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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Are Charters Under Attack? Facts Show Otherwise

from the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools
January 30, 2018

Charter CEOs and supporters held a rally at City Hall on Tuesday January 30 to ask for a “seat at the table” when the new school board replaces the School Reform Commission. Several City Councilpersons attended the event, held in the Mayor’s Reception Room.

APPS members have said consistently that district budget problems stem not just from a lack of funding, but from the spending priorities of the SRC which keeps resources out of classrooms. Consulting fees, faux graduate school, training by outsourcing by unqualified and inexperienced people: Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, Relay Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Boston Consulting, Jounce, Institute for Student Achievement, etc.

But the biggest waste of money in the SD budget is the funding of malfunctioning charters. Report after report, including the latest from Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), shows that district schools outperform charters. Charter supporters say that they only support “high-quality” charters, that they want the failing charters closed. But when they have the opportunity to prove that, they are nowhere to be found. Some examples:

Last Night We Lay Down In The Street To Protest Closed Door Meetings About Public Education in Philadelphia

by Wrench in the Gears
January 30, 2018

Public education activists are living through an interesting moment now in Philadelphia. The School Reform Commission is being disbanded. In the coming months Mayor Jim Kenney will be appointing a school board from nominations put forth by a select panel. The process is murky, and a pattern of closed-door education policy decision-making has been established herehere, and here. Last night, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce held a ticketed event to discuss the future of business in our schools at Girard College, an important site of struggle in the Civil Rights Movement. You had to be a Chamber of Commerce affiliate to purchase a $35 ticket for the event, which included the following language on the event website.

It appears the future of public education in our city is being mapped out by industry, venture capital, and well-connected non-profit and higher education partners.  The people, meanwhile, are left standing outside the gate. Last night, however, the real action WAS outside the gate as a dozen activists carried out an act of civil disobedience to contest policies of exclusion and shine a light on the mayor’s hypocrisy in casting this new school board as a step towards accountable local control. Because what does “local control” actually mean if educational policies are being directed by the hands of elite interests in Greek Temples with no teachers, students, or parents present?

On January 29, 2018 from 5-5:45pm we claimed the space in front of the entrance to the Girard College campus, carrying banners that read “Nothing About Us Without Us,” “Public Schools NOT Private Profit,” “Teachers Before Tech,” and “Our Children Are NOT Data, Human Capital, or Impact Investment Opportunities.”  This blockade compelled attendees to park along a nearby street and walk past the people to the gates where members of the Caucus of Working Educators pressed our demands for transparency in school governance into their hands. Click here for a copy of the handout we gave attendees. The video below provides a 15-minute overview of the action.

Click here to read the rest of the article
and to view two videos about the demonstration.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Julian Assange sent the wrong Sean Hannity a message offering damaging information on a top intel Dem

You think Russia and its stooges are done?  Think again:

Julian Assange sent the wrong Sean Hannity a message offering damaging information on a top intel Dem: In the aftermath of Fox News host Sean Hannity’s Twitter account being compromised, one of his copycats — the convincingly-named @SeanHannity__ — began receiving direct messages from WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. As The Daily Beast reported, Assange was apparently duped by the fake account, and told Dell Gilliam, a Texas-based technical writer posing as the Fox News host, that he wanted to set up “other channels” to provide information on a Democratic senator investigating Russia’s election meddling. …

Sunday, January 28, 2018

7-year-old Florida boy handcuffed and taken for psych evaluation after altercation with teacher

Shock treatments next??

7-year-old Florida boy handcuffed and taken for psych evaluation after altercation with teacher: Police handcuffed a 7-year-old boy this week after he struck a teacher at his Miami elementary school. Cellphone video shows the boy being led away from school Thursday in restraints following the altercation, and his parents are upset by the school’s handling of the situation, reported WSVN-TV. The incident started when the boy was removed from the cafeteria at Coral Way K-8 Center for playing with his food, and police said he repeatedly punched the …

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Community of Resistance: Building Sanctuary Part 6

