Thursday, October 31, 2013

UPDATE: Co-locations and the Two School Systems on the Eve of the Funeral at the PEP

*"My ... revolutionary warriors," James lauds fervently anti-PEP crowd in her speech closing
[Video from the excellent work at Ed Notes]
*What is at stake with the school co-locations *Why protest is important

Incoming public advocate Letitia James lauded teacher, student and community protesters as "my children, my advocates, my revolutionary warriors," telling a powerful anti-PEP crowd last night that there are just a few days until a new administration is voted in.

Councilwoman James' crescendo:
"But the good news, my scholars, my children, my advocates, my revolutionary warriors in just a few days, a new administration is coming to city hall . . . . In just a few days we will turn back the clock, and this [pointing to the Panel for Educational Policy] will be no more."
The crowd, especially the attending students of co-location impacted schools, went ecstatic. It picked up on her closing chant, "We want our schools back!"

We hope so. We hope that our long municipal nightmare will be no more.

 Once again the fete accompli rubber stamp of out-going mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Panel for Educational Policy, a fraud of a representative institution, is meeting tonight to officially carry out his decision to co-locate schools in over 20 pre-existing school buildings in five boroughs.

In a number of instances large comprehensive high schools will see the beginning of their slow death, with new schools squeezing them for resources.

Compare the new small schools' resources and offerings to those at the large schools under attack tonight, Clara Barton, Brooklyn, John Dewey, Brooklyn, August Martin, Queens, Long Island City, Queens, Martin Van Buren. (Links provided to schools that have not had their breadth of courses already gutted.) It is quickly apparent that the large schools have special resources that individual small schools cannot and do not match. Economies of scale afford the special offerings and special services.

Conversely, the small schools do not offer these. In opposite fashion from most high schools, conventionally in most student programs in new schools students move in joint cohorts, class to class, as in junior high schools.
Large comprehensive high schools offer:

*multiple foreign language choices

*Advanced Placement courses (though this writer has reservations with the whittling of "elite" students from "regular" students)

*better ratios of guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists to students

*wider ranges of art and music classes

*multitude of clubs that draw students to school, students that might be at risk for dropping out; hence, students see the schools as homes away from home

Other features are dropped from small schools or shared between schools, often in a gutted fashion or with access that create competition between schools include libraries and gymnasia.

If anticipated new mayor Bill de Blasio wishes to do the right thing and to distinguish himself from Bloomberg's failed record, he will sign a declaration to reverse all co-location decisions once he enters office.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE, UFT caucus) and Change the Stakes are holding funerals for all the shuttered schools under Bloomberg's watch (and we might add under the media's acquiescence)

Here is the link for MORE's leaflet on the event. MORE's Facebook event page for the PEP.

[Contents of press release that has been circulated:]

Parents, Teachers, Clergy and Students to Rally for End To School Closures and Co-Locations

Will hold Funeral of Schools before NYCDOE Panel for Education Policy meeting to remember 168 schools closed under Bloomberg and look forward to a new era of equitable public education policy

New York, NY - On Wed., Oct. 30th at 5:15 community supporters of public education will gather outside of the Prospect Heights Campus at 883 Classon Ave in Brooklyn to hold a funeral for all the schools shuttered under the Bloomberg administration. Fathers Michael Sniffen and Chris Ballard of the Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew will officiate the festive Dia de Los Muertos-style ceremony.

Participants include the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) Caucus of the UFT, Change the Stakes, Class Size Matters, the Paul Robeson Freedom School, and allied groups.

[Postscript: Pre-PEP schools funeral memorialized here.]

Monday, October 21, 2013

Coleman, Gates, Gladwell, Rhee, Failures, But Bully Teachers Around

There is an interesting common thread: Titans of education policy or generalists of pop-philosophy gab, and yet when you poke back in their personal history, they were failures. An interesting dynamic is at play. The common thread: either wealthy parents (definitely upper class in the Gates case, and merely upper-middle class in the Rhee case) or university parents (the Coleman and Gladwell cases, a university president parent in Coleman's case, and a university professor in Gladwell's case.)

Bill Gates, Harvard College drop-out, devises operating system allowing personal computers to run software with easy start-up use by consumers, rips off essential features of Corel's WordPerfect word processor and Lotus' 1-2-3 spreadsheet, kills them off by monopolistic bundling, evades ant-trust prosecution (by the way, Joel Klein's Bill Clinton era prosecution of MS was too little --the emphasis on a web browser-- too late); and voila, as head of Microsoft, becomes one of the world's greatest millionaires. (For the short version read "Rise of Monopolies: Making of Microsoft"; for a more detailed account read Office Wars 3 - How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly and Office Wars 4 - Microsoft's Assault on Lotus and IBM.) Oh, by the way, he shoved his co-founding collaborator Paul Allen out of the way, as evident in this 60 Minutes interview; yes, Allen's living comfortably, but Gates shafted Allen out of billions in the process. So what does this college drop-out do during the 2000s and the 2010s? He bullies education policy, earlier with his initiative to break apart comprehensive high schools shedding them of nuisances such as arts, foreign language, or costly things such as guidance counselors or librarians; and lately by directing the Common Core States Standards Initiative, better named, Common Core Gates Standards Initiative, using his puppets from David Coleman, on over to Arne Duncan, down to your local superintendent and principal. Have you ever considered how all of the metrics to analyze student and teacher performance will run on Microsoft-run main-frame computers? Macs as mainframes? Don't make me laugh.

