Saturday, August 30, 2008

Park Anywhere - E. Pluribus Bloomum

Download, print and place in windshield. Tweed guarantees this pass with the same level of assurance as graduation rates.

Click on photo to enlarge.
Based on a collaboration between ed notes and David B, who did the all the photoshopping work. Sort of like the collaboration between the UFT and Tweed.

How Credible is Education Week?

Here's something for a quiet Labor Day weekend. I'm not a reader of Ed Week (known by some as Ed Weak) but what I do read can often look more like cheerleading than neutrality. We've touched on the "Ed Week as advocate for certain points of view" before. Not withstanding Ed Week's seeing the potential of bloggers like Eduwonkette, there has been a body of criticism out there. That Susan Ohanian, Phil Kovaks and Deborah Meier were among the signatories is enough for me.

Sean Ahern sent this along to ICE-mail.

Not as right wing as the EIA, Ed Week is still a mouthpiece for the DC Education establishment. From the Schools Matter Blog here is an assessment of Ed Week worth bearing in mind when reading anything this scholastic magazine for grownups produces.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Education Week's History of Cozy Establishment Advocacy

Education Week's incestuous relationship with the Washington education establishment has finally been called out in a strong letter that challenges their ideologically-driven treatment of public school issues in their annual trademark piece called Quality Counts. With the kind of unacknowledged advocacy that Ed Week engages in regularly, who needs an editorial page!

The Letter:

The editors of Education Week claim to be objective journalists, but with their Quality Counts publication, they abandon objectivity and promote the standards-and-testing industrial school paradigm of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In this context, they are no longer reporters; they have chosen to act as advocates.

The editors of Editorial Projects in Education (EPE), the nonprofit that publishes Education Week, say that their mission is to “help raise the level of awareness and understanding among professionals and the public of important issues in American education. We cover local, state, and national news and issues from preschool through the 12th grade.” Education Week does not publish its own editorials, and it claims not to advocate for particular ideological or policy positions.

Yet for more than a decade EPE has published its Quality Counts (QC) annual volume, purporting to assess the condition of American public schooling from a neutral and fair-minded vantage. Education Week has presented Quality Counts (QC) as if it were any other piece of journalism, that is, a piece of reporting. But a quick inspection of the 2008 volume reveals the dishonesty in this presentation. Quality Counts is not reporting in any normal sense of the word. Rather it is advocacy. Its assertions and conclusions often support particular policy positions. A few examples reveal these characteristics.

  • QC embraces the position that state academic standards are a positive force in schooling (p. 45). This is an ideological position. QC offers no evidence to support this position. While most corporate and political leaders and many school leaders embrace this position, many educators and parents believe that standards constrain learning more than they enable it, that standardization of learning is an antiquated artifact of the 20th century that hinders creativity and the personalization of learning.
  • QC accepts the criteria of an unpublished review of state standards conducted by the American Federation of Teachers, dated October-November 2007 (p. 45). This review judges state standards in terms of the following attributes: “clear, specific, and grounded in content.” Here QC is embracing an advocacy position of the AFT. To employ an unpublished document that cannot be reviewed is also bizarre for a publication that calls itself journalistic.
  • QC awards positive scores to states that “assign ratings to all schools…” and “sanction low-performing schools. (p. 47). These are additional advocacy stances. There is no evidence that, for example, Florida’s crude A-F rating system does anything for children other than intensify test preparation. Nor does QC offer evidence that sanctioning “low-performing schools” does anyone any good.
  • QC advocates for the ideological position that “all high school students…(should) take a college-preparatory curriculum to earn a diploma…” (p. 48) This is yet another value-based position, not reportage. While some politicians and educators support this goal, others note that a more differentiated high school curriculum is likely to better serve the very diverse high school population, particularly since a large percentage of new jobs in the decades to come will not require a college degree.
  • QC awards points to states where “teacher evaluation is tied to student achievement” (p. 51). Such a policy is extremely controversial, given that many educators and analysts agree that efforts at this sort of simplistic cause-and-effect delineation both distort the complexity of causation in the schooling process and increase pressure for schools to become test preparation factories.

These examples and others in Quality Counts display the profound ideological bias in this document. In this volume the EPE editors— Virginia Edwards, the editor and publisher; Gregory Chronister, the executive editor; Lynn Olson, the executive project editor; Karen Diegmueller, the managing editor; and Mark W. Bomster, the assistant managing editor—are not journalists engaged in good faith, objective reporting. They are powerful advocates for a particular school ideology: state standards, the simplistic labeling of schools based on narrow indicators and the “sanctioning of low-performing schools,” “teacher evaluation tied to student achievement,” and so on—seemingly the whole industrial paradigm of schooling, from Ellwood Cubberly to George W. Bush.

If these EPE editors are not willing to publicly acknowledge their work as advocates in their yearly publication of Quality Counts, how can we trust the fairness of what they present each week in Education Week?

We call on Ms. Edwards and her colleagues to rectify this situation in which Education Week pretends to be a neutral reporter but actually engages in advocacy. Two obvious remedies come to mind.

  1. EPE could cease to act as an advocate and thus cease to publish advocacy pieces such as Quality Counts.
  2. EPE could play by the rules just as every other newspaper does and establish an identified editorial function. Then it would need to separate its reporters from its editorialists. Even the Wall Street Journal and the New Hampshire Union-Leader meet this standard.
It’s certainly long past time for Ms. Edwards and her colleagues to give up this charade of objectivity and play by the same journalistic rules as everyone else.

David Marshak
Philip Kovacs
Susan Ohanian
Jerry Bracey
William Spady
Deborah Meier

Friday, August 29, 2008

Parking Rule Comments - Will UFT Staffers get Priority?

From random comments on ICE-mail. Note the assumption that union bigwigs will get priority passes. Now one wouldn't necessarily object if they didn't misuse their positions to attack critics. But they do.

The city will issue at least 1,000 additional placards for those who work in more than one school. I wonder how many of the 1000 placards will go to Unity people visiting schools as district reps or itinerants?
I'm sure my district rep, who came to my school today, will get one. He told us what a good job the union did by not allowing the city to cut the number of parking spaces. He explained that Bloomberg did it as retaliation against the union (probably true). He also told our excessed paras that they had nothing to worry about. He explained that paras and teachers enjoy being excessed because they can just sit around the school having fun.
Many Unity people who are out of the classroom, used the uft positions to escape. They have no idea that so many of us entered this profession to teach, to be in the classroom, to develop relationships with kids, to have an impact on their lives, and we are pretty proud of the work we do despite the odds. That is why out of classroom Unity people don't care about parking placards, letters to file, autocratic principals and the rubber room. If they were effected, there would be one helluva fightback and no spin.

It seems to me that parking permits will be divvied up according to the pecking order in the school. Teachers in the click will get them. The principals spies will get them. Unity collaborators will get them. The hard working staff who earn their pay every day will have to park down the street and have to move their cars for alternate side. I'm sure BloomKlein will issue a regulation prohibiting teachers from leaving the school in-order to move their car for alternate side. This stupid rule will not cut down on green house gasses or encourage teachers to use mass transit. Except for teachers in certain parts of Manhattan all this dumb regulation will do is force teachers to park down the street from their schools and increase parking fines. This is nothing more that a punishment against teachers. I propose that Chancellor Klein
should be made to give up his park anywhere parking permit as an example to everyone.

