Archives for the month of: September, 2015

Governor Cuomo announced his commission to revise the Common Core standards and it includes not a single parent leader of the opt out movement. The reason for the commission was to respond to the opt out movement, but no one on the commission speaks for the parents and guardians of the 220,000 students who did not take the test.

If you look at the members of the commission, you will see MaryEllen Elia, the state commissioner, plus the chair of the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee. The commission will be chaired by Richard Parsons, a respected banker. The commission includes some educators, but they all have day jobs.

Read the responsibilities of the commission. It is supposed to review the standards and the tests, among many other assignments. Here is the title of the press release:

Task Force to Perform Comprehensive Review of Learning Standards, Instructional Guidance and Curricula, and Tests to Improve Implementation and Reduce Testing Anxiety

Does anyone seriously believe that this commission has the expertise or the time to do what they are supposed to do?

Can anyone explain why there is no one on the commission to speak for the parents who opted their children out of the state testing?

Cynthia Liu, blogging for the Progressive, reviews the Eli Broad plan to put half the students in Los Angeles into privately managed charter schools.

She describes Eli Broad as a master of “philanthrocapitalism,” gifts that benefit the giver.

Eli Broad is the city’s chief benefactor for numerous charities; his wealth comes from decades of real estate developments in the Midwest, Southern California, and from the insurance industry. He has particular interests in expanding charter schools in Los Angeles and nationwide. He appears to invest a lot in the city of Los Angeles but when you look more closely, his giving defunds the public sector and Broad ends up with the better part of the deal. For example: originally, Broad wanted to lease the expensive downtown Los Angeles parcel the Museum sits on for $1 a year over 99 years. Said one county supervisor, “Instead of a project that generates sales and property taxes, we’ll now have an art museum that generates no property or sales taxes and Mr. Broad will get the land for free.” It’s now leased for $7.7 million a year for 99 years, and the 501c3 Broad Foundation housed inside the museum still doesn’t put much by way of revenue back into the city ….

She points out that Eli Broad selected John Deasy as superintendent, then paid the salaries of his top aides. Why were they not on the public payroll? Whose interests were they serving?

Not only public education is at risk, but so is our democracy. Do billionaires really have the right to privatize half of an entire large urban school district? When do the people get to vote? Who will hold accountable the hundreds of charters that get public money without public oversight? It is time for the public to rally against this corporate assault on public education.

– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2015/09/188330/weaponized-generosity-how-las-1-disrupt-democracy-and-dismantle-public-school#sthash.LDhUmSBJ.dpuf

Despite the claims by top officials that parents were free to make the decision to opt out, the new Cuomo law will place struggling schools into receivership if they don’t reach a 95% participation rate in testing.

If this requirement is extended to all schools, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will be in charge of hundreds of schools, including some of the best schools in the state. More opt outs, more chaos.

If opt outs should increase next spring, the whole system will collapse.

With the Georgia legislature poised to create a statewide charter district modeled on Tennessee’s failed “Achievement School District,” the usual cast of reform characters has rushed in to privatize as many of Atlanta’s public schools as they can get away with.

Here comes the Boston Consulting Group, the Waltons, and many more, looking to transfer schools from democratic to private control.

The young woman who charged Kevin Johnson with sexual abuse many years ago has come forward to tell her story.

Johnson was a major basketball star at the time. He is now Mayor of Sacramento and is assumed to have ambitions to be Governor of California. He is married to Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools.

The accuser was 15 at the time of the alleged incident. He was 29. She is now 36.

Koba [the accuser] says Johnson cut off contact, but eventually agreed to pay her $230,600—she received an initial payment of $59,000, nearly $92,000 went into a trust, while the rest went to legal fees, her mom, and medical costs to treat her mental health.
The agreement, she says, was signed by her and Johnson, and it’s in a safety deposit box in Arizona that can only be opened if she and his lawyer are there….

Koba says she spent the settlement on tuition and other things on one semester at University of San Francisco. She says she dropped out, saying she didn’t want to look back on her degree knowing Johnson’s money paid for it. She eventually got her degree from the University of Arizona.

Johnson’s office released a statement on Friday saying “These allegations are two decades old. They were thoroughly investigated and rejected by law enforcement and reported in the media. They weren’t true then, and they aren’t true now, period.”

The original story, with greater detail, was reported in Deadspin.

If it is untrue, Mayor Johnson should sue her for defamation. Or he could send his lawyer to open the safety deposit box to prove his innocence.

The billionaires’ front group called “Families for Excellent Schools” has enlisted the actress Jennifer Hudson to support their campaign for charter schools. She probably thinks these are regular families, not realizing that the “Families” are the Waltons, the Broads, the Paul Tudor Jones family, and other hedge fund managers and equity investors. These are the billionaire families, not the people who need quality public schools for ALL children. Their schools will exclude children with disabilities, English language learners, students returning from prison, and children with behavior problems. All of these children will be dumped in the public schools, while their more fortunate peers are skimmed off. Then the boasting begins. FES is the same organization that has tried to derail Mayor de Blasio’s progressive agenda for children and heaped tens of millions on charter schools, not public schools. Please, Jennifer Hudson, don’t be fooled!