Next, we have Michelle Rhee. Failed with hallway management of young elementary students. So badly that she resorted to taping their mouths. Their lips bled; more recently, she has recounted the incident on stage with the applomb of a standup comic. And she touted her test score improvement, which after some sleuthing of a teacher, turned out to not be so illustrious.  This followed with her chancellorship of the Washington D.C. schools. Again she touted her metrics. Well, in too many instances far too many test scores got erased, which she knew more of than she let on to the media. Her career fall-out? --a rubber room? --a life of marginal survival after infamy? --Campbell Brown scolding on TV? No. Endless media fawning, overlooking her speeding sacking by the new D.C. mayor, a best-selling book and still endless media time as the head of her own teacher bashing empire StudentsFirst.

Then there's David Coleman. Smart and athletic enough to get a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University. Yet, failed to get a teaching job. That's right. With all the schools in the U.S. available to pursue for a job, no teaching experience. Nobody would take a Yalie or an Oxford grad? Or maybe he wanted to teach only in Stuyvesant or a District 2 school (the Manhattan district that covers most of the borough's wealthiest sections). What does he do? Work his connections to leverage his way to write the national English standards, with typical elitism he shuts out open inquiry and discussion of the Common Core process. "Participants" are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, agreeing not to disclose any writing or discussion on the CCSS creation process. His pay-off? He sells his assessment baby the Grow Network for a cool $14 million (at least), gets picked by the College Board to be president, allowing him to continue to his plan to direct English education --all the while having no teaching experience or supervision training-- as he becomes positioned to rewrite the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to fit his kooky Common Core concept, and get travels the media circuit telling the world what kids need to succeed. This from a man who could not get hired, who publicly has used profanity to ridicule students' personal expression.

Most recently we have Malcolm Gladwell. Smart, smart, smart. But unable to get into graduate school. So what does he do? First, fail then to break into the advertising field, a field suited to glib, but convincing writing. At last resort he works for a succession of two well-bankrolled right-wing news magazines (if they can be called such), American Spectator, and then Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church cult's Insight on the News. Today, he's attempting to shake up the education discussion by implicitly pedaling Michael Bloomberg's slash the teaching force dream, attempting to sell Brian Lehrer (WNYC radio) his idea that many teachers tell him that small classes in the mid-teens of headcounts hurt students, and that all that kids need is a great teacher (which is determined by tests I presume?), claims that are not supported by research.

(And of course, we could continue this further with the out-going mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who the New York Times reported was a middling student in middle school. For Horatio Alger fans, they can rest happy that his failure at Salomon Brothers led to the rosiest future afterward.)

What hypocrisy, people that failed at school or failed to keep or retain a teaching position, people with little personal experience with life outside of the privileged upper or upper-middle class bubble, declaring what can and should work with the working class. What a shameful irony in the latter two cases, Coleman and Gladwell, children of academics, yet actively disparaging the school teaching workforce. Shameful also is how the corporate media just parrot their aggressively ideological statements as though they were commandments from above, with no parallel time from actual experts in the field, let alone statements by people that will be affected by such policies.  The sad thread is that if you wish to bash those working in the teaching field you will get ample support, whether in a foundation position or in lucrative publishing contracts. Experience or talent not needed.

UPDATE: Quite appropriately, Huffington Post has run the piece, "These 11 Leaders Are Running Education But Have Never Taught."

The list is a quite instructive reminder of the people that are ill-equipped to dictate "best practices" to actual classroom teachers. Note also, how many of these people are "progressive" Democrats or "moderate" Republicans:

Arne Duncan
Bill Gates
David Coleman
Michael Bloomberg
Tom Harkin
Janet Napolitano
Kevin Johnson
Wendy Kopp
Rupert Murdoch
Cory Booker
Mark Zuckerberg

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why is NYSED's John King an Urbanphobe?

New York State Education Department commissioner John King has apparently and scheduled twelve more public meetings on the Common Core State [sic, more like Gates] Standards.

But already there is bad news that he is omitted big city locales-- New York City, Buffalo, Yonkers.

Why is he avoiding big cities? Did the Poughkeepsie experience give him too much of a scare? Why his reservation? The pollution? The traffic?

Or is it that the Buffalo parents are fighting mayoral control (See "Why a mayoral takeover of Buffalo schools is so unpopular"), the Buffalo teachers fighting a terminations tie-in coming from the evaluations (see older post, "Buffalo Teachers (BTF) President Rumore: CCSS, Evaluations Driving Down Teacher Morale"), while on the other hand commissioner King is trying for a state takeover of the district?

Another post this summer:
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.

Or is he avoiding New York City because he's afraid that liberal parents along with Movement of Rank and File Educators (UFT) members might chafe at his characterization of Common Core skeptics as Tea Partiers?

