Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, November 30, 2012

More On APPR And Merryl Tisch

Regents Chancellor Tisch wrote a misleading piece about APPR today in which she claimed the new evaluation system based upon high stakes test scores is essential to improving teacher quality:

Some of the debate has been over the use of student test scores to measure teacher performance. The complaint is that test scores don’t give full measure of a teacher’s performance. That’s true: Student test scores are only one measure of an effective evaluation system. But they are an essential measure.
The new law limits the use of state student-growth scores to 20 percent of evaluations, with another 20 percent of the score derived from locally negotiated objective measures. The remaining 60 percent is negotiated between the district and the local unions, and there are a number of options (e.g., supervisor observation, peer and student review, professional development) that can be adopted.

The student-growth scores provided by the state for teacher evaluations are adjusted for factors such as students who are English Language Learners, students with disabilities and students living in poverty. When used right, growth data from student assessments provide an objective measurement of student achievement and, by extension, teacher performance.

We should never judge an educator solely by test scores, but we shouldn’t completely disregard student performance and growth either.

 Actually the new law is written in such a way that a teacher can be rated "developing" or "effective" in all three components of the evaluation that Tisch describes above and still get rated "ineffective" overall.

Carol Burris demonstrates how that works here:

Now take a look at the chart below, which will be used in New York to evaluate teachers. It is similar to a chart I explained here.This is what was decided as part of last week’s grand bargain; it’s what NY lawmakers will be asked this spring to put into law to sort and select public school teachers, with those deemed ineffective for two years to be fired.

Regulation/Student Growth/Local Measures/Other 60/Composite
Highly Effective/.18-20...../..........18-20.... /................/.......91-100

Now let’s go back to my first cafeteria scenario, applying it to the chart.

Ms. Alvarez is a second-year teacher. Her diverse third-grade class, which includes English language learners, takes the state tests. In the first category, ‘student growth,’ the teacher’s students show average growth. She is rated effective and earns 9 points. In the second column, again she is rated effective based on student work and gets 9 points again. Her principal critiques her lessons and there is room to grow, so she assigns her 46 out of the possible 60 points in category three, ‘other 60’. Although the state does not provide ranges for the ‘other 60,’ we can see that a score of 46 based on the proportions in the first two columns, would be effective. Now let’s add the numbers up and look at the final column: 9+9+46=64. Overall, Ms. Alvarez is rated ineffective. She decides that maybe teaching is not for her.

Hard to argue that this APPR system is fair when it tags a teacher as "ineffective" overall even when she is rated "effective" on all three components - and yet it does.

It would be nice if Ms. Tisch explained how such a system is fair, but she doesn't - she's too busy criticizing the UFT for not agreeing to the local part of the system as quickly as possible so the state can start firing teachers immediately.

As for the sophisticated model of student growth that the state is going to use on teachers, School Finance 101 takes a closer look as that here:

Setting aside this long list of concerns about the NYC VAM results, I now turn to the NYSED – state median growth percentile data (which actually seem inferior to the NYC VAM model/estimates). In her editorial, Chancellor Tisch proclaims:
The student-growth scores provided by the state for teacher evaluations are adjusted for factors such as students who are English Language Learners, students with disabilities and students living in poverty. When used right, growth data from student assessments provide an objective measurement of student achievement and, by extension, teacher performance.

[now, one might quibble that Chancellor Tisch has merely stated that the measures are "adjusted for" certain factors and she has not claimed that those adjustments actually work to eliminate bias. Further, she has merely declared that the measures are "objective" and not that they are accurate or precise. Personally, I don't find this deceptive language at all comforting!]

Indeed, the measures attempt – but fail to sufficiently adjust for key factors. They retain substantial biases as identified in the state’s own technical report. And they are subject to many of the same error concerns as the NYC VAM model.  Given the findings of the state’s own technical report, it is irresponsible to suggest that these measures can and should be immediately considered for making personnel and compensation decisions.

Finally, as I laid out in my previous blog post to suggest that “growth data from student assessments provide an objective measure of student achievement, and, by extension, teacher performance” IS A HUGE UNWARRANTED STRETCH! 

While I might concur with the follow up statement from Chancellor Tisch that “We should never judge an educator solely by test scores, but we shouldn’t completely disregard student performance and growth either.” I would argue that school leaders/peer teachers/personnel managers should absolutely have the option to completely disregard data that have high potential to be sending false signals, either as a function of persistent bias or error. Requiring action based on biased and error prone data (rather than permitting those data to be reasonably mined to the extent they may, OR MAY NOT, be useful) is a toxic formula for public schooling quality.

School Finance 101 posted earlier about the NY State evaluation system and found it wanting in a number of other areas as well.  You can see that post here.

It would be nice if Merryl Tisch told the truth about the new APPR system.

But like many education reform proponents, she's given to lies and deception in order to push through very radical changes to the school system.

Maybe she believes her own bullshit and really thinks this system is going to improve teaching and learning.

Or maybe she knows she's full of shit and says what she says anyway so she can make money for her brother at K12 Inc. and her pal Rupert and Joel at Wireless Gen and the rest of the ed reform entrepreneurs she hangs with.

Frankly it doesn't matter what her motivation for spewing bullshit is.

The fact is, she is full of shit, what she's writing about this evaluation system is pure deception and misinformation and she ought to be relieved of her chancellorship and replaced with somebody who actually cares about schools, students and teachers rather than just test makers, data trackers and education entrepreneurs.

APPR Is Not About Feedback

New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is putting pressure on the UFT to agree to an evaluation system with the NYCDOE.

She writes the following in the NY Post:

In February, Gov. Cuomo stood with state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and the heads of city and state teachers unions to announce agreement on a new evaluation system for teachers and principals. The new law was a groundbreaking accord that laid the foundation for a fair, responsible process to provide educators with constructive evaluations that can strengthen teaching and learning.
Nine months later, more than 600 school districts around the state have submitted evaluation plans, and Commissioner King has approved more than 250 of those plans. Unfortunately, New York City isn’t one of those districts.

This isn’t just about money, although the city stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it doesn’t have an approved plan in place by Jan. 17. And it’s not about a “gotcha” system to get rid of teachers. This is about giving teachers and principals the tools they need to strengthen their skills and improve their instruction.

Research and common sense tell us the best way to improve student performance is to make sure that every child is in a class headed by a great teacher and every school is run by a great principal.

Common sense tells us something else: Just like the rest of us, teachers and principals need objective feedback to get better at their jobs. An effective evaluation plan lets educators receive professional development tailored to their needs, and gives top practitioners the opportunity to serve as mentors for their colleagues.

That’s why the state Board of Regents included implementation of strong evaluation programs as a key pillar of its education-reform agenda.

Now if she were being honest about this system being about giving feedback to teachers and helping them to improve, that would be all fine and good.

But she isn't.

The system is rigged against teachers - as Carol Burris has noted here and Sean Feeney has noted here.

Merryl Tisch says test scores are an "essential component" of teacher evaluations.

John Kuhn explains here why putting such high stakes on standardized tests is damaging to students here.

Merryl Tisch isn't interested in giving feedback to teachers, improving schools or giving students a better education.

She's interested in giving the education reformers the tools they need to shed expensive teacher salaries at will.

