Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

September 30, 2010

Northern Wisconsin Districts Facing Crisis

Filed under: Poverty,School Finance — millerlf @ 10:28 pm

Following are 2 articles on problems faced in Northern Wisconsin.

Northwoods school funding Crisis

Posted Monday, September 20, 2010 by Brittany Earl

ELCHO(WAOW)– It’s a game of pennies versus dollars and some believe the Northwoods is losing. Wisconsin received $179 million from the Federal Education Jobs Fund Act but the way the money was dispersed to school districts raises a red flag.

Bill Fisher, Elcho Superintendent says, “Just after the announcement was made I actually thought it was a mistake but it wasn’t.”

Fisher says, his district only received 25 bucks, 25 bucks to divvy up among all his students. That’s because the governor chose to distribute the cash through the State Aid Equalization Formula.

Tom Beebe, Director of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools says, “The formula we have doesn’t see income, only property wealth so school districts like Rhinelander, Elcho and Three Lakes get very little money for their schools.”

For example Elcho has lots of pricey properties, so that district received just 7 cents per student. But the superintendent there says that doesn’t add up because incomes in his town are low. “I don’t think its fair, I would rather of seen the funds distribute based on the total number of students in the state. Divided by the total allocations so each student receives the same amount of money,” said Fisher.

“Unless we change the way we fund our schools nothing is going to get better and it’s going to continue to get worse. I would predict with the formula we have every school district will eventually go bankrupt, some are approaching that,” said Beebe. “Given the fact that we only received $25 dollars, I think it high lights the problem and the disparity with the current formula,” said Fisher.

Online Reporter: Brittany Earl


On Wisconsin: Tough times mean longer trips to public schools, with more changes coming

By BARRY ADAMSSaturday, September 18, 2010 12:00 pm

NESHKORO — Three of Patricia Smith’s five children still walk to the elementary school in this community of 452 people in northeastern Marquette County.

Only this year, the doors to Neshkoro Elementary School are locked, the playground is silent and the two bike racks are empty.

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Gail Collins of the New York Times Asks the Right Questions About Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,Waiting for Superman — millerlf @ 1:55 pm

A study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent (of charter schools)  did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did “significantly worse.”

Op-Ed Columnist NY Times September 29, 2010 By GAIL COLLINS

Waiting for Somebody

Already, I can see readers racing for the doors. This is one of the hardest subjects in the world to write about. Many, many people would rather discuss … anything else. Sports. Crazy Tea Party candidates. Crop reports.

So kudos to the new documentary “Waiting for Superman” for ratcheting up the interest level. It follows the fortunes of five achingly adorable children and their hopeful, dedicated, worried parents in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., as they try to gain entrance to high-performing charter schools. Not everybody gets in, and by the time you leave the theater you are so sad and angry you just want to find something to burn down.

My own particular, narrow wrath was focused on the ritual at the heart of the movie, where parents and kids sit nervously in an auditorium, holding their lottery numbers while somebody pulls out balls and announces the lucky winners of seats in next fall’s charter school class. The lucky families jump up and down and scream with joy while the losing parents and kids cry. In some of the lotteries, there are 20 heartbroken children for every happy one.

Charter schools, please, stop. I had no idea you selected your kids with a piece of performance art that makes the losers go home feeling like they’re on a Train to Failure at age 6. You can do better. Use the postal system.

On a more sweeping level, the film has sparked a great debate about American education. The United States now ranks near the bottom of the industrialized countries when it comes to reading and math. It’s not so much that schools here have gotten worse. It’s just that for the last several decades, almost everybody else has gotten better. Finland, what’s your secret?

The director of “Waiting for Superman,” Davis Guggenheim, says he’s not offering an answer: “It’s not ‘pro’ anything or ‘anti’ anything. It’s really: ‘Why can’t we have enough great schools?’ ”

But plot-wise, the movie seems to suggest that what’s needed is more charter schools, which get taxpayer dollars but are run outside the regular system, unencumbered by central bureaucracy or, in most cases, unions. However, about halfway through, the narrator casually mentions that only about a fifth of American charter schools “produce amazing results.”

