Archives for category: Obama

Howard Gardner and Jim Reese have a “modest proposal” for the Obamas when his term in office ends. They think the First Couple should teach in an urban public school (not a charter school), a school that accepts all children and operates under typical state and federal mandates and regulations.

This idea came to them when they read that the President told an interviewer:

” I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education… I love teaching. I miss the classroom and engaging with students.”

What better place for him than an urban classroom? Assuming Mrs. Obama shares his passion, she too could serve as a teacher, helping the neediest children.

But, say the authors, there is much they need to learn.

“First, there’s the preparation for entering the classroom. The traditional teacher licensure pathway entails a number of courses as well as time in school learning the ropes from veteran educators. In the past two decades, however, “alternative” pathways have made it easier for professionals to make a transition to teaching on a faster track. Before entering the classroom the Obamas should learn about theories of child development, classroom management, and effective teaching and learning practices.

“Second, there’s the induction into the profession. While it would be quite intimidating for any classroom teacher or administrator to supervise the Obamas, it’s vital that the Obamas benefit from being mentored by outstanding veteran teachers. We should not expect anything less for any new teacher entering the profession!

And then there are the daily challenges, such as:

“*being held accountable for their students’ standardized test scores, no matter that those students might have pronounced learning challenges, still be in the process of learning English, or face serious problems outside school that affect their performance in school;

“*balancing what could very well be a rigid, uninteresting curriculum, mandated by the school board or other powers that be, against a desire to engage students and let their own passions drive the learning;

“*staying on top of major school-, county- or state-wide initiatives—often contradictory, and often changing on an annual basis—about which teachers have very little say;

“*or dealing with de-moralized colleagues who feel the changes in public education over the past 20 years have robbed them of the capacity to be creative, passionate or innovative in their practice.”

The alternative pathways into teaching like TFA and the few successful charter chains like KIPP–both endowed with many millions of federal dollars–affect the lives of a tiny percentage of children, they say. They do not affect the overall system that most children experience. The Presidential couple could make a significant contribution by calling attention to the real problems in typical schools.

Let us be thankful. A hopeful thought from the reader who comments as NY Teacher:

“I understand your pessimism, but this too shall pass. The Obama/Duncan regime are closing up shop soon. Their policy attacks are simply not scalable nor will they withstand the legal challenges that are sure to follow. The teaching profession will survive this onslaught and one day Arne, RTT, CC, VAM, and the test-and-punish reform will be smoldering on the ash heap of failed and discredited ideas.”

Be very careful about claims of schools that miraculously “turned around” in a matter of months or even in a couple of years. The usual formula is: fire everybody, hire a new staff, and the students become brilliant.

But then Gary Rubinstein investigates, and the miracle dissolves under his careful analysis.

Here is one. Gary writes that Joel Klein in his new book boasts of the amazing turnaround that happened when he shuttered Paul Robeson High School and opened P-Tech. Only a year and a half later, President Obama praised P-Tech in his State of the Union address.

But the high school scores were released a few days ago, P-Tech was one of the city’s lowest performing schools. Gary wrote, “This could be the most un-miraculous miracle school I’ve ever investigated.”

Another school in the news is Boys and Girls High School, also in Brooklyn. The media has been demanding that it be closed down because of low test scores. But its scores are much higher than those of the celebrated P-Tech!

Gary wonders whether reformers will start demanding that P-Tech be shut down.

Jonathan Lovell, a teacher educator in California, received many messages after the election urging him to “keep your chin up ,” “don’t be discouraged,” that he decided to reply to one of them, the one that came from President Obama.

Here is his message to the President, followed by the President’s message to him.

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.
I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,

Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Dear Diane,

I’ve been receiving so many “keep your chin up” emails over the past few days, primarily from democratic organizations and individuals to whom I’d sent donations during the past several months, that I decided to respond to one of them: the President’s.

What I wrote is below, with the President’s email below that.

Ever fondly,
Jonathan Lovell

On Nov 7, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Jonathan Lovell wrote:

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.

I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,
Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Edward F. Berger explains one reason why Democrats got hammered on Election Day. President Obama alienated teachers by walking in the footsteps of George W. Bush. He and Arne Duncan wreaked havoc on public schools. They outraged and demoralized teachers.

