Sunday, March 31, 2013

UPDATED: Mulgrew addresses chicken to debate controversy

(Updates at end.)
I'm Michael Mulgrew. I'm a big Chickenhawk.
I don't have to debate anybody. I'll have one of my minions debate MORE's UFT presidential candidate, Julie Cavanagh.
I don't care if it looks like Barack Obama sending out Gary Locke to debate Mitt Romney. Maybe let her speak for 90 seconds at my delegate assembly, where roughly a solid two-thirds are Unity die-hards, well-prepped to explain my sell-out moves that would fill an old S.I. telephone directory.
I don't care if I'm ignoring Cavanagh's diplomatic request in a letter, motion at the Delegate Assembly or statement at her caucus' blog.
I don't care because I'm a big, bad Chickenhawk, lord of the Unity Caucus.

Now, some reality-based commentary on the United Federation of Teachers presidential debate controversy, Norm Scott, commenting at Perdido Street blog:
With Julie being so inexperienced and unqualified to be president according to Unity flacks, a debate should be a slam dunk for Mulgrew. I've been challenging ANY Unity person to debate ANY MORE person and so far they all duck. When they were going to send Janella Hinds to debate Julie at FDR MORE said she would only debate Mulgrew and offered another MORE person and Leroy Barr pulled her out saying she would be on UFT time and couldn't debate until after 6PM.
Statement by Red Hook, Brooklyn special-education teacher, Julie Cavanagh and original letter requesting to debate, from MORE's website:
Cavanagh Defends Her Record and Asks Mulgrew to Debate His

25 MAR, By Julie Cavanagh

Wow. While having breakfast with my husband and almost nine month old son (who is finally on the mend after more than a week of a fever ranging 102-104 every day, during the same time my best friend’s 18 month old daughter was in the hospital, who by the way, is also a teacher and a single mother of two young children), I picked up my phone to see a mention on Twitter from Arthur Goldstein (teacher and chapter leader in Queens). I frankly couldn’t believe what I was reading. Usually a mention from Arthur has me in stitches. Not this time.

Now instead of relaxing while my baby takes a nap, I am writing this in response to comments on the ICE and MORE blogs attacking my commitment as a unionist and chapter leader and questioning my worthiness as a candidate for UFT President. All of this because I, and the caucus I represent, had the nerve to insist that Michael Mulgrew engage in a forum or debate with me so that our members can be fully informed and engaged when it comes to their voting choices in the upcoming election.

First let me say that I do not feel I need to defend my role as a chapter leader. Nearly every UFT member in our school, signed my petition for UFT President, and many of my colleagues are actually running in this election with MORE.

Second, I certainly do not need to defend my attendance at Delegate Assemblies. While I do attend, often, DAs are not a democratic forum. As I am sure the commenters on the ICE and MORE blogs know, and as all Unity folks know, the room is not even large enough for all of the CLs and delegates to be seated and when you do go and sit, you listen to Mulgrew practice his stand up routine for an hour or so, after which you *might* have the chance to ask a question or bring a resolution to the floor if Mulgrew recognizes you. Regardless, it is an effort in futility because it really doesn’t matter what you say, ask or bring to the floor; the ruling Unity caucus will disagree with it or vote it down, since they control the DA. If the UFT leadership actually held Delegate Assemblies each month that were informative and provided fair and ample time for discourse and discussion, I would be there in a New York Minute. As this is not the case, I attend as many Delegate Assemblies as I can, but sometimes other events such as a childcare issue, my son being ill or an important meeting in my community to bring a new partner into Red Hook to service children and families with disabilities will take precedence. I do not need to go to the delegate assembly to prove who I am or that I am committed to my union; I act every day in a way that highlights why I should be president of the UFT.

I am a mother and a teacher. I have been a teacher for thirteen years, and have been working with children with special needs and their families for even longer. I have stayed in the same community and school since moving to NYC in 2001, because I am committed to the process of leading school change and improvement from the school level. I became chapter leader at the request of my colleagues a few years ago and have worked hard with them, our parents, and our principal to make sure our children and our teachers have the best learning and working conditions possible. I fought for my school during the dictatorship that my union handed to the mayor, during a co-location of a charter school in my building that my union didn’t adequately help fight (which is difficult since the UFT leadership chose to co-locate its own charter), while our class sizes rise steadily and our budgets are slashed, while teacher’s choice was eliminated and insultingly reinstated to cover no more than a few boxes of pencils, while ATR’s rotate in and out of my building- some of whom have approached me on the brink of tears desperate for someone to listen to their struggle, during a time of a tidal wave of assaults on our children, our schools, and our profession.

Throughout this time, I not only worked in my own school community, I worked with parents and union members across the city and the country to fight back. You can find links to some of my work here, but I will list a few highlights: I co-wrote/edited/produced/and narrated a film that stood up to corporate education reform, a film that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in every state and on every continent (except Antarctica); I have appeared on several TV and radio programs and written several articles where I have spoken out forcefully against corporate education reform and for the schools our children deserve – and I was invited or asked in every single case to participate, so while those in Unity caucus pretend to not know who I am or what I have done (but yet ”know”, falsely, that I am not at DAs) apparently the national media does; I have also worked with other union members in the city and nationally – I helped organize a conference, and attended and facilitated, in Chicago in the summer of 2011 with other teacher union members; I helped lead the solidarity efforts with Verizon workers at the end of that same summer. I have sued, with a parent and a student, Mayor Bloomberg for the right to protest school closings and co-locations on his block and successfully organized and co-led that protest. I was the only teacher petitioner in the effort to stop and overturn the appointment of Cathy Black and also recently the only teacher on record to join with parents in sounding the alarm of student and teacher data privacy issues regarding SLC/inBloom data systems (Randi Weingarten, by the way, sits on inBloom’s advisory board). I say all of this not because I think anything that I am or that I do is so special, I share this information to highlight the outlandishness of the attacks from people whose usual line is there should be no attacks on union folks because we are under attack from outside forces and therefore need ‘unity’. I also share this because these are the things the president of a union should do.

Beyond of all of this, if Unity caucus can attack me for the number of times I went to the DA (this year I believe I have been to four DAs), the number of grievances I have filed (none), the number of UFT trainings or committees I have attended (none), then I wonder why they nominated Randi Weingarten as their presidential candidate, since she never attended a DA as a chapter leader, was never a chapter leader, and therefore never filed a grievance, attended the trainings, etc.

I personally do not think any of those things are what makes someone qualified to run our union. What matters is leadership. What matters is vision. What matters is the philosophy by which one will govern and represent the membership. I believe in a union that is member led and member driven. When I, or a candidate from MORE caucus, become president of the union, you will not have to attend a DA and sit idly and listen. The DA will be yours. When we take over leadership of our union, we will organize, support and build fighting chapters at the school level with elected district representatives who are trained organizers. When we run the union, leadership and staffers will make salaries equivalent to the teachers we represent — there will be no extra perks, no double pensions. When we lead our union, you will not go more than three years without a contract, at least not without organized job actions and a fight.

When Unity’s stranglehold of the leadership of our union ends, the members will have representation that believes in solidarity with other unions and in the power of our collective action. You will have a union that educates, mobilizes, and organizes our members and the public and who organically partners with parents and young people. You will have a leadership that truly understands that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, that a harm to one is a harm to us all, and that we must stand side by side with deep roots in the communities we serve to fight for social, racial and economic justice in our schools, in our city and across the country.

I am more than ready to share who I am with the members of the UFT and I am happy to answer their questions. In fact, that is precisely the reason I sent the email below to Michael Mulgrew. I believe a union membership with a less than 30% voter turnout needs to be engaged and exposed to open discourse and conversation between the two people who seek to represent them.

Mr. Mulgrew, I am still waiting for a response.


Sent: Mar 14, 2013 8:01 PM


I hope this email finds you well.

While we have differences and disagreements concerning education policy and union democracy, we both are committed to our union and the children we serve. In that spirit, we should be able to engage in an open conversation during election season so we can ensure our fellow members are informed and engaged.

To this point you have ignored outreach regarding your participation in a debate or question and answer town hall with me. I would like to directly and formally ask you to participate in such an event.

