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Get Corporations Out of Education: An Open Letter to Arne Duncan February 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Education.
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Published on Saturday, February 16, 2013 by Answer Sheet Blog

Following abysmal failure of Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind,’ teachers say Obama’s education policy follows same flawed thinking

by Chicago Teachers

(Note from the Answer Sheet’s Valerie Strauss: A coalition of teachers from public and private schools — including the school that Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended as a child and where President Obama’s daughters were enrolled before they moved to Washington — are releasing an open letter to Duncan expressing concerns about department policies that they say promote the overuse of standardized tests. Among the signees are teachers from the Ariel Community Academy, a public school that was founded by a team of people that included Duncan.)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (AP file)

Dear Mr. Duncan,

As primary, secondary, and university educators who are passionate about the importance of a liberal arts education in building and maintaining a democratic society, we are very concerned with the impact of standardized testing on humanities curricula. The widespread trend of teaching to the test is undermining primary and secondary education. Social studies, history, the fine arts, the study of literatures and languages, drama and music; these and other subjects not assessed in the standardized tests of “No Child Left Behind” are subjects that are themselves being left behind as administrators pressure teachers to raise narrowly conceived test scores in a few core areas.

We seek to build respect for the democratic process, critical thinking skills, writing skills, and understanding that is not accurately measured in multiple-choice tests.  (see the Fair Test website for a review of the literature: http://www.fairtest.org/k-12/high%20stakes). While we see the Common Core Curriculum as a step in the right direction, we steadfastly reject attempts pushed by testing companies to devise standardized assessments to measure progress in reading, writing, and speaking. Nor do we believe that computer programs currently being developed by major assessment corporations, or any form of outsourcing of essay assessments, are viable solutions.

Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

Instead of relying on standardized tests, we believe that the best way to pursue higher standards in reading, writing, and speaking skills is to develop standardized and widely accepted rubrics for assessment and allow teachers to assess their students with these rubrics.

We are very concerned with the extent to which current educational policies have embraced what John Dewey would call “instrumental rationality” in seeking solutions that can be statistically measured. We are currently seeing a national backlash against such measurements from parents, teachers, and administrators. These statistical measures merely confirm the very real social gaps between the haves and the have-nots in American education.  (For a review of the literature see http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/reardon%20whither%20opportunity%20-%20chapter%205.pdf).

University administrators have known for some time that high SAT scores correlate closely with socioeconomic class. Students who do well on them may succeed more frequently in college than those who do not, but this correlation may be telling us more about the test than about the students. Secondary teachers often see students who are terrific at taking tests, but who choose to avoid tasks requiring difficult thinking.

University educators want students who can write, research, and think: students who are open minded, passionate, and curious. These qualities are snuffed out under the drive for high scores on standardized multiple-choice tests under “No Child Left Behind.”

Secondary educators want to prepare students for the challenges that they will face at colleges and universities. This is difficult to do when an overemphasis on discrete item standardized testing prevents them from engaging their students in the meaningful work that best prepares them for the next level.

We know that your office is bombarded with lobbyists from major testing companies, textbook companies, and big donors with big money who seek to shape education reform. State Boards of Education are faced with similar pressures. We feel strongly that big money is far too invested in the current debate, and we are concerned that their influence is determining much of what passes for “reform.” Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

We invite further discussion at your convenience. A delegation from among the signees below will be happy to meet you for hoops and a discussion.

Sincerely yours,

New Trier High School:
Lindsey Arado
Mike Baeb
Kerry Brennan
Ian Duell
David Hjelmgren
Tim Kajfez
Tom Kucharski
Debbie Johnson
Todd Maxman
Dean Pinos
John O’Connor
Alex Zilka

 Northern Illinois University:
Jerome D. Bowers, History Dept.

 University of Illinois-Chicago:
Robert Johnston, History Dept.

 Concord Review:
Will Fitzhugh, Editor and Publisher

 The Report Card:
William Korach, Editor and Publisher

 University of Chicago Laboratory Schools:
Luicija Ambrosini
Allen Ambrosini
Suzanne Baum
Charles Branham
Wayne Brasler
Brad Brickner
David Derbes
Steve Granzyk
Lee Gustafson
Paul Horton
Chris Janus
Bob Kass
Mark Krewatch
Andrea Martonffy
Lisa Miller
Rachel Nielsen
Diane Puklin, Emeritus
Susan Shapiro
Kelly Storm
Brian Wildeman

Ariel Community Academy
Allie Griffin
Shirley Knox
Jake Sklarsky
Willis Niederfrank

 Chicago Teachers Union

Mwekaman2 hours ago

Duncan (and Obama) will likely be more intrigued by your invitation to shoot baskets than a thoughtful discussion about removing corporate interests in the “reform” of our education system. The Manufactured Crisis (Berliner and Biddle, 1995) was an early warning about the influences threatening American education at that time, and we are seeing how its thesis is playing out in the administration’s misguided current education policies. It is essential to return the task of designing our system of education to educators.

Boycott of Standardized Tests Spreads as Seattle Teachers Revolt January 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Labor.
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Roger’s note: Here is a conspiracy theory “you can believe in.”  Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, are complicit with those whose objective is to destroy democratic public education in the United States.  Schools whose students do well on standardized tests will be the recipients of greater funding, while those who score low will lose out.  And guess whose white upper  middle class children, well-fed and beneficiaries of economic and emotional security, will ace the tests and receive the benefits.
Published on Saturday, January 12, 2013 by Common Dreams

Teachers in Seattle schools refuse to administer ‘specious’ standardized tests. Will others follow their lead?

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Opponents of the nation’s relentless push for standardized testing in public schools have new champions in Seattle this week as teachers at one high school and now another have refused to issue such exams to their students, calling them a waste of “time and money” amid “dwindling school resources.”

The entire teaching faculty at Garfield High School (with only three abstentions) voted to support a boycott against administering the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) this week or ever again. Garfield is the largest of thirteen high schools in the Seattle Public School (SPS) system.

In a press release, Kris McBride, Garfield’s academic dean and testing coordinator, said the test “produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources” during the weeks the test is administered.

On Friday, teachers at Ballard High School said they would join the boycott as well. National support for the teachers was also growing online, as a petition circulated and a facebook page for the teachers materialized.

Following some fear that the Garfield teachers could face disciplinary action, well-known education policy expert Diane Ravitch was among those using social media to garner additional support for their cause on Saturday:

In an interview with Seattle’s KUOW Radio, Ravitch said, “This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the entire staff of a school has said ‘no, we will not do this. It’s not good for the students, and it’s a waste of time and money.’”

A letter issued by the Garfield teachers said they would all “respectfully decline to give the MAP test” to any of their students this year.

“I’m teaching by example. If I don’t step up now, who will?” –Mario Shauvette, Garfield High math teacher

“We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues,” they said. “After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again.”

