Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dr. Stephen Krashen - Let's pull out of Race to the Top, but not because our standards are so good

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

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans
Sent to the Daily Breeze, Torrance, CA

Doug Laskin feels that Gov-elect Brown "needs to pull California out of Race to the Top" (Dec. 20) because California already has good standards and the feds' standards don't exist yet. The virtue of California's language arts standards, according to Laskin, is that they restore grammar, spelling and phonics instruction, which had been removed "by faddish theories."

The "faddish' theories were the result of decades of responsible scientific work published in major journals and books. The theories concluded that most of our ability to use grammar and phonics and most of our spelling ability is the result of reading. They also concluded that a modest amount of direct instruction in grammar, phonics, and spelling is advisable, but that these subjects should not dominate the language arts curriculum.

The evidence includes studies showing that showing that those who read more read better, have more control over complex grammar, and spell better. The evidence also includes studies of the effect of Reading First, a program based on "intensive, systematic" phonics instruction. Reading First children performed no better on tests of reading comprehension than children taught by regular methods, even though those in Reading First had more reading instructional time.

I agree with Laskin that California should pull out of Race to the Top, but not because our standards are so good. They aren't.

Stephen Krashen

Laskin article at:


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Update on the veracity of McKinley Parents for Change

"We want to keep McKinley open under new management (Celerity Educational Group)." — Parent Revolution's Gabe Rose posing as McKinley Parents for Change

LAPU-Parent Revolution's foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon -- the mendacious Ben Austin
The bottom of the McKinley Parents for Change flyer states "You can also call 310 866 2118 to have your questions answered." Considering the certainty and conviction of the bullet points on the flyer by this newly formed, pro-Celerity "parent" group, supposedly wholly unrelated to the well paid professional staffers at the billionaire financed Parent Revolution, I figured my questions and concerns would be promptly addressed.

I left a message with my name and number for McKinley Parents for Change last night, and lo and behold Parent Revolution returned my call this morning. Yuri (not sure if I'm spelling that right, my apologies if I'm not) must not be aware of my years of investigative journalism exposing the insatiable greed of the lucrative charter-voucher industry. The poor woman couldn't answer any of my questions about Celerity's lack of compliance with the Modified Consent Decree or the State Board of Education's proposed regulations on their Corporate Charter Trigger Law, so she said she'd have Gabe Rose call me back to clarify.

She also was very helpful and explained to me that Gabe Rose played a major role in the creation of the flyer (who would have guessed), so he was the best person to explain it. So much for McKinley Parents for Change's claim that they are parents at McKinley Elementary School. I somehow doubt I'll receive that second phone call.

By definition Astroturf.

It's Yuritzy "Yuri" Anaya.


Astroturf Spawns Ever More Astroturf, Plus Parent Revolution Lies about Celerity Special Education Again!

"The idea of the parent revolution is to say fuck you." — Ben Austin [1] (Executive Director Parent Revolution)

Update on this here: Update on the veracity of McKinley Parents for Change

A 'revolution' funded by Wal-Mart and Microsoft.
The phonies, fakes, and frauds running the pernicious asto-turf Parent Revolution, which sprang fully formed from Green Dot Public [sic] Schools Los Angeles Parents Union, has spawned yet another "parent" group. The name of the new group? McKinley Parents for Change, a group whose authenticity and grassroots credibility is best summed up by Caroline Grannan's descriptive passage:

an organizing drive from within a school community does not require paid organizers to cold-call all over town, asking strangers if their children attend the school.

So what does a newly formed, pro-charter-voucher "parent" group, supposedly wholly unrelated to the highly paid staff at the billionaire financed Parent Revolution do first in the midst of the scandal Parent Revolution managed to create in Compton? They produce a flyer announcing another Ben Austin/Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa style closed town hall. You know, one of those meetings where softball questions lobbed up by charter-voucher supporters like Marlene Romero and Ismenia Guzman are answered by slick charter school marketing professionals and the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon. Dissenting questions and legitimate concerns by parents like Karla Garcia and Lee Finnie will be patently ignored, or worse, dismissed as supporting the mythical status quo. These corporately controlled closed town-halls are notorious for, in the words of the snarling vicious corporate troll Michelle Rhee, "creat[ing] a hostile environment when parents speak up." [2]

The amateurish prose of the flyer, which sounds suspiciously like it was written by a recent Political Science undergraduate with Coro affiliations, makes the bold assertion that the wealthy Vielka McFarlane's corporate charter has to accept all students under the law [3] and then provides a passage from the proposed regulations of the corporate charter trigger law ostensibly as "proof." While the proposed regulations make vague mention of admitting all students within an attendance boundary, there is no language discussing charters being required to accommodate special education pupils, students with disabilities, or English Language Learners at all. [4] None.

Parent Revolut... er, I mean, McKinley Parents for Change might try to say that means Celerity could in theory support children with special needs, so let's look at the facts.

Here is the [real] proof

Here are Celerity's existing special education figures:

Data Tables: Pilot Study of Charter Schools' Compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures

Not very promising if your child has special needs huh? Here is some more hard data disproving the Compton Charter Charlatan's alleged "proof" and putting to lie their accusations that social justice activists spreading misinformation:

Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures

  • SWD attending charter schools made up 7.6% of the overall charter student population, while SWD consisted of 11.3% of the overall student population attending DO schools which indicates that SWD are disproportionately under-enrolled at charter schools.
  • Students with low incidence disabilities attended charters representing 1.11% of the total charter enrollment, while students with low incidence disabilities made up 3.09% of the DO school population of SWD. Based on this, the relative risk ratio for students with low incidence disabilities to be enrolled in charter schools is 0.36, which means that students with low incidence disabilities enrolled at LAUSD charters are significantly under-represented.
  • During the 2008-2009 school year, 12 of 148 (8.1%) charter schools offered a special day program as an option for serving SWD. In contrast, 87% of DO schools provided this same program option. Collectively, the lack of such programs indicates a disproportionate availability of special education services offered at charters.

Further, "accepting" all children from an attendance boundary is not the same thing as actively supporting all their needs. Charter-voucher schools, which typically pay their executives whopping six figure salaries, usually don't have money left over for special education children, students with disabilities, or English Language Learners. What charter-voucher schools usually do is tell parents "your child is welcome here, but we don't have the facilities to provide them with everything they need, we will do our best but..." At this point parents make the only rational decision they can make, and that is to place their child in a public school — a school where the obligation to educate every child comes before profit and executive salaries. The cynical charter-voucher operators are then able to say "the parent voluntarily withdrew their child, they chose to return to the district."

Bear in mind that Yolie Flores' vile Corporate Charter Choice Resolution [5] also contained so called provisions to accept every child in an attendance boundary (vehemently fought by the California Charter School Association). In practice when "Para Los Niños" was able to seize a portion of Evelyn Gratts Elementary School via Yolie Flore's giveaway resolution, all the parents that had special needs children had to change schools after the charter takeover in order to get their children the resources they needed.

