Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Schools Matter: The Gates Foundation's Teach Plus once again trying to undermine United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)

First published April 30, 2014 on Schools Matter

"Bill Gates's foundation pays educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies regarding seniority and test scores." "Two other Gates-financed groups, Educators for Excellence and Teach Plus, have helped amplify the voices of newer teachers as an alternative to the official views of the unions. Last summer, members of several such groups had a meeting at the foundation’s offices in Washington." — New York Times

Although it's being debated vigorously in United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), let's leave the discussion about UTLA online voting aside momentarily. Let's even ignore the all too transparent reasons why Teach Plus—a member of the nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC)—is pushing for it, and is willing to host dinners and drinks at four different restaurants.* Instead, why don't the online voting petition wielding UTLA members ask their Teach Plus "allies" some important questions. Here are a few of my questions for these supposedly unaligned teachers to ask the Teach Plus cadre as conversation starters:

How do you feel about being associated with an organization that was intimately involved with this tragic incident?

Often the decisions about which teachers will stay and which will go are made by new principals who may be very good, but don't know the old staff. "We had several good teachers asked to leave," said Heather Gorman, a fourth-grade teacher who will be staying at Blackstone Elementary here, where 38 of 50 teachers were removed. "Including my sister who's been a special-ed teacher 22 years."

How do you feel about Teach Plus' founder, Celine Coggins', close ties with the fringe-right The Hoover Institution at Stanford University? Coggins is also on the advisory board of the dubious National Council for Teaching Quality (NCTQ) along with folks like Rick Hess, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Eric Hanushek, and Stefanie Sanford. NCTQ is funded in part by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

How do you feel about receiving the majority of your funding from Bill Gates, a plutocrat who also funds the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), The Discovery Institute (which actively advocates teaching creationism), invests in Monsanto, and for-profit prison companies?

How do you feel about your organization receiving large sums from the right-wing NewSchools Venture Fund, led by reactionary Ted Mitchell, whose role in the wholesale privatization of California schools earned him a spot in billionaire Forbes' Top Education "Disruptors" list?

While we can all agree that this language: "Teach Plus, with its teacher members, is focused on developing innovative policy solutions in the following areas: measuring teacher effectiveness; improving performance evaluation systems" is a euphemism for using widely discredited "value added methodologies," what is Teach Plus' current stance on this issue now that the American Statistical Association has just released a very important document on Value Added Methodologies?

That's probably enough questions to get the party started. I hope the free dinners are worth hearing the answers.

* These aren't cheap restaurants either. We held our wedding reception at "El Cholo" Koreatown. It's a nice place by my humble, working class standards.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All Out For May Day!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Schools Matter: I met reactionary Fernando Espuelas' challenge, now will he demand the same of Gates, Zuckerberg, and Dell?

First published April 26, 2014 on Schools Matter

"Another issue involves concerns that charter schools may be screening students by requiring parents to provide information related to special education eligibility and services on the lottery application. Over the past two years, a review of applications has found a considerable number of schools requiring such information despite efforts by the District to eradicate this through oversight of the application process." — LAUSD Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) Modified Consent Decree

Right-wing reactionary Fernando Espuelas challenges me to do something he would never ask his side to do.Roughly eighteen months ago I tweeted a passage from the above quoted OIM document. The lucrative Los Angeles charter industry systematically discriminates against special needs children in favor of bloated executive salaries, as evidenced most recently by Aspire Charter Corporation's dodging of its obligation to the most vulnerable students.

Not more than two minutes later I was attacked by one of Los Angeles' bullhorns for neoliberalism, reactionary Fernando Espuelas. I'll get to the exchange between Espuelas and myself momentarily, but think it's important to provide a little background on this privatization pusher. Espuelas is a venture-capitalist-turned-broadcaster who is currently a Henry Crown Fellow at the right-of-center Aspen Institute. Aspen's leadership includes genocide defender Madeleine Albright, billionaire Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt" cheerleader Sam Nunn, NSA surveillance zealot Dianne Feinstein, neoliberal columnist Nicholas Kristof, and host of other unsavory folk who would feel comfortable at a Hoover Institution luncheon.