A resolution needs to be issued by ICE calling on Randi to give up her "park anywhere" DOT parking permit as a show of solidarity with teachers who are loosing theirs.

Ed Note: Randi and Joel don't need permits - their chauffers just wait in the car. And do you think they have to worry about paying a parking ticket?

Teachers Issues in DC and Gaza

Rhee in DC Teacher Raise Proposal - Another Nail in the Coffin of Public Education

This morning, I stumbled across Tom Hoffman (Providence, RI) over at Tuttle SVC who raises some very important issues on the proposed DC teacher contract - This Raise Brought to You by the Broad Foundation.

Rhee wants to use donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Broad Foundation, in part, to pay for the raises and bonuses. Officials from the Gates and Broad foundations would not comment on proposed future funding.

I don't know if any more information than that has subsequently come out (I can't find it easily if it has), but if that's still the plan, it has some rather shocking implications. The DC government would be handing all the contributing foundations a virtual veto on their education policy for at least the next five years, the ongoing capacity to trigger a fiscal crisis in the District at their whim.

Five years, the proposed term of the contract, is a long time to our new power philanthropists. They have a short history, but they've already established a clear pattern of packing up and leaving when things don't go their way, including when the citizens of a city don't vote the way they like, or when democratically elected officials don't see things their way, or when the top down reforms they've imposed simply fail.

Tom has a lot of interesting things to say and I've added Tuttle SVC to the Outside NYC blogroll.

Teachers fired over strike - in Gaza
But did they lose their parking permits?

I'm not sure of the source, but Jeff K who keeps us informed of union activity around the world - a good contast to the lack of such in the UFT - posted this on ICE-mail. Remember the monhts long Israeli teacher strike last year? Imagine - a union of Palestinian and Israeli teachers. Nahhh! Why would we expect workers to put their common interests ahead of nationalism when we see American workers who vote against their own interests all the time?

In Gaza, the Fatah-controlled teachers’ union called a strike to protest teacher transfers. Hamas took the opportunity to replace an estimated 2,000 of the 9,000 teachers who walked out. “Anybody who left their job will not be allowed to return,” said the Hamas education minister. “They have become irrelevant and cannot be trusted anymore as educators.” This is bad news for the students, who don’t know whether to return to school or not, and bad news for the teachers, who are out of a job if they don’t return to work - and who are out of a job if they do return to work because the Palestinian Authority, headed by Fatah, “would fire teachers who accepted school promotions,” according to a teachers’ union leader.

“This is a disaster,” said Aly, a 47-year-old math teacher who declined to give his full name for fear of offending Hamas or Fatah. “The big losers are me and my students.” Wael, a 38-year-old physics teacher and Fatah loyalist, said he felt bullied into striking. “My salary and future are tied to the side that pays me,” he said. “At the same time, I am afraid there’ll be (Hamas) procedures taken against me.” He declined to give his family name because he did not support the Fatah-led walkout and feared his pay would be cut.

And Unity Caucus/UFT worries about losing dues checkoff if they should strike.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"You Don't Fit" - Fired in DC by Rhee

Hello - I just found your website and wanted you know about this website,, sponsored by students and parents in support of a highly successful DC teacher who was dismissed from his 18 year post under Rhee's regime, with the explanation "you don't fit." I'm alerting the Daily Howler as well.

Who doesn't fit?

More on Dr. Art Siebans

From The Examiner

If there is a central spine that runs through all the changes and creates the dogma of the new day in D.C. schools, it is a sharp focus on the classroom, teachers and students. Listen to Rhee’s many speeches and pronouncements, and you will hear her dismiss any extraneous matters that would stop her reformers from getting great teachers who will improve test scores.

Keep this in mind: Great teachers; improved test scores.

Which brings me to the curious case of Art Siebens.

Siebens has taught biology and other science courses at Wilson Senior High for decades. My daughter took his AP bio class last year. They didn’t get along. Siebens accused my sweet daughter of insubordination and called me in for a meeting. Hardly shocked, I negotiated a detente.

To call Siebens quirky is an understatement. Do you know any other teacher who hauls out his guitar on “back to school” night and has parents sing “It’s a Water Water World,” his song about H20, to the tune of “If I Had a Hammer?” Siebens has recorded a collection that teaches science through song. His students sing and learn — even my unruly daughter.

By any statistical measure, Siebens is a success. His students consistently score well on the AP bio test. His Wilson classes are filled with high-performing students headed for top colleges, but minorities learn and score high as well. Numbers do not lie.

So, Art Siebens is by all accounts a great teacher, and his students score well on tests. So why was he fired? Neither Rhee nor Wilson’s new principal, Pete Cahall, has offered a complete explanation to Siebens’ fans, including 560 who have signed a petition to bring him back.

“Dr. Siebens was one of those rare teachers at Wilson who really, truly cared about his students,” wrote Devorah Flax-Davidson, 2005 valedictorian now at Michigan. She was “horrified and incensed” that Siebens got the gate.

Siebens isn’t talking — or singing. His supporters are appealing to Fenty and Rhee, but neither will make a move. Clearing up the Siebens debacle falls squarely in the lap of Pete Cahall.

It’s a no-brainer — bring him back, to suit Rhee’s dogma: great teachers and high test scores.

E-mail Harry Jaffe at

Help Reinstate Wilson High School Teacher Art Siebens
Barbara Somson

You may have heard about the unsupported firing of one of Wilson’s most beloved teachers, Dr. Art Siebens, who taught Anatomy and AP Biology among other science subjects. He was, without a doubt, one of the very best DCPS teachers Becca ever had, and his dismissal has stunned us and many others.

Students and families who know Art Siebens have created a grassroots campaign to get Dr. Siebens reinstated. If you are or have been a Wilson student or parent of a student and if you would like to help support Dr. Siebens, the students have created an online petition that just went up on July 17 at

You can read more about the situation and Art’s very creative and inspirational teaching at the petition web site as well. I encourage you to join the campaign and help spread the word so we can get Dr. Siebens back where he belongs!

Teacher Reviews Mr. Fry and NCLB

Andea Mauk a teaching colleague of Jack Freiberger in LA, nails the kind of failures of NCLB that drive people out of teaching in her review of his one man play "They Call Me Mr. Fry." over at her blog (my review is here and not nearly as effective politically and educationally.) Jack has some videos on his site.

Here are some excerpts from Andrea's review:

A former colleague of mine, Jack Freiberger, put on a one man show in Culver City yesterday. Even though I taught Saturday school, I rushed off to see the show with my mom, and we didn't even make it on time. Yet, we went in, and as we did, I was floored. There was my story, so many teachers' stories coming to life on the stage. It was so moving, so fantastically presented. Jack played many characters, but none more poignantly than Anthony, a "problem" student that came from a hard-knock background.

He dealt with the No Child Left Behind Act that has brought misery to so many classrooms across America in such a humorous but telling way. He shared the fact that he was written up for playing King Arthur, using a pink clown's ballon tied as a sword because LAUSD has a zero tolerance weapons policy. He subsequently got called to the principal's office because he was teaching math at the wrong minute of the day.

