Sunday, March 30, 2014

Important, potentially planet-saving report that we only ignore at our own peril. See other related report, too.  

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come


SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2014

Scientists Gather to Finalize Dire Warning for Planet's Climate Future | Common Dreams

Important, potentially planet-saving report that we only ignore at our own peril. 


Scientists Gather to Finalize Dire Warning for Planet's Climate Future | Common Dreams


World's scientists meet in Japan to complete summary of report that paints bleak future if climate inaction continues

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Sunset on the Arctic (Kathryn Hansen/ NASA Goddard Photo / Creative Commons license)The world's leading climate scientists gathered in Japan on Tuesday to begin hashing out the final details of a "grim" climate report, which both leaked drafts and those familiar with its contents say will call on policy makers to take immediate action or face a climate future that will otherwise be marked by widespread ecological and human catastrophe.
Of those harsh challenges, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report—according to a draft version of the leaked earlier this year— will show that the four degrees Celsius rise that we are currently careening towards will undoubtedly cause increasing natural disasters, including: more violent storms, forest fires, devastating droughts, flooding, widespread hunger, disease, and a rise in ocean levels by up to a meter.
However, as Kaisa Kosonen explains on the Greenpeace blog Tuesday, the difference in their latest report from previous work by the IPCC and other similar warnings from the global scientific community is its emphasis on the stark "choice" now before humanity.
This latest message from the IPCC, Kosonen writes, is that people—both inside and outside of government— either "reduce and manage the risks ahead and do what’s needed to keep warming as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible, or we continue to do too little too late, drifting from crisis to crisis and on towards a disastrous 4 degrees world."
"The IPCC will paint a picture of both these possible futures," Kosonen notes.
Over the course of this week the scientists will be finalizing a summary of the 2,000 page report directed at policy makers. The report and summary will be released Monday, March 31, following the week-long summit.
"I think everybody who works on the climate issue understands that climate change is truly one of the defining challenges of the 21st century," Chris Field, of the U.S.-based Carnegie Institution for Science, told the event's opening ceremony on Tuesday. However, said Field, the IPCC is "uniquely positioned" to enable policymakers to "deal effectively, robustly and optimistically with challenges for the future."
The IPCC report is the second installment of the group's Fifth Assessment Report—a four year project that has combined the work of thousands of scientists around the world.
The first installment, released in September, said warming in the climate system is "unequivocal" and the cause of current and future weather-related catastrophes.
"Today we are in a situation where governments have promised to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius but are heading instead towards a 4 degree world," writes Kosonen. "They are neither preparing for a 2 degree nor a 4 degree world, trying to ignore the megatrend of climate change."
"Will we continue drifting from one disaster to another, or will we take control of our future?"she asks. "We're at a crossroads and the choices we make now will determine how history judges us."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

International Scores Irrelevant to Economic Competitiveness

At best, these tests are diversionary; at worst, they narrow curriculum and work against inventive and innovative thinking.  They also represent a measurement system that is silent on questions of equity.
"...given the sampling and measurement flaws in the rankings and their negligible role in assessing the overall quality of education systems, much less the strength of economies. Whether or not the United States continues to rank high on competitiveness, international test scores will remain virtually irrelevant."

International Scores Irrelevant to Economic Competitiveness

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Today's guest contributor is Iris C. Rotberg, Research Professor of Education Policy, The George Washington University.

