Translate/Traducción

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Standardized tests: Time for a national opt-out

Parents have the power to break the stranglehold of standardized testing

By Shaun Johnson | Baltimore Sun
August 25, 2011

Here's an update to a clichéd philosophical question: If a test is scheduled and no one is around to take it, will this test matter?

The new school year for many public school teachers begins weeks before students arrive. Educators attend hours of workshops to discover that the newest acronym is simply a substitute for an older one. More importantly, piles of test data are pored over to both assess the previous year and to fully appreciate what is to come with a new crop of students.

With every new testing mandate, combined with recent scandals chipping away at the once impossibly smooth veneer of test-based education reforms, many teachers, parents and administrators are getting frustrated. Where have market-driven and data-obsessed policies taken us over the last 10 years? Are public schools necessarily better off than they were when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was initially greeted with bipartisan support?

Another important question: What of education have we lost as a result of strict adherence to standardized tests? Many are answering, "Too much — and enough is enough." The result is that more and more parents and educators are mulling what was once unthinkable: opting children out of state standardized tests.

For example, Tim Slekar, a professor of education in Pennsylvania, opted his son Luke out of his state's tests last school year to "make my community aware and to try and enlighten them of the real issues." This parent and professor's plea is simple and forceful: "Stop treating my child as data! He's a great kid who loves to learn. He is not a politician's pawn in a chess game designed to prove the inadequacy of his teachers and school."

In July, a large group of public school advocates organized the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. to protest the continued, and in some cases stronger, embrace of standardized testing. Even amid budget shortfalls, millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on things like researching newer exams, test security, investigating lapses in that security, and manufacturing data collection systems. Meanwhile, schools must contend with smaller staffs and larger class sizes.

Educators are frustrated by the exclusion of teachers from the larger debate on education reform and policy in the United States. Individual classroom teachers and researchers have been highlighting for years the deleterious effects of focusing solely on success or failure with regard to standardized tests. And even now, with the revelation that high-stakes environments are perfect breeding grounds for desperation and resulting dishonesty, the dispiriting march through another year of test preparation must continue.

In a political and cultural environment that at best feigns listening to educators and at worst demonizes them, the most active public school advocates — like Mr. Slekar — are beginning to feel that opting their children out of completing the state tests is the only message that will get through. Those who began their research into the issue are finding it remarkably easy to do, despite the dissembling of school officials when asked for information.

Parents considering opting their children out of state testing are aware of the implications — that a diminished level of participation will affect the school's ability to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). But the threat of no AYP does not appear as ominous as it once did. What is more, the Department of Education's hemming and hawing over the reauthorization of NCLB, plus this whole business of granting waivers that states don't even want, could mean that the punitive era of education reform is slowly coming to an end.

Growing groups of parents and public school advocates have decided to hit the contemporary reform movement where it counts by taking away the privilege of collecting coveted data. They realize that their children are more than just test scores. They now understand that a laser-like focus on testing and test preparation comes at the expense of numerous other facets of an engaging and well-rounded education. Most of all, these same folks are slowly but surely grasping the power that eluded them during the height of the NCLB era. Despite being largely locked out of the conversation on public education, parents, teachers, and parents who are teachers know they don't have to give up the data any longer.

Opting-out groups are turning to social media to organize. A Florida-based Facebook group, "Testing is Not Teaching," boasts more than 12,000 supporters. A similar, fledgling group called "United Opt Out" claimed 600 national members after just a few days of existence online. Local numbers for Maryland are elusive, and it's too early to tell whether pressing the "Like" button will translate into actual opting out of test taking.

So, to come full circle: If tests were scheduled and no one took them, would it matter? It would probably be the exact opposite of the proverbial tree falling with no one around. Fewer students filling in fewer bubbles would sound an alarm akin to 1,000 trees falling in the forest. This time, one could not ignore hearing it. And the sincere grievances public school advocates have about the dominance of testing might finally receive an attentive audience.

Shaun Johnson is an assistant professor of elementary education in the College of Education at Towson University. His email is spjohnson@towson.edu.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New York City teacher evaluations based on students' test scores can be made public, court rules

This is a step in the wrong direction. We should learn from the horrible responses of some teachers when the public disclosure of failure pushed them to extreme acts. This will not yield increased learning for students and certainly not better instruction among teachers.

We should all take note of Duncan's adamant support of this move. Very concerning.

Also check out earlier posts to this blog on this issue:

"When Does Holding Teachers Accountable Go Too Far?"

L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers' effectiveness

-Patricia


BY Ben Chapman AND Rachel Monahan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Originally Published:Thursday, August 25th 2011, 2:23 PM
Updated: Thursday, August 25th 2011, 5:16 PM

The public has a right to view the controversial ratings of 12,000 city teachers that were based on their students' tests scores, the Manhattan Appellate Division ruled Thursday.

The decision, affirming one by the lower court, deals a blow to the teachers union, which sued to protect their members' privacy, citing disastrous mistakes in the calculations of the evaluations.

The Appellate division judges dismissed those privacy concerns.

"The reports concern information of a type that is of compelling interest to the public, namely, the proficiency of public employees in the performance of their job duties," the division ruled.

It was not immediately clear when the so-called teacher data reports will be released because the union will seek to appeal the decision again, officials said.

Secretary of Education Duncan: Release all teachers' scores!

The union needs permission to go to the state's Court of Appeals after the unanimous decision.

Media outlets, including the Daily News, sued for access to the teacher data reports, which compare teachers based on the progress students make on the third- through eighth-grade math and reading exams.

The reports that the Daily News initially sought to review are based on progress between the 2009 and 2008 standardized tests.

The state has since discredited those years' exams, saying the tests had become predictable and easier to pass as a result.

In addition to challenging the exams, union officials identified 200 other ratings that were based on incorrect information.

The lower court dismissed these concerns, arguing that the public had a right know. The Appellate Division agreed.

Teachers union officials continue to dismiss the accuracy of the reports yesterday, citing the wide margin of error for many of the ratings.

"Experts agree that an 'accountability' measure with a 58-point swing - like the DOE's teacher data system - is worse than useless," said United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew in a statement.

"Parents and teachers need credible, accurate assessments rather than guesswork."

For the last two years, the teacher data reports have been used to guide principals' decisions on whether to grant teachers the job protections of tenure.

"I think it's extremely irresponsible to associate teachers' names publicly with data where there is such room for error," said Julie Cavanagh, a special education teacher at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

"You're providing misinformation to parents and potentially demonizing teachers. It's dangerous. Parents should be informed, but I don't think the data reports do that."

Friday, August 26, 2011

September 16 is a date America should celebrate by Roy Cook

Very interesting piece on Mexico's full blooded indian president Benito Juarez by Roy Cook.

-Angela

September 16 is a date America should celebrate
By Roy Cook


September 16, 1810. The Mexican War of Independence movement was led by Mestizos, Zambos and Tribal Indians who sought independence from Spain. As an independent nation, Mexico declared the abolition of slavery and the equality of all citizens, including Tribal peoples, under the law. Freedom for all over 100 years before the United States of America would extend the same rights to the Tribal people in its borders, 1924.

Over the past few years, the Latino population in California has grown in unprecedented numbers, a fact that is being noticed by politicians, media and businesses. According to the 2000 census, there are 37.4 million individuals of Latino descent in the U.S. However, the new unknown immigrants are Meso-American Indians (Native Americans from Mexico and Central America). They are the largest growing population in the state. We have to remember that Latino is not a race and that the labels, Hispanic or Latino, cover up immense racial, cultural and ethnic diversity. There are many Anglo-, and Afro-Latinos who don’t eat burritos or sing “la cucaracha.” Latino is not as simple as “yo quiero Taco Bell;” it’s much more dynamic and complex.

