Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Economic Crisis: Forum Oct. 13

The Economic Crisis, The Budget &

The University

Be a part of the solution.

Panelists: Prof Paul Burke, Co-Chair Sac. Progressive Alliance; Dr. Duane Campbell, Democratic Socialists of America; Sandra Folger, Grad Student; Kristina Lee, Pres. Campus Prog. Alliance; Kevin Wehr, Pres. CFA.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1:30pm - 3pm

Orchard Room, CSUS University Union

Info: Duane: 916-361-9072 or

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

California Assembly on Race to the Top

Hearing today Sept. 29, 2009, at the Capitol . The 5th. Extraordinary Session. Assembly Committee on Education Chaired by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D. -Santa Monica)   considering the Race to the Top Funds of the Obama Administration.
Note; These funds are a part of the American Recovery and Re-investment Act, also known as the stimulus package.
There will be about $5 Billion available. At best California could hope for $1 b. Note, the California Legislature and the Governor cut $6.1 B from the state school budgets this year. Of this. $2.1 was “backfilled” by the federal government stimulus package. Deputy Supt. Of Public Instruction Miller stressed that Race to the top was totally voluntary, unlike NCLB. However, in local districts that have lost up to $35 million dollars, an opportunity to get $5 million back is definitely not voluntary.
It is noteworthy that the same people who made these slashing brutal cuts to education ( the Schwarzenegger admin.) are in charge of deciding how to pursue Race to the Top. Does that make you confident?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Test scores not the best way to judge

Another view: Test scores aren't best way to judge
Sacramento Bee | Page 3E
Our new U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan, picked the right problem to address: Too many children are dropping out, tuning out or losing out in school. He gets points for choosing the right solution: "Great teachers, great principals matter," he says. "Talent matters tremendously in education." How will we know great teachers when we see them? "Good assessments matter," Duncan says. "Good data matters."

He loses points when he lists standardized tests as "good assessments." Multiple-choice tests by any measure are not good enough to do what he wants them to do. Worse, tests on steroids distort teaching, leading to low-level opportunities to learn to think, reason, communicate, imagine. Having worked with experienced teachers on school study projects as a professor at Sacramento State, I have examined evidence of long-term damage already done to our most vulnerable schools because of a razor-sharp focus on standardized tests.

Make test scores a part of teacher evaluation? Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, calls herself "a huge advocate for data" and says that it "changes the culture of a school." Indeed. But the world is filled with data. Being a data advocate is like being an advocate for breathing. Which data are good enough to be good evidence and do no harm?

Natomas; more cuts

Natomas cuts;
An earlier post criticized the Sacramento BEE article by Diana Lambert on budget cuts in Natomas Unified School District. I criticized the framing of the story and the emphasis on Natomas as a “troubled” district.
On Friday, Sept. 25, the writer Diana Lambert published a follow up article on the budget cuts noting that the County officials told Natomas to cut $200,000 more from this year’s budget and $5 million from the budgets of each of the next three years.

The issue is that the Natomas schools have cut their budgets by $31.2 million, and now, due to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools, they must cut even more. Natomas is not a troubled school district. Like all districts it is responding to the draconian budget cuts imposed from the state.

These cuts hurt children. Already the district has raised its class size from 20 to 25 in k-3. This means that some children will not learn to read and some will not learn math.
Appointing a financial monitor is a means of enforcing a failed state policy of budget cuts. An accounting view of the problem is that the district must make the cuts. An educational view of the problem is that the School Board has a responsibility to provide a quality education for all the children.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unions criticize Obama's School Proposals

Unions Criticize Obama's School Proposals as 'Bush III'
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009

To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration's first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag.

Standardized testing, school accountability, performance pay, charter schools -- all are integral to President Obama's $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" grant competition to spur innovation. None is a typical Democratic crowd-pleaser.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Budget cuts to Natomas schools

The Sacramento Bee has its top story in the Our Region section for Sept. 24, 2009, “Troubled Natomas schools will get county education office help.” By Diana Lambert. Here:

The article, and the headlines, miss the major points, create a distorted frame for the story, and assign blame for the wrong problem.
The issue is that the Natomas schools have cut their budgets by $31.2 million, and now, due to the failure of the legislature to adequately fund the schools, they must cut even more. Natomas is not a troubled school district. Like all districts it must respond to the draconian cuts imposed from the state.