I believe that our members deserve the opportunity to ask questions of their presidential candidates and I strongly believe this kind of open and honest discourse strengthens our union: an educated and engaged membership that is listened to and participates makes us stronger.

There is precedent for an event such as this between presidential candidates during election season. As you know, Randi has participated in presidential debates in the past: one in 1999 and again in 2001.

I am open to a debate format with a third party moderator or a town hall question and answer event with the membership. My only specific asks are that the event be filmed and/or livestreamed so that we can maximize member participation, that the date, which I am open to any, be agreed to a few days in advance, so that I can secure child care and that the date be as close to April 3rd as possible, so that we provide a fair amount of time for members during the election timeframe.

I look forward to your response.

In solidarity,
Julie Cavanagh

Some added considerations:
Unity partisans attacked Cavanagh, as discussed above. Yet, in doing so, they opened Unity to criticism on the undemocratic and pre-orchestrated nature of the Delegate Assemblies (DAs). Note these issues in the comments Norm made at the MORE site, including the note on how comparatively little classroom experience the last three UFT presidents have had:
I notice you get called on at every single DA while people never get called. Please try and tell us this is just an accident and not that you are part of the Unity speaker bureau that plans out scenarios at the DA in advance. (And you played the same role at the AFT). So Julie could attend a hundred DAs and never get recognized. Julie has more years of teaching than the last 3 UFT presidents combined. And more years as a chapter leader than Shanker, Feldman and Randi combined. And we haven’t even explored the stories about how well Mulgrew defended people as chapter leader at Grady.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why does Eli Broad want to destroy public education? --& Weingarten's collaboration role detailed

Defend Public Education has an important article on Eli Broad, the Broad Foundation and Broad's influence on policy, politics and here's where it hurts, labor unions. Note the United Federation of Teachers's Unity Caucus' Randi Weingarten's connection with Broad.

This is something to consider during our current election. Union members should take into account Weingarten's close cooperation with Broad and her connection with the Teacher Union Reform Network, see below, Democratic Underground and this link at Schools Matter blog. What is this collaboration between Weingarten and the "reformers," doing for the conditions of our students' learning, the conditions of our profession and moreover, the long-term viability of our profession? While she has moved on to head the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and has pursued her high-profile collaboration practices on the national stage, her in house hand-picked successor Michael Mulgrew has continued this kind of collaboration, as we can see with his relations with New York governor Andrew Cuomo. See his endorsement of the state government's imposing a high stakes test based teacher evaluation system outside of collective bargaining procedures.

Who is Eli Broad and why does he want to destroy public education? (Click to link for all the hyperlinks.) February 24, 2013
Major excerpts:
The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into “venture philanthropies”. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these “venture philanthropies” continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the full-scale assault on public education that has been escalating for the last ten years since the Bush administration instituted the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. Basing itself on rating schools by high stakes testing, combined with declining federal support for education, NCLB has led to wide scale vilification of public school teachers for social conditions over which they have no control. This is being used all over the country as a pretext for closing schools in mostly urban school districts with large numbers of low-income families. As a result, we once again are faced with an increasingly segregated educational system where the children of middle class and slightly better off working class families are transferred into charters which are given advantages in student selection and funding, while the children of low income families are increasingly being left behind in deteriorating public schools. These ever worsening urban public school systems which, already having been inequitably funded for decades compared to wealthy suburban school districts, are being systematically starved of funding.

The promoters of the corporate reform of public education can be divided into two major groups, conservative and liberal political action committees which believe in an unregulated free enterprise market; and “venture philanthropies” which pour money into various causes that promote the free market and, not coincidently, the profits of the 1%.

Conservative corporate education reform
The major conservative political action committee is the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). ALEC’s membership is made up of rightwing politicians in legislatures all over the country who propose ALEC created legislation promoting tax benefits to corporations, banks, and the wealthy, and advance the privatization of public institutions such as public education, public transportation, public utilities, state lotteries, and other municipal and state services. In education funding, these legislators directly represent the interests of corporate and banking institutions, introducing legislation promoting the privatization of public schools through charters and vouchers.

Liberal corporate education reform
The liberal political action committees that support corporate education reform are various and ever changing. Wealthy philanthropists and hedge fund managers fund them. Here are just a few:

• Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and state based affiliates, funders include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by hedge fund manager John Arnold, has also pledged $20 million to Rhee's organization over five years. The Broad Foundation provided $500,000 in start up funding.

• Parent Revolution, promoters of the “parent trigger”, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family, and the Broad Foundation.

• Al Sharpton's National Action Network, funded by Plainfield Asset Management, the hedge fund of former NYC Chancellor Harold Levy and various corporate sponsors.

• Democrats for Education Reform, funded by various hedge fund managers and investment groups.

• Teacher Union Reform Network, started by the American Federation Teachers, later heavily funded by the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation

• Black Alliance for Educational Options, funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and the Walton Family Foundation.

• Teach for America, funded by dozens of corporations and hedge fund managers.

• The films “Waiting for Superman” and the recent box office dud “Won’t Back Down” , directed by directors who are liberal Democrats, financed by conservative entrepreneur (oil, entertainment, newspapers) Philip Anschutz.

• Dozens of national charter management companies, funded by a combination of public funds and private donations.

"Venture" philanthropies

Of the “venture philanthropies” there is a triumvirate that make up the major funders of the philanthropies of corporate education reform: the Bill Gates Foundation (Bill Gates is currently worth $59 billion), the Walton Family Foundation, established by the owners of Wal-Mart (The Walton family is currently worth $16.3 billion) (see Forbes for their ranking), and the Broad Foundation (Eli Broad is currently worth $6.3 billion) Of the three, the Broad Foundation is the smallest in financial assets, but it has had a far-reaching impact in the assault on public schools through a careful targeting of its resources. According to their website, the Broad Foundation claims to have spent $370 million on their “education philanthropy” since 1999. Based on their level of activity in local school districts, as this article will detail, it is probably much higher.

Venture philanthropy treats schools as a “private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms, and assumptions with regard to public schooling. Some of the most significant projects involve promoting charter schools to inject market competition and “choice” into the public sector as well as using cash bonuses for merit pay for teachers and to “incentivize” students. (See “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education", page 54)

The Broad Mission Statement
The 2008 Mission Statement of the Broad Foundation (Page 4) states its goal is: “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”

Note the targeting of “urban public education”. Eli Broad considers himself a liberal Democrat, as does Michelle Rhee of Students First, who has been on the Board of the Broad Foundation since at least 2008; and Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation. They claim their attempt to restructure American education is the next civil rights movement. They target urban school districts with the highest poverty by having Superintendents from their Broad Superintendents Academy appointed who are prepared to starve public schools in order to make charter schools appealing to parents. The hemorrhaging of students from public schools to charters has led to urban school districts closing public schools all over the country due to “under enrollment”.

Broad Foundation board members, where Joel, Arne, Wendy and Michelle meet
The Board of the Broad Foundation
Members of the Board of the Broad Foundation have included a veritable Who’s Who of corporate education reform. According to the 2009 Broad Annual Report (Page 25), in 2008, they included:

• Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York City Schools

• Barry Munitz, board chair, trustee professor, California State University, Los Angeles

• Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools

• Richard Barth, chief executive officer of the KIPP Foundation

• Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration

• Arne Duncan, Chancellor of Chicago Schools until he became U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration

• Louis Gerstner, Jr., senior advisor to The Carlyle Group

• Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools

• Dan Katzir, board secretary/treasurer, managing director of the Broad Foundation

• Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach for America

• Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education in the second George W. Bush Administration where she oversaw the implementation of No Child Left Behind

• Melissa Megliola Zaikos, Autonomous Management and Performance Schools Program Officer, Chicago Public Schools

• Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Schools

• Lawrence Summers, Chief economist for the World Bank 1991-1993; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, later on the Broad Board until he became the Director of the National Economic Council in the Obama Administration, rejoined the Broad Board on July 25, 2012

• Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the U.S. News and World Report; Publisher of the New York Daily News

Added to the Board in July, 2012 were:

• Andy Stern, former President of the Service Employees International Union

• Representative Harold Ford, five-term Congressman and former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council

• Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education and former president of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who oversaw the post-Hurricane Katrina privatization of New Orleans public schools.
Residents, Superintendents, school closings
The Broad Residency program
The Broad Residency program is part of the management of the day-to-day operations of the Foundation that is carried out by the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. Broad employees are trained at the Broad Residency in Urban Education which is a two-year management development program that trains recent graduate students, primarily with business and law degrees, who have several years of work experience in the business world and places them immediately into managerial positions in the central operations of urban school districts. As on the Board, almost all have no training in pedagogy or child development, and no classroom experience. Most are people in their 20’s and 30’s who see promoting the corporate education reform agenda as a stepping stone in a career path which they began in the business world. Some come from such organizations as the Boston Consulting Group, a leader in corporate downsizing, and Harvard's Strategic Data Project that is heavily involved, along with The Gates Foundation and Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (headed by Broad Board member Joel Klein), in the collection of student and teacher data.

