Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tough Talk; mushy thinking

This is a follow up to the posting on the Skills of the U.S. work force below.

Tough Talk, Mushy thinking
By Leo Casey.
Read the entire viewpoint at
Too many American students do not graduate high school, or do not graduate it ready to do post-secondary work, and far too many of these students live in poverty and come from communities of color. A generation ago, this was not as grave a problem as it is today, since those who did not pursue their education could still find decent, middle class jobs in largely unionized industries such as automobiles and steel. Today, those jobs [and the once great industrial unions] have been decimated by the global economy, and some measure of post-secondary education is necessary for middle class employment.
But as Thomas L. Friedman recognizes in his commentary, what is important here is not simply the attainment of further formal education, but the development of the habits and skills of creative, critical thinking which are so central to the emerging global knowledge economy. What Friedman does not seem to understand, but what educators can not avoid recognizing, is how the Tough Choices recommendation of instituting a national standardized test at the end of the tenth grade to determine college readiness moves American education further away from promoting such creative and critical thought.
Under the regimen of standardized testing that has come in the wake of NCLB, American schools have increasingly lost the proper balance between teaching and learning, on the one hand, and the assessment of what students have learned, on the other hand. Education has been more and more crowded out of school days turned over to test preparation, and the curriculum has narrowed significantly, with less and less attention paid to the creative and critical thought which can not be captured on standardized, multiple choice tests. Yet one more standardized test – this time, for every high school student in the nation – can only make an increasingly bad situation worse. Moreover, rather than moving students capable of doing more advanced work out of high school earlier, what American education needs to do is dramatically rethink secondary education....

Tough Choices misdiagnoses the problem we face as solely one of the recruitment of high aptitude teachers, and ignores the fact that teacher retention is by far the more serious part of the problem – here in New York City, and more generally throughout America, we lose 1 of every 2 new teachers by their fifth year. [For in-depth analyses of this retention problem, see the study of Susan Moore Johnson and the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools and the reports of Public Agenda, A Sense of Calling: Who Teaches and Why, and the Public Education Network, The Voice of the New Teacher.] The ‘retention’ crisis is particularly acute among the very type of high aptitude teacher Tough Choices says we need to attract: new teachers in the NYC Teaching Fellows program leave at a greater and quicker rate than other new teachers. This means that we are losing all too many new teachers, and more of our best new teachers, at the very point where they are just beginning to master the skills of teaching, and after we have invested significant resources in their professional development. Pace Tough Choices, the problem is not so much attracting new teachers with great potential, as it is keeping them in education.
Their reasons for leaving, these beginning teachers tell us, are more the teaching and learning conditions in their schools than it is their salaries, although they clearly think those salaries inadequate for the labor they do. Leaving novice teachers complain of disorderly, unsafe schools; of the lack of curricula and programs of study that are proven and work; of a lack of support from their school administrators and district officials; and of a disregard for teachers’ professional voice and judgment. Insofar as they play a role in new teachers’ calculations on the future, defined benefit pension plans and quality health care are actually incentives for them to stay.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

CSU Progress for Latino Grads

Dan Weintraub reports
The diversity machine
One of the great untold stories of the past decade is the rapid rise of the California State University system as an elevator for moving ethnic minorities into the middle class. While a lot of attention has been paid to the end of affirmative action at the University of California, the CSU has quietly become an engine for ethnic upward mobility.
Since 1996, the percentage of bachelor's degrees granted to minorities has increased from 45 percent to 56 percent, based on the ethnicity students report to the universities. In 2005, the CSU granted about 59,200 degree to students who reported an ethnicty. Of those, 32,900 went to non-whites, including Latinos.
The number of bachelor's degrees granted to Latinos has soared from 7,431 in 1996 to 13,153 in 2005.

Meddling, pandering and muddling in California Teacher preparation

The recent history of “school reform” efforts clearly reveals that legislatures at both the state and federal level can be a tool for change or as a tool for meddling, pandering, and muddling. ( A small , united group of people can advance their personal careers by pushing an over simplified reform strategies but the problems which they create may extend far beyond the original intentions or understandings. Moving the legislature is particularly easy since legislators and their staff seek headlines and are so busy with other tasks. Selling a “reform” to the legislature is easy if your package your “reform” as a scientific process. Legislators seldom scrutinize the claim that a proposed “reform” is backed by scientific research. The abuse of claims of scientific research has been well documented in California described in Cornbleth and Waugh, “The Great Speckled Bird: Multicultural Politics and Education Policymaking. “ (1995) and in Taylor, “Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science; The Political Campaign to Change America’s Mind about How Children Learn to Read. (1998).

School achievement has –at best-been stagnant for the last twenty five years. The achievement gap between mostly middle class and white students and the growing working class Latino and Black student populations, whether measured by test scores, drop out rates, or college attendance narrowed slightly in the early 1980’s, and has begun to widen to pre ESEA levels.
School improvement is important to parents and other voters. As a consequence legislators often look for education bills as a mechanism for “ making a difference.”
One choice would be to provide adequate funding for public schools, particularly those serving low income areas. However the adequate funding approach would cost money and perhaps raise taxes.

When politicians don’t know what to do, or when the obvious solutions cost money, they often blame teachers for the problems of the society. As teacher unions mobilized to defend their members, a focus shifted to criticism of teacher preparation programs
The blame the teacher preparation program approach was organized and mobilized by advocacy groups working with and within the Commission on Teacher Preparation. They offered a (false) solution to the problem of stagnate achievement by seeking to redesign teacher preparation.
In 1998 the California Legislature passed SB 2042, which restructured and re designed the teacher credentialing process. In September of 2001, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) adopted Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Education Programs. The law and the standards changed the requirements for earning a Preliminary teaching credential, adding passage of a teaching performance assessment to measure the teacher candidate’s knowledge and skill with respect to the Commission’s adopted Teaching Performance Expectations (TPE). The California legislature passed SB 1209, an omnibus bill of several measures, in July 2006 that among other provisions mandated implementation of the teacher performance assessment system in all credential programs as of July 1,2008.
The legislature comes back to work next week. Lets see what they do this year.
Duane Campbell

Friday, December 22, 2006

Judge blocks Mayor Villaraigosa's school takeover

Judge scuttles mayor's school takeover plan
By Howard Blume
Times Staff Writer
December 21, 2006

A judge today nullified legislation giving Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District, a stunning setback to Villaraigosa's plans -- already in progress -- to assume direct control of dozens of Los Angeles schools.

