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The other day, I wrote a post chastising the League of Women Voters for planning a debate that included only Governor Cuomo and Republican candidate Rob Astorino. I thought it was unfair to exclude Howie Hawkins, who is running on the Green Party ticket.

 

I received the following response from Laura Ladd Bierman of the League of Women Voters of NYS:

 

The League of Women Voters of NYS, with its partners from WABC/TV, Univision and The Daily News, has been negotiating with the gubernatorial candidates to organize a televised debate in NYC. Based on the state League’s policies, the debates would have to include at least Cuomo, Astorino and Hawkins for the state League to be a co-sponsor. While two other debates have been offered to the candidates by other sponsors, our offer still stands.

 

I was misinformed, and I apologize to the League of Women Voters for my error. Thanks to the LWV for offering to sponsor the debate. Governor Cuomo refused to debate Zephyr Teachout, his primary challenger. I hope he accepts this offer to debate Astorino and Hawkins.

When will the media acknowledge that Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst is a rightwing group, not “liberal” or “Democratic”? When election time comes round, it reliably supports Republicans, who can be counted on to endorse school privatization and to undercut teachers and their unions (if they have one). Occasionally, StudentsFirst finds a Democrat who supports vouchers, but the overwhelming bulk of their money goes to Republicans, as in the current election in New York.

In 2012, while Rhee was still running the organization, 90 of the 105 candidates it endorsed were Republicans. This number included far-right conservatives in the Deep South. In 2013, StudentsFirst selected its “reformer of the year,” who was Tennessee Representative John Ragan, who was notorious for his “don’t say gay” legislation.

Liberal? No. Far-right, anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school. Willing to honor a stridently homophobic legislator. Sad.

 

PS: The New York Daily News reported that the $1.75 million was raised in one week from only 5 people. Two were named; they are hedge fund billionaire/millionaires.

Jim Arnold, former superintendent of Pelham City public schools in Georgia, has a message for Governor Nathan Deal, who is running for re-election. Governor Deal thinks Georgia needs a “recovery school district,” like the one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jim Arnold says Governor Deal is wrong.

Arnold writes that Louisiana is a low-performing state and Néw Orleans is a low-performing district.

“Louisiana, where Advanced Placement exam results for 2013 are ahead of only Mississippi, is known more for LSU football and Duck Dynasty than public education…..

“The vast majority of charters in Louisiana, except for those with a selective admission process, are rated D or F by their own state. The New Orleans Recovery School District that Nathan Deal suggested we emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
This plan was part of the “bait and switch” campaign in Louisiana to increase the number of charter schools in that state after Hurricane Katrina. Their method was simple: if evidence for the success of charters is required, simply lower test scores, apply charters wherever possible then raise the scores back through whatever test manipulation is needed to “prove” the case.

“The RSD efforts in Louisiana are a miserable failure by any measure. In spite of the promise to return schools to the public after the initial takeover in 2006, not one school in the RSD has been returned to local control after 8 years.

“The governor’s suggestion of studying the implementation of such a model in Georgia speaks more to his lack of a coherent educational policy than to his ideas for educational progress.”

Arnold has some ideas for improving public education in Georgia:

He writes:

“Believe in and support teachers:

1. Poverty is the cause of achievement gaps and the number one obstacle to educational success. Stop the culture of blaming teachers for poverty.

Teachers don’t cause poverty any more than law enforcement causes crime or doctors create disease.

2. Invest in teachers: Restore professional development funds. Professional development should be experienced teachers working with less experienced teachers. Pay great teachers to share their knowledge and ideas in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom. One great teacher working with 3 or 4 others is a powerful tool. Large groups of teachers listening to one “expert” in an auditorium is not.

3. Pay great teachers more to work in high poverty schools: Working in these schools is difficult. Make it worth the effort for teachers that want to increase their salaries and stay in the classroom. Want to attract great teachers to high poverty areas? Pay them to travel and teach there. Want to identify high poverty schools? Simply look at standardized test scores. They don’t tell you anything about teaching and learning but do serve wonderfully to point out the zip code effect of the level of poverty in a given area.

4. Eliminate standardized testing for other than diagnostic purposes: The money saved would be more beneficial invested in teaching and learning than in the autopsy reports generated at the insistence of accountabullies in the name of accountabalism. Allow teachers the opportunity to teach without having to teach to the test.

5. Don’t believe in magic bullets: The answer is not in canned programs guaranteed to produce higher test scores. The answer is in the power of great teachers. Invest in people and not in programs. Success through standardization is a myth. Every student needs and deserves individualized learning at all levels. Educational achievement, like excellence, cannot be legislated.
Technology is a tool for teachers and not an answer unto itself: For every child that learns through technology alone there are more that fail miserably without the intervention and guidance of a teacher. Lower class sizes, eliminate furlough days and give teachers the time and tools to teach.