Aspen is certainly the correct venue for Espuelas' brand of politics, who has no qualms retweeting the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), supports the apartheid regime in the Near East, and consistently called for the overthrow of the democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez when the courageous anti-imperialist leader still lived. Espuelas served on the board of the reactionary Walton Family Foundation funded school privatization outfit "Parent Revolution" — which has close ties to both the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the fringe-right Heartland Institute.

Espuelas is best summed up by Bloomberg's Business Week which said of him: "he's all Wall Street."

Robert D. Skeels awarded a Bachelor of Arts on March 21, 2014 in Classical Civilization by the University of California Los Angeles. Getting back to our narrative that started with my tweet condemning the greedy corporate charter sector. Espuelas, who apparently isn't much of a reader, launched into a fact-free diatribe against me. It was the usual slanderous tripe: I'm on some chimerical union payroll, I'm a "UTLA sock puppet", and so on. Ben Austin, Gloria Romero, Jed Wallace, Steve Barr, Marco Petruzzi, and all the other profiteers in the charter industry have made these same claims, I suppose someday proof will be forthcoming? I kept trying to get Espuelas to commit to a stance on special education, but anti-labor tirades were all he seemed capable of. At one point I called him a dullard after calling out his slander saying I was paid to advocate public education. That's when he started mocking me for being forced to drop out of my last quarter at UCLA in the early Nineteen-Nineties because of dire economic circumstances. [1]

There is no requirement for members of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education to hold college degrees. While it is certainly desirable that board members be educated, Espuelas was using my situation as a red herring to avoid discussing substantive policy issues because even he, reactionary as they come, couldn't defend the indefensible special education policies of the infamous charter school industry. After a long exchange in which he continuously condescended to me, he said:

Despite Espuelas' offensive pleas I ran for the LAUSD School Board in 2013 against the billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, and finished second in a field of five with over 5,200 votes. A promise to my wife to return to UCLA if I lost the race was accompanied by finally being in a position with both the time and the money to return to school. Not only did I finish my three remaining required classes, I did so with some distinction, raising my GPA by two full points.

Effectively, I was able to take on Espuelas' challenge. The Official Verification Transcript pictured above states I was awarded a Bachelor of Arts on March 21, 2014 in Classical Civilization by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Am I "a bit credible" now? Oddly enough, for all his bluster, Espuelas' BA is from from a school that's not nearly as prestigious as the one I just graduated from. More importantly, why does Espuelas selectively demand university degrees from public school advocates, while not holding school privatization advocates to the same standard? If this statement is genuinely true:

then Espuelas should make the same demand of billionaire college drop outs Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Dell. After all, all three aspire to run not only local school systems, but use their ill gotten gains to control national education policy. Gates' [2] noxious meddling with our remaining public education system is unprecedented, as Professor Mark D. Naison recently wrote. Perhaps if these capricious billionaires followed Espuelas's advice, just like I did, they would become educated enough to halt both their viciously destructive funding agendas, and their neoliberal policy advocacy.

My challenge to Fernando Espuelas

Mr. Espuelas I met your challenge to obtain a degree, now will you take up my challenge to you? First, you should demand Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell, and all their fellow privatizers obtain degrees before aspiring to run education. Anything else is a double standard that exposes you as a fraud, phony, and fake — someone unworthy to discuss education policy. Second, I repeatedly asked you this very important question on October 28, 2012, and I believe the world should know your answer to it:

Naturally my own answer to that simple question is yes.

[1] That story deserves full treatment in the future, but would distract from our discussion here.
[2] Susan DuFresne and I had fun responding to Professor Ravitch's #ThingsInCommonWithBillGates tweet by addressing the degree issue.