The mayor, at a news conference this afternoon, said he has instructed lawyers for the city to appeal the ruling. He said he would also ask that the California Supreme Court hear the appeal directly.

"We will not be set back," Villaraigosa said.

He added: "We refuse to be deterred by the forces of the status quo."

The ruling was a sweeping victory for the school district and puts in question the mayor's education agenda, which was embodied in the legislation before the court.

Under Assembly Bill 1381, Villaraigosa would have ratified the hiring and firing of future superintendents through a Council of Mayors that he would have dominated. And he would have had direct authority over three low-performing high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them.

Judge Dzintra Janavs found the entire law defective and ordered public officials "to refrain from enforcing or implementing" any part of it.

Anti Latino bigotry and L.A. Schools

this blog has argued against the take over of L.A. Unified Schools by the Mayor. (See prior posts)
A court has blocked the take over.
However, here you can read a report and then read the comments by readers. It sounds like the S.O.S. crowd.
Duane Campbell

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Many Children Left Behind: a book review

Many Children Left Behind - A Review

This is a courageous book. Authored by some of the most respected American educational thinkers of our times (Deborah Meier, Linda Darling-Hammond, George Wood, Alfie Kohn, Stan Karp, Monty Neil and Theodore R. Sizer), Many CLB shows the current Educational Emperor has no clothes. Sadly, such voices have been virtually silenced in recent years as the consideration of national educational policy has been reduced to a monologue launched by grey suited ideologues quick to dismiss the thinking of true educators.

In a few years we will look back at this dark period of educational history and realize, "It was the worst of times."

Many Children Left Behind does a chilling job of summarizing the case against the NCLB educational law and the policies put into place during George W. Bush's administration. It reveals the fallacies, the hidden agendas and the distortions embedded in this act.

Why courageous? There has been too much silence, too much compliance and too little outcry about an educational policy that is likely to level a decade of damage on our schools and our children (especially poor children) before the full consequences are understood. What we are seeing and what these authors reveal is a radical, right wing experiment cleverly dressed up to seem beneficial. To challenge this approach to school improvement is to throw one's career into severe risk.

Not a team player
Subversive tendencies
Soft bigotry
Hidden Agendas and Broken Promises

NCLB contains dozens of hidden agendas that were slipped into a mammoth bill in ways that seemed to escape notice, as George Wood points out in his introduction. In addition, fundamental technical flaws undermine the capacity of NCLB to do good. Wood lists underfunding, restrictive definitions of teacher qualifications and arbitrary expectations for subgroups as just a few, but he argues that NCLB is more deeply and fundamentally flawed, throwing schools off purpose by stressing results on a few tests in ways that will actually undermine accountability and threaten the success of our children.

Missing the Point

Ted Sizer argues that NCLB fails to address the true causes of school failure and to advance an agenda for real improvement:

While NCLB was accompanied by much rhetorical emphasis on "research-based" education policy, the breadth of this research is narrow, largely settled on specific pedagogies and curricula that are "measurable."

Compelling research on larger themes --- the social reasons for school dropouts, the weakness of social capital in regions with apparently low-performing" schools, the misdesign of many schools, the evidence of growing inequities among population groups and communities, the impact of now ubiquitous media on the basic learning of children and adolescents, for example---find no place in the act. Page xxi
Testing is Not Fixing

Linda Darling-Hammond points out that NCLB fails to address many of the resource failures of education, whether it be inadequate textbooks, falling ceiling tiles or lack of heat.

Although the act orders schools to ensure that 100 per cent of students test at levels identified as "proficient" by the year 2014---and to make mandated progress toward this goal each year---the small per pupil dollar allocation it makes to schools serving low-income students is well under 10 percent of schools' total spending, far too little to correct these conditions.

Most of the federal money has to be spent for purposes other than upgraded facilities, textbooks, or teachers' salaries. Furthermore, while the law focuses on test scores as indicators of school quality, it largely ignores the important inputs or resources that enable school quality.
Page 8
According to Darling-Hammond, "The biggest problem with the NCLB Act is that it mistakes measuring schools for fixing them." She goes on to illustrate ways that NCLB has forced many states to lower their standards and how it has perversely encouraged some schools to improve performance by making sure low performing students leave. Rather than lifting the performance of low achieving students, NCLB can increase the number of dropouts and pushouts.

As with each of the authors of this book, Darling-Hammond offers a list of suggestions for policies that might actually lead to improvement. Not content to criticize, she takes on the issue of teacher quality, for example, and offers specific recommendations.

Overhauling NCLB

One of the best sections of this book is offered up by Monty Neil, whose group, FairTest, has been one of the most outspoken critics of NCLB.

Not content to criticize, Neil offers very specific alternative strategies for school improvement. Neil's section of the book is called "Overhauling NCLB."

Unlike the rigid and unrealistic demands of NCLB, Neil's focus is much more authentically local and much more realistically tied to the development of programs from the school and community level. He advances ten principles worthy of consideration:

Shared Vision and Goals
Adequate Resources Used Well
Participation and Democracy
Prioritizing Goals
Multiple Forms of Evidence
Balance - Bottom Up and Top Down
What does he mean by these? Good reason to buy the book!
A book well worth reading

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Commission on Skills of U.S. work force

Once again a new report of the The Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.
Once again U.S. business leaders and elected officials decry the low level of education of U.S. students. ( This has consistently been debunked by Gerald Bracey).
Once again a plea that the business community needs a better prepared workforce- not a bad thing.
However, this is a business community and their political allies who have looted the U.S. with outrageous salaries, tax benefits, bonuses and subsidies. (See United for a Fair Economy) The Wall Street Journal reports a total of 23.9 Billion dollars given in bonuses this week. How many schools would that fund?
This is a business community which has looted the public treasury by insisting upon and getting massive tax breaks, thus taking funds away from schools.
So, the report argues U.S. schools are mediocre. Yes, and U.S. funding for schools is mediocre, and California funding for schools is below mediocre.
And, when school funding is mediocre, then funding for schools in poor peoples areas is below mediocre, and they lack well prepared teachers, adequate facilities, and reasonable class sizes. I bet not one of these business leaders and elected officials would spend more than one day living and working in conditions similar to that of the average U.S. school.

