Mississippi boasts about its gains on NAEP reading scores, but those “gains” were largely the result of holding back students who didn’t pass the third grade reading tests. It’s a form of “gaming the system,” aka cheating.

This article by Bracey Harris for the Hechinger Report tells a different story, a story of unequal opportunity for black children in the state, a history of racism and segregation, a legacy of underfunding black schools, of crumbling schools and high teacher turnover.

Large proportions of black children live in deep poverty, and their schools are ill-equipped to prepare them for college or career.

State leaders offer nothing but gimmicks that have failed elsewhere: merit pay, A-F grades, bonuses for new teachers, and state takeovers. What they have not offered is the funding necessary to give the schools and students and teachers the resources they need. The conservative white legislature has not been willing to do what is needed.

State leaders have attempted to improve the state’s poor educational outcomes in recent years by requiring third graders to pass the state reading test before they can enter fourth grade, offering $10,000 bonuses for Nationally Board Certified teachers to work in the Delta, assigning schools and districts A-F ratings and, on occasion, taking over failing school districts. Mississippi’s newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves, who took office in January, has also proposed paying new teachers a one-time $10,000 bonus to instruct in struggling areas like Holmes.

Mississippi has also made some positive traction after investing $15 million per year, in part to train and coach the state’s teachers on the science of reading and reading instruction, an investment that some officials said helped boost the state’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Mississippi ranked No. 1 nationally in gains in fourth grade reading and math, and near the top in eighth grade score gains in math.

To some observers, the NAEP scores suggest the state’s focus on these reforms have helped, a lot. But locals say the reforms don’t go far enough, failing to address the deeper issues of racism and poverty that are embedded in the marrow of the Mississippi Delta. Each year, districts in the region hold back dozens of third graders. At one school in Holmes, Durant Elementary, more than 80 percent of third graders failed the reading test on their first try.

Ellen Reddy, an advocate who has pushed to improve education in Holmes County said the state’s solutions haven’t reduced the challenges that dominate the average school day. Reddy, executive director of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, said the state has to step in to help districts that struggle to raise money. “The reality is we’ll always fail. We’ll always be a step behind until they put in more resources,” she said. “You get what you pay for.”

Strapped for cash and teachers

Strapped for cash and teachers

Children in communities with a high rate of poverty are at a greater risk of poor health and high levels of stress that require more support in the classroom. Years of research have documented that poverty “creates constant wear and tear on the body” and that safe learning environments, coupled with “responsive parenting and high-quality childcare” can help children progress. But it costs money to train teachers on how to support students and to hire support staff like guidance counselors.

Never underestimate the power of poverty and racism.

In this study of school closures in Detroit, the authors note that the closures were concentrated in black and brown communities. Terrance L. Green, Joanna D. Sanchez, and Andrene J.Castro note this spatial concentration of closures and point out that it typically has negative effects on students.

It reads in part:

Between 2006 and 2013, >1,200 traditional public schools were closed across 26 states in the United States.2 These closures disproportionately occurred in urban school districts that predominantly serve Black and Brown3 students, such as Detroit, Chicago, and New York City (Deeds & Pattillo, 2015; Ewing, 2018).4 In each of these districts, >100 schools have been closed in recent years (Journey for Justice, 2014). According to research, schools that serve larger populations of Black and Brown students with economic need are more likely to be closed than schools with fewer students of color, even when the schools have similar academic performances (Center for Research on Education Outcomes, 2017). Research also indicates that schools mainly serving Black and Brown students are closed even though closures can be detrimental on multiple levels as they affect “every part of the education system from students to teachers to the neighborhoods around the schools and the city as a whole” (Grover & van der Velde, 2016, p. 21).

