"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.