No, I Don't Work For You

Last night I was on Ken Pettigrew's radio show for an interview. It got ugly.

I was explaining the reform movement to these conservatives and they decided to say that since they were tax payers, I work for them. I told them I do not work for them, I work for a school district (I didn't bother to tell them I am out of the classroom now, but my points are about teachers and who they work for, not about me).

They then said no, I work for them.

So, I will do my best to explain my position on Monday July 11 at 3:30 Pacific time.

One angle is this: According to Ken's logic, the Secret Service also works for him. I am sure if they thought he was about to shoot the POTUS, they would shoot Ken, even though they work for him. Same with the MPs at the gate to any military base--if Ken wants to try to bust in, they'll either shoot him, or stop him, all the while "working" for him.

And if he were to come into a school uninvited and without checking in, the teachers would be right in surrounding him and stopping him until the police came (who also work for him).

It's a stupid angle, and one conservatives use all the time.


Dear Teach For America, What's Your Plan?

An Ordinary Teacher Talks to Teach for America

Dear Teach for America,

Allow me to appreciate you for your efforts for children. Okay. Now that we’ve done that, let me tell you why I don’t appreciate your efforts for children.

Let me start with an instructive story of being on the other side of the desk. This fall, I went into my 12 year old niece’s math class at parent’s night. Her math teacher, a 20 something, young Asian woman in a pert little dress stood in front of the classroom of parents (and one aunt) talking about the year in math. People were concerned because it was a new school with a new philosophy, one that did not believe in homogeneous grouping for math. It was worrisome. Would the children be positioned for high school advanced placement classes if they were expected to go at a pace that would serve everyone? Her teacher allayed our fears by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to be like those public school teachers.”

I said, “But, you are a public school teacher.”

Her response? “Yes, but we’re not like them. We’re more like charters. We work hard.”
The rest is at stonepooch. Go read it.

I'll Be On Streamcastic Tonight with Ken Pettigrew, 8:30pm

Listen tonight at 8:30 pm Pacific to Ken Pettigrew interview me about education, the SOS March, and whatever else he wants to ask me about.

There will be a chatroom, I think, so all are welcome. My interview is a half hour (the second half I think).

Thanks to Neil Haley, The Total Tutor for setting it up.


Education Reform's Big Lie Exposed!!

Exposing Education Reform's Big Lie: It Is Jobs and Political Mobilization, Not Schools, Which Lift People Out of Poverty

Dr. Mark Naison

Fordham University

Once again, a major cheating scandal has been uncovered in an urban school district. What happened in Houston ten years ago ( but not before it’s allegedly miraculous test score gains helped spawn No Child Left Behind) has happened in Atlanta. A state investigation has uncovered systematic falsification of test scores by teachers, principals, and district administrators in a district where careers could be made or broken by those results, leading to the resignation of the district superintendant and potential suspensions, and possibly criminal indictments, or scores of teachers and principals

To regard what took place in Atlanta as an exception to an otherwise unblemished record of probity in administering standardized tests would be like regarding Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme as an aberration in an otherwise healthy financial system. In each instance, unscrupulous individuals took the basic tenets of a flawed system to an extreme. In the case of Madoff, he provided clients with high returns based on non-existent investments, rather than flawed ones ( subprime mortgages packed into Triple A bonds); in the case of Atlanta, officials decided to invent impossible results rather than browbeat and terminate teachers and principals when they didn’t achieve them.

Let us be clear- the Atlanta scandal is the logical outcome of a national movement, supported by government and private capital, to radically improve school performance and hopefully lift people out of poverty, through a centrally imposed and rigidly administered combination of privatization, competition, material incentives and high stakes testing. You would think that a movement which commands such widespread support, and extraordinary resources, has a history of proven examples, either in the US, or other nations, to guide its implementation.

But the truth is that there is not a single time in American history- with the exception of the ten years following the end of slavery- where you can point to educational reform as a factor which lifted a group out of poverty, or allowed an important minority group to improve its status relative to the majority population. The kind of “heavy” lifting required to do that, with that one exception of the Reconstruction Era during which activists founded schools for a people once denied literacy, has come, not from top down educational reform, but from bottom up political mobilization, coupled with changes in labor markets which radically improve earning opportunities for the group in question.

Let us look at the one moment in the 20th Century where the African American population not only experienced a rapid improvement in its economic status, but improved its status relative to whites, the time between 1940 and 1950. During those ten years, black per capital income rose from 44% of the white total to 57%. This income growth was not only a result of wartime prosperity, and Black migration from the rural to urban areas, but a result of the protest movement launched by A Phillip Randolph in 1941 to demand equal treatment for Blacks in the emerging war economy, as well as the enrollment of Black workers in industrial unions. Randolph’s march on Washington Movement didn’t lead to the desegregation of the armed forces, but it did lead President Roosevelt to issue a proclamation requiring non-discriminatory employment in defense industries and to create a Commission to enforce this decree. While huge pockets of discrimination remained, African Americans, women as well as men, found work in factories throughout the nation producing ships, aircraft, and motorized vehicles and were enrolled in the unions that represented the bulk of workers involved in war production.

