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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Matt Farmer's great speech at CTU rally

Matt Farmer is a lawyer and a Chicago Public School Parent. Watch him cross-examine Hyatt Hotel heiress and CPS board member Penny Pritzker in his May 23rd speech to 4,000 union teachers at the Auditorium Theater.

BTW, Pritzker is also national finance chairperson of the Obama campaign. She is one of three cousins who manage their dynasty’s financial empire, which includes the Hyatt hotel chain, casinos and many other ventures.

But according to the New York Times, she was also involved in running and overseeing Superior Bank, an Illinois institution co-owned by her family that was at the forefront of turning subprime loans into securities, the risky practice at the heart of the financial crisis. The bank collapsed in 2001 after regulators discovered accounting irregularities that overstated its assets.

Ah, what a perfect addition to Mayor Emanuel's hand picked school board.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Common Core architect tied up with Rhee's group

Common Core has made for some strange bedfellows. Most Democrats support it. Lots of good educators, unions and civil rights organizations currently back  the idea of Common Core State Standards as an equity measure and alternative to current state standards. Others like Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier oppose their imposition by the DOE while others see it as another boondoggle for private curriculum contractors.

Things get really dicey when it comes to the high-stakes, standardized testing regimen that comes with CCSS. Even more so when you throw voucher supporters, anti-union and charter lobbyists into the mix,

Now we learn some new things about Common Core architect and newly appointed president of the powerful College Board, David Coleman. For one thing, Coleman has been closely tied up with Michelle Rhee. He is listed as a director on the board of StudentsFirst, the anti-teacher, anti-union, school-privatization advocacy group begun by Rhee. Coleman is a former McKinsey consultant who was hired by the Gates Foundation.

"I helped the organization get started and have discussed with them that a new board will be beginning in June," Coleman told Edweek's Stephen Sawchuck.  Sawchuck goes on to quote StudentsFirst spokeswoman, Nancy Zuckerbrod, who said that the organization had planned for Coleman and the others to step down this summer.
Why pick Coleman initially?, I asked. "He's a really impressive guy," Zuckerbrod said. "Michelle is totally on board with the common core. She's a big fan."
Other groups that initially helped Rhee raise millions of dollars for StudentsFirst include the Broad Foundation, which gave about half a million in start-up funding, and  Education Reform Now, which is affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform.  DFER President Joe Williams told Sawchuck, that was done in the haste to get the StudentsFirst group set up before Rhee appeared on "Oprah" to formally announce its launch. 

Writes Sawchuck: 
Coleman, who was recently tapped to lead the College Board, has not weighed in on StudentsFirst's policy agenda, which includes such things as revamped teacher-evaluation systems, opening more charter schools, and supporting a limited number of school vouchers.
The take-away here -- the future of Common Core is certain to be a contentious one, as well it should be. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Murdoch's News Corp. is an ALEC Member

Murdoch (l) and Joel Klein.
No big surprise here. Adam Peshek, who staffs ALEC's Education Task Force, told Education Week that News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force since January 2012.

This according to PR Watch:
When News Corp. acquired Wireless Generation, a for-profit online education, software, and testing corporation, for $360 million in cash in 2010, Rupert Murdoch called the for-profit K-12 education industry "a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed." A few weeks before the closing of the deal, News Corp. hired Joel Klein, then the chancellor of New York City schools, to run its education division.
Murdoch also donated to ex–DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee’s new group, StudentsFirst, which according to The Nation "has pledged to spend more than $1 billion to bring for-profit schools, including virtual education, to the entire country by electing reform-friendly candidates and hiring top-notch state lobbyists." At an earlier Media Institute awards dinner in Washington shortly before he bought a financial stake in privatizing education through purchasing Wireless Generation, Murdoch called Rhee a "bona fide reformer."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Classic Eli Broad: "Never let a crisis go to waste"

Katrina aftermath
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste." -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Nov. 2008.

In a recent Edweek piece by a similar title, billionaire power-philanthropist Eli Broad resurrects this quote made infamous by Chicago's now autocratic mayor. It's become an operational phrase for "getting things done" by skirting the public will and abandoning democratic decision-making. For Broad and other disaster capitalists, as Naomi Klein calls them, it's all about taking advantage of real disasters, like Hurricane Katrina. Or if a crisis doesn't exist -- manufacture it.

The manufactured "crisis" to which Broad refers is the fact that U.S. students, taken as a whole, don't test as high on the NAEP as students from several other countries. Writes Broad:
American students today rank 31st in the world in mathematics and 23rd in science. If the academic rankings of our most precious resource—our young people—reflected the rankings of our Olympic athletes, it would be a source of major national embarrassment.
From this statement alone, you can see that being rich and knowing anything about testing and international  assessment rankings don't necessarily go hand in hand. For one thing, national averages on standardized test scores are just that -- averages. If you would take the scores from our wealthiest schools, they would rank right up there with the world's best. Likewise, our poorest, resource-starved urban and rural schools would rank among those of the world's least developed nations.

