Archives for the month of: January, 2020

Ohio’s legislature is determined to wreak havoc on the public schools that most students attend. Vote these vandals out of office!


Steve Dyer: Ohio’s school voucher crisis in four charts
School choicers won’t be satisfied until each school age kid automatically receives a voucher to be cashed in at any place of “learning” even if it is at Uncle Joe’s Bar and Backroom School.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||

This powerful article appeared recently on the front cover of the New York Times Week in Review section.

Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn returned to his hometown of Yamhill, Oregon. They discovered that an extraordinary percentage of the hardworking, ordinary working class people Nick grew up with had died an early death. They asked “Who Killed the Knapp Family?” I regret that they include the obligatory swipe at “failing schools,” since the schools attended by this family did not fail them and did not kill them, but the rest of the article is indeed an indictment of the vast social, cultural, and economic unraveling of our society, as represented by this one community.

YAMHILL, Ore. — Chaos reigned daily on the No. 6 school bus, with working-class boys and girls flirting and gossiping and dreaming, brimming with mischief, bravado and optimism. Nick rode it every day in the 1970s with neighbors here in rural Oregon, neighbors like Farlan, Zealan, Rogena, Nathan and Keylan Knapp.

They were bright, rambunctious, upwardly mobile youngsters whose father had a good job installing pipes. The Knapps were thrilled to have just bought their own home, and everyone oohed and aahed when Farlan received a Ford Mustang for his 16th birthday.

Yet today about one-quarter of the children on that No. 6 bus are dead, mostly from drugs, suicide, alcohol or reckless accidents. Of the five Knapp kids who had once been so cheery, Farlan died of liver failure from drink and drugs, Zealan burned to death in a house fire while passed out drunk, Rogena died from hepatitis linked to drug use and Nathan blew himself up cooking meth. Keylan survived partly because he spent 13 years in a state penitentiary.

Among other kids on the bus, Mike died from suicide, Steve from the aftermath of a motorcycle accident, Cindy from depression and a heart attack, Jeff from a daredevil car crash, Billy from diabetes in prison, Kevin from obesity-related ailments, Tim from a construction accident, Sue from undetermined causes. And then there’s Chris, who is presumed dead after years of alcoholism and homelessness. At least one more is in prison, and another is homeless.

We Americans are locked in political combat and focused on President Trump, but there is a cancer gnawing at the nation that predates Trump and is larger than him. Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids; America is slipping as a great power.

We have deep structural problems that have been a half century in the making, under both political parties, and that are often transmitted from generation to generation. Only in America has life expectancy now fallen three years in a row, for the first time in a century, because of “deaths of despair.”

“The meaningfulness of the working-class life seems to have evaporated,” Angus Deaton, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, told us. “The economy just seems to have stopped delivering for these people.” Deaton and the economist Anne Case, who is also his wife, coined the term “deaths of despair” to describe the surge of mortality from alcohol, drugs and suicide.

The kids on the No. 6 bus rode into a cataclysm as working-class communities disintegrated across America because of lost jobs, broken families, gloom — and failed policies. The suffering was invisible to affluent Americans, but the consequences are now evident to all: The survivors mostly voted for Trump, some in hopes that he would rescue them, but under him the number of children without health insurance has risen by more than 400,000.



Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity writes:


Accel owner Ron Packard is in a tizzy because some of his charters did not qualify for Ohio’s charter bonus fund
Patrick O’Donnell’s January 11 Cleveland Plain Dealer article—State avoids “loophole” for charter school money, rejects applications for millions—sheds light on yet another charter loopholes embedded in Ohio law.
This loophole provides that charter bonus money appropriated for “high performing” charters can be distributed to “low performing” charters solely because their operator ran schools in other states that had received a federal grant.
For-profit Accel charter chain operator Ron Packard, applied for bonus funds for dozens of schools that didn’t qualify for charter bonus funds; however, he anticipated funding on the basis that an Accel charter in Colorado Springs received a federal charter school expansion grant a few years ago. But the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rejected the Accel application, citing the Ohio Accel operation fails to connect with those in Colorado. (Who do you suppose got that out-of-state loophole inserted into Ohio Law?)
Ron Packard left K12 Inc. a few years ago as a $5 million per year executive to start Accel. He has a gang of charters in Ohio. Is there any doubt why Mr. Packard is in the education business?
The Gulen charter school chain also applied for bonus money on the basis of the out-of-state provision. Fortunately ODE rejected it on the same basis as the Accel rejection.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||

Billionaire Governor Jim Justice was elected governor of West Virginia as a Democrat but after election, he switched parties with Trump by his side.

