Archives for category: Closing schools

A reader explains why public schools matter to the life of communities:

“Public schools are not panaceas for poverty or crime or any of the other ills of our society, but they can provide a place for a community to come together, to learn to get along with each other, to watch out for each other. They can create a sense of security and predictability for our children. Privatization of our schools destroys this sense of community. It takes ownership out of the hands of the community and renders parents powerless in the education of their own children. Those in power would do well to invest in schools that strengthen our communities.”

Brock Cohen taught for a dozen years in the public
schools and is now pursuing a graduate degree. Here
he tries to explain
the madness of local, state, and
federal mandates that crush teachers, principals and schools as
they labor under the burden of being labeled a “failing school.”
Here is a sample of how these mandates destroy schools instead of
helping them: “Most of my 12-plus years as a high school teacher
have been spent in a Title I Los Angeles-area public high school
that is perennially labeled with Program Improvement (P.I.)
probationary status. Being branded as such means continually having
to grapple with a host of federal, state, and local sanctions that,
at best, cast pall of shame over the entire school and at worst
cause direct harm to student learning outcomes. “Program
Improvement,” incidentally, is bureaucratic vernacular for
“failing,” which is ironic, since many of the California schools
designated with this term have actually been meeting or exceeding
their school-wide Academic Performance Index (API) goals for years.
I know: I don’t get it either. So what gives? “Here’s a hint: the
fundamental problem of “failing” schools isn’t lurking within the
decaying brick and mortar of dilapidated school walls. It does,
however, lurk within a dilapidated system that stubbornly refuses
to transform itself into what it should – or could – be. This
autocratic paradigm tries to paper over outdated or incoherent
curricula, abysmally low organizational capacity and scripted
“test-best” instructional mandates with a new generation of
high-stakes tests and massive rollouts of iPads. It also includes
the cynical but rosy rhetoric of school leaders and media pundits
who call for teachers and principals to work their way through this
manufactured crisis – to Teach Like a Champion! – as if balling
one’s fists and punching a concrete wall harder, harder, HARDER!
could ever serve as a template for reconstituting a building’s
framework. “The problem also lurks within an ethos that continually
fails to realize that our hallowed learning and achievement targets
actually descend into an abysmal rabbit hole. Without delving too
deeply into this abyss, let’s just say that data collection isn’t
inherently a bad thing. But the performance indicators on which
we’ve chosen to fixate have rendered the whole process pointless
and fantastically detrimental to the cognitive growth of a
generation of students. That leaders and practitioners have been
somehow coerced into believing that learning indicators are
something that can be reflected in the crudeness of high-stakes
standardized test scores reveals the extent to which intellectual
atrophy has devolved into an institutionalized norm.” Read it all
and weep for the children and those who are trying their best to
educate them.

With the likely election of Democrat Bill de Blasio as mayor of Néw York City, the educrats at Bloomberg’s Department of Education are updating their resumes and starting to pack their bags.

First to jump ship is Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, who is moving to Arkansas to help the Walton Family Foundation in its quest to replace public schools with vouchers and charter schools.

This article, written before the Democratic primary (which de Blasio won) explains why the DOE will no longer need Mr. Sternberg’s inestimable services:

“Two days ago NYC Mayoral Candidate de Blasio (the frontrunner for Tuesday’s Democratic primary) announced his support for a moratorium on ‘co-locating’ charter schools into buildings already occupied by neighborhood schools. If ‘co-locating’ sounds reasonable, well it’s because the practice was given a deceptively anodyne title.

“NYC co-locations are really hostile takeovers (sometime in whole, sometimes in part) of zoned neighorhood schools. Kids attending then’co-located’ neighborhood schools are kicked out of their classrooms and forced into yet more crowded classrooms. Charter schools don’t pay rent, often get the best facilities, and cherry pick the use of ‘shared space’. They often reject students who don’t fit in their managers’ model of the right sort of student.”

Apparently Sternberg will keep pushing those co-locations in NYC until the day he moves to Arkansas. The Bloomberg administration has a long list of co-locations that it expects to approve next month.

