Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model

 Useful info here. -Angela

Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model

Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of Thirty-one have become law.
ALEC Vouchers Transfer Taxpayer Money to Private and Religious Schools
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a "a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed."
But this "transformation" of public education -- from an institution that serves the public into one that serves private for-profit interests -- has been in progress for decades, thanks in large part to ALEC.
ALEC boasts on the "history" section of its website that it first started promoting "such 'radical' ideas as a [educational] voucher system" in 1983 -- the same year as the Reagan administration's "Nation At Risk" report -- taking up ideas first articulated decades earlier by ALEC supporter Milton Friedman.

Continue reading here.

Stephen Krashen: The Bookmooch Plan

Here is an idea of what do with your unused books and to benefit at the same time. -Angela

SKrashen: The Bookmooch Plan: The Bookmooch plan: An easy way to help close the access-to-books gap and clean up your clutter at the same time Stephen Krashen Th...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Children of immigrants start life better off than U.S.-born children-but advantages erased over time

Scholars have observed this in their research over the years and sometimes refer to this as "the Latino paradox." Another way to think about this is in terms of the harmful impact of assimilation—which I refer to in my work as "culturally subtractive assimilation."


migrants fare better than the Hispanic children of U.S.-born parents, says a new study.
migrants fare better than the Hispanic children of U.S.-born parents, says a new study. (Photo/Getty Images)

Children of immigrants start life better off than U.S.-born children-but advantages erased over time

Children of Latino immigrants begin life with a substantial advantage over the children of U.S.-born Hispanics, faring better across areas such as education, health and economics, says a new study released today by the Foundation for Child Development.   Yet over time, the study finds persistent disparities in income, health insurance coverage and education disproportionately affect the children of Latino immigrants.
According to “Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America’s New Non-Majority Generation,” the children of Latino immigrants are more likely than the children of Latino U.S.-born parents to live in a family with at least one securely employed parent and are less likely to live in a one-parent family. These children were also less likely to be born at a low birth rate and also had lower rates of infant mortality. They were also healthier than the children of Latino U.S.-born parents and less likely to have a physical disability. The children of Hispanic immigrant parents were also more likely to be in school or working in their teen years.
“This study shows that contrary to what many people think of immigrants, their children do begin life well in the United States,” says Dr. Donald J. Hernandez, a professor of Sociology at Hunter College in New York City and the study’s lead author. “Hispanics come here with strong family structures, traditional cultural diets and a work ethic which motivates them to find and maintain employment.”
The study is the first of its kind to compare the well-being of children born to both immigrant and U.S.-born parents across black, Asian, Hispanic and white groups. It examined how children fare across 19 different indicators including family economic resources, parental employment status, reading and math proficiency, as well as health care insurance enrollment rates. Using national 2010 statistics compiled by federal databases including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), researchers found the children of Hispanic immigrants begin life with an advantage over the children of U.S. born-Hispanics.
Over time, the advantages of immigrant children are erased, explains Hernandez.
The overall well-being of Hispanic children with immigrant parents ranked just behind that of black children with U.S. parents – ranked the most disadvantaged group – across of all 19 indicators. Seventy-one percent of Hispanic children fell twice below the federal poverty threshold (compared to 65 percent of all black children with U.S.-born parents). The median family income for Hispanic children with immigrant parents was also ranked lower than other groups at ($29,977) but just ahead of black children with U.S.-born parents ($33,396). Researchers found that Hispanic children of immigrant parents also had a lower rates of health insurance coverage than other groups, but were still ahead of black children with U.S.-born parents (19 percent compared to 15 percent).
Pre-kindergarten enrollment among Latino immigrant children in 2010 was lower than any other group at just 37 percent. Among Hispanic children of U.S.-born parents, only 42 percent were enrolled in pre-k, compared to other race-ethnic groups with enrollment rates of 50 and 55 percent.
RELATED: Health care, education key to combating rising poverty rates among children, say experts
These factors help erase any advantages Hispanic children of immigrant parents have over their peers born to U.S.-born parents, says Hernandez, and these very same children are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to live in low-income families, less likely to have health insurance and be in good health, he adds.  This may lead to severe health, educational and economic disparities across the Latino population in future years.
Hernandez explains that when immigrants adopt a less healthy diet — one that relies on more processed foods with high sugar and fat content — this can lead to poor health.  They may be “stuck” in low-level jobs, he says, and are therefore unable to move up the economic ladder to jobs that may lead to better salaries and health care coverage. Many of these immigrant parents also speak Spanish as their primary language. As English Language Learners, they may be unable to help their children navigate the educational system and aid them with school work that can help prepare them for future success.
While these disadvantages are less than optimistic, Hernandez says these statistics should offer incentive for those in positions of influence to implement policies he thinks can help “set standards of equality for all children.” Among these Hernandez includes national mandatory pre-k enrollment, increased investment in English Language Learner curricula and teachers, and universal health care programs.
“It’s important now to focus on the health, education and prosperity of Hispanic children because of the growth in this population – as it stands, the children of immigrants accounts for one of every four children,” says Hernandez.  By 2018, less than half of the children in the United States will be white.
“We will be moving towards a non-majority generation of children. This means that Hispanics will shortly form the majority of the labor force, and it’s important that they move forward and become an educated and highly skilled labor force – that’s essential if our country is able to compete on a global economic scale.  It’s in the self-interest of all American[s] to see all of our children healthy and well-educated.”

