Archives for the month of: July, 2017

Peggy Noonan became celebrated as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. She writes a column for the Wall Street Journal.

In this article, she skewers Trump’s character. She says he is a weakling.

“The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

“He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.”

What happens when this weak and egotistical man is faced with an international crisis? Let us pray.

Former Marine General John Kelly took charge as White House Chief of Staff on Monday morning, and within hours, the New York Times reported that Anthony Scaramucci, the voluble Communications Director is out. It is not clear if he will find another post in the Trump White House. For sure, he will not report directly to the president. There will be a line of command, and the Chief of Staff reports directly to the President, with no one bypassing him.

Wonder if that includes Ivanka and Jared.

Republicans must be breathing a sign of relief that a grownup has taken control of the WH chaos.

Here is what you need to know about the total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on August 21.

If you are lucky, you live in the zone from Oregon to South Carolina. You can see the total eclipse. If you live outside the zone, you will see a partial eclipse.

Be sure to protect your eyes with special protection. Sun glasses are not enough.

The Liberian Teachers Association and other African teachers groups published a protest against the commercializations of the nation’s schools.

“In January 2016, in a controversial move, the Government of Liberia announced its intention to outsource its primary and pre-primary education system to a US-based for-profit corporate actor, Bridge International Academies (BIA). Following considerable opposition to this unprecedented move the Government conceived a pilot program, Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), where eight actors would operate 93 schools in the first year.

“Despite claiming that PSL would be subject to a rigorous evaluation through a Randomized Control Trial (RCT), six months into the trial, the Ministry of Education (MoE) decided to increase the number of schools to 202 in the project’s second year. Serious unanswered concerns, including children being denied access to their local schools, have not been enough for the government to pause and reflect. This rush to expand the pilot before independent research is available has been rightly criticized by the international academic and research community and the appointed RCT team who questioned the government’s capacity to hold providers accountable.

“In addition to lack of independent evidence supporting the government’s actions, the PSL is also plagued with a lack of transparency. To date not one of the eight current Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the service providers and the MoE have been made public. Despite the secrecy surrounding the PSL, information that has entered the public domain thus far gives rise to serious concerns about the sustainability of the program.

“This lack of independent evidences, transparency and resultant lack of accountability does not make for good policy nor good governance. Furthermore, the increased power put into the hands of undemocratic, often foreign private institutions that make decisions with little community input and accountability undermines our voice and sovereignty over our education system and our nation as a whole.

“We fear, once having outsourced our schools through this PSL arrangement we will never be able to get them back. We will be at the mercy of large corporate operators who will seek to maximize profit at the expense of Liberia’s children and their future.

“The many unanswered questions give rise to genuine concern about the future direction in the provision of quality education for all.


“• Liberia’s 2011 Education Law which guarantees free and compulsory education for all.
“• The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Kishore Singh’s words which describe the intended outsourcing of Liberia schools as “violating Liberia’s legal and moral obligations,” and that “such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education.”
“• The absence of clear, independent, and public research supporting the PSL program.
“• Serious ongoing issues including the lack of community input, transparency, and accountability of the program.
“We call on the government to immediately abandon the PSL program.
The children of Liberia deserve evidence based, sustainable improvements in public education, including:
“• Free, quality, early childhood education
“• Free, compulsory, quality primary and secondary education
“• A focus on gender equality and girls’ education
“• Quality teaching and learning environments and resources
“• Quality alternative education for over-age children.
“• Policies focusing on the most marginalized children.
“• Effective, negotiated school and system monitoring and supervision.

“We need:

“• Quality teacher training and on-going professional development; and
“• Our teachers to be properly supported and remunerated, on time, and respected.

“Acknowledging the challenges that continue to impact on the provision of education, we reiterate our preparedness now, as we have in the past, to work constructively with the government and any other interested parties to develop a sustainable Liberian plan leading to the ongoing improvement in the provision of quality education for all Liberian children.


National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL)
Civil Society and Trade Union Institutions of Liberia (CTIL)
National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL)
Roberts International Airport Workers Union (RIAWU)
Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE)
Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP)
National Christian Council of Liberia (NCCL)
Union of Islamic Citizens of Liberia (UICL) Monrovia Consolidated School System Teachers’ Association (MCSSTA) Liberia Education for All Technical Committee (LETCOM)
Concern Universities Students of the Ministry of Education Local Scholarship Program (CUSMOP)
United Methodist Church Human Rights Monitor (UMCHRM)
National Association of Liberian School Principals (NALSP)

“With the support of:
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)
Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) Education International (EI)”

David Leonhardt of the New York Times has written favorably about charter schools, without paying much attention to issues such as attrition and selective admissions. Nor has he explored the impact of charter schools on the public schools that enroll the majority of students or considered the value of public funding of two school systems, one free to choose its students, the other required to accept all. He recently invited charter skeptics to contact him. John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, has a message for him.