Scholars who take critical perspectives link school closures to political forces, corporate interests, and the policy contexts that allow neoliberalism to take shape (Lipman, 2011; Pedroni, 2011; Stovall, 2016). The neoliberal education agendas that focus on school closures manifest through policy justifications that render closures as a positive reform mechanism. These agendas purport to remove “low-performing schools” from the “education market” through competition, thereby producing viable schooling options for families (Brummet, 2014; Engberg, Gill, Zamarro, & Zimmer, 2012). School closures are therefore rationalized as good administrative governance, a logical intervention to “failing” traditional public schools, a consequence to underutilization of space, and a fiscally responsible option for distressed districts. However, these arguments for closing schools are still made despite empirical evidence showing that closing schools does not result in large savings, especially for big-city school districts, at least in the short run, without coupling it with large-scale teacher layoffs (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2011).5

Moreover, there is an important relationship among federal, state, and local policy actors in how school closures and charter openings manifest. Federal policy actors6 create a climate for neoliberal education policies that state and local actors in turn implement. As such, federal education policies in the United States have engendered an environment for school closures and the subsequent opening of charter schools in low-income Black and Brown communities (Good, 2017; Lipman, Vaughan, & Gutierrez, 2014). Policies such as No Child Left Behind created a high-stakes accountability environment that made school closures a “commonsense” neoliberal outcome to “underperforming schools.” Under this logic, No Child Left Behind encouraged school closures through market-based school reform policies that punished schools for low performance, introduced incentives, and promoted school choice (Green, 2017; Mintrop & Sunderman, 2009). Similarly, the federal government continued to close urban public schools, while new initiatives promoted the possibility of innovation in charter schools. The Race to the Top competition prioritized school closure as one of its remedies to “underperforming schools” (Deeds & Pattillo, 2015).

At the state and local levels, neoliberal policies have also been used to justify school closures and the concurrent opening of charter schools. This has been coupled with housing, labor, and other city policies that constrain urban life for children and families of color (Ewing, 2018; Green, 2017; Lipman, 2011). For example, research suggests that closing public schools and opening charter schools in Chicago “is linked to policies that mandate dismantling public housing, limit affordable housing options, and support gentrification” (Lipman et al., 2014, p. 3). Consequently, the massive school closures in Chicago—which resulted in >50 school closures in 2013 alone—have produced racialized outcomes leaving some Black communities with few traditional public open-enrollment schools (Lipman et al., 2014).

Impacts of School Closure on Students and Communities

The impacts of school closures on student educational outcomes are neutral at best and negative in other instances (Gordon et al., 2018). Students whose schools have been closed initially experience higher absenteeism and lower test scores, which in some cases decrease over time (Engberg et al., 2012). Research in Chicago suggests, however, that students from the 50 schools that were closed in 2013 experienced long-term negative impacts on their math test scores and grade point averages (Gordon et al., 2018). Furthermore, in schools that have been closed across the United States, students have noted less voice, decreased ability to affect school policies, weaker relationships with teachers, and lower academic performance in the schools that they attended after their neighborhood schools were closed (Kirshner, Gaertner, & Pozzoboni, 2010; Kirshner & Pozzoboni, 2011). While most students in urban districts move to lower or equally performing schools after closure, some studies suggest that when students move to higher-performing schools, they typically experienced better attendance and test scores.7 However, the distance between high- and low-performing schools in many urban cities is so far that it prohibits some students of closed schools from attending higher-performing schools (de la Torre & Gwynne, 2009).

Additionally, the social-spatial and psychological impacts of school closure can be costly. Research indicates that school closures can destabilize communities, interrupt the lives of students and families, and cause receiving schools to become overenrolled (Gordon et al., 2018). The closure of schools can also lead to a type of social death or mourning because the connections among schools, students, families, and communities are lost (Ewing, 2018). The social impacts of school closure also include erasure of histories, student mobility issues, loss of jobs for teachers of color, and fractured school feeder patterns (Buras, 2013; Green, 2017). To compound these impacts, the psychological consequences of school closure interrupt a community’s sense of place and home (Journey for Justice, 2014).

To frame this study, we draw on Peck and Tickell’s (2002) theorization of “rollback” and “rollout” neoliberalism. According to Peck and Tickell, neoliberalism represents “explicit forms of political management, intervention, and new modes of institution-building designed to extend the neoliberal project, to manage its contradictions, and to secure its ongoing legitimacy” (p. 396). Peck and Tickell characterize rollback neoliberalism as a type of dismantling, discreditation, and destruction of public institutions and goods. As the authors note, rollback is historically situated and represents a shift from Keynesian-welfare economics to free market economic theories characterized by marketization and deregulation. For example, rollback neoliberalism destroys public goods and institutions such as public schools, public housing, and labor protection policies (e.g., teachers’ unions and tenure; Lipman, 2013b; Moskowitz, 2017).