These cuts hurt children. Already the district has raised its class size from 20 to 25 in k-3. This means that some children will not learn to read and some will not learn math. It is difficult to make these cuts since they damage the quality of education.

Appointing a financial monitor is a means of enforcing a failed state policy of budget cuts. An accounting view of the problem is that the district must make the cuts. An educational view of the problem is that the School Board has a responsibility to provide a quality education for all the children.

The children did not cause the economic crisis. Major banks and corporations like AIG and Citi corp looted the economy creating an international meltdown. Now, they have been rewarded with bail out money . Meanwhile, the anti tax crowd roars, - no new taxes and the Republican Party minority uses the anti democratic 2/3 vote rule prevent raising taxes.

The result. Each child have about $1,400 less spent on their education this year. This in a state that already ranks 49 out of the 50 states in reading. Children will have larger classes, they will learn less, and they will have less support. The County office of education nor the independent consultant will provide help for this real problem.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

California Legislative Report Card

Report Card

Funding for California k-12 public education.

Senator Pro Tem. Darrell Steinberg.
Democratic Legislators D.

Republican Legislators F.

Governor Schwarzenegger F.

Funding for California Higher Education

Democratic Legislators D.

Republican Legislators F.

Governor Schwarzenegger F.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Bee campaigns for Arne Duncan's views-again

Editor Pia Lopez was impressed by the visit of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to Sacramento. I wasn’t.
See the comments here: see Pia Lopez's column on this topic and excerpts of her interviews with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, state Sen. Gloria Romero, and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley.

The most essential problem with the politicians approaches to school reform endorsed by the Bee editors is that they listen to promoters and not to teachers. Arne Duncan, Kevin Johnson , Michelle Rhee, Joe Klein and others well represent the promoters view of school reform. They have tried to command teachers but they have not lead teachers –probably because they are unable to do so.

School reform will come when we can engage teachers, students and families. If you want to improve schools you need to engage the teachers in the classroom. It will not come from the promoters nor the consultant class not working closely with teachers. My 35 + years of experience in working with schools convinces me that the consultants and the researchers may receive the research funds, but the solutions will come from dialogues with the teachers and community activists and by improving teaching and learning conditions in the classrooms.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Absurd definitions of achievement : Deborah Meier

September 17, 2009
We're Relying on an Absurd Definition of Achievement
Dear Diane,

Yes, the ways in which standardized bubble-in tests are open to abuse are rampant—and gaming of test scores has increasingly important repercussions. In the long run it leads to an increasingly toxic education in the name of “standards.” I urge you to read the two chapters in "In Schools We Trust" on my own experience and subsequent investigation of standardized testing for 7-year-olds. I discovered, in my effort to “prep” them, that while reading tests may in part test the ability to read—comprehend (vs. re-code into sounds)—they are even better at detecting one’s class and cultural sub-group. Of course, there were exceptions. There are ways to raise scores via prepping, but it can only diminish the “gap” if those at the top get less effective prepping. I published the recorded interviews I conducted with students—in 1972, and Jay Rosner has shown how it works for the SATs, and many have followed. Between 1980 and 1990, it seemed we had won the battle. By 2000, they had returned with a vengeance. Thus many friends and allies suggested I give up on this particular line of reasoning.

Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed a massive redistribution of wealth. Everyone has their culprit. Too often, "lazy" children, parents, or educators/teachers? In a nation that ranks near the bottom in services for the young, not to mention a bigger gap between rich and poor than we’ve seen since the 1920s, maybe this is myopic? “Forget it,” friends suggest. You’ll just be accused of making excuses for bad schools.

What you have documented, Diane, is eerily close to the kind of data abuse that helped create our current financial crisis. We go blindly ahead. There seem equally few lessons learned from either crisis. It’s apparently easier to hold children and teachers’ “feet to the fire” than the creators of the greatest economic crisis of our lives—especially Harvard grads. Note: The latter did fine on their SATs.