According to the 2011-2012 Broad Foundation Annual Report (Page 34)

“Since 2003, the program has recruited and placed early-career executives with private and civic sector experience and advanced degrees into two-year, full-time paid positions in urban school districts, state and federal departments of education and top charter management organizations. More than 250 Broad Residents have been placed in 39 school districts, 30 public charter school management organizations, seven state departments of education and the U.S. Department of Education.”

The Broad Superintendents Academy
The other part of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is the Broad Superintendents Academy, begun in 2002. It trains eight to twenty-five candidates per year in six intensive four-day sessions spread over 10 months. According to the 2011-12 Annual Report (Page 24), from 2002 through 2011 there have been 144 Broad superintendent graduates.

A key part of corporate education reform is to reshape public schooling on the market model that involves remaking administrator preparation for education like the corporate model. Of the Superintendents, about half come from education, the other half come from business and the military. The Broad Foundation frequently pays cash-strapped school districts part of the new superintendent’s salary if the districts select a Broad Superintendent Graduate.

Looking at the toolkit of resources for trainees on their website, you find such things as their 2009 "School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges". This 83 page Guide gives a detailed breakdown and timelines of how to manage school closures and community opposition to the closing of community schools. A favored tactic in various cities has been to announce a proposal for closing a large number of schools; hold community meetings to give the appearance of democracy, but actually for the purpose of using the information gained to hone their tactics for carrying out a list of community schools to be closed despite community opposition. Then they take a few schools off the closing list to give the appearance that they are listening to the community. This is a form of the common practice in labor negotiations where management proposes some draconian cuts, and then, when a compromise is reached with the union leaders, the rank-and-file is relieved that the cuts are not as drastic as first proposed and votes to accept the contract even though it is less than they deserve and need. The difference with school closures is that there is no relief for the majority of communities where schools will be closed if just a few schools are taken off the closure list. This school closure method has been used in New York, Chicago, and Detroit, where large numbers of community schools have already been closed. The closings are done in phases to transform large numbers of public schools into a private system run by charter management companies over a period of years.

The criteria for the selection of schools to be closed is a mystery to the community that is trying to find what must be done to the keep their community school open so their children do not have to walk or travel long distances to school. Parents are told their schools are not cost effective because of under enrollment (which are largely due to student transfers to charters), the building is too old, or they are given no clear reason for the community school being closed. At some point in the process, charter schools are offered as an option to distressed parents.

In cities where this process has begun, vacant closed schools are blight in already impoverished communities, or they are turned over to charters, or they are sold to real estate interests at bargain basement prices. This is the script being followed by graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy all over the country.

Other guides and toolkits have been created by and “for school districts and charter management organizations with support from The Broad Foundation to help with some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing school systems.” Most were written in 2009 and 2010.

These include Administrative Career Path and Performance Evaluation Guide: “This guide will help charter management organizations (CMOs) and school districts – and their human resources staff and line managers in particular – that are looking to develop a systematic approach to evaluating and promoting employees.”, Rubrics for Charter Evaluations, "Bain Chicago charter school involvement summary: 2007-2009", and more.

In 2011, Parents Across America described the management method of Broad Superintendents like this:

“Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in disruptive force”. Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

Many of their Superintendents last only a few years in their highly paid positions until communities that want to be rid of them give them six figure buyouts which the Broad candidates are careful to have written into their initial contract. Frequently, other graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy replace them. The Broad Foundation does not see the termination of a contract as a defeat for its overall objective of privatization of public schools, but part of “churn.”

True to the Broad Superintendent Academies undemocratic nature, the Broad Superintendents prefer to operate in secrecy and stealth. Candidate’s graduation from the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy is not listed on resumes. Usually only an inner circle of politicians and school administrators know of their promotion of the Broad agenda. In Philadelphia, for example, Dr. Arlene Ackerman sat on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia from 2008-2011. This was not known to the general public and only came out after she came into conflict with local politicians over the disputed selection of a charter operator for Martin Luther King High School. Having poured money into charters and Renaissance Schools while starving public schools, she left the District with a $1 billion deficit over the next five years. On August 25th, 2011, she was given a $1 million buyout of her contract after threatening to reveal “secrets”. Her replacement, Dr. William Hite (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2005) took office in September 5th, 2012. During the yearlong interim between Ackerman and Hite’s administration, private philanthropies hired the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plans for the reorganization of the School District. On July 18th, 2012, the School Reform Commission, the state agency that has run the School District for ten years, allocated $139 million for 5,416 new seats in existing charters. On December 12th, 2012, Hite announced the proposed closing of 37 schools due to “under enrollment” at a “savings” of $28 million.

On February 19, 2013 this school closing list was revised taking off ten schools, and adding two more which means 29 schools are now slated for closure. However, it was announced a few days later that nine schools, including two schools that had just been taken off of the closing list, will be “transformed” into Renaissance charter schools, three to be run by outside charter management companies.

The Broad Foundation and the unions
The Broad Foundation Mission Statement states that one of its goals is the transformation of labor relations. The Broad Foundation is not anti-union. Rather, it seeks to transform unions into a form of company union. A company union is a union located within and run by a company or a national government, and the union bureaucracy is incorporated into the company’s management. This opens up the workforce to unfettered exploitation for profits of the owners. Many right-wing governments internationally use company unions to suppress worker struggles against low living standards. In 1935, during the labor struggles of the Depression, the National Labor Relations Act was passed which outlawed company unions in the United States.

Broad has found no shortage of former or current union leaders who are willing to be bought and join his venture philanthropy to foster labor/management “collaboration”. Former President of the Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern, is just the most visible on the board. In education, the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) fosters this collaboration.

American Federation of Teachers President Helen Bernstein started TURN in 1996 with a grant from the PEW Charitable Trust. Leadership of TURN was taken over by current AFT Vice President Adam Urbanski, when he was head of the Rochester, New York local in 1999. By 2001, TURN had formed a partnership with the Broad Foundation. According to the Los Angeles Times, on April 5, 2001, Eli Broad announced his Foundation was donating $10 million to TURN to foster labor/management “collaboration”. In 2009, Broad invested $2 million in TURN, a “a network of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers locals”. Broad's 2009 Annual Report (Page 15)

In the early days of this collaboration, labor leaders joined leaders in politics, business and non-profit organizations in staffing the faculty at the Broad Superintendents Academy, training the future Broad Superintendents. According a 2002 Broad press release (Page 2) participants included:

• Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education in the G.W. Bush Administration

• Henry Cisneros, Secretary of HUD in the first Clinton Administration and now CEO of American CityVista

• William Cox, Managing Director of Broad, School Evaluation Services

• Chris Cross, Senior Fellow, Center on Education Policy

• Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

• Frances Hesselbein, Chairman, The Drucker Foundation

• Don McAdams, Founder, Center for Reform of School Systems

• Donald Nielsen, President, Hazelton Corporation, Chairman of the 2WAY Corporation

• Hugh B. Price, President and CEO, National Urban League

• Paul Ruiz, Principal Partner, Education Trust

• Adam Urbanski, Director of Teacher Union Reform Network

• Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers.

