Mike Klonsky writes in his blog that Mayor Emanuel showed his hand: he will give nothing to the Dyett hunger Strikers. Klonsky says the mayor plans to sell Dyett to real estate developers, for gentrification and profit.

“Like his predecessor Daley, Rahm would sell of every foot of this city’s public space that wasn’t nailed down, if he could. And maybe he can. The erosion of public space and public decision-making has been a hallmark of the regime’s strategy of gentrifying and whitenizing the city. It’s New Orleans without the flood. A quarter-million African-American citizens have left Chicago in the past decades.

“Now it appears that the board’s RFP for a new school at Dyett was a ruse. After 11 days of surviving on liquids and with several of the hunger strikers needing medical treatment (see the warning from local health professionals) , they’ve been told by Board Pres. Frank Clark (former ComEd C.E.O), that the game is up. Rahm, Claypool, Johnson and their gaggle of always-compliant board members, are dumping the new-school proposals from all three groups, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett (Global Leadership and Green Technology), Little Black Pearl’s contract school, and a late one solicited by the board from former Dyett Principal Charles Campbell.”

Klonsky predicts the mayor will act swiftly now that the hunger strike is getting national media attention.

Troy LaRaviere is the outspoken principal of Blaine Elementary School. He has spoken out repeatedly and publicly against Mayor Emanuel’s policies. He wrote an article showing that Chicago public schools outperform its charter schools. He chastised the Illinois State Board of Education for neglecting the children of Chicago. He encouraged the children in his school to opt out of the state tests. He supported Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in his challenge to Rahm Emanuel.

Then last week, he spoke on a panel at the Chicago Civic Club, and he lambasted the status quo and the Mayor’s policies.

That did it! The Chicago school board passed a “warning resolution,” which may be a prelude to firing him.

Still defiant, LaRaviere wrote on his website:

“That resolution had absolutely no effect on me curtailing my desire to articulate and help the city of Chicago understand how backwards and corrupt this system is,” he said. “If anything, it intensified that desire.”

With a few people like Troy in every city, we could send the privatizers back to their country clubs, shamed by the righteous wrath of the brave and the bold.

The state of Connecticut finally released the results of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment.

As expected, most students in Connecticut “failed.”

As I previously explained, the developers of the tests chose a passing mark that was designed to fail most students.

On the federal NAEP, Connecticut is one of the highest scoring states in the nation. Its failure rates were not as bad as in other states. But even so, a majority of students in every grade did not reach “proficient.”

Failure by design.

Time for parents in Connecticut to opt out in 2016.

Denis Smith worked in the charter school office of the Ohio Department of Education. He knows the problems of oversight of these deregulated schools.

In this post, he proposes 10 reforms to rein in corruption and malfeasance in Ohio’s charter sector.

The major reform that is needed is financial transparency. All schools–public and charter–should be subject to public audit.

Most of his recommendations focus on the misuse of public funds, for example, to pay for celebrity endorsements and advertising.

Here are his top three recommendations:

“#3: Administrative qualifications. Incredibly, there are no minimum educational or professional licensure requirements for charter school administrators. This situation needs to be addressed immediately if all charter reform efforts are to be viewed as substantive. After all, school is about education.

“#2: Citizenship requirement. In traditional school districts, board members have to be qualified voters – citizens – in order to serve as overseers of public funds. News reports in the last year have focused on one charter school chain where some of the board members and administrators may not be American citizens. If charter proponents want to emphasize the word public in the term public charter school, they should also agree that requiring American citizenship for board members is a no-brainer for the charter industry.

“And the Number One Needed Charter School Reform –

“Get the money out!

“The influence of charter moguls David Brennan and William Lager on the Ohio Republican party is well-known. Money talks, and in charter world, money speaks loudly. Public funds – the profits gained from running privately operated schools with public money – should not be allowed to unduly influence legislators. The fact that HB 2 stalled at the very time that another $91,726 arrived to replenish state Republican campaign coffers is no coincidence.”