Unlike the heartless and greedy charter-voucher advocates at Parent Revolution (or whatever name they are calling themselves today), I remember the impassioned speech by a mother fighting to keep all of Gratts a public school so that her special needs child could continue attending Gratts. [6]

LAUSD said of PSC, like the CCSA/DFER says of the "trigger" law, that their corporate charter allies have to accept all students. Meanwhile they do nothing of the sort in practice. These pernicious, privately managed entities, have only one real priority — profit. According to Part VII of Celerity Educational Group's 2009 Form 990 Vielka McFarlane pays herself a whopping $193,442.00 a year in salary. That ladies and gentlemen, is the motivating factor behind dubious trigger laws.

[1] this one sided pro-privatization article quotes Austin as saying "The idea of the parent revolution is to say fuck you." While we already knew that was how Austin felt about our communities, poor people, and people of color, to hear it coming from the wealthy white charter profiteer's mouth was quite startling. (this footnote first published by Robert D. Skeels here)
[2] The evil empress of privatization pushing and poverty pimping is quoted here the hedge fund darling found time to support Ben Austin on her way to work for fellow teabagger Rick Scott.
[3] The extremely dishonest bullet point says the following: "Under the law, Celerity has to accept all students (including Special Education students) and all current students regardless of grades."
[4] The closest thing to an obligation to educating every child appears in §4806 under "Permissible activities. An LEA [Local Educational Agency] may also implement comprehensive instructional reform strategies, such as: ... (C) Providing additional supports and professional development to teachers and principals in order to implement effective strategies to support students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and to ensure that limited-English-proficient students acquire language skills to master academic content;" In other words, educational programs for children with special needs are entirely optional, and not required. Once more the charter-voucher industry has found a way out of the obligation to educate every child! Proof indeed!
[5] Cynically named Public School Choice Resolution
[6] For the mother's impassioned speech see the 08-25-09regbd video in this directory on LAUSD's site This is the same board meeting in which Ben Austin called parent and community votes for community schools "soviet style elections."


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is the non-parent Parent Trigger backfiring?

The move to hand challenged, high-need McKinley Elementary School in Compton over to a charter operator under California's “Parent Trigger” law was widely reported earlier this month as a resounding triumph for low-income parents demanding a decent school for their children.

To those following the issue closely, that version has rapidly fallen apart, as critics (including this poster) have retorted that an organization founded by charter operators and funded by billionaires ran the show and exploited the parents. As I and many others have said, it's unclear on the concept to portray an action orchestrated by professionals, funded by billionaires and corporate titans, and applauded by the leader of the free world (reportedly), the governor of California and the mayor of Los Angeles as a “revolution of the little people.”

Meanwhile, the school community has predictably dissolved into chaos and conflict.

California's Parent Trigger legislation passed earlier this year and allows 51 percent of voters (the specifics of exactly who can vote appear to be nebulous) to sign petitions to force a school to transform by (choose one) requiring a charter school to take over; bringing in a new staff and giving the parents significant control over staffing and budgeting; closing down the school; or merely replacing the principal.

On Dec. 7, in a polished media event, McKinley parents delivered their signatures (apparently of McKinley parents and not the vague “others” the Parent Trigger law also allows to vote) to officials of the Compton Unified School District.

The move would put the school into the hands of a specific charter operator, Celerity Educational Group. The entire Parent Trigger move actually came not from within the McKinley community but from the organization Parent Revolution, which was founded not by parents but by a group of charter school operators led by the high-profile Green Dot. As the L.A. Weekly puts it, Parent Revolution “has 10 full-time staff members and a $1 million annual operating budget, is funded by blue-chip philanthropic endeavors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation [of Wal-Mart]."

The L.A. Weekly, a conservative “advocacy journalism” alternative paper, provides the most detailed and revealing accounts of the events before and since the signatures were delivered. The degree to which the accounts are revealing is ironic, as the Weekly's advocacy in favor of the Trigger is full-throated — to my eyes as a well-informed California education advocate who holds the opposite position, much of the Weekly's portrayal is jaw-droppingly distorted. But putting that aside, if even a portion of the information is accurate, the L.A. Weekly is definitely the source to follow.

After the signatures were delivered and the national and international press, politicians, commentators et al. leaped on the event to proclaim a victory for the people, the L.A. Times followed up with a Dec. 11 story announcing that some McKinley parents claimed to have been misled and wanted to withdraw their signatures.

And in a detailed blog report posted late last night (Dec. 14), the L.A. Weekly describes an angry and chaotic Compton Unified School District meeting, “packed with press and hundreds of angry parents, many of whom say they were tricked into signing the Parent Trigger petition without knowing its gravity.”

“Above all,” the Weekly post declares, “the air is buzzing with confusion.
“It seems everyone here has a contradicting understanding of what, exactly, the new Celerity Educational Group charter school would mean for their children.”

Further chaos ensues:

Admin, teachers, parents and students from another Los Angeles charter school — the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists — have showed up in mass (sic) to sing the praises of charter schools. 'The teachers there are great — everybody's great,' says one mother. WAYS grandmother Ethel Nathaniel says, 'The school is really beautiful; it's wonderful.'

'We don't want charter school! We don't want charter school!' some mothers chant.
… More and more, the crowd reveals itself as anti-Parent Trigger. The only speakers that are cheered are the ones defending CUSD.

The conclusion of the current version of the L.A. Weekly blog tells the story.

… There's a new civil war working against the betterment [the wording expresses the Weekly's open view that the move would promote the school's “betterment”] of McKinley Elementary: The Celerity parents versus the CUSD parents. And as long as they're both preaching to their own choirs, this is going to be one long, painful board meeting of a battle for the children.”
It was obvious that this move would rip the community apart. No one who has been part of — or a close observer of — a school community could fail to see that.

The Weekly is once again the best source for a description of how the organizing against McKinley Elementary took place:

"Parent Revolution decided to focus on McKinley Elementary School and approach parents there after researching the worst school districts in California. ... [Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben] Austin and his staff surveyed parents at several schools in Compton, asking if they were interested in a transformation. ... field organizers have canvassed a large chunk of the 10-square-mile city of Compton, knocking on hundreds of doors, walking its sidewalks and driving its streets, asking people if their children attend McKinley, making contacts."

Needless to say, an organizing drive from within a school community does not require paid organizers to cold-call all over town, asking strangers if their children attend the school.

The Weekly's description of the photo-op surprise delivery of the petition signatures to the school district should make it clear to anyone who's not sound asleep that there's big money behind this move: A "crowd -- including parents, children and reporters from the New York Times, Los Angeles times, CNN, local TV channels 2, 4, 7, 11, radio news stations KPCC and others, as well as aides to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- then clambers into two yellow school buses...” After a mother hands the signatures to the acting superintendent (who's waiting outside with a police escort), requests and receives a receipt, the mother “holds the receipt in the air and several parents and their children cheer and begin chanting 'Yes we can! Yes we can!' ”

Not an event created by meek and downtrodden parents unaccustomed to the media spotlight, shall we say.