Or, as school reform scholar Theodore Sizer says, “The measure of the worth of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By this standard, America- the richest nation in the history of the world- falls visibly short….
Inadequately funded or equipped schools, however efficient, rarely provide a thorough education..
In most states, access to public education is limited by one’s neighborhood. The effect is that wealthier families have access to schools with more robust funding than do their poorer neighbors. Segregation by class is the rule, not the exception. "
Sizer, Theodore, “Preamble: a reminder for Americans,” in Many Children Left Behind, Deborah Meier and George Wood, editors. 2004.

"Just a week after Morgan Stanley chief executive John J. Mack scored an unprecedented $41.1 million bonus, there is a new record on Wall Street. Securities firm Goldman Sachs disclosed that it paid Lloyd C. Blankfein, its chairman and chief executive since June, a bonus of $53.4 million in 2006, the highest ever for a Wall Street chief executive. The payout comes soon after Goldman reported a record profit of $9.5 billion in 2006. Its stock price is up almost 60 percent for the year. And on Wednesday, Thomson Financial published preliminary 2006 results showing that Goldman once again topped the list of mergers and acquisitions advisers, taking part in global deals with a total value of more than $1 trillion.

Goldman’s compensation committee awarded Mr. Blankfein $27.3 million in cash, $15.7 million in restricted stock and options to buy Goldman stock valued at $10.5 million. Added to his $600,000 salary, the bonus means that Mr. Blankfein will make $54 million this year, up from $38 million last year." NYT.

Duane Campbell

Sunday, December 17, 2006

California Secretary of Education?

With the resignation of Alan Bersin as Secretary of Education the Schwarzenegger Administration has an important opportunity to appoint a much needed educational leader for California. He claims to want to be a bi-partisan leader. Well, this appointment will tell us a great deal.

Rumors persist that he will appoint Margaret Fortune or Peter Mehas.
Will he appoint a person who can lead, or will he appoint a partisan policy advocate?
This is a real test of bi-partisanship.
A leader should be willing to look at the data and to propose new directions to respond to the several crisis in California education. A non leader would occupy the position and advance narrow ideological interests while advancing their own career. (See Kathryn Emory, Why Are the Corporations Bashing our Schools?)

Or, is there some time when a former partisan hack becomes a policy leader? We can certainly see that in the rise of former Reagan Administration actors in the Iran/Contra affair to prominent positions of foreign policy control in the administration of George W. Bush. ( see David Corn in the online version of The Nation).
And the book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaren shows how incompetent the Bush Administration appointees were in Iraq. Indeed, they created the mess that is now costing us U.S. lives.
So, back to the question. Will we have a Secretary of Education reporting to Schwarzenegger who is a well informed person – or will we have a political hack?

Duane Campbell

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bob Moses and the Algebra Project

Educator equates algebra, success

Professor and civil rights advocate Bob Moses visits city to push math model.

By Laurel Rosenhall - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bob Moses sees algebra as a civil rights issue -- if poor children don't learn high-level math, he argues, they'll never get the jobs they need as adults to pull themselves out of poverty.

The math professor who fought in the 1960s to earn black Southerners the right to vote was in Sacramento on Thursday and Friday to talk with local educators about bringing his model for math instruction to area schools. It's a prospect still in the early stages of development -- no one has decided yet which schools or districts would participate, or when the effort would begin.

But teachers, administrators and community members at Friday's meeting were intrigued by the possibility of becoming part of the national Algebra Project, a network of schools and teachers trying to improve math education for needy students through methods developed by Moses.

"We recognize that success in math and science lays the foundation for success in school and beyond," said David Oshige, of the California Teachers Association and the Sacramento Valley Organizing Community, a group that set up Moses' trip to Sacramento.

During the meeting at the Celebration Christian Center, Moses demonstrated how participants in the Algebra Project teach mathematical concepts. The approach starts with students doing something, then asks them to talk about it in laymen's terms, then talk about it in scientific terms, then draw it, and finally, convert it to conventional algebraic symbols.

In the example he presented Friday, Moses asked two meeting participants to stand next to each other at the front of the room and say their names: Dr. Richardson and Ms. Vierra, they said.

He asked the rest of the group to write two sentences about which of the two women is taller and which is shorter. "Dr. Richardson is taller than Ms. Vierra," a participant said. "Ms. Vierra is shorter than Dr. Richardson."

This, Moses said, was what he calls "people talk," or describing something in common terms.

Then Moses asked the group what feature of the women the exercise focused on: Was it their weight? Their shoe size? No.

"The feature we're talking about is their height," he said. "Now write a sentence that starts with the feature, 'The height.' "

People read their sentences aloud. Some wrote that the height of Dr. Richardson "surpasses" the height of Ms. Vierra. Others wrote that the height of Dr. Richardson "is more than" or "is greater than" that of Ms. Vierra.

"That's feature talk," Moses said.

Then participants took turns drawing symbols to represent their sentences. And finally, Moses translated the picture sentences into conventional symbols by writing:

H(Dr. R) > H(Ms. V)

H(Ms. V) < H(Dr. R)

From there, he said, students learn the concept behind terms like x > y and y < x.

"The letter x is a conventional way of representing a feature, in this case the height," said Moses, who studied math philosophy at Harvard and is on the faculty of Florida International University.

Participating in the Algebra Project means a lot more than changing the way math is taught.