When these new town hall fora happen watch King and his handlers cherry pick the questions and otherwise control the audience by forcing them to submit their comments ahead of time.

Tests and transparency issues

*Education Commercialization Complex parallel to permanent war economy
*UFT failure to broadly attack, on principle, the test-regime
We see that this permanent war against teachers economy, just as the military has had "black budget items," items that were kept secret, "for the good of the people," we have Common Core questions that are kept secret-- NY's State Education Department is only selectively disclosing some questions. Since the government cannot use the national security excuse, what excuse could they use? -Corporate private security or copyright. Baloney.

The real reason is that publicization of the tricky questions, hello, will expose what illogical, inappropriate questions the Common Cores brings into English and math, as At the Chalk Face reports in "New York ELA day 2 disaster #FAIL #Pearson #NYSED." The blog site reports several substantive issues with the Common Core questions. This is the negative consequence of privatization of test publishing functions by the international corporate giant, Pearson PLC, away from what historically had been a public function under the aegis of the New York State Education Department.

However, from the organization that we would expect to hear much criticism, the United Federation of Teachers, whose members were in touch with the tests, we have heard limited anecdotes of trouble, mixed with praise for the Common Core, as indicated in this April op-ed column in the Daily News by the UFT president, Michael Mulgrew. The leader mentioned the lack of a curriculum, the fact that test prep is not teaching and that teachers are over-burdened with paperwork. The union should issue a broad, comprehensive critique of the way that tests are hijacking the purpose of education, are vulgarizing the learning experience and are degrading teachers. Contrast this limited critique with the multiple details from the Chalk Face blog a week earlier.

This is reflection, once again, of the detachment of the union leadership from rank and file (regular non-officials) teachers on the ground. Contrast the union's alternating complicity or silence with this regime with the on-going critique launched by the union's MORE caucus, on their website and in person, for example at the union's delegate assembly. (The union's pretenses at critiquing the evaluation system are ephemeral window dressings.) Otherwise, we would have heard fire and this depth of detail from Mulgrew, and probably less enthusiasm for the Common Core.

Diane Ravitch mentions in "What is the Goal of Common Core testing?" that Rick Hess predicts that Common Core anxiety, prompting some parents "to demand “reforms” and an escape from their neighborhood schools." As she says, reformers will gloat over failing scores (no doubt to continue the failing schools line).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Searching for Avonte Oquendo: How racial suspicion hurts missing black kids

[My most pointed analysis here, from January 3:
Missing, Drowned, Burned Students, Bloomberg's Leadership Policies / How Avonte's Case was a Disaster Waiting to Happen]

Stacia L. Brown, at Salon, Oct. 17, 2013:
Searching for Avonte Oquendo: How racial suspicion hurts missing black kids

Racial bias could keep passersby from helping a disabled black teen -- and the media from reporting on his case

Searching for Avonte Oquendo: How racial suspicion hurts missing black kidsA poster for Avonte Oquendo is seen in downtown New York October 15, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
In the last 12 days, how many times have you asked yourself and others the following question: where is Avonte Oquendo? If you’re a New Yorker, you’ve likely wondered more than once, as posters seeking help in locating the 14-year-old autistic boy — missing since October 4 — have been placed throughout the city. If you’re a black New Yorker, you’ve probably inquired — far more than once — not only about Oquendo’s whereabouts but why more of the national public isn’t aware of who he is. But here’s a query we may all be overlooking: if you saw a black teen boy wandering a city, how closely would you pay attention to him? And if you truly noticed him at all, would it only be because he raised your suspicion?
Wandering is a common, high-risk occurrence for children with autism. According to Autism Speaks, which is currently offering a $70,000 reward for Avonte’s safe return, nearly half of diagnosed children over age 4 are prone to breaking away from family, school, or friends and disappearing. Fifty three percent of these wandering children were missing long enough to cause their loved ones to worry. What happens after that is often left up to the perceptions of passersby and announcements like the ones the NYPD and others have posted around the city to find Avonte Oquendo. If a commuter were to encounter a wandering adolescent, would she pay enough attention to connect him to the face plastered on lampposts and subway platforms? Would she notice that the boy is disabled, worried or lost? It’s difficult to know in any case, but when the wandering teen is black, racial bias makes these questions doubly fraught.
We can’t ignore the ways in which racial suspicion colors our assessment of people and their circumstances. On the heels of the Jonathan Ferrell case, where negative perception of an injured, disoriented, unarmed black male doomed him to death, we are reminded that first impressions are life and death matters when black young men are involved. Whereas Ferrell was never given the opportunity to identify himself and explain his needs, Oquendo would not be able to. His autism renders him unable to verbally communicate.
Not only are black disabled missing children at the mercy of placards and passersby, but their cases are often underreported in mainstream media. Racial disparity in missing persons news reporting is no secret. A 2010 study indicates that, though missing black children account for 33 percent of all cases, only 19.5 percent of missing-child reports on the news involve black children. These omissions have prompted the creation of organizations like Black & Missing Foundation and the TV One cable series, Find Our Missing.
With the advent of social media, families have been able to compensate for this dearth of coverage, generating more national awareness online and organizing search parties independently. In Oquendo’s case, a Bring Avonte Home Facebook page has been created, though the number of subscribers remains under 7,000. Twitter has also been helpful, both in raising the profile of the case and in pointing out potential racial stereotyping. A  few Twitter users noticed a flyer with Oquendo’s picture and vitals displays the word “Wanted” above the word “missing” and in a larger font, and pointed out the potential bias in that framing. Oquendo’s autism and inability to communicate verbally are buried in the lower half of the flyer.
When a missing child has a cognitive impairment, it’s especially important that he or she is approached gently and with patience. and Autism Speaks have great instructive steps for anyone who may encounter Avonte or a missing child like him. These include: calling law enforcement; comforting but avoiding touching the child; maintaining a relaxed and calm demeanor; using simple phrases; and waiting with the child until help arrives. What isn’t mentioned on these lists is that race should never stop someone from helping a missing child. Unfortunately, it may be the very thing that keeps black children, especially the 1 in 98 who are autistic like Avonte, from being swiftly found.

