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In an article in Dissent magazine, four authors argue that the notion of America as a “post-racial” society is wrong. The public and politicians tend to blame blacks for the conditions in which they live, as though racism were a thing of the past and the doors of opportunity are wide open for all. Even the election of a black President has not wiped out historic disadvantages that a significant proportion of black Americans are born into.

Alan Aja, Daniel Bustillo, William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton lay out the facts of continuing racial disparity in employment, wealth, and self-employment to demonstrate that blacks continue to be severely disadvantaged.

The authors off two proposals to provide economic security to all Americans. One is a universal trust account, which would be larger for those who are needy. The other is a guaranteed federal job. Both are expensive yet considerably less than the cost of the economic stimulus plan, which saved the nation’s banks. Imagine: saving our society.

Elizabeth Green, one of our leading education journalists, has just published a book titled “Building a Better Teacher.”

In this thoughtful post, Andrea Gabor points out the strengths and weaknesses of Green’s book. Gabor believes that Green makes a strong case for those who are doing a god job of teaching teachers.

Gabor writes:

“I picked up Elizabeth Green’s new book, Building a Better Teacher, with great anticipation. By the time I finished reading the nicely written, highly detailed descriptions of some of the latest efforts to improve teaching, I was alternatively gratified, intrigued and more-than-a-little frustrated.

“Let’s start with why I was gratified: Her book argues that good teaching can and must-be taught. This would seem to be mere common sense. But what Green calls the “black box” of teaching has been long neglected not only by university based schools of education, but also by education-policy makers.

“Green’s narrative seeks to debunk the notion that the secret to improving U.S. education is to place a superstar teacher in every classroom. She argues, instead, what many education reformers would consider heresy: That improving education is about teaching teachers, including ordinary ones, how to improve. Being a good teacher, Green painstakingly shows us, is extraordinarily difficult. And teaching someone to become a good teacher is even more difficult. Writes Green: “By misunderstanding how teaching works, we misunderstand what it will take to make it better—ensuring that, far too often, teaching doesn’t work at all.”

“Green argues that by making accountability (via test scores) and autonomy (the notion that teachers are professionals who should be treated accordingly) the two dominant theories of teacher improvement, policymakers and pundits “have left us with no real plan. Autonomy lets teachers succeed or fail on their own terms with little guidance. Accountability tells them only whether they have succeeded, not what to do to improve. Instead of helping, both prescriptions preserve a long-standing culture of abandonment.”

Further:

“Green’s subject is hugely important. But to make her argument she must navigate the minefield of the highly politicized education-reform movement. And, at times, she seems to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid offending education reformers who have made accountability—not improvement of either teachers or pedagogical methods—the centerpiece of both private education-reform efforts and the nation’s education policy.”

Gabor was disappointed by Green’s deference to the “reformers,” especially those who think that young people can become effective teachers with only five weeks training. Gabor is also uncomfortable with Green’s lengthy treatment of Doug Lemov, “the managing director of Uncommon Schools, a charter chain, and author of best-selling books that have become the gospel of the no-excuses behavioralist approach embraced by most charter schools. This approach holds that what disadvantaged kids need more than anything is strict discipline, even if it sometimes verges on being ‘punishing, even cruel.'”

Gabor clearly admires Green’s appreciation for the study and practice of teaching. She especially enjoyed what Green learned about Japanese teaching. Japanese educators borrowed American ideas–starting with John Dewey–that Americans had forgotten or ignored. The same things happened in business, Gabor notes, where the Japanese learned from the work of W. Edwards Deming, but his own countrymen did not. Deming had many great insights, one of which was that the system created the conditions in which individuals can succeed or fail. Thus, accountability begins at the top, not the bottom.

Green is CEO of an education journal called “Chalkbeat.” Gabor implies, though she doesn’t say so outright, that Green must walk a fine line between reporting what she knows and not offending her funders, who include the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Although she doesn’t like test-based accountability, she can’t bring herself to criticize Eric Hanushek, who is the father of the test-based accountability movement. Also, she writes admiringly about the charter movement and its devotion to improving the craft of teaching even though charters are known for high rates of teacher attrition.