Walking the Labyrinth of the Corporate-Owned-Common Core

From Morna McDermott.  Here is the full transcript.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why Isn't Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? Where Is the Black Political Class?

I agree with Bruce Dixon and really do not understand why school closings in Philadelphia are not big national news despite occurring in the aftermath of Detroit (26 schools closed) and Chicago (50 schools closed) that, of course, disproportionately hurt urban, poor communities of color.  It's really heart breaking to see this unfold there as elsewhere.  Public education is taking a severe beating—ripping communities across the country apart.  Soon there will be little to no public education to speak of.  Abetted by federal policy that calls for shutting down so-called failing schools, the growth of charter schools are siphoning off large numbers of African American and Latino children from public schools. One major city at a by one.  School closures are great news for our corporate, right-wing leadership that is truly inconvenienced by the notion of public education as the bedrock of our democracy. Do folks not realize that what is getting eliminated are all the structures in education about which we have a vote?  Without a vote, we're beholden to a mayor, to a corporation, to a contract, to such a diminished role for education that—in both the short and long term—is anathema to a progressive political will and voice that is sophisticated enough to take on the money, power, rhetoric, and ideological justifications for anti-democratic "reforms" like this.  If our local, state, and national leadership—particularly our civil rights organizations—does not grab the mic for ordinary children of color, then they are complicit in this. We need a moratorium on school closings nationwide and we need it now.


Why Isn't Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? Where Is the Black Political Class?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
If some racist made an inappropriate remark about the First Lady or her children our national "civil rights leaders" Obama fans all of them, would be all over that. But standing up for ordinary black children is something our leaders just don't do much any more.  When was the last time you heard Sharpton, Jealous or any of that tribe inveigh against school closings and the creeping privatization of our schools?  

Why Isn't Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News? Where Is the Black Political Class?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In what should be the biggest story of the week, the city of Philadelphia's school system announced Tuesday that it expects to close 40 public schools next year and 64 by 2017. The school district expects to lose 40% of current enrollment to charter schools, the streets or wherever, and put thousands of experienced, well qualified teachers, often grounded in the communities where they teach, on the street.
Ominously, the shredding of Philadelphia's public schools isn't even news outside Philly. This correspondent would never have known about it save for a friend's Facebook posting early this week. Corporate media in other cities don't mention massive school closings, whether in Chicago, Atlanta, NYC, or in this case Philadelphia, perhaps so people won't have given the issue much deep thought before the same crisis is manufactured in their town. Even inside Philadelphia the voices of actual parents, communities, students and teachers are shut out of most newspaper and broadcast accounts.
The black political class is utterly silent and deeply complicit. Even local pols and notables who lament the injustice of local austerity avoid mentioning the ongoing wars and bailouts which make these things “necessary.” A string of black mayors have overseen the decimation of Philly schools. Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous and other traditional “civil rights leaders” can always be counted on to rise up indignant when some racist clown makes an inappropriate remark about the pretty black First Lady and her children.
But they won't grab the mic for ordinary black children. They won't start and won't engage the public in a conversation about saving public education. It's not because they don't care. It's because they care very much about their funding, which comes from Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, from Wal-mart and the Walton Family Foundation, from the corporations that run charter charter schools and produce standardized tests.
To name just one payment to one figure, Rev. Al Sharpton took a half million dollar “loan” from charter school advocates in New York City, after which he went on tour with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of standardized testing, charter schools and educational privatization. Bill Gates delivered the keynote speech at the latest gathering of the National Urban League. And the nation's two big teachers' unions, NEA and AFT have already endorsed Barack Obama's re-election, and will funnel him gobs of union dues as campaign contributions, despite his corporate-inspired “Race To The Top” program which awards federal education funds in proportion to how many teachers are fired and replaced by inexperienced temps, how many schools are shut down, and how many charter schools exempt from meaningful public oversight are established and granted public funds.
The fix has been in for a long time, and not just in Philadelphia. Philly's school problems are anything but unique. The city has a lot of poor and black children. Our ruling classes don't want to invest in educating these young people, preferring instead to track into lifetimes of insecure, low-wage labor and/or prison. Our elites don't need a populace educated in critical thinking. So low-cost holding tanks that deliver standardized lessons and tests, via computer if possible, operated by profit-making “educational entrepreneurs” are the way to go. The business class can pocket the money which used to pay for teachers' and custodians' retirement and health benefits, for music and literature and gym classes, for sports and science labs and theater and all that other stuff that used to be wasted on public school children.
The national vision of ruling Democrats and Republicans and the elites who fund them is to starve, discredit, denounce and strangle public education. Philly and its children, parents, communities and teachers are only the latest victims of business-class school reform. And they won't be the last.
One of the recent CEO's of Philadelphia Public Schools was a guy from Chicago named Paul Vallas. Vallas's previous job was head of Chicago's Public Schools where his “innovations” included military charter schools and wholesale school closings to get around local laws that school parent councils veto power over the appointment of principals. Vallas was succeeded by Arne Duncan, now Secretary of Education, and arrived in Philly in 2002. As CEO of Philly schools he closed and privatized chunks of 40 schools, leaving town for post-Katrina New Orleans where he closed more than 100 public schools and fired every last teacher, custodian and staff person to create a business-friendly citywide charter school experiment. After his post-Katrina destruction of New Orleans public education, Vallas went to post-earthquake Haiti to commit heaven only knows what atrocity on the corpse of public education there.
So the carving up of Philadelphia public schools IS a national story. It's just one that corporate media won't tell. Not in Philly, not in LA, not in Kansas City or anywhere, for fear that ordinary people might try to write themselves into a leading role. Polls show that the American people don't want their schools privatized, and don't believe education should be run by business people like a business. People want to take the money we spend on wars and bailouts and use it on education. Telling the story might give people the notion that the ultimate power is in their hands, not of mayors and chambers of commerce or the so-called “CEOs” of school system. It's time that story was told, and more of us heard it.
Kwame Toure used to say that the thing to do is join an organization and pick a fight. If you can't find an organization you like, he said, start one and then pick a fight. It's that time in Philly, and in Los Angeles and New York and wherever you are. It's time to stand up for our children and grandchildren.
To find out more about the bipartisan war against education, check out, and sign the petition to dump Arne Duncan. Go to for news of the national struggle for education and democracy. Listen to Education Radio at http://www/ Visit the blogs of Susan O'Hanion and Diane Ravtich online, and a hundred other similar places. See for yourself what real principals and teachers have to say about standardized testing. It's time to pick a fight, to join something, or start something.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and lives and works in Marietta GA. He is on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Philadelphia schools hunger strike hits 8th day

