Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cory Booker, Senate stand-in for Rhee / Update: Newark '12 contract came with strings attached to accountability to Facebook gift

Booker a danger to teacher, The  necessity of  progressives to oppose his senate bid - Coziness with Christie & hedge-funders - Lautenberg Family endorses opponent - Update: Newark teachers contract came with strings attached, 'Accountability' or Facebook gift is rescinded

Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker is one of THE media darlings, constantly a Democrat that David Gregory calls onto his Meet the Press program, Sunday mornings on NBC. But his senate victory would be risky for teachers, for he would be able to propagate his Michelle Rhee-like perspective on how to "fix education." Moreover, as numerous writers have suggested, Booker is more of a show-boater, a grand-stander that has raked in speaking fees and has allowed the material status of Newarkers to stagnate or worsen.
The city and state executives (Newark mayor and N.J. governor) are close cousins in two fractured parties. Booker represents the increasingly dominant and aggressive financial sector-friendly business class wing of the party, to the detriment of the traditional economic liberals. Christie is aloof to the Tea Party, keeping the libertarian or paleo-conservative Brett Schundler and Steve Lonegan politicians at an arm's length.
Christie and Booker can be the dear friends that they are, but it becomes problematic when it gets wrapped up in Booker compromising liberal principles. Booker is too keen on coasting into the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to assume the late Frank Lautenberg's seat. --So eager, that he raised millions just in the first quarter of this year. The whole matter of ego-centric Booker's senate candidacy is a good occasion for us to look at how negative Booker has been for public education and at how he has been a weak champion of economic-liberal causes in Newark and in New Jersey in general, and how a divergent figure he is from Lautenberg's liberal legacy.

The widow of Frank Lautenberg and the couple's children have endorsed Congressman Frank Pallone for the August 13 special primary and October 16 general election. They have endorsed Pallone as continuing Lautenberg's liberal legacy. Along with the endorsement they slammed Booker as a "showhorse," implying that he's an empty suit. Pallone also comes with the endorsement of several mid-state politicians. He and the other Booker challengers, Rush Holt and Sheila Oliver are distinct from Booker, as each of them has a history of at least nine years as a legislator, an important consideration as the U.S. senate is a legislative body. Holt and Pallone in the Congress and Oliver in New Jersey's state assembly. (Oliver is currently speaker.) Josh Lautenberg wrote an email, sent out by the Pallone campaign Tuesday, "the person my father would've wanted to succeed him," Huffington Post reported earlier this week.
Booker served a mere four years in the Newark City Council. (The media-obsessed mayor announced his campaign intentions a mere five days after the senator's passing.) Has anyone spelt out how Booker has better leadership or issue position credentials than any of these candidates? No. Cory Booker is no Frank Lautenberg. As Jason Farago noted his myth-busting gem in June 11's UK "Guardian," "Cory Booker: the inexorable rise of Newark's neoliberal egomaniac", the senator was a venerable liberal, championing unions, the working class and progressive taxation. Booker, on the other hand, lives in a fantasy world in which there are no systemic problems or class interests, only inefficiencies to fixed by data-driven approaches. And don't wait for the fall for a progressive alternative. No Green Party candidate has come forward yet.

As a CNN blogger noted, there is little love between the Lautenberg family and Cory Booker, as the latter announced his intention to challenge Lautenberg in the 2014 primary.
The Lautenberg family endorsement statement read:
"Pallone knows that gimmicks and celebrity status won't get you very far in the real battles that Democrats face in the future," the statement read. "While it may not always attract glamorous headlines, Frank knows that to be effective you must put New Jersey and your principles first, not your own glory."

Booker's history with Christie and his grand debt: he alleged the Newark mayoral election irregularities allegations in his earlier unsuccessful race, and the appeal to then federal attorney Christie to investigate, and Christie cooperated.
The closeness leads to a problem for Booker's inherent obligation to be party stalwart for the Democratic challenger to Christie.
The apparently limited progressive credentials of Booker: stand-out positions of distinction from Christie and mainstream (as opposed to Tea Party) Republicans are his positions of yes on gay marriage and minimum wage. He should have spoken more aggressively in public on these issues, confronting his friend, governor Christie. But beyond this he has never distinguished himself as being on the progressive wing of the Democratic party on economic issues.
And being "tight with Christie" can be a problem. As Taylor noted, Christie's built his support with business by "hurling rhetorical grenades at labor unions whenever the opportunity presents itself." Failing to stand up his friend, Christie, to defend organized labor amidst these attacks, Booker hints at how little he would stand by organized labor once in Washington.
Bloggers have criticized his sampling of life on food stamps as exploitative. This comes in awkward taste, given his background of privilege (raised in a posh Bergen County suburb and his Stanford and Oxford college histories). Here's one critique of living on food stamps for a stint, calling it a shameless appriation of the poor. The Feminist Griote wrote:
The same way appropriating someone else’s culture, religion, or spiritual artifact isn’t okay, neither is appropriating their narrative. If you want to help the poor, Mr. Booker, do so by lobbying for them and championing their cause the same way you did when you were on Meet The Press defending Bain Capital and private equity firms. The dubious honor of the negro please award goes to Cory Booker for appropriating poverty!

The blogger at Colorlines called his time on food stamps a "potentially regrettable stunt."
Another blog gave a quote that suggested that he was concerned with how he'd look.
I should try it, because do you know how fabulous I’d look? I’d be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds, it really does. I would be looking great.
Where were the speeches of empathy with the desperately poor after his food stamps stint? None.
These issues mirror his overall record in Newark: plenty of emphasis on glitzy development in downtown, but little effort to bring living wage jobs for working class Newarkers.
This mood was tapped into in Linn Washington, Jr.'s article, February 7, 2013, "Media Mayor Cory Booker Bombs in Home Town of Newark." in the "This Can't Be Happening" blog. He noted that Newark's current unemployment rate of 15 percent, much higher than the state average, is five points higher than when Booker entered the mayor's office in 2006. [The state's unemployment rate was last reported at 8.7 percent.] Carjackings remain remarkably high.
Washington cited a Newark Star-Ledger July 2012 report that in an 18 month period Booker spent one-fourth of his time out of town.
While Booker boosted Newark during many of those trips (some of them day-trips), he also boosted his personal bank account with speaking fees estimated between $250,000-to-$500,000, that article stated.

Thus, the New York Times reported on May 17, 2013, "Newark Mayor Discloses $1.3 Million in Speaking Fees" in the prior four and a half years.
Fittingly a New York Times article last December wrote, "A growing number of Newark residents say Cory A. Booker is a better marketer than mayor." The article, "Promise vs. Reality in Newark on Mayor’s Watch."