Yet, this is the reality that I face everyday. I was hired by the former principal because I was creative, and I could bring a plethora of talents to the classroom. Yet, due to our school's lack of progress at meeting our No Child Left Behind progress goals, my talent is no longer needed in the classroom. Instead, what is desired is a robot teacher who can follow the daily schedule to the exact minute, execute the lesson plan without grasping the teachable moments because the teachable moments that pop up are not part of the objective of the lesson, and unless the lesson is delivered in an extremely precise manner, the students "will not learn." I feel as if I am being asked to change my very essence.

So, as of yesterday, between my conversation with our current principal and watching the life of an NCLB teacher played out on stage, I came to realize that what made me a "good" teacher is exactly what the powers that be don't want to see in the classroom.

My mom has a habit of watching CNN endlessly, which to me is depressing, but she tells me almost daily that it is the teachers that are getting blamed for the woes of our educational system. I am not saying the teachers are blameless. However, not one teacher at my school knows exactly what "they" are looking for. In order to be an effective teacher, you are supposed to set clear expectations. Yet, the teachers have no idea exactly what is expected of them. They only hear what they have done wrong.

The fear has been so craftily instilled that I find myself working on various planning sheets that we are expected to have, and doing work for the "well planned lesson" until the moment it is time for me to go to bed. For teachers, bedtime comes early. As Jack said in the play, "Even my alarm clock is pissed off that it has to wake up at 5:30 every morning."

My house is a mess because there's only time to put toward the job, there are papers everywhere from lessons that need to be planned and projects and this and that. It's not a life. It's out of control. I saw it on stage yesterday, a mirror of my life, so touching and yet so ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

John McCain for President - An Ad You'll Love

The "Teacher Agenda" Defused

You hear the phony ed reformers say it all the time: schools are currently set up for adults (teachers) than for kids. What a load of bull. Like they really are setting things up for kids rather than the corporate work force. Exactly who are the people who fight for lower class size? In all my years in the system I found teachers were often the fiercest fighters for their kids.

A post today from guest blogger Yo Mis over at NYC Educator addresses this brilliantly.

Recently, at an event dubbed “Ed Challenge for Change,” certain Democratic politicians had a fine time denouncing teachers’ unions. Most curious, I thought, was Colorado State Senator Peter Groff, who complained that when the adult agenda meets the children’s agenda, “the adult agenda wins too often.” This statement led me to ponder what, exactly, is the “adult agenda” in education. Let’s assume that the “adult agenda” is roughly the “teacher agenda,” as I cannot imagine what else Sen. Groff could possibly mean.

Make sure to read the entire thing. It is Superb! I'm not sure there's any better way to say this.

One of the corrolaries is their line "schools should be for children, not adults (teachers)".

But is their agenda "for children" really favorable to children or the imposition of a privatized, business, competitive model on schools and children? How have children benefitted from the chaotic reorganizations of the BloomKlein years? How do they benefit from credit recovery? Or seat time? Or easier tests?

How do the mostly innocent students benefit from walking into a police state every morning through metal detectors?

Parking permits for teachers reduced by 82%

....63,000 to 11,000 this year, the largest amount in the city by far.

From NY 1: Weingarten said she's relieved the number of available spots is staying the same. "I'm actually surprised at Ed for talking about it that way," said Weingarten. "Ultimately what has happened here is there are 25,000 parking spots right now in the city of New York for school teachers and as of next week there will still be 25,000 parking spots for school teachers."

Weingarten's numbers don't match - and we need MORE spaces, not less.

The ICE blog has a post with a letter showing the extent of the UFT sell-out. Why did they drop the grievance when this is clearly a reduction in working conditions?

Will the UFT and DOE solidify it's collaboration on merit pay to teachers whose kids score high by giving those teachers preferences for the permits?

We once had a teacher who on the first day had her car stolen. Someone at a school she had been at saw the car go by with someone driving it. She quit the next day.

This is a real hit in working conditions for many. For teachers, especially in elementary schools who do a lot of schlepping from far away, this is a major hit. If I had to take public transportation, my trip would have taken an hour and a half instead of 35 minutes.

And how about the high crime areas? I can't count the number of batteries, radios, broken windows, one alternator, a distributor cap with wires, that I lost right down the block from the school. There's nothing like trying to teach while worrying whether you will lose part of your day's pay for a ticket or worse, have no car left.

Every school seems to be short of spots. Watch the promises to get more go up in smoke. At PS 84K there was a major shortage of spots and the administration and UFT rep worked very hard to free up a few more spots from the dreaded alternate side rules - why not clean before or after school? We finally won a few but some months later the signs were changed back. Let's say the bureaucracy at the Dept of Transportation was not exactly cooperative, if not outright disdainful of teacher parking problems.

But it's not punitive that teachers took the biggest hit by far said a Bloomberg spokesperson who was just thrilled with the way the UFT collaborated :

the teachers union has been "very reasonable...a pleasure to work with" on the placard issue. Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, had been prepared to go to court to block the reductions but said she was relieved that the number of spots remains the same. It's simply fewer placards. "This was at least a rational way of dealing with this," Weingarten said. The principals and a UFT rep at each school will determine who gets the placards. - Daily News.

More stories in the NYPost, NY Times.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unions stress over racism in the ranks

DENVER — Racial prejudice is being cited among senior union leaders to explain Sen. Barack Obama’s difficulty in winning over support from white rank-and-file members.

The Hill

Democrats: All On Board in Attack on Teacher Unions

Revised 8/26, 11:30 pm- for The Wave, School Scope column to be published Friday, Aug. 29.

We've been pointing out that when it comes to the ed reform movement, Democrats have not been all that far away from the Republican agenda. Joel Klein, Joe Williams, Al Sharpton, Cory Booker and the rest of the Educational Equality Project gang are Democratic Party (I won't call them democratic because they are in favor of dictatorship over the schools of poor minority kids while white suburban parents get to vote on school boards and budgets.)

A typical anti-union cartoon

The Bigger, Bolder approach would seem more in line with traditional values of the Party but as Phylissa Cramer and Kelly Vaughan have been pointing out at Gotham Schools, they may not be all that different. Are the EEP and Bigger, Bolder approaches all that far apart? Both call for accountability. But what does that mean? Where is the accountability on the part of politicians and the business community?

Kelly writes:

And as a society, it makes no sense to put the whole burden on schools. I will know that our nation really wants to leave no child behind when I see a complete package of funded legislation that takes on health care (physical and mental), housing, environmental justice, early childhood education, and a host of other issues that affect the development and opportunities of our kids. “Our schools are failing,” is nothing but an excuse when the rest is left unaddressed.

To me, it looks like common sense: no excuses schools in a no excuses society.

Let’s move beyond the “false choice” and explore what two-way accountability could look like in practice. Anyone?

When Randi Weingarten jumps on the one-way accountability bandwagon - "Yes, we do want to be accountable" - we know we are in trouble. I've been asking Randi for a decade, "Accountable for what and to whom?" Listen, I jumped on her from the day she first uttered her support for mayoral control in 2001 when I knew from the Chicago experience that the only answers politicians will have is to blame teachers and their union.

What I want my union leader to say is: We have always been accountable to our children and to our parents and to our principals. But to some federal, state and city government that raises itself above accountability? No way!

So yesterday she had a golden opportunity in her speech at the Democratic convention to make an important point for teachers. Naturally, she failed the test.

