Monday, June 30, 2014
Friday, June 27, 2014
There is an Ayn Rand dating site. And it's exactly like you imagined it'd be. pic.twitter.com/qnXcTepiVy— bossy (@BhasChat) June 27, 2014
@BhasChat Gross! You have to love the "autodidact" who mentions that they are an "iconoclast" twice though. How… er… utterly Randian.— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) June 27, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
So this 10th grade drop out who just graduated UCLA just got the news that they're a Peoples College of Law student!
— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene)June 27, 2014
I'm excited beyond words. I got the call that I was accepted around 8:00PM. This time last year I had no degree, and was anxious about returning to UCLA to finish up what I had started eighteen years earlier. Turned out that I'm still on top of my game academically. Now with a UCLA B.A. in Classical Civilization in hand, I'm getting ready to start at the same law school that one of my closest mentors graduated from in 1974. Peoples College of Law is a very special place, and an integral part of my community. I'm ready for this next step that will allow me to apply both my Freireian praxis and my social justice principles on a whole new level.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Monday, June 16, 2014
Spring of 1991 I was a 26 year old transfer student. My first class was Classics 41—Survey of Latin Literature in Translation—with Professor Robert Gurval who was in his first year at UCLA. Currently the Chair of the UCLA Department, Professor Gurval was gracious enough to provide me guidance and encouragement upon my return to the university. I’m forever indebted to him for both his scholarship and friendship.
I had more courses with Professor Sarah Morris than any other professor during my academic career. Like Professor Gurval, she was one of my instructors during the early nineteen-nineties. The difference was that I also had one her courses (Classics 152A Ancient City: Greek World) in my final quarter of my return nineteen years later. Needing 'A' letter grades in both of my last two classes to pull my GPA up, I averaged four hours a sleep a night that last quarter. The studying paid off, I got an A+ in her class and an A in Professor Mellor’s History of the Roman Empire course.
Both Professor Mario Telò and the quality of my fellow students in the Fall 2013 Classics 191 Capstone Seminar (Greek Novel) were absolutely amazing. It was my first course upon returning to the university after eighteen years, and it was very challenging. Talk about reigniting my passion for academia. Reading and discussing Longus, Heliodorus, and Achilles Tatius was something very special. So was having UCSB’s Professor Helen Morales as a guest facilitator for one of our sessions.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
First published on Schools Matter on June 14, 2014
"When teachers are told exactly what and how to teach, when they feel pressured to produce results, they in turn tend to pressure their students. That is exactly what another study found: teachers who felt controlled became more controlling, removing virtually any opportunities for students to direct their own learning." — Alfie Kohn
As always the wonderful Alfie Kohn is right on target. What's left out of his important analysis is that these conditions are exactly what our ruling class—namely, but not limited to the Gates, Broad, and Walton Family Foundations—wants. From their self-serving perspective, self-directed learning is for the scion of the 1%, not for us working class rabble. Completely control both educators and their pupils through fear (Vergara), and deployment the banking model of pedagogy (Common Core State Standards CCSS), and you control access to the one thing that could allow us to overthrow our oppressors.
- Works Cited
- Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2000. Print.
- Kohn, Alfie. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "tougher Standards". Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1999. Print.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Sent to the Taipei Times, June 12.
The composition section is the most contentious part of the
Comprehensive Examination ("Blame game won’t solve exam problem:
minister," June 13).
I have a suggestion: Drop the composition section entirely.
Testing students on writing proficiency makes no sense: Studies show
that our ability to write using the accepted conventions of writing,
including organization and mechanics, is largely the result of reading,
which is why reading and writing scores are always so highly correlated:
those who read a great deal do better on both reading and writing
Essays are also the hardest part of language exams to
grade, requiring consultation among graders and a great deal of tedious
original article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2014/06/13/2003592660/1
Thursday, June 12, 2014
So happy to have the endorsements of teachers and activists Dorsey HS Sherlett Hendy Newbill and Robert Skeels!
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Submitted to the The Glendale News-Press on June 10, 2014
This Saturday I will be among the UCLA class of 2014 participating in our departmental commencement ceremonies at Royce Hall. In 1995 I was a senior at UCLA, and serving my seventh year as the Glendale Chamber of Commerce's Art Director. A part time student my entire tenure at the Chamber, they had always been very supportive of their employee's pursuing their education. I had been Alpha Gamma Sigma at Glendale Community College with a perfect 4.0 GPA, transfered to UCLA as an Honors Student, and was recruited by the Golden Key National Honors Society. My academic career looked bright, and my goal was to become a professor.
In 1995 incoming Chamber President Frank Quintero presented me a choice to resign my position or stop attending school. With no other means of financial support, I was left with no alternative but to drop out. I thought it would be temporary, and I'd find a way to return soon. I was baffled by Quintero's ultimatum since at the time he ran a 501C3 for Veterans called Alliance for Education. I was a U.S. Navy Veteran.
Eighteen years later I found myself with both daytime availability and the financial wherewithal to return to UCLA. On March 21, 2014 I was awarded a B.A. in Classical Civilization at the age of forty eight. I'm sure the trajectory of my life would have been quite different had I not been denied that opportunity earlier, but ultimately I was able to go back and finish. I was just featured in the graduation edition of the Daily Bruin, and I am currently in enrollment process at Peoples College of Law.