It also requires that schools commit to the program for five years and offer the Algebra Project classes to a substantial number of students performing in the lowest quartile on state tests. Schools must also release teachers for training in the Algebra Project technique, provide teachers with graphing calculators and other technology, and hire enough teachers so that students can take 90 minutes of math each day.

"The main cost is getting these extra teachers," Moses said.

He suggested the Sacramento community begin to identify teachers and schools that want to participate in the program. Once the schools and teachers are selected, the program could start with a few eighth- and ninth-grade classes in the 2008-09 school year, Moses said.

The Algebra Project and affiliated efforts now operate in Chicago, Boston, Miami and Jackson, Miss. Schools in Milwaukee, Oakland, Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles also have participated at different times in the Algebra Project's 20 year-plus history.

The Algebra Project grew out of Moses' experience volunteering in his own children's classrooms in the early 1980s. Before that, from 1961 to 1965, he headed the voter registration drive in Mississippi as part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a key group in the civil rights movement.

"We used the right to vote as a tool to organize sharecroppers so they could demand their political access into the political system," Moses said. "What we're doing now is using mathematics and math literacy as an organizing tool for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the sharecroppers across the country to get them to access their educational and economic opportunities."

Adam Berman, director of curriculum for the Grant Joint Union High School District, was among the educators at Friday's meeting. Afterward, he said he wants to learn even more about the Algebra Project.

"It involves concepts that are promising for closing the achievement gap," Berman said. "We'll investigate this further."

This article is protected by copyright and should not be printed or distributed for anything except personal use.
The Sacramento Bee, 2100 Q St., P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852
Phone: (916) 321-1000

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

San Francisco Unified prepares for bilingual world

SFUSD Press Release - December 13, 2006 – The San Francisco Unified School District hopes to offer every student the opportunity to graduate from SFUSD fluent in English and at least one other language. On December 12, 2006, San Francisco Unified School District Board members voted unanimously for a resolution that will set up a task force to guide SFUSD in preparing students for success in a multilingual and multicultural world.

Globalization works for the bosses

Democracy : A Journal of Ideas
Issue #3, Winter 2007

Crashing the Party of Davos
Globalization works for the bosses. Can we make it work for workers too?

Jeff Faux

A ll markets have a politics, reflecting conflict among economic interests over the rules and policies that determine–as the American political scientist Harold Lasswell once famously put it–"who gets what." And when markets expand, so do their politics. Thus, in the nineteenth century, driven by improvements in transportation and communication technologies, commerce spilled across state borders beyond the capacity of states to regulate them. The power of large corporations went unchecked, generating bitter and violent class conflict. Fortunately, the democratic framework of the U.S. Constitution permitted popular challenges to the excessive concentration of wealth and influence. Ultimately, through the Progressive and New Deal eras, the United States developed a national politics that imposed a social contract–a New Deal that provided workers, as well as business, with enforceable economic rights. Over time, the contract was extended to racial minorities, women, and others who had been previously excluded from expanding economic opportunities.

Today, markets have expanded again, beyond national borders–and beyond the capacity of the world’s nation-based political institutions to manage them. As a result, the global economy is sputtering. Witness the collapse of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, popular hostility to the "Washington Consensus" of development in Latin America and other underdeveloped regions, and the spread of social tensions over immigration and foreign-wage competition in both rich and poor countries. The current pattern of globalization is undercut- ting the social contract that national governments, in developed and in many less-developed countries, had imposed over the last century in order to stabilize their economies and protect their citizens from laissez-faire’s brutal insecurities. Even as the world grows more tightly knit, it still lacks a common politics for managing its integration.

Just as bringing stability to the American economy in the last century required stronger national institutions, bringing social balance to the global economy in this century will require stronger global political institutions to regulate global markets. Already, many such institutions exist–such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and International Monetary Fund (IMF). But in make-up and in culture, they are dominated by those who own and manage large concentrations of internationally mobile capital, whose goal is to escape market regulation and break free of obligations to stakeholders other than the global corporate investor. In the politics of the global market, these institutions are dominated by a single party: Call it the Party of Davos, after the Swiss resort where several thousand global corporate CEOs, government leaders, and their assorted clientele of journalists, academics, and an occasional nongovernmental organization (NGO) or trade union head have the equivalent of their party convention every winter.

We are therefore faced with a catch-22: a global economy that is both prosperous and fair requires strong global institutions, but given the lack of a constitutional framework for democracy on that scale, strengthening existing global institutions is unlikely to generate a better distribution of global income and wealth. Indeed, under the present structure, as the world’s markets become more integrated, world inequality grows.

This fundamental contradiction cannot be resolved by unruly demonstrators at the entrance to the World Bank or the IMF. Nor will it be resolved in polite public policy seminars with proposals for globalization’s winners to share their gains with the losers; that is not what winners voluntarily do. Serious reform will only come from the development of a cross-border politics that challenges the cross-border power of the Party of Davos. Pulling together a worldwide movement is a utopian goal, but doing this in a region-by-region process is not. In fact, American progressives could begin the process right here in North America by transforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into an instrument for continent-wide social progress. A redesigned NAFTA, in turn, could serve as a critical building block in constructing a global economy that is more equitable, more stable, and more democratic.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More on nonsense in the California legislature and school reform

See the prior post for more.
SB 1209 (2006) was an omnibus bill containing a wide variety of issues, included among them was the mandate to move forward with performance assessment without funding.
The focus in the hearing on SB 1209 was a number of provisions designed to increase the number of teachers in California. Omnibus bills are put together when a wide variety of interests agree to a number of issues. The Governor’s office was a central player in bringing this bill together. There is no reason to accept this bill as a measure of actual opinion in the legislature, the mandate provisions were not discussed. The writers do not know why the prior hesitance of the Dean’s of Education were not advanced, however the mutual relationship, known as the compact, between the Chancellor’s office of the CSU and the Governor’s office seems a likely source.