@ THE CHALK FACE: Humanities and LSAT reflect Critical Thinking versus Core Knowledge debate

First published April 28, 2014 on @ THE CHALK FACE

"In short, the real literacy crisis occurs whenever we deploy a pedagogy that asks our students only to consume texts and not to produce them as well." — Richard E. Miller

The ABA Journal recently posted a piece entitled "Students with these college majors had the highest LSAT scores" that discusses the findings of Pepperdine University School of Law professor Derek Muller. Humanities majors held three of the top six spots; with Classics [1], Art History, and Philosophy taking the one, four, and six spots respectively. Moreover, preparatory curricula like pre-law were at the bottom, as were most forms of business majors — stealing from workers doesn't require much critical thinking. Professor Muller's own post is entitled The Best Prospective Law Students Read Homer. Unlike David Coleman and Bill Gates, I think everyone should read Homer. Some of us are fortunate enough to have read it in the original Greek. Here are my slightly edited comments on the UCLA posting where the ABA Journal was linked.

It's telling that these findings parallel the debates over pedagogy between critical thinking camp of those including Stephen Krashen and Peter McLaren versus the "core knowledge" camp including E. D. Hirsch and David Coleman. The latter, who are responsible for both Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and much of the current thinking behind the Administration's education policy, espouse narrow preparatory pedagogies like pre-law. Moreover, the President himself recently mocked Art History as a major during a speech [2]. The fact that Classics and Art History are 1 and 4 respectively on this listing goes to show that broad curricula that require abstract and critical thinking are preferable to canned curricula. Unfortunately, the dominant narrative in society tends to drown these important facts out.

While I don't have the time to explore this fully—and it deserves to be explored fully—I was in a conversation with Dr. Cynthia Liu recently and she was discussing how damaging Hirsch's wrongheaded ideas are. Rightfully so, her biggest complaint is how Hirsch's "core readings" are essentially devoid of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups like LGBT. The more I started researching the connections between Hirsch, Coleman, and the whole deemphasis on literature in CCSS derived from Hirsch's so-called "functional literacy", the more I realized that our greatest fears about CCSS are firmly grounded in fact. With CCSS we've established "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" as our official national curriculum.

I'm posting this to start the discussion. These LSAT findings confirm that narrow, preparatory type curricula are inferior to broad, abstract ones. As we watch the neoliberal corporate reformers eliminate every part of the education experience that humanizes children in favor of chimerical "college and career" readiness, and hear of a President that disparages the study of humanities [2], there must be increased struggle to resist CCSS and all its attendent reforms. Additionally, we need to make the case for returning free voluntary reading, play, arts, drama, music, literature, and the humanities to our classrooms, as well as making ethnic studies and other critical studies available to students.

[1] Disclaimer, I just received my B.A. in Classical Civilization from UCLA. Our department's facebook page exposed me to the ABA article. For many years I've heard that Classics majors cited as top prospects for law school, so the Pepperdine findings appeal to my admitted confirmation bias. The matriculation findings are of interest as well.
[2] I haven't saved all of them, but I did consolidate many of my comments on the infamous Obama attacking Art History majors incident mentioned above.
* The opening Miller quote is from a paper available on the ERIC archives. I reviewed the paper on WorldCat.


A helpful meme for supporting bilingualism and SB 1174


Professional Loss and Grief in Teachers (a survey)

I [Jacqueline Owen] am working on a doctoral research project inspired by Diane Ravitch’s book, Death and Life of the Great American School System (2011). If the public school system–as many of us knew it, at least–is dead or near death, it would stand to reason that public school teachers who remember the system as it was prior to No Child Left Behind (2002) have experienced loss and grief. If you remember what it was like to teach prior to No Child Left Behind, if you feel as if teaching completely changed when No Child Left Behind was implemented, or if you ever felt saddened by some of the changes that resulted from educational reform, then you may be interested in taking my survey, or perhaps posting it on your blog.

Professional Loss and Grief in Teachers (a survey)


Friday, April 25, 2014


Schools Matter: MOST BIASED POLL EVER: The AP reported that according to a recent poll, 7 out of 10 Californians support the common core.   Those who took the poll f...