Further, this is an election year at the gubernatorial level in New Jersey. Booker has given a weak effort into supporting state senator Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic challenger to the governor's office. Indeed, as Farago notes, it is public knowledge that there is good will between Booker and economic conservatives of Democratic and Republican stripes: George Will spoke favorably of him in a column. Michelle Rhee, disgraced former chancellor of D.C. schools is one that Booker calls "a friend of mine." Akin to Rhee's test score scandals, news broke last fall that three Newark charter school officials breached test security. Philadelphia publisher George Norcross III, a business and political bully, a figure of William Randolph Hearst/Citizen Kane proportions and major Democratic Party fund-raiser that Philly mag called "The Man Who Destroyed Democracy," is a Booker fan. Farago wrote of Booker's corporate-beholden politics made-over in post-ideological garb and added:
That helped him win the support this weekend of the most powerful man in New Jersey: George Norcross III, the feared political boss and owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who said he liked Booker because he was "a Democrat that's fiscally conservative yet socially progressive."
Norcross' heavy investments in the health industry are troubling. Salon's Taylor described him as "the notorious and influential insurance and hospital magnate who runs South Jersey Democratic politics and is easily the most feared power broker in the state." If Booker is beholden to him, how can he take on the health care crisis? This is the same power figure that Christie is afraid to take on:
[Norcross is] the owner of several local news organizations, he was caught on tape making what appeared to be illegal threats in 2005, with the state attorney general widely criticized for not developing a case against him. The incriminating information would later be passed on to Christie, who also declined to prosecute, blaming the attorney general for allegedly mishandling the case. Politically, Norcross is also known for guiding his allies in the Legislature to help Christie push through his major legislative agenda, including a controversial pension overhaul.
(Norcross had been caught on tape, discussing his influence with Jim McGreevey and Jon Corzine. This is the case that Christie sloughed off as mishandled by the A.G.; Christie Republican rival Doug Forrester said of the Norcross case, "This reeks of Watergate-like corruption.") Dick Codey (Democrat), the interim governor between McGreevey and Christie, said of Norcross (Democratic funder, remember),
[“It’s very upsetting to think in the year 2013 you have a private citizen with more influence in state government than anybody except the governor,” but Norcross does. “He’s almost a co-governor.”
The Times has noted Booker's coziness with Christie as a liability. Booker’s Opponents May Use His Friendship With Christie Against Him.
Perhaps Christie's controversial moving the Senatorial election earlier than the general election was intended to aid Booker: with a snap election there would be less time for the opposition research to do damage to Booker's substanceless Emperor's New Clothes candidacy.

Back in 2000 Cory Booker gave a speech at the economic libertarian Manhattan Institute, which the foundation published as "School Choice and Government Reform: Pillars of an Urban Renaissance." In the speech he declared his support for charter schools and public funds for religious and private schools (vouchers). As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2007, "In 1999 he helped found E3, a prominent education-reform group in New Jersey that pushes for charter schools and vouchers for inner-city communities." WSJ's glowing portrait of Booker was reprinted by E3, which stands for "Excellent Education for Everyone."
And so this kind of thinking has continued on his career as Newark mayor. He has clearly aligned himself with the dominant neo-liberal pro-corporate faction of the Democrats, now firmly in control of the Democratic Party. He privatized the sanitation department and attempted to do the same with the water department.
Mayor Booker also secured support for a teachers' 3-year contract that would include merit-based bonuses.
The local education reform handlers saluted the school system for this change.
Booker, with this merit based contract, curiously has the backing of Newark Teachers Union president Joseph Del Grasso, who just survived a challenge by a nine vote margin from a new democratic-minded dissident caucus, the Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus; yet the new caucus won a majority of 18 of 29 seats (Samantha Winslow at Labor Notes). Even Booker supporters are drawing parallels between Booker and mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. (Speaking hostile Democratic executives, I discuss the anti-teacher parallels of Emanuel and Andrew Cuomo in yesterday's post on Chicago's mass layoffs and their larger ramifications.) Like Emanuel, Booker claimed that the path to "reform" was to get mayoral control of the school board. He clearly stated his opposition to educational democracy: “Elected school boards often hit the lowest common denominator . . . they are not the way to get courageous, driven change.” He flew to Seattle to hob-knob with the charter school chain, KIPP. Back in 2007 he bemoaned that without mayoral control it would be hard to get charter foundations or the Broad Foundation into Newark. (2007 WSJ article in E3.)

New York City's United Federation of Teachers website ran this accurate caption below the above picture, characterizing mayor Booker's teacher-bashing 2011 'Morning Joe' (MSNBC) appearance: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (second from right) and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (far right) scapegoat teachers' unions on the MSNBC "Morning Joe" show on Sept 27. Check it out soon, in case the UFT pulls this embarrassing (to its Democratic Party owners, whoops, I mean partners) from its archive of "OCTOBER 13, 2011 NEW YORK TEACHER ISSUE."
See this March 2013 'Mother Jones' article on Booker's secretiveness around accounting issues related to Facebook Founder's $100 million donation to Newark public schools. Farago demolished the Facebook myth succinctly, "The [Facebook] cash didn't go into the Newark school system; it's controlled by a non-governmental fund, with Booker on the board, and has been so unaccountable that the ACLU had to sue the city to learn what was going on."
The Daily Kos blog reported that Booker appeared with Governors Christie and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) at a two-day Alliance for School Choice conference advocating school privatization/school choice. (Read on Louisiana's union-free school environment in recent years.) The Newark Star-Ledger reported,
The two day conference is hosted by the Alliance for School Choice and is sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange council or ALEC, a right leaning think tank that drafts legislation, as well as the Walton Family foundation and Excellent Education for Everyone.
(The Kock brothers' Koch Industries reportedly fund the American Legislative Exchange Council.) Bloggers Perdido Street School and Big Education Ape have also reported recently on Booker's ties to hedge-funders. Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report has given other quite informative links on Booker's financial sector and education privatizer personalities and institutions. Ford cites a hedge-funder Whitney Tilson (co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform) saying of Booker, "He'll be our second [black president]." Does Tilson mean financiers' president or America's president?
Aside from local issues of education and construction, there are these other issues that put Booker outside of the progressive consensus: his advocacy for a "middle ground" on gun control and his adamant attack on the Obama campaign, staunchly defending Bain Capital and private equity. Here's a video clip from that appearance on his chum Gregory's Meet the Press.

Matt Taylor at Salon:
“Cory’s definitely no Democrat but he plays the liberal game,” says Ronald Rice, the longtime Newark state senator whom Booker defeated in 2006. “His whole life is Wall Street and Silicon Valley. We picked that up when he first came here. He was always a part of the privatization movement.”

“We just had the worst financial decline in my lifetime, and there were really, really bad actors involved in it,” Taylor quoted him. But the Salon writer pointed out: "You’ll notice Booker didn’t include 'banks' on that list."

No wonder Congressman Pallone cited this as evidence that Booker is “too close to Wall Street.” Further evidence comes from Republic Report, which chronicles how cash in politics corrupts democracy, which detailed numerous rich relationships between Booker and his hedge-fund billionaire and other Wall Street friends ["Celebrity cash fueling Cory Booker's Senate dreams"], "Cory Booker's Political Career Guided by Top Wall St Donors to Romney's Super PAC," May 21, 2012.
Hedge-funder Lee Ainslie, who gave $100,000 to Mitt Romney's presidential bid, maxed out his donation to Booker. ("Booker’s Wall Street Fundraising Past – and Obama’s")
[Tiger Management LLC’s Julian] Robertson, the prominent Booker campaign supporter who helped finance a Newark Charter program on behalf of Booker, is a close ally to Mitt Romney.
Notable donors donating the maximum $10,400 to the Booker campaign: Michael Bloomberg, Ivanka Trump, Mark Zuckerberg.
Other donors giving the maximum $10,400 include Maria Cuomo Cole, the daughter of New York’s former governor and sister of the current governor; Wal-Mart billionaire Christy Walton and writer/producer Jeffrey Abrams.
Venture capitalist and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, gave $10,400 each.
Christy Walton, the Texan wife of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton is another billionaire who gave $10,400. ("Cory Booker Cashing In On National Name Recognition," the Howell Patch.) According to that site and this one, Hollywood titans and the major soccer commissioner are among the millionaires dumping acres of cash into Booker's campaign bag. Note that these were part of $4.6 million in donations between April and June, mainly prior to Sen. Lautenberg's passing, and during a period when Booker planned to challenge Lautenberg from the right in 2014. Buzzfeed's Ruby Cramer report that Trump will hold a fundraiser on Jul 24 at her Park Avenue residence. The site also reports that the businesswoman and her husband, Jared Kushner, real estate holding company co-owner and 'New York Observer' owner, together gave more than $41,000 to Booker's senatorial campaign in the first quarter of 2013. The two real estate hiers' suggested donation for Wednesday's party is $5,200 per attendee.
Cramer earlier reported in Buzzfeed, in "The Plan To Take Down Cory Booker: “America’s favorite mayor” may be favored to win the New Jersey Senate race, but his opponents are working overtime to stop his momentum" noted Booker's controversial education stances and how this relates to the support he has received campaign contributions over the years from donors the financial sector.
Rival candidates could also seize on Booker’s strained relationship with state teachers unions, as well as his support for charter schools, which are championed by the same hedge fund and Wall Street communities that have financed Booker for years.
“That’s what makes us least comfortable,” said Steve Phillips, a progressive fundraiser whose political action committee has vowed to raise $1 to $2 million for Booker. “I understand the complexities of trying to do something for lower-income kids in a political bureaucracy, but if I could wave my magic wand, I wouldn’t want him as close to the hedge fund folks as he is.”
To boot, Booker has another opportunity to keep up his connections with his finance sector pals. He sits as the only elected official on the Board of Advisors of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). The rest are wealthy one-percenters, or as Diane Ravitch says, “the billionaire boys club.” DFER is the group run by Joe Williams, who said that said that charter schools should use public funds to do lobbying work:
“I think charter schools should be paying advocacy organizations for their advocacy work out of their per pupil dollars. If you think of running a school as running a business, any sound business is going to allocate right off the bat a certain percentage of their funding towards lobbying, advocacy work.”

