Song Of The Day: Brother Esau (Shadowboxing The Apocalypse)

The Grateful Dead @ SF Civic 1-28-87

My brother Esau killed a hunter
Back in 1969
And before the killing was done,
His inheritance was mine.

But his birthright was a wand to wave
Before a weary band.
Esau gave me sleeplessness
And a piece of moral land.

My father favored Esau,
Who was eager to obey
All the bloody wild commandments
The Old Man shot his way.

But all this favor ended
When my brother failed at war.
He staggered home
And found me in the door.


Esau skates on mirrors anymore...
He meets his pale reflection at the door.
Yet sometimes at night I dream
He's still that hairy man,
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse
And wandering the land.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse
And wandering the land.

Esau holds a blessing;
Brother Esau bears a curse.
I would say that the blame is mine
But I suspect it's something worse.

The more my brother looks like me,
The less I understand
The silent war that bloodied both our hands.
Sometimes at night, I think I understand.

It's brother to brother and it's man to man
And it's face to face and it's hand to hand...
We shadowdance the silent war within.
The shadowdance, it never ends...
Never ends, never ends.

Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, yet again...
Yet again.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse,
And wandering the land


Friday Cartoon Fun: Ted Rall Edition

TFA Is Full Of Spin

The first thing that you should notice when looking at a stat like “one third of alumni are still teaching” is the careful choice of words. You’re only an alum if you don’t quit before you become an alum. And since somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of people who start in TFA do not complete their commitment and therefore become alumni, they are not considered in that stat. That alone would move the number down to 30%, but that’s just the beginning.
Gary Rubenstein in response to this annual TFA survey.


Wednesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: F*ck You Edition

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Debt Ceiling Edition

This Is Not A Painting

Some more amazing photos here.

Jose Vilson On Cursing (Prompted By My Foul Mouth)

From Jose Vilson's On Cursing When Necessary
I guess that’s the reason why I haven’t engaged this government official [Justin Hamilton] in much of anything. Anytime I hear a communications secretary from the White House or an essay Duncan wrote from on high, it sounds exactly the same: let’s say the things that will quell the snickering of international education experts, but let’s continue to encourage the proliferation of assessment upon meaningless assessment. What’s worse is that, just like every other “leader,” it seems that teachers’ opinions only matter if they offer something “positive.” And it seems to have worked with many of my other fellow teachers who show great restraint in dealing with someone who’s probably in over his head using a platform free to the public.
I wish him well. But if you know anything about the desperate times our schools face currently, and you’re as angry as I am, I say fuck that. Curse now. It’s necessary.
Jose, who is honored to be amongst the speakers at the Save Our Schools March …


The Lie Re: Poverty And Education

Refusing to Confront Reality: The Great Harm in Pretending Schools Can Close the Poverty Gap

by William J. Mathis

Scientifically disproven years ago, the “Beat the Odds” myth is still the excuse of convenience for justifying claims that schools can single-handedly overcome poverty.

How it works is that statisticians comb through the test score distribution of high poverty and high minority schools, select those with the highest scores and exclaim, “See! Good teachers and schools can overcome the effects of poverty!”

In any reasonably large score distribution, there are tails (or outliers) of high and low-scoring schools. This is just elementary statistics. When researchers look at these outlier scores a couple of years later they almost invariably find the “beat the odds” schools are no longer exceptional. In Florida, Doug Harris found that only 1.1% of the so-called high flying schools were sustained high fliers. Marty Orland found that without comprehensive community support programs, high flier status is not sustained over time.

The “Beat the Odds” claimants have simply taken well-known statistical phenomena and called them “policy effects.”

Nevertheless, as late as March 2011, President Obama, and former Governor Jeb Bush used Miami Central High School as a “Beat the Odds” stage prop. Bush declared “high expectations for students, hard-edge policies that focus schools on learning and an array of choices for families” will raise student achievement. Unfortunately, Miami Central’s 2010 reading proficiency rate was 16% -- down from 21% in the previous year.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, touting his proposals claimed, “School districts and their local partners . . . are overcoming poverty and family breakdown to create high-performing schools.” Unfortunately, NBC Chicago says Duncan’s score gain claims were inflated and exaggerated.

Yet, a veritable industry has arisen founded on this myth. The Beat the Odds Institute sets forth their six principles of success and provides a glittering array of “Hosanna!” stories. McRel puts forth its recipe for success which includes the standard ingredients of orderly environments, challenging curriculum, leadership, use of data, professional development, collaboration and parental involvement. These notions represent a lot of “best practices.” But when presenting its success stories, McRel (like the others) is strong on anecdotes and weak on science. Schools that are well run do make a difference. But that is not the entire story.
While it is certainly true that many educators have been that pivotal person that turned a child’s life around, it’s a bit absurd to think that the effects of broken-homes, unemployment, impacted poverty and drug abuse will be cured by dint of a laser-like focus on improved teaching. The new phonics program (with accompanying standardized test) will not elevate the sights of the family struggling to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, buy gasoline and fling open the doors to higher educational opportunities.

There is great harm in this myth, that schools can do it all. It provides the excuse for politicians, vested interests and advocates to wrongly declare schools “failures.” It gives a false justification for firing the principals and teachers who work with our neediest. It tells us a complex society does not need to invest in its skills or its children. It serves as a moral cloak for actions that are technically unjustified -- as well as just plain wrong.

Instead, we must look with a broader vision. Former Bush assistant secretary of education Susan Neuman, an architect of the No Child left Behind law, does not extol the virtues of the law she helped create. Instead, in Changing the Odds for Children at Risk, she talks about the necessity of strengthening families, early childhood education, childcare, the community and after-school programs. We must combine inside-the-school excellence with companion outside-the-school efforts. Heather Schwartz’ study of economically integrated housing in Montgomery County, Maryland showed a forty percent of a standard deviation gain in mathematics scores by breaking down impacted poverty housing patterns. That’s a very large effect! When needy children were provided adequate school financial supports, large gains were registered.

There are many people that say we must continue the NCLB practice of “shining the light” on schools that have low scores for children of color and those with economic needs. Schools must continue to be held accountable for these children’s test scores, they insist. Otherwise, schools will cover-up the problem. Unfortunately, shining the light for the past quarter-century has not moved our collective social conscience enough to properly support these schools.

But to shine the light only on the schools is to leave the greater void in darkness. The achievement gap is more the symptom than the problem. The poor performance of our neediest children reflects the paucity and failure of our wage, labor, employment, tax and health care policies more than it does the effectiveness of our schools.


Monday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Our Owners Edition

Monday Cartoon Fun: Buried Edition

25% Decline In Enrollment At School Where Obama Will Give Commencement Speech

Booker T. Washington High School won, and Barack Obama will give the commencement speech there. Of course there are questions as to the graduation rates at the school.
Rubinstein, a Teach for America alumnus and author of two books on teaching -- “Reluctant Disciplinarian” and “Beyond Survival” -- wrote on his blog that he looked at demographic figures for Booker T. Washington and found this:

I found that there was a lot of attrition over that four year period. The school enrollment was 760 in 2007, 732 in 2008, 649 in 2009, and then in the ‘miracle’ year 2010, down to 566. So the school had lost nearly 25% of its students in that time period, which is also the exact percent that the graduation rate climbed by.
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