Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 26, 2011

“Waiting for Superman” Doesn’t Make the Cut for Acadamy Award Nomination Because of Mis-information and One-sidedness

Filed under: Waiting for Superman — millerlf @ 2:17 pm

Posted 01/25/2011 By Valerie Strauss

Why Oscar snubbed ‘Superman’ — deservedly so

The documentarians who select the films for Academy Award nominations in the feature documentary category got it right: “Waiting for Superman” was not good/accurate enough to be selected.

The snub to Davis Guggenheim’s tendentious film was well-deserved, given that classic documentaries are factual and straightforward, and don’t, as did “Superman,” fake scenes for emotional impact.

Academy Award nominations are heavily political, yet this film didn’t make the cut even though President Obama called it “powerful” and welcomed to the White House the five charming students who starred in the film.

Advertising campaigns have been known to vault films into Academy contention, but not even a $2 million grant provided by the Gates Foundation to market “Superman” worked.

Though “Superman” was on the shortlist for an Academy Award in the feature documentary category, apparently the people who vote on the nominations — people who actually make documentaries — saw too many problems with “Waiting for Superman.”

And there are many, large and small.

Guggenheim edited the film to make it seem as if charter schools are a systemic answer to the ills afflicting many traditional public schools, even though they can’t be, by their very design. He unfairly demonized Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and gave undeserved hero status to reformer and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Guggenheim compared schools in Finland and the United States without mentioning that Finland has a 3 percent child poverty rate and the United States has a 22 percent rate.

One scene showed a mother touring a charter school — and saying things such as, “I don’t care if we have to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning in order to get there at 7:45, then that’s what we will do” — that turned out to be staged; she already knew her son didn’t get in, according to The New York Times.

Then there was the case of one of the five students featured in the film, Emily Jones, who lives on the suburban San Francisco Peninsula and who, according to “Superman,” was desperate to escape her traditional public high school, Woodside High, where she would be doomed to mediocrity.

Except that it wasn’t true. In an interview with John Fensterwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, she said that Woodside “is a great school” that she really liked; she just liked Summit Prep Charter School better.

Late last year, in a piece on Movie Line’s Web site, editor S.T. VanAirsdale asked whether education historian Diane Ravitch’s scathing review of Superman in The New York Review of Books would derail the movie’s chances of nabbing an Oscar.

Just maybe it did.And maybe this will help persuade those who believed that “Superman” unflinchingly showed reality that, in fact, it didn’t, and that it is time to take a new look at public education that doesn’t demonize teachers and traditional public schools.
(For the record, the films that did get nominations in the feature documentary category are: Exit through the Gift Shop,Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo and Waste Land.)
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January 24, 2011

Journal Sentinel Editor asks “why, why?” In some Milwaukee communities babies are dying at rates comparable to Third world countries.

Filed under: Milwaukee Community Devastation,Poverty,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 10:06 pm

The Journal on Sunday ran articles about infant mortality in Milwaukee.

In the article and editorial they looked at the infant mortality rate of zip code 53206.

This zip code is 94.6% African American.

Only 4% of citizens in this zip code have college degrees.

The median income in this zip code is $20,787/year

In this zip code 39.2% of families are officially below the poverty line.

In this zip code the teen birth rate is 78.77/1000.

If you walk across the street from Talgo Inc. manufacturing on 27th street, on Milwaukee’s north side, you are standing in the 53206 zip code. The same devastated community that has lost manufacturing jobs, because Governor Walker (with silence from the MMAC) refused Federal aid for high speed rail, now is shown to have an infant mortality rate comparable to Colombia, Thailand and Syria. This same community would have been served by manufacturing jobs in its neighborhood and by access to jobs in an economic corridor running from Milwaukee to Madison.

This travesty is due to Milwaukee’s power elite and status quo abandoning economic development and job creation leaving communities like 53206 comparable to post-Katrina conditions. Instead they have put their efforts toward eliminating family supporting jobs, as witnessed at Harley Davidson, and preventing implementation of the public’s desire for common sense policies like paid sick days.

