A Legislator Who Understands

Bill Perkins, NY State Senator:
...recently announced plans to hold public hearings on charter schools, to examine, among other things, the sources of their financing and “how much profit there is in not-for-profit” schools.
Finally, someone in charge who gets it. Now if only the other 49 states could get some legislators like Bill.

h/t Ken Libby via Twitter

War Is Still A Racket

I posted about Smedley Butler before but didn't have this video to go along. The actor does a good job reciting some of Butler's words. It's frightening how prescient Smedley seemed to be. Of course one could call it obvious instead of prescient. When will the rest of America catch on?

San Francisco: Want Some Sludge For Your Garden?

This is just disgusting. With all the gardening going on in the Bay Area, especially gardening programs at schools, should we be asking about the compost municipalities give away? Considering the following, yes!
When San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in America, offered its residents free compost, many were excited to take it. After all, purchasing enough compost for even a small 10 x 10-foot garden can cost over $50, and generating one's own compost in high enough quantities for such a garden takes a long time.

Few of the gardeners who lined up to receive the free compost at events like last September's Big Blue Bucket Eco-Fair suspected that the 20 tons of free bags labeled "organic biosolids compost" actually contained sewage sludge from nine California counties. On Thursday, March 4, angry San Franciscans returned the toxic sludge to the city, dumping it at Mayor Gavin Newsom's office in protest.

Sewage sludge is the end product of the treatment process for any human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste and -- in San Francisco -- stormwater that goes down the drain....

When confronted by angry gardeners who had been duped into applying toxic sludge to their gardens, city and state authorities defended their actions. The California Association of Sanitation Agencies insisted that because San Francisco has "virtually no industrial facilities within its borders or sewer service area," the waste was not a combination of "industrial, commercial, hospital, and household wastewater." But, according to Organic Consumers Association, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has documented the following in San Francisco sludge alone: p-Isopropyltoluene (an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of paint, furniture, etc); 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, a disinfectant, deodorant and pesticide; Tolulene (an aromatic hydrocarbon widely used as an industrial feedstock and as a solvent); 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene (a product of petroleum refinery distillation); and Phenol (used in the manufacture of drugs, antiseptics, nylon and other synthetic fibers).

Rep. George Miller: Charter School Lover

Representative George Miller (D-CA) has decided to rely on charter schools to fix what teachers and schools can't fix: poverty. He also chooses to ignore the facts: charters are no better than traditional public schools, and are sometimes worse. And none of these reformers ever mentions the fact that nearly every charter school deals with discipline in ways traditional public schools can't. It is a farce!

From Thompson:
WASHINGTON, February 26 — Signaling the important role of innovation in driving education reform, the House Education and Labor Committee chose charter schools as the focus of its first hearing to inform its rewrite of the eight-year-old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

"If our goal is to build world-class schools," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said, "we absolutely need to look at high-performing charter schools for research and development and replicate what they are getting right."

Miller admitted that charter schools are not a "silver bullet," but those that are high performing can improve achievement levels of low-income and minority students by instilling competition into the traditional school system.

One in a "Handful" of Hearings

Committee spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz told Thompson Publishing that charter schooling is just one of many topics that will be discussed in a "handful of hearings" on reauthorizing NCLB, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The charter school hearing focused on the All Students Achieving through Reform Act (H.R. 4330), a proposal to provide competitive grants to expand and replicate successful charter schools. (Currently, about 1.5 children are enrolled at almost 5,000 public charter schools.) The bill would give priority to students from families with low incomes or those from schools with low graduation rates or in need of improvement.

Charter school proponent Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said the bill was a "promising idea" to expand these types of schools. The federal government, he said, could encourage the growth of charter schools by eliminating state-imposed charter school enrollment and growth caps and allowing new schools to be established under an existing charter.

Other hearing participants, however, weren't so keen to see the federal government expand charter schools or, at the very least, said stronger oversight is needed.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., pointed to a February 2010 study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA called Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards, which argues that "charter schools continue to stratify students by race, class, and possibly language, and are more racially isolated than traditional public schools."

Thomas Hehir, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said more needs to be done "on the authorizing level" to improve charter school access for students with special needs and be sure that these schools aren't cherry picking the best and the brightest students, leading to concentrations of the hardest-to-serve students in the traditional public system.
h/t JH

Choice Without Equity


Is Executing Children A War Crime?