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Big decision. Should I attend PCL? I could help families fight neoliberalism with a J.D.

Now that I've officially graduated from UCLA, I have a big decision to make. Do I pursue my first love, academia? At 48 years old, the window for that is pretty narrow. If I attend PCL and become a social justice attorney, I could help my community fight neoliberalism. Already an expert on education, I could use law to combat the forces of neoliberalism, privatization, and the nonprofit industrial complex that is currently destroying the remains of our public commons.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Teach For America Card by Robin Higgins


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Surveying the candidates for the LAUSD Special Election for District 1

First submitted April 13, 2014 to LA Progressive

"Someone said to me chartering schools re-institutes segregation, we need to think about that." — The late, Honorable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte

Photo credit: Crenshaw Cougars Fighting ReconstitutionAs the runner up in the 2013 LAUSD District 2 election, and as a long time public education advocate, activist, and essayist, I have a keen interest in LAUSD politics. I've been studying the District 1 Special Election from a social justice perspective. Let me summarize the candidates running for LAUSD Board of Education District 1 seat. There are four professional educators, and three wholly unqualified opportunists running for the position.

I've endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill and believe she is the best candidate of the four educators running. Her amazing story is inspiring, and she has proven that she puts community and students first in practice, not in rhetoric. I've contributed to the Sherlett Hendy Newbill campaign and will work to get her elected. I also have much respect for, and support both Hattie McFrazier, and Rachel Johnson. All three of these women deserve our admiration for their selfless dedication to the students of Los Angeles. Any of the three would be worthy to sit in the seat of the venerable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the late board member whose courage in standing up to neoliberalism and corporate domination of our school board was peerless.

If Dr. George McKenna ends up in runoff against one of the non-educators (listed below), I will support him. I know there are mixed feelings about Dr. McKenna. People I know and trust, including the highly celebrated Dr. Judy Perez of AALA, have spoken highly of him. The teachers of Miramonte ES, and others have also spoken on his behalf. On the other hand, other people I trust, including teachers from the former Fremont HS, Crenshaw HS, and Dorsey HS have a much different perspective on McKenna.

The other three candidates shouldn't even warrant mention. Unfortunately their disdain of public education and the professional educators serving our school children have garnered them tons of contributions from reactionaries and business interests. There is no shortage of well heeled charter school tycoons, right-wing business bankers, and contract wielding real estate developers ready to invest in unprincipled candidates that will put their financial interests ahead of the education of Los Angeles Students. Hayes, Manigault, and Johnson are just those type of unprincipled candidates.

Genethia H. Hayes is a perfidious equivocator. The multiple "errors" (read fabrications) on her resumé should have seen her withdraw from the race in ignominy. While she works for the district, it's hard to call an individual lacking integrity an educator. It is a testament to the power of corporate money that she feels emboldened to continue running after the shameful revelations of her dishonesty came to light.

Omarosa Manigault's "claim to fame" is the reality TV circuit, including multiple stints on a program with a fellow narcissist: right-wing billionaire (and Birther) Donald Trump. Other than that dubious distinction she has no connections whatsoever to education. Moreover, she is classic carpetbagger, living in District 1 just long enough to qualify for the election.

Alex Johnson is the worst of bunch. He is an unscrupulous opportunist who only views LAUSD as a political stepping stone. He has been getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school moguls, real estate developers, and right-wing bankers. According to his 460 filing, of the 195 contributions for $113,051 to his campaign, not one comes from a teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker. One would think if he really cared about students and education, that he'd have a working relationship with the professionals that work with the community's children. He has dodged multiple requests for policy positions, undoubtably because he is a hand puppet for the neoliberal corporate education reformers. Former LAUSD District 5 candidate, the distinguished Dr. John Fernandez, had this to say about him:

This does not surprise me at all Robert. At a recent candidate's forum at UTLA, I submitted a question commenting that District 1 has been historically represented by an African American but that the students in District 1 now comprise 70% Mexican/Latino student population. I asked what were the three main issues affecting Mexican/Latino students in District 1? All Mr. Alex Johnson could say was they needed resources. Mr. Johnson could have stated that Mexican/Latino students need a culturally relevant and responsive education, they need bilingual cross cultural education, teachers must be trained to teach Mexican/Latino students, textbooks must used to highlight the achievements and contributions of Mexican/Latino students, Mexican/Latino students must be provided with high tech vocational training and teachers must provide English language strategies—all the very things that African American students need.

