Monday, October 29, 2012

Schools Matter: How the VAM/AGT pseudoscience worm turns

First published on Schools Matter on October 29, 2012.

While value-added models are intended estimate teacher effects on student achievement growth, they fail to do so in any accurate or precise way — Dr. Bruce D. Baker

VAM and AGT are discredited and harmful to public educationMaybe it's karma, but Kyle Hunsberger of the Gates Foundation backed astroturf TeachPlus, and one of Los Angeles Unified School District's biggest cheerleaders of the highly discredited VAM/AGT pseudosciences, is now a victim of that selfsame modern phrenology.

This quote is pretty amazing coming from a bona fides member of the "no excuses" camp.

"I have to be reassured that I don't have to lobby for honors students," Hunsberger said. "I have to know that I have a shot at a good evaluation if I teach lower-performing kids."

Maybe he'll be a former member of that camp from here out, now that he's experienced the practical application of his faulty theoretical framework. That framework incorrectly posits that "effective" teaching "overcomes" any other factor including poverty, student motivation, or even English Language Learner status.

Call me cynical, but I doubt Michael Stryer and James Encinas, Hunsberger's TeachPlus coauthors of this fact-free Op-Ed shilling for value added measures will stand by him now that the worm has turned. Corporate reformers are just like that, they're snakes and most venomous to anyone who break ranks and start telling the truth.

Let's stop testing children and start teaching them. Standardized tests are a perversion. NCLB/RTTT/CCSS are the real "status quo" and an abject failure at that.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Second Community Based LAUSD District 2 Candidate Forum Announced

I am honored to have been invited to this event and am looking forward to discussing critical education issues. Many thanks to the District 2 Neighborhood Coalition for organizing these forums. Thanks to PESJA, CARECEN, MALDEF, and others for endorsing the event.

A very prominent candidate was missing from the first forum...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yes on 30! No on 32!

Yes on 30! No on 32! Tax Millionaire and Stop Their Power Grab.

Yes on 30! No on 32! Tax Millionaire and Stop Their Power Grab.

It's time for Ben Austin, Gloria Romero, and Eli Broad to pay their fair share!


Thursday, October 04, 2012

First Community Based LAUSD District 2 Candidate Forum Announced

I am honored to have been invited to this event and am looking forward to discussing critical education issues. Many thanks to the District 2 Neighborhood Coalition for organizing these forums.


ALEC/DFER's Gloria Romero Stands Her Ground on Won't Back Down

ALEC/DFER's Gloria Romero Stands Her Ground on Won't Back Down

"The idea of “choice” has been manipulated by the corporate reformers and spread by groups like ALEC, who seek to use methods such as the Parent Trigger to turn public schools over to privately-managed charters. This is not real choice; nor is it parent empowerment." — Parents Across America.

My commentary in response to: Gloria Romero: 'Parent Trigger' fight hits the big screen. First published on Schools Matter on 2012-10-04.

The corporate charter trigger film is a shameful farce, and it isn't just film critics that have realized that the Murdoch/Anschutz financed propaganda piece is a joke. Daniel Barnz's Won't Back Down holds the dubious distinction of having the WORST opening weekend for a wide release (2,500-plus screens) in the last 30 years. Audiences aren't interested paying to see such strident and insulting nonsense.

Ms. Romero, who discusses "special interests," should be taken very seriously on that issue. She is an expert in special interests after all. As a politician she enjoyed a constant flood of campaign funds from the lucrative charter school sector to craft pernicious legislation like SB 592, which hands public school property over to private corporations.

Romero and Austin's corporate charter trigger law, which she forgets to mention had plenty of input from Bill Lucia of Reed Hastings' EdVoice (one of Romero's favorite corporate contributors by the way), and Friedman acolyte Arnold Schwartzenegger. These fringe-right forces made sure the trigger law would be amenable to The Heartland Institute and The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The former is the trigger law's biggest promoter, the latter turned the commons robbing idea in ALEC template legislation.