Conversely, the authors argue that rollout neoliberalism describes a policy logic that privileges entrepreneurial governance through new construction and consolidations. Rollout neoliberalism therefore engenders new institutions (i.e., charter schools) and policies that create markets in places where they had not previously existed, such as charter school markets in communities that once housed traditional public schools (Lipman, 2013a). Given the proliferation of charter schools in urban contexts and the ways that charter schools are marketed toward students of color, rollout neoliberalism is also imbued with racial consequences.

School closings and dispersion of communities of color tend to be correlated with gentrification and dispersion of the students whose schools were closed, as well as disruption of community institutions.

G.T. (Guy) Brandenburg is a retired teacher who taught for many years in the D.C. Public Schools. He has a sharp eye and digs deep before he writes. He achieved a measure of fame when Michelle Rhee was chancellor. She boasted that as a young TFA teacher she had brought her students’ scores from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile. A number of national publications quoted this remarkable feat, but Brandenburg did the research. The records for the classroom where she taught could not be found but he was able to find test scores for the school and the cohort and declared that her claim was implausible. Eventually, the mainstream media stopped repeating the claim and understood it as an urban legend.

I knew when I sent SLAYING GOLIATH to Brandenburg that it would be rigorously fact-checked. That’s the kind of reader he is.

Here is his review.

Strange as it may seem, the best education reporter in New York City works for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post. Her name is Susan Edelman, and she regularly reports on what is happening in the city’s schools without fear or favor. Unlike the New York Times, where reporters cycle in and out of the education beat, Sue has been writing on the subject for many years.

One of her best articles appeared in 2011, when she revealed the source of the non-existent “New York City Miracle.”

The title: “New York’s School Testing Con.”

Mayor Bloomberg trumpeted the 2009 scores as proof of the success of his mayoralty, as proof that the Legislature was wise to give him total control of the school system, and as reason #1 to re-elect him to a third term (which broke the City Constitution’s two-term limit).

Edelman began:

In a stunningly short time, from 2006 to 2009, New York schools celebrated what was presented as a tremendous turnaround. The number of city students passing statewide math tests in the third through eighth grades surged from 58% to 82%. At the same time, the Big Apple graduation rate rose from 49% to an all-time high of 63% last year.

The figures were miraculous.

They were also, for the most part, a lie.

While the scores have risen, real achievement has lagged. Behind the curtain, an erosion of standards has led to a generation of New Yorkers who have been handed high school diplomas but can’t handle the rigors of college or careers.

A new state report finds just 23% of city grads leave high school ready to succeed in college or the work world. About 75% who enrolled at CUNY community colleges flunked the entrance exam, and must take one or more remedial classes in math, reading and writing.

Many blamed State Commissioner Richard Mills, who set graduation standards so high that he had to lower the bar or face the possibility that most students would not get a diploma.

But others saw a coverup of huge proportions when the 2009 scores went through the roof. In response to the spectacular scores, Regent Betty Rosa asked,

 “Why are we celebrating these scores as a miracle, when there is no miracle?” Rosa said she asked.

Another insider said Big Apple officials were urged not to “exaggerate” the results. But Mayor Bloomberg hailed the increase in 2009 as an “enormous victory.” At the time, he had a lot riding on the scores — he was seeking a third term and pushing for legislation to extend mayoral control of the schools.

City officials “got very angry,” the insider said, when Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch publicly downplayed the results, citing “troubling gaps” between the stellar state scores and lackluster outcomes on national exams.

Mills has maintained the scoring was backed by his panel of experts. But Rosa and other members of the Board of Regents say he kept them in the dark.

“I basically asked, ‘Who sets the cut scores? How is this determined?’ ” said Rosa, who joined the board in 2008. “There was no real explanation. I never got a straight answer.”

Mills and his testing chief, David Abrams, had rebuffed requests in 2008 to investigate the inflation. Faced with a lack of confidence, Mills was “encouraged” to leave in June 2009, insiders said. He declined to comment last week, saying, “I have nothing to add.”

Many city students soon discovered their Big Apple diploma was little more than a piece of paper.