6. Help prevent legislative meddling in teaching and learning: Unfunded mandates and legislative attempts at applying statewide solutions to local educational issues have done more to hurt public education than to help. Standardization is not a solution unless your goal is to help Bill Gates sell a lot of technology. Georgia teachers can also find a better way than age level to determine educational placement. Children learn at different rates and in different ways. If a child cannot jump a bar 4 feet high, raising the bar to 6 feet does not encourage continued learning and effort. Expecting every child to achieve at the same rate at the same level ignores fundamental differences in human development…sort of like Arnie’s plan to test special education students out of special education through higher expectations.
Top down implementation does not work in education any more than it does in government: Issuing a decree that all children will succeed does not automatically mean that all children will succeed.”

Lisa Schencker of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that class sizes are rising in the state, despite an official low number. She realized that the official number of 22.8 students per class was misleading. The Tribune invited readers to write and identify large classes.

 

The Tribune asked readers last week to help us find the state’s largest classes. The Tribune received more than 100 responses via email, Facebook and Twitter — mostly from teachers.

 

One teacher in the Granite district said she had 52 students in her Utah Studies class for seventh-graders last year. A parent reported 43 students in her son’s Granite district honors English class last year. A Canyons foreign language teacher said she now has 42 students in one of her classes. A Logan School District teacher reported 56 students in one of her classes.

 

“The classes of 40 and 38 are frequently interrupted with management and behavioral issues, not enough computers in the same lab, etc.,” wrote Shelly Edmonds, a teacher at Hillcrest High, who noted she has one class with 40 kids this year.

 

Hillcrest High Advanced Placement Literature teacher Katie Bullock said she has 39 kids in one class and 100 AP Literature students overall.

 

“Try grading the amount of writing that takes place every week in an AP Lit course (or should take place … which doesn’t … because I can’t humanly keep up …),” she wrote.

 

 

“The Notebook” reports on the disgraceful funding of schools in Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia.

Corporate tax breaks mean more to Governor Corbett and the Legislature than children. Public schools don’t make campaign contributions. Charter operators and corporations do.

Says “The Notebook”:

“It’s hard to overstate the deplorable conditions facing Philadelphia school children again this fall: another year of bare-bones education, overcrowded classrooms, and gaps in essential services like counseling and nursing.

“But Philadelphia is by no means the only Pennsylvania district to see budgets slashed and the jobs of teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors eliminated. Districts across the state are reeling from four years of austerity. Here’s how some were responding this summer:

“Cutting activities: More than one-fourth of districts were expecting to cut extracurricular activities this year, according to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers.

“Laying off teachers: Allentown’s school district axed more than 60 teaching positions – on top of more than 400 cut in the three prior years.

“Eliminating the arts: A district near Scranton announced it can no longer afford music instruction for students through 2nd grade.

“Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Pennsylvania is not a poor state and is situated in one of the richest countries in the world. But many districts can’t provide our children with school personnel we once took for granted. Not to mention books, technology – and in some cases, soap and toilet paper.

“The Corbett administration would like us to believe that the problem in Philadelphia is that teachers haven’t sacrificed financially. But teachers deserve to be adequately compensated for their vital work and are right to resist a race to the bottom in education spending.”

Corbett is a disgrace.

Fortunately, I am on Angie Sullivan’s email list, which has scores of recipients. Most seem to be teachers, legislators, and journalists in Nevada. Angie keeps all of us up-to-date with education events in Nevada. We learned first from Angie that the public schools in Nevada are poorly funded. In fact, the Education Law Center says that Nevada has one of the most inequitable funding formulas in the nation. Angie also let me know about the Governor and Legislature’s grant of $1.3 billion in tax incentives to Tesla to build a battery factory in Nevada. And now she reports on an effort to portray Nevada as the one place in the nation where there is no controversy about the Common Core. Angie takes issue with that claim. She is a teacher.

Here is what a reformer says about common core in Nevada.

Here is what a Nevadan says about common core.

Angie Sullivan comments:

“Echo Chambers are dangerous things unless you earn money making them. I commented on the first article but the comments disappeared.

“Ask a teacher in a safe place what they really think – if you can handle the truth.”

Tennessee is one of Arne Duncan’s favorite states because it was one of the first states to win Race to the Top funding, it has a rightwing governor and legislature, and an experienced, TFA-trained state commissioner. Thus, the state is committed to charters, to privatization, and to eliminating tenure (it already abolished collective bargaining). This is Arne’s kind of state, a state where Democrats are powerless.

But, trouble! A new poll by Vanderbilt University finds that after three years of experience with the Common Core, 56% of teachers want to abandon it. Not fine-tune it. Abandon it.

Read the story and watch the politicians try to spin the collapse of teacher support.

“Support for Common Core among Tennessee teachers has waned so much since last year that a majority now opposes the academic standards, a new statewide survey shows.

“With the future of Common Core under fire in Tennessee, a new report from the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development could provide more ammunition to those who want to roll back the standards.

“The new 2014 survey, undertaken by a group led by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and released Wednesday, found that just 39 percent of respondents believe that teaching to the standards will improve student learning — compared with 60 percent who said the same last year.

“It also found 56 percent of the 27,000 Tennessee teachers who responded to the survey want to abandon the standards, while 13 percent would prefer to delay their implementation. Only 31 percent want to proceed. The 2013 survey did not ask questions in this area.

