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

Monday, May 21, 2018

'Panicked' Trump roundly mocked after parroting Fox News conspiracy theory in Monday morning Twitter meltdown

What a fucking dope!

'Panicked' Trump roundly mocked after parroting Fox News conspiracy theory in Monday morning Twitter meltdown: The American president used to be considered the leader of the free world. As such, any president of the United States should have access to the absolute best: the best intelligence, the best advisors, and, if necessary, the best attorneys. But not Donald Trump, who ironically won the White House in part by telling voters he only hired “the best.” That’s turned out to be the far from from truth. The “best advisors” he can …

Sunday, May 20, 2018

“Yes, I am an advisor for Ridge-Lane.” Superintendent Hite May 17, 2018

KIPP Bribes Parents in San Diego: "Bring two 5th Graders to the school--get $1000!"

When shiny brochures and smooth talk don't attract enough parents to submit their children to KIPP's cultural sterilization schools, KIPP uses the old-fashioned method: bribes. 

With KIPP bringing in over $9,000 per child in state per pupil fundinng for ever child enrolled, KIPP can afford to offer a few hundred dollars to cram their 5th grade classrooms with thirty or so kids with untrained beginning teachers at the bottom of the pay scale.  A clip from The Intercept (my bolds):
In December 2016, KIPP Adelante, a San Diego charter, sent a newsletter out to enrolled families offering substantial cash stipends to those who could help recruit new fifth graders to their school.

The promotion read:
If you know a 5th grader at another school and you get them to come to school here, you will receive a premium of $500 to offset your child’s educational expenses. In addition, the family you bring to KIPP Adelante will receive a premium of $100 (also for educational expenses) for enrolling their child here. Bring two 5th Graders to the school – get $1000! These students have to attend our school for at least 2 weeks before you can collect your premium.
A former KIPP Adelante teacher shared the newsletter with The Intercept, troubled by the ad targeting a school where 99 percent of students enrolled are children of color, and 98 percent qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Speaking Out Against Pay for Success, Predatory Public-Private Partnerships and Dr. Hite’s Ties to Ridge-Lane, LP

from Wrench in the Gears
May 16, 2018

As the parent of a public school student and a citizen of Philadelphia, I arrived at Council Chambers today to convey my concern about Superintendent William Hite’s involvement with former Governor Tom Ridge’s merchant banking advisory firm Ridge-Lane, LP and to get it on the record.  Full list of team members viewable as a PDF here.

I have serious reservations about how the city plans to finance the operation of our district, especially given the substantial needs of our students and the disinvestment our schools have suffered for so many years. This important work must be done with PUBLIC funding. Our schools are not charities and should not be remade as investment opportunities for venture capital.

I was the third speaker to present testimony on the proposed budget as it pertains to public education. City Council members in attendance at the time I spoke included: Council President Darrell Clarke, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Jannie Blackwell, Bill Greenlee, Allan Domb, and Bobby Henon. We were limited to three minutes, so the testimony I prepared had to be condensed somewhat. The full piece, including important information about the Fels Policy Research Initiative, can be read below.
“Ridge-Lane, Limited Partners is a merchant bank founded by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and R. Brad Lane, which “specializes in corporate strategy and venture development for private growth-stage technology companies.” Its website claims it is at the “apex of public and private sectors,” with over fifty well-connected advisors to broker corporate-government deals in information technology, sustainability, real estate, and education.

According to their website, Superintendent William Hite is one of Ridge-Lane’s senior education advisors. If Dr. Hite is setting public education policy while serving as an advisor to a powerful merchant bank, it is a serious conflict of interest and must be immediately addressed. It certainly makes interventions like the one taking place, against the will of the community, at Strawberry Mansion High School suspect.

Trumpian Racism Comes to Medicaid Guidelines

Last January Trump's boys in Congress put together new work rules for Medicaid, which promises to brutally dump untold numbers of sick and poor people from the Medicaid roles, just to make the Kochs, Waltons, and Mercers of the world sleep a little better at night.  