The Christian Science Monitor recounts the teachers’ press event in dramatic fashion:

Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers… at Seattle’s Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America’s public schools.

To a room full of TV cameras, reporters, students, and colleagues, the teachers announced their refusal to administer a standardized test that ninth-graders across the district are mandated to take in the first part of January. Known as the MAP test – for Measures of Academic Progress – it is intended to evaluate student progress and skill in reading and math.

First one teacher, then another, and then more stepped forward to charge that the test wastes time, money, and dwindling school resources.

“Our teachers have come together and agreed that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,” McBride told the crowded room. “Additionally, students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”History teacher Jesse Hagopian discusses Garfield High School teachers’ decision to refuse to the give the MAP test to their students during a press conference in Seattle on Thursday. (Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

In addition to the detrimental impact on students, teachers also pushed back against the test as a way to evaluate teacher performance.

“To use this (MAP) as a tool to evaluate our teaching makes no sense,” said Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Garfield High. “They’re setting us up for failure. And Garfield High School is not a failure. We’re the home of (former students) Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee and Quincy Jones.”

Hagopian told Common Dreams that Garfield has a proud tradition of teaching to the “whole student” and that its faculty came together because they understand that test results do no adequately tell the story of who students are or will go on to be. “No one cares how Jimi Hendrix scored on a high school math test,” he said. “And no one should.”

“We really think our teachers are making the right decision,” said Garfield student body president Obadiah Stephens-Terry. “I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class – and we have great classes here at Garfield. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, just did it as quickly as possible so they could do something more useful with their time.”

Asked if teachers were worried about what lessons students might take away from their defiant boycott chairman of the math department Mario Shauvette, stepped forward and said: “I’m teaching by example. If I don’t step up now, who will? I’m taking charge of what I do here.”

For his part, Wayne Au, former Garfield student and now assistant professor of education at the University of Washington, says teachers at his alma mater are offering their students—and others involved in the fight against corporate school reform—many valuable lessons.

Writing at ReThinking Schools, where he is assistant editor, Au explains:

At the most basic level, the national corporate school reform agenda requires teachers’ compliance. So regardless of individual motives, when a group of teachers collectively and publicly says NO, that represents a fundamental challenge to those pushing that elite agenda. The growing support for Garfield teachers’ resistance to the MAP test is a testament to just how much the collective action of teachers at one school means to the rest of the world.

Having all of the teachers at a school decide to support a boycott of a high-stakes, standardized test is a rare and beautiful thing, one that hasn’t happened since some Chicago teachers did it over a decade ago. That is powerful and inspirational stuff, and as far as I’m concerned, because we don’t yet know the district’s response, the teachers at Garfield are showing a level courage and heroism that I love and admire.

When nearby Ballard High School joined the boycott, teachers there cited numerous and various reasons for aligning with their colleagues at Garfield.

The test—teachers at Ballard said in a letter explaining their decision—has “been re-purposed by district administration to form part of a teacher’s evaluation, which is contrary to the purposes it was designed for, as stated by its purveyor, making it part of junk science.”

The Ballard High teachers, who spoke as one unit, said they were in full agreement with and would stand in support of those at Garfield. “Specifically,” they said, “the MAP test program throughout Seattle Public Schools ought to be shut down immediately. It has been and continues to be an embarrassing mistake. Continuing it even another day, let alone another month or year or decade, will not turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.”

As Reuters points out: “The revolt… comes at a time of fierce political battles over teacher evaluations that has played out in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles.” And continues:

The MAP test that has become a point of contention at Garfield is given at schools around the country but is not required by Washington state.

Unlike the tests required by the state, which are the High School Proficiency Exam and the End-of-Course exams, it has no bearing on students’ grades or their ability to graduate.

Education journalist Valerie Strauss, writing at her Answer Sheet blog, adds:

The boycotts are part of a growing grass-roots revolt against the excessive use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, schools, districts and states. The high-stakes testing era began a decade under No Child Left Behind, and critics say that the exams are being inappropriately used and don’t measure a big part of what students learn.

Parents have started to opt out of having their children take the exams; school boards have approved resolutions calling for an end to test-based accountability systems; thousands of people have signed a national resolution protesting high-stakes tests; superintendents have spoken out, and so have teachers. It has been building momentum in the last year, since Robert Scott, then the commissioner of education in Texas, said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be.

The Worst Teacher in Chicago September 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Chicago, Education, Labor.
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Roger’s note: sorry to inundate you with articles on the Chicago Teachers Strike, but here is one more I found interesting and insightful.

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For the OccupiedChicago Tribune
This is a true story. CHICAGO.   In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won’t use her name–who’d been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn’t do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago’s new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.
In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers’ union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field – for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.
You’ve guessed it by now:  It’s the same teacher.I t’s Back to School Time!  Time for the editorialists and the Tea Party, the GOP and Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan to rip into the people who dare teach in public schools.
And in Arne’s old stomping grounds, Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is stomping on the teachers, pushing them into the street.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is what Mitt Romney and Obama and Arne Duncan and Paul Ryan have in mind when they promote charter schools and the right to fire teachers with tenure:  slash teachers salaries and bust their unions.


Greg Palast is the author of the new Book Billionalres and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.  For two decades, Palast was an investigator for Chicago-area unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union.


They’ve almost stopped pretending, too.  Both the Right Wing-nuts and the Obama Administration laud the “progress” of New Orleans’ schools–a deeply sick joke.  The poorest students, that struggle most with standardized tests, were drowned or washed away.
One thing Democrat Emanuel and Republican Romney both demand of Chicago teachers is that their pay, their jobs, depend on “standardized tests.” Yes, but whose standard?