Who to vote for on June 3, 2014? Of the four authentic educators running in this race, I'm supporting Sherlett Hendy Newbill. However, you can't go wrong supporting Hattie McFrazier, Rachel Johnson, or Dr. George McKenna. District 1 needs someone familiar with its unique composition, and who will be able to provide principled solutions. Sherlett Hendy Newbill was born and raised in District 1, attended Dorsey HS, went to college, and then returned to her high school alma mater to teach and coach. A family woman and parent, Hendy Newbill would represent her fellow District 1 constituents as a mother, teacher, and coach whose own hard work and academic discipline saw her graduate from Dorsey, Xavier University, and then obtain a teaching credential.

Angelenos in LAUSD District 1 should honor the memory of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte by electing someone who, like her, values student need over corporate greed.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some interesting privatization connections in regards to the LAUSD District 1 race

First published April 15, 2014 on Los Angeles Independent Media Center

"There is No Immoral Depth They Won’t Go In Pursuit of Their Agenda" — Celes King IV

Photo credit: Crenshaw Cougars Fighting Reconstitution. Stop Deasy from destroying any more school communitiesI have a piece coming out in the LA Progressive about the District 1 Special Election. They said it should run tonight or tomorrow. In it I endorse Sherlett Hendy Newbill and I also lend my political support to the other three educators in the race. Moreover, I address the three opportunists who are being financed by the billionaire privatizers and their Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC). The privatizers are crafty. They're running three candidates simultaneously, without letting on that they're all being backed by the same organizations.

Here are some new facts that I didn't know when I wrote the article, but may be of use.

Regarding the Alex Johnson Campaign an ally sent me the following (I'm keeping them anonymous for now):

Curious why no one is mentioning how the same brigade that was pushing for an election is now pushing for Alex Johnson - their Facebook page has even morphed from demanding an election to exclusively covering the Johnson campaign:

Bear in mind that it was the usual NPIC suspects who pushed for the Special Election: Urban League, Inner City Struggle, United Way Greater Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution. Given what I've already uncovered about Johnson, It's no wonder that he's their candidate of choice, while Hayes is their backup candidate. Parent Revolution was an early backer of Hayes, but has since shifted to the frontrunner, Johnson.

However, don't think that Reality TV's Omarosa Manigault isn't also in their circle. I know many of you have had the unpleasant experience of coming across the California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) K. W. Tulloss at various events. He works for the CCSA's Families That Can division. He also works for FBI snitch and corporate charter school cash cow Al Sharpton. I was looking up some information on him and came across this quote in the Los Angeles Wave:

Tulloss also brought reality show personality Omarosa Manigault into the fold, making her one of his assistant ministers. [emphasis mine]

The crooked charter "minister" is also quite close to school privatization advocate Mark Ridley-Thomas—Alex Johnson's patron. The late African American Civil Rights leader, Celes King IV, called Tulloss the "The Leading Local Black Face of the Charter Schools/Corporatize Public Education Forces". While King's entire OpEd is worth reading, this excerpt describes Tulloss' duplicity and deceptiveness best:

When Tulloss spoke before the school board and the media Tuesday he never once identified himself as a paid organizer of the California Charter School Association. Instead he identified himself as the president of National Action Network, with popular black activist Najee Ali standing beside him. Using civil rights groups like NAN-LA to provide a black face for their corporate agenda is a textbook tactic of the privatization forces. It allows them to wrap their agenda, which is not in the best interest of students or communities of color, in the language and image of the civil rights movement.

