noise that would, otherwise, make this message unintelligible.

Since 2010, Ravitch has built a network of autograph seekers and blogmates who are sated by her compliments and water-logged rhetoric of wishful thinking, and she has consolidated her position as the voice for the anti-reformy movement.  Most importantly, however, she has earned a position as chief propagandist for corporate unionism, while working both sides of the aisle of the big business political jet.

So at end of the school year in 2016, Diane Ravitch finds herself where she was in 1978, defending a stubbornly-segregated system of public education that is still controlled by rapacious profiteers who remain intent upon escalating the privatization of public spaces.

While she plays footsie with Lamar Alexander and assures her loyal flock that ESSA is "far better than she had hoped or feared," it appears that she has learned nothing over the past forty years, other than the art and craft of knowing when to change colors to better exploit the political environment.

As David Green said at the end of a commentary following the publication of The Death and Life...:
There is no reason to believe that Ravitch’s current state of contrition has caused her to examine her basic assumptions; she is a consummate insider, and has always lacked serious analytical and visionary skills. Meanwhile, schools simply cannot be anything more than trivially democratic in marketized and repressive society as we know it, and as she loves it.
Nonetheless, Ravitch remains a formidable protector of the status quo, even as her predictable promotion of the corporate union agenda and her undisguised Clinton support has cost her backing among those who, in the past, saw her as the Mother Teresa of public education.

Part 2 will take up, specifically, Ravitch's couched smear of Bernie Sanders.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gates: Let's keep doing it wrong but do it harder

A few years ago, I made a prediction:  "When the new standards and technology fail to produce dramatic results, 'experts' will blame teachers and call for tougher standards, and even more testing, requiring newer (and even more expensive) technology. And the profits for the .01% will be even greater."
From: Krashen, S. 2014. The Common Core: A Disaster for Libraries, A Disaster for Language Arts, a Disaster for American Education. Knowledge Quest (Journal of the American Association of School Librarians) 2(3): 37-45. Posted at: http://tinyurl.com/lxnuf7c

A note from the Gates Foundation, unfortunately, shows that my predictions were correct:
BLAME THE TEACHERS: "Rigorous standards and high expectations are meaningless if teachers aren’t equipped to help students meet them."
CALL FOR MORE TECHNOLOGY: "Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards."
The boondoggle will continue.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Education Jobs Opportunities in the Global Economy


Adequate Yearly Progress Authentication Auctioneer


Business Roundtable/Broad Foundation Batdung Bagman


Charter Schools Cootie Covenant Coach


DIBELS Doo-doo Data Depository Debriefer


Education Week  Eco-Corporate Evangelist


Fordham Foundation Flatulence Fandango Franchiser


Global Economy Grammar School Gulag Gaffer


Hoover Institution Hubris Hoo-Ha Homeboy


IEP Information-Superhighway Iron-on Icon Impresario


Juvenile Justice Jingoism Juggler


Kindergarten Kangaroo Court Kingpin


LearnZillion Legerdemain Litterbox Lieutenant


Mayoral Control Manifest Destiny Monopoly Memorabiliast


NCLB Numbers Necromancer


Online Output Overflow-valve Optimization Occultist


Phonemic Awareness  Poppycock Peddler


Quick-and-Dirty-Certification Quagmire Quizmaster


Relay Graduate School  Robo-rigor Retrofit Revisionist


Stand for Schools  Softshoe Systems-theory Shakeout Spook


Teacher union Thirty-three-tier taxonomy Triage Trafficker


U. S. Department of Education Ultimate Upheaval UnderSecretary


Vassal-in-Classroom  Value-added Vivisectionist


Workbook-without-borders Wreckage Wholesaler


Xenophia Xpert


Yuck-factor Yackety-yak-yak Yield Yeoman


Zone-of-Proximal-Abuse Zapper

Note: This list has been updated since it first appeared in Substance,  April 2006 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Charter Schools More Segregated w/Fewer Learning Opps

Another page from the new GAO Report that reports the segregating and dumbing down effects of charters, when compared to neighborhood public schools and magnet schools. This shows the inequity with regards to advanced courses and gifted and talented programs.  From Figure 7, p. 21:

WikiLeaks reveals: Hillary Clinton plotted corporate charter school colonialism for Haiti

“Worse, Clinton’s “boarding school” socialization and structure idea sounds more like assimilation than education. Shocking and scarily reminiscent of other U.S. ventures in segregating classes of “other” people. Native Americans were also thought to be in need of “education” to work differently in groups and to be in need of structure.”— Daun Kauffman

WikiLeaks released the Hillary Clinton Email Archive mid-March 2016. Many users were searching for terms like hedge fund manager, Goldman Sachs, or, as the example in the WikiLeaks boolean tutorial: "syria libya will show results…" I decided to search for familiar phases of the neoliberal corporate education reform camp. I struck pay-dirt on my first try with "charter schools." Note my excitement on the day of discovery

In one thread Clinton and her cabal talk about a colonial project to remake earthquake stricken Haiti's education system using disaster capitalism, much in the way author Naomi Klein describes what happened in New Orleans:

In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.

