Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Congress to Attack Poverty

In a rare move, Congress is giving children, teachers, and public schools across the nation a break rather than a black eye by passing a mandate to end poverty. Children will be required to do a much better job of selecting their parents and the circumstances into which they are born. Public school teachers will be held strictly accountable for seeing to it that every child has developed the critical thinking skills necessary for making sound birth decisions. A failing teacher will face salary and benefit reductions and be the subject of a scathing editorial by a wealthy, outraged pundit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Offer Orthopedic Shoes to Failing Public School Teachers

For Immediate Release
Washington, D.C.

Newsspoof: Gates Foundation & DOE to Fund High-Performing Footwear Initiative

edu-philanthropreneur Bill Gates gets down and out about the state of public education, the severe economic downturn we are all are experiencing, and the staggering inequalities incurred on the nation by poorly performing public school teachers, he visits some exceptional schools to lift his spirits. On a visit to a KIPP school in Houston, Gates witnessed an "unbelievable thing" about its teachers, a phenomenon apparently unheard of in traditional public schools.

Now, there are a few places -- very few -- where great teachers are being made. A good example of one is a set of charter schools called KIPP. KIPP means Knowledge Is Power. It's an unbelievable thing. When you actually go and sit in one of these classrooms, at first it's very bizarre. I sat down and I thought, "What is going on?" The teacher was running around, and the energy level was high. I thought, "I'm in the sports rally or something. What's going on?" And the teacher was constantly scanning to see which kids weren't paying attention, which kids were bored, and calling kids rapidly, putting things up on the board.

And the more the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation apprised itself of top-notch research, the more apparent it became that the key to closing the achievement gap was to turn the nation's attention to teacher effectiveness as quantified by children's standardized test scores:

The more we looked at it, the more we realized that having great teachers was the very key thing. And we hooked up with some people studying how much variation there is between teachers, between, say, the top quartile -- the very best -- and the bottom quartile. How much variation is there within a school or between schools? And the answer is that these variations are absolutely unbelievable. A top quartile teacher will increase the performance of their class -- based on test scores -- by over 10 percent in a single year. What does that mean? That means that if the entire U.S., for two years, had top quartile teachers, the entire difference between us and Asia would go away. Within four years we would be blowing everyone in the world away! So, it's simple. All you need are those top quartile teachers.

"I'm a huge fan of Bill Gates," reported Ed Secretary Arne Duncan, whose department has filled key posts with officials having strong ties to Gates.

"For decades, critics old and new in the education reform industry have known and rightly warned Americans that our public schools are failing the nation. Well-meaning ed reformers have bravely and unselfishly pushed reform after reform. And it's like we've been sort of looking around for the silver bullet and it turns out the answer has been right under our noses the whole time!"

However, until such time as all the teachers in the nation's 3.7 million K-12 classrooms are top-quartile teachers, Gates opines that we are left with "what to do" with the nation's corp of tired, old, less visionary teachers.

While it's certainly no panacea, we do know that great teachers are on their feet constantly for hours every day, engaging and re-directing the most challenging students. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, the Gates Foundation will fund a high-performing footwear initiative in the nation's traditional public schools. Teachers who choose to take advantage of the offer will receive vouchers to visit to a podiatrist of their choice to be fitted for custom orthotics. Teachers already wearing orthotics may want their doctor to see if they're wearing the right type of orthopedic shoes. No pun intended, but we really do want to give teachers fair and balanced support in their efforts to improve.

"I'm a huge fan of orthopedic shoes," raved Duncan. "When I played pro-basketball, the quality and comfort of my shoes made a huge difference."

--news spoof brought to you by staff at This Little Blog

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tom Vander Ark's List of Race to the Top Edu-Entrepreneurial Opportunities

Tom Vander Ark was the first Executive Director for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is now partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff, an eduction public affairs firm, and a partner in a private equity fund focused on "innovative" learning tools.  

Drooling for Data-Driven Dollars might have been a better title for this post. And for children? Much, much more of the same, where they are viewed as commodities to be standardized and developed for corporate harvesting and consumption.  

Below find Mr. Vander Ark's list of 10 edu-entrepreneurial opportunities to be fueled by Race-to-the-Top.

With the Race to the Top language out, it’s time to refine the list of opportunities for education entrepreneurs (both .org & .com). From largest to niche size they include:

1. School improvement: between RTT, Inovation, and School Improvement, there will be a couple billion spent on attempts to improve struggling schools. America’s Choice should be well positioned as will a new services group at Pearson. Groups like AdvancePath that target under-credited students as a school-within-a-school should also do well.

