Archives for category: Closing schools

Wow! This post will knock your socks off, unless you work for the U.S. Department of Education. The post was written by Mark NAISON, one of the co-founders of the BATs. (I don’t know why, but my iPad always converts Mark’s last name into all-caps.)

The Badass Teachers Association held a rally outside the U.S. Department of Education on July 28, and several were invited to meet with staff at the Office of Civil Rights to air their grievances and see if they could find common ground. After some talk, some of which was contentious, Arne Duncan dropped in unexpectedly and joined the conversation, but said he would talk about only two subjects:

“Secretary Duncan after introducing himself, and saying that he could only stay for a few minutes, asked for two things; first if we could articulate our concerns about the Department’s policies on dealing with Special needs students, and secondly, if Shoneice and Asean could step out with him to talk about what was going on in Chicago.

“In response to his first comment, Marla Kilfoyle started speaking about her concerns about Department from her standpoint of the parent of a special needs student as well as a teacher. She said it appeared that Department policies were forcing school districts to disregard individual student IEP’s and exposing special needs students to inappropriate and abusive levels of testing.

“Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed as being Special Needs children and that once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then said “We want to make sure that all students are exposed to a rigorous curriculum.”

“At that point, I interrupted him in a very loud voice and said “ We don’t like the word ‘rigor.” We prefer to talk about creativity and maximizing students potential.”

“Secretary Duncan was somewhat taken aback by my comments. He said “ we might disagree about the language, but what I want is for all students to be able to take advanced placement courses or be exposed to an IB (International Baccalaureat) curriculum.

“At this point, Larry Proffitt interrupted the Secretary and said that in Tennessee, Special Needs students were being abused and humiliated by abusive and inappropriate testing and that their teachers knew this, and were afraid to speak out.

“We were clearly at an impasse here, which the Secretary dealt with by saying he had to leave and asking Shoneice and Asean to step into the hall with him and continue the conversation.”

This is a small part of a fascinating report on the BATs meeting at the DOE. When people ask me why I support them, I say, “They speak truth to power.” Here is the proof. Too many educators are docile and compliant. They are not.

Please read the whole post.

Do you think that Arne Duncan really believes that the greatest need of students with disabilities is access to rigorous AP and IB courses?

A reader sends a simple recipe that city officials in places like Chicago and Philadelphia use when they want to close a public school and open a charter school:

“They create the demand by killing the public school BEFORE they close it. They underfund it, cut all the specials, close school libraries, let guidance counselors go, get rid of attendance officers, class sizes become huge. What is a parent to do? There would be LITTLE demand if the neighborhood PUBLIC schools were funded properly.”

At a public hearing, Chicago parents and teachers demanded to know why the city closed 50 public schools while opening charter schools.

“How could CPS continue to cut budgets at neighborhood schools while opening new charter and contract schools — even after shutting down a record number of schools just a year ago?

“We need to pull the money from the plan of expanding charter schools, reinvest in neighborhood schools in our communities,” said Scott Hiley, a special education teacher at Lincoln Park High School whose classes have so many desks jammed in that he has little room to move around.

“Still, “my school is fortunate. We’re still open. Kids don’t have to bring their own toilet paper,” he said at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, the West Side location of one of three simultaneous two-hour meetings held throughout the city Wednesday night on the proposed $5.76 billion spending plan.”

“That plan, to be approved on July 23 by the Board of Education, includes about $67 million in cuts to district-run neighborhood schools and $62 million in increases for charter schools over last year, including to the scandal-ridden UNO Charter Network, and the Concept Charter schools that are under federal investigation. Neighborhood high schools have suffered the largest cuts, according to budget documents. CPS links the cuts and raises to enrollment shifts.”

The audience erupted in laughter and derision at some of the officials’ efforts to justify cutting public schools while opening charter schools.

If your school has been closed, if the staff was fired in a “turnaround,” you have experienced the theory of disruptive innovation, which is associated with Harvard Business Professor Clayton Chistensen.

Or perhaps your neighborhood school fell victim to Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of “creative destruction.”