Before getting to the content of the email, it's important to contextualize the Clinton's relationship with the island nation. When not facilitating the orchestration of coups in Latin America, bombing the Near East and Africa into the stone age, or providing full-throated support for apartheid states, Clinton is meddling in Haiti. Lots of good pieces on the Clintons and Haiti in publications like Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report, but this excerpt from an essay by Shadowproof's Roqayah Chamseddine is an excellent summary:

WikiLeaks reveals: Hillary Clinton planned corporate charter school colonialism for Haiti, photo credit www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209151080035791&set=a.1444118904652.2059706.1283508895&type=3&theater

In 2010, Hillary Clinton visited Haiti as part of a public relations stunt that allowed her to see firsthand the devastation wrought by the earthquake that killed at least 100,000. This performance was primarily meant to demonstrate solidarity and show the international community that the United States would be there to help in reconstruction efforts. Yet, her visit came less than a year after the U.S. State Department, then led by Clinton, had pressured the government of Haiti into denying laborers a wage increase of $0.62.

Dan Caughlin and Kim Ives of Haïti Liberté reported the U.S. Embassy in Haiti aggressively pressured “factory owners [in Haiti] contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a paltry minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere.” In statements reminiscent of the Clinton campaign’s recent charges against Sanders, Deputy Chief of Mission David E. Lindwall called the proposed $5 minimum wage for Haitian assembly zone workers one which “did not take economic reality into account” but that was meant to appeal to the “unemployed and underpaid masses.”

Haiti has long been a kind of pet project for the Clintons, and they’ve often spoken of “falling in love with Haiti” during their honeymoon. But the love isn’t mutual by any means, and Haitians across the U.S. have made this increasingly clear by way of protests spotlighting the catastrophe the Clintons have left behind. Dahoud Andre, a radio host who has organized protests in New York, is quoted by the New York Times as saying that “a vote for Hillary Clinton means further corruption, further death and destruction for our people.”

Since the email I'll be discussing is accessible here, and is somewhat long, I will not reproduce it in its entirety. Rather, I'll draw excerpts from sections and discuss them. Secretary Clinton forwarded the email in question to one of her assistants, Lauren Jiloty. It was written by neoliberal corporate education reform cheerleader David Domenici in response to Clinton's wanting suggestions on how to capitalize on the Haitian disaster. Charter school profiteer Domenici has no background in pedagogy, has never worked at a public school, "worked in finance", and is a Senior Fellow for the right-wing think-tank Center for American Progress. His biography reads like those of most of his ilk: "He felt that an understanding of the law coupled with his understanding of the financial world would help frame his sense of how best to generate positive social change." It is with this profound ignorance of education and pedagogy that Domenici crafted the Clinton Colonial Education Corps plan. That former Secretary Clinton relied on a venture capitalist for education policy advice speaks volumes, and foreshadows some very frightening prospects should she capture the Presidency.

From: Hillary Clinton
To: Lauren Jiloty
Date: 2010-01-18 19:23

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05772910 Date: 08/31/2015

From: H hrod17@clintonemail.com
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:23 AM
To: 'JilotyLC@state.gov'
Subject: Fw: Hope you are well, where ever you get this-- below are ideas re: education corps for Haiti that you asked for

From: David Domenici
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 7:55 PM
To: 'Mills, Cheryl D'; 'Cheryl Mills'
Subject: Hope you are well, where ever you get this-- below are ideas re: education corps for Haiti that you asked for

UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05772910 Date: 08/31/2015
Hey Cheryl,

It's important to establish who was sending what to who.

Here are some quick thoughts on re-building school infrastructure in Port-au-Prince. Feel free to share with whomever you'd like.

I have little idea of the larger context here — how many schools/kids are we looking at, but one thing we've learned in the US in the last 5 years is that good teachers are the #1 lever of change in education. If we got 1,000 really great teachers into Port-au-Prince (w/ even a modicum of support and materials), they'd make a big difference and touch the lives of 30,000-60,000 kids.

Here Domenici perpetuates the most common falsehood from the reformers' talking point list, that good/great teachers are the number one factor affecting students. He's dead wrong, and this misrepresentation of fact needs correction.

It's not that teaching isn't important—quite the contrary, but teaching is a minority factor in group of factors impacting students. Even more so in the abject conditions of post-earthquake Haiti, which was already an impoverished nation due to U.S. economic imperialism. It's doubtful that Domenici or Clinton have actually read about this outside their small insular world of edreform, where policy papers are passed off as research. However, depending on which study we rely on, teachers at most comprise 10 to 20 percent of factors for achievement outcomes. The distinguished Dr. Paul L. Thomas has written on this, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has funded major studies, edreform darling Eric A. Hanushek has documented it, as have many others. Some selected sources:

Di Carlo: But in the big picture, roughly 60 percent of achievement outcomes is explained by student and family background characteristics (most are unobserved, but likely pertain to income/poverty). Observable and unobservable schooling factors explain roughly 20 percent, most of this (10-15 percent) being teacher effects. The rest of the variation (about 20 percent) is unexplained (error). In other words, though precise estimates vary, the preponderance of evidence shows that achievement differences between students are overwhelmingly attributable to factors outside of schools and classrooms (see Hanushek et al. 1998; Rockoff 2003; Goldhaber et al. 1999; Rowan et al. 2002; Nye et al. 2004).