In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did “significantly worse.” I’m still haunted by a debate I stumbled across in the Texas Legislature a decade ago in which conservatives repelled any attempt to impose accountability standards on the state’s charter schools, even after only 37 percent of the charter students passed state academic achievement tests, compared with 80 percent of the public schoolchildren. There’s something about an unfettered school that lifts the hearts of the Born Free crowd.

Then there’s the matter of teachers’ unions. Guggenheim is the man who got us worried about global warming in “An Inconvenient Truth.” In his new film, the American Federation of Teachers, a union, and its president, Randi Weingarten, seem to be playing the role of carbon emissions. The movie’s heroes are people like the union-fighting District of Columbia schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, and Geoffrey Canada, the chief of the much-praised, union-free Harlem Children’s Zone.

“I want to be able to get rid of teachers that we know aren’t able to teach kids,” says Canada.

That’s unarguable, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program has turned out to be a terrific engine for forcing politicians and unions and education experts to create better ways to get rid of inept or lazy teachers. But there’s no evidence that teachers’ unions are holding our schools back. Finland, which is currently cleaning our clock in education scores, has teachers who are almost totally unionized. The states with the best student performance on standardized tests tend to be the ones with the strongest teachers’ unions.

Older teachers tend to respond to calls for education reform with cynicism because they’ve been down this road so many times before. In 1955, a best seller, “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” stunned the country with its description of a 12-year-old who suffered from being “exposed to an ordinary American school.” Since then, the calls for reform have come as regularly as the locusts. Social promotion has been eliminated repeatedly, schools have been made bigger, then smaller.

But dwelling on that won’t get us anywhere. Right now, the public is engaged. The best charter schools are laboratories for new ideas. But the regular public schools are where American education has to be saved. We can do better. Superman hasn’t arrived. But we may be ready to fly.

Affirmative Action for Children of Privilege

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:49 pm

Op-Ed Contributor New York times By RICHARD D. KAHLENBERG Published: September 29, 2010

Elite Colleges, or Colleges for the Elite?

TODAY’S populist moment, with a growing anger directed at the elites who manipulate the system to their advantage, is an opportune time to examine higher education’s biggest affirmative action program — for the children of alumni.

At our top universities, so-called legacy preferences affect larger numbers of students than traditional affirmative action programs for minority students, yet they have received a small fraction of the attention. Unlike the issue of racial preferences, advantages for alumni children — who are overwhelmingly white and wealthy — have been the subject of little scholarship, no state voter initiatives and no Supreme Court decisions.

Among selective research universities, public and private, almost three-quarters employ legacy preferences, as do the vast majority of selective liberal arts colleges. Some admissions departments insist they are used only as tie-breakers among deserving applicants. But studies have shown that being the child of an alumnus adds the equivalent of 160 SAT points to one’s application (using the traditional 400-to-1600-point scale, and not factoring in the new writing section of the test) and increases one’s chances of admission by almost 20 percentage points.

At many selective schools, legacies make up 10 percent to 25 percent of the student population. By contrast, at the California Institute of Technology, which has no legacy preferences, only 1.5 percent of students are the children of alumni.

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Not waiting for Superman Web site launched

Filed under: Fightback,Waiting for Superman — millerlf @ 1:44 pm

Not waiting for Superman Web site launched at:

http://www.NOTWaitingforSuperman.org

Following is a letter from Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp explaining why this Web site has been created.

Dear Friends,

On Sept. 24, a new film, “Waiting for Superman,” will draw media attention to public education across the country. Unfortunately, most of it will be negative. So we’ve started a project to talk back to the film and the message it promotes. We hope you will join us at NOTwaitingforsuperman.org.

The message of the film is that public schools are failing because of bad teachers and their unions. The film’s “solution,” to the minimal extent it suggests one, is to replace them with “great” charter schools and teachers who have less power over their schools and classrooms.

This message is not just wrong. In the current political climate, it’s toxic.

The film was made by the Academy-Award winning director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary that helped awaken millions to the dangers of global warming. But this film misses the mark by light years. Instead of helping people understand the many problems schools face and what it will take to address them, it presents misleading information and simplistic “solutions” that will make it harder for those of us working to improve public education to succeed. We know first hand how urgently change is needed. But by siding with a corporate reform agenda of teacher bashing, union busting, test-based “accountability” and highly selective, privatized charters, the film pours gasoline on the public education bonfire started by No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top.

