Archives for the month of: July, 2019

 

Frances Gallo, who was Superintendent of Central Falls, the state’s lowest performing district, was made interim superintendent of the state-controlled Providence District. 

She will be replaced in 90 days.

When Gallo led Central Falls in 2010, she threatened to fire every employee of the high school, even the lunchroom employees, to punish them for the district’s low scores. After a time of national notoriety, she left the public sector to work for a charter chain.

Central Falls today remains the lowest scoring and the most impoverished district in the state.

In her new post, Gallo promises sweeping changes:

While Gallo’s tenure as superintendent will be short, she will hold the role during the first day of school, after a full summer of discussion and debate about what to do in the wake of the Johns Hopkins report that painted a dire picture of the schools back in June.

“I’m going to turn the place upside down,” Gallo told reporters.

I hate the Democratic debates. They turn potential allies into enemies. They make it harder for candidates to share the same ticket. They set up minor policy differences as deep rifts. They generate animosity among people who must eventually unite to defeat an insane and criminal president who runs a rogue regime. They help Trump, whose party is united by fear and hatred, while sowing divisions among Democrats, whose differences are small.

 

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect

 

JULY 31, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

About That Medicare-for-All Food Fight. It is indeed possible to get to universal coverage under the auspices of Medicare, without bankrupting the public treasury or increasing net costs to the middle class. And the coverage would be better, more reliable, and more cost-effective than even the best insurance that people now get from their employers.

 

Today’s employer-provided insurance is riddled with deductibles, co-pays, denials of reimbursement, limits on which doctor or hospital you can use, and loss of insurance when you change jobs. Sanders and Warren are right about all that.

 

But the transition problems are far from trivial. The biggest problem is that the people who will save money when they no longer pay premiums are not the same people who will likely pay more in taxes.

 

So the sponsors of Medicare for All should recognize that a better transition strategy may be the best way to disarm critics, among centrist Democrats, Republican attackers, and the press; and to reassure the electorate and make Medicare for All the big winner that it can be.

 

The best of the transition approaches are those proposed by Jacob Hacker, with a close legislative counterpart in the Medicare for America Act co-sponsored by Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Jan Schakowsky.

 

This approach immediately insures entire categories of the uninsured, improves Medicare coverage, and creates carrots and sticks so that employers will cover their employees by buying into Medicare. That dramatically reduces the costs that have to be borne by taxes. Kamala Harris has a version of this, but it’s not nearly as good because it preserves a larger and more prolonged role for commercial insurers.

 

The flailing second-tier Democrats in the presidential debates who attack Medicare for All and its sponsors are indeed doing the work of Republicans. John Delaney’s claim that there is some other cost-effective brand of universal coverage that is not built around Medicare is particularly disingenuous.

 

Likewise the mantra that progressives such as Sanders and Warren are “taking something away” from happily insured Americans. It’s important for this opportunistic infighting to stop. None of these people will be nominated; they should cease damaging the front-runners.

 

That said, Warren and Sanders might think about embracing something like the policy nuances put forth by Hacker and DeLauro. It’s still Medicare for All, but it is more mindful of the transitional challenges, and it disarms critics.

 

Admittedly, this is all but impossible to do in the context of a free-for-all debate, even harder when giddy moderators are distorting both the policies and candidate positions in order to create or magnify conflicts. Mercifully, the next debate is not until September and the leading progressive candidates have time to fine-tune their narrative and policy details. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter


 


CNN’s Debate Fail
The Democratic debate was an inevitable by-product of turning news into an entertainment and cultural product. By DAVID DAYEN
Who’s Writing the 2020 Candidates’ Policies?
A survey of the advisers and staffers behind the leading presidential hopefuls By MARCIA BROWN

 

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African education leaders spoke out against privatization of their schools, which means Western corporations and taking control of their future. Privatization, they know, is the new colonialism. You can assume that a few well-chosen local leaders have been hired to argue on behalf of privatization.

Abidjan Principles recognised in resolution on privatisation of education and health by African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 
We are writing today to welcome the new landmark resolution by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights published yesterday that addresses the role of private actors in education and health.The resolution on ‘States’ obligation to regulate private actors involved in the provision of health and education services’ reaffirms that African States are ‘the duty bearers for the protection and fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the rights to health and education without discrimination, for which quality public services are essential’. It also expresses concerns at the current trend amongst bilateral donors and international institutions of putting ‘pressure on States Parties to privatize or facilitate access to private actors in their health and education sectors’ in disregard of these obligations.