Rothstein: The 2/3 — 1/3 breakdown between family background and school influences  was the core finding of the 1966 federal study, the “Coleman Report.”  But this interpretation of the report overstates its finding about the  influence of schools, because Coleman and his colleagues considered the  influence of a child’s schoolmates (“peer effects”) to be a school  factor, not an out-of-school factor. (Coleman, James S., and Ernest Q.  Campbell, Carol J. Hobson, James McPartland, Alexander M. Mood, Frederic  D. Weinfeld, and Rober L. York, Equality of Educational Opportunity,  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare,  Government Printing Office, 1966.) Yet the only way to affect the  composition of peers in the neighborhood schools he studied would be to  change the composition of neighborhoods, with housing integration  policies, for example. Of the in-school influences, the Coleman Report  identified teacher quality (defined by teacher characteristics such as  their educational attainment and experience) to be most important.

In the context of post-earthquake Haiti, understanding that we cannot rely on teachers alone to make up for the crushing poverty, multiple traumas, and lack of infrastructure, is critical. While we certainly want all children in Haiti to have access to education, the idea that we can ignore the rest of the issues they're facing reeks of colonialism and callousness.

I think this is totally doable, in short-order, in a magnificent way that could set the foundation for a well-educated generation of Haitians who could lead the country out of poverty, to self-sustainability, self-governance and openness.

Never mind that Haitian poverty is a result of U.S. transnational corporations depressing wages (cf Secretary Clinton's intervention in Haiti's attempt to raise minimum wage discussed supra). Pay no attention to the blatantly racist and colonialist notion that but for U.S. intervention, there would never be a "well-educated generation of Haitians". Ignore the fact that every attempt by Haitians to create self-sustainability and self-governance has been thwarted by U.S. interventions. Corporate education reform will correct all these things in "short-order" under the new Clinton Education Corps plan.

There were four goals listed for the Clinton Colonial Education Corps plan. Domenici enumerates them as:

  • Goal 1: Human Capital
  • Goal 2: Build a robust curriculum and teacher instruction program
  • Goal 3: Build high quality, durable schools that entice families, children into education
  • Goal 4: Create family, community impetus for all school age children to be in school

Goal 1: Human Capital:

Create Haiti Teacher Corps. Model loosely off of Peace Corps/Teach for America, CityYear Teacher corps (US): Recruit, train, and place 500-1000 teachers from US this spring and summer. We can do this.

* * *

o Language/culture training: TDB — find the best folks out there to train in French/Creole, and Haitian culture, current socio-political situation — 50% of the training program.

o Academic training: We'll work w/ TFA and others and develop 8 week intensive teacher training program for other 50% of program.

Being a business-finance type, Domenici is quite at home writing about how to make other people do work. This is the longest section of his piece, so only small portion will be addressed here. The most frightening thing is that he pushes the Teach for America (TFA) model, which at best is a paternalistic, colonial model. Clinton's advisor then outlines his program for "training" that is eight weeks long. At first blush, this is a vast improvement over TFA's woefully deficient standard five week model. That is until we take into account that they want these recruits "to train in French/Creole, and Haitian culture" simultaneously. While the self-congratulatory reformsters all consider themselves "elite", it's somewhat absurd that eight weeks is all that's allotted for all this content. To contextualize, at its shortest point, clown college was eight weeks. In essence, Clinton's cabal feel that the best Haitian students deserve is people with no more training than clowns.

Haiti-based: Less clear what the teacher-leader pipeline is like...but we can figure out and get whoever we can.

Clinton's advisor Domenici consistently speaks of the Haitian people as somewhat of an afterthought. They are someone you do "for" or "to", but never "with". That this wealthy, white male consistently leaves the agency of Haitians out of the equation is completely in line with the white supremacist lens that both he and Hillary Clinton see the world through.

Much of the rest of this section deals with how cheaply they'd like to see all the labor paid. Interestingly, this is in line with how Clinton's State Department kept Haitian wages low in order to sate corporate capital. Domenici asserts that there's plenty of young charter school types that are willing to make the sacrifices that neither he, nor any of his peers would ever make. The finance capitalist then turns his attentions to the next goal.

I am not a curriculum expert, but I think this is really doable, as well, so long as we get the right team […]

Clinton's fellow corporate reformer is refreshingly honest here. Not only is he not a "curriculum expert", he's not even a novice. When we look at his notions of "Backwards Mapping" and "clusters and in modules that can be swapped in and out", it's clear that Domenici is pushing what Paulo Freire termed "the banking model of pedagogy", that is, that students are vessels into which corporate reformers pour knowlege into. This model works well for maintaining oppression, and would serve to perpetuate the United States' existing historical relationship with Haiti.

Reading this section reminds one of just how profoundly ignorant neoliberal corporate eduction reform types are. This may be the one individual less knowledgeable than Arne Duncan or John King on education issues, which would likely mean a potential Clinton administration would tap him to head the Education Department. If Domenici is one thing, he's buzzword compliant. Every phrase and term for the reformy canon is on display in his missive to the Wall Street funded Presidential candidate who spent many years on Walmart's board of directors.

Consider technology and technology infrastructure as a part of the initial construction plan so it's not add-on later.

Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills' education "expert" would be remiss if he wasn't providing profit vectors for Reed Hastings, Bill Gates, and Pearson, PLC. The rest of his section for goal three is quite reminiscent of the Naomi Klein quote supra, where she discusses destroyed infrastructure being ignored in favor of school privatization happening with "speed and precision". Domenici does disaster capitalism with the best of them.

The corporatist's final section suggests wrap-around services, something that those of us in the social justice camp are certainly in favor of. However, Clinton's confidant can't seem to keep his paternalism in check. He asserts that if his plan is followed, that it will "be a catalyst for socio-political change". We discussed above how Haiti's problems are due to U.S. economic imperialism, and seemingly endless interventionism in the country's affairs. To suggest that their problems stem from a lack of education is that special kind of victim blaming that corporate reformers are so adept at. It also smacks of how neoliberal Democrats, as Thomas Frank so succinctly puts it, "see every economic problem as an educational problem".

Domenici is an elitist from the finance capital sector, and had been asked by a Secretary of State whose Wall Street ties are like no other to advise her on educational policy for Haiti. So it's no small wonder that he ends his email with:

Gotta run. See you shortly.



It's no surprise that the woman who refers to children of color as "super-predators", insisting that "we have to bring them to heel", would search out such a racist education plan to inflict on a Haitian population decimated as much by the Clintons' free-trade deals as by natural disasters. Like the distinguished Professor Michelle Alexander says, Hillary Clinton uses "racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals." While Haiti was spared this horrific, colonial charter school plan hatched by Clinton and her corporate advisors, we can expect more of the same if she somehow comes to power again. We need to organize and prepare to fight against her racist penchant for neoliberal corporate education reform.

While not Hillary Clinton specific, Jesse Hagopian has an excellent piece entitled: Shock-Doctrine Schooling in Haiti: Neoliberalism Off the Richter Scale

Monday, May 23, 2016

Charter Solution Magnifies Segregation Problem

It is ironic that the ESEA, which was intended to break down school segregation, has been succeeded 60 years later by the latest version of the same legislation, now known as ESSA, which provides extra fuel to the segregation engine (charter schools).  A clip from the summary of a new study by the GAO.  Much more on this later:
The percentage of K-12 public schools in the United States with students who are poor and are mostly Black or Hispanic is growing and these schools share a number of challenging characteristics. From school years 2000-01 to 2013-14 (the most recent data available), the percentage of all K-12 public schools that had high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16 percent, according to GAO's analysis of data from the Department of Education (Education). These schools were the most racially and economically concentrated: 75 to 100 percent of the students were Black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—a commonly used indicator of poverty. GAO's analysis of Education data also found that compared with other schools, these schools offered disproportionately fewer math, science, and college preparatory courses and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back in 9th grade, suspended, or expelled.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pushing Too Hard for STEM

Submitted to the Washington Post, May 19, 2016.

"Obama wants to hear what children have to say about science education,"(May 19) as part of a White House effort to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education The assumption behind all this is the belief that there is a serious shortage of science and technology experts.
There isn't.  Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening. Recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb. 
Also, we don't know what our needs will be by the time today's elementary school children finish school.  As Yogi Berra put it, "It is hard to predict, especially about the future."
It is a mistake to shove young people into math and science careers when it isn't right for them. It makes more sense to help students develop their own talents and interests,to help them find what they like and are good at, and help them get better at it.
The world needs a wide variety of  talents: Distinguished psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues explain: "If we were all more or less alike, humans would grow into narrowly specialized organisms. It would be difficult for us to adapt to changing conditions ..."

Stephen Krashen

Original article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-wants-to-hear-what-children-have-to-say-about-science-education/2016/05/18/6290f1ba-1d38-11e6-8c7b-6931e66333e7_story.html

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Race of Scientific Talent. Princeton.
Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

Diversity: Csikszentmihalyi, M. Rathunde, K. & Whalen, S. (1993). Talented teenagers: The roots of success and failure. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  Quote on page 8.

Stephen Krashen was a student in the first AP calculus class taught in the United States, uses math in his work, and loves all aspects of science and math. But he believes that STEM isn't for everybody, and is grateful that President Obama decided to study law, rather than mechanical engineering or chemistry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Angela Duckworth Ducking KIPP and Relay Connections


As a close protege of Dr. Martin Seligman, Angela Duckworth serves as Seligman's point person in moving his brand of paternalistic corporate psychology and character control into schools that teach the children of the poor.  Central to that role, Duckworth works closely with KIPP co-founder, David Levin, to test out and fine tune Seligman's methods with school children who serve as KIPP guinea pigs.

This is from the KIPP website:

KIPP’s innovative approach is grounded in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman and the late Dr. Chris Peterson (the “fathers“ of Positive Psychology). Building off a partnership with KIPP NYC, Dr. Angela Duckworth and the Riverdale Country School, KIPP’s character work focuses on seven highly predictive character strengths that are correlated to leading engaged, happy and successful lives: zest, grit, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. 

Duckworth is co-founder and Scientific Director of what she and Levin call the "Character Lab," which has as it creepy eugenics-sounding goal, "to advance the science and practice of character development."  