According to the Frente Indigena Organización Binacional (FIOB), a California nonprofit for immigrants, the majority of the people who are labeled Mexican are natives from the Mixtec, Zapotec and Chatino tribes. FIOB estimates there are between 70,000 to 80,000 indigenous workers from Oaxaca throughout California. The Mexican Consulate in San Francisco indicates there are more than 10,000 Maya Indians from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico currently living in Marin County alone and about 18,000 throughout the Bay Area. But why do the mainstream community and Latino-based service agencies fail to recognize the changing demographics of the community? Is it possible that these individuals don’t fit the romantic view of North American Indians? Could it be that Latinos and community programs that serve them may not be aware of this trend? Or do Latino service providers replicate the same discriminatory behaviors from their own countries of origin? It is not
surprising that many Meso-American Indians making new lives in California do not self-identify with their American Indian heritage.

Historically, Latin America has been tremendously violent and discriminatory against Indian people. Many “mestizos” (mixed bloods) who may be culturally Indian experienced the discrimination as well. The inside scoop within the Latino community is that it’s generally associated with being poor and at the bottom of the social and economic scales. Discriminatory practices against Indians are embodied in almost every institution throughout Latin America. Today, many governments in Meso-America recognize the presence of indigenous people, yet fail to fulfill international accords and treaties. Even though Indians are the traditional low-wage workhorse of this country and Third World countries, they rarely have any political or social status. Consequently, for most indigenous people, it’s safer to be identified as Latino than an Indian. The flip side to all of this is that there are new social movements in California that recognize and respond to this
changing trend. Leaders of indigenous organizations celebrate Meso-American Indian culture and spirituality.

As native people from Latin America begin to feel less fearful, they are becoming more forthcoming about their culture and identity. So, the next time you think you see a “Latino,” keep in mind he or she may or may not even speak Spanish. Many of these people are representatives of a complex and ancient heritage and are contributing to the economy as they are trying to survive.

Yet many of these ‘new’ indigenous people are knowledgeable that Benito Juarez is often regarded as Mexico's greatest and most beloved leader. He was also the first full-blooded Tribal person to serve as President of Mexico, and the first to lead an American country in more than 300 years of Spanish colonialism.

Mexico had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821 after a difficult and bloody struggle since 1810. Mexican War of Independence(1810-1821), was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and Spanish colonial authorities, which started on September 16, 1810. The Mexican War of Independence movement was led by Mexico born Spaniards, Mestizos, Zambos and Tribal Indians who sought independence from Spain. As an independent nation, Mexico declared the abolition of slavery and the equality of all citizens: brown, black, yellow, including Tribal peoples, under the law.

The economic realities of any prolonged conflict are harsh. Faced with bankruptcy and a war-ravaged economy, Benito Juarez declared a moratorium on foreign debt payments. Spain, Great Britain, and France reacted with a joint seizure of the Vera Cruz customs house in December 1861. Spain and Britain soon withdrew, but the French Emperor Napoleon III used the episode as a pretext to launch the French intervention in Mexico in 1862, with plans to establish a conservative regime.

Benito Juarez, as President, his 4,000 Mexican soldiers smashed the French and monarchist Mexican army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862.The French had landed in Mexico (along with Spanish and English troops) five months earlier on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President (and Indian) Benito Juarez.
Juarez was born in the small village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, located in the mountain range now known as the "Sierra Juarez." His parents, Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García were peasants who died when he was three years old. He described his parents as "Amerindians of the primitive race of the country." He worked in the corn fields and as a shepherd until the age of 12. On December 17, 1818, he walked to the city of Oaxaca looking to educate him and find a better life. At the time he was illiterate and could not speak Spanish, only Zapotec.

The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows their culture goes back at least 2500 years. They left archaeological evidence at the ancient city of Monte Albán in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods including finely worked gold jewelry. Monte Albán was the first major city in the western hemisphere and the center of a Zapotec state that dominated much of what we know of as the current state of Oaxaca.
The battle at Puebla in 1862 happened at a violent and chaotic time in Mexico's history. Mexico had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821 after a difficult and bloody struggle since 1810, and a number of internal political takeovers and wars, including the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Mexican Civil War of 1858, had ruined the national economy.

The English and Spanish quickly made deals and left. The French, however, had different ideas.Under Emperor Napoleon III, who detested the United States, the French came to stay. They brought a Hapsburg prince with them to rule the new Mexican empire. His name was Maximilian; his wife, Carlota. Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.

The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City to the west, as the French assumed that the Mexicans would give up should their capital fall to the enemy as European countries traditionally did. But Benito Juarez created a mobile capital on wheels. With him he carried a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.While it is not known exactly when Juárez came to Lincoln's attention, we know that Lincoln was his strong supporter as early as 1857, eve of the Reform War. When Juárez had to flee Mexico City in 1858, Lincoln sent him a message expressing hope "for the liberty of .. your government and its people."

The bond between the two leaders was strengthened in 1861, the year the Civil War began. Perhaps the greatest dividend attained by the informal but highly effective alliance between Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juárez is the way it served to ease the bitterness felt by Mexicans thanks to the disastrous consequences of the U.S.-Mexican War.

Texas-Size Compromise

Kevin Kiley | Inside Higher Education
August 26, 2011

Texas Governor Rick Perry is surging in polls for the Republican nomination for president, but Francisco Cigarroa might be the Texan with the biggest political victory this week.

At a meeting of the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents on Thursday, Cigarroa, the system’s chancellor, presented a framework, which the board adopted unanimously, designed to improve accountability, outcomes, and efficiency at the system’s nine academic institutions and six health centers.

Cigarroa's plan, much like the efforts being pushed by Perry and conservative think tanks in the state, involves much more public reporting about faculty performance and focuses on using technology as a way to drive down college costs. But unlike those plans, it gives considerable leeway to campuses to determine how they will evaluate faculty members. It also avoids some of the controversial assumptions made by other reform efforts -- such as the view that there is a clear relationship between grants obtained and the value of research, or that student evaluations are the best way to measure a faculty member's teaching -- to which faculty members have objected.

The new plan is ambitious in its scope -- encompassing everything from a public database to evaluate faculty productivity to a new resource to develop online courses -- but its biggest success might be the fact that, so far, it has the support of groups on multiple sides of what has been a contentious debate about the future of higher education in Texas. The framework provides a rough outline for the system, and campuses will be left to figure out the details of exactly how they will meet the chancellor's goals, which could create tension down the road. But the fact that Cigarroa is being praised by conservative think tanks, faculty members, and even Perry is a notable departure from the rhetoric that has dominated higher-education talk in Texas.

“Chancellor Cigarroa’s action plan is the first step of many that will be needed for Texas public universities to achieve the important goals of greater transparency and accountability, improved use of resources, more world-class research and high-quality graduates, and reduced cost of higher education to students and taxpayers,” said David Guenthner, senior communications director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank whose reform proposals have been at the center of many of the debates. “Today’s positive presentation is the beginning of the reform process, not the end – but it is a very good start.”

At the same time, the plan received approval from the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group formed in opposition to the reforms being pushed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Chancellor Cigarroa’s plan is in direct contrast to the simplistic, ill-conceived, and untested so-called ‘solutions’ being promoted by outside interest groups,” the coalition said in a statement. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also weighed in, supporting the chancellor's efforts.

Tim Allen, a professor at the U.T. Health Science Center in Tyler and chair of the University of Texas System Faculty Advisory Council, said in a presentation following Cigarroa that faculty approved of the plan.