Just so you can see these ideologies from a critical perspective, be sure to read Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s critique of Christianson’s work on disruptive innovation, which first appeared in “The New Yorker.” She challenges his thesis and argues that those bold start-ups flamed out, while stable institutions live on. And yet the idea of disruption has become wildly popular, as we now see in education policy.

Charters and vouchers are disruptive. Firing entire staffs is disruptive. The results of these “innovations” have been unimpressive and sometimes disastrous, yet their champions continue to demand more and more. To understand why, read this article.

Peter Greene responds to the NEA resolution. Calling for Arne Duncan to resign. he first deals with the debate on Twitter, about who would replace Arne Duncan. The assumption behind the discussion is that President Obama has no idea what Duncan has been doing and that when he finds out, Duncan will be ousted.

Then he takes on the NEA resolution.

Greene quite rightly points out that Duncan is doing exactly what the President wants. Were he to leave, which is unlikely, he would be replaced by someone as committed to high-stakes testing, privatization, closing schools, and undermining the teaching profession as Duncan. A likely replacement: Ted Mitchell, the newly appointed Undersecretary of Education, was most recently the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, the epicenter of privatization and anti-public school activism. Then there is always Michelle Rhee, whom the President and Duncan have lauded.

I can personally vouch for the fact that Duncan is doing exactly what Obama wants. In the fall of 2009, I had a private meeting with Secretary Duncan, just the two of us, no staff. It was very pleasant. He was charming, pleasant, and took notes. I asked him, “Why are you traveling the country to sell Race to the Top accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? Why Gingrich?” His answer: “because the President asked me to.”

Arthur Camins, Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ., points put that drug makers are not allowed to make unsubstantiated claims. They are required to gather evidence and to disclose possible negative side effects. They can make boasts, offer up dubious facts, and get away with it. They speak about the individuals’ “right to choose” without acknowledging the harm to the community’s public institutions.

In a thoughtful article, Camins says that the debate about school reform has been obscured by “the fog of war,” a public relations blitz that appeals to individualism and self-interest, replacing evidence and any sense of the common good.

He writes:

“One weapon in the arsenal of opponents of current policies has been to point out the absence of evidentiary support. In fact, there is no system inside the U.S. or around the world that has made substantial systemic progress through charter schools, merit pay or test-driven accountability. Resistance is growing, but so far this line of attack has not built enough widespread public understanding to deter policy makers. Maybe that is because the supporters of these policies have effectively obscured their real goals and values.”

He concludes::

“Stories of dysfunctional, conflict-plagued, private agenda-driven local school boards abound. There are countless examples school boards making uniformed decisions that do not serve the interests of children. However, privatization and shrinking of public participation in decision-making is not an antidote to ineffective, uninformed democracy. Public knowledge and clear-eyed evidence are. History is replete with evidence that the side effect of disenfranchisement in the name of improvement is benefits to the few and disaster for the many. Arguments that restricting democracy will benefit everyone have always been the coins of autocrats and self-appointed experts driven by blind faith or ideology and narrow self-interest.

“The drive to privatize educational governance, especially with respect to expansion of charter schools, has two unstated goals. One is to open up the vast education market to individuals looking for a new profitable place to invest their capital. Another is more cynical. Some people have given up hope for systemic improvement. Instead, they are willing to settle for a system that only provides an opportunity for those they deem to be the deserving and capable few among the unfortunate many. Hence, the negative disruptive side effects of school closings in poor communities are the price that the many will pay to save the lucky few.

“Let’s report the evidence and side effects so the public can decide: Which side are you on? Are you willing to give up your right to democratic participation and risk the future of your child or your neighbor’s to privilege the lucky few? Are you ready to give up on the common good?

“For the sake of clarity, I’ve attempted to present complex issues in binary terms. Assuredly, there are gradations. In reality, ensuring the wellbeing of individuals is inseparable from advancing the common good. The old labor slogan, an injury to one is an injury to all, said it simply, but well. Put another way, my personal gain is diminished or even negated when it comes at the expense of another.

