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

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
                                                  Cell    (206) 579-9272


National Superintendents Roundtable
9425 35th Avenue, NE, Suite E
Seattle, WA 98115

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.”

Friday, April 06, 2018

Teachers' Union in Puerto Rico Files Lawsuit to Stop Charters and Vouchers

Here, again, we find teachers at the local level talking about "vulture" charter industry and scamming vouchers, and then filing lawsuits to stop them.  This is the kind of action that NEA/AFT and their corrupt DC lawyers would have never contemplated on the mainland.

Teachers' Union in Puerto Rico Files Lawsuit to Stop Charters and Vouchers: The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers working in the U.S. territory, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in response to a new education law signed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló late last month.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Keep the Education Revolution Alive: Stay Away from NEA/AFT

In the Fall of 2015, both AFT and NEA presidents colluded with the DNC to back the Clinton education agenda for more charter schools, big data intrusions, Common Core, and more standardized testing.  This brazen manipulation occurred without a debate that this important decision deserved and with scant support among teachers who pay an estimated $1,750,000,000 every year to make sure that the corporate education reform agenda is pushed forward.  In effect, over three million teachers continue to pay into their own funeral funds every year when they send hard-earned dues money support the collaborationists who run AFT and NEA.

Today AFT and NEA continue to operate as a lobbying and organizing arm of Wall Street Democrats who still control the DNC.  As for teacher salaries and benefits, school resources, equitable funding, and standing up against the charter industry, the suits of the AFT and NEA are nowhere to be found.

At least that was true until the education revolution recently emerged in West Virginia.  Now having spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and beyond, the corporate teacher unions are working overtime to get out ahead of this teacher-led movement that seeks to reclaim the pride of their profession and to restore sanity to national and state education policy.  As a result, both Randi and Lily continue busily tweeting their support and showing up at teacher-led rallies to grab a mic and some much-undeserved attention.

The New York Times has these observations today about the new grassroots teacher movement and the irrelevancy of the national union leadership:
Today, two women — Lily Eskelsen García and Randi Weingarten — lead the two national teachers’ unions, and state affiliates in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky are also led by women. Even so, many of the most visible grass-roots leaders of this new protest movement are young men who started Facebook pages to help organize protests, rallies and walkouts.

 . . . .This is a movement that was largely organized on Facebook by rank-and-file teachers, who moved faster and more aggressively than their union leaders in demanding action from lawmakers. In conservative states like these, union membership is optional for teachers.

That said, the state and national unions have stepped in with crucial organizing and lobbying muscle, and are now coordinating closely with grass-roots leaders.
My advice to the decentralized leadership of the education revolution in the states:  steer clear of the AFT and NEA, who are known for showing up with bags of cash and an agenda to co-opt any legitimate resistance to the corporate education agenda.  Both AFT and NEA have been particularly effective in wresting control of resistance movements and putting them on the road to irrelevancy.  United Opt Out and the Bad Ass Teachers are just two recent examples of national union success in turning real opposition groups into virtual resistance games. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Sinclair's script for stations

You will find a list here of Sinclair-owned TV stations.  Please check the list, and please urge advertisers to avoid spending marketing dollars through this propaganda network.