Archives for the month of: April, 2014

Bob Braun has written one of the most moving, powerful critiques I have ever read of the heartless destruction of neighborhood public schools. What is it all about? To quote Braun: “money and power and greed.”

He writes:

“Sad. There’s a word rarely heard in the context of the state’s war on Newark’s neighborhood public schools. Sad. Yet the story of how a cruelly tone-deaf state bureaucrat named Cami Anderson is singlehandedly destroying a community’s neighborhood schools is just that. Sad. And nothing more illustrates that sadness than the brave but probably futile effort of one successful neighborhood school to remain alive despite Anderson’s promise to give it to privatized educational entrepreneurs who include former business partners of the recently resigned state education commissioner.”

Hawthorne Avenue School is not a failing school. It ranks well in the city and state. It has string parent involvement. But Cami has promised it to her friends at KIPP.

To get ready for the transfer, she has devastated the school:

“Anderson’s treatment of Hawthorne—and similar schools throughout the state’s largest district—has been a nightmare. A sad nightmare. She stripped the school of its librarians, its counselors, its attendance personnel. She has ignored constant pleas to repair crumbling walls and leaking ceilings—promising repair money only after she gave the building to TEAM Academy, the local name for KIPP charters, and the Brick schools. The head of TEAM Academy, Tim Cardin, is a former business partner of Christopher Cerf, the recently-resigned education commissioner. All three–Cardin, Cerf, and Anderson–worked for the New York City schools.”

Cami Anderson has no sense of shame.

New York passed a law to limit test prep, but it won’t make any difference.

Because high-stakes are attached to the tests, who will dare to limit test prep? Teachers and principals will be evaluated and possibly fired based on the scores. Schools may be closed based on the scores. The test prep will go on, as frenzied as ever.

Only the NY legislature would be so naive as to believe that passing a law against too much test prep will negate the high stakes they have attached to it.

Oddly enough, the law exempts charter schools from its limits. They can engage in test prep 100% of the time, and that’s okay.

“This month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators passed a law, intended to take effect by the next school year, setting a 2 percent limit on the amount of classroom time that could be spent on test preparation, or about three and a half days in a school year. Charter schools, some of which are known for an almost religious devotion to test preparation, are not obligated to comply, officials said.”

Makes sense, right?

Mercedes Schneider’s new book on corporate reform is now available.

Its title is “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.”

This is the description on amazon:

“”Corporate reform” is not reform at all. Instead, it is the systematic destruction of the foundational American institution of public education. The primary motivation behind this destruction is greed. Public education in America is worth almost a trillion dollars a year. Whereas American public education is a democratic institution, its destruction is being choreographed by a few wealthy, well-positioned individuals and organizations. This book investigates and exposes the handful of people and institutions that are often working together to become the driving force behind destroying the community public school.”

Gene Glass, eminent researcher at Arizona State University, posted this review:

“Schneider has exposed the corruption, greed and entangling of self-interests that underlie the attempt of the mega-corporations to grab billions of tax-payer dollars that are appropriated for America’s K-12 public schools. She puts the names and faces on the movement that Diane Ravitch documented in “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” There are no “must reads” anymore. There are just a handful of “should reads”: “A Chronicle of Echoes” is at the head of that list.”

Seven teachers in Houston are suing the district over the use of test-score-based evaluations.

Good for them!

As a K-12 graduate of HISD, I am proud of these teachers for standing up for their profession.

I hope they will introduce as evidence the recent statement of the American Statistical Association cautioning about the limitations of VAM, as well as the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, warning that VAM produces results that are inaccurate and unstable.

Here is a good list of references the plaintiffs can use.

VAM is junk science when used to rate individual teachers. The ratings change if a different test is used. VAM says more about the composition of the class than the quality of the teacher.

Ras Baraka is in a tough fight for Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

The hedge fund managers have poured into the campaign more than $1 million–that has been reported–to defeat him and to turn over more public schools and children to corporate charter chains. Please help save public education in Newark by supporting Ras Baraka.