Stacia L. Brown is a mother, writer, and adjunct college instructor. She blogs at

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Michelle Rhee Wins U.S. Senate Seat in New Jersey

*Boon to hedge-fund investors *Back-pedaling from Common Core?
Well, not exactly Rhee herself on the way to Washington.
But in Cory Booker senator-elect from New Jersey (55 to 44 percent) we have a personality whose education policy has as a cornerstone the shuttering of public schools and the opening of privately run charter schools in their place; he is poised to exactly continue his echoing Michelle Rhee's line of what American schools need.

All of Booker's Wall Street hedge fund friends, recounted in this piece, must be high-fiving each other today.

For all the links on the issue of Booker's policies as mayor of Newark, New Jersey and his financial institution backers, read this post from July:
Cory Booker, Senate stand-in for Rhee / Update: Newark '12 contract came with strings attached to accountability to Facebook gift
an excerpt:

Booker has given a weak effort into supporting state senator Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic challenger to the governor's office. Indeed, as [Jason] 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.
 . . . .
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.
 . . . .

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.
 And on the infamous associations go for Booker.

At least he has been back-pedaling --in the last month-- at least, from the Common Core.

Booker's lack-luster victory is remarkable. Truly his Republican opponent Steve Lonegan should have been an easier candidate to beat. Consider how seriously nutty the latter guy is. He takes his Common Core opposition to the length of invoking Hitler and Stalin for parallels.

Against him, Booker's margin of victory should have been greater. But that weak showing suggests that progressive voters sat home. This reflects the pattern across the nation: a Democrat moves right. Left leaning voters sit home, right-leaning voters recognition the real (right-leaning) thing in the Republican, hence Tea Party Lonegan's comparatively strong 44% showing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Teachers, Feel Oppressed By Danielson, APPR? HBS Researcher Links Modern Micro-Management Policies to U.S. Slavery Practices

Forbes magazine --of all places!-- has published a story that reports on a Harvard Business School researcher that has produced a story on modern business management practices and slavery. While the story does not raise issues of applicability to teachers, we can clearly read penchant for micro-management as having clear applicability to the experience of school teachers in the United States today. The micro-management problem is particularly acute in public schools as teachers are held accountable to test scores, when attention to test scores ignores the influence of external social factors or school administration mismanagement.

This study inherently raises parallels with modern tools against teachers, such as Charlotte Danielson's Danielson Framework (which assumes compliant, attentive, intellectually precocious students shall be the norm, evidently, showing little awareness of real world living and working conditions -notice how she has never publicly divulged the specific grade levels at which she taught, her tenure or service or the district in which she worked). Additionally, the HBS researcher's report resonates with Bill Gates/Microsoft-informed stack ranking that enables Jack Welch/GE-style yearly 7 or 10 percent workforce shedding. 

Incidentally, Aaron Pallas of Columbia University's Teachers College reports in "Ratings madness: Are there really no highly effective elementary or middle-school teachers in Syracuse?" that no elementary or middle school teacher in Syracuse public schools rated highly effective, as indicated in that school system's cumulative rating report. Pallas looked carefully and found that the culprit lay in the school-wide local measures. They dragged down the rating for individual teachers. Can we really anticipate that the Annual Professional Performance Review, APPR, implementation will be fair and appropriate? 
Katie Johnston, in Forbes, January 16, 2013

The Messy Link Between Slave Owners And Modern Management

Caitlin C. Rosenthal didn’t intend to write a book about slavery. She set out to tackle something much more mundane: the history of business practices. But when she started researching account books from the mid-1800s, a period of major economic development during the rise of industrialization in the United States, Rosenthal stumbled across an unexpected source of innovation.

Rosenthal, a Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in business history at Harvard Business School, found that southern plantation owners kept complex and meticulous records, measuring the productivity of their slaves and carefully monitoring their profits—often using even more sophisticated methods than manufacturers in the North. Several of the slave owners’ practices, such as incentivizing workers (in this case, to get them to pick more cotton) and depreciating their worth through the years, are widely used in business management today.
As fascinating as her findings were, Rosenthal had some misgivings about their implications. She didn’t want to be perceived as saying something positive about slavery. On the contrary, she sees her research as a critique of capitalism—one that could broaden the understanding of today’s business practices.