Jasmine Gary, 18, a graduate of Port Richmond HS on Staten Island, was surprised when she scored a 70 on the Regents math exam.

“I don’t know how I passed, because I failed a lot of math classes,” she said.

She applied to CUNY but bombed on the entrance exam. Now she’s required to take a no-credit, $75 remedial class at Borough of Manhattan Community College, but is catching up. “I learn more here,” she said.

Rossie and Angely Torres, 18-year-old twins from The Bronx, earned 76 and 75 respectively on the math Regents at Philip Randolph HS in Harlem. They, too, take remedial classes at BMCC.

“In high school it was just people talking and the teacher would just give us an assignment. It was just to graduate. But here, people work hard and the teacher is more serious,” Rossie said.

Former Chancellor Joel Klein, who left office several months ago to join News Corp, which owns The Post, declined to be interviewed. But he defended his eight-year record via e-mail sent by a city DOE spokesman.

“We’ve long called for higher standards and . . . we still made real gains,” Klein said.

For instance, city fourth-graders have boosted their scores on national reading tests since 2003, though eighth-grade scores have remained flat.

And NYC has outpaced the state’s other big cities, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers, the DOE says. In 2002, New York City’s fourth-grade math results were 27% lower than the statewide average, while the other four cities showed a 31% gap. In 2008, New York City was just 8% behind the rest of the state, while the “big four” were 25% behind.

But the more spectacular results have vanished.

The Board of Regents commissioned a study, led by Harvard professor Daniel Koretz, which concluded in 2009 that the statewide grades three-eight tests had become too easy. Mills’ successor, David Steiner, recruited for his experience in teacher development as dean of Hunter College of Education, was charged with making the 2010 tests more comprehensive and less predictable. He also hoisted the cutoff points, requiring students to do more to pass.

Scores plunged. Just 54% of all city students in grades three-eight showed proficiency in math tests last year, compared with 82% in 2009. Reading proficiency citywide fell from 69% to a dismal 42%.

Even so, the tougher tests continued the practice of giving “partial credit” for wrong answers — or no answer at all — if the kids showed some understanding of the concept or did one step right.

On the fourth-grade test, for instance, a kid who answered that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches got half-credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12. “They were giving credit for blatantly wrong things,” said a teacher hired to score the tests.

A state report released this month delivered a new blow. It found that most kids who earn less than 75 on the state Regents English test or 80 on the math exam — 65 is passing for both — must take remedial classes before starting college.

That 65 score is misleading as well. It’s based on an adjustable scale — and the state has whittled down the points needed to pass. Back in 2003, students had to get 61.2% of math questions right for a 65 score, the minimum required for a Regents diploma, and 50.5% of questions right for a 55 score, enough for a “local diploma.” Today, students need just 30 points out of a maximum 87 — or 34.5% — to get a 65 score.

“When Johnny or Jenny comes home with a 65 or 70, their parents might think they’ve mastered about two-thirds of the material. In fact, it’s slightly more than a third,” said Steve Koss, a retired city math teacher who has railed against the bloated test scores. “Sadly, most parents don’t understand how the scoring works. If they knew the truth, many would be outraged at what amounts to a fraud perpetrated against them by state and local education officials.”

Last month, the state launched a shorter English Regents exam, cutting it from two days to one, six hours to three, and four essays to one. Instead of three other essays, kids have to write two “well-developed paragraphs.”

To bring matters to the present, the Regents are now debating whether to retain or discard their storied exams, which students must pass to graduate.

But that’s a topic for another post.


A mother in the Riverhead, New York, School District wrote an opinion article about underinvestment in the small city’s public schools. Years ago, Governor Cuomo slapped a tax cap of 2% on all districts to prove his conservative credentials. In addition, Riverhead has a charter school siphoning off millions of dollars and now wants to expand. This week, voters must pass a bond issue to meet the basic needs of the schools.

Allyson Matwey writes:

Because of the 2% tax cap and the lack of fair foundation aid from our state, which owes our district more than $30 million, our schools have been starved of the money they need to provide our children with the sound, basic education to which they are entitled. 