During the past few years, system administrators, university faculty members, alumni groups, politicians, and think tanks have been embroiled in discussions about college costs, accountability, faculty productivity, and the value of research. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has pushed a series of contentious reforms called the "seven solutions" that include separating research and teaching budgets, placing more emphasis on student evaluations, and creating a separate accrediting body. The group has numerous ties to the governor (who has great influence on the direction of the state's public universities, having appointed every member of the state's six boards of regents), who has partially endorsed its reforms.

Officials stressed that such issues have come up in other states as well, and that the issues of college costs and accountability are not unique to Texas, just more high-profile. “Texas finds itself at the epicenter of the national debate on the future of higher education,” Cigarroa said on Thursday.

Efforts to impose parts of those reforms have not sat well with some faculty and alumni groups, who see them as overly simplistic and detrimental to the system in the long run, and particularly to the research mission. But several people involved in the system say the broad support for Cigarroa's plan, and the comprehensive nature of the plan itself, will likely help quell the disputes.

"I think we're mostly past all that now," said Charles Miller, former chairman of the Board of Regents, of the heated rhetoric. He said that in the beginning of the debates about faculty productivity and college costs, some regents and staff quickly moved ahead to solve problems before there was agreement about what the problems were, creating a lot of tension. "In the beginning, the process wasn't well done. But these are smart, capable people on these boards, and when they're being told they're doing something wrong, they dig in and work harder."

Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo who chairs the Senate's Higher Education Committee, said she hopes the plan serves as a "unifying force that looks beyond yesterday’s controversies and toward a brighter future."

The plan Cigarroa laid out Thursday is designed to make sure that taxpayers and students are getting their money's worth out of the system -- particularly at a time of diminished state revenue and rising student costs -- which has been a major goal of the reform efforts. "Our primary goal here is enhancing the University of Texas for students and their parents, maintaining high quality, while at the same time, figuring out how to reduce overall costs and cost per student," said Gene Powell, chairman of the Board of Regents, in an interview.

The reforms incorporate suggestions developed by two regents' committees created at the beginning of the year: one on productivity and efficiency, and another on blended and online learning. Faculty members and administrators, feeling like the board was trying to micromanage campus operations, objected to those committees. The board then vested more authority in Cigarroa to create the plan.

In presenting the framework Thursday, Cigarroa stressed that he didn't want to take a "one size fits all" approach. Instead he laid out broad goals while letting each campus determine the actual benchmarks it would use. "Innovation happens at the campus level," he said in an interview. "We're not going to be prescriptive, but we are going to hold them accountable on developing strategies."

In terms of undergraduate students, the framework calls on campuses to improve four-year graduation rates, increase the number of degrees granted, and reduce the financial impact of tuition on families. For each of these, the plan outlines smaller action items, such as tuition policies that encourage four-year graduation, and identifies individuals responsible for carrying them out on each campus.

One of the major pushes in the framework, growing out of the regents' committee, is a call to increase blended and online learning to drive down costs. The board authorized an investment of up to $50 million to create a new Institute for Transformational Learning. The institute will work with campuses to develop online learning resources.

The announcement comes slightly more than a year after the system shuttered the UT TeleCampus, a centralized office for distance-education programs. Administrators said that unlike TeleCampus, the new institute will be a bottom-up approach, with programs originating on campuses, which they hope will spur greater innovation.

It will be left to the individual campuses to hammer out the details for many of the reforms advanced for improving faculty accountability and productivity, including strengthening annual evaluations and post-tenure review and implementing incentive-based compensation.

The system is already working on developing a publicly available dashboard that will present detailed information about department and individual professor productivity that administrators can use to make decisions. Cigarroa stressed that the exact information included in the dashboard has yet to be determined and that each campus will be able to determine its own set of metrics.

The selection of metrics will likely be a contentious issue down the road. Recent efforts to hold professors more accountable, such as lists of professors based on how many students they teach compared to their salaries, have not been greeted warmly by faculty members, who said they felt like they were under attack.

Other reforms include finding new ways to fund and collaborate on research projects, promote shorter completion times for Ph.D.s, and develop health and educational opportunities in South Texas -- including investment in UT-Brownsville, which used to operate jointly with a community college, to make the university a stand-alone four-year institution.

Actual implementation of the plans will take place over the next few years, as campus presidents and administrators determine actual metrics on which to measure performance and productivity.

Miller, who said he has been pushing for similar reforms for years and has been critical of both sides of the debate, said the board and Cigarroa deserve praise for tackling a politically dangerous issue. "There are quite a few people who should take responsibility for not having this discussion sooner," he said."This kind of thing takes leadership at the state policy level, at all levels, and the board should be commended for what they've done.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rick Perry's Education Policies Bring Mixed Results In Texas

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's k-12 education record has become the Obama administration's newest piñata -- but the administration's attacks mostly paint Perry's education policies in half-true generalizations and miss some real contradictions.

The criticism began Thursday, when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan unloaded on the newest GOP presidential contender, telling Bloomberg Television that he felt "very, very badly" for Texas school children. "Texas may have the lowest high school graduation rate in the country," Duncan asserted.

Over the weekend, Robert Gibbs, a former White House press secretary and current outside administration advisor, piled on: "I think when it comes to someone like Rick Perry, they're [voters] going to wonder why a place like Texas has one of the worst education systems," Gibbs said on Sunday's "Meet the Press."

But Texas's educational achievement record is more complex than Gibbs and Duncan make it sound, and their claims depend on carefully-chosen data.

On one hand, math scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress test have increased, and Texas students have performed relatively well under Perry's watch -- though progress has stalled recently. On the other hand, NAEP reading scores are relatively low, and Texas leads the country in the number of adults without high school diplomas. And while Texans scored slightly below the national average on the 2011 ACT, few of those students are college-ready.

When asked for clarification on what Duncan meant by saying Texas "may have" the nation's lowest graduation rate, a spokeswoman said she could not comment further. Texas's technical graduation rate may indeed be the nation's lowest, but that figure includes students of all ages who have not completed high school. The state's freshman completion rate is average, and Texas ranked seventh out of the 26 states that reported their four-year on-time graduation rates for 2009.

"Texas is mid-pack on graduation rates, and that's no great shakes," said Andy Rotherham, a former Clinton policy aide who now works as a partner at the think tank Bellwether Education Partners. "The bigger story is that Perry hasn't done anything on education."

WHAT POLICY?

Under Perry's watch, Texas's curriculum wars made national headlines with stories about the state's conservative school board arguing over textbook content. Perry himself received attention late last week for saying intelligent design is taught alongside evolution in Texas public schools. That statement flew in the face of a 1987 state Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the practice. Still, Perry's gaffe was more a statement on values than an education policy pronouncement.

While Perry has condemned the federal government's role in public schools, he does not seem to have a highly-articulated education policy of his own. His campaign website does not list education as an issue. Members of his staff did not return requests for comment.

Perry's gubernatorial website points to several small initiatives: teacher incentive pay, school supply reimbursement, teacher mentoring and increasing standards. But Texas education leaders say they wish Perry had articulated broader education positions.

"I couldn't point out a signature education policy but I give [Perry] credit for letting things play out over time and letting them get better," said Michael Marder, a professor at the University of Texas who runs a teacher preparation program that receives state funds. A lack of coherent education policy is inconsequential, he says, as long as the numbers are relatively good.

Ed Fuller, a long-time Texas education researcher, is less charitable. "If [Perry]'s going to run around claiming that he's done something good, the numbers don't show it," Fuller said. "Fourth grade math flattened out; we're not making improvements -- it's taking a while to translate into the eighth grade."