Troy LaRaviere is principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago. He was invited to speak on a problem at the Chicago Civic Club, where civic and business leaders convene. The topic was bankruptcy and the schools. Troy was the only school-based educator on the panel.

Here is the link to the event (you might want to hear Paul Vallas on the topic).

And here is Troy’s presentation:

“I recommend watching the last few minutes of Paul Vallas’ presentation in which he lays out the basic rules CPS operated by before the financial crisis. This part of his talk begins at the 36:00 time segment. I think all of Chuck Burbridge’s presentation is worth listening to, and that George Panagakis’ presentation on the intricacies of bankruptcy was eye-opening. This panel represents the first time I’ve prepared all of my remarks beforehand, so I’ve included those remarks below. I learned a lot from my participation on the panel and I hope you learn from it as well.

“Prepared Remarks

“Thank you to the City Club for inviting me to this panel and luncheon. Unfortunately I could not take advantage of the lunch as I am fasting today in solidarity with the 12 parents and community members who are in their 9th Day of a Hunger Strike to save Dyett School as the only open enrollment neighborhood high school left in their community (I mistakenly said “city” in my remarks). This gesture on my part is relatively insignificant when compared to the sacrifice they are making on behalf of their children. But I make it nonetheless before I begin my remarks.

“As residents and taxpayers we have to do more than identify problems. We have to identify and understand the source of those problems. If we don’t neutralize that source then we might be able to solve this problem today but that source will rear its head a few years down the line to re-create the same havoc that it’s wreaking on us today.

“We’re being told that pensions are the problem. We have a problem with pensions but pension are not the source of our problem. This administration consistently misappropriated pension funds, and then attempts to convince us that pensions themselves are the problem. That’s like a thief stealing your rent money and then attempting to convince you that the landlord is the problem.

“The source of our problem is city and school officials who spend and borrow money in a manner that is reckless and corrupt; the parasitic private sector banks and investors who are always looking for creative ways to rip off taxpayers, and the state legislators who enabled this irresponsible fiscal behavior in the first place.

“For the sake of time, I’m going to focus my comments on this administration’s reckless borrowing and the bank that benefit from it. When the Tribune attempted to look into the cost of this borrowing their reporters and attorneys were forced by CPS to spend a year getting the details about how much it spends in interest on its massive debts. So not only are they putting us in debt but they tried to prevent us from finding out just how much debt they put us in.

“Interestingly enough, CPS recently hired Ernst and Young to do an analysis of their structural deficit. That analysis shows that pension costs are projected to rise only 32% over seven years, while debt service is projected to rise 350% from $119 million to $421 million. THIS is the debt that’s driving up costs. This debt is not owed to teachers. This debt is owed to financial institutions like the Pritzker Group, Goldman Sachs and Northern trust—all Emanuel Campaign contributors; and his administration wants to ensure they get paid what they’re owed.

“This debt is also owed to banks and investors who virtually swindled CPS out of $100 million. Financial institutions like Bank of America and the Royal Bank of Canada. They have documented evidence that these banks knew that the auction rate securities market was about to collapse while they were preparing to underwrite a massive auction rate bond issue for CPS.

“That’s illegal. You can sue them and get those millions back. But the Emmanuel administration refuses. They want them to get what’s owed to them even though they got it in through corrupt and deceptive practices.

“This administration wants to pay your tax dollars to EVERYONE they owe, except one group. The only people the Emanuel administration doesn’t want to pay what they’re owed are teachers.

“Let me say it again another way.

“The only group of people the Emanuel administration doesn’t want to pay, just happen to be the only group of people who actually worked for what CPS owes them–spent their entire careers working and sacrificing for what CPS owes them.

“PNC Bank didn’t sacrifice a more lucrative career to dedicate itself to teaching science and mathematics. Chicago’s teachers do that.