Raw Story reports that Governor Justice, up for re-election, has stiffed hundreds of former workers in his coal mines.

Raymond Dye had a buildup of blood behind his left eye that prevented him from seeing. David Polk had an abnormal heartbeat, and his wife had high cholesterol. Roger Wriston’s wife had a bad back.

All the men had worked for a collection of coal companies owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family, which had pledged to provide health insurance after the miners retired. Last year, though, the retirees learned that those firms had stopped paying their premiums. And as a result, their coverage had been terminated. Polk skipped doctor appointments.

“I know that waiting on medical treatment can do irreparable harm to my health,” he later said in a legal filing, “but I cannot afford to pay the bills.”

The expenses for the aging retirees, compounded by decades of work in southern West Virginia’s coal mines, were often costly. At one point, Wriston and his wife ended up with a bill for $12,367.76, another court filing said.

“I don’t think it’s fair what they’re doing to someone who worked their whole life,” Wriston’s wife, Tammy, said in an interview.

About 150 retired miners around West Virginia were making a similar discovery. So the United Mine Workers of America, the same miners’ union that had endorsed Justice’s election as governor in 2016, went to court last year and asked a federal judge to force the Justice companies to pay.

Lawyers for Justice’s companies initially opposed the union’s request for such an order, arguing the miners had not followed proper procedures for appealing a denial of health-benefit claims. Then, the companies settled, promising to clear up the matter and ensure benefits were provided.

Carol Burris wrote about Michael Bloomberg’s education ideas several years ago when she was a high school principal on Long Island in New York.

You have to love New York City’s mayor. Michael Bloomberg speaks his mind, never holding back. While most self-proclaimed school reformers do the Dance of the Seven Veils, slowly revealing their agenda, the mayor jumps up on stage and gives you the ‘full monty.’ He’s sure he has the solution for all that ails New York’s schools, and he is not shy about sharing.

Last Thursday, he told an MIT conference audience how to quickly improve public schools. “I would, if I had the ability – which nobody does really – to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”

Now that’s an interesting proposal to promote college readiness: lecture halls for third graders.

The mayor never cites any research to support his claims about what’s a good deal for students. Nor does he explain a sensible way to determine the bottom half of teachers — the ones who would be sent packing. But he should be forgiven on this point since there is, in fact, no such research and no such sensible way.

Yet as astounding as his statement might be, the mayor’s solution is not pulled from thin air. In fact, his assumption is the foundational belief on which the State of New York has designed its teacher and principal evaluation system.

The evaluation system, APPR, actually assumes that half of all teachers are not effective (ineffective or developing), although there is no evidence that that is the case. In fact, the State Education Department has created a bell curve evaluative system on which to place teachers to make it so. Now that, Mayor Mike, is ex cathedra.

Mayor Mike loved test scores and data. The fact that New York City made no more progress on national tests than any other city during his twelve years in office says something about his shallow knowledge of education. He left behind a school system that had gone through four major reorganizations; that relied on business consultants rather than educators for major decisions; that fired many teachers and principals and closed many schools; that introduced dozens of new selective schools; that won the title of the most racially segregated school system in the nation. He was really good at disruption, not so much at actually improving education.

Christina Samuels of Education Week reports that philanthropists continue to pour a large percentage of their donations into education, but are losing interest in K-12 due to the poor record of their efforts to “reform” the schools. 

ironically, this is good news because the philanthropic money was used to impose “reforms” that disrupted schools, ranked students based on their test scores, and demoralized teachers.

Schools that serve the neediest children definitely need more money but not the kind that is tied to test scores, stigmatizing students and teachers, or the kind that funds charter schools to drain resources from public schools, leaving them with less money to educate the neediest children.

Samuels reports that a growing number of grant makers to early childhood education are looking to help children before they start school, and giving money to issues such as “education and mental health, education and criminal justice, education and the arts.”