That's what the unworkable teacher observations are about, that's what the endless standardized testing is about, that's what the algorithm developed by the state to measure so-called student growth is about.

This is a "gotcha" system set up to clear the rolls of as many teachers as possible and make the profession into a right-to-work job.

Unfortunately because the sell-outs at the NYSUT and the UFT agreed to this stuff, that's exactly what is going to happen.

Merryl Tisch can make believe this system is "for the kids" all she wants (and notice the usual "WE HAVE NO TIME!" urgency in her propaganda piece in the Post that is a blueprint from the Shock Doctrinaires.)

This system is for the education reform criminals, the hedge fund managers, the for-profit and quasi-non profit charter operators and the privatizers.

10 of 17 Turnaround High Schools Off Closure List

So last year the education reform criminals at the NYCDOE and their enablers in City Hall wanted seventeen high schools shut down as part of the Race to the Top "turnaround process."

You see, these schools were so bad, and the teachers in these schools were so bad, that the schools just couldn't be saved and the teachers just needed to be fired.

That was last school year.

Here's this year:

The Bloomberg administration has abandoned a controversial plan to close 10 struggling city high schools.

Just seven of 17 troubled high schools that the city tried to close this spring ended up on the chopping block in 2012 after many posted gains on city progress reports.

The city had sought to close the schools this summer and immediately reopen them with new instructors, a turnaround plan the teachers union opposed in court.

A court battle that lasted six months, ending with a judge’s ruling in the union’s favor.

Now it appears the city has reversed plans to close 10 of those schools.

 Students and teachers were thrilled at schools that were spared the axe.

 “It’s amazing,” said Alan Lerner, a social science teacher at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, which the city tried to close in 2011.

“Now we’re ready to build on our progress.” Dewey earned a B on the city’s high-stakes progress report this year, after four years of straight C’s.

The school’s impressive performance on the college readiness section of the progress report helped push its overall grade higher.

Newtown High School in Queens also jumped from a C to a B on its progress report this year and made it off of the city’s hit list.

One student at Newtown put this whole thing into perspective:

“I’m just glad we could stick it to Mayor Bloomberg,” said Newtown senior Christyan Gordon, 18. “I’m delighted we could prove how well this place can work.” 


This school closure movement, which has swept New York and Chicago and most famously came to Rhode Island when both the Secretary of Education Privatization and the President of the United Drone Bomb States agreed that firing teachers and closing Central Falls High School was the only way to "save" the students, is now enshrined in federal education policy.

And yet, at least 10 of the seventeen schools slated for closure by Bloomberg and his education reform criminals last summer have posted improvement to the very data these people cherish above every other piece of qualitative evidence.

In other words, they "turnarounded" without the Bloomberg/Cuomo/Obama/Duncan turnaround process.

If many of the other schools on these "turnaround lists" were granted the support and resources they need to help their students, the outcome would be the same as at Newtown and John Dewey.

But the education reform criminals aren't interested in improving schools, supporting teachers or helping students.

They're interested in closing schools, firing teachers, and privatizing the entire school system.

You cannot "compromise" with dishonest brokers and the majority of so-called education reformers are not honest about their intentions.

If they would just come out and say "Look, we think the free market fairy will lift all boats and that's why we want to close so many schools and sell them off to for-profit charter operators and quasi non-profit operators like Mistress Eva Moskowitz and Geoffrey "Where's The Real Estate!" Canada, I would have more respect for them.

But many of them are not honest.

Instead they talk about being for "students first" even as they reject education reforms that actually do put students first - like small class sizes and a rich curriculum that is more than just test prep.

There has been a lot of damage that has been done to public schools over the last decade and part of the remedy to this is to drop the political niceties about the education reformers and call them what they are - predators, privatizers, vultures and criminals.

The predators, privatizers, vultures and criminals wanted these ten schools on the turnaround list last year.

They didn't get them.

Unfortunately, they may get the other seven that were on that list.

Now it's our job to stop that from happening this year.

We can start by calling that process what it is - education reform crime.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daily News Editor Slammed In British Report On Media Ethics

Our old friend, Daily News editor Colin Myler, got hammered in the Leveson report on media ethics today for helping Rupert Murdoch cover up the hacking scandal at News of the World:

The coverage of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking by the British press, released on Thursday, have focused on its findings of pervasive misdeeds, especially at Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World, and its recommendation that a powerful new government watchdog is necessary to prevent future abuses. Lost somewhat in that are Leveson's conclusions about the ethical lapses of Colin Myler, currently editor in chief of the New York Daily News, who served as editor of NOTW as the paper began its death spiral. Myler was not at the paper when it engaged in phone hacking, but was brought on board in 2007 as the scandal was expanding. According to Rupert Murdoch, Myler was there to "find out what the hell was going on." Myler disputed his ex-boss's account, claiming that "he simply understood his role as being to edit the paper."

Still, Myler professed to being uneasy about what might be lurking in the paper's recent past. "I felt that there could have been bombs under the newsroom floor and I didn't know where they were and I didn't know when they were going to go off," he testified.

Rather than defuse them, the report suggests he aided the cover-up. "He vigorously and forcefully followed a line which, to pursue the analogy of a bomb under the newsroom floor, simply ignored his privately held fear of an impending explosion," Leveson concluded. "Although ... it may have been difficult or embarrassing, he did little to assuage his own 'discomfort' except lay down rules for the future."

The report also characterizes Myler's testimony as "hardly persuasive," "unconvincing," and causing "serious concern."

"I've worked with Colin Myler for a year, I think he's an outstanding editor, operated the newspaper with great abilty and complete integrity," said Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. "I have every confidence in him." In Myler's short tenure — he arrived in in January, 2011 — he has infused the paper with energy and drive, relishing the competition against Col Allan, his former mentor and editor of the Post. Zuckerman will no doubt continue to ignore the murky recent chapters in Myler's past. As every newspaperman knows, the public's attention span is very short.

The public's attention span may be short, but mine isn't.

Every time Myler runs some anti-teacher, anti-union piece in the DN, especially when he runs one of those pieces that impugns the integrity and the motives of teachers, I will remind people that Myler is a criminal who engaged in a cover-up and a conspiracy.

He belongs in jail with Rupert and James Murdoch, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, Clive Goodman and a host of the other News Corp. criminals.

John King And Merryl Tisch Expect APPR To Be In Effect This Year

So far, the UFT and the NYCDOE have not come to any agreement on the new evaluation system known as APPR.

Until that happens, the old system remains in place.

Andrew Cuomo has set a January 17th deadline for when all school districts in NY State must complete agreements with their local unions over the evaluation system or lose a budget increase.

So far, 85% of districts and unions have come to agreement.

The Asshats4Educators, the Gates Foundation-funded astroturf corporate reform teachers group held a supersecret meeting with Chancellor Dennis Walcott over the issue earlier this week.

Gotham Schools, in covering the Walcott event, took the opportunity to look at the tribulations we can expect once an agreement is reached between the UFT and the NYCDOE (and we should expect an agreement - the media are already going hard and heavy on the UFT for the evaluation deal and heaven forbid Mulgrew and Company should refuse to make a bad agreement when the media are beating them up in the papers.)

Now one would think that since the evaluation agreement deadline isn't until January 17th and the school year started in September that the new evaluation system wouldn't go into effect until next school year since half of this school year will already be over by the time of the agreement deadline.