The Washington Post has an analysis today that provides some of the details on how states with big red voting blocks are customizing their rules to advantage the white rural Trump voters who would, otherwise, get really pissed about being treated like black folks:
. . . .In Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, work-requirement waivers would include exemptions for counties with the highest levels of unemployment, which are overwhelmingly white, rural — and GOP-leaning. But most of these exemptions would do nothing to help people of color who live in high-unemployment urban areas, because they live in places where countywide unemployment numbers are skewed by the inclusion of wealthy suburbs.

In Michigan, for instance, Medicaid work requirements would exempt those living in counties with an unemployment rate of over 8.5 percent — but leave out high-unemployment (and majority-black) cities such as Detroit and Flint. According to an analysis of state data done by The Post, whites would account for 85 percent of those eligible for the unemployment exemption, despite making up only 57 percent of the potentially affected population. African Americans, in contrast, would constitute a mere 1.2 percent of people eligible for an exemption, despite being 23 percent of the affected Medicaid population. . . .
 Ah, the sanctity of whiteness.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Badges Find Their Way to San Jose

from Wrench in the Gears
May 11, 2018

Yesterday I watched a May 7, 2018 meeting held by the City Council of San Jose on education and digital literacy efforts related to the LRNG program, an initiative of the McCarthur Foundation-funded Collective Shift. Philadelphia is also a City of LRNG. Linked is a five-minute clip in which they describe their digital badging program roll out.

Collecting an online portfolio of work-aligned skills is key to the planned transition to an apprenticeship “lifelong learning” model where children are viewed as human capital to be fed into an uncertain gig economy. Seattle Education’s recent post “Welcome to the machine” describes what is happening as Washington state follows the lead of Colorado and Arizona in pushing “career-connected” education.

Philadelphia’s LRNG program is called Digital On Ramps and is linked to WorkReady, the city’s youth summer jobs program. For the past several years children as young as fourteen have been encouraged to create online accounts and document their work experience using third party platforms. Opportunities to win gift cards and iPad minis have been used as incentives to complete the online activities. Within the past year the LRNG program has grown to include numerous badges related to creating and expanding online LinkedIn profiles. Microsoft bought Linked in for $26 billion in 2016. See screen shots below.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gates and Zuckerberg Take Direct Aim at Children

Bill Gates began his purchased reforms of education policy and practices in 2000, and his repeated failures in this arena have not altered his determination to turn American schools into technology-dependent, business-modeled training camps, to turn American teachers into disposable contract middle managers who are laser-focused on the bottom line--test scores, and to convert children into eager culturally-sterilized recipients of the global economic mindset of personal sacrifice toward an eventual corporate reward. 

Of course, what I mean by "failure" needs some explaining, for not everyone affected by the Gates philanthropic ventures in education has been negatively affected.  Even though the Gates Foundation reforms have done nothing to raise achievement levels, and they have done nothing to staunch the shameful resegregation of American schools, and they have done nothing to build or renew support for public education, the Gates initiatives have been wildly successful in promoting the privatization of public schools, dependence on high tech and big data, and the marketing of thousands of corporate product lines in curriculum, testing, professional development, and teacher preparation.  

In short, Gates initiatives over the years have been used to feather the nests of Gates's own businesses, along with the thousands of entrepreneurs and hangers-on who trail the Gates army as it moves in and occupies the various sectors of the education landscape.  

