Saturday, December 31, 2005

Letting Literacy Slip --

Editorial from the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Published on: 12/30/05

Finally, someone is getting the point! (The emphasis is mine.)

At every level of education, Americans are faltering in their ability to grasp a newspaper story or a passage in a book.

This skill is known as prose literacy, and it's declining even among well-educated Americans. The latest sampling of adult literacy by the National Center for Education Statistics found a 10 percentage point drop in graduate students who tested proficient in prose literacy in 2003 compared to the last time it was measured in 1992.

There was also a marked slip among college students testing proficient; 40 percent in 1992 and 31 percent in 2003.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy gauges Americans' fluency in reading text and documents such as maps and labels. It also looks at quantitative literacy, a person's ability to understand tax forms, tables or bank statements.

To be ranked proficient, an adult has to be able to read and extract information from complex materials, such as legal documents. "No group, not even those with the highest levels of formal education, had an average in the proficient level on any of the scales," says National Center for Education Statistics commissioner Mark Schneider.

The sampling found that 13 percent of adults demonstrated "below basic prose literacy." According to Schneider, that translates to 30 million Americans who "could not do much more than sign a form or search a simple document to find out what they are allowed to drink before a medical test."

What's hard to understand is how literacy is falling at the same time that schools are making reading their top priority.

The poor showing on the national literacy assessment even among college grads ought to generate discussion at both state and federal levels about whether test-driven reform is creating better test-takers rather than better readers. As schools concentrate more resources on teaching kids how to bubble in the correct answers on standardized tests, less time is available to develop critical thinking skills...

Yep, that's it I'd say. You might ask yourself, Why would the powers that be want a nation that can fill in bubbles might not think critically? Hmmm...

Friday, December 30, 2005

NHSA: Congress Cuts 24,000 Head Start Child Slots in Order to Underwrite Tax Cuts for Wealthy --

This is a few days old but it is hard to break away from my family at this time of year, and I really do not want to talk ad nauseum about those wretched gifted students that are being misservered by NCLB. This one is about the kids that really arte getting the shaft by our congress and this administration.

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- National Head Start Association (NHSA)
President and CEO Sarah Greene issued the following statement today:

"We are appalled to see that Congress has chosen to sacrifice what is
likely to be the equivalent of 24,000 Head Start classroom slots for America's
poorest children in order to pay for tax cuts for this nation's wealthiest
individuals.
The combination of the 1 percent cut for all programs under the Defense
appropriations bill and the flat funding for Head Start for FY 2006 in the
Labor-HHS Appropriations conference report represents an unprecedented
decision by Congress to move away from its long-term commitment to giving the
most at-risk children in the United States the opportunity through Head Start
to set out on the path to academic and lifetime success.
We don't see the logic in leaving these children out in the cold this
holiday season so that the wealthy can continue to receive additional tax
cuts. This is the equivalent of Congress putting a lump of coal in the
stockings of America's neediest children! Making matters even worse,
Congress is cutting nearly $5 billion in Medicaid services for low-income
children and families. With Medicaid services already dwindling at the state
level, America's lower-income parents will either pay more or be forced to
forego essential health services, including medications, dental care and
eyeglasses.
The one positive piece of news in all of this is that $90 million was
provided to Head Start programs in the Gulf Coast region to rebuild and to
serve evacuees. While this is a step in the right direction, it makes no
sense to tear down Head Start in most of the country at the same time that you
are rebuilding it in just one portion of the nation."

ABOUT NHSA
The National Head Start Association (http://www.nhsa.org) is a private
not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to meeting the
needs of Head Start children and their families. It represents more than
900,000 children, 200,000 staff and 2,700 Head Start programs in the United
States. You can read about Head Start success stories on the Web at
http://www.IGotaHeadStart.org.


SOURCE National Head Start Association, Alexandria, VA
Web Site: http://www.nhsa.org http://www.IGotaHeadStart.org

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The New Educational Privatization: Educational Contracting and High Stakes Accountability --

Another from Susan O'hanian's site. This one a study of school privatization. The introduction reads:

The institutional landscape of K-12 educational contracting is fundamentally changing. Based on industry and district data, this study identifies three distinct shifts in the content and structure of interactions between suppliers of instructional goods and local school systems. These shifts include i) elevation of test-related services and products, ii) increasing emphases on technology-based solutions. and iii) an expanding role for the state in spurring market activity. Drawing on a case study of district practice, the study provides evidence of how broader changes are influencing local contracting activities, and the dilemmas and responses generated by these pressures. The study suggests the need for new conceptual approaches to studying educational privatization that draw on the institutional analysis of organizations and also identifies critical questions for future research.