Taylor summed this up well, Booker packages a sales pitch of "progressivism that centers on financial capitalism and charity instead of social rights. Or as one Democratic operative who has worked in New Jersey put it, 'He’s a good politician for the Obama Democratic Party.'"

So, the Booker record and relationships are in clear sight. It is only now up to the real progressives, the economic liberals in the race --and their supporters-- to seize on these issues on the campaign hustings. UPDATE:
John Mooney in NJ Spotlight reported, June 25, "TEACHER CONTRACT DEAL IN NEWARK CAME WITH STRINGS ATTACHED: Facebook founder’s group required accountability, reserved right to take back money."

Note how there's a Facebook created educational policy foundation -- Shades of Stand for Children of Chicago (dubbed Stand on Children by activists)?
When Newark’s landmark teacher contract was agreed upon this winter, a key factor in pulling off the deal was that a big chunk of retroactive salaries would be paid with $31 million out of the $100 million gift made to the city’s schools by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Now, documents released by the district show the trade-offs and conditions the school district chose to accept in its agreement with the Zuckerberg-funded Foundation for Newark’s Future.
According to a copy of the December 2012 grant agreement obtained by the Education Law Center through an Open Public Records Act request, the district and FNF agreed that the district would have to account for how the money was spent well into the future.
[Ed.: the Education Law Center was founded in 1993 to pursue the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case in New York City.]
In one of the more notable provisions, FNF also reserved the right to “suspend payments” if current school-district leadership was replaced by individuals FNF didn’t support. The provision specifically named positions now held by Superintendent Cami Anderson, state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and Paymon Rouhanifard, the district’s chief strategy officer.
“FNF reserves the right to suspend payments under this agreement or any other grant until it, in its sole discretion, is satisfied that the successor of any key personnel has comparable quality and commitment and is likely to be effective,” read the document released.
Given the bulk of the retroactive payments have already been disbursed, how much this provision will play is uncertain. The first disbursement of 90 percent of the $31 million has been paid, officials said.
The agreement also only briefly mentions the additional $18 million that FNF agreed to provide for the more notable piece of the new labor contract -- the state’s first large-scale performance bonuses for teachers.
But the leverage built into the agreement has nonetheless sparked complaints by some critical of the school district’s management under the Christie administration -- and Anderson, in particular. Some of them say it’s another example of a private group influencing public policy.
Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, chair of the district’s advisory board, which has seeking to regain local control of the district, said the board was never apprised of the agreement and that she saw it only after the ELC’s OPRA request.
“I found a number of things questionable and in some cases extremely disturbing,” she said yesterday. “This gives an unprecedented amount of leverage to an independent organization. That’s the most egregious thing to me.”
Baskerville-Richardson was also critical of provisions that had Anderson making more regular reports to the foundation than to the local board. “It seems unethical to me that this group has information when the local board doesn’t,” she said.
David Sciarra, executive director of the ELC, the Newark-based advocacy group, added: “This is another example of a foundation seeking to promote preferred education reforms by giving money to state and local education agencies, without any public disclosure.
“These secret transactions erode public confidence in our public schools and the state education department,” he wrote in an email. “We need new laws to rein in this practice.”
Efforts to reach Anderson and officers of the foundation were unsuccessful yesterday. The agreement was crafted under FNF’s former executive director Greg Taylor, who left the post this spring.
Read the rest of the story, TEACHER CONTRACT DEAL IN NEWARK CAME WITH STRINGS ATTACHED and visit the site for more links (namely, Zuckerberg's Foundation for Newark's Future, FNF's Grant agreement with Newark State-opearted School district). Note how Newark citizens lost control of their educational process to the state, yet a private individual from outside New Jersey is able to dictate policy terms upon the city.

Also, see JerseyJazzman blog for an important post on how the Newark Teachers Union is sabotaging itself with its support for the "Teachers Village" project, "How the Newark Teachers Union Shot Itself In the Foot." UPDATE #2: Lois Weiner and some other New Jersey editors get to the core of teaching issues in this op-ed better than do brothers-at-heart Christie or Booker:
When teachers reach kids whose families are drowning in social and economic problems, we are like emergency room doctors. There’s no either/or here. We need to recruit, educate, and support good teachers AND tackle the social crises outside school walls that are undercut learning.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chicago's Friday Morning Massacre - the Human Collateral in the War of Testing Over Teaching


One backscript lurking behind the story of the mass ejecting Chicago Public School teachers from their positions mid-summer is that this is in a context of a high-flying financial sector economy in Chicago. The Windy City, the magnet of Chicagoland, drawing people from the otherwise troubled former industrial heartland that is the Midwest, sometimes called the Rustbelt (a term I do not prefer as it dismisses manufacturing and industrialism as old hat), is doing well. The Chicago (and disadvantaged cities of Illinois, for that matter) public revenues can do well by taking the public's fair share from the wealthy.

In addition, akin to the old guns and butter debate of military spending versus social needs, we must point out that Illinois' questionable decision to pony along with the Common Core mania has worsened public education's situation. In carrying out Common Core mandates, Illinois is hitching itself to the computerized testing that the test entails, and the computerization expenses that come with it. Namely, note that Illinois is going along with the PARCC program, the computerized test for executing the Common Core. (The test expense itself is making more districts to be wary of the tests. Oklahoma pulled out of PARCC over technology difficulties.) A rising public debate is challenging the Common Core. The key matter is, must we jeopardize educations and careers in the unnecessary rush for commercialized testing?

In short, the funds are there. There is no need to dismiss teachers or support staff. It is a question of priorities.

A second disturbing backscript is one wonders some of these schools and programs are being cut purposely in areas that have key activist teachers. Close a school, slash a program, through a teacher out of her or his program, and conveniently Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and the education privatizers can (hope to) silence strong voices in the resistance against commercialized education.

