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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 46,179

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Tony Bennett's Day of Reckoning Has Come: Is Corporate Reform Far Behind?

It can't come soon enough for me.

Bennett, Rhee, Rahm, TFA, the Waltons, Skandera, Gates...way too many to <snip,> but here's just a bit:

But wiggle as he would, Mr. Bennett could not escape his lies and manipulations on behalf of the schools he favored. And this has revealed, at least in his case, that the "accountability" project he has championed was driven to produce results that would stigmatize public schools and promote charter schools. And when the numbers did not come out the way they wanted, the books were cooked.

Michelle Rhee cooked the books as well - or at least overlooked the cooking that was happening under her regime in Washington, DC. But her true day of reckoning has yet to come. John Merrow this week revealed that a well-written and carefully sourced column on the Michelle Rhee cheating scandal was rejected by four national newspapers. This is a man who has had no trouble getting columns published in the past. But he was told by one of the newspapers that Michelle Rhee is "not a national story." She, the woman who was featured in Waiting For Superman and NBC's Education Nation, not to mention the cover of Newsweek, as one of the country's leaders in calling for accountability. Her national organization, StudentsFirst raised $28 million last year and spent much of it supporting pro-corporate reform candidates around the country. But somehow, when she is caught covering up wholesale cheating under her watch, this is not news.

There is no shortage of other days of reckoning that are way overdue. In Chicago, the school board of millionaires appointed by Rahm Emanuel has awarded a $20 million no-bid contract for the training of principals to a company which employed school CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett until she began working for Chicago schools. Add this to the closure of fifty schools, and diversion of $33 million in public dollars towards a new basketball stadium, and there are some huge questions about that city's democratic processes and priorities.

Earlier this year, investigator Michael Corwin in New Mexico found evidence of numerous actions by another of the "Chiefs for Change," Hanna Skandera. New Mexico law prohibits for-profit charters from receiving public funds. But Skandera engaged in extensive manipulation to ensure that K12 Inc, the nation's largest for-profit virtual charter chain, could be funded. This is in spite of the dismal outcomes these schools have produced. She remains in office, though she has yet to be officially confirmed.

And more:


Obama wasn't picked by the DLC.

That was a huge talking point for Obama during the horrific primary wars here on DU, and elsewhere, during the '08 primaries.

It didn't matter that his policies were a great fit for the DLC, which was actually noted here by a DLCer and Hillary supporter whose DU name escapes me...wyldwolf? Maybe.

It didn't matter that he publicly identified with the "New Democrats," making him a centrist that fits the DLC.

He wasn't an official member, so he got a pass. And we got a neo-liberal president. Underlying the dlc/"new democrats"/"3rd way"/centrists is neo-liberalism. They're corporatists.

I want a nominee that is distinctly opposed to neo-liberalism.

So, when the primaries heat up, be on the lookout for a candidate who is "not" dlc/centrist/etc., but whose policies seem to be a good fit anyway. That's the candidate that will be pushed into a two-person battle, squeezing out any non-corporatist neo-liberal courageous enough to run early on.

Let's see how the primary voting schedule lines up. Note that it was set up to weed out most candidates early on in '08. My primary didn't roll around until Obama and HRC had been the only 2 left standing for 5 months.

I have some problems with this.

First of all, this:

My second year as a principal (at School 50), I got 90 percent of my fourth graders passing the math test. We were busting our butts. Back then, the only students who had to take the tests were in fourth grade and eighth grade. The very next year, the state instituted grades 3 to 8 testing, and when they did that, test scores across the state crumbled. And when the test scores crumbled, so did teacher morale.

It took me five years of steady gains to move the scores back up to the point of getting 68 percent to 69 percent passing the English language arts tests and 72 percent passing math.

HE got students to pass tests? HE got scores back up?

No. The teachers and students did.

He may have been a driving force; in my district, principals are evaluated partly on school test scores and testing goals. Therefore, the principal exerts extreme pressure to teach to the test, and makes sure everything we do is directed towards standardized scores. He can use our evaluations as a weapon in that process.

