Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ed Beat--Read it and Weep: Twenty Times More; Activism; Strike!; Proipaganda; Empathy; Book Report

Testing "x" 20: "Standards" are the grounds whereupon the battles over "accountability" and "assessment" are being fought. The battle rages between folks of the Bill/Melinda Gates/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan-ilk, and especially Randi Weingarten, a political tool and fixer for the Owners who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, and a notorious shill for the standardizers and other assorted CorpoRats CONTRA the large number of teachers/professors/critics who believe the standards (CCSS) and the assessments upon which they will depend for measuring student achievement and teacher effectiveness are just another trick from the Owners to impose a national curriculum and defeat the possibility of autonomy in the classroom.
This article, written in the form of a letter to the interested parties, highlights the mendacity and dishonesty of the advocates, and has a bunch of decent zingers which would be useful in any conversation on the matter. esp[ecially when it is realized that implementing the CCSS will provide occasion for TWENTY TIMES the amount of testing as now occurs. E.g., from Prof Emeritus Stephen Krashen of USC:
“I wonder how the poll results would turn out if those taking the poll realized that the common core state (sic) standards mean a massive increase in testing and will be very expensive, at a time when money is very tight. My estimate is that the common core will require about 20 times the amount of testing that NCLB requires, with more subjects and grade levels tested, interim tests, and maybe even pretests in the fall.”  ~ Stephen Krashen, NABE Weekly eNews, (2012)


Student Activism , Chicago Style:  Members of "Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools" speak out against unjust and illegal school closing and draconian budget cuts. Students addressing grievances concerning apparently targeted school closures to the Chicago School Board are firmly and abruptly removed from the chamber at a recent  board meeting.


Huelgamos, Companeros!  The Chicago Teachers' strike, as futile as it ultimately proves to be, holds the top spot in a list of the TOP FIVE! biggest education stories of the last school year, according to  a recent piece on Alternet.
Number 2 is: The usurpation of local school districts' authority by the State in Michigan in a blatant power grab by the CorpoRatist arch-stooge, Gov. Snyder.
The Seattle MAPS-Test Revolt comes in at #3. It started at one school--Garfield Middle--and spread throughout the entire Seattle school system. The issue was the administration of yet another--and this one demonstrably meaningless though commercially potentially useful--standardized test; the Seattle teachers said "ENOUGH."
Top Story #4: Organizing unions in charter schools. Randi Weingarten and the AFT seem to be behind the main efforts, but I'm always careful around her.
And "fivally": School closings, nation-wide, an epidemic especially in communities-of-color in big, urban systems. I think this one should be atop ANY list for a variety of reasons having to do with both social justice, equal  treatment, and economic parity.


Insidious & Pernicious: This is a petition, and generally I believe such instruments are about as useless as useless as a bicycle for fish. I point to this one mostly to highlight again the extent to which the CorpoRat agenda is an integral part of the curriculum of many, particularly poorer, schools where such materials, no matter how slanted, are preferable to either 1) no materials or 2) out-dated materials. The books in question are produced by a consortium of interests including Monsanto and Dow, and others, to sell students on the mythological narrative of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Similarly: When does "entertainment" = "propaganda?" (NSFW!)
It's a slippery slope. This is commentator/critic/comic mocker Lee Camp's take on last year's apple-polisher movie "Won't Back Down" starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, about heroic efforts by parents and teachers to 'reform' schools. It's no longer in theaters, so it probably no longer matters, but the story is illustrative of both the dominant narratives about schooling and the art with which they are portrayed.



Empathy & Education: The disparity between the success, achievement, and prospects for the poorer and poorest students on one hand, in "Murkin skoolz" and the middle-classes and up is immense and growing.


This piece, from the NYTimes last week, "The Great Divide: Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America," makes the point that "while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students." The author then inventories the differences and argues that, it Prez LowBar is serious about Murka's kids taking the lead in achievement, MORE of the POOREST students MUST begin to receive MORE of the aid and assistance.

Which EVERYBODY knows is never gonna happen.


Who'z D'Boss?

Tony D'Anza took a job as a teacher for a year, and wrote a book about it. Hardest job he ever loved.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heigh-ho, Synechdoche: The Meme Bandits Rides Again...

