Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Charter School Nonsense: No, Hedge Fund Billionaires Aren’t Going to Save All the Children @alternet

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment

A well-funded, professionally orchestrated demonstration of support for privatization.

Source: Charter School Nonsense: No, Hedge Fund Billionaires Aren’t Going to Save All the Children @alternet

Diane Ravitch shows Eva Moskovitz’s “grassroots” rally for what it is: a disingenuous effort to increase her profits at the expense of disadvantaged children. As Ravitch notes: “If public schools closed for a political rally, their principals would be fired.”

Categories: Uncategorized

What’s “stunning” about a Democrat hating unions?

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog probably realize, I am a great fan of Naked Capitalism blog edited by Yves Smith with help from fellow blogger Lambert Strether. Strether regularly coordinates afternoon posts under the heading “2:00 PM Water Cooler”offering links to articles that decry the corrosive effects of deregulated capitalism or links to articles that do the opposite with Strether offering pointed comments that undercut the premises of the writer. The “2:00 PM Water Cooler” is divided into segments whose headings often change as various news stories emerge… but one section called “Class Warfare” appear almost every day. Yesterday’s “Class Warfare” section is all about public education and Strether’s commentary– which concludes with the headline of this post— is excellent! The section appears in its entirety:

Class Warfare

“If a proposal for a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles moves forward, the casualties probably would include thousands of teachers who currently work in the city’s traditional public schools” [Los Angeles Times]. Spurred by squillionaire Eli Broad, it’s the “Great Public [snort] Schools” program. Ka-ching.

“Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU” [Jonathan Pelto].

This development comes on top of the news that Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.

What’s “stunning” about a Democrat hating unions?


Obama Administration Proposes Schools Stem Absenteeism by Assuming Social Work Tasks

October 10, 2015 Leave a comment

An AP story written on October 7 by Jennifer Kerr described the Obama administration’s solution to the problem of excessive absenteeism in public schools: have “…officials take a deep dive at the school-level to see why these kids are absent so often.”

In the late 1980s the school district I led identified chronic absenteeism as an issue and did as deep a dive as was possible given the data collection limitations of that time. Here’s what we found: children who missed school the most came from disadvantaged homes with limited or ineffective adult supervision or in some instances from homes where parents had given up on forcing their child to go to school. I daresay that any “deep dive” today will find the same results and administrators at those schools will ask the same questions we did: “What can we do now?” We devised strict attendance policies, a process that took over a year to enact because of complications involving, among other issues: parents who wanted to take their children on vacations; judges who did not want to see their court rooms filled; a limited number of home-school liaisons to visit the schools; and limited access to doctors– a factor when we intended to insist on a doctor’s note in any case where a child missed more that a certain number of days. We also formed alliances with the social services department, which was relatively easy given that both the school and the social services departments covered the same areas. Finally, we determined that early intervention was crucial and thus sought an expansion of counselors into elementary schools. I offer this overview to illustrate the obstacles a school level administrator might face if they perform a “deep dive”:

  • Principals need the backing of their board, the local police, the local health agency, and the local social workers if they begin to “dig deeply” into absenteeism.
  • Principals need more staff to do a “deep dig” into the causes of absenteeism… and they need to be prepared to file reports to child protective services if they find a “reason to believe” child neglect and abuse is a factor in the absenteeism.
  • The entire system needs to coordinate its efforts with those of other agencies serving children.

The most appalling quote in the article came from Acting Secretary of Education John King, an advocate of deregulated for-profit charter schools who said:

“We have to be thoughtful and careful to provide structure and support, rather than suspend or punish students who are struggling to make it to school every day,” said John King, a senior Education Department official who will take over as acting secretary in December. “It sends the wrong message to tell a student who is not coming to school that they are unwelcome.”

This from a man who supported the implementation of selective charter schools who made if difficult for parents of “students who are struggling to make it to school every day” to enroll and who could drop “students who are struggling to make it to school every day” from their roles with no consequences whatsoever. If the Obama administration was sincerely interested in engaging children in school it might first look at the misbegotten test-and-punish system it has set in place, a system that encourages schools to adopt policies that retain students who fail a single test, policies that encourage students who do poorly on tests to enroll elsewhere, and policies that make students feel like failures on a daily basis.

Chicago Corruption Charge: The Fruits of Privatization

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

We’ve seen the fruits of high stakes testing reported in the corruption charges at the system level in Atlanta and in countless schools across the country. Now the public may be catching on to the inherent dangers of privatization of schools thanks to the misdeeds of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago Superintendent of Schools appointed by “reform-minded” Rahm Emmanuel. As reported in today’s NYTimes, Ms. Byrd-Bennett is pleading guilty to a 23-charge indictment involving bribery. The report notes that Ms. Byrd-Bennett will cooperate with the ongoing investigation. She’s beholden only to the mayor who appointed her with great fanfare but has now thrown her under the bus.