Feel free to suggest other studies that Leonhardt should read.

Thompson writes:

“In “A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul,” the New York Times commentator David Leonhardt pledges to wrestle with the complexities of immigration and abortion, as well as the issue which he debates most with his readers – charter schools. He’s devoting part of the summer to learning about “vexing issues.” Leonhardt asks “reform skeptics” to “dig into a few of the studies, essays and evidence that have persuaded me.” In return, he promises to keep an open mind when considering our responses.

“The first study that impressed Leonhardt was the Education Research Alliance’s “What Effect Did the Post-Katrina School Reforms Have on Student Outcomes?” by Douglas Harris and Matthew Larsen. It showed that New Orleans test score growth increased up by more than .2 standard deviations between 2007 and 2010. This was the time, however, when its reformers had even greater freedom in terms of suspending and pushing out students who interfered with their mission to dramatically raise test scores. They also had thousands of additional dollars, per student. Growth then slowed and the next two years’ test gains were almost the same as the two years preceding the hurricane, about .1 standard deviation.

“In other words, nearly a decade of expensive, brass-knuckled reward and punishment produced three years where test score growth was higher than the time when New Orleans was dismissed as a failed school system. NOLA focused completely on raising bubble-in scores, which may or may not indicate that learning increased during that brief window. Harris hopes that better accountability will permanently stop the abuses that proliferated during the time when test score growth increased, but he repeatedly acknowledges doubts that what he sees as effective in New Orleans can be scaled up.

“I hope that Leonhardt will also consider NOLA’s continuing abuses, such as those recently documented by Martha Jewson, and ask whether it will meet the December 2017 deadline for obeying the law.

“The second study cited by Leonhardt claims that charter students in Florida and Chicago did not perform higher in school but had better longterm, out-of-school outcomes. Of course, scholars would have to study hundreds of thousands of students, controlled as best as possible for demographic differences, in order to show that the subsequent increased earnings were a result of charters’ inputs …

Charter High Schools’ Effects on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings (Journal Article)

“Actually, Leonhardt links to study with a sample which includes only 262 low-income students, as well as about 111 special education and about 11 English Language Learners!

“Seriously, this study merely compared students in Florida and Chicago who attended both 8th grade and high school charters in the late 1990s with students who attended 8th grade charters but traditional high schools! The published paper recognized that the small treatment group of 1141 students could be skewed by students not continuing in charters due to discipline problems or family crises. The non-educators who conducted the study ran a series of complex controls that would have been fascinating in a paper on economic theory but that are useless in terms of answering the real world question of whether charters can be more effective in increasing lifetime earnings than traditional neighborhood schools.

“And that leads to the third source which impresses Leonhardt. He cites research by CREDO, but he doesn’t refer to Learning from the Federal Market-based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), edited by William Mathis and Tina Trujillo. This anthology acknowledges that CREDO is more professional than “piles of these pseudo-studies/evaluations” by charter advocates, but it still has flaws. Mathis’ and Trujillo’s collection, which Leonhardt doesn’t cite, makes an impressive case that, despite CREDO’s spin, those who hope that charters will close the achievement gap will be disappointed.

Click to access CMO%20FINAL.pdf‐Based-Reforms

“Fourth, Leonhardt links to his editorial in support of Boston’s Match charter schools. His faith in such charters seems to ignore a crucial distinction. Charters may have an “attrition rate” that is no worse than neighborhood schools, but that ignores the “backfill” rate. Charters that don’t fill seats that are emptied are very different than schools that serve everyone who walks through the door, regardless of the time of year.

“More importantly, Leonhardt links to a study which supposedly supports the claim that charters don’t damage neighborhood schools by draining resources and leaving behind greater concentrations of children from generational poverty who have endured multiple traumas. A huge body of journalism and qualitative research, as well as the professional judgments of virtually every teacher who I have ever met, argues for the common sense conclusion that charters have hurt traditional public schools. It would be wrong for anti-charter advocates to ignore the data-driven studies that challenge our conventional wisdom. But isn’t it just as wrong for Big Data researchers to ignore the real world evidence that contradicts their few findings?