When her billionaire special interest backers couldn't buy her the State Superintendent job, they gave her the next best thing: a quarter million dollar a year gig with the hedge fund supported DFER. In other words, Romero went from taking money from special interests while she was in Sacramento, to being one of the deep pocketed special interests influencing her former colleagues to push through more revenue streams through school privatization.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Help Save LAUSD's Crenshaw and Dorsey High Schools


Join Crenshaw and Dorsey High Schools at an EMERGENCY Community Meeting

Join Us at Our Community Meeting
Thursday, October 4, 5:30pm – 7:30pm
African-American Cultural Center
3018 W. 48th Street, LA, 90043 (at corner of 9th Avenue)

Save LAUSD's Crenshaw and Dorsey High Schools.After years of instability and lack of support from LAUSD, Crenshaw High School has been on its way back. A dedicated team of educators, parents, students, alumni, administrators, and community have been working in collaboration with the school’s partner, the Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership (GCEP), to ensure that every student’s potential is fully developed. This includes:

  • Ensuring that every student masters the tools necessary to go to college or into a well-paying career after graduation.
  • Reducing the number of student suspensions and expulsions.
  • mproving school safety and providing wrap-around services to meet families’ needs.
  • Ensuring that every student can productively contribute to their community.

Crenshaw has developed a nationally-recognized instructional program that encourages academic excellence through building the self-confidence of students. The program provides students with:

  • Internships with local businesses and organizations.
  • College application workshops.
  • Exciting community learning projects that put knowledge and skills into action.
  • Opportunities to engage in great athletic, music, art, and social/emotional health programs.

Now, Superintendent Deasy wants to end Crenshaw’s partnership with GCEP. This will dramatically disrupt the school’s positive direction and programs that serve students. It will directly threaten Crenshaw’s ability to continue to raise funds from national sources to serve students. It will open the school to reconstitution (removing all faculty and staff) or charter turn-over. These two policies are not supported by research and cut students off from vital and ongoing people and programs.

Superintendent Deasy is threatening the school at the same time that the District has not provided Crenshaw and other South LA schools with the basics – up-to-date technology and materials, staffing for complete academic and college counseling, a full-time nurse, training in Positive Behavior Support, and support for site administrators. The school and GCEP have done a remarkable job of filling in these gaps, but LAUSD’s irresponsibility in these areas is felt deeply.

Crenshaw joins with Dorsey and South LA communities to demand that LAUSD not terminate the GCEP partnership, and that the District support rather than destroy promising reforms for students.

Dorsey Dons Fighting Reconstitution on facebook


Monday, October 01, 2012

Schools Matter: Kopp's shameless self-promotion in the guise of a Kozol book review

"Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions." — Jesse James Alred

Separate is never equal: TFA, KIPP, and corporate charter schools are the new Jim Crow.One thing I'll concede to the corporate education reformers is their uncanny ability to use anything as a sales pitch for neoliberalism and profitability. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was Arne "Katrina Schadenfreude" Duncan's racist pro-charter school statement that the abject disaster was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." Not to be outdone by a dullard second rate basketball player masquerading as Secretary of Education, education reform mogol Wendy Kopp has taken the dark art of corporate spin to a whole new level.

See my Schools Matter post, Kopp's shameless self-promotion in the guise of a Kozol book review, for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-09-29 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Robert D. Skeels, candidato al distrito 2 para desplazar a Mónica García

Robert D. Skeels explica por qué se ha lanzado como candidato al distrito 2 para desplazar a Mónica García, a quien considera pésima dirigente escolar.

Programa de radio dedicado a la educación en Los Angeles, California - Martes y viernes 9pm por W Radio 690 AM y 11pm México por Facebook:


EchoParkPatch: Expired food products being served by Walmart Foundation funded LAUSD Breakfast in the Classroom

"So long as there are children who are coming to school hungry, there will be a need for school breakfast programs, and until workers are guaranteed a living wage, there will undoubtedly be hungry kids." — Dana Woldow

Expired Oatmeal Bars arrive for the day's Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC)Ballyhooed as "historic" by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) President Mónica García, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Broad Foundation backed InnerCity Struggle, Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) is a poorly thought out program with noble intentions, but plagued from start by insurmountable implementation issues.