“I am saddened and disappointed to learn about the criminal activity that led to today’s indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett,” he said. “Our students, parents, teachers and principals deserve better.”

They DO deserve better. They deserve well funded neighborhood schools governed by an elected independent school board. They got what privatization brings.

Duncan’s Charter School Legacy: Money for Nothing

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

As Jeff Bryant’s well researched article for Education Opportunity Network suggests that Arne Duncan’s last actions as Secretary of Education serve as an apt metaphor for his entire tenure. Three days before announcing he was stepping down,

…Duncan rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 the first year) to the charter school industry. This announcement was controversial because, as The Washington Post reports, an audit by his department’s own inspector general found “that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.”

Astonishingly, $71 million of these funds were earmarked for Ohio, a state whose record of charter corruption is among the worst in the United States, a decision that befuddled Ohio politicians in both political parties. Bryant makes a compelling case that links the issuance of the federal dollars to the State’s decision to take over the Youngstown public schools and turn them over to deregulated for profit charters, a ploy the “market based” Duncan champions.

One paragraph in Bryant’s article jumped out for me:

recent report from the Center for Media and Democracy found that over the past 20 years the federal government has sent over $3.3 billion to the charter school industry with virtually no accountability. That report notes “the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to ‘authorize’ charters that receive federal funds.”

As one who worked as a Superintendent for 16 of those 20 years, it is discouraging to realize that $3,300,000,000 was given to charter schools while the federal government continued it’s practice of underfunding special education and mandated reams of paperwork fro public schools to obtain federal funds. Indeed, the paperwork was so daunting for e-rate that it was not feasible for many districts to even seek those funds. And any superintendent, special education director, Title fund director, ELL Director, or School Lunch Director anywhere in the United States can tell you how much time they spend documenting their time and expenditures. And at the same time the government mandates this paperwork for public education, politicians decry the “bloated bureaucracies” that result from them and crow about the efficiently operated charters who don’t need as much administrative overhead. Of course the charters can operate with less administrative overhead!

Bryant’s article describing the $249 million dollar giveaway was titled “The Ugly Charter Mess Duncan Left Behind”. Duncan left behind more than one mess: he left behind a system that gives money away to charter organizations that have no accountability and no evidence of success rates that exceed those of their publicly funded counterparts. Money for nothing for students… but lots of shareholders… and probably a good boost to the political campaigns of charter supporters.


Real News Network Nails New Secretary of Education’s Perspective on Schooling: Privatizing is Good!

October 8, 2015 Leave a comment

This Real News Network interview with tow progressive educators shows what privatization has accomplished for students (very little) and has accomplished for neo-liberal politicians (a lot).

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States Achieve the Results THEY Want By Rigging the Cut Scores on Common Core Tests

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes article by Mokoto Rich reports on the shenanigans going on in various states in their reporting of test results. The headline on her article, “Test Scores Under Common Core Show That “Proficient” Varies By State”, and the article itself summarizes the facts on the impact of setting cut scores on the standardized tests that are linked to the Common Core, but fails to underscore the political consequences of the practice… and makes no mention of how NYS gamed the tests to create large numbers of “failing” schools.

The setting of cut scores works like this: thousands of children across the country took the same standardized test. When the tests were graded, state departments of education determined what scores would be deemed “proficient”. Some states might require a student to get 40 correct answers to be deemed “proficient” while others might require a student to get 55 correct answers. If a governor who is running for president, say Governor Kasich, wants to be able to boast that his policies resulted in high rates of passing, he could prevail on his appointed Commissioner of Education to set a low score as “proficient”. If a governor wants to use test scores to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of teachers and public schools, say Governor Cuomo, he could insist that the Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education set a high score as “proficient”. In the meantime, no one is asking if these tests help teachers gain a better understanding of their students or of their pedagogy…. because everyone knows the answer is that they do not.

In the meantime, the focus on the inappropriateness of using standardized test results based on age cohorts is not called into question. Instead of questioning how and when students are tested parents and teachers are questioning what they are tested on. It’s the wrong question… for clearly all students need to master the same set of mathematics skills and develop the same reading comprehension skills at some point in their education. Our obsession with determining precisely what students need to learn at the end of first and second grade seems absurd to educators in other developed Western countries, many of whom do not even begin formal schooling until their children are 7 years old.

Moreover, our questions about what students learn results in countless hours of debates over settled science (e.g. evolution vs. intelligent design and climate change), settled history (e.g. the latest flap over the textbooks in Texas that described slaves as willing immigrant workers), and, as always, religion (e.g. the recent brouhaha over teaching about Islam in TN). At some point we need to shift the debate to the question of why it is important for a child to progress at the same rate as his or her age cohorts intellectually when we have no such expectation in terms of  that same child’s physical growth. Alas, such a debate will not score points politically or result in the ability to measure teacher and school performance with seeming precision.

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