Archives for category: Closing schools

This thoughtful article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post shows the debates in the District of Columbia about the future or the demise of neighborhood schools. Some see the neighborhood school as a relic of the past, with school choice being the wave of the future. Others think of the neighborhood school as the heart of the community, where children and parents walk to school together, plan together, build community together.

It is clear that the corporate reformers would like to kill the very concept of neighborhood schools and communities. They prefer a free market that mirrors a shopping experience, with schools run by corporate entities and parents choosing schools as they might choose one kind of milk or another in the grocery store (the metaphor used by Jeb Bush in his speech to the 2012 Republican convention).

Some of us recall that in the 1950s and 1960s, school choice was the battle cry of the most ardent segregationists. Scholars today have found that the most segregated schools are charter schools, which are typically more segregated than the district in which they are sited. When journalist John Hechinger wrote about the charter schools of Minneapolis, he wrote that it was as though the Brown decision of 1954 had never happened.

Hechinger wrote:

“Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

“Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated” schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.”

Is this the future of American education? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Ironic that we reach this moment in which the elites embrace George Wallace’s cause, luring black families to all-black charter schools, with promises that are seldom fulfilled, as we near the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision.

I came across an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Rhee, in which she chastised parents who opted their children out of state tests. This article made me happy, because it shows that the Queen Bee of high-stakes testing is worried. She is worried that the opt out movement is gaining traction. She is worried that parents are sick of the Status Quo of the past dozen years. If parents opt out, there won’t be enough data to fire teachers, to give bonuses, and to close schools. The Status Quo might collapse. How will we know how students are doing if we don’t test them? How will we know if their teachers are any good without standardized tests? How will we know if their school should be closed?

I must say that I was brought to a sharp halt in my reading of this article when Rhee spoke of what happened when her daughter came home from public school, relieved that the last test was over. This puzzled me because Rhee lives in Sacramento, and her daughters live in Nashville. I wondered, was she visiting Nashville that day? Then I remembered that one of her daughters goes to a public school, and the other goes to an elite private school that does not give standardized tests. How does she know how the daughter in the private school is doing? How can she judge her teachers? How will the principals in that school know if the teachers are doing a good job if the kids don’t take standardized tests? It is very puzzling.

And I wondered about one other thing: Michelle Rhee is a fierce advocate for charters and vouchers because she believes in choice. Why doesn’t she believe that parents should be able to choose to say no to state testing? Many voucher schools are exempt from state testing but I haven’t heard her demand that legislators include them. How will they know how their children are doing?

I wasn’t going to write about Rhee, because she seems so yesterday, but then Peter Greene sent me this hilarious post, and I realized I had to write too. But he is so funny! he calls it: “The WaPo Wastes Space on That Woman.”

Following Arne Duncn’s failed “turnaround” strategy, Chicago Public Schools plans to fire every staff member in three schools. This follows on the heels of closing 50 schools last year.

When will Rahm Emanuel end his reign of destruction?

Closings by Another Name

CPS Wants to Fire Every Adult at McNair,
Gresham and Dvorak Elementary Schools

On Friday, March 21, The Chicago Board of Education announced that it would fire every single adult in three of Chicago’s schools and hand over management of the schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership— a politically clouted private management group tied to appointed Board President David Vitale.

Calling this practice “Turnaround,” the Board claims it will help students. But studies show otherwise. This is an attack on Black schools that continues the assault carried out by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett last year, when she closed fifty schools (claiming they were the last closings for at least five years).

A community hearing will take place Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 p.m. in each of the affected schools.

McNair Elementary, 4820 W. Walton St.

Gresham Elementary, 8524 S. Green St.

Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th St.

Stand with these schools by signing up to support educators at one of the hearings for each affected school. By clicking the button above or below you can see other events that are important. Stand up and stand together. Our schools need every voice to ring out for them.



Students have the power to stop the destructive forces that are ruining their education and treating them as data points, not humans who want to learn. They are holding a conference in Los Angeles, where they will discuss strategies to resist school closings, high-stakes testing, data mining, and other current efforts to turn their educational opportunity into an opportunity for entrepreneurs to use them. They can learn from the creative tactics of the Providence Student Union, which has utilized politicl theater to gain public support.

Go, students, go! You own the future. Don’t let the profiteers, bureaucrats, technocrats, and futurists steal it.