Chapter leader Lisa North commented on ICE-mail:

Wow, Randi's speech basically said nothing about education except that public education is important and too must testing is not a good idea. It seemed very weak.

Lisa, I didn't expect anything more. Like did you hear her mention class size and the studies that support it? Did you hear her call for full funding of education instead of wars and bailouts? Did you hear her call them on No Excuses - on their part?

Randi has always tried to play both sides against the middle by bending over backwards to try to show she is a reasonable union leader and "progressive" in a willingness to give up teachers.
To be perfectly fair, she is just following the trail blazed by Al Shanker back in the early 80's when he jumped on board the same bandwagon. (plug- plug - get a pdf of our review of the Kahlenberg book on Shanker.)

But what good as it done the AFT/UFT as they still keep coming under attack? Thus, read yesterday''s Michelle O'Neill report at Ed Week

Union Tensions at DNC

The education event that followed the NEA luncheon showed the growing tensions within the Democratic Party over school reform, and the role of teachers’ unions.

Though it’s no surprise an event sponsored by the Democrats for Education Reform would have a slight anti-union message; many of the speakers at the event took several shots at unions during the press conference announcing the Education Equality Project in June.

Today, the sentiment was strong and persistent at standing-room-only, three-hour forum called Ed Challenge for Change. In fact, some of the big-city mayors who participated predicted that had such a forum been held four years ago, a mere five souls would have showed.

Here at the Denver Art Museum, Democratic mayors from Newark, N.J., Washington D.C., and Denver joined education reform darlings including New York City’s Joel Klein and Washington D.C.’s Michelle Rhee. The group was referred to as the “misfits” of the Democratic Party by DFER's Joe Williams, a nod to their willingness to speak up against the influence of teachers’ unions, which have formed the backbone of the party.

The educators, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton, kicked off the event with a nearly hour-long press conference to tout the event. There, Rhee (who left early to catch a flight home; D.C. schools open on Monday), took the Democrats to task, saying the party is “supposed to be the party that looks out for poor and minority kids,” when that’s not actually happening.

The anti-union sentiment spilled over into policy forums that followed. The fight against the teachers’ unions and other special interests is a “battle at the heart of the Democratic Party,” said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. “As Democrats, we have been wrong on education. It’s time to get right.”

Even former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who has tried to avoid controversy in his position as the ED in ’08 leader, earned some murmurs from the audience when he said that reformers cannot be “wedded to someone else’s union rules and that politicians, practically speaking, need to work with unions even thought they are “wedded to the past.”

See more reports at Slate and Dana Goldstein at The American Prospect who says:

if ...teachers... embrace the Democrats for Education Reform agenda -- giving up tenure in exchange for higher starting salaries and merit pay tied to student achievement -- the unions will have to get with the program. If they don't, they'll risk becoming irrelevant to their own members.

Unions are already becoming irrlevant (how many vote in elections?) to their own members for the opposite reasons: capitulation to the BloomKlein Educational Equality Project agenda. Unfortunately, Randi Weingarten will not resist the "advice" Dana Goldstein offers and will continue to lead the teacher union movement into oblivion.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Perimeter Primate Takes on George Will

Oakland parent Sharon Higgins left this comment on the Daily Howler critique of George Will I posted Sunday. It is worth sharing as a separate post. Her blog, The Perimeter Primate, touches on a number of important issues. Here, Sharon exposes the myth of charter schools - that they succeed with the same kids who failed in public schools.

photo from Sharon's blog.

The fluff about this school has been driving me nuts for years!

Here's what I wrote to George Will.

Dear Mr. Will,

In preparing your recent column in the Washington Post (8/21/08), "Where Paternalism Makes the Grade," you may have wished to take a look at the demographic changes over the past several years at the American Indian Public Charter School. I am certain that you were unaware of them when you wrote the piece, but their influence must be considered when discussing the changes that have occurred at this particular school. Otherwise, a true picture is not portrayed.

Dr. Chavis’ first year at the school was 2001-02. By the time he began his third year at the school, a new course for the school was in place—the acquisition of more students from the higher performing subgroups and a reduction of students from the lowest performing subgroups. Please note the changes in enrollment which occurred.

(Incidentally, the demographics of Oakland were not shifting in this same way. They have remained stable with the exception of an increase in Latino residents and a decline in African American residents.)

The percentage of the school’s students who were in the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American in the 12 school years from 1996-97 to 2007-08.

1996-97 = 100.0

1997-98 = 97.0

1998-99 = 93.8

1999-00 = 100.1

2000-01 = 97.0

2001-02 = 100

2002-03 = 98.7
2003-04 = 74.3
2004-05 = 55.4

2005-06 = 65.3

2006-07 = 51.1

2007-08 = 50.5

Here is the changing percentage of the school’s students who were in the following subgroups: Asian or White.

Please note the unusual increase in 2003:

1996-97 = 0.0

1997-98 = 2.9

1998-99 = 6.2

1999-00 = 0.0

2000-01 = 2.9

2001-02 = 0.0

2002-03 = 1.2

2003-04 = 25.7
2004-05 = 44.6
2005-06 = 33.7

2006-07 = 22.4

2007-08 = 38.4

This data was obtained from the California Department of Education @

In 2006, questions were being raised about the selectivity of students.
Suddenly, the school had an unprecedented number of students who were not specifying their subgroup. The percentage in this group had been nonexistent for 10 years. It suddenly jumped to 26.4 percent and has remained over 10 percent since. This certainly appears odd and would be one way to muddy the true demographics of the student population.

Sincerely, Sharon Higgins, Oakland parent

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Eduwonkette Revealed - Phew, Now I Can Talk

Just a few weeks less than the first anniversary of the Eduwonkette blog, Diana Schemo in this week's NY magazine reveals Eduwonkette's real identity - Jennifer Jennings, a grad student at Columbia in the sociology department. Jennifer explains why she came out on her blog. Read her post and wonderful cartoon here.

And yes, I knew all along and am notoriously bad at keeping secrets, but she really scared the crap out of me - like if I squealed she would never work and I would have to send her money. Trying to keep a secret for almost a year for a yenta like me was torture.

She was a tough task master, making sure I didn't write anything too revealing. When we both attended an AERA event in March where Rotherham and Russo (and the Times' Jennifer Medina) were on a panel, we didn't sit together. She had to leave early and used some of my notes for her report. She was attacked by Rotherham for being connected to a crazy like me.

So let me say right here that though I've known Jennifer for 4 years that does not indicate agreement on her part with the stuff put out on Ed Notes.

Recently I spent an extended afternoon with Jennifer. Let me say this: there's no one in the education world where 4 hours of ed talk can be so enlightening - and mind wrenching - and thought provoking. One of the sad parts of our conversation was that her anonymity was interferring with her meeting too many people. It was clear she was planning an exit strategy from anonymity. The time frame seems to have been speeded up a bit.

There's a lot of areas where we agree and many where we don't. But don't be surprised if the crazies at the DOE who disparage Jennifer's exposure of their stats as biased go even further in attacking her for knowing the "wrong" people.

I personally pooh pooh research with an attitude of "Don' need no stinkin' research" to tell me what I instinctively know as a teacher. Like forget the class size research, even though the Tennessee study validates low class sizes. All teachers will point to class size as a major issue. But without research, what would all the researchers in education do? And all the pundits?

