One of the nation’s top investigative journalists, David Sirota, reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker based his estimate of a “living wage” on the restaurant industry, which pays workers minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

He writes:

“Under pressure to raise the state’s minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confidently declared that there was no need. Low-wage workers had filed a complaint charging that the state’s minimum wage — $7.25 — did not constitute a “living wage” as mandated by state law. But the Republican governor’s administration, after examining the issue, announced on Oct. 6 that it found “no reasonable cause” for the workers’ complaint.

“That official government finding, according to documents reviewed by the International Business Times, was largely based on information provided by the state’s restaurant industry — which represents major low-wage employers including fast-food companies.

“The Raise Wisconsin campaign, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage, requested all documents on which the state based the “living wage” ruling. And the only economic analysis that the administration released in response was one from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association — a group that lobbies against minimum wage increases, and whose website says it is includes low-wage employers such as “fast food outlets” and “corporate chain restaurants.” The restaurant association’s study argued that a minimum wage increase would harm the state. It did not actually address whether workers can survive on the $7.25 minimum wage.

“It’s outrageous that Walker’s administration only thought to consult the restaurant industry, and not the workers themselves,” said Dan Cantor, the national director of Working Families, one of the groups that has been leading the effort to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin. “In Scott Walker’s world, regular people don’t matter, only corporations,” Cantor said. Walker has received major campaign contributions from the restaurant industry.”

Sirota cites data showing that about half of all restaurant workers live at or below the poverty line.

A journalist sent the following message about a previous controversy involving the author of TIME article on tenure.

Hi Diane — I understand that the cover of TIME is more strident than the article, but it rang a bell about an earlier controversy connected to the same writer.

The TIME reporter, Haley Sweetland Edwards, did a bizarre bash on S.F. Bay Area community colleges last year for the Washington Monthly that was rebutted by one of her main sources. The article got surprisingly little attention, and for that reason no one seems to have really dissected it, and I haven’t done that either.

It particularly bashed College of Marin, a low-poverty community college in suburban Marin County. I’m pretty sure but haven’t confirmed that the bash was largely due to a high number of students like my parents, now 87 and 91, who have taken ceramics, welding and music classes at College of Marin and have, gasp, failed to graduate or transfer to four-year colleges.

The article also bashed high-poverty City College of San Francisco, which has been threatened with losing its accreditation and has been fighting back with apparent success (and where I’ve also taken classes), but the College of Marin portion stood out as particularly bizarre.

The bash on Bay Area community colleges was a separate article accompanying a rankings feature in the Washington Monthly.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september_october_2013/features/americas_worst_community_colle046450.php?page=all

The article cited data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

Kay McClenney of the CCSSE objected to the use of the data and refuted the article’s substance in a strongly worded letter posted after the article (you have to scroll to find it). Excerpts from McClenney’s rebuttal:

“Edwards’s article includes multiple errors of fact and misuses of survey data. …

“As has occurred in the past, the Washington Monthly created the magazine’s rankings in large part through misuse of data drawn from the CCSSE website and then manipulated in ways not transparent to the reader. The ranking method thus is based on an undisclosed calculation combining CCSSE results and IPEDS data. There are so many things about this approach that are statistically wrong that it is impossible to overstate how spurious the results really are.”

John Thompson, teacher and historian, explains here why teachers are beating up reformers. Shocking but true. Charters don’t outperform public schools unless they exclude low performers. Vouchers are sending kids to church schools that do not perform as well as public schools. Teacher evaluation by test scores is a disaster. The testing culture has demoralized teachers. The reformers have no idea how to “fix” schools.

He writes:

“During the high tide of corporate reform in 2010, their scorched earth public relations campaign against teachers and unions was doubly effective because they all sang from the same hymnal. Since then, however, reformers’ failures to improve schools have been accompanied by political defeat after defeat. Now they are on the same page with a kinder, gentler message.

“Now, the most public message is that a toxic testing culture has mysteriously appeared in schools. As the Center for American Progress, in Testing Overload in America’s Schools, recently admitted “a culture has arisen in some states and districts that places a premium on testing over learning.” So, the reformers who made that culture of test prep inevitable now want to listen to teachers, and create a humane testing culture.