For the Record, here: I am NOT aiming this meme-skewer at the figure in the image. It's the avuncular, face of Sam Eliot, and he's an ICON who has kept his personal, immigrational and demographic preferences to himself. Though he's known to be a "Republican," not every word appearing on a FB meme was actually spoken by the person whose countenance is displayed adjacent. Elinor Roosevelt said that...

Now that that's cleared up, let's agree: This is a pretty thoroughly reprehensible narrative, full of vicarious vindictiveness, bigotry, ethnic stereotyping, out-right racism and murderous intent. A rhetorical trick (anachrony) wrenches forth a grudging grunt at the payoff. But it's a cheap laugh. I'd expect better of Sam Elliot, were he actually the author.

It is useful in one respect: illustrating a favorite rhetorical fallacy: Petitio Principii. That's the Begging-the-question stuff, like "If they was both way across the river, how'd ya know it was a Mexican and an Arab? How'd ya know what they were carrying? 

"And WHERE THE HELL'D YOU FIND A MAILBOX out there anyway?."

But seriously folks:

There's some serious racism embedded in that "joke."

It's important to recognize that "Racism" is NOT manifested in individual acts of bigotry and prejudice. It does NOT consist in the mere deeds. Images and narratives such as this one function to rationalize it and make it acceptable, if only for our amusement.

Prejudice and bigotry exist in all cultures, all "races." Asswholery is a general, trans-national, trans-cultural human condition. As our old pal, Winstone so assiduously points out, elsewhere in this very programme, there are asswholes absolutely fuukin EVERYWHERE.

But "asswholery" is NOT necessarily racism--though they do often seem to cohabitate.. 

Racism, per se, consists in the political and social arrangements and agreements which accede to, or do not reprove, those expressions of bigotry or prejudice, which are designed to diminish or dispel the validity of the claims of the "despised" to their fair share of "social goods," including respect and dignity.

Minorities, as 'groups'--particularly despised groups--cannot be "racists," per se, because they cannot and do not exercise power enough to deny the Majority the social goods which the Majority DOES posses the power to deny to those whom they regard as their "inferiors."

Racism is about the power to exclude, to deny, to diminish.

As Louie CK says: I'm a white male! Call me a name? You can't even hurt my feelings.

The narrative of the meme exemplifies 'harmless' ways in which racism legitimizes itself. It's so ubiquitous, you gotta laugh. But laugh AT it. Not WITH it.

And so back to you, in Hippie Central, Mayor Smith!!! PS: Just so's ya don't think I'm "pickin" on Sam, his special kind of "folksay!" can be invoked by either side.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ed Beat: Read It & Weep

Finland's Success! The Finns are becoming the internationally acclaimed leaders in successfully educating their children for the future. Valerie Strauss, the WaPo's "The Answer Sheet" blog, ran a long, fairly exhaustive, critical analysis of the differences between the way the Finns approach education and the way that we in the USofA do. The differences are stark, and the results are instructive, focusing on three commonly believed (and frequently acted-upon) fallacies about schooling:
Fallacy 1: The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” This statement became known in education policies through the influential McKinsey & Company report titled How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top.  Which leads to:
Fallacy 2: "The most important single factor in improving quality of education is teachers.”  This is the driving principle of former D.C. schools chancellor Michele Rhee and many other “reformers” today.
Fallacy 3: “If any children had three or four great teachers in a row, they would soar academically, regardless of their racial or economic background, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers will fall further and further behind”. This theoretical assumption is included in influential policy recommendations, for instance in “Essential Elements of Teacher Policy in ESEA: Effectiveness, Fairness and Evaluation” by the Center for American Progress to the U.S. Congress. Teaching is measured by the growth of student test scores on standardized exams.
I encourage you to read the full report, and the thoughtful and convincing rebuttals to the fallacies. Finland has arguably the 'top-performing" (on standardized tests) population in the world, but the Finns do NOT devote hours, days, and/or weeks to "preparation." Of course, they have FEWER children trying to learn while experiencing poverty: a mere FIVE percent of Finnish kids, as opposed to nearly TWENTY-FIVE percent of USer kids. That makes a BIG difference.