Exceedingly hard times right now in Philadelphia. Best wishes to the hunger strikers. 
Philadelphia schools hunger strike hits 8th day

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ten thousand unused musical instruments. No sports or art programs. No assistant principals, counselors, cafeteria aides or secretaries.
That's what the Philadelphia public schools will look like in September without a major cash infusion. And while the devastating consequences of the district's $304 million deficit have been widely reported for weeks, parent Mike Mullins thought people still didn't get it.
So for the past eight days, he's been on a hunger strike.
"What led us here was the catastrophic budget they put out which devastates the schools and our city, but specifically eliminates — just completely abandons — all of the safety monitors in lunchrooms and in recess," Mullins said Monday.
The "Fast for Safe Schools" is one of several efforts designed to draw attention to the schools' dire situation. The district has sent layoff notices to 20 percent of its staff, meaning more than 3,800 employees will be jobless next week.
Democratic city officials have been furiously negotiating for more money with lawmakers in Harrisburg ahead of the June 30 state budget deadline. But Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature have made no promises.
Philadelphia, one of the nation's largest districts, serves about 204,000 traditional and charter school students. It has not been able to keep pace with rising costs and fluctuating state aid despite closing more than 30 schools and cutting hundreds of central office workers.
On Monday, dozens of pink-slipped music teachers joined some of their students for a goodbye concert. The strains of Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens and medleys of pop songs filled the soaring atrium of district headquarters downtown.
Come fall, students will hear only the sounds of silence, said Virginia Lam, the system's music administrator.
"It's a farewell concert because all 66 instrumental music teachers — who go to 190 schools, service over 10,000 students, present over a thousand concerts each year — their positions have been eliminated," Lam said.
Among the musicians was newly minted high school graduate Jordan Salguero, who comes from the city's rough-and-tumble Kensington neighborhood.
Before the concert, she said music was her lifeline and the only thing that kept her in school. She's heartbroken that her 7-year-old brother, who is learning to play the violin, won't have the same opportunities.
"It's pretty depressing knowing that what I got to do, and what I'm doing right now with cello, he won't be able to do," Salguero said.
Playing with Salguero was Eric Jones, who teaches stringed instruments at six schools in south Philadelphia. The mood in class has been very sad, he said.
"Students were writing letters to the school board, and really heart-wrenching letters about how much they'll be impacted by it," Jones said. "I was surprised, even, how deeply they felt it."
The state-run School Reform Commission, which oversees the district, has asked the city for $60 million, the state for $120 million and unions for about $130 million in concessions. The additional funds would allow some programs and jobs to be restored.
Earlier this month, City Council pledged to deliver $74 million to the schools through a new tobacco levy and increased delinquent tax collections. But the cigarette tax requires enabling legislation from the state, and collecting overdue taxes has never been the city's strong suit.
The governor is pushing heavily for union concessions, including freezing salaries through 2017, increasing the length of the work day and asking employees to pay for part of their health insurance.
Teachers union president Jerry Jordan has said that his members have already sacrificed enough.
Meanwhile, hunger strikers who are only drinking water remain camped out in front of the governor's field office in downtown Philadelphia. The fast was organized by Unite Here, a labor union that represents 1,200 noontime aides who are being laid off.
Mullins was among two parents and two school cafeteria workers who began the strike June 17, saying the aides play a critical safety role by stopping bullying, de-escalating violence and defusing tensions in the lunchroom.
Eight days later, three of the original four are ending their fasts. But they've passed the torch to a new group that includes union member Nicole Hunt, who said she was moved to act "because I'm angry."
"I thought education was supposed to be about the kids," said Hunt. "It's not about the kids anymore. I don't know what it's about. But school should be school, and kids should feel safe."
Follow Kathy Matheson at