What is referred to as "character development" is assessed by "performance character" checklists and report cardsIn fact, the Character Lab has developed a "character growth card" for teachers to use to grade each student.  It includes, too, a column for student self assessment for the "character strengths" listed in the quote above from the KIPP website. 

Below is a question and answer from an interview conducted by the Walton Foundation with Angela Duckworth in 2015, which may give you some insights into why the Walton family would be interested in supporting Duckworth's work:

If you had a crystal ball, what would you predict teaching character would look like 10 years from now? 

Angela: My optimistic crystal ball would see that there are developed options that have real scientific research behind them. We will say to teachers from elementary school, if not earlier, all the way through high school, if not later: if you’re helping kids learn self-control, try this, if you feel like gratitude is important for your school community, try this. In addition to thinking about standalone interventions, we need to try to figure out how to get teachers to infuse character into their everyday practice. In the most successful cultures — if you look at high-performing military culture or sports culture — things are integrated.
Duckworth hopes to use her research on reshaping children's culture, er, character to influence, too, the corporate teacher prep enterprise known as Relay Graduate School of Education (see Relay stamp on video below).  In this video below, Duckworth talks about the kind of fine grating required to produce gritty kids who become oblivious to the effects of poverty as they continue to create the test scores needed to expand the KIPP Model networks of charter schools.

Since the recent publication of her book on grit, Duckworth has downplayed the idea and practice of grading grit, and she has tried to distance herself from the KIPP Model chain gang schools.  Even so, teachers, you can still download the "character growth card" from the Character Lab website, in case you want to get into the "non-cognitive" assessment business. 

Duckworth's book is obviously aimed at a much wider audience than just teachers of the "no excuses" hell schools.  How do we know?  Nothing above would indicate that "passion" among school children is required as the counterbalance for grit, but Duckworth's book and her recent book talking plays up this other element:
Grit, as Duckworth has defined it in her research, is a combination of perseverance and passion — it’s just that the former tends to get all the attention, while the latter is overlooked. “I think the misunderstanding — or, at least, one of them — is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters,” Duckworth told Science of Us. “But I think that the passion piece is at least as important. I mean, if you are really, really tenacious and dogged about a goal that’s not meaningful to you, and not interesting to you — then that’s just drudgery. It’s not just determination — it’s having a direction that you care about.”
I wonder how the passion got overlooked in all of Duckworth's previous work on reforming urban culture, er, character left out "passion."  Wonder why there is no mention of Character Lab, KIPP, Relay?  Perhaps Duckworth will write another book that details how she worked with Dave Levin to turn children into reliable test score production machines that can be exploited to expand the KIPP Model charter industry.

The end of standardized testing, or the beginning of testing every day?

Sent to the Detroit News, May 18, 2016
(MAJOR HAT TIP to Emily Talmage. San Diego: If it sounds too good to be true. https://emilytalmage.com/2016/05/07/san-diego-if-it-sounds-to-good-to-be-true/

“The end of standardized testing" may give way to something much worse (Labor Voices, May 17). While Michigan is apparently cutting back on end-of-the-year tests, there are signs that it will institute what could be daily testing, known as competency-based education.

Competency-based education consists of module after module of programmed instruction that students work through online and be tested on, which will drastically diminish the role of teachers and increase profits of technology companies.  The new education law announced grants for the development of these teach and test machines (sections 1201 and 1204).

The Michigan Department of Education website reads like an advertisement, and cheerfully tells us that "Competency-Based Education can help all students through flexible systems that support student success and allow for reporting of student competency that reflects student learning." In addition, Matchbook Learning, a school "turnaround" organization that is very active in several "low achieving schools" in Michigan relies heavily on Competency-Based Education. 

Neither the Michigan DOE nor Matchbook seem to be aware that that there is no hard research support for this expensive investment. A document written for Michigan's superintendents notes that "… there is currently no academic research demonstrating the effectiveness of K-12 competency-based education."   We have wasted billions of dollars and huge amounts of time on useless tests. Competency-based education might be an even bigger mistake. 

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/05/17/standardized-tests-change/84524666/

Michigan Dept of Education website: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-28753_65803-322532--,00.html
Competency-based Education: An overview for Michigan's superintendents.  The General Education Leadership Network of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators
Matchbook Learning: matchbooklearning.com
More information about competency-based education:
McDermott, M. 2015a. Reading between The Lines: Obama’s “Testing Action Plan”  http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/25/reading-between-the-lines-obamas-testing-action-plan/
McDermott, M. 2015b. Common core and corporate colonization: the big picture. http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/30/common-core-and-corporate-colonization-the-big-picture/
Robertson, P. 2015a. U.S. Dept. of Ed. and Educational Warfare. http://www.pegwithpen.com/2015/10/us-dept-of-ed-and-educational-warfare.html
Robertson, P. 2015b. Opt out revolution: the next wave. http://www.pegwithpen.com/2015/10/opt-out-revolution-next-wave.html
Talmage, E. 2015a. Dear Mark. http://emilytalmage.com/2015/11/14/dear-mark/
Talmage, E. 2015b. What is proficiency-based learning? http://emilytalmage.com/2015/04/26/save-maine-schools/
Talmage, E. 2016.  San Diego: If it sounds too good to be true. https://emilytalmage.com/2016/05/07/san-diego-if-it-sounds-to-good-to-be-true/

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fox News writer blames schools for low wages. I respond.