Namely, I refer to Xian Barrett, a key activist in the Chicago Teachers Union. He has been a key figure in the Chicago scene and he has traveled out of the region to support teachers in New York City and elsewhere who are engaged in like educational-political struggles. Furthermore, he has been a well-recognized teacher of law and history. So when I read that he was among over 2,000 educators in a mass dismissal Friday morning alarm bells went off in my mind that this could be political scapegoating. Here is a fine piece from the 'Chicago Sun-Times,' from Fred Klonsky's blog yesterday. Note how there is yet another agenda at work here: the replacing of veteran, tenured teachers with less expensive Teach for America recruits (read on these glorified 2 year temps, here, here, here):
Gage Park High School teacher Xian Barrett learned Friday morning he was one of 2,113 Chicago Public Schools employees losing his job from his mother.
Why the principal called his emergency contact instead of his primary number, he isn’t sure. But when Barrett returned the message his mother relayed from his principal, he was read the script thanking him for his service — but pink-slipping him.
“The fact that there’s a script and it has in it, ‘Thank you for the service to the kids’ but no details — the fact that it’s always done this impersonally. It’s not just about firing. It’s how CPS treats their students. They’re interchangeable, and the relationships in their lives are interchangeable,” Barrett, 35, told the Sun-Times Friday. It went better, though, than the first time the district laid him off in 2010, when the principal — who also called his mother — went right into the script.
“The principal laid off my mom,” said Barrett, recipient of a prestigious and national U.S. Department of Education Teaching Fellowship, and a tenured teacher of law and of Chicago history at Gage Park on the Southwest Side. His law class typically spent Monday mornings with a triage of cases kids brought to him that friends or relatives were involved in.
“We get to a point where we’re called to serve the entire community. What I just challenge people to think about is that one teacher who made the difference in your life and what would happen if they were torn out of the fabric of your life,” Barrett said.
Barrett didn’t yet know how many of his Gage Park colleagues were part of the massive layoffs that hit Friday.
In one of the city’s largest teacher layoffs ever, the district pink slipped 2,113 teachers and other employees.
Of those laid off, 1,036 are teachers and 1,077 are support staff, with the laid-off teachers accounting for about 4 percent of last year’s total faculty of 23,290.
Budget cuts are to blame for 815 support staff, 398 tenured teachers and 510 non-tenured teachers; school closings for 68 support staff employees and 194 food staff employees, and changes in school enrollments account for rest, the district said.
Another 161 highly-rated teachers from the 48 schools that closed permanently in June also learned later Friday they will not follow their students to new schools — there aren’t enough open jobs in the receiving schools, according to CPS spokeswoman Kelley Quinn. Their positions have been cut, but they’re not technically laid off since they continue to collect full pay and benefits in a teacher reassignment pool for the first five months of the school year, and slightly lower pay in the cadre substitute pool for the next five months, Quinn said.
The district, which has been saying for weeks it would “minimize cuts to the classroom” while staring down a historic budget deficit, blames the layoffs on a $400 million increase in annual teacher pension payments. Those payments jumped this year from about $196 million a year to about $600 million because a three-year period of pension relief came to an end, CPS said.
In a statement Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the cuts “yet another painful reminder to Springfield that we need immediate pension relief.
“With a billion dollar budget deficit, decreased enrollment and ballooning pension costs, CPS has been forced to make extremely difficult choices to put our school district in the best position to be successful next year and beyond,” the mayor’s statement said.
Flanked by teachers and parents Friday afternoon, CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey called the layoffs “outrageous.”
“The school day for students got more than 20 percent longer and yet now we see massive layoffs in the staff that’s supposed to be delivering the educational content that makes that school day better. I don’t see the point of making the school day 20 percent longer and then laying off all the art music, physical education teachers that were supposed to fill the day up with education,” he said. “This is the starving of public schools through insufficient revenue and when the district first said they would be closing 50 public schools in order to save money, I think that was about the right answer…What it means is we’re offering a more and more meagre and a poorer education.”
He seemed doubtful the CTU could restore any of the jobs without major change in Springfield or city leadership, just as the union and its supporters weren’t able to save schools from closing: “The public disagreed with the school closings and yet we couldn’t soften the heart of Pharaoh, those school closings still went through.”
The layoffs come about a month after 850 other employees were laid off — 545 of them teachers — mostly due to the closure of 48 schools.
They include teachers, teacher assistants, clerks, technology coordinators, instructional aides, lunchroom workers and security guards.
Some of the teachers could be replaced by Teach For America recruits, as the district has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program that trains college graduates for five weeks then sends them into schools for two years at a time. The Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns”.
TFA spokeswoman Becky O’Neill said about 200 of the new recruits are destined for charters, the rest to interview for openings in neighborhood schools.
“We’re looking forward to getting more information and better understanding how all of this impacts the schools and principals with whom we partner,” she said.
Sharkey denounced CPS’ TFA placements “at the same time it’s laying off veterans. This is an organization who started out saying their mission was to serve underserved children with a teachers shortage. There’s no longer a teacher shortage.”
The tumultuous news capped a year of upheaval that included a teacher strike, the implementation of longer school days, mass school closings, budget cuts and a new school budgeting system that grants autonomy – but also tough spending decisions and less money – to principals.
Principals from the affected schools began notifying employees Friday morning. Ruth Augspurger, the art teacher at Carson Elementary School, 5516 S. Maplewood Ave., said she got a call from her principal saying her position was cut – but that’s all she remembers from the shock.
“I believe that every child should have the privilege to have the highest level of education,” the veteran teacher of 9 1/2 years who originally moved to Chicago to attend Art Institute of Chicago, said crying, “so knowing there were many challenges to teaching in this district I decided to stay here for almost a decade.”
Parent group Raise Your Hand called the CPS announcement “a frightening day for the children of Chicago.”
“Our mayor has chosen to prioritize property tax spending on unnecessary and frivolous projects such as $55 million for a stadium for DePaul University, while CPS continues to receive drastic funding cuts that severely impact our children’s ability to thrive and learn,” they said in a statement Friday. “The mayor’s decision not to use TIF money to offset some of these cuts is deeply disappointing and is forcing many parents to leave the city.”
Diane Ravitch posted on the mass dismissals, and pondered whether this brass knuckles move was payback revenge for the Chicago Teachers Union's strike last September.

Veteran educator and activist Lois Weiner writes today in the journal "New Politics"' online blog points out that there are two strategies to pursue, revolt from below pressuring American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten to use her clout with the White House. I agree-- both channels should be pursued. Quite rightly, she calls mayor Emanuel's moves as class warfare. As I note in my late edit below, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is conducting similar class warfare. As Weiner suggests, teacher unions should rethink their financial support for Democratic politicians.

Heartbreak and class warfare, Chicago-style, July 20, 2013
I’d be heart-broken by the layoffs announced by the Chicago Public Schools, (CPS) even if my pal Xian Barrett (in the photo, talking teaching with me at the DC Save Our Schools demo last April) weren’t one of the folks given a pink slip.

By pinning the blame for the layoffs on “the lack of pension reform” Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to force the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to choose between layoffs and cuts to pensions. Meanwhile, the CTU with parent and community allies has brought the district to court to reverse the school closings, tenaciously contested last Spring.

Layoffs are devastating - as are school closings. Can the CTU win this? Or as a reader of my most recent NP seems to suggest, is schooling just too enmeshed in the muck of capitalist social relations for even a good union to counter?

No one has a crystal ball - not me, not readers, and not our enemies. No one knows what the outcome of this struggle will be. This is class warfare, and in wars both sides have wins and losses. The CTU’s strike and its success in building solid, mutually respectful alliances with parents, students, community, and other unions go in the “win” column. So far the weight of those successes has not been sufficient to keep Emanuel and the political elite of Chicago whom he represents from countering successfully with the school closings and layoffs.

What to do now? I think the union needs to adopt two strategies simultaneously. First is turning up the heat “from below.” CTU knows how to organize and staff are likely cooking up a campaign as I write. Maybe a series of rolling strikes? That’s what the two biggest teachers unions in the UK are doing now to push back on the government’s attacks on teachers and public education. (Catch that band playing! Love those hats!) The Bad Ass Teachers Association has a campaign to phone Emanuel's office and demand he call off the layoffs. Nice work, BATS!