There is nothing new in my critique.  More extensive criticism of Gates's giving has been delivered by the social advocacy group, Global Justice Now, whose 54 page report in 2016 examines the darker side of Bill and Melinda's giving business.  Here are three allegations from the report aimed at the Gates Foundation:
  • It provides a disproportionate amount of funding to health organizations in high-income countries, "exacerbating unequal research and development infrastructures between poor and rich regions." The report cites as an example the foundation's "overwhelming focus" on developing and promoting new vaccines at the expense of already-proven preventative measures for diseases that most affect poverty-stricken areas.
  • Its projects are primarily "vertically funded interventions targeted at specific diseases or health problems" and do little to strengthen public health systems, leaving underdeveloped nations ill-equipped to combat the root causes of disease. The report backs this claim with comments from Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), who said in an interview with The New York Times that the WHO's budget is "driven by what I call donor interests." This limits the organization's ability to maintain fixed support staff "to build response systems" when there is no active health emergency. Adds the report: "The inference in Chan’s remarks is that the WHO, whose largest donor is [the Gates Foundation,] is unable to respond adequately to ebola and other disease outbreaks because donor interests prevent it from being able to build public health systems in developing countries.
  • It "prioritizes support for corporations." The report notes that the Gates Foundation has funded a huge number of projects for major corporations—including Monsanto, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Coca-Cola—and that the corporations often stand to profit. According to the report, the foundation has owned or still owns shares in some of the corporations it funds. "The foundation is profiting from its investments in corporations which contribute to social and economic injustice," reads the report.
And most importantly, perhaps, Global Justice Now points out that the strategic giving on a massive level is aimed, too, to buy the silence of would-be critics of the Gates army.  There's no better examples than AFT and NEA, whose leaders have been bribed to support a Gates-led war to cororatize schools.  Both have accepted multi-million dollar grants from Gates and have partnered with Gates-linked corporations to involve teachers in advancing the Common Core, the war waged by the Business Roundtable and funded by Gates to impose a stupidifying sameness to American schooling, while constructing many new layers of profitable bureaucracy within the educational corporate complex.

And there are many other examples here.

Now we find the two dollar-fortified armies of Gates and Zuckerberg converging to wage a new corporate education war, this time with a primary focus to remap the neurological paths of children through psychological interventions beginning at an early age and proceeding through the schooling years.  From the AP
Tech moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday they will team up to help develop new methods for kids with trouble learning — an effort that will include dabbling into child brain science. . . .The effort is now seeking information and ideas from across sectors, from education and academia to business, technology and medicine. Future investments based on that information are expected, but no dollar amount has been set.
Part of the oligarchs' dream, of course, is to develop and deploy the psychological equivalent of individual surveillance cameras that can interactively monitor the choices, behaviors, preferences, and levels of involvement of children and adolescents, and to further develop learning algorithms that can intervene to redirect individual behavior or thoughts when they move outside acceptable parameters.  
The idea that disadvantaged children struggle to learn because of poor executive brain function involving memory, thinking flexibility, and behavioral issues related to autism and other attention disorders has long been lamented by social workers and health advocates.
The joint project by Gates and Zuckerberg details possible ways to mitigate those shortcomings
Among the ideas is using games and technology simulations to support teachers and family, and tracking progress in certain vulnerable student populations such as kids with disabilities or those who are learning English as a second language.
In effect, Gates and Zuckerberg are intent upon eliminating the debilitating effects of poverty on learning, while doing nothing to eliminate child poverty aside from rewiring children's brains to make them behaviorally immune to inequality and mistreatment.

What could go wrong!

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Education Spring and the Irrelevance of AFT/NEA

What do West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona have in common?  If you answered that they are states where teacher-led walkouts have resulted in gains in funding for teachers and school resources, you would be right, of course.  They are also right-to-work states where AFT and NEA influences are negligible.

The NYTimes Sunday Review had a piece this week that argued that the gains that are accruing to the teachers in these states will be short-lived without "strong unions."  I would agree with this if there were any strong national unions to choose from, but since AFT and NEA offer unhealthy choices that are more like Burger King or McDonalds than providing any substantive difference, then we are left with false choices, both of which are bad for you.

The Times piece offers the union in Racine, WI as an example of a strong union that has been effective in limiting class size, gaining resources, and increasing salaries.  Note that Racine is a local effort and not one headed by a bloated union hierarchy that pays its presidents almost a half-million dollars a year for doing PR for outfits that are in cahoots with the corporate education deformers.

The historic six-day wildcat strike in Arizona was led by a grassroots organization, Arizona Educators United (AEU), not the dress-up-and-go-to-a-luncheon crowd who run Arizona's NEA affiliate, AEA.  The future of teacher activism in AZ or elsewhere will not be in the hands of NEA or AFT functionaries who take hard earned teacher dues for nothing in return except the promise of supporting state candidates who, either Democrat or Republican, don't care a whit about the lives of public school teachers or their students.

The sad truth is that teachers around Arizona and the U.S. have been sending NEA and AFT hundreds of millions of dollars every year for, essentially, for liability insurance and some discount coupons for car insurance.

