Sunday, December 23, 2007

Life is better today, or is it?

The column, “Life is better today than it was 10 years ago,” in the Sacramento Bee Forum is half right.
It should say, life is better today for those who earn over $90,000 per year, or for the upper half of our income distribution. We have had a period in which the well off have made significant gains, and the wages of the working person have significantly stagnated.
So, if you are like Weintraub, and very well paid, then yes, for you, life is much better. However, if you work for a living then life is difficult. See the California budget project for details.

In education Weintraub claims that in 2007 there were increased numbers of 4th. Graders proficient or better in reading. I assume that he is using state test scores.
However, on national tests the NAEP Reading Scores for California give an average score of 209; we rank right along with Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.
The NAEP results are important because schools and teachers can and do drill for the state tests, but not the NAEP. California has remained with the most poverty stricken states for the last 12 years. National scores on math have improved a little. (NAEP, 2007)
Since Prop.13 , California has dropped from one of the best school systems in the nation to 49th in class size and counselors per student, and 37th. in per pupil expenditure.
So, if you are well off, upper income, and live in a suburb- or if send your child to a private school, then, “Life is indeed better today than it was 10 years ago”.
However, if you work for a living and send your children to public schools- it is time for a change.
I would have sent this as a letter to the editor, but it is 300 words long. They only accept letters 200 words and less.

Duane Campbell
Professor. Education. CSU-Sacramento

Friday, December 21, 2007

President creates new Czar : the Onion

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Leaving NCLB + Well behind

Leaving NCLB Behind
In one respect, NCLB betrays core Democratic principles, denying the importance of all social policy but school reform. Inadequate schools are only one reason disadvantaged children perform poorly. They come to school under stress from high-crime neighborhoods and economically insecure households. Their low-cost day-care tends to park them before televisions, rather than provide opportunities for developmentally appropriate play. They switch schools more often because of inadequate housing and rents rising faster than parents' wages. They have greater health problems, some (like lead poisoning or iron-deficiency anemia) directly depressing cognitive ability, and some causing more absenteeism or inattentiveness. Their households include fewer college-educated adults to provide rich intellectual environments, and their parents are less likely to expect academic success. Nearly 15 percent of the black-white test-score gap can be traced to differences in housing mobility, and 25 percent to differences in child- and maternal-health.
Yet NCLB insists that school improvement alone can raise all children to high proficiency. The law anticipates that with higher expectations, better teachers, improved curriculum, and more testing, all youths will attain full academic competence, poised for college and professional success. Natural human variability would still distinguish children, but these distinctions would have nothing to do with family disadvantage. Then there really would be no reason for progressive housing or health and economic policies. The nation's social and economic problems would take care of themselves, by the next generation.
Teachers of children who come to school hungry, scared, abused, or ill, consider this absurd. But NCLB's aura intimidates educators from acknowledging the obvious. Teachers are expected to repeat the mantra "all children can learn," a truth carrying the mendacious implication that the level to which children learn has nothing to do with their starting points. Teachers are warned that any mention of children's socioeconomic disadvantages only "makes excuses" for teachers' own poor performance.
Of course, there are better and worse schools and better and worse teachers. Of course, some disadvantaged children excel more than others. But NCLB has turned these obvious truths into the fantasy that teachers can wipe out socioeconomic differences among children simply by trying harder.
Denouncing schools as the chief cause of American inequality -- in academic achievement, thus in the labor market, and thus in life generally -- stimulates cynicism among teachers who are expected to act on a theory they know to be false. Many dedicated and talented teachers are abandoning education; they may have achieved exceptional results with disadvantaged children, but with NCLB's bar set so impossibly high, even these are labeled failures.
The continuation of NCLB's rhetoric will also erode support for public education. Educators publicly vow they can eliminate achievement gaps, but they will inevitably fall short. The reasonable conclusion can only be that public education is hopelessly incompetent.

Few policy-makers have publicly acknowledged NCLB's demise. Instead, they talk of fixing it. Some want to credit schools for student growth from year to year, rather than for reaching arbitrary proficiency levels. Clearly, adequate progress from different starting points leads to different ending points, but growth-model advocates can't bring themselves to drop the universal-proficiency goal. Doing so would imply lower expectations, on average, for disadvantaged children -- too much for unsophisticated policy discussion to swallow. Consequently, the "fix" is incoherent.
Growth models have even larger error margins than single-year test results because they rely on two unreliable scores (last year's and this year's), not one. And accountability for math and reading growth retains the incentives to abandon non-tested subjects and skills. So some NCLB loyalists now propose accountability for "multiple measures," such as graduation rates. But presently quantifiable skills are too few to minimize goal distortion -- the federal government is unprepared to monitor, for instance, whether students express good citizenship. Further, any mention of diluting a math and reading focus elicits the wrath of "basics" fundamentalists, such as the president and his secretary of education.
Although NCLB will not be reauthorized, the underlying Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), with funding for schools serving low-income children, will continue. NCLB will remain on the books, increasingly ignored. Virtually every school with minority, low-income, or immigrant children will be labeled a failure; the federal government will be hard-pressed to punish all. Eventually, under a new administration, ESEA will be renewed, perhaps including vague incantations that states establish their own accountability policies, once Washington abandons the field.
States will do so. Some, not having learned NCLB's lessons, will retain the distortions and corruption that NCLB established. Others, more creative, will use qualitative as well as quantitative standards, relying on school inspections as well as test scores.
Renouncing federal micromanagement will require liberals to abandon a cherished myth: that only the federal government can protect disadvantaged minorities from Southern states' indifference. The myth is rooted in an isolated fact: In the two decades following Brown v. Board of Education, the federal government forced states to respect rights not only of African Americans but of disabled and immigrant children.
But at other times, the federal government has been no defender of the oppressed. In the early 20th century, state governments enacted minimum-wage, health, and safety laws, only to see them struck down by the Supreme Court. Today, Southern states' attempts to improve education are often impeded by federal policy. Only last year, school integration efforts of Louisville, Kentucky, were prohibited by federal courts, while federal administrative agencies block efforts at integration and affirmative action. In recent decades, states like North Carolina and Texas have been innovators in school improvement. North and South Carolina and Arkansas have had nationally known "education governors" (Jim Hunt, Richard Riley, and Bill Clinton). The greatest potential for greater education improvement in the South lies in boosting African American voting participation, not more federal mandates.