RELEASE: 2013 LAUSD BOE Runner Up Robert D. Skeels Endorses Dr. George McKenna for the District 1 Special Election
For Immediate Release
June 11, 2014
Robert D. Skeels http://twitter.com/rdsathene
RELEASE: 2013 LAUSD BOE Runner Up Robert D. Skeels Endorses Dr. George McKenna for the District 1 Special Election
Los Angeles, C.A. — Today, longtime social justice activist, and runner up in the 2013 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) District 2 election, Robert D. Skeels announced he is endorsing Dr. George McKenna for the August 12, 2014 runoff election.
“I'm supporting Dr. McKenna because all students in LAUSD need representation, not just the few attending the California Charter School Assocations' lucrative charter outlets,” said Skeels. “McKenna is an experienced, professional educator. What our board needs right now are representatives who understand all the nuances and complexities of our district and education policy.”
Skeels cites the support of key allies as a major reason for his public endorsement of, rather than just supporting, McKenna. "Good friends, including the Honorable Jackie Goldberg, and the distinguished Dr. Judy Perez have endorsed McKenna," said Skeels. However, it was the public endorsement of McKenna by third place finisher in the primary election, Sherlett Hendy Newbill, that spurred him on to an official endorsement. Skeels stated "Many of us worked very hard to get Sherlett elected. When I saw her endorse McKenna, I realized the importance of all of us that support public education standing behind the professional educator who was a trailblazer in the civil rights movement."
Skeels joins a long list of School Board Members, Elected Officials, Education Organizations and Leaders, Publications, Ecumenical Leaders, Community Organizations and Leaders who have endorsed Dr. George McKenna. McKenna received over over 44% of the votes in the June 3, 2014 primary election.
Robert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a proud member of Veterans for Peace. He attended Glendale Community College and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA in Classical Civilization. Robert is a committed member of CEJ, PESJA, SCIC, and the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education. A student of Liberation Theology and Paulo Freire's work, he devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, and homeless advocacy. Robert’s articles and essays have appeared in publications including Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, K12NN, LA Progressive, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes.
Monday, June 09, 2014
Two of the oldest undergraduate students in UCLA’s Class of 2014 share their stories:
- Robert Skeels, 48, is one of the oldest returning undergraduate students to graduate this year. Despite the challenges of being a returning student, he chose to come back to UCLA and finish the degree in classical civilization that he began almost 20 years ago.
SKEELS: I’m excited beyond words. I didn’t realize when I was 20-some-odd years old that I was lucky to get in here.
MCGOVERN: Robert Skeels transferred to UCLA in 1991. He is one of the oldest returning undergraduate students graduating this year.
SKEELS: You know, I felt kind of entitled at that age. Now at my age, I realize like just how fortunate I was to attend this university.
MCGOVERN: During his unfinished final year in 199, his job at the Glendale Chamber of Commerce changed its work policy. They told him he could no longer attend UCLA and keep his job. During his years away from school, he worked at an electronics firm and spent his free time serving his community by doing social justice activism. Last year, after running for a representative position on the board for L.A. Unified School District, his wife encouraged him to finish the three remaining classes he had been waiting on to get his degree.
SKEELS: She said, “If you lose, you have to go back and finish,” and I came back and I finished.
MCGOVERN: But starting school as a commuting student with a career and financial responsibilities wasn’t easy.
SKEELS: You have to be disciplined. It meant, you know, up till two, three in the morning and getting up «alarm» at six to study almost every day.
MCGOVERN: Now that Skeels is graduating as part of the class of 2014 with a bachelor’s in classical civilization, he plans on continuing his studies at People’s College of Law. It’s a small, four-year law school in his neighborhood for social justice activists. He also dreams of going to grad school to get a master’s or Ph.D. in art history. His return to school has allowed him to cherish his experience at UCLA this past year.
SKEELS: When I was younger, I was more wrapped up on just going through the motions and doing it. Coming backing, of course, I had an entirely different perspective. I love all the older buildings here. It’s nice to know that there’s things older than me.
MCGOVERN: He took pictures of everything to document his return. The opportunity to return and work on his degree is an accomplishment that, at the age of 48, he appreciates all the more.
SKEELS: I really savored, every moment that I was on campus. I don’t have the the words to describe how excited I am. I was kind of denied that opportunity when I was younger and to now come back and kind of achieve that – a lot of really joyous memories of being at UCLA, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll be back here for graduate school.
MCGOVERN: We Bruins truly belong to a diverse family with stories that go beyond our campus. Congratulations to the class of 2014. Forever Bruins.
For Daily Bruin Radio, I’m Kathleen McGovern.
Sunday, June 08, 2014
They made a movie about lifelong educator Dr. George McKenna. There's a movie about his opponent too, it's called 'Wall Street.'
Saturday, June 07, 2014
A little love letter to all my haters from the profitable #edreform sector who mocked me about my education
Now can we talk about your funders Gates, Zuckerberg, and Dell being college dropouts, or is that just something neoliberal corporate education reformers tar working class people with?
I'm on #TeamMcKenna because ALL students in LAUSD need representation, NOT just the few attending CCSA's lucrative charter outlets
PESJA: When we say Eli Broad controls LAUSD, we're accused of peddling 'conspiracy theories.' Yet… policy isn't conspiracy.
@ THE CHALK FACE: Dr. Krashen’s Solutions Work! Preempt “summer learning loss” by addressing poverty, and ensuring access to books!
