Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Students First -California Public Schools and the legislature

In the recent report Students First: Renewing Hope for California’s Future by the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence ( Nov.2007) the committee notes that California’s students rank 48th. out of the states in 4th. grade reading, 47th. in 4th. grade math, and 43rd. in 4th. grade science. California ranks 48th. in 8th. grade reading, 45th. in 8th. grade math, and 42nd in 8th. grade science.
This is not a problem of our unique demographics. California White students rank 29th. in 4th. grade reading when compared to White students in other states, Black students rank 29th. when compared to Black students in other states, and California Latino students rank 43rd. when compared to other Latino students.
That is, our schools are in crisis, particularly our schools serving Black, Latino and economically disadvantaged students. And, after 20 years of “school reform,” there has been no real progress.
So, what does the Legislature, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the state’s Schools of Education do about this crisis?
They create a new video based test for new teachers (TPA or PACT). This new test no relationship to the crisis in school achievement. It will cost over $10 million per year. It does, however, provide career advancement for test writers and professors at Stanford and elsewhere, and keep them from having to work with real teachers in real classrooms to deal with the problems of real schools.
The Commission on Teacher Preparation has advises, and the Legislature has bought the notion that the testing-accountability model which hasn’t worked for the last 20 years in the k-12 system should be applied to teacher preparation. ( Fuller, 2007)
Perhaps someone will start to make sense some day.

Duane Campbell
Professor of Education
Calif. State U-Sacramento

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Students First - California

From; Students First: Renewing California's Future. The Governor's Committee on Educational Excellence. Nov.2007.

NAEP results show that California’s overall results rank low among the states
48th 4th grade reading
47rd 4th grade math
43rd 4th grade science (of 44 states)
48th 8th grade reading
45th 8th grade math
42nd 8th grade science (of 44 states)
And all student groups lag behind similar students in other states
4th grade reading:
29th Whites
29th Blacks
43rd Latinos
8th grade math:
35th Whites
33rd Blacks (of 40 states)
38th Latinos (of 42 states)
37th Children of college graduates
(of 49 states)
Comparing California to Other States
Source: California
Department of
Education and
National Center for
Source: California
Department of
Education and
National Center for
Education Statistics

What school is like for some

From the Los Angeles Times
Many South L.A. students frightened and depressed, survey finds
The report, prepared by a youth group with help from Loyola Marymount, says that the conditions of their schools is contributing to a loss of hope and drive.
By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 26, 2008

A survey of 6,008 South Los Angeles high school students shows that many are frightened by violence in school, deeply dissatisfied with their choices of college preparatory classes, and -- perhaps most striking -- exhibit symptoms of clinical depression.

"A lot of students are depressed because of the conditions in their school," said Anna Exiga, a junior at Jordan High School who was one of the organizers of the survey. "They see that their school is failing them, their teachers are failing them, there's racial tension and gang violence, and also many feel that their schools are not schools -- their schools look more like prisons."

The survey, released late Thursday, was conducted in seven South L.A. public schools by a community youth organization, South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action (SCYEA), with technical guidance from the psychology department at Loyola Marymount University. It suggested that many students in some of the city's poorest, most violent neighborhoods believe their schools set the bar for success too low -- and then shove students beneath it.

In fact, the student organizers said they don't like to use the word "dropout" to describe their many peers who leave school. They prefer "pushout," because they believe the school system is pushing students to fail.

"We're ignored -- our schools are ignored," said Susie Gonzalez, another Jordan 11th-grader who helped organize the survey. "They give us the short end of the stick. . . . They expect us not to amount to anything."

Only about one-quarter of the students surveyed said they felt safe at school while 35% said they don't. Just under half said their school is preparing them for college or a high-paying job, and 93% believe their school should offer more college-preparatory classes. Fewer than half could define the "A to G" curriculum that is the college prep standard in California. The youth organization, which advocates educational equality, fought for six years to push Los Angeles Unified School District to require such a curriculum for all students. The curriculum spells out the types of college prep classes and number of years they must be taken to qualify for UC and Cal State schools.

Two thirds of the students, nearly all of whom were African American or Latino, said they wanted their schools to offer more ethnic studies classes.

The schools surveyed are among the lowest performing in the Los Angeles Unified School District and are in an area where dissatisfaction with the traditional public school system is driving many students into charter schools.

The survey's findings contrasted with a February school district report in which 90% of students questioned at selected schools districtwide said they were being pushed to do their best and 80% said their classes "give me useful preparation for what I plan to do in life."

That same report was sharply critical of the district's efforts to get all students into a college-prep curriculum by 2012. "With the current school climate and instructional quality," it said, "a significant proportion of the students who enter the ninth grade in 2012 will not only fail to meet college eligibility, but will also fail to graduate from high school."