 

The Democratic party adopted the Republican agenda, and they turned off a day part of their base:

 

“The Obama administration, and especially Arne Duncan, dealt a blow to educators, parents and educated citizens when they sided with corporations like Pearson, and those who believe a punishing blow to teachers and public community schools will improve American education.

 

“The USDOE is now an agency without credibility, driven by ideologies that are not based in reality. For example, pushing the false belief that bad teachers are responsible for troubled schools. The Obama administration discounted the real factors that hold children back – poverty, fear, instability, and futility generated by a failed economic system, not teachers or bad parents. In doing this, President Obama has lost the confidence of our educated leaders and shamed his largest support base.

 

“By systematically destroying the nations confidence in educators and public schools, and following unqualified, self-appointed change agents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, Mike Bloomberg, and a few dozen other profiteers, this administration undermined confidence in educators and fact-based education. To do this they develop tests to prove that bad teachers are exposed by student tests. They do this by whatever means Pearson can profit by selling tests, and more tests, that are made mandatory for all school districts to buy and force into place. To do this, they overlook what schools really do for children and for the future.

 

“President Obama ignored votes of no confidence in Arne Duncan and the present course of the USDOE. He totally discounts scholars and experienced education leaders. In doing so, he destroyed his base. He has let stand the false charges that teachers and teachers associations are the problem, and he has allowed the re-segregation of schools in many states. He has supported access to public tax dollars by religious schools. He has provided wealth from our education tax dollars to profit-driven corporations, not to kids.”

Eleven national civil rights groups issued a joint statement to President Obama and Secretary Duncan calling for an end to the regime of test-based accountability.

Their statement was reminiscent of a similar one objecting to Race to the Top in 2010. At that time, Secretary Duncan did his best to bury the groups’ objections.

The statement was signed by:

Advancement Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Campaign, National Urban League (NUL), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC), National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Their statement includes recommendations to improve the needed supports and services for children.

Number one is “1. Appropriate and equitable resources that ensure opportunities to learn, respond to students’ needs, prioritize racial diversity and integration of schools, strengthen school system capacity, and meaningfully support improvement.”

Among the needed resources are:

“Qualified, certified, competent, racially and culturally diverse and committed teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, librarians, and other school support staff, with appropriate professional development opportunities, including cultural competency training, and support and incentives to work with students of greatest need; and

Social, emotional, nutritional, and health services”

They write:

“The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In our highly inequitable system of education, accountability is not currently designed to ensure students will experience diverse and integrated classrooms with the necessary resources for learning and support for excellent teaching in all schools. It is time to end the advancement of policies and ideas that largely omit the critical supports and services necessary for children and families to access equal educational opportunity in diverse settings and to promote positive educational outcomes.”

Every once in a while, I post an article that I missed when it first appeared because it offers fresh insight. This article by Bruce A. Dixon appeared in Black Agenda Report. Dixon says that Race to the Top has been the leading, sharp edge of privatization. It is directly responsible for closing thousands of public schools in urban districts and turning over the keys and children to private management.

Dixon writes:

“The national wave of school closings not national news because our nation’s elite, from Wall Street and the hedge fund guys to the chambers of commerce and the business establishment, from corporate media and all the elite politicians of both parties from the president down to local mayors and state legislators are working diligently to privatize public education as quickly as possible. They’re not stupid. They’ve done the polling and the focus groups. They know with dead certainty that the p-word is massively unpopular, and that parents, teachers, students and communities aren’t clamoring to hand schools over to greedy profiteers.

“On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.” For the same reason, corporate media refuse to cover the extent of the school closing epidemic, or local opposition to it, for fear of feeding the development of a popular movement against privatization, and Race To The Top, the Obama administration’s signature public education initiative, and the sharp edge of the privatizers, literally driving the wave of school closings, teacher firings, and the adoption of “run-the-school-like-a-business” methods everywhere.

“The privatizers know the clock is ticking. They know that no white Republican or Democrat could have successfully closed thousands of schools, mainly in the inner city and low-income neighborhoods without a tidal wave of noisy opposition. No white Republican or Democrat could have fired or replaced tens of thousands of experienced, mostly black qualified, experienced classroom teachers with younger, whiter, cheaper “graduates” of 5 week “teacher training” programs like Teach For America.”

Gentrification follows in the wake of school closings. As Kristen Buras writes in her book about New Orleans, privatization clears the way for land transfers.