In 2005 the Broad Foundation made a $1 million grant to help the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, at that time headed by Randi Weingarten, open two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn, the first such schools in the country. In October, 2012, it was announced these schools are in academic and enrollment trouble and will probably close at the end of the school year. This became another opportunity for another round of teacher bashing by the right-wing media. (Note: This column is written by Micah Lasher, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.)

In its 2009 Annual Report (Page 10), the Broad Foundation said,

“Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more than a decade and now president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools, as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York City embrace the plan.” (See the picture in the 2008 Broad Foundation Annual Report, pages 14 and 15.)

On the same page the 2009 Annual Report also boasted of being one of the earliest funders of Teach For America stating “our investment in this innovative teaching corps has grown to more than $41 million.” The same page also says, “Since 2000, our CMO (charter management organization) investments have swelled to nearly $100 million, creating 54,474 charter seats in 16 cities. We provided early start-up capital for charter operators like KIPP, Aspire, Green Dot and Uncommon Schools. They have since become the models for other CMOs to emulate.”

In April, 2009, the AFT teamed with four venture philanthropies: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation—to create the Innovation Fund. The private-foundation contributions, in addition to the AFT's down payment of $1 million, brought the fund's total to $2.8 million. Weingarten said its funds were made available for local affiliates to "incubate promising ideas to improve schools."

In an April 28, 2009 article, Education Week’s Teacher Beat described the purpose of the Innovation Fund this way:

“Both Weingarten and the foundation folks spoke a lot about the importance of working together and collaboration... Both she and Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester, N.Y., affiliate who will serve as the fund's executive director, were quick to minimize the fact that AFT's education-reform objectives haven't always been in line with those of the private foundations. (Broad and Gates, for instance, were said to be primed to offer financial support behind D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's two-tiered pay proposal, although as far as I know, neither foundation ever confirmed that on the record.)”

On June 3, 2010, at their union leader’s urging, the Washington D.C. Teachers Union ratified a contract with the Washington D.C. School District, headed by Chancellor Michelle Rhee, which included performance pay linked to test score growth, and a weakening of seniority and tenure. Union President George Parker called the ratification of the contract “a great day for teachers and students.” On November 10, 2010, Parker was voted out of office by the union rank-and-file. On May 20, 2011, Michelle Rhee announced that Parker was joining her corporate reform organization StudentsFirst. Rhee had resigned as Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools on October 13, 2010, and started StudentsFirst soon after. Rhee’s Deputy Chancellor and chief negotiator of the 2010 teachers’ contract, Kaya Henderson, replaced her. Henderson recently announced the proposed closing of 20 schools due to “under enrollment”.

On July 8th, 2010, Randi Weingarten welcomed Bill Gates as the keynote speaker at the national AFT convention. Subsequently, in April 17th, 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $2 million to five of the AFT’s TURN regional networks through the Consortium for Educational Change, “an Illinois-based network of teacher unions, school districts, and professional organizations that work to make school systems more collaborative, high-performing organizations.” Of the grant, Mary Jane Morris, executive director of CEC said, “There is clear evidence that policies and programs that truly impact teaching effectiveness result when teacher unions and management collaborate as equal partners. Each stakeholder brings a unique understanding and knowledge-base that must be considered.”

An article in Reuters, right after the 2012 AFT convention reelected Weingarten to a third term, began: “In the maelstrom of criticism surrounding America's unionized public school teachers, the woman running the second-largest educator union says time has come to collaborate on public school reform rather than resist.” "U.S. teacher union boss bends to school reform winds", Reuters, July 31, 2012

After the Chicago teachers strike in September, 2012, to which the AFT gave tepid financial and verbal support (not rallying locals nationally to support the CTU), ended on September 19th, 2012; on September 22nd, Weingarten joined Secretary of Education Duncan, who was on a bus tour through the Midwest to promote Race to the Top. She joined Gayle Manchin, wife of West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, on a panel to discuss “how to build public-private partnerships to support educational improvement as the path to a brighter future.” The state run McDowell County, West Virginia school system and the AFT had created the philanthropy "Reconnecting McDowell” in 2011 to foster “collaboration between business, government and nonprofit organizations to establish programs that address the challenges faced by this community.” The AFT has given the fund hundreds of thousands of dollars from the dues of the AFT rank-and-file.

On November 17th, 2012, Weingarten teamed with New Jersey Education Secretary Chris Cerf (Broad Academy Class of 2004) to successfully promote the ratification of a contract for Newark teachers that included merit pay based on performance (including high-stakes test scores). On December 13, 2012, the New Jersey Education Law Center announced it had found that Eli Broad was offering a $430,000 grant to New Jersey contingent on the reelection of Governor Chris Christie. Terms of the grant include a requirement that the number of charters be increased by 50%, requiring that all public announcements of the program by the state have to be cleared with the Broad Foundation, and it contained a lengthy provision about making documents, files, and records associated with the grant the property of the Foundation. New Jersey bloggers speculated that Broad’s real concern was the keeping Cerf as the New Jersey Secretary of Education.

On December 13th, 2012, Weingarten held a press conference with Bill Clinton and Obama’s housing secretary Shaun Donovan to announce the AFT would invest $1 billion from the NYC teachers pension fund for Hurricane Sandy relief for the NYC area. NYC Mayor Bloomburg criticized the investment because taxpayers would have to bail out the pension fund if the investment failed. 
One month later the U.S. Congress allocated $50.5 billion dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief.

On January 29, 2013, Weingarten was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered. She continued her campaign for a teacher’s “Bar Exam”. This year long campaign is an endorsement of the corporate education reformers campaign against teachers that says the problem with schools is “bad teachers” and tenure. Arne Duncan and New York Governor Cuomo have been aggressively supporting this proposal. Weingarten did this NPR interview at the same time as New York City teachers are in a battle against an unfair and flawed teacher evaluation system which Cuomo was threatening to impose through drastic cuts in state funding for NYC public schools if not agreed to or dictatorially imposing the teacher evaluation system outright.

On March 11, 2009, in an article in the NYC education website Gotham News, in the article "Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan", Broad described his education philosophy and his collaboration with Klein, Weingarten, and Duncan. The article did not state that Weingarten’s relationship with Broad dates back to at least 2002.
Click to link for full article and incidental hyperlinks.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How will Unity explain itself when U-rating appeals like this become a flood with Danielson?


In 2011 United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew and the UFT's ruling caucus, the Unity Caucus, enthusiastically endorsed the Danielson Framework as something constructive. However, many teachers are seeing the Framework as an assault weapon, that has many rounds of ammunition available for taking down the careers of so many teachers. This sentiment was echoed in the comments of respondents to the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) caucus' online survey of teachers' experience with the Danielson Frameworks, "Reports From the Field." This was reported early on at some Queens high schools, such as the one reported in this case. Unity and the New York City Department of Education are truly having it both ways with this one, with the DOE constantly reciting this as THE basis for assessing what good teaching is, and Unity trying to save face by pretending that it is just being misused.

So, a post at EdLawFaqs poses an unsettling case of an administrator going all out against a teacher, and sinking her career after 33 years of illustrious service. The casual manner in which the judge reflexively deferred to the DOE's decision.
Will a court overturn two U-ratings of a 33 year veteran teacher who claims the ratings were a pretext and part of continuing harassment?
Posted on February 21, 2013

No. Margaret Poplinger was a 33 year veteran special education teacher when the administration of her school changed. Despite 33 years of satisfactory ratings and numerous complementary letters in her personnel file the new principal began to closely observe her. In a series of observations, both formal and informal, Poplinger was rated unsatisfactorily. After two years of what she claimed was consistent harassment and poor treatment due to her allegiance to the prior administration Poplinger retired and sought to have the ratings reversed by the court.

Justice Donna M. Mills found that although she sympathized with Poplinger great deference was required to be accorded the DOE. Mills wrote, “Petitioner has failed to show that the U-Ratings were arbitrary and capricious or made in bad faith.
For the rest of the post and the conclusion of the story, go to "Will a court overturn two U-ratings of a 33 year veteran teacher who claims the ratings were a pretext and part of continuing harassment?" at EdLawFaqs. Unity's Leo Casey said that only three of 1100 U-rating appeals were successful.