The other part of the strategy is “from above.” This means putting pressure on AFT President Randi Weingarten, who has considerable access to the White House, to use her clout, now. After letting the White House know her intention, Weingarten could have a coffee date with Rahm and explain why he can’t tell teachers to choose between pensions and layoffs - not, that is, if he wants a single penny from the AFT for Democrats (who don’t deserve a cent to start, but that’s another blog…) No campaign workers, no phone banks. And a campaign in the AFL-CIO to follow suit.

What if Weingarten doesn’t respond to private pressure? Doesn't want to use her political capital to save the jobs of Chicago teachers? Then we should go public with the demand. Petitions, phone calls, to the AFT national office. Union officials are only as smart and powerful as their members help them to be. Union officers get lots of heat from the media and the politically powerful to be reasonable, that is, make concessions. It’s the job of members to push the other direction, hold our officers’ feet to the fire. By making demands on Weingarten to defend Xian and the other 2000 CPS employees told they've been laid off, we’ll be helping Randi Weingarten to do her job. And by organizing at the schools, with parents, students, and community, the CTU is helping Rahm to be a better Mayor. And boy, does he need help. Until we throw him out.
Let us not sit still. This is not an isolated case. This is a international struggle; this is a international cause.

[Postscript: Linking to Weiner's suggestion that the AFT might consider the threat of witholding support for Democrats, there is the parallel case waiting to be pursued: Teachers and their unions should cut any support to New York governor Andrew Cuomo (1) who worsened teachers' working conditions by applying for Race to the Top, and for (2) imposing a draconian teacher evaluation system; and --in solidarity with state employees overall-- (3) for Cuomo's threatening state employees' retirements with his steady attack on pensions.]

Bravo to the rogue NYSUTer who posted a rogue video contribution on NYSUT's Facebook page. Of course, NYSUT issued a disclaimer and pulled the vide, but not before the New York Daily News ran this story, October 24, 2012, at its "Daily Politics" site: State Teachers Union Links Gov. Cuomo To National Attack On Education
The powerful state teachers union Wednesday launched its harshest attack on Gov. Cuomo and his education policies.
The New York State United Teachers posted a seven-minute video on its political Facebook page that links the Democrat Cuomo’s agenda to the roll back of union rights in Wisconsin and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s education platform.

“Wisconsin wasn’t the end,” the video states. “It was the beginning.”
It then leads into a Cuomo speech on education where he talks of the “failing of our public education system.”
The video disputes Cuomo’s contention that New York is 38th in graduation rates despite being number one in the nation in spending.
It also highlights his attacks on superintendents, principals and teachers before offering a list of his top accomplishments the union considers anti-education.
Among them are changes to the pension system for new government hires, the creation of a 2% cap on local property tax increases, an increase in charter schools, and a new teacher evaluation system.
It even mocks his much quoted contention that the students are the only ones in the education system without a lobbyist.
“I guess the students wanted higher class sizes, program cuts and more standardized tests...because that’s exactly what they got,” the video says.
The video also ties Cuomo’s education agenda to others like Mayor Bloomberg and Romney.
NYSUT in the web posting specifically credits Rep. Tim Bishop of Long Island with voting with the union 100% of the time and chastises his GOP opponent Randy Altschuler for a platform that is “from another planet.”
The video urges union members to band together “or we can fall apart.”
It urges members to sign up for phone banks, talk with neighbors about the issues, attend rallies, and vote.
“We are not Republicans and we are not Democrats,” the video concludes. “We are teachers--and education matters.”
The union in recent days donated $25,000 to the New York chapter of the Democratic Legislature Campaign Committee, a group dedicated to electing Dems to state Legislatures across the country. That's on top of the hundred thousands of dollars that are being spent by the union as an independent expenditure on key state Senate races.
A Cuomo spokesman could not be immediately be reached for comment.
WBEZ Chicago public radio tweeted, July 22 that Chicago Public Schools "could not tell us today how much it is saving by laying off 2,113 school staff."

From Mike Klonsky's blog, July 18, 2013:

Gang expert Hagedorn warns federal judge to stop Chicago school closings

John Hagedorn 
A SmallTalk salute goes out to UIC prof John Hagedorn for speaking truth to power during a second day of testimony before a federal judge who's considering a temporary injunction to stop the district from closing dozens of schools, nearly all in the city's mainly black south and west-side communities.

John, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Illinois-Chicago's Great Cities Institute and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, has been researching and writing about Chicago's street gangs from multiple perspectives for decades. He's the author of People & Folks, Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City. This book, published in 1998, re-framed the study of gangs in the United States by focusing on the impact of de-industrialization. He's currently studying why Chicago's homicide rate has not declined like New York City's.

In his 2008 book, A World of Gangs, he writes:
… institutionalized gangs and other armed young men [that] have become permanent fixtures in many ghettos, barrios, and favelas across the globe are an ever present option for marginalized youth. [G]angs are unmistakable signs that all is not well and that millions of people are being left out of the marvels of a globalized economy. 
FOX News reports:
Taking the stand for lawyers opposed to Chicago Public Schools' recent decision to shutter about 50 public elementary schools, John Hagedorn also testified that rival gangs already are posting warnings on Facebook for the incoming children from other neighborhoods to stay off their turf.
"It's already aggravating gang conflicts," he said about the pending closings. And if the closings ahead, added the University of Illinois at Chicago professor, "It is likely a child will be shot and killed."
John told Judge John Lee that it's not a question of whether there will be shooting in neighborhoods kids must walk through. He says shootings are happening now. He adds school closings already are prompting gang Facebook postings warning students to stay away.

"The old times where one gang controlled one neighborhood are gone," he said. "Those changes are what make it especially dangerous to children."

According to the Sun-Times:
Hagedorn displayed gang maps, showing how students would have to cross gang boundaries to get to their new schools and arguing that CPS doesn’t have an effective safety plan in place. For example, he said, children transferred from Pope Elementary to Johnson Elementary in North Lawndale will “literally be walking down a line of fire” on Albany Avenue, where the New Breeds have clashed with rival gangs.
CPS’ “Safe Passage” program, which pays community groups to chaperone children, won’t “protect them from bullets,” he added.
Thanks John.

Cody: Poverty is Bane of Education, Not Bad Teachers; Links EPI Study on Privatizers' Success vs. Facts in Chicago, NYC, & DC

Recently at this blog I've posted on how the U.S. is lagging internationally on early childhood education, how education gaps mirror social class within and outside of the U.S. As I noted in "Class inequality playing ever greater factor in educational disparity" the NY Times has recognized inequality's effect as the class gap in education is growing.

Veteran educator Anthony Cody addresses poverty's wrenching impact on education and links to "Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality: The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C" by the Economic Policy Institute, which, in brief, fights for living wage jobs.
Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers, by Anthony Cody, July 19, 2013
Cody opened with Stanford professor Eric Hanushek and privatizers' dubious refrain that a string of great teachers can erase the effects of socio-economic damage, and Cody effectively counters:
But the real world is proving to be a difficult place for Hanushek’s theories to be verified. No school has ever replicated the results predicted by his “four great teachers in a row” theory. In fact, there is no real research to support the idea that we can improve student achievement this way—it is all based on extrapolations.
And in fact, new data shows that in the three large urban school districts where these reforms have been given full rein, the results are actually worse (pdf) than in comparable districts that have not gone this route.
Some of the key findings from the Economic Policy Institute’s April report:
*Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts. *Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
*School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
Most importantly:
*The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance.