“Leonhardt trusts a meta-analysis which concluded that 6 studies showed positive or mixed positive results, with 9 showing neutral results, but with only 1 showing mixed negative and neutral effects. But he doesn’t mention “The Impacts of School Choice Reforms on Student Achievement,” by Gary Miron and Jessica Urschel, which is included in Learning from the Federal Market-based Reforms. In contrast to the studies read by Leonhardt, Miron and Urschel show that 30 charter studies found positive results, with 30 showing comparable negative results, and with 23 showing mixed results.

“I frequently reach out to charter supporters. My friends who say I’m naive for continuing to communicate with the true believers may be right. But, rarely do I find a charter supporter who isn’t disappointed in their outcomes. I doubt that a close reading of the research cited by Leonhardt will find evidence that the flaws in the charter model can be patched up so that they can be scaled up. That is not my big concern, however.

“I hope that Leonhardt and other choice supporters will look anew at the damage done by charters to traditional public schools. Unless they believe that we teachers and our students are suffering from a mass hallucination, its hard to understand how they could use such thin evidence to deny that the additional stress of high stakes testing and increased segregation, both worsened by charters, hasn’t damaged kids, especially hurting our most vulnerable kids.”

The New York Post reported that New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer conducted an audit of grants to the New York City Leadership Academy and found no evidence that the city was getting what it paid for.

The city Department of Education has awarded contracts worth up to $101 million to the NYC Leadership Academy — but didn’t keep track of where the money went, a bombshell audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer charges.

The Long Island City-based non-profit has collected $45.6 million from the contracts to coach “aspiring principals” and teachers. But the DOE failed to produce records to prove the $183-an-hour coaches did what they were paid for….

The contracts also require progress reports and meetings to monitor the vendor’s performance, but the auditors found none — raising the specter of “waste, fraud and abuse,” the report says.

“These failings point to a broken procurement system that allows the DOE to spend freely, devoid of oversight,” Stringer concludes. “Our principals deserve better than this.”

The DOE entered into three contracts with the academy since 2008, the first two under then-Mayor Bloomberg. The third, for payments up to $45 million from July 2014 to June 2019, was inked under Mayor de Blasio by Chancellor Carmen Farina’s chief operating officer. About $34.8 million available remains unspent.

Last month, de Blasio declared a “NYC Leadership Academy Day,” and declared the outfit “an important partner” in running city schools. Fariña praised the academy “for its tremendous work to prepare and support great school leaders.”

But the academy, founded in 2003, has also become notorious for graduating inept — and sometimes corrupt — principals with little teaching experience. Its “leadership coaches,” mostly retired principals, have also been hired in the mayor’s three-year-old Renewal program for struggling schools, which has shown meager academic gains.

The comptroller’s auditors reviewed $559,667 in DOE payments to the academy, including $394,007 for “leadership coaching.”

“Disregarding the safeguards in its own contracts and procurement rules,” the comptroller said, the DOE spent $385,612, or 98 percent of the coaching payments, without the required documentation.

This report is an indictment of mayor control, spanning both Bloomberg and de Blasio’s oversight, as well as the New York City Leadership Academy. Bloomberg and Klein announced the Leadership Academy with great fanfare as a way to fast-track “leaders” with a year of training. The original plan was intended to hire and train leaders from industry and aspiring principals from outside New York City, who would come into the school system and act as disruptors with fresh ideas. Neither of those approaches worked. Then, it became a way to jump from the role of teacher to principal while skipping the five-to-seven year apprenticeship of being an assistant principal. For a time, it was the latest new thing, like Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which has failed. It would be difficult to determine any benefit from the $101 million (actually much more, since Bloomberg raised $75 million for the LA’s first three years of operation).

This is hopeful news.

Politico reports that a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats plan to roll out a series of fixes for Obamacare. They call themselves the “Problem Solvers.”

A breath of fresh air. Pragmatism and collaboration instead of ideology and self-righteousness. That’s the American way, or should be.

If only we could see the same spirit in education. Improve the public schools, don’t replace them with private contractors and subsidies for religious schools and for-profit enterprises.

Katherine Stewart, author of the book “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children,writes in the New York Times about the historical origins of attacks on democratic public schools.

When the DeVos crowd and rightwing think tanks refer to “government schools,” they are drawing their rhetoric from a dark and ugly history, tainted by racism, anti-Catholicism, and hatred of democracy itself.