There's one more little twist to the national press coverage describing McKinley Elementary as a disastrous academic failure: In reality, McKinley outperforms the average Green Dot charter school. Green Dot, again, is the organization behind this move, as the lead founder of Parent Revolution.

California's school accountability system is called the Academic Performance Index, which compiles the student test scores annually into one API number on a scale of 200-1000. 800-plus is considered excellent.

Spring 2010 API for McKinley Elementary in Compton, CA: 684.
Spring 2010 average API for all Green Dot charter schools in California: 657.

(Source: My own research on the California Department of Education database.)

— Caroline Grannan


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Excerpts from "What international test scores really tell us: Lessons buried in PISA report"

"[T]here should be no education marketplace." — Diane Ravitch (celebrated education professor and author)

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans
Here are important excerpts from William J. Mathis' brilliant essay:

Federal and state policymakers continue to embrace reforms that have little positive effect (if not downright negative effects) while ignoring reforms that make a difference. Buried within the PISA report is an analysis of educational systems that registered high test scores. Here are some of the less-reported findings:.

  • The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all children.
  • Students from low socio-economic backgrounds score a year behind their more affluent classmates. However, poorer students who are integrated with their more affluent classmates score strikingly higher. The difference is worth more than a year's education.
  • In schools where students are required to repeat grades (such as with promotion requirements), the test scores are lower and the achievement gap is larger.
  • Tracking students ("ability grouping") results in the gap becoming wider. The earlier the practice begins, the greater the gap. Poor children are more frequently shunted into the lower tracks.
  • Systems that transfer weak or disruptive students score lower on tests and on equity. One-third of the differences in national performance can be ascribed to this one factor.
  • Schools that have autonomy over curriculum, finances and assessment score higher.
  • Schools that compete for students (vouchers, charters, etc.) show no achievement score advantage.
  • Private schools do no better once family wealth factors are considered.
  • Students that attended pre-school score higher, even after more than 10 years.

As OECD Paris-based official Michael Davidson said in National Public Radio comments, "One of the striking things is the impact of social background on (U.S.) success."

Twenty percent of U.S. performance was attributed to social background, which is far higher than in other nations. Davidson went on to point out that the United States just does not distribute financial resources or quality teachers equally. In a related finding, students from single-parent homes score much lower in the United States than they do in other countries. The 23-point difference is almost a year's lack of growth.

All emphasis mine. Read the whole article: What international test scores really tell us: Lessons buried in PISA report


How corporate school reform proxies treat students -- neoliberalism requires violent enforcement

[click if you can't view this video]


Mayor Villaraigosa, can you be honest for once? Please?

"Soviet style elections" — Ben Austin in response to parents and communities choosing community school plans over corporate charters.

Failure doesn't begin to describe charter sycophant Villaraigosa and PLAS
In response to the Mayor's latest school privatization diatribe in which he lionizes teabagger Michelle Rhee and praises the underhanded tactics of his good friend Ben Austin.

Mayor Villaraigosa:

As of Spring 2010 Green Dot's average API 657, Compton's McKinley 684. Who determines failing schools? Oh yeah, the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon (aka CEO of Parent Revolution).

Mayor, we know Eli Broad's money is critical for your political future, but could you please stop the constant dishonesty? The trigger law was leveraged into the State legislature by the biggest enemies of parental and community control there are -- Ben Austin of LAPU/PR and Gloria Romero of DFER. Please Mayor, tell us how much power parents have over the unelected, secretive, private boards of charter-voucher schools?

We also understand that Ben's wife, Tracy Austin of Austin Egoscue Development (whose office is conveniently a block or two from Eli's headquarters) is your primary Fundraising Consultant.

Mayor, your long history of malfeasance and collusion in conjunction with Ben Austin in order to capture market share for your CCSA allies is well documented:

In other words, you're not fooling anyone.

Instead of constantly serving the interests of the well heeled charter-voucher industry, could you just once listen to the community and what we want? We want public schools run by our communities, not privatized schools run by the CMO/EMO plutocrats.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Charter Charlatans Caught Cheating in Compton!

"We are giving away our schools and now we want to get rid of transparency... so we can do whatever we want in the dark of night." — Marguerite P. LaMotte in response to Yolie Flores Corporate Charter Choice Resolution

LAPU-Parent Revolution's foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon -- the mendacious Ben Austin
Wow! A sudden lapse in the normally dishonest dominant discourse by the charter-voucher sector sycophantic Los Angeles press? Effort to convert Compton school to charter draws fire.

The mendaciousness of the wealthy Ben Austin and his junta of school privatization drones including Gabe Rose, Pat DeTemple, Shirley Ford, and Mary Najera is legendary. While I was researching my first article on LAPU/Parent Revolution's foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, I had parents from Garfield HS tell me that Mary Najera used to go monolingual Spanish church services with English petitions and tell them to sign the petition if they wanted their children to go to college. Of course, there's also the well documented incidents of shameful class and race-baiting discussed in Code Words and Green Dot’s Pandering to Westside Racism. It doesn't take much to understand that the Gates and Walton Foundation funded "Parent" Revolution are still employing such deceptive and deplorable tactics.

The entire network of charter-voucher front groups for the CCSA and DFER, which are a collection of astro-turf 501c3s including Families in Schools, Alliance for a Better Community, Families That Can, and first and foremost — Parent Revolution (née LAPU), are a despicable collection of liars and thieves.

I want to commend Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe for having the courage to write this article given Russ Stanton's editorial policy of non-stop charter-voucher industry cheerleading.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Mayor Villaraigosa's vile, reprehensible, repugnant speech at PPIC

"We have our cake, and are eating it too." — Eli Broad (Predatory Pseudo-Philanthropist and Charter-Voucher School Backer)

Failure doesn't begin to describe charter sycophant Villaraigosa and PLAS
Don't know if anyone caught the horror that was "Remarks as Prepared for Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa - PPIC "California's Future" Conference - Education Keynote, December 7, 2010," but it is some of the most vile, reprehensible, repugnant filth ever uttered by a politician in my memory, and that includes George W. Bush's racist lies leading up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Astonishingly, the philandering Mayor's mendacity knows no bounds. This speech, overflowing with falsehoods and outrageous slander, is beyond shameful, and speaks volumes to his complete complicity with the corporate agenda of known privatization proponents like Eli Broad, William Gates III, and the Walton heirs.

The irony is that the pernicious Mayor spells out the real trouble with our schools in the beginning of his ill conceived speech. He says:

"When most of us went to school in the 1950s and 1960s, we were blessed that California public schools were synonymous with excellence."

Villaraigosa knows as well as we do that our schools and the unions haven't changed since that time. In fact, only one thing has changed — spending. But the spineless politician dare not challenge his corporate backers, and then commits an enormous non-sequitur in blaming the hard working women and men that teach in our communities and the working class organizations that protect them from people like Villaraigosa and his junta of privatizers like John Deasy.