Secondly, Olympic athletes aren't an average representation of our generally overweight and slow-moving populus. God help us in the Olympic games if they were. It is a funny thought, though. I'd like to see a Billionaires' Race to the Top event in the London Olympics, where Broad and Bill Gates would race up a hill against the world's richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico (or even against the most interesting man in the world --you know, the guy in the beer commercials). But I digress.

"Preservation of human dignity"
Broad may not know this, but the Olympic games, like public education, weren't originally intended as an arena for competition between nations, or for one country to embarrass another, but rather as a showcase for individual athletes from around the world. Eli Broad would do well to study the Olympic Charter which talks about Olympism as "a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education." The stated goal of the Olympics is "to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

Wow! Wouldn't that make for a great vision statement for public education?

By comparing public education with the Olympics against the backdrop of "national embarrassment," Broad debases both. Rahm's old crisis quote brings to mind a similar statement from free-market guru Milton Friedman. In the aftermath of Katrina, Friedman called the deadly storm, "not a disaster but an opportunity" to fire every public school teacher in New Orleans and to replace public schools with private school vouchers.

Broad would concur with his ideological mentor Friedman. Never let a good hurricane or global economic disaster go by without seizing the opportunity to crush unions, privatize public space and make a few bucks for yourself along the way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

ALEC to Ravitch: Why pick on us?

In an interesting response to a Diane Ravitch piece in Edweek ("What You Need To Know About ALEC"), Adam Peshek, ALEC's ed director, asks: Why pick on us? Obama agrees with ALEC, claims Peshek, who has nothing but praise for the administration. Peshek has a good point. How about a response, Mr. President or Sec. Duncan.

Writes Peshek:
In reality, we are far from alone in this effort. There are dozens of organizations on both sides of the political spectrum that have spent decades promoting the policies we support. In fact, President Barack Obama has done more for charter schools and teaching-profession reforms than any other administration. Apparently, our ideas are only acceptable if they stay confined to think tanks, books, and intellectual debates. Now, as decades of work are paying off in policy changes, the other side is crying foul.
 As you might expect, Peshek is covering his own, and ALEC's ass. On the issue of charter schools, merit pay however, he is able to use Obama's ed policies as a left cover for this extreme right-wing group which lately has come under fire, especially because of their support for racist Stand Your Ground laws. Ironically, one area where ALEC and Obama disagree is on Common Core Standards, which Obama supports and ALEC opposes as a federal intrusion into state education.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Charter authorizers group slips quietly out ALEC's back door

No sooner had I posted about the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) relationship with ALEC, then I received this NACSA press announcement via Business Wire.
Our work with ALEC has been focused entirely on promoting excellent charter schools. As part of our annual review processes, however, we determined that alternative strategies would be more effective in achieving these policy objectives. Thus we will not be renewing our membership in ALEC when it expires next month.”
If there ever was a more cowardly statement or a more unethical stand taken by an education group, I haven't seen it. When first questioned by Huffington writer Ziad Jilani, about NACSA's current participation in ALEC, using public school money to pay their ALEC bills, director Greg Richmond refused to comment. The implication being that the charter school group's affiliation ended long before the recent exposure of ALEC as a far-right, racist, and anti-union consortium of corporate interests.

Instead of leaving ALEC in protest, and not wanting to offend the corporate patrons who pay his salary, Richmond opts for the tepid statement above and letting his now-admitted membership in ALEC run out in June.

If any more evidence was needed to show that the current network of  private charter school operators and their lobbyists are little more than conduit for corporate interests, as opposed to serving the interests of public education, here it is.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ALEC finds a friend in the charter world

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an  extreme right-wing, anti-union, corporate front group that has worked successfully to pass pro-corporate laws in state legislatures across the country. They have been especially active in pushing legislation that supports school vouchers, privately-managed charter schools, and the outlawing of collective-bargaining rights for teachers.

Following the outcry over the group's pushing of  "Stand Your Ground" laws and racist voter-suppression acts, at least 15 major corporations, foundations, and other organizations have decided to end their funding commitments to ALEC.

But ALEC has another way of financing itself that doesn't involve private corporations at all, writes Huffington's Zaid Jilani.  He reports that The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) is one of ALEC's members at least through 2009 and may well still be a member and is using public school money to support NACSA's work. NACSA's president and CEO Greg Richmond joined ALEC's Education Task Force around 2009.