First published on @ THE CHALK FACE on June 6, 2014
Providing more access to interesting reading material by investing in public libraries and librarians is an excellent way to deal with summer learning loss. — Dr. Stephen D. Krashen
Let's talk about serendipity. This morning at teacher sent me a Haertel paper on the unreliability of Value Added Measures, and I saw a figure in the paper on "summer learning loss" that started me working on an infographic. After creating the graphic and the corresponding tweet, I noticed that Dr. Paul Thomas had tweeted a new post by Professor Krashen on essentially the same topic entitled: Arne Duncan suggests year-round school as a solution to the summer slide. I disagree. It may well be that it was pure chance, but it's probably because school (at least LAUSD) was wrapping up this week.
Krashen's Solutions Work!
Professor Stephen Krashen and colleagues have repeatedly proven that both access to books, and ameliorating the effects of poverty are critical in addressing so-called achievement gaps. Neoliberal corporate education reform's wrongheaded assertion that we need to lengthen the school year ignores these indisputable facts, as emphatically illustrated by differences in the table (Haertel 17) above:
- Haertel, Edward. "Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based on Student Test Scores." Educational Testing Service, 2013. Web. 6 June 2014 <http://j.mp/1kQw5kw>
- Krashen, Stephen D. "Protecting Students against the Effects of Poverty: Libraries." New England Reading Association Journal. 46.2 (2011): 17-22. Web. 6 June 2014 <http://j.mp/1kIlgFV>
- —————. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. Print.
- Shin, Fay H, and Stephen D. Krashen. Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008. Print.
Schools Matter: Marshall Tuck's white male friend Dax Shepard 'splains that cultural sterilization isn't "real racism"
First published on Schools Matter on June 5, 2014
When I taught in the Los Angeles Unified Schools, I openly opposed the Vietnam War and was critical of the system’s race policies. Fortunately, I was never threatened with dismissal, I belonged to a union. — Professor Rodolfo F. Acuña
Students Protesting Marshall Tuck's racist decision to kill Ethnic Studies. Photo by Robert D. Skeels.
Eli Broad's California State Superintendent of Public Instruction hopeful, corporate banker Marshall Tuck, has a long history of fostering institutional racism. It's well documented that he closed down Ethnic Studies Programs, Heritage Language Academic Programs, and research proven Dual Language Immersion Programs. It's also documented that he has been willing to target teachers of color who get too "uppity" for him and the wealthy white elite he works for.
As a white male myself, I cannot speak on behalf of oppressed students and faculty who suffered under Tuck's racist leadership. However, as a student of Freire, a founding member of the Southern California Immigration Coalition, and a member of many groups that are led by various Central American, South American, and Indigenous Peoples, I have had a lot of exposure to the concepts of colonialism and institutional racism. I was endorsed by both Unión del Barrio and Association of Raza Educators (ARE) Los Angeles during my school board run for a reason. It is my moral and intellectual responsibility as a scholar and an activist to challenge white supremacy at every opportunity.
So imagine my surprise when wealthy white Hollywood actor Dax Shepard (I didn't know who he was until I checked Wikipedia) decided he needed to 'splain me about racism and such. I was able to preserve this one exchange, but unfortunately he deleted the rest of the conversation. He had seen the title of my carefully researched polemic Marshall Tuck's Legacy of Bigotry and Failure and said I couldn't be more wrong on the bigotry thing. I responded by asking for an explanation of that stance in the light of Tuck's abject record:
@daxshepard1 Closing down Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language, and Dual Language programs isn't bigoted?— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) June 3, 2014
@daxshepard1 Deliberately taking down all the bilingual signage at schools with monolingual Spanish parents isn't bigotry?— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) June 3, 2014
Finally I asked Shepard directly about his personal beliefs on culturally appropriate pedagogy:
@daxshepard1 I'm asking the wrong question. Do you support providing students of color access to classes about their cultures and history?— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) June 3, 2014
To which he replied (I'm paraphrasing since he deleted his tweet): "Given a choice I believe math and science are more important." To which I responded with an excerpt from Cheryl Ortega's powerful narrative within the Tuck piece:
Shepard's response is nothing short of breathtaking:
@rdsathene I can't think of anything more irresponsible than the way you are using the word "racist." It undermines real racism.— dax shepard (@daxshepard1) June 3, 2014
I know he probably didn't realize what he was saying, but let's be clear — I want to undermine all forms racism, including what Shepard believes is the "real" kind. For a white male to deny that oppressions like cultural sterilization, colonialism, and denial of language rights are forms of "real racism" is not unlike males that have taken upon themselves to define what "real rape" is. Colorado activist and former Denver Board of Education member Andrea Mérida spoke some serious truth to Shepard's white power.
We need more people like Merida calling this out for what it is. While the cartoonish racism of buffoons like Donald Sterling dominates the headlines, the more subtle, insidious racism of Tuck and Shepard pervades our society. In the case of Tuck, it become the established institutional kind that corrodes students of color from the inside out. We can only hope that his billionaire backers don't get him elected, because we've already seen what Tuck's type do when in power — just look at Arizona!
Schools Matter: Responding to Meghan Daum's reactionary attack on the Class of 2014 social justice movements
First published on Schools Matter on May 22, 2014
"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
LA Times columnist Meghan Daum takes issue with the Class of 2014's nationwide activism to resist and reject neoliberal reactionaries like Christine Lagarde and Condoleezza Rice as their commencement speakers. Her offensive College grads: With speakers as in life, at times you take what you can get accuses student activists of hubris, intolerance, anti-intellectualism, and extreme political correctness. As a proud member of the Class of 2014, and five years Daum's senior, I take issue with both her condescending tone, and her abysmal politics of passivity. Complying with her paper's 150 word limit for letters to the editor, I crafted the following response.
