Archives for the month of: June, 2013

A message from Mark NAISON:

Here’s the link to our new website!




Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
“If you Want to Save America’s Public Schools: Replace Secretary of Education Arne Duncan With a Lifetime Educator.”

Ed Fuller has been conducting research on education policies in Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere for many years. His published work is careful and peer-reviewed.

Here he analyzes the recent report of the National Council on Teacher Quality and finds it woefully weak. To begin with, it looked only at inputs (catalogs and syllabi), not outputs like whether teachers got jobs as teachers and how long they remained in the profession. He is critical of their research methods.

And he notes that they did not review any of the alternative certification programs that are producing significant numbers of new teachers. The failure to include non-traditional routes is significant. Not even Teach for America or the proliferating online teacher prep programs were studied. Wonder why.

Please remember that NCTQ is not a think tank. It is an advocacy group.

Jersey Jazzman reported yesterday that the three keynote speakers at the National Charter Schools Conference are Joel Klein, rapper Pitbull, and Arne Duncan.

Blogger Mother Crusader did some research and found that Pitbull is a flamboyant misogynist.

Would Secretary Duncan speak at a conference where another featured speaker was flamboyantly racist? Or homophobic? Or anti-immigrant? Or anti- any other group than women?

Secretary Duncan, don’t go: Show your respect for women by refusing to share the dais with a man who treats women like sex toys.

This poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of my all-time favorites.

I first read it in college and decided to memorize it. When I was feeling down, I would take walks around Lake Waban and recite it out loud. I don’t know if it made me feel better, but it was my ritual.

This poem is about death and life, fear and hope. Is this “informational text”?

Spring & Fall: to a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Although Paul Vallas is often credited by the mainstream media as having “saved” Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, these districts remain unsaved. Of the three, Philadelphia is in the worst shape today, its finances in shambles, desperately underfunded, nearly 4,000 teachers and other staff laid off, schools under threat of closure or privatization, students with little or no access to the arts and the other essentials of a basic education.

Here is a report on Vallas’ time in Philadelphia.

Vallas launched the nation’s most extensive experiment in privatization, which was evaluated by the RAND Corporation.

Here is RAND’s report on Vallas’ foray into the “diverse provider model.”

In sum,

“The major findings of the analysis of achievement effects under the diverse provider model in its first four years of operation are as follows:

• Sweet 16 schools: There were no statistically significant effects, positive or negative, in reading or math, in any of the four years in which they received additional resources.

• Privately managed schools (as a group): There were no statistically significant effects, positive or negative, in reading or math, in any of the four years after takeover.

• Restructured schools: There were significantly positive effects in math in all three years of implementation and in reading in the first year. In the fourth year, after the Office of Restructured Schools had been disbanded and the additional resources for the schools had ceased, the former restructured schools maintained a substantial (though only marginally statistically significant) effect in math.

In short, after four years of intervention, achievement gains in privately operated schools and sweet 16 schools, on average, are no different from Philadelphia’s districtwide gains.”

I am a few days late posting this good essay by Rachel Levy. Here she debates whether to opt out her children from Virginia’s state testing.

Levy has a terrific blog, and you should read it whenever possible or subscribe. She is one of our best thinkers today writing about education issues.

She knows that everyone is caught up in the same snare, and she doesn’t want to cause problems for her children’s teachers or their school.

She considers the pluses and minuses and ultimately decides not to comply.

She writes:

“The best education is one that involves a rich and diverse curriculum where kids learn lots of stuff and read lots of books. Good leadership or bad, America’s public schools students largely aren’t getting that right now. Test prep and practice does not facilitate a rich and meaning full education and what’s more, it doesn’t even facilitate a meaningful boost in test scores.

“So, by all means let’s protest and work to end poor education policy and end high-stakes standardized testing. In the meantime, I am mostly willing comply with what is required. But I vigorously protest all the rest; it’s not necessary, it doesn’t work, and it’s poor practice.”

An article in the Guardian, a British newspaper, sympathetically explains the plight of students, parents, and communities that are adversely affected by the mass closings of dozens of elementary schools in Chicago.

One of the schools to be closed is Mahalia Jackson, which has a program for hearing-impaired children. When the school is closed, students will be sent to a school that is more than an hour’s walk away.

The school also has a program for autistic students. What will happen to them?