"He's done nothing," said Linda Bridges, who heads Texas's arm of the American Federation of Teachers.

JUMPING OFF THE FUNDING CLIFF

Budget cuts may end up the education legacy of Perry's governorship; Texas education observers predict that the school system is about to fall off the edge of a funding cliff.

During a special session to reform school funding in 2005, Perry said, "I cannot let $2 billion sit in some bank account when it can go directly to the classroom," according to his website. But the governor had no problem underfunding Texas's schools by $5.5 billion this legislative session, despite access to a $9.4 billion rainy-day fund. That move, some education advocates say, threatens to foil the subtle gains Texas students have made in recent years.

And while Perry touts job creation on the campaign trail, thousands of Texas education employees stand ready to lose their jobs because of the cuts.

The worst is yet to come, says Eva DeLuna Castro, a senior budget analyst at Texas's Center for Public Policy Priorities. Her think tank predicts a loss of 49,000 education jobs over the next two years.

"Federal stimulus money softened the blow this year," she said. "Next August will be worse. There will be cuts to dropout prevention, teacher pay, incentive pay, math and science labs and grants for pre-K. A lot of education initiatives done in earlier years will be gone now."

Texas now ranks 47th nationally in what it pays for each student's education. "[Perry's] goal is to make Texas the 99-cent store of states," said Scott Hochberg, a Democratic state representative. "You're going for cheap."

It's about to get cheaper. The state swapped its heavy reliance on property taxes for a new business tax in 2006, despite the Republican comptroller's warning that the flip would lead to a budget shortfall. Since then, Texas school funding -- and the state budget in general -- has been unsteady.

This budget session, the legislature responded to pressure from Perry and did not fund enrollment growth in schools, despite an increase of 80,000 students. According to Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson, "[Perry] did this almost single-handedly, blocking the disuse of the rainy day fund with veto threats."

According to Bloomberg News, "Perry cut $15 billion from spending [over time] and shortchanged [students] by about $4 billion from previously mandated levels rather than raise taxes."

To Cody Wheeler, a music teacher at a Louis Elementary School in Houston, Perry's education policies will be apparent for the incoming class. Last year he had 26 students, but budget cuts have forced his district to lay off some teachers. "This year, I'm going to have a class of 35 kindergartners every day," Wheeler said. "That'll be pretty challenging."

FAVORING FEDERALISM

Perry has been called the anti-Obama of education policy more than once. But he's also the anti-George W. Bush in some ways.

Bush, Perry's predecessor in Texas, made education a major issue while leading both the state and, later, the country.

"Governor Bush was making public education a priority," said Hochberg. "Perry's education initiatives in k-12 have been limited to things like announcing that he was going to provide some teachers help to buy school supplies to their classrooms and then never funding it."

With Bush as president, Congress passed No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal education law that requires accountability and test reporting among school districts and ties federal education funding to set performance standards.

Perry attacked NCLB in his book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," in a chapter titled "Federal Intervention in Education":

[J]ust like the spending hook used to induce compliance for seat-belt and drinking-age laws, the federal government reaches into our pockets, takes out wads of dollars, and then says that we can have them back only if we comply with federal instructions.

Perry also showed his states' rights principles in his resistance to participating in
Obama's Race to the Top, a grant program that had states compete for federal education funding in exchange for agreeing to implement adminstration-sanctioned reforms. "Texas knows how to best educate our students," Perry said.

He echoed that that point in "Fed Up," writing, "The academic standards of Texas are not for sale. We will retain our sovereign authority to decide how to educate our children."

But critics say Perry's funding decisions undermine any boasts of enhancing student learning. Instead, Texas kids are coming of age in an under-resourced school system that might be unable to prepare them to enter the workforce.

"If students are in underfunded schools, they'll never get ahead," DeLuna Castro said. "When they grow up, they'll be unable to pay taxes, too. It's a cycle. You've got to prepare them for that."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Americans Don't Realize Just How Badly We're Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country's Wealth

We live in a "neo-feudal" society indeed with the top one-tenth of one percent owning tens of trillions of dollars in wealth that is beyond what most of us can imagine. "An entire generation of unprecedented wealth creation has been concealed from 99 percent of the population for over 35 years."
-Angela

AlterNet
Americans Don't Realize Just How Badly We're Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country's Wealth

By David DeGraw

Posted on August 14, 2011, Printed on August 21, 2011


With an unprecedented sum of wealth, tens of trillions of dollars, held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Not even the robber barons of the Gilded Age were as greedy as the modern-day economic elite.

As American philosopher John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

In my report, The Economic Elite vs. the People, I reported on the strategic withholding of wealth from 99 percent of the US population over the past generation. Since the mid-1970s, worker production and wealth creation has exploded. As the statistics throughout this report prove, the dramatic increase in wealth has been almost entirely absorbed by the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population, with most of it going to the top one-hundredth of one percent.

If you are wondering why a critical mass of people desperately struggling to make ends meet are still not fighting back with overwhelming force and running the mega-wealthy aristocrats out of town, let’s consider two significant factors:

1) People are so busy trying to maintain their current standard of living that their energies are consumed by holding onto the little they have left.

2) People have very little understanding of how much wealth has been consolidated within the top economic one-tenth of one percent.

Considering the first factor, it is obvious that people have become beaten down psychologically and financially. A report in the Guardian titled, “Anxiety keeps the super-rich safe from middle-class rage,” suggests that people are so desperate to hold onto what they have that they are too busy looking down to look up: “As psychologists will tell you, fear of loss is more powerful than the prospect of gain. The struggling middle classes look down more anxiously than they look up, particularly in recession and sluggish recovery.”

Considering the second factor, people do not understand how much wealth has been withheld from them. The average person has never personally experienced or seen the excessive wealth and luxury that the mega-rich live in. Wealth inequality has grown so extreme and the wealthy have become so far removed from average society, it is as if the rich exist in some outer stratosphere beyond the comprehension of the average person. As the Guardian report states:

“… having little daily contact with the rich and little knowledge of how they lived, they simply didn’t think about inequality much, or regard the wealthy as direct competitors for resources. As the sociologist Garry Runciman observed: ‘Envy is a difficult emotion to sustain across a broad social distance.’… Even now most underestimate the rewards of bankers and executives. Top pay has reached such levels that, rather like interstellar distances, what the figures mean is hard to grasp.”

In fact, the average American vastly underestimates our nation's severe wealth disparity. This survey, featured in the NY Times, reveals that Americans think our society is far more equal than it actually is:

“In a recent survey of Americans, my colleague Dan Ariely and I found that Americans drastically underestimated the level of wealth inequality in the United States. While recent data indicates that the richest 20 percent of Americans own 84 percent of all wealth, people estimated that this group owned just 59 percent – believing that total wealth in this country is far more evenly divided among poorer Americans.

What’s more, when we asked them how they thought wealth should be distributed, they told us they wanted an even more equitable distribution, with the richest 20 percent owning just 32 percent of the wealth. This was true of Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor – all groups we surveyed approved of some inequality, but their ideal was far more equal than the current level.”

This chart shows the survey's results:



The overwhelming majority of the US population is unaware of the vast wealth at hand. An entire generation of unprecedented wealth creation has been concealed from 99 percent of the population for over 35 years. Having never personally experienced this wealth, the average American cannot comprehend what is possible if even a fraction of the money was used for the betterment of society.