2. CMO/EMO: with grant money and air cover from Obama and Duncan, the demand for high quality charters has never been stronger. If CMOs like Green Dot can figure out a reliable conversion strategy, several will finally achieve scale. A for-profit operator, National Heritage is now twice as big as Green Dot and bigger than the KIPP network. It will help if RTT helps improves access to public facilities.

4. Assessment: the big guys will continue to own state contracts, but there’s a new opening for formative and periodic assessment. Groups like Wireless Generation are well positioned to take advantage of the push for quick tests that improve instruction.

5. Adaptive content & learning games: Over the next five years, we’ll see a third of the $8B textbook business shift to digital with a third of that going to the new field of adaptive content and games.

6. Training: It has been a tough year in the professional development business, but that should change as federal funding flows. Where data is linked to evaluation, we’ll see strong demand for targeted training.

7. Consulting: lots of states, districts and schools need lots of services including data integration, policy development, program design and implementation (i.e., evaluation), grant writing, program management, and communications.

8. Advocacy: The big bucks and big demands on the system will make the next few years very dynamic. We need a ConnCAN in every state to connect communities, lawmakers, and policy experts. We need to mobilize underserved communities to steer school improvement and new school opportunities.

9. Evaluation: evaluating $5B of spending will yield $250M of evaluation contracts—it’s a good time to be MDRC.

10. Web 2.0: with dozens of new entrants in the social learning space and content management and student information systems incorporating web 2.0 functionality, we’re bound to see a couple of these gain widespread adoption in the next four school years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ed Secretary Duncan Gets Head Stuck

For Immediate Release
Washington, D.C.

According to unnamed officials at the Department of Education, Ed Secretary Arne Duncan got his head trapped inside the two metal bars of the extendable handle on his rolling attache case. He was able to insert his head fully through the handle without it getting stuck but was subsequently unable to pull his head back out.

Leading ed reform spokesmen Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich discovered the Secretary in his office muttering expletives and feverishly trying to pull his head out. The pair had arrived on schedule to meet with Duncan to brainstorm stratagems for dealing with an absence of any credible evidence to support the administration's education reform proposals.

Once freed from the device by Sharpton and Gingrich, Duncan brushed the mishap off as a teachable moment about not sticking your head in places where it doesn't belong.

Department employees have graciously refrained from asking Duncan why he stuck his head through the bars in the first place.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Diane Ravitch Comments on Race to the Top (And A Teacher's Proposal for Obama and Duncan to Submit to Nationally Televised Debates)

Great comments from Diane Ravitch:

Dear DOE,

I wish to register a strong objection to these regulations. As a former
federal official (I was Assistant Secretary of Education in 1991-92), I
object to the coercive nature in which the federal government is dictating
education policy to the states. But of great importance, the policies you are
dictating are not based on evidence.

You want states to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, but you present
no evidence that doing so improves achievement; instead you rely on economists
who project that it might do so. To achieve this goal, you tell states that they
must roll back laws they have passed. This oversteps the bounds of federal
authority in education.

Similarly your pressure to open charter schools goes beyond any evidence
that charter schools are superior to regular public schools. The recent Stanford
study by Margaret Raymond found that only 17% of charter schools were better
than nearby public schools. Why then should schools eliminate their caps on

I think the DOE should respect the requirements of federalism and look to
states to offer their best ideas rather than mandating policies that the current
administration likes, even though there is no evidence to support them.

Humility is sometimes the best policy, especially when you are not on firm
ground with your remedies.

Diane Ravitch

Thank you, Diane.

On a related note, I believe we should be joining forces and publicly challenging Obama and Duncan to submit to nationally televised debates about the merits of their recipe for education reform. Since it is highly unlikely that they would concede to participating in debates where they could not control and frame the debate, I think we should present the challenge to them under the condition that they submit to fair and DEMOCRATIC debates in which neither side is allowed to control or frame the debate. If they refuse, that alone would say a lot.

I proposed this challenge on a listserv to which I belong (arn-the assessment reform network). Jerry Bracey responded that to "publicly" challenge Obama/Duncan would present a daunting challenge, mainly getting the media's attention and "getting it in a big way." He's right, but he offered that he's open to ideas.

So I submitted another idea. As some of you already know, the Standing Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures recently issued statements about its position on lifting charter school caps and the imposition of national standards. It seems they oppose both. Here's the link (if you visit the link you have to scroll down a bit to get to the statements about lifting state charter school caps and national standards):,22,634#Public_Charter

I suggested that perhaps we try appealing to and through the NCSL to call for national debates. I notice that Jerry then sent our discourse on the matter to Arne Duncan and other officials at, as well as to various journalists, including Sam Dillon of the NY Times and Jay Mathews of the Washington Post.