While all the fact-free points in his speech are easily rebutted with the truth, his use of his powerful position (again) to tell outrageous lies furthering the corporate agenda is beyond the pale. The most disgusting part is when he refers to his close friend Ben Austin's astro-turf group as if they are a legitimate parent organization. I suppose the fact Ben's wife Tracy Austin of Austin Egoscue Development is the Mayor's fundraising consultant explains much of that.

Mayor Villariagosa, instead of you calling on hardworking teachers to give up the modicum of protections they have against the corporate agenda, why don't you listen to the call of the community? We aren't demanding school privatization and the devaluating of teaching professionals. We aren't calling for outsiders and charter-voucher operators to discriminate against the most vulnerable children, those with special needs. We aren't calling for the resegregation of our schools. We aren't calling for people with no background or knowledge of pedagogy to dictate how our education system should run. We are calling for school to allow more parental and community control, not for you to give schools to private unelected boards that aren't answerable to anyone. We aren't calling for CMO/EMO executives to make themselves ever more rich at the trough of our hard earned tax dollars.

What we are calling for is for you to use your bully pulpit to call out those really responsible for education problems. We are calling on you to tax the rich! However, just like when you were in the State Assembly, Mayor Villaraigosa, you still cower from the ghost of the ghoulish in life Howard Jarvis.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

DFER Reactionary Gloria Romero Jumps on the Hostile Takeover Bandwagon in Compton

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

A 'revolution' funded by Wal-Mart and Microsoft.
Here's my comments on Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe's latest glowing, gushing piece on everyone's favorite corporate school privatizers.

Good to see the reactionary pro-corporate Gloria Romero side with of parents that signed the petition and utterly ignore the wishes of parents and community members that opposed it. Why did you want to "prevent opposition" Senator? Is it because giving the parents all the facts and multiple choices instead of a hand picked single choice would have prevented the well heeled Vielka McFarlane from increasing her market share? Or is it that you and your fellow wealthy elitist Ben Austin felt those parents weren't capable of making informed decisions outside of those you already made for them?

Can't wait to see the DFER 990 filing to see how well Romero is compensated for her loyal devotion to the lucrative corporate charter-voucher industry.

One thing Austin, Romero, Barr, and Schwarzenegger don't mention is that their petitions can legally contain parents who won't send their children to the school including: parents sending their kids to parochial schools and parents that will move before their kids attend a school. They also don't bring up the fact that community members (ie. taxpayers that finance the school) have no voice in the corporate trigger process. In other words, a tiny minority of the 'stakeholders' have sway over the process. How convenient for the well financed proxies of the charter-voucher sector, like Parent Revolution, are able to use this carefully crafted legislation to subvert any semblance of democratic processes. That's how corporate America rolls, right?

Lastly, I'm hope all the McKinley parents with special needs children will be sure to thank Ismenia Guzman for essentially casting their children to the curb. Given the dearth of Celerity's special education capacity, that future Guzman speaks of will be quite grim for the neediest children of all. But charter-voucher supporter don't care about 'those' kids. Greedy, heartless, and selfish doesn't begin to describe...

With less than 1/5 of CMO/EMOs outperforming average public schools, you've got to wonder why all the "free market" kooks support them. How does railing against "big government" schools explain the fact that 83% of public schools are better than charter-voucher schools. Further, unlike charters, public schools are required to educate every child, and they still outperform their privatized counterparts. Sadly these charters eschew responsibility to special needs children for no other reason than it cuts into profitability. That's a coup de grace argument against the private sector, but corporate charter supporters ignore the facts for of one of two reasons.

There's a camp getting obscenely wealthy from charter bubble. charter CEOs are making whopping six figure salaries, and others are scoring big too. Real estate and vendor contracts are so lucrative that the hedge fund parasites and even the big dogs like Goldman Sachs and Tilson Funds are in on the action.

Then there's a camp ideologically wedded to privatization despite the overwhelming evidence it doesn't work. While this includes extremist right wing think tanks like Cato, AEI, and Hoover, it also includes so-called philanthropists manipulating behind the scenes. Unfortunately this camp hasn't figured out that Galt and Rourke are fictional characters from a depraved woman's mind.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Vielka McFarlane and Ben Austin orchestrate hostile takeover in Compton

"We don't want to focus on how the history of the country has been checkered but on how do we dress for success..." — historical revisionist and Celerity CEO Vielka McFarlane on why she insists on hiding the history of Emmett Till's brutal murder at the hands of white supremacists.

'We don't want to focus on how the history of the country has been checkered but on how do we dress for success...' -- historical revisionist and Celerity CEO Vielka McFarlane on why she insists on hiding the history of Emmett Till's brutal murder at the
First read Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume's obsequious homage to the corporate school privatizers in this story. Here's my quick response:

Big news! Ben Austin helps the wealthy Vielka McFarlane, owner of the Celerity corporate charter-voucher chain, increase her market share and revenue stream. Too bad for the community. For anyone deluded enough think that Ben Austin cares about anyone's kids, try taking a look at Part VII of his 501c3's 990 form.

Austin's quote about transferring power to the parents is laughable considering that parents are POWERLESS over CMO charters -- maybe the parents should have asked how much decision making power they would have once the school was seized by McFarlane and her board. Of course, Austin never addresses those questions. Remember when Austin and his privatization junta hid cowardly while parents from his previous parent organization were cast to the curb when Marco Petruzzi shut down Animo Justice by fiat declaration? Was that a "unapologetic transfer of raw power?" The community, on the other hand, protested the gross injustice at the hands of the corporate charter-voucher sector's elite executives.

Give Austin some credit, for a guy on the corporate payroll, he sure finds creative ways to co-opt the language of struggle. A "revolution" funded by Wal-Mart and Microsoft? Please!

Wait until McFarlane and company start pushing out children impacting their inflated API scores like they have in all their other schools. Sorry, but if a school takes public funds, it should be OBLIGATED TO EDUCATE EVERY CHILD.

Today we've seen yet another "unapologetic transfer of" public funds into private hands.


Friday, December 03, 2010

Rhee, the Evil Princess of Privatization on Teabagger Transition Team

Right wing reactionary Michelle Rhee is finally working with her own ilk — the racist Teabaggers! Corporate darling Rhee, along with a host of other far right ideologues will work on teabagger-white supremacist favorite Florida Governor-Elect Rick Scott's transition team.

That Rhee was immediately picked to head the education transition team of a teabagger/tea party politician should come as no surprise. Her ability to put the needs of corporations before communities, to call hard working people "special interests," and to make conditions favorable for the get rich quick schemesters in the charter-voucher sector fit right in with the reactionary, market driven, racist teabagging world view.

