Educate All Students, Support Public Education

January 31, 2010

Duncan on Katrina: ‘Best Thing’ for New Orleans Schools

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 8:50 pm

From State EdWatch blogger Lesli A. Maxwell

Did the usually smooth-tongued U.S. Secretary of Education really say that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans? Oh yes, he did.

In an interview to be broadcast this weekend on Washington Watch With Roland Martin, Arne Duncan says, “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.'”


Charter Scam in New York City Exposed

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:13 pm

Rush to create charter high schools in New York City is recipe for cash scams

By Juan Gonzalez
The New York Daily News
January 29, 2010


January 30, 2010

Howard Zinn: Warrior for Freedom, Peace and Equality

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 8:33 pm
I am proud to have walked on the earth at the same time as Howard Zinn. He believed in the people and and in their ability to stand-up and fight for justice. He once said that civil rights and antiwar victories are due to the “…countless small actions of people…” He taught us to continue the fight and to never give up.
He will be missed.

Following is the New York Times article about his passing.

Associated Press

Howard Zinn, Historian, Dies at 87

Howard Zinn, historian and shipyard worker, civil rights activist and World War II bombardier, and author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller that inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87 and lived in Auburndale, Mass. The cause was a heart attack, which he had while swimming, his family said.

Proudly, unabashedly radical, with a mop of white hair and bushy eyebrows and an impish smile, Mr. Zinn, who retired from the history faculty at Boston University two decades ago, delighted in debating ideological foes, not the least his own college president, and in lancing what he considered platitudes, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.

Almost an oddity at first, with a printing of just 4,000 in 1980, “A People’s History of the United States” has sold nearly two million copies. To describe it as a revisionist account is to risk understatement. A conventional historical account held no allure; he concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also shined an insistent light on the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war. Such stories are more often recounted in textbooks today; they were not at the time.

“Our nation had gone through an awful lot — the Vietnam War, civil rights, Watergate — yet the textbooks offered the same fundamental nationalist glorification of country,” Mr. Zinn recalled in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I got the sense that people were hungry for a different, more honest take.”

In a book review in The Times, the historian Eric Foner wrote of the book that “historians may well view it as a step toward a coherent new version of American history.” But many historians, even those of liberal bent, took a more skeptical view.

“What Zinn did was bring history writing out of the academy, and he undid much of the frankly biased and prejudiced views that came before it,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University. “But he’s a popularizer, and his view of history is topsy-turvy, turning old villains into heroes, and after a while the glow gets unreal.”

That criticism barely raised a hair on Mr. Zinn’s neck. “It’s not an unbiased account; so what?” he said in the Times interview. “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”

Few historians succeeded in passing so completely through the academic membrane into popular culture. He gained admiring mention in the movie “Good Will Hunting”; Matt Damon appeared in a History Channel documentary about him; and Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.

Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants, and his father ran candy stores during the Depression without much success.

“We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Mr. Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”

He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and became a pipe fitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter. Raised on Charles Dickens, he later added Karl Marx to his reading, organized labor rallies and got decked by a billy-club-wielding cop.

He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. He watched his bombs rain down and, when he returned to New York, deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote, “Never Again.”

“I would not deny that war had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Mr. Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”

He and his wife lived in a rat-infested basement apartment as he dug ditches and worked in a brewery. Later they moved to public housing and he went to college on the G.I. Bill.

He earned a B.A. at New York University and master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia University. In 1956, he landed a job at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, as chairman of the history department. Among his students were Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Alice Walker, the novelist; and the singer and composer Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Mr. Zinn served on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and marched for civil rights with his students, which angered Spelman’s president.

“I was fired for insubordination,” Mr. Zinn recalled. “Which happened to be true.”

Mr. Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964. He traveled with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968).

He waged a war of attrition with Boston University’s president at the time, John Silber, a political conservative. Mr. Zinn twice organized faculty votes to oust Mr. Silber, and Mr. Silber returned the favor, saying the professor was a sterling example of those who would “poison the well of academe.”