Given modern technology and wealth, American citizens should not be living in poverty. The statistics demonstrate that we now live in a neo-feudal society. In comparison to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of the population, who are sitting on top of tens of trillions of dollars in wealth, we are essentially propagandized peasants.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are struggling to get by, while tens of trillions of dollars are consolidated within a small fraction of the population, is a crime against humanity.

The next time you are stressed out, struggling to make ends meet and pay off your debts, just think about the trillions of dollars sitting in the obscenely bloated pockets of the financial elites. I still cling to the hope that once enough people become aware of this fact, we can have the non-violent revolution we so urgently need. Until then, the rich get richer as a critical mass with increasingly dire economic prospects desperately struggles to make ends meet.

© 2011 Amped Status All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/152010/
[w1]

8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

AlterNet
8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance
By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet

Posted on July 31, 2011, Printed on August 21, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/151850/8_reasons_young_americans_don%27t_fight_back%3A_how_the_us_crushed_youth_resistance

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”


Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is www.brucelevine.net
© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151850/
[w2]

How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back

This piece came out awhile back but still applies to the Obama presidency. Any possibility of recovery? First, you'd have to agree with this analysis.
-Angela

How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back November 03, 2010|By Marshall Ganz


Los Angeles Times

How Obama lost his voice, and how he can get it back

Barack Obama went from being a transformational leader in the campaign to a transactional one as president. It didn't work, and he must reverse course.


President Obama entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement.

Now, 18 months and an "enthusiasm gap" later, the nation's major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form.

This dramatic reversal is not the result of bad policy as such; the president made some real policy gains. It is not a consequence of a president who is too liberal, too conservative or too centrist. And it is not the doing of an administration ignorant of Washington's ways. Nor can we honestly blame the system, the media or the public — the ground on which presidential politics is always played.

It is the result, ironically, of poor leadership choices.

Abandoning the "transformational" model of his presidential campaign, Obama has tried to govern as a "transactional" leader. These terms were coined by political scientist James MacGregor Burns 30 years ago. "Transformational" leadership engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. "Transactional" leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo.

The nation was ready for transformation, but the president gave us transaction. And, as is the case with leadership failures, much of the public's anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead.

Obama and his team made three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission. First, he abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education. Next, he chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy. And finally, he chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president. By shifting focus from a public ready to drive change — as in "yes we can" — he shifted the focus to himself and attempted to negotiate change from the inside, as in "yes I can."

During the presidential campaign, Obama inspired the nation not by delivering a poll-driven message but by telling a story that revealed the person within — within him and within us. In his Philadelphia speech on race, we learned of his gift not only for moral uplift but for "public education" in the deepest sense, bringing us to a new understanding of the albatross of racial politics that has burdened us since our founding.

On assuming office, something seemed to go out of the president's speeches, out of the speaker and, as a result, out of us. Obama was suddenly strangely absent from the public discourse. We found ourselves in the grip of an economic crisis brought on by 40 years of anti-government rhetoric, policy and practices, but we listened in vain for an economic version of the race speech. What had gone wrong? Who was responsible? What could we do to help the president deal with it?

And even when he decided to pursue healthcare reform as his top priority, where were the moral arguments or an honest account of insurance and drug industry opposition?

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.

Seeking reform from inside a system structured to resist change, Obama turned aside some of the most well-organized reform coalitions ever assembled — on the environment, workers' rights, immigration and healthcare. He ignored the leverage that a radical flank robustly pursuing its goals could give a reform president — as organized labor empowered FDR's New Deal or the civil rights movement empowered LBJ's Voting Rights Act. His base was told that aggressive action targeting, for example, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — where healthcare reform languished for many months — would reflect poorly on the president and make his job harder. Threatened with losing access, and confusing access with power, the coalitions for the most part went along.

Finally, the president demobilized the widest, deepest and most effective grass-roots organization ever built to support a Democratic president. With the help of new media and a core of some 3,000 well-trained and highly motivated organizers, 13.5 million volunteers set the Obama campaign apart. They were not the "usual suspects" — party loyalists, union staff and paid canvassers — but a broad array of first-time citizen activists. Nor were they merely an e-mail list. At least 1.5 million people, according to the campaign's calculations, played active roles in local leadership teams across the nation.

But the Obama team put the whole thing to sleep, except for a late-breaking attempt to rally support for healthcare reform. Volunteers were exiled to the confines of the Democratic National Committee. "Fighting for the president's agenda" meant doing as you were told, sending redundant e-mails to legislators and responding to ubiquitous pleas for money. Even the touted call for citizen "input" into governance consisted mainly of e-mails, mass conference calls and the occasional summoning of "real people" to legitimize White House events.

During the 2008 campaign, transformational leadership defied conventional wisdom. Funds were raised in wholly new ways. Organizers set up shop in states that no Democratic president had won in recent times. Citizens were engaged on a scale never before imagined. And an African American was elected president!

Now Obama must take a deep breath, step back, reflect on the values that drew him into public life in the first place and acknowledge responsibility for his mistakes. He must reverse the leadership choices of the first half of his term. His No. 1 mission must be to speak for the anxious and the marginalized and to lead us in the task of putting Americans to work rebuilding our future. He must advocate, not merely try to mediate in a fractious, divided Washington. And he must again rely on ordinary citizens to help us move forward.

Although the stakes are greater than ever, only by rediscovering the courage for transformational leadership can he — with us — begin anew.

Marshall Ganz helped devise the grass-roots organizing model for the Obama campaign. His most recent book is "Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement." He is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.