In this regard so-called edreformers like Michelle Rhee, Ben Austin, Gloria Romero, and Eric Lee hold a ton of common ground with the teabaggers. Check out this piece on David Harmer Tea Party Frontrunner: Abolish Public Schools. No surprise that the teabaggers hold the exact same principles as the hedge fund founded DFER does for education: markets, choice, competition, etc. What is it that Ben Austin always says? "We'll make schools great by forcing them to compete?" Good to know Ben Austin and David Harmer share 18th century values. I thought Harmer was channeling Austin when he said: "In this quintessentially American approach, free people acting in a free market found a variety of ways to pay for a variety of schools serving a variety of students"

Here's the Evil Princess of Privatization's recent appearance on The Steven Colbert Show.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michelle Rhee
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

[Click if you can't view the video]

Ms. Rhee gets one thing partially right. American schools were better during the 1950's, but let's look at some of the "inconvenient truths" the corporate edreform crowd leaves out. What was the state of infrastructure of all the other leading industrial nations Rhee refers to in the 1950's? Hint, there was a world war a few years prior. Here are two more questions to ask smug Harvard graduates and TFA alumni: what was the corporate tax rate during the 1950's? What was the tax percentage on the wealthiest Americans during the Eisenhower administration? Answer those questions, and you come to the only cogent explanation for the decline in public education, which as Dr. Stephen Krashen always puts it: "The Problem is Poverty."


Monday, November 22, 2010

Governor Elect Brown: Please remove Ben Austin from the State Board of Education

Report Green Dot's Ben Austin on the City Ethics Commission Complaint Form Online
Dear Governor Elect Brown:

One of the first things you can do to help the people of our beleaguered California is help restore balance to the State Board of Education. Please consider removing recent appointees Ben Austin and Alan Arkatov, both of whom are employed by the charter-voucher school sector, and neither of which have any substantial background in education.

The distinguished Ralph Shaffer, Professor Emeritus, History at Cal Poly Pomona, makes a cogent case for a generalized reason why these appointees should be denied:

We need to remove the monopoly grip charter schools have on the state board of education. There’s probably no more powerful, and certainly no more successful, lobby in California than that which promotes the interests of charter schools. Consider the biographies of those currently serving on the state board. Four of the nine are deeply involved in charters. That’s why they are on the board. The governor has just appointed two more charter advocates – one of whom has been the head cheerleader for the most powerful charter school corporation in the state, if not the county. Charters have no more than 5% of California’s students, yet with these appointments they will have a lock hold on the board. Who will speak for the overwhelming majority of our students, the 95% of our kids that the state board is slighting with its rush to expand charters, who already are draining the state education budget to the tune of a billion dollars a year.

We need a State Board of Education that represents the people of California, not an exclusive club of wealthy executives that operates essentially as an extension of the California Charter School Association. The lucrative charter-voucher industry has too many ways it can manipulate and game the system as it is. They shouldn't hold the State Board of Education hostage as well. For too long have corporations held all the reins of power in California, this is an opportunity to give some power back to the people.

Advocating Public Education

Robert D. Skeels


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) Annual Fundraiser Party December 4, 2010

UCLA Community School
3201 W. 8th St. Los Angeles, CA 90005
Saturday, December 4, 2010 from 6:00 — 10:00 PM

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students! Support CEJ in its struggles for educational justice!
Information for this event
Informacion en Español tambien

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Coalition for Educational Justice NEEDS YOUR HELP! We've been fighting for educational justice for over a decade, and the political and economic struggles we face in public education have never been so intense. At the same time that we are fighting the privatization of our schools through charter give-aways and campaigning to obtain more desperately needed school funding, foundations that used to support CEJ are tightening their belts and not giving as generously as before. We have had to go from having a full time director to a part time organizing director. We no longer have an office and we are being as frugal as possible with our limited funds. PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS LETTER WITH A GENEROUS DONATION TO CEJ. THANK YOU!

The good news is that our part time organizing director, Frances Turner, is awesome! She started as a student organizer 7 years ago at Crenshaw High School's CEJ chapter. She now inspires and helps guide new CEJ students at LA High, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Jordan, and YOU. Frances brings her dynamic personality and powerful leadership skills to our organization and we are very excited and pleased to have her as our staff person. Byron Gudiel continues to volunteer as a steering committee member of CEJ and Frances' husband, Jesse Turner, is also a very active and contributing steering committee member.

Another piece of CEJ good news is our upcoming annual Fundraising Party in December. It will be held, as it was last year, at the:

UCLA Community School
3201 W. 8th St. Los Angeles, CA 90005
Saturday, December 4, 2010 from 6:00 — 10:00 PM

We're Bringing Back Old School and will highlight the Left's victories through the decades, from the 50's up through the 90's.

We'll never be able to build the movement we need without parents and students in the lead. CEJ is one of the few organizations of parents and students that is working directly with the teachers' union, specifically on a comprehensive anti-privatization strategy. Many other parent and student groups have become part of different anti-union and quasi-privatization efforts. But in CEJ we are exposing the bottom-line motives behind the move to privatize and de-unionize our schools. We have been steadily gaining allies and making progress in our efforts and we continue to stand strong.

Since our last fundraising appeal, we went through the first round of Public School Choice, which we describe as a school give-away to charter companies, and we won a significant battle by keeping 32 out of 36 schools within LAUSD. Three of our schools went to the Mayor's Partnership (PLAS) within I-Design of LAUSD, and 3 others went to various charter organizations. Surprisingly, the LA School Board overwhelmingly supported home-grown school reform plans that CEJ members, in some cases, helped create, and that all of CEJ supported. Through community forums with strong CEJ parent participation, we were able to build support for our plans. In the advisory votes that were later taken last winter, the support for the home-grown reform plans was tremendous and clearly influenced the School Board.

All our CEJ chapters joined a state-wide Day of Action on March 4, '10, and demonstrated with thousands of students, pre-k through adult school, including university students who led the effort throughout California, in Pershing Square, in downtown Los Angeles, one of many locations throughout the state where large mobilizations were held. A Dorsey CEJ student spoke on the podium in front of thousands of demonstrators and a vibrant and enthusiastic group of CEJ students, parents and teachers marched and chanted alongside our sisters and brothers in the struggle, holding our CEJ banner aloft.

Last spring, and during the past two years, CEJ, along with its allies, was very involved in the fight against budget cuts, and was a part of making sure there were minimal RIFs (lay-offs) in order to prevent further deterioration of the teaching profession and the quality of student learning in Los Angeles. CEJ teachers are assisting UTLA in formulating the union's strategic plan and are involved in the Teacher Effectiveness Work Group that is proactively recommending progressive alternatives to evaluating teachers that do NOT include the use of student test scores, but WILL improve the quality of teaching and learning.

This past summer, CEJ developed its own strategic plan which we have begun to enact this fall. We have two city-wide campaigns with which our 6 CEJ chapters and our steering committee have engaged. The first is our State Budget Justice campaign where CEJ members, including many CEJ parents and students, spent more than 100 hours phone-banking and precinct-walking in targeted neighborhoods, promoting two state propositions: 24 and 25 earlier this month. We were unsuccessful in passing Prop 24, which would have closed corporate loopholes and redirected 2 billion dollars to our schools, but we DID help pass Prop 25, a HUGE victory, changing the way California will handle its annual budget from now on. By allowing 50% +1 to pass the state budget, instead of requiring 2/3rds as it has been in the past, Republicans will no longer be able to hold the process hostage, forcing our state to borrow at a high rate of interest for months beyond the budget deadline in order to stay solvent, and compelling the Democrats to cut deals that help the rich and hurt those most in need.

