Archives for the month of: June, 2013

Here is an excellent account of the reasons that a judge in Connecticut ruled that Paul Vallas was not uplifted to serve as superintendent of the Bridgeport public schools. Each of the districts where he previously served is in turmoil or crisis, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Recovery School District in Louisiana, which is the lowest performing in the state.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis rendered a decision today ousting Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas from his job because he lacked the legal qualifications under state law.

Jon Pelto has the decision on his blog here.

This is a startling turn of events. A group of citizens in Bridgeport sued to oust Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas because he lacked the credentials specified in state law to be a superintendent. Vallas has been superintendent of schools in Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Recovery School District in New Orleans. The mayor of Bridgeport and the school board approved his contract.

But today Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas was unqualified and ordered his removal. Presumably, there will be an appeal.

As soon as I get more details, I will post them.

This is a quote from the judge’s decision: “Because Vallas did not complete a school leadership program, he was not entitled to a waiver of certification. The waiver he received on 6/17/13 is invalid. The court orders that Paul Vallas be removed from his office.”

An earlier post reported on the Lisa Fleisher story about the complete lack of any accountability for top school officials in New York City. At the same time that the Department of Education was creating elaborate metrics to evaluate teachers, principals, and schools, no one at headquarters was evaluated. As Fleisher showed, there had been regular evaluations until Bloomberg became mayor. Then, nothing.

Jersey Jazzman takes the issue of accountability further to inquire who was held accountable by Chancellor Joel Klein when things went wrong. The answer: no one.

After reviewing a few of many fiascoes (he overlooked the Alvarez & Marsal contract for $15.8 million to rearrange bus schedules that left thousands of children stranded on the coldest day of the year), he concludes:

“The truth is that Joel Klein’s tenure as the Chancellor was rife with incompetence and unaccountability. He was happy to point the finger at teachers whenever possible, play the blame game with the union, and throw junior staffers under the bus when needed.

“But Klein never held his senior staff – or himself – accountable for anything. In many ways, he is the personification of the corporate reform movement: a movement that refuses to take responsibility for its own many failings.”

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who is Senior Attorney at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity of the Education Law Center, which fights for resources for the neediest students.

In this post, she asks important questions about the new CREDO national study of charter schools.

Although the media claimed that the study showed either major progress for charters compared to 2009, or that they were superior to public schools, the facts are otherwise.

Lecker writes:

“The verdict is in, and it is the same as four years ago. In updating its 2009 national study on charter schools, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reaches the same conclusion it did in its previous study: The vast majority of charter schools in the United States are no better than public schools.

“In 2009, 83 percent of charters were the same or worse than public schools, and now about 71-75 percent are. Even more telling, CREDO concludes that “the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools.” In addition, students at new charter schools have lower reading and math gains than at public schools.”

The bottom line, according to the study, is that the “the average charter school student gains eight days of reading learning over a public school student and nothing in math. Experts agree that math learning depends more on instruction in school, whereas reading advancement often hinges on skills and vocabulary gained outside the classroom.”

But what the study does not consider is more important than a few more days of reading gains..

Lecker writes:

“The human cost of this charter sector improvement is also not addressed in the study. Officials who authorize charters gamble with students’ fates. When the experiment fails, i.e. the charter school is bad, it closes. The study did not count the educational loss these displaced charter students suffer.

“In Connecticut, the human toll of charter schools includes severe discipline policies, such as shockingly high suspension rates of elementary school students as young as 5; mistreatment of those few students with disabilities in their schools so extreme it necessitates a civil rights settlement; high attrition rates; and exclusion of Connecticut’s neediest students.

“Charter schools exact a toll on parents, as well. Public schools are overseen by elected school boards that hold public meetings. When charters replace public schools, parents lose their voice in education. Charter boards are not democratically elected. There is no requirement that board members live in the community or answer to parents. Often, members are corporate executives with no children in charter schools.