Twelve Steps: The Gates Foundation is at the center of a LOT of criticism about "CorpoRat" school reform, mainly because 1) they know so fucking LITTLE about schools, at all, but 2) they're fiercely interested in creating more markets for Intel crap in the marketplace (and very little else). Teachers have been being soft-soaped and massaged into joining the "corporat" team (I included a piece in last week's column about the fete in the desert).

However, there is a substantial amount of resistance out there, swtill (though it is diminishing). Here is the reply of a dis-enchanted teacher to the imposition of CorpoRat sensibilities and strategies on the schools, in the form of an "open letter" and a "12-step" program to shake off the "CorpoRat" demon:
We now embark on the process of recovery from this devastating disease that is killing public education. As we take the first steps, we ask others to join us in reclaiming our profession:
  • Hi, I am Susan DuFresne, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
  • Hi, I am Katie Lapham, and I admit that I am powerless over corporate education reform and that my teaching, my profession, and my philosophies of teaching for the whole child have become unmanageable. I admit that I have become a TESTER, not a TEACHER.
All teachers under the influence of corporate education reform are welcome to join us. Let the Testers Anonymous meetings begin.
There is a new group on Facebook, unfortunately "closed," but not limited, called the BadAss Teachers' Association. You may ask to be invited to join.

 Educated Elites

Priorities! Science or Shit-wipes?  In the Kenwood suburb of Chicago, last month, after school closed:  Budget cuts are forcing Shoesmith Elementary School to cut Spanish for all students and sharply cut back on music, science and math programming to pay for toilet paper and other janitorial supplies.
(Principal Sabrina) Gates said for the first time she had to budget $6,000 for janitorial supplies out of the school budget and she said it meant she couldn’t fund some educational programs. She said her budgeted figure is probably low, as CPS provided about $14,000 for janitorial supplies like toilet paper and paper towels at Shoesmith last year.
But the cuts are “big enough that when I had to put in janitorial supplies I couldn’t fund science tech supplies,” Gates said.
Those tech supplies cost $5,000, meaning one hands-on science program will get cut.
What do you suppose the dominant, racial/ethmic group which attends Shoesmith Elementary School is?

Public schools' bleak future

Recovery: Dr. Diane Ravitch was one of the early, enthusiastic advocates and acolytes for the "Nation-At-Risk"-ers of the early Raygun years, eagerly casting her lot with the likesof Lamar Alexander, Bill Bennett, and Chucker Finn to introduce "scientific" management and assessment into Murka's schools. She, at least has seen the light, changed sides, and now rants quite convincingly from the OTHER side, as witnessed here, on the subject of Ohio teachers being subjected to "Junk Science" in the guise of performance assessment.
Now it is teachers in Ohio that have been rated by a secret value-added formula.
Teachers in affluent schools were twice as likely to score well as those in low-income schools.
Here is the key language:
“The details of how the scores are calculated aren’t public. The Ohio Department of Education will pay a North Carolina-based company, SAS Institute Inc., $2.3 million this year to do value-added calculations for teachers and schools. The company has released some information on its value-added model but declined to release key details about how Ohio teachers’ value-added scores are calculated.
“The Education Department doesn’t have a copy of the full model and data rules either.
What could POSSIBLY be wrong widdat?
These models,based on standardized tests, are inaccurate and unstable.
Do not trust the ratings. They are garbage. No high-performing nation is rating teachers this way. It is mean-spirited, mechanistic, and meaningless.
But other than that, they work just fine.