Ras is a high school principal and a member of the Newark City Council.

Please donate whatever you can to help him.

The primary election is May 13.

He needs your help NOW.

This is what Mark Naison wrote about Ras Baraka:

“Friends of public education. The most important election in the nation regarding the future of public education is happening right now in Newark New Jersey. On one side is Shevar Jeffries, a lawyer and a huge charter school supporter getting millions of dollars in contributions from Hedge Fund advocates of school privatization and on the other side is Ras Baraka, a high school principal who has been in the front lines of community voices resisting Chris Christie “One Newark” plan and the school closings and mass teacher firings which have accompanied it. Rarely has there been a clearer choice for defenders of public education and those who think Big Money Interests should not determine the future of our schools. Ras Baraka is not only the right choice for Newark students, teachers and families, his election will inspire candidates like him to come forth in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago and Los Angeles where pro privatization Mayors currently are in office. And he is not just strong on paper. His is a brilliant speaker, someone who inspires those who hear him to step forward in the struggle for justice, and take on the Special Interests who are deforming our democracy.

“Any way you can help this campaign will help our entire movement. We need Ras Baraka as Mayor of Newark, and we need more people like him to run for office in every urban center in the nation

https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=246039618866448”

TeacherKen is a veteran social studies teacher who has a passion for teaching and a passion for justice.

He wrote a letter to the President and Mrs. Obama, politely asking them to reflect on what they want for their own children and what they are inflicting on the nation’s children. I don’t think he used the word “inflict,” but how else to describe the federal mandates that impose endless hours of standardized testing on children? It would not be tolerated at Sidwell Friends in D.C, or at the University of Chicago Lab School, where the Obama girls were students.

Peter Greene, a man of infinite patience, watched a video in which Cami Anderson explains why she has the right to tell everyone in Newark what to do without listening to their opinions.

She compares herself to her sister, who is a surgeon. Her sister doesn’t ask the opinion of nobodies; she does what she has to do to save the patient’s life.

Greene points out to Cami that her sister is a highly trained professional who spent years learning her profession, whereas Cami’s five weeks of training in TFA is hardly equivalent. Furthermore, her sister operates with the consent of the patient and the patient’s family, and was not given consent to cut up the patient by Chris Christie.

The bottom line, Greene sees, is this:

“Democracy is stupid.

“Look, say the Reformistas. We are just better than you are. We are wiser, smarter, and just plain righter than the rest of you. So you should stop getting in our way. All of you lesser humans should stop insisting that you’re entitled to some sort of voice– you aren’t. Shut up, sit down, and let the superior humans take care of these difficult matters.”

Greene is not sure where Cami is, other than noting she is at Arizona State University/GSV. A few days ago, I wrote about the education “gold rush.” Cami is speaking to 2,000 entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers, and investors who are looking to make profits in education with the Next Big Thing. They paid $1,000-2,000 each to meet at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. The meeting was co-sponsored by Global Silicon Valley, which leads the way in monetizing and privatizing education.

A few years ago, I was alerted to the phenomenal success of an entrepreneur-lawyer in Pennsylvania named Vahan Gureghian.

With a bit of googling, I learned that he had opened a charter school in Chester County, Pennsylvania, that enrolled 2,600 students, half the district’s children. Consequently, the district was plunged into bankruptcy, unable to make its payroll, and Governor Corbett appointed an emergency manager for the district who is a devotee of vouchers.

I also learned on google that Gureghian is one of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and committees in Pennsylvania, was Governor Corbett’s largest single donor, and was named to Governor Corbett’s education transition team. As of 2012, he had given some $800,000 to candidates and political groups.

Meanwhile, Gureghian’s empire continued to expand and to produce excellent returns for him.