In addition, we are unique in that the charter school is in our town and costs us $7 million-plus per year.  And now, they want to expand and “build from the ground up” to educate a few more students, which will cost us millions more.  So, we are left with few options as we are faced with a crisis of overcrowded schools and buildings falling into disrepair.  We must ask ourselves, as taxpayers of this community, will we continue to keep the promise of a sound basic education for our and our children’s futures?  …

Two of our schools, Pulaski Street Elementary School and Riverhead High School, are already bursting at the seams.  Both schools are presently at more than 100% capacity, with large class sizes and hallways that are difficult to pass through.  These conditions are neither safe nor are they conducive to our children’s access to a sound, basic education.  The Riverhead School Board has had research conducted by Western Suffolk BOCES that reveals that our enrollment will continue to climb over the next several years. So, what are we to do?  

In order to address this overcrowding as well as the disrepair of some of our buildings’ facilities, the Riverhead Board of Education has put forward two bond propositions to provide us with an opportunity to uphold the promise of a sound, basic education to our children. …

Unless we are willing to make a small sacrifice for all of our children, split sessions at both Pulaski Street and the high school are not a threat but a reality. This could in turn affect sports, music, arts, and other extracurricular activities such as clubs.  For the average assessed home in Riverhead valued at $43,000, Proposition 1 would cost only $16.41/month; Proposition No. 2 will cost only $3/month.  Aren’t our children worth less than $20/month?  And for those wondering about staffing costs, the district has demonstrated and reassured the taxpayers that they are steadfast on not breaching the 2% tax cap.  Through creative financial planning such as retirement incentives and shared services the district appears to be in a good place to hire the additional staff that would be needed anyway.

The writer cites the many achievements of the children and urges local residents to pass the bond issue to meet the basic needs of the schools and their children.

The vote will be conducted on February 25. Every parent, grandparent, and taxpayer should invest in the children and vote YES.

 

 

This is a really great podcast that I enjoyed taping with brothers Mike and Fred Klonsky on their podcast “Hitting Left” while I was in Chicago. We borrowed time from our host Mario Smith, because the show occurred while Mario was on the air. Start with the photograph of the four of us holding baseball bats, the better to hit left with. Mike and Fred are veteran activists. While Mike was a leader of Students for a Democratic Society decades ago, I was a budding neoconservative. I remember reading about this fiery radical and never imagined that one day we would be friends. Fred and Mike asked some interesting questions, and it’s a wide-ranging discussion. Mario, a former art teacher in the Chicago Public Schools joined in. He referred to the”illustrious” Klonsky brothers, and so they shall remain.  We had fun.

The American Federation of Teachers Issued this statement yesterday:

 

Press Release

American Federation of Teachers Passes Resolution to Encourage Support for 3 of the 2020 Democratic Primary Candidates

For Release:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Contact:

Oriana Korin
Oriana.Korin@aft.org

WASHINGTON—In a telephone town hall on Thursday night with thousands of American Federation of Teachers members and leaders who have been actively engaged in the union’s 2020 presidential endorsement process, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland, AFT Vermont President Deb Snell and Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang discussed the next steps in the AFT’s plan for supporting candidates as the 2020 Democratic presidential primary continues to unfold.

Weingarten reported on this week’s meeting of the AFT executive council, including the passage of a resolution outlining the next steps in the AFT’s 2020 endorsement process. The board voted to step up what is already unprecedented member engagement in the upcoming election by encouraging locals and state affiliates to support, be actively involved with, or endorse the candidacies of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, ahead of the selection of more than 60 percent of the delegates by the end of March. The resolution signals to members and leaders that support for any of those three candidates is welcome at this stage of the process before the union makes a national endorsement.

This next phase of the union’s 2020 endorsement process follows record member engagement in the first stage of the presidential primary, with more than 300,000 members participating to date—including the public education forum in Pittsburgh that featured seven candidates, the 10 candidate town halls hosted with members around the country, numerous telephone town halls, several member surveys and polls, five regional meetings, and countless activities at the local and affiliate levels. Several AFT locals and state federations have already made candidate endorsements, as encouraged by the initial endorsement resolution(link is external), passed in March of 2019.