Getting Teachers Ready to Teach

Getting Teachers Ready to Teach

Student teacher Allison Brown high-fives Rakiya Thomas, 8, in a third-grade class in Valley Park, Mo. Some say states should require a would-be teacher to work in a classroom before getting a license. (AP)
A growing number of states are trying to improve the quality of teachers by transforming the programs that are supposed to prepare them for the classroom.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell last month signed a bill requiring his state’s teacher preparation programs to include at least 10 weeks of full-time student teaching and to collect and report data on the performance and effectiveness of their graduates. In the last two years, Connecticut, Indiana, Colorado Ohio and North Carolina have approved similar measures aimed at improving teacher preparation. Massachusetts and Minnesota have also had long reputations for making sure teachers are well-prepared to teach.
According to many researchers, teacher quality is the single most important factor inside a school in student achievement. “In Delaware, our new law raises the bar for admissions to teacher preparation programs and improves training through high-quality student teaching experiences and specific math and literacy instruction for prospective elementary school teachers,” said Markell, a Democrat.
States have long possessed powerful tools to ensure that teachers are adequately trained: They are responsible for licensing teachers, and they must approve any teacher preparation program that operates within their borders. Many also have the power to decide admission standards and regulate program requirements for schools of teacher education.
But until recently, most states did not leverage those tools consistently to maximize teacher quality. Many are starting to do so now, in part because students are being held to higher standards, according to Janice Poda, who directs the Education Workforce initiative for the Council of Chief State School Officers.
“Once we made that decision to raise the bar for what we expected students to be able to know and do, that raised the bar for what teachers would be able to do,” Poda said, referring to the Common Core standards that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The standards are intended to ensure that students graduate from high school ready for college or to enter the workforce. 
States interested in evaluating the effectiveness of teachers graduating from teacher education programs are also gaining new tools unavailable to previous generations, in the form of data showing how much, for example, a particular school’s graduates are able to increase student achievement.  Improving the quality of beginning teachers is also crucial now because of the large number of first-year teachers entering the workforce: In 1987-88, the nation had about 65,000 first-year teachers; by 2007-08, the number had reached over 200,000, according to a University of Pennsylvania study.
There is great variability among the states in terms of how well they ensure that beginning teachers are well-prepared to teach, according to Linda Darling-Hammond, an expert on teacher education at Stanford University. Massachusetts and Minnesota have focused strong efforts on improving teacher education, she said, while Texas and Florida have allowed some low-quality programs to proliferate. 
Darling-Hammond said that to improve teacher preparation, states should identify which programs are doing the best job and push other programs to adopt the same strategies or face elimination.  She also recommended that states adopt common standards for all teacher preparation programs, and that they evaluate what prospective teachers can actually do when they complete their programs.
Many states are starting to take such steps. Connecticut’s State Board of Education in April adopted principles to improve teacher preparation programs in the state. They include higher admissions standards, mandatory classroom experience and requiring prospective teachers to demonstrate their ability to teach in a classroom setting.
At the Delaware Center for Teacher Education at the University of Delaware, where students already complete between 14 and 18 weeks of student-teaching, Associate Director Linda Zankowsky said the classroom experience is a critical part of teacher education.
“In general, they finally see what it is that they have been talking about in classrooms coming to life and actually having to apply it,” Zankowsky said. “They finally realize the whole picture of what teaching is all about....They really start to appreciate that it’s very much a 24-7 job.”
In Indiana, the General Assembly this spring approved Senate Bill 409, which requires the state department of education to develop rules, standards and benchmarks of performance for teacher education programs and those who complete the programs. Under the legislation, the state will develop a rating system for teacher preparation programs. State Sen. Dennis Kruse, an author of the bill, said that after the legislature adopted tougher standards for teachers in 2011, lawmakers realized they had to hold the schools who train teachers accountable as well.
“We felt it was not really being fair to the teachers if they aren’t being trained correctly, so we felt we ought go to back to the schools to see which schools of education in Indiana are turning out teachers” who are effective, said Kruse, a Republican. “The ultimate goal is for students to succeed in the classroom and one of the best ways is to have an effective or highly effective teacher teaching them.”
In Colorado, House Bill 1219, which was signed into law in April, calls on state education officials to review the content of teacher preparation programs and prepare an annual report on the effectiveness of the programs. North Carolina last year adopted legislation to ensure that teacher preparation programs “remain current and reflect a rigorous course of study that is aligned to State and national standards” while Ohio approved legislation requiring the chancellor of the state board of regents to track the performance of each program’s graduates in aggregate, as a way to measure teacher education programs.
The issue also has attracted attention from national groups. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and the National Association of System Heads announced July 11 that they will work together to improve the preparation and professional development of teachers and school leaders. The groups said their “initial focus will be on leveraging state and system approaches to change, with a focus on sharing effective practices and developing mechanisms for states and systems to advance positive changes.”
And last month, the National Council on Teacher Quality published a controversial report on teacher preparation programs at more than 1,130 colleges and universities around the country. The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group concluded that teacher preparation education has “become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”
The council also published a state teacher policy yearbook in January, calling on the states to apply leverage to improve the quality of teachers. It gave the 50 states and the District of Columbia and average grade of D+ on teacher preparation policies in 2012, up slightly from D in 2011.

