Archives for the month of: May, 2019

I am very excited!

My new book was just announced!

The title is: SLAYING GOLIATH: The Impassioned Fight to Defeat the Privatization Movement and to Save America’s Public Schools. 

It will be published on January 14, 2020, by Knopf, the most prestigious publisher in America. The editor is the brilliant Victoria Wilson, who is also an author, having written the definitive biography of Barbara Stanwyck.

In Slaying Goliath, you will read about the heroes of the Resistance, those who stood up to Big Money and defeated disruption in their schools, their communities, their cities, their states.

It is a book of inspiration and hope.

It shows how determined citizens—parents, students, teachers, everyone—can stand up for democracy, can stand up to the billionaires, and win.

Please consider pre-ordering your copy so you can be sure to get the first edition.

 

Marla Kilfoyle reports on news from the NPE Grassroots Education Network.

More than 125 independent organizations from across the country are working to improve and strengthen public schools.

News item #1:

NPE Action National Conference – Save the Date – March 28-29 in Philadelphia, PA. The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NBCNDKK

Read the rest to learn what your friends and allies are doing.

Last night, the elected Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District passed a strong resolution endorsing four bills in the State Legislature that would impose discipline on the Wild West unregulated charter industry. The bills are described in the resolution. They would impose a moratorium on charter school expansion, revive local control, and increase oversight of charters. This resolution demonstrates that the board is willing to stand up to the rapacious charter industry.

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Today the National Education Policy Center released its annual review of research on virtual charter schools. The bottom line was not good.

The title of the report is “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.” It was double blind peer-reviewed.

The authors write:

The number of virtual schools in the

U.S. continues to grow.

In 2017-18, 501 full-time virtual schools enrolled 297,712 students, and 300 blended schools

enrolled 132,960. Enrollments in virtual schools increased by more than 2,000 students between

2016-17 and 2017-18, and enrollments in blended learning schools increased by over

16,000 during this same time period. Virtual schools enrolled substantially fewer minority

students and fewer low-income students compared to national public school enrollment.

Virtual schools operated by for-profit EMOs were more than four times as large as other virtual

schools, enrolling an average of 1,345 students. In contrast, those operated by nonprofit

EMOs enrolled an average of 344 students, and independent virtual schools (not affiliated

with an EMO) enrolled an average of 320 students.

Among virtual schools, far more district-operated schools achieved acceptable state school

performance ratings (56.7% acceptable) than charter-operated schools (40.8%). More

schools without EMO involvement (i.e., independent) performed well (59.3% acceptable ratings),

compared with 50% acceptable ratings for schools operated by nonprofit EMOs, and

only 29.8% acceptable ratings for schools operated by for-profit EMOs. The pattern among

blended learning schools was similar with highest performance by district schools and lowest

performance by the subgroup of schools operated by for-profit EMOs.

Given the overwhelming evidence of poor performance by full-time virtual and blended

learning schools it is recommended that policymakers:

• Slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools and the size of

their enrollments until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been

identified and addressed.

• Implement measures that require virtual and blended schools to reduce their student-

to-teacher ratios.

• Enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that perform inadequately.

• Sponsor research on virtual and blended learning “programs” and classroom innovations

within traditional public schools and districts.

There is much more in the report that deserves your attention, especially regarding the current infatuation with blended learning.

I suggest you read it for yourself.

 

Here is the citation:

 Molnar, A. (Ed.), Miron, G., Elgeberi, N., Barbour, M.K., Huerta, L., Shafer,

S.R., Rice, J.K. (2019). Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.  Boulder, CO: National Education Policy

Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2019 .

 

I have not endorsed a candidate in the primaries. I have not chosen a favorite. I will vote for any Democrat who runs against Trump.

That said, I’m very concerned about the New York Times’ consistently negative coverage of Senator Bernie Sanders.

We expect the newspaper of record to be unbiased. But when it comes to Sen. Sanders, the Times goes after him in snide ways.