Don't know if this idea will go anywhere but would appreciate any ideas out there to add to the discussion.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Road Most Traveled by the Ed Reformers

With deep apologies to Robert Frost for the liberties taken, I'm posting this again (revised from my original post) to reflect how I feel and what I believe about the education reform business. And it has indeed become big business and a corrupt one at that. It seems to me it is disaster capitalism, the hijacking of a public good for corporate interest in a nation that remains number one among wealthy nations in childhood poverty. And the staggering inequalities are only growing.

Two roads diverged in the urban wood,

One to crush and the other to help.

The first lush with profit, long I stood

Pressing schools down as hard as I could

With truth kept hidden in the undergrowth.

I took the first road as just and fair,

And having no doubt a believable claim.

Posing for poor children wanted no wear,

They'd yield data for market repair,

And for this scheme I felt no ounce of shame.

Throughout the journey well hidden lay

The leaves that I had trodden black.

Oh, I kept that knowledge for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever turn back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one most traveled by,

And for poor kids it made little difference.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fun With Arne

In a speech before the National Press Club yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he believes children should be in school seven days a week and also on weekends. 

When prompted to correct his error, Duncan explained that for students already demonstrating "dramatically on target readiness for college and the workforce", he meant seven days a week but not on weekends. 

Prior to being appointed Secretary of Education by President Obama, privately educated Duncan catapulted his way to his former position as CEO of Chicago Public Schools by doing some tutoring when he was in high school, earning a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard, and playing pro-basketball in Australia for four years. 

Of his experiences as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, the Secretary stated that he is "absolutely proud of the progress made in Chicago." 

In regard to his new role as Secretary of Education, Duncan described himself as a huge fan of reform, passionately committed, and unbelievably excited.

 - newsspoof by staff at this little blog

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Deconstructing Arne Duncan Quote

Is it just me? The following Arne Duncan quote has troubled me for some time but I've never said anything. Check out Duncan's placement of priorities here (bold highlights mine):

“Hungry children are distracted children. We want to make sure
nothing gets in the way of our children performing well academically, including hunger.” 

Hungry children should be fed because they are hungry. Period.  

That children's academic performance will improve when their most basic, fundamental life needs are met is truly secondary. NOT unimportant, but secondary.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NCLB, Shark Attacks, and Tapeworms

Undaunted in the face of setbacks and mounting evidence that the No Child Left Behind Act has been an abysmal failure, research titans at the Free Market Think Tank Community are uncovering surprising quality-of-life benefits for children that they have tied directly to the testing and accountability provisions of the sweeping federal law.

Shark attacks on children in the United States declined by 23% from the inception of NCLB in 2002 to 2008, confirmed ichthyologist Gill Bates of the International Stop-the-Shark Attacks File, a program that is part of the Philanthrotank Museum of Natural History.

"The more time children spend studying for standardized tests, the less time they have for trips to the beach," said Bates. "We gladly anticipate further declines in shark attacks on children as public schools are held to higher and higher standards."

In other research news, fellows at the Broad Institute for Child Well-Being have confirmed that a sharp reduction in childhood tapeworm infestations occurred from 2002 to 2008.

"It is clear that longer school days, school on Saturdays, summer school, two hours of homework every evening, and intensive test preparation reduce the amount of time children have to play in the dirt and play with pets," said KIDD Schools founder Mike Nofunberg. "These activities are known to make children very susceptible to tapeworms."

Friday, April 10, 2009

The New Philadelphia Story, Education Occupation Version

In military usage, occupation refers to the invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces. There is a striking parallel to be found in the oppressive top-down control, hijacking, and destruction of public education being wrought by the billionaire-financed forces of education privatization.

The latest on the 'success' of the Education Occupation in Philadelphia, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

City schools under Philadelphia School District control outperformed those run by outside managers paid millions of dollars to run them, according to a study released today.

The research - which echoes three previous studies - comes at a crucial moment for Philadelphia's privatization experiment, the largest of its kind in the country. The contracts of 18 privately managed schools run by six companies are up June 30, and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has publicly stated that she
will not support schools that don't work.

Conducted by Johns Hopkins University researcher Vaughn Byrnes and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Education, the study found that students at Philadelphia's privatized schools made strides on state exams but that pupils at district-run schools made bigger gains.

Byrnes looked at test scores of sixth, seventh and eighth graders at 88 city schools from 1997 through 2006.

"By 2006, the achievement gap between the privatized group and the rest of the district was greater than it was before the intervention," Byrnes said.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tutoring Bonanza: No Child Left Behind Act Highly Profitable, Except for Children

from New York Daily News
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
by Juan Gonzalez

Department of Education Paid Private Tutor Firm 21M in 2 Years, Most of It In Overhead

In its drive to improve school reading and math test scores, the city's Department of Education paid a private company more than $21 million in two years to tutor thousands of public school pupils at home.