Monica Garcia, president of the Los Angeles Board of Education, said she welcomed the survey and believed the district was responding to the students' concerns. "This is energizing, this is encouraging," she said. "We need the consumers of our services to be advocates of change."

But Jordan High Principal Stephen Strachan took exception to some of the results, saying the survey was skewed to provoke negative responses. He said his school has made great strides in preparing students for college and has created a "safe haven" from a violent community.

He did not, however, dispute the findings about depression. "This morning at 10 o'clock at Simpson's Mortuary, a 16-year-old was buried. That's one of my students who was shot in the community," he said. "I hear kids say, 'Too many people are dying in our community.' And that plays on the psyche. . . . It's really hard to focus on Algebra 2 when your friends are getting shot in the community."

Cheryl Grills, a professor of clinical psychology at Loyola Marymount, said that she was struck by how many students volunteered answers to one question about why they sometimes skip school. More than half hinted at depression, saying they were tired, had trouble sleeping, felt helpless or hopeless, were bored or felt lazy, among other responses.

She compared those responses to the symptoms of clinical depression from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "Much to my horror and shock, they almost completely matched up," she said.

That led her to conduct a follow-up survey among 52 students. Of them, 67% reported that they had "felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more," and had "stopped doing some of their usual activities" as a result.

"That's clinical levels of depression," she said.

Grills said that while the initial survey did not select students randomly, she believed it was scientifically valid because of the large sample size. She said there was significant uniformity of results among the seven schools: Jordan, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fremont, Locke, Manual Arts and Washington Prep. Students from Gardena High also participated, although the survey was conducted outside school.

Alice Rubenstein, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Rochester, N.Y., who has written widely about adolescent psychology, agreed that the survey hinted at widespread levels of clinical depression. Given the environment in which the students live, that's hardly surprising, she said.

Students in South L.A. "live in a depressive environment where they feel helpless or hopeless partly because their choices are so limited," she said. "These kids are living in an environment where this is their state much of the time. It's very much a sociological issue as well as a psychological issue."

Rubenstein added that surveys of the general adolescent population tend to show that anywhere from 15% to 30% are depressed, well below the levels suggested by the survey. She added that the survey did not include the students most likely to be depressed -- those who were not in school.

At the announcement of the survey results, at the headquarters of the Community Coalition of South L.A., students played a home-made version of Monopoly that told much the same story as the survey.

Where the familiar squares of Baltic, Atlantic and Marvin Gardens might be, the options included Drugs, Dean's Office and Drop Out. Jail was a place to go when you're pulled over by the cops for no apparent reason. Restroom was where the player was likely to encounter gang members. Where Boardwalk should have been, the square read: "Dead."

As the game began, one student landed on Liquor Store and was told that, on his way to school, "You wind up in front of a liquor store and you find one of your homies smoking a blunt." When Juan Zamora of Jordan landed on Chance, he was told that "you're one of the lucky students who actually know and see a college counselor." His choices: Go to UCLA or "stay on the block and wind up selling drugs to support your family."

And when Sam Anguiano of Locke landed on P.E. Field, he was told that shots had been fired while he was running during gym class -- should he hit the ground or run? When he answered that he'd run, he was told: "You run away and are safe, but later that evening you find out that your friend was the one who was shot."

That was about as good a roll of the dice as anybody got. The one exception was Juan, a 17-year-old junior, who hit the ultimate Chance: "Your friends and family support you," the card read. "You don't die."


Take a look at The Homeroom, The Times' blog about education. We're interested in your views about your schools, education policy and learning.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cesar Chavez: Social Change

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.

Cesar Chavez
Address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Nov. 9, 1984

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

The presentation at the National Press Club was outstanding. You can watch the entire talk at or the 5 parts at Youtube.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Second chance at the Bee