From the day I met Jennifer 4 years ago at a Walton HS (in the Bronx) press conference where the addition of small schools to an overcrowded building was an issue, I was impressed by the depth of knowledge of just about every ed issue out there. And the way she approached issues from the dual perspective of a researcher and a teacher.

She doesn't like to talk much about it but she did have some teaching experience in an urban setting and though brief, it was enough to inform her with a "teacher" mentality and that is how she approaches many issues. Thus, at no point will you find any hint of the teacher bashing that goes on amongst so many pundits. Maybe that is what upsets the DOE about her.

I remember telling people who bash the younger generation that with people like Jennifer there was a lot of hope. When I told her about ICE, she expressed interest in observing meetings as part of her research to see what it was all about. At that time ICE spent a lot of time debating education issues which many of us found more interesting than UFT electoral and caucus politics. She also recorded a special well-attended event we held at the old Stuyvesant building on small schools a few years ago.

Last September I had lunch with Jennifer on the day the Broad prize was announced as being given to Bloomberg/Klein at a "Pain Quotidienne" in the Village. She had been sending me some of the wonderful research she was into and it seemed a shame it didn't have a wider audience. (I had even spoken at PEP meetings using some of her research which I fuzzed up enough to keep her anonymous.) The Ed notes blog was about a year old at the time and I offered to publish some of her work.

She raised the idea of doing her own blog but also her reservations about it as she expresses in the reveal announcement on her blog. We talked about the idea of going anonymous as many bloggers do. We also spent a lot of time discussing the teacher effectiveness/quality issue that day. (We disagree in some areas.)

A few days later she sent me the prototype of her blog and and I was impressed. She went public a few days after that with a week long series on teacher effectiveness (worth reading again) that was very powerful.

I'm proud that Ed Notes was the first blog to announce her debut on her first day. Some major blogs plugged in the first day also. She got 300 hits that day.

By December, Education Week came calling with an offer to reach an even wider audience (she would not accept money.) There was never an expectation she would come under the kinds of attack she did for being anonymous." But the immediate impact she had was also unexpected.

Class Size Matters' Leonie Haimson is a good friend of Jennifer's and one afternoon after an event at Teachers College, I had the privilege of spending time with these two amazing ladies. Talk about brain power. Mine felt like a shriveling pea. When people ask why I am still doing this stuff 6 years after retiring, my answer is getting to know people like Leonie and Jennifer.

Leonie commented on her listserve soon after Jennifer's announcement:

Jennifer is beautiful and brilliant and it’s a relief not to have to keep her identity secret any more….She also did the seminal study of the “bubble kids” in Texas; see her study here and her WaPost oped here.

There will undoubtedly be many more pathbreaking studies to come – that is, if Bloomberg/Klein do not put out a hit against her.

Let’s hope her unmasking does not negatively affect her academic future!

Amen! Jennifer's real concerns about her notoriety affecting her ability to work in the academic areas will be tested. My sense without knowing anything about that world is that she may find it helps. Plus, she has garnered enormous respect. (Jeez, the very idea that Leo Casey and I agree on anything is frightening.)

Eduwonkette is not all about dry research. Her cleverness, charm, and fabulous wit came along with it.

Leonie unwittingly played a role in introducing Jennifer to someone who became a good friend.

"Class size really DOES matter," Jennifer commented.

Why I Hate Teach for America

"Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of the New York City Teaching Fellows either. I’m not defending NYCTF for it’s faults, which include provided precious little support and training for their new teachers as well as frightenly high turnover rates. According to a 2007 Village Voice article, by their fifth year teaching, less than fifty percent of Teaching Fellows remain from a given cohort. But at least in NYCTF the high turnover rate is seen as a failure. In TFA, the high turnover rate is designed as part of the program. TFA members are expected to leave teaching after their two-year commitment is up, those who continue to teach are seen as the exception."

From Anna, a 3rd year NYC Teaching Fellow. Read full piece posted at Feministe.

Thanks to Voice

Howling at George Will Who Knows How to Close the Achievement Gap

This spot on selection from Friday's Daily Howler, bears reproducing in full. (There's more on journalism and politics. Here's the link.) The Daily Howler is a must read as it goes beyond education, though ya gotta love the way he has taken apart Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee over the past year (check the archives.)

No self-proclaimed ed policy pundit and empty suit, Howler Bob Somerby spent a number of years teaching in the Baltimore school system in elementary school. Sorry you high school teachers, I think elementary school teachers who get closest to the kids, their families, their homes, their neighborhoods, have the best take on what is really happening and the solutions that might work. And what won't work. And to expose idiocies from the likes of George Will and David Brooks (see our posts here, here, here) when they speak Eduese.


GEORGE F. WILL, SLOW LEARNER: Is there any other subject where so many know-nothings pose as experts? Yesterday, George F. Will displayed his vast brilliance about the state of elementary ed. In the following part of his column, Will is discussing Benjamin Chavis, who runs a well-known public charter school in Oakland:

WILL (8/21/08): He and other practitioners of the new paternalism—once upon a time, schooling was understood as democracy's permissible, indeed obligatory, paternalism—are proving that cultural pessimists are mistaken: We know how to close the achievement gap that often separates minorities from whites before kindergarten and widens through high school. A growing cohort of people possess the pedagogic skills to make "no excuses" schools flourish.

That highlighted statement is simply astounding. And trust us: Will knows as much about this subject as you know about the space shuttle program. We know how to close the achievement gap! It’s amazingly easy to say—and many hustlers now constantly say it. For all we know, Will may be channeling Wendy Kopp, well-known biggest hack in the land.

Sorry, but no—we don’t “know how to close the achievement gap” at this time. When people parade about saying we do, they commit an unfortunate act. But then, every dumb-ass on earth seems to say this now—often on the flimsiest “evidence.” In large part, Will seems to be basing his uplifting claim on the high test scores at Chavis’ school (the misleadingly-named American Indian Public Charter School, which kids of all races and ethnicities). Many kids have achieved great success at the school. But does that mean we know how to achieve such success as a general matter? Will seems willing to say it does. But right at the start of his column, this “know-nothing know-it-all” dumbly describes one part of this school’s success:

WILL: Seated at a solitary desk in the hall outside a classroom, the slender 13-year-old boy with a smile like a sunrise earnestly does remedial algebra, assisted by a paid tutor. She, too, is 13. Both wear the uniform—white polo shirt, khaki slacks—of a school that has not yet admitted the boy. It will, because he refuses to go away.

The son of Indian immigrants from Mexico, the boy decided he is going to be a doctor, heard about the American Indian Public Charter School here and started showing up. Ben Chavis, AIPCS's benevolent dictator, told the boy that although he was doing well at school, he was not up to the rigors of AIPCS, which is decorated with photographs of the many students it has sent to the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. So the boy asked, what must I do?

We often deride “slow-learner” students. But could anyone show less capacity for learning than George F. Will, right in this piece?

Why does Chavis’ school send so many students to Hopkins? Duh. In part, because it picks and chooses the kids who attend! The 13-year-old whom Will describes is already “doing well at school,” we seem to be told. Not only that: He’s so motivated that he’s paying another student to tutor him—and he’s already purchased the uniform of a school which won’t let him in! We’ll applaud that student, just as Will does. But if Will would only submit to paid tutoring, even if he could probably see that public schools, as a general matter, don’t select their students this way. The average school must accept all the kids who arrive—not just the brightest, most determined students, the ones who “refuse to go away.”