Our second campaign is Social Justice Schools, not Privatization, in which we are actively highlighting our best practices in education, like Crenshaw High School's Social Justice Academy and the UCLA Community School (a pilot school) where CEJ teachers are finely tuning their craft, and working on writing REAL school reform plans for schools on the give-away list this year. We are also preparing the fight for our schools that have just come out on the list for next year, 3 of them being CEJ schools: Dorsey, Los Angeles and Jordan High Schools! We're planning community forums to help educate folks about charter schools and privatization and to inform the community about the teacher/administration/community school plans that should be supported and voted for in community votes in January. We'll hold the forums in the targeted neighborhoods we phoned and then walked in, door to door, during the election campaign, and residents, who indicated their interest earlier, will be invited. After the final School Board decision, determining which school plans will be accepted, CEJ members will once again engage the same communities in promoting a pro-student and pro-teacher school board member in the School Board elections in March, 2011. We have worked closely with UTLA and PEAC (Progressive Educators for Action) in both these campaigns, as well as with the state-wide California Alliance.

CEJ parents, as well as students, have been hugely involved in these two campaigns. UTLA officers, leaders and staff have been very impressed with the grass-roots nature of our organizing. CEJ is unique in its ability to bring parents and youth into this work, side by side with teachers.

Our CEJ chapter work, which is overseen by Frances, is continuing to thrive. Our 5 high school chapters meet regularly and have been instrumental in helping us meet the goals of our two campaigns. At Allesandro Elementary School, in addition to maintaining our fruit and vegetable bars at lunchtime and planting a new batch of vegetables and flowers in our greenhouse, the students, parents and teachers of Allesandro CEJ are teaming up with the Sierra Club in an effort to get Los Angeles off of coal by 2020. At their recent Halloween festival, Allesandro CEJers helped run a booth that gave prizes of LA Beyond Coal tee shirts and buttons to folks who signed petitions and letters to move the campaign forward.

So, as you can see, CEJ remains a strong force in support of public education and in support of equity and racial and socio-economic justice in our communities. We are in need of your support. Please send us a donation, using the form below, and/or come to our annual fundraising party at the UCLA Community School on 8th Street, west of Vermont. See you there!

December Fundraising Committee of Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Advocating Public Education Roundup 10W46

"Public Charter" is an oxymoron. — Steve Neat

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students!
Dr. Diane Ravitch's The Myth of Charter Schools in The New York Review of Books is nothing less than a cogent and complete dismantling of the propaganda piece by the smug mendacious hipster Davis Guggenheim.

In Charter Schools and Civil Rights: What Kind of 'Movement' is This? Brian Jones takes on all the civil rights pretenders in the charter-voucher industry, whose only rights they're worried about are corporate rights. Some highlights:

Third, while it has black faces perched in important places, the charter school "movement" is not a "black movement" for education. Whereas folks participated in the civil rights movement at great personal risk, many of the influential black supporters of charter schools stand to profit handsomely.

While everyone knows about Reverend Al Sharpton taking hundreds of thousands from hedge fund managers to push the charter-voucher agenda, and I'm sure everyone is familiar with Guggenheim's darling, who as the article points out "pays himself half a million dollars a year." However, we do have some local opportunists who have traded civil rights for corporate rights as well. Reverend Eric Lee and Reverend K.W. Tulloss are Los Angeles based shills for the highly profitable charter-voucher school sector. Reverend Lee, with the backing of all the right wing school privatization organizations, is running against community favorite and public school supporter Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. District 1 is the only LAUSD Board seat the nefarious billionaires including Eli Broad, William Gates, and heirs to the Wall*Mart throne haven't been able to buy yet.

Reverend Tulloss sits on the board of the most unscrupulous and unprincipled 501C3 in Los Angeles, Ben Austin's corporate, er Parent Revolution (née LAPU). Austin's personal record on race relations is spotty at best, and he and his organization have been called into question several times for this. In addition to Code Words and Green Dot’s Pandering to Westside Racism we have several more examples of this, see the links under the heading "A preference for a "certain kind of folk."

Brian also addresses the corporate edreformer's ridiculous idea that "it is a "movement" that claims that the interests of adults (specifically, teachers) are in conflict with the interests of children (students)." That false Austin-esque dichotomy is often at the heart of the AEI/Cato/Hudson/Heritage/Hoover talking points, and Brian dispatches it with unmatched ease and grace. In the privatized charter-voucher versus public schools debate there is only one true division, either you're for corporations or you're for communities!

The whole article deserves careful attention, as it provides a wealth of facts to dispel even to most pernicious of edreform mendacity. See all of Brian's posts on Huffington Post and Socialist Worker.

Our friends at Black Agenda Report posted this incredibly awesome short video by Teacher Sabrina.

[Click if you can't view the video]

Hedge fund filth in action! Predatory parasite Whitney Tilson of Tilson Funds in regards to the lucrative charter-voucher industry he helped create:

"hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital." A wealthy hedge fund manager can spend more than $1 million financing a charter school start-up. But once it is up and running, it qualifies for state funding, just like a public school... "It is extremely leveraged philanthropy," Mr. Tilson said. — Joel Klein’s Lesson Plan

At least the pariah is finally being honest about the real purpose for the corporate charter-voucher "movement," just like we so-called "defenders of the status quo" have been saying all along. Profit is the only superman they've been waiting for. For more on this see: Goldman Sachs Gets Serious About (profiting from) Charter Schools. None of this will matter so long as these privatizers keep charter-voucher schools on pace with their other big money makers, like the prison industrial complex. Of course these days its hard to tell the difference between corporate charter-voucher schools and prisons. Check out this latest egregious CMO offense: Detention First at Segregated Charter School Chain Gangs.

Dr. Danny Weil takes on Kaplan, Phoenix, ITT and other for profit predators leeching pubic funds in his latest Truthout piece Removing Plaque at the Gum Line: For-Profit Universities, Emboldened by the Midterm Elections, Seek to Prevent Any Regulations

Here's yet another example of charter-voucher lavishness with public funds. Friendship Tech Prep Academy is going to drop $410,000 to purchase iPads for its exclusive student body. I'm glad to see the lucrative charter-voucher industry using pubic funds so wisely. What is it that AEI/Cato/Heritage informed greedy hedge fund managers, CEOs, bankers, and other business types say about charter-voucher schools being more efficient than pubic schools again?

While we all want children to have access to technology in schools, this is clear evidence of the kind of segregation charter-voucher schools espouse in principle and practice. Until the poorest school in DC has equal access to the same resources, we should consider this incident for exactly what it is — discrimination.

Megan Driscoll's short piece Strong New Films Go After the Much Hyped "Waiting For Superman" and Its Simplistic Educational Analysis takes on smug mendacious hipster Davis Guggenheim's hedge fund pr0n "documercial." The article mentions several real documentaries that begin to address several of the root causes for problems in education today.