Weingarten said:

“We are fighting for working families and our communities to have the freedom to live, and a voice at work and in our democracy. Donald Trump has proven himself to be an existential threat to the values and aspirations of educators, healthcare professionals, public employees and the communities we serve every day. While several candidates in this race share our values, three in particular—Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership. There is a real connection with these three candidates because of their record of working with us over the years on public education, higher education, healthcare, labor and civil rights.

“Given the stakes of this election, the enthusiasm among our membership to engage, and the nature of the democratic nomination process, our board felt strongly that until the AFT makes a national endorsement in the primary process or at the AFT convention, it is important that our affiliates, members and leaders, including the three national officers, be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren.

“It was clear that the time to take this action was now, before all the delegates are chosen and before all of the primaries are over, so that AFT members and leaders can help shape the race and the narrative, ensure our voices are heard, and ensure one of these three candidates emerges as the nominee. Because, make no mistake: We are in the fight of our lives—for a better life for our members and the communities we serve, to preserve our democracy, and to defeat Donald Trump. Ultimately, we must be unified and support the eventual Democratic nominee.”

Boland said:

 

“As a native of Scranton, Vice President Biden knows firsthand about the economic, educational and social issues that matter to our community. He has been a lifelong advocate for strong public schools, labor rights, and access to quality and affordable healthcare—issues important to our members, working families and the students we teach. I, and my members, aren’t just supporting the vice president because of his past record, but also because of his vision for the future—a vision that is focused on strengthening the middle class and providing opportunity for everyone. We are committed to turning out for Joe Biden ahead of Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary, and we resolve to do the same for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, too. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines.”

 

Snell said:

 

“AFT Vermont has proudly endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president, and our members in higher education and healthcare are already engaged in his movement to bring universal healthcare to every person in this country, and an affordable college education. Sen. Sanders has shown he has the vision, the momentum and the diversity of support necessary to enact bold policy changes that will undo the corrupting influence of corporate power on our economy, and allow working people to access the better-life issues we fight for every day: decent wages, a secure retirement, good healthcare and an opportunity for our families to get ahead. We are committed to helping Sen. Sanders win delegates, and also committed to supporting whichever Democrat ends up taking on Donald Trump in November.”

 

Tang said:

 

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the true visionary in this race for president: Her plans for big, structural change make her the clear choice for the Boston Teachers Union and AFT Massachusetts. Sen. Warren’s values are aligned with ours. We strongly support her plans for public education, immigration justice and building an economy that works for all by making it easier for workers in all sectors to join a union and by tackling our nation’s student debt crisis. She has stood with us every step of the way in our ongoing efforts to win the necessary funding and policies to strengthen public education for all, particularly for the students and communities with the greatest needs. This is a critical time for us to show leadership, so we’re proud to stand behind her during the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. We look forward to supporting her or whomever is elected as the eventual Democratic nominee.”

 

 

Ross Douhat is a conservative columnist for the New York Times. Maybe he wrote this column to help Trump, yet it rings true.

He writes:

For a long time the notion of a Michael Bloomberg presidential candidacy seemed like a Manhattan fancy, a conceit with elite appeal but no mass constituency, a fantasy for Acela riders who imagine that the American people are clamoring for a rich person’s idea of centrism.

This was especially true in the days when Bloomberg would advertise his interest in a third-party candidacy. Third parties are generally founded on ideas that elites are neglecting, like the combination of economic populism, social conservatism and America-first foreign policy that propelled Donald Trump to power. Whereas Bloombergism is elite thinking perfectly distilled: Social liberalism and technocracy, hawkish internationalism and business-friendly environmentalism, plus a dose of authoritarianism to make the streets safe for gentrification.

But with a populist in the White House, a socialist winning primaries, a Democratic electorate desperate for a winning candidate and an establishment desperate for a champion, Bloomberg has become a somewhat more plausible presidential candidate than I imagined even six months back. So it’s worth pondering exactly what his still-highly-unlikely, but not-entirely-unimaginable nomination might mean, and what he offers as an alternative to both his Democratic rivals and to Donald Trump.

Inside the Democratic Party, Bloomberg’s ascent would put a sharp brake on the two major post-Obama trends in liberalism: The Great Awokening on race and sex and culture, and the turn against technocracy in economic policymaking.