So, just how will the Unity group explain away the apparent use of Danielson for U-ratings. Note how the admin made a subtle omission, in this testimonial from MORE's "Reports from the Field" last month.
Francesco a middle school teacher in Staten Island shared his experience from last year:
“After being out for a week for jury duty, [the] first period bell rang, in walks in an AP and Children First Network rep with clipboards. It was a “short” frequent observation that lasted 90 minutes. Short right? During post observation meeting, AP started by saying we were looking at Danielson Framework Domain 1e. She however omitted that wording from the write up that became “unsatisfactory”
This way, the DOE and the Unity enablers can say that the Danielson Frameweork was not really the basis for the U.

Help MORE's Video Ad to Go Viral

Please share this the new Movement of Rank and File Educators (United Federation of Teachers, UFT) caucus' new video ad with all your friends, family and work associates.

From the MORE-UFT caucus' website:
New Video Ad

Help us take our 2nd video viral. Share on your social media, blogs, and email to all your friends and family. Ask your UFT colleagues to check it out and share it too! The ballots will be sent out April 3rd by USPS. The time is now to expect MORE from our union. We have a choice for a new positive leadership of the UFT which will build a strong union movement along side parents, students, community groups, and other workers’ groups.

Here is the video link to watch and share

MORE believes that Unity co-signed on to government policies which are leading to the deterioration of our student’s learning conditions; Mayoral control, privatization of schools, over reliance on high stakes exams, and evaluation schemes based on testing which does not take into account our children’s socio-economic conditions, are just some of the harmful polices that Unity caucus has agreed to.

MORE’s UFT Presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh states; “For more than fifty years, one caucus and one caucus only, has led the UFT. In the last ten years, in a departure from the roots of our union’s founding, the leadership has failed to organize and mobilize the membership at the time we have needed their leadership the most. The tidal wave of unprecedented attacks on our profession, our schools and our children will not stop with a new mayor. It is time for change. It is time we demand MORE from our union.” MORE believes that a democratic, member-driven union will better address the needs of students, parents, educators, and the communities we serve.

In addition to running in the UFT elections, MORE organizes events ranging from educational forums and protests to social gatherings. For information about MORE visit www.twitter./MOREcaucusNYC

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Social Class Matters in College Success as Well as High School Success

Here is a New York Times Story by Jason DeParle from last December on how three south Texas triplets tried to buck the odds and finish college. The Times addressed the huge financial hurdles that low income students face, even at public colleges. Note how upward mobility is more difficult for American youths than for counterparts in Western Europe or Canada. The beginning excerpt from "For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall":
GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Affluent Students Have an Advantage and the Gap Is Widening

  “I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.

  Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

  Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.

  Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater.

  “It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”

  Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

  Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

  The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

  “Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

  The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

  Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points.

  While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.
Read the rest of Jason DeParles' Times story at "For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Open Challenge to Michelle Rhee and the Corporate Education Zombies

An Open Challenge to Michelle Rhee and the Corporate Education Zombies Boycotting standardized testing in Seattle was a stand for students and a better education

by Jesse Hagopian

Maybe I shouldn’t have stood up and said, “Welcome to Seattle,” while wearing my Garfield High School hoodie when Michelle Rhee took the stage at a recent Town Hall event in Seattle. Students, parents, teachers and community groups protest outside a talk given by 'corporate education reform' darling Michelle Rhee last month in Seattle. The high-profile former DC school chancellor champions charter schools, high-stakes testing, and other corporate school policies but refuses to acknowledge the substantial damage being created by this approach. (Photo:

Rhee, the prominent corporate education reform advocate, former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, and CEO of the ironically-named “Students First” organization, now has Seattle in her crosshairs. In her March 5th op-ed for the Seattle Times, Rhee berated teachers at Garfield and other Seattle schools for their boycott of the district required MAP test.

She began her piece: “Seattle public school students should pay attention. They’re getting a front-row, real-world lesson in how the actions of adults can distract from what’s best for students.” But don’t get your hopes up—this wasn’t a long overdue acknowledgment of the events surrounding the testing scandal when she was commanding the DC public schools.

With only a little investigation of the news of the MAP test boycott, Rhee would have found that the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and the Associated Student Body Government (ASB) at Garfield High School—the school where the test boycott of the test began on January 10th—had voted unanimously to support teachers in the boycott of the MAP test. When the Seattle School District attempted to go around the teacher boycott of the MAP by forcing the school administration to pull kids out of class and march them off to the library to take the computerized test, hundreds of students showed letters from their parents opting them out, while many of the rest simply refused to participate on their own. Of the 810 tests scheduled at Garfield, only 184 valid tests were recorded.

In the end, the boycott of the winter round of the MAP primarily reflected the will of students and parents, who agreed with teachers that student time was better spent learning in the classroom, and that library computers were better used for student research and writing rather than testing. Had she acknowledged this, Michelle Rhee would have had some difficult questions to answer.

If students vote unanimously to boycott a test, is it still okay to put their demands and interests first, or does putting students first mean ignoring their democratic decision making?

If the parent organization at a school votes unanimously to support the teachers in boycotting a flawed test, is it okay for the parents to guide their children, or should students disregard their parents and instead follow an astro turf organization called “Students First”?

What happens when students, parents and teachers around the nation join together in common cause and protest for a meaningful education rather than the overuse of standardized tests? Is it okay to put “students first” when they agree with their teachers about what constitutes a quality education?

Rhee's inability to ask these critical thinking questions is a demonstration of the very cognitive problems that can arise from an over reliance on standardized testing.

The boycott of the MAP test has spread to five schools in Seattle with a dozen other schools actively supporting it. In Portland, students have initiated their own historic boycott of the standardized OAKS tests. In Providence, R.I., 50 high school students staged a "zombie protest" against high-stakes testing, marching to the state Department of Education, chanting "No education, No life." The New York State Principals Association recently issued a scathing letter, signed by 1,536 of its members, denouncing rampant state testing as a negative influence on the educational and emotional health of students. In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr has called for a three-year moratorium on standardized testing. More than 500 school boards in Texas have passed resolutions demanding a reduced focus on standardized tests and on February 23, an estimated 10,000 parents, students and teachers from around Texas marched up Congress Avenue to the state Capitol in Austin to oppose the overuse of testing.

This nationwide solidarity against standardized testing represents a high stakes test for Rhee, and perhaps the anxiety is interfering with her ability to think clearly. Rhee wrote in her Seattle Times op-ed, “We know standardized testing works. For example, look at the District of Columbia, where I was school chancellor.”

It’s almost impossible to believe, but she really did write those words.

Yes, let us take look at the standardized testing in D.C. when Rhee was chancellor. In a scandal now known as “Erasure-gate,” massive test cheating was uncovered by USA Today, along with the failure of then-schools chancellor Michelle Rhee to investigate. As USA today wrote,

“In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its ‘shining stars.’ …. A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes' classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones. Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That's more than half of D.C. schools.”

Rhee went on to write in her Seattle Times op-ed, “Astronomically high dropout rates and subpar math and reading-proficiency levels in lower-income, inner-city schools ought to jolt us as especially immoral."

When Rhee refers to “inner-city” schools, she’s attempting to discuss Black students and other students of color. Yet she is scared to use the word “racism” because that would open up a conversation about the relationships between race, poverty and school performance. Rhee laments the educational outcomes of students living in poverty without ever questioning the causes of poverty. Perhaps that’s because her sponsors are the corporations and super-rich who profit from under-paying the poor for their labor, and whose policies perpetuate poverty. She is right about one thing--it’s appalling that low-income students have the worst outcomes in our schools. You won’t hear her say anything, however, about how corporate profits should be taxed to reinvest in our schools, or the fact that our nation prioritized finding trillions of dollars to recapitalize the same banks that sabotaged the global economy.