Well. The Sacramento Bee has shown itself at its best and at its least insightful in the same edition.
In the Sunday Bee, reporters Laurel Rosenhall and Phillip Reese write a valuable article, “Second Change to make grade; schools reclassify students, meet U.S. standards.” It is interesting reading. It shows that schools have approached students to renegotiate their ethnicity in order to pass the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The reporters did their job.
They did not, however, explore the closely related issues of how arbitrary cut scores usually lead to this kind of statistical manipulation. That story you will find in the excellent resource: Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s schools, ( 2007. Nichols and Berliner). The problem is called Campbell’s Law , named for well respected social scientist and philosopher Donald Campbell ( no relation).
It argues, “ the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor.”
Campbell’s law applies. Since NCLB, and state laws require using one time tests to measure school achievement, the testing has corrupted the processes of determining who is Black, who is White, who is an English Language Learner.
Now conservatives, and poorly informed liberal media, will chuckle and assume that they know better. But, the don’t. And, they will focus on the abnormality of shifting a few kids rather than the more important issue of how high stakes testing corrupts the entire education system by controlling curriculum, underfunding schools, and dozens of closely related issues. These are well laid out in the Nichols and Berliner book.
Covering only the reclassification of students, which is important, and not covering how NCLB and high stakes testing produces this and many other corruptions is the media equivalent of Fox news showing the 30 second clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wrights sermons and not showing the 15 minute full sermons. It is out of context and thus distorting.
While the Bee reporters did a positive service with their story- even though it has a limited context- the Bee editorial board wrote an essay High Expectations which uses as a foil the incident at Madison Elementary School Principal Jana Fields. Again, what the Principal was doing was seeking to effect the overly simplistic use of test data- to make decisions. She probably handled it poorly. So, the Bee lectures her as if it was obvious that African American kids should not be talked to separately. That is not thinking. Most educators working in the field know of the effort known as The Village Nation- covered on Oprah no less- where African American kids in California were taken aside and talked to straight up by African American faculty about the poor test scores. Educators, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, praise this case. The Bee editors, however, assume that they know better.
This kind of test prep is problematic. A case can be made on both sides. Was it better to have the Sacramento Kings Cheerleaders speak to an integrated audience at Kennedy High. I am certain the kids were looking at these cheerleaders as math mentors not rather attractive young women.
In the case of Madison Elementary it probably was a poor idea, in part because very young kids can not sort out the messages. Having one ethnic group, or one gender group meetings and discussions works better with high school students. And it should only be used when there is a proper relationship established for such discussions. But it is not, as opined by the Bee editors, self evident that having a separate meeting to discuss low test scores is always a bad idea.
The editors say, “ Yet research consistently shows that what works is high expectations for all students. Focusing on subgroups does not work. “ I know of no research supporting this statement. Please provide it.
Yes, there is data for high expectations for all. But, for example, you need to focus on English Language learners- that is a subgroup. And, there is no research that I am aware of showing that- for example- having an all girls math class does not work.
I think that the editors have misstated the case.
The editors are correct to state, “ All kids need adults and teachers who believe in their potential.”
Duane Campbell

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shrag: Budget cuts degrade education

Old news: Like most other major state programs, California's public universities and colleges are up against devastating budget cuts in the coming year, and probably longer. Those cuts will drive up fees, force larger classes and eliminate courses, services and programs.
What hardly anyone is discussing, either among the regents or the trustees – nor was it mentioned at a briefing by the Campaign for College Opportunity last week – is the need to increase state revenues to bring taxes at least to the rates they were in 2003.
The governor continues to perpetuate the belief that California's real budgetary problem is excessive spending, not inadequate revenues, a belief that's a core mantra of the state GOP and Grover Norquist's "starve the beast" theology.
To do that the governor uses a chart – probably his favorite – showing spending is climbing more steeply than revenues. But as the recent UC "Cuts Report" ( reports/ points out, "the chart has a number of flaws: is not corrected for inflation, for population growth, for growth in any agency's client base or legal mandate, or for the great variation in growth among different agencies."
More important, the chart omits the fact that $6 billion a year – far and away the biggest part of that alleged spending increase – is in fact the result of Schwarzenegger's cut in the vehicle license fee. Because he rolled back that fee by two-thirds, the state has had to backfill to local governments the money the levy would have raised. Were it not for the car tax cut, the state would probably have no need to cut any spending, either for K-12 schools or higher education or anything else.
And that's not counting the corporate tax loopholes that the Legislature handed out in the past decade and that, in tax reformer Lenny Goldberg's immortal words, make the tax code like a roach motel: Once the loopholes creep in, they never come out.
…But so far, there's still far too much silence from the universities' leaders on the choices: quality schools, colleges and parks in a state to which productive and creative people are attracted, or the no-new-tax mantra and life on the cheap.
Peter Schrag: Sacramento Bee April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Students oppose education cuts

By Frank D. Russo

They came by the busloads to Sacramento from all across the length and breadth of the state of California and marched to the state Capitol for a rally. Not only were there numbers large—perhaps as large as 2000 in Sacramento in addition to those taking part in rallies in other locations—but they were loud and energized. Folks working inside their offices three blocks away could hear students chanting as could those inside the Capitol.

The Governor was out of town, but the message was clear. After the rally and throughout the day, students roamed the hallways of the legislature talking to their representatives. They represented 3.2 million students—who have registered to vote in record numbers—and will be looking closely to see what is done after the May Revise of the budget is available in about three weeks. There will be a huge backlash if the cuts go through.