FYI, higher scores don't necessarily mean more learning. It's about statistics. It's about manipulating data. It's not really about learning.

Then there is this:

What happens in schools today needs to occur within a system. Gone is the day when teachers walk into their classroom, shut the door, and do whatever they want to do.

For example, if we both teach fourth grade, but we don't teach the same thing, then when the fifth-grade teacher gets our kids, the students are not going to be at the same place in math.

I have problems with this. Why? Because the system is too authoritarian. It's TOO standardized, trying to force students into a standard mold, when people just aren't. It doesn't matter HOW strictly you standardize curriculum and instruction, students do not walk into ANY classroom all "at the same place." That's because they are people, not factory parts.

I worked for a district a dozen years ago who was adopting scripted curriculum and standardized pacing schedules for EVERYTHING. We were told that we had to use the scripted BULLETIN BOARDS in our scripted teacher's manual; that there would be random visits from district personnel to check compliance, and if our bulletin boards were on the wrong day, it would affect our evaluations. One admin in that district told his teachers that, if he walked down a hallway and didn't hear the exact same thing (reading the teaching script) coming from the exact same grade level rooms at the same time, that it would reflect badly in teachers' evaluations.

Finally, my principal told me he had to observe me reading the script from the adopted curriculum, and he had to use what he observed to evaluate me on the teacher's standards for professional practice, which included things like development of lesson plans, flexible delivery to respond to perceived need, etc.. In other words, the script didn't match the standards. I asked him what he wanted me to do; he shrugged and said, "Read the script." So I did. The students were confused. It was the first time I'd ever done that, and the script itself was awkward and not very coherent. My principal walked out after the observation, and I put the script down and taught the kids. He wrote up an evaluation based on things he'd seen me doing when I wasn't reading the script, and pretended it was all about the script.

Real teaching and learning just doesn't work that way. That's why there are so many problems trying to use a factory model and/or a corporate/business model.

At the same time, Mains does acknowledge many of the frustrations we're facing. I wish he'd recognize that it's the standardized reforms and privatization that has broken the system.

Are you a Democrat?

I don't think so. Of course, my perception is colored by a couple of decades outside the party, as an independent that never registered with a party, before becoming a "Democrat" in 2000 to protest the selection. So I see the Democratic Party from 2 different lenses, inside and out.

To be honest, I liked the party better when I was an outsider.

At this point in time, from my admittedly different perspective, a Democrat is someone who puts party before principle, and whose narrow concept of "winning" is focused on elections, not issues.

You are not that kind of Democrat. Are there enough "old" Democrats left to retake the party and make it stand for the principles in your list? To make the party meaningful and relevant again?

Reading down your thread, I see a Democrat writing off the left, writing off those unhappy with the direction the party is going, and telling us that the party will be better without us. "Us" being those of us with principles. I see a Democrat relating party membership to loyalty to party, not issues.

I'm not that kind of Democrat. I wonder what the response would be if all the "fringe" wrote their candidates in '14 and apologized for not donating, campaigning, or voting for them, because they'd been told that it would be better for the party if they left.

I see the claim of ten new, faithful partisans for every "fringe" voter purged. I don't believe that's true, unless those new partisans are coming from the right. I guess the Democratic Party can build a position of strength by encompassing the right, but then the relevance of the party is over.

At least as far as I'm concerned.

Am I a Democrat? I'm registered that way. I often vote that way. I don't, though, support in any way the direction the party has taken. I'm not taking any right-hand turns with the party.

We've always looked at outcomes.

The bottom line, though, is that we've known, since long before the standards and accountability testing movement, that teachers are not the most significant factor in those outcomes. It's SES that impacts "outcomes" more than any other factor, and that is beyond any teacher's scope of influence.

If a child in my classroom is not learning, I'm going to take it personally. I'm going to do whatever I can within the limits I'm given to work with to change that situation.