But one would be wrong about that.

Unless districts want to forfeit the Cuomo money, the new evaluation system must be agreed to and in place THIS YEAR.

That means no more S/U ratings - we're onto the "highly effective," "effective," "developing," and "ineffective" rating system based upon the Danielson rubric, 20% state tests scores and 20% local test scores - even though we don't have any local tests yet, many teachers do not teach students who take state tests every year, and nobody has been evaluated using the 57 page Danielson rubric as of yet.

Why rush into the evaluation system this year - one that is so complex that even the architects of it have trouble explaining it - when it could be slowly implemented over time?

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch says that just can't be:

Tisch suggested that she thought the complexity of implementing an agreement could be one thing stopping the city and union from reaching one. “I don’t know why they are delaying, but if the delay is for the purpose of not implementing this year, I would say to all of them think about that twice,” she said.

Yes, you see teachers and their union reps should think twice about trying to protect themselves from a complex piece of voodoo VAM and just bend over and take it the way Walcott and Bloomberg want to give it to them.

So what if the new evaluation system is unworkable and error-riddled, the local tests don't exist yet (or if they do, they are newly patented and the accuracy of using them for high stakes teacher evals is dubious at best), and the state VAM is full of voodoo?

As Tisch and the other state education hack NYSED Commissioner John King wrote at Schoolbook earlier this week, we can't wait to get these reforms or measures right and accuracy should be no obstacle to the state's movement to fire as many teachers as it can as quickly as it can.

We have to seize the moment and do these half-baked reforms and this unworkable evaluation system that is bound to collapse in on itself as quickly as we can.

If anybody thinks corporate clowns like Tisch, King and Walcott actually give a shit about students in all of this, their actions around the need for speedy implementation of an error-riddled system ought to disabuse them of that notion.

This is simply about institutionalizing the tools districts will need to shed thousands of expensive teachers and replace them with cheaper TFA Barbie dolls and newbies and repeat that process every few years.

It's about breaking the unions.

One would think the UFT and the NYSUT would know that and fight against that sort of thing.

But just as one would be wrong about the Regents and the NYSED not forcing the implementation of a complex new evaluation system mid-way through a school year when none of the logistics are in place to run it effectively, one would be wrong about the union leadership understanding that by agreeing to this nonsense, they are signing their own death warrants.

It's difficult to see how the UFT and the NYSUT exist in the future when the new norm will be most teachers getting fired before they hit five years in and the membership will be in complete turmoil, constantly battling each other on the GREAT APPR BELL CURVE, and districts have all the tools they need to turn teaching into a right-to-work (i.e., right-to-be-fired) profession.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Puffy

Turns out Kenneth Cole products were not being made in the factory in Bangladesh that burned and killed 110+ people:

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Order books and clothing found at a Bangladeshi factory where a fire killed 112 people show that it was making clothing for Disney Pixar, Wal-Mart, Sears and other Western brands.

The Associated Press discovered clothing and records connected to the retailers Wednesday while police announced the arrests of three factory officials who are suspected of locking in workers who were killed in Saturday's fire.

Piles of children's shorts from Wal-Mart's Faded Glory brand were found among the charred equipment at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory. Blue and off-white shorts from rap star Sean Combs ENYCE label were piled on the floor and stacked in cartons.

Entries in account books in the abandoned factory showed it took orders in recent months to produce clothes for Disney and Sears, despite the factory's spotty safety record.

Wal-Mart says the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory was making clothes for it without its knowledge. Wal-Mart had received an audit deeming the factory "high risk" last year.

Workers who survived the fire say exit doors were locked, fire extinguishers didn't work and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm rang. A fire official has said that far fewer people would have died if there had been just one emergency exit.

Remember when Kathie Lee Gifford was caught having her clothing line made by slave labor and was forced to do a big Mea Culpa episode on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee?

That wouldn't happen these days.

Now it's a matter of pride for these celebrities to have their lines made in a Third World factory for pennies.

So what if people suffer and die in the process.

After all, this is about profit.

A Giant Of A Labor Leader

They don't make them any bigger or better than Marvin Miller:

Marvin Miller, an economist and labor leader who became one of the most important figures in baseball history by building the major league players union into a force that revolutionized the game, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 95. 

His death was announced by the Major League Baseball Players Association. 

When Mr. Miller was named executive director of the association in 1966, club owners ruled much as they had since the 19th century. The reserve clause bound players to their teams for as long as the owners wanted them, leaving them with little bargaining power. Come contract time, a player could expect an ultimatum but not much more. The minimum salary was $6,000 and had barely budged for two decades. The average salary was $19,000. The pension plan was feeble, and player grievances could be heard only by the commissioner, who worked for the owners. 

By the time Mr. Miller retired at the end of 1982, he had secured his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore by forging one of the strongest unions in America, creating a model for those in basketball, football and hockey. 

Never had the dugout been so professionalized. The average player salary had reached $241,000, the pension plan had become generous, and players had won free agency and were hiring agents to issue their own demands. If they had a grievance, they could turn to an arbitrator. Peter Seitz, the impartial arbitrator who invalidated the reserve clause and created free agency in 1975, called Mr. Miller “the Moses who had led Baseball’s Children of Israel out of the land of bondage.” 

But not only them. If Mr. Miller had one overarching achievement, it was to persuade professional athletes to cast aside the paternalism of the owners and to emerge as economic forces in their own right, armed with often immense bargaining power. The transformations he wrought in baseball rippled through all of professional sports, and it could be said that he, more than anyone else, was responsible for the professional athlete of today, a kind of pop culture star able to command astronomical salaries and move from one team of choice to another.

I wish that my teachers union had a labor leader with the intelligence, foresight, strategic mind, tenacity and integrity of Marvin Miller:

 Mr. Miller advised the union as a consultant through his 80s. He spoke out against contractual givebacks and changes in baseball’s economic structure that might weaken the union. While in his 90s, he criticized the union’s acceptance of mandatory drug testing, saying that it could hurt union solidarity and that “it was clear that the government was going to get involved, and when the government gets involved they will pick out targets and the media just goes along with it.”


In his mid-90s, Mr. Miller expressed satisfaction over more than the huge salary gains and freedom of movement his members enjoy, and he ultimately came to believe that the players finally appreciated what unionism meant. 

“Succeeding generations of players know so much more about trade unionism, solidarity and what it can produce than their predecessors did,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2011. “I’m proudest of the fact that I’ve been retired for almost 29 years at this point and there are knowledgeable observers who say that this might still be the strongest union in the country. I think that’s a great legacy.”

 Rest in Peace, Mr. Miller.

You were a great man and it is to the shame of the Baseball Hall of Fame that you have not been inducted into that institution.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bloomberg Loses Appeal Over Cathie Black Emails

From the WSJ:

The Bloomberg administration on Tuesday lost another round in a court battle to shield emails leading up to the short-lived appointment of Cathie Black as schools chancellor.

An Appellate Court upheld a lower court’s decision ordering the administration to release emails between the mayor’s office and Cathie Black or anyone at Hearst Corp., her employer at the time of her appointment.

The courts said the city improperly withheld emails requested in November 2010 by reporter Sergio Hernandez, who at the time was an intern at the Village Voice.
City lawyer Susan Paulson said the city is reviewing the decision and will ask the court for permission to appeal.