From truthout:
Under the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime to execute a captive. Yet, in Kunar on December 26, US-led forces, or perhaps US soldiers or contract mercenaries, cold-bloodedly executed eight hand-cuffed prisoners. It is a war crime to kill children under the age of 15, yet in this incident a boy of 11 and a boy of 12 were handcuffed as captured combatants and executed. Two others of the dead were 12 and a third was 15.

Morton Kondrake Is A Moron

Mo touts the debunked Sputnik nonsense as well as the school-as-business model. He does not mention Diane Ravitch and her recent conversion from NCLB supporter to NCLB abolitionist. Kondrake is just another tool for big business and the oligarchs.
It has been nearly 30 years since the landmark “A Nation at Risk” report launched the education reform movement and still, as Obama noted last month, American eighth-graders rank ninth in the world on international math tests and 11th in science.

A work force report by the Business Roundtable warned that the U.S. is the only major industrialized country with a younger generation that has a lower level of high school achievement than the older generation and is second to last in college completion.

And, as Obama pointed out Monday speaking to the America’s Promise Alliance, a third of U.S. children fail to graduate from high school — including half of all minority children — condemning most of them to a life of poverty and huge cost to society.
It's the teachers, right? Wrong. Every study ever conducted to see what has had the biggest impact on a child's education points to SES (socio-economic status). Period. There is not one bit of evidence to support the craziness that is RTTT, value-added measures of teacher effectiveness, longer school days/years, more homework or any of the other crap being touted.

We need to do the right thing for our kids. We should teach them how to think, not what to think. This requires students who are ready. Let's make sure they have food, health care, a decent place to live, a job for their parent(s) and teachers who are free to do what they do best--teach.

Do You Know This Kid XIII? Updated

She was born in 1934. She is adorable, isn't she? She was in movies and folks have sung about her.  She is not American.

Update:  Shy reader anon nailed it by citing the song I was planning on using anyway.  Good job!  This is her emailed response.  She's not French, just really smart:
Je pense qu'elle est dans ce chanson:

Now the reason we're here
As man and woman
Is to love each other
Take care of each other
When love walks in the room
Everybody stand up
Oh it's good, good, good
Like *brigitte bardot*

Now look at the people
In the streets, in the bars
We are all of us in the gutter
But some of us are looking at the stars
Look round the room
Life is unkind
We fall but we keep gettin' up
Over and over and over and over and over and over

Me and you, every night, every day
We'll be together always this way
Your eyes are blue like the heavens above
Talk to me darlin' with a message of love

Now the reason we're here
Every man, every woman
Is to help each other
Stand by each other
When love walks in the room
Everybody stand up
Oh it's good, good good
Say I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you

Talk to me darlin'


Thursday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Going Postal Edition

Temple Grandin On Education, Among Other Things

Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism as a child, makes a whole bunch of sense in her TED talk as she explains how education actually works and what students actually need.  Good stuff.

What Makes A Great Teacher?

I have always told my students that if you are funny you are smart. Being funny takes brains. I have also said that being a good teacher is not rocket science; it's more like art. The Gates Foundation and other reformers think they can research their way to knowing what a great teacher is. James D. Starkey helps them:

When the Gates Foundation finally crunches all the numbers from its two-year research project, that is what it will discover. Great teaching is not quantifiable. As dorky as this sounds, great teaching happens by magic. It isn’t something that can be taught. I’m not even sure that good teaching can be taught. The only thing that I know can be taught is average teaching, and almost anybody who has paid attention through all those interminable hours in school classrooms and is willing to work hard can pull that off.

Now I will attempt to give you the keys to great teaching. The fact that I understand the irony and hypocrisy in that statement makes it almost forgivable. And I will add a huge disclaimer: It is possible to talk about great teaching without being a great teacher yourself, which is the position I find myself in. I taught for almost 35 years and am still amazed that I wasn’t fired during my first four. The fact that I managed to stay in the profession so long could, I suppose, be an indictment of the tenure system.

But, on the other hand, my various supervisors’ indulgence during those first rocky years gave me the chance to get better. That is the one thing I can say for sure about my career.
Every year made me a better teacher. I could even go so far as to say that every year made me love teaching more. Of course, every year also made me hate schools more. There is no contradiction there.

The thing to do now is to make a list. Everyone likes lists. Educators are particularly taken by them. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times that just the act of making a list during a faculty meeting served to convince us that a problem was solved.
So, Bill and Melinda, listen up. Here are 10 qualities of a great teacher:

(1) has a sense of humor;
(2) is intuitive;
(3) knows the subject matter;
(4) listens well;
(5) is articulate;
(6) has an obsessive/compulsive side;
(7) can be subversive;
(8) is arrogant enough to be fearless;
(9) has a performer’s instincts;
(10) is a real taskmaster.

