Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mary Porter Comments on Roots of Undemocratic UFT, Tying to Gates, AFT. Unions Etc.

I came across an interesting comment from Mary Porter on FB adding flavor and context to my recent commentary and posting of an 18 year old Lois Weiner piece, ALBERT SHANKER'S LEGACY.

Mary has been extremely critical of Diane Ravitch and Deb Meier, especially over their recent support for the new federal ed law, ESSA and over giving cover to Randi, AFT, Lilly, NEA for their general cooperation with ed deform.  Jim Horn, Schools Matter, and Emily Talmage have also been charging the Ravitch inspired NPE and Fairtest as verging on sellouts.

For that is going too far and I tend to give the Ravitch crew, which includes the always amazing Leonie Haimson, the benefit of the doubt.

Diane published today a piece called:

My Views about ESSA: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

And Debbie Meier has always been for small schools for decades but soured on the Gates led crap.

I do have some interesting parent views from our change the stakes group on this internal conflict in the anti-ed deform movement but will get to that another time. I am by the way registered for this April's NPE conference, the past 2 which I did not attend. It is hard to accuse NPE which emerged out of a national anti-ed deform bloggers network where I was one of the initial members and did a lot of recruiting for. Just read  core-member Mercedes Schneider, deutsch29,  on Randi (An Open Exchange With AFT President Randi Weingarten).

The Roots of an Undemocratic UFT - Lois Weiner Oldie But Goodie: ALBERT SHANKER'S LEGACY - Mary Porter
This is my own commentary on Norm Scott's commentary on Lois Weiner's commentary on Al Shanker. It should be a blog, and I would be glad of an opportunity to expand it into one, with links. I'll tell the story we older teachers have just lived through, to explain how Bill Gates got entangled in our teacher union elections.

Some younger activists might not know this "ancient" history, so many are confused by and surprised by a rift in the movement to stop corporate education reform. The Shanker Institute, the Teacher Union Reform Network, Deborah Meier's Coalition of Essential Schools, and Randi Weingarten's Progressive and Unity Caucuses of the AFT loosely constitute one side of today's struggle for the teachers unions.

These groups cooperated with the Gates Foundation's original project of public education reform. Gates observed the success of Deborah Meier's Central Park East High School, and thought he could capture a set of best practices from it, "bring it to scale" under his corporate control, and produce his own network.

At the same time he also undertook a drive to capture the public school marketplace by legislating accountability to testable outcomes, and forcing underperforming schools (by his measurement) to be brought under his control. 

Breaking up public schools into smaller schools under his authoritarian, hierarchical model produced something different from Meier's progressive, student centered, democratically governed open classrooms, though. He funded them lavishly, but they produced poor testing outcomes. This was possibly a surprise to Gates. He continued to support the "performance based assessment" movement, and used their work to claim his digital assessment products are student centered. Linda Darling Hammond, of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sits on their boards of the Essential schools and the Shanker institute. They provide the source documents for the Orwellian vocabulary of his digital data driven personalized scripted learning. 

Gates shifted his attention to forcing states to give control of underperforming public schools over to his privatized turnaround partners and Education Management Organizations. They tested poorly also.
As teachers became aware of Gates' role in the destruction of their schools, Randi Weingarten has used the antidemocratic union practices described in this paper to crush opposition within the AFT affiliates, especially the UFT in New York City. Members have formed opposition caucuses without loyalty oaths, using member driven governance to challenge Randi in many cities and some states. The Chicago Teachers Union is their most prominent representative. Many challenges are underway this winter in other cities.


  1. I'd love to read her expanded version complete with the links she mentions. Interesting stuff.

  2. Norm, I strongly challenge your claim that I or Emily Talmage are "part of a group led by Jim Horn". I wish you had asked me before you published it. My God, I've subscribed to Ednotes Online for about a decade now, and you should be able to find my email address. As chemtchr, I was citing your work, and Susan Ohanians, for years as I worked to talk Deborah and Diane over on Edweek.

    If I'm "part of a group" led by Peg Robertson at United Opt Out, and we are trying to resolve leadership of the Opt Out movement so it calls for refusing the tests, which is a separate issue from "accountability reform".

    What I have asked Deborah Meier to do is to repudiate the previous alliance of the Essential Schools Coalition with the Great Schools Partnership in Maine. If she will do that, the fight against the NextGen accountability drive will be greatly strengthened.

    In response, Deborah and Diane attacked me and Emily Talmage by name in this column, on Jan 22, grouping us with Horn. Please take time to read it, since you have weighed in to further discredit our work.

    Jim Horn did important work in exposing the Teacher Union Reform Network, and has been unfairly targeted for it, but he is not leading Emily or me. I'm concerned that your false claim will set back the important work that needs to go forward. Jim does fine work and is supporting Emily, but to say he is leading this issue introduces a straw man argument.

    Here is Emily Talage's blog in response. She put it up in defiance of Deborah's warning to "stop squabbling and change our schools". The allies Deborah is protecting are Dan French and David Ruff, already protected by literally tens of millions in Gates funding, and in charge of accountability at the school where Emily teaches in Maine. In it, Emily shows links demonstrating the board overlaps and ongoing cooperation of Essential Schools Coalition with Great School's Partnership.

    Here's my last comment on Diane Ravitch's "Stop squabbling" blog. She has blocked it, and all subsequent comment from me.

    No, this map.

    It shows Massachusetts as a clear spot, surrounded by successful impositions of corporate "Competency Based education". My point is that the situation is serious,

    It turns out Great Schools Partnership. a close ally of Deborah Meier's Essential Schools Coalition, manages the PDE operation in Maine, which was imposed by force of law in a lobbying blitz. Maine is dark red, with stripes, on the map. If anybody claims GSP are an ally above criticism, please visit their website.

    What we had objected to was Fairtest's plan to involve Dan French of CCE in the leadership of the Massachusetts opt-out movement.

    This post by Deb was the first I heard that his organization had been created (in the passive voice) to support the mission of Essential Schools. But that isn't what they do, they promote something else entirely. Individual, personalized student accountability, computerized, data driven, so the child's daily dashboard is embedded in the data collection system itself. very day. Emily Talmage has been trying to get the word out about the bait and switch.

    While I'm pleased my post is finally up, it is hard when I am personally attacked, by name, and then blocked from responding. nothing I've posted has been angry (Jim horn is angry, and his name is up there, too). I do all this typing without pain medication, and then i have to check back repeatedly when my carefully constructed posts disappear without a trace.

  3. Ravitch and Weingarten supported ESSA lest we forget. I received an AFT e-mail requesting that I contact my Congress people to voice my advocacy for the legislation. It is an amazing acrobatic feat to be able to straddle both sides of a critical political issue.

    Abigail Shure


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