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute. From 1999 to 2002 he was the national education columnist of the New York Times. He is the author of Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (Teachers College Press 2004). He is also the author of The Way We Were? Myths and Realities of America’s Student Achievement (1998).

Richard Rothstein, Dec. 17,2007.
American Prospect

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marysville School

High marks for Marysville school

Community's nurturing spirit overcomes off-campus woes

By Anne Gonzales - Bee Correspondent
Published 12:16 am PST Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To Ricky Nagle, the elementary school where she teaches is something special.

Mary Covillaud Elementary School in west Marysville gets children who live amid grown-up problems: homelessness, drug addiction and alcoholism, crime, unemployment and poverty.

But you'd never know that some kids in Mrs. Nagle's first-grade classroom had slept in a car the night before, or came to school without proper clothing or shoes.

You might not guess that some came with empty bellies, or had been crack babies, or came from homes where no English is spoken.

You'd never know it because once they arrive at the public school, they are clothed, fed and then taught. Although the youngsters face some of life's biggest challenges, their test scores have improved dramatically, and the school is winning awards and turning lives around.

Staff members and parents have pitched in to create a family-style environment at Covillaud, painting rooms and making drapes for the library, sometimes paying for homey touches out of their own pockets. They started a clothes closet staffed by volunteers, and many teachers and staffers work overtime for free or pay for classroom improvements.

Teachers and administrators know they may be the last safety net these children will have before falling into the traps of drugs, crime or poverty.

"My children are so kind and so smart," said Nagle, glowing as she described her class. "This school is Marysville's best-kept secret."

In her classroom, the boys and girls are just children – with all their innocence, a hunger to learn and a desire to please.

About a decade ago, it was no secret Covillaud and its students were foundering, given the students' socioeconomics that continue today.

On any given day, 25 to 50 Covillaud students are homeless. Almost 80 percent qualify for free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches. Of 460 students, 133 speak limited or no English. Many were born addicted to drugs and display attention disorders and behavior problems.

"It's so depressing sometimes," said Principal Doug Escheman. "I have to remind myself that I'm seeing the worst of the worst. We just try to keep them from falling through the cracks."

Some might say the Covillaud staff and volunteers are doing much more than that.

Covillaud's academic performance is among the best in the state for its demographics. Its state Academic Performance Index went from 536 in 1998 to 795 in 2007, earning Covillaud a "Distinguished School" award in 2006 and a federal Title 1 Academic Achievement award for 2007. (API scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.) Attendance is 98 percent.

In 1998, about the time Escheman became principal, 19 percent of the school's second-graders were placing at or above the 50th percentile for reading. Math wasn't the school's strong suit, either: Only 26 percent ranked at or above the halfway mark.

Today, the tables have turned: 75 percent of Covillaud's students test at proficient or advanced in English skills, and 77 percent of them are at that level in math.

Laura Nicholson checked the school's dismal test scores 10 years ago as her son was about to start kindergarten. She met with Escheman to get papers to transfer to another school, but instead ended up choosing Covillaud.

"I fell in love with the kindergarten facilities, and I was so impressed with Doug," she said.

Today, Nicholson's younger son is a fifth-grader at Covillaud.

"If a teacher says, 'This child can't learn because he has trouble at home, or low skills or language barriers,' he (Escheman) doesn't accept that," said Nicholson, executive director of the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce.

Escheman knows many of his students live in cars, motels or federally subsidized housing. He has seen first-graders miss school to care for infant siblings while their parents gamble.

He has had to sit youngsters down and tell them it's time to shape their own futures, that it will be up to them to make something of themselves, that adults may not be there for them.

"I hear some of these kids talk, and I think, 'Wow, that was me, I've been there myself,' " he said of his own troubled childhood.

The school, Marysville's first, was rebuilt in 1950 and named for one of the town's founders, a survivor of the Donner Party. Then came neighborhood decline. Homelessness and drugs began taking a toll.

"We're seeing more drug babies come through," Escheman said. "They don't know their sounds or the alphabet. We spend a little more time with these kids, and we find they snap out of it by third or fourth grade.

"We're in our sixth year of an extended kindergarten day," Escheman said. "We underestimate children sometimes. The longer we keep them, we find they really learn more."

Donna Cummings, a probation officer assigned to Covillaud one day a week to help high-risk students, said the school has to provide the basics before learning can begin. "You can't educate kids who come to school in winter in a tank top," she said.

Through an on-campus clothes closet, the school gives out about 100 new pairs of shoes each year, and countless sweaters, jackets, pants and socks.