If organizations like AEU kept their dues money at home, they could build a legal defense fund that could support their actions in the streets and in the courts and in parent/student coalition building, where the battle to save public education will be fought and won.

Yes, it is time for strong unions for sure, which is bad news for NEA, AFT, and all their affiliates who stand by talking tough as teachers and children are abused, neglected, and humiliated by corporate education reformers and efficiency zealots trained to run businesses, rather than schools.

In my class on Sunday in Boston, a teacher told me about losing all their librarians in their system and 67 other faculty and staff. Another told me about losing all their ELL teachers, even though their student population is almost half English language learners.  This is in MA, where union membership is almost universal and collective bargaining is a fact of life.  The Education Spring has to grow in places like MA, too, which have, thus far, seemed immune from teacher activism outside the NEA/AFT bureaucratic stranglehold.

Children are being harmed.  That's the only justification any teacher needs stand up and to do whatever needs to be done to stop it.  Your AFT and NEA are not helping.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Beware the "Learning Engineers"

from Wrench in the Gears
May 5, 2018

I watched Nova’s “School of the Future” when it premiered in the fall of 2016. The vision of education it promotes, one steeped in rapid innovation and technology, was profoundly disturbing. Funded by the David H. Koch Science Fund and the Carnegie Corporation, a powerful advocate for digital education and competency-based learning, the episode tried to normalize the use of MRIs as a tool for evaluating learning. At the time, I found the producer’s repeated references to MRIs strange. Now, seeing how social emotional learning, ed-tech, gamification, brain science, impact investing, behavioral economics, and digital medicine are beginning to intersect, everything is starting to click.

Reformers hope to convince the public that education is a science that should be evaluated using quantitative measures. As they work on this front, they are also expanding cyber education nationally, not just 100% virtual schooling but also blended/hybrid “personalized learning” programs like Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Basecamp. Such models demand hardware, software, telecommunications, and cloud-computing contracts that divert public funds from paid human staff into corporate accounts. It also creates favorable conditions for ed-tech and digital therapeutic “interventions” venture capitalists plan to use to gamble on early-childhood, literacy and workforce outcomes via Pay for Success contracts.

As anyone who has been following Cambridge Analytica knows, digital platforms generate extraordinarily rich data profiles on individuals. And it’s not just academic data that is captured. Industry is now demanding metrics on “soft skills” and “mindsets.” Adoption of biometric monitoring and video games with embedded psychometrics has vastly expanded the amount of data being aggregated on children. See this video promoting BrainCo’s brain wave monitoring classroom wearables created in 2015 by Harvard’s innovation lab.

Click here to see the video and read the rest of the post.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Don't give Us a Complex: Resisting the CBE Takeover of Strawberry Mansion High School

from Wrench in the Gears
April 30, 2018

As a resident of Philadelphia and a parent of a public school student, I believe it is vitally important that we stand with the residents of Strawberry Mansion and support their efforts to save their neighborhood comprehensive high school. Their demands are 1) no complex 2) give the school an incoming freshman class and 3) restore the resources and programs that have been taken from Strawberry Mansion. Click here to view a three-minute video of my testimony from the April 26th meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. You can read the transcript here.

The School District of Philadelphia is attempting to “phase-out” Strawberry Mansion’s comprehensive high school in order to replace it with a “complex.” I suspect the intent is to use the facility as an incubator for competency-based education ventures designed to feed workforce development Pay for Success investment opportunities. Likely candidates include Big Picture, Youth Build, Outward Bound and spin-offs from the district’s CBE “innovation school” models. Competency-Based Education (also known at Proficiency or Mastery-Based education) is being actively fought in many communities in Maine, an early adopter state. As the deadline to implement proficiency-based diplomas there nears, many are speaking out about the tremendous problems with this so-called “innovative” educational model.

The same day as the SRC meeting, I attended the second annual “Break/Throughs: New Ideas for Policy” Conference co-hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s FELS Policy Research Initiative and the College of Arts and Sciences. The focus of the conference was how FELS could “unlock value” from partnerships with local government. One of the panels featured Clare Robertson-Kraft, founder and director of ImpactED. She stated that in June they would be presenting findings from a major research initiative funded by Pew Charitable Trust and Barra Foundation on the district’s innovation schools.