In addressing the crowd, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who by virtue of his office sits on the University of California Board of Regents and is a Trustee of the California State University system, said: “You are all here because you have a message for the legislature and for the Governor. And the message is simple: Kick us out and we’ll vote you out.” This brought out repeated chants from the students who had repeated “Kick us out and we’ll vote you out,” earlier as they marched from Raley Field up to the Capitol. Garamendi also asked the students to make a pledge that “This is the first day and not the last day.”

The message was not lost on those who gave up a day to come to Sacramento. Frank Fernandez, President of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, said that this coalition will continue their lobbying efforts and actions statewide until the Governor releases his revised budget in May and until the budget is passed. “We hope the May Revise budget reflects a reinvestment in higher education,” he noted.

The theme of higher education as an investment in California’s future was another point being driven home by students and others who spoke. Return on Investment: Educational Choices and Demographic Change in California,” a study by UC Berkeley professors, Henry Brady, Michael Hout, and John Stiles, shows that for every dollar California spends graduating students from college, there is a return on that investment of three dollars. That translates to $3 billion in additional tax revenues for each group of students over their lives. In addition, there are increased costs associated with incarceration and other losses to the state if a student’s education stops with high school and does not continue to completion of college.

Governor Schwarzenegger proposed cutting the Community College system by $418 million, the UC system by $332 million, and the CSU system by $313 million, totaling over $1 billion in proposed cuts for higher education in California. Students are concerned that these cuts could be translated into fee hikes for current students or cause the campuses to run out of space for all the students covered under California’s Master Plan.

Students see this not only as a problem with higher education, but also look at this in the context of $5 billion in proposed cuts to all levels of education. Dina Cervantes, California State Student Association Board Chair, said yesterday was “the day no student should be silent in the face of $5.3 billion in cuts to education. The proposed budget should increase investment in education from preschool to Ph.D., not the opposite.”

Cervantes continued, and stress that students across the state are already facing an affordability crisis.” These fee hikes force students to drop out of school or take on a 20 hour plus work week in addition to their classes,” she stated. “Even if we work and go to school, many of us still end up thousands of dollars in debt after we graduate.”

Louise Hendrickson, Board President of the University of California Student Association, said: “Our generation has yet to see another issue with the power to singlehandedly affect multitudes of Californians the way these budget cuts could. Now is the time to put aside differences, come together, and ensure a better, brighter future for all.”

Hendrickson noted that Students in both the CSU and UC systems have seen their fees almost double since 2001. “Fee hikes are back-door tax hikes on students and their families. I’s not acceptable for legislators to take revenue raising off the table for everyone else and continue to balance the state budget on the backs of students,” she said. Hendrickson has experienced the increased costs of education herself, owing over $120,000 in debt from school loans. Others spoke of working and struggling to stay in school—some with two jobs to make ends meet.

The students were joined in by legislators including , Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Senate President Pro Tem elect Darrell Steinberg (pictured at left), and the Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee Anthony Portantino, all of whom spoke out against the $1.1 billion in proposed cuts much to the delight and deafening roar from the crowd.

Garamendi framed the fee increases that will be necessary if the UC budget is cut further as a tax cut. He said: “There is no more important investment than the investment in students. We must stop taxing our young people, and we must once again invest in the intellectual infrastructure of our state.”

To boos from the crowd, he brought up the names of former Republican governors of California Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson. After the boos quieted down, he then told the students that those two conservatives saw the value of investing in kids and raised taxes to fund education.

The budget cuts are also a threat to many graduating seniors. If the Governor’s proposed cuts are put in place, the community colleges and UC campuses will not be funded with enough money to increase the number of students eligible to enroll on their campuses in the fall. Next year’s high school seniors graduating class will be the largest ever seen in the Golden State. The California Master Plan should allow for the top 12% of high school students to attend a UC school, 50% to attend a CSU campus and all high school graduates to attend a Community College in California.

“The Community College System is supposed to be the most accessible to young people,” said Frank Fernandez. “Telling students that we don’t have enough money to give them an available chair in a classroom, is not an option,” he said. “It would break the promise of the California’s Master Plan for education.” The Master Plan, approved by the Legislature, guides all policies of higher education in the state.

The UC Regents recently agreed to absorb additional costs for increased enrollment this year, but if funding is not provided from the state it will cause the UC System to take on further internal cuts.

Expect to hear more about education—a red hot issue—in what is supposed to be the “year of education” in California.

