Monday, October 25, 2010

Are Charter Schools Really Public Schools?

Despite the booming corporate charter-voucher industry's expensive public relations campaign to convince us otherwise, the reality isn't what they portray at all. Only in the most contrived, and frankly, disingenuous fashion, could the definition of the word "public" be used to describe charter-voucher schools.

Criteria Public School Charters
Take public funds YES YES
Allow children to attend for free YES YES
Have democratically elected public boards YES NO
Have open and public board meetings YES NO
Obligated to take all children including Special Needs, Students with Disabilities, Special Education, English Language Learners, etc. YES NO
Obligated to educate every child YES NO
Are subject to all state and federal mandates like NCLB, and all provisions therein YES NO
Allow community participation at board meetings YES NO
Subject to public scrutiny under Public Records Act YES NO
Subject to public scrutiny under The Brown Act YES NO
Accept donations and direction from nefarious outside entities like billionaires with ideological axes to grind NO YES
Have unelected boards composed of CEOs, hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and other ideologically biased and dubious professions NO YES


Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Waiting for Superman" subject's own words refute movie's tale

"Woodside High is a great school."

The movie “Waiting for Superman” tells the stories of five students around the country who are desperate to escape their “failing” public schools and get into the shining charters that are portrayed as their only chance of success — or at least that's the tale the movie tells.

One of those stories takes place in my neck of the woods, here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The one white middle-class student among the five kids in the movie is Emily Jones, who lives on the suburban San Francisco Peninsula. The story “Waiting for Superman” tells is that Emily is desperate to escape her district public high school, Woodside High, because she's a bright student who “doesn't test well,” and due to Woodside's antiquated and harmful tracking policies, she'll be tracked into lower-level classes that will doom her to mediocrity. She grasps at (as the movie shows it) her only hope — Summit Prep Charter, which does the opposite of tracking, requiring all its students to take six AP courses during high school.

Well, that story is false. Here's the proof. On this video clip, John Fensterwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation interviews Emily. The part in the movie illustrating how the horror of tracking sent her fleeing to Summit Prep features a graphic showing students on a conveyor belt, with the select few being elevated to higher-level classes and the rest being dropped onto a march to oblivion. Yet in the video interview, Emily chats freely with John for five minutes and mentions a number of reasons for wanting to go to Summit instead of Woodside — but never mentions or even alludes to tracking. Just after minute five, Fensterwald brings up tracking. Emily comments on tracking only after Fensterwald prompts her.

And in fact, here's what Emily says about Woodside High: “Woodside is a great school. I really liked it and I really wanted to go there before I saw Summit.”

That’s not what “Waiting for Superman” portrays. If the movie misled viewers with a false story about Emily, the line “fool me twice, shame on me” applies – we can't believe anything it shows us.

Meanwhile, parents at Woodside High have created a huge banner and posted it across the front of the school: “Woodside High School teachers — Man, You're Super! Thank you for teaching ALL the students in our community!”

Caroline Grannan, San Francisco


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dr. Diane Ravitch at UTLA, September 24, 2010

[Click if you can't view the video]


Advocating Public Education Roundup 10W42 - Commentopia

‎"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. " — Paulo Freire

Keep the PUBLIC in public schools
Alfie Kohn's How to Sell Conservatism: Lesson 1 -- Pretend You're a Reformer really calls out how manipulative and crafty the so called "education reform" crowd is. Here's an excerpt:

School reform, as these people understand it, and as I've discussed in a previous post, involves a relentless regimen of standardized testing; a push to direct funds to charter schools, many of them run by for-profit corporations; a weakening of teachers' job protection -- and the vilification of unions that represent teachers -- so that those who have failed to raise their students' test scores can be publicly humiliated or fired; threats to shut down low-scoring schools; initiatives to dangle money in front of teachers who follow orders and raise scores, or even in front of certain (low-income) students; and a contest for funding in which only (some) states willing to adopt this bribe-and-threat agenda will receive desperately needed federal money.

Here are the comments I posted under Kohn's article:

An outstandingly cogent analysis of how the so called edreform crowd implicitly supports the status quo.

In a recent exchange of polemics with one of Los Angeles' more wealthy Charter Management Organization CEOs, I was accused of "defending the status quo." I replied that for decades I've supported community controlled schools in contrast to the bureaucratic model (large districts) or the corporate model (charter-voucher). I then said "how is that a defense of the status quo?" There was no response. Frankly, the so called reform crowd is terrified of anyone that challenges the real "status quo."