Why is it that a magazine in the U.K. portrays the plight of some 40,000 mostly minority children in Chicago with more understanding and sympathy than the Chicago press?

This teacher hopes that Bill and Melinda read this comment:

Dear Bill and Melinda,

I truly believe you started with good intentions. As mature adults who make mistakes, it is time to recant your initial perspective.

I’ve taught 4th and 5th graders in an inner city school for the past 17 years. What fun we used to have. Back then…. before the NCLB and RTT…. my students flourished in literature groups reading on grade level classics such as Hatchet, Tuck Everlasting, Call it Courage, The Cay, Caddie Woodlawn, The Little Princess, and My Side of the Mountain. We read Jerry Spinelli, Karen Hesse, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. Not anymore. Why? The testing.

Since the high stakes tests began in 2001 I have noticed a decline in my student’s thinking skills. Each year they come to me with fewer skills than the group before me. The teachers are the same as before, but something is different. Students were being over tested. They no longer get the pleasure of reading in the “zone” and spending time languishing in the text for the sheer joy of reading. They have to pass these tests. If they don’t the school is punished.

This year, our school is being punished, because we are a “focused” school. As a result, time and time again, I have had to postpone my well planned lessons. These lessons, which are designed to engage students in analyzing and thinking about character motive, theme, setting etc. depend on momentum, continuity and consistency. These lessons are designed to give students time to reflect on their learning. Not this year, sadly. As a focused school, the state is more concerned with DATA. So, I have had to put aside my lessons, midstream, to initiate one edict after another given by the district, which was precipitated by the state mandates of a focused school. (I might add here that the majority of focused schools are located in impoverished districts. It’s not because of bad teaching. It’s because of poverty!)

These edicts range from “administering the district exam on material not yet covered in order to input the data, to implementing another NEW strategy, which we were never trained in to use.” Consequently, my well thought out lessons went down the drain, and I collected and input data instead. Those great books we were reading sat on the shelf. The math games and manipulatives, which help my students grasp the concrete before they explore the abstract, sat on the shelf. Instead, I administered exams and in between did my best to cover the material so that the students would hopefully succeed on these exams. If I didn’t do it, I would get a bad evaluation and my job would be on the line. I felt l was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Against every bone in my body, I had eliminate the reflective time of learning to move quickly to the next “state” agenda.

The sad part is this. I was miserable and my students were miserable. “Ms. P can’t we get in our reading groups today?” Yes. My students begged to read. They begged to read because when I am allowed to teach the way I KNOW is best, they read and love it. And that simple act of reading and loving it is the aspect of learning that will move the students forward.

However, thanks to your well-intentioned push to improve our schools, my students have less time to enjoy learning and more time to create data so that I can prove that I am teaching.

A side note here: Why are we a focused school? Our students with disabilities did not make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress). You got it. Students with special needs did not “meet state standards.” Now, Bill and Melinda, please read the many posts from parents and teachers of students with disabilities to understand the absurdity of this.

…..and reconsider your alignment with Michelle Rhee and the likes.

Please, recant.

Having sprouted nearly 20,000 members in barely two weeks, the distinguished Badass Teachers Association prepares for the long haul. Mark NAISON writes:

“Today, with the Official Launch Party for the group Logo, the youtube channel, and the opening of the BAT Store, members of the Badass Teachers Association will see how hard the administrators of this group have worked to create an organizational structure built for the long, hard, struggle to take back our profession and our schools from the profiteers, hustlers and opportunists who have marginalized our voices and deluged our schools with tests and assessments. No one should pretend this struggle will be easy, or that it will not provoke arguments in the group as to best carry it out. But I am confident that with the organization we have all created together, the national group plus the 50 state organizations, teachers now have the opportunity to speak more frankly and honestly, in collective solidarity, than they did two weeks ago. The collective courage and creativity of people on this site inspires me every day. Now let the whole nation learn what Badass Teachers can do.

Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University

“If you Want to Save America’s Public Schools: Replace Secretary of Education Arne Duncan With a Lifetime Educator.”

If you were a rapper who made millions by insulting women with vulgar lyrics and treating them as sex objects, what’s your next logical move?

Why, open a charter school! It is easy if you live in Florida, where anyone can open a charter.

And then you will be invited to be a keynote speaker at the national charter schools conference!

I can’t reprint any of the lyrics on this blog because they are so vulgar.

What a testament to the value of education, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, and thoughtfulness! Not.