From: "Robert D. Skeels" <****@ucla.edu>
Date: May 22, 2014 12:15:46 PDT
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: re: College grads: With speakers as in life, at times you take what you can get
Submitted online as a Letter to the Editor 05/22/2014 Regarding: "College grads: With speakers as in life, at times you take what you can get" <http://touch.latimes.com/#section/527/article/p2p-80271838/>
As a member of the UCLA class of 2014, I take exception to Meghan Daum's reactionary Op-Ed regarding commencement speakers. Older and more experienced than Daum, I find her tone of "you could do a whole lot worse" and "take what you can get" paternalistic. From an inappropriate use of scare quotes around adjectives that correctly describe the IMF, to providing political cover for mass murderers like the former Secretary of State, Daum's "be a gracious host" to your oppressors thesis is wrongheaded at best. Let's embrace students who are no longer willing to accept perpetrators of oppression and injustice as speakers. Daum wants us to "sit" and "listen". I say speak truth to power, and continue resisting what the celebrated Professor bell hooks calls "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy". Daum should consider that rather than settling for "you can do worse," true agency starts with "we can do better."
Robert D. Skeels ****@ucla.edu
"Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" — Paulo Freire
Updated May 25, 2014: Perhaps Ms. Daum will reconsider her reactionary defense of the rejected IMF speaker in the light of this breaking news: Head of the IMF Christine Lagarde in court charged with embezzlement and fraud. Looks like Smith College students had the correct instincts right along. What did Daum call those students again? "Nincompoops", wasn't it?
Updated May 27, 2014: Uncharacteristically, the Times actually printed a heavily edited version of my letter to the editor.
Schools Matter: SPLC says don't read tacit support for Common Core into their condemnation of reactionary hate groups
First published on Schools Matter on May 8, 2014
"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
Profiteering members of the testing industrial complex, and right-of-center Democrats were quick to embrace the release of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report that correctly takes issue with right wing extremism fueling a small portion of the criticisms of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). SPLC's Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello made a mild statement about authentic issues with CCSS in their announcement: "There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, but those very real issues are being obscured and distorted by the claims of extremists." However, I still felt the tenor and tone of the SPLC's report allowed CCSS supporters to claim that all opponents of the corporate curricula are right wingers. I wrote SPLC and received a response.
While I'm familiar with the hackneyed critique by CCSS defenders that some of the left has made a mistake in considering forming a united front with the right on this issue, I'm not guilty of that. I don't do united fronts with fascists. Even when citing works by right-wing sources I've written disclaimers about the sources and their ideologies. In fact, one such disclaimer led to me being vociferously attacked by teabaggers and other reactionaries. I defended my disclaimer then and still do. My critiques of CCSS are for the reasons stated in my email to the SPLC. While I appreciate their response, I think they could do more. It's one thing to acknowledge that some of the rhetoric on CCSS is right-wing tripe. It's another to acknowledge publicly that academia and the left have legitimate reasons to oppose the imposition of this corporate curricula. Here in Los Angeles they are shuttering Ethnic Studies and so many other programs so that students can learn David Coleman's corporatized, sanitized, and very white idea of what comprises "core knowledge."
Ironically, Ms. Costello's correct assessment of the fringe-right's motivations and goals: "school vouchers" and "the end of teacher tenure", are the identical agenda as the Obama Administration, and epitomized by Michelle Rhee's advocacy of those goals on behalf of Duncan's reign. There is no social justice case for CCSS; appeals to "competition," and "A Nation at Risk" are not progressive. Fortunately progressive, working class organizations like the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are rejecting CCSS, and showing us the way forward. The always eloquent CTU President Karen Lewis speaks truth to CCSS' racist and classist nature:
"Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America's schools."
From: "Robert D. Skeels" <email@example.com>
First published on LA Progressive on May 26, 2014
Portions of this article were contributed by Cheryl Ortega and Dr. John Fernandez.
"Tuck will most likely have a huge pot of money in his war chest coming from the likes billionaire boys clubbers like Broad, DFER and other corporate reformers." — Professor Mike Klonsky
Los Angeles Parents and Community Protesting Marshall Tuck. Photo by Ron Gochez.
Many of us hoped that when right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck was ignominiously forced to step down as the "CEO" of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), that we might have heard the last of Tuck altogether. Tragically, the Eli Broad trained neoliberal operative was preparing for a run for California's Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. Despite never having taught a day in his life, nor having any background in pedagogy or child development, Tuck entered the race knowing that he could count on mountains of cash from the corporate education plutocracy aiming to — in words of Tuck's fellow arch-reactionary Grover Norquist — "drown [public education] in the bathtub".
The social justice case against Tuck is strong. His racist decision to eliminate Ethnic Studies at Santee High School alone is enough to condemn and convict him from a progressive standpoint. Tuck's bigoted ethnocentrism was also on full display when he shuttered all the heritage language academic programs, and most of the dual language immersion programs in PLAS. His seemingly maniacal hatred of working class people and their labor organizations finds its highest expression in his unabashed support for the Vergara lawsuit, funded by reactionary Silicon Valley millionaire David F. Welch, which is intended to strip teachers of all their hard won rights as workers.