The work is part of her current book project, “From Slavery to Scientific Management: Capitalism and Control in America, 1754-1911,” and the forthcoming edited collection Slavery’s Capitalism.

The evolution of modern management is usually associated with good old-fashioned intelligence and ingenuity—”a glorious parade of inventions that goes from textile looms to the computer,” Rosenthal says. But in reality, it’s much messier than that. Capitalism is not just about the free market; it was also built on the backs of slaves who were literally the opposite of free.

“It’s a much bigger, more powerful question to ask, If today we are using management techniques that were also used on slave plantations,” she says, “how much more careful do we need to be? How much more do we need to think about our responsibility to people?”
The next part raises the topic of absentee ownership; this brings to mind the way that current policy is set by people that do not live in the affected districts, by people that do not send their children to public schools (Bill Gates, for one, on both counts)

Absentee ownership

According to Rosenthal, the history of detailed record-keeping on plantations goes back to at least the 1750s in Jamaica and Barbados. When wealthy slave owners in the West Indies started leaving others in charge of their plantations, she found, they asked for regular reports about how their businesses were faring. Some historians see this rise in absentee ownership as a sign of decline, but it is also among the first instances of the separation of ownership and management, Rosenthal says—a landmark in the history of capitalism.

Slave owners were able to collect data on their workforce in ways that other business owners couldn’t because they had complete control over their workers. They didn’t have to worry about turnover or recruiting new workers, and they could experiment with different tactics—moving workers around and demanding higher levels of output, even monitoring what they ate and how long new mothers breastfed their babies. And the slaves had no recourse.

“If you tried to do this with a northern laborer,” Rosenthal says, “they’d just quit.”

Here we find ourselves thinking of the emphasis of metrics over all things student and teacher-related. And on competition and pitting one against the other, we can think of merit pay. On collective punishment, we can think of New York City's mad Measures of Student Learning, which punish gym teachers on the basis of an entire science department's test scores. Has anyone ever considered that many teachers demeaned under the new metrics will "just quit"?

Looking forward

This led owners to experiment with ways of increasing the pace of labor, Rosenthal explains, such as holding contests with small cash prizes for those who picked the most cotton, and then requiring the winners to pick that much cotton from there on out. Slave narratives describe how others used the data to calculate punishment, meting out whippings according to how many pounds each picker fell short.
Similar incentive plans reappeared in early twentieth-century factories, with managers dangling the promise of cash rewards if their workers reached certain production levels.

Planters also used group incentives to encourage honesty, doling out a barrel of corn to each hand with the caveat that if anything was stolen from the farm and no one turned in the thief, double the value of that corn would be deducted from each of their Christmas awards. Collective penalties would later be adopted by salesmen and companies like Singer Sewing Company to encourage workers to police one another.

 . . .

These account books played a role in reducing slaves to “human capital,” Rosenthal says, allowing owners who were removed from day-to-day operations to see their slaves as assets, as interchangeable units of production in a ledger, instead of as people.
 Again, on human capital, we can think of the objectifying conception that education policy rulers have of students.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

USDE Deprives Your Child's Privacy; inBloom, Education Technology and the Murdoch-Klein Connection: A Son-of-Frankenstein B-movie Sequel?

Business and education blogger Andrea Gabor addresses Amplify [nee Wireless] story parts that the New York Times omitted from its story.

Aside from the filling in gaps there are reminders about the personal legacy of Sharren Bates going back to the creation of NYCDOE's ARIS system.

But first, let's note an important post today at Stop Common Core on Arne Duncan, the Common Core State Standards and Data mining:


Key excerpts:
The story of Common Core and data mining begins as most stories do, with a huge, unmet need.
Self-appointed “stakeholder” know-it-alls at the federal level (also at state, corporate, and even university levels) determined that they had the right, and the need, for open access to personal student data– more so than they already had.
So, without waiting around for a proper vote, they did it. The CEDS (Common Education Data Standards) were created by the same people who created and copyrighted Common Core: the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). No surprise.
. . . .


1. Sneaky Thing Number One: It bribed the states with ARRA Stimulus monies to build 50 linkable, twinlike State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS). This act created a virtual national database.

These SLDS’s had to be interoperable within states and outside states with a State Interoperability FrameworkUtah, for example, accepted $9.6 million to create Utah’s SLDS. Think about it. All states have an SLDS, and they are built to be interoperable. How is this not a de facto national database?

2. Sneaky Thing Number Two: It altered the (previously privacy-protective) federal FERPA (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) law to make access to personally identifiable student data –including biological and behavioral data– “legal”.
So now, the act of requiring parental consent (to share personally identifiable information) has been reduced from a requirement to just a “best practice” according to the altered federal FERPA regulations.
. . . .
3. Sneaky Thing Number Three: The US Department of Education partnered with private groups, including the CCSSO (that’s the Council of Chief State School Officers –copyright holders on Common Core–) to collect student data nationally.

