A Good Block: Valerie Strauss's WaPo blog, "Answer Sheet," is turning into a valuable resource in the struggle to tell the whole--or at least a LARGER, more complex--story of the struggles of concerned citizens and officials to contain the blight of school privatization. In this piece, she reports on the courageous decision by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has VETOED legislation providing more than ONE and a HALF MILLION dollars to "Teacvh For America," one of the most notorious and prominent educational scams on the landscape. From his explanatory letter to the Minne Lege:
Teach for America (TFA) is a well-established, national program with revenues totaling $270 million for fiscal Year 2011 (its most recent annual report). With total expenses of $219 million, TFA’s net assets increased by over $50 million and now total over $350 million. With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization’s work here.TFA began life, and still mainly functions to provide privileged, white, mainly female, elite college grads with a "meaningfulo occupation" while they sort through their male cohorts for the appropriate fathers for their privileged get. Strauss writes, with fine dudgeon:
Dayton was a teacher and social worker before he entered politics, so it may be that he has some insight into why so many teachers and education activists object to Teach For America’s approach. This is how TFA works: It hires new college graduates, gives them five weeks of training in a summer institute and then places them into some of America’s neediest schools on the assumption that you just have to be smart to teach. What TFA is not actually looking for are people who want to be teachers, but rather, people who will have “important” jobs later in life who can advocate for public education. That’s why TFA recruits are asked to give only a two-year commitment to teaching.
Duh! Yah thaink?
It's the MONEY! Strauss's ambit is satisfyingly wide and deep. Only a few days before the piece on Gov. Dayton/Minn, she referred to and extensively quoted another item in which a major scholar on school reform in urban settings who claimed that the complex dynamics of students, parents, and schools was seldom portrayed with reference to a factor which was OFTEN determinative, but not usually considered or reported in discussions of school closures, etc: The DOLLAR VALUE of the properties from which "low-performing" schools were being removed/closed. Dr. Leslie Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education and a professor of education policy, says "It's about what is really behind urban school reform. It’s not about fixing schools, she argues, but, rather, about urban land development. Fenwick has devoted her career to improving educational opportunity and outcomes for African American and other under-served students."
So, why is it that black parents living in the upscale Woodmore or Fairwood estates of Prince George’s County or the tony Garden District homes up 16th Street in Washington D.C. struggle to find quality public schools for their children just like black parents in Syphax Gardens, the southwest D.C. public housing community?That's REAL ESTATE value, kiddies. Wal-Mart or Home Depot or some other developer sees BUX. And that trumps anything else.
The answer is this: Whether they are solidly middle- or upper-income or poor, neither group of blacks controls the critical economic levers shaping school reform. And, this is because urban school reform is not about schools or reform. It is about land development.
What's "Failure?": Last fall (it slipped through the cracks) Mother Jones magazine commissioned a piece in which their reporter, Krystina Rysga, to get to the bottom of "Failing Schools/Lazy Teachers/Stupid Kids mythologies of "troubled" schools. The reporter turned in an eye-opening piece which, though long, is important to anyone following the debates which have since emerged in places like Chicago and NYC,and other "urban" systems where the allegedly failing schools are often clustered. She concluded (or the headline writers at MJ did) that "Everything you've heard about 'failing schools' is WRONG!" She
...was looking for a grassroots view of America's latest run at school reform: How do we know when schools are failing, and why is it so hard to turn them around? Is the close to $4.4 billion spent on testing since 2002—with scores now used for everything from deciding teacher pay to allocating education budgets—getting results? Is all that data helping us figure out what really works, or seducing us into focusing only on what the tests can measure?The reporter settled on the format of what amounts to an ethnographic account of one child, Maria Gutierrez, and her journey toward "schoiol competence" under the beady eyes of a culture which deemed her aspirations unreasonable, what obstacles she had to overcome, and the limits of her success even when she succeeded. Especially the school rhetoric of "accountability":
By 2001, when the Bush administration was pushing No Child Left Behind through Congress, testing had undergone a political transformation: Now it was at the core of a business-inspired approach championed by a loose coalition of corporate leaders like Bill Gates, idealists like Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, and maverick education officials like Washington, DC, schools chief Michelle Rhee, the heroine of the documentary Waiting for "Superman." Standardized tests, many of these reformers believed, could bring hard-and-fast metrics—and hardcore sanctions—to a complacent world of bureaucrats and teachers' unions. Closures or mass firings at low-performing schools, bonuses for high-scoring teachers, and an expansion of charter schools were supposed to disrupt a system that, in the reformers' view, had failed students and the companies for which they would one day work.The so-called "Race to the Top," Prez. Lowbar/Sec. Duncan's "replacement" program is, if anything, even worse.