Many reputable studies have also demonstrated that, based on such tests, no evidence exists for most of the Race to the Top-NCLB-like reforms. Just rhetoric. Just more shifting of power away from the public sector. The CREDO study you mention suggests that only 17 percent of the charter schools do better on tests than their comparable noncharters, and more do worse. Try that with a drug test, and how long would it remain on the shelf? (Even though, in fact, low scores is not one of my complaints against charters.)

What’s the alternative, critics argue! Is a bad drug better than none at all, I respond?

In fact, we have alternatives—some pioneered in the good old USA and others in those much-vaunted international comparisons. For example, there is no competitor that relies as much as much as we do on testing of our sort. None. None. None. (A light bulb should go on.)

Alas, there are no simple magic bullets even among the reforms I like. Partly because we don’t all have the same agenda when it comes to outcomes—our priorities differ, what we’re willing to trade off or risk differs. Also, any reform package depends on its implementation and few recipes are foolproof. Trying to copy the KIPP model or the Deborah Meier “model” won’t produce the same thing.

And, then there’s the ornery fact that when today’s reformers refer to proof of “achievement” they mean something different than you and I do, Diane. Achievement equals standardized test scores in reading and math; others add test scores in other subjects, including aptitude/IQ tests. Everything else gets called “soft skills.” It’s as absurd as calling the written driving test the real achievement and the road test a measure of “soft” skills.

I’d argue that this applies to most intellectual knowledge and skills. We’re relying on an absurd definition of achievement—at best. It’s not lack of alternatives, but a lack of interest in having real standards that take into account that we are all not the same and that we actually don’t want to be all the same. Our interests, passions, talents, and even our priorities differ. High standards can be met in honest and serious ways if we are prepared to take the harder route—starting with each child. If we care enough about both means and ends consistent with democracy it will not be easy and will not be based on the need to rank order individuals, schools, or nations. There are plenty of good alternatives.

Any publicly funded school must serve, for better or worse, the public good—the complex demands of a modern democracy. But the public good is also met best when each individual's private good (his/her passions and interests) are also met. But how we sort out what best serves both will always be an art, not a hard or exact science.

There is no single “best” model—but there are bad ones. Neither the common good nor personal good can come out of schools that do not treat all members of their community with respect. (Respect, of course, is no easier to define than achievement.) Perhaps the reason I love "Tales of Priut Almus*" by Robert Belenky—which describes the time he spent in a Russian shelter for homeless youth—is the unmeasurable respectfulness with which they responded to the young people in their care. Belenky says “offering a short-term, flexible, familial, community-based home may be the most useful gift (offered) these young people.” But he actually describes far more than that. So, too, in any respectful school there is more than that—but nothing without that.

From: Education Week blog.

Posted by Deborah Meier at 7:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBacks (0)

Bill Fletcher on the state of the union movement

Great video:
Michael Zweig and Bill Fletcher On U.S. Labor Movement

Bill Moyers Journal
September 18, 2009

Watch Video

Read Transcript

Friday, September 18, 2009

National Standards?

Posted in Education Week.

To the Editor:

The national-standards- development timeline of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and Achieve Inc., a key player in the endeavor, is a dead giveaway to the closed, predetermined nature of the process ("Openness of Common-Standards Process at Issue," Aug. 12, 2009).

July 2009: Work groups are named.
July 2009: Three weeks later, draft college- and career-readiness standards are complete.
December 2009: The entire draft K-12 standards in language arts and math are complete.
January 2010: The standards are approved, and the effort to blackmail the states into signing on begins.

Anyone who has ever done curriculum- or standards-developme nt work knows immediately that this timetable signals a process in which the end product has already been decided upon at the beginning.
This project is entirely closed off from educator and citizen engagement. And, as usual, there is not a single person on either development team who actually interacts with children or adolescents—just a bunch of directors, managers, and associates.

It is typical of the arrogance and stupidity of American educational policy development in our time that we have the policy developed exclusively by people who have no personal engagement with the institutions of schooling, people who are bureaucrats and paper-pushers and wouldn’t know how to engage a child if their ample salaries depended on it.

Of course, this is the logical conclusion of modernist consciousness, to which living wisdom is irrelevant. And this negation of wisdom is one of the key reasons that all of our modernist institutions are collapsing.

No doubt national standards and national tests will be shoved through, which will lead inevitably to ever-greater efforts to transform our schools from places with real educative purposes into test-prep factories.

