Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Press: The Enemy Within

Well worth reading.
The Press: The Enemy Within

By Michael Massing
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18555

from 'The New York Review of Books'

Volume 52, Number 20 · December 15, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

How the media is purchased

Op-eds for sale
A columnist from a libertarian think tank admits accepting payments to promote an indicted lobbyist's clients. Will more examples follow?
A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s.

"It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it," Bandow said from a California hospital, where he's recovering from recent knee surgery.

After receiving BusinessWeek Online's inquiries about the possibility of payments, Cato Communications Director Jamie Dettmer said the think-tank determined that Bandow "engaged in what we consider to be inappropriate behavior and he considers to be a lapse in judgment" and accepted his resignation. "Cato has an excellent reputation for integrity, and we're zealous in guarding that," Dettmer said.

Bandow has written more than 150 editorials and columns over the past five years, each identifying his Cato affiliation. His syndicated column for Copley News Service is featured in several hundred newspapers across the country. Bandow's biography on the Cato Institute Web site says he has also appeared as a commentator on all the major television broadcast networks and the cable news channels.

MULTIPLE TRAVAILS. A former Abramoff associate says Bandow and at least one other think-tank expert were typically paid $2,000 per column to address specific topics of interest to Abramoff's clients. Bandow's standing as a columnist and think-tank analyst provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff team were using to try to sway Congressional action.

Bandow confirms that he received $2,000 for some pieces, but says it was "usually less than that amount." He says he wrote all the pieces himself, though with topics and information provided by Abramoff. He adds that he wouldn't write about subjects that didn't interest him.

Abramoff was indicted in Florida in August on wire-fraud charges in relation to his purchase of a Florida casino-boat company. He faces trial in January in that case.

Separately, a Senate committee and a Justice Dept. task force are investigating allegations that Abramoff defrauded some of his clients -- a handful of American Indian tribes that had gotten wealth from running casino-gaming operations on their reservations. Abramoff's business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to corrupt public officials with gifts, including political contributions, and defrauding clients, and is cooperating with the ongoing probe.

Read the full article at : Business Week online.
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/dec2005/nf20051216_1037_db016.htm

Bush speak vrs. reality

"Bush’s excuses for the illegal eavesdropping are indeed risible. The Times didn’t mention it, but of 19,000 requests for eavesdropping the Federal Intelligence Security Court has received from the Executive Branch since 1979, only five have ever been refused. Bush claimed again on Monday that this flagrant flouting of the FISA law was necessary because fighting “terrorists” needed to be done “quickly.” Yet, as the Times reported, the secret court can grant approval for wiretaps “within hours.” And the excuse Bush offered this morning that this illegal subversion of FISA was necessary to prevent 9/11-style terrorism is equally laughable. As the ACLU pointed out in a study of FISA two years ago, “Although the Patriot Act was rushed into law just weeks after 9/11, Congress's later investigation into the attacks did not find that the former limits on FISA powers had contributed to the government's failure to prevent the attacks.”

From the blog of Doug Ireland.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Stupid corporate opinion and Crash Course: a review