Media Contact:

Hannah Nguyen
University of Southern California
Phone: (408) 644-9717
Email address:

USC Hosts EmpowerED 2014 Conference to Highlight Student Voice and Organizing in Education

Students everywhere are tired of feeling powerless
when it comes to decisions about their education.
That’s why they’re fighting back.

LOS ANGELES, MARCH 23 — On Saturday, March 29, at the University of Southern California, over 130 youth from all over Los Angeles will participate in EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014. EmpowerED is a student-led education conference that will engage the local student community in discussing and strategizing what it will take to transform our education system to serve all students –and incorporate student voices.

EmpowerED 2014 is hosted by Students United for Public Education’s LA Chapter as a part USC EdMonth. This will be SUPE-LA’s first major event and the first EdMonth event to include local students in a discussion about educational policy issues.

EmpowerED will provide an opportunity for students in LA to learn about the student organizing that is expanding throughout the country, raise their voices on important educational issues, develop leadership and organizing skills, and collaborate with their peers on how to build a movement for student power. Israel Muñoz, co-founder of the Chicago Students Union who has spoken about his experiences on NBC and TED, will deliver the keynote address.

“Students spend most of their day in school, but almost never have a voice when it comes to decisions about their education. My fellow student organizers and I are tired of feeling powerless and have organized student unions to make sure our voices are heard,” says Muñoz. “We are very excited to share our stories with LA students, as well as hear their experiences and work with them to build a stronger local and national student movement. I am honored to be a part of a groundbreaking event that fosters peer-to-peer student empowerment and youth voice.”

Israel Muñoz marches with the Chicago Students Union
to protest mass school closings in his community.

The conference will bring together leading high school student activists from across the country who have organized and led student unions in response to the lack of student voice in top-down policies of the current education reform movement, such as high stakes testing, budget cuts, and mass school closings. In Los Angeles, these policies have further destabilized already under-resourced communities through cutbacks on the arts and humanities, mass teacher layoffs, and the reconstitution of major high schools like Crenshaw and Dorsey.

These experiences run nationwide. As such, EmpowerED will host a discussion panel with Providence Student Union’s Cauldierre McKay, Portland Student Union’s Sekai Edwards, Newark Students Union’s Kristin Towkaniuk, LA’s Coalition for Educational Justice organizer Taylor Broom, Alliance for Educational Justice’s Tre Murphy, and Chicago Students Union’s Israel Munoz.

A large part of the event will consist of hands-on, interactive workshops and open forums. There will be workshops led by all speakers and panelists on various topics such as student unionism, creative direct actions, public speaking, social media, and LA-specific movements for educational justice and student voice. Community groups like K-12 News Network and the California Student Union will also lead workshops on student voice in the budget and student organizing at the college level.

At the end of the day, students will have the unique opportunity to generate artwork that portrays their vision for student voice in education. This artwork will then be displayed in an exhibit called Collective Voice: The Wisdom of Young People on Education, at a 2015 national educational conference in Washington DC.

There will be a Livestream of the event for those who cannot make it to LA to attend. For more information about the EmpowerED 2014 conference and to access the Livestream video on the day of the event, go to

View our promo video:

Follow Us on Twitter: @empowerED_2014


Local media is invited to attend the conference on Saturday, March 29, 2014 to:

Interview EmpowerED attendees and speakers during lunch (12:00 – 12:30 PM)
Capture footage of the featured student organizing panel (12:30 – 1:30 PM)

About Students United for Public Education

Students United for Public Education (SUPE) evolved out of the work of college students involved in defending public education from its attackers. In particular, SUPE was founded to fill a void in the movement for public education — before SUPE, there was no national student organization devoted solely to this cause. Under the guise of “closing the achievement gap” and “school choice,” for-profit corporations and their political representatives have sought to privatize and sell off public education. SUPE understands that a profit motive cannot guarantee a good education. Instead, only a robust and well-supported public education system — along with the courage and will to directly confront problems of racial and economic inequality — can provide a quality education for all.