Comment on P. Morici, ("Want to know why your wages are sinking, America? It starts with our schools," May 17, 2016) on fox news. com
Posted at: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/17/want-to-why-your-wages-are-sinking-america-it-starts-with-our-schools.html#

Peter Morici is badly misinformed when he says "fraud and wasted resources" in America's schools are the cause of low wages.
First, our schools are quite good. When researchers control for the impact of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international test scores.  Our overall scores are unspectacular because child poverty is so high in the US, around 25%, the second highest of all industrialized countries. Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor health care, and little access to books. The best teaching and most rigorous standards in the world will not mean anything if children are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.  The problem is not fraud, waste, low standards, or teacher quality, or unions, or schools of education. The problem is poverty.

Despite the poverty problem, there is no shortage of scientifically-trained graduates. Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening. Recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.  About 1/3 of college-bound high-school students take calculus, and only about 5% of jobs require this much math. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we will need 500,000 graduates in computer science by 2024. About 50,000 computer science majors are completing their education each year.

Stephen Krashen


Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).
Negative effect of poverty on school achievement: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential,

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Race of Scientific Talent. Princeton.
Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/
One third take calculus: Bressoud, D. 2011. Calculus in High School: Too Much of A Good Thing? www.macalester.edu/~bressoud/talks
Need for calculus: Handel, M. 2010. What do people do at work? Available at www.northeastern.edu/socant/wp-content/.../STAMP_OECD2a_edit2.doc‎

San Diego replacing end-of-year tests with something much worse?

Comment posted at: "San Diego schools to reduce standardized testing, focus on achievement," http://sdnews.com/pages/full_story/push?id=27184365&content_instance=27184365&need_to_add=true#cb_post_comment_27184365

Not so fast. Emily Talmage has presented clear evidence that San Diego is replacing end-of-year tests with something much worse, much more expensive, and without demonstrated validity: Competency-based testing. This promises to result in even more testing than we had before.

Please see:
To read about competency-based testing, please see McDermott, M., Robertson. P., and Krashen, S. 2016. Language Magazine, January 16. http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=125014
Posted at: http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/03/testing-all-time.html

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Superintendent's Plan to Make Librarians Extinct

Following the national fad for replacing teacher decision-making with high-tech finery, the new superintendent of the Burlington Vermont schools has announced a redesign of the city's one high school. The popular high school principal of 17 years service has been forced out--to an elementary school. Word is that she protested the high tech plan of replacing the school librarian with technological foo-foo.

Can you imagine a school of  1,150 students with no librarian?

John Dewey graduated from Burlington High School in 1874. His grave is the only one on the University of Vermont campus. I suspect today's education reform news  causes this headstone to rock and roll.

So I wrote this letter. The headline is not mine. I prefer the headline above.

Librarians or ‘cyber-tech’
I am stunned to read the accounts of changes at Burlington High School. Superintendent Yaw Obeng talks of plans “for more high-tech, cyber- tech options,” but longtime principal Amy Mellencamp, who has earned respect from the community, reveals plans for eliminating a full-time librarian. People who care about Burlington students should ask: Who do you want making day-to-day decisions about your children’s needs – the school librarian or the superintendent’s cybertech option used to deliver dubious content?

PS: I just found my report card from Grade 1. Grades of  equal weight were given in:
Social Studies
Language Arts
Music and Art (which included enjoyment of music and rhythm and participation in singing)

I also found the one memento I saved from all of elementary school. Contained in a sealed envelope with this label : My first saxophone reed.

I admit to being fascinated by this decision a nine-year-old made about Important Things. I guess this is what happens when a kid doesn't have all those cyber-tech options filling her days.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Peg with Pen: My response to Kerrie Dallman, CEA President, re: ...

Peg with Pen: My response to Kerrie Dallman, CEA President, re: ...: Yesterday morning I wrote a quick note on Facebook about Relay receiving approval as a "graduate" school which can now certify ...

Duckworth Panned, Grit Roasted, KIPP Cooked

New York Times reviewer, Judith Shulevitz, concludes a negative review of Angela Duckworth's new book with this:
You can’t blame Duckworth for how people apply her ideas, but she’s not shy about reducing them to nostrums that may trickle down in problematic ways. On the one hand, some of the “no excuses” charter schools that her research helped to shape have raised math and literacy scores among minority and poor students. On the other hand, a growing number of scholars as well as former teachers at those schools report that some of the schools, at least, feel more like prisons than houses of learning. Schools that prize self-­regulation over self-expression may lift a number of children out of poverty, but may also train them to act constrained and overly deferential — “worker-learners,” as the ethnographer Joanne W. Golann calls them. Meanwhile, schools for more affluent children encourage intellectual curiosity, independent reasoning and creativity. Ask yourself which institutions are more likely to turn out leaders. Perhaps an approach to character training that’s less hard-edge — dare I say, less John Wayne-ish? — and more willing to cast a critical eye on the peculiarly American cult of individual ascendancy could instill grit while challenging social inequality, rather than inadvertently reproducing it.
Actually, you can blame Duckworth for how people apply her ideas, since the humiliation that we see at KIPP and other KIPP Model schools is directly linked to her and David Levin's design for teaching grit, which is based on the "learned helplessness" and "resilience" research of psychologist and CIA consultant, Dr. Martin Seligman.  