There are a number of ideologically conservative groups who mis use education research to promote their own ideologies, charter schools and usually keep their taxes low. Among these folks are Alan Bersin and Margaret Fortune of the Governor's Office. We need to take these folks seriously. However, little is gained by us trying to out do these folks. Instead we need sensible, reasonable, public education campaigns and targeted approaches to legislators.

What would a political response include? We need to speak with other faculty in the field. Initiate and sustain dialogue among the professionals. Most faculty are accepting this legislative intrusion as natural. Help them to understand that PACT and TPA’s are a choice.

We need to develop ways to invite parent participation, particularly parents of the children currently not doing well in our schools. Writing goals, standards, and TPA’s, for the teaching profession should be in dialogue with teachers, parents, and professionals, not only the non representative, middle class, bureaucrats of the CTC.
Start communicating with our Senators and Assembly members to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on teacher preparation rather than punative assessments.
Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the preparation of teachers. Use letter writing, blogs, and other tools to de mystify the rhetoric around TPA’s and PACT. Establish a system of monitioring of the media to respond to the over simplifications.
Duane Campbell

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nonsense in Calfornia Legislature and teacher preparation

When you make a serious error and you have dug yourself into a deep hole, the first step is to stop digging.

The recent history of “school reform” efforts clearly reveals that legislatures can be a tool for change or as a tool for meddling, pandering, and muddling. ( A small , united group of people can advance their personal careers and push an over simplification of a reform strategy. Moving the legislature is particularly easy since legislators and their staff seek headlines and are so busy with other tasks. Conning the legislature is easy if your package your “reform” as a scientific process. This claim makes it easy to avoid providing evidence of added value. This process has been well documented in California described in Cornbleth and Waugh, “The Great Speckled Bird: Multicultural Politics and Education Policymaking. “ (1995) and in Taylor, “Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science; The Political Campaign to Change America’s Mind about How Children Learn to Read. (1998).
By 2000 the prior magic bullets of school reform were not producing miracles in California schools nor positive headlines for legislators so the legislature once again excelled by shifting the focus to teacher preparation as the new instant message. If we don’t know what to do, and we can’t blame teachers for everything, then teacher preparation programs must be the culprit. Note: The alternative of adequate funding of schools and family support programs was not considered. Such reforms cost real money which would raise taxes.
The Legislative mandates of 2042 became an opportunity for persons working with the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California (SB2042, 2000), new accountability measures have been implemented, some without financial funding. As part of these mandates, the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has mandated that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The TPA as an assessment tool is based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). As an assessment tool, it is even more simplistic and rigid than

Friday, December 08, 2006

Will to ignorance and School Reform

Out, Out, Damn Fact! The “Will To Ignorance” in Public Policy Discourse on the Achievement Gaps

There are a number of significant achievement gaps in American education, situated first along axes of race and ethnicity and of socio-economic class, and then within this larger gap, along the lines of gender. These gaps are distinct, but intersect and interact in important ways.

And then there are the gaps in our public understanding of those achievement gaps. Public policy discussions around the achievement gaps seem to gravitate to postures [and to posturing] predicated on a “will to ignorance” regarding a number of essential facts on the challenges we face.

Two quality pieces on this subject that appeared in the New York Times last week — Sam Dillon’s Monday article “Schools Slow In Closing Gaps Between The Races” and Paul Tough’s Sunday magazine essay on “What It Takes To Make A Student” — show how far we have yet to go in our discussions of the achievement gaps. Tough’s piece in particular possesses a greater thoughtfulness, a deeper analysis and more nuance than most commentary on the subject. Yet it still overlooks key aspects of the question: the lacunæ in its analysis are quite telling.

Like almost all of the contemporary literature, Tough writes as if the issue of the achievement gaps arose recently, and were written on an historical tabula rasa. However, long before a George W. Bush speechwriter coined the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and well before the shadow of NCLB fall across American public schools, there was a history to the achievement gaps. Significantly, there was a period of relatively recent American educational history when the racial achievement gap diminished. In an essay “Still Separate, Still Unequal” published in Dissent, I described that history this way:

The most important pattern in the achievement gap lies in the way that it steadily diminished in size from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s and then began to increase again in the 1990s. The reasons for this trend reversal are complex, as there are multiple variables in play, yet they are also central to any effort to abate and eliminate the gap. One factor that seems to have been crucial to the size of the gap was school desegregation. From the period when substantive desegregation began in the South up until the period when American education began to resegregate, the racial achievement gap diminished; moreover, the gap declined the greatest in the South, which was undergoing meaningful racial integration, and least in the Northeast, which saw little desegregation. Other central factors were improvements in the educational achievement and the socioeconomic status of African American parents. In the wake of the civil rights movement, affirmative action opened up post-secondary education and higher status employment to people of color, while civil rights legislation reduced job discrimination, and many Great Society programs improved job opportunities for poorer people of color. Additionally, educational programs introduced during the Great Society, such as Head Start, had a positive impact on the performance of poor students. By contrast, the effects of the rollback of the Great Society programs and opportunities for people of color that began under the Reagan administration came into full force in the 1990s. And although the 1990s were a decade of unprecedented economic growth and expansion, they were also a period of increased income inequality. During the 1990s, the achievement gap followed the same pattern as the wage gap.

This history remains largely unnoticed. The leading conservative text on the achievement gap, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom’s No Excuses, is emblematic of the “will to ignorance” here: its total commentary on this question is the five word phrase that the narrowing of the achievement gap from the mid-1970s through the 1980s took place for “reasons we do not know” — an incredulous claim in a book dedicated to understanding that very subject. But the political logic of their argument allows them no other option: the Thernstroms are adamant that racial desegegration of schools and progressive policies which promote greater economic security and equality are irrelevant to closing the achievement gap, so they must ignore the contrary historical evidence that those policies had a positive effect. They don’t know what led to a diminishment of the achievement gap for fifteen years of recent American history because they simply don’t want to know.