Sometimes a successful outcome is not measurable on a standardized test. Sometimes "success" is not defined by academic benchmarks.

One example from last year: One of my 8th grade girls, of above average ability and coming with a decent skill set, had an attendance problem. She'd moved from school to school, and had the same attendance problem in each school. For the first couple of months of school, I agreed to meet with her at least once a week before school to help her with the work she was trying to do from home. That apparently reassured her mom; at our first fall parent conference, she listened for a bit and then the dam opened, and I learned way more than I really wanted to know about physical and sexual abuse in the home. I contacted some sources of support for her. Convinced that school would be "safe," the girl began showing up every day. By xmas, the mom was out of the home, but hiding, so the girl wasn't attending any more. I continued to provide work, and "taught" through emails with my student and her mother; the student emailed assignments in to me.

By June, the mother had a new job, an above-ground place to live, restraining orders, and they were moving forward with a new life. This girl didn't show any growth on those high-stakes tests. So, according to those measuring academic "outcomes," I failed her.

I beg to differ. She, her mother, and her younger siblings are now safe and in counseling. She will be attending high school in a different town, but with regular attendance, she'll do well academically.

That's just one story. I've got hundreds of them. Hundreds of students to whom "success" meant something different than those outcomes measured on a standardized test.

I've got lots of stories about academic growth and success as well, but those come AFTER the foundation. Maslow's hierarchy.

I confess.

I never loved him.

I opposed him from the first. Not because I'm a fan of HRC; she's a neoliberal too, and I've never been her fan, either. Not because I'm racist. Anyone who knows me in the real world knows that to be ludicrous, including my 2 black nieces. Not because I'm a libertarian; I'm not. I'm a Democrat. I'm a Democrat with high standards and no patience for political bullshit. I opposed him.

Because he's a neoliberal, and neoliberals are bad for the nation. Because he told FOX, in an '08 interview, that one of the things Republicans "do better" than Democrats is education, and I'm a teacher. I could go on, and on, and on. I wasn't starstruck. I wasn't inspired. I actually listened to what he said.

Still, I shed some tears and cheered on election night. Partially in relief that GWB was gone; more because, even if he was the wrong man, America elected a person of color, which I still see as a giant leap forward.

Then I watched his appointments. I knew he was not good news before he was inaugurated.

Even so, I have been shocked and awed at HOW bad it's been. At HOW far to the right he has been willing to go.

I never loved him. I don't love him now. The damage he's done is enough that I don't hold out any hope that will change. I have no reason to gush over public relation photos or vague speeches. He's said some decent things; they are usually vague enough to justify the things he does later. He's done at least one thing in the last 5 years I support. I said so at the time. It pales in comparison to the rest.

I feel no glee every time he or his administration does something else worthy of criticism. I feel despair. I feel anger. I feel hopeless. There's no glee involved.

41 was not the face of evil.

He was simply the extension of the worst disaster to befall our nation at least in my lifetime: Ronald Reagan.

RR, though, was such a beloved myth to so many that it took another 4 years after his departure to finally kick free.

I didn't like Bill Clinton from the very first; I first heard of him when he and H went on 60 minutes, where she rationalized his cheating ways and her standing by her man as "not standing by her man." I don't like cheaters. I find that cheaters can't be trusted not to cheat, surprisingly enough.

My dislike and distrust was born out; he cheated AGAIN on H, and he betrayed the left with NAFTA, for one.

His cheating opened the door for the debacle of 2000 and for 8 horrific years under GWB. Not that 2000 was his fault. Election fraud and an indefensible Supreme Court selection brought us GWB. Still, the stains left by his administration helped.

Imagine? Okay. But let's REALLY imagine. Let's imagine what could be if the U.S. elected a non-corporate, clean, well left-of-center president and Congress that would actually fight for the people. As long as I'm imagining, I'll imagine the best outcome.