Before looking at these more shameful aspects of Tuck's history, it would do well to give a brief background on the corporate favorite. Moreover, it is important to address the prodigious lies he has been telling in order to garner support of voters who don't have the factual wherewithal to vet his statements. The Tuck campaign has been making mendacious claims of school turn arounds, extraordinary test score gains, college readiness for all their graduates, and flat out superior achievement to public schools. Ordinarily one would think that the mainstream media would scrutinize these statements for veracity. However, in this age where the media is owned by same corporations that drive the neoliberal corporate education reform project, not only do we see an obfuscation of facts, we see Tuck's outrageous lies rewarded by endorsements by those selfsame newspapers. Therefore it is important to look at the facts and figures underpinning Tuck's tenure both as the head of Green Dot Public [sic] Schools, and later at PLAS.
Before continuing, it's necessary to make the social justice disclaimer about standardized test scores and all the other "achievement" metrics employed by those ruling our society. In a word, standardized tests are both racist and classist. They are far more a measure of socioeconomic advantages, or disadvantages, than anything else. Special needs students and English Language Learners are two of the groups most discriminated against by the testing-industrial-complex. Tests like the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) had their origin in the white supremacist and eugenics movements. Further, for those interested in maintaining the dominance of "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy", namely people like Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and the Walton family fortune heirs, treating working class children as empty vessels to receive pre-approved "core knowledge" (think Common Core State Standards) instead of persons with agency is pretty standard fare. Fellow students of Paulo Freire will recognize the allusion to the banking system of education implicit in all corporate reforms. All that said, standardized test scores and their attendent metrics are exactly what neoliberal corporate education reformers like Marshall Tuck have used as a battering ram to push through their agenda of privatizing public education and narrowing the curricula to corporate standards for decades. Therefore, nothing is more fair or appropriate than using the same metrics they employ to destroy public education to illuminate their own track records.
Tuck the Corporate Candidate
One can't do better than Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Gary Cohn's biography on Tuck in Capital and Main:
The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools, with mixed results.
Tuck's candidacy is supported by the same mix of wealthy education privatizers, Silicon Valley and entertainment money, hedge fund and real estate interests that backed privatization candidates in the 2013 Los Angeles Unified School District school board election — when billionaire businessmen such as Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg gave large campaign contributions to an unsuccessful effort to defeat board member Steve Zimmer. (The Broad Residency, an education management program operated by the Broad Foundation, lists Tuck as an alumnus.)
A few things to add to the above. First, I know firsthand about the contributions by those "billionaire businessmen" since they spent over a million supporting my opponent in that same election. Second, The Broad Residency, along with The Broad Superintendents Academy, are perhaps the most caustic elements corroding the remaining public commons. The best resource to to become acquainted with Broad's bastions of neoliberal privatization is The Broad Report. So what happens when Eli Broad unleashes one of his MBA investment bankers on the Los Angeles education environment?
Tuck's Green Dot Corporate Charter Chain Years
"The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain." — Los Angeles Times
Long the darling of the corporate media, billionaire "philanthropists," and neoliberal minded politicians, Green Dot's corporate slogan is: "successful in college, leadership, and life." Like all Charter Management Organizations (CMO), Green Dot claims all its graduates are "College Ready." While no one would oppose that in principle (if that was really their goal), in practice it is a vapid and mendacious claim that looks like the following at the California State University (CSU):
|Animo Inglewood Charter High School Graduates Under Marshall Tuck's Leadership|
|Fall 2005 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||0%|
|Fall 2005 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||0%|
|Fall 2006 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||0%|
|Fall 2006 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||11%|
|Fall 2007 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||6%|
|Fall 2007 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||0%|
|Fall 2008 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||17%|
|Fall 2008 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||20%|
So much for college readiness. Only a serial liar like Tuck could spin year-over-year zero-percent proficiency as "improving student achievement". The explanation for how schools like Green Dot could make bold claims about college placement and avoided being shut down under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is actually quite simple, they teach to the test:
One of the easiest ways of discerning if privatizers are playing with figures, be it APIs, CAHSEE passage, graduation rates, college placement rates,  etc. is to look at their SAT scores and remediation rates — that is the number of students having to retake high school level courses once they get to college.
When public education advocates see such numbers, we typically suspect that an institution has been forcing their teachers to teach to the test (in this case the CSTs and the CAHSEE). Teaching to the test is tantamount to the Banking Model of Education discussed in Paulo Freire's prodigious work. More to the point, it shows that the obsession with APIs (and the flawed concepts behind the right-wing legislation No Child Child Left Behind and Race to the Top) is wrongheaded at best.
Marshall Tuck attends a Gates Foundation rally for school privatization. Photo by Robert D. Skeels.
Animo Inglewood Charter High School's SAT scores under Tuck bear out the dismal showing on the CSU proficiency exams. Cohorts that would have started as Freshmen under Tuck (i.e. years 2002 though 2007) and taking their SAT in the Junior years would span from 2004 to 2010. Here are the Average SAT Composite (Verbal/Math/Writing) scores from 2005 to 2011: 1,153, 1,215, 1,267, 1,172, 1,199, and 1,290. Not once during that span did the percentage of students scoring at least 1,500 ever exceed 19.6 percent. 1,500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness. As a frame of reference, the SAT Composite Average for Freshmen accepted to UCLA was 2,052. Again, none of this is to blame or disparage the hard work of those students, but instead to expose Tuck and his ilk's lies about college readiness.