Posted on April 22, 2008

From California Progress Report.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Security and Prosperity Summit:

April 21, 2008
Dear Member of Congress,
On the occasion of the 4th Leaders Summit of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), to be held in New Orleans on April 21-22, we take this opportunity to call on all members of Congress to educate themselves on the SPP, which was never brought to Congress for debate or vote. Our concerns include the opaque and undemocratic nature of the SPP, its definition of “prosperity” as the expansion of a failed trade model, and its definition of “security” as the expansion of military force and the restricting of civil liberties.
Congress has been entrusted with oversight on such issues of trade and security. It is imperative that they exercise their responsibility on this matter by examining what prosperity and security really mean. Rather than proceeding along the failed path of NAFTA, all efforts should be made to implement a trade agenda that focuses on the needs of communities and people. That agenda should include the voices of those populations most affected, as well as their advocates in civil society.
Therefore, as civil society advocates, we call upon the U.S. Congress to:
0. Require the Bush administration to immediately halt SPP implementation and submit the process to Congressional oversight.
0. Hold congressional hearings in which the process and goals of the SPP are thoroughly aired and input is invited from a broad cross-section of the public.
Make subject to congressional vote the decision of whether SPP implementation should proceed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Texas Legislature considers revising testing

TAKS may lose its sting
Texas lawmakers consider school ratings that reward student progress
08:43 AM CDT on Monday, April 14, 2008
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Lawmakers who lead the way on education policy are warming to the idea of major changes to Texas' report card system for public schools, which already gets failing marks from superintendents and teachers.

A new version, as currently envisioned, would dramatically alter the focus of student testing, which forms the basis for school report cards, and introduce new incentives for schools that make gains.

Also Online
Survey: What would make a better testing system than TAKS?
Blog: Education/DISD
At the same time, educators and lawmakers – not to mention parents – want to see less drilling of students for the annual Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and less severe penalties for schools that have trouble meeting their achievement goals.

All in all, dissatisfaction with the current testing-and-rating regimen is building momentum for significant changes when the Legislature next meets in January.

"The stick can work, but the carrot works better," said House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, co-chairman of the committee that is considering revisions of the accountability system.

"Our system should be recognizing and rewarding the best schools and helping repair those that are low performing," said Mr. Eissler, a Republican from The Woodlands.

The current system annually grades every school and district in the state based on their TAKS scores and student dropout rates. Schools are graded exemplary, recognized, acceptable or unacceptable.

Superintendents, school boards, teachers and parents anxiously await the performance ratings each year, as they represent the chief measure of how well schools are doing in educating their students. Parents and real estate agents typically use the evaluations to locate neighborhoods with the best schools.

Increasingly, though, educators and parents have voiced dissatisfaction with the grading system, arguing that the massive changes in education since the system was first implemented in 1994 have made it obsolete. Among those changes are increased federal attention and a stronger state curriculum.

"It fails to address the individual needs of students," said Plano Senior High School science teacher Karen Shepherd. "It looks at students en masse as numbers, not as individuals."

Ms. Shepherd, who was the state's 2005 secondary school teacher of the year, said teachers want a system that is diagnostic instead of punitive. "It needs to determine where students start and look at their growth over a year instead of expecting them all to meet a certain level of proficiency" on a single test, she said.

"I know as a person I don't like being judged on one action, and I would never look at my students on just one day," she said.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, agrees. She would like to see a major shift in the testing program so that it focuses on academic growth of students over the school year rather than requiring them to meet minimum standards, as the state now does with the TAKS.

Acceptable performance ratings for schools are based on a minimum percentage of all students at each campus passing the exam in the spring, along with a certain share of various student subgroups. For example, schools last year had to have 65 percent of their students pass in reading and 45 percent pass in math to be graded "acceptable."

"We need to look at a system that shows the progress of youngsters over a school year and not base everything on a one-shot test," said Ms. Shapiro, who leads the Select Committee on Public School Accountability with Mr. Eissler.

One way to do that, she said, is to measure the improvement in skills from one year's TAKS to the next. If students at a particular campus registered enough improvement over a year's time, it would result in an acceptable rating. If the average improvement in test scores was good enough, it would bring the school a higher rating.

Ms. Shapiro said many lawmakers also want more concentration on how to improve low-performing schools and less focus on punishing failure.

Incentives could include expanding the state's merit-pay plans or giving schools more flexibility on state requirements.

Another reason to revamp the accountability system is the new testing program that will be launched in high schools in the 2011-12 school year. Beginning with ninth-graders that year, students will be required to take a dozen end-of-course exams through high school and get a passing score in each subject area to earn a diploma.
--- ---- -----
Perhaps someone could get the attention of the California legislature

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bitterness: What bitterness?

Obama, Bitterness, Meet the Press, and the Old Politics

By Robert Reich

April 15, 2008

I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 61 years ago. My
father sold $1.98 cotton blouses to blue-collar women
and women whose husbands worked in factories. Years
later, I was secretary of labor of the United States,
and I tried the best I could - which wasn't nearly good
enough - to help reverse one of the most troublesome
trends America has faced: The stagnation of middle-
class wages and the expansion of poverty. Male hourly
wages began to drop in the early 1970s, adjusted for
inflation. The average man in his 30s is earning less
than his father did thirty years ago. Yet America is
far richer. Where did the money go? To the top.

