Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rhee has become the darling of the far-right

Paul Scott, left, and Michelle Rhee.

Michelle Rhee rose to prominence during her days as D.C. school chancellor, with a big boost from the power philanthropists. Her tough accountability policies, mass firings of teachers and union bashing drew praise from the Democratic Party establishment, including Arne Duncan and Rhee's mentor, then N.Y. chancellor, Joel Klein. Once Rhee got run out of town by D.C. voters, her liberal Democratic facade was dropped. Like Klein, who went to work for the world's most notorious reactionary Rupert Murdoch, Rhee has become the face of right-wing education "reform" nationally.

Rhee has most recently been supporting a far-right Michigan politician, Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) in his struggle to avoid being recalled next month. Scott, an anti-gay crusader and opponent of legal abortion, is also a vocal support of Gov. Rick Snyder who is cutting badly needed funding for public education from his budget.

The Flint Journal reports that Rhee's group Student First, has already committed $73,000 to help Scott. Students First has already poured nearly $1 million into the campaign to take away teacher tenure and weaken teachers' collective-bargain rights. Scott was instrumental in shaping anti-union legislation.

Rhee's support for this Tea Party politician implies that her supposedly non-partisan group is also backing Snyder’s economic and education policies, which have lead to significant reductions in the state’s K-12 school aid. Included among the budget that Snyder signed earlier this year was a whopping $300 million aid reduction to schools statewide. Additionally, there was a $100 million cut to aid to cities, which also serves to negatively impact schools.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big money to be made in the teacher evaluation biz

Education reforms translate into big money for private groups writes Sarah Garland in the Oct. 24th American Prospect. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually to companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools. Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating a new source of revenue for those in the business of education.
Among those cashing in on teacher evaluation, according to Garland,  are: 
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
  • American Institutes for Research 
  • The New Teacher Project (TNTP)
  • National Institute for Excellence in Teaching
  • Mathematica
  • Pearson
  • Learning Sciences International
“There simply is not as much [money] to be made from professional development, or system design, as there is in testing students,” Charlotte Danielson, a researcher who developed a well-regarded teacher observation method that has been adopted by districts around the country, said in an email.
“There are real dangers,” said Monty Neill, director of FairTest, a group critical of standardized testing. “While observations make good sense, if you start bringing in outside people…you’re more likely to end up with arbitrary and capricious decisions from which someone makes money.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Murdoch's horrifying vision of public education

Rupert Murdoch (r) shakes hands with former New York City schools chief and now News Corp. employee Joel Klein during Murdoch’s keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Julianne Hing writes for Colorlines:
Banish the image of a classic American classroom from your mind—chalkboard, desks and all. The future of education has arrived, and next-era classrooms look like, well, call centers: students seated at individual corrals, some with headphones on, being taught and drilled on quadratic equations while a teacher monitors their progress from behind her own computer. With such individualized learning, students can absorb and master subjects “tailored to their pace and needs.” 
That was the picture painted by billionaire businessman Rupert Murdoch when he spoke last week at a two-day conference in San Francisco hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education reform outfit. Murdoch’s News Corp. has been quietly developing virtual-learning and technology-driven products for K through 12 schools, and with his address Murdoch made his first large public splash into an arena he’s valued at $500 billion. For entrepreneurs big and small, American public school reform has become a prime business opportunity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gates: We know more about teaching than educators do

Bill & Melinda Gates tell schools to operate like a business. They claim that they know more about how to teach than do teachers themselves.
It may surprise you—it was certainly surprising to us—but the field of education doesn't know very much at all about effective teaching. We have all known terrific teachers. You watch them at work for 10 minutes and you can tell how thoroughly they've mastered the craft. But nobody has been able to identify what, precisely, makes them so outstanding. This ignorance has serious ramifications. -- Wall Street Journal
This raises the question, however. What can educators learn from the Gates business model? Here's what the late Steve Jobs learned:
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.” -- Forthcoming biography

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Baton Rouge billionaire Grigsby wants to take the "public" out of education

Right-wing Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby has decided that public education is the "root cause" of all the state's problems -- even "the traffic that strangles the interstate around Baton Rouge during the weekday commute."

So while he opposes "throwing any more money" into public education,  he's created his own PAC so he can put millions of tax-free dollars behind conservative, anti-union candidates for the state school board.

He says he's focused on injecting "free-market principles" into what was once a "state monopoly" over public education. 
Grigsby refers to his favored candidates for the school board as "progressives," but in outlook, he's a classic conservative: a construction industry entrepreneur, a long-time supporter of Republican causes and a crusader against government waste who wears his religious faith on his sleeve. In the lobby of his office on Airline Highway, the 21 pieces of wild game he bagged on a spring trip to South Africa line the staircase.-- Times Picayune
State filings show Grigsby's Alliance for Better Classrooms, or ABC, political action committee, raised more than $250,000 between Sept. 13 and Oct. 11. Two days later, his wife, Barbara Grigsby, threw in another $100,000. Among the candidates receiving Grigsby money is Teach For America's Kira Orange Jones.  No surprise there.

Also see: 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why is Murdoch speaking at an "education summit" in the first place?

Teachers want to know

Teachers in the San Francisco Bay area picketed Thursday outside an education conference that features News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch as a keynote speaker, saying they believe he and other business leaders are out to profit from the so-called "reforms" discussed at the summit.