But most of that money - more than twice the amount the DOE originally budgeted - went for overhead, management and profit for the company, Champion Learning Center.

Champion got $79 an hour to tutor each pupil for up to four hours per week, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Daily News.

That adds up to almost $320 a week in tutoring costs per child.

Champion paid its part-time tutors, mostly college students with no teaching experience, an average of $17 an hour.

That's right. The company received an astounding $62 in overhead for every hour its employees spent tutoring a child.

Champion is one of dozens of private companies with state approval to provide tutoring services under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"We received very little training in our orientation," said one college student hired by Champion. "They just told us to follow the instructions in the test prep workbooks they gave us."

Read the rest of the article here.

This is sad and it is obscene. Wild profiteering while subjecting children to such a narrow and impoverished view of education....tutoring to artificially pump up test scores. The obsession with standardized testing and data-driven instruction is resulting in the dumbing down and numbing down of our children. I think it serves the interests of the oligarchs controlling ed reform to keep it that way.

That the plight of poor children is being exploited in this way is the true nature of the No Child Left Behind abomination. The unrelenting failing public schools propaganda that ultimately led to this law, and the increasing imposition of business models in our schools, have succeeded in lining the pockets of business interests while simultaneously undermining support for public education.

More devastating, however, failing public schools propaganda has served brilliantly as a convenient scapegoat to divert national attention away from the condition of childhood in this nation, a way to avoid the difficult but necessary task of confronting this crisis directly. Far easier to blame the schools and teachers and charge them with fixing it. See the State of America's Children 2008 Report.

It is unjust and beyond irresponsible to charge that public schools and teachers are to blame because achievement gaps exist and that they alone can close them. Evidence is mounting on the impact of poverty and societal ills on the developing brain. School reform, decidely not the harsh kind of "reform" disadvantaged children are now being subjected to, must be combined with social and economic reforms.

I think the more we learn, the more the shamefulness of this Dark Age of Oligarchical Ed Reform will be laid bare. Mark it down for the historical record, the war on public education.

Check out what NCLB and high-stakes testing have accomplished for disadvantaged children.

Meanwhile, as vast inequities continue to expand in our society, increasing waves of difficult to educate children pour into our schools from circumstances they have no control over. For more related commentary, see the Perimeter Primate's post, "Where Sociology, Criminology, and Charter Schools Converge".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Broad Prize Dubbed "Nobel Prize" in Education Reform

Billionaire ed reformer Eli Broad has become the recipient of the first annual Orwellian No-Nonsense Award in the Peacock Plumage Display of Brazen Hubris category. Send word to Eli so he can strut on over here to receive his reward.

In the ed reform oligarchy's edu-newspeak machine, the annual Broad Prize has been dubbed the "Nobel Prize" in urban education reform. Yes, really.

The 5 Most Improved Urban School Districts for 2009

Five school districts
from California to Florida are in the
running for an award that has been described as a Nobel Prize in education
reform. The Broad Prize for Urban Education, as the award is officially known,
is given each year to an urban school district that has made significant
progress in raising achievement, especially among low-income and minority students. The award comes with $2 million in scholarships for
the five finalists.

A little NCLB/ high-stakes testing/accountability history is in order. The first annual Broad Prize went to the Houston Independent School District, presided over by then-to-be Secretary of Education Rod Paige, for accomplishing the Houston Miracle, a "success" story that turned out to be a massive fraud produced by Enron-type accounting. The Texas model of success became the blueprint for NCLB.

In 2008, the Broad Prize went to the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas. On the distinguished panel of the 2008 selection jury was none other than Rod Paige. As Susan Ohanian noted:

So what choice did Broad have when a vast majority
of the nation's largest urban districts, including three of the four runners-up for this year's Broad prize, also failed to meet NCLB's annual targets? They look at "other indicators". Hmmm. Some people have been advocating this all along.

Hey, U.S. News! Great in-depth coverage and a Nobel Prize for you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jay Mathews' Latest on KIPP and My Response

The KIPP PR machine rolls on in today's Sunday edition of The Washington Post:

By Jay Mathews
Sunday, March 29, 2009; Page B03

Like most principals, Dave Levin believed that parental support was essential to a school's success. So when many families pulled their kids out of his struggling South Bronx charter school after its first year, he thought he was in trouble.

Some parents called him and his teaching partner, Frank Corcoran, "crazy white boys." The two had recruited 46 fifth-graders, barely enough to start the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Academy, and 12 failed to return for sixth grade. Test scores were somewhat better than at other local schools, but Levin's discipline methods weren't working. By March of his second year he believed that he had no choice but to close the school.