Trump, DeVos, the religious right, and conservatives today promote “school choice” so children do not have to attend “government schools.” But where did this language come from?

She writes:

Before the Civil War, the South was largely free of public schools. That changed during Reconstruction, and when it did, a former Confederate Army chaplain and a leader of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Robert Lewis Dabney, was not happy about it. An avid defender of the biblical “righteousness” of slavery, Dabney railed against the new public schools. In the 1870s, he inveighed against the unrighteousness of taxing his “oppressed” white brethren to provide “pretended education to the brats of black paupers.” For Dabney, the root of the evil in “the Yankee theory of popular state education” was democratic government itself, which interfered with the liberty of the slaver South.

One of the first usages of the phrase “government schools” occurs in the work of an avid admirer of Dabney’s, the Presbyterian theologian A. A. Hodge. Less concerned with black paupers than with immigrant papist hordes, Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools’ secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay painting “government schools” as “the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”

But it would be a mistake to see this strand of critique of “government schools” as a curiosity of America’s sectarian religious history. In fact, it was present at the creation of the modern conservative movement, when opponents of the New Deal welded free-market economics onto Bible-based hostility to the secular-democratic state. The key figure was an enterprising Congregationalist minister, James W. Fifield Jr., who resolved during the Depression to show that Christianity itself proved “big government” was the enemy of progress.

Drawing heavily on donations from oil, chemical and automotive tycoons, Fifield was a founder of a conservative free-market organization, Spiritual Mobilization, that brought together right-wing economists and conservative religious voices — created a template for conservative think tanks. Fifield published the work of midcentury libertarian thinkers Ludwig von Mises and his disciple Murray Rothbard and set about convincing America’s Protestant clergy that America was a Christian nation in which government must be kept from interfering with the expression of God’s will in market economics.

Someone who found great inspiration in Fifield’s work, and who contributed to his flagship publication, Faith and Freedom, was the Calvinist theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony. An admirer, too, of both Hodge and Dabney, Rushdoony began to advocate a return to “biblical” law in America, or “theonomy,” in which power would rest only on a spiritual aristocracy with a direct line to God — and a clear understanding of God’s libertarian economic vision.

Rushdoony took the attack on modern democratic government right to the schoolhouse door. His 1963 book, “The Messianic Character of American Education,” argued that the “government school” represented “primitivism” and “chaos.” Public education, he said, “basically trains women to be men” and “has leveled its guns at God and family.”

These were not merely abstract academic debates. The critique of “government schools” passed through a defining moment in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, when orders to desegregate schools in the South encountered heavy resistance from white Americans. Some districts shut down public schools altogether; others promoted private “segregation academies” for whites, often with religious programming, to be subsidized with tuition grants and voucher schemes. Dabney would surely have approved.

Religious fundamentalists and evangelicals today have picked up the use of the term “government schools.” DeVos funds the leading fundamentalist organizations that see the public schools as godless. Religious groups are suing in states like Indiana to allow religious activities within the public schools. Secularism is their enemy.

When these people talk about “government schools,” they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say “freedom,” they mean freedom from democracy itself.

The advocates of “school choice” bask in this tradition. Recall that Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, looked forward to the day when there were no more elected school boards. Advocates for private management of schools funded with public money–such as ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council)–hail mayoral control, state takeovers, and privatization, anything to undermine and destroy democratic control of public schools.

Remember this history. It matters.

C.J. Cain is a young teacher.

He shares with us a bit of inspiration, a poem written long ago, in a different era. It was written in 1948, when most of us then alive believed in a world of progress and possibilities. Of course, I was only 10, but I believed.

What do we believe now? Have we become cynical? Do we despair of possibility?

One thing I have learned: never give up hope. No matter how dark it is, never give up hope for better times. And work like the dickens to bring change.

I received the following letter and agreed to post it.

My name is Matt Schuman, and the majority of my professional experience has consisted of teaching and giving back my own law school education knowledge within New York City schools. My most recent school, The Charter High School for Law and Social Justice (“CHSLSJ”), has been in the news for anti-union behavior. Specifically, the management of the school (via its principal and president of the board) terminated eleven of fifteen members covered by the collective bargaining unit. The only four members retained had no overt association with our union activities.

During CHSLSJ’s first year, my colleagues and I voted to unionize with the U.F.T., not only because we wanted protection, but because we genuinely believed a fair and efficient contract would help this new school build up its infrastructure in positive ways that would impact, both short and long-term, the inaugural classes of scholars and their family-members.