Having to take remedial high school courses after arriving at the university is also very demoralizing for students. Many end up dropping out. The California State University tracks the number of matriculates that make it to their second year. Tuck's Animo Inglewood Charter students had a CSU drop out rate of 55 percent in 2008. That same year saw the Tuck managed Animo Leadership Charter students drop out from the CSU at a staggering 68 percent! A former Green Dot Los Angeles Parents Union (later Parent Revolution) staffer told me a number of very sad stories about how he got to know several Green Dot students that served as interns under him before graduating high school. This one stood out:
"There was this one guy who was so excited he was accepted to San José State University. He was the first in his family to go to college. I think they started in late August. By November he was back. He had dropped out. He said it was too hard, and that he felt like all the people at Green Dot had lied to him. I talked to him for a while. He started crying. He said I was the first man besides his Dad that he had ever cried in front of. He didn't know what he was going to do next."
Another longstanding myth of corporate education reform is that of the "school turn around" in which a struggling school is miraculously changed overnight by a privately managed entity like Green Dot. Tuck's campaign literature claims he has a "proven record of…turning around failing schools". Neither Tuck, nor Green Dot, nor Green Dot founder Steve Barr have ever turned around a school. The tentative example Tuck could try to claim (even though he had already moved to PLAS) is Green Dot's hostile takeover of Alain Leroy Locke High School, but their astonishing CSU remediation rates and rock bottom SAT scores belie claims of "turn around." The Examiner pointed out that most of the media stopped cheerleading the Locke story because the numbers they fetishize, and last year a Green Dot insider exposed how their corporate culture of competition has been rotting Locke from the inside out ever since it was seized. We're a long way from when Arne Duncan told Green Dot's Steve Barr that they had "cracked the code". In fact Barr's latest attempt (via Green Dot spin-off Future is Now Schools) to turnaround New Orleans' John McDonogh High School was an abject failure, leading charter friendly officials to shut it down. Let's be clear. It is a reactionary idea to use the flawed market model of opening and closing schools, and it does incalculable damage to the students, community, and public education as a whole. Rather than letting the wealthy white Tuck and his corporate cabal to continue to experiment on our students, there needs to be a demand to dedicate the proper resources to our schools and our communities. Tuck and his fellow reformers refuse to acknowledge (and hence address) poverty as the root cause of problems in our schools. Instead, when faced with the fact that their ideas have failed, they double down on those failed ideas.
Using authoritative sources from the State of California I created a comprehensive table of CSU remediation, drop out, and SAT composite averages for the "Founding Five" Green Dot schools Tuck oversaw. On the one hand these figures are unequivocal proof that Marshall Tuck is lying about "proven record of increasing graduation rates, improving student achievement, and turning around failing schools." On the other hand they show how much work we have as a society to address the bitter legacies of racism and oppression, both of which have been exacerbated by private sector organizations like charter schools.
Tuck's So-Called Partnership Years
"The mayor's high schools showed a 5.7 percentage point increase in English and a 1.5 point increase in math, a smaller rise than the district's." — Los Angeles Times
PLAS is a somewhat different animal than Green Dot. The story of how PLAS was formed is chronicled in Villaraigosa: The Myth of The Progressive Mayor. Unlike Green Dot, PLAS are public schools, which means they have to follow the education code, don't have an enrollment limit, can't deny students admissions based on their disabilities (Green Dot, like most CMOs, screens applicants for Individual Education Plans—IEP) or their language abilities. PLAS schools also have fully credentialed, unionized teaching forces. These differences are very important, as PLAS can't pick and choose their students like Green Dot and the other charters do. On the other hand, just like the charters, PLAS is a completely top down organization. The unelected PLAS Board and its heavy handed administrators do not collaborate with the community, families, teachers, or students at PLAS schools. Tuck's top executives: Doc Ervin and Angela Bass, made sure that any and all dissent towards their wrongheaded policies was silenced. That hasn't changed since Joan Sullivan replaced Tuck. This corporate culture consisting of non-collaboration and non-cooperation saw PLAS schools struggle in comparison to other Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) public schools, that, like the Los Angeles Times quote above mentions, did better overall. In fact, the Tuck managed PLAS high school exhibited the same CSU remediation, CSU drop out rates, and low SAT Composite scores as all his other schools. Aside from abject poverty — which Tuck and his fellow reformers vociferously (and wrongly) argue doesn't matter — the common denominator at all these schools was Marshall Tuck sitting at the top of their management hierarchy.
|Jordan High School Partnership Academy Graduates Under Marshall Tuck's Leadership|
|Fall 2009 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||19%|
|Fall 2009 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||5%|
|Fall 2010 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||9%|
|Fall 2010 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||4%|
|Fall 2011 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||13%|
|Fall 2011 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||13%|
|Fall 2012 Admits to CSU Proficient in Mathematics||18%|
|Fall 2012 Admits to CSU Proficient in English||18%|
It isn't just secondary schools that bear the hallmark of Tuck's failed policies and negligible administrative abilities, he was equally incompetent with primary and middle schools. Markham Middle School, whose parents recently announced they would protest school-to-prison-pipeline policies implemented by Tuck when he was still at PLAS, struggled mightily under the business banker.