Tough is more politically open-minded than the Thernstroms, but like them, he picks and chooses evidence to meet his preconceived solutions for the achievement gaps, and ignores its history. His analysis of the causes of achievement gaps rests solely on what might be called a “cultural capital” argument: he contends that the advantages of social class which middle class and upper class parents provide to their children lies not so much in material wealth and a richer formal education, as it does in the intellectual skills and dispositions that come with the predominant ‘middle class’ style of child rearing.

In this regard, Tough has touched upon an important and central facet of the achievement gaps. Perhaps this facet is most clearly evident in the important work of Betty Hart and Todd Risley on language acquisition which Tough cites; they have found that by age three, a child of professional parents has a vocabulary more than twice as large as that of a child living poverty — 1100 to 525 words. This difference is illustrative of the extraordinary class-based gaps which have opened among children of different socio-economic standing before they have even begun their formal education. [An excellent summary of the Hart and Risley research was published in the AFT’s American Educator under the title, “The Early Catastrophe.”]

Tough writes as if the differences in acquired ‘cultural capital’ were the totality of the causes of the achievement gaps. In his analysis, there is no discussion of how other aspects of the conditions of poverty, other cultural differences such as the intersection of gender and race, the racial and class segregation of American schooling, and the vast inequalities in resources among schools all contribute mightily to the achievement gaps. In one respect, this ahistorical narrative makes perfect sense. Let us accept, for purposes of argument, the accuracy of Tough’s evaluation of KIPP, Amistad and North Star, the charter schools he profiled. If one is going to argue, as he does, that good schools with incredibly intensive educational programs can singlehandedly overcome the achievement gap, it makes sense to have an explanation of its causes that is entirely cultural and intellectual, emanating forth from patterns of child rearing. Child rearing is, after all, the primary medium of education, so what one is left with is a model of later, more intensive education compensating for the inadequacies of the earlier, formative education. The only question that would remain is whether it would be possible to scale up a handful of successful individual schools into a wholesale approach for all students facing an achievement gap — a rather significant issue, as Tough himself notes.

But if the causes of the achievement gaps are much more varied, there are real limits to what good schooling can do entirely on its own, without the support of a range of complementary economic and social policies. One telling example will demonstrate why this is so. Any educator who has taught in a school serving a high poverty community will tell you that one of the most vexing challenges facing such a school is the high rates of transience and absence among its students. While middle and upper class children live in a state of economic security that minimizes the movement of their families and maximizes school attendance, children in poverty live in a state of economic insecurity which results in frequent, disruptive moves and greater school absences. Poor people, we pointed out in one recent Edwize post, live from day to day and week to week, from pay cheque to pay cheque, and are therefore constantly on the move. Increased rent they can no longer afford, lost jobs, evictions, condemnations of the building in which they lived, family break-ups, deportation and a whole host of other reasons connected to their economic conditions: all of these occurrences lead to transience. Add to this the increased absence rate among students living in poverty, a rate mostly attributable to increased rates of childhood illnesses — and, in a chain of causality, traceable back to poor and inadequate nutrition, clothing and housing, as well as inferior health care.

We could provide many more illustrations of how the conditions of poverty induce and sustain achievement gaps, and discuss the role of racial and socio-economic class segregation and inequities in school funding and resources, but this example makes the central, irrefutable point. The impact of transience and increased student absence is as simple and as powerful as the fact that even the best school will not be able to make significant educational progress with struggling students who are not in their classrooms on a regular basis. In the most fundamental ways, middle class and upper class children have access to schooling that children living in poverty do not possess.

Yet the conditions of poverty are not immutable, the dogmas of laissez-faire market ideologues notwithstanding. Government and not for profit programs that provide affordable and quality low income housing reduce the rate of transience experienced by children living in poverty. Programs that provide quality health care for low income families improve the health of children living in poverty. Institute and expand such programs, as was done during the Great Society, and one can have a significant impact upon the achievement gaps — and on a mass scale, not in isolated pockets. That is the lesson of the history that is studiously ignored by much contemporary discussion of the achievement gaps, not the least by Tough. A serious campaign to diminish the achievement gaps must combine such anti-poverty programs, equity in school funding and racial desegregation of schools with measures designed to improve the schools children living in poverty attend. To fight on one front without taking on the other fronts is to guarantee defeat.

But fighting on one front is precisely what one hears from all too many public policy voices addressing the issue of the achievement gaps. One looks in vain for a substantive recognition of the ways in which the conditions of poverty are implicated in the achievement gaps, much less a programmatic thrust which addresses these questions, from organizations such as the Education Trust. Marian Wright Edelman’s Children Defense Fund stands out as the exception to the prevailing rule with its forthright stance on the totality of the causes of the achievement gap.

Let’s speak plainly here. The “will to ignorance” about the causes of the achievement gaps is directly related to a failure of political will, an abject surrender to those forces on the hard conservative right for whom anti-poverty programs, funding equity for schools serving poor communities and racial desegregation of schools are anathema. A singular focus on individual schools, with the programmatic thrust directed at privatization and market based schemes, fits comfortably with the political agenda of that hard right. Quality low income housing for the families of children living in poverty, universal quality health care for children living in poverty and other associated anti-poverty measures do not. Yet today 37 million Americans live in poverty, over one-third of whom are children, and since 2000, poverty has been growing and becoming more prevalent in America — to the point that it is now approaching pre-Great Society levels. To ignore this reality, to discuss the achievement gaps as if the conditions of poverty were some external, unrelated phenomenon, is to fight the battle in a way that guarantees defeat.

In a second, subsequent post we will take up the question of the intersection of race and gender in the achievement gap, a tell tale sign of the cultural complexity of the phenomenon — which Tough and most commentators fail to address.

Leo Casey, NYC.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group

Iraq Study Group
Executive Summary
The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no
path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be im-
In this report, we make a number of recommendations
for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the re-
gion. Our most important recommendations call for new and
enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the re-
gion, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq
that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat
forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two rec-
ommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.
If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government
moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an
opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow,
stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and
America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected.
The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing
in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shi-
ite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread crimi-
nality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability.