Los Angeles Times Articles
Copyright 2011 Los Angeles Times
Terms of Service

How To Build a People's Movement

How To Build a People's Movement
By Seth Borgos
The United States is entering the fourth year of its deepest downturn since the Great Depression. The official unemployment rate is rising again, and labor force participation among many groups has plummeted to historic lows. A stillborn economic "recovery" has distributed 88 percent of its benefits to corporate profits and one percent to wages and salaries. The financial press is full of warnings that we have forgotten the causes of the collapse and are doomed to repeat it. Ordinary Americans, pollsters tell us, have little faith that the economy will improve, and attribute hard times to the misdeeds of capitalists.
If ever there was a time to challenge economic orthodoxy, this would be it. Yet there has been no effective movement in the United States to ease the suffering of millions, shift patterns of growth and investment, and make job creation a priority. Handed opportunity on a silver platter, progressives have failed to seize it. Understanding that failure is the key to reversing it.
Why no jobs movement?
The most immediate explanation is that there has been no mass protest by the jobless. Since the beginning of the recession, none of the pillars of the progressive community-organized labor, community organizations, civil rights groups, youth and student groups-have invested deeply in organizing the unemployed. Some online jobless networks have emerged, particularly around the extension of unemployment benefits, but they've acquired little focus, mass, or momentum.
Three decades of conservative politics have legitimated a radically individualistic ethos and eroded the once widespread belief that unemployment is a collective problem that society is responsible for fixing.
To be fair, the challenges of organizing the jobless are formidable. In contrast to past recessions, today's unemployed are widely dispersed rather than concentrated in particular industries, constituencies, or communities. They often hold themselves responsible for their condition and feel a strong sense of shame and powerlessness. Three decades of conservative politics have legitimated a radically individualistic ethos and eroded the once widespread belief that unemployment is a collective problem that society is responsible for fixing.
Moreover, the solutions to large-scale unemployment aren't obvious. There is no shortage of thoughtful and creative ideas for job creation: infrastructure banks, work-sharing, community jobs, "on-bill" financing of energy projects, worker-owned businesses, lowering (not raising) the normal retirement age. But none of these has captured the imagination of progressives, much less the public at large. Without a compelling solution to point to, it is difficult to sustain protest.
Behind this policy conundrum is a more fundamental political obstacle. Progressives generally assume that public concern about unemployment translates into support for aggressive government intervention. But the majority of Americans believe that only business -not the public sector - can create "real" jobs. A fundamental skepticism about government has led many to conclude that cutting public spending is the best way to create jobs, or to accept high unemployment as "the new normal." Winning policy change in this climate requires more than good ideas; it requires mass political education.
Without the reality of people in motion, it is hard to generate a sense of hope and potential for collective action.
All of these problems are mutually reinforcing. In the absence of a mass movement, ideas for change have little weight. In the absence of strong, compelling ideas, people lack the confidence to challenge ideological orthodoxy. Without the reality of people in motion, it is hard to generate a sense of hope and potential for collective action.
In sum, progressive efforts to promote job creation face a classic threshold problem. Incremental strategies-whether in the form of policy analysis, public education, community organizing, or local economic development projects-have a hard time getting lift off. The issue is simply too big, too baked into our economic and political structure. Only something on the order of a social movement can achieve the scale and intensity required to shake up the status quo and create space for a serious effort at job creation.
Pre-conditions
Social movements, by nature, cannot be programmed, but neither are they entirely spontaneous. As the right has demonstrated in recent years, certain activities and investments can foster the conditions from which movements emerge. These activities include:
Relentless outreach and recruitment: The current base of progressive activists is simply not large enough or broad enough to support an effective movement for jobs. We need to bring in lots of new people-hundreds of thousands if not millions-who are jobless themselves or passionately concerned about the impact of unemployment on their communities.
Americans have an intense hunger for authentic conversation about what is happening to their country, and a strong desire to work with others in their community to create jobs and renew the economy.
Creating space for authentic conversations: Movement-building requires opportunities for people to make sense of their personal experience, in reflection and conversation with others. Some of this must be in person, in small groups that offer diverse perspectives with sufficient intimacy to build trust. Online and social media are great tools for exchange of ideas and mobilization of people, but they do not substitute for face-to-face conversation.
Identifying and nurturing grassroots leadership: Social movements rely on a deep stratum of leaders with the capacity for autonomous action and close alignment on values, principles, and goals. These leaders often seem to appear out of nowhere, but they are usually the product of an active cultivation process that includes information, training, and political education. Like authentic conversations, leadership can be facilitated through online tools but almost always requires some "face time" and one-on-one relationships to thrive.
Developing a clear story: Ask a progressive why so many Americans are unemployed, and the answers one might get include Wall Street, free trade, corporate criminality, lack of public investment, structural inequality, bad schools, a flawed growth model, and much more. There is truth to all of these explanations, but they don't add up to a cogent story. Creating a coherent economic narrative means choosing some elements to highlight and subordinating others. The same goes for policy solutions-if the list is too long, no one will remember it, much less fight for it.
Building strategic alliances: Movement-building is not well served by a progressive ecosystem dominated by short-term, transactional relationships. Even when progressive organizations play well together at the tactical level there is too little strategic coordination to take on really big, ambitious projects-like full employment. We need to create deep institutional partnerships that build on the complementary strengths of organizations and focus talent and resources on the hardest challenges.
Putting it into practice
These are the guiding aims of a new project on jobs and the economy by the Center for Community Change and its affiliate, Change Nation. Through conscious experimentation, we seek to build a robust network of community-led "action pods" that can simultaneously pursue local job creation strategies and unite around a common national agenda.
At present, for example, we are using a movement-building model originally developed by the National Organizing Institute to train thousands of grassroots leaders in how to connect their own personal story to a broader economic narrative. We are collaborating with Van Jones and a host of national groups to develop a working message on the economy and a short list of demands for change. And in partnership with MoveOn.org and other groups, we conducted more than 1,000 house meetings on July 16-17 where Americans could meet with their neighbors to make sense of their experience with the economy.
It is too early to predict what will come of these experiments. What we have learned for certain is that Americans have an intense hunger for authentic conversation about what is happening to their country, and a strong desire to work with others in their community to create jobs and renew the economy.
Portia Bougler was amazed when 21 neighbors-ranging from age 16 to 85-showed up at her house meeting in Chillicothe, Ohio. "We had to keep grabbing chairs, but I was thrilled by what people said, their passion and commitment for change. Everyone signed up to volunteer." Similar reports came from meetings in living rooms, urban cafes, suburban diners, homeless shelters, and hundreds of other venues across the country. If this energy can be captured and sustained, we can create a national jobs movement, a movement of scale with soul.
This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/how-build-peoples-movement-1313718105. All rights are reserved.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fewer Youths to Be Deported in New Policy

By ROBERT PEAR
Published: August 18, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would suspend deportation proceedings against many illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety.

The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as young children, graduated from high school and want to go on to college or serve in the armed forces.

White House and immigration officials said they would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to focus enforcement efforts on cases involving criminals and people who have flagrantly violated immigration laws.

Under the new policy, the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, can provide relief, on a case-by-case basis, to young people who are in the country illegally but pose no threat to national security or to the public safety.

The decision would, through administrative action, help many intended beneficiaries of legislation that has been stalled in Congress for a decade. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has argued that “these young people should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes.”

The action would also bolster President Obama’s reputation with Latino voters as he heads into the 2012 election. Just a week ago the leaders of major Hispanic organizations criticized his record, saying in a report that Mr. Obama and Congress had “overpromised and underdelivered” on immigration and other issues of concern to Latino voters, a major force in some swing states.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, denounced the new policy.

“The Obama administration has again made clear its plan to grant backdoor amnesty to illegal immigrants,” Mr. Smith said. “The administration should enforce immigration laws, not look for ways to ignore them. Officials should remember the oath of office they took to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.”

White House officials emphasized that they were not granting relief to a whole class of people, but would review cases one by one, using new standards meant to distinguish low- and high-priority cases.

“The president has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases, such as individuals” who were brought to this country as young children and know no other home, Ms. Napolitano said in a letter to Mr. Durbin.

She said that low-priority cases were “clogging immigration court dockets” and diverting enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

Mr. Durbin said he believed the new policy would stop the deportation of most people who would qualify for relief under his bill, known as the Dream Act (formally the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act).

Some experts have estimated that more than two million people might be eligible to apply for legal status under the Dream Act. Mr. Durbin’s office estimates that 100,000 to 200,000 could eventually earn citizenship, though the numbers are uncertain.

Under the new policy, the government will review 300,000 cases of people in deportation proceedings to identify those who might qualify for relief and those who should be expelled as soon as possible.

White House officials said the new policy could help illegal immigrants with family members in the United States. The White House is interpreting “family” to include partners of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Richard Socarides, a New York lawyer who was an adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay issues, said, “The new policy will end, at least for now, the deportations of gay people legally married to their same-sex American citizen partners, and it may extend to other people in same-sex partnerships.”

J. Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the initiative would keep immigrant families together. “It is consistent with the teaching of the church that human rights should be respected, regardless of an immigrant’s legal status,” he said.

Cecilia Muñoz, a White House official who helped develop the new policy, said officials would suspend deportation proceedings in low-priority cases that, for example, involve “military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel.”

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell, said the new policy could also benefit “illegal immigrants who were stopped for traffic violations and thrown into deportation proceedings, as well as people whose only violation of immigration law is that they stayed beyond the expiration of their visas or worked here illegally.” Ms. Napolitano said her agency and the Justice Department would do the case-by-case review of all people in deportation proceedings.

Those who qualify for relief can apply for permission to work in the United States and will probably receive it, officials said.