“The cost of charters extends beyond the individual family. In neighborhoods across this country, public schools are community hubs. Funding a parallel school system starves the existing public schools and dooms vital community institutions. In Chicago and Philadelphia, officials de-funded public schools to fund charters, then closed an unprecedented number of neighborhood schools, despite dramatic protests by parents and students. In New Orleans, charter school expansion increased segregation, with children of color concentrated in low-performing schools and white students in higher-performing ones. In these cities, the negative effects of charter expansion fall hardest on poor children of color.

“At the same time states shell out billions of dollars on charter schools, courts have ruled that states have deprived public schools of billions of dollars owed to them. Since 1997, Connecticut taxpayers have spent more than a half a billion dollars on charter schools, not including special education, transportation and other expenses host districts pay, while the state has consistently underfunded Connecticut’s public schools.

“Taxpayers pay billions to fund parallel charter school systems that lack public oversight, exclude our neediest children, increase segregation, starve existing schools and decimate communities. As a nation and a state, it is time to question whether this price is too high to pay for an average of eight days extra in reading.”

Ohio master teacher Maureen Reedy has great news for the championship chess team at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

She writes:

Great news! The national championship chess team of I.S. 318, a public school with a high poverty rate in NYC, will live on!

Please consider a contribution to combine with the $20,000 being raised by the tireless efforts of my friend, Fred Wilson, of NYC, who has reached out in his blog to his AVC community with the promise of a $10,000 match (see below). We are getting very close. The project page, through DonorsChoose, is live here. You can even write a short, personal note to the kids! Believe me, it is a thrill, as a public school teacher of 30 years, to open up the site and read over 100 encouraging notes from the folks in the AVC community and beyond, cheering these students and their teachers on.

Just a few short weeks ago, 70 kids and their teachers, who together have devoted months and years, of after school and summer hours to studying and mastering the game of chess, thought they had played their last match. At the end of the school year, the sobering news was delivered; the funding for the infamous national award winning chess team of I.S. 318, featured in the documentary Brooklyn Castle, was cut by the New York City Department of Education (a 2 minute trailer here – Brooklyn Castle Trailer, the movie can be streamed on Netflix ).

If you have time, read on to find out what happened a few weeks ago, when I read Diane Ravitch’s blog about the demise of the chess team and emailed my friend, Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in NYC, who supports public schools …

Fred is just an amazing guy! He becomes very fired up about opening up avenues to provide the resources for programs that help kids reach their potential by pursuing their passions and interests. Once I connected him with John Galvin, Assistant Principal of I.S. 318 and leader of the chess team, the funding project was hatched and it was full steam ahead. Fred sent out a detailed blog to his AVC community, offered a $10,000 match, and the contributions and good wishes started pouring in.
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2013/06/crowdfunding-brooklyn-castle.html

Fred gets that this isn’t “just a funding project.” He understands that what he and his AVC community are supporting is a program that is a source of identity, pride, passion and purpose for these kids and their entire community; he understands that this is how a public school can be the glue that holds a community together.

Here are Fred’s words for the teachers and kids of I.S. 318… “They are the NY Yankees of middle school chess teams. They turn kids from the streets of NYC into chess masters. And I do not think you can put a price on that.”

Thank you Fred and thank you to your AVC community for joining together with all of us, so that we can bring the great news to the kids, teachers and parents of I.S. 318, that their chess program will not just survive, but will have the resources to thrive for a number of years.

Again, the project page, is live here, any amount is appreciated by Mr. John Galvin and the teachers, kids and parents of the amazing I.S. 318 school community.

May the “Checkmates” continue on indefinitely for these kids and the future chess team members that will follow, as their legacy lives on from year to year. Ultimately, the real story of these chess champions and their teachers is how this chapter in each child’s life will help to build a solid foundation for successful and secure futures as these kids venture out into the world.

Your Friend,
Maureen Reedy

This from a reader in Tennessee. Be sure to open the links and see the hilarious cartoons:

“This week, two separate Fire Kevin Huffman FB pages went up:

1. https://www.facebook.com/RemoveKevinHuffman?fref=ts

(Check out the cupcake cartoon posted today. 🙂

2. https://www.facebook.com/TdoeCommissionerKevinHuffmanHasToGo

Also, a new petition started by some West Tennessee moms (called the Momma Bears) is up and running:

http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-hurting-our-schools-remove-kevin-huffman-as-the-appointed-tn-commissioner-of-education

One statewide group, Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools, highlighted a letter to Governor Haslam written by one of the Momma Bears:

http://strongcommunityschools.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/momma-bear-stand-up-to-haslam/

Numbers on the two FB pages and the petition are growing steadily and quickly!!”