I refer to this research, first published in the Teachers College Record so that I might publish a letter in respnse, also from O'hanian.

Comment by Dick Schutz

Burch’s inquiry and analysis are breaths of fresh air rising above the data-free, tis-taint polemics that have heretofore comprised the “privatization/voucher/charter/reform/etc.” literature. Her inferences are grounded on the simplest of descriptive statistics and direct observation, but they shed more light on what has been and is now going on than all the randomized-control experiments, hierarchical linear analyses, and such bundled together. “Midvale,” N=1, is prototypical of every school district in the country. (School districts, like individuals, are each different; but at the same time they share many commonalities)

What Burch doesn’t note are the fatal technical flaws in federal educational legislation and its implementation over the time period that she considers. Zooming in on these gives sharper focus to the “lens of the organizational field.” Here are five for starters:

· El-hi educational standards are not performance standards; they’re content standards. The “standards” are largely rhetorical, formulated by logrolling committees 5-15 years ago and never revised since their initial proclamation.

· The Item Response Theory that undergirds the mandated standardized tests inherently yields relative, ungrounded scales. The terms “proficient” “below proficient” and such are fictions, based on nothing more than arbitrary segmentations of normalized distributions. Linking the tests to the content standards does not fix the flaw. The same test item formats are sliced differently, but it’s the same baloney any way you cut it. As the Midvale experience indicates, local efforts to fix the flaw have been stifled by federal mandates; and teachers who need “good data” the most are now the least likely to have such.

· The “New Science of Reading” proclaimed by NCLB is empty. Bottom line, each individual teacher is left with the responsibility of integrating the elements of the “Stone Soup science.”

· “Annual Yearly Progress,” which is to get us to “No Child Left Behind by 2014, is a statistically impossible enterprise.

· Recent efforts to introduce “flexibility” in meeting AYP requirements open the door for a whole new set of tests for kids with “specific disabilities”—that is, kids who don’t pass the current tests. By rotating carefully selected kids who are “near the bubble” into SpEd, everybody “wins.” The kids are not harried as much. Teachers get rid of their “worst” kids. Schools and districts make AYP. And the Education/War President can declare that the “Plan for Victory” is working in Education as well as in War. The arrangement gives a whole new meaning to the term, “flexibility,” but I can’t think of anyone who might object, other than maybe the kids and teachers on whom the “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment is being inflicted.

Dick Schutz
3RsPlus@usinter.net
— Dick Schutz
Teacher College Review online discussion
2005-12-17

Thursday, December 22, 2005

First-Ever National Private School Voucher Program Sent to President’s Desk --

They have done it! A national school voucher program. where the hell is the media on this?

This from People for the American Way:

Legislation diverts money from public schools, allows for religious discrimination in hiring, and fails to keep federal funds from being used for religious indoctrination
WASHINGTON—On the same day the Senate passed legislation that cuts public education funding for the first time in a decade, it also voted to establish the first-ever national private school voucher program, as part of the final appropriations measure for the Department of Defense. With final approval in the House today, Congress has signed off on this dangerous measure, under the guise of one-time relief for students affected by this year’s hurricanes.

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas voiced strong opposition to the voucher program, which, in addition to diverting funds from public schools, allows federally funded private schools to discriminate on the basis of religion while hiring teachers, and fails to protect against the use of federal funds for the religious indoctrination of students.

“The promise of a quality public education for every child is a cornerstone of our democracy, but private school vouchers divert money from public schools and undermine that promise. Most Americans oppose such voucher programs, which might be why this one was attached to a must-pass defense appropriations bill,” Neas said. “This program throws open the door to using taxpayer dollars to fund private schools. It also allows for government funding of religion and religious discrimination. We deeply regret its passage.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior ==

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer.

This has nothing to do with NCLB, but a lot to do with what is happenning in our country right now. I quote in full:

NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."
Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.
The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.
The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.
The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.
In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.
The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.
Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.
"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.
Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.
"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com

Monday, December 19, 2005

'Straight-cut ditch' schools widen gap in education --

Marion Brady | Special to the Orlando Sentinel

First, the New Advocate is out. If you have not read it yet do it now!