The new policy “will not provide categorical relief for any group” and “will not alleviate the need for passage of the Dream Act or for larger reforms to our immigration laws,” Ms. Napolitano said.

People in deportation proceedings stand to benefit most from the new policy. The new enforcement priorities also make it less likely that the government will begin such proceedings in the future against people who have no criminal records and pose no threat to national security.

White House officials said the new policy ratified guidance on “prosecutorial discretion” recently issued by John Morton, the director of immigration and customs enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, praised the new directive, saying it would allow federal agents to “focus on serious felons, gang members and individuals who are a national security threat, rather than college students and veterans who have risked their lives for our country.”

Roy H. Beck, the president of Numbers USA, a nonprofit group that wants to reduce legal and illegal immigration, said he could understand the decision to defer deportation in some cases. But he said the decision to grant work permits was distressing.

“This is a jobs issue,” Mr. Beck said. “The president is taking sides, putting illegal aliens ahead of unemployed Americans.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shifts in Politics and Policies Complicate College-Completion Agenda for States

By Eric Kelderman | San Francisco
August 14, 2011

Meeting President Obama's goal of making the United States the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020 will be difficult for colleges but possible. The greater challenge for higher education might be keeping up with the nation's shifting political and economic landscape.

To reach the president's goal will require 3 percent to 4 percent annual growth in the number of degrees that colleges award, Travis J. Reindl, an expert in postsecondary education with the bipartisan National Governors Association, told attendees at the annual policy meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers here.

And despite early concerns that college officials thought there was too much emphasis on college completion by the Obama administration, there are signs that higher-education leaders are embracing the president's goal. One reason is that they have come to realize that their future financial support will rely heavily on their performance in getting students to complete their studies. A growing number of states have approved or are considering linking appropriations to higher education to degree and certificate completions.

"The discussion has changed dramatically," said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, a nonprofit group that is helping 29 states to improve college-completion rates. A year ago, chancellors and college presidents were defensive about discussing their poor graduation rates, he said, but now many more are willing to acknowledge the problem and talk about broad solutions.
Loss of Higher-Education Agencies

Some states, however, lack coherent leadership and policies to move much beyond talk. A study to be released later this year looks at how college degree productivity is affected by higher-education policy in five states: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, with support from the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The study, led by Joni E. Finney, director of the Institute for Research in Higher Education at Penn's Graduate School of Education, was highlighted during a session at the higher-education-executives meeting.

While researchers found a particular set of problems for each state considered in the study, a common theme was that in most cases there was little coordination among institutions, higher-education agencies, and elected officials.

Washington State, for example, has a well-developed master plan, but the Higher Education Coordinating Board was dismantled by the governor this year and institutions were given greater authority to set tuition. Without coordination, the researchers conclude, the number of baccalaureate degrees is unlikely to improve, and institutional financial aid is likely to decline.

That situation is similar to that of California, where Gov. Jerry Brown used a line-item veto to eliminate the state's Postsecondary Education Commission, raising concerns that more than 30 years of data on student performance could be lost.

The perception has been that those entities are ineffective, says Aims C. McGuinness Jr., a senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a nonprofit consulting group. "But they're really just carrying out functions designed for a different time," he said. And without them, more politically powerful institutions, such as flagships, may gain even more power and wealth at the expense of two-year colleges, which already receive far less state money per student, he said.

That potential arose recently in Oregon and Wisconsin, where flagships proposed splitting away from state systems and oversight. In Ohio, the state's chancellor of higher education has recently proposed creating a class of "enterprise universities" that would be freed from much state regulation, though they would also have to forfeit a large share of their state appropriations and agree to a number of aspirational benchmarks that measure fiscal and academic stability.
Revenue Slowdown

At the heart of the policy problems is the rapid pace of political change across the country at a time of economic uncertainty. Growth in state revenue is expected to be much slower for the next decade than it has been in recent years.

More than half of the nation's governors were newly elected in 2010, along with some 2,000 new state legislators who are still learning about the complexities of higher education after less than a year in office, Mr. Reindl said.

"We have 29 new governors. We're still playing 'getting to know you' with some of them," he said.

And while the higher-education agendas of many of governors are still unclear, their budgeting philosophy is practically set in stone.

Governors want to know what they will get for every dollar they put into a program, Mr. Reindl said. And if higher-education leaders want a bigger portion of the state budget, they'd better be prepared to explain where the money should come from and how it will benefit the state, he said.

And a promise to raise the graduation rates at colleges won't be enough to answer the governors' questions. Colleges must do a better job of aligning their offerings with the needs of the state, including the kinds of degrees being earned and the areas of research that the institution is focusing on, said Mr. Reindl.

What most concerns Mr. Reindl and others, however, is the possibility that the divisive politics in the nation's capital will spill over to the states and distract lawmakers who have the goal of strengthening higher education.

Some of that has already begun in states like Indiana and Wisconsin, where proposals to undermine bargaining rights of state workers prompted Democratic state legislators to leave the statehouse in protest and to attempt to stall the legislation. And Minnesota's state government was shut down for nearly three weeks when lawmakers failed to strike a bargain with the governor to balance the budget.

That sort of political dysfunction seems all the more likely in the coming year as the 2012 election season gets under way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Obama’s Education Secretary Says Perry’s Schools Left Behind

By Margaret Talev |
Aug 18, 2011

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Texas’s school system “has really struggled” under Governor Rick Perry, a Republican candidate for president, and the state’s substandard schools do a disservice to children.

“Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing Aug. 19- 20. “I feel very, very badly for the children there.”

“You have seen massive increases in class size,” Duncan said of the Texas public school system during Perry’s terms as governor since December 2000. “You’ve seen cutbacks in funding. It doesn’t serve the children well. It doesn’t serve the state well. It doesn’t serve the state’s economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country.”

Perry has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s education policies. Perry declined to participate in Obama’s Race to the Top initiative that awards federal grants in exchange for adopting national standards, saying the program “smacks of a federal takeover of public schools.”

Perry said participating “could very well lead to the ‘dumbing down’ of the rigorous standards we’ve worked so hard to enact.” He has called Duncan a “true bureaucrat.”

Perry in June signed a $172.3 billion state budget that included $4 billion in cuts to public schools and cut financial aid to 43,000 college students, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Rankings

The estimated public high school graduation rate in Texas ranks 43rd of the 50 states, at 61.3 percent, according to the Legislative Budget Board’s 2010 Texas Fact Book.

Among 4.75 million students in Texas public schools in 2008-09, the most recent year for statistics compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, 48.8 percent were eligible for free or reduced lunches and 15.1 percent were in limited-English proficiency programs.

Duncan’s critique of Texas comes days after Perry’s formal entrance into the 2012 presidential race on Aug. 13 and his Aug. 15 comment that it would be “almost treacherous -- or treasonous” if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke increased stimulus spending before the election.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, responded to Duncan’s comments in an e-mail.

“The president’s secretary of education may want to do a little more homework before commenting on education in Texas,” he said. “Under Governor Perry, Texas has been a national leader in adopting college and career-ready curriculum standards that will ensure Texas students graduate prepared to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Miner cited Education Week, in September 2009, as recognizing Texas as a national leader in adopting college and career ready standards. “Texas continues to lead the country in job creation because companies know they can find educated and highly skilled workers here,” he said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In $32 Million Contract, State Lays Out Some Rules for Its Standardized Tests

By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: August 12, 2011

Standardized tests in English and math taken by students in New York State are about to become slightly less tricky.

Beginning next spring, a new company, Pearson, will write the standardized tests that the Education Department gives to nearly all third through eighth graders. The department switched to Pearson this year after its contract with another company, CTB/McGraw-Hill, expired.