Whittle, C. (2005). Crash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education. New York: Riverhead Hardcover.
288 pp.
$24.95 ISBN 1594489025
Reviewed by Jim Horn 
Monmouth University
November 24, 2005
If you support the notion that publicly run, publicly controlled, public education is the imperfect, yet essential, public business that may be our best institutional tool for realizing a democratic republic in America, then you are likely to find plenty to disagree with in Chris Whittle’s vision (or is it a nightmare?) for turning schools into companies, companies that are to be paid for with tax dollars. With $400 billion annually at stake, the public schools are, by far, the juiciest prize for a new type of corporate welfare known as the EMO (education management organization). Chris Whittle’s new book, Crash Course. . ., lets us look down the sights as he takes aim at his biggest target yet.
Those, on the other hand, who favor a privatized education solution to all that is wrong, or imagined wrong, with American schools, will likely find Chris Whittle’s Crash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education a ground-breaking piece of wishful thinking. With the popularity of vouchers now on the same slope as recent presidential poll data, Whittle attempts to sculpt a vision for a hybrid American school, a new alternative to the “public school monopoly” that conservatives have railed against for the past 25 years. In this bravado new world of educational corporate welfare that Whittle projects out to the year 2030, the public school will remain public, in that public dollars pay the bills for personnel, transportation, food service, maintenance, and, of course, the contracting fee to Edison, Inc. or its MacSchool counterparts—yet private, in that education corporations organize, manage, hire principals who hire teachers, consult, assess, make merit pay recommendations based on those assessments, and, of course, get paid with public dollars that, in turn, make a 10% profit for the shareholders for the company. If this doesn’t sound good enough to get you to spend the $25 for this kind of visionary thinking, then add to this emerging educational utopia the need to increase class size, severely reduce the number of teachers, turn students into part-time clerical workers; and I am sure that you will agree that Whittle’s book will be required reading, at least by every reform industry lobbyist on K Street who is sure to get goose bumps at Whittles’ recurring focus on the 400 billion dollars that Americans spend on K-12 education every year.
What qualifies Whittle for such a far-reaching educational vision? For starters, he has a history of entrepreneurial education endeavors. Since the early 90s, he has effectively burned through several hundred million dollars in various failed ventures, including a scheme to offer textbooks with the same colorful Skittles and Snickers ads that became the hallmark of Whittle’s first big educational venture, Channel One. As a result of the Channel One success by a hometown boy with an expanding local payroll, Whittle Communications, in the late 1980s, was able to acquire a prime location in Knoxville for a palatial “publishing campus” downtown. Labeled derisively by locals as Whittle City, it was, nonetheless, resplendent with Italian marble, set in soft florescence, and exuding an Ivy League fa├žade; and all of it ended up on the auction block only months after it was completed.
That venture proved to be Whittle’s first big flameout, forcing the sale of Channel One to cover the bills and leaving Whittle with a 7 million dollar estate in the Hamptons and something known then as the Edison Project, an outfit whose education privatization advisors prominently included Lamar Alexander, another local boy who was making a splash at the time as Bush 1’s Secretary of Education. By 1995 Whittle had turned that idea for a mass-market alternative to public education into Edison Schools, Inc., opening his first four Edison Schools in various locales around the country. By 1999 Whittle was ready to go public with the company, even though Edison posted a net loss of $50 million in the previous year. To make a long story short, by 2002 the stock was in free fall, moving from nearly 38 dollars a share to its low of 15 cents. By the following year, in a sweetheart deal that is even shocking by today’s standards of corporate crony politics, Whittle had found a benefactor in the State Pension Fund of Florida. With the support of Jeb Bush, the pension fund, whose largest constituency, ironically, happens to be public school teachers, not only bought out the failed company but also allowed Whittle to retain control, doubled his salary while offering him new stock options, provided loan extensions to repay debts, and gave more loans to keep the outfit afloat. (One can only guess what the Governor knew, or thought he knew, about the future movement of corporate welfare schools that would justify such an investment.) Part of the answer, or at least part of the gamble, may be found in the futuristic froth that characterizes Whittle’s current contribution to the literature of corporate socialism….

….There are several problems with this DoD analogy, but the most glaring one involves who will be allowed to propose and bid on the next “strike fighter” of education. Even with the renowned inefficiency of government as a documented fact, it does not seem to have occurred to Whittle that the federal government would never entertain bids for a new airplane from, let’s say, doughnut makers or funeral directors, regardless of how well these folks make and/or market their goods and services. Even the DoD (when it takes bids) goes to the people who know something about building airplanes, ones that can get off the ground and that can stay in the air, not just ones that look good, are fun to sit in, or make a big noise. Whittle would have Dunkin’ Donuts given equal consideration as Boeing, or let’s say Bill Gates’ thoughts on education heeded as readily as that of Stanford professor, Linda Darling-Hammond—or John Dewey, for that matter.

I encourage you to read the entire review and the book.
The review is at: http://edrev.asu.edu/reviews/rev442.htm

Thursday, December 15, 2005

NCLB fails Blacks, Latinos in Urban Schools

D’s AND F’s FOR ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’

By Chris Levister

Nearly four years into the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) the nation’s urban school districts have shown little benefit from the law which mandated annual reading and math tests for all students in grades 3 through 8. But the most worrisome trend is that most urban schools are making no progress in reducing the achievement gap between white and minority students. That’s the word from eleven large urban school districts including Los Angeles.



Between 2003 and 2005 most 4th and 8th graders in the eleven cities that were studied made o nly negligible progress in math and reading. And most continue to perform well below the national average according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, often referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.”

The report gives urban cities including Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles D’s and F’s stating urban districts continue to fall very short of the Bush administration’s signature education policy. The report claims student scores remain virtually flat in cities like San Diego, Houston and Boston.