Below are a few excerpts from my book that provide more context for Duckworth's role in creating the ethnic character cleansing used by the KIPP Model schools.   

Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys through "No Excuses" Teaching may be purchased with a 20 percent discount from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.  Use code: RLEGEN16 when ordering.

Performance Character

Seligman’s influence and that of his protégé, Angela Duckworth, continue to be central in controlling the “non-cognitive” behaviors and attitudes that are central to completing the KIPP Model mission. As “KIPP teachers believe their job is to teach 49 percent academics and 51 percent character” (Morris, 2011), “grit” and “self-control” are the two most important character traits that KIPP develops in their students. The other components of character are zest, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity, although the KIPP model is principally concerned with developing grit, or relentless determination to achieve and to maintain self-control. 

KIPP further divides self-control into two categories, each having four components:

 School Work

  • Came to class prepared
  • Remembered and followed directions
  • Got to work right away instead of waiting until the last minute
  • Paid attention and resisted distractions


  • Remained calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked
  • Allowed others to speak without interrupting
  • Was polite to adults and peers
  • Kept temper in check (KIPP Foundation, 2015c)  

KIPP refers to its character goals as “performance character,” or “achievement character,” and KIPP’s list of traits represents a distillation of a more expansive list that includes 24 characteristics, which was developed by Dr. Seligman and his colleague, Dr. Peterson (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).  The narrowing down of the list was the principal work of Duckworth and Levin, who selected those qualities that they believed were crucial for raising achievement for children who, otherwise, may be distracted by the challenges of living in poverty.

Notably missing are some of the more common elements of moral character that have been traditionally taught in school, such as honesty, integrity, thrift, and humility.  According to Paul Tough (2012), Levin contends that moral character is based on moral law that, by necessity, is imposed by some higher authority.  In following Seligman and Peterson, Tough claims “moral laws were limiting when it came to character because they reduced virtuous conduct to a simple matter of obedience to a higher authority” (p. 59). 

In exchanging goals of moral character for those aimed at developing “performance character,” students are likely to grow up with values suited to the needs of the modern workplace, as described by Eric Fromm (1956) in The Art of Loving:

Modern capitalism needs men who co-operate smoothly and in large numbers: who want to consume more and more: and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated.  It needs men who feel free and independent, not subject to any authority or principle or conscience—yet willing to be commanded, to do what is expected of them, to fit into the social machine without friction; who can be guided without force, led without leaders, prompted without aim—except the one to make good, to be on the move, to function, to go ahead (p. 85). 

David Levin’s focus on “grit” and “self-control” suggests a high value attached to a kind of crusty abrasiveness, or personality pumice, that may be used to deal with difficult life situations.  According to Tough (2012), Levin believes his approach stands above any charge of indoctrination or cultural colonialism by KIPP because “the character-strength approach is…fundamentally devoid of value judgment” (p. 60).  We are left to wonder how Levin’s preferred values of grit, self-control, gratitude, zest, and the rest are any less of an imposition than, let’s say, wisdom, justice, honesty, and temperance

Levin’s proselytizing for positive psychologists’ preferred values attempts to cloak any signs of imposition of behaviors among KIPP children, who are routinely taught that grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity are the keys to attracting the best that life has to offer. Those who are unsuccessful at working or wishing hard enough to lure are taught that it is only themselves they have to blame if the best in life remains elusive.  Hedges (2010) sums it up this way for those whose positivity efforts fail to attract the best things in life: “for those who run into the hard walls of reality, the ideology has the pernicious effect of forcing the victim to blame him or herself for his or her pain or suffering” (p. 119).

Indeed, students are taught to blame themselves, even if they encounter harsh treatment from others (Horn, 2012).  Such mistreatment by an adult in position of authority is an indicator that they, obviously, are not working hard enough or being good enough to be treated with the respect that comes when one “makes good.”  The drawing below (see Figure 2.2) is a copy of a worksheet that Seligman disciple, Dr. Angela Duckworth, has used in developing performance character curricula for children in Philadelphia area schools and for Levin’s New York KIPP schools. 

In Figure 2.2, we see that children are taught that they should “feel okay” about abusive treatment from authority figures, whose verbal assaults and harsh treatment are to be viewed as the earned result for failure to meet expectations, which, in turn, requires more grit and working harder to avoid more justifiable denigration for falling short of expectations.  In this new urban character building regimen and emotional resilience training, children are expected to internalize abusive treatment from authority figures and to blame any such behavior on their own shortcomings. 

At the same time, they are expected to maintain emotional resilience and self-control when faced with any of the sociological cancers that are triggered by poverty and that, otherwise, might serve as an excuse for not achieving the expectations from school leaders and teachers who work within the KIPP Model.  Too, any anger or resentment among students that may result from punishments becomes suppressed as an improper reaction, rather than as a legitimate expression against KIPP’s total control, constant surveillance, and unrealistic demands.