David Marshak
Bellingham, Wash.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

President Obama at the AFL-CIO

The U.S. has failed to control Wall Street

For all Obama's talk of overhaul, the US has failed to wind in Wall Street

With a blank cheque from taxpayers and no real reform the perverse incentives for risk-taking are bigger than ever

by Joseph Stiglitz
The Guardian (U.K.)

What went wrong? Have the right lessons been learned? Could it happen again? The anniversary of the Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and the freezing of the credit markets that followed is an occasion for reflection. I fear that our collective response has been mistaken and inadequate – that we may just have made matters worse.

The financial sector would like us to believe that if only the Federal Reserve and the Treasury had leapt to the rescue of Lehmans all would have been fine. Sheer nonsense. Lehmans was not a cause but a consequence: a consequence of flawed lending practices, and of inadequate oversight by regulators.

Financial markets had lent on the basis of a bubble – a bubble in large part of their making. They had incentive structures that encouraged excessive risk-taking and shortsighted behaviour. And that was no accident. It was the fruit of vigorous lobbying, which strived equally hard to prevent regulation of changes in the financial structure, new products like credit default swaps – which, while supposedly designed to manage risk, actually created it – and ingenious devices to exploit poor and uninformed borrowers and investors. The sector may not have made good economic investments, but its political investments paid off handsomely.

Lehmans was allowed to fail, we were told at the time, because its failure did not pose systemic risk. The systemic consequences its failure entailed, of course, were used as an excuse for the massive bailouts for the banks. Thus the Lehmans example became at best a scare tactic; at worst it became an excuse, a tool, to extract as much as possible for the banks and the bankers that brought the world to the brink of economic ruin.

Had more thought gone into how to deal with Lehmans, the Treasury and Fed might have realised that it played an important role in the shadow banking system, and that it was important to protect the integrity of the shadow system which had come to play such an important role in the US and global financial payments system. But many of Lehmans' activities had no systemic importance. The administration could have found a path between the false dichotomy of abandonment or bailout. That would have protected the payments system, providing the minimum amount of taxpayer money. Shareholders and long-term bondholders would have been wiped out before any public money had to be put in.

Bailing out the US banks need not have meant bailing out the bankers, their shareholders, and bondholders. We could have kept the banks as ongoing institutions, even if we had played by the ordinary rules of capitalism which say that when a firm can't meet its obligations to creditors, the shareholders lose everything.

Unquestionably we should not have allowed banks to become so big and so intertwined that their failure would cause a crisis. But the Obama administration has created a new concept: institutions too big to be resolved, too big for capital markets to provide the necessary discipline. The perverse incentives for excessive risk-taking at taxpayers' expense are even worse with the too-big-to-be-resolved banks than they are at the too-big-to-fail institutions. We have signed a blank cheque on the public purse. We have not circumscribed their gambling – indeed, they have access to funds from the Fed at close to zero interest rates, and it appears that "trading profits" have (besides "accounting" changes) become the major source of returns.

Last night Barack Obama defended his administration's response to the financial crisis, but the reality is that a year on from Lehmans' collapse, it has failed to take adequate steps to restrict institutions' size, their risk-taking, and their interconnectedness. Indeed, it has allowed the big banks to become even bigger – just as it has failed to stem the flow of profligate executive bonuses. Obama's call on Wall Street yesterday to support "the most ambitious overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression" is welcome – but the devil, as ever, will be in the detail.

There remain many institutions willing and able to engage in gambling, trading and speculation. There is no justification for this to be done by institutions underwritten by the public. The implicit guarantee distorts the market, providing them a competitive advantage and giving rise to a dynamic of ever-increasing size and concentration. Only their own managerial competence, demonstrated amply by a few institutions, provides a check on the whole process.

The Lehmans episode demonstrates that incompetence has a price. That there would be serious problems in our financial institutions was apparent since early 2007, with the bursting of the bubble. Self-deception led those who had allowed the bubble to develop, who had looked the other way as bad lending practices became routine, to think that the problems were niche or temporary. But after the fall of Bear Stearns, with rumours that Lehmans was next, the Fed and the Treasury should have done a serious job of figuring out how to manage an orderly shutdown of a large, complex institution; and if they determined that they lacked adequate legal authority, they should have requested it.