More than 100 demonstrators marched outside the Palace Hotel, which was hosting Jeb Bush's National Summit on Education Reform. The protesters, joined by activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement, chanted, banged drums and held signs with pictures of Murdoch and slogans such as "Hey Murdoch! Our Schools are Not For Profit."
"Corporations own all the media in the world. Why should they not own all the education as well?" activist Joe Hill yelled sarcastically.
Last year, News Corp. acquired Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that sells software and services to K-12 schools with the help of former N.Y.C. schools chancellor, Joel Klein. In August, New York's comptroller rejected a $27 million contract with the educational technology company because of the phone-hacking scandal involving News Corp.'s British newspapers.

Foundation for Excellence in Education is chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and champions school vouchers, privately-operated charter schools and performance pay for teachers.  Speakers expected during this year's conference include Melinda Gates and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as Bush.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Geoffrey Canada asks for leniency for convicted Wall St. crook

Another hedge-funder is going to prison for insider trading. Only this time, the imprisonment of convicted Wall Street crook Raj Rajaratnam could be costly to some corporate school reforms and charter school privateers.

Rajaratnam, 54-year-old founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund was sentenced to 11 years in a North Carolina federal prison where he could wind up as Bernie Madoff's cell mate. He was also fined $10 million and ordered to forfeit $53.8 million in what the judge said were illicit profits from trading on confidential corporate information.

But one of the biggest losers is the deal will be charter operator and star of Waiting For Superman, Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The New York Times reports that, Wall Street has been particularly fond of supporting his cause, which helps administer a range of social and educational services to families within a 100-block area of Harlem. And that is precisely why defense lawyers for Mr. Rajaratnam asked him to testify on behalf of their client, which he did. According to the Times, "Mr. Rajaratnam has been pretty generous to Mr. Canada’s charities."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pearson and the Texas Public School Profiteers

Text books, testing and virtual learning

Abby Rapoport writes about textbook giant, Pearson,  in the Sept. 6 issue of the Texas Observer.

Pearson, one of the giants of the for-profit industry that looms over public education, produces just about every product a student, teacher or school administrator in Texas might need. From textbooks to data management, professional development programs to testing systems, Pearson has it all—and all of it has a price. For statewide testing in Texas alone, the company holds a five-year contract worth nearly $500 million to create and administer exams...

...Public education has always offered big contracts to for-profit companies in areas like construction and textbooks. But in the past two decades, an education-reform movement has swept the country, pushing for more standardized testing and accountability and for more alternatives to the traditional classroom—most of it supplied by private companies. The movement has been supported by business communities and non-profits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and often takes a free market approach to public education. Reformers litter their arguments about education policy with corporate rhetoric and business-school buzzwords. They talk of the need for “efficiency,” “innovation” and “assessment” in the classroom.

Littering the state with ineffective, profit-minded operators

Michigan leads nation in the percentage of charter schools run by for-profit companies
A legislative proposal to lift the state cap on charter schools would provide parents unprecedented options for K-12 education, but some critics fear it would litter the state with ineffective, profit-minded operators. The legislation, part of a sweeping package wending its way through the Legislature, would make Michigan among the least restrictive states. Other states have lifted caps in recent years as they competed for U.S. education grants. -- Detroit Free Press

Friday, October 7, 2011

Views from right field

Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher surprised a business group in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday when he said: "I am somewhat sympathetic [to the Occupy movement] -- that will shock you.

The Fed played a key role in one of the protest targets, the 2008 Wall Street bailout that critics say let banks enjoy huge profits while average Americans suffered high unemployment and job insecurity.

"We have too many people out of work," Fisher said. "We have a very uneven distribution of income. ... We have a very frustrated people, and I can understand their frustration."

Republicans claim that Obama is "inciting the mobs" by sympathizing with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. 
Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined in the attack on the White House, calling Obama’s comments “inflammatory,” and saying the protesters reminded him of the Paris mob during the French Revolution.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Obama: Wall Street protests show a "broad-based frustration"

President Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images/ 10/6/2011
President Obama said Thursday that the Occupy Wall Street protests show a "broad-based frustration" among Americans about how the U.S. financial system works.
"I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shining a new light on Daley's After School Matters

It looks like they're finally going after Daley's cash-cow after-school program which was used as back entrance to the old City Hall patronage system. According to this morning's Sun-Times:
After School Matters, the charity founded by Chicago’s former first lady Maggie Daley to occupy and educate teenagers, received $915,000 in contributions over a ten-year period from companies that got subsidies from the city, the city’s inspector general concluded Tuesday. (Read the report here.)  
I don't know why this story is just breaking. Back in 2006, I blogged about Gov. Blago's funneling of state education funds to politically-favored programs, like the dollar-bloated after-school program/political patronage bucket run by Maggie Daley. For example, just about any trucking company that wanted city business had to write a check to ASM. While it funded some worthwhile programs in the schools, it was also a clever way around the Shakman Decree which supposedly banned pay-for play. 

Interestingly, among those serving on the board of ASM were current mayor, Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule  (oops, sorry Rahm. I forgot, weren't supposed to mention family members).

I suppose this is the price we pay for mayoral control of our schools. When public education becomes an appendage of City Hall, schools and their programs become part and parcel of Chicago machine politics and the mayor's patronage system. It goes with the territory.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Teachers join Wall Street occupation

On Sunday, a group of New York public school teachers sat in the plaza, including Denise Martinez of Brooklyn. Most students at her school live at or below the poverty level, and her classes are jammed with up to about 50 students.
“These are America’s future workers, and what’s trickling down to them are the problems — the unemployment, the crime,” she said. She blamed Wall Street for causing the country’s financial problems and said it needed to do more to solve them. --Washington Post