January 27, 2018

When I started writing this story, a few people suggested I include some hope in it; good organizing comes when you have anger, hope, and a plan. I’ll admit that hope is hard for me. I tend towards the dire, the energetically dark even. I know too much. My preference, of course, is that you all read this, and we begin to organize and resist to avoid full lock down. But if that doesn’t happen, what then?
Can a just society be rebuilt in the ruins of a Smart City or not? The next two installments are informed by my experience attending the Saturday Free School here in Philadelphia. I try to evoke elements of the black radical tradition and marronage, though perhaps not as successfully as I would have liked. Once I wrap this series, if there are others who would like to write an alternate ending, I would certainly be open to posting it. My goal with this project is to create a base of knowledge off of which others might riff, in new stories, graphic novels, plays, or visual art. The themes here need to be explored in other media, and I see this as a jumping off point. If this interests you drop me a line in the comments. To start this story from the beginning click here for Building Sanctuary Part One: Plugging In.
Part Two: A World Without (Much) Work
Part Three: Smart and Surveilled
Part Four: Data Mining Life on the Ledger
Part Five: Automated Education
It had been a challenging spring for Cam and Li’s family. Uncontrolled fires burned through California, disrupting both the tech and entertainment industries. Virtual Reality and gaming companies were recycling old content rather than offering new gigs, so the family’s income suffered. What made it worse was that Talia had entered into an income-sharing agreement to pay for VR classes, and their devices constantly buzzed with aggressive complaints from her investor.
Cam has been logging extra hours of SkywardSkills when she normally would be reading. The college prep partner she goes to once a week is running a competition, and the student who logs the most time gets a substantial payment to their Citi Badge account. Cam has put a lot of pressure on herself to stay ahead of the other students, but everybody is desperate for Gold Coin, and as the deadline approaches it is harder and harder to keep up. She’s lost a lot of sleep the past couple of weeks and it is getting harder and harder to focus.
Li responds to the stress by shutting down. She refuses to log on to her education modules, and it is getting harder and harder to drag her out of the house, even to go to her maker space placement. Her relationship with her AI learning assistant is on the rocks. She’s been entering false information into the social emotional surveys as a way of rebelling against the system, without realizing the long-term implications her actions will have.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

My Interview with Sean Stone on Watching the Hawks-Part 1

by Doug Martin

Here is segment 1 of my RT TV interview with Sean Stone, Oliver Stone’s son, on “Watching the Hawks.”  It deals with my book Hoosier School Heist, national school privatization, etc., and starts around 14:43 in the video. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Social Impact Investors Eye Public Education Market in Philadelphia

from Wrench in the Gears
January 25, 2018

I would like to share a comment I made yesterday in response to this op-ed published in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook: “The city needs a transformation to improve education, not jut a new school board.” The piece was written by Paul Perry, a director with San Francisco-based Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies.

In the summer of 2016, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia published a white paper positioning the Philadelphia region as a “unique center for the impact economy.” That same year, an influential group of venture capitalists under the leadership of Ben Franklin Technology Partners launched ImpactPHL, an accelerator for social impact initiatives in the region.

Click here for a relationship map that shows the founding members.


Deployment of “innovative” technological “solutions” is central to social impact investing, because profit is generated by combining predictive analytics with Big Data “impact” metrics. Services addressing social problems must increasingly be delivered through digital platforms that extract the data demanded for program evaluation and profit-taking.

Those receiving services, including public school students who spend their days slogging through benchmark tests and online modules and who are often tracked via classroom management apps, generate vast data-sets that can be used to profile them and inform future “impact” investments. “Success”=profit. Success is determined as meeting narrow, specific targets defined in terms of data points. The need to generate outcomes then shapes how services are delivered, more screen time and less face time. See the rise of ed-tech “solutions” forced on our public schools and on refugee populations.

We are seeing this dehumanizing shift in service delivery take place not only in public education, but also in healthcare, social services, and mental health treatment. Mr. Perry’s op-ed signals that Philadelphia is entering a new phase of the privatization battle, one that will be less about charters and vouchers and more about online learning and behavioral management systems and data-driven “wrap-around” services provided by non-profits working hand-in-hand with impact investors. These systems prioritize profit over children and will install data-driven interfaces that dehumanize students as well as the staff that is forced to provide the “innovative” technology-based “services.” If you read Mr. Perry’s piece you can see their plan is to sell it under the guise that they actually care about the poor, when in reality Philadelphia’s poverty is is just another investment opportunity.

Click here to read the the full article and Wrench in the Gears response to Mr. Perry’s op ed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

NPE Pal, Lamar Alexander, Celebrates School Choice Week

To paraphrase Jonathan Kozol:

Automated Education: Building Sancturary Part 5

From Wrench in the Gears
January 19, 2018

We are entering an age where companies can be composed of code rather than people; where philanthropy can be managed by artificial intelligence; and where citizens exist as datasets to be quantified and mined. Part five of this series examines how the ledger (blockchain) emerged as the force that enabled the complete automation of education and poses the question “What does education mean for those living on the margins outside the Citi Badge system?” To read from the beginning, follow this link to Part One: Plugging In.

Part Two: A World Without (Much) Work

Part Three: Smart and Surveilled

Part Four: Data Mining and Life on the Ledger

The total reinvention of public education could not have happened without the ledger. The ledger makes it possible to disconnect students from school buildings and human teachers and shift to a learning ecosystem model. For years the mantra had been “any time, anywhere learning.” By the time lockdown came, deferred maintenance had resulted in such horrific building conditions that few neighborhood schools could maintain their occupancy permits.