“Our children have been hijacked and shackled by bad policy and bad politics,” says Marian Wright Elderman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. Elderman who has accused the administration of stealing her successful child achievement concept, is both worried and angry.

“This nation has squandered away four years and billions of dollars in education funding. Our children have been tested to death, forced to regurgitate and at the end of the day they haven’t learned to do basic reading and math or much less learned to think. It’s a national shame,” said Elderman.

“Parents in communities where districts are financially strained were promised that this law would close the achievement gaps,” said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, a union of 2.7 million members and often a political adversary of the administration. “Instead, their tax dollars are being used to cover unpaid bills sent to Washington for costly regulations that do not help improve education.”

“I’m very worried.” Shelia Ford, vice chairman of the National Assessment governing board which oversaw the nonpartisan study says everybody should be worried when you consider that big city schools have the highest concentrations of poor and minority children.

“The level of reading and math levels of below basic and basic achievement is just not acceptable. This is not what we want for our children. This is not what we were promised.”

“The report is extremely troubling,” said Utah state Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican who led her state’s fight against NCLB. “The federal government should not be dictating 100 percent of the state’s policy just because they are providing 7 percent of the funding. Do the math.”

When the Assessment Board did the math the trend showed in the last two to three years achievement gaps between Blacks, Latinos and whites has stayed the same. And in cities like Los Angeles the gap is widening.

That’s really bad news for the Bush administration because during that period of time the White House insisted that under NCLB the gap is closing.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told a conference for conservative lawmakers that the law is “good policy and good politics. She agreed the latest assessment is disappointing but argues urban school systems need to work harder. “We had hoped for more progress however, progress doesn’t happen overnight. This is not a mandate it is a partnership with states to close the achievement gap, hold schools accountable and ensure all students are reading and doing math at grade-level by 2014. American’s still see NCLB as a benefit, not an issue,” she said.

Elderman says Spellings and the Bush administration need to be more forthcoming about the impact that NCLB is having especially o n inner city minority students. “This report clearly states NCLB is not meeting the needs of our young people. This law has failed our youth and our expectation as a nation.”

The question that we all need to ask now says Elderman, is are kids really doing better today than they were without the law?
From BlackVoicesNews

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Buying school reform?

Buying School Reform

California School Reform .
Peter Schrag titles his column of December 14, 2005, in the Sacramento Bee, “Buying School reform: its time to make a deal.”
There are some useful insights in the column and some strange promotions.
Schrag calls California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin, ‘the smart and thoughtful former San Diego school superintendent.” Well he is the former superintendent. However readers should be reminded that he was driven out of San Diego by popular opposition to his high handed, arrogant imposition of programs without involving teachers. See earlier posts in this blog about Bersin’s past. Bersin is the exemplar of applying the business model in pubic education, having a leader of school systems who has never taught nor worked in the profession. Alan Bersin failed to lead the San Diego schools toward reform. The chief policy advisor to the governor does not know how to improve school achievement- it is obvious. He failed to do so. (See post of May 29,2005)
According to Schrag, one of Bersin’s goals is to, ‘create a simper teacher credentialing process that would reduce the emphasis on ed-school pedagogy programs and replace it with a single test, a three-year mentoring program and teaching performance assessments.” Let us assume that this is an accurate description.
This policy direction again shows the arrogance of making policy when you know little about the subject. This would be expected from Bersin, from Schwarzenegger advisor Margaret Fortune, and is consistent with the long advocacy of Peter Schrag.
This proposal indicates that the Schwarzenegger approach will now shift from Teacher bashing ( Prop. 74) to School of Education bashing. Like teacher bashing this direction leads no where. It is not based upon evidence nor well informed opinion, only prejudice and scape goating.
To become a teacher in California you need to have a B.A. in some field ( science, math, social science, liberal studies) and to complete a teacher preparation program. These programs require 32- 36 units ( one year) of study. Of the one year, half is in student teaching or an internship. Thus, the “ed-school pedagogy programs” equal one semester of work.
So, the proposal is that the problem with teacher preparation is one semester of work. There is no evidence to support this. Look at the studies of teacher preparation. See the previous post. Where does this proposal come from? The proposal comes from people who have not been teachers and have not been in these programs, but they are certain that they know what will improve teaching ( like in Prop. 74). It is not that persons outside of education can not have a good idea. However, there has to be some evidence that their ideas have merit and relevance. This particular proposal has no evidence supporting it.
The second part of the proposal is that this one semester of preparation be replaced with an exam. Well, there are no exams which measure these issues. And, person’s well versed in testing such as James Popham will explain that our current testing and measurement systems are not equipped to measure the items, the interests, the motivation, and the pedagogy that would replace the semester of study.
The third part of the proposal is a three year internship. At present we have a one-semester internship called student teaching under the direct supervision of a practicing teacher. We have had internships for years where the teacher works on her own with only slight supervision. California is presently eliminating these internships because they fail. And, they aggravate the problem of low income students having the least prepared teachers.
If it is time to make a deal, policy makers will have to start with reasonable information supported by evidence not tired old prejudices supporting by anecdotes. That is what we defeated in Prop. 74. Do you want to go through this again?
Duane Campbell
For a brief review of teacher preparation see:
http://edutopia.org/php/interview.php?id=Art_832&key=039
and see: http://www.edsource.org/edu_tea.cfm