In this context, the African Commission calls on States to ‘take appropriate policy, institutional and legislative measures to ensure respect, protection, promotion and realization of economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the right to health and education’ by adopting ‘legislative and policy frameworks regulating private actors in social service delivery’ and ensuring ‘that their involvement is in conformity with regional and international human rights standards’.

The resolution refers to and sets standards that are in line with the recently adopted Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education. The Commission notably calls on States to ‘consider carefully the risks for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of public-private partnerships and ensure that any potential arrangements for public-private partnerships are in accordance with their substantive, procedural and operational human rights obligations.

Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), stated: We have seen the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights hindered by the uncontrolled and unregulated development of private actors in social services delivery, such as health and education. Governments’ increasing reliance on private schools and clinics is facilitated by declining State investment in these essential public services and a blind belief in market solutions. The African Commission’s resolution is an important step towards ensuring greater accountability for States to deliver quality public services, as they are legally bound to do under national and international law.’

Research conducted globally and across the African continent in recent years has documented how the failure of States to adequately invest in public services, pro-market ideology and inadequate regulation of the private sector are leading to increasingly detrimental impacts on human rights: growing discrimination and segregation owing to unaffordable fees, lack of transparency and accountability, inequity, misuse of resources, and corporate control over services which are essential for the development of open and fair societies.

Human rights researchers, scholars, activists and bodies have provided a strong framework in the last years to analyse and respond to this phenomenon. In February 2019, over 50 eminent experts from around the world adopted in Côte d’Ivoire the Abidjan Principles on the right to education which unpack States’ existing human rights obligations in this context. In the field of health, in April 2019, ISER launched an analysis of private involvement in health using the human rights framework.

Sylvain Aubry, a Legal and Research Advisor at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), commented: ‘With this resolution, the African Commission is sending a powerful message to the world. It reaffirms the inalienable human rights requirements to provide quality public services and to regulate private actors, and the obligation of States to meet their human rights standards, such as the detailed guidelines provided in the Abidjan Principles. Human rights scholars, activists and communities across the continent have repeatedly said that a market-approach to social services is not compatible with human rights standards. We hope that African leaders will put the resolution in practice, and that it will lead the way for other regional and UN human rights mechanisms to follow suit.’

“I think the resolution is a welcome development and a bold step on the part of the African Commission given the weak or lack of regulation of the activities of private actors in many African countries. This resolution becomes an important standard that can be used to prevent or minimize the negative impacts of the activities of private actors in the enjoyment of socioeconomic rights. Given the impact of the activities on non state actors on access to water, it is crucial that future guidance from the African Commission on private actors addresses more than health or education.” Ebenezer Durojaye, Dullah Omar Institute.

The Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dullah Omar Institute, and the Right to Education Initiative welcome this commitment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and hopes that this will be followed by continuing work of the institution on these issues. The resolution as well as the interpretative guidance provided by the Abidjan Principles constitute a milestone in building and enforcing regulatory frameworks for private actors in social services and will strengthen government’s’ efforts to regulate private actors.

Documents:

Contacts:

Peter Greene points out in this post that legislatures have a nasty habit of overlooking the central question about charter schools: their funding.

They pretend that they can run two publicly funded school systems without any additional cost.

They pretend that the funding for charters is not subtracted from the funding for public schools.

Public schools are getting hammered by the loss of public tax dollars that have been diverted from public school finances into charter and choice school accounts. Charters, having forgotten the era when they bragged that they could do more with less, complain that they are underfunded compared to public schools.

The problem here, as with several other choice-related issues, is in a false premise of modern school choice movement. That false premise is the assertion that we can fund multiple school districts for the same money we used to use to fund one single public system.

This is transparent baloney. When was the last time any school district said, “We are really strapped for funds. We had better open some new schools right away!” Never. Because everyone understands that operating multiple facilities with multiple staffs and multiple administrations and multiple overhead expenses– all that costs more than putting your operation under one roof.

But the choice pitch has always been some version of, “Your community can have twelve different schools with twelve different flavors of education in twelve different buildings with twelve different staffs– and it won’t cost you a nickel more than what you’re paying now!” This is carnival barker talk, the same kind of huckster pitch as “Why buy that used Kia? I’ll sell you a brand new Mercedes for the same price!”

Adding charters and choice increases educational costs in a community. Sometimes we’ve hid that by bringing in money from outside sources, like PTA bake sales to buy a public school office equipment, or pricey benefit dinners for charters, or increasing state and federal subsidies to help charters stay afloat.

But mostly school choice is the daylight savings time of education– if we just shuffle this money around in new and different ways, somehow there will be more of it.

This trick never works. And we talk all too rarely about why it never will.