The CCSSO, or “Superintendents’ Club” as I like to call it, is a private group with no accountability to voters. This makes it in-valid and un-American, as far as governance goes. The CCSSO has a stated mission: to disaggregate student data. Disaggregate means to take away anonymity.
. . . .

4. Sneaky Thing Number Four: It used private-public partnerships to promote data linking among agencies. The Data Quality Campaign is one example. The National Data Collection Model is another example. The Common Educational Data Standards is another example.
. . . .

5. Sneaky Thing Number Five: The Department of Ed created grants for Common Core testing and then mandated that those testing groups synchronize their tests, report fully and often to the U.S. Department of Education, share student-level data, and produce “all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard that is approved by the Department”.
So federally funded Common Core tests require Common data interoperability standards.
. . . .

6. Sneaky Thing Number Six: The Department of Education directly lied to the American Society of News Editors. In a June 2013 speech given to the American Society of News Editors, Secretary Duncan mocked the concerns of parents and educators who are fighting Common Core and its related student data mining:

Despite what the state school board and the federal Department of Education claim, corporations do know that Common Core and student data mining are interdependent.
CEO of Escholar Shawn Bay spoke at a recent White House event called “Datapalooza.” He said (see his speech on this video, at about minute 9:15) that Common Core “is the glue that actually ties everything together” for student data collection.
And President Obama himself has called his educational and data related reforms so huge that they are cradle to career” -affecting reforms. Secretary Duncan now refers to the reforms not as “K-12″ but as “p-12″ meaning preschool/prenatal. These reforms affect the most vulnerable, but not in a positive way, and certainly not with voters’ knowledge and consent.
. . . .

Go to the original Stop Common Core article for the analysis of the Six Things, further drawn out.

Key excerpts from the Gabor blogpost on inBloom:

Last Sunday’s New York Times ran a fascinating story on the controversy surrounding inBloom, which promises to serve as a one-stop warehouse-in-the-cloud for student data, but which many educators and parents worry might compromise the privacy of kids in grades K-12. Like a number of major education-reform ventures, this one was launched by a group of funders led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now that most states have signed onto the Common Core State Standards, which will use computerized assessments, the allure of creating a central repository of student data is more compelling than ever.  The NYT lays out the potential benefits of the inBloom system, including the ability to store large amounts of student information and provide tools for analyzing the data–information that will be available not only to educators, but also to education-technology developers who can tailor products to student and school needs. The article also explores the privacy concerns raised by the easy access that large numbers of companies will have to a vast array of information, ranging from academic achievement to disciplinary problems, for potentially tens of millions of students.
The story touches, though only obliquely, on important questions about the balance-of-power between commercial vendors and public schools and school districts, which inBloom is supposed to facilitate.
But one of the most intriguing aspects of the story is one that the NYT does not address at all. No where does the NYT mention that the operating system for inBloom is being developed by the Amplify division (formerly Wireless Generation) of Rupert Murdoch’sNews Corp. This is a striking omission given that that the NYT is the paper of record in New York City where the CEO of Amplify/Wireless Generation, Joel Klein, recently served as schools chancellor. And this despite the fact that New York is one of only three states out of an original nine that, according to the article, “continues to pursue the service.”
In a brief phone conversation, Natasha Singer, the author of the article, explained that the aim of her story was to focus on “one small district in Colorado” and how technology and privacy concerns associated with inBloom play out in an area with much fewer resources than New York City. She also noted that, as is often the case, much was cut from her original story during the editing process.
inBloom itself seems eager to downplay News Corp./Wireless Generation’s involvement, in the venture, even though it was a key partner in the Shared Learning Collaborative, which gave rise to inBloom. (inBloom was launched earlier this year with $100 million in funding.)  Although a March press release announced that Wireless Generation would be one of 24 software providers, the  “partner” and “provider” tabs on the company’s website lists 21 providers, but NOT Wireless Generation or Amplify.
For New Yorkers, inBloom may seem like something of a son-of-Frankenstein B-movie sequel (non-New Yorkers will want to know why…) inBloom traces its roots to a technological lemon. Several years ago, IBM and Wireless Generation developed ARIS(Achievement Reporting and Innovation System), a portal for the New York City Department of Education, which was widely seen as a failure.
Then Cisco began building a rival prototype portal that the company offered to the NYCDOE and that many teachers and principals said was much more useful than ARIS; but the city killed the project in August of 2010.  At the time, officials at the NYCDOE said that when work on the Cisco portal fell behind schedule, the education department pieced together an in-house version and took over the professional training that Cisco had been providing for schools that were part of the much ballyhooed innovation-zone (or izone) initiative. More recently, NYCDOE insiders have said that the department pulled the plug because of investments it had already made in ARIS, which came to total about $100 million.
The Murdoch connection, then and now
 In 2011, The Daily News disclosed that Wireless Generation was poised to win a no-bid $27 million contract to build an ARIS-like portal for New York State as part of the requirements for the state’s Race-to-the-Top bid. Joel Klein had just left his post as schools chancellor to become CEO of Wireless Generation. (The company noted that it had been in talks with the state long before Klein officially departed the NYCDOE for News Corp. in November of 2010.)
Following the hacking scandal at News of the World, a News Corp.-owned British tabloid, New York State declined to approve the Wireless Generation contract.
But by then, the Gates Foundation had already announced plans to help fund and develop the data-collection platform that would become inBloom and that would have a Wireless Generation-developed operating system. At the time, Sharren Bates, the official who had “launch(ed)” and “led” NYCDOE’s ARIS, was working as a Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation. Earlier this year Bates became the chief product officer for inBloom.
Much of the NYT’s story focuses on the privacy concerns of both Coloradans and New Yorkers (including the indefatigable Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, one of the leading crusaders for children’s privacy rights) about inBloom’s plans to store student information in the “cloud” (on Amazon’s cloud servers, it turns out, though this is not mentioned in the NYT) and to allow private companies access to that data.
These concerns include the fact that new laws no longer require states to obtain a parent’s permission before sharing information in a child’s records:
“Recent changes in the regulation of a federal education privacy law have also helped the industry. That law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, required schools to obtain parental permission before sharing information in their children’s educational records. The updated rules permit schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management.”
  .  .  .  .