Yes, Bloomberg has adapted his policy views to better fit the current liberal consensus, and his views on social issues were liberal to begin with. But he has the record of a deficit and foreign policy hawk, the soul of a Wall Street centrist, and a history of racial and religious profiling and sexist misbehavior. More than any other contender, his nomination would pull the party back toward where it stood before the rise of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and root liberalism once more in professional-class interests and a Washington-Wall Street mindmeld.

These are good reasons to assume that he cannot be the nominee, and excellent reasons for social progressives and socialists alike to want to beat him. The only way they will fail is if Bloomberg succeeds in casting himself as the unusual answer to an unusual incumbent — combining the Democratic fear of a Trump second term, his own reputation for effective management and the promise of spending his fortune to crush Trump into a more compelling electability pitch than the race’s other moderates.

But Democrats considering this sales pitch should be very clear on what a Bloomberg presidency would mean. Bloomberg does not have Trump’s flagrant vices (though some of his alleged behavior with women is pretty bad) or his bald disdain for norms and rules and legal niceties, and so a Bloomberg presidency will feel less institutionally threatening, less constitutionally perilous, than the ongoing wildness of the Trump era — in addition to delivering at least some of the policy changes that liberals and Democrats desire.

However, feelings can be deceiving. Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are naked on his Twitter feed, but Bloomberg’s imperial instincts, his indifference to limits on his power, are a conspicuous feature of his career. Trump jokes about running for a third term; Bloomberg actually managed it, bulldozing through the necessary legal changes. Trump tries to bully the F.B.I. and undermine civil liberties; Bloomberg ran New York as a miniature surveillance state. Trump has cowed the Republican Party with celebrity and bombast; Bloomberg has spent his political career buying organizations and politicians that might otherwise impede him. Trump blusters and bullies the press; Bloomberg literally owns a major media organization. Trump has Putin envy; Bloomberg hearts Xi Jinping.

In our era of congressional abdication, all presidents are prodded or tempted toward power grabs and caesarism. But Bloomberg’s career, no less than Trump’s, suggest that as president this would be less a temptation than a default approach. And the former mayor, unlike the former “Apprentice” star, is ferociously competent, with a worldview very much aligned with the great and good, from D.C. to Silicon Valley — which means that he would have much more room to behave abnormally without facing a Resistance movement of activists and journalists and judges.

To choose Bloomberg as the alternative to Trump, then, is to bet that a chaotic, corrupt populist is a graver danger to what remains of the Republic than a grimly-competent plutocrat with a history of executive overreach and strong natural support in all our major power centers.

That seems like a very unwise bet. Democrats who want to leverage Trump’s unpopularity to move the country leftward should support Bernie Sanders. Democrats who prefer a return-to-normalcy campaign should unite behind a normal politician like Amy Klobuchar. Those who choose Bloomberg should know what they’re inviting: An exchange of Trumpian black comedy for oligarchy’s velvet fist.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, doesn’t like Amplify. 

He doesn’t like its focus on profit and he doesn’t like its pedagogy.

He traces its provenance from Joel Klein to Rupert Murdoch to Laurene Powell Jobs.

it started with high promise and claims that it would transform American education but the business went south when its first big client complained of melting chargers and cracked screens.

Murdoch lost the faith and bailed out. Jobs bought it.

As he writes, she has a low opinion of classroom teachers.

He concludes:

The reason schools are buying these terrible education technology frauds is that professional educators are no longer making curricular decisions. All large modern businesses including schools require a significant digital infrastructure. This means that there must be an information technology group headed by an expert. That expert who loves technology and has no pedagogical expertise becomes the leading voice concerning the purchase of digital equipment. That explains in part why school districts in financial difficulty are still purchasing pricey education technology software and hardware. Board members believe they have no choice and that they are implementing professional advice.

Amplify Education, Inc. is another modern snake oil salesman. The only reason they did not disappear in 2003 is that the federal government and investors like Rupert Murdoch have poured billions of dollars into this company. It is past time for the fraudulent STEM ideology, education testing scam and the sale of low quality education technology products to be stopped. Taxpayers are being fleeced, schools are being bankrupted and children are being harmed.

Last night I spoke at the conference hall of the Chicago Teachers Union. Today began with an interview at WGN-TV.

It’s a short segment but I said what I needed to day about the condition of education. 

Enjoy!