Are Americans who have been left behind frustrated? Of
course. And their frustrations, their anger and, yes,
sometimes their bitterness, have been used since then -
by demagogues, by nationalists and xenophobes, by
radical conservatives, by political nuts and fanatical
fruitcakes - to blame immigrants and foreign traders,
to blame blacks and the poor, to blame 'liberal
elites,' to blame anyone and anything.

Rather than counter all this, the American media have
wallowed in it. Some, like Fox News and talk radio,
have given the haters and blamers their very own
megaphones. The rest have merely 'reported on' it.
Instead of focusing on how to get Americans good jobs
again; instead of admitting too many of our schools are
failing and our kids are falling behind their
contemporaries in Europe, Japan, and even China;
instead of showing why we need a more progressive tax
system to finance better schools and access to health
care, and green technologies that might create new
manufacturing jobs, our national discussion has been
mired in the old politics.

Listen to this morning's 'Meet the Press' if you want
an example. Tim Russert, one of the smartest guys on
television, interviewed four political consultants -
Carville and Matalin, Bob Schrum, and Michael Murphy.
Political consultants are paid huge sums to help
politicians spin words and avoid real talk. They're
part of the problem. And what do Russert and these four
consultants talk about? The potential damage to Barack
Obama from saying that lots of people in Pennsylvania
are bitter that the economy has left them behind; about
HRC's spin on Obama's words (he's an 'elitist,' she
said); and John McCain's similarly puerile attack.

Does Russert really believe he's doing the nation a
service for this parade of spin doctors talking about
potential spins and the spin-offs from the words Obama
used to state what everyone knows is true? Or is
Russert merely in the business of selling TV airtime
for a network that doesn't give a hoot about its
supposed commitment to the public interest but wants to
up its ratings by pandering to the nation's ongoing
desire for gladiator entertainment instead of real talk
about real problems.

We're heading into the worst economic crisis in a half
century or more. Many of the Americans who have been
getting nowhere for decades are in even deeper trouble.
Large numbers of people in Pennsylvania and across the
nation are losing their homes and losing their jobs,
and the situation is likely to grow worse. Consumers
are at the end of their ropes, fuel and food costs are
skyrocketing, they can't go deeper into debt, they
can't pay their bills. They aren't buying, which means
every business from the auto industry to housing to
even giant GE is hurting. Which means they'll begin
laying off more people, and as they do, we will
experience an even more dangerous downward spiral.

Bitter? You ain't seen nothing yet. And as much as
people like Russert, Carville, Matalin, Schrum, and
Murphy want to divert our attention from what's really
happening; as much as HRC and McCain seek to make
political hay out of choices of words that can be spun
cynically by the mindless spinners of the old politics;
as much as demagogues on the right and left continue to
try to channel the cumulative frustrations of Americans
into a politics of resentment - all these attempts
will, I hope, prove futile. Eighty percent of Americans
know the nation is on the wrong track. The old
politics, and the old media that feeds it, are
irrelevant now.

[Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the
Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of
California at Berkeley. He has served in three national
administrations, most recently as secretary of labor
under President Bill Clinton. He has written ten books,
including The Work of Nations, which has been
translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The
Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his
most recent book, Reason. His articles have appeared in
the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times,
Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is
co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

NCLB: Obama and Clinton

Obama and Clinton: Latest statements on NCLB

Posted by James Crawford on 9 April 2008 at 11:04 am
It’s encouraging to see that both Democratic candidates are increasingly critical of the No Child Left Behind Act, as illustrated by a comprehensive report in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Obviously, they are responding to voter sentiment they encounter every day on the campaign trail. Attacking NCLB has become a sure-fire applause line, as illustrated last week in Montana. But their statements remain rather general and they have yet to propose any coherent alternative, leaving themselves plenty of wiggle room.

For example, when Sen. Clinton — who has taken semantic games to new heights in this campaign — says she would “put an end to the unfunded mandate called No Child Left Behind,” she could end up voting later to make it a “funded mandate” with only marginal changes. Indeed, that’s what many Democrats have advocated all along.

Sen. Obama points out that Clinton was an enthusiastic backer of NCLB in 2001, which she called “landmark legislation [that] sends a clear message that all American children deserve a world class education.” Perhaps, as with her vote to authorize the Iraq war, this was another case of Hillary being cruelly deceived by George Bush. She hasn’t explained, but Bill Clinton helpfully recalled in a recent speech that “Hillary was facing this impossible vote. She said ‘Bill this is not going to work, [NCLB] is going to be a disaster.’” Prophetic (if true), but apparently political calculations won out.