Click here to read the entire post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Two posts about the dangers for children of "anytime, anywhere" learning ecosystems

from Wrench in the Gears
April 24, 2016

Tracking Students: Google Rolls Out "Anytime, Anywhere"learning in Kirkland, WA parks this spring

Fast forward fifteen years. Imagine that the vision advanced by Knowledgeworks, the futurists at the American Alliance of Museums, the MIT Media Lab, Institute for the Future, and ed-tech impact investors has been realized. Neighborhood schools no longer exist. Buildings in gentrifying communities have been transformed into investment condominiums with yoga studios and roof-top bars. Those in marginal neighborhoods exist as bare-bones virtual reality warehouses where the poor are managed for their data. If you want the narrative version, you can read it here.

Click here to read the entire post

Navigting Whiteness: Could "Anywhere, Anytime" Learning endanger Black and Brown Students

This is a companion to a previous post I wrote about the implementation of the KiTE STEM challenge, a Google-sponsored digital learning contest being run in partnership with the Kirkland, WA park system this spring. Read part one here.
On April 12 Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested at a Starbucks coffee shop at 18th and Spruce Streets while waiting for a friend with whom they had a scheduled meeting. A bystander recorded the encounter, as the men had done nothing wrong and questioned the police as to why the arrests were made. Their experience has been widely discussed in national news. Today being a black or brown person in the public sphere is to be suspect and put at risk of arrest, deportation or even death.

I raise this within the context of appified learning ecosystems, because Philadelphia is a City of LRNG. Collective Shift has been promoting a system of “personalized” learning called Digital On Ramps where Philadelphia’s students, many of whom are students of color, would be sent out to navigate the city and earn skills-based badges.

Click here to read the entire post 


Monday, April 23, 2018

Investigative reporter who has covered Trump for 30 years says the evidence shows 'he is a traitor'

Investigative reporter who has covered Trump for 30 years says the evidence shows 'he is a traitor': The saga of President Donald Trump consists of several parallel and intersecting stories. This article was originally published at Salon There is the structural dimension. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was not entirely unpredictable or shocking. America’s crisis in civic literacy, political polarization, rampant anti-intellectualism, deeply embedded sexism and racism, greed, broken schools and weakened democratic institutions, as well as a hollowed-out public sphere where people confuse celebrity with human worth made the election someone …

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How did Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion High School go from an enrollment of 1,600 students to 292 students?

by Ken Derstine
The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
April 21, 2018

The following is from testimony given before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on April 19, 2018.

Good evening,

My name is Ken Derstine. I am a retired teacher with 37 years of service in the School District of Philadelphia. I have attended almost all SRC meetings in the past few years, but I rarely give testimony. I am speaking today because of a flyer that was put out by your office last week. I found it to be so egregious in its claims that I have to speak on it.

I have given you a copy of this flier that apparently is being used in the Stawberry Mansion community. It is titled “Envisioning the Future of Strawberry Mansion High School”.

The very first paragraph is titled “Strawberry Mansion is NOT closing.” Apparently this is to reassure the community that Strawberry Mansion will not become an abandoned building, thereby contributing to a downward spiral like so many low-income communities that have lost their community school.

The next claim is that current students will graduate from Strawberry Mansion. You have already announced that there will be no ninth grade next year so that is not true for all students since what would have been the ninth graders will not graduate from Strawberry Mansion.

The next paragraph is headlined “Few students are choosing Strawberry Mansion now.” going on to point out that the school currently has 294 students. The implication is that the students and community are to blame for the schools current condition and the abandonment of it.In April of 1992, Strawberry Mansion had 1,600 students. The school was known for its science club named Science Force 2000 that won many awards. It had art and music programs. It had begun to revive its football team that had been suspended for many years. Heroic efforts were made to turn the school around with little support from the District. However, in May 2013 the school only had 435 students.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Should the rich rule the schools in Philadelphia and beyond?

from the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

The story of how one wealthy man engaged in secret negotiations with officials to impose his will on one suburban high school became front-page news for days. Commentaries expressed outrage about the district’s rushed vote to rename Abington Senior High School in exchange for a $25 million gift from billionaire businessman Stephen Schwarzman, along with several other conditions,  including changes in curriculum and technology. “Someone coming in with a lot of money can have a whole lot of influence over a public school,” warned one parent at a subsequent school board meeting. One Inquirer columnist expressed uneasiness  “that public schools could become beggars at the table of the uber-rich.”