“As Alexander Russo recently reported, in Why Think Tankers Hate the Vergara Strategy, some indicate that the Vergara campaign against teachers’ legal rights is a dubious approach. I’m also struck by the number of reformers, who complain about unions’ financial and political power, and who seem to by crying that We Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers.

“Yes! Reformers Are Being Beaten Up by Teachers!

“I communicate with a lot of individual reformers who agree that test-driven accountability has failed, but they can’t yet visualize an accountability system that could satisfy their reform coalition and teachers. I repeatedly hear the pained protest that, Testing Isn’t Going Away.

“So, what alternative do we have?

“Talk about Low Expectations! Are they saying that a democracy can’t prosper without test and punish imposed from on high? Do they believe that families and students are just as feckless as teachers, and none of us will teach and learn without reward and punish regimes that toughen us up for economic combat in the global marketplace?”

There is one school in the United States where the “parent trigger” has been used to convert a public school to a charter school: Desert Trails in Adelanto, California.

 

According to this article in Capital and Main, the new charter is a disaster. Children with special needs are ill-served. Teacher turnover is outrageously high. Teachers buy supplies out of their meager salary.

 

Among the most serious accusations are charges that administrative chaos at Desert Trails has resulted in both a stampede of exiting teachers and staff; that uncredentialed instructors have taught in its classrooms; and that Desert Trails had an unwritten policy of dissuading parents of students with special learning needs from seeking special education. The teachers also allege that they had to endure a bullying regime in which, they say, they were continually screamed at, spied on, lied to and humiliated in front of parents and their peers by Tarver and her deputies. Capital & Main spoke with the teachers, four of whom agreed to go on the record for this story. (“The High Desert is a small place and Debbie Tarver has a long reach,” said one teacher who requested anonymity.)….

 

The most telling outward sign that all was not right at Desert Trails, however, may be its startling turnover in administration and teaching staff. During its first year, teachers say, the charter lost a principal (Don Wilkinson) and a director (Ron Griffin) — both before the Christmas break — its vice principal, six classroom teachers and its behavioral specialist. In addition, only nine of Desert Trails’ first-year teacher roster — or 33 percent — are returnees this year. Desert Trails’ charter promises “less than five percent annual employee turnover.” And, teachers say, Desert Trails seems to be running true to form for the 2014-15 year, with four teachers jumping ship as of this writing — including two from the kindergarten level….

 

 

 

 

Politico.com reports on the pending announcement of new federal regulations governing schools of education. Arne Duncan wants to drive the “bad” schools out of business. Did you know that was part of his job as Secretary of Education? The question is how he will determine which schools of education are “bad” schools. Will he grade these colleges by the test scores of students taught by graduates of schools of education? That will certainly make the stakes even higher for high-stakes testing. Oh, and did you hear that Duncan is modifying his fervent support for testing. But does he mean it? Watch for the regulations governing schools of education.

Alice G. Walton has written an important article in Forbes about the controversy over Common Core. (She is a Forbes contributor with a Ph.D., no relation to the Arkansas Waltons.)

She addresses three questions? Are the standards developmentally appropriate? Is the problem with the standards caused by standardized testing, and would the standards be fine if the testing were eliminated? What is the science behind the standards?

She interviewed several eminent experts in the field of early childhood education who agreed that the standards are NOT developmentally appropriate for young children. She interviewed one of the writers of the standards, Sue Pimentel, who insisted that nothing is wrong with the standards and blames the schools for poor implementation.

But this is what the leading experts said about pushing little kids to learn more faster and earlier:

“It’s not clear exactly where the current trend – of pushing more information on kids earlier – came from, but it seems to be a response to the idea that the U.S. needs to catch up to other countries’ education systems. The problem with this strategy is that there doesn’t appear to be much evidence that “more sooner” is the most effective strategy. “The real school starting age is 7,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, faculty at Weill/Cornell Medical School and author of Hyper-Parenting and The Over-Scheduled Child. “It may be 8 or 6, depending on the child. This is all based on what we know about child development, starting from Piaget. Your brain isn’t sufficiently wired to do it before then. And you also have to keep in mind, all kids are different, and it’s very hard to predict what will happen with age. Some kids who were reading Harry Potter at 4 end up as career baristas. Others can’t read till they’re much older, and they turn out to be highly successful as adults.”

