October 14, 2014
No, ISIS Is Not a Threat to the US | The Nation

October 12, 2014
Book Review: Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Author:Thomas Frank
Narrator: Thomas Frank
Title: Pity the Billionaire 
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio, 2012
ISBN: 9781427223128
Previous books read by the same authorWhat’s the Matter With Kansas?
Summary/Review:

Thomas Frank explores the ways in which the crash of 2008 and ensuing great recession failed to lead to a populist revolt against capitalists nor for greater government intervention into…

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August 19, 2014
"It used to be the job of the public schools to introduce us to each other. We used to go to class together side-by-side. Many of us even ate lunch together, played sports together, even got in trouble together. Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal but it taught us something important: we couldn’t know what it was like to BE each other – you have to live a life to really know what that’s like – but at least we knew the other person was human, too. Among all the educational “advances” of increased standardized testing, ipads and data walls, we’ve lost one of the most important lessons we could teach each other: each other. Some schools – not all schools – still teach that. Certain schools that are given the most oversight, squeezed financially and bad mouthed in the press – the kind that serve impoverished populations. They’re the only kind that still mix. My kind. But our educational policy of the past few decades has been to segregate public schools of all stripes – encouraging charter schools and private schools and taking the remaining public schools and making sure they serve mostly one race or another. Charter schools have always been about segregation. They were invented in The South after Brown v. Board of Education as a means to facilitate white flight. Now these mostly for-profit ventures are set up in impoverished neighborhoods to suck out the black kids and bleach the public schools a more respectable color. Or sometimes they do just the opposite – enticing away the white kids. Remember charters can accept whoever they want. They don’t have to take everyone. The bottom line is profit. School vouchers are just the same. What’s a school voucher but a free ticket to get away from all those brown faces? Marketers claim they want to help the black kids go to private schools, yet those same vouchers never provide enough money to completely cover tuition. They end up being a boast for more affluent white kids to get away from all those stifling black faces. For those left behind in public schools, we have Common Core. It’s job is to feed the School-to-Prison Pipeline by sucking the life out of education. For instance, imagine being told to constantly read every text three times looking for different things each time. A poem – three times. A short story – three times. A nonfiction piece – three times. That will kill any love of reading for sure – especially if you didn’t have much to begin with! Policymakers like Bill Gates decry low graduation rates but then make huge dividends from the for-profit prisons that sweep up these same dropouts. For a country that prides itself on being a melting pot, we certainly work hard to keep the various ingredients separate. I wonder if changing our education policies would make a difference. After all, it’s harder to fear the known. It’s harder to kill someone when you see them as a person. It’s harder to ignore the injustices of lost opportunity, unfair funding, senseless murder."

Perfect Strangers: Racial Injustice as a Symptom of Continuing School Segregation | gadflyonthewallblog

August 12, 2014
"Instead of talking about new best practices for the classroom and ways to improve teacher training and mentoring programs; instead of discussing innovative school and community partnerships that can enrich student experiences; instead of waging a real war against the insidious poverty depriving many of my students of the advantages and opportunities their peers in wealthier, better-funded districts enjoyed … teachers now have to convince “real” people (and their very real, very secret monied backers) that we, as professional educators, actually know a thing or two about education. But that is just how the Campbell Browns, the Tom Corbetts and the Koch brothers of the world want it: they want the conversation skewed, and teachers and our unions on the defensive. Because, let’s not beat around the bush – teachers and our unions are the same thing, which is why the folks who hate unions want to make you hate teachers. You cannot be “for teachers” but “against the union”, because we are our unions. We make our decisions, drive our agendas, elect our leadership and are the most qualified experts to make decisions about our profession. The most powerful “union work” I do comes when I am in my classroom, teaching. And there has not been a day I’ve spent as a rep that I haven’t taught. The ham-handed union-busting and privatization schemes that exist at the core of all these “save the kids” campaigns is clear – but we’re not all that easily fooled by their so-called experts’ tales (possibly, because we had great teachers who taught us to question what we’re told). They can spin their stories and fly in the face of established facts and research, and set up their straw-man arguments about Teflon-covered bad teachers who can never be fired because, when they do, they lay bare their true motives. When reformers are handsomely paid by anonymous rich donors’ money to demonize us, our students, their families, and our friends and neighbors realize that monsters they’re describing don’t resemble the teachers they have known."