Mr. Zinn’s book “La Guardia in Congress” (1959) won the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Award. “A publisher went so far as to publish my quotations, which my wife thought was ridiculous,” Mr. Zinn said. “She said, ‘What are you, the pope or Mao Zedong?’ ”

Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him.

Mr. Zinn wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. His last article was a rather bleak assessment of President Obama for The Nation. “I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote.

Rosyln Zinn died in 2008. Mr. Zinn is survived by a daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, Mass.; a son, Jeff Zinn, of Wellfleet, Mass.; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Zinn spoke recently of more work to come. The title of his memoir, he noted, best described his personal philosophy: “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

Read the Business Journal’s Interview with the New MPS Superintendent.

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 8:08 pm

Read the full interview at:^2806201

January 28, 2010

Comment on Wall Street Support of Harlem Children’s Zone

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 4:02 pm

I have recently posted information about the Harlem Children’s Zone and its CEO Geoffrey Canada. One part of their success has been the significant amount of money they have raised to support their programs from connections to Wall Street financiers.

I must ask, have investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and CEO’s found a new benevolence toward children living in poverty? Throughout our history the captains of industry and finance have given money to improve the plight of the poor. This almost always came with a great price. Their demand to workers was “don’t organize.” To people of color they said, “accept segregation.”

Elements of the New York City finance elite have embraced Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone approach of teaching to the whole child: provide wrap around resources that improve the living conditions of the child and their families. This seems to appeal to our wealthy friends–as long as there are no teacher unions or teacher protection available. Firing teachers without reason or recourse is the expressed modus operandi of the HCZ schools.

Its hard not to be cynical when I look at the recent destruction that Wall Street has done to our economy, driving the poor to even greater desperation. I would hope that these same supporters of HCZ expand their support for universal healthcare, rebuilding communities, family supporting job training and creation, union organizing, work-family supporting policies and much, much more.

January 27, 2010

State of Oregon Taxes the Rich to Aid Schools

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 5:16 pm

In a special election yesterday, Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed two tax increases to aid schools and social services. What made these remarkable and worth promoting as potential models is that they were not general tax increases — they were aimed only at the rich and corporations. Measure 66 increased income taxes on individuals who make over $125,000 a year (or couples making over $250,000) by 1.8%, and those making over $250,000 by 2%. (The measure also eliminated state income tax for the first $2400 of unemployment insurance income.) A second measure raised the corporate minimum tax to $150 or .1% of overall sales (if a corp. has at least $500,000 in sales); and raises the tax rate on many corporations by 1.3%. The first measure will raise an estimated $472 million; the second will raise an estimated $255 million. What made this a very interesting election was its explicit class character: The message was that the rich are not paying their fair share. Campaign ads pointed out that 95% of Oregonians would not have their taxes raised at all — only the rich and corporations would pay. Ads went after banks and credit card companies, and showed rich people getting off private planes. Here in Multnomah County, these measures passed with something like 71% of the vote. — You may know that Oregon has no sales tax, and attempts to initiate a sales tax have been defeated time and again. But, evidently, people these days feel a lot more enthusiasm for taxing the rich to support the schools.

January 26, 2010

School Closings in New York Hurt Students with Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Other At-risk Populations

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 12:48 pm

January 22, 2010.  The following is a statement by Advocates for Children of New York, Inc. in response to the New York City Department of Education’s proposal to close twenty additional schools.

We believe that all of New York City’s children deserve excellent public schools.  Too many of our city’s schools continue to fail our students.  We need ambitious and creative school reform strategies to raise the quality of education for all children in the system, including those students who present the greatest challenges.