First, there was an article that delved into his anti-war views of thirty-five years ago. It was written by Alexander Burns and Sydney Ember and published on May 19. Its overall tone is hypercritical of Sanders for his leftist views, especially his efforts to undermine the Reagan administration’s policies towards the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

A New York Times review of Mr. Sanders’s mayoral papers — including hundreds of speeches, handwritten notes, letters, political pamphlets and domestic and foreign newspaper clippings from a period spanning nearly a decade — revealed that from his earliest days in office Mr. Sanders aimed to execute his own foreign policy, repudiating Mr. Reagan’s approach of aggressively backing anti-Communist governments and resistance forces, while going further than many Democrats in supporting socialist leaders.

Mr. Sanders’s activities during his mayoralty bring into relief the fervently anti-imperialist worldview that continues to guide him. They also underscore his combative ideological persona, which has roiled national Democratic politics as thoroughly as it upended municipal government in Burlington. As mayor, Mr. Sanders denounced decades of American foreign policy that he portrayed as guided by corporate greed, and outlined a vision of international affairs defined by disgust at military spending and sympathy for Marxist-inspired movements in the developing world…

Mr. Sanders’s deep-rooted foreign policy values have the potential to not only earn him support from voters who have grown tired of overseas wars, but also make him vulnerable to attack from rivals in both parties who are eager to depict him as too radical for the presidency.

Mr. Sanders, a Vermont senator since 2007, initially declined an interview for this article. But after it was published Friday, he requested a phone interview, during which he described his opposition to the Vietnam War and criticized an American foreign policy in the 1980s that he said had revolved around overthrowing governments and “installing puppet regimes.”

“I plead guilty to, throughout my adult, life doing everything that I can to prevent war and destruction,” he said…

In the interview Friday, Mr. Sanders called the Soviet Union an “authoritarian dictatorship” but said that stopping nuclear war was more important to him in the 1980s.

“I was going to do everything that I could to prevent a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union,” he said.

The article paints Sanders as an ideological extremist and radical who was out of the mainstream. Imagine a mayor who is anti-war! What an outrage!

Is it fair to expect everyone to have exactly the same views over their entire life? Is it fair to judge a person today by what he said and did 35 years ago? I don’t think so. My views have evolved. Some have changed dramatically. Most people supported the war in Vietnam when it happened. I expect many (including me) now see it as a disaster. Maybe the same is true about the war in Iraq, which turned into the war in Afghanistan, which might soon become the war in Iran. Bernie Sanders opposed them all.

Presumably the Times will tear apart Biden for the votes he cast long ago and the views he espoused that he now regrets.

And the Times will do the same to every other Democratic candidate, thus assuring Trump’s re-election, since his rabid base doesn’t care what he has done or said in the past.

Most infuriating recently was the New York Times’ hit job on Sanders’ thoughtful education plan, which was co-written by veteran education journalist Dana Goldstein and Sydney Ember, who to my knowledge has no education knowledge or experience. Ember was also co-writer of the anti-Sanders’ piece on May 19.

The Sanders plan for education is incisive, intelligent, well-informed, and bold.

He proposed a tripling of funding for Title 1, the funding stream that directly affects the neediest children.

He proposed increasing the federal contribution to the cost of special education to 50%. When Congress mandated special education services for children with disabilities, it pledged to pay 40% of the costs. It has never paid more than 10-12%. If Congress were to raise its payment to 50%, it would provide immediate fiscal relief to every school district in the nation.

He made clear that his administration would prioritize desegregation.

He called for a ban on for-profit charter schools and a moratorium on charter schools, echoing the NAACP (and Black Lives Matter), until it could be determined whether they are having a negative fiscal impact on public schools and whether they meet the same standards of accountability as public schools. He noted that “billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons, together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled their expansion and poured tens of millions into school board and other local elections with the hope of privatizing public schools.” This statement is a matter of fact, not campaign rhetoric. The millions spent by billionaires like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Waltons, and hedge fund managers (DFER) to influence school board elections and referenda are real.