Here is an actual question from the standardized test that were given third graders here in NYC by the nation’s biggest test-for-profit company:
“…Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs.  In this sentence a private club is….”   Then you have some choices in which the right answer is “Country Club – place where people meet.”
Now not many of the “people [who] meet” at country clubs are from the South Side of Chicago–unless their parents are caddies.  A teacher on the South Side whose students are puzzled by the question will lose their pay or job. Students on the lakefront Gold Coast all know that mommy plays tennis at the Country Club with Raul on Wednesdays. So their teacher gets a raise and their school has high marks.
And while Mayor Rahm promises kids in “bad” schools new teachers (the same ones at lower pay) at high-score schools, in fact, they are never actually allowed in.
But Rahm, after all, is just imposing Bush education law which should be called, No Child’s Behind Left.
You want to know what’s wrong with our schools?  Benno Schmidt, CEO of the big Edison Schools teach-for-profit business is a creepy, greedy privateer.  But he told me straight: that before Hurricane Katrina, his company would never go into New Orleans because Louisiana spent peanuts per child on education.  He made it clear: You get what you pay for.  Not what you test for.
So the charter carpetbaggers slither in, cherry-pick the easy students, declare success. The tough cases and special ed kids are left in the public system so they can claim the public system fails.
Here’s what the teacher who was terrible at $70,000 but brilliant at $41,000 told me:
“They’re not doing this in white neighborhoods.  And they want to get rid of the older, experienced teachers with seniority who cost more.  Get rid of the teachers and, ultimately get rid of the kids.  And the charter school gets to pick the kids who get in.”
It’s simple.  When you look at the drop-out rates in New York (41%) and Chicago (44%), the solution offered is to pay teachers less. They punish those who dare to work in poor schools where kids struggle and you can bet that “washing away” half the kids in our schools is, in fact, exactly what they’ve planned.
It’s notable that, when he lived in Chicago, Barack Obama played basketball with city school chief Arne Duncan, but Obama sure as hell didn’t send his kids to Arne’s crap public schools. Those are for po’ folk.
His kids went to the tony “Lab” School in Hyde Park.  Obama believes what Duncan believes and what Romney believes:  there’s no need for universal education and no need to spend money on it.  Yes, they like to say that “children are our future.”  But they mean the children of China are our future, the Chinese kids who will make the stuff we want and the children of India who will program it all for us. After all, how much education does some obese kid from Texas need to stack boxes from China in a Wal-Mart warehouse?
Education is no longer about information and learning skills.  It’s now about “triage.”  A few selected by standardized tests or privileged birth will be anointed and permitted into better and “gifted” schools.
The chosen elite are still very much needed:  to invest in India and Vietnam, to design new derivatives to circumvent the laughable new banking laws, and to maintain order among the restless hundred-million drop-outs squeezed out of the colon of our educational system.
Democrats’ Bantustans, Republicans’ Value-less Vouchers.
The Obama/Duncan/Emanuel plan is to create Bantustans of un-chartered, cheaply-run dumpster schools within a government system.  But Romney and the GOP would give every child a “choice” even outside government schools with “vouchers.”
Of course, the “vouchers” don’t vouch for much.  Romney’s old alma mater, Cranbrook Academy, runs at $34,025 a year, not counting the polo sticks and horse.  The most generous voucher program is Washington DC’s, beloved of the GOP, which pays about $7,500, or if the student’s “choice” is Cranbrook, about 2 months of school.  Hyde Park Day School Chicago is $35,900.  To give each kid a real choice, not just a coupon, means a massive increase in spending per pupil.  I didn’t see that in the Republican platform, did you?
The experienced teacher in Chicago who took the pay cut was offered one consolation.  She was told she could make up some of the pay loss by quitting the union and saving on union dues.
So that’s the program.  An educational Katrina: squeeze the teachers until they strike, demolish their unions and drown the students.Chicago’s classroom war is class war by another name.

Class dismissed.

 

http://www.gregpalast.com

Author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse, Palast is Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an honor previously held by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Palast (more…)

Mayor’s Kids Private School is What Public Schools Should Be September 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Chicago, Education, Labor.
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Roger’s note: here are some more articles analyzing the Chicago teachers’ strike and issues of public education:
Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 by In These Times

Director of Private School Where Rahm Sends His Kids Opposes Using Testing for Teacher Evaluations

CTU President Karen Lewis says she would love to use University of Chicago Lab School as model for public schools

  by Mike Elk

Unlike occasional teacher union opponent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not send his kids to public schools. Instead, Emanuel’s children attend one of the most elite prep schools in Chicago, the University of Chicago Lab School, where the annual tuition is more than $20,000. (Emanuel has repeatedly refused to answer questions about why he eschews public schools for his children, telling reporters that it is a private family decision.)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel eschews the city’s public schools in favor of the University of Chicago Lab School, who director eschews Emanuel’s idea of “reform.”   (Zol87/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The conditions at the University of Chicago Lab Schools are dramatically different than those at Chicago Public Schools, which are currently closed with teachers engaged in a high-profile strike. The Lab School has seven full-time art teachers to serve a student population of 1,700. By contrast, only 25% of Chicago’s “neighborhood elementary schools” have both a full-time art and music instructor. The Lab School has three different libraries, while 160 Chicago public elementary schools do not have a library.

“Physical education, world languages, libraries and the arts are not frills. They are an essential piece of a well-rounded education,” wrote University of Chicago Lab School Director David Magill on the school’s website in February 2009.

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis agrees with Magill, and believes what works for Mayor Emanuel’s kids should be a prescription for the rest of the city.

“I’m actually glad that he did [send his kids to Lab School] because it gave me an opportunity to look at how the Lab school functions,” Lewis told Chicago magazine in November 2011. “I thought he gave us a wonderful pathway to seeing what a good education looks like, and I think he’s absolutely right, and so we love that model. We would love to see that model throughout.”

One of the key sticking points in union negotiations is that Emanuel wants to use standardized tests scores to count for 40 percent of the basis of teacher evaluations. Earlier this year, more than 80 researchers from 16 Chicago-area universities signed an open letter to Emanuel, criticizing the use of standardized test scores for this purpose. “The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children,” they wrote. 

CTU claims that nearly 30% of its members could be dismissed within one to two years if the proposed evaluation process is put into effect and has opposed using tests scores as the basis of evaluation. They’re joined in their opposition to using testing in evaulations by Magill.

Writing on the University of Chicago’s Lab School website two years ago, Magill noted, “Measuring outcomes through standardized testing and referring to those results as the evidence of learning and the bottom line is, in my opinion, misguided and, unfortunately, continues to be advocated under a new name and supported by the current [Obama] administration.”

While Magill could not be reached for direct comment on the specifics of the Chicago Teachers’ strike, his past writings on the school’s site suggest he might be supportive.

“I shudder to think of who would be attracted to teach in our public schools without unions,” Magill wrote on the school’s website in February 2009, adding that, even with unions, many teachers “have had no choice but to take on second jobs to make ends meet.“

But Magill’s writings also note just how fine a line CTU will have to walk to keep public sentiment, which currently supports the strike 47% to 39%, on its side according to one recent poll. Acknowledging the “distressing…generational change in the public’s attitude toward teachers,” Magill writes, “Some would say that teachers are responsible for this change by publicly participating in actions designed to bring attention to sub-standard working conditions and compensation. These actions often cause unintended collateral damage to students. Parents and the public at large have long memories when the education of their children is interrupted. We must find a way to conclude collective bargaining without raising doubts about the professionalism of those whose work should be valued the most.”

© 2012 In These Times

The People Behind the Lawmakers Out to Destroy Public Education: A Primer May 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Right Wing.
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Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 by Bridging the Difference Blog / Ed Week

 

What You Need To Know About ALEC

by Diane Ravitch

Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.

This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.

ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald’s, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy’s, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there’s still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation.

The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?

Groups like Common Cause and colorofchange.org have been putting ALEC’s model legislation online and printing the names of its sponsors. They have also published sharp criticism of ALEC’s ideas. This is hardly intimidation. It’s the democratic process at work. A website called alecexposed.org has published ALEC’s policy agenda. Common Cause posted the agenda for the meeting of ALEC on May 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has dropped out of ALEC and also withdrawn from the May 11 conference, where it was originally going to be a presenter.

A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger showed how closely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “reform” legislation is modeled on ALEC’s work in education. Wherever you see states expanding vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization, wherever you see states lowering standards for entry into the teaching profession, wherever you see states opening up new opportunities for profit-making entities, wherever you see the expansion of for-profit online charter schools, you are likely to find legislation that echoes the ALEC model.

ALEC has been leading the privatization movement for nearly 40 years, but the only thing new is the attention it is getting, and the fact that many of its ideas are now being enacted. Just last week, the Michigan House of Representatives expanded the number of cyber charters that may operate in the state, even though the academic results for such online schools are dismal.

Who is on the education task force of ALEC? The members of the task force as of July 2011 are here. Several members represent for-profit online companies, including the co-chair from Connections Academy; many members come from for-profit higher education corporations. There is someone from Jeb Bush’s foundation, as well as right-wing think tank people. There are charter school representatives, as well as Scantron. And the task force includes a long list of state legislators, from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Quite a lineup. Common Cause has asked why ALEC is considered a “charity” by the Internal Revenue Service and holds tax-exempt status, when it devotes so much time to lobbying for changes in state laws. Common Cause has filed a “whistleblower” complaint with the IRS about ALEC’s status.

The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?

© 2012 Education Week
 
 

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Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has written many books and articles about American education, including: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch.

 
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  • michiganwoman 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Good question, Diane. How could such a focused organization operate so long and so damn effectively.. without the complicity of Democrats, that is, corporate Democrats? And where was the Democrat Party whose platform and primary interests suggest populist causes? Shame on them. And where are the professional organizations known as unions that should be protecting the interests of Michigan teachers?

    Bill Gates? Big of him. Obama? Race to the Bottom begun with Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) and carried forward as you point out by Gov. Slick Rick Snyder (Gateway to China). Persecution of the public working force (read females) and the public resources. Education means nothing to this new group- they are defunding and taxing while they can get away with it despite outcries. Sheer Disgust by the people.
    And they don’t care.

    Check out the R funded Mackinaw Center for PUBLIC Policy whose “plans” and ideas link to ALEC.

     

     
  • mtdon 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Nice article that goes only half way.

    The democrats are firmly behind the privatization of the schools.

    From Arne Duncan to Rahm the devils spahn – to The Oilybomber to Pelosi and Feinstein, etc

    The democrats are firmly Bought Off.

    If not they could easily stop this process.

    http://blackagendareport.com/c…
    ‘why isn’t closing 40 Philadelphia public schools national news’

    http://blackagendareport.com/c…
    ‘School closings come to atlanta this week – it’s time to dump Arne Duncan’

     

     
  • glennk 6 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

    I don’t like ALEC’s agenda, but its gained ground because the popular perception of how most public institutions are run is very poor. People who are working 12 mos. a yr. for lousy wages with no benefits don’t understand why a teacher makes twice their wage and works 6 mos. and gets full health benefits and after 20 yrs. a nice cozy pension. Then they look at the people that run or “administer” these orgs. and they’re aghast. School admins. making 6 figs. is the norm everywhere. In NJ where property taxes are crushing the average homeowner all the above has alienated the average voter and sent them rightward. Is private charter schools the answer. NO, of course not , they just take the same public $$ and give it to a few investors and the kids get even worse educations. What’s the answer? It seems most of us are being crushed between the Public worker Unions and the Private Corps. Its a battle of the Dinos and all of us mice are being crushed by them as they fight.

     

     
  • mtdon 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Actually the reason people attack the teachers unions – besides of course the PR campaigns of the privatizers – is the fact that the teachers unions are Easy Targets.

    It’s always easier to blame teachers or some non-existent welfare queen than the corporations actually doing the dirty work.

    I’d also like to point out that the teaching profession used to be considered a low paying job and the private sector paid a much better wage and benefits.

    Teachers had a union that got them cola’s on a yearly basis – over the last 40 years the good paying private sector jobs disappeared while the teaching jobs continued to get their colas.

    We need to recognize that the true crime is the corporate killing of the private sector wages and benefits.

    If the private sector jobs would have kept pace with inflation then no one would care what the teachers make because it would still be chicken scratch.

    What the teacher pay issue should point out is the HUGE DROP in private sector wage growth to the point where the teachers have passed it up.

    That’s not the teachers fault -

    Blame the right people.

     

     
  • PlantTrees 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    “People who are working 12 mos. a yr. for lousy wages with no benefits don’t understand why a teacher makes twice their wage and works 6 mos. and gets full health benefits and after 20 yrs. a nice cozy pension.”

    Here in one sentence lies the only thing you need to know about why the workers in this country are doomed.

    There is the crock of shit about teachers working only half a year (oh, of course — we all PERSONALLY know such a teacher don’t we, glennk; just like we know that firefighter who makes $200,000 a year and has a vacation home in Florida).

    Then there are all those audacious benefits — stuff teachers bargained their wages away for and now are losing at disgraceful rates because people like glennk think since they’re taking it up the ass, so should the rest of the 99%.

    Fighting over the crumbs — that’s why you always see the Koch brothers with a smile on their face.

     

     
  • nellemason 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    You need to understand that the only way teachers’ working conditions (class size, job security, salary, benefits) improved over the years was through UNION action. No one suddenly just decided that it would be a nice thing to improve the conditons of teachers work. The poobahs at the School Board offices are bureaucrats who should NEVER be confused with teachers.

     

     
  • philtop 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Just to clarify public school teachers work 10 months a year not 6.

     

     
  • creativevisions 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    There is a lot of truth to glennk’s description of how people perceive the education and teacher issues. The real problem is that everyone needs to have a decent living with health care, vacations, retirement, etc., etc. People who pay taxes are often people without those benefits. It is not fair. Teachers get caught in the middle of all of this. It certainly is not the fault of the teacher if they have a union or have decent pay and benefits. What I really hate is how government and politics permeates education and I believe they try to stifle all teacher creativity. Their model is for teachers and the students to be human drones. Instead of working towards greatness we as a nation are rushing quickly to divided groups mired in inequality.

     

     
  • Tvedestrand 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    This problem–along with many others–will disappear in a few decades. As Bill Henderson points out in two recent postings on the www.bravenewworld.in web site, it’s likely that the world’s population will be reduced to about 10% of what it is now within 50 years because of global warming. This means that our society–along with all others, of course–will be disintegrating within a matter of decades, and today’s social problems will be a thing of the past. Those who do manage to survive will have only one problem: How do I continue to survive?