It is time for de Blasio to assert that the last-minute efforts of Bloomberg’s lame-duck Panel on Educational Policy to give as much space as possible to charter operators will be subject to a moratorium on January 1, when a new day begins for Néw York City

A Korean camera crew showed this photo-essay to me. I think they had a hard time understanding the number of police officers that created “safe passage” for students on their way to school in Chicago.

They came to interview me about how money affects the politics of education in the United States. The producer had a copy of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, translated into Korean. I gave him a copy of Reign of Error to take back to Korea. I asked whether there were any charter schools or vouchers in Korea. He said, “No. But there are alternative schools. The alternative schools are for children who misbehave.”

He asked me again and again to explain why political leaders were closing public schools. He found this concept incomprehensible.

Korea is one of the highest performing nations on international tests. It has the highest proportion of college graduates of any nation in the OECD.

Arthur Camins is director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. When Camins read Paul Thomas’s latest commentary about the lack of evidence behind reform strategies, he wrote the following:

“Over the past several years I have read countless articles and books all saying basically the same thing: The foundations of current education reform – competition, reward, sanctions and consequential testing – are not supported by evidence. In fact, they are contraindicated. Their use as policy levers promotes competition rather than collaboration, teaching to the test rather than deeper sustainable learning and increased school segregation. Many have expressed incredulity that reform supporters ignore evidence. Maybe it is not so surprising.

I think there are two explanations.

The first is the power of ideological blinders and hubris or what I called in an earlier article, The Fog of the Education War. (

The second explanation is different goals and values. I, and many other critics of current reform strategies place high value on education for democratic participation and responsible citizenship, educational equity for all and deeper learning. We have argued that charter schools, merit pay and over-testing undermine those goals. Maybe “reformers” know this too, but do not object. Maybe they want different things. Maybe they accept inequality as a fact of life. And, some may be just out to make a buck.

The question is which road will we choose – improvement for all or just a few. (”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the “death penalty” for failing schools recently, setting off a war of words between those who believe in closing struggling schools and those who want to kill them and fire the staff.

Bruce Baker takes a different view. Here he demonstrates that Néw York has a funding system that is unfair to the schools with the neediest students.

Instead of vilifying teachers and principals and pretending to advocate for the children and families, Cuomo should look at where the money goes. It is not going to the kids who need it most.

Baker writes:

“Put simply, what the New York public should NOT tolerate, is a Governor and Legislature who refuse to provide sufficient resources to high need schools and then turn around and blame the schools and communities for their own failures. (all the while, protecting billions of dollars in separate aid programs that drive funds to wealth districts).”

NOTE: I cross-posted this piece on Huffington Post. Be sure to leave comments there too.

Two years ago, Kevin Kosar, a former graduate student of mine, conducted an Internet search for the term “failing school.” What he discovered was fascinating. Until the 1990s, the term was virtually unknown. About the mid-1990s, the term began appearing with greater frequency. With the passage of No Child Left Behind, the use of the expression exploded and became a commonplace.

Kosar did not speculate on the reasons. But I venture to say that the rise of the accountability movement created the idea of “failing schools.”

“Accountability” was taken to mean that if students have low test scores, someone must be blamed. Since Bush’s NCLB, it became conventional to blame the school. With President Obama’s Race to the Top, blame shifted to teachers. The solution to “failing schools,” according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is to fire the staff and close the school.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently took this idea to an extreme by saying that he wanted a “death penalty” for “failing schools.” His believes that when schools have persistently low test scores, they should lose democratic control.

They should be taken over by the state, given to private charter corporations, or put under mayoral control. In fact, none of these ideas has been successful.

Low-performing school districts in New Jersey have been under state control for more than 20 years without turning them into high-performing districts. Mayoral control in Cleveland and Chicago has been a flop. And private charters typically do no better than public schools, except when they exclude low-scoring students.

Undoubtedly there are some schools where the leadership is rotten and corrupt. In such cases, the responsibility lies with the district superintendent to review the staff and programs, and make significant changes as needed

But these days, any school with low test scores is called a “failing school,” without any inquiry into the circumstances of the school.