He committed to rethinking the national reliance on property taxes and to ensuring that all schools are equitably funded.

He promised to work with states to establish a minimum teachers’ salary of $60,000.

Every parent, every educator, every citizen should read his plan.

But consider how the New York Times reported Sanders’ visionary plan. 

The article barely mentions Sanders’ historic funding proposals and focus instead on his critique of charter schools, which is a relatively small part of his plan. They write that Sanders’ support for racial integration was “overshadowed by more divisive elements of the proposal: Mr. Sanders’s plan to freeze federal funding for all new charter schools, and the link his plan made between charter schools and segregation.”

It goes on to say that “Many Democrats, most notably Barack Obama, support charters as a way to provide more options to families, especially those that are too poor to move to a higher-quality school district or pay for private school. The impact of charters on school segregation is hotly disputed in education circles, and by linking these elements, Mr. Sanders touched a nerve in a highly charged debate within the party.”

They then quote Amy Wilkins, a paid lobbyist for charter schools (“a vice president at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a longtime advocate in Washington for racial equity in education”), who finds the linkage of charter schools and segregation to be “galling.” She thinks that the Brown decision gave black parents the right to choose where to send their children, ignoring the fact that racist governors and senators said exactly the same thing and enacted freedom-of-choice plans that were repeatedly struck down by federal courts.

The article balances Wilkins by acknowledging that “The Sanders plan lists a number of causes of school segregation, such as inaction from the courts and federal government. It also cites data from a 2017 Associated Press investigation, which found that 17 percent of charter schools had student populations that were 99 percent nonwhite, compared with 4 percent of traditional public schools.

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden released his education plan yesterday. 

He pledges a dramatic increase in federal funding for education.

The plan is notable for what it does not say.

It does not say anything about the failed strategies of Race to the Top.

It does not say anything about charter schools, which was a major focus for the Obama-Duncan program. Will he repeal the failed federal Charter Schools Program or will he give his approval to continue funding corporate charter chains like KIPP, IDEA, and Success Academy?

It does not say anything about testing, nor does it say anything about revising the federal “Every Student Succeeds Act,” which mandates annual testing. Will Biden support the continuation of the ESSA law?

It does not say anything about evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, which was a favorite Duncan policy. States bidding for Race to the Top billions changed their laws to adopt this punitive and wrong-headed policy. Will he oppose this practice or let it slide?

It makes no reference to the Common Core, which had the enthusiastic support of the Obama administration, which was legally prohibited from funding it, but which supplied $360 million to create two Common Core testing programs, PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Is Biden for or against it.

In sum, I like everything he said. But I wonder about what he didn’t say. He ducked all the tough issues, most of which are the legacy of the Bush-Obama era, of which he was a part.

Biden clearly prefers to duck the contentious issues. I hope that they will be posed to him in town halls.

We need to know where he stands on all the issues that matter to students, parents, teachers, and schools.

 

Thomas Pedroni of Wayne State University sent the following urgent message for readersof this blog.

Professor Pedroni writes:

“In 2016, seven Detroit school children and their parents joined together as plaintiffs to sue the State of Michigan for depriving them of what they deemed to be their basic right— the right to access literacy in minimally sufficient learning conditions. The plaintiffs, along with the vast majority of Detroit school children, had endured years of worsening conditions in the district— exploding class sizes, dilapidating and rat-infested schools, freezing or searing classroom temperatures, classrooms with no teachers and no books, profit-driven experimentation by self interested ed tech companies— all during a time of direct and unchecked control of the district  by a string of state-imposed emergency managers.

“The students’ class action lawsuit, brought pro bono by California law firm Public Counsel, was dismissed in 2018 by Judge Stephen Murphy of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. Judge Murphy argued that although students were inarguably being subjected to what he called deplorable learning conditions, and although literacy was clearly necessary for the full enjoyment of life in the United States today, there was no constitutional right to access literacy. The students  immediately filed an appeal.