 Didja Ever Hear Of "Pearson?" Seems that the faculty at the infinitely prestigious Columbia Teachers' College are at loggerheads with their Dean over an apparent conflict of interest. The Dean is deeply invested, both intellectually (one hopes) and financially (almost 13,000 shares) in the Pearson "model" of standardization, privatization and other anti-student (but PRO-business) reforms.
Columbia University’s Teachers College, long esteemed as a premier institution for progressive pedagogy, is having an identity crisis. While majestic quotes from education philosopher John Dewey remain etched across the walls of the school’s Morningside Heights headquarters, his words ring increasingly hollow as Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman continues to serve on the board of—and hold 12,927 shares in—Pearson, the world's largest educational resource corporation, which distributes everything from standardized tests and textbooks to teacher certification and curriculum programs. Arguing that this role hampers their ability to speak out against the disastrous policy of high-stakes testing, students at Teachers College began a campaign last month demanding that Fuhrman divest from Pearson....
Perhaps the most grievous consequence of Fuhrman’s tenure at Teachers College is an emerging cynicism within the student body, threatening the school’s very capability to train and turn out inspirational teachers. As Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, wrote in an email:
Testing is big business these days. Educators must be free to criticize the tests and their publishers. Faculty members at [Teachers College] might feel constrained by the fact that the president of the institution is on the board of Pearson, my own sense is that she has a conflict of interest, because as a board member she is not [in] a position of independence to speak out against the misuse and overuse of testing and how it hurts children and warps education.



Privatizers, Corporatizers, Oh, MY! Cheap-jack freeloaders, is more like it. CorpoRats have long gotten the advantage of "public schools" in which their future employees would learn the requisite skills in literacy, numeracy, and society to contribute to the future welfare of the private oranizations.

But now the skeevy fux are reneging, seeking more and more "loopholes" by which to escape paying the (local) taxes necessary to support public schools. Funny thing: the short-fall in public school funding nationally just about equals the amount the CorpoRats have been withholding and avoiding.
We hear a lot about corporations avoiding federal taxes. Less well known is their non-payment of state taxes, which along with local taxes make up 90% of U.S. education funding.
Pay Up Now just completed a review of 2011–12 tax data from the SEC filings of 155 of the largest U.S. corporations. The results show that the total cost of K-12 educational cutbacks in recent years is approximately equal to the amount of state taxes left unpaid by these companies.
Who gnu?

Funny teacher Glasbergen school  cartoon from May 23, 2012

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Nooz: They're WATCHING you!@

The pearls and the panties of the mid-scream press and the progressive blogosphere have been twisted into absolute KNOTS over the news that Prez. LowBar authorized the NSA to surveille USer electronic communications. Which he did, in re-authorizing a policy that had been in place since 2005. There was some other guy president then, we called him the Chimperor.

The metastacization of the Security state has been steady and inevitable for more than a decade, now. In Woody'z aho, the effect, finally, of the terror acts of 9/11 has been to " legitemize" the official viewpoint that every citizen--every person--is a suspect for SOMETHING. 

Prez LowBar is no more guilty of encouraging or acting upon this epistemic tendency than has been any other President since the mid-19th Century. 

I'm no defender of Prez LowBar, but all he's doing is showing that he's no different than anyone else in that position. He's doing what he's told. The only difference I see is chromatic. It only bothers you now when there's a BLACK guy frontin' the mob? Really?

Modern states, like those in US, Russia and, Europe, hadx ALL instituted national, internal intelligence and surveillance bureaus in the 1880s. It was necessitated by the "discovery" of the "Masses" by sociologists like Weber and Durkheim. 

The "Mass" (of people-qua-undifferentiated-social-factota) was the unexpected, and potentially rogue side-effect of the Industrial Revolution. The "masses" weren't like the "peasants" or the "vassals." There were more of them, more concentrated.The sociologists and their paymasters recognized immediately what a threat the Masses posed to established authority, and so everyone immediately directed their efforts towards discovering ways to regulate the Masses without appearing to do so. This has been the constant telos of the "human sciences" for the last 200 years. Foucault called it the "carceral state."

We do it with media--the whole, vast panoply of human ideation, imagination, and creativity, condensed into 6 Boardrooms. We welcome our jailers gladly; we're happy to see O'Reilly/Stewart every night before we retire...

They've taken it only but also JUST as far as they technologically are able, as has EVERY previous regime since the end of the Civil War.

That's one of the reasons people talk skeptically about technology, yaknow? It always already contains the seed of its own frustration.

Who ever expected that the state would NOT take all available measures to protect itself, even from within? That's just naive.

The State functions within a discourse which is mostly immune to personal appeal, anyway.
Each of us is one-three-hundred-seven-MILLIONTH of the State's problems.