Rethinking Schools has never hesitated to criticize public schools. We do it in every issue. We’ve been working for over 25 years to bring social justice and racial equality to our classrooms, our schools, our districts—and our unions. We know many of you have been doing the same. But this film does not contain a single positive image of a non-charter public school or a teacher. Despite a lot of empty rhetoric about the importance of “great teachers,” the disrespect the film displays to real teachers working on the ground in public schools today is stunning. Not one has a voice in the film. There are no public school parents working together to improve the schools their children attend. There are no engaged communities. There is no serious discussion of funding, poverty, race, testing or the long and sorry history of top-down bureaucratic reform failure.

It’s as if someone made a film about global warming and did not mention cars, oil companies, or carbon dioxide.

The film has an undeniably powerful emotional impact, and the stories of the children and families it highlights are compelling to all of us. But the film uses these stories to promote an agenda that will hurt public schools and the communities that depend on them. It’s time to speak up for ourselves, our students, and our schools.

Please join us at NOTwaitingforsuperman.org or email us at notwaiting@rethinkingschools.org and let’s get to work.

[Right now, the link will take you to a Facebook book page that anyone can view, though only those with a FB account can post. In a few days, the same link, NOTwaitingforsuperman.org, will take you to a brand new NOT Waiting for Superman website that's almost ready to launch. Both sites will remain active for the duration of this campaign.]

Stan Karp
for the editors of Rethinking Schools

September 27, 2010

Howard Fuller Compares Union Leaders to Segregationist George Wallace

Filed under: Privatization,Right Wing Agenda,Waiting for Superman — millerlf @ 9:44 pm

On August 5, 2010, there was a showing of Waiting for Superman at the KIPP: School Summit 2010.

Here are the comments of Howard Fuller during the panel discussion, on his view of teachers and unions, transcribed from a video available at the url noted below. [Other panelists were Cory Booker, Wendy Kopp and Mike Feinberg]

Howard Fuller:

“The reality of it is, it is still, for so many of our kids, they are trapped in places where teachers are still telling them, I got mine, you’ve got to give yours, and my check is going to come whether you learn or not….”

“I don’t believe that this system can be changed from within. I don’t believe it. I think the only way we are going to do this, we have to create something radically different. And the issue isn’t that  we don’t know what to do. The issue is …  we don’t have the political will to do what must be done. And to be blunt, the unions are not the problem, but they are a big part of the problem. Because what they are doing is they are protecting the interests of adults over the needs and interests of our kids. [gets big applause.]

“I don’t have to worry about my conversation with Randi Weingarten, cause I ain’t having none. But I can tell you. [applause]  I’m just saying, people like her, with all due respect, they are standing in the way of progress for our children. And these people believe, like one time George Wallace stood at the door trying to keep our kids from getting in, and people like her are standing at the door keeping our kids from getting out. And it is the same fundamental view. And until we confront these people, and quit talking to them like they really want to do so much for our kids, we are not getting anywhere.”

View Howard Fuller making these comments at:

http://wn.com/Waiting_for_Superman_panel_discussion_clip_2

First controlled study: Teacher merit pay doesn’t work

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 9:31 pm
Here is another blow to the scientifically battered but still fashionable idea of bonus pay for teachers: It didn’t work in a controlled experiment in Nashville.
The news release by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College says this is “the first scientific study of performance pay ever conducted in the United States.” That is difficult to believe, given that we have been trying out merit pay schemes for half a century, but I don’t know of any other randomized investigations of the issue.
Almost 300 middle school math teachers volunteered for the project, designed by researchers from Vanderbilt and the RAND Corp. About half were randomly assigned to the treatment group and given bonuses of up to $15,000 each for raising student scores above usual levels. The other half got no bonuses. After three years, there were no significant differences between the two group’s results.
Okay, that is not a big sample. I suspect we will see larger experiments in the future. But it does buttress the views of many teachers I know that they are not in this for the money. They would be happy to get it, but they are not going to shortchange kids if it doesn’t come.
Here are some of the details as described by the Vanderbilt news release:
The annual bonus amounts were $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000. Over the course of the experiment, POINT [Project on Incentives in Teaching] paid out more than $1.27 million in bonuses. Overall, 33.6 percent of the original group received bonuses, with the average bonus being approximately $10,000.
Teacher attrition occurred during the experiment. About half of the 296 teachers who initially volunteered remained through the end of the third year. The teachers who left the study either left the school system, moved to other grades or stopped teaching mathematics. Only one participating teacher specifically asked to be removed from the experiment.
While there was no overall effect on student achievement across the entire treatment group, the researchers found a significant benefit for fifth graders in Year 2 and Year 3 of the experiment: fifth graders taught by teachers who earned bonuses did show gains in test scores. However, the effect did not carry over to sixth grade when students were tested the following year.
Let’s see if we can persuade RAND to provide $1.27 million for an experiment in the affect of education bloggers on reader IQs. Given all the smart comments we get here, I am sure to build a nice retirement nest egg if I can bribe my way into the treatment group.
Read Jay’s blog every day, and follow all of The Post’s Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

What ‘Superman’ got wrong, point by point

Filed under: Waiting for Superman — millerlf @ 9:28 pm

This was written by Rick Ayers, a former high school teacher, founder of Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, and currently adjunct professor in teacher education at the University of San Francisco. He is the co-author, with his brother William Ayers, of the forthcoming “Teaching the Taboo” from Teachers College Press. This post is long, but it is worth your time.

By Rick Ayers
While the education filmWaiting For Superman has moving profiles of students struggling to succeed under difficult circumstances, it puts forward a sometimes misleading and other times dishonest account of the roots of the problem and possible solutions.

The amped-up rhetoric of crisis and failure everywhere is being used to promote business-model reforms that are destabilizing even in successful schools and districts. A panel at NBC’s Education Nation Summit, taking place in New York today and tomorrow, was originally titled “Does Education Need a Katrina?” Such disgraceful rhetoric undermines reasonable debate.

Let’s examine these issues, one by one:

*Waiting for Superman says that lack of money is not the problem in education.
Yet the exclusive charter schools featured in the film receive large private subsidies. Two-thirds of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone funding comes from private sources, effectively making the charter school he runs in the zone a highly resourced private school. Promise Academy is in many ways an excellent school, but it is dishonest for the filmmakers to say nothing about the funds it took to create it and the extensive social supports including free medical care and counseling provided by the zone.

In New Jersey, where court decisions mandated similar programs, such as high quality pre-kindergarten classes and extended school days and social services in the poorest urban districts, achievement and graduation rates increased while gaps started to close. But public funding for those programs is now being cut and progress is being eroded. Money matters! Of course, money will not solve all problems (because the problems are more systemic than the resources of any given school) – but the off-handed rejection of a discussion of resources is misleading.

*Waiting for Superman implies that standardized testing is a reasonable way to assess student progress.
The debate of “how to raise test scores” strangles and distorts strong education. Most test score differences stubbornly continue to reflect parental income and neighborhood/zip codes, not what schools do. As opportunity, health and family wealth increase, so do test scores.
This is not the fault of schools but the inaccuracy, and the internal bias, in the tests themselves.

Moreover, the tests are too narrow (on only certain subjects with only certain measurement tools). When schools focus exclusively on boosting scores on standardized tests, they reduce teachers to test-prep clerks, ignore important subject areas and critical thinking skills, dumb down the curriculum and leave children less prepared for the future. We need much more authentic assessment to know if schools are doing well and to help them improve.

*Waiting for Superman ignores overall problems of poverty.
Schools must be made into sites of opportunity, not places for the rejection and failure of millions of African American, Chicano Latino, Native American, and immigrant students. But schools and teachers take the blame for huge social inequities in housing, health care, and income.

Income disparities between the richest and poorest in U.S.society have reached record levels between 1970 and today. Poor communities suffer extensive traumas and dislocations. Homelessness, the exploitation of immigrants, and the closing of community health and counseling clinics, are all factors that penetrate our school communities. Solutions that punish schools without addressing these conditions only increase the marginalization of poor children.

*Waiting for Superman says teachers’ unions are the problem.
Of course unions need to be improved – more transparent, more accountable, more democratic and participatory – but before teachers unionized, the disparity in pay between men and women was disgraceful and the arbitrary power of school boards to dismiss teachers or raise class size without any resistance was endemic.