Here are sample tweets:

Good Morning Twitter Brigade!

We need your help RIGHT NOW! Popstar Jennifer Hudson is set to perform at a Families For Excellent Schools Rally in support of Charter Schools.

Read Here for Details: http://bit.ly/1VmbqYA

Unfortunately, Hudson is under the misconception that Charter Schools bring equality to the city. That’s why RIGHT NOW we need your help!!

TWEET WITH US RIGHT NOW, tell Jennifer Hudson @IAMJHUD, the truth about charters!

See below for sample tweets, and if you need a little more inspiration, check out FES’ most recent racist ad here: http://politi.co/1NRNaND

Don’t forget to follow our tweets:
@AQE_NY
@zansari8
@BEastonNY

@Fam4ExcSchools recent ad has Outraged Communities & Civil rights leaders @IAMJHUD please #SAYNO to Performing http://politi.co/1FmqT9B

Let @IAMJHUD Know Why She Shouldn’t Be Supporting FES Rally, Just Look at Their Recent Racist Ad http://politi.co/1NRNaND

@IAMJHUD You Should Know the Equality You Stand For IS NOT in Charters. They Don’t Serve ALL Students http://bit.ly/1O4ZpI7

.@IAMJHUD Please #SAYNO to Performing at FES Rally, They Are Hurting Our Public Schools

See the Truth About FES, Watch Their Racist Ad and #SAYNO to Performing @IAMJHUD http://politi.co/1NRNaND

FES Has Outraged Communities with their Recent Racist Ad, #SAYNO to Performing @IAMJHUD http://politi.co/1FmqT9B

FES and Their Charters Are Hedge Fund Controlled, NOT For the Community @IAMJHUD, #SAYNO

Support the Local Community, #SAYNO to the FES Rally @IAMJHUD

FES Rally is a Political Rally to Promote Eva Moskowitz, NOT Schools, OR Our Children @IAMJHUD #SAYNO

Don’t Become Apart of Their Race-Baiting @IAMJHUD #SAYNO to FES Rally! http://politi.co/1FmqT9B

.@IAMJHUD If you Stand for Equality, #SAYNO to Charters and FES!!

.@IAMJHUD Charters Are Destroying Public Schools Nationwide While Racking Up Public $$ #SAYNO http://bit.ly/1NXhTZC

Billionaire Eli Broad has proposed a plan to privatize the schooling of 50% of the students in Los Angeles. He plans to pool $490 million from fellow billionaires to achieve his goal. If he succeeds, the remaining 50% of the children in LAUSD will have fewer resources, fewer teachers, larger classes. This is a short-sighted approach, to say the least. Surely, Eli doesn’t want his legacy to be: HE DESTROYED PUBLIC EDUCATION IN AMERICA.

Here is a genuine crisis that he could easily address. LAUSD cannot afford arts education in every school. It currently spends $25 million a year on arts education. It needs $75 million a year to supply the teachers of the arts to every school. Eli Broad just opened a fine new arts museum, which cost him $200 million. The children in LAUSD will not be able to visit the Broad Museum because there is no money for field trips.

Some schools have arts resources but no arts teachers. Some have neither arts resources nor arts teachers.

Instead of funding a parallel privatized system to compete with the public schools, further impoverishing public schools, Eli Broad could build a model public education system, where every child has a full education in the arts.

Mr. Broad, what do you say? If you care about children, if you care about the arts, will you supply the $50 million needed to enable every child to act, paint, sing and participate in all the arts?

Big surprise. A study funded by the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation recommends more charters for the District of Columbia.

The report, “A Tale of Two Systems: Education Reform in Washington D.C.,” was funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute promotes market-based solutions to public policy issues. It appears that the long-term goal is to turn the entire district into a charter district, although a few public schools might remain open to enroll the students the charters don’t want.

The new study looks at the history of education reform in the city and includes research showing greater academic improvements in charter schools. It compares District and national test scores that show bigger gains for charter schools, particularly among African American and poor students.

It notes that comparisons are difficult because charter and traditional schools serve different demographics. Charter schools serve families who actively choose their schools, which can indicate a higher level of family commitment to education. D.C. Public Schools serve more students in crisis, who are are homeless or returning from jail, experts say. Also, charter schools don’t accept students after a certain month of the year or grade level, so they tend to serve a more stable group of students.

But the report argues that the governance model is the most important difference in the larger gains.

“It creates an environment in which the extraordinary measures necessary to effectively educate poor, minority children are not only easier to implement, they are virtually required if schools are to survive,” the report says.

In an interview, Osborne predicted that in 30 to 50 years, most urban districts will have mostly charter schools or other types of schools that are given more autonomy and expected to perform or be closed. “The magic is not in the word ‘charter,’ it’s in that arms-length relationship with the system,” he said.