In Tennessee as in Texas and elsewhere, when the moms get angry and get organized, the corporate reformers run for the hills.

Just when you thought that you had heard it all, that “education reform” couldn’t get any zanier, EduShyster discovers that 50CAN is offering a Hogwarts University of Reform.

You won’t believe the faculty–many of whom unfortunately are deceased–and it won’t surprise you to learn that there is only one major.

Laugh along with EduShyster, but when you are done, ask yourself who makes up this foolishness, and does anyone believe it?

Parent Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado is a parent  at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California. This is the school–the only school in California–where the billionaire-funded “Parent Revolution” has been able to wheedle enough parents to sign petitions to close the school and hand it over to a charter school. When some parents who had put their names on the Parent Revolution petition asked to withdraw their signatures, the organization went to court and won a ruling that signing a petition was like an election and they couldn’t rescind their signature. When the court battles ended, only 53 parents in the school of more than 600 students voted to choose a charter school. Guzman was one of the parents who opposed the takeover and closure of her children’s neighborhood school. This is Guzman’s description of the last graduation day at Desert Trails Elementary School:

How the Trigger Left Our Community

It was a beautiful Thursday morning in Adelanto, CA.  Sixth graders were dressed in their Sunday best, parents were lined up with balloons and everyone was preparing for a wonderful ceremony.  So why was there a table set up across the street for recruiting parents to the new charter school?  This was a sixth grade promotion…  All students would be transferring to junior high.  Why the need to harass parents on such a special day?  Desperation? Harassment?  Lack of a Spine?

 

This is just one of the several times we have had to endure harassment from the people who have been hired to take over our school.  Desert Trails Elementary was home to thousands of families, some having been there for several years, some arriving as early as this month.  Today these families watched their students cry their eyes out and mourn loss of their second family – the teachers, staff, principal and even parent volunteers of Desert Trails Elementary.  I was fortunate enough to share this day and many others, filled with great memories, with these families and am truly thankful for the time I spent there.

 

I can say this about the DTE family – they are loved by thousands, probably tens of thousands, of students and their families.  Grateful for what they have done for them.  For attending those Wednesday night Little League baseball games, or private tutoring them on their own time, for working with them until they have gone from a second grade reading level to fourth grade reading level – in less than a year.  These are just a few of the many, many things these families will remember.

 

What they won’t remember is how Desert Trails Prepatory Academy set up a table across the street from the sixth graders promotion ceremony, right under the No Stopping Any Time sign.  They may have not even noticed how when confronted with how low and pathetic a parent felt they were for disrespecting the ceremony they smiled and waved back at that parent.  They will definitely not remember how they stopped parents exiting the parking lot to force a flyer on them or how they remained there until long after the last student had left for the school day.  They won’t think twice about the parents who Parent Revolution used to pull the Trigger and how most of them have been long gone.

 

What I will remember… the RIP Desert Trails Elementary 1995-2012 written in chalk in the quad… The many, many I will miss you’s that were said that day.  The kids chanting Once a Coyote, Always a Coyote. Most of all, I think I will remember standing in the driveway waving to the last few students driving off – looking back at their school with swollen red eyes and tears streaming down their cheeks knowing they will never see their DTE family again.

 

Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado

 

 

Brief biography:  I am a parent who was concerned for the well-being of our community and school when Parent Revolution brought in their organizers in 2011.  After doing much research on the funders, Ben Austin and the previous trigger, I started speaking up against them.  After a few days, more and more parents came up to me and wanted to know more.  After meeting with several parents I learned I was correct in speaking against pRev.  I continued with my fight against them, collecting rescissions and getting parents to speak up.  Unfortunately, we lost in court.  We did the only thing we could – moved forward with our children’s school year and let the lawyers and politics work themselves out.  I was voted PTA President this last school year and ran Desert Trails Elementary’s Journalism Club.  I was on campus, almost daily, since 2008 and have been extremely involved at the school.