This last point is crucial. This attention to the supposedly pivotal role teachers play in student success comes at a time when the number of children in poverty has been on the rise. According to a study in 2011 (pdf), one school in five was considered high poverty, up from one in eight in the year 2000. Another study ["More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don't Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds"] showed that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding… leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”
While conservative economists such as Hanushek wish to focus our attention on “bad teachers,” in actuality by far the largest factor affecting school performance is family income. In fact, the achievement gap between rich and poor has grown to be twice as large ["'Income Achievement Gap' Almost Double Black-White Performance Gap, Report Shows"] as the black/white performance gap in America.
Read Cody's full "Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers" post at

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Graphics & research: US lags behind OECDs in pre-K school enrollment, investment, and resources for working mothers

Some resources from the Center for American Progress:

Just one of the graphics at the following article
Interactive Map: The United States Is Getting Beat on Preschool, May 2, 2013

Just part of the graphic at the following article
Infographic: We’re Getting Beat on Preschool, May 2, 2013

Article, The United States Is Far Behind Other Countries on Pre-K, May 2, 2013, by Juliana Hermand and Sasha Post

By Sarah Jane Glynn, Jane Farrell, and Nancy Wu
Access to pdf file for report
Excerpt from the beginning:
The numbers below show how far behind the United States is on preschool and make it evident that we need to implement the president’s plan. If the United States is to train a world-class workforce, we have to catch up to the rest of the world on pre-K.
Today: We’re far behind
To put it plainly, the United States is getting beat when it comes to preschool. On almost every element, the United States ranks behind most of the other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD. We rank:
*26th in preschool participation for 4-year-olds
*24th in preschool participation for 3-year-olds
*22nd in the typical age that children begin early childhood-education programs
*15th in teacher-to-child ratio in early childhood-education programs
*21st in total investment in early childhood education relative to country wealth
These rankings do not befit the United States. Given the importance of early childhood education to future student success, the United States must take these rankings seriously. We need to do better.

And a related article:
The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers, Center for American Progress, May 8, 2013, by Sarah Jane Glynn, Jane Farrell, and Nancy Wu
Thumbnail on importance of pre-K access:
Why expanding pre-K access would benefit children and parents *Only 6 out of 10 kindergarten programs in America are open for full-day enrollees. Increased funding for Head Start and child care subsidies together can encourage extended hours to better accommodate parents’ work schedules.
*Enabling more women to work by improving access to child care can help mitigate the gender wage gap and reduce a mother’s likelihood of going on public assistance.
*Lower costs and increased access to child care can lead to a decrease in the number of women leaving employment and an increase in the rate of entering employment, enabling mothers to keep working when they want or need to do so.

Deborah Meier, says why don't we fix poverty in the distraction of "fixing schools"

Why Don't We 'Fix' Poverty While We're at It? By Deborah Meier on June 14, 2013 10:16 AM at Education Week

Early in the article, she argues:
But looking to schools to "fix" the world's problems is flattering—and we sometimes fall for it—but essentially a distraction. We've tried—and come up with some good ideas as my colleague Todd Sutler will describe in next Tuesday's blog post. But every time the Big Boys (forgive the sexism) try to "scale it up" fast they abandon what we've learned and fall back on the ideas for schooling that they wouldn't want for their own children combined with a totally inappropriate approach to governance—the who decides what question. There is another way.

And she points out the lack of marriageable men as a factor in out-of-wedlock births. This relates to the William Julius Wilson's hypothesis that inner cities lacking in good job opportunities for young men leads to a deficit in economically attractive men.)
She also lances the moralistic double standards of pundits who criticize poor women for accepting public assistance, while ignoring parental assistance among the middle class:
Why do the children of my rich friends seem unharmed when they accept the financial support of their parents? What evidence do we have that such largess leads, as you suggest, to "reducing their incentive to work" or "infantilizes" them?
I suspect we fundamentally disagree about the effect of having more tax money; more money could effect everything I've described about poor vs. rich people's children's odds. No amount of character training, or even the best of schooling, can change the odds for most. Growing up in communities of deep poverty has an impact. There's no inoculation for the damage it does—even in terms of death and dying. In addition, many reformers underestimate the price young people pay intellectually and socially because of their daily encounters with racism. The price of having to be ever vigilant—alert at all times in case one's dignity (one's honor) is under attack is substantial. Even what might seem an advantage—their greater self-reliance and independence—is turned into a disadvantage in kindergarten. We ask too many vulnerable kids to leave their real selves and their real life experience (and language) at the doorstep before entering the schoolhouse. A recipe for failure.
Why are we closing Head Start centers this year rather than opening more? Money. Why don't we respond, as you suggest, with more prenatal care, home visits, the eradication of lead poisoning, and the reform of the justice and prison systems? Money. And the will to spend money on the poor.

Click here to the rest of the article at Education Week.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Minneapolis union consider test opt out campaign; CT Gov. rethinks tests; while NYS intensifies test push, & UFT OKs High-Stakes Tests

Minneapolis Teachers Ponder Opt-out campaign, St. Paul teachers ask to pull out of tests entirely - Conn. Gov. advocates loosening link between test scores and teacher evaluations - UFT? It endorses test-based evaluations as fair

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota) reported June 30, 2013 that the Minneapolis teachers' union has considered starting a public campaign advocating that parents opt their children out of high-stakes tests.
In contract negotiations, the teachers unions in St. Paul and Minneapolis have called on their districts to scale back standardized tests. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and a statewide parent advocacy group have separately weighed campaigns to enlist parents to opt out of them. A small number of parent such as Lamm are already letting their children sit out the exams.
The Pioneer Press began its front page and page 9 coverage, spotlighting Minneapolis parent, Sarah Lamm. We see early on the effect of union and parent groups' work:

Sarah Lamm had a "revelation" this spring, courtesy of teachers and other parents at Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis She could opt her children out of the state's standardized tests.
Lamm followed a high-profile test boycott in Seattle, read up on research and asked her kids for their take on testing. She then let her school know her children would skip the test next year.
. . .
As contract negotiations ramp up in St. Paul, the teachers union has called on the district to pull out of the MCAs [Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments]-- an unprecedented proposal the district said will get it in hot water with the state. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers also is asking the district to give educators more leeway in designing their own assessments.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, the federation's president, says the pressure to perform on the MCAs has spawned more testing and narrower, more scripted curricula.
The pushback got attention earlier in the spring:
Will Minnesota Say Goodbye to Standardized Tests? The requirements for getting a diploma may change in Minnesota.
“You need some testing and accountability,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said. “But send third graders home thinking they’ve failed life because they failed some test—it’s just the wrong way to get kids to want to learn.”
Dayton told local reporters this week that he has been in talks with the state’s education commissioner “to figure out how we can reduce this excess of testing.”

* * *
In Connecticut, state officials faced growing opposition from school teachers, parents and others who view linking students' standardized test scores to teacher evaluations as unfair. In the last 48 hours Governor Dan Malloy, mindful of the need to retain popular support for the 2014 election announced that he would reduce the number of standardized tests and he would allow the state's schools the option to not use student test scores to evaluate teachers. For detailed coverage, read Johanna Summers in "The Day," "Malloy would spare students a standardized test double-whammy."
* * *
This all stands in contrast to business as usual in New York City. Note that Minneapolis area teachers' consideration of a union-wide campaign to promote opt-out among parents stands in stark contrast to UFT president Michael Mulgrew's failure to side with the test resistance movement or the anti-Common Core movement. (Note that amidst Common Core-based tests and June's release of test scores all that Mulgrew could say was that teachers needed a better Common Core curriculum. Never mind that the tests prompted numbers of students to leave classrooms with fits of nausea.)

