Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Jonathan Pelto reflects on the latest educational reform: Tearing down schools and replacing them with luxury apartment buildings.

He writes:

Closing in on Rahm Emanuel’s title as “Emperor” when it comes to closing public schools…

True, few, if any can compete with Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel when it comes to the unprecedented effort to destroy public education by closing public schools, New York’s Michael Bloomberg covets the title and is making a dash to catch up with Emanuel’s unholy track record.

Call it the New York City School Closing Scheme 2.0 – The Bloomberg Way

The notion is built on the concept that why should we simply close neighborhood public schools when private developers can makes tens of millions in the process.

Earlier today, the education blogger extraordinaire, EduShyster, ripped away the veil to reveal the harsh light of truth on the school closing scheme being led by Bloomberg and his corporate education reformers.

As EduShyster wrote, “When we last checked in with our rich friends, they were flush with cash and aflurry with many excellent ideas for saving our failed and failing public schools. Now, with the stock market ascendant and corporate profits at an all time high, these generous benefactors are themselves rising to new heights of generosity and excellence. Today’s outstanding idea is brought to us (and to our failing schools) by the rich of New York City who have come up with an idea so bold, so transformative, so disruptive that we have no choice but to raise our glasses to them.”

The details of the scheme can be found in the prospectus produced by the Bloomberg Administration’s “Global Leader in Real Estate” agent who begins by announcing, “On behalf of the New York City Educational Construction Fund CBRE is pleased to offer for your consideration three prime development sites, two of which are located on the upper West Side, and one on the Upper East Side. The three sites are truly special opportunities as the present sizable developments within submarkets having limited available land for any substantial development…They are among the few chances remaining to build large projects in their respective neighborhoods.”

Using the concept of a whole lot of pictures printed on high quality paper is worth a lot more than a thousand words; the “request for expressions of interest” is definitely worth a look.

Beyond their prime Manhattan locations, what makes these sites “special opportunities?”

Property number #1 is the site of PS 191, also known as the Museum Magnet School. Although traditionally a “low-performing school” educating mostly poor Black and Hispanic children, many of whom live in the Amsterdam Housing project across the street, a three-year, multi-million federal grant has been transform the school into an innovate educational institution that is working in tandem with Lincoln Center and more than 90 of New York’s museums and cultural institutions.

Property #2 is the mostly-white, traditionally high performing PS 199, which is located just a few blocks from PS 191. As one of the most highly regarded elementary schools in New York, the biggest problem facing PS 199 is the lack of sufficient space for all of the students who wish to attend.

And Property #3 now houses the School for Cooperative Technical Education, a first-rate institution that has been successfully providing a diverse population of 17-20 year olds with the career & technical education courses they need to pursue careers in 17 technical and trade fields.

While millions have been spent to renovate these three schools in recent years, the Bloomberg Administration quietly asked New York City’s finest developers whether they would be interested in tearing down these schools and building multi-million dollar, high-rise luxury towers. The only requirement is that the developers provide some space in the basement and/or lower floors for a school to move into space below the upscale residential buildings.

In the meantime, the public school students would be moved to temporary swing space and, depending on the type of schools developed at the old site, future students from the area might be able to attend the new, more upscale schools.

In response to the request, the Bloomberg Administration received at least 24 proposals and the word is that potential developers for a site or sites will be chosen by June.

The innovative luxury housing program is being run by the Educational Construction Fund, an entity that was created back in 1967, but hadn’t been used until Mayor Bloomberg showed up and began making public land available to private developers as a way to raise revenue for the City and create more luxury housing for the wealthy, all the while making developers rich.

One key provision of the Bloomberg program is that it appears to allow these private developers to build without having to go through the city’s cumbersome review process. Another interesting note is that while the City will be able to lease the space for the “new” schools for a period of no greater than 40 years, the developers will have control of the site and housing towers for a full 99 year lease.

Playing their role as one of the primary apologists for the Bloomberg Administration, the Daily News recently proclaimed the benefit of turning over public property to private developers writing, “Take a walk on 91st St. and First Ave. A 34-story tower catches your eye. Costing $165 million, the Azure towers over the neighborhood offering some of the best views on the Upper East Side. From either of the two $5.7 million penthouses, you can see Central Park, the East River, and midtown skyline.