The department has advised the new company that catch-all answer choices known for tripping up students, like “none of the above” and “all of the above” and already rare in the state’s tests, are now banned.

Mirroring a national trend toward clearer multiple-choice questions, the use of the word “not” to confuse students is also off the table; negatives can be used only when necessary, the contract states. That makes it far less likely that students will confront head-spinners like: “Which of the following words can not be used to describe the tone of this passage?”

The details of what the tests will contain, and may not contain, are included in the $32 million, five-year contract the state issued this year. Tests written by CTB/McGraw-Hill came under criticism in recent years because researchers found that over time, the questions had become too predictable, leading proficiency rates to rise well above those on the national gold-standard, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The state made the tests harder to pass in 2010, and scores plunged. The new contract is more expensive — with $8 million in spending next year alone; the CTB/McGraw-Hill contract totaled $26 million over eight years. But it offers much more detail, a review of the contracts shows. Responding to complaints from teachers that even small things were confusing students, officials even specify the font — the clear, sans serif Highlights Helvetica — that must be used. They banned the extensive use of italics and bold, and the hyphenation of words between lines.

“Our intention isn’t to be tricky,” John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner, said in an interview. “It’s to get an accurate read on students’ academic ability.”

Changes to content will be phased in, he said. Tests next year will resemble those given last spring, but by 2013 they will reflect new national standards, and include more difficult reading passages, more open-ended math questions, and writing assignments that ask children to focus not on their own experiences, but on interpreting information from texts.

The English tests must have roughly 80 to 90 questions, with reading and listening passages from at least five genres, like folk tales, reports, letters, poems and interviews, the contract stipulates.

Tests will also include more nonfiction. In the elementary grades, half of the reading passages will be nonfiction, and by the upper grades, two-thirds will be about history, science or other technical topics.

“We want to ensure that the tests give us a better read on progress toward college and career readiness,” Dr. King said.

Even the tenor of the texts is touched on in the contract. “The material,” it states, must “have characters that are portrayed as positive role models, have a positive message and be well written.”

If the state can find the financing, it plans to add testing for 9th through the 11th grade in English in 2013, Dr. King said. In part, that would allow it to assess annual student progress over a longer period of time.

Those results, in turn, will be used in yearly teacher evaluations, according to a new state law.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Regents Pay a Political Price for Their Free Advisers, Dissenters Warn

By MICHAEL WINERIP | NY Times
Published: August 14, 2011

In December, the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, announced a new program: 13 research fellows would be selected to advise the education commissioner and the 17-member board. The fellows would be paid as much as $189,000 each, in private money; to date, $4.5 million has been raised, including $1 million donated by Dr. Tisch, a member of one of New York’s wealthiest families.

The chancellor sees the program as a way to add resources and expertise at a time of severe budget cutting (state financing of the Education Department is down 35 percent since 2009). She said the fellows would help ensure that the $700 million federal Race to the Top grant New York was awarded last year was properly spent.

“People in the department were burning out,” Dr. Tisch said. “This was a great way to enhance our capacity.”

As Dr. Tisch put it, what’s not to like about free fellows?

Plenty, according to several current and former board members.

Public education has never been so divided, between those like Dr. Tisch, Commissioner John B. King Jr. and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who support the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top initiative and its emphasis on standardized tests and charter schools; and dissenters on the board, who call it a Race to the Bottom and put their faith in teachers as well as traditional public schools. The Race to the Bottom folks warn that the supposedly free fellows come at a stiff political price.

The Bottoms: “Private people give money to support things they’re interested in,” said Roger B. Tilles, a lawyer and longtime education administrator who has been a regent for six years.

Those donors include Bill Gates ($892,000), who is leading the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the National Association of Charter School Administrators ($50,000) and the Robbins Foundation ($500,000), which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation ($500,000), whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.”

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their public policy agendas.

The Tops: Dr. Tisch and Dr. King emphasize the fellows’ education credentials and administrative experience. Three of the 11 named so far have doctorates; four are Ivy League graduates; two have law degrees. One worked for New York City’s Education Department overseeing the development of the 32-variable mathematical formula used to evaluate teachers. Five have worked for charters, like the commissioner.

The Bottoms: Betty A. Rosa, who spent 23 years as a teacher and principal before becoming a New York City regional superintendent and a regent, said it was “absolutely wrong” that the fellows had spent what she considered to be so little time working in schools. Six of the 11 have never taught. The five others have a total of 10 years in the classroom and one as a principal.

The Bottoms: Saul B. Cohen, a former president of Queens College who retired in December after 18 years as a regent, is angry that the board was not consulted about selecting the fellows. “They’re supposed to be advising us, but we had no role,” he said.

Dr. Cohen was also upset that the state’s Race to the Top application — which included major policy decisions like using student test results to evaluate teachers and principals — was not shown to the Regents before it was submitted to Washington. “The board had to rubber-stamp it after the fact,” he said.

Dr. Rosa said the Regents saw only “bits and pieces” of the application beforehand.

Several board members said they had been marginalized under Dr. Tisch, who took over in 2009 and is widely considered to be the most powerful, controlling chancellor in memory.

The Tops: Dr. King said that picking the fellows was the commissioner’s decision and that there was no legal requirement to consult the Regents. He said that the Race to the Top application was completed right at the deadline and that there was no time to show the Regents. At previous meetings they had been consulted on the main policy issues, he said.

The Bottoms: After 10 months of meetings in Albany, a task force of 63 educators from all over the state concluded in April that students’ scores on state tests should count for no more than 20 percent of an evaluation of teachers and principals. Instead, the commissioner adopted the position favored by the fellows: that up to 40 percent of an evaluation could be based on state tests.

John E. Bierwirth, superintendent of the Herricks School District on Long Island, said he believed the decision was preordained. At task force meetings, he said, he tried to get fellows to reveal their thinking. “I said tell us your conclusions and give us a chance to react; they wouldn’t,” he recalled.

After putting in so many hours, Dr. Bierwirth said, “some of us felt used; I felt irrelevant.”

The Tops: Dr. King said that people understood from the beginning that the task force was advisory, and that 80 to 90 percent of its recommendations were adopted. “Their work was of great value,” he said. He pointed out that only 20 percent of the evaluation was required to be based on state tests; each district, subject to agreement with the local union, will decide whether to use them for the other 20 percent.

The Bottoms: Several regents complained that it had been hard to prepare for board meetings because in recent years, agenda items had been posted on the Internet so late. Dr. Cohen called this a bureaucratic strategy to weaken the board’s role.

The Tops: Dr. Tisch said the only reason the postings had been late was a lack of staff.

The Bottoms: Race to the Top requires states to develop student-data collection systems. Recently the Education Department awarded a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch and overseen by a former New York City chancellor, Joel I. Klein. Mr. Klein is a good friend of Dr. Tisch.

Mr. Tilles said that at a closed executive session of the Regents, he and several others told Dr. Tisch and Dr. King that they were concerned about the appearance of favoritism.

“We raised it and were dismissed,” he said. Mr. Tilles and Dr. Rosa said the contract should be put out for bid.

The Tops: State officials said discussions with Wireless Generation had begun long before Mr. Klein joined the company.

Dr. King said the contract was not put out for bid because the state was under pressure to meet a Race to the Top deadline and the Wireless Generation system was already compatible with New York City’s data system.

“At the executive session a lot of people asked a lot of detailed questions,” Dr. King said, but no action was taken.

“The board doesn’t participate in the selection of vendors,” he added.

The state comptroller’s office is investigating whether it was proper to award the contract without bidding.