Unions have historically played leading roles in improving public education, and most nations with strong public educational systems have strong teacher unions.

According to this piece in The Nation, “In the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are – gasp! – unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and health care, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results in school.”

In fact, even student teachers have a union in Finland and, overall, nearly 90% of the Finnish labor force is unionized.

The demonization of unions ignores the real evidence.

*Waiting for Superman says teacher education is useless.
The movie touts the benefits of fast track and direct entry to teaching programs such as Teach for America, but the country with the highest achieving students, Finland, also has highly educated teachers.

A 1970 reform of Finland’s education system mandated that all teachers above the kindergarten level have at least a master’s degree. Today that country’s students have the highest math and science literacy, as measured by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), of all the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.

*Waiting for Superman decries tenure as a drag on teacher improvement.
Tenured teachers cannot be fired without due process and a good reason: they can’t be fired because the boss wants to hire his cousin, or because the teacher is gay (or black or…), or because they take an unpopular position on a public issue outside of school.

A recent survey found that most principals agreed that they had the authority to fire a teacher if they needed to take such action. It is interesting to note that when teachers are evaluated through a union-sanctioned peer process, more teachers are put into retraining programs and dismissed than through administration-only review programs. Overwhelmingly teachers want students to have outstanding and positive experiences in schools.

*Waiting for Superman says charter schools allow choice and better educational innovation.
Charters were first proposed by the teachers’ unions to allow committed parents and teachers to create schools that were free of administrative bureaucracy and open to experimentation and innovation, and some excellent charters have set examples. But thousands of hustlers and snake oil salesmen have also jumped in.

While teacher unions are vilified in the film, there is no mention of charter corruption or profiteering. A recent national study by CREDO, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, concludes that only 17% of charter schools have better test scores than traditional public schools, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse.

While a better measure of school success is needed, even by their own measure, the project has not succeeded. A recent Mathematica Policy Research study came to similar conclusions. And the Education Report, “The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts, concludes, “On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.”

Some fantastic education is happening in charter schools, especially those initiated by communities and led by teachers and community members. But the use of charters as a battering ram for those who would outsource and privatize education in the name of “reform” is sheer political opportunism.

*Waiting for Superman glorifies lotteries for admission to highly selective and subsidized charter schools as evidence of the need for more of them.
If we understand education as a civil right, even a human right as defined by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, we know it can’t be distributed by a lottery.

We must guarantee all students access to high quality early education, highly effective teachers, college and work-preparatory curricula and equitable instructional resources like good school libraries and small classes. A right without a clear map of what that right protects is an empty statement.

It is not a sustainable public policy to allow more and more public school funding to be diverted to privately subsidized charters while public schools become the schools of last resort for children with the greatest educational needs. In Waiting for Superman, families are cruelly paraded in front of the cameras as they wait for an admission lottery in an auditorium where the winners’ names are pulled from a hat and read aloud, while the losing families trudge out in tears with cameras looming in their faces – in what amounts to family and child abuse.

*Waiting for Superman says competition is the best way to improve learning.
Too many people involved in education policy are dazzled by the idea of “market forces” improving schools. By setting up systems of competition, Social Darwinist struggles between students, between teachers, and between schools, these education policy wonks are distorting the educational process.

Teachers will be motivated to gather the most promising students, to hide curriculum strategies from peers, and to cheat; principals have already been caught cheating in a desperate attempt to boost test scores. And children are worn out in a sink-or-swim atmosphere that threatens them with dire life outcomes if they are not climbing to the top of the heap.

In spite of the many millions of dollars poured into expounding the theory of paying teachers for higher student test scores (sometimes mislabeled as ‘merit pay’), a new study by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives found that the use of merit pay for teachers in the Nashville school district produced no difference even according to their measure, test outcomes for students.

*Waiting for Superman says good teachers are key to successful education. We agree. But Waiting for Superman only contributes to the teacher-bashing culture which discourages talented college graduates from considering teaching and drives people out of the profession.