     

     
  • Jennifer Varnum 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Great article. I remember the education system took a real dive in the 70’s. I had move from New England to California where the educational system was so poor. Most of the public schools I attended were very substandard. I ended up taking the GED to get out of the toxic brainwashing and dumb down experiment called for by Caspar Weinberger who was appointed as Sec of Health, Education and Welfare by Ronny Reagan (Mr. War on Drugs), and later became Secretary of Defense. It was pure poison. I noticed that drugs started flowing into the schools at this time too.

    If I had children, I would home school them. The system is designed to prepare the young for collectivism. It discourages the individual and creates the slave mentality needed to train us as adults to not question authority, get a job and pay your dues.

    Instead of APEC, their acronym should be GPES of Globalist Psychopathic Eugenicists Society. Everyone of these corporations are demonic, and should be boycotted.

     

     
  • Siouxlouie 4 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

    The problem the teachers face is that for many years they were the white hats. Good public relations, a laudable goal in educating America’s youth, standing up for literacy, the power to make the best of American opportunity.

    Juxtapose against that the conduct of the teachers’ unions, who are now perceived as selfish, grasping, unprincipled. The pension obligations that face many states (e.g., California, Illinois, New York, Ohio and others) are not the fault of the average Joe. They are now being perceived as the result of years and years of behind the scenes lobbying by the public “servants”, principally including the teachers. Is it any wonder Michelle Rhee’s logic captured so much attention and adulation and the UFT and the NEA so much opprobrium?

    FDR, often thought to be Labor’s champion, even its patron saint, had this to say about unions representing governmental employees:

    “Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the government. All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations … The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for … officials … to bind the employer … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives …

    “Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people … This obligation is paramount … A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent … to prevent or obstruct … Government … Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government … is unthinkable and intolerable.”

    Which vision will carry the day? As cities begin to go bankrupt and states totter on the brink of insolvency, we will see.

     

     
  • Mike 3 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

    Siouxlou, Consider for a minute the possibility that ALEC and its backers are not so much interested in driving down teacher benefits, pensions etc as creating a more compliant teacher work force that will better assist in the pacification of each new generation. As I say, at some length, elsewhere in this threat, all this “reform” manifests itself on the kid level as simply all multiple choice all the time. And there are essay and oral answer grading programs on the horizon that will serve the same function, i.e. teaching the young that authority has all the answers, punishments and rewards.

    If you have the stamina to look through the excellent links Diane Ravitch provides, you can sort through a mass of ALEC-designed “educational reform” bills and significantly one is designed to downgrade teacher certification requirements. (This fits in well with a spate of recent articles attacking the admittedly poor quality education programs in many universities) The goal is, I think, not so much to get cheaper teachers but to get teachers who will simply hand out and collect test and test prep materials that will then be fed into automated grading systems made by Scantron, Inc. and othe ALEC backers. Not only would highly educated teachers want more money – they also might make problems by questioning the kind of mindless “teaching” designed to even further dumb down the populace. ALEC and its backers want teachers who will function much the same as McDonald employees, purveying a readymade product.

    You may well question why ALEC and its backer need an even more dumbed down populace, since this is the same American electorate who can be convinced of almost anything, even the need to send its sons and daughters off to wars generation after generation. Well. Siouxlou, the wealthy and powerful never think they have enough control over the hooples, any more than they ever think they have enough money.

    LINK to ALEC model bill designed to lower teacher certification standards:
    http://alecexposed.org/w/image…

     

     
  • philtop 2 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

    Mike-

     

    I wouldn’t underestimate the desire of these organizations
    to use Charter Schools as way of driving down teacher’s wages. Most regular
    public school jobs in California start at the entry level in the 40K range. Many
    charter schools start at the entry level around 35K. Furthermore,
    regular public schools have a pay scale that is based on years of teaching
    experience and education attainment.
    While most charter schools list pay as “commensurate with experience,”
    which essentially they will pay you what ever they want, or as little as possible.

     

    Furthermore, charter schools usually require much more after
    schoolwork, or a longer teaching day. Many make this clear in their job
    postings. This equals more work time for less pay. Whatever side you stand on
    this issue this undoubtedly drives down wages. Finally, on the benefits side I’ve
    actually seen charter in their job postings advertise, “Social Security only,
    no pension benefits.”

     

     
  • philtop 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Sorry about the formatting… Don’t know what caused that??

     

     
  • Mike 2 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

    Interesting that the oldtime multiple choice test company, Scantron, Inc. is on the ALEC taskforce. For all the big talk about learning and accountability, the current so-called educational reform means one thing on the level of kids’ experience: multiple choice tests every day. The vaunted standardized tests are always multiple choice and the prep for such tests consists of model tests,. i.e. multiple choice practice tests. And what classroom instruction occurs consists of going over questions on such model tests. Hence, every day becomes a multiple choice day.

    And the dirty little secret of all this multiple choice is that it teaches kids a very simple lesson, no matter what the subject: Those in authority have all the answers – and your job is only to figure out what they want you to say.
    So-called experts can quibble about test construction, eliminating cultural biases from tests, core curriculum etc but for kids it all amounts to bowing down to authority that gives you the grades that guarantee everything from keeping your mom off your back to getting into Harvard. Immersion in the multiple choice universe means that your opinion, as expressed in a classroom discussion, an essay or a research paper, has no value.

    It’s bad now but will get worse unless stopped, and I think I’ve seen exactly what the model school of the future will look like.

    I recently was asked by a former student to consult at a private school that he and his parents had set up a couple years ago: a weekend and evening cram school run by and targeted at one particular Asian immigrant group.

    “Reformers” would love this place: It was all multiple choice, all the time, even more than I had imagined possible. Teachers did no more than hand out and collect scantron sheets. Video cameras in each classroom allowed constant monitoring from the office. Teachers were well paid but could be fired without notice if they did not follow prescribed multiple choice scripts.(They wanted me to advise them how student writing could be improved – I told them it was not possible in such an environment)

    And this school is, according to my former student, very successful in terms of pushing its students into top high schools and ivy league colleges. The only moment of doubt the owners or parent/clients have experienced is that the school’s grads find it very hard to express any opinion in either speech or writing. But I suppose that won’t matter once even the best colleges switch over to all multiple choice all the time.

     

     
  • Mike 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Having ranted on about multiple choice, I then came across an article in Education Week referencing a study on automated essay grading programs which may be a new cost-efficient way to replace teachers in that form of assesssment as well. And if text can be graded, so can oral answers or discussion. But the end result is the same: Kids will be taught that authority has the answers, whether you bubble them in on scan sheets, say them aloud or write them in a sentence or paragraph.