I started out just planning a few quotes, but this guy is so right on I ended up quoting nearly the whole thing:


Brent Staples writes about education. His opinions appear in the New York Times. I write about education. My opinions appear in the Orlando Sentinel.

Staples thinks No Child Left Behind is improving education in America. I think it's hammering nails into education's coffin...

...The long-range consequences of NCLB will be bad for all students, but they'll be devastating for the very students NCLB's advocates and apologists most want to help.

I begin my argument by asking not what's bad for students, but what's good for them. Hands down, the most popular answer to that question is, "The basics! The 3 Rs are the foundation of everything else!" The power of this assumption is demonstrated daily in the school nearest you as all else is put on a back burner in an effort to raise reading and math standardized test scores.

But as is often the case, the popular answer is superficial. The basics are mere means to an end. What we most want for our kids is an education which helps them realize their potential. Obviously, highly developed basic skills are important tools in a kid's pursuit of her or his potential, but it's easy to win the "basics" battle and lose the "developing individual potential" war. And that's where NCLB is taking us.

Henry David Thoreau can help explain where I'm coming from. "What does education often do?" he asked. "It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook."

No Child Left Behind is a strategy for making straight-cut ditches. In contrast, developing individual potential doesn't just leave brooks free to meander, it aims to clear away debris and make meandering easier.

I'll hear from those who resist this idea. They'll tell me kids have to learn to live in the real world. They'll say that NCLB's emphasis on standardized tests is a good thing because "everybody has to take tests." They'll maintain that schools dedicated to developing individual student potential will be "soft," that such an education might be OK for a few talented kids, but as a general policy it's an invitation to anarchy, or at least to social decline.

Ironically, while America chases Japanese "straight-cut ditch"standardized test scores, the Japanese come to America to find out about our "meandering brook" students. Asked by Dr. Joseph Renzulli at the University of Connecticut about their interest in American education, visiting Japanese educators recently said, "We have no Nobel Prize Winners. Your schools have produced a continuous flow of inventors, designers, entrepreneurs, and innovative leaders. We can make anything you invent faster, cheaper, and, in most cases, better. But we want to learn what role this 'creative productivity' focus plays in the production of creative and inventive people."

NCLB's push for "straight-cut ditches" is bad policy, but exactly why it's often particularly devastating for blacks, other minorities, and the long-time poor may not yet be obvious.

The main problem? Those high-stakes tests NCLB demands.

There are many kinds of "smarts" -- linguistic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and so on -- many paths to the development of individual potential. Never mind, says NCLB. It focuses on just one -- symbol manipulation skills -- and ignores the rest. Worse, the emphasis isn't even on symbol manipulation skills in the broadest sense, but just on those most valued by those hired to write test questions.

Well, it will be argued, those skills are the key to good jobs, so they're the ones every kid needs.

Maybe. But the big test isn't seen either by the kids who take them or by the general public as just a test of ability to manipulate symbols. It's seen as a general intelligence test -- a measure, across the board, of smarts, of brains, of innate ability. That one score on that one ability then becomes, both to the kid and the larger society, the whole, denigrating story.

If you have any doubts about the effects of thinking you're not smart, in a society that thinks you're not smart, Google "self-fulfilling prophecies."

Marion Brady, a longtime educator, lives in Cocoa. He can be reached at mbrady22@cfl.rr.com. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

D’s AND F’s FOR ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND --

From the Black voice news. This article uses the recent NAEP results to say that NCLB is not working. This a lot you have had before here but what Marian Wright Edelman has to say is important:

“Our children have been hijacked and shackled by bad policy and bad politics,” says Marian Wright Elderman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. Elderman who has accused the administration of stealing her successful child achievement concept, is both worried and angry.

“This nation has squandered away four years and billions of dollars in education funding. Our children have been tested to death, forced to regurgitate and at the end of the day they haven’t learned to do basic reading and math or much less learned to think. It’s a national shame,” said Elderman.

And it is.

Superintendents blast 'No Child Left Behind'' --

Another item from the Chicago area:

Area school superintendents met in a recent town-hall meeting with lawmakers and community members to discuss academic and financial performance.

Two common themes were voiced: Schools need more money and the No Child Left Behind Act isn't working.