Richmond's response:
 NACSA has worked with Democrats for Education Reform, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Aspen Institute, ALEC, and the National Governors Association, among many others, to impact charter school policy and practice.
Jilani writes:
"I followed up to ask if NACSA was currently an ALEC member. NACSA gave me no response."
Richmond is no stranger to Chicago where he worked under Paul Vallas. Vallas then brought him and NACSA to New Orleans to help establish a privately-run charter system there in the wake of Hurrican Katrina. I wrote about him and NACSA last December when they ran this great charter school hustle in Illinois.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How Klein tapped his "heavy breather" billionaire pals for charter $$$

Klein & Murdoch
New York Mayor Bloomberg was forced, following a Freedom of Information request, to release hundreds of email messages which showed the corrupt machinations behind the push for charter schools. In particular, the emails revealed the role played by former chancellor, Joel Klein, who is now a general in Rupert Murdoch's international criminal organization.

They show a desperate Bloomberg and Klein in a “fight of our life," putting pressure on funders to deliver millions of dollars in an effort to beat back teacher and community resistance.
The e-mails show that in February 2010, Mr. Klein and several charter school advocates participated in a phone call with the board members of the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit group that fights poverty. The first attempt by charter advocates to get the State Legislature raise the charter cap had failed miserably, and the main advocacy group pushing for the higher cap, Education Reform Now, needed money for a second attempt, which was ultimately successful. -- New York Times
 One message showed Klein's own disrespect for the very funders he was hitting up.
“Who’s the heavy breather on the call?” wrote a participant, whose name was redacted. “Normally, I’d ask them to mute their phone but I don’t want to alienate any donors.”
“Some overweight billionaire,” Mr. Klein replied.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Protesting Pearson's latest move on teacher licensing

Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Barbara Madeloni, front right, who runs the high school teacher training program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with some of her students, who have refused to participate in a pilot program for a new licensing procedure being developed by the education company Pearson and Stanford University to be marketed to states nationwide.
“This is something complex and we don’t like seeing it taken out of human hands,” said Barbara Madeloni, who runs the university’s high school teacher training program. “We are putting a stick in the gears.”  -- NY Times
Education students are refusing to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test, requirements of an assessment that will soon be necessary for licensure in several states. UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson. Pearson advertises that it is paying scorers $75 per assessment, with work “available seven days a week” for current or retired licensed teachers or administrators.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yong Zhao: Common Core = Uncommon Profits

University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao is an author and critic of current corporate reform policies in education. His new book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, will released by Corwin Press in August. The book includes three elements of an excellent education: personalized learning/student autonomy, product-oriented learning, and the globe as the campus.

Anthony Cody interviews Yong on his Living in Dialogue Blog, about the latest reform fad, Common Core standards. Yong says,
The Common Core Standards Initiative is having a great time, much like NCLB in its early days, with lots of money and lots of political power behind it. And of course there are many who would stand to make some money off and perhaps earn some political points from it as well and for these organizations and individuals the Common Core must continue. 
Read the complete interview here.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Children First -- Really?

According to the Miami Herald, The state of Florida is paying Pearson $250 million to administer and score the FCAT through the end of 2013. That's enough to pay for 5,000 additional teachers or dozens of after-school programs for students. 

Test maker Pearson of course, is the company involved in the test-question pineapple scandal that discredited New York's testing program. 

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Princeton Review busted for fraud

No Child Left Behind has been a cash cow for test publishers and private tutoring companies.Now one of the biggest of this small group of powerful and politically-connected companies has been busted for fraud.

On Tuesday, the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan announced the indictment of one of the largest and most well-known private test-prep and tutoring companies, the Princeton Review, for falsifying records and accepting millions of dollars in reimbursements for testing services it never provided to New York City schoolchildren. -- The New York Times.

Mary Ann Giordano, writes at the NYT School Book blog:
The public education system these days is rife with ways that private enterprises can make money. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, student testing has increased, creating opportunities for test-making companies. New technology has opened the door to online educational services, causing an explosion of virtual classrooms. And federally mandated tutoring services for under-performing students has proven to be a cash cow for tutoring companies..
According to the Huffington Post:
Alleged dishonesty associated with Princeton Review's bonus incentives is reminiscent of widespread cheating among Atlanta Public School educators, in which teachers and school administrators said they were pressured to maintain high scores under No Child Left Behind, as student performance on standardized exams is tied to school funding and teacher performance assessments.
One interesting side note: In 2007, Princeton Review was taken over by Mitt Romney's company, Bain Capital.  Recently the company sold off its test prep operations. It's chief competitor Kaplan offers up its analysis of why TPR failed in the testing business, leading to its focus on getting tutoring contracts with large school districts.
After receiving a $60 million infusion from Bain Capital Ventures and another private equity firm in 2007, the company embarked on an ambitious makeover plan, including buying up its regional franchises. While bringing the franchises in-house made sense in a lot of ways, in some ways TPR’s timing couldn’t be worse: The company was doubling-down on its brick-and-mortar business just as more and more test preparation moved to an online delivery format. The proliferation of lower-priced online test prep options made it hard for the company to maintain its large footprint and keep investing in its core businesses at the same time.