    Link to the study:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/444162…

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How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars April 29, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Published on Sunday, April 29, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

by Robert Freeman

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Here’s a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with “teachers” who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don’t develop any expectation that they’ll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled “teachers” to “teach.” All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It’s too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the “teachers,” know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There’s a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.

Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You’ve got your chance.

But to really make a killing, you need not just revenues, but profits. That’s why the low cost delivery and “build it once but resell it millions of times” model is so key. It was that very model that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. It is what earned Microsoft 13 TIMES the rate of profit of the average Fortune 500 company in the 1990s and persuaded the Justice Department to declare it a “felony monopolist”. Gates recognizes the model very well, which is why his foundation is pouring tens of millions of dollars into charters. And you thought it was his altruism.

Of course, anybody who actually knows education, indeed, anybody who is simply intelligent, knows that intelligence does not come from rote repetition or parroting Power Point slides at the regimented direction of a room monitor, no matter how perky or well intended. It comes from an agonizingly complex, intricate, sustained set of challenges to the mind that are exquisitely choreographed over the better part of two decades, all intimately tailored to the specific needs of an individual, inquisitive, aspiring student.

That is what real teachers do. And it is precisely what a cookie-cutter, low-content, low-cost, high-turnover, high-profit money mill cannot do. Because it’s not intended to do that. It’s intended to produce profits. Real education, real intelligence, real character are agonizingly slow, dazzlingly complex, maddening difficult things to create. You can’t make a profit off of it, unless you destroy it in the process. That is why not one of the nations of the world that surpass the U.S. in education performance operate charter-based or privatized educational systems.

If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering?

But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such. Why, look what we got from the deregulation of the banking system: the greatest economic collapse of the last 80 years and the greatest plunder of the public treasury in the history of the world.

This is the essential neo-liberal agenda which Obama enthusiastically supports: privatize and deregulate everything, especially public services, so that the money spent on them can be transferred to private hands. This is how Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, earned his bureaucratic bonafides: he converted more than 100 of Chicago’s public schools to charters while the city’s school superintendent. It’s unbelievable how credulous we are but obviously, propaganda works. That’s why the likes of the Gates Foundation keep pouring money into the cause.

The problem with charter schools is that they simply don’t work, at least not for delivering high quality education. Of course, given their formula, how could they? The most thorough research on charter schools, by Stanford University, shows that while charters do better than public schools in 17% of cases, they actually do worse in 37%, a more than 2-to-1 bad-to-good ratio!

If your doctor injured two patients for every one he cured, would you go to him? If your mechanic wrecked two cars for every one he fixed, would you go to him? Yet that is literally the proposition that charter school operators are peddling. And that 2-to-1 failure rate is after charters have skimmed off the better students and run what can only be called ethnically cleansed schools, counseling out poor performers, special needs cases, and “undesirable” minorities, leaving them for the public schools to deal with. For the data show they do that as well.

The irony of all this, indeed, the hypocrisy, is that America is at least nominally a capitalist county. You would think it would be ok to be honest about your intentions to make money by pillaging children’s futures while looting the public purse. God knows the weapons makers, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and others aren’t bashful about it. But that doesn’t seem to be true here, in education.

Here, it’s all about “the children,” about “streamlining” education, boosting scores, uplifting minorities, making America competitive, and just about every other infantile fairy tale they can invoke to convince the country to hand over the loot. For that’s what it’s really about. The trillion dollars a year to be made by turning “the children” into intellectually impotent dullards but profit producing zombies? Well, that’s just a lavishly fortunate coincidence. Right?

Remember, you can’t save something by destroying it. Which isn’t to say that swashbuckling entrepreneurs aren’t willing to try. All they need is the liberating impetus of that essential American ethic: “I’m getting mine, screw you.” But the cost of this plunder will be incalculable, for it will ripple through the economy for decades. And the damage will be irreversible for, while public education is the most powerful democratizing institution in the world, it only works when the schools work. When they cease to work, it’s over.

So watch out. A destroyed educational system, a desiccated economy, and a debauched democracy are coming soon to a school district near you.

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Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman teaches history and economics at a public high school in northern California. He is the founder of One Dollar For Life, a national non-profit that helps American schools build schools in the developing world with donations of one dollar. He can be reached at robertfreeman10@yahoo.com.

School Closings Come To Atlanta This Week, To Your City Next Week: It’s Time To Dump Arne Duncan April 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Race.
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Wed, 04/11/2012 – 12:22 — Bruce A. Dixon, www.blackagendareport.com,

 

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

A national movement to save public education is coming to life, in the face of a decades-long bipartisan campaign to discredit, de-fund, destabilized and destroy public education. President Bush’s Education Secretary said teachers unions were terrorist organizations. Obama’s man Arne Duncan believes Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to education in New Orleans. Is it time yet to dump, and to dump on Arne Duncan?

School Closings Come To Atlanta This Week, To Your City Next Week: It’s Time To Dump Arne Duncan

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In a pattern that has become typical across the nation, the Atlanta Public School Board voted early this morning to close 7 neighborhood schools, all in mainly black neighborhoods. Some of the proposed school closings were announced the Friday afternoon before spring break, only ten calendar days, and one business day before the meeting that would finalize their closure. Other proposed closings were announced only 3 calender days before the school board meeting. Obviously the authorities wanted to prevent neighborhood parents from mobilizing to protect their children and communities.

Like their counterparts in cities across the country, Atlanta parents, teachers and neighborhood residents pointed out that their school board seemed more devoted to the promotion of charter schools and privatization than it was to the children in public schools, and that it was doing all it could to push as many children as possible out of the public schools into charters. They reminded the board that by their own flawed standardized tests, charters performed no better than public schools, and when they did it was due to their ability to cream off the best students, rather than their willingness to teach everyone’s children.

Judging from last night’s meeting the gap between what hundreds of local parents and teachers know, believe and demand, and the picture of public education brought to us by corporate media is vast and astounding. News coverage of the meeting, and of opposition to the cuts was sparse and condescending, and grossly misrepresented the intents and motives of parents and teachers.

Like school boards across the country, Atlanta’s honchos turned a deaf ear to the children and communities they supposedly serve, even refusing to consider repurposing the empty school buildings as local community resources. In the rush to privatization, school buildings are valuable real estate prizes that can be awarded to well connected developers, and the only kind of economic development anybody has ever heard of is moving poorer people out of neighborhoods to attract richer ones in.

Atlanta is following the same script as Chicago and Philly and New York and Los Angeles and New Orleans. It’s a bipartisan agenda of standardized testing calculated not to teach children, but to furnish the grounds to brand teachers and schools as “underperforming” so that staff can be fired, schools closed, and their resources funneled to charter school operators.