They appear, remarkably, to have been repeatedly caught off-guard. They claim in the exigency of the moment they were doing the best they could. There was no time for thought. And that explains how they veered from one solution to another: after saying that they did not want to bail out Lehmans because of a concern about moral hazard, they extended the government's safety net further than it had ever been. Bear Stearns extended it to investment banks, and AIG to all financial institutions. Perhaps they were doing the best they could at the time; but that is no excuse for not having anticipated the problems and been better prepared.

Lehman Brothers was a symptom of a dysfunctional financial system and regulatory failure. It should have taught us that preventing problems is easier, and certainly less costly, than dealing with them when they become virtually intractable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Searching for leaders of school reform

I was fortunate tonight to catch Bill Moyer’s Journal on PBS. Among his guests were Dr. Jim Young Kim. Born in the U.S. and raised in Iowa. He has spent the last twenty-five years delivering health care to some the world’s poorest people including those of Haiti, Africa, and Asia. He will now take a position as President of Dartmouth University.
His discussion pointed out that improving health care delivery required the participation of the doctors, nurses, and medical workers, and community members in their communities- it does not come from the hospital/health care industry. His talk reminded me of the argument made here before about school reform.
Democratic school reform will come when we can engage teachers, students and families. We need to engage the teachers in the classroom. It will not come from consultant class nor from universities not working closely with teachers. My 35 + years of experience in working with schools convinces me that the consultants and the researchers may receive the research funds, but the solutions will come from dialogues with the teachers and community activists.

As has been argued here before, the most essential problem with the politicians approaches to school reform is that they listen to promoters and not to teachers.
Arne Duncan, Kevin Johnson , Michelle Rhee, Joe Klein and others well represent the promoters view of school reform Both Duncan and Johnson, along with Sarah Palin, like to use basketball metaphors. So, lets try one out.
Arne Duncan and Kevin Johnson are cheerleaders for an ideology of how school reform should work. They chant and cheer and show a little flash. But, they are cheerleaders.
The players who make school reform work are teachers and students. If you want to win the game, you need to practice and improve the fundamentals – not watch the cheerleaders. Lets look at some fundamentals. Some schools have 17 students per class, some have 34 students per class, and some have as many as 42 per class- particularly in California. Then, all the students are measured on the same test. That would be like having one team field 12 players while another could only field 5 players.
The most basic decisions on class size in schools are made by the Governor, the legislature, and the voters. In last year’s budget deal, the legislature and the Governor cut some $6 billion from the k-12 schools forcing lay offs of teachers and increasing class sizes. California now has the largest class sizes in the nation. Our Senators and our Assemblypersons voted for this. They argue that they had no choice.
The legislature, enjoys a 16% approval rating from voters. They listened to Arne Duncan, the coach of the cheerleaders. In particular Senator Gloria Romero has introduced legislation to change the way California uses student test scores to comply with the demands of the Obama/Duncan administration. This particular coach has $10 Billion dollars to distribute. But, the federal competition is a distraction from the more basic issues. Until the schools are adequately funded, and class sizes reduced to at least the national average- no amount of cheerleading will improve test scores. You can’t win the game by only putting half of the team of teachers on the floor. Senators Romero and Steinberg, and the Assemblypersons know this.
At his recent Town Hall meeting in Sacramento Duncan was asked a couple of strong questions, polite, but firm, about the lack of resources for schools due to the California economic crisis. He cited the additional aid provided by the stimulus bill and the $10 billion available through the Race to the Top and other competitive grants. This is, of course, a very limited response. The economic crisis of school funding in California is beyond any investment provided by federal funds.

Health care - Canada

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tea bagger protests

Rethinking Learning

Sam Chaltain
Forum for Education and Democracy, National Director

Today, as young people across the country head back to school, the rest of us would be wise to heed the words of our former president by asking ourselves, our neighbors and our elected officials a simple question:

“Is our children learning?”

The answer, of course, may depend largely on where you live. But what troubles me more than that basic lack of fairness is that our entire public education system isn’t even being asked to measure whether or not young people are learning – only whether they are demonstrating progress on basic-skills standardized tests in 3rd and 8th grade reading and math.