“We need an educational system based on these values. I think, when asked, the public may agree.”

Paul Bruno, a science teacher in California, assembled a few charts to show that there is no “crisis” in American education.

What we have today was aptly named “a manufactured crisis” by David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, in their book “The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools” in the mid-1990s.

Last year, my book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” showed how the phony “crisis” rhetoric is cynically used to undermine public support for public schools and advance privatization through charters, vouchers, and virtual charters.

Chris Lubienski and Sarah Lubienski published “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.”

David Berliner and Gene Glass recently published “50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education.”

John Kuhn published “Fear and Learning in America: Bad Data, Good Teachers, and the Attack on Public Education.”

Mercedes Schneider published “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.”

So, if you want evidence that the “crisis” in American education is a cynical fiction, that it is used to divert attention from the true social and economic crises of inequality, poverty, and segregation, you have quite a selection of books to read. Arm yourself. Read them.

Blogger Rachel Levy sends out an alert to everyone in Virginia: Please contact Governor McAuliffe and ask him not to appeal the court decision saying that the state’s plan to take over low-performing schools violates the state’s constitution. The decision stopped the state from creating an anti-democratic bureaucracy called the Opportunity Educational Institution.

Levy writes:

“I am urging you to contact Governor McAuliffe’s administration (804-786-2211) to tell him to let the court’s ruling stand. The OEI is bad for democracy, it’s bad for local control, it’s bad for public education, and it will add another layer of expensive and superfluous bureaucracy. If people want charter schools in their local communities, let them work that out among members of their local community, via a democratic process and under the umbrella of the local school division; charter schools and privatization should not be imposed from up high by the state.”

She wrote last year:

“There’s no evidence that state takeover of struggling schools and districts helps. In fact, the evidence is at best mixed. The Governor and his policy allies are basing this approach on the system in New Orleans, which thus far has not proven successful. That Virginia would use as a model a city that hasn’t had much educational success doesn’t make sense. Michigan has also turned many public services over to the private sector, including the schools of Muskegon Heights. So far, that approach has been a disaster.

“Elliminating democratic institution and processes in a democratic society is not a cure for dysfunction or low test scores. Certainly, mass failure on the SOL tests signals a problem, but before the state blames and disenfranchises school communities, it really needs to figure out what that problem is and then target its resources accordingly. While many majority poor schools do just fine on standardized tests, I think we all know that the schools with low standardized test scores are often majority poor. Last I checked, being poor isn’t a reason to disenfranchise communities and hand their schools over to outsiders.”

Does anyone know an authoritative source for the number of public schools closed because of NCLB and Race to the Top? Either turnarounds, turned over to charters, or just closed?

The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia, just released a report describing the ways that co-location of multiple schools into the same building reduces educational equity. The report is called “THE EFFECTS OF CO-LOCATION ON NEW YORK CITY’S ABILITY TO PROVIDE ALL STUDENTS A SOUND BASIC EDUCATION.”

Co-location was a primary goal of the Bloomberg administration, which closed many large schools and opened many small schools. Today, almost 2/3 of the city’s schools are co-located: “In 2013, 1,150 (63%) of the city’s 1,818 schools were co-located. Charter schools made up 10% of co-located schools (115); the other 90% were traditional public schools.”

Many of the small, co-located schools “suffer from inadequate facilities, oversized classes and instructional groupings, inadequate course offerings, insufficient student supports, and inadequate extracurricular activities….” In many cases, these conditions violate state statutory, regulatory, and constitutional requirements.”

The report spells out in detail how these conditions limit students’ educational opportunities.

Small elementary schools are unable to provide adequate instructional time in the arts, science, or physical education.

Some high schools were unable to provide basic chemistry or physics classes, or foreign language classes

No school was able to provide the academic intervention services to which students were entitled.

Many middle and high schools were unable to provide required arts courses.

Many lacked the support staff for struggling readers or English language learners or others in need of extra time and attention.

These, and many more shortages of staff and resources, short-change children.

Co-locations have meant that many children do not get the academic opportunities or the social services they need.

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