It’s a local problem, but it’s national policy. Atlanta’s school superintendent is much like Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in that he’s never taught an hour in any classroom. Duncan learned all he needed to know about education from his mother’s tutoring programs, he says, and his time as a pro basketballer, his time in the financial markets and on Mayor Daley’s staff. Atlanta’s Eroll Davis says he learned all he needed to know about running a school system from his time serving on the board of British Petroleum.

Atlanta’s school chief says he’s closing black schools to give them the same thing wealthy and mostly white neighborhoods have, an academic support system. His national counterpart Arne Duncan famously declared that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to education in New Orleans. Duncan’s predecessor as Chicago schools CEO was immediately dispatched to Louisiana where he closed more than 100 New Orleans public schools and fire the system’s entire teaching, administrative, maintenance and support staff.

While the place to fight for control of education is in your neighborhood, in your public school while you still have one, it’s a national fight as well. Public school closings, the de-professionalization of teachers and the push to charters have been national policy under the Bush and Obama administrations. So it’s entirely correct to call for the resignation of Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well.

We wrote about how Duncan teamed up in 2009 with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton to do a national tour promoting charter schools, privatization, teacher merit pay and other anti-education schemes. Since them the Obama administration’s Race To The Top has made these things pre-conditions without which no state, no school board receives much in the way of federal funding, and the states that fire the most teachers, close the most schools, and grant the most charters get most of the funding. It’s truly a race, and not to the top.

While it’s time to redouble our efforts to save, rebuild, democratize and re-imagine public education in our cities and neighborhoods around the country, it’s also time to come together nationally and demand an end to federal policies that force charters, standardized testing. Change comes from the bottom and from the top. It’s time to demand the resignation of Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Thousands of educators and students and ordinary citizens have already signed the petition at http://dumpduncan.org. You should too, and forward it to everyone you know.

Those of us on Facebook should click here to join the Dump Duncan group on Facebook, from which you will be able to connect with people concerned and active about saving public education around the country, and access a vast array of helpful resources. Duncan’s and Obama’s Race To The Top, as Diane Ravitch assures us, is really a race to the bottom.

Visit Dump Duncan on the web or on Facebook. Sign the petition, get connected locally and nationally. And get busy.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Using Federal Power to Resegregate American Schools September 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Racism.
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Published on Saturday, September 24, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 

  by  Jim Horn

Prior to passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) in 1965, a savvy Lyndon Johnson, who knew the South would never willingly desegregate schools, crafted the federal legislation so that large sums of money would go to any of the segregated systems of the South that would comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, of course, banned racial discrimination in any public institution receiving federal funds. This strategy of carrot (ESEA) following stick (Civil Rights Act) worked like a charm, and the “segregation now, segregation forever” crowd quietly resolved to accept the federal millions and, in doing so, reluctantly complied with the Supreme Court’s mandate handed down in the unanimous 1954 Brown decision, which had been largely ignored in the South.

I was a sophomore in one of those small segregated Southern high schools in 1965, and I remember the first black kids who, until that time, had had a 60-mile roundtrip daily bus ride to endure if they wanted to go to high school. As a legacy of that ESEA carrot, then, my little school and the rest of the schools in the Old Confederacy became and remain less segregated than many schools in the North, where housing patterns maintain de facto segregation even where the law cannot. By the early 1970s, apartheid schooling in the 19 Southern states was over, or so we thought.

Johnson’s creative use of federal funding, then, was able to accomplish for the commonweal what federal mandates and court rulings could not. Congress amended ESEA in 1966 and 1967 to provide big carrots, too, for special education and English language learners. Major reauthorizations of ESEA followed in 1981, 1994, and in 2001 with No Child Left Behind, with the power of the federal purse strings made more figural in each subsequent reauthorization.

Then, following the 2008 calamity brought on by Wall Street’s casino capitalists, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used a newfound power of $4. 35 billion in federal discretionary Race to the Top (RttT) grants to sidestep the legislative gridlock holding up changes to NCLB that were being advanced by the corporate foundations and the Business Roundtable: 1) uncapped expansion of charter schools (minus any regulations or incentives for maintaining diversity or inclusion of special populations or ELL), 2) proliferation of testing data tracking systems, 3) more value-added standardized testing, and 4) teacher evaluations based on student test scores. Any state or LEA that wanted to get a chunk of Duncan’s 4 billion dollar carrot would have to comply with these four conditions.

In an ironic twist of policy fate whose impending impact remains as ignored as it is misunderstood by the public, ESEA monies were used, for the first time, as the carrot to re-ignite the policy that the original ESEA had been designed to extinguish: school segregation and poor performance. In peer-reviewed research studies (here, here, and here) that examine the effects of charter schools on school diversity, researchers have found, in fact, that both for-profit charter schools and non-profit charter schools have significant segregative effects when compared to public schools. And study after study after study has shown similar negative effects on school performance as measured by test scores of students in charter schools when compared to matched public schools.

No amount of empirical, reality-based evidence, however, can seem to derail or even slow down the charter train, fueled and driven as it is by conservative ideologues, neoliberal efficiency zealots, and the profiteers of the education-industrial complex like Pearson and McGraw-Hill. And now Congress is getting into the act (pun intended) as well, with House passage of H. R. 2218, whose clone is under consideration by the Senate to provide new segregative charter funds, including monies this time for charter school facilities. In these legislative efforts, inspired as they are to break up the ESEA reauthorization into smaller chunks that Team Obama can never claim credit for (or be blamed for, as the case may be), unwitting or uncaring elected officials of our national government are, in fact, promoting the expansion of school resegregation through the expansion of charter schools that, in 4 out of 5 instances, are worse or no better academically than the public schools they are replacing. And neither House nor Senate versions offer a syllable to demand or incentivize the creation of diverse, inclusive charter schools, thus choosing to make ESEA’s most effective social steering mechanism a tool now of segregationists and social control advocates whose agendas appear aligned with the eugenics era that flourished a hundred years ago.

If these federal bills in support of corporate reform schooling arrive on the desk of the first African-American President of the United States, will he, too, embrace their silent support of the return to apartheid education? Will Barack Obama show up on the wrong side of history?

Jim Horn

Jim Horn is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Cambridge College, Cambridge, MA. He is also an education blogger at Schools Matter and has published widely on issues related to social justice in education.

 

 

 

 

How Sports Attacks Public Education March 5, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Sports.
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Published on Friday, March 5, 2010 by The Nationby Dave Zirin

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

On Thursday, I was proud to take part in a student walkout at the University of Maryland in defense of public education. It was just one link in a National Day of Action that saw protests in more than 32 states across the country. I am not a student, and haven’t been since those innocent days when Monica Lewinsky mattered, but I was asked to come speak at a post walkout teach-in about the way sports is used to attack public education. It might sound like a bizarre topic, but it’s the world that students see every day.