[Texas] Districts Prepare for New High School Diploma

And we still haven't eliminated high-stakes testing. -Angela

Districts Prepare for New High School Diploma Rules

Some Texas high school students who failed state standardized exams this spring were given a reprieve under the comprehensive education bill that Gov. Rick Perry signed in early June.
Under current law, they would have had to take 15 state standardized exams to graduate. With the changes in House Bill 5 that begin in the coming school year, they will need to pass only 5. Shortly after Perry signed the bill, which cleared both chambers of the Legislature unanimously, the Texas Education Agency announced that current high school students would not have to retake exams they had failed in any of the six subjects that the new law removed from the state’s testing requirements. They are algebra II, chemistry, English III, geometry, physics and world history. 
But as educators welcome the relief that the legislation brought from what were widely considered onerous state testing requirements, some school districts are now looking ahead at another part of the law, which will take effect in the 2014-15 school year and broadly expand the courses that will count toward a diploma.

Continue reading here.

Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform?

Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform? They want to remake America's students in their own high-achieving image, but they're overlooking socioeconomics

By Judith Warner @judithwarnerDec. 09, 2011

It was perhaps inevitable that the political moment that has given birth to the Occupy movement, pitting Main Street against Wall Street and the 99% against the financial elite, would eventually succeed in making some chinks in the armor of the 1%’s favorite feel-good hobby: the school reform movement.

It’s been a good decade now that the direction of school reform has been greatly influenced by a number of highly effective Master (and Mistress) of the Universe types: men and women like Princeton grad Wendy Kopp, the founder of the Teach for America program, her husband, Harvard graduate Richard Barth, who heads up the charter school Knowledge Is Power Program, the hard-charging former D.C. schools chancellor (and Cornell and Harvard grad) Michelle Rhee and the many hedge fund founders who are now investing significant resources in the cause of expanding charter schools. Excoriating the state of America’s union-protected teaching profession and allegedly ossified education schools, they’ve prided themselves upon attracting “the best and the brightest” to the education reform cause, whether by luring recent top college graduates into challenging classrooms or by seducing Harvard Business School or McKinsey-trained numbers-crunchers away from Wall Street to newly lucrative executive positions in educationally themed social entrepreneurship.

The chief promise of their brand of reform — the results of which have been mixed, at best — seems to be that they can remake America’s students in their own high-achieving image. By evaluating all students according to the same sort of testable rubrics that, when aced, propelled the reformers into the Ivy League and beyond, society’s winners seem to believe they can inspire and guide society’s losers, inoculating them against failure with their own habits of success, and forever disproving the depressingly fatalistic ’70s-style liberal idea that things like poverty and poor health care and hunger and a chaotic family life can, indeed, condemn children to school failure.

And yet as schools scramble to keep up with these narrow demands, voices are emerging to suggest that perhaps the rubric-obsessed school reform game, as it’s been played in the Bush and Obama years and funded and dressed-up by the well-heeled Organization Kids, is itself perhaps due for a philosophical shake-up.

(MORE: Andrew J. Rotherham: Cheating on the Hard Work of School Reform)

Earlier this year, S. Paul Reville, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, blogged in Education Week that reformers need now to think beyond the numbers and “admit that closing achievement gaps is not as simple as adopting a set of standards, accountability and instructional improvement strategies.” In Massachusetts, he wrote, “We have set the nation’s highest standards, been tough on accountability and invested billions in building school capacity, yet we still see a very strong correlation between socioeconomic background and educational achievement and attainment. It is now clear that unless and until we make a more active effort to mitigate the impediments to learning that are commonly associated with poverty, we will still be faced with large numbers of children who are either unable to come to school or so distracted as not to be able to be attentive and supply effort when they get there.” Reville called for “wraparound services” that would allow schools to provide students with a “healthy platform” from which they could begin to work on learning.