Right now the MMAC has picked as its main campaign, expansion and support for private school vouchers and the dismantling of public education.

Where’s the plan for economic development?

Where’s the plan for job creation?

Read the following articles on Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate from Sunday’ Journal Sentinel:

January 17, 2011

“The Other America”: One of the Last Speeches Given by Rev. Martin Luther King

Filed under: Racism,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 3:17 pm

Rev. King’s words ring as true today as they did in 1968.

To read the full speech, given March 14 1968, go to:


January 14, 2011

Mother Testifies On Scott Walker’s Betrayal Concerning Her Son’s Death At O’Donnell Park

Filed under: Privatization,Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:14 pm

The mother of Jared Kellner testified at a tort hearing following proposed legislation by Scott Walker. This was a case where contractors cut corners causing a safety problem at the O’Donnell parking structure on Milwaukee’s lakefront. A cement slab fell from the parking structure and killed Jared.

The irony of this whole thing is that Scott Walker was negligent as County Executive. Inspections were cut and the public’s safety was jeopardized resulting in Jared’s death. Walker told Jared’s mother, Dawn, that he would support her in a lawsuit. He is now proposing tort legislation that protects the contractors responsible for the loss of her child.

To see Dawn Kellner’s heart-wrenching testimony go to:,0,7355996.story

Here is her prepared statement regarding the bill:

Good afternoon. My name is Dawn Kellner.

When I said goodbye to my son on June 24, 2010, I had no idea it would be the last time I spoke to him. I didn’t know I would never hear his voice or get a hug from him again. I didn’t know that we would never spend another Christmas together.

My fifteen year old son, Jared, died on June 24, 2010, while walking to Summerfest in Milwaukee. He was crushed by a 13 ½ ton piece of concrete that fell from the O’Donnell Park parking structure. We know that this concrete slab was a ticking time bomb. The contractors cut corners and did not follow the original plans. Governor Walker, then Milwaukee County Executive, called this installation “inexcusable.” This is what happens when profits are put over safety and my son paid the ultimate price. No criminal prosecution has resulted from my son’s senseless death. I had to hire my own lawyers to go after those responsible for my son’s death.

I have to ask a jury to make sure that those responsible are held accountable and punished.

After my son died, Governor Walker told the media that he wanted to reach out to me to join in any potential lawsuit. So why is it that his very first proposal as Governor is to protect people like those who killed my son? Nobody wants to put hard-working businesses out of business, but this bill protects bad businesses like those that killed my son. Why? Why does Governor Walker want to protect the worst of the worst? Punitive damages keep bad businesses in check. They stop businesses from cutting corners and putting people’s lives in jeopardy. But this bill removes that check. It encourages cutting corners, puts profits over public safety, and endangers everyone.

My motivation for being here today is not just to remember Jared’s senseless death. I want all of you to think of your family and the families you represent around this State and I want you to think about what this past Christmas would have been like without them. That is my life now. Heaven forbid that one of your family members should die because of “inexcusable” acts like Jared did. And heaven forbid that you would be prevented from holding accountable those that intentionally disregard your rights. Jared’s motto was to “Live Life.” His right to “Live Life” was

Taken away from him that day and no one else should lose that right.

This bill is a slap in the face to my son and the family of the next Jared Kellner and a slap on the back to bad businesses that cut corners and put profits over safety. As a tribute to Jared, I ask Governor Walker and this panel to not pass these laws.

January 13, 2011

More Smoke and Mirrors From Voucher Privatization Advocates

Filed under: MMAC,Privatization,Right Wing Agenda,Vouchers — millerlf @ 12:10 pm

The following study reported in the Journal was initiated by School Choice Wisconsin, a voucher privatization advocacy group and the names of the schools analyzed in the study are withheld. Yet the Journal Sentinel portrays this as a legitimate study?