That was 1997. Twelve years later, the academy, saved by a last-minute change of mind, is considered a great success and a model for the 66 KIPP schools in 19 states and the District. Together, they have produced the largest achievement gains for impoverished children ever seen in a single school network.

And Levin did it, in the beginning, with very mixed reviews from parents. The story of his school and others like it suggests that the importance of parental involvement, at least in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, has been exaggerated, probably because middle-class commentators have been imposing their suburban experiences on very different situations. Unchallenged, this misunderstanding of what works for low-income children could stymie efforts to improve the country's worst schools.

The best school leaders say that they don't need much parental involvement when they are hiring staff, creating class schedules and putting discipline procedures in place. Take Susan Schaeffler, the founder of the cluster of KIPP schools in Washington. She had no track record and zero name identification when she and her staff started teaching fifth grade in an Anacostia church basement. She recruited students by standing in front of markets and shouting: "See me if you are interested in a school that will keep your child from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon!" That promise of free child care is what persuaded many parents to give her a try. Much time passed before she was able to prove that her teachers could produce the highest test scores of any public school in the city.

Read the rest of the Jay Mathews column here. The comments I left at the site are below:

"Much time passed before she was able to prove that her teachers could produce the highest test scores of any public school in the city."

Oh, the maniacal quest to "produce" higher test scores! It is quite literally resulting in the dumbing down of America, IMO.

There is nothing wrong with standardized tests in and of themselves. It is their overuse and misuse that is so destructive and senseless. For example, what have we to show for NCLB and its high-stakes testing? Flat NAEP scores and increasing dropout rates.

Ironically, the more importance you attach to standardized test results, and the more you 'teach to the test', the more meaningless the resulting scores become. Please see David Berliner and Campell's Law in "Collateral Damage". Attaching life-altering consequences to the results of these tests inevitably results in gaming and corruption.

Furthermore, higher test scores do not necessarily equate with being well educated. I fear that intensive test prep results in higher test scores but not learning that is deep and lasting and able to be applied to real life problem-soving. And what about the simple joy of learning for its own sake?

Assessment of student progress is critical and teachers have always done it. I will wager that on-the-spot classroom assessments by the teachers who actually know and interact with their students on a daily basis give more accurate information than the far-removed, standardized tests that are lining the pockets of business interests with taxpayer money.

The same dog-eat-dog, market worshipping hyper-competitiveness agenda that our corporate/politicos are imposing on our nation's "public" schools has sure taken our nation to new heights of glory hasn't it?

And forgive me Jay, but the more I read about KIPP, the more 'cultish' it sounds. Granted, I have never even visited a KIPP school so I am hardly an authority.

Just hope people will think deeply about what is happening as our nation and its schools are increasingly under corporate domination and control.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Excellent Letter: Hello Dear Policymakers!

The following letter from Austin mom and public school librarian Sara Stevenson highlights the opportunity-narrowing/dream-crushing/dropout-producing insanity of of the one-way-for-all standards and accountability movement.

Monday, March 23, 2009

AUSTIN — My daughter just completed her first semester at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

She took 15 hours, made straight A’s and the dean’s list.

What reads as a success story would have had a very different outcome if my daughter and son had traded places.

My daughter graduated in 2008. My son will graduate in 2011, the first year the mandated “4-by-4” plan goes into effect. It requires four years of math and science to earn a recommended diploma.

If my daughter were in his graduating class, she would have been a high school dropout instead of on the dean’s list.

Read the rest of Sara's letter here.

Policymakers, how is it that you impose destructive policies like high-stakes testing and idiotic "4-by-4" plans, then hypocritically turn around and castigate our public schools for the dropout rates?

It is you, our representatives in government, who are supposed to be held accountable by we the people. How clever and convenient, turning democracy and representative government upside down under the guise of "accountability".

BTW, here is some more commentary from yours truly on the "liberty and higher math for all" issue from a previous post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

EAST LANSING, Mich., (March 9, 2009) - A new report by David C. Berliner (co-author of The Manufactured Crisis and Collateral Damage), argues that out-of-school factors related to poverty are the major cause of the achievement gap that exists between poor and minority students and the rest of the student population. This is in direct contrast to current federal education policies that are based on the belief that public schools should shoulder the blame for lack of achievement on the part of impoverished students.

You can find the Executive Summary and the report here. We owe Dr. Berliner a debt of gratitude for his years of perseverance and dedication, working to expose the unrelenting and hypocritical scapegoating of America's besieged public schools. I urge you to disseminate this report as widely as possible on the Internet, to the media, to President Obama, Ed Secretary Arne Duncan, and members of Congress.