“Candidate Gretchen Whitmer campaigned for Michigan Governor in part on an agenda of strengthening the state’s public schools. She explicitly addressed the lawsuit in interviews, arguing that, “Despite what the federal court said, despite what Bill Schuette and Governor Snyder say, I believe every child in this state has a constitutional right to literacy.” In the fall, an independent audit of the state of the district’s buildings concluded that an investment of at least $500 million would be required to bring the city’s schools, which had simply been neglected during the period of state emergency management, to minimally acceptable condition.

“But on Friday, the administration of newly elected Governor Whitmer submitted the state’s brief in response to the plaintiffs’ ongoing appeal. According to the brief, all of the parties named as defendants in the filing, including the Governor, the state superintendent, and the elected State Board of Education, asked the court to dismiss the appeal on mootness of grounds. The defendants now named— including Governor Whitmer— were no longer the defendants named in the original case, the state’s brief argued, and some local control had been returned to the Detroit Public Schools; moreover the Governor has committed to increased educational spending in her new budget.

“In fact, not all members of the State Board of Education saw things as stated in the State’s filing. While seven board members held that the case was moot, with the two Republicans on the board also rejecting outright the notion that the state constitution guaranteed access to literacy, one member’s perspective was not represented in the State’s brief at all. Board Vice President Pamela Pugh, a Saginaw Democrat who is also the Chair of the NAACP Michigan State Conference Education Committee and the Chief Public Health Advisor to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, withheld her fundamental agreement with the arguments of the plaintiffs in the case.

“Instead, Vice President Pamela Pugh has issued the following statement, titled The Time is Now for Governor Whitmer, Education Officials, and Michigan Lawmakers to Guarantee Michigan Children’s Fundamental Right to Learn to Read and Write.”

Vice President Pamela Pugh wrote:

Greetings,

This message serves to inform you that relative to the Detroit Right to Literacy lawsuit, I have notified the office of the Michigan Attorney General that I did not communicate in any way that I would be taking or supporting the legal position that the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit should dismiss Plaintiffs’ appeal on mootness grounds. It was represented in the reply brief filed by the State Defendants on Friday, May 24, 2019, that this is the legal position taken by all named defendants in this litigation.  I have also confirmed with the office of the Attorney General that I am exploring the options available to me, as a member of the Michigan Board of Education, to properly and procedurally address this matter.

This case has caused me to reflect deeply upon my beliefs, my values, and the very reason that I decided to run for the office of the State Board of Education; a role that the framers of our state constitution created to function distinct from that of the Governor and the state’s Executive Branch

I am reminded that in 1964 Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King pronounced, “the walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status”.  Dr. King went on to say, “As Negroes, we have struggled to be free and had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education.”  Now in 2019, 55 years later, with African Americans still struggling and fighting to be free, and to have an opportunity for an equitable and decent education, I am reminded of the urgency of the matter. 

Michigan ranks among the worst states in the nation for the educational performance of African American students.  While our children and educators are being labeled as failures, Michigan’s K-12 public education has been built on a crumbling foundation of racism and historic segregationist practices; many of which were sanctioned by our very own state government.  There is no doubt that these practices, and the policy makers who were unwilling to determinedly address the inequitable effects of them, are ultimately responsible for the failure of our children, their parents, and their teachers/educators.  

Through decades of inequitable funding and disastrous education program experiments, there’s been a perpetuation of children of color being deprived of the basic and proven conditions necessary for them to learn. Classroom learning is thwarted without literacy. Essential to a decent education are an adequate number of well trained teachers, sufficient teaching resources, and school buildings that aren’t environmental health hazards.  

Compounding this is the misuse and overuse of standardized tests, and, more importantly, the manipulative and abusive consequences that now accompany them.  These devices, and their penalties, such as “Read or Flunk” and “A-F” Laws, are now the primary tool, or the new and improved 21st century mechanism, used to submerge and maintain African Americans and communities of color in second class status.