According to the Department of Education, the country will need 1.6 million new teachers in the next five years. Retention of talented teachers is one key. Good teaching is about making connections to students, about connecting what they learn to the world in which they live, and this only happens if teachers have history and roots in the communities where they teach.

But a recent report by the nonprofit National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future says that “approximately a third of America’s new teachers leave teaching sometime during their first three years of teaching; almost half leave during the first five years. In many cases, keeping our schools supplied with qualified teachers is comparable to trying to fill a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom.”

Check out the reasons teachers are being driven out in Katy Farber’s book, “Why Great Teachers Quit: And How We Might Stop the Exodus,” (Corwin Press).

*Waiting for Superman says “we’re not producing large numbers of scientists and doctors in this country anymore. . . This means we are not only less educated, but also less economically competitive.”

But Business Week (10/28/09) reported that “U.S. colleges and universities are graduating as many scientists and engineers as ever,” yet “the highest performing students are choosing careers in other fields.” In particular, the study found, “many of the top students have been lured to careers in finance and consulting.” It’s the market, and the disproportionately high salaries paid to finance specialists, that is misdirecting human resources, not schools.

*Waiting for Superman promotes a nutty theory of learning which claims that teaching is a matter of pouring information into children’s heads.
In one of its many little cartoon segments, the film purports to show how kids learn. The top of a child’s head is cut open and a jumble of factoids is poured in. Ouch! Oh, and then the evil teacher union and regulations stop this productive pouring project.

The film-makers betray a lack of understanding of how people actually learn, the active and engaged participation of students in the learning process. They ignore the social construction of knowledge, the difference between deep learning and rote memorization.

The movie would have done a service by showing us what excellent teaching looks like, and addressing the valuable role that teacher education plays in preparing educators to practice the kind of targeted teaching that reaches all students. It should have let teachers’ voices be heard.

*Waiting for Superman promotes the idea that we are in a dire war for US dominance in the world.
The poster advertising the film shows a nightmarish battlefield in stark gray, with a little white girl sitting at a desk in the midst of it. The text: “The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom.”

This is a common theme of the so-called reformers: We are at war with India and China and we have to out-math them and crush them so that we can remain rich and they can stay in the sweatshops.

But really, who declared this war? When did I as a teacher sign up as an officer in this war? And when did that 4th grade girl become a soldier in it? Instead of this new educational Cold War, perhaps we should be helping kids imagine a world of global cooperation, sustainable economies, and equity.

*Waiting for Superman says federal “Race to the Top” education funds are being focused to support students who are not being served in other ways.
According to a study by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and others, Race to the Top funds are benefiting affluent or well-to-do, white, and “abled” students. So the outcome of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has been more funding for schools that are doing well and more discipline and narrow test-preparation for the poorest schools.

*Waiting for Superman suggests that teacher improvement is a matter of increased control and discipline over teachers.
Dan Brown, a teacher in the SEED charter school featured in the film, points out that successful schools involve teachers in strong collegial conversations. Teachers need to be accountable to a strong educational plan, without being terrorized. Good teachers, which is the vast majority of them, are seeking this kind of support from their leaders.

*Waiting for Superman proposes a reform “solution” that exploits the feminization of the field of teaching; it proposes that teachers just need a few good men with hedge funds (plus D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee with a broom) to come to the rescue.
Teaching has been historically devalued – teachers are less well compensated and have less control of their working conditions than other professionals – because of its associations with women.

For example, 97% of preschool and kindergarten teachers are women, and this is also the least well-compensated sector of teaching; in 2009, the lowest 10% earned $30,970 to $34,280; the top 10% earned $75,190 to $80,970. () By comparison the top 25 hedge fund managers took in $25 billion in 2009, enough to hire 658,000 new teachers.

Waiting for Superman could and should have been an inspiring call for improvement in education, a call we desperately need to mobilize behind.

That’s why it is so shocking that the message was hijacked by a narrow agenda that undermines strong education. It is stuck in a framework that says that reform and leadership means doing things, like firing a bunch of people (Rhee) or “turning around” schools (Education Secretary Arne Duncan) despite the fact that there’s no research to suggest that these would have worked, and there’s now evidence to show that they haven’t.