Community groups drop off truckloads of canned food and hygiene supplies, and families "come running," Escheman said.

Nicholson said the simple act of clothing and feeding students boosts their confidence. "If we can give them socks or long pants on the first cold day, it's a big thing," she said.

Covillaud's after-school program offers tutoring, homework and literacy help, visual and performing arts and recreation.

The school hosts night classes for parents and multicultural events. Translators make sure all parents feel included.

Nicholson has seen 70 parents from widely diverse ethnic backgrounds show up for school cleanup day.

Escheman believes sacrifices from his staff are key to the improvements: Like the kindergarten teachers who work more hours every day than what he can pay them. Or employees who paint rooms in their spare time. Or the librarian who spent her own money on a brightly colored rug for the library.

Cummings attributes much of Covillaud's success to the principal. "He treats every kid like his," she said.

When Escheman received a state bonus for improved academic performance, she said, he split it with every employee at the school, including custodians.

Escheman will walk a student across the street after school, just to chat, make a connection and hopefully, make a difference. His students already are making a difference in their neighborhood.

Inspired by TV's "American Idol Gives Back," students held a "Covillaud Gives Back" car wash that raised almost $400. They gave the money to a local homeless shelter.

Fifth-grader Eduardo Soto said math and four-square are his favorite parts of school. He wants to grow up to be a singer, a bull rider or "a principal."

Whenever Escheman walks onto the school grounds, he is mobbed like a rock star.

"Maybe these kids can break out and go to college, be successful," Escheman said. "I feel like maybe we can break the cycle here."

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Immigration and the 2008 election

I am working on some ideas related to the immigration “crisis” and the election of 2008. Immigrants’ Rights groups are getting together in Houston in January to seek a common program – a program for progressives in the Latino Communities. The task here is different. Our goal may be to develop a strategy for use in the Anglo or European American electorate.
Following the lead ideas of Andrew Levison at, one important task is to drive a wedge between the extreme, racists anti immigrant forces such as the Minutemen, and divide them from working class Lou Dobbs democrats. If we are unable to create this division, the anti immigrant position may well elect a Republican President.

At present many European American working-class families, like others in the working class, are under severe financial pressure to keep a secure job with good pay and benefits. The international economic restructuring has replaced many of the good-paying, unionized, industrial jobs with lower paying service sector work.
In the 1980s and 1990s right-wing political candidates such as Patrick Buchanan, talk show hosts, and conservative opinion-shapers in the media and on college campuses blamed minority advancements and the women’s movement for the economic stagnation of working people rather than recognizing the role of corporate greed, a view accepted as valid by some (Domhoff, 2002). Since 2001 much of the focus of hostility has shifted to blaming immigrants, particularly immigrants and their children from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean regions of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. A populist anti immigration movement and supporting ideology was developed by author Samuel Huntington, news anchor Lou Dobbs on CNN, and Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado as he ran for the Republican nomination for President.
Currently the debate on immigration is largely framed by the far right. Tom Tancredo, with less than 2% support even in the Republican party, is setting the terms of the debate. Once the Republican primaries are settled, this anti immigrant position will become a major issue used against the Democrats. Both the Republicans and the Democrats already agree on a border wall. As a part of a strategy to drive a wedge druing this election cycle between the outright racists and others in the anti immigrant movement, we should develop and advance some concrete proposals. These might also fit into our Economic Justice Agenda.
First. Give 100,000 immigrant visas per year to people from Mexico and Canada, our NAFTA “partners”. Under current law each country gets a visa total of 20,000 per year. Thus, Costa Rica with 4.1 million people, and Mexico with 103 million people have the same quota for admission. And, given the long history of U.S. –Mexican migration, this ignores the millions of Mexican family members already here.
Second, Give permanent resident visas, and a path to citizenship to all of the children in the U.S, who were brought to the U.S. prior to age 12 by their parents. We don’t punish children for the decisions of their parents.
Third: Develop a reasonable path to citizenship for all the people here who are parents of U.S. citizen children under the age of 18. If a child is a U.S. citizen, certainly they have the right to have their parents here to care for them and to work to earn a living. Proposals to deport parents of U.S. citizen children are mean spirited and contrary to the current law which is based upon family unification.
Fourth:Develop a real path to citizenship for all of the people presently here without documents. This might be a temporary residence visa for 3-5 years, and then a permanent residence visa if the person had good conduct for that period of time.
Fifth: (controversial)
Develop a reasonable guest worker program for 450,000 workers per year. Essentially the same as the Ag Workers bill. There are hunderds of thousands of workers who would like to come to the U.S. for a couple of years to work – and not to stay. And, the U.S. economy needs these workers _ I think.
These workers should be protected by union membership.
To protect the worker. Guest Worker visas should be given to the worker – not to the employer. Then, if a worker is mistreated he/she can leave that job and go find other work.
Note: I have opposed guest worker programs for the last 37 years.
NAFTA and globalization may be making them the better option than the current system of exploitation.
I welcome other ideas and suggestions on this issue. I am confident that my own position will change over time.
Duane Campbell

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why I am voting for Obama

It seems to me that much of the discussion by pundits assumes 
that political decisions are made in the nice, theoretical world as 
described in history books – ie. Official knowledge. 
In my long experience, major political decisions are almost never 
made that way. They are made by control of the agenda, 
advertising, vote suppression, vote caging, and all of the many ways 
we know.