What we do not need, however, are reform strategies that leave the most vulnerable students behind or place additional hurdles in their path to graduation.  Under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has pursued an aggressive policy of school closure, which appears to target schools that, as a group, serve disproportionately large numbers of the city’s most at-risk students.  A number of the schools – such as Jamaica High School, Columbus, Norman Thomas, and Global Enterprises – have a strikingly high percentage of English Language Learners.  Moreover, the schools targeted for closing this year have student bodies that are 17.79% students with documented special education needs (compared to 15.46% citywide), and they have a higher percentage of special education students in self-contained special education classes (8.03 % for closing schools, compared to 6.55 % citywide), which would tend to indicate a greater level of educational need.  It is also notable that the number of students who are homeless at these schools skyrocketed in the past year.  While the number of students who are homeless rose by 21% citywide from 2007-08 to 2008-09, it went up by a remarkable 580% on average at the schools slated to be closed.

These disparities would be less troubling if we knew that the students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and other at-risk populations in schools previously closed had actually benefited from the closures, but we have seen little evidence of actual benefit to these students.  In fact, in the closing school we studied most closely, we saw at-risk students being pushed to leave high school prematurely for GED programs, which are unlikely to meet their needs.

This data, therefore, raises a number of serious concerns that the DOE needs to address publicly:

  • Does a school’s willingness to serve a diverse population with multiple challenges, including students who are less likely to graduate in four years, make it a target for closure?
  • What happens to English Language Learners and students with special education needs when their schools are closed?  How will the DOE monitor the impact of the closings on these populations?  To ensure that the closings do not prompt schools to discharge at-risk students illegally, AFC calls upon the DOE to make discharge and transfer data for all closing schools publicly available during and after the phase-out process.  The data should be broken down by discharge code and tied to demographic information, including race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and English Language Learner status.
  • The DOE typically takes three years to phase out a school, which suggests that students currently enrolled can remain there through graduation. What is the DOE’s plan to make sure that currently enrolled students receive the educational support and opportunity they need to stay in school and ultimately graduate?  How does the DOE ensure that students who prefer to leave the closing school are advised of other opportunities?  What happens to current students who do not have the skills or the credits to graduate in four years?
  • Staff in closing schools have told us that English Language Learners and students with special education needs have a harder time transferring out. The new, small schools that replace the schools that are closed have rarely offered the bilingual or dual language programs or the range of special education supports and services that the larger schools have provided.  What is the DOE doing to increase the supply of attractive high school options for English Language Learners and students with the broad range of special education needs?
  • With respect to students who are homeless, they often struggle with having to change schools multiple times, and the last thing they need is more instability.  What is the DOE doing to ensure that homeless students are not dumped into doomed institutions but given the educational stability, services, and supports they deserve and desperately need?

We agree with the DOE that sometimes, it may be the best course of action to close a school that is failing the majority of its students.  However, the decision to close a school has a profound impact on current students, potential students, and students at surrounding schools remaining open.  The DOE is responsible for educating each and every one of these students, including those who need the most support.  The DOE must assure the public that its aggressive approach to school closing is not inflicting collateral damage on the city’s most vulnerable students.

For more than 38 years, Advocates for Children of New York has been serving the most educationally vulnerable students in the New York City public schools and speaking out on their behalf.  More information on the organization and its programs is available at

January 25, 2010

Billionaires, Hedge Fund Managers, and CEO’s Makeup Board of Directors of Harlem Children’s Zone

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 3:11 am

The following names are a sample of the board of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ).

The HCZ charter schools, along with many other New York City charter schools, have become the pet projects for Wall Street power brokers and investment managers. See article at: (

Hedge fund manager Stan Druckenmiller is the President of the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He heads Duquesne Capital Management, a hedge fund with more than $8 billion under management. Druckenmiller is estimated to have taken home $500 to $600 million in 2007, according to Trader Monthly. Forbes pegged his net worth at $3.5.

Gary D. Cohn is President, Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director and Director, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Matt Blank is Chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks.

Joseph A. DiMenna, Jr. is the Managing Director of Zweig-DiMenna Associates.

Joe Gregory is the bankrupt former president of Lehman Brothers.

Jeffrey B. Swartz is the president and CEO of Timberland.