And in Buffalo, the Teachers Federation has talked lawsuit to protect APPR side agreements with their school district not to link evaluations to teacher termination. (See Buffalo Teachers Fed.'s Evaluations Suit - MOU Too Embarrassing for Mulgrew to Let NYC Teachers See) And yet, here in New York City, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president Michael Mulgrew agreed to a plan with a quota to terminate seven percent of teachers yearly, even before John King imposed the plan on the city. Contrast that with "Buff. Teachers Fed. Motion Slams APPR Toxic Stew of SLOs, LMAs, Overwork." Other countries? Linking students tests scores to teacher evaluation, advancement or punishment is RARE. See my post from late June, "International Studies of Teacher Evaluation: Student Tests Seldom Cited, Portfolios Carry More Weight." And statistics show, time and again, between districts of different levels of poverty in the United States, and between the United States and other countries, that student test scores rise and fall with levels of income.

School System Wrecker Vallas Ousted By Conn. Judge's Order

Ding dong, the witch is ... Bridgeport schools superintendent Paul Vallas has been ousted from his position. He had refused for several months to attend any class necessary toward developing the authentic credentials to lead a school system. Thus, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that he must leave his post. Per several news reports, here and here, for example, he has refused to leave his post.

He has had a storied career of school leadership controversy. From 1995 to 2001 he was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chicago Public Schools, creating more controversy toward the end of his term there, before Arne Duncan really started attacking the Chicago Schools.

In the early and mid-2000s he sometimes ran for elected office and other times toyed with the idea. His highest goal was Illinois governor, but he lost to the inestimable Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic primary. --Yes, Democratic; note that! The liberal party has spearheaded privatization destruction of urban school systems, all in the name of "reform," informed by "free market" thinking principles.

For a short stint beginning in 2002, he led Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's schools. There he led ambitious efforts to outsource school management to all kinds of institutions outside the municipal school system, non-profits colleges, for-profit institutions.

Not long after, he moved on to Louisiana to destroy its school system, exploiting the natural disaster and collapse of governmental leadership in New Orleans, Louisiana, as he led the creepily named "Recovery School District of Louisiana." He supposedly created "gains" for the system, but observers called it a financial scam. He served there from 2007 until 2011, although not without flirting with political ambitions elsewhere.

And after another natural disaster, an earthquake, he did brief work for the Haitian president to "reform" Haiti's educational system.

On June 28, the judge finally removed Vallas from his post at the head of Bridgeport schools.
Yet, worse than merely being without education credentials, his record at each of the city school systems was initiating a legacy of school mismanagement. The outcome has been administrative disorder, and teachers a precarious work experience, and for students a precarious learning experience. More specifically, his record at all these urban school systems has been the mass firing of teachers, particularly teachers of color. Merely removing him from his post is not enough. Maybe there is some way to bring him up on charges for his serial abuse of school systems.

Regarding the rule of law and the final determination that he should go, one commenter at Diane Ravitch's report ("Vallas Will Fight Judge’s Order to Go") on his case wrote of the sweet justice at work,
The judge is certified. She ruled. This is now on Malloy and Pryor.
They wrote the law, signed it and now they want special deals.
Bottom line:
They wrote a law just for Vallas
It was part of Malloy’s bill
It passed and Malloy signed it
It took effect July 1, 2012
He needed simply to take a 13 month school leadership program
He didn’t even try until February of 2013
He took an independent study
He didn’t even register as a student
He broke the law
Pryor broke the law
He lost
The judge rulled he cannot continue
We are the constitution state
No one is above the law
Including all friends of Stefan, Dannel and Arne
The “elite” are not free to break the law
And we are drawing the line
No more

Sunday, July 7, 2013

More Stats Illustrate: U.S. Student Test Score Gap is Reflection of Class and Poverty

Privatizers are at war with teachers, attacking them for all that is wrong with education. They, and their media enablers do not consider other factors that enter the picture and influence student performance. First of all, people should consider that there are certain privileges that come with affluence or being of a relatively upper social class. Conversely, there are great stresses that come with living in poverty. Parent opponents of high-stakes test are recognizing the poverty factor.
It is in this context that we can introduce the following tables. The first shows a clear pattern: lower incidence of poverty, higher test scores. In lower poverty districts in the United States we see performance in the famous Programme for Insternational Student Assessment (PISA) that is comparable to nations that perform at the top of PISA student test score comparisons. Notably, with increasing rates of poverty, the U.S. districts' PISA scores fall.
Country Percent of reduced school lunches (U.S.); Percent of relative child poverty (Other O.E.C.D. countries) PISA score, 2009 reading literacy tests
United States 10% 551
Finland 3.4% 536
Netherlands 9.0% 508
Belgium 6.7% 506
United States 10% - 24.9% 527
Canada 13.6% 524
New Zealand 16.3% 524
Japan 14.3% 520
Australia 11.6% 515
United States 25% - 49.9% 502
Estonia 40.1%> 501
United States 50% - 74.9% 471
Russian Federation 58.3% 459
United States > 75% 446
(Source: Wikipedia article, "Programme for International Student Assessment" )

Such a pattern may again be discerned in a comparison of lower income inequality rates of higher performing countries in PISA tests, as compared to PISA math test score results in the United States and other high income disparity nations. The index for income inequality is the Gini index, pegged to the Gini coefficient, with income disparity data from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with mainly figures for the latter half from the 2000s decade. A lower figure in the Gini index indicates less income disparity. Of the top 25 countries by Gross Domestic Product, according to the United Nations, for 2011, only two countries had greater income disparity than the United States.
Country PISA score, 2009 math test Gini index, per CIA
Finland 541 26.8
Switzerland 534 29.6
Japan 529 37.6
Canada 527 32.1
Netherlands 526 30.9
New Zealand 519 36.2
United States 487 45.0
Russia 468 41.7
Turkey 445 40.2
Bulgaria 428 45.3
Uruguay 427 45.3
Argentina 388 45.8
(Sources: Wikipedia articles, "Programme for International Student Assessment" , "List of countries by income equality")

When teachers are threatened with termination and losing their state license to teach (as in New York City's new evaluation system whereby ineffective in the test-based 20 percent can deem a teacher ineffective overall --see these references, 1, 2, 3), and when the other countries in the above tables do not use student test scores in teacher evaluation algorithms or career advancement, as I reported last month in "International Studies of Teacher Evaluation: Student Tests Seldom Cited, Portfolios Carry More Weight", we should challenge the tying of student test scores to teacher rewards and punishments. Teachers should expect their unions to challenge the centrality of the scores as the Buffalo Teachers Federation has done, instead of endorsing such plans as the United Federation of Teachers leaders have done.

Mulgrew backs Common Core / And on Common Core Architect's Tenure-Killing Mother

On the occasion of the mayor's race, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Michael Mulgrew praises Common Core in an opinion piece in the Daily News.

This is so typical and disingenuous of Mulgrew: race to support a reform, and then gripe about the problems that many people could have easily seen before-hand. Merely wishing for the next mayor to improve Common Core implementation is insufficient.
Let teachers go back to teaching, rather than spending much of their time with multiple, repetitive and unnecessary reports. Great point, Michael, so why don't you build a mass campaign against the paperwork? Beyond the Common Core, there are many dimensions by which Race to the Top will prove onerous to teachers and district budgets. See my revised "How Mulgrew's Responsible for Disastrous NYC Teachers' Evaluation" on the deep flaws in Race to the Top and how Mulgrew signed onto New York State's RTTT application without pointing to its many deep flaws.