You don't have to worry much about what people think, if you can pretty well regulate what they think about, and the frames they use. 

Look, a Benghazi tornado@!

Ed Beat: Read 'em And Weep: Common Corpse...

Ed Beat: Read 'em And Weep: Common Corpse
" class=

60 years ago, after the GI Bill opened up admissions to higher education and colleges decided they needed a way to control admissions,
 "Colleges decided that the SAT were a useful shortcut, a way to measure future performance in college. And nervous parents and competitive kids everywhere embraced the metric, and stick with it, even after seeing (again and again) that all ...the SAT measures is how well you do on the SAT. It's easier to focus on one number than it is to focus on a life...

Measurement is fabulous. Unless you're busy measuring what's easy to measure as opposed to what's important.
~ Seth Godin

Testing has since then become the centerpiece of the "Education Machine" because it appeares to be "objective," and therefore functions to camouflage the insidious divisions and distinctions that education makes when "knowledge" has been commodified.

The so-called "Common Core" curriculum is a response to and an an expansion of the notion of "universal" testing, by giving the "testers" a universal body of "konwledge" against which children may be measured (and found wanting, or not, depending on social class). These next two items report on this phenomenon.
The FIRST one, from Valerie Strauss' increasingly relevant WaPo blog, the (ironically named) "Answer Sheet," earlier this year, provides a deep and incisive critique of the implications of the "Common Corpse" to early childhood education.
When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
The promoters of the standards claim they are based in research. They are not. There is no convincing research, for example, showing that certain skills or bits of knowledge (such as counting to 100 or being able to read a certain number of words) if mastered in kindergarten will lead to later success in school. Two recent studies show that direct instruction can actually limit young children’s learning. At best, the standards reflect guesswork, not cognitive or developmental science.
Proving once again the "Bad science" is actually WORSE than No science.

Meanwhile, in another venue, long-time Common Corpse critic and former teacher Susan Ohanian weighed in with her characteristic fervor on the pernicious influence of the Gates Foundation (which, with Prez LowBar's  assent and approval, wants to put computers in third-world classrooms where there's not even any electricity or running water, but which will provide a ready, new market for Windows apps):
The New York Times editorial board is enthusiastic about the new teacher evaluation system imposed on New York City teachers by the New York State education commissioner because, in their words, this represents an important and necessary step toward carrying out the rigorous new Common Core education reforms.
Translation: Another Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reform in place....
 The Times board asserts that these reforms, which set learning benchmarks, have been adopted by 45 states, and it is essential that teachers be good enough to meet them.
Saying one more time that current teachers aren't good enough.
Kids aren't good enough. Teachers aren't good enough.
Parents, you're next.
Ever reluctant to mention Gates money, the New York Times Editorial Board doesn't mention that the 45 states accepting the Common Core did so only because U. S. education secretary Arne Duncan threatened them with loss of federal money if they didn't.
The New York Times Editorial Board doesn't mention that the new teacher evaluation springs, not out of the head of Zeus or the spirit of John Dewey, but out of the purse strings of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Once more, the echoes of an earlier age resound through memory: Follow the fucking MONEY.


Shared at @[479687202044787:274:DeadState].

More on Gates' money? There is at present an elaborate "charm offensive" going on to induce teachers to accede to the proposed, gigantic boom in Microsoft's presence in their classrooms:
Sunday's Seattle Times tells us of a strange problem encountered by the richest man in the world. He has discovered that his money is not working its magic in education -- teachers are not for sale.
The Gates Foundation has spent the past decade promoting hard hitting education reforms. Organizations they fund have conducted research, lobbied politicians, and advanced policies that have brought us Value Added teacher and principal evaluations, charter school expansion, Teach For America corps members, and merit pay. They have poured millions into efforts to shape public opinion, sponsoring Education Nation and the propaganda documentary Waiting for Superman, and its star, Michelle Rhee. They have told us how important teachers are, but in spite of all this attention, teachers seem positively ungrateful.
So now the Gates Foundation is on what has been called a "charm offensive." According to Seattle Times reporter Linda Shaw, the Gates Foundation last year brought 250 teachers to a hotel in Arizona to share their new vision. The Gates Foundation's Irvin Scott said, "We're trying to start a movement. A movement started by you. A movement you're leading." (Emphases supplied)

They're tricksy baggages, ain't they?


