Archive for April, 2015

Crass “Reformer” Calls for More Charter Schools as Solution in Baltimore

April 29, 2015 Comments off

The unrest in Baltimore that resulted from the death of Freddie Gray has elicited responses from many different perspectives, but none to date has been more tone deaf than that of “reformer” Jeanne Allen. In a tweet she later deleted, Ms. Allen wrote: ed-deform-tweetAs the Perdido Street School blog noted, Ms. Allen is a long time supporter of privatization, one who is eager to take millions of dollars from tax coffers and augment them with funds from philanthropists who seek the complete privatization of public schools.

I got to this post through Naked Capitalism blogger Lambert Strether who drily commented:

At least during Katrina, charter advocates had the common decency to wait ’til the hurricane was over before making their play.

Categories: Uncategorized

How Standardized Tests Undercut Parenting, Teaching, and Schools

April 29, 2015 Comments off

Huffington Post blogger Stacy Steinberg’s latests post, “Set Up to Fail: High Stakes Testing in Public Schools” describes the impact of testing on administrators, teachers, and especially parents. Steinberg asserts that standardized tests are designed to “prove” schools are failing knowing that the tests will prove what we already know: the schools serving children raised in poverty will “fail” while the schools serving children raised in affluence will “succeed”.:

High stakes testing sets a child up to fail.

Even when a school employs hardworking teachers and has the support of parents and local business partners, some schools serve students that live in homes that fall below the poverty line. Research tells us that the number one indicator of how a child will perform on a standardized test is whether or not that child lives in poverty. Our flawed standardized testing model sets even the most talented teacher up to fail.

Unlike many critics of the standardized testing regimen, Steinberg appreciates the bind administrators face, noting that they:

…are caught between trying to provide quality education to… students and maintaining the financial backing from the state to do so. Unfortunately, these goals are often mutually exclusive. High stakes testing sets up even the most altruistic school administrator up to fail.

But the lion’s share of her post is directed at parents. Noting that parents work hard to provide opportunities for their children to thrive and be creative before they enter school, once they arrive to school they find an environment that stifles creativity and focuses on test preparation:

You watch as important subjects like history, art, and music drop from the curriculum as these subjects are not covered by the common core curriculum. You know your child needs an empathetic and patient teacher, yet you watch as teachers shift focus because of standardized testing standards. Assets like empathy and patience work against our best teachers who know their performance review will be based on how much and how quickly your student is able to learn. Perhaps worst of all, your child takes her first standardized test and comes home reporting that she was required to sign a piece of paper promising not to talk to you about the test or the testing procedure itself.
This leaves Steinberg with a sense that she, as a parent, is being set up to fail! She concludes by encouraging parents to write to their legislators sharing their concerns and urging them to do whatever is possible to put an end to this testing. This compelled me to leave the following comment:
Before you write, you might want to see what the Presidential candidates and your legislators think of this approach to education… and in the case of the Presidential candidates who is funding them. Are they claiming “schools are failing” based on these test results? Are they supporting the state or corporate takeover of “failing schools”? Are they claiming the solution to “failing schools” is to give parents more choices WITHOUT requiring that ALL schools open their doors to ALL students?
At this juncture (Bernie Sanders has not officially announced his candidacy), every single Presidential candidate supports the continued emphasis on testing and at least 33 Governors insist that standardized tests are the best way to measure school performance. At this juncture NCLB is the law of the land and the pending federal legislation will not end the testing regimen. And, at this juncture states have invested heavily in the new computerized tests and expect to use those tests for the foreseeable future. At this juncture, it is not too late to change the course of public education, but the odds of making the change are approaching the odds of us taking action to address climate change.

Who Should Pay for Police Brutality?

April 28, 2015 1 comment

As I write this, because of the fear of violence schools in Baltimore are closed today. And because of the fear of violence there is a curfew in place in that city for anyone under 17. At the request of the mayor of the Governor of Maryland, because of the fear of violence, has deployed the National Guard.  And, perversely, it is because of the fear of violence that the police in Baltimore have been allowed to brutalize members of the community with relative impunity. The concluding paragraph in Atlantic writer T’Naisi Coates powerful essay describes this paradox forcefully:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

I lived through the Civil Rights era and recall the media’s admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful non-violence in the face of explicit brutality by the police in the south. His efforts won over the nation and resulted in passage of laws that reinforced court victories won a decade earlier. But the passage of those laws has not resulted in the kind of economic justice that African Americans expected and the passage of those laws has not resulted in the change of hearts and minds of many in our country. And this intractability, this “political brutality” contributes to the sense of hopelessness and frustration that, in turn, results in addictions and violence that leads to the state doling out “…heaps of violence to its citizens”.

The answer to this problem is embedded in Coates’ essay:

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Here’s the way to fix this problem: have the city of Baltimore divert it’s spending “…to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department” to build those state of the art playgrounds and divert its spending to incarcerate drug dealers to provide treatment centers for those trying to cure themselves of the disease of addiction and divert its money away from law enforcement in schools to social services outside of schools to support those families who are striving to make ends meet.

And who will pick up the costs for the brutality of the police? If the federal government can find money to bail out bankers who sold flawed mortgages to citizens trying to seek housing it should be able to find the money to protect innocent citizens who are brutalized by law enforcement officers.