So, even though most research shows that charters do not outperform ordinary public schools on average, D.C. should push for more and more charters. The report acknowledges that the remanning public schools serve children with greater needs than the charters, but so what. The charters get higher test scores because they don’t have the kids who have severe disabilities, the ELLs, the homeless, the students in crisis, and those returning from jail.

It must be the autonomy that makes the charters so terrific, not the fact that they exclude the kids who are most challenging and most expensive to educate.

Why don’t the Broads and Waltons come up with another pastime?

Why should the nation abandon public education because they like the free market that made them billionaires?

John Ewing is a mathematician and president of Math for America, an organization that supports STEM education. In this excellent post, he explains how the past several years of teacher-bashing has been deeply demoralizing to teachers. He writes that teaching must be a respected profession, and the teacher-bashers must recognize the harm they do.

Ewing writes:

“As another school year gets underway, the public receives its annual dose of hand wringing about the state of American education…..
Editorials excoriate public schools; pundits offer glib solutions; politicians excoriate “whining” teachers and their unions, which, we are told, have brought education to this state of affairs.

“This ritual of education bashing has become so commonplace that it’s easy not to notice and move on. But we ought to notice because the annual lamentation is causing great damage.

“Because of it, confidence in public schools has fallen by nearly half over the past four decades, from roughly 60 percent to below 30. Because of it, job satisfaction for teachers has fallen dramatically, from 62 percent to 39 percent in just five years. And because of it, experienced, accomplished teachers are leaving classrooms in droves, while interest in teacher training programs is plummeting.

“Each year, about 13 percent of the nation’s roughly 3.5 million teachers either move to a different school or opt-out of teaching altogether. This means schools are in a perennial scramble to find replacements. Some see recruitment programs such as Teach for America as the answer. But filling classrooms with bright people with little training or support is not much of a solution. A few recruits succeed, growing into talented and passionate long-term educators, but many more struggle and leave after a year or two. Recruitment is important, but until we find ways to retain outstanding teachers we will be pumping water out of a sinking ship instead of plugging the holes.

“Even more concerning, such programs are predicated on the belief that great teaching requires only enthusiasm and determination, not deep knowledge and carefully-honed skills. By perpetuating this view, they demean the profession and ultimately reduce its prestige. These programs may attract plenty of college graduates eager to burnish their resumes, but until teaching is viewed as a respected profession that requires both talent and training, our best and brightest will never consider it a career.

“Study after study shows that experience counts in teaching. While recruitment may be an immediate need, retaining a workforce of outstanding, experienced educators is the ultimate goal.

“So what do we do?

“First, stop casting teachers as the cause of the problem rather than partners in the solution. Stop pretending that one must choose between the interests of teachers and the interests of students. This only serves to demoralize the people on whom our education system depends. Teachers grow weary of having to defend themselves, and they eventually burn-out.

“Second, treat teachers like the professionals they are. Teachers, present and future, want two things–honest respect and sensible autonomy. Neither is automatic or easy in an accountability system that is designed on distrust, but both are possible. Programs like the one I head at Math for America attempt to create an environment in which teachers can thrive as professionals. We don’t fix them–our teachers don’t need fixing– but rather provide them with opportunities to grow, refine their craft, and take control of their own career. Teachers thrive in an environment of respect and autonomy…,

“We need to focus on excellence, not failure. We need to highlight teachers who are accomplished, not obsess about those who are not. We need to avoid driving away several outstanding teachers in order to rid ourselves of one who is mediocre.

“The good news is that retaining our most accomplished teachers–showing them respect, giving them independence, and making their careers not merely acceptable but prestigious–turns out to be the most effective way to recruit new teachers as well. If we want to attract talented people into the classroom, we must start by making the teaching profession more attractive.”

It should not be a surprise to learn that money matters. Certainly, affluent parents choose private schools and suburban districts with small classes, experienced teachers, and beautiful facilities.

Meanwhile, the children who live in the poorest communities have overcrowded classes in aging buildings and a steady churn of inexperienced teachers.

For years, we have been told by politicians and some economists that “throwing money” at schools in poor neighborhoods would not help the children.

However, new research demonstrates that spending does matter.

The authors–C. Kirabo Jackson, associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, Rucker C. Johnson, associate professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, and Claudia Persico, a doctoral candidate in human development and social policy at Northwestern University–show that “increased school spending is linked to improved outcomes for students, and for low-income students in particular…Increasing per-pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, and family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty for children from low-income families.

As they also show, it matters how the new money is spent–such as on instruction, hiring more teachers, increasing teacher pay, hiring guidance counselors and social workers. Money well-spent “can profoundly shape the life outcomes of economically disadvantaged children and thereby reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Money alone may not lift educational outcomes to desired levels, but our findings confirm that the provision of adequate funding may be critical.”

The only surprising fact about this study is that it appears in Education Next, a conservative journal whose contributors usually argue that money doesn’t matter, as compared to vouchers and charters.