In 2010, I visited Denver and met with about 60 of the city’s civic leaders. I was supposed to debate State Senator Michael Johnston, the TFA wunderkind in the legislature, who arrived the minute I finished speaking, never hearing my critique of test-based “reform.” Johnston proceeded to sing the praises of his legislation to introduce exactly what I denounced and proclaimed that judging teachers, principals, and schools by test scores would produce “great teachers, great principals, and great schools.” The philanthropists bought these promises hook, line, and sinker.

They were false promises and a total failure. Now, as this article shows, philanthropists in Denver realize they made a huge mistake. Good intentions, wrong solutions.

Samuels interviewed Celine Coggins, the executive director of Grantmakers in Education, who said,

What we saw in our recent study was that members were more thinking about the whole learner and moving away from just thinking about the academic standards,” she said. Working outside the boundaries of the K-12 system is seen as a way to have more impact, as well as more freedom from governmental controls.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation, created to improve public education in Colorado, is an example of a charitable organization that is moving away from trying to influence education at the K-12 level, said Tony Lewis. Once known as the executive director of the Denver-based foundation, Davis said he eliminated staff titles about a year ago, to create a more egalitarian structure in the organization.

“Over the past five or six years, we’ve gotten frustrated with the lack of progress in improvement in the K-12 system,” Lewis said. “We’ve tried hard, and our partners have tried hard and everyone is still trying hard. The results have been disappointing at best. That’s a Colorado story and it’s a national story.”

Lewis said the organization has pulled back from areas such as school performance frameworks, district accountability, and “turnaround schools” because the gains have been minimal. The organization is also less involved in supporting new charter schools and in early-childhood education than it was several years ago.

Instead, Donnell-Kay is now taking a closer look at the out-of-school space, including afterschool and summertime. That’s where children spend most of their time, he said.

“We keep layering more and more work on schools, reading, math, STEM, nutrition, mental health,” Lewis said. “I don’t think loading more onto the school day is actually the answer any more.”

But, he continued, “What if you really intentionally maximize the time in the out-of-school space? You can make a huge difference in both academics and in life skills.”

Next question: Will Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and the other billionaire funders of disruptive reforms get the message?

Dana Milbank has been covering the impeachment “process” for the Washington Post. He describes the most brazen assault on our democracy in modern times. The damage this man has done to our society will embolden future presidents to believe that they can do “whatever they want.” The Senate is prepared to abandon its role as an independent branch of government. The Republicans are acting like sycophants, with no judgment of their own, as if they are wholly owned by Trump. With an acquittal, Trump will feel no restraints on his instinct for dirty deeds and lawlessness.

The Capitol dome looms behind the Peace Monument statue in Washington.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The Capitol dome looms behind the Peace Monument statue in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Teresa Hanafin writes the “Fast Forward” feature for the Boston Globe:


It’s been a little difficult to keep up with the Republicans’ changing defenses of Trump:

He did not pressure Ukraine to find dirt on the Bidens.

Okay, so he did, but there was no quid pro quo.

Okay, so there was a quid pro quo, but that’s not why he held up the military aid.

Okay, so that was the reason he held up the aid, but it was because he worried about overall corruption in Ukraine.

Okay, so we can’t find any examples of when he cared about corruption, but but but …

I was ready to give up, and then celebrity defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz got up at Trump’s impeachment trial and you know, the guy never disappoints. He gave a breathtaking defense of Trump’s efforts to coerce a foreign government to smear his top political opponent, telling the senators that if the president believes that his reelection is in the national interest, then he can do anything he wants to fix the election. His words:

If the president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

I seem to remember a previous president saying, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Several observers have said that they wish the Democrats would ask a logical question: Why would a US president ask a foreign government to investigate a US citizen, subjecting that citizen to a foreign court, especially if he believes that country is one of the most corrupt in the world?

As former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa has written, “Having a U.S. citizen investigated by a foreign country is not ‘foreign policy.’ It is actually against our normal practice, which is *not* to subject our citizens to foreign courts, where we don’t know that they observe our rights and due process guarantees.

“We need to stop this ‘foreign policy’ nonsense. There is no *U.S. national interest* in an individual citizen being prosecuted abroad — especially when those interests are expressed in laws passed by Congress and can be prosecuted here.”

In other words, when Trump suddenly felt the impulse to look into the Bidens and Ukraine — not at any time in 2017, and not at any time in 2018, but only when Joe Biden started running for president — why didn’t he ask our Justice Department or the State Department to investigate?