Black stepped down in April 2011  after three months on the job. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he selected her for her managerial skills, and she required a waiver from the state education commissioner because of her lack of education experience.

The city argued that Black and her staff should be considered city consultants as it gathered information to apply for the waiver.

In the decision, the court wrote: “Black was not acting simply as an outside consultant on behalf of the City, but was a private citizen with interests that may have diverged from those of the City.”

Hernandez said he asked for emails shortly after her November 2010 appointment because he hoped they would shed light on the search process.  Hernandez now freelances and works part-time for The Daily, which is owned by News Corp NWSA -0.83%., which owns The Wall Street Journal.

Judge Alice Schlesinger ruled against the city in November 2011:
“As Ms. Black did not meet the credentialing requirements for the all-important position of School Chancellor, the public has the right to know what information about her employment history and qualifications was disclosed in the emails. Any information of an intensely personal nature could easily be redacted, with the balance of the information disclosed. … Simply put, the statute offers no exemption for agency communications with private citizens such as Ms. Black.”
Hernandez said after the city denied his request, he contacted the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale University. Elizabeth Wolstein, a partner at Schlam Stone & Dolan, supervised students at the clinic and her firm continued to serve as counsel of record after the city’s appeal.

 What's he hiding?

Why keep the emails under wraps?

Why redact so much in the Klein emails?

Again I ask - what's he hiding?

Monday, November 26, 2012

NY State Teacher Evaluation System One Of The Most Costly State Mandates In Decades

The financial fallout from the vaunted new Cuomo/Tisch/King teacher evaluation system is about to hit school districts across the state - and it will not be pretty.

Newsday takes a closer look at how much the new evaluation system is going to cost districts on Long Island even as the costs of implementing the new Common Core Federal Standards come due at the same time.

Because the article is behind a paywall, I am going to post it in its entirety:

The newly mandated teacher and principal evaluation system is costing Long Island school districts tens of thousands of dollars per year in training, testing and materials, even as they struggle with effects of the property-tax cap and putting in place other required education reforms.

The expense varies by district depending on its size and how it plans to satisfy the state's demands. The Valley Stream 24 district, for instance, estimates it will spend $170,000 this school year, whileRemsenburg-Speonk will part with about $25,000. Middle Country has spent $188,599 as of earlier in the fall, and Jericho has doled out $284,996 so far, according to a Newsday survey of 10 school systems of diverse size.

Local districts have received little government aid -- in some cases, just a few thousand dollars spread over four years. And other costly reforms unrelated to teacher evaluations, such as implementing theCommon Core curriculum, are on the way.

Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said she's taken money from the district's textbook and teacher fund -- reserved for hiring of additional staff, if needed -- to create the evaluation system.

Meanwhile, her high school's Advanced Placement classes have swelled to 31 or 32 students in some cases, and she can't afford to hire more educators despite students' complaints, she said.

The district will spend at least $300,000 on the evaluation program by the end of the school year, she said.
"Is it fair?" Gerold said of Middle Country bearing the expense. "No."
Districts vie for federal dollars
The drive for new evaluations is part of a national movement spurred by the federal Race to the Top education initiative, which requires states to tie teacher ratings to student performance to get the money. New York won about $700 million.
The State Department of Education is using some of the money to pay the staff it needs to review districts' draft evaluation plans, which must have state approval. Otherwise, the department is apportioning money to individual districts and awarding competitive grants, either for turnaround of low-performing districts, innovation through a "whole-school" approach to curriculum and programs, or high achievement.
Districts across the state have long decried the price tag of the evaluation process, which comes as they are grappling with financial decisions driven by the second year of the state-imposed property-tax cap.
However, state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said the evaluation system will lead to higher-quality education for students. New York has $58.6 million in grants funded by Race to the Top and available for districts that build solid plans; nearly 50, including 10 on Long Island, will receive additional money as a result, he said.
"The research on effective education is unequivocal," Dunn said. "The best way to close the achievement gap is to have highly effective teachers in classrooms and highly effective instructional leaders running the buildings. Training principals and teachers around effective observation and feedback on instruction is not an 'added' expense. It is a core responsibility of districts."

Allan R. Odden, professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the evaluation protocol provides "solid information" on teacher effectiveness.
"Given the challenges of college- and career-ready standards, teachers and principals need to be managed more strategically," he said.

'An extraordinary cost burden'

The evaluation program is one of the priciest government mandates in decades, said Lorraine Deller, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.

"From the onset, we were receiving complaints from school board members of what was becoming an extraordinary cost burden for implementation," she said, adding that the state should help out or back off. "Either they ante up, or . . . look for a way to relieve local schools from footing the bulk of the bill."

Mattituck-Cutchogue will spend about $34,500 on the new system in its first year, and the Baldwindistrict already has spent about $435,000 to prepare and launch the program, officials said. Sachem plans to spend $270,000 to $290,000 on evaluations this school year, with at least $140,000 in recurring annual costs, officials said.
Much of the bill comes from training -- not just for workshops, but for the substitute teachers who f

ill in while that training is being done. The purchase and scoring of required tests for students adds to the checklist, which also can include software, computers and other materials.

"It's been a fairly massive undertaking," Baldwin Superintendent James Mapes said, adding that the new system won't be as good as the district's own evaluations, which were more frequent and included peer review.

Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, said local districts shouldn't be asked to "raid" their coffers to pay for creating evaluation programs, and the state should redirect to them more Race to the Top funding.
Gerold is tallying up not only her costs but those of other districts, and plans to send her findings to lawmakers and state officials to show what she said is being lost in real dollars. Her district anticipates at least $200,000 in recurring costs.

"Additionally, dozens of hours and thousands of dollars have been spent negotiating the . . . [evaluation plans] with local bargaining groups; many are still not settled," said Alan Groveman, superintendent of Connetquot schools, which will spend about $42,000 on the program this school year.

Rockville Centre will spend $80,000 to $100,000 in its first year, with $70,000 in recurring costs, Superintendent William Johnson said. That doesn't include compensation for added personnel.

"I might bring in outside people to help us out," he said. "We don't have the administrative staff to do this."
He said the system is unnecessary. "We know how to evaluate teachers."

But Odden, of the University of Wisconsin, said the system will bring needed change. Only effective teachers should be tenured, he said, and promotion and dismissal should be driven by an individual's effectiveness.
"Every district should jump at the opportunity, even if they have to engage in some modest resource reallocation," he said.

Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics and education policy at New York University, suggested ifLong Island districts are strapped for cash, they should consider consolidation.

"I think this movement toward schools focusing on outcomes is a good idea, but I think we've gone too far with it," she said.
"Having districts that have fewer than 1,500 kids cost more per kid," Stiefel said. "There are many districts out there that are that small."

What's not stated in the article is that part of the new teacher evaluation system is based upon so-called student performance garnered from state and local standardized tests using a value-added measurement algorithm that typically has large margins of error and wide swings in stability when used on individual teachers.

Add the costs of the local and state assessments to the already burdensome costs of the new evaluation system, the Common Core implementation and the technology costs that are going to be associated with the new tests (by 2015 the NYSED wants all state standardized tests given on computers) and you can see why many districts around the state are fearing financial insolvency in the next two to four years over these mandates.