Diane Ravitch on the Harlem Children’s Zone

Filed under: Charter Schools,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:13 am

Diane Ravitch was the Assistance Secretary of Education under George Bush Sr.
Diane Ravitch, Historian of education, NYU and Brookings :
David Brooks wrote an intriguing column  in the New York Times, which he called “The Harlem Miracle,” about the Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools. He says that these schools completely eliminated the black-white achievement gap. This startling result, he says, validates “an emerging model for low-income students,” known as “no excuses” schools, where students learn how to behave and are inculcated with middle-class values.

Students in these successful schools spend 50 percent more time in school and their students are continually tested. The suggestion here is that any city can achieve the same remarkable results by following this pattern. But parse it. On the one hand, there is the very sound idea that schools should teach traditional middle-class values, an idea that got squashed in the 1960s and 1970s during the culture wars, as it was considered “white imperialism” and middle-class hubris to impose such values on children who were not white or middle-class. So to the extent that schools can reclaim their role as institutions where children learn the behavior and attitudes that will help them succeed in life, that is great. But the example of Harlem Promise Academy may be hard for whole cities to emulate. For one thing, there is the cost involved in increasing the school day and year by 50 percent. That means increasing education spending considerably to pay teachers to work longer days and weeks. And then there are the specifics of Harlem Promise Academy. In Paul Tough’s book about the school, Whatever It Takes, he describes how Geoffrey Canada, the CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, tried everything to get the scores up for the first class of students. Nothing worked, so he called in the entire class of students and told them he was closing down their grade and they should leave and go to another school. Class dismissed. Well, that’s tough love! So, now we have the miracle school itself. The Harlem Children’s Zone raises some $36 million in private funding every year, according to a story on 60 Minutes, some portion of which helps to give the charter school first-class facilities and extra funding to reduce class sizes. The charter school has 600 students in kindergarten through eighth grades. It has 76 staff–or about one adult for every eight children–as well as “state-of-the-art science labs, a first-class gym, and a cafeteria that looks more like a restaurant.”

According to the school’s data on the 2007-8 school report card, the Harlem Promise Academy that David Brooks describes as miracle has small classes: 18 in K-6th grade, and 12 to 20 in the middle school. The school enrolls only 1% “limited-English-proficient” students. Did the school eliminate the achievement gap, as the column insists. Aaron Pallas found that the school reports its scores on other tests (not just the New York State tests), and the gap remains. To be sure, the gap is not as large for this school as for the surrounding public schools, but the surrounding public schools do not have the fabulous resources and small classes that the charter school has.

A deeper analysis would ask why our regular public schools are unable to maintain discipline, as the Harlem Promise Academy does. If we are serious about learning the lessons of the success of this school, we would do two things: One, spend much more money on schooling, as Harlem Promise Academy does, to provide much smaller classes, beautiful facilities, and social services; and Two, take a hard look at a generation of court rulings that have made it impossible for regular public schools to be orderly and disciplined environments.

The Harlem Children’s Zone Leader Weighs in on MPS Governance

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:01 am

It’s ironic that Geoffrey Canada felt the need to weigh in on governance of Milwaukee Public Schools in an op-ed in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.( ) Here in Milwaukee, a number of people, including several members of the current School Board, have been proposing something similar to what Canada helped create in Harlem.

Canada is the CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a community-based organization that serves nearly 100 square blocks in upper Manhattan’s Harlem community. The philosophy of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is to wrap children and their families in an array of social services and community programs that are connected to schools. Millions of dollars have been poured into the HCZ by funders like the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and many Wall Street investors. (See the Wall Street Journal article at: )

The vision of serving the whole child has been put forward by many here in Milwaukee including organizations like MICAH. They have called for “community schools.” These are schools that work with community agencies and businesses to make schools become centers for serving whole families with health care, job training and a variety of other services. When Tom Barrett first ran for Mayor, a group of educators met with him to ask him to support such an idea and become the “education mayor.” At that time he said he’d give support only if he could appoint the school board and superintendent.

The approach of the Harlem Children’s Zone could work in Milwaukee if the business elite and the political status quo had our kids’ best interest at heart. Instead of dividing Milwaukeeans, these power brokers should be bringing us together to make real reform happen.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at