The Blame Game: Parents get the blame, students get the blame, SCHOOLS get the blame, but the truth is "Poor schools underperform largely because of poverty and economic inequality, not because teachers have it too easy," writes David Sirota. Yes, it's the money, stooopit:
In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.
That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”
Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?...
Think first about how the dominant policy paradigms in America — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and budget cuts to social services — exacerbate inequality and poverty, but also benefit the major corporations that fund the “reform” movement. Then think about how it isn’t a coincidence that the “reform” movement’s goal is to divert the education policy conversation away from anything having to do with poverty and economic inequality.
It has been a long-established fact in Education Research that the socio-economic status (SES) of a child's family will exert a determinative influence on the success of that child in school, no matter HOW 'success is measured. In education, at least, ZIP Code is destiny.

Jason Richwine on Education:  Richwine won renown when, aas a "senior scholar" for the Heritage Institute he promulgated a narrative, azllegedly backed by "research," which purported to show that "Mexicans" coud never achieve schoilastically or intellectually the way that Gringos do. He has alsxo unbuttoned his cock-holster to take shots at teachers' allegedly "cushy" life-styles and salaries.
HERE he gets SOME of the comeuppance he so richly deserves:
According to Richwine and Biggs, this makes teachers’ total compensation 52 percent higher than fair-market levels and amounts to $120 billion “overcharged” to taxpayers each year.
This finding, and previous research by the same authors (Biggs and Richwine 2011), are at odds with a large body of research showing that public school teachers and other government workers have total compensation that is lower—or at least no higher—than that of comparable private-sector workers (see, for example, Allegretto, Corcoran, and Mishel 2004, 2008, 2011; Bender and Heywood 2010; Keefe 2010; Munnell et al. 2011; Schmitt 2010). Furthermore, the “teaching penalty” has grown, as teachers’ and other public-sector workers’ pay has declined relative to that of comparable private-sector workers (Allegretto, Corcoran, and Mishel 2008, 2011; Bender and Heywood 2010).
Academic comeuppance is geneerally a little gentler than that received by ordinary folks...Just sayin...


Rahm Update: Chicago's mayor is determined to bring down the CPS, and blame the poor and marginaslized, while (as we reported last edition) building a basketball center for a PRIVATE Chicago university:
It's been over two weeks since Mayor Emanuel released his plans to build a basketball arena and hotel near McCormick Place that nobody asked for and nobody needs.
It's an economic development scheme that turns logic upside down: he proposes to spend $55 million in property taxes today in order to lose untold millions in property taxes tomorrow.
Here, read all about it.
It's got to be the dumbest economic development plan in Chicago since Mayor Daley bought Michael Reese Hospital.
You can read about that one, too—if you dare.
Of course, an idea being dumb won't stop Illinois state reps and senators from approving it, as they move heaven and earth to avoid receiving a profanity-laced late-night phone call from our tempestuous mayor.
Looks like we're really going to need that veto, Governor Quinn.
All await the decision of the Mighty Quinn.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ed Beat--Read it & Weep: One Step Forward; Location, Location...; Fail?; Bushevism Redux; Take the 5th; Make Up.

Ed Beat--Read it & Weep: One Step Forward; Location, Location...; Fail?; Bushevism Redux; Take the 5th; Make Up.
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?
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.
That's REAL ESTATE value, kiddies. Wal-Mart or Home Depot or some other developer sees BUX. And that trumps anything else.

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.
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.
 The so-called "Race to the Top," Prez. Lowbar/Sec. Duncan's "replacement" program is, if anything, even worse.

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.
"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.
 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.
Fifth Amendment Alert: A high school history teacher in pricey, privileged, predomionantly WHITE Batavia, IL. got in trouble last week when he advised students in his class that they were NOT required to answer all the questions on a (privately developed) survey because they were protected from the self-incrimination that the survey demanded.

No, really.

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.
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.
Feel free to unburden yourselves on the heads of the fucking cretins of the Batavia School Board, if the spirit moves ya....

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.