MPS, voucher students boost graduation rates

Kids in choice program still 17% more likely to finish, study says

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Jan. 10, 2011

High school graduation rates increased for both Milwaukee Public Schools students and low-income city children using vouchers to attend private schools in 2008-’09, but voucher students are still more likely to graduate than their public school peers, according to data released Monday.

The latest findings add a seventh year of data – for 2008-’09 – to a study that has followed the graduation rates of both groups of students since 2002-’03.

Because the latest graduation rate went up 5 percentage points from the previous year for both Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and MPS students, the report contends that choice (also called voucher) students were 17% more likely to graduate from high school than children in MPS over the past two years of the study.

For voucher school students, the graduation rate increased to 82% in 2008-’09; for MPS students, it increased to 70%, the study says.

The information is derived from the seven choice schools and 23 public high schools that could provide complete data for all years between 2003 and 2009.

MPS officials continue to question the accuracy of “Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee,” funded by School Choice Wisconsin, a voucher advocacy group. They point out that the names of the schools analyzed in the study are withheld, which makes it difficult to tell whether similar schools are being compared. Also, voucher schools generally do not serve as many students with special education needs, which can affect diploma rates.

The study is by John Robert Warren, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota who has studied graduation rates for years. Warren estimated the graduation rate in voucher schools to be 77% in 2007-’08, and the graduation rate in MPS to be 65%.

The numbers are adjusted to account for an estimated 5% of ninth-graders held back in choice schools and an estimated 25% of ninth-graders held back in MPS. The estimates do not account for the exact number of students each year who died, repeated grades or migrated out of the school.

Because accounting for these factors is difficult unless each child is specifically tracked, graduation rates are notorious for being calculated a variety of ways.

According to the method the district uses to report its rates to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, MPS had a 67% graduation rate in 2008-’09.

Susan Mitchell, president of School Choice Wisconsin, wrote in the report’s introduction that the benefits for high school students in the voucher program are at risk because of “increased regulation and funding cuts.”

Private schools receive $6,442 from the state for each qualifying voucher student. That’s about half of what MPS receives in state aid for each child it serves.

The principal of Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Paul Bahr, said Monday that his school may cut the number of seats open to incoming ninth-grade voucher students by one-third next year unless state aid is increased.

The high school, which sits near the border of Wauwatosa at 9700 W. Grantosa Drive, has almost 700 students. About half of them are low-income Milwaukee students who attend the school with the help of a voucher.

Warren has said that higher graduation rates for students in the voucher program does not prove that private schools in the program caused those results. For example, parents might be more actively involved in helping their children graduate.


The Milwaukee Journal Does The Usual Bi-Weekly Attack On the School Board and Democracy, While Using a Self-Congratulatory Voucher Comparison as Evidence

Filed under: Mayoral Control,MPS Governance Debate,Vouchers — millerlf @ 12:00 pm

I ask, where’s the journalism? Where’s the critique of the business community and city government’s failure to create family sustaining jobs and economic development?

Jan. 11, 2011 Editorial MJS

Where’s the leadership?

Milwaukee School Board members wanted the community to give them a chance to lead. Recent decisions show the board is not up to the challenge.

The dearth of candidates for the Milwaukee School Board is another sign of how little democracy there really is in the current governance structure.

How little, you ask?

Five of the nine seats are up for election, but only one race will have a primary in February because three candidates are running. In three races, there will be only two candidates on the April ballot, and no one challenged School Board President Michael Bonds.

The lack of interest in School Board elections is nothing new in Milwaukee, of course, but it’s still troubling. And here’s something else that’s troubling: A new study shows voucher school kids are 17% more likely to graduate than Milwaukee Public Schools students.

MPS disputes the numbers. What cannot be disputed are the financial and academic problems looming over the district. And effective leadership is critical to turning MPS around.

A 70% graduation rate is not good enough. The 82,000 students who attend MPS deserve better, and the community as a whole depends on the district’s success because MPS is, essentially, the region’s biggest workforce development agency.