Here is a quote from a website (linked above) describing Pennsylvania’s biggest campaign donors, which shows what success looks like:

In 2007, Gureghian built a 30,000-square-foot, French chateau-style mansion in Gladwyne that received attention in a number of publications, including Mother Jones. The house had 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a two-lane bowling alley, wine room, media room, 200-capacity great hall, several bars and a moat, according to Mother Jones.

Last year, he paid $28.9 million for oceanfront property in Palm Beach, on which he has proposed building a 20,000-square-foot mansion, the Palm Beach Daily News reported.

In 2009, 18-year-old Kenny Forder of New Jersey posted photos of the Gladwyne mansion on his Homes of the Rich website. Gureghian’s lawyer responded with a cease and desist letter, stating that teenager had violated Gureghian’s privacy, demanding that the photos be removed and threatening a lawsuit.

The letter is posted on the Homes of the Rich website. The photos were removed.

Now, mind you, Gureghian doesn’t claim to be an educator. He runs a business that supplies all the goods and services to his charter schools. That is a very good business.

He recently expanded his charter franchise into Camden, New Jersey, where he can expect to do very well indeed. Jersey Jazzman wrote a blistering critique of Gureghian’s management company, not exactly welcoming its presence in New Jersey.

You know, you really must give these edu-entrepreneurs credit. They see opportunities where others see only educational problems. The really ingenious discovery of charter chain managers is that they can squeeze the fat out of public school operations (like expensive teachers and pensions) and make a handsome profit.

You must hand it to him: Gureghian shows how to create a business plan and strategy that works wondrously well.

His is the kind of operation that Reed Hastings must have had in mind when he told the California Charter Schools Association that he looks forward to the elimination of local school boards and to the day when 90% of children are enrolled in privately managed charter schools.

What a vivid demonstration of the rich innovation that charters produce!

 

This just in:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES: April 29, 2014

CONTACT:

Emily Giles, e.giles@ihsph.org, (917) 575-2936

Emily Wendlake, emilywendlake@gmail.com, (413) 657-7255

Rosie Frascella, r.frascella@ihsph.org, (917) 767-1001

Anita Feingold-Shaw, afeingoldshaw@gmail.com, (510) 872-1712

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**Media Advisory**

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26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

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WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:45-8:20am,

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WHERE: International High School at Prospect Heights, 883 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

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WHAT: Teachers will hold a press conference to announce their refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26 teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last spring. 50% of parents have opted their children out of the test. The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English Language Learners.

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WHY: The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’ language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

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Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration. Some students even cried.

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Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test. Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our curriculum and make our students feel like failures. This test serves no purpose for the students, and ultimately only hurts them.

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26 Teachers have signed a letter to Chancellor Farina declaring that they will not give the exam. The letter expresses gratitude for Farina’s immediate turn around of the DOE’s attitude toward teachers, and asks that the Chancellor reconsider the use of the NYC ELA Performance Assessment with English Language Learners.

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WHO: Teachers and support staff from the International High School at Prospect Heights.

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RSVP: This event is open to press and coverage is welcome.

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The International High School at Prospect Heights is a public high school located in Brooklyn, NY. Read their letter to Chancellor Farina at http://www.standupoptout.wordpress.com

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Carol Burris here explains the deep, dark secret of standardized testing.

Whoever is in charge decides what the passing mark is. The passing mark is the “cut score.” Those in charge can decide to create a test that everyone passes because the cut score is so low and the questions so simple, or they can create a test that everyone fails. In fact, because of field testing, the test makers know with a high degree of precision how every question will “function,” that is, how hard or easy it is and how many students are likely to get it right or wrong.

As Burris shows, New York’s Commissioner John King aligned the Common Core tests with the SAT, knowing in advance that nearly 70% would not pass. That was his choice. Whatever his motive, he wanted a high failure rate. As King predicted, 69% failed. It was his choice.

Policymakers in Kentucky chose a more reasonable cut score and only about half their students failed.

Are students in Kentucky that much smarter than students in New York? No, but they may have smarter policymakers.

Knowing these shenanigans gives more reason to opt your children out of the state testing. The game is rigged against them.

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