To these suburban parents and pundits, we say: Welcome to our world.

In November 2011, the state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), absent any public deliberation, approved a multimillion-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In return, the SRC agreed to several conditions, including yearly charter expansion, implementation of Common Core standards, more school “choice” and testing, and permanent school closures. No one elected Bill Gates, typically portrayed in the media as just a very generous rich guy, to make decisions about Philadelphia’s public schools. But his mandates have had devastating and lasting effects on the district, much more than renaming one school.

Abington residents were shocked to learn of the district’s covert establishment of a foundation that would make decisions, rather than the elected school board, about how to spend money from donors. Here in Philadelphia, the Gates Compact conferred authority upon the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) “to provide funding …to low-performing or developing schools.” PSP has since raised tens of millions from a stable of wealthy donors; most has gone to charter schools, in keeping with Gates’ pro-privatization ideology.

PSP’s influence has grown in the last seven years: the group now funds and operates teacher and principal training programs, oversees a website rating all Philadelphia schools, and holds the district’s yearly high school fair. PSP’s money, like Schwarzman’s, always comes with strings attached, whether that means changing a school’s curriculum or a complete overhaul of faculty and staff, as its 2014 grant to two North Philadelphia schools mandated.

Meetings of the PSP board, where decisions about funding, curriculum, and staff training of public schools are made, are closed to the public.   This board, composed mostly of wealthy suburban businesspeople, often has more influence over city public schools than the residents do.

This practice of ceding public decisions to private investors on a large scale first reared its head in 2001, when Philadelphia came dangerously close to privatizing the entire district and handing over the reins to the for-profit Edison Schools founded by media mogul Chris Whittle.

Gates, whose Compact has been adopted in several other cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, and New Orleans, is just one member of what education writer Diane Ravitch calls the “Billionaires Boys Club” of corporate education reformers. Real estate developer Eli Broad is using his wealth and political power to stave off community opposition to his push to charter-ize half of Los Angeles’ public schools. The family of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, heirs to the Amway fortune, have used their billions to privatize public education through the unregulated proliferation of for-profit charters in Detroit and other cities throughout Michigan. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million toward then-Gov. Chris Christie’s 2010 plan to transfer Newark students from neighborhood schools to charters. Newark residents, who learned about this massive cash infusion when it was announced on Oprah, had never been consulted about what they wanted in the “One Newark” plan.

Abington residents were justifiably angry about the board’s intention to rush through a vote without full public disclosure.

Like the opioid crisis, it seems to have taken a less urban and more middle-class population to alter the media’s perspective on the damage inflicted. This appears to be a brushfire in Abington, while rule by the rich has been a fact of life for almost two decades in Philadelphia, where the less affluent, mostly minority community continues to be disenfranchised in matters of school governance.

Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and cofounder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Deborah Grill is a retired teacher and school librarian and a research coordinator for the alliance. appsphilly.net.

Friday, April 20, 2018

They've got trouble, up there in North Dakota.

April 20, 2018

He breezes into a Northern Plains town channeling Harold Hill, the slick huckster from the 1962 musical The Music Man. They’ve got trouble up there in North Dakota; but the trouble is with so-called“ factory” model education, not pool tables. The solution to this “terrible trouble” is of course laptops and tablets, not trombones. That’s no surprise, given that Governor Doug Burgum made his fortune selling Great Plains Software for a billion dollars to Microsoft, joined the company as a senior VP, and later served on the boards of numerous other software, predictive analytics, and cloud-based computing enterprises. Interactive map here.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Trump Nominee for Federal Court Mum on School Segregation

We know there are millions of unacknowledged white supremacists who do not support race mixing.  The evidence is all around us in policy and practices in housing, schooling, and even praying.  What we don't expect, however, is a Klan-friendly nominee for a federal judgeship who will not offer even verbal support for school integration
(CNN)Wendy Vitter, one of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees, refused on Wednesday to say whether a landmark civil rights opinion was correctly decided, triggering outrage and renewed criticism of the President's efforts to reshape the judiciary.