David Elkind, long-time child development expert at Tufts University and author of The Hurried Child, says that a related problem with the Common Core standards is that “children are not standardized.” Between ages 4 to 7, he says, kids are undergoing especially rapid changes in cognitive ability, but this neurological and psychological development occurs at all different rates. “Some children attain these abilities—which enable them to learn verbal rules, the essence of formal instruction—at different ages. With the exception of those with special needs, all children attain them eventually. That is why many Scandinavian countries do not introduce formal instruction, the three R’s until the age of seven. In these countries children encounter few learning difficulties. Basically, you cannot standardize growth, particularly in young children and young adolescents. When growth is most rapid, standardization is the most destructive of motivation to learn. To use a biological analogy, you don’t prune during the growing season.”

Could the standards be acceptable if they were decoupled from standardized testing? No, the standards and tests go together. There is considerable doubt among the experts she interviewed about whether standardized tests are good predictors of life success:

Gene Beresin, Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, adds that the link between standardized tests and life success isn’t particularly clear. “The powers that be need to realize that there is not always a great correlation between high achievement on standardized tests and brilliant achievement in the workforce, in academics and in life,” says Beresin. “Some people, myself included, are notoriously bad multiple choice test takers… Good test takers know what is expected for an answer and give the test what it is looking for. But the most successful individuals may well do better on other measures of achievement, for example, writing, journaling, verbal expression, creative productivity, and group interaction. I can tell you as a medical educator there is notoriously poor correlation between results on standardized multiple choice tests and being a good doctor!”

By the time you finish the article, you realize that there is no science behind the Common Core. It is a cultural product, written by a small number of people who believe strongly in rigor and who see no problem either with standardization of children, as if they were widgets, or with setting cognitive demands beyond the reach of many–or most–young children.

This is an excellent article, not only because the author interviewed experts in child development and approached the subject with balance, but because it was published in Forbes and will reach people in the business world who need to hear these informed views.

Peter Greene discovers what the real purpose of Teach for America is: to get a great job in the corporate world! (Actually, that is not the real purpose of TFA: the real purpose is to provide low-wage, temporary non-union teachers for charter chains.)

He read an article, what is usually called a puff piece, in a business publication about how TFA is terrific preparation for working at Google. In some cases, the young graduates secure the job at Google first, then defer their start time until they have done their TFA stint.

He writes:

“People looking to get a job at Google might first want to spend a few years as a teacher.

“That is the lede for what appears to be a serious imitation of the classic Onion send-up of Teach For America. Business Insider has written a glowing portrait of how TFA can be a great stepping-stone to a career at Google.

“A company spokesperson tells BI writer Aaron Taube that the tech giant loves people from TFA because the program “requires new graduates to think on their feet and achieve success in a challenging new environment…” Google in fact has a partnership with TFA that allows Googlers to defer a job offer until they’ve served their two years with TFA. How liberating it must be to walk into that classroom knowing that your real job is already waiting for you.

“Taube’s interview was with Meghan Casserly, Google head of culture communications, and A. T. McWilliams, TFA alum and current Googler.

“TFA graduates have to coach their students in an environment where motivation isn’t always a given … and solve very complex problems that require patience, perseverance and commitment — things we really value at Google,” said Casserly. “It’s difficult to find talented professionals with this kind of intense experience at such an early stage in their career.”

“McWilliams offers his own experience as an example. He was placed in Brooklyn (in one of the “coveted” TFA openings).

“There, McWilliams learned a handful of skills that he says have helped make him more effective at his job at Google, where he became a full-time member of the company’s New York corporate communications team this past summer.

“Taube actually frames TFA’s infamous five weeks of training (hey– how much do you need to be a teacher, really) as a plus. It forced McWilliams to learn on the job and come up with creative solutions. See, if he had actually been trained to be a teacher, he would have wasted his time just implementing proven professional instructional techniques, and lord knows he wouldn’t have gotten any business training out of that.”