Friends, for just $5 a month, you can provides books and equipment for Will. Won’t you consider making that small donation to give him the help he deserves?

And while you're checking out the DC scene, read this July 28 post on union busting from DC City Desk. Pro-Rhee teacher blogs have suddenly appeared, which we wrote about here and here.

Dorothy Brizill, DC 7/28/08

Watch Now - the Fenty-Rhee-Reinoso team may be on a collision course with the council over the proposed contract that Rhee will submit to the Washington Teachers Union. Rhee is seeking to bypass WTU's Executive Board and Delegate Assembly and take her proposed contract directly to the union membership. To accomplish that goal, Fenty and Rhee have launched a public relations campaign, both nationally and locally, to discredit the union and badmouth Washington teachers. The contract is a real union buster, asking current teachers to give up job security in exchange for potential pay bonuses. The government will not fund the bonuses, however; Rhee and Fenty are seeking startup funds from foundations such as Gates and Broad and the District's business community, such as CareFirst and developers. As a result, funding for the possible bonuses will only be guaranteed for the first year of the contract, while teachers will have given up tenure and job security, both for themselves and all new hires, permanently. However, the council has traditionally been very pro-union, and if councilmembers don't come out against these provisions in negotiations with teachers they will signal to all government employee unions that they can't be trusted to support them against Fenty's future union-busting initiatives.

EEP Marches to Denver

The true agenda of the EEP revealed: It's all about politics, not education. Children First, indeed.

Schools in Washington and NYC are about to open. A major contract issue exists in DC. Yet the leaders of those school systems are in Denver trying to get the Democrats to endorse their program:
credit recovery
false graduation rates
over crowded buildings
rote learning
inflaming racial tensions

(thanks to Voice for the list and to David B for the graphic)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Welcome Back Voice

A Voice in the Wilderness has returned at Chancellor's New Clothes from her temp digs in Europe with some pithy new posts.

This one focuses on what she's found about the European vs. the American view or work, benefits, etc.

NYC Educator made some similar points in this post comparing Canada to the US.

American workers identify more with Donald Trump than they do with the immigrant worker taking care of their garden. Big mistake. "It's a free, democratic country and anyone can become a Trump," they have been led to believe. It's all about class and the Trumps and their ilk are in a class of a very small size. As people get squeezed economically, there may be a resurgence of American worker class consciousness. But look to the patriotic xenophobia of this country (what, Obama says we should speak TWO languages) to trump all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Class Size and Charter Schools in NYC

Here are comments from 2 posts by Leonie Haimson on the NYCEducation News listserve.

Here is [my question/comment on charter schools] – posted on the NY times website yesterday.

(You can easily look up the funding your own school received last year on the DOE website, divide by the enrollment and check if your school got more or less than the $11,000 per student received by NYC charter schools last year.)

Question: Mr. Merriman says that charter schools are seriously hampered by receiving less funding, but according to DOE budget documents they received more than $11,000 per student this past year, and are projected to receive $12,500 per student next.

Meanwhile, the school that my child attends receives about $7400 per student. Mr. Merriman also argues that charter schools don’t receive any funding for facilities — but why should they need to when the administration gives them prime real estate in our existing public school buildings, at the same time taking away valuable classroom and cluster spaces from the students at the existing public school?

Moreover, as mentioned above, charter schools have the most valuable advantage of all — the ability to cap enrollment and class size at any level they want.

My question is this: who pays for custodial services, lunch, and transportation services at charter schools that share buildings with traditional public schools? Does the DOE charge the charter schools extra for this, or is this also provided free of charge?

thanks for the info in advance,

— Posted by leonie haimson

Harvard reclaims No. 1 from Princeton in latest U.S. News list and guess why?

Excerpt: So how did Harvard edge past its Ivy League rival? A comparison of last year's numbers points to one category where it moved ahead of Princeton — average class size. Harvard reports the percentage of students in classes under 20 students rose from 69% to 75% since last year's report, while the percentage in classes bigger than 50 fell from 13% to 9%.

Asked whether Harvard had made a particular effort to reduce class sizes, Mitchell said: "We have worked and will continue to work very hard to enhance the academic experience for undergraduate students." Since 2000, he said, Harvard has added 86 freshman seminars (which have fewer than 12 students), and more than 100 tenure-track faculty, while its student body size has stayed about the same.

So Harvard reduces class size for the highest achieving students in the country, including creating more seminars with fewer than 12 students; but somehow this administration can claim – with a straight face – that it doesn’t matter if some of our most disadvantaged NYC public school students continue to suffer in classes of 34.

How’s that for a double standard?

Leonie Haimson

No Excuses for Schools...

....but for the rest of government, A-OK!

Accountability? Go find it


See NYC Educator's excellent related post on conditions No Excuses BloomKlein allow to exist in schools. Readers of Pissed off teacher's blog know all about her lovely trailor. (I hope NYC doesn't mind that I stole his picture.)

An item in today's NY Times "Emergency Radio Network Fails Tests" is a prime example why I reject the No Excuses theme applied to schools. You know the mantra - "Since there's no funding for education, we have to fix schools the best we can and not use things like kids' lives, high class size, etc. as an excuse."

Gotham Schools' Phylissa Cramer likes the "no excuses schools" expression in a reasoned piece on what KIPP offers. But I disagree with the one-way accountability argument.

Here are just a few points on how this emergency radio failure strikes a chord. Like the $2 billion in the contract Gov. Pataki gave to M/A-COM (a subsidiary of Tyco Electronics) whose credentials were questioned at the time. But Pataki's close ally former Senator Alfonse D'Amato represented the company, so why quibble over potential lost lives because the emergency radio network doesn't work?

In my narrow reasoning, multiply this deal by hundreds. Thousands? Millions? Billions of dollars that no one is held accountable for.

So don't talk accountability and no excuses for underfunded schools.

No excuses allow the acceptance of this crap and allows politicians and the business community off the hook while defusing the struggle to do what's right for the urban school children of this nation.

One of the biggest failures of the UFT/AFT has been the acceptance of the accountability trap which has distracted the prime force that should be out there fighting for full funding into defending an increasingly narrowing turf.

That's the real civil rights struggle of our time.

UPDATE: An article on medicare fraud in the NY Times on Aug. 20 was pointed out to me as another example of No Accountability. But when you choose auditors who are themselves part of the game, what do you expect? I expect they all should be taken out of their offices with bags on their heads.

Medicare’s top officials said in 2006 that they had reduced the number of fraudulent and improper claims paid by the agency, keeping billions of dollars out of the hands of people trying to game the system.

But according to a confidential draft of a federal inspector general’s report, those claims of success, which earned Medicare wide praise from lawmakers, were misleading.

In calculating the agency’s rate of improper payments, Medicare officials told outside auditors to ignore government policies that would have accurately measured fraud, according to the report. For example, auditors were told not to compare invoices from salespeople against doctors’ records, as required by law, to make sure that medical equipment went to actual patients.

As a result, Medicare did not detect that more than one-third of spending for wheelchairs, oxygen supplies and other medical equipment in its 2006 fiscal year was improper, according to the report. Based on data in other Medicare reports, that would be about $2.8 billion in improper spending.