The ranking of the United States on international tests of science and mathematics continues to fuel rhetoric about economic competitiveness and shortages of scientists and engineers, despite the fact that the United States consistently ranks first, or among the top countries, in competitiveness. Moreover, there is little evidence of shortages of scientists and engineers to fill traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs.  It is sometimes argued, however, that these apparent strengths are fragile and we should not assume that because the numbers look good now they will continue to look good in the future. That is a fair argument--none of us can predict long-term economic and scientific strength with any degree of certainty. But we do know that, regardless of the outcome, it will not be international test-score rankings that make the difference.
The irrelevance of test-score rankings is illustrated in reports of the IMD (a global business school in Switzerland) and the World Economic Forum, which rank countries by international competitiveness. The rankings are based on a set of variables chosen to reflect current knowledge about what is most important in determining competitiveness. These variables include, for example, the soundness of the economy and financial sector; business sophistication; innovation; the quality and fairness of governmental and private institutions; market efficiency;  basic, technological, and scientific infrastructure; and the overall strength of the education system (primarily capacity and access at all levels of education). International test-score rank was only one of the 113 criteria used by the IMD to measure these variables. Performance on international test-score comparisons was not even mentioned among the 114 criteria used by the World Economic Forum--and for good reason, given the sampling and measurement flaws in the rankings and their negligible role in assessing the overall quality of education systems, much less the strength of economies. Whether or not the United States continues to rank high on competitiveness, international test scores will remain virtually irrelevant.
The test-score rankings also have little value in predicting whether a country will produce an "adequate" supply of scientists and engineers. The U.S. rank on test-score comparisons is often interpreted as a proxy for a shortage of talent in STEM fields, despite strong evidence that the United States has a large supply of students capable of going into those fields. It is true that many talented students choose not to enter STEM fields and many others who receive degrees in these fields choose not to work in them. A study conducted by Anthony P. Carnevale and colleagues at Georgetown University, for example, found that only a fourth of high school students who score in the top quartile in mathematics choose to enter a STEM major in college; only half the students who start with a STEM major graduate with that major; and fewer than half the students who graduate with a STEM major are actually working in STEM fields 10 years later. These students, instead, have entered other fields, including architecture, business, finance, or medicine. The point is that the attrition from traditional STEM fields does not reflect a lack of U.S. talent or training in these fields, but rather such factors as interests, salary differentials, a weak economy, or outsourcing of jobs because of lower wages outside the United States. Apple is unlikely to hire U.S. workers to replace the hundreds of thousands of workers outside the United States who are manufacturing and assembling component parts for its products because of more correct answers on a math test.
The United States currently has an ample supply of workers to fill traditional STEM jobs. Carnevale and colleagues, however, frame the question differently and see a potential for future shortages. They ask whether the country can produce a skilled labor force large enough to fill both the traditional STEM jobs as well as the large number of other jobs that might draw on similar skills, such as finance and medicine, taking into account projected retirement rates, possible reductions in foreign-born workers, and a future growth in STEM jobs at sub-baccalaureate as well as higher levels of education.
Whether or not the predicted shortages occur, the international test-score comparisons have become a diversion that detracts attention from the factors that can make a difference in scientific innovation and competitiveness. Indeed, the increasing focus on test scores has led to scripted learning and narrowing of the curriculum--trends that are inconsistent with an approach that encourages problem solving and innovation. That focus is also inconsistent with educational approaches designed to give students a broad set of skills that will contribute to their effectiveness in the workplace and is likely to be counterproductive in both attracting and retaining students in STEM fields.
The focus on test scores also detracts attention from the serious underrepresentation of low-income populations in STEM and the larger problem that underrepresentation illustrates--the growing gap in income and access. The gap will not be narrowed by rhetoric about international test-score rankings. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

American Schools Are STILL Racist, Government Report Finds

Though 16 percent of America's public school students are black, they represent 27 percent of students referred by schools to law enforcement, and 31 percent of students arrested for an offense committed in school, according to the survey.

American Schools Are STILL Racist, Government Report Finds

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Public school students of color get more punishment and less access to veteran teachers than their white peers, according to surveys released Friday by the U.S. Education Department that include data from every U.S. school district.

Black students are suspended or expelled at triple the rate of their white peers, according to the U.S. Education Department's 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, a survey conducted every two years. Five percent of white students were suspended annually, compared with 16 percent of black students, according to the report. Black girls were suspended at a rate of 12 percent -- far greater than girls of other ethnicities and most categories of boys.

At the same time, minority students have less access to experienced teachers. Most minority students and English language learners are stuck in schools with the most new teachers. Seven percent of black students attend schools where as many as 20 percent of teachers fail to meet license and certification requirements. And one in four school districts pay teachers in less-diverse high schools $5,000 more than teachers in schools with higher black and Latino student enrollment.

Such discrimination lowers academic performance for minority students and puts them at greater risk of dropping out of school, according to previous research. The new research also shows the shortcomings of decades of legal and political moves to ensure equal rights to education. The Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling banned school segregation and affirmed the right to quality education for all children. The 1964 Civil Rights Act guaranteed equal access to education.

"This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed."

Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder plan to announce the survey results on Friday. The information, part of an ongoing survey by the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights, highlights longstanding inequities in how schools leave minority students and students with disabilities at a disadvantage. For the first time since 2000, the new version of the survey includes results from all 16,500 American school districts, representing 49 million students.

"Unfortunately, too many children don’t have equitable access to experienced and fully licensed teachers, as has again been proven by the data in this report," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union. "This is a problem that can and must be addressed."

Daria Hall, K-12 policy director at the Education Trust, an advocacy group, also called for action. "The report shines a new light on something that research and experience have long told us -- that students of color get less than their fair share of access to the in-school factors that matter for achievement," she said. "Students of color get less access to high level courses. Black students in particular get less instructional time because they're far more likely to receive out of school suspensions or expulsions. And students of color get less access to teachers who've had at least a year on the job and who have at least basic certification. Of course, it's not enough to just shine a light on the problem. We have to fix it."

Though 16 percent of America's public school students are black, they represent 27 percent of students referred by schools to law enforcement, and 31 percent of students arrested for an offense committed in school, according to the survey.

Students with disabilities make up one-fourth of students referred to law enforcement or arrested, although they represent 13 percent of the student population. Students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended out of school than peers, with 13 percent of such students being sent home for misbehaving. One of four boy students of color who have disabilities and one in five girl students of color who have disabilities were suspended. Students of color include all non-white ethnic groups except Latino and Asian-American.

These numbers will likely add pressure to dismantle the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, which feeds troubled students into the justice system. The push to ease discipline sometimes causes tension with schools' efforts to beef up security after school mass shootings, like the one in Newtown, Conn. Last week, a set of reports 26 academics pointed to a few local studies that found that disparate discipline outcomes did not happen as a result of certain ethnic groups acting out more than others.
According to the new data, disparities begin as early as preschool. Black students make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but they comprise 48 percent of preschool students receiving more than one suspension out of school. White students, representing 43 percent of preschool students, only receive 26 percent of out-of-school suspensions more than once.

Randi Weingarten, who heads the American Federation of Teachers union, noted that despite a recent Education Department Equity and Excellence Commission report calling for measures to remedy discrimination, little has been done. "It is shameful that not a single recommendation has been implemented," Weingarten said. "We don’t need more data to tell us we need action."

Yes, Schools Do Discriminate Against Students Of Color -- Reports

Though 16 percent of America's public school students are black, they represent 27 percent of students referred by schools to law enforcement, and 31 percent of students arrested for an offense committed in school, according to the survey.

Yes, Schools Do Discriminate Against Students Of Color -- Reports

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A so-called school-to-prison pipeline flows from school discipline that lands disproportionately on students with disabilities and students of color, according to a set of reports by 26 experts released on Thursday.
African-American students and students with disabilities are suspended at "hugely disproportionate rates compared to white students," said a report by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, which includes experts from fields such as advocacy, policy, social science and law. Latino students, girls of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students also were disproportionately suspended -- a punishment the report said increases dropout risks and helps push troubled students out of classrooms and into the justice system.
"We already knew that African Americans were disproportionately affected, but this new research is also saying that it's also Latino students, it's also students with disabilities, it's also girls of color," said Russell Skiba, the Indiana University professor who directed the project. "LGBT students may be at risk for increased discipline. These things have a big effect on achievement."
The researchers found that black students were 1.78 times as likely to be suspended out of school as white students. Latino students' suspension odds were 2.23 times greater than those of white students. Students with disabilities were suspended at twice the rate of their non-disabled peers, and for longer durations. Worse, 25 percent of black students with disabilities received at least one out-of-school suspension in the 2009-2010 school year.
Research shows that removing so-called "bad kids" from the classroom doesn't help non-disruptive kids learn, according to the collaborative. The group found that some restorative justice programs and prevention programs that call for more student-teacher engagement can help lower suspension rates and minimize disruptions. The researchers also found that school police often make arrests for “what might otherwise be considered adolescent misbehaviors.”
To reach these conclusions, the group relied on research studies, as well as data from the U.S. Education Department. “Several studies indicate … that racial disparities are not sufficiently explained by the theory that black or other minority students are simply misbehaving more," the collaborative wrote.
The idea of a school-to-prison pipeline that punishes students of color and students with disabilities more than their peers has gained steam in recent months. In January, the Obama administration released its first legal guidance on school discipline, telling schools that they may be legally accountable for the disparate impact of their actions on different races, and that they are liable for all disciplinary actions in their buildings -- even those committed by police not employed by the school district. The guidance relied on the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
In late February, President Barack Obama himself highlighted the problem with the launch of the My Brother's Keeper initiative. The program kicked off with $200 million in foundation money aimed to help males of color succeed in school and graduate into steady work through mentorship and communal solutions. Some of those efforts, according to a White House memo, will be school discipline reform.
"School districts have just been put on notice and now we're showing them there's real research to show that there are alternatives to frequent use of suspension that will not just reduce suspensions but also reduce racial disparities," said Dan Losen, a member of the collaborative who directs the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Civil Rights Remedies.
The report comes more than one year after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., which prompted many schools to increase security with more police. But those impulses often create tension with efforts to reduce discipline disparities.
According to the collaborative, evidence “suggests that police presence in schools, particularly armed police, should be a very last resort in school discipline strategies.”