Andrea Gabor, The Bloomberg Professor of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York, is one of the nation’s worthy and thoughtful education writers. Her book about W. Edwards Deming has the best refutation of merit pay that I have read (chapter 9, The Man Who Invented Quality). Her latest book book, Education After The Culture Wars, gathers stories of districts where collaboration, not competition, creates a healthy environment for education.

In this post, she argues that America’s infatuation with standardized testing is waning, and it’s time to find a better way to assess how students are progressing.

America’s decades-long infatuation with standardized testing is finally waning, and for good reasons. Despite years of training students to do better on tests, the performance of 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, has flatlined. At the same time, the focus on testing produced unintended consequences, including inattention to important educational priorities and growing teacher shortages.

That’s in part because test performance became a goal in many districts instead of a means to an end and, thus, a prime example of Campbell’s Law, which points to the corrupting influence of using a single measurement as a target, thus ensuring that “it ceases to be a good measure.

Gabor says there is a better way. She describes the work of the New York Performance Standards Consortium as a model.

The country’s best under-the-radar experiments are a useful guide. Chief among these is the New York State Performance Standards Consortium, a decades-old effort led by progressive educators and involving 38 high schools, which won exemptions from all standardized tests except English. Instead, students complete ambitious projects known as performance-based assessments — think mini theses with lots of research, writing and real-world projects in everything from social studies to physics, which students present to expert panels, including teachers (often from different schools) and community members.

Since launching in the 1990s, the consortium has racked up far higher graduation rates and college matriculation ratesfor its schools than New York’s traditional public schools.

The consortium prevailed even as New York became Exhibit A for the nation’s testing follies. New York adopted “Common Core-aligned” tests before the standards were completed, and introduced new tests almost every year — making it difficult to track student progress.

Is she right? Is there a big change coming?

 

Just in: Teachers in Orange County, Florida, defeated a contract proposal by a vote of 4-1.

The contract would have raised wages but increased health care costs which would have left many teachers with less income overall.

The average teacher pay in the county is $49,000.

It is outrageous that teachers are paid so little, and that the state continues diverting public money to charters and vouchers.

What does the future hold for Florida, where education is a political football and held in such low regard?

 

What do you call a political figure who opposes protecting our elections from foreign interference?

Read what Dana Milbank of the Washington Post said. 

 

Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.

This doesn’t mean he’s a spy, but neither is it a flip accusation. Russia attacked our country in 2016. It is attacking us today. Its attacks will intensify in 2020. Yet each time we try to raise our defenses to repel the attack, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, blocks us from defending ourselves.

Let’s call this what it is: unpatriotic. The Kentucky Republican is, arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.

Robert Mueller sat before Congress this week warning that the Russia threat “deserves the attention of every American.” He said “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious” challenges to American democracy he has ever seen. “They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” he warned, adding that “much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but others as well.”

Not three hours after Mueller finished testifying, Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, went to the Senate floor to request unanimous consent to pass legislation requiring presidential campaigns to report to the FBI any offers of assistance from agents of foreign governments.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) was there to represent her leader’s interests. “I object,” she said.

The Mueller hearings revealed Sean Hannity’s outsized influence on Trump is also driving GOP members of Congress. Erik Wemple warns against this. (Joshua Carroll, Erik Wemple, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) attempted to move a bill that would require campaigns to report to the FBI contributions by foreign nationals.

“I object,” said Hyde-Smith.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tried to force action on bipartisan legislation, written with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and supported by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), protecting lawmakers from foreign cyberattacks. “The majority leader, our colleague from Kentucky, must stop blocking this common-sense legislation and allow this body to better defend itself against foreign hackers,” he said.

“I object,” repeated Hyde-Smith.

The next day, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the minority leader, asked for the Senate to pass the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, already passed by the House, that would direct $600 million in election assistance to states and require backup paper ballots.

McConnell himself responded this time, reading from a statement, his chin melting into his chest, his trademark thin smile on his lips. “It’s just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia,” he said. “Therefore, I object.” McConnell also objected to another attempt by Blumenthal to pass his bill.

Pleaded Schumer: “I would suggest to my friend the majority leader: If he doesn’t like this bill, let’s put another bill on the floor and debate it.”

But McConnell has blocked all such attempts, including:

A bipartisan bill requiring Facebook, Google and other Internet companies to disclose purchasers of political ads, to identify foreign influence.

A bipartisan bill to ease cooperation between state election officials and federal intelligence agencies.

A bipartisan bill imposing sanctions on any entity that attacks a U.S. election.

A bipartisan bill with severe new sanctions on Russia for its cybercrimes.