Barack Obama

Oprah Stumps for Obama at S.C. Stadium Rally

Posted on Dec 10, 2007

If Oprah Winfrey can do for politicians what she’s done for books and for any number of consumer items on her “Favorite Things” lists, Barack Obama might have a serious shot at the White House next November. Oprah held court on Sunday at a South Carolina stadium filled with nearly 30,000 Obama supporters, a giant pep rally that “had the feel of a rock concert,” according to Associated Press reporter Seanna Adcox.

Winfrey, who also campaigned for Obama on Saturday in Iowa, offered a touch of talk show-like advice during a 17-minute speech. “There are those who say it’s not his time, that he should wait his turn. Think about where you’d be in your life if you’d waited when people told you to,” she said.

“I’m sick of politics as usual,” Winfrey said. “We need Barack Obama.”

A recent AP-Pew Research poll has New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leading in South Carolina with 45 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Obama’s 31 percent. The two candidates break even on the black vote here, and that’s where Winfrey’s appeal could become a factor—along with her pull among women.

Obama, during his address, criticized the Bush administration and took several veiled swipes at Clinton, though never referenced his rival by name.

Villaraigosa and school reform

Villaraigosa pushes school partnership as vote nears
Parents and teachers at three L.A. high schools and their feeder middle schools will decide whether to join the L.A.'s mayor plan or stick with LAUSD's model.
By Howard Blume and Duke Helfand
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

December 10, 2007

Teachers and parents at seven low-performing middle and high schools will decide Tuesday whether to join Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his effort to dramatically remake their schools. Those campuses are in line for what the mayor said are historic infusions of money and more authority.

This week's balloting will culminate months of hard-charging organizing in neighborhoods and schools by the mayor, his allies and staff. Villaraigosa tried to close the deal himself last week by repeatedly visiting Eastside and South Los Angeles schools, meeting separately with teachers and parents at Roosevelt High, Jordan High and the Santee Education Complex. He and his staff also have made multiple visits to four middle schools that feed into those high schools.

"I want to ensure that teachers have a voice," he told instructors at Jordan. "We want to create a partnership with teachers, classified [non-teaching employees] and parents."

The mayor's overtures received a mix of enthusiasm, skepticism and uncertainty. Villaraigosa made his entreaties even as Los Angeles Unified School District officials develop their own strategy for low-achieving schools, including those courted by the mayor. The school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a plan proposed by Supt. David L. Brewer.

The mayor has said that the partnership would operate only in communities and schools that invite it. For schools to participate, a majority of teachers on each campus must vote yes as well as a majority of parents who choose to vote.

Specifics of how schools will operate under Villaraigosa's partnership will be worked out on individual campuses, the mayor said. Responding to numerous questions from teachers, he said repeatedly that he wants schools to come up with their own solutions and make decisions on curriculum and budgets independent of the central bureaucracy.

"The specific plan," Villaraigosa said to parents at Roosevelt, "is going to be developed and created by you in the schools."

Villaraigosa's tack is strategic as well as philosophical because the veteran politician knows he has an election to win. He's emphasizing local control and funding, while speaking generically about possibly contentious issues, such as what would happen to ineffective teachers or exactly how much progress schools would need to make.

"We've got to have the vote first," he said in an interview Friday. "You can't put the cart before the horse."

Part of his message was to characterize Brewer's reform plan as "status quo" and "top down." The mayor said he meant no disrespect, only to set his initiative apart from the latest "imposed plan."

District officials have suggested that Villaraigosa is exaggerating that distinction, but the mayor frequently scored points with crowds by comparing his pledges to L.A. Unified's track record.

At every stop, teachers peppered Villaraigosa with questions: Who would manage the schools? What would he do about classroom discipline? Why should teachers choose his approach when other promises of help have withered away?

Veteran Jordan teacher Miranda Manners questioned whether he understood large urban high schools and called the mayor's presentation fuzzy. "I want to go with the district because this partnership is vague," she said in an interview.

At nearby Gompers Middle School, nine teachers, including the school's two union representatives, signed a letter last week that praised the partnership for offering more money and autonomy. Joining the mayor, the teachers said, is "a risk worth taking."

Villaraigosa repeatedly insisted that the issue of money plays in favor of his team.

"You saw the way I raised 50 million bucks like that," he said at Roosevelt, referring to the largest single private pledge to the nonprofit that will manage his schools project.

"And I've got two big healthcare providers lined up -- but you can't write about that yet," he said, waving his microphone at a reporter.

A huge source of funding for both Villaraigosa and Brewer will be the state's Quality Education Investment Act, which for seven years will give dozens of low-achieving Los Angeles schools up to $1,000 per student per year.

Schools qualified for this funding -- and the attention from the mayor and Brewer -- by scoring among the lowest on standardized tests. But they have other problems as well. Santee, although only in its third year, also has been marred by ethnically tinged student fights and administrative turnover. Because of overcrowding, it has to operate year-round. Parents and students at Roosevelt, one of the nation's largest high schools, have complained about lack of access to college-prep classes. Jordan is adjacent to the gang-plagued Jordan Downs low-income housing project. One anti-gang activist at the mayor's forum had lost two of her sons to the violence and instability -- one shot by gang members, the other by police.

At the meetings, Villaraigosa had to overcome residual skepticism related to his failed effort to gain authority over the school system, which critics called divisive and undemocratic. The mayor had better luck recently securing a majority of allies on the school board.

"After helping to elect a reform board, I could have easily checked out, but I'm too committed to this," Villaraigosa said in the interview. "It's essential that the mayor partner with the school district."