I know and like Elizabeth Green. She is a talented journalist and a gifted writer. And yes, she does have a dilemma, one which is shared by many media outlets. The survival of independent journalism is now dependent on foundations that have an agenda. Can independent journalism exist if it must be funded by those with an agenda? Unless this situation changes, good writing in America will become–if it isn’t already–samizdat.

I apologize to you, dear readers, in advance, but I must ask you to read the latest balderdash written by someone who works for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. From my days working in the U.S. Department of Education in 1991-93, I know full well that Cabinet Secretaries have several writers and don’t actually write anything themselves. Okay, so this latest statement from Duncan says that there is too much emphasis on testing. Testing is taking the joy out of teaching. It is sucking the oxygen out of the nation’s classrooms. Nowhere does he acknowledge that his very own Race to the Top demanded more high-stakes testing, demanded that teachers’ evaluations depend on the test scores of their students. Nowhere does he acknowledge his cheerleading for VAM–value-added measurement–or his hearty congratulations to the Los Angeles Times when it published the ratings of teachers based on the test scores of their students. Over the past five years, we have learned that what Arne says bears little relation to what he does. In the same breath, as this statement shows, he is both for and against testing. He seems not to see the connection between toxic testing and the policies he has put in place.

Fortunately, two of our best thinkers have written excellent responses to the new Duncan line on testing.

Anthony Cody says that Duncan is responding to the call of Gates for a moratorium (the point is illustrated by an old advertisement for a phonograph that said “his master’s voice”). He also believes the new tack is Duncan’s response to polls that show a decline in support for the Common Core. Cody points out that the most onerous demands for high-stakes testing were initiated by Arne Duncan. What is Duncan really offering, asks Cody: a one-year moratorium on the punishments attached to testing.

Cody writes:

“But a one year deferral does not do much to fundamentally alter the systemic change that is under way. The new Common Core tests are still being rolled out and will be given this coming spring. This only amounts to a one year delay to the time when those scores will be used for evaluative purposes.

“Duncan makes it clear that the purpose of this delay is to allow for a successful transition to the new standards, testing and evaluation systems. There is actually no real change in any of the substance of any of these programs, and he reiterates the Department’s commitment to the new tests.

“If Duncan is serious in his concern about tests are “sucking the oxygen” out of schools, he should begin to listen to teachers when they tell him to stop using these tests for their evaluations and to close schools. Until then, test scores will continue to rob children of the vital learning environments they need, and teachers will continue to object.”

Peter Greene also has a withering analysis of Duncan’s new line on testing.

Greene writes:

“Duncan is shocked– shocked!!– that anyone would think it’s a good idea to make a high stakes test the measure of student achievement or teacher effectiveness. “Growth is what matters. No teacher or school should be judged on any one test, or tests alone –” And here comes the vertiginous woozies (dibs on this as a band name) again, because that would be a heartening quote if it did not come from the very same office which decreed that by order of the federal government high stakes tests must be used as a measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Duncan is talking about this test-based evaluation of students and teachers as if it just spontaneously occurred, like some sort of weird virus suddenly passed around at state ed department sleepover camp, and not a rule that Duncan’s office demanded everyone follow. Has Duncan forgotten that he just made the entire state of Washington declare itself a Failing School Disaster Zone precisely because they refused to use high stakes tests as a measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness?”

And Greene adds:

“As far as Duncan’s other concerns go– a year will not matter. Much of what he decries is the direct result of making the stakes of these tests extremely high. Student success, teacher careers, school existence all ride on The Test. As long as they do, it is absurd to imagine that The Test will not dominate the school landscape. And that domination is only made worse by the many VAMtastic faux formulas in circulation.

[Says Duncan: Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress. This issue is a priority for us, and we’ll continue to work throughout the fall on efforts to cut back on over-testing.]

Oh, the woozies. Duncan’s office needs to do one thing, and one thing only– remove the huge stakes from The Test. Don’t use it to judge students, don’t use it to judge teachers, don’t use it to judge schools and districts. It’s that attachment of huge stakes– not any innate qualities of The Test itself– that has created the test-drive joy-sucking school-deadening culture that Duncan both creates and criticizes. If the department doesn’t address tat, it will not matter whether we wait one year or ten– the results will be the same.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on FBI investigation of Gulen-related schools, which awarded large contracts to firms without competitive bidding. The firms as well as the schools appear to be related to the Turkish Gulen movement.