Susan Ohanian, another champion for children to whom we owe much, has provided a list of names and phone numbers of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Let's act.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Public Schools Outperform Private Schools in Math Instruction

From ScienceDaily (Feb. 25, 2009):

In another “Freakonomics”-style study that turns conventional wisdom about public- versus private-school education on its head, a team of University of Illinois education professors has found that public-school students outperform their private-school classmates on standardized math tests, thanks to two key factors: certified math teachers, and a modern, reform-oriented math curriculum.

More excerpts from the Science Daily article:

'According to our results, schools that hired more certified teachers and had a curriculum that de-emphasized learning by rote tended to do better on standardized math tests,' Lubienski said. 'And public schools had more of both.'

They also discovered that smaller class sizes, which are more prevalent in private schools than in public schools, significantly correlate with achievement.

'Smaller class size correlated with higher achievement and occurred more frequently in private schools,' Lubienski said. 'But that doesn’t help explain why private schools were being outscored by public schools.'

Lubienski said one reason private schools show poorly in this study could be their lack of accountability to a public body.

Lubienski hopes that politicians who favor more privatization would realize that the invisible hand of the market doesn’t necessarily apply to education.

You can read the Science Daily article in its entirety here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Charter School/Voucher Agenda Disguised as Educational Research

From Education and the Public Interest Center, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder:

TEMPE, Ariz and BOULDER, Colo. (February 16, 2009) -- In 2006, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released its Report Card on Education, 1983-1984 to 2004-2005. A review of that report by Professor Gene Glass assigned it failing grades. ALEC has just released another report card. Unfortunately, ALEC has done little to address key problems Glass pointed out two years ago.

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More on the Corporate Hijacking of Public Education

Below, Ken Libby weighs in on what the new stimulus package means for public education. Talk about putting the status quo on steroids!

It seems to me the very last thing the superclass and their underlings in power want is real vision in public education reform. I think they would see Educating for Human Greatness as a threat. See my sidebar at the top. Also learn more about the vision and guiding principles of EHG here.

Now, back to oppression and control:

Stimulating Corporate Education
Ken Libby

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the corporate charter school movement hit the jackpot with the new stimulus package. The Democratic plan for shifting control of education from the public to the private sector sets aside $7.5 billion to be directed explicitly by Duncan.

The "State Fiscal Stabilization" fund includes legislation designed to shift control of education to corporate interests through for-profit and non-profit education organizations. The stimulus package would allow Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, privatizer extraordinaire in the Chicago Public Schools prior to his work in the Obama administration, to direct $7.5 billion for "State Incentive Grants," which includes a $650 million "Innovation Fund".

Eligibility for Duncan's new "Innovation Fund" giveaway requires an organization to "demonstrate that they have established partnerships with the private sector, which may include philanthropic organizations, and that the private sector will provide matching funds in order to help bring the results to scale." Yet securing a grant also would "allow such eligible entities to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community" to expand "to scale based on demonstrated success."

Duncan's push for the bill's approval included a speech to the American Council on Education in which he noted, "From Teach for America to the KIPP charter schools to instructional innovations at colleges and universities, we have proven strategies ready to go to scale." This is a significant injection of federal funding into the corporate model of educational reform envisioned by Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family Foundation, KIPP schools, Teach For America, Chris Whittle of Edison Schools, the Committee for Economic Development, and the Business Roundtable.

States willing to play by the data manipulation game mastered by corporate charter chains are eligible for billions more in "IncentiveGrants." Section 1406(b) of the stimulus bill specifies: "The Secretary shall determine which States receive grants under this section, and the amount of those grants, on the basis of information provided in State applications under section 1405 and such other criteria as the Secretary determines appropriate." Section 1405 contains the most significant aspects of No Child Left Behind, particularly the punitive aspects and overall philosophy. States receiving these funds are also required to adhere to specific aspects of the America COMPETES Act (passed in 2007 under President Bush with bipartisan support), most notably to "align the requirements, standards, and assessments with the knowledge and skill necessary for success in academic credit-bearing coursework in postsecondary education, in the 21st century workforce, and in the Armed Forces without the need for remediation," practically a summary of Duncan's tenure as CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Duncan spent the past seven years reforming CPS, which included the opening of 5 high school military academies filled by minority students, mandating curriculum optimal for teaching children the limited reading skills demanded by the minimum-wage employment in corporate America, expelling low-achieving students to boost test scores, spreading the corporate/militant model of education reserved for minority students in inner-city charter schools, and preserving the best public education for the wealthiest families. Duncan's definition of "what works" borrows the playbook from corporate America's profit-driven ideology and imposes the rigid structure of the military on our children.