"There is a tendency in times of threat to focus on implementing more extreme solutions," Skiba said. "There are schools that feel they need to use metal detectors or video surveillance but we also need to realize that kids who really get to the point where they want to engage in these incidents, they're looking for ways around those things. Our best bet is to be comprehensive from the start and say let's look at all levels."
The school-to-prison pipeline thesis has its skeptics, including Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the right-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
"This is part of the steady drumbeat now of people talking about different approaches to student discipline," Petrilli said. "I have to say, it makes me very nervous that we're going to be making it harder on educators to be able to discipline students when necessary. This push to make it harder to suspend students is going to have a chilling effect on teaching and learning. We would be incredibly naive to think we would stop disciplining kids and not see an adverse impact on learning."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Supporters of home rule for Dallas ISD struggle to win over others

A lot brewing right now in Dallas regarding a proposal to go toward "home rule," that I am told means mayorial control of schools (even though Rep. Villalba cited within suggests something differently).  A discourse on equity is not present; if anything, communities of color are already turned off by both the proposal (what they know of it) and the way that it is getting done—foisted on them.
"A never-before-used 1995 state law allows school districts to switch to a home-rule format. If 5 percent of DISD’s registered voters sign the petition, the school board will have to name 15 people to a commission to rewrite the district’s charter.

The charter would then have to be approved by local voters and the state education commissioner. Organizers hope to have it on the November ballot."

Inasmuch this is indeed about mayorial control, this is a reactionary and very concerning proposal as it de-democratizes public schooling.  It eliminates those structures like our school boards about which people have a vote. 


Supporters of home rule for Dallas ISD struggle to win over others





State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, and Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates are hosting the town hall meeting. 
Backers of an effort to convert Dallas ISD to a home-rule district Thursday night struggled to win over a crowd of frustrated parents, teachers and activists.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates and others leading a town hall meeting on the issue in northwest Dallas were interrupted on several occasions. They were asked why the campaign is moving so fast, who is funding it, what a new governance structure might look like, and why none of their promotional materials were published in Spanish.

Attendees appeared largely unsatisfied with the answers.

“We’re at a crossroads here,” said Villalba, R-Dallas, who is also a DISD parent. “This is a new process. We need your input. This is not something that is meant to be done by billionaires from another place. This is meant to be done by you.”

Villalba acknowledged that many concerns appear to be centered on possible governance changes. He said that he would not support a school board with members who are all appointed by the mayor.
“I can tell you right now: Having appointees appointed solely by the mayor is off the table,” he said.
The session at the Preston Royal Library was in a hot room that was not nearly large enough to accommodate the crowd that showed up. It was one of three town hall meetings held Thursday night by Support Our Public Schools, the group leading the initiative. The organization launched a petition drive this month to change DISD to a home-rule district.

Villalba and Gates hosted the event. Both have endorsed the campaign. The other meetings were in South Dallas and Pleasant Grove.

Rene Martinez, leader of the District 3 chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the Pleasant Grove meeting was orderly. But he said the home-rule supporters “got kind of shellacked in terms of a lot of opposition.”

Similar issues were raised at that meeting, Martinez said.

“What is the rush on this thing?” he said. “Why not start the process again and include people? Who’s behind this?”

Mayor Mike Rawlings and other supporters say that changing to home-rule would free the district from burdensome state rules. It could mean an earlier school start date and a modified curriculum, though the STAAR state exams would still be required.