For veteran teachers, some misgivings stem from seeing one wave after another of purported reforms sweep through schools with great fanfare, only to be ineffective or quickly abandoned.

"I want to make sure these promises are kept for our kids," Jordan history teacher Walter Rich told Villaraigosa.

School board member Richard Vladovic stood by the mayor's side during his Jordan visits.

"You're lucky if you are part of this partnership because you're going to have more of a say," Vladovic told the teachers. "There are a lot of 'must-do's' in [Brewer's plan]. You've got a choice here because you can opt in."

In a later interview, Vladovic said he, too, didn't mean to castigate Brewer, but called Villaraigosa's team more complete.

The superintendent, a retired admiral who lacks a background in public education, is still seeking a chief academic officer. For his effort, Villaraigosa has tapped Ramon C. Cortines, the former head of the Los Angeles and New York public schools, as chair of the board. The acting executive director is Marshall Tuck, who was chief operating officer for Green Dot Public Schools, which runs charter schools in the Los Angeles area.

Villaraigosa received one of his warmest receptions at Roosevelt in Boyle Heights, where about 150 teachers turned out one recent afternoon. A meeting that night for parents attracted 750.

At Roosevelt, the turnout and support resulted from six years of organizing to advocate for better schools, said Board of Education President Monica Garcia, a Villaraigosa ally who represents that area.

On the Eastside and elsewhere, the partnership has paid or recruited community groups to promote his plan, draw people to meetings and circulate petitions -- supporters claim more than 5,000 parent signatures. The $200,000 organizing effort is funded by grants from Verizon, the Hewlett Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the California Community Foundation, according to the mayor's office.

Most of those same community groups also receive funding for various purposes from the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, whose leaders are working closely with the mayor's team.

Even at Roosevelt, some critics made their opposition plain, wearing yellow shirts or carrying signs with messages such as "Roosevelt No! To Villaraigosa's partnership," "Our kids are not for sale," and "Can we trust you?"

Villaraigosa responded with charm as much as logic. He frequently stayed longer than promised, hamming it up with a little quickstep as he drew winning raffle tickets at Jordan -- organizers had put together a giveaway of a $50 Target certificate, a camera and a color TV to attract Jordan parents.

During the parents session at Roosevelt, which was conducted in Spanish, one woman virtually accused Villaraigosa of thievery. Villaraigosa addressed her by name and added: "One thing: Give me a hug."

She did.

A rodent that scurried across the floor became a Villaraigosa prop. "Is that a mouse?" he said. "We're going to get rid of the mice."

At Jordan, the mayor was unequivocal about his effort: "If you think things are fine at Jordan, then the partnership isn't for you," the mayor said. "When so many of our kids can't read and write, I say it's time for change."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Obama and Oprah in South Carolina

"For the very first time in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and to speak out for the man who I believe has a new vision for America."
- Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey joined Barack and Michelle Obama at free public rallies in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina this weekend.
In total, they electrified nearly 70,000 people across three states and brought thousands of new volunteers into our crucial early-state operations. Thanks to everyone who came out and made these events such a success.
Here's a video with excerpts from both Oprah's and Barack's remarks:
Oprah's public support has attracted a lot of attention and created a tremendous opportunity to reach out to people who otherwise might not hear Barack's message of change.
At every stage of this campaign, the mission for every Obama supporter has been to become an organizer in their own right. By reaching out to your friends, family, and neighbors, you have the potential to bring people back into the political process and make them part of something special.
Oprah can certainly reach a lot more people than most of us, but the challenge she met this weekend is the same one you can meet: To break out of your comfort zone and reach out to your network about the important choice our country faces at this moment.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Immigration : The Lou Dobbs effect

Immigration is a divisive issue. It will be a critical issue in the next election.
Most assume that ," a nation has a right to secure its
borders." Certainly Lou Dobbs takes this position as do almost all
of the Democratic Pres. candidates.
In the specific case of the U.S., the southwest of the U.S. was taken
from Mexico by war. (1848)
If a nation takes a huge territory by war, ie. imperialism, why then
do they subsequently have the right to stop people from the former
country from migrating to the ew conquered territory?
This is, for
example, a critical issue in the Israel case.
Most of the countries with major immigration were formerly
imperialist and colonial powers. the largest migration is from the
former colonies to the empire's center.
That is true of Latinos to the U.S., Pakistanis to England, and a
major problem in Russia.
And, the economic development of the central power was made at the cost of the
periphery. That is massive resources were taken from the colonies to
the center.
Then, does the center country now have the right to close the borders
and say,
We took your oil, land, resources, but now you must starve on what we
left you?
I am not comfortable with that formulation.

In the specific case of Mexico (and Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.) the
U.S. economic treaty NAFTA, enriched the ruling elite on both sides
of the border.
It placed over 1.6 million Mexicans out of work and out of
subsistence farming.
So, do we privilege economic treaties passed by the powerful, and
then say that people can not move to feed their families?
I think not.

More to come on this subject.
Duane Campbell

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Civil Rights Groups and NCLB

letter from selected civil rights groups on multiple measures
A Letter from Selected Civil Rights Groups on Multiple Measures

The Honorable George Miller
Chair, Committee on Education and Labor
United States House of Representatives
2205 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Edward Kennedy
Chair, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
United States Senate
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Howard P. McKeon
Ranking Member, Committee on Education
2351 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Michael Enzi
Ranking Member, HELP Committee
379A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Sirs:

We are writing to express our strong support for a comprehensive model of
accountability in the re-authorization of ESEA that will include multiple measures which can
focus schools both on developing high quality teaching and learning and on educating all
students to graduation. We applaud the Congress’s commitment to address the inadequate
education received by poor and minority children, which led to the enactment of No Child Left
Behind. We share the goal of real progress on educational outcomes, and we see accountability as a valuable tool. We also believe Congress can improve the law to better foster genuine educational progress and to hold schools and school systems accountable for a broader array of important educational outcomes. The benefits can be increased and the harms dramatically reduced with a relatively simple and feasible system of multiple indicators.