In 1947, as an undergraduate at Morehouse College, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King told us that, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

I am reminded of our beloved Martin’s call for us to think for ourselves, to be outspoken and committed to what’s moral and right. As the Vice President of the Michigan State Board of Education, I am motivated by his words which call for us to speak with clarity and boldness in standing against the real and imminent threats to a decent and equitable education for all Michigan children.

Anything short of Governor Whitmer and state education officials completely separating from former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s arguments, and taking responsibility for our children of color being granted the equal right to critical learning conditions that are afforded to students in other school districts is simply unacceptable.  This is especially true for Detroit Public Schools where special compensation is needed due to state control of the district for almost 20 years. In my opinion this robbed Detroit children of the basic right to literacy, a fundamental right which I believe should be determined to be guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution, as well as other constitutional rights which require literacy skills. .

The time is now for Michigan lawmakers, the Governor, and state education leaders to move with urgency, clarity, and boldness to call for an appropriate level education funding for all our children. We owe the children of our state a decent education that includes adequate literacy skills as a core component to their training. This is an urgent matter, especially in the face of the cumulative effects of destructive policies that have derailed the educational progress of our low income children and children of color, and caused the failure of Michigan’s K-12 public education system.

Pamela L. Pugh, DrPH, MS
Michigan State Board of Education

Vice President
pampugh@umich.edu

 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer was elected in Michigan last fall as a progressive Democrat. She promised to reverse the destructive anti-public school policies of her predecessor Republican Rick Snyder.

But Governor Whitmer announced plans to close Benton Harbor High School, over the objections of school board members and students. They say that Governor Whitmer made her decision without listening to their voices. Whatever happened to democracy?

Governor Whitmer, I call upon you to meet with the elected Benton Harbor school board and student representatives.

School board member Patricia Rush wrote this letter:

Hi all –

Things have hit a new high of chaos with the Benton Harbor Schools.
From the School Board perspective, we thought we were making great progress – straightening out the budget, establishing a strategy for building repairs, increased teacher pay, etc
UNTIL Friday when Governor Whitmer (a newly elected progressive Democrat) – pulled the rug out by announcing her unilateral decision that the State is closing Benton Harbor High School in 2020 and dispersing the students to a new Charter School and 9 local, predominantly white school districts.
So the past 3 days have been extremely chaotic.
Attached is our Press Release and an Open Letter to the Governor opposing the State’s moves.
The state completely under-estimated the pushback from the Community – not just BH but across the State.
Also the State not only did not consult the elected local BH School Board but excluded also the State School Board (which is 40% minority).
The State also refused to hold open public hearings and tried to get our School Board to meet with them in small groups which sidesteps the Open Meeting Act.
See this video written, produced and performed by the High School students – which they have been working on PRIOR to the current mess.
The school board of Benton Harbor released these statements.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


From the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board (BHAS)


May 27, 2019


Contact: Steve.Mitchell@bhas.org or Joseph.Taylor@bhas.org
Benton Harbor Area Schools Board and the Community Demand Reconsideration of Governor Whitmer’s Plan to Close Benton Harbor High School


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – On Tuesday June 4, 2019 at 6pm – the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board will hold the first of several Open Public Meetings at the High School Public Commons to discuss the future of Benton Harbor High School and the entire K-12 school district. Students, families, teachers, and community members are strongly encouraged to participate.
We are urgently requesting that Governor Gretchen Whitmer appear in person at our June 4 Public Meeting – and fulfill 3 of her campaign promises: to support public schools, especially in high-poverty communities, to fight urban poverty, and to hold government accountable. Please see Whitmer’s campaign website: https://www.gretchenwhitmer.com/issues/.

Attached is the Board’s Open Letter to Michigan Governor Whitmer. We respectfully request that all news media PRINT OUR ENTIRE LETTER TO WHITMER – and display on your website.