At issue was Brown v. the Board of Education -- a seminal opinion that held that state laws requiring separate but equal schools violated the Constitution.

"I don't mean to be coy," Vitter, who is up for a seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said at her confirmation hearing, "but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions -- which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with." . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Losing Our Humanity: A Toolkit To Talk About The Tech Takeover of Our Schools

From Wrench in the Gears
April 11, 2018

On Saturday, April 7, 2018 I had the good fortune to spend a day with education activists from across Massachusetts and beyond at the Boston Area Educators Social Justice Conference at Fenway High School in Jamaica Plain. My colleague, Worcester-based educator, Brian Leonard submitted a proposal for us to present on ed-tech that morning:
Losing the Human Connection: tech-takeovers in classrooms and schools
What is the role of technology in the classroom? How does technology affect child development and social relationships? Do children have a right to relationships with humans in education? Who profits from the commercialization of education and how can we defend our public schools from being consumed by commercialized tech-products that computerize education? How can we extend human and social relationships in the existential struggle against computer companies and machines? These are some of the questions we would like to explore with students and educators.
We wanted to model a meeting people could adapt for use in their own communities. We wanted it to be participatory and not require in-depth knowledge of Ed Reform 2.0 to pull off. The agenda we came up with features a welcome, read aloud, video clip discussion, group activity, and exploration of possible next steps. We hope people will use the tools provided to create spaces to engage in critical thinking about technology in the classroom and begin to counter the dominant narrative that disruptive “innovations” like “personalized learning” are beneficial to public education. If you have your own meeting, please get in touch and let me know how it goes!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Get Ready for Betsy's Propaganda on New NAEP Results

It's been thirty years or so since conservative thought leaders like Checker Finn and Diane Ravitch came up with the brilliant ploy to misuse NAEP test results from the "Nation's report card" as an ongoing cudgel against public schools.  The simple and elegant plan was to make NAEP's "Proficiency" cut scores unattainable by the majority of American students.  

By raising proficiency targets to the unattainable level, the scores would show most student not meeting "proficiency"standards.  This news, repeated every few years when new NAEP scores were published, could be used to demonstrate the failure of American schools/teachers and, thus, demonstrate the need for more and more testing accountability standards and assessments, along with the need for corporate and mayoral steering of schools.

Gerald Bracey and every other testing experts understood the scam, and Bracey had the courage to write about it and talk about it and try to make the public aware.  To no avail.  

The story of American public school failure became the ascendant meme, despite scientific evidence to the contrary (read Bracey's story of the suppressed Sandia Report, which was quashed by the U. S. Department of Education).

The fact that NAEP's fanciful cut scores remain unaltered today almost three decades later is a strong testament to the power of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the corporate education industry to shape policy.

And that is why this press release is now necessary (now more than ever) for all to read and to share with school boards, parents, teachers, and media folks.






SEATTLE, April 9, 2018 – As the U.S Department of Education prepares to release the latest findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the American people should understand that the misleading term “proficient” sets a performance benchmark beyond the reach of most students in the world.

A detailed analysis released in January concluded that the vast majority of students in most countries could not demonstrate proficiency as NAEP defines the term.

The authors of the analysis, the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League, linked NAEP’s proficiency benchmark to the performance of students around the world on international assessments such as TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study).

The report on this work (How High the Bar?) concluded that:
  • In no nation do even 40 percent of students meet the NAEP Proficient benchmark in Grade 4 reading.
  • Only one nation has 50 percent or more of its students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 science (Singapore).
  • Just three nations have 50 percent or more of their students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 math (Singapore, Republic of Korea, and Japan). 
Citing U.S. Department of Education documents, the report criticized the Department for misusing the term "Proficient." The term, as the Department acknowledges, does not mean performing at grade level. Surprisingly, according to the Department’s statements, it does not even mean proficient, as most people understand the term.