Therefore, we are very pleased that you and the Committees on Education are
considering including the use of multiple measures of student progress for accountability
decisions in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We believe that the accountability provisions must include a system of multiple assessments of learning, which can help schools focus on assessing the full range of standards and skills appropriately, and multiple indicators of school performance, which emphasize the importance of keeping students in school and educating them to graduation.

Ideally, schools should be held accountable for student growth along all parts of the
achievement continuum. They should demonstrate continuous progress on an index of indicators comprised of multiple academic assessments, plus measures of student progress through school, such as graduation and grade promotion rates. Together, these components can support a comprehensive and educationally beneficial accountability system.

If education is to improve in the United States, schools must be assessed in ways that
produce high-quality learning and that create incentives to keep students in school. A number of
studies have found that an exclusive emphasis on (primarily multiple-choice) standardized test
scores has narrowed the curriculum. The most recent reports of the Center for Education Policy (CEP) and the National Center for Education Statistics (May 2007 Stats in Brief) confirm
sizeable drops in time dedicated to areas other than reading and math, including science, history, art, and physical education. The CEP also found that districts are more tightly aligning their instruction to this limited format as well as content of state tests. While these tests are one useful indicator of achievement, studies document that they often overemphasize low-level learning. As reporter Thomas Toch recently stated, "The problem is that these dumbed-down tests encourage teachers to make the same low-level skills the priority in their classrooms, at the expense of the higher standards that the federal law has sought to promote." To succeed in college, employment and life in general, students need critical thinking and problem solving skills that the tests fail to measure, and they need a complete curriculum.

The law's every-grade every-year testing requirement has discouraged the use of assessments of higher order thinking that motivate ambitious intellectual work and leverage stronger teaching and learning, but take more time and resources to score. These kinds of assessments – which include written essays, oral examinations, research papers, open-ended problems, and other performance assessments – are routinely used in high-achieving European and Asian systems that emphasize higher-order knowledge and skills. Some of our nation’s highest performing districts and states have given up the high-quality assessments they created in the 1990s, because the law currently acts as a disincentive to encourage their continued use.

Perhaps the most troubling unintended consequence of NCLB has been that the law
creates incentives for schools to boost scores by pushing low-scoring students out of school. The very important goal of graduating more of our students has simply not been implemented, and the accountability provisions actually reward schools with high dropout rates. Push-out
incentives and the narrowed curriculum are especially severe for students with disabilities,
English language learners, students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Recent
reports of the Public Education Network confirm that parents, students and other community
members are concerned about the over-reliance on test scores for evaluating students and schools. A number of recent studies have confirmed that this over-reliance has been associated with grade retention and other school actions that exacerbate dropout rates and student exclusion from school, especially for low-income students of color. This creates the perverse outcome that efforts to raise standards are resulting in fewer students receiving an education.

A central part of a solution to these problems is to employ multiple forms of assessment and multiple indicators, while retaining the powerful tools of publicly available assessment information and the critically important focus on equity. A multiple measures approach can help schools and districts improve student outcomes more effectively because:

1. The use of multiple measures ensures that attention will be given to a comprehensive academic program and a more complete array of important learning outcomes;

2. A multiple measures approach can incorporate assessments that evaluate the full range
of standards, including those addressing higher-order thinking and performance skills;

3. Multiple measures provide accountability checks and balances so that emphasizing one
measure does not come at the expense of others (e.g. boosting test scores by excluding
students from school), but they can give greater emphasis to priority areas; and

4. A multiple measures index can provide schools and districts with incentives to attend
to the progress of students at every point on the achievement spectrum, including those
who initially score far below or above the test score cut point labeled “proficient.” It can
encourage schools to focus on the needs of low-scoring students, students with
disabilities, and ELL students, using assessments that measure gains from wherever
students begin and helping them achieve growth.

One of the central concepts of NCLB’s approach is that schools and systems will
organize their efforts around the measures for which they are held accountable. Because focusing exclusively on a single indicator is both partial and problematic, the concept of multiple
measures is routinely used by policymakers to make critical decisions about such matters as
employment and economic forecasting (e.g., the Dow Jones Index or the GNP), as well as
admissions to college. Successful businesses use a “dashboard” set of indicators to evaluate their health and progress, aware that no single measure is sufficient to understand or guide their
operations. Business leaders understand that efforts to maximize short-term profits alone could lead to behaviors that undermine the long-term health of the enterprise.

Similarly, use of a single measure to guide education can create unintended negative
consequences or fail to focus schools on doing those things that can improve their long-term
health and the education of their students. Indeed, the measurement community's Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing mandates the use of multiple sources of evidence for
major decisions. NCLB calls for multiple measures of student performance, and some states have developed systems that incorporate such measures, but implementation of the law has not promoted their use for evaluating school progress.