Moreover, Rhee has no understanding of the history of standardized testing or its contribution to the reproduction of inequality. As University of Washington education professor Wayne Au has written, “Looking back to its origins in the Eugenics moment, standardized testing provided…ideological cover for the social, economic and education inequalities the test themselves help maintain.” The stability of testing outcomes along racial lines, from the days of Eugenics until today, demonstrates standardized testing has always been a better measure of a student’s zip code than of aptitude. Wealthier and whiter districts score better on tests. These children have books in the home, parents with time to read to them, private tutoring, access to test-prep agencies, healthy food, health insurance, and similar advantages. Standardized testing has from the very beginning been a tool to rank and sort people, not to remove the barriers needed to achieve equality.

The Seattle boycott of the MAP test opened up our understanding of how the test exacerbates inequality:

English Language Learners and special education students are the populations pulled out of class most often to take the MAP. On average, each test taker loses 320 minutes of instructional time. MAP tests are administered on computers. Our computer labs are commandeered for weeks for test taking. Students can’t access the computers they need for research projects, which especially hurts students without computers at home—predominently low income and students of color. The Seattle NAACP supported the boycott because the MAP is used to track students into the city’s Advanced Placement Program—a program overwhelming made up of white students. The Superintendent’s Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Committee for the Seattle Public Schools supported the boycott, too, saying, “…our children are regularly denied their accommodations for the MAP. How does MAP testing somehow take precedence over the necessary accommodations on the IEP?” Rhee says the MAP boycott is a play by teachers to avoid accountability. Teachers and their unions, though, are simply fighting for the same kind of schools that the wealthy enjoy. Elite private schools do not inundate their students with standardized tests. What they do offer are great enrichment programs in physical education, drama, art, music, and field trips. They enjoy low student-teacher ratios, and a curriculum that stimulates students' interests and creativity.

If Rhee truly believes in the innate value of standardized tests, she should protest the fact that expensive private schools have been boycotting the MAP test for a long time.

Can you imagine Rhee (the self proclaimed “radical”) standing outside Lakeside, Bill Gates’ high school alma mater, chanting “1-2-3-4 your child IS a score! 5-6-7-8, standardized testing is really great!”?

Lakeside doesn’t march their students off to the library to take the MAP three times a year. Still, it’s a pretty good school. The student/teacher ratio is 9 to 1. Average class size is 16. The library has some 20,000 volumes, and is open until 6:00 pm. There’s a sports facility with a hydrotherapy spa. The service learning program has taken students to India, Peru, and China, and the School Year Abroad program enrolls students in their junior year to such programs as Mountain School, the Rocky Mountain Semester, the Maine Coast Semester.

Washington State ranks first among states in the number of standardized tests our K-12 public school students take. Besides the district’s MAP test (administered up to three times per year), the state mandates five additional standardized tests (but not for private school students). Our state spends more than $100 million on standardized tests, yet ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending and its class sizes are among the largest in the country. These are the intolerable conditions that provoked educators in Seattle to put their livelihoods on the line and boycott the test.

The destination at which Seattle’s students, parents and teachers want to arrive is not on the MAP. Our desired destination is graduating students who demonstrate creativity, social responsibility, critical thinking, leadership, and civic courage. Seattle’s teachers are not afraid of assessment, but many of us know that to reach those goals, we will need to venture off the well-worn and narrow path of selecting from answer choices A, B, C, or D.

Michelle Rhee, I’m afraid you are lost. Come debate me in public, and I can help you find your way.

Jesse Hagopian is a public high school teacher in Seattle and a founding member of Social Equality Educators (SEE). He is a contributing author to Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation and 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History (Haymarket Books). Hagopian serves on the Board of Directors of Maha-Lilo—“Many Hands, Light Load”—a Haiti solidarity organization. He can be reached at: or you can follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MORE's Cavanagh on Gambling Show; Eterno on NY1 Online: The Call 3/12/13

Check out the Movement of Rank and File Educators' (MORE)
Julie Cavanagh, candidate for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on where the union should be going
John Gambling Show, WOR, 3/04/13
James Eterno on the school closings in New York City
NY1 Online: The Call 3/12/13

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Legitimacy of UFT Election in Jeopardy as Unity Chapter Leaders and Principals Block Mailbox Access

Federal labor law permits campaigning by rival sections of unions at the workplace. For public schoolteachers the question comes, are you working or are you campaigning. Thus, of course, school employees may only do their politicking during non-work-hours. Careful reading of New York City Board of Education statements supports such a stance.

Indeed, as the Education Notes blog reminded us a little over a month ago,
During election periods, the Baizerman decision allows any UFT member to go into ANY school -- even not their own -- and place materials in the mail boxes. Now this is not always a slam dunk as most principals, secretaries, etc. are not made aware. So if there is a problem a phone call has to be made to someone at the UFT (I hear Amy Arundel is in charge of getting these calls) who then calls the DOE and the school gets a message. Since that can take time it is best to do leave and go on to another place and come back another time. Sometimes I call the school first to let them know I am coming.

However, in the present (2013) election season, allies of the new alternate caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), are repeatedly having difficulties practicing their legal right to insert campaign literature in staff mailboxes of UFT members at city schools. At a disturbingly high rate, variations are happening, for several weeks now:
-principals are barring box access
-chapter leaders are barring box access
-other school staff are barring box access.

And DOEnuts blog notes how Unity-allied officers have been sending pro-Unity messages on union time:
what I heard was that MORE has been receiving reports of how Districts Reps advocated for the Unity Caucus during meetings reserved for union business. Specifically, they distributed leaflets during Chapter Leader meetings (meetings that are, again, union time, not election time) and have been using email lists to advocate for the same. Just recently, an email was sent to a list identifying seven reasons why Mulgrew should be re-relected (on a mailing list that was collected for union business. Not union election business). My understanding is that MORE has brought these issues to the attention of the election committee and asked for equal access to the members. But they haven't gotten a reply.
Unity has access to UFT member emails, access which MORE does not have, as noted here and here. (Kind of reminds you of election challenges for public office.)

The Unity caucus, which has run the union for the last 50 years, has been able to project its interpretation of the issues, its interpretation of the current union leadership's performance through the "New York Teacher." Yet, the MORE caucus is newer and has fewer resources than the Unity political machine. How fair is the election if one side is having access to mailboxes barred?

Everyday that Unity's Amy Arundell and Leroy Barr, the persons fielding complaints of election misconduct, drag their feet, the greater the net benefit to Unity in preventing name and caucus recognition of the MORE caucus and its slate. Again, the complaints have been coming in for weeks now. Arundell and Barr have "made phone calls" and have recently informed chapter leaders of leafletting rights. However, this is ineffective. This writer and other MORE supporters have been barred access in the last 72 hours; obviously many people didn't get or read the memo. Or the chapter leaders are conveniently failing to inform principals or other office staff of the memo. It will be a shanda, as the saying goes, if this box access problem only gets addressed properly after the election.

A quick googling of phrases such as Baizerman decision or Baizerman Step III grievance will indicate that this kind of Unity chicanery of denying mailbox access to other caucuses goes back to past election seasons. See for example, these posts from March 2005 and November 2006. It is a little disingenuous for Arundell or Barr to feign shock when this game playing has quite a legacy with the Unity caucus. The games such as District Representatives campaigning for Unity on union time is merely history repeating itself.

If the current leadership gets re-elected by a similar percentage as in the past, it will crow about how strong it is and how the members are not interested in the alternative.
The union must reach out now, to secure the cooperation of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) and the New York City Department of Education, to get the message to all principals, that rival caucuses have the right of mailbox access; the union must reach out now to all district representatives, to reach all chapter leaders --via personal visits-- the email messages aren't cutting it, to get out the message of the right to free access to faculty and other UFT member mailboxes. (The UFT's Chapter Leader Update sent out a notice indicating mailbox access; however, even after this notice, the very high rate of mailbox access denial is occurring.)
Ms. Arundell, Mr. Barr, take action now, or the legitimacy of the election and its result will be seriously tarnished.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Common Core Standards: The Emperor Has No Clothes, or Evidence

Updates at end: on Common Core's mistakes in early childhood education and on Common Core's sidelining of literature. Christopher H. Tienken, wrote "Common Core Standards: The Emperor Has No Clothes, or Evidence," at Kappa Delta Pi Record, Winter 2011. His powerful piece is important for analyzing and sharing, as it crushes David Coleman and the Common Core's fallacious contention that the Common Core is evidence-based. Tienken has shown that the Common Core has no clothes indeed.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative continues to gather strength. But the evidence presented by its developers—the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)—seems lacking compared to the independent reviews and the available research on the topic that suggest otherwise.