The sums of money the neoliberal corporate school privatizers are throwing into this race have already outpaced anything the community can keep up with. All we have is truth to speak to their power!


NPIC Poverty Pimps and Privatization Pushers unhappy I finished school and have time to expose them again


Friday, April 11, 2014

Elect the Mother/Teacher/Coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill to LAUSD School Board Contribution Challenge!

I was just about to make my second contribution to Mother/Teacher/Coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill's campaign when I remembered how effective Sean Abajian and Suzie Abajian's challenges always are for fundraising. Therefore, even though I can't afford either of these amounts, I'm willing to donate another $40 if I can find five other people to do so. Better still, if we can get ten people that want to keep the corporate privatizers from taking over the #LAUSD District 1 seat who are willing to chip in $50 each, then I'll do the same. So who is willing to accept my challenge? Let me know here, or in private and once I get my 5 or 10 co-contributors, we'll make the donation! Of course, if your willing to donate much more, then please go now:!contribute/c6s5

We're almost at five, let's try to reach the ten mark. Pledges are okay, let's get 10 @ $50 to really help her. Her competitors Hayes and Johnson are getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school tycoons, right-wing bankers, and real estate developers. Plus, there's this: 195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list!


195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list!

Only in a city run by the vile Eli Broad could a candidate like Johnson, who only views LAUSD as a political stepping stone, be considered a viable candidate for such an important position. Johnson is getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school tycoons, right-wing bankers, and real estate developers. 195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list! It's beyond disgusting, it's deplorable.

Former LAUSD District 5 candidate, the distinguished Dr. John Fernandez, had this to say about Johnson:

This does not surprise me at all Robert. At a recent candidate's forum at UTLA, I submitted a question commenting that District 1 has been historically represented by an African American but that the students in District 1 now comprise 70% Mexican/Latino student population. I asked what were the three main issues affecting Mexican/Latino students in District 1? All Mr. Alex Johnson could say was they needed resources. Mr. Johnson could have stated that Mexican/Latino students need a culturally relevant and responsive education, they need bilingual cross cultural education, teachers must be trained to teach Mexican/Latino students, textbooks must used to highlight the achievements and contributions of Mexican/Latino students, Mexican/Latino students must be provided with high tech vocational training and teachers must provide English language strategies—all the very things that African American students need.

I am going on record to say that Alex Johnson is a coward. As the runner up in the 2013 LAUSD election, I've made/sent dozens of phone calls and emails to his campaign requesting policy positions. I have tried to contact his campaign for over a month. All attempts have been ignored, because he won't know his policy positions until Eli Broad and John Deasy tell him what they are.


We're in this struggle against neoliberalism collectively, each of us doing our part…


K12NN: United Way's Corporate NPIC Astroturf was thick in front of LAUSD last Tuesday

First published April 11, 2014 on K-12 News Network

"By what logic does United Way engage in an activity that is shunned by all the other charities?" — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

UWGLA executives Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell. Photo credit LA Times, converted into a fair use meme by this article's author.

Amid all the misleading and mendacious reports in the corporate media about Tuesday's desk charade, there is one revealing Los Angeles Times photo of so-called "students" setting up desks on Beaudry Boulevard in front of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A photo featuring United Way Greater Los Angeles' (UWGLA) executive staff members Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell, two poverty pimps pulling down six figure salaries, who are running the whole show. Astroturf like no other. For people needing a background on how the UWGLA operates as an both an extension of its plutocrat donors' agenda, and as a propaganda megaphone for right-wing think-tanks, see this essay.