...
"No child left behind. That sounds great, but, in fact, there are so many children who are going to be left behind as a result of this legislation,"

...
the process by which schools are taken over after they fail to meet standards for five consecutive years is ambiguous and potentially harmful.

...
...state funding has been primarily aimed at failing schools...

"There is funding for Watch List schools," Jordan said. "Fortunately, we can say it today, 'We aren't on the Watch List.' (But that also means) we can't get any funding."

...

Willie Mack, superintendent of District 88, said that while NCLB, which was created in 2001, isn't working, the political discussion as it pertains to education has always been the same.

"Get rid of some of those unfunded mandates on teachers, if we're serious," Mack advised. "(In Springfield,) What they were saying in the 1970s, they're still saying today."

Mack also assailed politics at the local level for interfering with education, calling it a "fight."

"Fight indicates some sort of contest," Mack said. "I know some people would like peace and harmony and that would be nice, but we are up against forces who do not have children foremost on their minds."

...

"Don't go into the board room looking for peace," he warned. "Go in there looking for justice for the children."

...

"I really think that No Child Left Behind was a wake-up call for us because what we were doing wasn't working," Cole said. "I think it's been used to expose what we need to focus on."

Davis disagreed with Cole.

"It's a wake-up. But a wake-up to what?" he asked. "And with what consequences?"...

Exactly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Can Policymakers Improve Teacher Quality? --

From ASCD. There's a lot here, but what catches my eye:

Department of Education Stalls Teacher-Quality Requirements

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced a one-year delay in enforcing penalties on states that have not yet met the teacher-quality requirements of NCLB. To escape penalties this year, states have to show evidence of a "good faith effort" toward meeting the following criteria:

  1. Establishing a state definition of a highly qualified teacher.
  2. Implementing a system for reporting to parents and the public on classes taught by highly qualified teachers.
  3. Ensuring the completeness and accuracy of data on highly qualified teachers reported to the U.S. Department of Education.
  4. Taking steps to ensure that experienced and qualified teachers are equitably distributed among classrooms with poor and minority children and those with their peers.

States that satisfy these expectations will be able to negotiate a delay in meeting the full requirements until the 2006–07 school year.

...
And then there's:

Senate Bill Seeks Increased NCLB Flexibility

Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the NCLB Flexibility and Improvement Act to give states, school districts, and schools greater control in meeting the requirements of NCLB. The bill addresses several aspects of teacher quality, such as giving more flexibility for middle and high school teachers who teach multiple subjects. In addition to teacher quality, it also addresses accountability, funding, and provisions for assessing special education and limited-English-proficient students. More information on this bill is available in the ASCD Action Center.

Pretty sure this bill will get nowhere for now, but might be worth watching.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The New Advocate is Out --

Check it out! Great reading as usual.

This morning as I was checking out the Advocate and just generally reviewing recent posts in the blogosphere, two from Educational Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas caught my eye.

The first one is a must read. The author argues that more religion not less is needed in government, and I am inclined to agree with him. The second story is about a boy in a Texas High School who got suspended for speaking Spanish in school. I am horrified that this kind of thing can still happen. Those school officials should read the first post.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Deadline Looms for School Aides, Hundreds Must Get Certification by June

By V. Dion Haynes,Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday December 8, 2005; Page DZ03

Here's an up and coming problem that we have not been hearing much about, paraprofessionals in the schools that must meet strict education requirements soon. These are people, as the article notes, that often have only a high school education. What the article does not say is that many of these people are part time workers, working at entry level wages, with few or no benefits. The article does state that little or no money has been put up for ther required education. And, if these people lose there jobs who will replace them? Go here for a list of what the law requires of these people and, of course, some right on comments from Susan Ohanian.

Officials in a union representing teacher's aides in the D.C. public schools say they fear that more than half of about 700 members could lose their jobs in June for failing to meet a provision of a federal law that requires them to be certified.

The No Child Left Behind law mandates that the country's 750,000 teacher's aides who are part of Title I programs for impoverished students be certified as "highly qualified" by June. The certification requires that they either have an associate's degree or two years of higher education or pass a test verifying their knowledge.

In recent years, teacher's aides have been playing a larger role in the classroom, offering tutoring and individual instruction for academically deficient students and translating lessons for students who are learning English. Most aides have been required to have only a high school diploma...