Diane Ravitch, the education policy specialist and reformed charter school advocate, made the same argument in a trenchant New York Review of Books article this fall, where she enumerated the many reasons that school reform as we’ve come to know it needs to be called into question. For one thing, like so much else “the best and the brightest” have brought us in recent years, many of the reform movement’s results don’t stand up to scrutiny. After reviewing the data, she writes:  “Most research studies agree that charter schools are, on average, no more successful than regular public schools; that evaluating teachers on the basis of their students’ test scores is fraught with inaccuracy and promotes narrowing of the curriculum to only the subjects tested, encouraging some districts to drop the arts or other nontested subjects; and that the strategy of closing schools disrupts communities without necessarily producing better schools.”

Striking a serious blow to the contention that it’s bad teaching — not bad luck in life — that makes some American students perform much worse than others (and all of them much worse than students in other countries), Ravitch noted that on a recent international test, the Program for International Student Assessment, “American schools in which fewer than 10% of the students were poor outperformed the schools of Finland, Japan and Korea. Even when as many as 25% of the students were poor, American schools performed as well as the top-scoring nations. As the proportion of poor students rises, the scores of U.S. schools drop.”

In other words, more than good teachers, more than targeted testing, more than careful calibrations of performance measures and metrics that can standardize and quantify every aspect of learning, it’s the messy business of life — where a child comes from and what he or she goes home to at the end of the day — that really determines success in school. This message flies in the face of the pull-yourself-up-by-your-boostrap individualism, the extreme emphasis on private (read: teacher) responsibility that has animated the school reform movement in recent years. It demands a complete rethinking now of what our public response to the perennial crisis of public education in America should be.

(MORE: Warner: Overmedicating Foster Kids: The Cost of Skimping on Care)

Fortunately, there are some programs in place that have had real success in providing “wraparound services” that help children come to school ready to learn. In Northern California, for example, the Making Waves Foundation has for decades run a program providing  tutoring, academic advising, college counseling, after school enrichment programs, mental health services, nutritional food, transportation and parent education to more than a thousand low-income children, selected by lottery. In Cincinnati, where more than 70% of children live in low-income households, a program called the Strive Partnership coordinates services and support for school children that include mentoring, health care, arts programs, quality preschool and financial aid for college — and the result, according to a new report from the independent think tank Education Sector, is that, over the last four years, Cincinnati schools have made greater gains than any other urban district in Ohio and have had the most success in reducing the percentage of its students who score at the very bottom on achievement tests.

The Obama Administration hasn’t been blind to these initiatives, and has committed $40 million to a new Promise Neighborhoods program that seeks to link family support services to schools. But, the Education Sector report notes, that initiative is unlikely to receive the $150 million the Administration requested for 2012, given that its 2011 budget request of $210 million was cut down to $30 million.

Thinking structurally about social ills, rejecting excessive individualism for community-based, it-takes-a-village-style responsibility, has been out of favor in America for a long time. In education reform, what’s been in style instead is vilifying teachers and their unions. For some schools, making the grade has meant cooking the books to show results. Let’s hope that the time to reform this business-modeled mindset has finally come.

Read more:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rand Paul's Confederacy Scandal Is Not an Anomaly -- Libertarianism Papers Over Deep Racism in America

Rand Paul's Confederacy Scandal Is Not an Anomaly -- Libertarianism Papers Over Deep Racism in America