See my EchoParkPatch post, Expired food products being served by Walmart Foundation funded LAUSD Breakfast in the Classroom, for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-09-27 on EchoParkPatch, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: Comments on Fordham's Adam Emerson's latest pro-CCSA screed

The driving assumption for the pro-charter side, of course, is that market competition in education will be like that for toothpaste — providing an array of appealing options. But education, like healthcare, is not a typical consumer market. Providers in these fields have a disincentive to accept or retain “clients” who require intensive interventions to maintain desired outcomes—in the case of education, high standardized test scores that will allow charters to stay in business. The result? A segmented marketplace in which providers compete for the “good risks,” while the undesirables get triage. By design, markets produce winners, losers and unintended or hidden consequences. — Christopher Bonastia

Those who can teach, those who cannot pass laws about teaching. Fordham troglodyte Adam Emerson stepped up on behalf of the billionaire funded California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) today with an essay attacking the Los Angeles Unified School District's mulling a charter moratorium while investigations into widespread fraud, graft, and criminality are conducted. Short on facts, but chock full of propaganda, Emerson defends the lucrative charter industry and its nefarious trade association, the CCSA. I had some choice comments for Emerson and his fellow baggers, birthers, birchers, and choicers:

See my Schools Matter post, Comments on Fordham's Adam Emerson's latest pro-CCSA screed, for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-09-18 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.

Share/Bookmark Petitions to Move LAUSD Board Meetings to the Evening

From my LAUSD Campaign Site on September 6, 2012

For far too long only the well-paid members of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) posing as parents have been able to attend public LAUSD board meetings. Why? Because the meetings are intentionally held when working people...well, are at work or attending school. This petition calls on LAUSD to move public meetings to the evening so that the true voice of the community will be heard. Parents, students, educators, and community have been shut out of LAUSD. Meanwhile the charter industry and the NPICs have dominated the dialog and continue to provide the "Anschutz Four" board members political cover.

As a District 2 Trustee candidate for LAUSD, I endorse all efforts to make board meetings accessible to real stakeholders, and not just the NPICs and wealthy charter sector executives. Download these bilingual petitions and get them into our communities!


Chicago Teachers Union Versus Astroturf Billionaires

Billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Betsy DeVos, and Bill Gates fund astroturf tools like Jonah Edelman, Rebecca Nieves Huffman, and Kyle Olson. Working with anti-working class politicians like Rahm Emanuel, these groups and individuals strive to privatize public education, union bust, and profit off the sufferings of the poor. Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is on the front lines of the battle to save public education, but they are fighting right-wing forces with limitless resources. Their bold actions in the face of overwhelming odds may well be the turning point in the battle to prevent the neoliberal project from eliminating public education nationwide. They need our support, please contribute to the CTU Solidarity Fund.

Here's CTU's introduction to the film:

The Chicago Teachers Union is currently on the front lines of a fight to defend public education. On one side the 30,000 members of the CTU have called for a contract that includes fair compensation, meaningful job security for qualified teachers, smaller class sizes and a better school day with Art, Music, World Language and appropriate staffing levels to help our neediest students.

On the other side, the Chicago Board of Education—which is managed by out of town reformers and Broad Foundation hires with little or no Chicago public school experience—has pushed to add two weeks to the school year and 85 minutes to the school day, eliminate pay increases for seniority, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and slash many other rights.

Teachers, parents and community supporters in Chicago have fought valiantly—marching, filling auditoriums at hearings and parent meetings, even occupying a school and taking over a school board meeting. Most recently, 98 percent of our members voted to authorize a strike. But now we find ourselves facing new opponents—national education privatizers, backed by some of the nation's wealthiest people. They are running radio ads, increasing press attacks, and mounting a PR campaign to discredit the CTU and the benefits of public education.