Meanwhile Obama has been, if anything, even more vague than Clinton on what changes he would favor in NCLB. While both candidates have criticized the overemphasis on standardized testing, neither has explicitly called for repealing the testing mandate or the high stakes attached. Nor have they promised to eliminate the absurd requirement of “100% proficiency by 2014.”

So it would be illuminating if Sen. Kennedy introduces his long-promised bill to reauthorize NCLB and holds a vote in the HELP Committee this spring. As committee members, Obama and Clinton would then have to commit themselves to specifics. Or reveal their unwillingness to do so.
Jim Crawford. ELL Advocates

Thursday, April 10, 2008

California School budget cuts

Dr. Francisco Reveles Is Keynote Speaker at Multicultural Education Conference

Dr. Francisco Reveles will be the keynote speaker at the annual Multicultural Education Conference sponsored by the department of Bilingual/Multicultural Education on Saturday, April 12, 2008, at Sacramento State University. The event will run from 8:30 Am -1:30 PM. in the University Union.

The conference is designed for teachers and future teachers to bring them new and interesting approaches to teaching. Dr. Reveles topic will be: “Closing the Achievement Gap: Building Networks to Success.”

Dr. Reveles is a Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and a graduate of bilingual programs at CSUS. Over 45 workshops will offer ideas on teaching strategies, test taking, the current crisis in education budgets, and more.

“According to Governor Schwarzenegger, 2008 was supposed to be the year of education,” said Reveles. “Given the massive and destructive budget cuts that are currently being considered across the board, one is forced to conclude that either the governor was woefully misinformed regarding the looming state fiscal crises or, more likely, purposefully and with calculating political foresight engaged in the kind of rhetoric that we have come to expect from our lawmakers.”

More to the point, the state’s current proposed budget cuts to education are still another example of simplistic political thinking that does nothing to address the needs of our growing diverse student population, according to Reveles.

“Tragically, we are now facing cuts of 4.1 billion in K-12 education and $386 million in the CSU system,” he said. “Public schools that have been working hard to make lasting gains in achievement and retain committed teachers and counselors will see their efforts further eroded. School administrators, already struggling with the unpredictability of year-to-year funding cycles will see an increase in class size along with teacher layoffs."

The CSU system will also suffer as unfunded mandates relating to teacher education are enforced and tuition increases are implemented. Clearly, we are at a crossroads in education, observes Reveles.

“Can we fiscally prioritize in a way that invests in California’s future through better schools and teacher training, or will we blindly accept the proposed cuts to education that the governor and the legislature are considering? As educators, it is our responsibility, indeed our charge, to critically examine and challenge any such cuts to education,” he concluded.

The Conference program is available at, For more information, contact Maggie Beddow, Conference Chair,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Conference for Teachers: Sacramento

Dr. Francisco Reveles will be the keynote speaker at the annual Multicultural Education Conference sponsored by the department of Bilingual/Multicultural Education on April 12, 2008, in the university union of the Sacramento State Campus.

8:30 Am - 1:30 PM. in the University Union

The conference is designed for teachers and future teachers to bring them new and interesting approaches to teaching. Dr. Reveles topic will be:

“Closing the Achievement Gap: Building Networks to Success.”

Dr. Reveles is a Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and a graduate of bilingual programs here at CSUS.

Over 45 workshops will offer ideas on teaching strategies, test taking, the current crisis in education budgets, and more.

Conference program at
For more information:

Friday, April 04, 2008

M.L. King on War in Vietnam

Multicultural Education conference: Free: Sacramento

Dr. Francisco Reveles will be the keynote speaker at the annual Multicultural Education Conference sponsored by the department of Bilingual/Multicultural Education on April 12, 2008, in the university union of the Sacramento State Campus.

8:30 Am - 1:30 PM. in the University Union

The conference is designed for teachers and future teachers to bring them new and interesting approaches to teaching. Dr. Reveles topic will be:

“Closing the Achievement Gap: Building Networks to Success.”

Dr. Reveles is a Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and a graduate of bilingual programs here at CSUS.

Over 45 workshops will offer ideas on teaching strategies, test taking, the current crisis in education budgets, and more.

Conference program at
For more information:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Congress: Help the rich

Housing Policy: Free Market Vs. Help the Rich

By Dean Baker - April 3, 2008, 8:46PM
As we all know there is an ongoing debate in politics between those who favor market solutions and those who believe that the government must intervene to protect the rich.

Okay, the first group may not exactly be market fundamentalists, but the government intervention help-the-rich faction is definitely calling the shots these days, especially when it comes to housing policy.