Some of the education "experts" quoted in the article say the research around the new evaluation system is "unequivocal" - that this will improve teacher efficiency and performance and thus improve student performance.

But that "unequivocal research" is never presented.

We know that VAM is junk science when used on individual teachers - that much is unequivocal.

We know that many factors outside of the school contribute to student performance.

We know that inside the school, teacher quality has an effect, but that effect is nowhere near as strong as the out of school factors.

And yet we're going full speed ahead with the junk science, the 57 page Danielson rubric, the firing of teachers and closing of schools because the education reformers says that these are necessary.

In the end, after New Yorkers come to realize that this new evaluation system has been oversold, that it is more costly than its use warrants, that it will make matters worse not better in many schools, I believe it will thrown onto the junk heap.

But there's going to be a lot of damage before that happens.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Maybe Kenneth Cole Can Put Up A Billboard?

110 factory workers died in a factory fire in Bangladesh this weekend.

According to Al Jazeera, over 600 factory workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh over the past six years.

Factory conditions are abysmal there and the workers could use a union to protect them.

But union organizers who have pushed for safety inspections and other protections for workers have been murdered in Bangladesh because unions are, you know, bad for business.

Anti-union festishist Kenneth Cole has many of his products made in Bangladesh.

I can't tell you if the factory that burned this weekend was making Cole products, but workers at a Bangladeshi factory that burned in 2010 were in the process of making Kenneth Cole products among other things when they were killed in that fire.

29 people died in the December 2010 fire that was eerily similar to the one that killed 110 workers this weekend - they were both caused by faulty electrical wiring, the doors at both factories were locked and the workers couldn't get out in time

Now Kenneth Cole enjoys putting up billboards in NY about social and political issues.

Earlier this year he put up a billboard entitled "Teachers' Rights Vs. Students' Rights" and asked the question: "Shouldn't Everybody Be Well Red?"

The billboard suggested people go to Cole's website where they were further educated on the evils of teachers unions and how much they harm the children.

After a public outcry, Cole was forced to take the billboard down and step back from the message that unionized teachers harm students.

Meanwhile workers employed in Bangladesh making Kenneth Cole products continue to die in fires. 

I await a West Side Highway billboard decrying all of the dead factory workers in these totally preventable tragedies. 

Cole said the billboards are about bringing important messages to New Yorkers in provocative ways to make them think.

I can't think of a more important message that could come from the anti-union Cole, the mogul who is complicit in the murder of a union organizer, the man who continues to make his products in factories that keep burning down and killing his workers - make these factories safe so people don't have to die.

I am sure Cole's people are getting on that billboard right now.

NY Times: Obama Looked To Codify "Kill List" Before The Election In Case Romney Won

Believing few things are more important than institutionalizing his drone bomb campaign that slaughters innocents the world over in order to keep us "safe" from terrorism, President Obama and his advisers worked very hard to codify the rules of the program pre-election:

 A report in the New York Times on Sunday describes how, leading up to the recent US election, the Obama administration made a determined push to codify guidelines for its targeted assassination (aka 'Kill List') program and clarify rules for the use of US predator drones strikes overseas.

 Critics of the US drone program have long made the argument that Demoractic supporters of the President would perhaps lose their enthusiasm (or passive acceptance) for the "kill list" program if it was placed in the hands of a Republican president like the party's most recent hopeful, Mitt Romney.
The Times reporting on Sunday seems to indicate that the fear of handing over an amiguous and secretive assassination program to a Republican administration was also shared by some top officials in the Obama administration.

Reported by the paper's Scott Shane, the article says that the "attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and approving strikes."

Though the Obama administration has continually sought to protect the secrecy of certain details of its program, it has simultaneously defended its usefulness in combating international terrorism. This contradiction has been seized by international human rights groups, US civil libertarians, journalists, and the United Nations, calling on the US government to come clean on how it justifies the extrajudicial killing of individuals--both foreign citizens and American nationals--in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and others.

Shane reports that "the president and top aides believe [the programs] should be institutionalized," and that efforts to do "seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency."

The hypocrisy of liberals and progressives on this issue astounds me.

Change one word in the Times article - switch "Obama" for "Bush" - and you can bet that liberals and progressives would be up in arms over this program.

But because it's their guy in charge, it's a good program, a necessary program, one that is used judiciously by a judicious president.


Read this Glenn Greenwald column from late September on a Stanford/NYU study of the consequences of the drone bomb campaign on civilians, on the propaganda the Obama administration uses to justify this slaughter of innocents, on their targeting of funerals and even emergency responders to initial drone attacks, on the complicity of the media in this propaganda campaign and then tell me this program is less harmful and murderous because a Democrat is heading it as opposed to a Republican.

Here is a taste:

Significantly, the report says the prime culprit of these evils is what it calls the "dramatic escalation" of the drone campaign by the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate - escalated not just in sheer numbers (in less than four years, Obama "has reportedly carried out more than five times" the number ordered by Bush in eight years), but more so, the indiscriminate nature of the strikes. As Tuesday's Guardian article on this report states: it "blames the US president, Barack Obama, for the escalation of 'signature strikes' in which groups are selected merely through remote 'pattern of life' analysis."

 The report is equally damning when documenting the attempts of the Obama administration to suppress information about its drone victims, and worse, to actively mislead when they deign selectively to release information. Recognizing the difficulty of determining the number of civilian deaths with exactitude - due to "the opaqueness of the US government about its targeted killing program" as well as the inaccessibility of the region - it nonetheless documents that "the numbers of civilians killed are undoubtedly far higher than the few claimed by US officials." In other words, the administration's public statements are false: "undoubtedly" so. As the LA Times summarizes the study's findings today: "Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged."

Before the election, I attempted to ask a few people who claimed they were voting for Obama over Romney despite his education policies because on other issues, he was the clear moral choice about the immorality of the drone bomb campaign.

I didn't get much response from anybody.

I suspect it's because they either live in denial that this is happening or know it but do not wish to acknowledge it publicly.

The hypocrisy Obama supporters, liberals and progressives on this issue is just infuriating.

As Greenwald notes, not only do these people ignore the crimes and murders perpetrated by the Obama administration under the guise of the War on Terror, but they actively cheer them (as at the DNC.)

And again, it's with this moral superiority complex - we're more reflective and thoughtful about this stuff then the Bushies, Obama reads Aquinas before ordering the strikes, so somehow this has a moral justification that Bush's policies didn't.

I don't see anything moral about this drone bomb campaign or the man in charge of it.

Rather I see a war criminal who is murdering lots of innocent people on a weekly basis who belongs in a jail cell next to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley, Yoo, et al.

NY Post: Bloomberg. NYCDOE Deliberately Destroy Murry Bergtraum

It's a long article, but the first few paragraphs capture the essence:

They posted a photo of the massive brick school on Facebook with the comment: “Not sure if Bergtraum or jail.”

“HELL AWAITS,” blares another photo, one of many mocking their alma mater, Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers.

Once the pride of downtown, Bergtraum is now the shame of the city education system — a school and a student body all but abandoned by City Hall, which sits just two blocks away.
The worst part, teachers say: It’s been done on purpose.