“There’s been a pretty big drop of support for the Common Core,” said Dale Ballou, a Vanderbilt professor and director of the consortium.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any single symptom or explanation for that change. It’s a lot of different factors that seem to be playing into this. The one thing I would caution people against is jumping to the conclusion that this means now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.”

Gosh, no, don’t jump to that conclusion, the one that common sense suggests. Don’t conclude that “now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.” There must be another explanation. If I think of one, I will let you know.

Robert Pondiscio, who now works for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, shows here how a Common Core lesson can be deadly dull. New York put one of its “experts” on NPR to demonstrate how exciting a Common Core lesson was . But it wasn’t.

“I referred my listeners to a recent NPR effort to get “super-specific about what makes a good Common Core–aligned lesson.” The reporter enlisted the aid of Kate Gerson, who works with EngageNY, a New York State Education Department’s web site. She’s one of the leaders of New York State’s transition to Common Core; NPR asked her to walk through a supposedly exemplary ninth-grade lesson—a close reading of a short story by Karen Russell entitled, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves.”

Pondiscio didn’t think much of the lesson. It was the same old skills-based lesson. Same old, same old.

Peter Greene knows, unlike Bill Gates, that children are not like toasters that Ned to be plugged into an electrical outlet that is everywhere the same. But then Gates brings in the metaphor of a railroad gauge. Ah! A fresh metaphor! New writer? Who knows?

Greene explains why it is a bad metaphor that has nothing to do with students or teaching. And he asks the $64 question: if standardization and uniformity are so great, why does Gates love charter schools?

And now the big question: what metaphor will Gates use next to make the case for standardization of learning?

Los Angeles’ school politics is beginning to sound like a soap opera. Tune in next week to see if long-suffering Superintendent John Deasy, much admired by billionaire Eli Broad, survives yet another unjust attack at the hands of the brutes who disapprove of the $1.3 billion iPad fiasco, the bungled computer mess, the other snafus unjustly laid at the feet of a man guilty only of caring too much. Forget the emails showing possible collusion between Deasy and Apple, Deasy and Pearson. What matters details like this when a great man is in our midst, loved and appreciated most by those too rich to patronize the schools he oversees. Never forget: every organization funded by Bill Gates adores this man: think Educators 4 Excellence; think United Way of Los Angeles.

It was not enough that the LA Times’ editorial writer Karin Klein paid him tribute and chastised the LAUSD for seeking to hold him accountable: how dare they! Now her boss Jim Newton weighs in with another full-throated defense of the Indispensable Man. Okay, says Newton, so his handling of the $1.3 billion deal for the iPads was “admittedly sloppy.” Well, “sloppy” is one way to characterize the friendly negotiations between Deasy and Apple. Others might have less kindly words. Like, why did LA have to buy an obsolete model at a higher than retail price? Why did Deasy think that buying iPads mattered more than repairing schools, which the voters wanted in the first place? What part of 25-year construction bond approved by the electorate did Deasy misunderstand?

Do read Jim Newton’s apologia for Deasy. All of his errors on blamed on the Board, for daring to expect accountability, and on the union for…. for being the union, always a ready scapegoat for the editorial board of the L.A. Times, even for matters in which the u ion had no role.

Stay tuned. This is the soap opera that ends in tragedy or never ends at all.

But also read this letter to the editor, which I post in full, in case it gets deleted:

Offred Gillead on September 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am said:
We have officially entered into a super bizzaro, gothic world with Jim Newton.

With his Emily Bronte opening: “There’s a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days” before moving into gaunt, haunted purple poignancy, “It’s taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week…he looked drawn. Already slight, he’s lost weight.”

Deasy’s rich, cultish supporters, have always given us a variation of THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN DEASY. I tingle over Newton’s words like “have been dragged across these coals” and “put through the local grinder”.

Okay. I get it.

I’m really reading 50 SHADES OF DEASY, a story that makes Deasy’s backers swoon.

Newton says, “Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students.” Really? “Admittedly?” When did Deasy EVER admit to this?

Newton tells us, “So, what’s not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient.”

Ana Steele could understand that. She might say, like Newton, “No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him…vulnerable.”

Sensitive and obsessively-driven! Like Moses! Dr. Frankenstein! Ahab! Hamlet! Dr. Strangelove!

Deasy confides, “‘I could have done a thousand things better,’ he conceded during our conversation.”

Really? How about naming ONE thing, Doc?

In Deasy’s perverse brain, his biggest fault is that he CARES TOO MUCH. He is TOO MUCH of a perfectionist. His only goal is to lift children out of poverty and has to put up with hundreds who stand in his way.

“He’s quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered….Even Deasy’s critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.”

Karl Rove also breathlessly informed us that George Bush was the smartest person he ever met and, famously, “The Decider”.

I don’t know what Christian Grey non-disclosure contract might have gotten signed between the two, but the Op-Ed hints: “But here’s the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness…”

Sizzle!

Do we really need to read the whole trilogy to find out where this story ends? I hope the BOE has the good taste to call this series quits.

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