On the more encouraging side of things in New Hampshire, Most elementary school teachers with more than three years of experience will no longer need to take the Praxis II exams to be considered "highly qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
...
"This is an exciting new development that the federal Department of Education recognizes New Hampshire's rigorous certification and training process for elementary school teachers," said former teacher Sen. Iris Estabrook in a statement. "This eliminates any need for legislation at the state level on this matter, and assures teachers that they can be considered highly qualified without additional burdensome tests to the certification process."
...
We can only hope that this encouraging development will spread to other states. To say that passing a test or having a certain amount of education makes one highly qualified is absurd.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The New Advocate is Out and NCLB Resistance Appears to be Growing ---

Welcome back Joe. Glad to see you are up and at it again! Checkout the New Advocate. Great reading as always including a another must read for this blog. The second part of this post has to do with these four articles: Lakewood Board of Education Takes a Stand; School administrators bash No Child at town hall meeting; School laws blasted; Change 'No Child Left Behind' law, panelists say. Two are from the Chicago area and two are from Ohio. School administrators, superintendents, school boards, educators, parents and students are speaking out against NCLB. All in a two day period. There will be more and more of these, just you wait and see.

From the last article about the panelists come these:

  • Teaching "to the test" gets in the way of creative instruction and impedes learning.
  • Struggling schools need more resources, both through federal funding and from business and community organizations.
  • Greater weight should be given to individual student progress.
  • High-stakes testing should be replaced by diagnostic tests that show students' strengths and weaknesses.
  • School administrators should make schools more inviting to parents, to better meet the parental involvement section of NCLB.
  • Students and parents themselves should be held accountable for their work and actions, rather than placing all responsibility on schools and districts.
  • Standards should remain high, but more help should be given to help students meet standards.
  • Funding should be available to increase early literacy.

  • It would be a good start.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Highly Qualified Teachers and Alternate Universes

    Another great post from Jim Horn over at Schools Matter. Sunday, December 04, 2005

    One of the core lies undergirding NCLB is the claim that the Law will provide “highly-qualified” teachers in every classroom in America. But just as the “Clear Skies” initiative offers more latitude to the polluters and the “Healthy Forests” initiative gives great swaths of virgin timber to the logging companies, the “highly-qualified teacher” initiative inside NCLB disguises a policy designed to accomplish the exact opposite of its claim.

    What the neo-cons at ED have done in terms of teacher quality since the signing of NCLB in 2002 is to, in fact, denigrate teacher education programs (or threaten to blow them up) and undercut professional accreditation efforts by NBPTS to offer a rigorous licensing procedure for teachers that has national legitimacy. ED prefers, instead, to offer to schools non-teachers with subject area degrees whose only exposure to the art and science of teaching (pedagogy) will have been through brief self-induced tutorials to conditioning techniques that are central to Ed’s preferred straight- jacketed model of teaching, Direct Instruction...

    Now go read the whole thing. Jim's right on as usual.

    Sunday, December 04, 2005

    Oakland schools in need of real reform --

    This from Inside Bay Area, THIS month's $24 million question: When should you reject a gift?

    Answer: When that "gift" is a poison pill.

    When the state picked Randolph Ward, from the pro-charter school Broad Foundation, to take over Oakland schools in 2003, some smelled a corporate coup.

    If the onslaught of school closings and charter openings under Ward has left any doubt, he's finally made his goal clear: to privatize Oakland schools.

    In a nakedly aggressive public gesture, representatives of some of the world's richest men and corporations — including Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Clorox, Kaiser, Dell and Dreyer's/Nestle — joined Ward on Nov. 14 to unveil their "investment" in district "redesign."

    Executives congratulated themselves for throwing crumbs to a project allegedly for education. But, as the Tribune reported, the $24 million "will not bring in any new pencils, books, teachers or school buses."

    Instead, it buys technology and training solely to transform the district into a private business network. The investors say the district's new central office will become a "business service," and new small schools will "act as customers" who "invest in services."

    Donors revealed that corporate executives will now call the shots in the district. The head of the East Bay Community Foundation said his private organization will disburse funds and "communicate the bottom line" to educators.

    ...

    The Oakland Education Association proposes a different educational vision: 15 students per class; the best facilities, materials and technology for teaching and learning; enough support staff for students' academic and extracurricular needs; and much more.