Meanwhile, Congress sits idly by, watching Arne Duncan close and privatize thousands of public schools, which pushes out veteran black teachers, busts unions, and creates jobs for TFA. And Congress looks the other way as Duncan ignores the legal prohibition on controlling, influencing, or directing curriculum and instruction by imposing Common Core and Common Core testing on most of the nation’s children. Duncan is doing what Obama wants him to do. But why? Does anyone really believe that mass school closings and privatization improve education. Or is it not a declaration of utter educational failure on the part of this administration, which does not have a single idea about how to improve schools that need help?

Mike Klonsky reports on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest faux pas. Rahm is opening another selective enrollment high school –in upscale Lincoln Park–while leaving less fortunate neighborhoods without a public high school. He decided to name the $60 million high school for President Obama, but the President’s team didn’t like that idea.

“Rahm’s dream of a two-tiered public school system — one tier for gentrifying neighborhoods and one for the rest of us — is turning into a political nightmare.

“The mayor has once again gotten himself into deep doo-doo with Obama’s people over the naming of another proposed expensive, new selective-enrollment high school for Lincoln Park. As I pointed out last week, Rahm thought that naming the school after the president would help mend his election campaign fences, both with Obama’s people who dislike him and with black voters still irate over his notorious mass school closings.

“But the response from White House staffers was quick and to the point. Valerie Jarrett reportedly told Rahm in no uncertain terms — don’t drag Obama’s name into your mess. He’s got enough problems of his own. And just like that, Rahm walked it back.”

As someone who has responded many times to Democratic Party fund-raising appeals on the Internet, I now get daily requests to give more. For the past few weeks, I have been responding that I will not give another penny until President Obama renounces Race to the Top and replaces Arne Duncan with someone who supports public schools. I thought I was the only one doing that, but then I got this letter from John Ogozalek, who teaches in upstate New York.

He wrote, in response to a similar appeal:

” Hancock, New York 13783
August 18, 2014

“Dear People Sitting in Fancy Offices In Charge of the Democratic Party,

“Why, why on Earth would I send a donation to politicians who seem intent on harming my family and our kids’ school?

“What a HUGE error the Democratic Party brass has made attacking public schools and teachers. What a bunch of dummies kissing off the support of millions of MIDDLE CLASS voters. (Does the corporate cash mean that much to you??)

“Tell Barack Obama and Arne Duncan that they have FAILED the Democratic Party….they’ve FAILED our children.

“Race to the Top? Farce to the Top!

“Governor Andrew Cuomo is a sellout, too. I’ve voting for Zephyr Teachout September 9 in the New York State Democratic Primary and will strongly encourage every Democratic I know to do the same

“When Democratic leaders are ready to stop sucking up to big corporate money….when Democratic leaders are ready to stand up for families and their schools…..let me know.

“And, no, I will not use my own first-class stamp on your pre-addressed, money grovelling campaign contribution envelope to “help us save much-needed funds”. How many times do I need to tell you that?

John Ogozalek”

Paul Horton here attempts to understand why the Obama administration is waging war on teachers. He reminds us of Central Falls, when the Obama administration supported firing the entire staff of the high school. He remembers when the administration was neutral during the Chicago teachers’ strike, and Arne Duncan’s support for the noxious Vergara decision. He could have mentioned many other instances of the administration’s hostility to teachers, such as Duncan’s support for the L.A. Times story releasing the names and ratings of teachers. Or the administration’s silence during the large demonstrations against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or its silence as vouchers spread.

He writes:

“In sum, the war on teachers and due process for teachers is presented by many Democrats as a new war on poverty, and, somewhat obscenely, “the Civil Rights Movement of our time.” Last year Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C. Schools, made speeches at southern civil rights museums that proclaimed that supporting charter schools and making teachers accountable was the key to creating a more equitable America. Closing the achievement gap and not the excuse of poverty was the new focus of the new Civil Rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum—Lorraine Motel in Memphis recently recognized Geoffery Canada, a Harlem charter school operator and the star of the anti-pubic school documentary, “Waiting for Superman” as a “Civil Rights Hero.”

It was cheaper to wage war on teachers than to wage war on poverty. But that leaves so much unexplained. Why did President Obama embrace the Republican agenda of testing, accountability, and choice? Why did President Obama turn against one of the most reliable members of his party’s base? Horton doesn’t explain.

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