It was cheaper to send older children home with a device and farm the younger ones out to community-based partners. With IoT sensors that could sync with learning management systems through xAPI, whatever children “learned” could be recorded automatically without the need for a human instructor. Most educational content had been broken down into such small standards and micro-credentials that it was almost impossible for human teachers to keep up with all the data entry as the system transitioned.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Alabama teacher admits telling students to 'turn the n*gger tunes off' after they played Tupac in class

Alabama teacher admits telling students to 'turn the n*gger tunes off' after they played Tupac in class: An Alabama high school teacher was placed on paid leave for using a racial slur to complain about music students were playing in class last week. Students are allowed to listen to music in teacher Teddie Butcher’s food and nutrition class, but they said she complained about a song they’d chosen Friday while working on a project, reported AL.com. The students were listening to “Dear Mama,” by Tupac, when the white teacher returned to class. …

Sunday, January 21, 2018

MacArthur Money and Ravitch Magic

Diane Ravitch has gone the extra mile to promote the MacArthur Foundation's leadership role in the next phase of corporate education rephorm.  Earlier this year Diane served as a judge in the Foundation's $100 million giveaway to be rewarded to the most efficient social control education initiatives with the biggest economic benefit for the dystopian Silicon Valley social and economic engineers.

Impressed by the amount of money involved in the MacArthur Foundation's generosity for its own social and economic agenda, Diane gushed that "this is what real philanthropy looks like."

A few days ago Diane shared the news of the winner of the $100 million prize, minus any remarks about the negative impact that MacArthur's social steering has for public education, child welfare, and privacy.  In the comments following Diane's post, it is quite obvious that everyone is not a sanguine as Ravitch with regards to the MacArthur Foundation's push to design the next generation of public miseducation, while providing opportunities for generous tax incentives to corporations to do the dirty work.

The comments are worth reading.  A screen capture would be recommended, since it's possible that Ravitch will pull down the comments once people start to notice.  When one astute commenter noted that Diane has refused to criticize MacArthur's corporate agenda, even after she was made aware of it, she responded with an insult and the lamest of excuses.  Diane suggests that anyone who disagrees with the Foundation should go protest at MacArthur headquarters, rather than at her blog.

Besides, Diane says she cannot offer criticism of the Foundation, because she doesn't know anyone there with whom to lodge a complaint.  

Furthermore, Diane says, she is busy working her "magic" to bring other philanthropic whales to heel.  People like Eli Broad, whom Diane knows.  Very well.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Data Mining on the Ledger

by Wrench in the Gears
January 14, 2018

This installment of Building Sanctuary features digital identity and social credit scoring as it relates to purchasing and access to life opportunities for citizens living under authoritarian power structures. This is the fourth in a seven-part series that follows the digitally-quantified lives of sisters Cam and Li in a a near-future “Smart” City dystopia. If you wish to start reading from the beginning, follow this link to the introduction and Part One: Plugging In.
Part Two: A World Without (Much) Work
Part Three: Smart and Surveilled
Solutionists maintain control over society largely through the ledger. The ledger evolved from Blockchain, a technology first used to process digital-currency transactions like Bitcoin, Global Coin’s predecessor. But corporate and government interests saw it had far greater potential. It started out as a decentralized online system through which transactions of all sorts (purchases, education credentials, marriages, property transfers etc.) could be permanently recorded in blocks that were secured by elaborate cryptographic protocols. Over time, private blockchains came to dominate the system. These were gradually consolidated by those allied with the Solutionist agenda.
Now there is one ledger that keeps track of everything and everyone: inputs and outputs; ownership and debt; locations, activities, functions, and compliance. The ledger is the master accountant that is everywhere and nowhere. It lives on a distributed system of computers. It’s promoted as infallible, untouchable. The Solutionists suppress any information that might undermine public faith in it. In a world of uncertainty, the ledger is a held up as a symbol of unquestioning trust.
In addition to facilitating and recording transactions, the ledger also calculates citizen scores, something no one with a Citi Badge can escape. These scores rise and fall based the data each person generates within the Solutionists’ “smart systems.” People are constantly evaluated against the norms set by the authorities. If your behavior, or that of your family or even friends or acquaintances, deviates from these standards, your score drops.
People who question the system have low scores. People with extensive social networks have low scores. People who travel widely have low scores. People who access “the wrong” online materials have low scores. People who are financially unstable have low scores. Your score can be lowered for being too educated or not educated enough. People who use public services have low scores. If you have a low score, you become a target of social impact interventions, programs underwritten by private investors designed to bring your score up and reorient you to the values Solutionist society demands.
Citizen scores determine access to jobs, housing, leisure opportunities, and social relationships. They affect the prices people pay for goods and services and even the type of education and medical treatment they get. At birth Cam and Li, like everyone born outside a sanctuary zone, were assigned unique identity numbers linked to retinal scans and were each issued a Citi Badge. Their Citi Badges are connected to the ledger and hold funds from their Global Coin government stipend, student vouchers, and data currency transactions.