Financially, the School Board has shown it is not ready to make big decisions.

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie L. Hines Jr. and state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) questioned why the School Board refused to sell empty buildings to its competition when the district is paying about $1 million a year to maintain those buildings.

Bonds’ response: Mind your own business.

“You are focusing on MPS issues while neglecting the problems that you were elected to solve,” Bonds said in a letter to Hines.

Not exactly the sort of leadership that inspires confidence.

That’s why we still believe a governance change is required. We have no confidence that this board will be able to address the mounting financial and academic crises.

A change in governance alone won’t fix MPS. Schools need to be safe; parents need to be involved. Each school needs effective, top-to-bottom leadership.

Superintendent Gregory Thornton is trying, but an ineffective board stymies effective leadership.

It’s time for better leadership.

January 10, 2011

While the Nation Mourns, Charlie Sykes Rants and Raves (and Whines) Defending Right-Wing Vitriol

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 4:01 pm

Even at the moment of national silence, that included our astronauts in space, Charlie Sykes was foaming at the mouth, defending the right wing with all his arrogance. He defends Arizona’s “glock” mentality and sees no blame in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ election opponent who, during the campaign, said, “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Nor does Sykes criticize Sarah Palin for implying violence by putting a rifle-scope cross-hair on Giffords’ district on  a map on her website and Facebook page.

Paul Krugman is right when he says, “The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary…Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.”

Please read:
Op-Ed Columnist
Climate of Hate
Published: January 9, 2011

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.

January 8, 2011

Attempted Assassination on Rep. Giffords Result of Right Wing Venom

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 6:32 pm

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, of Tucson Arizona, was on Sarah Palin’s cross-hair target hit list. Palin instructed voters to “reload and aim” at Giffords. The vitriolic atmosphere we are living through is exacerbated by this type of right wing rhetoric. Now we see the outcome with 6 dead and many more wounded in this attempted assassination and massacre.

See: Following Giffords Shooting, Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs Website Quickly Scrubbed From Internet

Rep. Grijalva: After Giffords Shooting, Tea Party and Palin Better Watch It

— By Suzy Khimm | Sat Jan. 8, 2011 3:36 PM PST

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the shooting of more than 20 others in Tucson today, fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva denounced a political environment poisoned by “anger, hatred, and division.” In a phone interview with Mother Jones, Grijalva called the assault “horrible and unbelievable and shocking….It’s hard to explain and really difficult to comprehend.” Grijalva—who was also the recent target of violent threats—went on to blame the polarized political climate for creating an atmosphere that fueled violence:

We never entered [politics] believing that we were taking our lives in our hands…we’re feeding anger, hatred, and division for quite a while. Maybe it is time for elected officials and leaders in this country that have been feeding that disease to realize that there are consequences to it. I hope people stop and think that we can be opponents, but we don’t have to be deadly enemies…to demonize another person because of a disagreement and to make them expendible is not a democracy, it’s not the America I know.

Asked whether the tea party right deserved to be singled out for particular blame, Grijalva assented:

[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them—you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. For a while, you’ve been feeding this hatred, this division…you feed it, you encourage it….Something’s going to happen. People are feeding this monster….Some of the extreme right wing has made demonization of elected officials their priority.

A number of prominent left-wing blogs, including Daily Kos and FireDogLake, also blamed Sarah Palin for fanning the flames by placing Giffords—along with other vulnerable Democratic members of Congress—literally in the crosshairs on a map during the midterm elections. Grijalva said that the Palin “apparatus” shares responsibility for creating a climate of extremism. “Both Gabby and I were targeted in the apparatus in that cycle [saying] these people are ‘enemies.'” He concluded: “The Palin express better look at their tone and their tenor.”