Yes, I am a teacher. No, I am not going to destroy society and your children | Valerie Braman | Comment is free | theguardian.com

July 29, 2014
"What the narrative of failing schools does most is allows us to continue to avoid meaningfully addressing race and poverty. It obscures the fact that a history of policies supporting white privilege has created pockets of race and poverty that are untenable in a moral society, and it does so by blaming the victims of such policy."

The Racist Narrative of ‘Failing Schools’ -

July 29, 2014
"Last week, the senate voted to defeat a bill that proposed to raise the current cap on charter schools in 29 districts. Beginning in 2017 the cap would rise from 18% to 23% of those school districts’ spending. Before the vote, we heard from parents, advocates, students, and organizations on both sides of the argument. We sat down with whoever was willing to talk about the bill and what it would mean for students in the Commonwealth and the future of our public education system. We went into all of these conversations with the goal of answering one essential question: what is our end game in expanding charter schools? In 1993 when the Massachusetts Legislature voted to create charter schools, the intent was that charters would experiment with new practices for educating our children. Originally, it was intended to take the successful practices developed by charter schools and use them in the district public schools. Today, charter schools are promoted not as collaborators with public schools, but as competitors in a marketplace where test scores take the place of profits. In this market, there are rewards for schools that can avoid students who are likely to score low. That was never the intent. If we keep raising the cap on charter schools, more district schools will go out of business, concentrating students who face the biggest challenges in a shrinking number of district schools while extra resources go to the charters. We will be driving a wedge deep into our communities, pitting students against each other, and effectively declaring that it is acceptable to invest in some kids while divesting from others. That is not the answer. And that is why we believe this bill, and this issue, cannot move forward without addressing the serious implications that a dual system of public education will have on our children for generations to come. The bill that we debated undoubtedly has merit, not least because it has sparked the important conversation about innovative ways to make charter schools more inclusive while providing funding for district public schools. But the proposed cap lift would not begin to take effect for 3 more years. Let us not make hasty choices. Let us instead step back and consider how we can incorporate the best ideas from all schools to educate allof our children, not only to score high on standardized tests, but to develop into responsible and capable adults, ready to take their places in a complex world. Let’s keep our eyes on 100 percent of our students, not 18, or 19, or 23 percent of them. Senator Patricia Jehlen (D- Somerville) and Senator Ken Donnelly (D- Arlington)"

Charter Schools: Joint Op-ed by Senator Donnelly and Senator Patricia Jehlen of Somerville - Opinion - Lexington, Massachusetts | Patch

July 29, 2014

To right wingers who say that we can’t afford to help children refugees from Central America because that money should help more “deserving” people like homeless veterans, I say, you’ve had DECADES to help veterans and you’ve done nothing! Don’t pretend you care about our own people now that an even more disadvantaged group coming across the border. And don’t pretend we only have the money and resources to help one group or another. The money is out there, we just need the will to combat greed and do what’s right.

July 17, 2014
"I found some action on the Senate floor, where on Wednesday lawmakers debated an intensely controversial bill proposed to increase the number of charter schools statewide. Having helped expose the nefarious corporate interests pushing more charters on Mass – executives and charities with ties to Walmart and Bain Capital, for starters – I’ve followed education legislation closely. It’s one thing to fill the probation department with rubes who are unqualified to reform chronic offenders; it’s another caliber offense altogether to allow plutocrats to guide pedagogy. Neoliberal opinion mongers spent the past month safely arguing, as one Globe header put it, that the “charter school battle erodes middle ground.” Bullshit. There is no middle ground. Charter boosters might envision halos posthumously perched atop their profit-driven peanuts, but their behavior in Mass has been the extortive equivalent of a gangster saying: “I’ve been robbing you for decades, but now I want more. And if you don’t hand it over, I’m going to tell everyone you hate children.” And then a ray of hope flooded the Senate chamber, starting with a detailed presentation of the charter bill by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain, in which she blasted the unholy schism said issue has forged and pleaded for colleagues to “fix this thing.” After acknowledging the hard work Chang-Diaz put into composing the proposal, several of her fellow members – most notably senators Pat Jehlen of Somerville and Marc Pacheco of Taunton – then promptly pulverized it like a glass pinata, the bill’s guts unceremoniously splattered on the weeping mugs of charter shills from the Pioneer Institute in the balcony. The temporary slaying of the charter beast was just a golden kernel in a legislative shitpile. In the final stretch of the current session, lawmakers have already shown their unwillingness to address scores of meaningful items in favor of white collar voter fodder like the battle over non-compete agreements. Nevertheless, the temporary outcome of the education debate marks a win for the greater good over greed."