It’s what you don’t see that’s most important here. Next door at Middle School 114, more than 530 students were accepted into the public school for strong academic performance. Every day, the students walk into the newly-constructed school. They learn from smart boards in a fully air-conditioned facility equipped with computer labs.”

Imagine the honor of being able to tell your parents that you attend a school below a building that has not one, but two, $5.7 million penthouse apartments.”

It is a corporate education reformer’s dream come true. Public land, hundreds of millions for private develops, even more luxury housing for Manhattan and some kids even get future access to smart boards.

We can just imagine what innovative ideas will blossom from this type of thinking.

Perhaps they can make Central Park the largest in-door park in the world providing acres and acres of high end housing with their own variety of amenities. Of perhaps a new set of private, multi-million dollar apartments suspended below the George Washington Bridge and New York’s other river crossings.

You can almost hear it now, a win-win situation thanks to an iPod for every child and river view apartments for those who support the corporate education reform movement.

Media coverage on the issue can be found in a paper called the West Side Rag here,, and here and here

EduShyster has noticed a brilliant new reform idea. Tear down the school, build a high-rise with luxury apartments on the site, then let the rich live right on top of the children. What a brilliant idea.

As one young man says in the article quoted, “It’s a win-win.” Or a win-win-win.

This is an unintentionally hilarious story in the New York Times.

Reformers are upset to discover that an astonishing proportion of teachers are getting high marks on the new evaluation systems that have just been set up. The evaluations were supposed to identify the best teachers (to get bonuses, even if no one has any money for bonuses) and most importantly to weed out the “bad” teachers who were causing so many students to get low test scores.

But look at these shocking statistics:

In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”

In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.

Advocates of education reform concede that such rosy numbers, after many millions of dollars developing the new systems and thousands of hours of training, are worrisome.

Needless to say, the National Council on Teacher Quality–whose board (as this blog knows well from the posts of Mercedes Schneider) includes such experienced teacher experts as Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Wendy Kopp–is upset.

So is the Brookings Institution expert Grover Whitehurst, who was in charge of the Bush administration’s education research. He says that any system that can’t find 5% ineffective teachers must be flawed.

Think of all the hoopla, not to mention the billions of dollars spent by Race to the Top, the Gates Foundation, the states, and the districts, and now what? Where did all those ineffective teachers go? Where are they hiding? Why can’t we find them?

Sort of feels like the T-shirt that says, “My grandma went to Miami and all I get was this lousy T-shirt.”

My government spent billions to find teachers to fire, and all we got was confusion.


Pedro Noguera, my colleague at New York University, said the following in an email this morning:

“How ironic.  Not one banker in jail for ruining the economy but a superintendent is under indictment for cheating.  Says a lot about our nation’s priorities. – pedro”

I asked and got his permission to post this. He added:

I don’t condone cheating but I see what happened in Atlanta and the other districts where cheating has occurred as a direct result of the insane fixation on raising test scores at the expense of actually insuring that children are learning.  The real fault lies with the federal and state governments that have been applying the pressure on school districts.  They have compelled good people like Beverly Hall to turn a blind eye to cheating.  

 – Pedro

By now, everyone has been duly warned that the new Common Core tests will be “harder.”

The passing rates are expected to drop by 30%.

Advocates of privatization are excited and hoping the bad news will encourage parents to abandon their community schools.

Entrepreneurs are poised to sell stuff when everyone is desperate for the latest new thing.

But what about the kids?

This teacher describes what she sees in her classes: fear.

“I have been chatting with my classes explaining that we expect the tests to be tougher and that we are taking our best guesses as to how to best prepare them. They (6th graders) have looked at me incredulously and asked, “You mean you don’t know what is going to be on the test?” I have used the “good, better, best” terminology this year to help them ramp up the rigor in vocabulary, reading, and their writing. I replied, “I expect higher than “best”….(for the level they can be prepared for). They looked stricken. They expect me to know and to be able to help them prepare. I know in my heart they think I am letting them down. I have never been a teach to the test teacher. I am flummoxed by this unbelievable plan of teacher destruction.