As everyone knows, learning involves more than basic skills and regurgitating information. It requires higher-order skills and the capacity to digest, make sense of, and apply what we’ve been taught.

Why, then, are we allowing well-intentioned policymakers to unintentionally discourage schools from doing those essential things? Why are we judging whether schools are successes or failures based solely on these insufficient numbers? And why are we tolerating a national culture of testing, when we all know from personal experience that what we need is a national culture of learning?

We can do better.

We can have schools in every neighborhood that teach children both basic- and higher-order skills, that allow creativity and innovation to flourish, and that lead all children to discover how to fully and effectively participate in our economy and democracy.

Before that can happen, however, we need to start having a different conversation. We need to restore the focus of public education reform to its rightful place – on learning, and on the core conditions that best support it.

To help bring about this subtle shift of thinking, a coalition of individuals, education advocates, civil rights leaders and philanthropic organizations has launched the Rethink Learning Now campaign with a simple goal – to ask people to reflect on what they already know to be true about powerful learning, to share those personal stories, and then to use that collective wisdom to help the country better understand what a healthy, high-functioning learning environment actually looks like.

Already, the campaign has collected a diverse set of stories – from citizens to Senators to the Secretary of Education himself – and begun outlining a core set of essential conditions for schools to cultivate.

- Angela V. from Texas wrote about her junior year of high school, when a new teacher demanded more of her than she knew she was capable of. “My family, church, and community imbued me with a strong, positive sense of self,” she writes. “Where I was lacking, however, was with respect to my academic self-esteem.”

- Jamal F. from California shared memories of long afternoon walks as a young boy with his grandfather. “We cannot think that we need to replicate in public schools the level of understanding and the personal connection between a boy and his grandfather,” he offers. “But we can identify conditions that made this learning experience meaningful and attempt to foster them in our schools.”

- And Arne D. from Chicago – yes, that Arne D. from Chicago – talked about spending time in his mother’s after school tutoring program on the South Side of Chicago. “Everyone was challenged to do their best, every single day,” he wrote. “It was the ultimate in high expectations, both for individuals and the group as a whole.”

In the weeks and months ahead, thousands of other people across the country will share their own stories. As the number of stories grows over time, we’ll all see, in real-time, which attributes appear most often across such a diverse set of experiences. And as that list takes shape, we’ll all be better equipped to hold ourselves, our lawmakers and our local communities more accountable to implementing policies that are based more clearly on what young people need in order to thrive – and stay – in school, and not just on what is easiest to quantitatively measure.

Editor’s Note: Sam Chaltain is the National Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, a DC-based education “action tank.” His next book, “American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community,” will be released in October 2009.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sacramento Black Parallel School Board

Letter from the Chair

The African American youth in Sacramento are at a state of heightened emergency in relation to their academic pursuit yet, we are not truly outraged about this. With education being one of the fundamental keys to success we must make every effort to ensure the academic key fits correctly once its placed into the hands of our African American youth.

On Saturday, September 5, 2009, the Black Parallel School Board held its monthly meeting at the Oak Park United Methodist Church in Sacramento. The meeting started promptly at 10 am and adjourned at 12 pm. One of the key items we covered was standardized testing. Readers are you aware that within the Sacramento City Unified School District during the past school year of all the African American students they are serving only 8 children of African descent are in geometry and there are only 9 African Descent youth in Algebra II. African American students overall have made little to none standardized test improvements and the same is occurring with the high school exit exam test results. Our children's ability to articulate themselves in written form is declining astronomically too.

Children of African descent are not doing well when it comes to mathematics and language arts this is a fact. Together as a community, we have a job to do. This job goes beyond the band-aid approach. When the Black Parallel School Board meets monthly we are not there in large numbers along with our children, nieces, nephews, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents and the like, yet we wonder why our children are doing poorly.

We will come together in large numbers to support concerts, ball games, and other extra circular activities; however, we neglect to use the same energy and efforts to bring about constant change when it comes to our children’s academic minds in fear of rattling the chains.

We must call ourselves to a higher place of accountability by riding ourselves of the lackadaisical attitude and by not selfishly assuming that this doesn’t impact you. Our ancestors did not bleed, die, and be dehumanized for generations for us to stop fighting.