I was trying to figure out why the "trash"

function wasn't working with this thread, since "snowden" was the key word I exercised this nifty perk on. Then I realized that it's spelled wrong. So this is the first "snowden" thread I've had to see for several days.

Without diving back into the "snowden" mess, I'll say this:

DU has always been a place of tension, with opposing agendas. From the beginning, DU identified itself as "a left-wing discussion board," AND as a board supportive of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is not left-wing. Therefore, those with a left-wing viewpoint and agenda on issues were naturally going to conflict with partisans. It's a partisan board, so partisan support has always taken precedence, at least, when it comes to advocating for parties or for candidates.

The election of Obama caused a shift for DU. First of all, the partisan agenda became, not to speak out or act on issues, but to support the elected Democratic President. Regardless of his stance on issues. Those of us who were left-wing first, and Democrats second, learned to censor ourselves in '08 and '09, or to expect a stoning from the DU mob. Also, since the '08 election season, we have gained more "centrists," and lost quite a few actual left-wing DUers; some left in disgust, some were tombstoned because they didn't censor themselves enough when it came to discussing Obama and his not-so-left-wing policies.

Finally, since the transition to DU 3, DU no longer self-identifies as "left-wing." That term has been dropped in favor of "liberal." For Obama's first term, the majority of DU was very supportive. He came in for some criticism, which was blitzed with heavy attacks. Towards the end of his first term, there was a little more criticism, and his defenders, while still hard at work, did not blanket every issue quite as thoroughly. DU got in line to support him during the '12 campaign season. Then all hell broke loose. You see, many supporters expected that, as a lame duck, he would do a better job fighting for left-of-center positions. The months since November 2012, though, have seen him increase his growing efforts to give Republicans what they want, and step all over various Democratic sacred cows. The blinders have been painfully ripped from many eyes, and more and more DUers not only stand in opposition to many of his policies, but they are angry. His defenders, while dwindling, have had to get louder and louder and louder in their efforts to make everything he says and does "right."

The Snowden war is not really about Snowden. It's about supporting and defending this Democratic administration against critics, and, especially now, against criticism from within the party itself. For one side, it's about cleaning house, and maintaining some integrity. For the other, it's about the legacy of this administration, and the damage done to the party's image going into the next campaign season.

That's why I "trashed" Snowden, so threads about him don't show up for me anymore. I know where I stand, and I've spent enough time reading and responding to the hard-core defenders that I know they will not change their position. Engaging them simply urges them to further defense, since that's their primary goal.

As has been repeated so often recently, even for those still fighting about it, snowden isn't the issue. For one side, it's about privacy, the constitution, and civil liberties. For the other, it's about defending the administration, and their favorite way to do that is attack the messenger and distract from the message. It's also about the identity of the board, and it mirrors the upheaval in the identity of the Democratic Party as a whole: old Dem, or "New" Dem? DLC, or not? "Centrist," "progressive," "3rd way," all of those terms which basically mean the same: neo-liberal. Will the neo-liberals cement their ascendancy, or will "old" Democratic principles, and Democrats, wake up, rise up, and take the party back?

To be honest, the hottest debates and battles at DU all come down to that same question.

My 2 cents,

although there are already some great responses:

Has the quality of public education really gone downhill since I was a kid, or is that a myth?

Yes. The quality of public education has gone downhill, at least since I was a kid. I'm a product of public education in California, pre-proposition 13. That said, there are teachers working just as hard, teaching what we are told to teach. It's the content that has gone downhill, not the teaching.

Have kids gotten harder to teach?

From my perspective, yes. We have generations of kids who spend too much time as passive consumers of electronic stimulation at earlier and earlier ages, when we know that, from the standpoint of brain development, kids need to be, not in front of screens, but moving and doing and directly interacting with their world in the early years from birth - kindergarten; that, and direct interaction with other people, direct conversations, singing, reading, etc., are what build the neural connections necessary for academic learning, and are what build language development.

That, and the widening economic gaps which mean that more kids are growing up in poverty, make this generation harder to teach.