McConnell has prevented them all from being considered — over and over again. This is the same McConnell who, in the summer of 2016, when briefed by the CIA along with other congressional leaders on Russia’s electoral attacks, questioned the validity of the intelligence and forced a watering down of a warning letter to state officials about the threat, omitting any mention of Russia.

No amount of alarms sounded by U.S. authorities — even Republicans, even Trump appointees — moves McConnell.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray — Trump’s FBI director — told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Russians “haven’t been deterred enough” and are “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.”

This year, National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats — Trump’s intelligence director — told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests. We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics.”

And on Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report finding that “Russian activities demand renewed attention to vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure.”

The committee concluded that “urgent steps” are needed “to replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.” (The $380 million offered since 2016 is a pittance compared with the need.) “Despite the expense, cybersecurity needs to become a higher priority for election-related infrastructure,” the report concluded.

But one man blocks it all — while offering no alternative of his own.

Presumably he thinks whatever influence Russia exerts over U.S. elections will benefit him (he’s up for reelection in 2020) and his party.

“Shame on him,” Schumer said on the Senate floor this week.

But McConnell has no shame. He is aiding and abetting Putin’s dismantling of Americans’ self-governance. A leader who won’t protect our country from attack is no patriot.

This is a model of a letter to a Senator or Member of Congress. It was written by Laura Chapman of Cincinnati to one of her Senators. It is clear and based on evidence.

Dear Senator Brown,

I recently received an email from you, intended as a response to my prior effort to understand your position on federal funding for charter schools and so-called “choice” programs beloved by Secretary DeVos.

You gave an uninformed response to my concerns about federal money pouring into the coffers of the charter school industry, money often added to by state funds and non-trival sums in private dollars.

Please pay attention. More than one third of federally funded charter schools, funded at $1.billion, never opened or closed soon after opening.

You should be investigating why Betsy Devos is treating our tax dollars as a personal slush fund for corporate charter schools while ignoring well documented evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse and cronyism in how these funds are used.

Charter school advocates posture about “high-quality schools” just like you do. In fact, many charter schools are terrible. Consider these facts.

Ohio 2018 report cards for 257 charter schools.

__235 charter schools received a grade of D or F (not exactly high quality).
__15 charter schools earned a C, merely average (not exactly high quality).
__ 4 charter schools had a grade of B
__ 3 charter schools had a grade of A.

Most federal funds are flowing to corporate chains with off-the-shelf franchise plans, hostility to collective bargaining, and an aversion to public schools with democratically elected school boards.

Charter schools claim to be public until they are sued in court. They are routinely draining money from local public schools while claiming to be underfunded.

Most charter schools do not need federal funds. They are being supported by billionaires and many Republicans who want to privatize public institutions, public services, public lands and natural resources.

Charter schools are not lacking in funds and should not be given more from the federal budget.

Please read this report before you respond. The three-page Executive Summary is a must read. https://www.scribd.com/document/403089110/Asleep-at-the-Wheel-final-Online-Version

 

Ed Johnson of Atlanta is a devotee of the Deming philosophy, which is the opposite of test-and-punish, compete-or-close, no excuses discipline.

He shared an example of Deming in kindergarten.

What?!  Kindergartners learning Deming’s PDSA to solve their “big problem?!”  Ha!
Well now, some kindergarteners have a “big problem” on their hands and it is a problem of their own making, apparently.What is the kindergartners’ big problem?  “Not following directions.”

Imagine that.  Kindergartners not following directions.  Lordy, lord.  The sky must be falling.

In the short video at the link below, watch and listen to kindergartners talk of four categories of causes of their big problem, talk of the four categories having been listed on sticky notes, and talk of each sticky-noted category having been annotated with the why’s of the causes of their big problem.

Then see each kindergartner’s over-time data collection sheet and hear them talk about how they “all worked together” at getting their data “colored in” their individual data charts and understanding what the charts say.

The four categories of causes (stated as positives) giving rise to the kindergartners’ big problem are:

  • I can be respectful
  • I can be safe
  • I can focus
  • I can look like a learner
Kindergarten Students Share About PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) Process(03:44)Fortunately, instead of imposing a KIPP charter school-like “no excuses” environment that would very likely cause the kindergartners to reason and believe THEY ARE THE PROBLEM, and instead of making the kindergartners fearful only to very likely make them adopt a self-protective behavior that rationalizes the problem lies outside themselves, the kindergartners have a servant leader-teacher making it possible for them to learn to own their big problem and to begin learning to learn to cooperate and collaborate to achieve continual improvement with respect to gradually lessening effects the problem spawns.

Who are these kindergartners?