The economy is in recession and job loss is soaring. The banking system is on life support, with the Fed handing tens of billions of dollars to the country’s biggest banks at below market interest rates. Millions of homeowners are facing foreclosure, and more than ten million are now underwater in their mortgages, owing more than the value of their house.

In such dire circumstances, Congress did the only thing it could; it gave more tax breaks to banks and homebuilders.
Yes, that is really what Congress, or least the Senate, proposes as the answer to the crisis facing the country’s homeowners. The Senate has approved a bill that would give a tax break worth more than $6 billion to homebuilders facing losses due to unsold homes and banks facing losses due to bad mortgages. That should make troubled homeowners sleep more securely.
Read more at Talking Points Memo

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Obama and economy

Obama v. Krugman

ROBERT KUTTNER | March 28, 2008 | web only The American Prospect.

Barack Obama's speech on the financial crisis was a remarkable breakthrough.
First, he connected all the dots -- between the complete dismantling of financial regulation, the declining economic opportunity and security for ordinary people, the current financial meltdown, and the political influence of Wall Street as the driver of these changes. Astounding! I wish I had written the speech. It is this kind of leadership and truth-telling that is the predicate for the shift in public opinion required to produce legislative change. A radical, appropriately nuanced, and deeply public-minded description of what has occurred, the speech was Roosevelt quality: the president as teacher-in-chief. Those who felt that Obama was capable of real growth that will transcend the campaign's early and somewhat feeble domestic policy proposals should feel vindicated.
The speech also showed real understanding and subtlety in grasping how financial "innovation" had outrun regulation, as well as a historical sense of the abuses of the 1920s repeating themselves. Obama is one of the few mainstream leaders -- Barney Frank is another -- calling for capital requirements to be extended to every category of financial institution that creates credit. This is exactly what's needed to prevent the next meltdown, but if it were put to a vote now, it would be rejected by legislators from both parties because they are still in thrall to market fundamentalism and Wall Street. That's where presidential leadership comes in.
So the speech was courageous, in that it goes well beyond the current Democratic party consensus, and one can only wonder about the reaction of some of Obama's own financial backers. He also took on a couple of other sacred cows, such as electricity and telecom deregulation, proven failures to everyone but industry defenders and their allies in the economics profession.
We should not focus too much attention on the oblique dig at the Clinton presidency, which indeed fomented the pattern of excessive deregulation. Let's remember, Bill was president, she wasn't. This is a totally fair drawing of a distinction on the issues, and not a cheap shot or ad hominem attack.
The Clinton camp's rejoinder -- that Hillary is proposing to do more for the victims of the housing bust -- is totally unpersuasive. All along, she has treated the housing mess as its own self-contained scandal, rather than connecting it to the larger set of financial bubbles of which it is a part. The Frank-Dodd bill, which Obama is co-sponsoring, is a realistic remedy for purely the housing part of the crisis. If you read Clinton's March 24 speech on the housing crisis and how to fix it -- supposedly more robust than Obama's remedy -- she offers the same Frank-Dodd bill. She does not locate the mortgage crisis in the deeper financial one. And her idea of turning, for wise men, to Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan -- more than anyone the people who gave us this crisis -- is appalling.
The one slightly disappointing part of the Obama speech was his call for $30 billion more in "stimulus." It's not nearly enough. He -- and we -- should stop even using the word "stimulus." To dig out of this mess, at a time when we already have large deficits, the federal government will need to fund a multi-year, public investment-led recovery program well into the hundreds of billions. It will need to be funded by restoring taxes on rich people. But this is a topic for another day.
A real puzzle here is the repeated assertion by columnist Paul Krugman, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that Clinton's views on economic policy are more progressive than Obama's. Indeed, Obama's stunning speech read as if it were informed by recent Krugman columns on the meltdown. Hillary has not said anything close to what Obama (or Krugman) has suggested.
Unlike some of my friends, I have not fallen in love with Obama. I have been at this too long, and you risk getting your heart broken. I actually shared Krugman's critique of Obama's health insurance individual mandate and his proposal to tax the upper middle class to pay for a much exaggerated Social Security shortfall that is more like a rounding error. I simply conclude, based on what I've seen, that Obama is capable of real learning and real transformation, both of himself and of public opinion. Nothing I've seen suggests that's true of Hillary Clinton.
But Krugman, ordinarily an ornament of fair-minded progressive economics commentary, writes almost as if he has become part of the Clinton campaign. His latest characterization of Obama's proposals in commenting on the New York speech -- "cautious and relatively orthodox" -- was preposterous. Even if Krugman's sympathies are with Clinton, he owes it to his readers and to his own credibility to play it straight and credit Obama with a breakthrough when credit is due. This was surely one of those times.
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