Roundtable and Horace Mann League officials have insisted that the problem can be addressed without lowering standards by changing the term “proficient” to “high.” Without such a change, they maintain, the misuse of the term will continue to confuse both the public and educators, as in the past it has confused U.S. Secretaries of Education.

CONTACT: JAMES HARVEY: Office (206) 526-5336
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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Fascism will be on our doorstep if we don't act immediately: Yale historian

Fascism will be on our doorstep if we don't act immediately: Yale historian: How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century’s tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There’s enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld. Steven Rosenfeld: Three weeks ago, …

Saturday, April 07, 2018

New Rule: Pencils Down | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

Who–and What–Does the New Philadelphia School Board Represent?

Philadelphia Mayor Kenney enters the press conference with 
School Superintendent Hite  to announce the new Philadelphia School Board.

By Deb Grill, Karel Kilimnik and Lisa Haver
April 4, 2018

Unlike the other 500, Philadelphia is the only school district in Pennsylvania whose voters cannot elect a school board. We've had town halls, online surveys, and pronouncements from city politicians, but it all comes down to this:  The government officials who will decide the future of the city's public schools, and who will control a $3 billion budget, have been chosen by one person, Mayor Kenney.  His decision has been based, in part, on the opinions of the thirteen people selected by him to be on the Nominating Panel. It has also been based on the wishes of the influential individuals, organizations and corporations who have lobbied him to represent their interests on the board. Two built-in lobbyists on the Nominating Panel, Stephanie Naidoff and Bonnie Camarda, are members of the board of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which funnels millions every year from private investors into schools of their choice for the programs of their choice, mostly charters.

All of the deliberations of the Panel were held in secret.None of the district's stakeholders, or the city's taxpayers, were able to express their opinions about any of the candidates, whether pro or con, or to raise concerns about possible conflicts of interest. APPS did everything we could, short of legal action, to open up this process. We sent letters to the Mayor and to the Panel, refuting the Mayor’s false assertion that the Panel could deliberate in Executive Session because it was discussing “personnel matters”, pointing out that the Panel was neither hiring nor appointing any personnel. We had several community groups sign a letter asking the mayor to obey the Sunshine Act.

Click here to read the entire post. 


Teaching Kids About Personalized Data Collection

The emerging story of Facebook's marketing of 87,000,000 users' data is finally beginning to register in the minds of Americans who, otherwise, have remained somewhat blase about the threat of personal data collection, archiving, and selling.  It is not ad sales or click counts that's driving social , or anti-social, media; it has finally dawned on a distracted public that it is their personal data that is the now and future currency of FB, Google, and the other Silicon Valley high priests who have no respect for the customers they would happily turn into compliant drones and make a profit at the same time. 

This other-worldly scheme is no less apparent in the personalized data business being pushed into schools under the banner of personalized learning and competency-based learning. Of most interest to oligarchs like Gates and Zuckerberg are programs to neurologically rewire children to make them assets for capitalists like themselves, and to collect and market data on individuals from pre-K through grad school.  Every man or woman with a comprehensive digital dossier immediately accessible to anyone for a fee.

One of the prime examples of this is Summit Learning, which enjoys massive infusions of public and venture philanthropists' dollars to build a demonstration project of how you can have education with a minimum of teachers, schools, or even books.  Just think of the savings, and think of the collected data when kids are handcuffed to their laptops and iPads.

Now small actions to counter the cyber-capitalist dystopia have begun, and WaPo has an interesting piece on an new emerging curriculum being implemented down the road from Seton Hall, where it was developed by law professors.  The goal is to re-establish some connections among people and to limit the connections between individuals and servers that dish up just what we seem to want even before we know we want it.  A clip: 
The classes are free, folded into kids’ daily schedules and taught in the classrooms where the fifth- and sixth-graders typically learn about the scientific method and the food chain. Gaia Bernstein, director of Seton Hall Law’s Institute for Privacy Protection, which designed the program, said each class includes about a half-dozen lessons taught to the kids over several weeks, as well as a separate set of lectures for parents concerned about how “their children are disappearing into their screens.”