As has been widely covered in the media over the past few days, Governor Whitmer’s Office, Michigan Treasury, and parts of the Michigan Department of Education have proposed a unilateral plan to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020 with re-distribution of BHAS high school students to a proposed charter school under Lake Michigan College and nine other local school districts.

Parts of the story not reported in the media:

– Governors Office and Michigan Treasury did NOT consult the elected Trustees of the BentonHarbor Board members prior to their unilateral decision. The two BHAS Board members who were briefed in the State Capital Lansing on Friday 5/24/19 were told by the Governors Office staff that this decision to exclude the elected Benton Harbor Board was intentional.


– Likewise, on 5/23/19, the elected state-wide Trustees of the Michigan Department of Education were informed that the Governor’s Office had also excluded them from giving input into the fate of Benton Harbor High School.

– On 5/24/19, the Governors Office informed the two Benton Harbor Board members attending the Lansing meeting that the Governors Office had not held an open public meeting for community input – and did not plan to do so. Instead, the Governors Office met with undisclosed community members that the Governor felt were “representative.”

– The BHAS Board were told that the Governors Draft Plan is a “Yes – or – No Decision with no opportunity for negotiation.” BHAS Board was told it must decide by close of business Friday June 7 to accept the Plan or risk that the State may elect to dissolve the entire Benton Harbor Areas Schools district at any time.

This one-sided decision-making by Michigan State officials is unacceptable. We, the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board are going to hold our State government accountable.

In April 2019, the BHAS Board unanimously voted to support the Fresh Start Resolution petitioning the State of Michigan to reexamine public school accountability and finance systems, calling for a system of improvement strategies developed collaboratively by all stakeholders – to ensure all students and teachers have a voice and receive the opportunities and support they deserve.

The State bears direct responsibility for a significant portion of the BHAS debt. The legacy of this debt should be transparently reviewed and addressed – but the High School cannot be held hostage for the State to agree to debt forgiveness.

The fate of the Benton Harbor High School and the entire School District requires careful planning by all involved parties – especially the opportunity of full community input plus input from both the state and local School Board Trustees who were duly elected by the community to represent them.

//
The BHAS Board OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR WHITMER Follows immediately


We respectfully request that all news media PRINT OUR ENTIRE LETTER TO WHITMER and display on your website.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
From the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board (BHAS)
May 27, 2019
Contact: Steve.Mitchell@bhas.org or Joseph.Taylor@bhas.org


OPEN LETTER TO MICHIGAN GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER FROM THE ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD OF BENTON HARBOR AREA SCHOOLS, BENTON HARBOR, MICHIGAN.


Dear Governor Whitmer –


We respectfully and urgently request that you visit Benton Harbor in person to meet in an Open Public Meeting with the community and the elected School Board trustees regarding the future of Benton Harbor High School and the K-12 District as a whole.

The School Board is hosting an Open Public Meeting at the Benton Harbor High School Student Commons on Tuesday June 4 at 6pm. We would love to host you and let you hear the full story.

Hopefully you are aware that representatives from your office, Treasury and the Department of Education are claiming that, on your behalf, a unilateral decision has been made to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020. The Board was told by your representatives that a decision was made by your office to intentionally exclude the elected School Board trustees and exclude open community input from the decision-making process. Honestly, we are completely shocked and dismayed by this action. Our Board has been working in good faith with both Treasury and Education to address issues at BHAS including an outline for a new Strategic Plan, submitted to Treasury, but upon which your departments have taken no action.

We also want to openly confront the many “elephants in the room” that neither your staff nor the news media have addressed:

• The land upon which the Benton Harbor High School sits with its athletic fields and adjacent School Board properties are the LAST MAJOR UNDEVELOPED WATERFRONT PROPERTIES in Berrien County, Michigan. Is this just a coincidence, given that your office just told our Board representatives on 5/24/19 that your plan to close Benton Harbor High School has major (but unnamed) supporters in the nearby business community?