Thank you for your time.  I hope this helps others realize the real impact it had on us.  
Thank you again. 

Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado

Now that the National Council on Teacher Quality has ranked nearly 2,000 teacher education programs without actually visiting them or meeting their faculty, bigger challenges are ahead.

—————————————————————————————
NCTQ to Tackle Syria and Obesity Next

By Isaac Prilleltensky, Dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, Florida

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), an organization much loved by Deans of Education around the country, is poised to tackle Syria and obesity. After fixing education in this country through their report on teacher preparation programs, NCTQ is ready to tackle other global problems.

The report, universally acclaimed for its high scientific and ethical standards, has drawn great praise from the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, The Plumbers Association, and Bernie Madoff. The report raises the bar on scientific approaches to social problems; so much so that President Obama is going to replace the Chief Scientist at the National Academies of Science with an NCTQ intern. Meanwhile, Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, is rumored to head the Expedited Ethics Board, a new federal agency designed to protect the rights of lobbyists in Washington.

When asked about her data collection methods, Walsh replied that they used drones to gather data from Colleges of Education that refused to cooperate. She went on to describe how telescopic technology was used to read course syllabi that students would discard in the toilet after final exams. To assess the quality of programs, they obtained NSA data provided by Edward Snowden. Mr. Snowden, who was busy teaching an ethics course in Hong Kong, could not be reached for comment.

Democrats and republicans alike praised the techniques used by NCTQ to solve education in this country. In a rare bipartisan statement, John Boehner and Harry Reid wrote: “We have so much gridlock in Washington. It is time to take an entrepreneurial approach to education. When we ask the National Academy of Science for answers on policy issues, they usually tell us they need to conduct randomized controlled trials and go through lengthy ethics reviews before they can do anything. NCTQ is a model of policy entrepreneurship: fast and decisive. They never equivocate on their decisions. None of this on one hand, but on the other hand nonsense.”

Critics observe that the exclusive focus on teacher preparation may divert attention from social issues such as poverty. When presented with data that instruction accounts for only a quarter of student outcomes, Walsh replied that “the methods used by researchers in the social sciences are highly flawed and antiquated.” She further accused those focusing on poverty of acting on behalf of Fidel Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Given the success of NCTQ in collaborative approaches, they are going to assist the UN in mediating between rebels and the Syrian government. NCTQ developed a secret algorithm for bringing parties together that proved very useful in dealing with intransigent schools of education. Their toolbox includes paying for informants, shaming the other side, and bullying. These techniques, developed by NCTQ staff, “will be very appropriate in the Syrian context,” officials with the UN say.

On the domestic front, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is asking NCTQ to tackle bullying in schools. Duncan believes they have the necessary experience to identify with bullies and understand their point of view. “It takes one to know one,” the Secretary said.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has also reached out to NCTQ to help her with the obesity epidemic. Sebelius is interested in learning what families actually eat. According to Sebelius NCTQ has the technological capacity to learn about people without ever talking or interviewing anyone. “They can tell us a great deal about what is going in people’s kitchen. Just as they discovered what is going in people’s Colleges of Education without ever talking to anyone, I’m sure they can tell us what is inside people’s fridges.”

The NCTQ report is going to be very useful to prospective students of education. For example, the report found the best teacher preparation program in Kishinev, Moldova. John Kerry has already ordered the US embassy there to be ready for an influx of American students going to Moldova for their excellent teacher preparation programs. Walsh said that she would not recommend any teacher preparation program in the United States. To supply new teachers to schools she would look to paragons of efficiency and honesty, like the mortgage industry. She would create an incentive program to recruit former mortgage dealers to teach math for the common core curriculum.

As for Deans of Education, she recommended retraining in Siberia.

Isaac Prilleltensky is of the School of Education and Human Development and
Erwin and Barbara Mautner Chair in Community Well-Being at the University of Miami, Florida