This is why Arizona's Tom Horne has banned ethnic studies with AB 2281 and is trying to ban Paulo Freire! This is why Texas textbooks have become synonymous with fairy tale compilations. This is why Green Dot Public [sic] Schools was caught requiring their students to "demonstrate a belief in the value of capitalism." [1] This is why art, music, and bilingual programs have given way to what you astutely called "glorified test-prep centers."

I would go even further than saying the current crop of charlatans claiming the mantle of reform are defending the status quo, I'd say in many cases they pine for a return to 19th century pedagogical practices (at least for working class children).


Sherry Wolf posted a great video in her post Teachers Fight Back vs. Superman movie on her SHERRYTALKSBACK blog.

I had the following comments:

Thanks so much for posting this Sherry. I take on Davis Guggenheim's embrace of the banking system of education in his charter-voucher informercial in my recent post Some thoughts on Rick Ayers' "An Inconvenient Superman".

Last night Dr. Diane Ravitch called Guggenheim's privatization propaganda piece a "pernicious movie."

I'm very excited about the pending release of The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman.

Patrick Goldstein's piece in the Los Angeles Times How did 'Waiting for 'Superman's' ' Davis Guggenheim become the right wing's favorite liberal filmmaker? states the obvious, but I couldn't let it go at that. Here's my response:

Davis Guggenheim is now the toast of The Cato Institute, Reason Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, American Enterprise Institute, The John Birch Society, The Hoover Institution, The Hudson Institute, and a whole host of reactionary right wing organizations.

It's great to know that the same failed economic principles that gave us the dot com crash, the housing market crises, and the current great recession are being proffered as solutions for our publicly funded schools. Who better than the slick, unscrupulous, hipster Guggenheim to try and sell us thoroughly discredited 'free market' ideology in the guise of reform.

While charter-voucher scandals [1] are a dime a dozen, and charter schools discriminate against the most needy of students, at least Guggenheim can rest assured that his well heeled executive friends in the corporate CMO/EMO charter-voucher industry are making a killing.


Of course, Kenneth Libby of Schools Matter does a much better job at revealing just who Davis Guggenheim's far right funders really are and their reactionary agendas. Philip Anschutz and Walden Media: What Kind of Agenda? reveals such a frighting list of extremists, it gave me chills.

Lastly, the vile Jill Stewart of that trashy masseuse and porn ad pennysaver also known as The LA Weekly ran another pro-privatization screed.

Stewart wouldn't post my comments in response to her bizare stream of illogical thoughts. However, 4lakids Scott Folsom reprinted Stewart's piece and my response to it. Here are my comments:

Another school privatization cheerleading piece by right wing reactionary Jill Stewart? Corporate charlatan Yolie Flores-Aguilar isn't just an "UTLA enemy" but an enemy of all those in favor of public education. Just how is the Gates foundation employee, who has spent her entire career serving corporate interests like those of the lucrative charter-voucher sector, a "advocate of the poor?" Flores has never done anything for our communities, other than hand public property over to private institutions. Yolie Flores is a corporation in the disguise of a human being.

I know that Randites like Stewart conflate reform with privatization, but the rest us are astute enough to see through such craftiness.

Zimmer, who is no real friend of the hard working women and men who teach our children, would hardly have lost against the Beverly Hills Barrister Ben Austin. The well heeled corporate spokesman Austin is a charlatan of the highest order. He is also an unabashed racist. Outside of the 501c3 groups funded by the Waltons, Broad, and Gates Foundations, Austin is a pariah. For more on Austin see:

Jill Stewart should do us all a favor and read about pedagogy before subjecting us to more of her fact free rants. We appreciate that Stewart is making money off the charter-voucher sector, like her idol Yolie Flores. Flores isn't running because she is despised by the vast majority of her constituents in her district. Nobody is surprised that she was hired by a foundation started by a convicted predatory monopolist, she was working for the billionaire boys club long before that anyway.

I'd accuse The LA Weekly's Beth Barrett and Jill Stewart of yellow journalism, but you have to be able to write to be a journalist. Let's never forget that Jill Stewart's prose wouldn't be worthy of a disinterested high school sophomore. Maybe it's her own shortcomings combined with her John Birch Society ideology that fuel her inexhaustible hatred of teachers.


Mary Najara and Shirley Ford of Parent Revolution née Los Angeles Parents Union

Barr's parent organization gave... a grass-roots visual... And his paid staffers hit the right rhetorical notes... while identifying themselves to reporters and officials only as parents. — Howard Blume (Los Angeles Times)

Shirley Ford and Mary Najara of Parent Revolution née Los Angeles Parents Union


Dr. Stephen Krashen - The problem is poverty: Evidence from Gerald Bracey

Stand up to Arne Duncan's corporate charter privatization scheme!
The entire basis for the national standards/testing movement is our low scores on international tests when compared to other countries. Our scores, however, are only low because we have such a high percentage of children in poverty, compared to other countries that participate in international tests. When we consider only middle-class children who attend well-funded schools, our math scores are near the top of the world (Payne and Biddle, 1999).