“In June, the FBI raided 19 Concept Schools locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including the group’s Des Plaines headquarters. Search warrants showed they were seeking records concerning Concept’s use of the federal “E-rate” program and companies hired under that program, which helps pay for high-tech upgrades.

“The agents also were looking for records regarding top Concept officials, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month.

“No one has been charged. The FBI has said only that the investigation is a “white-collar criminal matter.”

“The CPS-funded work done by the contractors named in the FBI search warrants has ranged from selling Concept computers and uniform polo shirts to organizing professional-development seminars.”

“The three Chicago Concept schools have paid more than $283,000 since the start of 2011 to Advanced Solutions in Education of Schaumburg, records show. The company and its founder and former chief executive, Ozgur Balsoy, were named in FBI search warrants served at Concept’s headquarters and at its schools in Rogers Park and Peoria.

ASE was a consultant for Concept on its applications for federal E-rate funding. The company also was hired to do other work for Concept, including organizing seminars for school administrators and teachers.

Balsoy previously was an administrator at a Concept school in Columbus, Ohio. He formed ASE in Ohio in 2009, expanding to Illinois in 2011. ASE listed him as “sole owner” until 2012. He’s now listed as vice president.

“ASE’s president, Erdal Aycicek, formerly served was treasurer of the Niagara Foundation, based in downtown Chicago. Like Concept and many of its contractors, the foundation was founded and continues to be led by Turkish immigrants, many of them with ties to the global Gulenist movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

“Two other ASE executives — Huseyin Alper Akyurek and Esat Albulut — also previously worked for Concept as administrators at schools in Ohio.

“ASE executives did not return calls seeking comment.

“Another company listed in the search warrants, Core Group Inc. of Mount Prospect, has been a major contractor for Concept’s schools in Chicago. The three schools have paid more than $550,000 to two Core subsidiaries for goods including computers and polo shirts with school logos on them.

“Core’s president, Ertugrul Gurbuz, who was named in the search warrants, also founded Quality Builders of Midwest Inc., a Concept construction contractor whose work included building a gym addition at CMSA at 7212 N. Clark St.”

Peter Greene notes that the two polls released this week were preceded by a Rasmussen poll in June, which showed Common Core losing support. Parents of school children were polled.

“Once again, we can see the result of a year’s worth of direct exposure. In November of 2013, the Core was supported by an unimpressive 52% and specifically opposed by 32%. By the following June, the numbers had shifted. Among parents of school-age children, support dropped to 34%, while actual opposition to the Core (which the survey referred to as the Common Core national standards) had grown to 47%…..”

“This poll is not news, but back in June, we couldn’t see so clearly that it was the harbinger of a trend. This is the opposite of a grass roots movement, the reverse of going viral. This is like the movie that opens strong on Thursday and plays to empty theaters on Friday.”

Sharon McCloskey and Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch here fill in the key details of today’s voucher decision.

Judge Robert Hobgood pulled no punches:

“In a stunning rebuke to state lawmakers’ efforts to bring school vouchers to North Carolina, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood today found the recently-enacted “Opportunity Scholarship Program” unconstitutional and permanently enjoined disbursement of state funds for that purpose.

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said.”

He added:

“In his ruling today Hobgood recognized the state’s obligation to provide a “sound basic education” to the children attending public schools in North Carolina as mandated by the Supreme Court in its Leandro decision .

“The General Assembly cannot constitutionally delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools by use of taxpayer opportunity scholarships to low income parents who have self-assessed their children to be at risk,” he said.

“Hobgood noted that the private schools receiving the scholarships are not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, have no requirements for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time.”

The state argued that the $10 million for vouchers was not taken from public school funds. The judge rejected that claim, saying: ““Follow the money,” the judge added. “The clear legislative intent is to utilize taxpayer money to fund private schools.”

Judge Hopgood also wrote:

““It appears to this court that the General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound basic education in public school as mandated by the Leandro decision,” he said.

“Parents who intervened in the case, represented by the Koch Brothers-backed law firm Institute for Justice, did move forward with an appeal of Hobgood’s order, contending that they would be harmed by the court’s delay of the voucher program’s implementation.”