“Goldman Sachs didn’t sacrifice time with their own families to stay after school to tutor struggling readers. Chicago teachers do that.

“None of these institutions spent consecutive years of his career working with four struggling students in hopes that that sacrifice and investment of time would pay off on their graduation day …. only to have those hopes destroyed when the news reaches you that you’ll be preparing instead for their funerals—in part, as a result of the neglect of their communities by many of the same people responsible for the neglect of their schools. Their names: Miguel. Tyray. Roberto. Candace. Those are the names I carry with me, but teachers all across Chicago have names of their own etched in their memories forever.

“As our teachers feel this district coming in to take what little they do get in return for their sacrifice, this administration’s hollow, empty, and hypocritical use of the term “shared sacrifice” to justify this encroachment must seem profoundly disrespectful and painfully ironic.

“To reiterate. The source of our problem is:

(1) city and school officials who spend and borrow money in a manner that is reckless and corrupt;

(2) the parasitic private sector banks and investors who are always looking for creative ways to rip off taxpayers, and

(3) the state legislators who are all too eager to create a legislative environment in which this legalized theft can occur.

“If anyone is made to sacrifice, it has to be members of these three groups, because the behavior of teachers did not cause this problem. The behavior of these three groups caused this problem. Teachers have already made their sacrifice a thousand times over, and those whose behavior caused this crisis have no right to ask them for more.”

Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County public schools, wrote a strong column opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to takeover “low-performing” schools. Deal wants to copy Tennessee’s faltering “Achievement School District,” which has shown no progress in the past four years. Why anyone would copy a failed model is puzzling.

Lanoue cites several reasons for opposing the state takeovers, the most fundamental being the elimination of local control of schools. He may not have known when he wrote this article that elimination of local control is

He writes:

The Opportunity School District superintendent will have final decision-making authority over all aspects of the school, which would no longer be under the control of local superintendents and school boards. This is in direct contrast to current governance structures in public and charter schools, which require checks and balances through board governance models. In addition, the superintendent would have sole authority to select schools that qualify as “failing” schools. This does not align with the current movement to have more local control, as the selection of schools does not require any level of input by the State Board of Education, local boards of education, local school districts, governance entities or communities. The current budget for this program includes 3 percent administrative costs, and is concerning in this time when public education budgets are already suffering.
Here in Athens-Clarke County, a governance model based on democracy is a cornerstone of how we operate — as it is across the state. To take away democratic principles is monumental and allows Georgia communities to be stripped of their identities as having primary responsibility of educating their children. To impact schools and communities, we must take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reform centered on the creation of dynamic learning environments strongly joined with quality early literacy; physical and mental health care; and positive and safe home and school environments. In a time where collaboration is the key to systemic change, simply changing governance as the key to reform has a greater result of creating divisions — not unity.
Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.

Dr. Jim Arnold, superintendent of the Pelham City schools, explains why Georgia has a teaching shortage. The answer can be summed up in a few words: Governor Nathan Deal and ALEC, and one very long sentence:

Is it any wonder that many teachers have finally reached the point where they are fed up with scripted teaching requirements and phony evaluations that include junk science VAM and furlough days and increased testing that reduces valuable teaching time and no pay raises and constant curriculum changes and repeated attacks on their profession from people that have no teaching experience and the constant attempts to legislate excellence and cut teacher salaries and reduce teacher benefits and monkey with teacher retirement and SLO’s for non-tested subjects and state and federal policies that require more and more paperwork and less and less teaching and tighter and tighter budgets that mean doing more and more with less and less and longer school days and larger classes with higher and higher expectations and a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues and the denigration of public education and market based solutions and legislators bought and paid for by ALEC and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position and top-down management from people that wouldn’t know good teaching if it spit on their shoes and slapped them in the face? No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. No wonder more and more teachers are retiring.

Please read the rest to find out what should be done about Governor Nathan Deal’s embrace of Alec’s agenda to get rid of public education.