Schools Matter: Tami Abdollah and John Deasy gush that 'Size Matters'

"Just continue to follow the money. This Race to the Trough will make the Reading First crooks under Bush look like dopey Boy Scouts." — Professor Jim Horn

Plutocratic priest of privatization, LAUSD Superintendent John DeasyThe neoliberal cabal at Southern California's KPCC can't cheerlead for school privatization loud or frequently enough. Not content with Pat Morrison lobbing softballs to Broad Superintendent Academy graduate and former Gates Foundation employee John Deasy once a week, KPCC's intrepid education beat reporters are always looking for the latest anti-public-school story angle.

See my Schools Matter post, Tami Abdollah and John Deasy gush that 'Size Matters', for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-08-15 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


The Daily Censored: Mónica García champions the Gülenist Charter Movement in LAUSD

First published on The Daily Censored on August 5, 2012.

"This increasingly well-rooted network provides the Gulen Movement with daily access to the minds of over 45,000 students, and yearly access to hundreds of millions of hard-earned tax dollars." — Sharon Higgins

Corporate Education Reformer and Gülenist Champion Mónica García, President LAUSDCharter schools are privately managed entities with negligible oversight, but funded with public money. The somewhat secretive Gülenist Islamic sect, named after charismatic Turkish Imam Fethullah Gülen, runs more charter schools than any other charter school chain in the United States. While there's nothing wrong with privately financed religious schools, it's problematic at best that public funds are being used to fund religious charter chains.

The cultish Gülenist Movement currently operates eight such privately managed charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Several more are slated to open after having won approval under the woefully misnamed "Public School Choice" (PSC) resolution, brewed by former LAUSD District 5 Trustee, Yolie Flores, who was also an employee of the Gates Foundation while concurrently "serving" the school district. Flores' PSC gives brand new school facilities built with public money away to charter school corporations like the Gülenist Magnolia Science Academy.

The individual most responsible for the proliferation of Gülen Charter Schools in LAUSD is the Board President herself, Mónica García. García's ties to the Gülenists are long-standing, and she is a tenacious advocate on their behalf. She is speaking at the Gülenist Pacifica Institute in September 2012 regarding her prominent role in corporate education reform and the unprecedented privatization of LAUSD under her neoliberal reign. The Pacifica Institute ran into controversy last year, when Armenian groups protested the organization's ties to Turkish groups denying the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide. That García chooses to be so insensitive to the considerable Armenian population in her school district is most likely attributable to the fact that there are no Armenian organizations managing large chains of lucrative charter schools in LAUSD.

Advocating for the Gülenist movement and speaking at their events have paid handsome dividends for García. In addition to helping proliferate more privately managed charters schools, the Gülenists have been very generous donors to García's political coffers. García, who raised more than $100,000 in just two months for her 2013 reelection bid, counts several Gülenist operatives among her contributors. Suleyman Bahceci, CEO of Magnolia Charter Corporation, donated $250, as did Varol Gurler, Magnolia's CAO. The Pacifica Institute's Director, Ferdi Mesut Ates, chipped in $100. Pacifica's Ilker Yildiz contributed likewise. Undoubtedly, García will continue to rake in cash from the Gülenist machine, as she has from most of the lucrative corporate charter chains. In an ethical education environment, donations from corporate charters to district board members that have the power to grant them their charters and give them choice facilities would be considered a conflict of interest.

Corporate charter school magnate Yvonne Chan also recently donated to García's efforts to capture a third term as a LAUSD Trustee. Milken Educator Award winner Chan, despite a vested interest in the charter school industry, is on the California State Board of Education (SBOE). Like García, Chan has a long and rewarding history with the Gülen Charter Movement. In fact, she made sure that she and her other SBOE members granted Magnolia its Statewide Benefit Charter because:

Yvonne Chan had been on a free, Gulenist-guided trip to Turkey courtesy of the Pacifica Institute in one of the years just prior.

Incidentally, California isn't the only state where the Gülen "leaders lavish gifts and dinners on" politicians.

The Gülen Movement and their ubiquitous Gülen charter schools loom so large on the American education landscape that CBS' 60 Minuntes devoted a full length segment entitled: U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam to this phenomenon of school privatization.

