Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mis-Education Nation: Sending NBC's 'Education Nation' Back to School

Standing Room Only Event wows attendees at alternative event showing real voices.

They kept coming and coming - until just about every single seat was filled and people were standing along the walls of the auditorium at the School of the Future, and very apt name for the  location of an event co-sponsored by GEM that presages a re-balancing of the debates in the ed wars between the Goliath billionaire backed Ed Deformers and the David-like Real Reformers.

Flanders, Jones, Ravitch, Haimson, Noguera
There was some irony on the choice of panelists.

We knew three of the four panelists - Brian Jones (GEM), Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson (Class Size Mattera) - line up squarely on the Real Reform side of the line. Pedro Noguera, who is considered a fairly safe choice when Ed Deformers try to claim "balance" (he was on an Education Nation panel) found himself under attack for attempting to have one foot on both sides of the line. As GEM's Julie Cavanagh declared in a note attached to her report on the event posted at Labor Notes, "Brian, Leonie and Diane fabulous as always and wooohooo Michael Fiorillo going after Noguera something fierce!" Noguera who is often the star of events he is invited to looked uncomfortable throughout as Brian Jones with his insights and humor stole the show. (See my AFTER BURN comment for more on Noguera.)

I taped the entire event and have put the hour and a half video up at As the weekend progresses I will extract excerpts, in particular the Noguera/Fiorillo material. Michael who works with ICE and GEM has been a persistent critic of Noguera on the blogs.

I should say a word and put in a plug for FAIR - Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting - which sponsored the event (along with Class Size Matters. GEM was proud to be asked to join in as a co-sponsor.) In today's world of media domination by the wealthy, FAIR plays a crucial role which you can support with a donation.

Here is Julie's report at Labor Notes:

Sending NBC's 'Education Nation' Back to School

With NBC airing a second “Education Nation” special that resembles an infomercial for charter schools and online learning, the media watchdog group FAIR held an event Tuesday to clear the air.

The panelists at the MisEducation Nation forum in New York City said the coverage offered by NBC was, at best, misguided—a noble but seriously uninformed effort, said Leonie Haimson, a New York City public school parent and leader of Class Size Matters, which advocates for reducing the number of students per teacher.

At worst, “Education Nation” is a sounding board for the corporate education “reform” movement driven by the billionaires’ agenda, said Brian Jones, a Brooklyn teacher.

Jones is the co-narrator of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that showed what the "Waiting for Superman" film left out. Davis Guggenheim’s “Superman,” a notably pro-charter and anti-teacher union documentary, was released last year.

The goal of Tuesday’s event, according to FAIR, was to offer a more reasonable conversation about public education than the corporate-interest perspective featured in “Education Nation.” The event was moderated by Laura Flanders of GritTV.

The central themes of the evening were anchored by the experiences of Diane Ravitch, an education historian and prominent critic of corporate education initiatives, in her recent trip to Finland.

She noted that Finnish schools have small class sizes, teachers who are trusted and treated as professionals, and free education through college. Less than 4 percent of children live in poverty (compared to the United States’ 22 percent). No child is given a test, except for teacher-made assessments, until the senior year of high school. Most importantly, Ravitch said, the stated purpose of public school in Finland is “to develop the humanity of our students.”

Brian Jones, an educator who began teaching in Brooklyn this year after more than six years in Harlem, spoke from his experience: Educational opportunities are diverging within the same public school system, let alone among different countries.

Resources matter, Jones reaffirmed. Kids who are well-fed and have basic needs met fare better.

Teacher union reformers have said part of the equation is turning teacher unions toward a social-justice model that understands building coalitions of parents, students, and community organizations to create high-quality schools is not only the right thing to do but also the best way to protect union members’ interests.

Pedro Noguera highlighted the different treatment that children and families living in poverty experience in our schools. Noguera is chair of the board at the State University of New York that authorizes new charter schools through SUNY.

The only contentious moment occurred when a teacher from the audience confronted Noguera about his role on the SUNY charter board. A parent, Karen Sprowal, whose son was kicked out of a SUNY charter school, asked how Noguera would hold the school accountable. Noguera responded that public schools push kids out, too, and that his board tracks their schools’ attrition rates.

As the audience voiced its disagreement, Noguera said SUNY schools are the top-rated charters in the country. He neglected to recognize that charters schools also serve fewer children living in poverty and fewer students who receive special education and English-as-a-second-language services.

Panelists noted that the corporate reform movement is undermined by its own failures. Several studies have shown that charter schools have not developed a magic formula. One-sixth do better than public schools, Ravitch said, but one-third do worse.

Ravitch called for diverse and practical solutions for our schools which acknowledge that poverty must be addressed in tandem with education policy.

The panelists agreed on the evening’s major theme: NBC’s “Education Nation” is misguided to focus almost exclusively on teacher quality.

Instead, they emphasized the need for more parent and community engagement. As Haimson said, we know very well what a good school looks like: small classes, rich curriculum, respected and trusted teachers. You know, the sort of place Bill Gates would send his kids.

One of the most important points made by Leonie was about how gentrifying schools in certain neighborhoods are amongst the most integrated in the city yet their use of space to install enrichment programs that keep this balance intact goes challenged by the DOE and they are declared underutilized, followed by a co-location of another public school or in most cases a charter which undermines the schools and results in making it less integrated because the programs that attract parents get destroyed. Many of us think that is the intention - to actually undermine successful schools - call me a conspiracy nut but it happens too often.

Now Noguera who is a champion of these type of schools - in theory - in essence help assist the DOE by authorizing the very charters that end up undermining these public schools. I've actually heard him - I believe I have it on tape from another event - sort of throw up his hands and say, "We don't know where they will be placed when we authorize them," one of the most disingenuous comments I've heard him make - the classic "who me?"
I'm going to extract Leonie's points from the video and put them up later.
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.


zulma said...

Since you're going to extract certain excerpts from your video, please extract the statement that Diane Ravitch made about Geoffrey Canada firing his first class at his charter school. He tried to justify his action to Diane. It starts at 13:38. I feel that Canada's admission to his action has to go viral on FB, blogs, etc.

I would like to expose the fraud that Canada is to his Harlem neighborhood.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Michael Fiorillo said...

Agreed: Canada's exposure is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Norm, a very good piece on Education Nation, NBC (and its hollow host, Brian Host), Dr. Noguera and FAIR.

I did not watch Education Nation because what was given in 2010, was enough garbage for me.

Dr. Noguera, as you witnessed his disrespectful and low life attack on me on May 21, 2011, at Community Board 12 Charter School Forum in upper Manhattan, is a fraud.

I have listened to him for years denigrating teachers while he simultaneously have been serving two "masters."

Dr. Noguera is a fraud to the tenth degree.