Monday, December 12, 2005

Least prepared teachers

New Report Raises Warning Over Assignment of Least Prepared Teachers and
Resurgent Teacher Shortage in a High Stakes Education Environment
(Sacramento) With the help of teachers entering the profession as interns California has reduced the number of underprepared teachers by half, but the vast majority of intern teachers are assigned to low achieving schools serving poor and minority students, according to a new two-year study of teaching in California released today by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. The report also warns that the state is facing a shortage of tens of thousands of teachers within the next decade.
The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005 reveals a serious maldistribution of teaching interns. According to the report, eighty-five percent of new teachers who enter the classroom as interns are assigned to schools where more than sixty percent of the students are minorities. Only three percent of intern teachers work in schools with few minority students.
“The least prepared, least experienced teachers are assigned to schools serving primarily African American and Latino children, many of them from poor families,” said Margaret Gaston, Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. The chronic assignment of the least prepared teachers to certain groups of students raises serious questions about the equity and fairness of the state’s effort to resolve its teacher shortage.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, whether or not a state is making a good faith effort to reach the highly qualified teacher goals of NCLB will be determined, in part, by examining “the steps taken to ensure that experienced and qualified teachers are equitably distributed among classrooms with poor and minority children and those with their peers.”
“The findings of this report make clear that to resolve the teacher shortage and address the inequities in teacher assignment, California’s policymakers must put into place a permanent system that reliably delivers fully qualified and effective teachers to every classroom. By acting now, the state can take a strong step toward reaching the rapidly approaching deadline to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act,” Gaston added.
The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005 also warns of a building teacher shortage at a time when the state is challenged to meet high-stakes federal requirements. California will need to replace at least 100,000 teachers, a full one-third of the teacher workforce, as baby boomer teachers retire over the next ten years. These retirements, along with declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, are projected to boost California’s teacher shortage back up to approximately 27,000 teachers as soon as the 2007-08 school year, and to nearly 33,000 teachers by 2014-15.
“According to the No Child Left Behind Act, all students are required to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. But we project that California will be short tens of thousands of teachers just as the stakes for students and schools will be the highest,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International and the principal researcher for the report. “Unfortunately, it is exactly the kids who are most in need of an experienced teacher that are the least likely to get one, a prospect the coming teacher shortage will only increase.”
The report notes that students in schools measured as the lowest achieving by the state’s academic performance index (API) are five times more likely to face underprepared teachers than students in the highest performing schools, and are far more likely to face a string of underprepared teachers.
“For 6th graders in California’s lowest-achieving schools, the odds of having had more than one underprepared teacher are three in ten; for 6th graders in the highest achieving schools, the odds drop to one in fifty,” said Gaston.
“California does not have an adequate teacher pipeline in place to provide a constant supply of fully prepared and effective teachers to every school,” said Harvey Hunt, Senior Policy Advisor to the Center. “Without one, it’s hard to see how we will meet the needs of students or the requirements of NCLB. The state’s policymakers urgently need to begin a new conversation about how to ensure that all California students have the teachers they need and deserve.”
The report's call for involvement of California's policy leaders in strengthening the teaching profession has been taken up in the State Senate. Under the leadership of President Pro Tem Don Perata, Senator Jack Scott (D-Pasadena), chair of the Senate Education Committee, is already developing omnibus legislation to address the issues in the report.

http://www.cftl.org/aboutus_pressroom_relview.php?release=dec05leastprep.php

Friday, December 02, 2005

Charter Schools and teacher unions

Who's Afraid Of Teacher Voice? Charter Schools And Union Organizing

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=101&ItemID=9230
 
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