In an opinion article today, a D.C. based writer commends the Common Core, E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum, and New York’s “EngageNY” modules.

Natalie Wexler maintains that the standardized tests did not cause curriculum-narrowing. She says that schools have long given preference to skills over knowledge. She believes that Common Core will reverse that unwise preference.

I have always preferred a balanced approach that includes both skills and knowledge. I was a member of the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation for many years. I don’t think that the Common Core standards will unleash a fervor for knowledge because it is really just more of the skill-based approach that Wexler decries. Presumably she wants states and districts to adopt the Hirsch Core Knowledge curriculum, as the “EngageNY” modules do. I think she would be wise to read those modules. Teachers and parents have complained about the overload of information in them. 

Here is a selection from the first-grade module. Consider that some first-graders are just learning to read. Few, if any, have a context into which these facts can be assimilated:

Locate the area known as Mesopotamia on
a world map or globe and identify it as part
of Asia;

Explain the
importance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the use of
canals to support farming and the development
of the city of Babylon;

Describe the city of
Babylon and the Hanging Gardens;

Identify cuneiform as the system of writing used in
Mesopotamia;

Explain why a written
language is important to the development of a
civilization;

Explain the significance of the
Code of Hammurabi;

Explain why rules and laws
are important to the development of a
civilization;

Explain the ways in which a
leader is important to the development of a
civilization;

Explain the significance
of gods/goddesses, ziggurats, temples, and
priests in Mesopotamia;

Describe key
components of a civilization;

Identify Mesopotamia as
the “Cradle of Civilization”;

Describe how a civilization evolves
and changes over time;

Locate Egypt on a world
map or globe and identify it as a part of
Africa;

Explain the importance of the
Nile River and how its floods were important
for farming;

Identify hieroglyphics as the
system of writing used in ancient Egypt;

Explain the significance of gods/goddesses in ancient
Egypt; Identify pyramids and explain their
significance in ancient Egypt;

Describe how
the pyramids were built; Explain that much of
Egypt is in the Sahara Desert;

Identify the Sphinx and explain its
significance in ancient Egypt;

Identify Hatshepsut as a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and
explain her significance as pharaoh;

Identify Tutankhamun as a pharaoh of ancient Egypt
and explain his significance;

Explain that much of what we know about ancient
Egypt is because of the work of
archaeologists

Wexler predicts that the high failure rates on the Common Core tests will lead to a demand by parents for Core Knowledge. Since we know that those failure rates were engineered artificially by setting a ridiculous passing mark aligned with NAEP proficient, it seems safer to predict that continued failure will encourage the growth of the opt out movement.

What do you think?

Marc Tucker’s blog reports how top-performing nations select school principals. Most require several years of teaching experience and a long and in-depth course in leadership skills. The report, by Jennifer Craw and Jackie Kraemer, describes the high professionalism required in top-performing nations.

By contrast, some states in the U.S. allow non-educators to become principals.

The U.S. is definitely an outlier.

Educators tend to be child-centered and attentive to the needs of classrooms for adequate resources. Having been teachers, they are usually unwilling to support attacks on the teaching profession.

So where do rightwing governors find people to lead their state’s education department? Here is one major source: Teach for America.

When Bobby Jindal of Louisiana needed someone to lead his agenda for vouchers, charters, and anti-teacher proposals, he selected John White (TFA).

When Bill Haslam of Tennessee wanted someone to push the rightwing agenda, he chose Kevin Huffman (TFA).

When Terry Branstad of Iowa wanted someone to push his rightwing agenda, he chose Ryan Wise (TFA).

When North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory needed an education advisor to promote his extremist, anti-public school agenda, he chose Eric Guckian (TFA).

Let us not forget Michelle Rhee (TFA), who served a mayor, not a governor and was especially vitriolic towards teachers and unions. Her organization StudentsFirst has funded candidates who support privatization.

What is it about TFA that produces leaders who want to privatize public education and crush the teaching profession?

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