Here is another analysis, using reading test scores, that comes to the same conclusion. The PIRLS test was given to ten year olds in 35 countries in their own language. Bracey (2009) presented this data, along with relevant socio-economic data on the poverty level of the schools American children attended (defined as participating in free or reduced price lunch programs):

American students attending schools with
  • less than 10 percent in poverty averaged 589 (14% of students).
  • 10-24.9% in poverty averaged 567 (20% of students)
  • 25 to 49.9% in poverty averaged 551 (30% of students)
  • 50 to 74.5% in poverty averaged 519 (21% of students)
  • 75% or more in poverty averaged 485 (15% of students)

Clearly, students in schools with lower levels of poverty did better. Of great interest to us is the fact that American children attending low poverty schools (25% or less) outscored the top scoring country, Sweden (561). Bracey also points out that "if the students in schools with 24-49.9% poverty constituted a nation, it would rank fourth among the 35 participating nations" (p. 155).

The problem is poverty, not our teachers, our unions, the parents, or the children. The solution is to protect our children from the disadvantages of poverty, through health care, nutrition, and access to books. Geoffrey Canada claims that his approach is to attempt to do just that in the Harlem Children's Zone schools (NY Times, October 12, 2010; but see Krashen, 2010a,b).

Thus far, the Arne Duncan department of education has chosen to ignore this route (while praising the Harlem Children's Zone), and spend billions on useless national standards and national tests, focusing on measuring rather than helping.
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Versus Reality. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service.
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Krashen, S. 2010a. A suggestion for Geoffrey Canada. October 12, 2010.
Krashen, S. 2010b. Shocking revelations from Goeffrey Canada's autobiography. October 13, 2010.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Right wing reactionary "Guggenheim on Unions, Green Dot"

This article was first published on Dissident Voice

Just continue to follow the money. This Race to the Trough will make the Reading First crooks under Bush look like dopey Boy Scouts. — Jim Horn, PhD (Educator, Writer

Support Parents and communities against Guggenheim's corporate charter cash cowsEdWize has a short on the Walton Foundation's mouthpiece—the vile Davis Guggeheim—called Guggenheim on Unions, Green Dot. It mentions an interview in which the propagandist further vilifies the hard working women and men that teach in our communities. I had the following response:

That's nuance? If by "reasonable" Guggenheim means reactionary, then I suppose he'd have a point. Given his specious understanding of pedagogy and pubic education in general, it's no wonder he doesn't see just how damaging his privatization propaganda piece really is. Hiding behind his own union hardly disguises his intentions. "Waiting for Superman" heralds the return of McCarthyism.

What's more, Guggenheim's suggestion that yellow unions like Asociación de Maestros Unidos (AMU) are a model as opposed to real unions exposes him for what he is. Green Dot Public [sic] Schools' yellow, or company union, AMU is nothing to praise despite CTA certification. AMU doesn't even have its own office or website, all of its activities stem from Green Dot's corporate headquarters. This explains a dearth of activism from AMU's members in the midst of the worst budget cuts imaginable. This company unionism also explains why Green Dot teachers' average experience, while marginally higher than the CMO average of 2 years [1], is still less than 3 years. This in turn probably explains Green Dot's dismal performance [2], despite all the advantages it holds in extra funding, motivated parents, and exclusion of ELL and special education children.

Nothing was more clear to demonstrate how powerless AMU was than when Marco Petruzzi made the fiat declaration that Green Dot was closing down Ánimo Justice HS. Teacher Judy Riemenschneider mentioned AMU's thin contract when she said "The ultimatum is at odds with Green Dot's principles, which call for teacher input into critical decisions." [3] Like any private institution, Green Dot felt no obligation to honor it's contractual obligations to its teachers or union. Like any private institution, Green Dot didn't care about the students, parents, or community when it shuttered Ánimo Justice. Like all charter schools, Green Dot was only concerned about their bottom line. Like Scott Folsom said at the time "The Animo Social Justice (?) Charter is closing for no other reason than Green Dot cannot show a return on their financial investment." [4]

When UdB held a community forum to halt the closure of several schools, including the above mentioned one by corporate charter darling Green Dot, I had a half dozen "unionized" AMU members tell me what it's really like working for a charter. [5] Maybe if Guggenheim spent time with teachers instead of millionaires like Geoffrey Canada and right wingers like Michelle Rhee, he would have heard reality. As a public education activist I get charter teachers telling me all the time what it's like to work for capricious EMO and CMOs. [6]

Guggenheim rails against unions and quotes "studies" by far right think tanks like Cato, AEI, and Hoover on how one can overcome "environmental issues like poverty." Thanks for the Ayn Rand free market lesson on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps there Guggenheim! I hope you're enjoy all that money from the Waltons, Gates, and Broad foundations.