• The Draft Plan from your office is explicitly a transfer of wealth from an overwhelmingly poor and black community (Benton Harbor) to nearby white, more affluent communities. Under your Plan, that transfer of wealth will occur through the loss by Benton Harbor of its school facilities and use of school land, transfer of state funding from Benton Harbor to the adjacent nine school districts where you plan Benton Harbor students to be redistributed, and loss of jobs for local teachers and staff of all levels.

The contention by representatives of your office that hiring a single staff person to act as a “Cultural Dean” to smooth over “discomfort” that the displaced 700 black students might feel when transported out of their community to predominantly white schools is an appalling insult to our youth and the community. Such insensitivity to the painful history of racial segregation, unsuccessful past desegregation efforts, and continued State-sponsored dis-investment in Benton Harbor calls for a swift and strong response.

We call upon you to meet with us – to hear the students voices and the expertise of our teachers.


We call upon you to fulfill your 2018 campaign promises to support public schools, especially in high-poverty communities, to fight urban poverty, and to hold government accountable.

BHAS needs balanced, constructive leadership from you, your office and all State agencies.

We need complete transparency. We need State and local leaders to stop sensationalizing limited
facts about Benton Harbor in the media and on the Michigan.gov website created by your office to
promote your Plan to close Benton Harbor High School. Our community needs to feel that our
youth are respected, valued and worth meaningful investment so that they may achieve their
tremendous potential. The students, their families, our teachers, and our community deserve that.


Sincerely, Steve Mitchell, Trustee and Board President
Joseph Taylor, Trustee and Board Vice-President
Patricia Rush, Trustee and Board Secretary
Denise Whatley-Seats, Trustee and Board Treasurer
Matthew Bradley, Trustee
Lue Buchana, Trustee
Michelle Crowder, Trustee
//

 

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is an education scholar who specializes in smoking out quack reforms, like the “value-added” accountability measures used to judge teacher quality.

In this post, She investigates whether the 13 states that grade states with a single letter grade of A-F achieve higher scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress after implementing this strategy. 

Jeb Bush initiated the idea of giving schools a single letter grade.

I have long believed that it was a singularly stupid idea. If your child came home from school with a report card that contained only one letter grade, you as a parent would be outraged. No individual child is an A or B or C or D or F. She may be great in math but weak in science, average in reading but excellent in art or history.

If it’s wrong to give a single letter grade to one child, it is ludicrous to give a single letter grade to an institution that has hundreds of students, staff, programs, etc.

Amrein-Beardsley concluded:

In reality, how these states performed post-implementation is not much different from random, or a flip of the coin. As such, these results should speak directly to other states already, or considering, investing human and financial resources in such state-level, test-based accountability policies.

In short, this is a costly and useless school reform policy that benefits no one.

Peter Greene lives in Pennsylvania. He is a retired teacher who spent nearly 40 years in the classroom. He has received postcards urging him to abandon his union. He decided to identify the organizations behind this activity.

You may not be surprised. 

Those postcards, he writes, are the product of the same old network of anti-union far-right folks who have been constantly looking for ways to slap teachers down and put them in their place. A full frontal attack on unions has not been as successful in Pennsylvania as it has been in states like Wisconsin….
 
The good news, so far, is that the post-Janus apocalypse that many unions braced for has not actually happened, and actions by teachers in states like West Virginia have shown that even if you could disempower the union, teachers will find a way to push back if you push them too far. 
 
When you get the card, you’ll see that Williams has provided a handy email address. Feel free to ask him about the time that he angrily gave back the raise that the union negotiated form him, or if, now that he’s retired, he’s planning on doing without that pension that the union won him (actually, he may be well enough paid that he doesn’t need it). But at a minimum, you can safely throw your invitation…in the trash. 
 
Because, look– you will never find me serving as an unconditional cheerleader for PSEA, and local leadership can be a crapshoot. But if a teacher’s plan is to depend on their own negotiating prowess to get a personal awesome contract, or they’re just going to trust folks like the Kochs and the DeVos family to look out for their best interests–well, that’s a bad plan.