“This report doesn’t surprise me,” said Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California and a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee. He has pushed to cut improper Medicare spending. “To look better to the public, you cook the books,” he said. “This agency is incompetent.”

Think $3 billion would help close the class size gap? If the agency were a school they would close it.

Last Chance to Meet Mr. Fry - Shades of the Sun - at The Fringe Festival

Anyone who saw Nilaja Sun's marvelous play "No child," - see our report on the trip we made with a whole gang from my former school back in Nov. '06, must race over to the Milagro theater (107 Suffolk St. between Delancey and Rivington St.) for tonight's (9:45PM) final performance of "They Call Me Mister Fry." ((Tickets can only be bought at the door starting at 9:30 and there will be enough seating.)

Unlike Sun who is an actress who spent time working with kids and teachers in various schools, Jack Freiberger has taught in various LA schools since 2001. His one man play takes you through the entire process of the pain and joy of teaching, from your first job interview to the total involvement in the lives of your kids that can come to dominate your personal life to the extent that your fiance has had enough.

See the real impact of No Child Left Behind on teachers and students as Mr. Fry is told to put away his balloon sabre in the interests of test prep. Can he be accused of violating a school's "no weapon" policy when you are pointing a balloon at someone? The ideal world under NCLB is for every child in the nation to be doing exactly the same thing at the same time.

Jack manages to find humor in many of the teaching situations, with critical letters from supervisors posted on the screen, along with letters from students. NYC teachers facing Leadership Academy principals will howl.

Jack vividly describes the experience of moving from white bread schools that work to the devastation of South Central LA. "Gee, this school must be safe. Look at all the police around."
Did letting a kid who should have been punished go to a game where his closest relative ends up stabbed to death mean Mr. Fry is a murderer?

Jack called yesterday to thank us for coming to the show (I went with a middle school Spanish teacher) and I urged him to turn it into a film. He will be putting up some video clips on his web site very soon. I asked him to send back reports on what is going on in the LA schools and the LA teachers union when he gets back there. Jack will be around town for a few more weeks and would love to meet with some teachers. I'll post a notice for those interested if that takes place.

Read Jim Callaghan's Mr. Fry Teaches a Lesson in the Back-to-School section of the August 7, 2008 edition of the New York Teacher. (I can't find it on the UFT web site.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Serious Are These Conversations on Ed Policy....

.... if they leave out class size?

UPDATED: Friday, Aug. 21, 8AM

Philissa Kramer over at Gotham Schools writes:

If I hadn’t been battling illness all week, I would have beaten Kevin Carey over at the Quick and the Ed to the punch on Good Magazine’s current cover story, “School Wars,” by progressive educator (and blogger) Gary Stager. Though his criticism could have been gentler, Carey nails the big point: There are serious conversations going on right now about the source of trouble for urban schools and the best strategies for how to address them; these conversations have very real policy implications, but sentiments that, like these concluding Stager’s apparently interview-less piece, ignore both policy-level and day-to-day realities, just aren’t constructive.

No Philissa. The big point is this:

The “serious conversations” taking place often don’t include teachers who would in most cases say, “Don’t talk seriously about urban education until a real attempt is made to invest in a massive campaign to give urban kids the kind of education people like Kevin Carey would want for their own kids.” Note how often the Carey and other ed policy wonks supporting the Joel Klein/Al Sharpton EEP and leave out class size as anything more than an attempt by teacher unions to swell their ranks. The next thing out of their mouths are the magic words, “teacher quality.” As if massively lower class sizes would have little impact on TQ.

I don't necessarily agree with Gary Stager (who I first met in LOGO workshops decades ago when he was teaching computers in New Jersey) that the answer is parent activism. It would take a parent movement for sure but we also need to create a progressive teacher union movement that would fight for the resources to make this a battle for a true Marshall plan for ed reform. The current AFT/UFT and to a great extent the NEA try to straddle the "we want to be accountable" EEP position while having one foot in the Bigger, Bolder approach. They cannot have it both ways, as we in NYC have seen with such disastrous consequences.

Kramer and Carey nit pick while ignoring the big ideas in Stager's piece:

Traditionally, corporate philanthropy in education consisted of a speaker on career day or sponsorship of a softball team. I’m all for generosity, but I’m also for accountability. And I wonder, to whom are the Gateses and the Broads of the world accountable? They were not elected or even appointed, but their money is changing the ways public schools operate. They may do this for altruistic reasons, but what is a citizen’s recourse if their ideology harms children? And, worse, what happens if a billionaire finally throws up his or her hands and publicly exclaims, “Even I can’t fix the public schools”? Our schools may not be able to survive the sudden cash withdrawal—or the backlash.

One way to navigate this new era of “giving” is by asking a simple question: Would these folks send their own children or grandchildren to their “reinvented” schools? Is a steady diet of memorization, work sheets, and testing the sort of education the children they love receive? Of course not. If affluent children enjoy beautiful campuses, arts programs, interesting literature, modern technology, field trips, carefree recess, and teachers who know them, I suggest that we create such schools for all children. What’s good for the sons and daughters of the billionaires should be good enough the rest of the children, too.

A perfect example is James Eterno's fabulous letter to Richard Mills "Stop Academic Aprtheid at Jamaica HS" (posted today at ICE) where he points to the shortchanging of students at the bigger high school, while an elite small school gets preference. James writes:

According to the New York City Department of Education Website, Queens Collegiate is starting up with 81 students in the fall. They will receive $884,544 to run their school for 2008-09. Meanwhile, Jamaica is projected to have 1,484 pupils and was slated to receive an allocation of $11,636,267 this year. After extensive lobbying by the Jamaica High School community, our budget has recently been increased to $12,263,497. While we acknowledge the Chancellor and his financial officers for increasing our allocation, a huge per pupil spending gap between Jamaica and Queens Collegiate remains.

When the supplemental allotment is included, Jamaica, a traditional comprehensive high school that has many more high needs students, will be funded at $8,264 per pupil while the new selective school, Queens Collegiate, will be funded at $10,920 per pupil. This means that per student expenditures will be $2,656 greater at Queens Collegiate compared to Jamaica High School. This amounts to 32% higher spending for a Queens Collegiate student. Even taking into consideration start-up costs for the new school, this still adds up to separate and unequal schools within one building.

The promotional literature being produced by Queens Collegiate advertises lower class sizes. If Jamaica had a per pupil allocation similar to Queens Collegiate, we could easily lower class sizes to under 23 instead of having class sizes as high as 34, the level that we are currently projecting; we certainly could improve the student to counselor ratio and enhance other support services as well.

Despite the clear need for smaller classes, and the new state mandate to achieve them, particularly in low-performing schools, Jamaica High School In addition, valuable classroom space that could be utilized to provide room for this is being taken away from Jamaica to house the new school. is being denied the funding that would make this possible.

Gary Stager, (read Gary's entire piece at Susan Ohanian) like James, expresses the passionate anger that progressive teachers feel about these phony conversations that leave out real solutions. These are the true serious conversations that are taking place, not what Kevin Carey thinks they are.

Richard Rothstein has been putting his ideas out there for a long time on how to attack the problem and even has conjectured as to what it would cost. Seriously less than $20 billion for Fannie Mae, or billions for Bear Sterns. And need I mention Iraq?