UWGLA's "CLASS" coalition of reactionary Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) staged this event in support of their Broad Foundation informed priorities for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars. As one prominent Silver Lake activist, Ken Sitz, astutely pointed out: "you know it's not a grassroots protest when there's not a cohort of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) present to menace the demonstrators." This publicity stunt was pulled off by these well paid professionals with the full knowledge and complicity of John Deasy, whose LCFF priorities are identical to that of the NPIC. After all, Deasy works for the same people. One of the more perceptive observations of the fund-to-advocate paradigm comes from K12NN's founder, Dr. Cynthia Liu:

The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad's corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He's the reason why I created the term "weaponized philanthropy" to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There's NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad.

It is somewhat ironic that the well funded NPIC staffers claim they set up all the desks to represent "all the students that drop out each month", without discussing their own complicity in policies that push students out of school. Namely, a narrowing of curricula because of the costly drains of the testing-industrial-complex like DIBBELS and Common Core State Standards. Additionally, Deasy and his allies' systematic closure of ethnic studies, and other programs that appeal to student interests. At the end of the day the United Way advocates for neoliberal policies and privatization actions that exacerbate poverty, segregation, and inequity in Los Angeles—things that all contribute to the push-out of LAUSD students. If that's what UWGLA considers—according to their tag-line—"creating pathways out of poverty", then it's even more evidence of the old adage that: "Philanthropy is not progressive and never has been."

The Occupy United Way! group was created in 2011 to oppose UWGLA functioning as the tax deductible public relations and lobbying arm of the 1%.


Vote STAY for 90026 Echo Park GEPENC this Saturday!

Vote for Kwazi Nkrumah
for President, Greater Echo Park/Elysian
Neighborhood Council (GEPENC)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kwazi Nkrumah: Long-time Echo Park resident and life-long community activist and Human Rights advocate. 
Founder of the Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles; former Chair of KPFK Community Advisory Board; 
2-time Board Member of GEPENC, he has served as Budget Rep to the City, 
Regional Liaison to other Neighborhood Councils and currently chairs our Parks, Public Works and Environmental Concerns Committee. 
Kwazi has worked to fight mortgage foreclosures, extend protection for renters, and is a strong proponent of human rights for the homeless.  
Kwazi opposes the destructive impact of both the re-opening of the Scott Avenue gate and the Barlow Plan on Elysian Park and our community.
 He is working for more balanced development that limits economic displacement and preserves the historic multi-cultural character of Echo Park.

Vote for Kwazi Nkrumah for President of GEPENC!

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Edendale Branch Library, 2011 Sunset Blvd., 10am-4pm

(Go to for more info.)


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Responding to Karin Klein of the LA Times' 'Why my family is opting out of the Common Core testing'

First published April 9, 2014 on School Matter

"The U.S. can do a much better job evaluating children, teachers and schools. That's why protests against standardized testing misuse and overuse are exploding across the nation."—FairTest

Read Professor Chomsky's Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of PropagandaThe Los Angeles Times' long time school privatization cheerleader Karin Klein penned an interesting piece today entitled Why my family is opting out of the Common Core testing. The following is my response to her editorial:

Ms. Klein:

For roughly a decade you've mocked both education experts and activists who have maintained that high-stakes standardized tests narrow the curriculum, and now you've had an epiphany? Your newspaper, the one that recklessly published pseudoscientific VAM scores from those selfsame tests, and has been the biggest cheerleader of the testing-industrial-complex, is now suddenly concerned with the "socially responsible" thing to do? Call me cynical, but I'd posit that this one editorial does not absolve either of you of your complicity in the long string of neoliberal corporate reforms that have been inflicted on an entire generation of children with your blessings.

I'm glad that you're sparing your own child the abject effects of this year's test. However, I recall sitting across a table from you in early 2013 when you conducted the school board endorsement interviews and having to endure your scoffing at me for suggesting that we end the high-stakes standardized test regime for all students. Your exact words were "if we do that, we'd go back to the 'Johnny Can't Read' days." I remember how astonished I was that a professional journalist covering education could be so ignorant of pedagogy that they'd cite Flesch's right-wing phonics garbage as their defense of the unholy policy trio of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards.