There, see how easy that was? And inexpensive to boot.

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Bull's-Eye Edition

Christopher Hitchens' New Commandments


Joe Bageant's Paragraph Of The Day

Moon Over Gringo Gulch
Every American, every man woman and child lives by the fruit of the empire's sword, fully expecting the lights to come on each evening, fresh coffee to gurgle in the morning and the car to start right up. The Internet connection to work and for Australian wine to be on the supermarket shelves. Those who do understand where it all comes from -- which is to say from an unsustainable commodity economy propped up by phony money at gunpoint -- seldom object publicly, if there is the slightest risk. The relative few who grasp the inevitable cruelties of empire, especially of empires in decline, are inwardly resigned to their own insignificance in the larger scheme of things. A slim minority of youth still have the energy and idealistic anger to protest, as in Seattle's WTO fracas a decade ago. But for every one of them there are hundreds of thousands of citizens who say, "Well there's not much I can do about it." Both sides are right of course. But one swamps the other, reducing it to entertainment value on the evening news.

March 4 Day Of Action Events

March 4th is right around the corner and the local, national and international anticipation for this historic day is growing by the minute. Students, teachers, staff, parents and workers from all over California, the nation and the world have been organizing and building for the Strike and Day of Action. Below is a tentative list of events that will be happening on March 4th in California.

If you have any information to add to the list below, have information on events from places outside of California or have any questions about March 4th, please email march4strikeanddayofaction@gmail.com or visit PublicEducationNotWar.co.cc and tell us what is being planned in your school, workplace, community for March 4th Strike and Day of Action.

In Solidarity,

Follow-up committee of the October 24th Conference

List of March 4th Strike and Day of Action Events

Do You Know This Kid XII? Updated


She was born in 1965. She is famous, some say infamous, I say both.

Update: Reader Tammi W. left me a note on TFT's Facebook page with the correct answer--Bjork!


Jerry Brown Makes It Official

RTTT Fun With Applications

Rick Hess has a fun post excerpting some of the RTTT application nonsense. What a terrible thing RTTT is, and so full of crap. Here is just one example of what you can find in one of these applications:
Ohio boasts of its "Simple, yet bold, long-term aspirations." These admirable goals include "a near-100%" high school graduation rate with schools teaching at internationally competitive standards, elimination of achievement gaps, and higher-ed completion rates "that are among the highest in the nation and world." Are reviewers supposed to reward that simple, bold vision...or dismiss it as puffery?

AFL-CIO Calls Out Obama And Duncan On Mass Teacher Firing

Supporting the Students, Teachers, Staff and Community of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island
March 02, 2010
Orlando, Fla.
AFL-CIO Executive Council statement

Students in every high school, no matter its ZIP code, deserve a great education. Obtaining a great education depends upon a number of factors, including having well-prepared and supported teachers; well-trained, dedicated and collaborative administrators; solid curricula and focused instruction; and, for our most disadvantaged students, wraparound services that address the out-of-school factors that should not be allowed to impede teaching and learning.

Central Falls High School is the only high school in Central Falls, R.I., a community of working-class families, many of whom are struggling in the economic downturn facing so many communities. The dedicated and committed teachers and teaching assistants of Central Falls High School are making real progress in improving academic achievement, as noted in a state report issued last April. However, even this progress is not sufficient, and the school's teachers agreed with the superintendent in January that a transformation model should be employed at the school.

Unfortunately, their attempt to engage through their union with the superintendent on the design and details of that model were rebuffed at only their second meeting. The superintendent then unilaterally decided to impose a turnaround model that called for the entire staff to be fired, disrupting teaching and learning at the school, scapegoating teachers and staff and upsetting the whole community instead of working in partnership to employ proven models of reform.

The approach embraced by the Central Falls superintendent—mass teacher firings—has been demonstrated to be a failed model that will not result in the kinds of changes necessary to continue improving instruction and learning. The superintendent refuses to meet with the leadership of the teachers' union, has rejected offers from community and elected leaders to meet and discuss what is best for the students of Central Falls and has refused offers to engage in mediation. At the same time, the superintendent refuses to accept personal responsibility or acknowledge the responsibility of any of the school's administrators for the challenges faced at Central Falls High School.

The students of Central Falls High School, their parents and the surrounding community have demonstrated overwhelming support for the dedicated teachers and staff at their school.