Three sources told The Dallas Morning News this month that the idea was pitched to them with a goal of establishing a new governance structure, perhaps under the mayor’s oversight. Rawlings has declined to publicly share specific goals, saying the process would start with a blank sheet of paper and community input.

A never-before-used 1995 state law allows school districts to switch to a home-rule format. If 5 percent of DISD’s registered voters sign the petition, the school board will have to name 15 people to a commission to rewrite the district’s charter.

The charter would then have to be approved by local voters and the state education commissioner. Organizers hope to have it on the November ballot.

Support Our Public Schools, also known as SOPS, is financially supported by Hillcrest High graduate John Arnold, a Houston philanthropist and former Enron trader and hedge fund manager, and other, anonymous donors.

State records show the group was formed in November as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Louisa Meyer, chair of the Dallas ISD Citizens Budget Review Commission, is one of the organization’s five board members. She was among the meeting leaders at the northwest Dallas meeting.

She addressed whether the names of donors would be publicized.

“It’s the privilege of the donors to remain anonymous,” Meyer said, to a chorus of boos.
SOPS has declined to say how many of the required 24,459 signatures it has collected since launching the drive earlier this month.

Thursday’s forum followed a tough meeting last week between Rawlings and Hispanic leaders at an East Dallas church. At that gathering, the mayor spoke for about 10 minutes and was interrupted twice. He walked out after the second interruption.

On Wednesday, DISD Superintendent Mike Miles said he believed his schools could improve without becoming a home-rule district. Miles declined to take an official position on the home-rule effort, but he shot down the key reasons that advocates are citing for the campaign. Specifically, he said state law, the Texas Education Agency and the DISD school board have not stood in the way of his efforts to overhaul the district.

That’s not consistent with the message Rawlings, a staunch Miles ally, has been spreading in his attempt to sell people on home-rule. The mayor and others have argued that the district has performed so badly that it cannot be fixed without a radical transformation.

Thursday’s meeting was disrupted several times by frustrated opponents of the plan. In almost every case, the meeting organizers ignored them, saying that only questions that were written down would be answered.

Organizers did answer numerous written questions, but many others could not be addressed in the allotted hour. They promised to post the questions and answers on the group's Facebook page.
Local activist Carlos Quintanilla refused to be ignored. He demanded to know why the meetings did not also include opponents of the home-rule effort.

“Because this is not a debate,” Villalba said. “Tonight is a town hall forum.”

Quintanilla promised: “We’re not going to make it easy for you!”

Follow Scott Goldstein on Twitter at @sgoldstein.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Principal who told kids not to speak Spanish will lose job

Things are tense right now in Hempstead, Texas (located around fifty miles northwest of Houston) after a principal lost her job for announcing that students were not to speak Spanish.  The backlash of this decision is concerning with the school Superintendent herself, worried about her safety.  Vandals not only damaged the brakes on 3 HISD school buses, they also left a bedraggled mutilated cat by one of them.
 "A lot of this sounds like Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s," Pinedo said during Monday night's school board meeting, where the decision was made not to renew Lacey's contract.
Folks have known for decades now that Latinos were to become—and are now—a demographic majority.  It is unfortunate that for a community and state with such a very long history with Mexicans and Mexican Americans, that they should react or feel so very threatened and angry about this.  Prejudices die hard, lamentably.


Principal who told kids not to speak Spanish will lose job
Hempstead issue sharpens focus on rising state Latino enrollment
By Lisa Gray | March 18, 2014 | Updated: March 18, 2014 8:46pm
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HEMPSTEAD - The Hempstead school board won't renew the contract of a principal who instructed her students not to speak Spanish, in a rapidly-evolving district where more than half of the students, like many Texas schools, are now Hispanic.

Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey was placed on paid administrative leave in December after reportedly announcing, via intercom, that students were not to speak Spanish on the school's campus. The Hispanic population of the rural area, roughly 50 miles northwest of Houston, is growing quickly, and Latino advocates say that it's important to allow Spanish in public schools.

"When you start banning aspects of ethnicity or cultural identity," says Augustin Pinedo, director of the League of United Latin American Citizens Region 18, "it sends the message that the child is not wanted: 'We don't want your color. We don't want your kind.' They then tend to drop out early."