So don't expect those of us who have been trying to defend all children from the effects of standardized tests—the worst of which robs them of that very fleeting joy of learning—to welcome you aboard. Unlike your offspring, privileged in every regard, there are countless other children who have had their opportunity to love learning stolen by mind numbing test preparation in the name of profits and propaganda.

Robert D. Skeels


11 Reasons for Congressional #TESTHearingsNow


K12NN: American Statistical Association has just released a very important document on Value Added Methodologies

First published April 9, 2014 on K-12 News Network

"The President of the United States and his Secretary of Education are violating one of the most fundamental principles concerning test use: Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were developed. If they are to be used for some other purpose, then careful attention must be paid to whether or not this purpose is appropriate" — Gerald Bracey, PhD

VAM/AGT and other neoliberal corporate reforms have all scientific validity of phrenology. They’re just as racist as well. The American Statistical Association (ASA) released their ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment today. While their spokesperson explicitly said they neither support, nor oppose the use of so-called "Value Added" methodologies, the actual document provides strong support to those who oppose this wrongheaded use of statistics to make high stakes decisions effecting the lives of students, educators, and our school communities. Too bad the amateur statisticians at the Los Angeles Times were able to commit their egregious acts several years ago before this document was released. It's also too bad that LAUSD recently implemented one of these seriously flawed models, one that will abjectly harm students' education and further undermine the morale of our professional educators for years to come.

Some important excerpts from the document (all emphasis mine):

Estimates from VAMs should always be accompanied by measures of precision and a discussion of the assumptions and possible limitations of the model. These limitations are particularly relevant if VAMs are used for high-stakes purposes. (1)

VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality. (2)

In practice, no test meets this stringent standard, and it needs to be recognized that, at best, most VAMs predict only performance on the test and not necessarily long-range learning outcomes. Other student outcomes are predicted only to the extent that they are correlated with test scores. A teacher’s efforts to encourage students’ creativity or help colleagues improve their instruction, for example, are not explicitly recognized in VAMs. (4)

Attaching too much importance to a single item of quantitative information is counter-productive—in fact, it can be detrimental to the goal of improving quality. In particular, making changes in response to aspects of quantitative information that are actually random variation can increase the overall variability of the system. (5)

The quality of education is not one event but a system of many interacting components. (6)

A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. (6)

Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration  and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. (6)

The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences. (7)

The VAM scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling. (7)

A VAM score may provide teachers and administrators with information on their students’ performance and identify areas where improvement is needed, but it does not provide information on how to improve the teaching (7)

All in all, the document is an academic condemnation of the VAM/AGT pseudosciences that have been ushered in by neoliberal corporate education reform project. While the ASA is populated with actual scientists and statisticians, we can be sure that the corporate reform crowd will be quick to try to refute the document. Here the tag-line of a recent article in Salon by Paul Rosenberg is apropos: 'Like global warming deniers, "education reformers" have nothing to  lose and everything to gain by sowing confusion'.

For a copy of the ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment see For additional information, please visit the ASA website at


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Wrapping up a lot of hard work at UCLA, looking towards next steps

Thank goodness I only had to do this for two quarters. At my age working full time, attending a top ranked R1 university, and getting two-to-three hours of sleep a night in order to earn those grades was beginning to take a serious toll on me physically. Spending every waking moment on the weekends studying didn't do much for my normal household duties either.

A 3.315* is not good enough to get into any UCLA humanities graduate programs, but would be considered excellent for candidacy at the CSU. Still trying to figure out next steps, but Peoples College of Law just might be my next destination.

* In fairness, my Glendale Community College GPA was 4.0, and there were some serious extenuating circumstance that led to me dropping out of honors program status at UCLA. Such is life for commuting, working, non-traditional students. The UC doesn't not average community college transfer units into their GPA, so my UCLA GPA is just for courses there.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

SKrashen: Beware of STEM Fever

SKrashen: Beware of STEM Fever: Sent to the Register-Guard, April 2, 2014 Before Eugene's educators continue with their plans ("Leaders eye transforming academy ...