Greene is disgusted by the way his profession as a teacher is viewed by these corporate types.

“Sigh. It is McWilliams who has the last word in the article. “I think the Teach for America experience is really applicable in any place that requires you to be smart and creative,” he says. Because, yes, that’s what TFA is apparently supposed to do– provide college grads with an experience that they can apply to their real jobs later. Those children are just your own personal ladder to success.

“I often discuss TFA as if it is dismissive of teaching as a profession, that it belittles the whole idea of teaching. But this is actually worse, because teaching isn’t even on the radar in this article. It’s just one more life experience for a college grad who’s just passing through, unable to see the children for all the visions of Googlebucks. Sorry, Onion. Real life has passed you up.”

Many wealthy families want to leave a legacy, something to remind the world of their beneficence and power. Andrew Carnegie covered the land with free public libraries. Others have endowed museums, public parks, zoos, and many other monuments that the public would enjoy long after the family had gone.

The Kramer family of Minneapolis will leave as its legacy the destruction of public education in that city. They have devoted their considerable energy and power to building public support for charter schools and cutting away public support for public schools. Because of their role as advocates for charter schools, Minneapolis this year has 34,000 students, while the surging charter sector has 20,000. This year, the public schools expected enrollment growth of 900, but only two new students appeared. Meanwhile, the Board of Education bickers about “market share” and forgets their primary mission as stewards of a public trust, as Peter Greene explained.

What have the Kramers to do with the sinking fortunes of public education? EduShyster documented their leadership of the privatization movement in Minneapolis. She writes, in her cheeky fashion:

“Readers: meet the Minneapolis Kramers. Father Joel is the former publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and took home $8 million when the paper was sold to McClatchy. These days he presides over Minnpost.com and a brood of young rephormers. Son Matt is the president of Teach for America, in charge of TFA’s “overall performance, operations, and effectiveness.” Son Eli, another former TFAer, is the executive director of Hiawatha Academies, a mini charter empire in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, daughter-in-law Katie Barrett-Kramer is a former TFAer who now serves as director of academic excellence at Charter School Partners, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the number of charters in Minneapolis, including the ones her brother-in-law runs.

“Now I have acquired a deep thirst just writing about the Kramer siblings and their dedication to the civil right$ i$$ue of our time. But there’s still more. Matt, who with his brother attended the tony Breck School (which I suspect is likely not a ‘no excuses’ school), also sits on numerous rephorm boards. Matt is the chair of the board of 50Can and a member of the board of Students for Education Reform.

“And did I mention that the Kramers are avid supporters of young TFA school board candidate and life-long educator Josh Reimnitz, who moved to Minneapolis in May, and received an undisclosed amount of money from TFA’s political phund???

But what about Père Kramer? Has he no role in this touching rephorm tableau? Phear not reader. Papa Kramer’s online publication, MinnPost, serves as an influential booster for all of the Kramers’ assorted kauses, including Hiawatha Academies. There is nothing the slightest bit conflict-of-interest-ish about this as evidenced by this, perhaps the kraziest quote from an actual publication that I have ever encountered:

“And here we must pause for Learning’s Curve’s lengthiest Kramer Disclaimer yet: [Charter School Partners] employs Katie Barrett-Kramer, wife of Teach for America President Matt Kramer and daughter-in-law of MinnPost founder and Editor Joel Kramer and Chief Revenue Officer Laurie Kramer.”

It is difficult to think that any family in the U.S. wants to be remembered as the family that destroyed and privatized public education. But that is how the Kramer family of Minneapolis will be remembered. How very sad.

Peter Greene read TIME’s story about the alleged impossibility of firing bad teachers. He wrote it before he saw the cover about “Rotten Apples.” Here is his take on the story. It is not as inflammatory as the cover, yet it quotes none of the scholars who would challenge its take, only two guys from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Greene’s major objection to the article is that it does not see any problem about letting some very rich guys take control of a basic democratic institution, because they want to.

This is the talk, both written and video, that Wendy Lecker gave about charter schools at Public Education Nation in Brookyn on October 11. The event was sponsored by the Network for Public Education at the Brooklyn New School. Please read/watch. Lecker was terrific.

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