Leading the charge for our schools is an interesting short on SW worth the read, if not for the fact that the perspective on a working class person's day is something completely alien to the wealthy elites like Vielka McFarlane, Ben Austin, Whitney Tilson, Antony Ressler, and Marco Petruzzi.

The following Guardian piece by Paul Thomas The corporate takeover of American schools is best summed up by its own tag line: "The trend for appointing CEOs to the top jobs is symptomatic of a declining commitment to public education and social justice."

Check out this great comment in response to charter-voucher cheerleader Gabe Rose who works with his fellow privatization specialist, the insatiably greedy Ben Austin. Whoever wrote it sounds like they may have attended school with Rose.

John Merrow wrote a surprisingly refreshing piece in Open Classrooms v. Charter Schools. It doesn't only take on the smug mendacious teacher hating hipster Davis Guggenheim, it actually points out that there are many excellent public schools that we can look at as models. Since only 17% of charter-voucher schools do better than public schools, saying we can learn a lot from them is vapid, vacuous, and specious, especially since "they only do better by skimming the strongest students and purging the low-performers, sending them back to the neighborhood schools." Instead we should be looking to public schools as the model, especially like the one Merrow discusses which is the feature of this video:

[Click if you can't view the video]

See Mike Klonsky for After 15 years of mayoral control in Chicago. Dr. Krashan spanks Jay Mathews in Another attempt to show American children are bad at math. The Perimeter Primate featured a guest post recently: We Should Be Careful With Our Words. Lastly, Larry Cuban dispels edreform nonsense in Serviceable Myths about School Reform.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Early Education is Key to Raising America Winter 1991

A piece I wrote way back in 1991. Obviously, my writing has improved exponentially since then — I was in still in Junior College when I wrote this. My politics have also improved as well, shifting from a liberal-populist perspective to that of a leftist. I cringe when I read some of the passages in this piece, which show me still being under the spell of mixed consciousness resulting from years of being exposed to ruling class ideology.

What is missing from my 1991 essay of course, is a clear class analysis of why the U.S. doesn't fund early education, and how instead of investing in children early it prefers to train workers on the cheap. Hence the big push today for charter-voucher schools. Narrowing curriculum and focusing on teaching working class children to "work hard - be nice" are precursors to them being the laborers in the profit system. A liberation pedagogy differs from this in so many ways.

Recently, some of the poverty pimps and privatization pushers of the charter-voucher camp have insinuated that I've only been concerned with these issues over the past few years. Early Education is Key to Raising America was written in 1991. I wrote this when the vast majority of so-called edreformers were still in high school or middle school — back before Ben Austin or Michelle Rhee had ever considered phrases like education reform or even knew what words like pedagogy (actually they still don't know this one) meant. So who are the "Johnny Come Latelys" in this debate again?

Early Education is Key to Raising America

[Click if you can't view the document]


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Open Letter to LAUSD VP Flores regarding Anthony Krinsky

Keep the PUBLIC in public schools
Vice President Flores-Aguilar:

I don't know if this right-wing troll Anthony Krinsky works directly for you [1], Eli Broad, the CCSA, DFER, Green Dot, Parent Revolution or is a friend of someone like Bill Grundfest. However, you don't need a CORO fellowship to know how to back search a blogger URI, which Krinsky had linked to his facebook account. Remember I attended UCLA just like you Ms. Flores, it's just that I majored in Classical Civilization, while you seemingly majored in Self Colonization Studies. I've known who this Krinsky guy is for some time, but really paid no mind since his poorly conceived writing is reminiscent of a disinterested teen enrolled in one of those charter-voucher institutions you're so fond of. Nor does it surprise me that you, a Gates Foundation employee, would follow the blog of a guy that idolizes Jim DeMint and Meg Whitman.

However, his Wednesday post crossed the line in several regards. Vice President Aguilar, since you are in contact with Mr. Krinsky please do me the favor of forwarding this letter on to your fellow right wing reactionary colleague.

[1] You do after all, follow his blog. For authentication see both the enclosed image and pdf files.


Mr. Krinsky:

I was somewhat amused to learn you attended Harvard, given that your prose reads like the screed of an angry forth grade charter school dropout. I'm also glad to see that you're finally using your real name as of yesterday instead of hiding behind aliases like 'the edobserver Anthony.' I of course, have always used my full name when engaging in polemics for the past two decades, since I have nothing to hide and am not afraid of speaking truth to power.

Up to now I've tolerated your childish and baseless accusations, but your vile and disgusting post on Wednesday has forced me to speak out.

1) You accuse me of taking money from UTLA or another union one more time and my Public Interest Lawyer will do exactly what you write is your fear. Let's say that you and Melissa will be cleaning my bathroom for decades to pay off that kind of settlement. I am not paid by any unions, nor am I a member of a union.

2) I have never stalked any of you reactionary privatizers in my life. I've never photographed any of you right wing dolts in the park or at your homes. What I have done, is openly photograph ed-deformers at political events serving political roles at public places like LAUSD and UTLA. I'm a widely published freelance writer. Taking photographs of politicians, public figures, and 501c3 staffers working political events isn't stalking -- it's photojournalism.

Let's be clear, I don't stalk or sneak. If I see someone in public and want to confront them, I walk up to them like a man and talk to them. Just ask Ms. Flores-Aguilar's staffer Ron Palacios what happened when I saw him trying to undermine the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education event last year.

Likewise, please feel free to make arrangements to call me a thug, creep, or a stalker in person instead of just on your blog. To be sure, I never call anyone something in my prose that I would be afraid to say to their face. In your bizarre-stream-of-consciousness-blog, you write that you have concerns and deep fears about my specialized military training. You need not be concerned with that. I'm a peaceful man.

With the deepest possible contempt

Robert D. Skeels -- a Public Education Advocate


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rebutting comments on "Educating for Democracy: If Doctors Were Treated Like Teachers"

"One result of 30 years of neoliberalism is the a widespread assumption that if you're unhappy dominating or exploiting your fellow human beings, it must be because you're stupid or incapable." — Mike Marqusee

Keep the PUBLIC in public schoolsProfessor Joel Shatzky's Educating for Democracy: If Doctors Were Treated Like Teachers was a sharp critique of the way the corporate "edreform" crowd have set up teachers as the ultimate straw man for the real causes behind public education issues. His article emphatically points out the absurdity of both the language and ideologies employed by the poverty pimps and privatization pushers that front for the burgeoning charter-voucher school industry.

I posted a link to Shatzky's essay on facebook and received the following, probably well intentioned, but woefully misinformed comment:

"...any teacher that is doing a good job would be happy to be rated and have it published."

Here's my response:

The problem with this is that how do you rate something that is for the most part is entirely subjective?

Like Professor Shatzky points out, do we judge doctors by mortality rate — even if they serve high risk neighborhoods? While his piece is meant to be humorous, he builds a cogent case against using subjective methods for measuring things that are qualitative.