Such fast growth is pervasive in Texas, says Steve Murdock, a professor at Rice University and director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. Half of all Texas public-school students are now Hispanic, he notes. "When you look at issues related to education in Texas, to a great extent, you're looking at the education of Hispanic children."

Similar growth patterns, he says, hold true for the rest of the United States: "It's not just Texas."

Civil rights advocates say Lacey's suspension may have set off a campaign to intimidate Hispanics, including the district's superintendent, Delma Flores-Smith. They are calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate possible civil rights violations. An FBI spokesman would not confirm an investigation.

Flores-Smith reports that she's seen strangers watching her house and taking photos. She says vandals have trashed her yard, and someone has rifled through her garbage. She is worried about her safety.

Last month, school employees found that vandals had damaged the brakes of three Hempstead Independent School District buses and had left behind the bedraggled remains of a dead cat.

Hate crimes?

A bus with visibly severed brake lines didn't leave the bus barn that morning. But two other buses, whose air-brake lines had been subtly nicked, carried children to school before the damage was discovered. Police investigated but didn't identify any suspects.

"A lot of this sounds like Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s," Pinedo said during Monday night's school board meeting, where the decision was made not to renew Lacey's contract.

Pinedo acknowledged that there's no hard evidence that the incidents are related or that they're hate crimes.

"But when the lives of children are put in danger, that's the bottom line," he said. "We don't know what the reasons are. Rather than guess, we're asking the FBI to step in."

He said LULAC and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund have asked the Department of Justice to investigate possible civil rights violations.

"The whole world is watching," said Tony Diaz, head of the Houston-based radio show Nuestra Palabra and founder of the advocacy group Librotraficantes. "Banning Spanish is a national issue."

"We got a lot of calls about activity in Hempstead," said Cynthia Coles, who represented the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. "We came to support this board, this superintendent."

They also note that there's no evidence that speaking Spanish hampers learning English, and note that in most of the rest of the world, it's common to speak two or more languages.

At the school district's board meeting in January, Pinedo read a list of American Founding Fathers who spoke multiple languages. They included Benjamin Franklin (French) and Thomas Jefferson (French, Italian, Spanish and Latin).

Business chief ousted

In other action at the meeting Monday, the board voted not to renew the contract of longtime business manager Sharon Loukanis. In October the board had placed her on leave while investigating financial irregularities including work allegedly steered to the plumbing company owned by Loukanis' husband.

Both Lacey's and Loukanis' contracts will expire at the end of the school year.

Before the board's vote, former school board member Kay Kloecker argued that Lacey and Loukanis should be reinstated. Lacey and Loukanis, she said, "continue to get paychecks, but we're paying consultants to do their jobs. The public deserves an explanation for why we haven't had them come back to work when it's been shown that none of the allegations is true."

Lacey said the terms of her leave don't allow her to comment.

Outside the board meeting, Kloecker said that the problem was Flores-Smith, not issues of culture or race.

"We've been a predominantly Hispanic district for several years now," she said. "But we never had a problem until she came." Flores-Smith started the job in August.

After the vote, Flores-Smith expressed satisfaction. "I'm hoping everything will die down now," she said. "We need to get back to peaceful living. And education."

Monday, March 17, 2014

English learners an asset for global, multilingual future: Arne Duncan and Libia Gil

English learners an asset for global, multilingual future: Arne Duncan and Libia Gil Over the last several days, 230 American men and women competed against and socialized with athletes from 87 other nations at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Olympics are not only a test of individuals’ athletic prowess, but also a test of nations’ good will, collaboration and diplomacy — and ability to find a common language.

As the late Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

To provide our children an excellent education, and to keep America competitive economically, we would do well to heed his words.

Today, a world-class education means learning to speak, read and write languages in addition to English.

In an interconnected, interdependent global economy, we must prepare our children for a future in which their social and economic success will depend on their ability to understand diverse perspectives and communicate with people from other cultures and language groups. This isn’t a matter of getting ahead — it’s a matter of catching up.

It is common for students in other countries to be required to study two or three languages in addition to their own.

In our country, we have a valuable yet untapped resource within the estimated 4.6 million students learning English — the fastest-growing student population in our schools. These students come to school already speaking a variety of home languages, most commonly Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic or Hmong.

These languages are significant not only to our economic competitiveness but also to our nation’s security. The heritage languages our English learners bring to school are major assets to preserve and value.