“We think they’re consciously destroying it, so Bloomberg can close it down,” one said.
Bergtraum is a “warehouse” school, a last resort for students who have been shut out elsewhere or don’t care where they go.

Mayor Bloomberg has concentrated on opening smaller, more manageable schools, often at the expense of places like Bergtraum, critics say. Meanwhile, 1,800 teens are in a turbulent limbo, epitomized by a 2010 melee, captured in a YouTube video, in which students tussled with safety officers, and one punched a cop in the face. The fight erupted over then-Principal Andrea Lewis’ restriction on restroom visits.

“Bergtraum used to stand for high-quality education, a sought-after name on a young person’s résumé,” said John Elfrank-Dana, a teacher for 23 years. “No more. Now the Bergtraum name conjures up riots.”

 It's the fault of the teachers, right?

Undercutting the large schools, making them into dumping grounds when they close all the other large high schools around it, placing high needs kids into the schools without adding the services and personnel needed to handle the influx, putting a couple of incompetent and/or unqualified principals in charge of the school - that's Bloomberg's record not only at Murry Begrtraum but at many of the large schools across the city.

Inside Schools' Clara Hemphill says in the article that she doesn't think Bloomberg purposely went after the large schools to destroy them but rather has nurtured the small schools at the large schools' expense.

I respect Ms. Hemphill greatly, but I think that's a naive statement she's made.

Bloomberg and Gates began destroying the large schools with their Small Schools Movement from the time Bloomberg first got autocratic control of the school system and the method is always the same:

Declare a large school "failing," close it, reopen it as half a dozen new smaller schools.

The students from the large "failing" school then get sent to other large schools around the area, bringing many of the challenges from the old large "failing" school to the new not-yet failing school.

After a couple of years of this process, the new not-yet failing school suddenly gets declared "failing" and the process is repeated again and again.

You can say that Bloomberg's destruction of the large schools hasn't been deliberate, but the evidence doesn't support that.

It's been quite deliberate and Murry Bergtraum, which was still one of those not-yet failing large schools when I first started teaching in 2001 is now the latest emblem of the Bloomberg/Gates policy.

Bloomberg's supporters will say that the new small schools are improving education outcomes for students, so in the end the process is necessary.

But that's not true.

As Juan Gonzalez has pointed in the NY Daily News, Bloomberg's new small schools do not perform any better than the older schools around them and sometimes do a lot worse.

Some of the schools on the closure list this year are small schools opened under the Bloomberg administration.

The point of these policies has been destabilization - plain and simple.

Destabilize the system, destabilize the schools, destabilize the workforce, destabilize the "status quo."

Klein and Bloomberg came to power with little idea of what they wanted to do in the school system other than destroy what existed.

That's why there were four reorganizations, so many curriculum changes (remember RAMP UP?), so many closures and openings and the like.

They haven't been successful at much - the achievement gap between white and Asian students and black and Latino students was as large at the end of Klein's tenure as it was before Klein and Bloomberg took power.

The graduation rates are up, but the rates are as phony as the test scores were a few years ago, inflated by "credit recovery" and other efforts to game the stats.

Most New Yorkers think the school system is either the same or worse off since Bloomberg took it over.  49% say the school system has gotten worse in the last 20 years, another 16% say the quality has remained the same.  Just 23% say it has gotten better.

And teachers have never been more demoralized about their professions and the future of the system than they are now, although to be fair, that's not just Bloomberg's fault.  Bush, Paige, Spellings, Obama, Duncan, Gates, Broad, King, Tisch, Cuomo and a whole host of hedge fundies have contributed to that as well.

But Bloomberg and his former chancellor were very successful at one thing - they have destabilized the system and set it on the road to privatization.

They've made it very profitable for their buddies in the for-profit education industry, lucrative enough that Klein is now heading up Rupert Murdoch's for profit education division and former councilwoman/Klein buddy Eva Moskowitz declined to run for mayor this year because she's raking in the bucks as a charter entrepreneur.

Again, Murry Begtraum is just another symbol in this cynical game of destabilization, vulture capitalism, and privatization.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Little Twentieth Century Music

Education Reform And Groupthink

Kathleen Porter-Magee wonders what harm the "groupthink" education reformers engage in will have on education:

In 1972, Yale sociologist Irving Janis coined the term “groupthink.” It was a way of describing the group dynamics that occasionally lead smart, thoughtful, and well-intentioned people to make catastrophically bad decisions. What I have often wondered is, what would Janis make of the decisions being made by today’s education reform leaders?

Janis, who passed away in 1990, focused much of his research on the meetings and conversations that preceded several key presidential decisions, including those that led President Kennedy and the best and brightest “whiz kids” he brought into his administration to move forward with the Bay of Pigs invasion—an American-supported attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba that was, by all accounts, a spectacular failure. In the end, Janis concluded that Kennedy’s biggest failure was not the final decision, but rather the process he and his advisors followed to get there. Most importantly, he felt that they failed to have open, critical conversations that might have pushed them to rethink their assumptions, and that individuals within the group failed to either voice their own concerns, because they felt there was already consensus, or listen to objections that would have helped them reshape the invasion plan.


The reality is that, even in the best circumstances, debates over education reform and policy (on all sides) are perfectly positioned to support groupthink. Look to nearly any education debate these days—whether on Twitter, at conferences, or in statehouses—and you’ll witness some of classic signs of groupthink at work:
  • a feeling of moral superiority among group members;

  • collective rationalization, where members discount warnings or fail to rethink assumptions;

  • overly negative and stereotypical views of the groups “enemies”

  • and censorship of dissenting opinion—either via self-censorship or direct pressure put on those who disagree.
Making matters worse, reform leaders aren’t firebrand upstarts but major public figures in charge of vast public institutions. In stark contrast to the scrappy movement of the 1990s, today’s reform leaders hold key positions of power and have won sweeping policy victories—from setting rigorous standards to holding schools accountable to increasing educational options, particularly for poor and minority parents in urban areas. But the shift from advocacy to analysis and implementation has been a rocky one, and it’s possible that we are already seeing some evidence of groupthink at work in our decision making. What, for example, would Janis make of the push to force through teacher evaluation systems in statehouses across the country over the past two years?

In 2010, in a rush to win out in the Race to the Top competition, policymakers across the country pushed to pass teacher evaluation reform. At the core of most of these efforts was the belief that a strong statewide teacher evaluation plan would include a requirement that 51 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student achievement.

Why 51 percent? No one really knew. Did such a rigid formula contradict what successful principals were telling us about how they made staffing decisions? Were the assessments being used valid and reliable measures of student learning? Were they aligned to the curriculum teachers were using? Were the results from those assessments valid at the classroom level? And how were state teacher evaluation-reform mandates going to interact with other statewide reform efforts, like the decision to adopt the Common Core and transition to the related assessments?

These were questions that too few leaders seemed to really grapple with. If the unions or the most vocal anti-reformers were against it, it must be a good idea.

 Of course, leaders are right to stand tall and stick to core reform principles, but we also need to get serious about seeking thoughtful—even if not always friendly—critics who will challenge our assumptions and help reveal the most damaging holes in our plans. Most of all, we should be slowing down the decision-making process to make sure we are making the right decisions for our students and teachers before writing our ideas into law. Time is of the essence, but moving quickly at the expense of smart decisions and effective policies is worse than doing nothing at all.