“What has been completely lost in all of this is the students. They are going to have to sit and struggle with these Ela tests for three days knowing by the end of the first day that they are not doing very well. Imagine what this will feel like to our plucky special education students whom we have supported throughout the year. Or, how about the ESOL kids who are valiantly interpreting every thing they read in a second language. Their reward? They will do the same the following week for the math tests. Highly regarded teachers have been in tears trying to understand how to convey very abstract mathematical concepts to our concrete thinking 6th graders. Rigor is important but not at the expense of known developmental benchmarks. The sample sent out by the State Ed. Dept. for Ela had reading passages at levels more than four or five years higher than our middle schoolers read.

“Who said yes to this? Who said yes?! And even more importantly, how will this end?”

This commentary, written two years ago, connects the dots.

The Atlanta school board was trained by the Broad Foundation.

Key officials were trained by Broad. Beverly Hall was not a graduate of Broad’s unaccredited training academy but she was sufficiently in step to speak at Broad training conferences, get Broad funding, and Broad-trained helpers. And she absorbed the Broad message that tests scores=performance, and nothing else matters.

The Broad philosophy, as best it can be deciphered from afar, is management by targets. Goal-setting. It is a business plan, not an educational vision for children. As Eli Broad once said, “I know nothing about curriculum and teaching, but I know management.”

With Broadies running many urban districts and placed strategically in key leadership positions, the Broad approach shows its flaws. It has nothing to do with understanding the needs of children, families, and communities. It has nothing to do with learning and knowledge. It is all about reaching the targets. Reach the targets and you get a bonus. Fail to reach your target and be fired or see your school closed.

Now schools across the nation are closing because they did not meet their targets. That too is part of Broad’s philosophy. If they don’t succeed, close them.

Who will hold Eli Broad accountable for the destruction of urban public education in the United States?

Michelle Rhee keeps raising interesting questions. It is hard to ignore her, because she is the face of the corporate reform movement, the one who goes on television to complain about the huge numbers of “bad” teachers and the importance of weakening or eliminating collective bargaining and the great value of privatizing public schools. Apparently, despite her four years in D.C., plus the additional years of her deputy Kaya Henderson, the District of Columbia still has way too many “bad” teachers because it continues to be at the bottom of NAEP rankings. When will we see D.C. rise to the top as Rhee predicted?

Is she a public school parent? Yes, one daughter attends a public magnet school, and the other attends an elite private school. Both in Tennessee.

Where does she live? In interviews in Tennessee, she says she lives in Tennessee, but she is also the wife of the mayor of Sacramento and lives in California. Does she vote in Tennessee or California?

Is she a Republican or a Democrat? She says she is a Democrat, but most of the candidates supported by StudentsFirst were Republicans. Of 105 candidates her group funded, 90 were Republicans. Sort of strange for a Democrat. She poured almost a million dollars into Tennessee to guarantee that the Republicans gained a super-majority. In one Democratic primary, she gave $100,000 to a voucher-loving conservative Democrat to beat a liberal pro-public school Democrat.

And the few Democrats she supported were in favor of vouchers and other Republican ideas. She has also given millions to defeat collective bargaining, which Democrats tend to support. Or used to.

She is a woman of mystery.

Barbara Stam describes what passes for “reform” as “the rich folks hoax.”

The hoax is the idea that constant testing and test prep improves education.

This is a hoax.

It is not for their children.

But it is good enough for other people’s children.

So what if the teachers of art and music and PE lose their jobs?

Someone else can do it, even though it is not their subject.

It is good enough for other people’s children.

Those who understand the dangers of privatization and the fraud perpetrated when charters claim they do a better job with “the same kids” can take heart whenever someone in the mainstream media sees what is happening.

Here is a journalist in the Connecticut Post who has figured out what is going on. The charters are skimming the kids in poor communities who are least expensive to educate, then crying that they don’t get enough money. Hugh Bailey has a commonsense idea: Send the money where the needs are greatest. Not to the charter schools, but to the struggling inner-city public schools, which have the kids the charters don’t want.

Thanks to a reader for pointing out that I forgot to add the link in this story about a brave columnist in Arkansas who dares to criticize the Walton hegemony.

Here is the post. I added the missing link. Please read it.