Multiple indicators can counter the problems caused by over-reliance on single measures.
Multiple forms of assessment include traditional statewide tests as well as other assessments,
developed and used locally or statewide, that include a broader range of formats, such as writing samples, research projects, and science investigations, as well as collections of student work over time. These can be scored reliably according to common standards and can inform instruction in order to improve teaching and learning. Such assessments would only be used for accountability purposes when they meet the appropriate technical criteria, reflect state-approved standards, and apply equitably to all students, as is already the case in Connecticut, Nebraska, Oregon, Vermont, and other states successfully using multiple forms of assessment.

To counter the narrowing of the curriculum and exclusion of important subjects that has
been extensively documented as a consequence of NCLB, the new law should also allow states to include other subjects, using multiple forms of assessment, in an index of school indicators.
To ensure strong attention is given to reading and math, these subjects can be weighted more
heavily. Graduation rates and grade promotion rates should be given substantial weight in any
accountability system. Other relevant indicators of school progress, such as attendance and
college admission rates, could be included.

Because evidence is clear that multiple assessments are beneficial to student learning and
accountability decisions, we hope that the committee will take the step of providing significant
funds to assist states and districts to implement systems that include multiple forms of evidence about student learning, including state and local performance assessments. Congress should also require an evaluation of state multiple measures programs to enable sharing of knowledge and improvement of state assessment and accountability systems.

A multiple measures approach that incorporates a well-balanced set of indicators would support a shift toward holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement. This is a necessary foundation for genuine accountability.



Advancement Project

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance


Center for Community Change

Civil Rights Project

Council for Exceptional Children

Japanese American Citizens League

Justice Matters

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

Learning Disabilities Association of America

National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.

National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education (NAAPAE)

National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)

National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and
Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA)

National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents

National Council on Educating Black Children

National Federation of Filipino American Associations

National Indian Education Association

National Indian School Board Association

National Pacific Islander Educator Network (NPIEN)

National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA)

Renewing America's Commitment to Strong Public Schools
copyright © 2007 The Forum for Education and Democracy

Teacher designed school reform,1,4883369,full.story?coll=la-news-learning&ctrack=2&cset=true
From the Los Angeles Times
Teachers draft reform plan
Union's proposal calls for local, grass roots control over schools and gives instructors more breathing room to formulate curricula.
By Howard Blume
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 3, 2007

In this education nirvana, teachers would decide what to teach and when. Teachers and parents would hire and fire principals. No supervisors from downtown would tell anyone -- neither teachers nor students -- what to wear.

These are among the ideas a delegation of teachers and their union officers are urging L.A. schools Supt. David L. Brewer to include in the school reform plan he will present to the school board Tuesday.

If Brewer passes on the delegation's proposals, the union can go directly to the seven-member Board of Education. Employee unions recently have had success in getting the board to overrule the superintendent on health benefits for some part-time workers and on school staffing.

At stake now is the Los Angeles Unified School District's effort to turn around its 34 most troubled middle and high schools. The data suggests the urgency: As many as three-quarters of the students in these "high priority schools" scored well below grade level across multiple subjects on last year's California Standards Tests.

Whatever remedy emerges is likely to become a blueprint for widespread reform efforts. Brewer and his team are working on their 11th draft; the drafts have evolved significantly since September because of resistance inside and outside the school system.

At a meeting Friday between the district and the delegation from the United Teachers Los Angeles, union leaders were pointedly clear about what they want -- local, grass roots control over schools.

"This is what we think makes for a good education," said Joel Jordan, the union's director of special projects, who took part in the meeting. "We don't want to continue what hasn't worked and has demoralized teachers and students."

Rhetorically, Brewer has endorsed local control, but elements of his proposal cut both ways.

The separate plans of the union and the superintendent, as well as a "Schoolhouse" framework offered in January by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, all cobble together widely accepted strategies, such as smaller classes and schools, and better teacher training.

But union leaders said they felt compelled to take on some elements in Brewer's plan. One sticking point is Brewer's intention to use, in upper grades, an approach to instruction similar to the one used for teaching reading to 6-year-olds: emphasizing a unified, paced curriculum that includes periodic tests to make sure students are learning. The goal is to give all students exposure to rigorous academics.

With that approach, under previous Supt. Roy Romer, elementary test scores soared in most schools. But across the district, many English learners and African American students still struggled.

From Brewer's perspective, the problem at middle and high schools is that curriculum directives haven't been consistently followed. To the teacher delegation, the directives themselves are the problem.

"Narrowing the curriculum, top-down management, teaching to the test, expanding pacing plans and periodic assessments -- we think that has been a detriment to education," Jordan said. "The idea of uniformity when trying to meet the needs of individual students is a contradiction."

The union acknowledges that instructors must teach the skills and facts the state requires. But they believe a school's staff and individual teachers should decide how to accomplish that.

The district's view is that its curriculum guides specify "what is to be taught versus how it is to be taught," leaving ample room for teacher creativity, said Michelle King, interim chief instructional officer for secondary schools.

The union's ethos of local control extends to hiring and firing principals, which the union wants handled by a school site council made up of parents, teachers and older students.

Brewer's plan doesn't speak to hiring principals, which is currently the purview of the regional senior administrator.

As for dress codes, the union's six-page treatise states: "There is no research that indicates that teacher attire has any effect on student learning or respect for adults," and "uniforms for students should not be required but decided upon by the school's governing bodies with input from each constituency."

Participants from both sides said they expect no brutal fight over dress codes, but key differences remain over who controls what happens at schools.