An interesting tidbit: Did Common Core David Coleman pick up his contempt for rank and file educators from his mother, Elizabeth Coleman? In the mid-1990s, as Bennington College president, she made national headlines, eliminating tenure, and immediately dismissing one-third of the professors. See these contemporary articles by Mark Edmundson in the New York Times, "Bennington means business" and Alice Dembner in the Boston Globe, "National professors' group calls Bennington overhaul a 'purge'".
The willy-nilly implementation of Common Core and its central place in New York City tests will result in another purge of teachers.

* * *

Common Core is a wake-up call: A tough job ahead of the next mayor
By Michael Mulgrew, Sunday, April 28, 2013, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A recent public relations campaign warned of tougher new state exams in New York.
Tens of thousands of New York City children opened their test booklets earlier this month to discover something very disturbing — they were being tested on things they were never taught. While children were disappointed and bewildered, their parents’ outrage at the difficulty and length of the tests has fueled a growing movement against the Common Core learning standards, on which these new tests were based.
Most teachers are supportive of Common Core, a national movement designed to foster the critical thinking and depth of knowledge many American students now lack. Yet New York State’s rush to implement the new standards, along with the Bloomberg administration’s obsession with high-stakes testing and its failure to provide a curriculum to help children meet this new challenge, have helped foster the growing opposition.
If the next mayor wants to forestall a rising tide of protests against Common Core and the more rigorous requirements that come with it, he or she needs to do three things:
-- Ensure that teachers have a coherent, detailed curriculum, along with rich learning materials, that they can use to create lessons that will prepare New York’s students to meet the new standards.
We have known for two years that these more difficult tests would start this spring. But Mayor Bloomberg and other officials put our students’ success at risk by failing to provide the curriculum, textbooks and other materials required — simply choosing to dither in the face of the approaching changes. A state curriculum website was late in coming and incomplete. The result is that teachers and principals were left to cobble together their own approaches to Common Core without sufficient guidance.
-- Admit that test prep is not real teaching and that high-stakes tests are no substitute for real learning.
The Bloomberg administration’s obsession with test scores has created an environment where nothing else counts. The school system deemphasized its department dedicated to curriculum and instruction — while hiring “accountability” experts to keep track of the flood of data that supposedly measured progress.
As a result of this demand for success on standardized tests above all else, schools were forced to spend huge amounts of time teaching test-taking strategies. Yet despite more than a decade of this approach, only about a quarter of our high school graduates are ready for either college or the workforce — and in some neighborhoods, the percentage is much lower.
-- Let teachers go back to teaching, rather than spending much of their time with multiple, repetitive and unnecessary reports.
The Common Core standards demand more from students and teachers alike. But teachers in New York now have to spend hundreds of hours every year on new and complex forms for each one of their students — lengthy and repetitive pre- and post-lesson assessments, benchmark and baseline assessments, task bundles, diagnostics, progress monitoring and every other piece of paper a principal can devise to make it look like supervisors are on top of the learning situation in each school.
This paperwork takes away from time teachers need to really do their jobs, such as working together across grades and subjects, planning lessons, giving individual comments on student assignments and meeting with parents. Much of this information goes into a bureaucratic limbo, unavailable to teachers and their colleagues when they sit down together to try to figure out how to help struggling students succeed.
We can be thankful that the coming end of the Bloomberg administration gives us the opportunity to remedy many of the mistaken policies this mayor has pursued. If we are serious about putting our schools back on the right track as Common Core takes effect, the next administration will have to disavow many of the Bloomberg obsessions and focus its attention on the classroom, the teachers — and the strategies that can help our children succeed.

Mulgrew is the president of the United Federation of Teachers.
Read more:
Mulgrew's support, even if qualified by valid critiques, is pitiful, for he is overlooking arguments made by some more thoughtful educators have pointed to how the Common Core leads to a more narrowed, scripted curriculum that fosters less creativity in students, another critique in the same blogpost on how the Common Core sidelines fictional literature and a third reference notes how the Common Core's flaws reflect the fact that its kindergarten through third grade standards writers included no classroom teacher or early childhood specialist. Click to my post, "Common Core Standards: The Emperor Has No Clothes, or Evidence" for all the links.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hypocritically, Top NYC DOE Admins Evade Evaluation, U.S. Anomaly

(Reactions follow article highlights) June 25, 2013, Wall Street Journal, Lisa Fleisher
New York City School Chiefs Get Informal Job Checks

Top School Administrators Haven't Been Subject to Formal Evaluations
Top administrators at the city's Department of Education haven't been subject to formal evaluations during the Bloomberg administration, a break from past practice and an unusual occurrence among school districts across the U.S. [Ed.: bolding, my detail]

The disclosure follows the culmination of a yearslong battle by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to implement tougher teacher and principal evaluations in the district.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has been on the job since April 2011, said formal job reviews weren't necessary because he informally evaluated his staff daily, and he was evaluated daily by the mayor. Teachers, he said, were in a different position.

"They're in front of the classroom and teaching our children, and we need to have a sense of how well they're doing," he said. "With us, we're not teaching children directly, we're setting policy. And I don't think it's hypocritical at all."

The Wall Street Journal filed a public records request in February 2012 seeking the senior-staff evaluations after the department successfully fought to release scores for individual teachers' performances based on students' test scores.

In a response dated June 11, the department's public-records officer said no evaluations had been created since at least 2001 for the following positions: chancellor, chief of staff, chief academic officer, senior deputy chancellor, chief schools officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, deputy chancellor and general counsel. Mr. Bloomberg has appointed three permanent chancellors.

Bloomberg spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua said the mayor held his team accountable, unlike the system under the defunct Board of Education, whose members were elected, "when no one was held accountable for results."

"This is the entire point of mayoral control," she said in a statement. "Public accountability is one of the key drivers of the transformation of our schools, with graduation rates up 40%, dropout rates cut in half and more students meeting the toughest standards in city history."
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Read rest of Fleisher's article at Wall Street Journal.
Blogger Jersey Jazzman makes the case well that Walcott's statements mean that he ought to take a salary cut:
If Dennis Wolcott's job is so trivial that he doesn't need formal evaluations, and if NYC's teachers are so important they must be formally evaluated, shouldn't all of their salaries reflect this reality?
Walcott, last I checked, makes over 200 grand a year. But the average NYC teacher pay is $73,751. I think Walcott makes an excellent case that this is exactly backwards: I mean, if his job doesn't require a formal evaluation, how can he possibly justify making more than a teacher, who must have a formal evaluation? -
See more at Jersey Jazzman.
This double standard between school system administrators and teachers is another negative feature of mayoral control: class bias. Under mayoral control, NYC style, administrators can drive a school into the ground with ill management, while teachers are strongly disciplined over the smallest infraction or deviation from blind obeisance to the mayor's 10 year ego trip of school management.
This Orwellian double-speak we cannot let slide: "Public accountability is one of the key drivers of the transformation of our schools, with graduation rates up 40%, dropout rates cut in half and more students meeting the toughest standards in city history."

Graduation rates are only up because the DOE is terrorizing any teacher that does not issue passing grades to everyone, the harassment being hostile observations and repeat letters in the file. Dropout rates are indeed up: Passalacqua is hoping that the WSJ does not follow up with an inquiry into what really happens with the numbers of students entering a high school at ninth grade and leaving school at the twelfth grade. In pre-Bloomberg years failing students would repeat a course and get it right before they graduated from high school. Now they just coast through with frivolous "credit recovery" to make up for not attending class or doing the coursework for ten months. (At least in Florida the authorities are considering eliminating the fradulent practice of credit recovery. --Oh, but wait, that's in Pasco County, where the superintendents must speak to school boards. Up in our northern big cities we apparently think less of government structures that feel more grassrootsey, concentrating all power in unaccountable mayors.)

And as always, the readers gave amusing quotes at Diane Ravitch's blog.