Instead of closing the school or privatizing it, the responsible officials should act to improve the school. they should ask:

What proportion of the students are new immigrants and need help learning English? What proportion entered the school far behind their grade level? What proportion have disabilities and need more time to learn? What resources are available to the school? An in-depth analysis is likely to reveal that most “failing schools” are not failing schools, but are schools that enroll high proportions of students who need extra help, extra tutoring, smaller classes, social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, and a variety of other interventions.

Firing the staff does not turn around a low-performing school. Nor does handing it over to a charter chain. Nor does mayoral control. Most of the time, what we call a “failing school” is a school that lacks the personnel and resources to meet the needs of its students.

Closing schools does not make them better. Nor does closing schools help students. It’s way past time to stop blaming the people who work in troubled schools and start helping them by providing the tools they need and the support their students need.

A large national alliance of civil rights organizations has joined under the umbrella heading of “Journey for Justice.”

This coalition has called for the resignation of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

To understand why, read the flyer it distributed.

Anyone who thinks that closing public schools and replacing them with privately managed charters and with vouchers is somehow part of the civil rights movement has no understanding of the purposes of the civil rights movement.

It was not to destroy the public sector but to assure access to good education, decent housing, and jobs without any racial discrimination.

It struggled for equality of educational opportunity, not privatization or a “race to the top.”.

It did not claim that poverty could be cured by “fixing” schools or privatizing them.

It demanded an end to poverty by creating jobs and justice.

It fought segregation in schools and housing.

That vision is not the vision of the corporate reform movement in education today.

It fights not for equality of opportunity but for a market-based system of winners and losers.

It accepts segregation as tolerable.

It is not a civil rights movement.

The Journey for Justice calls out these contradictions and speaks truth to power.

“A National Grassroots Education Alliance”


Alliance for Education Justice

Washington, DC

Empower DC

Chicago, IL

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization

Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Algebra Project

Detroit, MI

Keep the Vote, No Takeover

Black Parents for Quality Education

Newark, NJ

Parents United for Local School Education

New York, NY

Alliance for Quality Education

Urban Youth Collaborative

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Student Union



Leadership Center for the Common Good

Oakland, CA

Oakland Public Education Network

Los Angeles, CA

Labor Community Strategy Center

Hartford, CT

Parent Power

Atlanta, GA

Project South

Miami, FL

Power U

Chicago, IL

Action Now

Wichita, KS

Kansas Justice Advocates

New Orleans, LA

Concerned Conscious Citizens Controlling Community Changes

Coalition for Community Schools

Boston, MA

Boston Youth Organizing Project

Boston Parent Organizing Network

Detroit, MI

Detroit LIFE Coalition

Minneapolis, MN

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Eupora, MS

Fannie Lou Hamer Center for Change

Camden, NJ

Camden Education Association

Englewood, NJ

Citizens for Public Education

Jersey City, NJ

Parent Advocates for Children’s Education

Concerned Citizens Coalition

Paterson, NJ

Paterson Education Organizing Committee

Philadelphia, PA

Action United

Youth United for Change



Annenberg Institute for School Reform

Chicago, IL

Teachers for Social Justice


Laurie R. Glenn

Phone: 773.704.7246




Journey for Justice Demonstrations Spearhead Campaign To Restore United Nations’ Proclaimed Human Right To Education

WHAT:   In light of a rash of school closings targeting low income communities of color in cities throughout the country, a national 25-city coalition is calling for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s resignation. In the midst of the 50th anniversary for the March On Washington, which sought to end segregation and job discrimination, members of the Journey for Justice Alliance have banded together to fight the continued privatization of public schools under Secretary Duncan’s leadership.

Students, parents and advocacy representatives all over the country will come together in local actions to demand a stop to the destabilization of low-income communities of color and restore the human and civil right to a quality and safe education for all children.