    OEA's vision focuses on what students need each day and is based on extensive research, experience and commitment.

    The district's corporate investors disregard this vision, because authentic reform costs many times more than what they currently pay in taxes or token "gifts."

    Each year Clorox gives its CEO 32 times more than what it will give to 41,000 students. Kaiser called its million-dollar donation "a big deal," but its 18 to 24 percent planned rate increase over two years will cost the district several times that amount.

    ...

    It's time to say no to phony reform, no to handing our children over to big business; but yes to real change and excellent schools for all.

    A movement of educators, students and parents can achieve this goal by demanding that Oakland's major corporations: (1) pay off the district's debt to restore democratic control to Oakland citizens and (2) commit to substantial, mandatory and ongoing contributions for genuine reforms that will dramatically improve learning conditions for all students.

    Craig Gordon has taught in Oakland public schools for 15 years. He is taking a leave this year to write about educational issues.

    Did you catch bottom line stuff. I am aghast. How could anyone in their right minds think that these corporate yahoos are what will fix the American public education system? I tell you these guys are out to really screw things up, and you just watch, they will.

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Susan Gets Responses to Previous Article --

    Again from Ohanian's site. These are all worth a read but this one got me (Emphasis is mine):

    Susan Ohanian's masterful summation in your August issue of what is really going on today in public education serves as a powerful rebuttal to the absurd charges made by business leaders.

    The outrageousness begins with the blatant accountability double standard. It seems that in corporate America nothing succeeds like failure. Those at or near the top walk away with more money in one year of driving a corporation into the ground than 100 teachers make in a lifetime of demonstrated success with their students.

    So what is the risk for them? Maybe their egos get bruised a bit when they are asked to resign. But in the short time they're at the help calling the shots, they take home perks and cash beyond the wildest imagination of most teachers.

    The no-longer-so-hidden agenda, of course, is to create a two-tier society, reminiscent of Latin America. By scapegoating and eventually destroying public education, the goal becomes easier to achieve. The evidence abounds. The middle class is becoming an anachronism, as both parents work full time and still can't support their familes. Three-quarters of personal bankruptcies are the result of medical bills that individuals can't pay because they don't have health insurance. Unions are being emasculated by court decision and hostile lawmakers. And the hits just keep on coming.

    When the American people finally wake up to what is happening, it will be too late. It's a frightening scenario.

    WALT GARDNER
    Retired Teacher,
    Los Angeles Unifified School District,
    Los Angeles, Calif.

    That last part is on the same theme as this editorial in The Nation about Delphi Corporation seeking chapter 11 status:

    posted November 9, 2005 (November 28, 2005 issue)

    ...

    Delphi's move could have been predicted from its recent hire of Steve Miller as CEO. He has made a long career, going back to the Chrysler bailout of a generation ago, of using government handouts and corporate welfare in the form of bankruptcy to restructure firms while looting workers' assets. Just before he joined Delphi, Miller was CEO of Bethlehem Steel and a board member at United Airlines (UAL). Before selling off Bethlehem he eliminated health insurance for 95,000 retirees and offloaded the firm's underfunded pension obligations to the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. And he offloaded UAL's even larger underfunded pension to the PBGC, itself now underfunded. At the time, Forbes announced that this spectacular disappearance of worker savings foretold "the end of pensions"--not just for UAL but the country. It has since been imitated by Delta and Northwest. Miller took the job at Delphi because he thought it offered a "pivotal position to impact the restructuring of America's auto industry," meaning more of the same.

    Miller's plan for Delphi is cynical and wildly greedy. The bankruptcy is targeted only at Delphi's 51,000 US-based workers, less than a third of its worldwide labor force. It is well financed, with Delphi holding $1.6 billion in cash and a new credit line for as much as $4.5 billion in low-interest debt from Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and JP Morgan Chase. Nothing in US bankruptcy law--recently tightened for individuals but not for corporations--says a company actually has to be broke to enjoy its protections. And Delphi is not broke; of its forty-five US plants, only eleven are in a separate holding group of financially troubled enterprises.

    As the price of not canceling the workers' contract and liquidating their pension, Miller is demanding a drop in average wages from $27 to $10 an hour, concessions that would total more than $2 billion a year. This is about 25 percent more than Delphi's current losses, counting the money-losing plants, and will be pure profit once those are eliminated...