At the University of Maryland, as tuition has been hiked and classes cut, football coach Ralph Friedgen makes a base salary of 1.75 million bucks, which would be outrageous even if the team weren’t two-steps past terrible. Friedgen also gets perks like a $50,000 bonus if none of his players are arrested during the course of the season.

Ground zero of the student protest movement is the University of California at Berkeley. Over at Berkeley, students are facing 32% tuition hikes, while the school pays football coach Jeff Tedford 2.8 million dollars a year and is finishing more than 400 million in renovations on the football stadium. This is what students see: boosters and alumni come first, while they’ve been instructed to cheer their teams, pay their loans, and mind their business.

The counterargument is that college athletic departments fund themselves and actually put money back into a school’s general fund. This is simply not true. The October Knight Commission report of college presidents stated that the 25 top football schools had revenues on average of $3.9 million in 2008. The other 94 ran deficits averaging $9.9 million. When athletic departments run deficits, it’s not like the football coach takes a pay cut. In other words, if the team is doing well, the entire school benefits. If the football team suffers, the entire school suffers. This, to put it mildly, is financial lunacy. A school would statistically be better off if it took its endowment to Vegas and just bet it all on black.

If state colleges are hurting, your typical urban public school is in a world of pain with budgets slashed to the bone. Politicians act like these are problems beyond their control like the weather. (“50% chance of sun and a 40% chance of losing music programs.”)

In truth, they are the result of a comprehensive attack on public education that has seen the system starved. One way this has been implemented is through stadium construction, the grand substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country. Over the last generation, we’ve seen 30 billion in public funds spent on stadiums. They were presented as photogenic solutions to deindustrialization, declining tax bases, and suburban flight. The results are now in and they don’t look good for the home teams. University of Maryland sports economists Dennis Coates and University of Alberta Brad R. Humphreys studied stadium funding over 30 years and failed to find one solitary example of a sports franchise lifting or even stabilizing a local economy. They concluded the opposite: “a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area….Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy.” These projects achieve so little because the jobs created are low wage, service sector, seasonal employment. Instead of being solutions of urban decay, the stadiums have been tools of organized theft: sporting shock doctrines for our ailing cities.

With crumbling schools, higher tuitions, and an Education Secretary in Arne Duncan who seems more obsessed with providing extra money for schools that break their teachers unions, it’s no wonder that the anger is starting to boil over. It can also bubble up in unpredictable ways. On Wednesday night, after the University of Maryland men’s basketball team beat hated arch-rival Duke, students were arrested after pouring into the streets surrounding the campus. In years past, these sporting riots have been testosterone run amok, frat parties of burning mattresses and excessive inebriation. This year it was different, with police needing to use pepper spray and horses to quell the 1,500 students who filled Route 1. In response, students chanted, “Defense! Defense!” At the Thursday teach in, I said to the students that I didn’t think there was anything particularly political or interesting about a college sports riot. One person shot his hand up and said, “It wasn’t a riot until the cops showed up.” Everyone proceeded to applaud. I was surprised at first that these politically minded students would be defending a post-game melee, but no longer. The anger is real and it isn’t going anywhere. While schools are paying football coaches millions and revamping stadiums, students are choosing between dropping out or living with decades of debt. One thing is certain: it aint a game.

© 2010 The Nation

Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Obama Backs Rewarding Districts That Police Failing Schools March 2, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Education, Labor.
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(Roger’s note: I could support the idea of mass firings if it included the presidency, congresss and supreme court.  One becomes more disgusted with Obama each day.  His support for union busting, privitazation, and militarization in our school system makes him a neocon if I ever saw one.  The lunatic right might call him a socialist, but in a real sense, he is one of them.)
Published on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 by The New York Timesby Jeff Zeleny

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that he favored federal rewards for local school districts that fire underperforming teachers and close failing schools, saying educators needed to be held accountable when they failed to fix chronically troubled classrooms and curb the student dropout rate.The president outlined his proposal to offer $900 million in federal grants, which would be made available to states and school districts willing to take aggressive steps to turn around struggling institutions or close them.

The president’s proposal, which was included in his 2011 budget request to Congress, is his latest criticism of America’s failing public schools. In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Obama said federal aid would be available for the districts that are home to the 2,000 schools that produce more than half of the nation’s dropouts.

He spoke alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma, who lead America’s Promise Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to combating the school dropout rate.

“We know that the success of every American will be tied more closely than ever before to the level of education that they achieve,” Mr. Obama said. “The jobs will go to the people with the knowledge and the skills to do them. It’s that simple.”

He singled out Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, where last week the school board voted to dismiss the entire faculty as part of a turnaround plan for the school, which has a 48 percent graduation rate.

At Central Falls High, he said, just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests. Mr. Obama said he supported the school board’s decision to dismiss the faculty and staff members. “Our kids get only one chance at an education and we need to get it right,” he said.

The president’s comments incensed the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers, which criticized Mr. Obama for “condoning the mass firing” of teachers at the Rhode Island school.

“We know it is tempting for people in Washington to score political points by scapegoating teachers, but it does nothing to give our students and teachers the tools they need to succeed,” the president of the union, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement.

In their efforts to overhaul failing public schools, Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have frequently drawn the ire of teachers’ unions.

In his speech on Monday, Mr. Obama said states would be asked to identify schools that perform at persistently low levels, with graduation rates of 60 percent or less.

To qualify for the federal money, known as School Turnaround Grants, he said, the school districts must agree to take at least one of the steps: firing the principal and at least half the staff of a troubled school; reopening it as a charter school; or closing the school altogether and transferring students to better schools in the district.

“If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year,” Mr. Obama said, “if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability.”

The $900 million grant program, which would be subject to Congressional approval, follows $3.5 billion included in last year’s economic stimulus plan that also was aimed at improving school performance and lowering the dropout rate. The program would support interventions at 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

Mr. Obama is seeking to use federal money as an incentive for local schools to improve their standards. The initiatives his administration is pursuing are similar to those of the Bush administration. At the event on Monday, Mr. Obama recognized Margaret Spellings, a secretary of education under President George W. Bush, who was seated in the front row.

Mr. Obama said he was particularly troubled by the dropout rate. He said 1.2 million students left school each year before graduating from high school, at a cost to the nation of $319 billion annually in potential earning losses.

“Now it’s true that not long ago you could drop out of high school and reasonably expect to find a blue-collar job that would pay the bills and help support your family,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s just not the case anymore.”

The Powells, who founded America’s Promise Alliance in 1997, announced on Monday a 10-year campaign called “Grad Nation” directed at the lowest performing high schools in the country and focusing on improving graduation rates and preparations for college.

“We’ve got to catch our kids long before they drop out,” Mr. Powell said.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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