National Journey for Justice Alliance demands include:

  • ·         Moratorium on school closings, turnarounds, phase-outs, and charter expansions.
  • ·         It’s proposal for sustainable school transformation to replace failed, market-driven interventions as support for struggling schools.
  • ·         Resignation of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

WHO/WHERE:   Journey for Justice members and groups will hold local actions in 25 cities across the country including: Oakland, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Los Angeles; Hartford, Conn.; District of Columbia; Atlanta; Miami; Chicago; Wichita, Kan.; New Orleans; Baltimore; Minneapolis; Camden, N.J.; Englewood, N.J.; Paterson, N.J.; Jersey City, N.J.; Newark; New York; North Carolina, Boston; Detroit; Eupora, Miss.; Jackson, Miss.; Philadelphia; South Carolina.

WHEN:   Events will be held Monday, August 27th – Thursday, August 29th, 2013

WHY:  A clear pattern of racial and economic discrimination documented by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform has demonstrated that while there have been advances in the nation, as shown by the election of the nation’s first black president, the federal administration’s policies have embodied education strategies that continue to perpetuate racial and class bias and support inequality in education.

Despite research showing that closing public schools does not improve test scores or graduation rates, the federal agenda has incentivized the privatization of schools with primary fall out on low-income communities of color. Explosive school closings resulting from this agenda violates the United Nations proclamation of 1948, Article 26 ( establishing the inalienable human right of every child – regardless of race, income or community — to receive a quality education in a safe environment.

Journey for Justice is a national grassroots alliance whose goal is to bring the voice of those directly impacted by discriminatory school actions into the debate about the direction for public education in the 21st century and to promote equality in education for all students and sustainable, community-driven school reform for all school districts across the country.


Chicago Public Schools say they are out of money, but look where they are spending money freely.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Representatives available for print or broadcast media interviews

Amy Smolensky, 312-485-0053

Parent Group, Raise Your Hand Blasts CPS for Budget Priorities –

Cuts Disproportionately Hit District Run Schools while Charter and Central Office Spending Increases

CHICAGO, AUGUST 21 2013 — With just days left until school starts, parent group Raise Your Hand is calling on the city and CPS to stop the attack on district-run schools and restore funding so that children can start school with a dignified school day.

After reviewing the budget, Raise Your Hand is alarmed to find many areas of increased and spending to Central Office including:

· $8.8 million for Family and Community Engagement Department – increased from last year
· $50.4 million for Office of Innovation and Incubation – $22.2 million increase
· $41 million for new school development (after CPS closed 50 schools due to a “utilization crisis”)
· $68 million for Talent office – $22 million increase
· $20 million for no-bid SUPES contract
· $19 million Strategy Management Office – $10 million increase
· $14 million Accountability Office –same as last year despite claims that CPS is making significant reductions in standardized testing

Cuts to traditional district run schools are at $162 million while charters got an overall increase of $85 million dollars.

“CPS says they have no alternatives but to make these school-based cuts,” says parent Jeff Karova of Darwin Elementary. “Clearly CPS has chosen to increase spending in certain areas very far away from the classroom while cutting essential programs critical to the development and learning of our children.”

*Raise Your Hand has analyzed cuts to programs across the district and has found:
At the elementary level:
· 68 schools lost an art position
· 47 schools lost a music position
· 19 schools lost a performing arts position
· 51 schools lost a librarian position
· 22 schools lost a technology position
· 77 schools lost a reduced class size position

At the High School Level, cuts include:
· 90 English positions
· 28 Music positions
· 14 Art positions
· 37 History positions
· 28 Librarian positions
· 22 Social Studies positions
· 21 Biology positions
· 6 Chemistry positions
· 3 Physics positions
· 50 Math positions

130 bilingual positions at the elementary and high school level and 530 special education positions.

*The above is not a comprehensive list. There are other program areas impacted by budget cuts. RYH found these cuts on the cps budget site under “Budget by Program/Instruction/School”

“The ‘full’ school day is full of rhetoric,” says Wendy Katten, Executive Director of Raise Your Hand. “It is unclear how CPS and the mayor plan to have the children of Chicago college and career ready, let alone fully engaged in school with these kinds of devastating cuts. We have called on the mayor to restore some of the TIF surplus all summer but after seeing the amount of money spent in extraneous areas, we feel the mayor has more than one option for restoring these cuts.”