Since its creation PLAS has been resisted by the families and communities that it has afflicted. The Markham MS protest mentioned above is part of a long tradition of struggle against the much despised organization. Immigrant parents had issues with Tuck and fellow PLAS Executives like Ryan Smith as far back as 2010. There are numerous articles in Eastern Publications Group, and even the LA Weekly that cover protests of PLAS, two of which are linked in the following passage by the widely respected Dr. John Ferndandez:
...although this article is mainly about the many broken promises of Antonio Villaraigosa, it is yet another clear example of why Marshall Tuck should be defeated in his foolish attempt to become the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. This article clearly proves how RHS parents have been left out of the decision making process at Roosevelt and it demonstrates the absurdity of Tuck's decision to break up Roosevelt into seven schools. That decision was a disaster. Now RHS is back to one comprehensive campus, a magnet school and a satellite school as the result of community pressure. However, ESP, the satellite school, will be closed for lack of students. The Partnership and Monica Garcia have decided to eliminate ESP against strong parental and student support. Tuck's idea behind breaking Roosevelt into small schools was that smaller was better. This decision has resulted in low standardized test scores, the elimination of dozens of classes and teachers, and has left RHS with a curriculum that deprives RHS students of remediation, vocational and technical classes, and culturally relevant classes, including not offering Core classes in Spanish to ELL students. I have no problem with RHS students being offered college bound classes, but the curriculum at RHS must be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of student needs and able to improve the basic skills of RHS students. Roosevelt High School has been completely gutted by Tuck and PLAS. RHS has gone from one extreme of having 5000 students to 2,800 and to another extreme of having 245 teachers to about 125. PLAS administrators say it is because students are going to charter schools. But, I believe that RHS students who lack credits are being pushed out. This article has a link to EPG, please log on to it for another interesting piece where the "education Mayor" Antonio Villlaraigosa is jammed by teachers.
Dr. Ferndandez published two documents entitled Why The PLAS Experiment Must End At Roosevelt High School Part I and Part II. The first document in particular chronicles the many missteps that non-educator Tuck and his inept staff made. An interesting passage ends Ferndandez's second document: "Just as in football, when your team continues to lose you get rid of the head coach and his staff. Therefore the Roosevelt teachers, parents, and students have one thing to say to you Mr. CEO…" Oddly, the neoliberal corporate reformers espouse those same sentiments for everyone except themselves.
Students Protesting Marshall Tuck's racist decision to kill Ethnic Studies. Photo by Robert D. Skeels.
Tuck the bigot
While the academic benefits of offering Ethnic Studies programs are well known, they don't serve the needs of "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" the way corporate testing-industrial-complex curricula like Common Core State Standards' (CCSS) with its so-called "functional literacy" does. Tuck's aping of Arizona's John Huppenthal and Tom Horne in his racist decision to eliminate Ethnic Studies at Santee High School was met with community protests both at the school and at PLAS headquarters. Already known for killing Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language programs, and Dual Language programs, there is much reason to be concerned that Tuck would further adopt Arizonan policies of book banning and cultural sterilization should he get elected. Tuck and company callously eliminated the Heritage Language programs at Roosevelt High School, robbing Spanish speaking students of the right to take academic classes in their own language. Tuck led the efforts to stamp out Dual Language Immersion programs at PLAS schools. Cheryl Ortega, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Director of Bilingual Education contributed this powerful narrative on Tuck and PLAS' maneuverings both to exterminate Dual Language programs, and to (further) marginalize monolingual Spanish speaking parents:
Marshall Tuck, a First Person Account
I became acquainted with Mr. Tuck in 2008, the first year of the rollout out of PLAS. As Director of Bilingual Education for UTLA, I had received a call from some teachers at Ritter Elementary School in Watts concerned that their Dual Language Program would be closed down by order of PLAS's Tuck. He, Angela Bass and Doc Ervin, all PLAS officials, had determined to close the program because of supposed low test scores. In fact, there was only a single year of test scores to consider. Ritter, a school in historically African-American Watts, was 75% Hispanic. The English-speaking students in the Dual Language Program were all African-American.
The teachers, parents and students of Ritter, supported by UTLA, held at least 2 demonstrations outside of the school in support of the language programs. That led Tuck to bring in police to disperse the crowd, and later some "experts" from San Diego" whose incredible lack of knowledge and expertise in the realm of language learning was astonishing. These experts led a presentation on the detrimental aspects of Dual Language Learning. This was in spite of a huge body of research supporting, as researchers, Viginia Colliers and Wayne Thomas state, " The amazing benefits of dual language education." The program was closed at the end of the year with Vice Principal, Ricardo Ruiz, under the direction of Marshall Tuck, telling the African-American students that Dual Language was not for them.
In the following year, we witnessed Spanish language signage on the campus disappear. Bilingual restrooms, parent center, nurses office signs were all replaced with English-only signs.
Marshall Tuck was equally responsible for removing the renowned Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP) at Ritter, a program with a nation-wide reputation for addressing the needs of Standard English Learners.
At the end of the year a vote was taken at Ritter, along with the other 9 PLAS schools to determine the staff's willingness to continue as a Mayor's school. As reported to me by teachers, a ballot box was put in the teachers' lounge. Teachers cast their ballots with no one supervising the box. At the end of the day, the votes were counted by the principal in private and the results were announced. Ritter voted to stay with PLAS. It was the only one of the, then 10, PLAS schools to do so.
So PLAS was responsible for:
- Removing the two most successful language programs in the nation from Ritter Elementary, a chronically underserved elementary school.