There is much of interest in the report of the Iraq Study Group. First, it is an attempt by established political powers to stay in charge.
I find very interesting the comments by Lee Hamilton and Leon Pannetta , that "this nation is deeply divided." and that,
"You can not conduct a war with the nation this divided. "

Their goal is to get everyone to agree to their consensus. Of course, they mean all the political leaders which matter. Jim Baker of the Carlyle Group is confident that we can talk with Syria. He should know.
Duane Campbell

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How the Democrats could go wrong

Robert Borosage:
Then the hard part begins. Democrats will face a failed
war, a slowing economy, a budget mess, unsustainable
trade deficits, declining wages and voters that are
looking for some hope.

And here is where Democrats are likely to go very wrong.
Next week, Democrats will convene a briefing on basic
issues and how they should think about them. On Tuesday,
the subject is Iraq with an array of Democratic advisors
lined up to speak. On Wednesday, the subject is the
economy and, as of this date, the experts invited
include Citibank executive and former Treasury Secretary
Bob Rubin and … no one else.

Rubin's presence is to be expected. He presided over the
Clinton economy, which, riding on the Dot-com bubble,
moved the economy to full employment, and helped lift
wages even at the bottom, while generating a budget
surplus. An attractive, self-effacing liberal, who helps
Democrats reap Wall Street money, Rubin virtually walks
on water in Democratic circles.

But if Democrats have any shot at building a governing
majority, they need to expose themselves to a range of
progressive economic views-like those advocated by the
Economic Policy Institute-that directly challenge the
tenets of Rubinomics.

In fact, Rubin's economic advice is likely to mislead
Democrats on policy and on politics. Like most bankers,
Rubin advocates balanced budgets über alles . He'll lock
Democrats into 'pay-go' budgeting, shackling them into
showing how they will pay for any investments they want
to make. In a direct reversal of the years of Democratic
dominance, Republicans now offer tax breaks and new
entitlements without concern for deficits and Democrats
offer green eyeshade economics. One offers pleasure; the
other pain. Guess which party benefits?

Rubin is also the leading advocate of our laissez-faire
free trade system-the architect behind Clinton's support
of NAFTA, the WTO and the folly of treating China as if
it were playing by the same rules. He'll warn against
protectionism, and argue for cutting spending to help
limit the trade deficits. In office, he dismissed
concerns that our massive trade deficits were
unsustainable and were decimating American workers and
undermining their wages. Now, he's prepared to recognize
that free trade generates losers as well as winners. In
response he proposes 'wage insurance,' to provide
temporary help to displaced workers forced to take lower
wage jobs. This isn't much solace to those who are
worried about their fate in the global economy. But
that's okay, with Rubin putting balanced budgets first,
there isn't going to be any money for the program
anyway. It's a gesture, not an answer.

More importantly, Rubinomics offers no answers for the
current crisis America faces. What do we do in a global
economy that has added billions of very low-wage,
disciplined workers to the workforce supplied with
technological capacity by multinational corporations?
What do we do with unsustainable global deficits-likely
to reach nearly $1 trillion next year-that have left us
dependent on the whims of Chinese and Japanese central
bankers? (Balancing the budget isn't the answer; the
trade deficits went up under Clinton when the budget was
in surplus.) What do we do about the shredding of the
corporate social compact-family wages, secure jobs,
health care, paid vacations, pensions-which were the
basis of America's middle class? Bush's tax cuts
squandered hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the
wealthy. Democrats are wary about raising taxes. But
with the economy slowing, won't cutting spending to
balance the budget simply drag the economy down further-
and add to the growing public investment deficit in
everything from renewable energy to affordable housing
to adequate sewers? In the Dot-com boom, with a
declining military budget providing some resources for
investment, and China, India and East Europe just coming
into the global market, Rubinomics seemed to work. But
it has few answers for dealing with the fallout from
those policies and Bush's subsequent follies.

Rubinomics is also bad politics. It favors the Wall
Street wing of the party at the expense of the Main
Street voters. Democrats were propelled to victory in
this election in part because of growing public dismay
over an economy that doesn't work for them. Democrats
ran the most populist elections in memory-railing
against the drug and oil lobbies, indicting failed trade
policies that are shipping jobs abroad and undermining
wages at home. Voters-including independent voters from
the supposed 'center'-are overwhelmingly in favor of
aggressive trade policies, and are looking for help on
wages, health care, pensions and holding Wall Street
moguls and corporate CEOs accountable.

With Bush in the White House, Democrats won't be
deciding national economic policy in the next two years.
But they will be laying the groundwork for a Democratic
economic strategy. They will be offering their
indictment of Bush's course. They should be holding
hearings and developing policies to start meeting some
of the pressing demands of the voters who put them in
office. To do that, they would be well advised to reach
out to a far broader range of advisors than the leading
strategist for Citibank.

Robert L. Borosage is co-director of the Campaign For
America's Future.


Friday, December 01, 2006

The achievement gap

From California Educator: CTA
Teachers at Mathson Middle School in San Jose are making a concerted effort to push students to work beyond their comfort levels. The use of incentives has helped improve both the behavior and the academic performance of students, says math teacher Raul De La Selva.
It’s been more than 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court tried to eliminate inequities in public education. For a time, significant progress was made. In the 1970s and ’80s, the achievement gap between African American and white students narrowed by more than half in reading and close to that in math. But in the 1990s the gap began to widen again. Studies show that the gap in NAEP test scores is now approximately 10 points wider — about a year’s worth of learning — than it was 10 years ago.

While there are no similar studies for the progress of Hispanic students over the past three decades, there’s no shortage of indicators that the gap exists.

The past school year was the first year that students had to pass the California High School Exit Exam to receive a diploma. Approximately 91 percent of the state’s seniors had passed both sections of the test by July, but a demographic breakdown by the California Department of Education reveals that 97 percent of white students and 95 percent of Asian students passed the test, compared with 86 percent of poor students, 86 percent of Hispanics, 84 percent of African Americans and 76 percent of English language learners.