Raise Your Hand recognizes that a long term solution for revenue is critical and the pension holiday that CPS took for 3 years has impacted the deficit, yet the group insists that the problem can and must be minimized for the 2013-14 School Year and can be addressed before school starts.

The following parent/Raise Your Hand Representatives are available for interviews:
Wendy Katten -773-704-0336
Dwayne Truss – 773-879-5216
Jeff Karova – 312-316-8054
Cassie Creswell – 716-536-9313

About Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education: Raise Your Hand is a growing coalition of Chicago and Illinois public school parents, teachers and concerned citizens advocating for equitable and sustainable education funding, quality programs and instruction for all students and an increased parent voice in policy-making around education.

Amy Smolensky

Earlier today, I published Judith Shulevitz’s brilliant essay on “disruption” as a business strategy.

As we know, mega-corporations believe they must continually reinvent themselves in order to have the latest, best thing and beat their competitors, who are about to overtake them in the market.

They believe in disruption as a fundamental rule of the marketplace.

By some sloppy logic or sleight-of-hand, the financial types and corporate leaders who think they should reform the nation’s schools have concluded that the schools should also be subject to “creative disruption” or just plain “disruption.”

And so we have the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, underwritten by billionaire Eli Broad, sending out superintendents who are determined to “disrupt” schools by closing them and handing them over to private management.

Unfortunately, Secretary Arne Duncan agrees that disruption is wonderful, so he applauds the idea of closing schools, opening new schools, inviting the for-profit sector to compete for scarce funds, and any other scheme that might disrupt schools as we know them.

He does this believing that U.S. education is a failed enterprise and needs a mighty shaking-up.

First, he is wrong to believe that U.S. public education is failing. I document that he is wrong in my new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and The Danger to America’s Public Schools, using graphs from the U.S. Department of Education website.

Second, “disruption” is a disaster for children, families, schools, and communities.

Think of little children. They need continuity and stability, not disruption. They need adults who are a reliable presence in their lives. But, following the logic of the corporate reformers, their teachers are fired, their school is closed, everything must be brand new or the kids won’t learn.  No matter how many parents and children turn out at school board meetings to plead for the life of their neighborhood schools, the hammer falls and it is closed. This is absurd.

Think of adolescents. When they misbehave, we say they are “disruptive.” Now we are supposed that their disruptive behavior represents higher order thinking.

But no one can learn when one student in a class of thirty is disruptive.

Disruptive policies harm families because after the closing of the neighborhood school, they are expected to shop for a school. They are told they have “choice,” but the one choice denied to them is their neighborhood school. Maybe one of their children is accepted as the School of High Aspirations, but the other didn’t get accepted and is enrolled in the School for Future Leaders on the other side of town. That is not good for families.

Disruption is not good for communities. In most communities, the public school is the anchor of community life. It is where parents meet, talk about common problems, work together, and learn the fundamental processes of democratic action.

Disruption destroys local democracy. It atomizes families and communities, destroying their ability to plan and act together on behalf of their community.

By closing their neighborhood school, disruption severs people from the roots of their community. It fragments community.

It kneecaps democracy.

City after city is now suffering a “disruptive” assault on public education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed dozens of schools in Chicago; Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed dozens of schools in New York City; public education in Detroit is dying; Philadelphia public schools are on life support, squeezed by harsh budget cuts and corporate faith in disruption and privatization.

But the disruptive strategy won’t be confined to urban districts. As the tests for the new national Common Core standards are introduced in state after state, disruption and havoc will produce what corporate reformers are hoping for: a loss of faith in public education; a conviction that it is broken beyond repair; and a willingness to try anything, even to allow for-profit vendors to take over the responsibilities of the public sector. That is already happening in many states, where hundreds of milllions of dollars are siphoned away from public schools and handed over to disruptive commercial enterprises. It doesn’t produce better education, but it produces profits.

Maybe that is the point of disruption.


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