A question from GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska highlighted Trump’s dubious timeline: Did Trump ever previously mention the Bidens and corruption to former Ukrainian presidents, or other Ukrainian officials, or to any of his Cabinet members, or to any of his aides, or, in fact, to anybody?

And Mitt Romney of Utah asked for the specific date when Trump ordered the hold on military aid and his rationale. Trump’s lawyers dodged both questions, essentially refusing to answer.

There’s another very disturbing thing going on: Senator Rand Paulof Kentucky wants to publicly reveal the name of the person he and other Republicans think is the whistleblower by asking questions that contain her/his name. Chief Justice John Roberts has warned the Republicans to stop, but Paul says he’s going to keep trying because intimidation and threats is SOP in Trump’s GOP. Let’s be clear: The person assumed to be the whistleblower has received death threats. Death threats.

Let’s see what happens when questioning resumes at 1 p.m. today. Tomorrow, it looks like Mitch McConnell and the Republicans will refuse to gather more information and vote to acquit Trump.

Susan B. Glasser writes in the New Yorker about Alan Dershowitz’s bizarre defense of Trump in the impeachment “process” (not a trial, which has witnesses and evidence). Dershowitz is  criminal defense attorney, not a Constitutional lawyer. He also had the dishonor of being in pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s black book of clients, which he denies.

His defense is that Trump is above the law. He is like an emperor or a king or a dictator. He can do, as Trump himself asserted, whatever he wants.


An hour into the Senate trial of Donald John Trump on Wednesday, the emeritus Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz came to the floor to answer a question from a former Harvard law student, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas. In theory, it was a question that went to the heart of the impeachment case against Trump, about the President’s imposition of a quid pro quo on military aid to Ukraine and whether his motivations mattered. Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

For more than a week, House managers prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump have argued that the Senate’s failure to convict him would make Trump an unaccountable leader; in effect, a dictator or a king. When Dershowitz spoke, it was as if he completely agreed with them. Two days earlier, Dershowitz had told senators that Presidential “abuse of power” should not be considered an impeachable offense under the Constitution. On Wednesday, he took that further—much further. “If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment. Really?

Trump has already said that he considers himself empowered by Article II of the Constitution “to do whatever I want.” Video of this extraordinary moment has been played, repeatedly, by House managers in the trial. They clearly saw it as a damning statement made by a power-grabbing President—and then the President’s counsel, in effect, endorsed Trump’s power grab on the floor of the Senate. So long as Trump believes himself to be acting in the national interest, Dershowitz said, he can do whatever he wants. If the past three years have taught us anything, it is that Trump is a President who is comfortable conflating his own interest with the national interest. L’état, c’est Trump.

As matters now stand, it appears that the Republican majority in the Senate agrees that Trump can do whatever he wants. In effect, they are abandoning their responsibility as Senators to hold the president accountable.

Someday Trump will get his comeuppance. If not now, in good time. We cannot let one coarse ignorant bully destroy our democracy.

Robin Lithgow continues her exploration of the history of the arts in education with this post about Shakespeare’s education.

Robin was director of arts education for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

This post includes a video of Robin describing her passion for her subject.

And it begins:

I know, I know—the “whining school-boy…creeping like snail unwillingly to school” and all that—but I actually think Shakespeare had a lot of fun at Stratford’s Latin Grammar school. Not only that, he shared that fun with his classmates.

For one thing, I am absolutely convinced that the first draft of his The Taming of the Shrew was based on a riotously funny collaboration written and performed by Stratford schoolboys, but I’ll save that for a another post when I can show a reading of Erasmus’s hilarious colloquy “Uxor” (Marriage), starring Xanthippe, the Shrew. (My gut tells me that young Will played that part and relished it!)

But I also think that learning dozens and dozens of rhetorical figures and devices was fun too. Why? Well, when you think about it, they ARE fun in themselves—like intricate word puzzles—and wordplay was a major source of entertainment back then. Either by good pedagogy or by necessity, collaboration was a constant factor in the Elizabethan classroom, and figuring out those devices together must have been totally engaging.

Just to demonstrate: I’ve attached here the full video of a presentation I did recently in which the participants engaged in a collaborative activity creating examples of four figures. I’ve posted segments of the video featuring readings from two colloquies (and hope to have one soon of “Uxor”), but the rhetoric portion of the video is in the first half.