Education Industry Associates, representing many of the most powerful education interest groups, note that, "Education is rapidly becoming a$1 trillion industry, representing 10% of America's GNP and second insize only to the health care industry." Elementary and secondary education represents nearly $600 billion annually, with high-poverty schools the target of for-profit education management organizations(EMOs) in the endless search for emerging markets. Neoliberal social entrepreneurs are salivating at the prospect of expanding their teach-to-the-test, militarized learning environments suitable for drilling students in the discrete skills necessary to pass high-stakes tests.

Under the education provisions in the stimulus plan, Federal dollars will be diverted to for-profit corporations and non-profit foundations representing corporate America, a continuation of the abysmal policies of the Department of Education during the previous eight years. Washington elites, and the Democratic party in particular, are presenting a false choice of eliminating supplemental state assistance or providing "State Fiscal Stabilization" with billions reserved for dismantling public education. Emergency public funding will either be slashed in an era of unprecedented bailouts for the same institutions responsible for the State and local budget shortages; or, public education funding will be diverted back to corporate America through the U.S. Department of Education.

The Washington elite couldn't care less about public education for the poor when their children have access to high-quality education free from high-stakes testing and militaristic learning environments, which they deem necessary for working class children to overcome the effects of the poverty that Washington continues to simply ignore. As for the general public, a far cheaper education system guided and controlled by corporate America becomes the only education system capable of legitimizing current power structures displaying blatant disregard for our children and collective future.

"Taken together, the Barack effect, the leadership on the Hill, the proven strategies, and the money in the stimulus package represent what I call the perfect storm for reform, a historic alignment of interests and events that could lift American education to an entirely new level," Duncan announced.

The perfect storm is upon us, the storm of corporate education.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Uncritical Adulation of KIPP in the New York Times

In mainstream media, the KIPP PR Machine rolls on without critical scrutiny.

In yesterday's New York Times, Richard E. Nisbett, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has an Op-Ed piece where he states:

... a program called KIPP (for Knowledge Is Power Program) is having remarkable success with poor minority children in middle schools. KIPP students attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., their term is three weeks longer than normal, and every other Saturday they have classes for half a day. The curriculum includes sports,visits to museums and instruction in dance, art, music, theater and photography.During one academic year, the percentage of fifth-graders at KIPP schools in the San Francisco Bay Area who scored at or above the national average on the reading portion of the Stanford Achievement Test rose to 44 percent from 25 percent. And while only 37 percent started the year at or above the national average in math, 65 percent reached that level by spring.

Has Nisbett simply not done his homework or does he deliberately omit the fact that these San Francisco KIPP schools have amazingly high attrition rates? Parent activist Caroline Grannan has done a little more digging, on her own. Caroline was an editor at the San Jose Mercury News for 12 years. She contributes to a number of Internet sites dealing with education and schools. She is a San Francisco public school parent, advocate, and volunteer and has followed education politics locally and nationwide.

A study by SRI International confirmed what Caroline found through her own independent investigations. As Caroline notes,

the study confirms what those who look beyond the test scores have found: Those KIPP (two in San Francisco, one in Oakland, one in San Jose, one in San Leandro) schools suffer from very high student attrition.

Sixty percent of the students who enter the Bay Area KIPP schools in fifth grade leave before the end of eighth grade (page ix of the study, repeated in several places throughout). And the study also confirms what some might suspect — it's consistently the lower performers who leave."

"On average, those who leave KIPP before completing eighth grade have lower test scores on entering KIPP and demonstrate smaller fifth-grade effects than those who stay," the study reports on Page ix.

Read much more from Caroline here.

And please read Research Analyst Michael Martin's powerful observations in response to the report "What Do We Know About the Outcomes of KIPP Schools?"

Martin notes:

It is fundamentally fraudulent to take any group of students to form a base level of test scores, remove the unsuccessful students, and then claim success on the basis of improved test scores, particularly when you can’t show the improved test scores.

and further:
comparisons of these schools with local public schools are comparing the few
successes of the remaining students in these schools with the entire student
membership of public schools.

In addition, although it seems clear that there is no formal selective admissions process in KIPP schools, it does not take the brightest crayon in the box to see that selection bias does indeed occur. KIPP schools demand that students and parents sign a commitment form that includes severe obligations for behavior and attendance. Nothing wrong with that some may argue. However, the point is that invalid comparisons are being made between KIPP schools and regular public schools. According to Martin, the selection bias is "blatant and crucial."

Again, you can read more of his analysis

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Klein's True Colors Shining Through

Over at Gotham Schools is a notable quote from Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC Public Schools. He had the following to say in regard to the possible layoff of 15,000 school-based staff, including teachers, if Governor Paterson’s proposed state budget is passed:

We don't want to lose personnel. PARTICULARLY, we don't want to lose YOUNG TALENTED PEOPLE that we've recruited in recent years. (CAPS added for emphasis)
Apparently, EXPERIENCED TALENTED PEOPLE are of lesser use in the corporate scheme of things. Far easier to manipulate naive young recruits.