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul the guy who questioned the wisdom of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when he first ran for office, finds himself at the center of yet another race related controversy this week.
On Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon published an article titled “Rebel Yell” detailing the previous career of Paul’s right-hand man co-author Jack Hunter.
While working as a radio host in South Carolina, Hunter appeared in public wearing a Confederate flag mask, openly called for secession, and even defended the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He called himself “The Southern Avenger” and was a chairman of the Charleston wing of the League of the South, a group, which, according to its own website, “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union, and the formation of a Southern republic.” [3]
Rand Paul is now trying to disassociate himself from Hunter, but that will be a difficult task. The “Southern Avenger” isn’t just some random Senate staffer: he’s a close associate of Paul and helped him write his first book back in 2010.
It now looks like Senator Paul is continuing in a great family tradition. Even though he denies responsibility, his father Ron published a series of racist newsletters during a1996 Congressional campaign.
However, we shouldn’t really be that surprised by either of the Pauls’ connection to far-right racism. That’s because they’re libertarians and libertarianism is the velvet glove over the iron fist of racism.
Here’s how it works: when you have an entrenched racial and economic class that has ruled a continent for five centuries, they have well-established levers and levels of power and wealth. They will, generation after generation, do whatever is necessary to hang on to that wealth and power.
History shows, including the history of Reconstruction and the history of integration in the 1950s and 1960, that the only thing strong enough to challenge the political and economic power of a multi-century hereditary ruling class is the power of government.
It was government that made Alabama Governor George Wallace and Georgia Governor Lester Maddox integrate their states. And it was government that both passed and made the South finally accept the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
This [4] is what George Wallace had to say about integration during his inaugural address in 1963: "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
But Wallace lost that fight because the power of government, when appropriately used, is greater than the power of wealth, class, or race.
It took government to break the stranglehold of white rule in the 1870s and 1880, but even that white power structure reasserted itself and fought to reclaim its power, leading to the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 and a half century of segregation which kept in place the political and economic privileges of white people.
So now comes a political philosophy - libertarianism - that says everything is fine, everything is equal, and government should get the hell out of the way.
They say this when the average wealth of a white family when the median net worth of a white family is $110,729 and that of a black family is $4,955 [5].
They say this when in the entire history of the U.S. Senate there have only been three African-Americans elected to that body.
They say this when just twenty minutes after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the most populous state of the Old Confederacy, Texas, put into place discriminatory voter suppression laws and began gerrymandering.
So, in effect, when conservatives and libertarians say government should get out of the way, what they are really saying is “let’s lock into place white political power, white wealth, and white privilege.
Of course, not all libertarians think of themselves as racist, and most probably don’t see how their “get rid of government” policies prop up institutional bigotry, but the reality is that when you blast government as the root of all evil and neuter its power, you end weakening the one thing that can keep the ruling elite in check.
And when you do that, the rich and powerful race hangs onto its wealth and power and the poorer minorities lose even more of what little they have.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether Rand Paul agrees with Jack Hunter that the Confederacy was a good idea.
Because by going on and on about state’s rights and freedom from government tyranny, Senator Paul and his friends on the Libertarian right make sure that the values of Old Dixie – an entrenched racial elite and  racial inequality – continue in America.
Libertarianism truly is the velvet glove of a nice-sounding “freedom” policy that covers the iron fist of five hundred years of genocide and apartheid in America.
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Malala Yousafzai's address to the UN

How despicable and shameful what the Taliban did to Malala Yousefzai. She was ruthlessly shot by Pakistani Taliban last year. Malala has nevertheless miraculously resurrected from her moment of extreme violence and horror as ever-more strong, vocal, and courageous. She is a true symbol of the world-wide struggle for girls' and all people's human right to an education and for women's rights to independence and voice that a good education together with good policies defending women's and children's rights provide. 

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword!

There is hope in the world.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Texas students still struggle on STAAR writing tests

The English I STAAR test—reading and writing—is what's holding students back. Check out the amounts of money districts are using for re-testing. No analysis, btw, of who exactly is failing these tests. To not name race/ethnic and class privilege and conversely, under-privilege, is to perpetuate a flawed system that simply sweeps these under the carpet. Yet all people are really affected when we see how our very scarce resources are getting used. They go not only to a private vendor (Pearson, Inc.) but to the whole remedial cottage industry that gets built around this socially constructed failure.


Texas students still struggle on STAAR writing tests

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thoughts on Privatization of Public Services

none of which will be original to me, but I think have some worth in bringing together.
First, we need to recognize how broad the tendency of privatizing public services has become -  we have private security forces in lieu of police in some gated communities and in many corporate settings.  Support services for the military,even in combat zones, are now provided by contractors.  Many activities that should be military or other government services are similarly done by contractors, including interrogation of prisoners.  We have private prisons.  We have sold toll roads.  Garbage and recycling is often done by corporations.  Background checks for government clearances, water systems, schools ...  To these I would also add the way we provide health insurance, since unlike Germany we have not as strictly regulated the operation of the companies that provide it.
As we consider this, we should also consider the following.

1.  A corporate entity is less concerned with the level of service provided than it is in maximizing its profits
2.  A corporation is protected in most cases from sunshine laws requiring the disclosure of non-classified activities by government agencies and employees.
3.  In many cases, government employee salaries are a matter of public record (especially in state and local governments), whereas the compensation of  corporate employees is not as transparent (although top executive compensation is accessible for publicly held corporations - it is not for private corporations or for entities not organized as corporations).
3.  The protections the Constitution and its amendments provide against governmental action do not apply when the same action or activity is performed by a non-government entity on behalf of or in lieu of the government.
4.  Once a government has contracted for services by a private/corporate entity, even should political control of that government change, it is exceedingly hard to roll back that service because of the sanctity of contracts.
5.  When government assets are sold off, often for less than what their true value should be, it is usually impossible to reverse that transaction.

This is the context for the assertion I am about to make.

When combined with the increasing legal protections Courts have provided corporate entities, with the ability of corporate entities and their owners to dominate much of the political processes, America is rapidly moving from a democratic republic to a fascist entity which may retain the appearance of democratic operation such as elections, but in practice is no longer functioning as an agent of We the People.

That is a pretty blunt assertion.

I have not said that we ARE already a fascist entity.