SUPE is a community based organization because we know that public schools are the heart of every community. In other words, SUPE understands that in order for our goals to be reached, we must fight with K-12 students, parents, teachers, and community members and elevate their essential voices. We aim to work with communities to find out what their needs are, and have them lead the way in the struggle as we work as equals to organize the change they believe is best. Find out more about Students United for Public Education at:

About USC EdMonth

EdMonth at USC is the first national student-led movement and discussion about the state of education in our country. Downtown Los Angeles and the USC campus will serve as the backdrop for educators, parents, policy makers, business leaders, elected officials, engaged citizens and students to engage in a national, collegiate student-driven discussion on the issue of improving education in our country. USC EdMonth is organized by the USC Academic Culture Assembly and USC Program Board. Find out more at:

© Copyright 2014 University of Southern California. All rights reserved.

Hannah Nguyen
(408) 644-9717
University of Southern California | B.A. Sociology
Students United for Public Education | Co-National Organizer
USC EdMonth | Executive Board Member
EmpowerED 2014 | Executive Director

EduShyster here breaks the story of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s secret trip to Boston.

It must have been secret because, she reports, not a word appeared in the Boston media.

He used his time in Boston to tout “no excuses” charter schools and a “turnaround” school that demonstrated the great success of his grand theory: Fire everyone and the school miraculously improves. But, as EduShyster points out, he did not visit the schools where the same tactic produced failure, not success.

EduShyster points out that the Boston charters enroll 12% of the city’s children but collect 50% of state aid.

Then he toured Worcester, where he was greeted by anti-Common Core protestors.

In Worcester, the school board has courageously given parents the right to opt their children out of PARCC pilot testing–a move opposed by the state. The school board was not invited to meet Arne or even informed of his stealth visit.

Arne ended his Massachusetts tour with a visit to the Match Graduate School of Education, that unique institution that has no scholars or researchers; its sole purpose is to train teachers for no-excuses charter schools. Arne showed them lots of love, not mentioning the high attrition rate of their graduates.

Jeff Bryant here describes the unprecedented wave of activism that is ready to launch in spring 2014.

This is the year that parents, teachers, students, and concerned citizens mobilize to stop the juggernaut of high-stakes testing and privatization.

This is the year we demand that Race to the Top go away, to be replaced by genuine concern for education, children, and equity for purr neediest children.

This is the year to stop attacking our nation’s dedicated educators. Stop closing schools. Stop squandering money on for-profits and useless consultants.

This is the year to stop the beatings and to begin to develop genuine changes that help instead of punishing our schools.

We begin this weekend in Austin, Texas, when the Network for Public Education convenes hundreds of activists. And we grow from there into a movement to reclaim our public schools.

Every time I think I have encountered every organization associated with corporate reform, I find I am wrong. Here is one I did not know about.

It consists of foundations, nonprofits, mayor’s offices, etc.

It shows you the funding and political muscle behind the movement to get rid of public schools and build up the number of non-union privately managed schools.

It is yet another example of false reform, false because its goal is not to improve the schools our children attend, but to replace them with privatization.


Mark Weber, who blogs as Jersey Jazzman, here describes the legacy of Chris Cerf’s three years as State Commissioner of Education in New Jersey.

Cerf has announced that he is leaving to join Amplify, the education division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which is headed by Cerf’s former boss Joel Klein. Cerf was deputy chancellor in New York City when Klein was chancellor. Together, they will sell hardware and software to the nation’s schools on behalf of Murdoch.

Weber sums Cerf’s legacy thus:

More state control.
More emphasis on standardized testing.
More inequitably funded districts.
More inexperienced district leaders.
More intensely segregated districts.
More unfunded mandates.
More demoralized and burned out teachers.

In this post, Mark Naison explains why so many parents seek to place their children in charters in New York City. Fr 12 years, the Bloomberg administration showered preferential treatment on the charters and ignored the needs of the public schools tat enroll 94% of the city’s children.

He predicts that the policies of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina will reverse some or most of the damage done to public schools by the policies of the past dozen years:

He writes:

Charter School Growth, Bloomberg Style, Creates Dilemma for the de Blasio Administration- A Special Report to BK Nation
January 31, 2014

By Dr. Mark Naison

In today’s New York Post, an article appeared claiming that Charter School Applications in New York City were 56 percent ahead of what they were at this time last year, putting pressure on the de Blasio administration to re-evaluate its efforts to slow charter expansion.

Those numbers are REAL. They reflect the desperation of inner city and working class parents who hope to find high performing, safe schools for their children and see charters as the best hope for that.