The kindergartners attend Olmstead Elementary School, a public school in the Urbandale Community School District (UCSD), Iowa.

Olmstead Elementary School’s mission is: “Hand in Hand, Reaching Success!”  The mission shows.

It seems UCSD began a Deming-inspired journey of Continual Improvementnearly a decade ago, in 2010.  Certainly, Deming’s PDSA Learning Cycle would be an integral aspect of such a journey.

Notably, the UCSD 2018-2019 Strategic Plan Poster lists “Continual Improvement” and “Systems Approach” as core competencies of the district, along with “Culture of Collaboration.”  These three core competencies are, of course, highly interdependent—that is, any one of the three core competencies is pretty much meaningless without the other two.

Notably still, the mission says nothing about getting children “college and career ready,” starting in kindergarten, for Pete’s sake.  Nothing about becoming “globally competitive.”  Nothing about the school aiming to become “high-performing.”  And it says nothing about competing on the basis of standardized test results.

Want to bet on which children and schools are likely to achieve such outcomes as natural consequences of what they do versus which children and schools are unlikely to achieve such outcomes as explicitly stated pursuits of vision, mission, and goals?

Charleston County School District (CCSD), South Carolina, might take note of UCSD and go visit that district instead of bothering with Atlanta Public Schools, where the leadership promote destroying public education and public schools with school choice and charter schools.  Without question, since 2014, with a top-heavy TFA school board hiring Harvard-trained Meria Carstarphen as Superintendent, Atlanta Public School’s core competencies have come to be purely ideological in nature, including free market-style school privatization, Happy Meal-style school choice, charter schools, a culture of competition, strengthened racial segregation, and “black” schools as practicing sites of behaviorism and Taylorism.

Besides, it appears Charleston County School District also does Deming’s PDSA.  Well, how about that?

It really is not hard to understand why so-called achievement gaps remain greatly intractable.

Poverty?  Yes.  But also what Deming calls “Forces of Destruction.”

An excerpt from Unfolding Leadership:

  • “To me, [Deming’s] forces of destruction have to do with the boundless ways in which the human spirit is denied. On one hand this involves big stuff like racism, sexism, or homophobia. I was rereading Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (thanks to the Servant Leadershipblog) and was struck by MLK’s description of the loss of “somebodiness” from institutionalized societal inequities.
  • “And on the other hand, there are also less obvious attacks to the human spirit that come in countless if smaller, daily ways. These are largely forces of judgment and criticism, some overt, some frustratingly subtle. I believe the outcome of these attacks, whether subtle or overt, whether small or big, is development within people of a fundamental defensiveness and need for self-protection that limits what they can believe about themselves and respect about others. This defensiveness crushes out awareness, and with it, compassion and connectedness.”
Fortunate for the future of our country, kindergartners attending Urbandale Community Schools District, and similar other public school districts, are learning to not only lead us away from the Forces of Destruction but to dissolve them.Lucky us.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohson@aol.com
I say: Show me children not ready for kindergarten and I shall show you kindergarten not ready for children.

 

The Connecticut State Board of Education hired a new state commissioner who pledged to raise the graduation rate, close the achievement gap, and “Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.”

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what every new commissioner promises? Has any new commissioner in any state achieved those goals?

Ann Cronin, veteran educator, explains why these are tired cliiches and what a visionary approach would look like. 

First, would be to change the term “graduation rate”  to something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

“Credit retrieval” is a common practice in public schools with low graduation rates. “Credit retrieval” allows students to make use of often dubious computer programs that, in no way, equal courses in academic subjects, yet  the students get credit for the academic courses. In doing so, students increase the graduation rate for their schools but do not have adequate learning experiences.

Charter schools have another way to increase their graduation rates. They “counsel out” students who are likely to not graduate before they get to be seniors which leaves only a pre-selected group as seniors and, unsurprisingly, they all graduate. And lo and behold, the charter school has a high graduation rate. For example, one year at Achievement First’s Amistad Academy in New Haven, 25 students out of 25 in the senior class graduated, but 64 students had been in that class as ninth graders.

A visionary way to increase the number of students who receive a high school education is to not count the number of students who receive high school diplomas but rather count how many of the students who begin a school as ninth graders complete the coursework necessary for graduation. For example, some innovative public high schools hold Saturday classes with actual teachers instead of plugging kids into commuter programs. The applause should be given to high schools who deliver a quality education to all the students who begin their high school education in the school not to the schools who either give credits without the academic content and skills or who dismiss those who won’t make for a good statistic.

Read her essay to see her critique of “closing the achievement gap,” which is impossible when the gap is based on standardized test scores which are designed to have a gap.