Are parents working too hard to help their kids, or to notice if they're failing, let alone get involved with the PTA or pay attention to school board elections?

Some are. Parent involvement has always been a function of socio-economic gaps; the more prosperous, the more involvement as a whole. Since we have more and more families not prospering, that stands to reason. In cases of generational poverty and/or illiteracy, parents never were all that involved. Generally, though, regardless of income or education levels, many of them could be counted on to support teachers' efforts. In the current generation of teacher as scapegoat, they are more likely to blame schools and teachers for problems rather than support us. Don't mistake me; I still have plenty of parents that are supportive, that work as a team with their kids and teachers. There are more and more every year, though, that target teachers whenever something goes wrong.

Are class sizes too big?

Yes. We've known since before I left college to teach that, according to research, the optimal class size for learning was 15. I've taught class sizes ranging from 20 (during CA's class size reduction experiment) to 42. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

Are populations more diverse?

In many places. Diverse socio-economic strata, diverse languages, cultures, ethnicity.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, are we spending less per child than we were 50 years ago?

Not if you get your information from right-wing privatizers, we're not. I can't really answer this question with any confidence. What I can say is that we spend whatever it is we are spending differently. We have cut in many areas, and now spend a literal fortune on tests, testing, test scoring, and outside consultants to manage our data. We spend a fortune on programs promising to prepare students for those tests. We spend and spend and spend on teaching to the test, on everything related to "data." That money has to come from somewhere.

Private enterprise has wanted to get their grubby corporate mitts on all that lovely public money expended on education for decades. Their successes are growing at an alarming rate.

What factors are actually different now from when they were back when public education was strong (at least, it was strong at my school when I was growing up)?

We provide a less-well-rounded education; if it is not tested, it's not taught, or the time and focus to teach it effectively is not there. We spend our time in staff meetings, in team meetings, in class with students, in meetings with parents, talking about test scores.

We go on fewer field trips, students are provided with less in the way of fine and performing arts, and, tragically, LESS CRITICAL THINKING. Students are more passive, less active, in the process of learning because that is the way their classes have been structured; it's all about the test.

There is less enjoyment; learning, reading, writing, thinking because it's fun, or interesting, is a foreign concept to many of today's students. It's all about taking your medicine so you can pass your academic physicals.

What are the causes of those changes, if any?

Ronald Reagan. A Nation At Risk. Corporate desire to profit from the tax dollars spent on education. The neoliberal economic movement that requires large pools of cheap labor and cannon fodder infests the public education system from the top down. The standards and accountability movement. They act like we never had "standards" or taught anyone anything before they whipped out their endless list of isolated "standards," long enough to, according to Marzano, require that students attend grade 22 to be adequately taught all the standards on the books before graduating. The attached high-stakes testing. The authoritarian regime that has systematically demonized teachers an education, eroding public confidence.

How does the current system actually work?

Teachers get a Master's degree, plus pass some standardized tests to get a teaching license; requirements are different in every state. They continue taking classes so that they can renew that license every few years. They are responsible, once hired, for regular assessments, for tracking each students' assessment data and making sure that lessons target the weaknesses revealed. They are evaluated on things like: whether or not their standards and objectives are posted and students know them; whether or not all students are engaged; how they manage all that assessment data; how their students do on standardized tests.

I think the system is more stressful for students than it used to be. I know teachers are more stressed, and it's hard to create a stress-free environment working under that kind of stress. High-stakes = high stress. These days, for older students, those tests are high-stakes for them, as well. In my state, they are part of high school grad requirements for everyone, including special ed.

How are the administrators selected?

That hasn't really changed, at least, not in the districts I've worked in. Of course, I've only worked in the system 30, not 50, years, lol. The Superintendent is selected by the school board. The Supe selects assistant admins at the district level, and they select and assign admins at the site level.

Where is the union, what role has it played?