We are appalled at recent comments from President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan condoning the mass firing of the Central Falls High School teachers. These comments are unacceptable, do not reflect the reality on the ground and completely ignore the teachers' significant commitment to working with others to transform this school.

The comments are particularly disappointing in light of the recent state report, which found that the high school's reading and writing proficiency have gone up 22 percent and 14 percent respectively over the past two years. None of these facts is reflected in the comments from the Obama administration.

The affiliated unions of the AFL-CIO condemn the actions of the Central Falls superintendent in unjustly terminating the employment of the dedicated teaching faculty of Central Falls High School. We stand in support of the Central Falls Teachers Union in its fight to improve the teaching and learning in Central Falls schools, preserve the rights of its members and keep the teachers where they belong—in the school, working with the students and making progress on academics.

We call on the Central Falls administration to return to negotiations with the Central Falls Teachers Union and seek, in good faith, a collaborative path to proven reforms that provide students with the opportunity to succeed. We further call on the U.S. Secretary of Education to demonstrate leadership in seeking a resolution to this crisis that supports students and teachers alike and that focuses on creating an environment that allows them to succeed.

This battle is about more than Central Falls High School. It is about working together to lift all boats, transform society and give children the education they deserve. It should not be about pitting teachers against students or school district against school district. This is a cause that unites working families and the labor movement.
h/t Edwize

Tuesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Democracy Edition

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Out Of My Mother Edition


T-Bone Wolk: R.I.P.

T-Bone Wolk [left], best known for his work with Hall And Oates, died Saturday, 27 February, of a heart attack at the age of 58.

Obama Is Confused, Maybe?

Mike Klonsky illuminates this gaffe nugget from Obama's education talk today:
The irony of the presidential MET [The MET School in Providence, R.I.] endorsement lies in the fact that the school is the anti-model for current administration policies and programs. The MET is a small-by-design school with a curriculum based on student interest. Its educators shun standardized testing in favor of performance-based assessments and the whole idea of tying teachers' (called advisors at The MET) to student test scores would be anathema to the whole MET approach.
Maybe if we had an actual educator as EdSec, instead of a confirmed edufailure and English mangler, we wouldn't be in this mess of confusion.

Those Greedy Edufund Sucking Bastards

From Gapers Block:
Those same free market fundamentalists who defend high executive compensation and golden parachutes as the only way to attract and keep talent forget that principle when thinking about how to attract and keep talent at our schools. We'll attract better talent to our schools by hiring inexperienced teachers, slashing their wages, benefits, and pensions, and eliminating their job security? That's how we'll make sure that teacher quality improves?

As a logical argument it fails. It fails on the economics, too, and there is no long-term study that demonstrates it to be the case. No, privatizing the schools is not the only or even one solution to the problem of bad teachers protected by tenure. It is just a way to make more people rich off of our schools.

The contradictions deepen. A leading advocacy group for school privatization, the Alliance for School Choice claims that "the best way to improve education is to put parents in charge." So why don't charter schools have parent government in the form of Local School Councils? I agree that parent involvement is critical to a student's success. Privatizers don't, or they'd be fighting to include LSCs in their privatization program.

School privatization through charter schools and vouchers is built on four fact-free assumptions: first, that teachers unions "protecting bad teachers" is more deleterious than teachers unions protecting professionalism is advantageous; second, that injecting the profit motive into education will make schools more "efficient"; third, that some (undetermined number) of kids are just gonna be failures, so whatever; and fourth, that non-educators could do a better job of educating children than educators. You must believe all of these things to support the charter school movement. If not, you cannot come up with a comprehensible argument for why we should continue to shut down schools in such a ham-fisted way.
h/t FK

The Paul Krugman Blues

Loudon Wainwright III:

Obama Cool With Firing All Teachers

Obama's strategies for "fixing" failing schools seem a bit harsh, especially since firing everybody hasn't been shown to do a damn thing (except to make paupers of former teachers and principals). From WaPo:
With the proposed $900 million in school turnaround funding, Obama is placing a bet on four strategies to fix thousands of schools in which reform ideas have come and gone without success. Targeted schools include those with low graduation rates and the lowest-achieving schools in impoverished neighborhoods.

Each of the strategies, at minimum, appears to require replacing the school's principal. The "turnaround" model would also require replacing at least half the school staff. "Restart" schools would be transferred to the control of independent charter networks or other school management organizations. "Transformation" schools would be required to take steps to raise teacher effectiveness and increase learning time, among other measures. The fourth strategy would be closing a school and dispersing its students.

Monday Cartoon Fun: Got 'Em Where We Want 'Em

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