However, they are making that judgment, based on what they observe in their own neighborhoods, not because of the inherent superiority of charter schools, but because the Bloomberg Administration rigged the game by giving huge preference to charter schools, both substantively and symbolically, and using charters not as a strategy to improve public education in the city, but as a wedge to privatize it and smash the influence of the city’s teachers union.

The challenge of the de Blasio administration is see what happens when the competition is even, and when public schools are given the resources, encouragement and support charters were given in the Bloomberg years. When and if that happens, the demand for charters is likely to decrease as parents see public schools in their neighborhood improve dramatically and innovative new public schools open in their neighborhoods.

Under the Bloomberg administration, aided and abetted by police systems of the U.S. and NY State Departments of Education, charter schools were consciously selected over public schools as the preferred alternative when low performing public schools were closed. This preference was manifested in several important ways:

• Charters were given facilities in public schools rent free.

• In schools where they were co-located with public schools, the charters were given preferential access to auditoriums, gymnasiums, laboratories, and often put in the most desirable locations in the buildings.

• Although charters selected their students by lottery, they were allowed to weed out students who had disciplinary problems, or who performed poorly on standardized tests. As a result, according to Ben Chapman of the Daily News, only 6 percent of charter students are ELL students and 9 percent special needs students, far lower than the city average for public schools.

• When you count space, charters received more city funding than public schools, and when you add to that private contributions that they solicited, charters spent significantly more per student than public schools.

• Community organizations and universities willing to start new schools were encouraged by the NYC Department of Education to start charter schools rather than public schools.

These preferences had an absolutely devastating effect on inner city public schools, which were in the same neighborhood as the charters. In the case of schools who had charter co-location, it led to humiliating exclusion from school facilities which they once had access to, leaving their students starved of essential resources. But in the case of all inner city public schools, it led to a drain of high performing students, whose parents put them in charters, and an influx of ELL students, special needs students and students pushed out of charters for disciplinary problems, taxing those schools resources and making it much more difficult for them to perform well on standardized tests. The school closing policies of the Bloomberg administration added to the stress on those already hard pressed schools, forcing their staffs to work under the threat of closure and exile to the infamous “rubber room” for teachers who were in excess when schools were closed.

What occurred was a “tale of two school systems” within inner city neighborhoods- one favored, given preferential access to scare resources, hailed as the “savior” of inner city youth; the others demonized, stigmatized, deprived of resources, threatened with closure and deluged with students charter schools did not want.

If you were a parent, which school would you want to send your child to?

But what happens when the game is no longer rigged? When charter schools have to pay rent? When they can’t push out ELL and Special needs students? When facilities in co-located schools are fairly distributed? When schools are no longer given letter grades and threatened with closing, but are given added resources when they serve students with greater needs? When universities and community organizations are encouraged to start innovative public schools, not just create charters?

If all those things happen, and I expect some of them will during the next few years of a de Blasio/Farina Department of Education, then public schools in the inner city will gradually improve, charters in those neighborhoods will become less selective, and students, on the whole, will have enhanced choice and opportunity because there will be more good schools in the city.

The current hunger to enroll students in charter schools is understandable, given the policies pursued by the Bloomberg Administration, but those policies, which undermined public education, did not enhance opportunity for all students, and pitted parent against parent and school against school in a competition for scarce resources.

The de Blasio policy of restoring public schools to public favor is a sound one, and should be pursued carefully, humanely, and with respect for the hunger of parents and students of New York City for good educational options

Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Co-Founder, Badass Teachers Association

It is hard to be sure who first had the idea that the way to improve schools was to fire the staff and start all over again.

When No Child Left Behind was written, it set an impossible goal of 100% proficiency, then set out a series of escalating sanctions for schools that were unable to do the impossible. The ultimate sanction–based on no research, experience, or wisdom–was to close the school. Fire everybody and close the school. Throw in the towel.

Then along came Arne Duncan, who gave the throw-up-your-hands routine a nice euphemistic name. He called it a “turnaround.” Sounds sweet and fun, not brutal. So now we have companies that specialize in turnarounds, and consultants who will show you how to do it.

In this post, EduShyster tells the stirring tale of two Boston schools that are being turned around for the second time! But this time, the state officials won’t make the same mistake. They won’t just bring in a whole new staff. No, indeed, they will hire “proven providers.” You can guess what that means. I bet it is a corporation that will make a whole lot of money and has a slender track record.

And so goes “reform.”