Evidence Please
Evidence-based or data-driven decision making has been at the forefront of education rhetoric for the past 15 years. Administrator articles, book chapters, notes from telephone interviews, and several tangential studies. Many of the various citations were linked to a small group of advocates and did not represent the larger body of thought on the subject. The Benchmarking report, the main source of evidence provided by the NGA and CCSSO, draws most of its support from one study: The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development (Hanushek and Woessmann 2008). The use of that study is troubling because it has been criticized exhaustively and shown to be fatally flawed by independent researchers.
Evaluating the Evidence
The Role of Cognitive Skills claims that education drives economics and that national standards will improve education. This argument is methodologically and logically faulty on a number of levels. First, the study presumes a cause-and-effect relationship between standardized test results and national economic growth. Second, the study presumes that grades in school and performance on standardized tests predict individual economic growth later in life. Both may sound reasonable at first blush, but the cause-and-effect logic is untenable. Most economists understand that variables driving individual income growth cannot be applied to an entire national economy. They are two different units of analysis—two different scales, if you will. It would be like saying that because a certain teaching method was shown to be effective with one type of student in one small school in Maryland, we should base national education policy for all students in all states on that single method. As another example, although there is a moderate to strong correlation between height and weight, we still cannot conclude that someone weighs “59 inches” and expect that to be meaningful. Connecting an individual’s education achievement to a nation’s economic future is just not possible, empirically or logically. Certainly, education may influence an individual’s achievement or a nation’s future, but there is not a straight-line relationship. Further, an increase in education does not guarantee a lifetime of rising salaries. In impoverished nations, income gains can be as large as 20 percent for each additional year of schooling (Psacharopoulos and Patrinos 2004). But consider that the real earnings of U.S. workers with at least a bachelor’s degree fell by more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004 (Mishel 2006). Historically, there has not been an unimpeded, upward sloping linear relationship between the general level of education attain- ment and a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (Lewis 1964; Krueger and Lindahl 2001).

When trying to untangle the relationship between education and economic strength at the global level, one must recognize that not all economies are created equal (Ramirez et al. 2006; Tienken 2008). One cannot simply put every country from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) or Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing samples into the same economic or education pot. The size of the economy matters. Correlations between test scores and economic strength can be statistically significant and moderately strong when all the small or weak economies such as Poland, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic remain in the sample, whereas the relationship between international test scores and economic strength can be nonexistent or even negative when only the G14 or G21 preparation programs have courses on the topic, and preservice teachers are taught to use evidence and data to inform instruction. Many schools have “data committees” that make school-wide decisions. The No Child Left Behind Act ([NCLB] 2002) includes the word data 230 times. Surely there must be some quality data available to support the use of the CCSS to transform, standardize, and centralize America’s education system.

I wondered whether the official Web site for the CCSS provided such evidence. The site does claim that the standards are “evidence based” and lists two documents to prove it: Myths v. Facts about the Common Core Standards and a Benchmarking for Success report. The Myths document (NGA and CCSSO 2010, 3) presents claims that the standards have “made careful use of a large and growing body of evidence.” Evidence derives from scientific experiments and discoveries; thus, one would expect to find references to high-quality empirical research to support the standards. When I investigated that “large and growing body of evidence” offered by NGA and CCSSO, I found that it was not large and, in fact, was built mostly on the Benchmarking for Success report (NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve 2010), which was created by the same groups that created the standards.

I always look at the references an author chooses to use as my quick indicator of a study’s quality. The Benchmarking report has 138 endnotes, some of which are repetitive references. Of the 138 cited pieces of evidence, four could be considered empirical studies related directly to the topic of national standards and student achievement. The remaining citations were newspaper stories, magazine articles, book chapters, notes from telephone interviews, and several tangential studies. Many of the vari- ous citations were linked to a small group of advocates and did not rep- resent the larger body of thought on the subject. The Benchmarking report, the main source of evidence provided by the NGA and CCSSO, draws most of its support from one study: The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development (Hanushek and Woessmann 2008). The use of that study is troubling because it has been criticized exhaustively and shown to be fatally flawed by independent researchers.

Evaluating the Evidence
The Role of Cognitive Skills claims that education drives economics and that national standards will improve education. This argument is methodologically and logically faulty on a number of levels. First, the study presumes a cause-and-effect relationship between standardized test results and national economic growth. Second, the study presumes that grades in school and performance on standardized tests predict individual economic growth later in life. Both may sound reasonable at first blush, but the cause-and-effect logic is untenable. Most economists understand that variables driving individual income growth cannot be applied to an entire national economy. They are two different units of analysis —two different scales, if you will. It would be like saying that because a certain teaching method was shown to be effective with one type of student in one small school in Maryland, we should base national education policy for all students in all states on that single method. As another example, although there is a moderate to strong correlation between height and weight, we still cannot conclude that someone weighs “59 inches” and expect that to be meaningful. Connecting an individual’s education achievement to a nation’s economic future is just not possible, empirically or logically. Certainly, education may influence an individual’s achievement or a nation’s future, but there is not a straight-line relationship. Further, an increase in education does not guarantee a lifetime of rising salaries. In impoverished nations, income gains can be as large as 20 percent for each additional year of schooling (Psacharopoulos and Patrinos 2004). But consider that the real earnings of U.S. workers with at least a bachelor’s degree fell by more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004 (Mishel 2006). Historically, there has not been an unimpeded, upward sloping linear relationship between the general level of education attain- ment and a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (Lewis 1964; Krueger and Lindahl 2001).

When trying to untangle the relationship between education and economic strength at the global level, one must recognize that not all economies are created equal (Ramirez et al. 2006; Tienken 2008). One cannot simply put every country from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) or Programme for Interna- tional Student Assessment (PISA) testing samples into the same eco- nomic or education pot. The size of the economy matters. Correlations between test scores and economic strength can be statistically signifi- cant and moderately strong when all the small or weak economies such as Poland, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic remain in the sample, whereas the relationship between international test scores and economic strength can be nonexistent or even negative when only the G14 or G21 economies, the strongest economies in the world, are in the sample (Tien- ken 2008).

The authors of the Role of Cognitive Skills (Hanushek and Woessmann 2008) do not cluster the samples to compare “apples to apples,” but simply consider all the countries together as though they are all similar. Of course, there is a positive relationship between test scores and economic growth when one includes 18 countries with weak or collaps- ing economies and international test rankings above those of the United States. Manipulating the data is a statistical shell game; the data actu- ally demonstrates that test scores do not predict economic success. To think that Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, all countries that outscored the United State in math on the 2006 PISA (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2009), will ever eclipse the United States in economic prowess defies reality.

Economic Realities
Nations with strong economies (e.g., the top 21 nations) and quality education systems demonstrate a weaker relationship between increases in education attainment and economic growth (Krueger Lindahl 2001; Tienken 2008). In nations with strong economies, the education system probably needs the economy more than the economy needs the education system. Competitive and expanding labor markets in coun- tries with strong economies drive the citizenry to seek higher levels of education. This phenomenon was identified more than 50 years agowhen Harbison and Myers (1964, xi) noted, “Education is both the seed and flower of economic development,” but somehow those who proffer the idea of curricular and knowledge standardization have not yet discovered this.
Nations functioning at high economic and education levels require larger changes in the education levels of a majority of the citizenry to have a statistically significant influence on the economy (a ceiling effect). Ramirez et al. (2006, 14) found that “School achievement levels appear to have a greater influence on economic growth in countries with lower levels of enrollment.” Examples of such countries are Chad, Honduras, and Sudan, where increases in secondary school completion rates can influence the economy positively.