In Detroit, in Los Angeles, in Youngstown, in Pittsburgh, in Richmond California, Black workers, many of them newly arrived in the South were earning incomes four to five times what they would have made as sharecroppers or tenant farmers and had union protection in their places of employment. This economic revolution spawned a political revolution, with nearly 500,000 African Americans joining the NAACP, and a cultural one as well, with rhythm and blues becoming the music of choice for the emerging black working class, inspiring clubs and radio stations and small record labels to cater to this rapidly growing black consumer market.

Though educational opportunities for blacks did improve in this period, it was changes in the job market, fought for, and consolidated by grass roots political movements, reinforced by strong labor unions, that were the primary engine of change.

There is a lesson here that activists and educators should consider. If you want to improve economic conditions in Black and working class neighborhoods, then it would make more sense to raise incomes, either by unionizing low wage industries, or demanding that tax revenues be directed into job creation, rather than trying to legislate magical improvements in schools based on results on standardized tests.

Children living in impoverished communities cannot be magically vaulted into the middle class by pounding information into their heads and testing them on it relentlessly . However, their parents, and older brothers and sisters, can be lifted into the middle class through jobs that offer decent incomes and security coupled with opportunity for personal advancement through education.

School Reform is the American Elite’s preferred response to poverty and inequality, a strategy that requires no sacrifice, no redistribution nor any self-organization by America’s disfranchised groups. Every day, it is proving itself a dismal failure

It’s time that a new strategy be launched that focuses on jobs, economic opportunity and the redistribution of wealth, one linking civil rights groups, unions, and people living in working class and poor communities who have watched wealth and opportunity be siphoned out of their communities by the very wealthy- the same people, ironically, who are the biggest supporters of School Reform!

Mark Naison

Just one graph from School Finance 101 tells most of the story, which you should go read now.

If you're not sure what the graph is showing, it is showing that the neediest kids, described by how many free and reduced lunches are served, are under-represented at KIPP schools in the zip-code in the title of the graph.

This means that when charters claim they are doing better than the other schools around them they also need to mention that the population in the KIPP school is very different than the populations of the comparison schools, making the comparison moot, or useless, or spin. You can decide which it is.


Song Of The Day: U.S. Blues

U.S. Blues
The Grateful Dead

Red and white, blue suede shoes,
I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?
Gimme five, I'm still alive,
ain't no luck, I learned to duck.
Check my pulse, it don't change.
Stay seventy-two come shine or rain.
Wave the flag, pop the bag,
rock the boat, skin the goat.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

I'm Uncle Sam, that's who I am;
Been hidin' out in a rock and roll band.
Shake the hand that shook the hand
of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.
Shine your shoes, light your fuse.
Can you use them ol' U.S. Blues?
I'll drink your health, share your wealth,
run your life, steal your wife.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

Back to back chicken shack.
Son of a gun, better change your act.
We're all confused, what's to lose?
You can call this song the United States Blues.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

Diane Ravitch Implores Australia NOT To Use America As An Education Model


Richard Dreyfuss Says: Kids Need "Agility Of Mind" That Reformers Are Preventing


"We're Not Gonna Take It!" The SOS March's New Anthem (Should Be, Anyway) Updated: It Is!

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action

Oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

we've Got The Right To Choose And
there Ain't No Way We'll Lose It
this Is Our Life, This Is Our Song
we'll Fight The Powers That Be Just
don't Pick Our Destiny 'cause
you Don't Know Us, You Don't Belong

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

oh You're So Condescending
your Gall Is Never Ending
we Don't Want Nothin', Not A Thing From You
your Life Is Trite And Jaded
boring And Confiscated
if That's Your Best, Your Best Won't Do

we're Right/yeah
we're Free/yeah
we'll Fight/yeah
you'll See/yeah

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

oh We're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore
no Way!

we're Right/yeah
we're Free/yeah
we'll Fight/yeah
you'll See/yeah

we're Not Gonna Take It
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

we're Not Gonna Take It, No!
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

just You Try And Make Us
we're Not Gonna Take It
come On
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
you're All Worthless And Weak
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore
now Drop And Give Me Twenty
we're Not Gonna Take It
oh Crinch Pin
no, We Ain't Gonna Take It
oh You And Your Uniform
we're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

Update: It's official. This is our anthem for the SOS March! Awesome!

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