- See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/08/21/nc-school-vouchers-ruled-unconstitutional-state-must-retrieve-distributed-funds/#sthash.RA4NSjqg.dpuf”

Governor Rick Snyder long ago made it clear that the state of Michigan has no intention of saving public education in Detroit or anywhere else. The city’s emergency manager announced a 10% pay cut for teachers, larger class size, and the closing of 24 schools. The schools have a deficit of $127 million. The wage concessions by teachers will save $13.3 million.

“Parents, educators and community stakeholders met Wednesday morning in front of Ludington Middle School to denounce the cuts, as well as the district’s previously announced plans to increase class sizes.

“Brian Kindle has two children beginning Head Start in the fall, and a 15-year-old at Cody High School. He said he’s worried about how pay cuts will impact his kids.

“I say hands off first responders, kids and teachers,” he said. “I’m here to support parents and their children, and to ask Gov. Snyder not to vote for the proposal.”

“Kindle said he fears additional cuts will result in further neglect of students in the classroom.

“We should have classrooms on every corner, instead of liquor stores,” he said. “That would be great, but we don’t have a society that encourages it. But I will remain on the forefront supporting our children.”

Dr. Thomas Pedroni of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project contends that the cuts to classroom instruction are NOT necessary. He shows in this analysis that the emergency manager has allowed other categories of spending to grow, while cutting the single service that matters most: classroom instruction.

Ken Previti tells the story on his blog about Julianna Mendelsohn, a teacher.

Julianna wanted to help the children of Ferguson.

““As a public school teacher, my first thought is always about the children involved in any tragic situation like this,” she writes. “When I found out school had been canceled for several days as a result of the civil unrest, I immediately became worried for the students in households with food instability. Many children in the US eat their only meals of the day, breakfast and lunch, at school. With school out, kids are undoubtedly going hungry.”

“Julianna is from Raleigh, North Carolina. She knows that all the children in school are our children. The children in Ferguson are our children with their own needs. Our children need many things, and nutritious food is at the top of the list. Julianna’s efforts have raised over $125,000 to feed our children during this crisis.”

Read the post and send whatever you can to feed the children.

Julianna is a hero of public education who, like so many teachers, truly puts children first. She wants to feed them. Please help her.

A North Carolina judge ruled voucher legislation unconstitutional because it gives money intended for public schools to private and religious schools. He ordered an immediate halt to the program.

Yvonne Brannan of PublicSchools First NC sent the following response, which included a video of Judge Robert Hobgood reading his decision:

“PLEASE watch this– you will better understand why this is so critical!! Hobgood is brilliant — he clearly points out how children will be denied the promise and privilege of public education if in a private setting where they have no constitutional rights!!!! EVERYONE must get this!! Rs and Ds…please understand the common good of public education for us all must be protected!!!! THIS IS A WIN FOR all children – regardless of race, income, gender, ZIP CODE!!!

“Our forefathers gave us this gift!!! THANKS TO the Great leaders of the past and thanks to fair courts!!

PLEASE CELEBRATE by joining me on Sat at 3:30 pm at the Bicentennial Mall for Moral Week of Action EDUCATION DAY!!

“I CANNOT STOP WATCHING THIS!
http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/13911824/”

A note from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. White Hat is Ohio’s largest charter chain. It operates for profit. The owner of White Hat, industrialist David Brennan, is a major contributor to Republican politicians, including Governor John Kasich and legislators. Because it is a private company, White Hat does not permit public disclosure of its finances.

Phillis writes:

“A White Hat online business enterprise took $13,106,192.74 from 409 school districts in 2013-2014

“Part of the opaque charter school empire of White Hat Management is an online business. 409 school districts paid $13.1 million to White Hat Management in 2013-2014. Like the giants in the online charter school industry-E.C.O.T. and K-12, Inc.-White Hat’s Alternative Education Academy (also known as OHDELA) is a low performing, low graduation rate, online operation. The 2012-2013 Report Card indicates Alternative Education Academy, a mostly F rated enterprise. The five-year graduation rate was 22.8%.

“These 409 school districts, by force of flawed law, gave up funds (state and local) and governance to one business entity-White Hat Management. Out with democracy and in with oligarchy!

“Does democracy matter?”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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