Reform must be guided by community empowerment and strong evidence, not by ideological warriors or romanticized images of leaders acting like they’re doing something, anything. Waiting for Superman has ignored deep historical and systemic problems in education such as segregation, property-tax based funding formulas, centralized textbook production, lack of local autonomy and shared governance, de-professionalization, inadequate special education supports, differential discipline patterns, and the list goes on and on.

People seeing Waiting for Superman should be mobilized to improve education. They just need to be willing to think outside of the narrow box that the film-makers have constructed to define what needs to be done.

Thanks for ideas and some content from many teacher publications, and especially from Monty Neill, Jim Horn Lisa Guisbond, Stan Karp, Erica Meiners, Kevin Kumashiro, Ilene Abrams, Bill Ayers, and Therese Quinn.

Obama: D.C. schools don’t measure up to his daughters’ private school

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 12:02 pm

Tuition at Sidwell is more than $31,000 a year, according to the school’s Web site.

By Nick Anderson

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2010

President Obama said Monday that his daughters could not get the same level of education from D.C. public schools that they receive at the elite private school they attend.

Obama, following a path chosen by some of his predecessors in the White House, chose to enroll his daughters Malia and Sasha in the Sidwell Friends School soon after he won the 2008 presidential election.

In an appearance Monday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, Obama was asked by a woman in a television audience whether a public school in his home city could measure up to the standards of his children’s private school.

“I’ll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now,” the president replied. The D.C. public schools, he said “are struggling.”

Obama added that the city’s schools “have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform. There are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system.”

Because he is the president, Obama said, if he wanted to get his daughters into one of those public schools, “we could probably maneuver to do it.” But Obama said the “broader problem” is that parents without “a bunch of connections” don’t have such options.

(more…)

Groups Say ELLs Got Short Shrift in Race to the Top

Filed under: ELL — millerlf @ 11:53 am
Published Online: September 27, 2010
Below are excerpts from the article in Ed Week

Federal officials promise to do better when they provide technical assistance to states

By Mary Ann Zehr

Three civil rights groups contend the U.S. Department of Education failed to give adequate attention to the needs of English-language learners in the $3.4 billion Race to the Top state grant competition and say they plan to hold federal education officials accountable for promises they will give them more attention in the future.

“The applications [for winners] rarely mentioned English-language learners, except in passing and rarely fleshed out any thought to how they were going to close the achievement gap for ELLs,” said Roger L. Rice, the executive director of Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy of Somerville, Mass., in an interview last week.

In a Sept. 15 meeting with high-level Education Department officials, Mr. Rice said he argued that reviewers for the state applications for Race to the Top didn’t adequately consider the needs of ELLs in two regards: They didn’t pay attention to whether states had narrowed achievement gaps between ELLs and non-ELLs and they didn’t consistently examine whether states had buy-in from ELL advocacy or Hispanic advocacy groups in their states.

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September 26, 2010

Turning schools into robot factories

Filed under: Education Policy — millerlf @ 9:18 am

Turning schools into robot factories

This post was written by Joanne Yatvin, a longtime public school educator, author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is now teaching part-time at Portland State University.
By Joanne Yatvin
I never miss reading the newspaper comics. Not for entertainment, but because I think their creators are some of the most intelligent and well-informed people on the public scene. As a group, they have mastered the subtleties of language, politics, philosophy, and human behavior.
Right about now I am struck by how many comics are dealing with the beginning of the school year and how uniform their messages are: Children aren’t happy about going back to school.
This is not good-natured humor. It reflects pretty accurately the feelings I hear expressed by my grandchildren and the other children I meet.
Although the excitement of new clothes and school supplies seems to soften the blow, the thought of being confined all day to over-crowded classrooms and hard seats and allowed to speak only after raising one’s hand is not a pretty prospect. Unfortunately, this picture gets uglier every year as demands for more and harder work increase, and the old respites of recess, art, music, and physical education disappear. By law, adults get breaks during their workday, but not children.
As a teacher educator and educational researcher, I have been visiting classrooms for years, and, for the most part, I don’t like what I see. Many of the once excellent teachers I know have been reduced to automatons reciting scripted lessons, focusing on mechanical skills, and rehearsing students for standardized tests. The school curriculum has become something teachers “deliver” like a pizza and students “swallow” whole, whether or not they like mushrooms.
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