Many of the students who survive at KIPP become docile hard workers, whose submission to KIPP total compliance regime embellishes a highly developed sense of self-blame, even as they are effectively dehumanized in the process.  If things don't work out for these children in terms of working hard enough or being nice enough to survive in KIPP and, later, to attract the “best things in life” further down life’s road, then they will at least have learned along the way that no one will be to blame except themselves. They, themselves, will be responsible for the failure that, based on KIPP’s definition, the majority of them will experience as a result of not finishing college. No excuses. No shortcuts.  Work hard, be nice.

Angela Duckworth’s ongoing research projects include working directly with Levin at a KIPP school in New York to develop and fine tune a report card that can be used to measure and grade what she prefers to call “achievement character” among the disadvantaged KIPPsters in The Bronx.  Per the worksheet above, Duckworth is working there and elsewhere to develop curriculum that is intended to inject character and personality traits into children that purports to build immunity against the epidemic of urban poverty and disenfranchisement.

Duckworth, herself, grew up the daughter of privileged Chinese immigrants in the middle class town of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and she studied neuroscience as an undergraduate at Harvard (Hartnett, 2012).  After a Masters at Oxford and then a year at McKinsey and Co., Duckworth became the CEO of the online public school rating company, Great Schools, before she altered course to become a charter school teacher on both the West and East Coasts. 

After a late night email exchange with Martin Seligman in 2002 and a face-to-face meeting the next day, Seligman cleared the way for Duckworth to be considered for the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania, even after the normal admissions process was closed.  Duckworth became Seligman’s protégé, and she earned a PhD in psychology in 2006.  The next year Duckworth was hired as Assistant Professor of Psychology at UPenn. 

Since then, she has earned a reputation as a bold experimenter and unabashed extrovert, who exhibits a particularly salty vocabulary. According to a reporter (Hartnett, 2012) for the Pennsylvania Gazette, Duckworth

. . . uses expletives in a way that might impress even high-powered cursers like Rahm Emanuel.  In the course of a 90-minute conversation she called a principal she knew “an asshole,” described the opinion of a leading education foundation as “fucking idiotic,” and did a spot-on impression of a teenager with attitude when explaining the challenge of conducting experiments with adolescents: “When you pay adults they always work harder but sometimes in schools when I’ve done experiments with monetary incentives there’s this like adolescent ‘fuck you’ response. They’ll be like ‘Oh, you really want me to do well on this test? Fuck you, I’m going to do exactly the opposite’” (p. 61).

            With David Levin’s promotional prowess, top charter chains such as Aspire, YES Prep, and Uncommon Schools have been significantly influenced by Seligman’s techniques (Tough, 2006) that became central to his and Duckworth’s research agenda. Seligman’s protégé has extended Seligman’s resilience methodology known as “learned optimism” to further develop programs for urban school children to shape their persistence, self-control, adaptability, and patience. 

Duckworth’s ongoing experiments in the public schools near the University of Pennsylvania attempt to devise ways to measure efforts to inoculate disadvantaged children from poverty’s effects and to boost their immunity to the severe measures used in No Excuses schools to instill grit and self-control. Levin and other total compliance charter operators want to engender a version of Seligman’s “learned optimism” that will background the degrading life conditions that, otherwise, remain dispiriting or depressing for children.  In doing so, the experimenters hope that KIPP model students will develop the tenacity to rise above circumstances that would drag down lesser beings.  Attitude, Duckworth argues, becomes as important or more important than ability.

            In the absence of any program that might modify or eradicate the actual stress, distress, and irrationality of living in poverty, Duckworth and Levin’s character performance experiments may be viewed as little more than involuntary behavioral and neurological sterilization techniques that could hinder, in fact, the capacities of children who have to survive daily in environments where internalizing abuse or acquiescing to domination could prove disadvantageous or even deadly.  Even so, the unregulated and unchecked experimentation on children without regard for potentially harmful outcomes remains one the hallmarks of Duckworth and Levin’s “ready-fire-aim” approach, which may be very useful for business entrepreneurs (Zwilling, 2012) developing new processes or products, but extremely risky and potentially dangerous when it comes to educating the most vulnerable children.
Hartnett, K.  (2012, May/June).  Character’s content.  The Pennsylvania Gazette, 58-64.  Retrieved from http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0512/PennGaz0512_feature4.pdf
Hedges, C.  (2010).  Empire of illusions: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle.  New York: Nation Books.
Horn, J.  (2012, September 12).  A former KIPP teacher shares her story.  [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/09/a-former-kipp-teacher-shares-her-story.html
KIPP Foundation.  (2015c).  Character strengths and corresponding behaviors.  Retrieved from http://www.kipp.org/our-approach/strengths-and-behaviors

Morris, R.  (2011, September 15).  KIPP co-founder: “We need to get rid of the government monopoly on education.” Uptown Messenger.  Retrieved from http://uptownmessenger.com/2011/09/founder-of-kipp-schools-speaks-at-tulane-university/#comment-4836
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.  (2004).  Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.  New York: APA/Oxford University Press.

-->Tough, P.  (2012).  How children succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
Tough, P.  (2006, November 26).  What it takes to make a student.  New York Times Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/magazine/26tough.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0
Zwilling, M.  (2012, November 17).  Six right times to be ready-fire-aim entrepreneurs.  Forbes.  Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2012/11/17/6-right-times-to-be-a-ready-fire-aim-entrepreneur/