Click here to read the rest of the post. 

Who Is Pulling The Muppet Strings?

from Wrench in the Gears
January 14, 2018

Sesame Street is an iconic brand that embodies humor, acceptance, and humanity. Who doesn’t love a muppet? So, on December 20 when the MacArthur Foundation announced they were giving Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee $100 million to educate young children from displaced Syrian families and help them deal with “toxic stress,” most people were thrilled. While the optics were great, I’m here to tell you these muppets are definitely not the type of “friends” Syrian refugee children need.
How will Sesame Workshop and the IRC spend the MacArthur award money? Much of it will be spent on educational technology:
           Sesame-branded educational content delivered on televisions, phones and digital platforms
           home visits reinforced by digital content and parenting resources provided via mobile devices
           child development centers equipped with video-clips pre-recorded on projectors and activity sheets

This approach exactly reflects concerns raised by an April 2017 report published by Education International  on the education of Syrian refugee children. The report found that many donors were providing “decontextualized interventions” that focused too much on technology.

Click here read the entire post.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kicking Charter School Money Out Might Be California Democrats’ Best Chance For Unifying Their Party @alternet

Please tell Diane Ravitch that her urgent call for CA school boards (see previous post) to become charter authorizers is slightly out of step with where parents and teachers are.

Kicking Charter School Money Out Might Be California Democrats’ Best Chance For Unifying Their Party @alternet: A backlash against California's powerful charter school lobby is brewing among Democrats in the state. The mood was festive at the annual Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner in Los Angeles. About 600 Democrats gathered in a hotel ballroom on an October evening to begin wrapping up the year. Community activists and party worker-bees mingled with political luminaries to celebrate top volunteers. Anybody with a (D) after their name and $135 for a ticket was welcome at this event in blue, blue California.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Thought Disorders of Diane Ravitch

Jim Horn
After Diane Ravitch decided in 2008 to shift to the left aisle of the neoliberal education reform jetliner, she quickly became entirely proficient in the obfuscating rhetoric and dissembling policy statements that her NEA and AFT patrons have made infamous over the past two decades.  For instance, Diane learned to howl about the negative effects of high stakes testing, while refusing to call for an end to the use of the same racist standardized tests.  She learned to wring her hands about school privatization, while refusing to call for the closure of charter schools.  She decries the drain of public funds going to for-profit charter schools, while ignoring the much larger siphoning of pubic education dollars to thousands of “non-profit” charters.

More recently, Diane has continued her lambasting of billionaire reformers like Eli Broad, even as she plans and convenes her conferences with corporate unionists who trumpet the virtues Broad’s favorite charter charity, Green Dot Schools.

Her address to the California School Boards Association provides the most recent examples of Ravitch doublespeak on school policy issues.

. . . we have federal and state policies that focus on one thing and one thing only: test scores. Test scores have become the be-all and end-all, everywhere in the United States, thanks to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now, the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA]. Policymakers in Washington don’t stop to ask themselves why they want children to be tested every year from grades 3 to 8. No other nation does it.

Diane does not mention her eager support for Lamar Alexander’s ESSA before passage, when something might have been done to alter or at least protest the annual testing that she finds so dreadful.  Diane had no complaints then, when the awful bill was looking for votes.  In a statement of support prior to passage, she said

One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.

She did not bother to point out that the bill would continue the incessant annual testing, which she now finds so awful—nor did she explain the reason for the testing to her supporters, which is, of course, to use the results to justify the conversion of the bottom five percent of public schools each year into charter schools.  That’s written in the ESSA. 

Somehow, though, Diane could not have hoped for anything better at the time, and she offered no resistance to CorpEd, nor did she provide any leadership to teachers or parents who were counting on her to represent their interests.

In her recent address to the CSBA, she supports the continued authorization of charter schools, even though her NPE issued a recent statement on charters calling for “an immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools.” 

Now she encourages local school boards to take on the business of authorizing new charters, which would be aimed at the poorest, least motivated, and most vulnerable students. 

Then, as if to demonstrate that her thought disorder is fully developed, Diane urges school board members to “do whatever you can to reduce segregation.”  Other than, of course, discontinuing the authorization of the most segregative corporate tool ever created for schools.

Charters should be authorized only by local school districts, to meet their needs. If alternative schools are needed, they should be part of the district. They should serve children who are not making it in public schools; students who are dropouts; those who have tuned out and need extra motivation. Charters should be for the weakest students, not the strongest. They should boast of how many children they have saved, not about their test scores. . .

Do whatever you can to reduce racial segregation.

Yes, go do whatever.  Whatever is always good enough for Ravitch when it comes to segregation.  Old habits die hard.