At the national level, the union has been pandering to neoliberal Democrats that are working against our best interests. For example, my union, the NEA's, endorsement of Barack Obama. I'm sure it's because they don't want to be left out of the conversation. That strategy hasn't worked, obviously. Example: the appointment of non-educator corporate stooge Arne Duncan as Sec of Ed.

Some local unions have been active, on-fire, and effective. Look at Chigaco and Wisconsin for examples. Others are like Obama himself, steadily "compromising" away our value as educators.

How are union leaders selected?

Elected by members. To be honest, the only candidates I ever know anything about are the locals; in state and national elections, I usually can't find enough information to make a sound choice.

An interesting, and I don't mean that in a positive way, development locally is in doing away with regular union officers; apparently, next year we will be governed by committee.

What are the large and small, direct and indirect causes of the problems?

1. Funding
2. Anti-public school, anti-teacher propanda
3. Privatization and corporatization efforts

What are the real solutions?

First of all, the solutions need to be in the hands of educators, not political or corporate powers that be.

We've got plenty of solutions, but people have to listen, and have to be willing to implement them. I can offer up a page full, and they will represent only a tiny fraction of what my colleagues can do should you turn us loose to implement our ideas.

Here are just a few, in no particular order:

1.Stop standardizing everything. We recognize that students are people, that people are not standardized, and that not every strategy, system, or program is right for every person. Allow us to truly differentiate at all levels. That means that every school in a district doesn't have to use the same materials and lessons and pacing schedule.

2. Stop privatizing. We don't need outside for-profit people to run our schools. We don't need charters. We can have a variety of different schools, with different philosophies, schedules, methodologies, etc.. within every district. The union needs to be on board with that.

3. Get rid of high-stakes testing in its entirety. Assessments to inform instruction? Yes. We don't need as many, we don't need them to be the main focus, and we especially don't need the high-stakes.

I notice that my first 3 propositions are all about what NOT to do. I'll focus from here on out on what TO do, with the understanding that, without halting harmful policies, the rest won't be effective.

4. Reduce the size. Smaller districts, smaller schools, smaller class sizes...stronger, more connected community where it is much harder for students to "slip through cracks," and much easier to form positive working relationships with parents. More adult staff on campus, as well as a better student-teacher ratio in the classroom. K-8s instead of institutional-sized middle schools at the hardest age people experience. Enough Counselors, Nurses, PE teachers, Art teachers, Music teachers, playground and bathroom supervisors, and people, time and places for extra help for anyone who needs it.

5. Fully funded special ed, plus enough staff, resources, and time to help anyone else who needs it, as already mentioned.

6. Real kitchens, cooks, and fresh, healthy food served instead of junk food.

7. Before and after school programs and services for those who want or need them: health, tutoring, enrichment, parent ed, etc.. In addition, some organization like the Family Access Network for every school site to help families with whatever they need.

8. A well-stocked library and certified school librarian in every school.

9. Local empowerment: give school sites more autonomy, within safety and other regulations to protect student and teacher rights. Empowering people at the site level creates a strong, vibrant team whose motivation to succeed exceeds those struggling under authoritarian rule.

10. Treat teachers like professionals; fully fund all services rather than depending on teachers to put in hours beyond a contractual day, paid and unpaid, that lead to exhaustion and burn-out.

11. Single-track, year-round school: having taught several year-round calendars, I can attest to the fact that they increase student achievement and reduce burnout with shorter, more frequent breaks.

12. Looping: students and teachers spending more than one year together builds a stronger working relationship, and the second year always sees more growth.

I could go on and on, with the large and the small; you've got both in the above list.

The resources to create a positive, supportive environment that can offer a world-class education to every student that walks through the doors, and enough autonomy to decide how to do just that, with enough regulation to protect the rights of all.

Should Health Insurance Premiums cost as much or more as one's mortgage or rent?

With deductibles and copays still needing to be paid?

Mine does. I am lower middle class, with an income that has gotten smaller the last 4 years in a row.
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