Similarly, the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) indicates that students are showing progress at almost every grade level, and are performing at the highest levels since the program began almost a decade ago. Nevertheless, the achievement gap has either remained the same or widened over the past four years at most grade levels. In English-language arts, African American, Latino and poor students remain at “below basic” or “far below basic” levels at three times the rate of white, Asian and affluent students; and affluent students are twice as likely as low-income students to reach proficiency. In math, white and Asian students are twice as likely to be proficient as Latino and African American fourth-graders; poor students are almost three times as likely to score “below basic” as affluent students.

California’s graduation rate is 87 percent for 2004-05, according to an analysis of California Department of Education statistics. But when the numbers are broken out by ethnic group, a sizable gap is revealed with 90 to 93 percent of Asians, Filipinos and whites graduating compared with 81 to 83 percent of Native Americans, Latinos and African Americans.

The gap is even more evident when the number of graduates is compared with the number of ninth-graders enrolled four years earlier. The overall graduation rate of 71 percent breaks down to 90 percent for Asians and Filipinos, 79 percent for whites, 70 percent for Pacific Islanders, 64 percent for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and 61 percent for Latinos and African Americans.

According to Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, 92 percent of African American males in California prisons have not received a high school diploma, and of those 73 percent are functional illiterates.

Research by the Urban Institute shows that six of the state’s 10 largest school districts — Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento City and San Bernardino — graduate fewer than half of their Latino students.

The reasons certain groups of students underperform are multiple and interrelated. They include the effects of poverty, home and community learning, unequal opportunities, discrimination, access to health care, and issues of housing and mobility.

“The persistence of wide disparities in achievement that correspond with the race and class backgrounds of students serves as a reminder that America remains a deeply divided nation, a place where the lines separating the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ are manifest in every facet of our lives,” says Pedro No-guera, co-editor of Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools.

“Americans are very content to accept poverty and say, ‘We can’t do anything about that’ — just like global warming.” But by blaming poverty, “the result is often no action.”

He believes blaming the achievement gap on poverty is more palatable than blaming racism. “However, I point out to people that the achievement gap has a lot to do with institutional racism,” says Noguera, whose book examines the results of a six-year research and organizing project to address racial disparities at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, illuminating the challenges in overcoming the current inequities in public education.

He believes that many communities have taken the wrong approach to closing the gap. “The assumption was that we’d get poor black kids into well-funded white schools, and they would get a better education. But in many cases the schools became segregated from within. The poor kids were put in remedial classes, which are not the track that leads to college.”

Education researcher Jonathan Kozol, author of The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, correlates the widening of the achievement gap with the resegregation of schools in recent years. The best hope for the future, he says, lies in schools that are making “conscientious efforts to appeal to a diversity of students rather than permit themselves to reproduce or to intensify the pre-existing isolation of their student populations.”

“Most willing schools can be helped to improve student achievement, but closing the achievement gap is a more difficult proposition,” says Fred Tempes, director of WestEd’s Comprehensive School Assistance Program. “It’s a bigger mountain than most people realize. Demographics aren’t necessarily destiny, but demographics present challenges.”

“We have the knowledge to close the achievement gap, but it’s really a question of political will,” says Tempes. Political will means giving lower-decile schools “substantially more money and resources.” And doing so, he predicts, will make some cry foul. But the traditional meaning of fairness in America, which is giving everyone the same, won’t get the job done.

“We can’t be fair in the traditional sense, because we have to level a very slanted playing field. If you really want to close the achievement gap, you have to do things like lengthen the school year from 180 days to 220 days. You’re going to have to lengthen the school day in some schools and reduce class size in others. You’re going to have to provide preschool, tutoring and after-school support. It’s a tough road, but we can do it if we want to do it.”

While these investments may be costly, not making them may be the costliest option of all, says Tempes. “If we don’t make this investment, the implications might be a two-tiered society where the people who make lots of money live in a gated community, and everyone else is riding the bus and working for minimum wage. It’s not the best recipe for a stable democracy.”

Tempes believes the $3 billion settlement worked out between CTA and the governor to help decile 1 and 2 schools will definitely make progress toward closing the gap. “It’s a significant amount of money for a significant amount of time — seven years,” he says. “It’s one of the best shots we’ve had, in my experience.”

Schools that have made significant progress in closing the achievement gap share common characteristics, according to the EdSource report “Similar Students, Different Results: Why Do Some Schools Do Better?” They include:

Effective school site leadership and a shared vision between administration and teachers that promotes a collaborative working relationship.
A coherent, challenging, rigorous, standards-based instructional program.
An emphasis on using data assessment to improve student achievement andinstruction.
A culture of high expectations where no one makes excuses for students.
Good availability of instructional resources, including qualified teachers, decent facilities and adequate textbooks.
Time set aside for teacher collaboration and professional development, which is considered the key to changing classroom practice.
Increased parent involvement and support for parents and families.
The availability of preschool and full-day kindergarten.
Early intervention for children in academics, health and socialization.
Extra instruction for students as needed, either during the regular school day, after school or on Saturday.

“Schools that close the achievement gaps focus on improving learning for all students, maintain a ‘no excuses’ attitude, use research and data to improve practice, involve everyone in improvement processes, persist through difficulties and setbacks, and celebrate accomplishments,” says an NEA report, “Closing Achievement Gaps: An Association Guide.”

“If we have learned anything over the years, it is how much teachers matter,” says The Education Trust in its report “African American Achievement in America.”

“On this point the research is unequivocal: the teacher is the single most important factor” in determining whether students learn or not.

Teachers at Mathson Middle School want students like Tyomi Howard and Soneer Sainion to succeed, but they won’t make excuses for them if they have problems keeping up.
Studies show that schools in high-poverty urban areas with large minority enrollments tend to have the least experienced teachers. Reseachers at the Santa Cruz-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning found that poor, high-minority urban schools have less access to teachers with the appropriate qualifications than affluent, suburban schools. This correlates with a pervasive “spending gap” between the high-poverty and lowest-poverty schools within the state.

“We’ve got to make low-performing schools places where teachers want to teach,” says CTA
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