While in law school, I learned about the term, “unconscionable behavior”. I learned that such a level of behavior was a very high bar to reach. From a social justice perspective, lawyers and activists do not just throw around that term. By standard definition, the term “unconscionable” means “unreasonably excessive”. The legal definition means “shocking to the conscience and/or an action so harsh that courts would proscribe it.” New York City can be a tough, competitive place, where a survival of the fittest mentality sometimes reigns: eat or be eaten, play or be played. I could easily complain that I and my fellow colleagues were treated unfairly, but what’s more shocking and unconscionable is the effect(s) of these actions on the scholars and their family-members.

The U.F.T., via its president, Michael Mulgrew, has already cited the blatant “hypocrisy” of my school’s actions: a budding institution formed to help young children from the Bronx not only learn about social justice, but actually move along a better pipeline from high-school to law-school has sent the message that people who advocate for basics protections and their rights are not protected (Otis 18).

As a teacher, I’ve always valued working with the underdogs (people who are not given everything and who very often have to endure strenuous fights for what they want in life). That’s why I joined CHSLSJ as a founding team-member. I wanted to do social justice work, and I believed I could do it there!

Until the leadership regime changed during CHSLSJ’s second year, we all were doing such work. I felt honored and motivated to work with CHSLSJ’s founding principal and assistant principal, Ms. Samantha Pugh and Mr. Simon Obas, respectively. I looked at our Board President’s, Mr. Richard Marsico’s curriculum vitae, and saw that he had devoted his early post-Harvard Law School years to studying and stimulating economic empowerment in the Bronx.

Unfortunately, the charter school wave has generated ample political tension. Charter school C.E.O. figureheads and national networks have pushed results at the expense of human treatment. I never believed that our independent, social justice-oriented charter-school would fall victim to the same trends. I’m disappointed. I do not wish for my scholars to learn non-empathetic, guarded, and secretive behavior.

As a writing teacher, I’m aware of potential back-stories in any given situation: nepotism, social preference, fiscal mismanagement, and uncertain economics. Still, teachers, especially ones that open a school’s doors and promote a man’s mission (or brainchild), deserve to be protected, supported, and celebrated. Many of us went down to the principal, Mr. Sean-Thomas Harrell, and asked for communication towards the end of the year about our roles and status. We were met with vague, misleading, and self-serving responses.

On a larger-scale, I worry about the fate of American education both in technologically, disconnected times and during President Trump’s administration. I look at the recent actions of his son and can only compare them to the actions of the people that I’d hoped would be CHSLSJ’s leaders.

CHSLSJ’s unconscionable actions directly touch on the lives of the scholars and the education provided to them by their instructors. We don’t want to raise a generation of “leaders” who cut corners and think they can squeeze by or into positions with lies. We want people who stand on their own two feet. We don’t want people who fend off any criticism with more misleading information. We want people who will be held accountable, because they, themselves, have integrity.

I am sorry that my former scholars have to see their school’s name in print as a result of a legal case and controversy. Their names should be in print as a result of their achievements! In poignant fashion, the law and mock-trial team which I coached this year knocked off Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School where Donald Trump’s son attends. That achievement mattered, because the children of the Bronx saw firsthand that their own success was possible. We all believed that we could turnkey the skills we demonstrated in the courtroom back to the rest of the school, and in turn move in the horizon line for possibilities, and make what is usually a struggle much more obtainable.

What happened is not fair, but more importantly it is not efficient. My scholars and my colleagues who no longer work at CHSLSJ deserve to hear and see the right messages. The first year teacher among us needs to know he will receive support and be championed. The most struggling learner needs to see and know that the positive connections he built up with his/her teachers will not just be mysteriously washed away by someone with whom he does not have a relationship. Power does not bestow that type of privilege.

For these reasons, I do view CHSLSJ management’s behavior as unconscionable. I am shocked, but not disheartened that the emotions of the board’s most important constituents, the scholars, their families, and their teachers, were not even acknowledged once. The lesson learned for leaders in education is that the decisions they make often impact the faces whom they do not see. These same faces, however, have unbelievable potential to stay strong, keep hope, and become needed human leaders who act in the most conscionable of ways. Our schools, and perhaps our American times, primarily depend on this proposition.


Matt Schuman

Lifelong Educator and Law Program Coach

Source: Otis, Ginger Adams. “Uncivil act to teachers”. NY Daily News. 2 July 2017. P. 18.