I remember seeing Geoffrey Canada shout at somebody on TV once, somebody who suggested we think carefully through reform before moving forward with it on a large scale.  Canada shouted in that self-important way that so many reformers have, that way Canada himself always has, "WE CAN'T WAIT!  THERE'S NO TIME!!!!"

There's nothing wrong with having a sense of urgency in addressing a problem, but as so often happens with humans, education reformers mistake movement for action.

They're attitude is, "We must do something and we must do something now because the status quo is untenable and we cannot abide by it any longer and so what if what we're doing isn't working and is making things worse - AT LEAST WE'RE DOING SOMETHING!"

That's the message from the more erstwhile education reformers - the ones who actually believe their own bullshit.

For the reformers in that camp, there definitely is a groupthink mentality.

The more cynical ones, the ones in it not to improve schools but to privatize them, the ones looking to "use the crisis" for their own ends, don't really care if what they've pushed through across the nation - teacher evals based on test scores, Common Core Federal Standards, high stakes accountability, standardized tests in every subject in every grade - are working.

The more cynical reformers care about selling those schools off to their hedge fund buddies, making money for themselves and their cronies, busting the unions to make it easier to push through their privatization agendas, and using so-called accountability measures as rationale for that agenda.

I would agree with Ms. Porter-Magee that there is a groupthink mentality to education reform.

I disagree with her comparing it to Kennedy's Best and Brightest and their Bay of Pigs debacle.

Rather, I think the better analogy is to Kennedy's and Johnson's Best and Brightest and the Vietnam War.

Long after the Best and Brightest knew the war was a morass, that they were throwing good lives into a meat grinder, that they were lying about the body counts and misleading the public about the state of the war, they continued to press ahead with their destructive (and murderous) policies.

While education reform policies aren't killing anybody physically, you can certainly see the psychological, emotional, spiritual and financial damage they are wreaking.

Note the students who are self-medicating with ADHD drugs in order to increase their so-called academic achievement and/or test scores.

Or the doctor loading up children from working class families on ADHD drugs in order to increase their so-called academic achievement and/or test scores.

Or the districts that are saying they'll be financially insolvent within two to four years because they cannot afford the new federal and state education mandates, especially relating to teacher evaluations and testing.

Or the students who are suffering from more and more anxiety and angst as their days in school become ever more intense Darwinian competitions over "achievement," this angst manifesting itself in depression, drug use, and suicidal feelings in both high school students and college students.

To what ends are these education mandates, these education reforms and "No Excuses!" philosophies getting us?

What kind of society are we creating with all these reforms?

Dunno, but I do know this - we have moved so far so quickly with these education reforms wrought by the groupthink of Gates and Broad and Bush and Bloomberg and Obama and the rest and I can guarantee you that these these geniuses, these latest Best and Brightest, haven't thought through the consequences of their policies either.

Or, perhaps like Rahm Emanuel and Rupert Murdoch, they may not care about the consequences.

They may only care about the agenda they're promoting, the money they're making and the power they're wielding.

Either way, there is a lot of damage being done by the so-called Best and Brightest and their groupthink reforms.

It would be nice if more education reformers were calling for a thoughtful reform process like Porter-Magee is.

Alas, they are not - they are calling for "bolder, faster change," as Eva Moskowitz has branded her movement, and care little of the consequences of these bolder, faster changes.

I'm not invested in the status quo nor opposed to reforms to the system, to teacher evaluations, to schools.

What I am opposed to is the wholesale changes to the system the reform movement has hoisted onto public schools across the nation without any iota of evidence that Common Core, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, and other corporate reform tenets will improve education, though with already a basketful of evidence of the damage it is doing.

A.A. Gill On Why Education Sucks

Some people in the comments attack A.A. Gill for this Vanity Fair article, but I totally agree with him - schooling has become out all proportion of what it should be and is built on the terror of parents and schools competing with each other:

In the 100 years since we really got serious about education as a universally good idea, we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most carefree, inquisitive, and memorable and fill them with a motley collection of stress and a neurotic fear of failure. Education is a dress-up box of good intentions, swivel-eyed utopianism, cruel competition, guilt, snobbery, wish fulfillment, special pleading, government intervention, bu­reauc­racy, and social engineering. And no one is smart enough now to understand how we can stop it. Parents have no ra­tion­al defense against the byzantine demands of the education-industrial complex. But this multi-national business says that they’re acting in the children’s best interests. And we can only react emotionally to the next Big Idea or the Cure or the Shortcut to Happiness.

No, scrap happiness—we’ll settle for success. We gave up on happiness at about the age of six. Childhood is a war of attrition, like some grisly TV game show where the weak and the kind and the quixotic and the dreamers and the gentle get dumped at the end of each year. Only the gimlet-eyed and the obsessively competitive and the driven make it to the finish line.


I gave a talk at an educational festival in England this year. They asked me in the way that Methodists glean godliness by exhibiting hopeless recidivist drunks in tents—I am a chronic and inspiring example of academic failure. I asked a roomful of teachers if they’d enjoyed their own school days. About half put up their hands and said they had. Not actually a great average. And then I asked that half if the things that made school fun had happened inside or outside a classroom. And only two said they’d enjoyed being taught. The rest liked school despite schooling. They remembered their friends and getting drunk and feeling each other up and laughing till they were hunched over with hilarity. There is of course the old chestnut of the one teacher, the magic one, the one who let in the light. Introduced us to Keats or Darwin. But that’s not much for 15 years, is it? A couple of odes and some finches.

If you want to see the absolute proof that we’ve got it all wrong—that education is really about the fear and guilt of parents projected onto their children, then go to your own school reunion. Obviously most normal people would rather attend a naked consciousness-raising workshop. But do it once and you’ll see what the Adonises and the Venuses of your halcyon days actually did with all that promise. The boy who was captain of everything, who strode the halls like a young Alexander; the girl with the glistening hair who memorized poetry and whose golden limbs danced across a stage as a Juliet no one would ever forget. Well, they’re both sorry, seedy never-was-es now. Their finest moments are behind them. Everything after that brilliant year at school or college was mediocrity. Nothing good ever came from peaking too early.

Read the whole thing, listen to the ten minute interview with him, and think about the education reform movement, the KIPPsters, Mistress Eva, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, Duncan and Obama and the rest of the education reform criminals and ask yourself what's the point of all of this schooling and education they promote.

It's simple really - control.

They want to socially engineer obedient workers and compliant consumers who will spend all week working extra hard and spend all that hard-earned (and ever diminishing) money on Black Friday sales and Christmas shopping.

They want children to grow up in fear that they will be "failures" if they do not tow the line and obey the rules.

They want parents to reinforce that fear on a daily basis, teachers to enforce that fear with grades and tests.

Obey, follow the rules, be who we want you to be!

I would love to come back 200 hundred years from now and see what people say about America in the 21st century.

We think we're so smart and advanced, so technological, so evolved.

The reality is, our "technology" is poisoning us, our ideas and philosophies (like democracy cannot exist without free markets and capitalism is the best of all possible systems) are killing us, our education system is stifling our humanity and our creativity.

Just take a look at the people in charge of education and ask yourself, do I want my kid to grow up and be like that?