- Creating heightened hostility between the Hispanic and the African-American communities, or, at least, failing to diminish that hostility by having children and parents have common language goals.
- Skewing research and misrepresenting it to parents and teachers to justify their own negative goals
- Tampering with the faculty voting process.
It's disturbing that someone so profoundly unqualified for this office — one that requires familiarity with academic instruction — is even in the running, but that's the power of plutocracy. Billionaire Eli Broad's dystopian vision in which his trained MBAs dismantle our public school systems from the inside-out would certainly get a huge boost if one of his acolytes was able to seize the State Superintendent of Instruction position. Tuck's dismal (even that word is too kind) record of running schools would certainly play into the wider goals of neoliberalism and privatization. Moreover, we've seen that all the claims on Tuck's campaign website are patently false. He does, however, have a "proven record". Tuck's proven record is one of incompetence, arrogance, failing to provide students with an equitable education, failure to listen to stakeholders, and of outright racism. Hopefully voters on June 3, 2014 will see through all Tuck's well financed lies and remember his abject legacy of bigotry and failure.
First published on K-12 News Network on May 20, 2014
Former PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck's school-to-prison-pipeline legacy for children of color lives on in the policies he established at Markham Middle School. However, the community is tired and fighting back!
African-American and Latino parents/students to unite with Community groups and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to speak out against discriminatory practices against African-American students, parents, and stakeholders at local middle school. Their primary message to the school principal, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) and to the Los Angeles Unified School District will be “Stop pushing us out!”
The administration at Markham Middle School and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools has been pushing out African-American students. These students are sent home on silent and unreported suspensions, and are asked to remain at home for the remainder of the school year without any access to an education. African-Americans are being deprived of their fundamental right to an education.
Please visit the original article on K-12 News Network for a photo album of the the protest.
First published on K-12 News Network on May 9, 2014
I was asked to cover the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board District 1 Special Election Candidate forum held on Saturday, May 4, 2014. The event took place at the University of Southern California (USC), and it was hosted by the Walton Family Foundation's key neoliberal privatization organization—Parent Revolution. Parent Revolution, henceforth pRev—a nickname coined by families that successfully prevented pRev from privatizing McKinley Elementary School—is a well financed member of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC), with inextricable ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and The Heartland Institute.
The event began with a bombastic speech by pRev's well heeled Executive Director, Ben Austin. A polished rhetorician, he mentioned that at his daughter's school the parents had a voice, and they got everything they wanted. He didn't mention that he lived in Beverly Hills, that parents at Warner Elementary School fundraise to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement their school budget, or that the parents work with the faculty instead of against them to educate their children. Nor did Austin mention that class and racial diversity are all but of unheard of at Warner ES, but that didn't stop Austin from proclaiming that his organization somehow empowers parents in low income communities. Issues of race and class never come up in pRev's diatribes, since their organization is funded by the Walton Family, Gates, and Broad Foundations to blame systemic issues like income inequality and urban poverty on working class schoolteachers rather than on plutocratic billionaires.
The event covered two seats being contested on June 3, 2014. The first portion addressed the LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election in order to replace my long-time friend and colleague, the late Marguerite P. LaMotte. The second part of the program was for the State Superintendent of Instruction seat. Five of the seven candidates for LAUSD were on hand, Donald Trump reality show participant Omarosa Manigault, and mother/teacher/coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill had other commitments. Professional educator Lydia Guitierez and business banker Marshall Tuck were the candidates on hand for State Superintendent of Instruction portion, incumbent Tom Torlakson was not present. Austin and pRev made no disclaimer about both pRev and Tuck having both been originally from the Green Dot Charter Corporation. I suppose that disclosure that they all worked for the same charter company just a few years ago would have shown too much bias. There were less than 140 people at the affair, including the organizers, press, and participants.
It's no surprise then that all the questions at the forum were pre-scripted, contrived, and biased, read by parents in a stilted, unsure fashion, since they didn't write them themselves. Most of the questions dealt with topics the candidates weren't prepared for. Billed as a "nonpartisan" event, the corporate partisanship behind most of the questions was palpable and transparent. Of course, pRev asked all of the candidates to swear fealty to the ALEC Parent Empowerment Act, also known by the callous name "Parent Trigger." While the privatization legislation was passed under dubious circumstances, and pRev's Ben Austin illegally tampered with its implementation, Parent Trigger is pRev's raison d'être. The only candidates present with the courage to stand up to neoliberalism and privatization were Hattie McFrazier and Lydia Guitierez. Sherlett Hendy Newbill, while not present, is officially on record opposing Parent Trigger and all other forms of school privatization.
With one exception, there were absolutely no surprises at the event. That one surprise was when Rachel Johnson expressed unequivocal support for the Parent Trigger law that hands our schools over to private corporations. Otherwise, the corporate reform candidates Marshall Tuck and Alex Johnson spouted off neoliberalism, meaningless platitudes, expressed hatred for teachers, and demonstrated their utter lack of understanding of pedagogical matters. The teachers and administrators fared better, but the questions were so biased that there wasn't much meaningful discussion. I've written extensively on the LAUSD District one candidates in the LA Progressive, and also wrote an informative epilogue to that article. Weeks prior to this event I had endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill.
Rachel Johnson just lost my endorsement. McKenna said what I expected him to. #LAUSD— Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014
Please visit the original article on K-12 News Network for the entire photo album of the event.