Brewer has had difficulty developing a plan with broad support. This fall, he backed away entirely from placing the lowest-performing schools into a separate, mini-school system. That plan was opposed by the union and also encountered resistance from top administrators and from schools principals, who felt their campuses were being labeled "failed" schools.

The superintendent's reform effort was treated dismissively last week by Villaraigosa, who was addressing a faculty gathering at Roosevelt High School on the Eastside. Villaraigosa was urging staff to vote to enter his reform "partnership," which, he said, would be under his stewardship but led by teachers and parents. The lesser alternative, he said, was Brewer's plan.

"In the high-priority program, you're not going to have a say," he told the teachers. "It will be status quo."

Brewer, for his part, has embraced the mayor's partnership as an element in a package of reforms.

Sitting near the mayor at Roosevelt was school board president Monica Garcia, a Villaraigosa ally who, with the other board members, will have ultimate say over Brewer's approach.

In an interview, Garcia suggested that the mayor's statement was not intended to be derogatory: "If by status quo, he means that the provider of the reform is the district, that description is fair."

Garcia said she needed to see more details on how Brewer would find and use money for his reforms. She also said that no single reform style would fit every school.

Local control takes vastly different forms in different places, said UCLA professor Bill Ouchi, a school-reform researcher and management expert who has examined the issue for decades. Ouchi favors the system being tried in New York City, which gives principals near total say over their budgets. These principals sign a five-year performance agreement, on which they must deliver to keep their jobs.

"In none of these schools is there a required school site council," Ouchi said. "A principal might establish an advisory council but it has no governance or negotiating powers." And, he added, there's good reason why: "There's no practical way to hold parents or community members accountable. And there is no way outside of the teachers contract to hold teachers accountable."

Yet Ouchi doesn't fault teachers for wanting control: "They've observed for 30 years the failure of the management of the LAUSD. You can understand why the teachers say, 'Those people have amply demonstrated that they are incapable of running a school, so let us run it.' "

Monday, December 03, 2007

Year of Education?

The Sac BEE's Capitol Alert has an interesting story about a meeting between Schwarzenegger and the School Boards and Education lobbies on Friday in San Diego.
Sorry that I can not report on it. I was not invited.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

NCLB in practice

My school, Noralto Elementary School in Sacramento, is being torn apart,
thanks to No Child Left Behind.
Of the 664 students at my school, 450 of them are English language
learners. They come mainly from underprivileged families, and rely on our
school as a pillar in their lives. Many parents are unable to provide the
academic support our students need, and nearly all our students struggle
with language barriers. Consequently, the vast majority of them are
reading below grade level. Fortunately, the staff is full of passionate
teachers who care deeply about these children.
When students arrive at our school from Mexico, Thailand and Laos, they
have to learn to speak the language before they can begin to read.
Additionally, students arriving directly from Thailand and Laos must first
master the English letters before they can even begin to blend the sounds.
Can you expect these children to be reading at a fourth- or fifth-grade
level by the end of the year? Certainly not. Have the teachers failed
because they have not achieved such a miracle? Yes, according to our
president and his No Child Left Behind act.
Every year, No Child raises the standards higher, and schools scramble to
meet them. Last year, the Annual Yearly Progress score requirement was
24.4 percent for English Language Arts (reading and writing). My school's
was 27.9 percent - above the required percentage - but one significant
subgroup, our Asian American population, scored only 22.8 percent.
So, once again, we did not meet the goal. Failing to meet the goal two
years in a row labels a school Program Improvement. If you are such a
school for five years, No Child can come in and wipe the slate clean,
getting rid of all the teachers and replacing them with new, "more
qualified" teachers - teachers who evidently possess mystical powers to
teach English to nonnative speakers in the blink of an eye.
What is extremely frustrating for Noralto is that our administrators and
teachers have been working harder than ever, and our scores have steadily
improved since the inception of No Child in 2002, when our reading scores
were only 14.3 percent. However, the government continues to take punitive
action, and labels us as a "failing" school.
My school is in its fourth year of Program Improvement. Next year, the
imposed goal is 35.2 percent - a goal we cannot hope to meet - and it will
continue to leap every year until it reaches the 100 percent mark in 2014.
This means that my school and thousands like it have "failed," despite
desperate efforts to provide quality education for all students. For us,
this means that all nontenured teachers will probably be fired at the end
of this year, and all permanent teachers could be "involuntarily
reassigned" elsewhere in the district. And, sadly, our students and
families will be faced with new teachers who will have no connection with
them, the school, the community or each other.
How is this better for children? How does it make any sense? The reality
of No Child is that it is sucking the joy out of education. A teacher's
job is to breathe life into education and to get children to love
learning. Creating rigorous testing is simply creating an oppressive
educational system in which music, computers, physical education, science
and social studies are gradually fading into nonexistence as the panicked
push for language arts and math becomes a nationwide obsession.
"Good" teachers are the ones who teach to the test, rather than those who
employ creativity, excitement and a positive learning environment. At my
school, a specialist has created a rigorous "bell-to-bell" schedule, in
which each minute of our day is mapped out. We are told what and how to
teach, what to put on our walls, and what interventions to provide. All
assemblies and field trips have been banned.
As a bonus, No Child is up for reauthorization in Congress, with the
additional stipulation of merit pay. This dictates that teachers' salaries
will be contingent upon test scores. The immediate effect of this act, if
it goes through, is that all the best teachers will flee to the best
schools, leaving the children who need the most help with the teachers
least able to supply it. Then, truly, we will be leaving our children

Alyson Beahm is a teacher at Noralto Elementary School in Sacramento.
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