Now to teachers. The reason Shatzky's analogy is so apropos is that ALL current methods being proffered as a means to "rate" teachers are flawed through and through. Whether we're talking about the highly discredited "value added method," raw APIs, or test scores in general, there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that linking such scores to teacher performance alone are specious and biased. Education experts like Diane Ravitch, Alfie Kohn, Linda Darling-Hammond are an excellent place to start if you are actually interested in reading up on this. Ravitch's watershed The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education., especially chapters 2, 6, 8 and 9 present watertight arguments against the "ratings racket" peddled by the so-called "ed reform" crowd.

I respectively disagree with your second assertion. I personally know at least a dozen teachers that had their so-called ratings go from bad to good or good to bad, simply because they transfered from one school to another. Did these teachers suddenly become exceptional or mediocre overnight? Isn't it much more likely that the real factors that effect student performance — like poverty and access to books — are the real issue? Dr. Stephen Krashen writes extensively on this. Here's a recent post he made discussing Bracey's research. The problem is poverty: Evidence from Gerald Bracey

What's more, do we reduce education in general to an arbitrary measure of children's proficiency in the narrow confines of Math and English? Aside from reducing children to mere test scores — and hence diminishing their humanity, we rob them of the opportunity to be exposed to the widest curriculum possible. Rest assured, an obsession with testing, narrowing of curriculum, and avoidance of teaching critical thinking skills isn't how schools for the children of the wealthy operate.

I suppose if there was a fair and objective way of rating teachers, then you might be right in your assertion. However, this is far too nuanced and complex an issue to apply reductionistic methodologies in spite of what hedge fund managers, bail out recipients, talk show hosts, and convicted predatory monopolists would have us believe.


Obama and the “Superman” School Predators | Black Agenda Report

"I don't know any reasonable person who would champion charter schools as a model, when only 17% do better than conventional public schools, and only do better by skimming the strongest students and purging the low-performers, sending them back to the neighborhood schools." — wseadawg

Black Agenda Report's executive editor Glen Ford speaks truth to corporate charter power!

[Click if you can't listen to the audio]

In addition to listening to the radio show, check out the full transcript of Ford's incredible commentary!

Obama and the “Superman” School Predators

Corporate School Reform. Featuring fake stats, dubious studies, bogus high states testing, unproven teacher merit pay schemes, charter schools including military charters schools, patronage, cronyism, corruption, worse educational outcomes, thousands of sExcerpt:
“Waiting for Superman” is a scam and a sham, that has been catapulted into the national political conversation by a $2 million marketing grant from the Emperor, himself, Bill Gates. In the most perverse sense, it is appropriate that Washington, DC’s Seed School is featured, since Gates and the hedge fund billionaire parasites consider their cash contributions to charter schools as “seed money” from which will grow a hybrid, publicly-funded school system where profiteers will flourish. In the last decade, these finance capitalists have enlisted a cadre of Democratic politicians to wage war against teachers and against the very idea of public education, exploiting the historical grievances of Black parents, especially.*
Emphasis mine.

Black Agenda Report's coverage of the corporate onslaught against public education has been peerless. Simply searching for the word charter on their site produces a wealth of articles that name names and call thing what they really are.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Discussing School Privatization, Propositions 25 and 24 with Inglewood residents decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and oppress the people through parliament--this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamantarism. — VI Lenin

Keep the PUBLIC in public schools
I usually don't get too involved with electoral politics [1], but the budget cuts have been so devastating in our communities that I got involved volunteering along with many CEJ/PEAC/UTLA members with SCOPE and the California Alliance in building support for Propositions 25 and 24. I spent a couple of Mondays phone banking on these ballot propositions, which while not the broad reforms we need, are at least steps in the right direction towards a more progressive tax structure and budget fairness.

This Saturday I participated in SCOPE's door to door campaign in a get out the vote effort for yes on Propositions 25 and 24, and to talk to people about building local public school forums. Inglewood is heavily targeted by the charter-voucher industry's front groups like the so-called Parent Revolution [2] and nefarious politicians like SCLC pretender Eric Lee who are entirely bought off ideologically by lucrative charter-voucher school sector, so the second reason for the walk was actually more important than the ballot propositions.

I thought I would be able to pair up with someone I knew, but the organizers wanted to match up politically experienced people with individuals new to community organizing. I was paired up with a young woman who is a Crenshaw High School sophomore. She had never done anything like this, so I was told to train her as we went door to door. We had great discussions about politics, poverty, and oppression between going to peoples' doors. Our precinct consisted of a rough square bordered by Harvard on the East, Western on the West, and 81st to 85th North to South. We got into some very interesting discussions. The Crenshaw student was especially impressed by a family from Belize, that really spent a lot of time talking to us.

Aside from the few people that didn't want to discuss voting, most people intuitively knew the value of Propositions 25 and 24. Many brought up the real problem is Proposition 13, which allows corporate crooks and the super wealthy to pay little to no property taxes, while the bulk of the tax burden falls on working class people. It wasn't a hard sell to say we wouldn't have problems with our schools if people like Eli Broad, Jed Wallace, Vielka McFarlane, and Marco Petruzzi paid their fair share of taxes.

I was surprised how vocal many people were when we discussed charters. They were vehemently against giving public funds to private corporations and were surprisingly savvy about the misleading and mendacious language used by astroturf groups like Families in Schools, Alliance for a Better Community, and Parent Revolution. In fact, some people had sharper critiques of corporate charter schools than I do! Bravo to the good people of Inglewood for realizing their emancipation will come from below, and that it's not something that will be bestowed on them by billionaires with white savior syndrome or smug mendacious hipsters like Davis Guggenheim. Not one of the Inglewood residents I spoke with favored school privatization via charters and vouchers. Many expressed legitimate concerns with improving public schools, but none expressed the teacher hating, corporate gushing, pro-privatization rhetoric we hear spouted by the supposed leaders of parental sentiment.

I was also very impressed by SCOPE and CEJ's grassroots organizing. Unlike the utterly astroturf "Parent Revolution" headed up by the disingenuous Ben Austin and his cadre of white male right wing executives like CORO fellow Gabe Rose, whose answer to all poverty and budget issues is to privatize public schools [3], there is the progressive stance. That stance is to tax the rich and fully fund our communities. Organizations like SCOPE and CEJ actually get it, and I was proud to volunteer for them. Check out this awesome flyer by CEJ with a cogent critique of corporate charters: Coalition for Educational Justice flyer on 24, 25, and combating corporate charters.

Many people have been asking me for a voter's guide. I don't do that, but you can do much worse than following the Peace and Freedom Party's Workers' Voter Guide, or Green Party guides.

Don't forget to vote yes on 24 and 25!
[1] Being the lowest form of politics Do elections matter?
[2] Word on the street is privatizer Shirley Ford has been busy in that district vying for corporate trigger takeovers and pushing the reactionary Eric Lee as a corporate friendly CMO/EMO/Charter-Voucher alternative to community favorite and public school supporter Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.
[3] In the process making wealthy corporate charter operators all the more wealthy.