No Child Left Behind was animated by this faith in metrics. It mandated that states use test scores to determine whether schools were succeeding or failing, with the latter required to improve or accept punitive measures. NCLB passed with bipartisan support, and many civil rights groups were behind it.
Spurious Reformer: Michigan is in the throes of a 'counter-reformation' led by its lackluster, but eager Gov. Snyder, which is apparently aimed at nothing less than the elimination of public goods and services to poor, racially marginalized students. And last week, a (silent, so far) aspirant for the GOPhux party nomination for Pesident in 2016, former Fla.Gov, and the "Smart" Bush, Jebbie, was in town to spread the gospel of his highly touted, but fundamentally flawed and broken "Florida miracle" further abroad, at the Mackinac Center. Candidate in waiting, bejowled Jeb toed the partisan, privaqtizers' line relentlessly.
Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better," a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.That final line is true of EVERY case in which the data of Charter schools vs. traditional public schools has been evaluated by non-partisan analysts.
"We must expand [school] choice," said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. "Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions."
Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellence in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don't pass standardized exams.
At Mackinac Wednesday, Bush championed the growth of charter schools, the fastest-growing sector of public education across the country.
There are 274 such schools in Michigan, and Bush argued that the state leads others in charter school performance, with those schools also outperforming traditional public schools.
But it is difficult to concisely characterize charter school quality nationwide, and the study on Michigan's schools Bush touted is less definitive than he made it sound.
The teacher, the aptly and poetically named John Dryden, surveyed the questionnaire which his WHOLE SCHOOL would devote a whole period to completing, before he handed it out (brave move), and discovered that it inquired into the students' drug and alcohol use, sexual behaviors, and psychological states. This itse4lf might not have been exceptional, the surveys had students' NAMES at the top of each page. Since the survey was (innocently?) asking for data about potential law-breaking acvtivities, Dryden advised all the kids in his classes PRIOR to the administration of the instrument that the Constitution did NOT indeed expire at the school-house door (Tinker), and they were noit compelled to answer interrogatories which might implicate them in illegalities.
The school freaked, and disciplined the teacher.
Whether Dryden is set to go before the school board or not, Batavia High School students and members of the community have banded together to back the teacher.Feel free to unburden yourselves on the heads of the fucking cretins of the Batavia School Board, if the spirit moves ya....
An online petition to "Defend and Support Educator John Dryden!" cropped up earlier this month, asking the school board to ensure Dryden's "employment and professional impact with Batavia Public Schools continues."
As the petition notes:
It is Mr. Dryden’s task as an educator to impart his students with the knowledge and ability to make informed choices, even if these lead to conscientious objection. For the administration of Batavia High School to pursue disciplinary action against a dedicated educator, whose instruction is solely student-centered is, in our opinion, an extreme lapse of professional competence.The petition had over 4,200 signatures as of Tuesday morning, with a goal of 5,000 total.
And Finally, Sublime & Ridiculous: One school system in Ohio is endeavoring to import Glenn Beck's particular kind of bat-shit crazy into their curriculum, while in Chicago, the School Board has overthrown the tyranny of "abstinence only" sex education. And Bill Gates is in the forefront of another meretricious effort to force the high-stakes testing regime down the throats of USer's schools by attaching students to bracelets which would measure and record "how excited" were the students by their teachers' lessons.
Now it appears, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that the Gates Foundation, started and run by Bill and Melinda Gates has stepped into the fray by offering cash to Clemson University to study the effectiveness of using sensors worn on the wrists of school children to measure how engaged they are in their lessons, and thus, the effectiveness of what is being taught. Education News calls it a dangerous precedent and Stuff Magazine reports that many critics of the study (which hasn't been carried out yet) say it misses the point entirely.You cannot MAKE this shit up.