I'm always amazed that people shouting the loudest that race and class have nothing to do with academic performance are inevitably rich white males. Case in point -- the smug Davis Guggenheim.

[1] See and Of course, if Guggenheim was a real documentary filmmaker instead of a propagandist, he would have done his homework to discover this fact instead of making the ridiculously smug comment "I’m sure you’re going to find these teachers in these high-performing charters that burn out."
[2] as discussed by journalist Caroline Grannan


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Thoughts on "Are Money and Profit Behind the Charter School Fever?"

"In one generation, we have completely reversed our idea of what a teacher should be from a humanizing mentor to someone who coaches kids through their first bureaucracy — Sean Leys (Social Justice Educator)

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students!Yvette Carnell's Are Money and Profit Behind the Charter School Fever? piece on the Huffington Post was both excellent in content, honesty, and was a breath of fresh air given the site's constant pro-privatization stance. Remember, this is the same Huffington Post that prints charter charlatan Ben Austin's mendacity without fact checking and then censors all comments contrary to his lies. We all know what Austin thinks about parents that don't fit his idealized notions.

Carnell does a masterful job at pointing out the deep-seated greed of those in the charter-voucher school sector, and the real underlying motives of the cynical propaganda piece by Davis Guggenheim. Carnell calls out Oprah's one sided CMO/EMO charter-voucher school infomercial.

She even has the courage to call out fraud and millionaire Geoffrey Canada:

...aided by Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone, one of charter school's biggest advocates, who hustles American Express credit cards in television ads. The advertisement only highlights charter school's connection to free market principles. [1]

Carnell's short, but brilliant piece opened an interesting dialog. I had the following comments:

This marriage of discredited free market principals and charter-voucher schools is so intertwined, charters indoctrinate students with market ideology. While rich kids are taught critical thinking skills, inner city children are taught to "work hard and be nice." As Freire said, "Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor." It's no wonder the Broad, Gates, Ducan, Guggenheim, and Walton cabal are pushing charters so hard.

For example Green Dot Public [sic] Schools' original Alain Leroy Locke Charter High School petition contained language requiring students "demonstrate a belief in the value of capitalism." This was until Professor Ralph Shaffer wrote LAUSD demanding the disgusting language be addressed. Rather reluctantly LAUSD asked corporate behemoth Green Dot to remove their propagandistic and indoctrinatory language. After much resistance (AIG bailout recipient Eli Broad is their secondary funder) Green Dots' Daniel Chang, wrote a high handed screed to LAUSD and Prof. Shaffer with an official letter petitioning for the corporate charter capitalism love-fest language to be changed. Green Dot Public [sic] Schools' original Alain Leroy Locke Charter High School petition

Even more offensive are the extreme right wing reactionaries running American Indian Model Schools in Oakland. This school, which takes public funds, forces students to take a pledge to capitalism including the phrase "productive members in a free-market capitalist society." Time to regulate what charters are teaching

[1] Emphasis mine.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Dr. Shaffer's Open Letter to Los Angeles Times on VAM

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students!
The Times' ill-conceived campaign to rate public school teachers on the basis of a badly-flawed and highly dubious process called "value added analysis" has claimed its first victim. Inexplicably, The Times has chosen not to offer an apology for the great pain it has inflicted on many teachers who now bear the stigma of "ineffective" or, as in this case, "less effective."

Supt. Ramon Cortines, however, has issued a hypocritical statement. Cortines, who had joined with The Times in demanding that value added analysis be a major part of the evaluation system, had the audacity to praise the deceased teacher as a "passionate and caring teacher" who made a difference in the lives of his students. "We need more teachers like him."

Good grief! Cortines and The Times declare the victim less than effective, but we need more like him. Yes, we do need more like the young man that irresponsible journalism and a hell-bent for "reform" LAUSD administration hounded to his death.

Let the journalists return to crusading for fewer potholes. Let the Superintendent and the one-track reform-minded crowd on the LAUSD board leave the evaluation of teachers to educators, not statisticians. Let The Times publicly admit its responsibility in this tragic event and turn its reporting on education over to those who know teaching because they've been there.

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus, History Cal Poly Pomona


Dr. Diane Ravitch Speaks Truth to the Privatizers' Power

[Click if you can't view the video]