And while information gleaned from individual students is supposed to provide the vital information need to develop and hone products, schools will pay dearly not only for the products that are made possible by inBloom, but for using the portal itself. As Leonie Haimson notes, starting in 2015, inBloom says it will charge states and districts between $2 and $5 per student each year for storing data on the site.
Nor do technology companies need inBloom in order to innovate and “customize” software. As part of New York City’s technological push during the Klein years, the city purchased masses of software for online learning. As the largest urban education market, that presented a unique opportunity to examine, and customize products to, the needs of city kids. Yet, one of the major complaints about the NYCDOE portal and the education software available to New York City public schools was that most software developers did nothing—and the NYCDOE did not use its clout to force them—to tailor programs, which were originally designed for the home-school market, for the needs of inner-city kids.
Common sense suggests that states and school districts should be championing both the educational and privacy interests of their students—especially if they want to benefit from the technology synergies of products like inBloom. But that doesn’t seem to be happening—at least not without considerable public pressure—in part because of the close ties between government officials and industry.
Consider the strange case of Louisiana, where Joel Klein’s former NYCDOE deputy, John White, is the superintendent of schools. This article describes a remarkable string of email exchanges among White, Amplify/Wireless Generation, the Gates Foundation and New Schools for New Orleans, a leading charter-school gatekeeper. It shows how the close ties among state officials and the private sector led Louisiana to become one of the first to give inBloom access to all of its student’s data. Four months later, following widespread protests, Louisiana removed the kids’ information from the inBloom database.
Meanwhile, during the last legislative session, the New York State legislature failed to pass bills that would have protected student privacy.
Indeed, New York has a history of making hasty education decisions. It was one of the first states to push through a new “common core”-focused standardized test last spring. Theassessments were rushed through before teachers had any meaningful training in the new standards and before students had much exposure to them. The result was much anguish on the part of students, families and teachers; a huge drop in test scores without much apparent benefit; as well as an open rebellion by principals.
 .  .  .  .
Click the link for the complete "inBloom, Education Technology and the Murdoch-Klein Connection: A Son-of-Frankenstein B-movie Sequel?" article.

P.L. Thomas cites poverty impact on education, recommends some practical steps governments can take

In the blog, the becoming radical, P.L. Thomas speaks to the point that I have been writing on for a few years now, that poverty and class have significant impacts on educational outcomes, and that the United States is uniquely unequal among industrialized countries in having a negative rank position on several social indicators, e.g., see the tables illustrating a correlation between district poverty and test performance at this post, U.S. Test Score Gap is Reflection of Class and Poverty. See Thomas concludes with some policy recommendations. We would hope that New York City's presumed next mayor, Bill de Blasio, will heed the recommendations in the latter section of Thomas' blog post.

An Alternative to Accountability-Based Education Reform, August 21, 2013
During three decades of accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing at the state level and another decade-plus of federal oversight of that accountability, the overwhelming evidence has exposed accountability as a failed network of policies in education reform.

Education reform in the U.S. now faces a potential watershed moment in which setting aside accountability and embracing a school reform agenda that acknowledges social and educational inequity offer a promise of success that accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing have failed to achieve.

First, education does not exist in a vacuum. Teaching and learning are impacted by out-of-school factors and impact the world beyond the walls of schools; thus, the primary foundation upon which education reform must be built is acknowledging that the U.S. currently has one of the highest childhood poverty rates among nations against which U.S. schools are commonly compared:

Next, another powerful example of inequity in the U.S. is that upward mobility has stagnated—notably in the top and bottom fifths—and, as Matt Bruenig has explained [in "What’s more important: a college degree or being born rich?"] ”you are better off being born rich regardless of whether you go to college than being born poor and getting a college degree”:

The third and final context for understanding an alternative to accountability-based education reform is the rise in the working poor in the U.S. and the increase in part-time work that leaves many working-poor families with adults holding multiple jobs but not having access to health care or retirement benefits.