What's important here isn't which kind of religious group runs these schools, but that public funds are being used to support schools having overarching political and religious agendas like the Gülenist do. This is no different than the right-wing Milton Friedman inspired capitalism indoctrination American Indian Public Charter Schools and Green Dot Public Schools push on their hapless pupils. The former actually requires their charter school students to make daily pledges to our abject political economy. Nor is it any different than the charter school chain that teaches its students that Emmett Till's brutal murder was a just desert for what they termed his "sexual harassment." The selfsame Celerity Charter Chain pushes a "post-racial curriculum" that ignores institutional racism in favor of students self-colonizing by "dress[ing] for success..." rather than "focus[ing] on how the history of the country has been checkered." Because there's little to no oversight or regulation for the privately managed charter school sector, these and many more such incidents will continue unabated.

There's another major problem with García's expansion of Gülen charter schools in LAUSD. Part of the Gülenist modus operandi is to staff their schools with teachers lacking credentials (part and parcel the standard in the charter school industry), many of whom have never taught before at all. Gülen schools bring in Turkish businessmen and professionals on 1HB visas to teach, yet there is currently a glut of highly qualified, credentialed, unemployed teachers in LAUSD. Gülen supporters claim a lack of educators versed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), but the reality is that there's neither a shortage of STEM workers nor teachers in the United States. Instead, Gülen movement watchdogs have demonstrated a pattern of abuse in regards to H1B visas.

Ultimately, the failings of Gülen Charter Schools are the same as with all charter schools. They are privately managed. They have unelected boards. They have a glaring lack of transparency both in terms of finances and operations. They contribute to the deprofessionalization of teaching. They undermine public schools and the bare semblance of democracy which those pubic commons represent. They are, to all intents and purposes, private organizations with access to a publicly financed revenue stream. Johathan Kozol's prescient prediction that our public school system was on the corporate auction block is being borne out by the expansion of Charter Management Organizations. Gülen Charter Schools are a symptom of a much deeper systemic problem known as neoliberalism.

School board trustees are elected to represent their community's interests in regards to public schools. That Mónica García is so beholden to the competing interests of the lucrative charter school sector raises serious concerns of opportunism, greed, and favoritism. Her championing of the Gülenist charter movement is further proof that she has little to no consideration of her constituents and our community's schoolchildren.

Special thanks to Sharon Higgins of The Perimeter Primate, Charter School Scandals, and The Broad Report for her copious existing research on this topic and encouraging me to write this specific piece. See this video for an idea of the breadth of her knowledge: Charters, Privatization Of Education & The Gulen Schools In The US: Sharon Higgins Speaks Out


Schools Matter: Obscuring history and human agency through NCLB, RTTT and CCSS

"Prior research, then, strongly suggests that charter programs have not lived up to their initial promise of transcending the segregating effects of traditional district boundary lines. In fact, these studies indicate charters exacerbate already rampant school segregation, particularly for Black students." — Erica Frankenberg, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Jia Wang

The Smith and Carlos Statue at San José State University
The Smith and Carlos Statue
at San José State University
I was reading Dave Zirin's latest piece, Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in School, this morning and several things stood out and had me thinking in terms of how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its related high-stakes testing regimes not only distort curriculum, but how they are intended to distort students' consciousness of their reality.

See my Schools Matter post, Obscuring history and human agency through NCLB, RTTT and CCSS, for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-07-25 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: New Jersey's big fat corporate ed reform liars

Al denounced the idea of charters when it became clear that the concept had changed and was being hijacked by corporate and business interests. In Al’s view, such hijacking would result in the privatization of public education and, ultimately, its destruction — all without improving student outcomes. — Edith Shanker

Chris Christie and Laura Waters wreaking havoc on Garden State educationIt all started a few days ago when Edison scoundrel and Broadyte Chris Cerf published a fact-free diatribe extolling a charter school solution to a non-existant problem. To say that Cerf plays fast and loose with facts would be the understatement of the summer, but his most mendacious statements (and a grievous factual error) occur in regards to the venerable Albert Shanker.

See my Schools Matter post, New Jersey's big fat corporate ed reform liars, for the rest of this essay.

Published 2012-07-21 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.