January 7, 2011

Voucher Advocates Find Support From Right Wing Governor and Legislature

Filed under: MMAC,Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:26 pm

Voucher advocates are moving quickly to consolidate their support from the  right-wing that has seized control of Wisconsin state government. A letter this week was sent by Howard Fuller and friends to the Republican leadership in Madison seeking more money and latitude for private school vouchers.

To see the full letter go to:

Letter on Voucher Expansion

Patrick McIlheran Gives Pathetic Defense of Private Voucher Schools’ Refusal To Serve Special Education Students

Filed under: MMAC,Right Wing Agenda,Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:11 pm

Patrick McIlheran does not even try to explain why MPS has a 21% special education population while private vouchers only serve a 3% population. Discouraging families of special education students has proven to be a successful strategy for voucher schools.

In a previous posting I stated, “I recently had a discussion with a voucher school principal. After being told that her school has only a “few” special education students, I asked, how is that possible?  She stated that she simply tells parents of special education students that she cannot provide the services that their children need. This principal said that parents then choose another school, most likely an MPS school.”

School choice and special education

By Patrick McIlheran of the Journal Sentinel

Jan. 3, 2011 |(11) Comments

Governor-elect Scott Walker says he wants to expand school choice – the ability of parents, especially poor ones, to take their state school aid to private schools – beyond Milwaukee.  I think that’s a good thing, and I explain why in Sunday’s Journal Sentinel.

Inevitably, the critics of choice – chiefly public-school teachers unions and those allied with them – will say that private schools have an unfair advantage, in that they can pick and choose their students.

This is, simply put, a falsehood. State law explicitly bars private schools from screening students in the choice program for ability – if they have room, they must take all children whose family incomes make them eligible.

Nor can they impose a religious test: Schools cannot require choice students to take part in religion classes or any sort of worship. Though, as researchers have pointed out, the fact that many choice schools have a religious background is attractive to many poor parents – even when the school’s religion and that of the parents differs. Religion, say researchers, serves as a marker for a whole constellation of other attitudes toward learning that poor parents feel will help their children succeed.

But choice schools, say critics, aren’t saddled as public schools are with disabled students. This, too, is untrue: State law is explicit that choice schools cannot bar a child for requiring special education. They can tell parents if a particular child’s disability is one they’re not equipped to handle (just as public school districts can tell parents that one particular school or another can’t handle their child’s disability).

In practice, choice schools in Milwaukee make an effort to serve children with disabilities, either in specialized places or in their own rooms – since the majority of children requiring special education are not in need of constant one-on-one tutoring but are, instead, labeled as emotionally or behaviorally disturbed. Often, educators tell me, the different environment in private schools is just what such children need.

Special-education students are costlier to educate, say school-choice critics, and public schools aren’t adequately compensated by state aid. I’m sure that’s true, though choice schools get no added money for special education – such students bring exactly as much state aid to choice schools as anyone else, about $6,400 a year.

Interestingly, things are different when special-ed children instead use open-enrollment to shift from their own public school district to another. They, like all Wisconsin children, can. And when most Wisconsin children who live in, say, Racine choose to go to public schools in, say, Oak Creek, Racine gets about $6,800 less in state aid and Oak Creek gets about $6,800 more.

If a child needing special education, however, makes such a shift, then the added cost of providing that special education falls on his home district, the one that’s losing his state aid. The exact amount and form of that extra help is up to the district he’s going to – and that district, the non-resident district, as it’s called, can keep a special-education student out if it feels it cannot provide what extra help the student would need. But the student’s home district can also scotch the transfer, state law says, if upon learning what it would be charged it feels the price is too high.

In short, when students are given the liberty to choose another public school, the law makes plenty of provision to handle the extra costs of special education. When students choose a private school via choice, the law makes no provision for special-ed costs – and choice’s critics then assail this as a failing of private schools, as if they were somehow being exclusive.

This is absurd, but what’s more, it points to another direction the Legislature could look: Perhaps, as is done in some other states, it could permit the parents of children with special needs extra aid that they could take with them to the school they think can best help out.

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