Many of them are diminished human beings, lacking in humanity, lacking in decency, lacking in perspective.

All that matters are the test scores.

All that matters is "achievement".

They never answer why higher test scores are the highest measurement of "achievement".

They never answer why we should care about that or why higher test scores will make for better children, better people, a better world.

The truth is, focusing on scores as the sole measurement of achievement, promoting school and education as the most important institutions for children, transferring fear to children that if they don't do well in school they are "failures" - these are some of the most harmful lessons we can impart.

It's not a mistake in a capitalist society with dwindling resources and an ever-greedy ruling elite that wants more and more for itself and less for everybody else, that these are the lessons we teach to children and grow up with ourselves.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Music

The NY Times Actually Publishes A Piece Showing The Destruction Wrought By Education Reform

Excellent piece in the Times op-ed section by Michael Brick on the destruction education reformers cause with their insistence upon "school choice," high-stakes testing, school closures and the like.

Here's a taste:

IN his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem. 

For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools. 

So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well. 

It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.

There's more - read the whole piece.

It would be nice if the guy who writes the unsigned education reform editorials for the Times would read some of the anti-reform stuff that shows up even in the NY Times op-ed section from time to time.

He might see that the dribble he writes promoting education reform, standardized testing, high stakes accountability and firing teachers based on test scores actually does more harm than good to students and schools.

But editorial writers, especially the ones who write the unsigned editorials, seem to simply parrot the corporate education reform movement literature word-for-word.

Happens at the NY Times, the WSJ, the Economist, the Financial Times, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the NY Daily News, the NY Post and elsewhere across the media landscape.

To be fair, some of the other "writers" at the NY Times who sign their columns - like Bobo Brooks, the Mustache of Understanding, and Nick "Where Are The Hookers?" Kristof - also seem to simply rewrite Gates Foundation pamphlets when they write columns on education issues.

And to be even more fair, many of the newspapers that promote education reform make money off education reform - from the Pearson-owned Financial Times to the Washington Post/Kaplan Test Prep Company to the News Corp-owned Journal and Post.

Even the NY Times is trying to expand into making some money off education by selling things to districts and schools.

So of course many of the "journalists" at these papers promote education reform and/or reformy solutions to problems while slamming teachers as the main cause of all the problems in education these days because it's, well, it's good for the bottom line.

And even journalists in this day of media downsizing want to be seen as "adding value" to their employers.

Still, it's nice to see somebody at the NY Times put the Michael Brick piece in today's paper.

It would be nicer if they hadn't buried it on a holiday weekend when few people will see it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

De Blasio Pushes For 911 Investigation

Bloomberg said the 911 emergency system "functioned perfectly" during Superstorm Sandy, but Public Advocate Bill de Blasio begged to differ:

Public officials are demanding an investigation into the near-meltdown of the city’s 911 emergency system during Sandy’s wrath last month — refusing to accept Mayor Bloomberg’s assertion that it all worked “perfectly.”

“Failure to plan caused the system to fail, just as it failed during the December 2010 blizzard,” wrote Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, in an open letter to Bloomberg.

“The city must seriously analyze the system’s shortcomings and seek answers that will help us better prepare for future disasters,” they demanded.

As The Post reported Monday, countless calls to 911 rang unanswered, were greeted by recordings or overwhelmed dispatchers unable to send help.

“By shining a light on the scope of this breakdown, The Post did the city a real service,” said de Blasio. “When the city sees a crisis, like a storm approaching, it has to assign the personnel and resources necessary to protect our people.”

The call center was woefully understaffed as well, as it dealt with as many as 50,000 calls an hour.
But Bloomberg has insisted that the system, which has been subject to an ongoing and over-budget $2 billion overhaul, worked “perfectly.”

He dismissed de Blasio and Crowley yesterday as ill-informed.

“They unfortunately don’t know anything,” Bloomberg said. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

De Blasio said frustrated — and worried — residents called his office and staffers during the storm when they couldn’t get through to 911.

Aides were able to contact the Office of Emergency Management and help facilitate the evacuations of three families, according to de Blasio’s office.

De Blasio urged Bloomberg to take a hard look at the 911 system.

“This demands more than flip remarks. People couldn’t get through to 911 with life-threatening emergencies,” he said. “There’s only one acceptable response to that kind of breakdown: Fix it.”

Hard to fix something when you refuse to admit there's a problem, as Bloomberg is doing.

And he continues to try and hide the scope of the problem by quashing an independent report that details just how bad the 911 system re-do is:

In a related development, the state Appellate Division issued a unanimous ruling ordering City Hall to release drafts of a controversial report that found the city’s new 911 system a failure.

The Post in April revealed that Bloomberg was hiding the scathing report to avoid the embarrassment that independent consultants found the system remains plagued with problems despite attempts to fix it.

His top officials had marked all copies of the 911 Call Processing Review — or 911 CPR — as drafts to circumvent public-records laws that allow government agencies to keep drafts of internal reports private.

The ruling, however, didn’t require City Hall to immediately release the report.

When will Bloomberg finally have to release the whole report?

Why isn't the 911 mess a huge scandal?

You can bet if this were David Dinkins at the helm and a 911 system pushed by his administration suffered near-catastrophic failure during Superstorm Sandy, the press would be all over it.

And yet, except for the Post stories, Bloomberg is getting a pass.

Bloomberg surely lives a charmed life.

Being a billionaire media mogul rumored to be in the market for the NY Times and the Financial Times surely helps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cory Booker Engineers City Council Coup In Newark, Near-Riot Ensues

Amazing footage from Newark as Mayor Cory Booker seated a crony on the City Council per a backroom deal, then got run off the stage by protesters in a near-riot:

The cops maced a bunch of people, Booker slunk off into the darkness and once again, we see democracy, American-style, in action.

Afterwards the crowd chanted "Cory's gotta go!  Cory's gotta go!" and Councilman Darrin Shariftold told the Newark Star-Ledger:

"This truly was an out-of-body experience. The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy … literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows."

As an aside, this is exactly the kind of political manipulation corporate education reformers like Cory Booker do all the time to sell off the public school system.

We need a little of this kind of response to get the message across to Booker and the other crooks when they pull their backroom deals selling off the schools and privatizing the system.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - until the oligarchs and their political functionaries like Booker fear the consequences of their actions, really fear that they will suffer financially or career-wise or personally for selling the 99% down the river to the corporate interests, nothing is going to change.

But you get this kind of reaction to a backroom political manipulation by Booker and the oligarchs and their political functionaries will take notice.

Booker was expected to announce a run for governor next year earlier this month and the political elite were eagerly anticipating a race between Christie and Booker.

Booker delayed that announcement, ostensibly because of the hurricane fall-out but more likely because Christie's post-Sandy approval ratings are through the roof and he's rethinking whether he wants to run or not.

I am willing to bet that last night's events, captured on video and ready for a 30 second spot to be used on him, put the last nail in Booker's 2013 campaign for governor.

Christie's post-Sandy popularity across political lines, coupled with the Obama footage from the hurricane, won't play well against last night's Newark video footage for Booker.

Booker is a favorite of the hedge fund criminals and Wall Street crooks, so I doubt last night's near-riot puts an end to his career trajectory.

But it surely takes the gloss off of it and makes him look like just another corrupt New Jersey pol - which he is.