    ...Whatever wage cuts Miller gets at Delphi will be a marker in the full Big Three contract negotiations in 2007, when current contracts expire...

    And whatever the out come it scares me as much as NCLB does.

    Refrains of the School Critics

    Publication Date: 2005-08-03, By Susan Ohanian

    I somehow missed this in the summer but O'hanian elightens as usual. The emphasis is mine.

    Behind the rhetoric lies a contempt for the work of public school educators.
    This article is from the August 2005 School Administrator, published by the American Association of School Administrators

    George Packer, a New Yorker staff writer, points to the danger of clarity, observing that seemingly simple and tough-minded words blow out as much smoke as the jargon of the Pentagon of decades past.

    Nowhere is this smoke thicker and trickier than in the lingo the corporate-politico-media squad uses when talking about public schools. At first glance, their talk seems plain and to the point: failing schools, caring about education and education as war. In contrast, education progressives befuddle the public with authentic means of assessment,decision-making processes and triangulated learning.

    But the simplicity is deceptive.
    The expression failing public schools has a lot in common with war on terror. After the media parrot these phrases often enough, we find ourselves at war and in the morass of radical public school deformation. Familiarity breeds acceptance. We need to unpack the knee-jerk, smoky phrases to examine the purposes behind the rhetoric we are in danger of taking for granted.

    What follows are refrains about schools plucked from the news--not always unique statements but phrases repeated so often they have become jingles framed around a common theme: Make sure the public can’t think about public schools without thinking about failure.

    The structure below is designed to encourage people to look closely at the rhetoric used to describe schools. Readers are invited to unpack popular phrases, to think about what is revealed and what is hidden. In so doing, we can keep our own discourse free of the corporate catchphrases.

    The refrains are these: Schools are failing; Caring about education; Education as war; The knowledge supply chain; Failing schools, failing teachers; The private-sector fix;

    and my two favorites:

    Refrain: Preparing all students for the 21st century

    Example: “Today, more than ever, we live in a global economy where competition and technology are changing the workplace and impacting economic success for all Americans. U. S. schools must change if they are to prepare all students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. This is not a partisan issue.”

    Speaker: Edward B. Rust Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm Insurance Co.; former chair, The Business Roundtable’s Education Initiative; and member National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. (Testimony before House Subcommittee on Education Reform, March 8, 2001)

    What It Means: Rust is right that this isn’t a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike embrace the corporate agenda. When working people can’t find living-wage jobs and their children don’t pass the high-stakes test for a high school diploma, blame the schools. When 50-year-old high tech workers find their jobs shipped to India, blame the schools.

    What It Hides:
    The global economy is a cutthroat slaughterhouse for which corporate America assumes only profits, not responsibility. Despite all the hype, algebra cannot ensure a living-wage job for tomorrow’s workers. As Gerald Bracey and Richard Rothstein have pointed out in their essays, technology often lowers the skills needed for jobs. Moreover, even a casual glance at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’Occupational Outlook Handbook, ( www.bls.gov/oco)reveals that retail sales positions account for almost as many jobs as the top 10 fastest-growing occupations combined.

    In case you missed it: Sandy Kress, education adviser to President George W. Bush and prime architect of No Child Left Behind, pointed out in his keynote address to the EduState Summit in June 2004: "The Business Roundtable has been at the forefront of the effort to craft, pass and implement the No Child Left Behind Act."

    and finally (because I am a kindergarten teacher after all:

    Refrain: Beefed-up kindergarten academics

    Example: Nap time needs to go away. We need to get rid of all the baby school stuff they used to do. (“Time May Be Up for Naps in Pre-K Class,” The Washington Post, March 15, 2004)

    Speaker: AndrĂ© J. Hornsby, former superintendent, Prince George’s County, Md., Public Schools

    What It Means: In hyper-academic frenzy, kindergartners get DIBELS-tested on their speed parroting of nonsense syllables--instead of singing, dancing, finger painting, block building and hanging from the monkey bars.

    What It Hides: Developmentally appropriate practices are abandoned in favor of giving the appearance of high standards. Suddenly, 5-year-olds worry they aren’t good enough to measure up to the demands of the global economy. Battling this tide, the admissions office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked seniors who applied: "Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it."

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Read all of the NCC's ten “moral concerns” here --

    Which is Jim Horn's School's Matter or get them as a PDF here. They are worth a read. These guys are right on!