Many schools and communities across the country have established programs to encourage mastery of multiple languages. In effective dual-language classrooms, English learners and English-proficient classmates are provided opportunities to learn academic content while simultaneously becoming proficient in both languages.

That’s why our department is encouraging innovations in education of English learners, in part by making it a priority in the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) program.

The extraordinary opportunities — and needs — of our English learner population were the focus of the three-day National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) conference, which convened last week and drew over a thousand participants.

There, leaders from our department described the department’s commitment and met with international leaders to improve cross-border educational coordination.

Educating speakers of other languages in English, and encouraging mastery of multiple languages, has long been important to America’s competitiveness — and will be increasingly vital in the years to come.

We challenge our schools and communities to invest in our future leaders with biliteracy and multiliteracy skills.

Arne Duncan is U.S. secretary of Education. Libia S. Gil is assistant deputy secretary of the Office of English Language Acquisition in the Department of Education.

Columbia University Fired Two Eminent Public Intellectuals. Here’s Why It Matters. | The Nation

Columbia University Fired Two Eminent Public Intellectuals. Here’s Why It Matters. | The Nation

Columbia University
Columbia University (The West End/Flickr)

About a month ago, The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof wrote a much-discussed column
calling for academics to take on a greater role in public life. Most
professors, he lamented, “just don’t matter in today’s great debates,”
having instead burrowed into rabbit holes of hyper-specialization. PhD
programs, he wrote, “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane
unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Professors,
Kristof pleaded, “don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks—we need

Shortly before his column came out, Carole Vance and Kim Hopper,
longtime professors at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public
Health, learned that they were losing their jobs because they hadn’t
brought in enough grant money. Both, ironically, are models for the sort
of publicly engaged intellectual Kristof wants to see more of. Vance
has done pioneering work on the intersection of gender, health and human
rights. “She has been a mentor and a leading influence on generations
of scholars as well as activists and practitioners,” says Rebecca
Schleifer, the former advocacy director for the health and human rights
division at Human Rights Watch. Hopper, who divides his time between
Columbia and the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, is
both an advocate for the homeless and one of the nation’s foremost
scholars on homelessness. Last year, American Anthropologist
ran a piece highlighting his work beyond academia, noting that Hopper
“has long urged anthropologists to take part in public debates, to
translate ethnographic findings into policy proposals.”

China U. | The Nation

Very interesting read. -Angela


China U. | The Nation

Harper Library, University of Chicago
We were sitting in his office, Ted Foss and I, on the third floor of
Judd Hall at the University of Chicago. Foss is the associate director
of the Center for East Asian Studies, a classic area studies program
that gathers under its roof specialists in various disciplines who work
on China, Korea and Japan. Above us, on the fourth floor, were the
offices and seminar room of the university’s Confucius Institute, which
opened its doors in 2010. A Confucius Institute is an academic unit that
provides accredited instruction in Chinese language and culture and
sponsors a variety of extracurricular activities, including art
exhibitions, lectures, conferences, film screenings and celebrations of
Chinese festivals; at Chicago and a number of other schools, it also
funds the research projects of local faculty members on Chinese
subjects. I asked Foss if Chicago’s CI had ever organized lectures or
conferences on issues controversial in China, such as Tibetan
independence or the political status of Taiwan. Gesturing to a far wall,
he said, “I can put up a picture of the Dalai Lama in this office. But
on the fourth floor, we wouldn’t do that.”

About the Author

Marshall Sahlins

Marshall Sahlins is the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of...

The reason is that the Confucius Institutes at the University of
Chicago and elsewhere are subsidized and supervised by the government of
the People’s Republic of China. The CI program was launched by the PRC
in 2004, and there are now some 400 institutes worldwide as well as an
outreach program consisting of nearly 600 “Confucius classrooms” in
secondary and elementary schools. In some respects, such a
government-funded educational and cultural initiative is nothing new.
For more than sixty years, Germany has relied on the Goethe-Institut to
foster the teaching of German around the globe. But whereas the
Goethe-Institut, like the British Council and the Alliance Française, is
a stand-alone institution situated outside university precincts, a
Confucius Institute exists as a virtually autonomous unit within the
regular curriculum of the host school—for example, providing accredited
courses in Chinese language in the Department of East Asian Languages
and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