IN MIDST OF MOST EMBARRASSING SCANDAL IN YEARS, MASS LAWMAKERS DO SOMETHING ADMIRABLE FOR ONCE | DigBoston

July 16, 2014
"Dear Senator,
As you prepare to debate and vote on Bill S2262, I ask you to consider the impact it will have on the children already attending public schools in the communities in the bottom 10%. You have heard from Marc Kenen and other paid lobbyists. Please consider the families; our only interest is to give our children the best possible education. We cannot expand one tier of public schools by defunding the other. Before expanding charter school growth, you as legislator must establish an equitable, separate funding mechanism. Imagine for a moment if this were a bill to expand a separate, privatized division of the Massachusetts State Police; operating WITHOUT accountability to voters, but publicly funded by siphoning money from the traditional police force (and THEN you asked the traditional police force to reduce crime with LESS resources). There would be outrage in the streets. Expanding charter schools hurts the school district you are intending to help. My daughter is thriving in a Level 3 Boston Public School. Her school may appear to some as one of the “under-performing” schools that the authors of this bill are targeting, but the test scores alone do not reveal the reality parents see on the ground. Her school is becoming a full-inclusion model for children with special needs - AND - has a high concentration of children living in poverty (80% qualify for free or reduced lunch) - AND - educates English language learners. Her school is doing a wonderful job nurturing the kids who need the most help, in an inclusive environment. As a whole, they do not test well, but I urge you to come visit some of these Level 3 Boston Public Schools to understand all of the moving parts in this delicate machine. I am not looking for an escape route from her “under-performing” school, I’m asking our elected officials to SUPPORT her school. We don’t need more charter schools, we need programs that expand early education, support English language learners and fully fund SPED services. As a parent, not as a paid lobbyist or a member of a special interest group, I am asking you to do what is right and vote NO on S2262. Please: Let us stop fighting over schools that don’t exist and start defending the children in the schools that already DO exist. Thank you so much for your public service and commitment to serve all of the children in the Commonwealth."

Krissy Cabbage: To our State Senators, from a Boston parent:

April 28, 2014
"Unfortunately, our state and federal policies continue to encourage the opposite. Sprawl didn’t just happen — it is a direct consequence of “big government.” Cities don’t keep the wealth they generate: Our major cities send billions more in tax dollars to the suburbs, via state and federal coffers, than they get back. The largest subsidy in the federal system is the mortgage interest deduction, about $100 billion annually. Gas taxes don’t begin to reflect the costs incurred by automobile use, from pollution to depressed land values around highways. Continue reading the main story
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By contrast, urban mass transit, school systems, parks, affordable housing and even urban welfare recipients receive crumbs relative to the vastness of government largess showered on suburbia. Is it any wonder that in bustling, successful American cities, our subways remain old, our public housing dilapidated and our schools subpar? I am not arguing that people should not live in suburbs. But we shouldn’t pay them to do so, particularly now that our world and the desires of our population are evolving. This need not be a divisive debate. With millions of Americans already gravitating toward cities, the real question is what it means for our collective future, and how we respond."

America’s Urban Future - NYTimes.com

April 14, 2014
"There are at least three approaches to evaluating the role of big philanthropy in ed reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments. The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, a critique of using value-added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool. The second approach examines how big philanthropy’s ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public’s voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them? This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed-reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed-reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations’ pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (and thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education. The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth."

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively | Dissent Magazine

April 3, 2014
(via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

(via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

March 31, 2014
"The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!"

Arne Duncan just doesn’t get it: How the media and phony reformers hurt your kids - Salon.com

2:39pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z059by1BkP4t8
  
Filed under: education politics salon 
March 26, 2014
"The achievement gap is widening. Students are falling below basic in staggering numbers (50% of third grade black students below basic on ELA tests, 84% ELL students below basic on ELA tests, and the list goes on). The “promise of the common core” turns out to be nothing more than threatening students “You’re going to pass this high stakes test or we’re going to label you a failure, punish your teachers, and keep you from graduating.” That’s not the soft bigotry of low expectations, but the rather harsh bigotry of “Those damn lazy kids just aren’t motivated enough. Threaten them.” They don’t need help, support, resources, economic relief, or anything else— just threats. The cost of this bad threat is more than the students should have to bear and certainly of no benefit to us as a society. And the test results recall one more lesson from Basic Teacher 101. If you have given a test to your class and a huge percentage of the students have failed it, it’s a bad test."

CURMUDGUCATION: Bad Threats

March 8, 2014
Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

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