Education reform must be built on policies that directly address the rising social inequity in the U.S. The essential shift away from accountability, then, must begin with social reform that addresses inequity. Social reform is necessarily the responsibility of state and federal legislation; thus, some of the policy targets addressing social inequity that are likely to impact positively a new vision of school-based reform include the following:
  • Food security: Children in poverty face food insecurity, but also suffer from access to low-quality foods (for example, fast food). Nutrition during pregnancy for women in poverty, early childhood nutrition, and nutrition during school ages are all essential elements for providing children the equity of opportunities that schools could provide.
  • Health care: Children and families in poverty tend to avoid needed preventative health care, and then are forced to seek out the least economically efficient avenues for receiving basic and urgent care, emergency rooms. If public education is to transform society and the lives of children, all children must be guaranteed the health (and nutrition) that children in affluence experience.
  • Stable work with rewarding salaries: Children and families in poverty often experience instability in the work of the parents and their homes since impoverished workers are competing with each other for entry-level and transient jobs. A stable workforce and increasing full-time jobs with benefits provide the basis upon which education can succeed where it has traditionally failed.
Certainly, many other social policies need to be addressed, but the foundational point here is that social inequity currently overwhelms public education in the U.S. A first step to education reform is social reform. As well, the public in the U.S. currently supports seeking greater equity: “The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity” (NYT February 16, 2013). What is lacking is the political will to make commitments to social equity of opportunity for all in the U.S.
Within the larger commitment to social reform, a new vision of education reform must include a broad commitment to providing an equity of opportunity for all children, and some of the policy changes must include the following:
  • End accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing: A growing body of research has shown that the accountability era has failed: “the absence or presence of rigorous or national standards says nothing about equity, educational quality, or the provision of adequate educational services, there is no reason to expect CCSS or any other standards initiative to be an effective educational reform by itself” (Mathis, 2012). A first and essential step to a new vision of education reform is to end the accountability era by shifting away from focusing on outcomes and toward attending to the conditions of teaching and learning—with an emphasis on equity of opportunity.
  • Implement a small and robust measurement system: As Stephen Krashen and others have argued, the existing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment system in the U.S. provides a more than adequate foundation upon which the U.S. can develop a systematic and limited process for administering tests to random samples of students in all states and gathering descriptive data on the effectiveness of schools. This new system must be low-stakes and should dramaticallyreduce the funding committed to testing in the U.S.
  • Scale back and eventually end tracking: The most accurate criticism of U.S. education is that it has historically perpetuated and currently perpetuates social inequity. Tracking remains grounded in data that reflect out-of-school influences and tends to funnel impoverished students into narrow academic settings and affluent children into rich educational experiences.
  • Focus on equitable teacher assignments: The focus on teacher quality within the accountability movement has tended to mislead the public about the importance of teacher quality connected to measurable outcomes while ignoring that impoverished, minority, and special needs students along with English language learners disproportionately are assigned to inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers. Education reform committed to equity must monitor teacher assignments so that no students experience inequitable access to high-quality, experienced teachers.
  • Decrease bureaucracy of teacher licensing and increase academic quality of education degrees: Another legitimate criticism of traditional education is that teacher licensing has many flaws built into the bureaucracy of attaining a teaching certificate. Certification and accreditation mandates and systems tend to fail educators, and thus students. However, as in other fields, the quality of education degree programs still offer a tremendous promise for preparing teachers well for the teaching profession.
  • Honor school and teacher autonomy: Individual schools and classrooms vary dramatically across the U.S. School autonomy and teacher professionalism are the greatest sources of understanding what populations of students need. The current move toward national standards and tests is inherently a flawed concept since student needs in Orangeburg, SC, are dramatically different than student needs in Seattle, WA.
  • Replace accountability with transparency: High-stakes accountability has not only failed to produce outcomes promised by its advocates, but also has created negative unintended consequences (cheating scandals, for example). A more promising approach to insuring that a public institution provides that public with needed services is to require schools to be transparent: identifying educational needs and providing evidence for practices being implemented to meet those needs.
  • Address wide range of issues impacting equity—funding, class size, technology, facilities: Moving away from accountability and toward equity is a shift in the goals and then standards against which education policy is evaluated. Issues of funding, class size, technology, and facilities must be addressed to assure all children experience an equity of opportunities in every school.
  • Abandon ranking: Education in the U.S. has suffered the negative consequences of ranking for over a century. Ranking nearly always distorts data and typically fails goals of equity. Instead of ranking, education should honor how conditions of learning match clearly identified learning goals.
  • Rethink testing and grades: Tests and grades have been the foundation upon which education in the U.S. rests, but both tend to distort education seeking equity, autonomy, and democracy. Rich feedback that challenges learners and contributes to learning, however, is the lifeblood of learning.
  • Practice patience: Crisis and urgency have characterized the accountability era, and both states have contributed to the failure of accountability. Teaching and learning are complex and unpredictable, requiring political and public patience for reaching the goals that everyone seeks.
The points identified above are not intended to be exhaustive, but the evidence is clear that education reform has been on the wrong path for three decades. Accountability has failed, but that experiment has exposed a wealth of data that should inform a new vision of the need to address social and educational inequity through policies that fulfill the promises driving our democracy and our commitment to universal public education.