As Elizabeth Green notes at Gotham Schools, if teacher layoffs happen, the least experienced teachers would be the first to lose their jobs, according to provisions in the teacher contract.

I would not take joy in seeing anyone have to lose their job, but Klein's words are so telling that they are embarrassing. Heaven forbid that teachers with the most experience and teachers who commit for a lifetime should not be the first to go. Beyond the catastrophically narrow-minded and destructive obsession with testing, there is much to be said for longevity and commitment over PR hype and resume building.

But career teachers are a stumbling block to the continued undermining of public education. They cost too much. They know that the scourge of high-stakes testing being imposed in our schools is dumbing down future citizens. They know it is a practice which literally invites the corruption and gaming that is taking place in our big city schools under mayoral dictatorship. And let's do call it that, for that is what it is.

It's all about money, power, and control. Not children. As ever, education on the cheap for poor kids. Pump up test scores, claim victory for poor children, and an ill-informed public won't be a penny the wiser. Except the public IS getting wiser, despite mainstream media's long history of complicity in either serving as a mouthpiece for edu-biz propaganda or ignoring the war on public education altogether.

The Perimeter Primate, a parent activist who sees the Big Picture, translates Klein's agenda well in her excellent post here. I'll post a snip below but I encourage you to read her entire post.

The scheme now being steadily employed by inner-city school districts across the nation is to replace as many of their career teachers as possible with 22-year-old teaching “temps.” These energetic, young, recent college graduates have a do-gooder mentality and are willing to work in the worst inner-city school situations for very little pay. It is also beneficial to school districts that these fill-ins are green to the world of work and have zero family obligations. Those qualities, and being able to constantly take comfort in knowing they are short-timers, means that they don't tend to get agitated and complain...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Look Out Arne Duncan!

Dare I say it? May the floodgates open! There is hope. Grassroots resistance and organizing by the parents, students, and teachers in communities actually affected by the corporate hijacking of public education. Don't miss this video about resistance to Renaissance 2010 in Chicago:

What an embarrassment this should be to the Mainstream Media mouthpieces for the corporate education agenda.

Bravo to PURE, Parents United for Responsible Education and other citizen, teacher, and student activists in Chicago.

You can also find much about the degradation of Chicago schools at the Substance website.

Spread the word.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bush Defends Education Legacy

The Associated Truth in Parody Press
For Release Right Away

As he prepares to leave office, President Bush responded patiently and without
condescension today to reports of the growing and widspread consensus among the nation's 3.5 million incompetent teachers, the nation's most highly disregarded educational researchers and psychometricians, and growing masses of shallow citizens, that the "misuse" of standardized testing is catastrophically narrow-minded, inhumane, and counterproductive. Standing firm, however, the president stated that he doesn't give a hoot what people think.

For the first time in his eight years of presidenting, Mr. Bush was asked by a particularly obnoxious reporter what grade level is. The President gracefully rebuffed the irreverant and uncalled for remark by simply stating that it is where all children should be.

A particularly malicious line of questioning revolved around charges that the law has harmed most the very children it purports to serve, while lining the pockets of family, friends, and political cronies on both sides of the aisle.

Since when is it a crime for my brother Neil to help poor children
boost up their test scores with his innovative Cash On Wheels program, the COWS program? Since when is it a crime for my mom to rush aid to Hurricane Katrina's kids with Neil's product?
Since when is it a crime to help a family friend and buddy in need, Terry McGraw III, Business Roundtdable Chair and CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies? He's making great profits with sound, innovative products that help all children get on grade level.
And by the way, since when is it a crime for me to reach across the
aisle to a Democrat, my friend and fellow Texan Sandy Kress, an engineer of this good law who just happens to have made a little money lobbying for testing companies? Those companies provide all sorts of innovative ways to pump up test scores. That's good for children and it's good for the recovery of the Global Economy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Visionary Ed Reform in a Picture

Outgoing Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings sometimes shares one of her favorite sayings from Texas in praise of NCLB, high-stakes testing, and a variety of band-aid market solutions:

If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all
you'll ever get is all you ever got.

Here she unwittingly sums up 25 years of failed "reform" wrought by corporate politicos as they corrupt and undermine the very hope and promise of public education.

And it's even worse than you say Mrs. Spellings. We are actually regressing.

If all we ever do is put more teeth into what already does not work, then all we'll ever get is even worse than what we've already got. Thank you for reminding us of the definition of insanity.

Lift that veil of civil rights rhetoric you hide behind and show your face Ruling Class. The last thing you need in order to keep things as they are (and make them even more so) is a nation of well-educated citizens who can actually think.