"Serious" conversation over.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Candidates for Sale - Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Updated: Aug. 20, 8am

See Obama do the same old, same old "corporations before the rest of us."
Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone on donors to McCain and Obama.
Guess what? They're the same.
A scary must read.

Guess who owns America no matter who wins?

Jose Vilson has some on the money comments at his blog.

"It’s not enough to just vote. We need to organize in our communities and educate in whatever capacity possible. Because if our own elected officials won’t look out for our interests, we’ll need to fend for self."

You see. It's all about one way accountability. The business and government community (one and the same) blames schools, teachers, students but expect to escape any real scrutiny while attacking those who want full funding of education as liberal big spenders.

Check out this from Susan Ohanian on corporate accountability. Or the lack thereof. Susan comments: "Teachers, start fighting back. Pass on this commentary."

Teachers and schools are being held accountable. It's time to start holding corporations accountable, too. We must demand that they contribute to the health and well-being of the country by paying their fair share.

Accountability Meets the Corporate Achievement Gap

from the blog Transforming Education, Aug. 15, 2008.

The Associated Press ran a story on August 12, 2008, citing a report from the Government Accountability Office that revealed that two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005. About 25 percent of the U.S. corporations not paying corporate taxes were considered large corporations, meaning they had at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts. And, according to the report, about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes altogether over the same period.

How ironic in the age of No Child Left Behind that the GAO - the Government Accountability Office - would be the one that would point out corporate America's lack of accountability when it came time to paying the bills in this country.

In his amazing book Class and Schools, Richard Rothstein wrote:

All told, adding the price of health, early childhood, after-school, and summer programs, (the) down payment on closing the achievement gap would probably increase the annual cost of education, for children who attend schools where at least 40% of the enrolled children have low incomes, by about $12,500 per pupil, over and above the $8,000 already being spent. In total, this means about a $156 billion added annual national cost to provide these programs to low-income children.

These are 2003 - 2004 data, and they're probably not completely accurate. But these numbers at least give you an idea of what it might take to actually close the educational achievement gap. They give you the sense that closing the educational achievement gap might actually be something that could be done.

But before we can close the educational achievement gap, we must first close the Corporate Achievement Gap.

Read the entire piece at Peter Campbell's blog.

Digging at the Underbelly of Teacher Unions

The stuff going on in Washington DC with new teachers attacking career teachers for not going along with Michelle Rhee's offer to end job security for more money may just be the war for the future of teacher unions. This is a complex issue that requires more analysis than I'm willing to give it right now. The attacks on DC union Pres. George Parker for sending out a reminder to teachers that they are not required to go into school early are pretty astounding. Check out this blog and some of the comments - a comedy routine can be written. George Carlin, where are you?

The real underbelly of most teacher unions is that they are truly undemocratic. We've seen that in places like our own UFT and in Chicago, where cooperative, collegial, and collaborative unions have gone along with the corporate plan. Are they worried about an attack of youthful Teach for America zombies out to cut the guts from the union? Is this a cadre being egged on by the EEP thought police?

My guess is that the DC (and Denver) scenario will start playing itself out in urban unions, which are mostly AFT. Don't discount Randi Weingarten's nimbleness in making all sides feel she agrees with them. But the long-time prospect for teacher unions to withstand the onslaught from without and within is not looking too well. Oh, the undemocratic leaderships will consolidate power and do what it takes to keep control even if it takes giving them what they want. But the rank and file is looking mighty ill these days. See New York City.

For progressive, career oriented teachers who have a full understanding of what is going on, yet are also opposed to a dictatorial union, there has to be some level of ambivalence.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"The Deciders" at the Fringe

On Saturday, I was asked by Tati Sena from the Fringe to videotape an event at the Fringe Festival after the show "The Deciders," a rock musical with a strong political message about the war in Iraq.

The Deciders web site proclaims: "Patriotism! Power! Paranoia? A driving rock score reveals in song and satire the secrets, dreams, motives and misinformation of those who make the decisions and those who live with the repercussions from the Washington Power Elite to Baghdad and beyond."

The event featured Cindy Sheehan who became a leading anti-war activist when her son Casey was killed. Her daughter Carly's poem "A
Nation Rocked to Sleep," was a key song in the production. Cindy and Carley met with the cast and audience at a reception room in the MIchael Shimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University after the show. Among the audience were some parents who had lost a child in the war.

Here is a photo from the The Deciders web site taken after the show.

[Saturday] The Deciders debut at The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University finished with the cast and band meeting Cindy and Carly Sheehan. A very special experience to also honor Cindy’s son and Carly’s brother Specialist Casey Sheehan killed April 4th 2004 in Sadr City and Carla Euphrates Kelly’s brother Sgt. Clarence LaVon Floyd killed December 10 2005 in Taji, Iraq. Both soldiers were awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor in combat. Pictured above from left to right is Mitch Kess, Carly and Cindy Sheehan with Carla and her parents.

Unfortnately, I couldn't get there in time to see the play. So, Sunday night we went back and saw it.
We ended up sitting directly behind Cindy and Carly, which made the play evenmore poignant as we noticed a tear or two wiped away.

George Bush - Dubya- played perfectly by Erik Hogan - comes up with a great idea to solve the war in Iraq: Turn the country back to Saddamn ( one of Saddam Hussein's doubles who took his place when the original Saddam died of cancer). (Don Imus suggested that many years ago.) The only problem is that Saddamn insists on having a musical (an updated version of Springtime for Hitler and Germany?) produced on Broadway. Dick Cheney (John Stillwagon) is not happy and manipulates strings on both Condi (the power voiced Carla Euphrates Kelly- who lost her brother in Iraq) and Dubya. The press (Fox) is skewered and the voices of Iraquis are heard through a fictional blogger. Cindy Sheehan (Amber Carson) belts out "The Devi's Place" and "Collateral Damage" loud and clear.

Heck, I'm not a reviewer, so check out Alyssa Simon's fabulous review at Theatre.Com posted at the Deciders web site.

There are 3 more performances: Tues 8/19 2:30, Thurs 8/21 5:30, Fri 8/22 8pm

Some backgound from the web site:
We’re so excited that Cindy got on the ballot in San Francisco and is celebrating with her daughter Carly with a weekend in NYC attending the August 16th premiere of The Deciders. Show creator, Mitch Kess, met Cindy Sheehan last summer during a rally in Union Square where the lyrics of her daughter Carly’s poem, “Nation Rocked to Sleep,” was heard for the first time put to music by Mitch Kess. Now a featured song in the production performed by Amber Carson.
Dubya “Tries” to give news conference New York - As Dubya begins to address the audience at The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University, a group of protesters interrupt his speech with their songs “Free” and “A Nation Rocked to Sleep.” Even “Dick” and Condi couldn’t contain the rebels with keeping to the “talking points.” It seems Bush & Co. need to come up with some answers.

One more sidelight.

After the show I heard my name called. It was Linda, whose son Michael Ruocco, played Rooster in Annie at the Rockaway Theater Company in May. He played the judge and camerman. Brooklynite Michael, now 18, in his statment in the program says, "After being part of such a wonderful cast and crew his view on the war in Iraq has changed and he believes it will change for you as well." We're looking for some big things from Michael in the future.