Data-less Decision Making
Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the CCSS? This is not data-driven decision making. This is a decision hoping for data. I am not aware of many contemporary professions that operate this way. The main evidence offered by the NGA and CCSSO to make the case for a cause-and-effect relationship, or any significant relationship for that matter, between test scores, economics, and the need for national curriculum standards amounts to nothing more than a statistical house of cards. Yet we are going to base the future of our entire educa- tion system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Where is the evidence that national standards will cause Ameri- can students to score at the top of international tests? Some point to the fact that many of the countries that outrank the United States have national, standardized curricula. My reply is that there are also nations with very strong economies, such as Canada, Australia, Germany, and Switzerland, which consistently rank higher than the United States on international tests and do not have a mandated, standardized set of cur- riculum standards.

Centralized Curriculum Planning
Consider that the United States has a population of more than 300 million and is more ethnically, religiously, and racially diverse than many of the smaller nations that outrank it on international tests. The United States ranks third in the world in terms of population behind China and India and has the largest population of any of the countries that partici- pated in the TIMSS and PISA testing.
Size matters because size brings complexity. Finland, the country that usually ranks in the top 5 on international tests has 5.5 million people. In the United States, that’s the equivalent of Wisconsin. In fact, the top 6 scoring nations on the 2006 PISA math test have a combined population of 240 million people. Singapore, another country commonly cited as one the United States should emulate has only 4.8 million people, a little more than half the population of New Jersey.
To think that every student in this country should be made to learn the same things is illogical on its face—it lacks face validity. The United States is just too large and too diverse to even want to engage in such folly. We all should have learned from the Soviet Union that central planning just does not work in the long run. The diversity of the United States is its greatest strength. The U.S. economy is able to adapt to change because of the diversity of the workforce. China is trying des- perately to crawl out from under the rock of standardization in terms of curriculum and testing (Zhao 2009).

Chinese officials recognize the negative impacts a standardized system has on intellectual creativity. Less than 10 percent of Chinese workers are able to function in multinational corporations (Zhao 2009). Chinese winners of Nobel Prizes are scarce, and China does not hold many sci- entific patents.

Mandating a singular curricular program for the entire country is terribly naïve. This approach lacks a basic understanding of diversity and developmental psychology. Further, at its core, it eschews science and condones forcing children to fit the system instead of adjusting the system to fit the needs of the child.
Fundamentally, this mind-set lacks child-centeredness and offers an overly simplistic proposal for such a complex set of conditions. Standardization is a Pollyanna approach to policy making. One cannot simply separate curriculum from culture, emotions, personal backgrounds, prior experiences, prior knowledge, and stages of cognitive and social development. Cognitive Development Theory (Piaget 1952; 1967), Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner and Evans 2000), Sociocultural Theory (Vygotsky 1978), and even Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs for that matter, all tell us that we cannot pretend curriculum oper- ates in a vacuum, apart from other factors. Standardization assumes that children are not active constructors of meaning who bring prior knowledge and experience to the learning situation. It assumes that all students start at the same academic place and will finish with the same results. One cannot just decree that all students will learn the exact same subject matter, at the same depth as mandated by the standards, at the same time (e.g., by the end of grade 1), and expect that to happen.

Curriculum Research
So what does the research suggest in terms of centralized curriculum planning? Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1993) argued that curriculum has the greatest influence on student achievement when it is a proximal variable in the education process. They found that the closer the curriculum is designed, deliberated, and created near the student, the greater influence it has on learning. In short, curriculum should be a local endeavor. When curriculum is treated as a distal variable—occurring distant from the student, handed down from on high, as is the case with the CCSS—its influence is weakened. National policy mandates have the weakest influence of all on student learning because, like the CCSS, they are distal to the actual learning process (Wang et al. 1993). Recently, Tramaglini’s (2010) study of 120 New Jersey high schools that serve the state’s poorest towns yielded similar results. Tramaglini found that the more proximal the curriculum development process, the better the students performed on the state’s high school exit exam.

Local involvement and input matter greatly.
Seminal works also emphasize the importance of curriculum as a proximal variable. Among these are the mountains of curricular knowledge created by Francis Parker, John Dewey, Horace Mann, Ralph Tyler, and Hilda Taba, to name just a few. But we have confirmation from others as well. The landmark Eight-Year Study demonstrated that curriculum can be an entirely locally developed endeavor and still produce better results than traditional curricular programs (Aikin 1942), as long as it is based on empirically demonstrated results, something the CCSS lacks. In fact, the Eight-Year Study demonstrated that the less standardized, more diverse, locally developed and designed the programs (based on demonstrated research and theories of learning), the better the students did in college academically, socially, civically, and in their work ethic compared to their traditionally prepared peers. Results from some well-known earlier studies (Collings 1923; Thorndike 1924; Wrightstone 1936; Wrightstone et al. 1939; Jersild et al. 1941) demonstrated that there is not one best curriculum path for students in high school, and standardized curricula is not necessary to achieve superior results in elementary and secondary schools.

Dead Ends with Questionable Means
We have been down the road of standardized curriculum, and that road is a dead end in terms of ensuring that more children learn more. The results from the “college prep for all” initiatives in Chicago beginning in 1997, New York State in 2001, Texas in 2003, and the mandated use of universal state standards via the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 have done little to close the achievement gap or the socioeconomic gaps that exist in this country (Allensworth et al. 2009). One program for all children just does not make conceptual sense, is intuitively contradictory, and has no empirical backing. The standards have not been validated empirically, and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis 2010). Equality of curriculum standards is inherently inequitable. Mandating that everyone follow the same set of standards and perform at the same level of achievement guarantees that everyone will not get what they need and that certain groups of students, those that do not fit into the new system, will lose out. These latter students will be labeled “not proficient” or “in need” of academic remediation, when perhaps they just need more choices, more pathways, and more diversity of curricula within the system. We should be increasing curricular diversity, not seeking to constrict it. We should be trying to help students explore and enrich their intellectual and social growth, not constraining them or funneling them into a small set of subjects. Most of all, we should respect differences among children, not try to extinguish them.

Think It Over
There is no empirical basis for the CCSS initiative, and yet many policy makers and even educators support it. The idea is easy to champion because it appears straightforward, compartmentalized, and uncomplicated. However, keep in mind that education is as complex as other disciplines. For example, if your child’s doctor made a high-stakes medical decision without consulting high-quality evidence or experimented on your child without your consent and without informing you of the known negative consequences, we would call that medical malpractice. Is this a case of education malpractice? At a minimum, it is irresponsible and unprofessional given the amount of evidence that calls the CCSS into question.
Developing coherent education and social policy is difficult. The CCSS presents itself as a neat and clean solution, easily manageable, and easy to discuss. Unfortunately, the real world is messy and much more complex. We cannot eliminate the complexity of educating all students by putting forth superficial ideas. Based on the lack of evidence behind the CCSS, it seems uninformed and unethical to support such a massive social experiment on participants who have no voice and thus no choice but to go along.

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Christopher H. Tienken is an Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy. He is a former public school teacher and administrator. You can contact him at
Postscript: Other critics have cited other great flaws in the Common Core. Here is another thoughtful piece on the Common Core, from the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss, January 19, 2013, in which she incorporates an article by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, critiquing Common Core's flaws in the area of early childhood education. The Common Core's flaws reflect the fact that its kindergarten through third grade standards writers included no classroom teacher or early childhood specialist.
"A tough critique of Common Core on early childhood education."

A July 10, 2013 opinion piece by Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future," in the New York Daily News notes how the Common Core will deprive students of exposure to great literature (or much of any fictional literature, for that matter): "Common Core vs. great literature: Fresh reason to fear that works of fiction, poetry and theater may get short shrift when new standards arrive." discusses how the Common Core will leave a generation deprived of exposure to the classics of fictional literature, much less any fictional literature. The new English standards in the Common Core eliminate real English Language Arts material: "With the exception of the 'Romeo and Juliet' unit, they apparently envision English as a social studies class, not a language and literature class." Yet, with all the emphasis on non-fiction literature such as menus, technical manuals and opinion pieces in newspapers, as the author argues, the Common Core developers are depriving students of exposure to literature, and thus setting them up for failure in the very standards that they iterate elsewhere in the standards proclamations:
In fact, the Common Core standards explicitly set a high bar of literary history, stating that students will “demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature.”
According to the units rolled out so far by [New York City]’s Education Department, that standard doesn’t even exist.