There’s another big difference: CIs are managed by a foreign
government, and accordingly are responsive to its politics. The
constitution and bylaws of CIs, together with the agreements established
with the host universities, place their academic activities under the
supervision of the Beijing headquarters of the Chinese Language Council
International, commonly known as Hanban. Although official documents
describe Hanban as “affiliated with the Ministry of Education,” it is
governed by a council of high state and party officials from various
political departments and chaired by a member of the Politburo, Vice
Premier Liu Yandong. The governing council over which Liu presides
currently consists of members from twelve state ministries and
commissions, including Foreign Affairs, Education, Finance and Culture,
the State Council Information Office, the National Development and
Reform Commission, and the State Press and Publications Administration.
Simply put, Hanban is an instrument of the party state operating as an
international pedagogical organization.

In larger universities hosting CIs, Hanban assumes responsibility for
a portion of the total Chinese curriculum. In the more numerous smaller
hosts, most or all of the instruction in Chinese language and culture
is under its control. Hanban has the right to supply the teachers,
textbooks and curriculums of the courses in its charge; it also names
the Chinese co-directors of the local Confucius Institutes. Research
projects on China undertaken by scholars with Hanban funds are approved
by Beijing. The teachers appointed by Hanban, together with the academic
and extracurricular programs of the CIs, are periodically evaluated and
approved by Beijing, and host universities are required to accept
Beijing’s supervision and assessments of CI activities. Hanban reserves
the right to take punitive legal action in regard to any activity
conducted under the name of the Confucius Institutes without its
permission or authorization. Hanban has signed agreements that grant
exceptions to these dictates, but usually only when it has wanted to
enlist a prestigious university, such as Stanford or Chicago, in the
worldwide CI project.

For all the attention that the Confucius Institutes have attracted in
the United States and elsewhere, there has been virtually no serious
journalistic or ethnographic investigation into their particulars, such
as how the Chinese teachers are trained or how the content of courses
and textbooks are chosen. One difficulty has been that the CIs are
something of a moving target. Not only are Chinese officials willing to
be flexible in their negotiations with elite institutions, but the
general Hanban strategy has also been changing in recent years. Despite
its global reach, the CI program is apparently not achieving the
political objectives of burnishing the image and increasing the
influence of the People’s Republic. Unlike Mao’s Little Red Book
in the era of Third World liberation, the current Chinese regime is a
hard sell. Having the appearance of an attractive political system is a
necessary condition of “soft power” success, as Joseph Nye, who coined
the phrase, has written. The revamped Confucius Institute initiative is
to engage less in language and culture and more in the core teaching and
research of the host university. Still, the working principles of the
CI program remain those of its constitution and bylaws, together with
the model agreements negotiated with participating universities.
Routinely and assiduously, Hanban wants the Confucius Institutes to hold
events and offer instruction under the aegis of host universities that
put the PRC in a good light—thus confirming the oft-quoted remark of
Politburo member Li Changchun that the Confucius Institutes are “an
important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.”

A 2011 article in The People’s Daily, the organ of the
Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, declared as much,
boasting of the spread of the Confucius Institutes (331 at the time)
alongside other indices of China’s ascent to world-political prominence,
such as its annual growth rate of 8 percent, its technological and
military accomplishments, and its newfound status as the second-largest
economy in the world. “Why is China receiving so much attention now? It
is because of its ever-increasing power…. Today we have a different
relationship with the world and the West: we are no longer left to their
tender mercies. Instead we have slowly risen and are becoming their

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Texas AG Abbott: Parents Aren’t Powerless Against Common Core

Interesting. -Angela

Texas AG Abbott: Parents Aren’t Powerless Against Common Core

"Does a school district using Common Core in any way to teach state standards violate the law?"  That was the question asked by Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. The senator asked in a December 2013 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in which he requested an opinion from the Attorney General on House Bill 462, the legislation passed during the 83rd Legislative Session that was intended to prohibit the Common Core State Standards Initiative from entering Texas public school classrooms.

The Common Core State Standards are the controversial public education initiative in which 45 states and the District of Columbia participate. Texas is a non-Common Core state. Yet, content  has been coming home from the classroom which was the impetus for Senator Patrick's request letter in which he wrote, "certain school districts within Texas are currently using Common Core to teach the Texas state standards." Breitbart Texas has also raised concerns about HB 462 legislation.

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