I use the term "fascism" more in the model originally expressed in Italy, and this is absent any political ideology with respect to that found in Germany in the first half of the last century.  The real ideology is money, profits for those who can maximize them, with any value that might limit those profits being considered hostile to the interests of those whose political power and economic control over the lives of ordinary people increases.

I do not believe I am offering unfounded conspiratorial theories, nor am I being unnecessarily scary.
We are not there yet.

Nor are we yet a totalitarian state.

We have options still open to us to push back against these tendencies.

But that pushback will not occur unless and until we can accurately name and describe the problem.
I have been teaching either American History or American Government or both since I entered a public school classroom in December of 1995.   I had previously taught in 1973-74.  The trends were barely visible in the early to mid 70s, but by the time I reentered the classroom, they were already well on their way, in part because of the so-called Reagan revolution, in part because the recommendations of the infamous Powell Memorandum had begun to take hold, with well-established organs dedicated to maximizing the influence of the corporate class regardless of its impact upon ordinary people.

Control of education of the masses is a necessary step to advance this agenda.  Thus what happens in schools is of particular importance to watch.  What people learn in their K-12 years is often very hard to reverse:  ask College professors how much reteaching, or if you will, unteaching, of incorrect and inaccurate lessons they must do - in science, perhaps, in history and government very much so.

Control of the military and how it is equipped, trained and used is essential, as a final backstop to guarantee the agenda.  But the military does not need to be turned directly upon the people.  Use it in a constant state of war or near war, direct resources in that direction that profit the corporations and starve other government activities of funds, attack those who would criticize these efforts as being weak on defense, as putting America "at risk" to some enemy real or otherwise, and you are well on your way to suppressing critical thinking that could challenge the direction of what is happening.

Eisenhower spoke to this several times, and it is worth noting that in his farewell remarks his original framing was Military, Industrial, Congressional Complex.  Congressmen and Senators who are dependent upon certain sectors of the economy for the financial support for their continuance in office are major problems, to wit, the likes of a Chuck Schumer protecting Wall Street, a Joe Lieberman protecting the insurance industry, and the myriads of people on both sides of the aisle protecting the military and intelligence contractors who are making billions off the public teat.

When I was growing up, many Navy ships were built by the Navy.  Now a few major shipyards build them all - whether Electric Boat and Bath Iron Works, both owned by General Dynamics, or Ingalls and Newport News, both owned by Huntington Ingalls.

When I was young there were many, many sources of news.  Now a few organizations dominate the mainstream media.

A few banks control most the financial activity in this nation, and seemingly cannot be held accountable either for criminal offenses or for the financial destruction they wreak upon the rest of us.
When security in a combat zone is provided by former special forces personnel who are paid many multiples of what they earned in government service and for whom we pay several multiples of that for their corporate employers, we who have paid for their training to protect and serve us are now paying for the profits of their employers, employers who somehow often not only do not pay corporate taxes, but get tax rebates from the government to further enrich and empower them.  When those taxes are passed on to their wealthy owners, somehow they manage to pay taxes at a lower rate than does the average worker in their corporations -  after all, we have a cap on Social Security taxes, and people pay far less in "capital gains" than we do on our wages.

I wonder what this country could be if the people were truly educated in economics, and not brainwashed - yes, I went there - to believe that capitalism is always the superior path.  Of course, we do not truly have a free market system, because we have from the beginning protected intellectual property by patents and copyrights, we rightly restrict who can enter some professions and business by licensing.  In a true free market system there would be no too big to fail, nor would there be government subsidies of corporate entities at the expense of individual business activities.
Government SHOULD have a role.

There are some services that should be done without respect to a profit motive.
At some point, unless one is concerned with accruing ever more power, there should be sufficiently progressive taxation to prevent the accumulation of wealth and thus power into too few hands.
Instead, we have been moving in the other direction.

Instead, with the accumulation of power to the corporate class, the distortion of the political processes that flow therefrom, the placing of ever-more corporately oriented people into judicial positions, America is being distorted.

Yes, we have gains in some areas, such as marriage equality.  But remember, the same court in the same week further empowered corporations and further restricted the government's ability to protect our ability to vote - note the word in bold because we still do NOT have a constitutional right to vote.

In my mind the starting point to reclaiming America has to be to reclaim the proper role of government in providing services, and to properly taxing those who benefit from those services - including the corporate class.   Ultimately we can make those services less expensive, and certainly we SHOULD be able to make them more responsive to the American people.

Private entities cannot be held responsible the way government is supposed to be.

The government cannot be held responsible if we do not maximize transparency.

Perhaps what will result will not be fascism as we have previously imagined it.

Perhaps it will be something for which we will need to invent new language.

But when the services that should be provided by government for we the people are in private, largely unaccountable hands, hands which increasingly control the government that should be overseeing them, when our rights are merely words on paper because the guarantees do not protect against what these corporate entities do, we can be sure of one thing: we no longer have a liberal democracy, and we will have a republic in name only.

It will be government of Us the Corporate Class, and not We the People of the United States.
Some thoughts for a Saturday.