The battle doesn’t end until we are call home. This battle is not just an African American battle it is a battle that every race is responsible for fighting for their culture individually and for other cultures too. When one is not adequately educated they will lack the tenacity needed to be positive community contributors causing the cycle of poverty to continue to perpetuate from generation-to-generation. This in and of itself is one of the key ingredients that continues to feed racism.

STAR test results are our business even if it means holding all night tutoring sessions- so well be it. Being on a unified forefront is so essential. When we come to the table to discuss education we should be on one accord regardless of our level of achievements and the accolades associated with our name(s). Our skin color is also not an item that we should constantly focus our attention, but that isn’t to say it isn’t a vital area. Our primary focal point should always be those children who are not performing at their “True Potential” even if they aren’t in our neighborhoods. We are truly living in a world where we are constantly producing lost generations who are wondering around hopelessly looking and waiting for us to take charge of them- we appear to be asleep.

Most people are quick to play the, “race card” not too many of those same individuals are willing to come into a room and set aside differences to bring about true change. Politicians want you to hear them so they can be elected yet, when elections occur, you don't see them until its election time again. The fact that there is no funding truly doesn’t matter, what matters is that we all want the best for Sacramento children; that in and of itself is enough for us to work until we can see the change verses just thinking change is going to plop out of the sky into our laps- we have to go and get it.

Those who caused things to truly happen took care of business and they did it with so much passion where they didn’t even care if that meant that they lost their lives in the mist of the fight. Our children are doing poorly in Sacramento in terms of education; I asked when wills The Next Generations Academic Failures Be Truly Televised. Years ago, survival occurred academically, physically, and financially because there was a unified effort for everyone to, “Be There Brothers/Sisters Keeper At All Cost.”

Here is a link to the Black Parallel School Board

(please see this site for the charts covered at our most recent meeting check and it in a couple of days you can visit it now for other information)

STAR test result site-

I am writing as a concerned citizen who is on the battlefield for our youth regardless of their ethnicity, social economic status, religion, and/or sexual orientation.

Lailah Ameerah Muwwakkil

Black Parallel School Board

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Response to Time on Duncan

Time Magazine wrote a feature on Secretary of Education Duncan.
Here is one teacher's response.

Dear Editor,

Gilbert Cruz's feature on Arne Duncan and the Race To The Top program entirely missed the boat, misrepresenting the issues and ignoring years of evidence about what it takes for students to learn. The idea that teachers should be held accountable for the success or failure of their students is neither new nor (amongst teachers) controversial. The controversy surrounds the means by which we evaluate both students and teachers. With Race To The Top, President Obama and Secretary Duncan lay all of the responsibility for students' success or failure squarely on the backs of classroom teachers, while giving them no authority to do anything whatsoever to change the status quo. Today's teachers are regularly forced to use scripted lessons and follow pacing guides that leave no room at all for creativity or professional judgement. If teachers have no power, how can we hold them accountable? Would you hand a firefighter a set of procedures to follow at every fire, regardless of its size, location, or nature? Would you require doctors to use the same treatment with every patient, regardless of the disease? That's what is happening to our teachers and students.

In his effort to blame teacher unions for standing in the way of reform, Mr. Cruz fails to note what an abject failure No Child Left Behind and its era of high-stakes standardized testing have been. States spend billions on tests that are not reliable and are often inappropriate. School districts have responded by narrowing the curriculum so that teachers teach only what is to be tested that year. Many elementary students never touch a history or science textbook. Art and music are things of the past. Physical education is disappearing --And research shows us that these subjects and programs are vital to student achievement.

There is no evidence whatsoever that our testing mania is helping children; there is mounting evidence that it does them terrible harm. Educators are challenging Race To The Top because it's going to make things worse, not better. Once salaries are tied to test scores teachers will compete to work with the best and brightest students, those who are likely to test well. Our students with the lowest test scores and the greatest needs will get the inexperienced and less capable teachers. I have taught English Learners and immigrant children for over twenty years. My students learn a great deal, and make tremendous advances, but they traditionally score poorly on standardized tests because they have yet to master English. But we still keep giving them the same tests we give the English-only students, knowing in advance what the results will be. Who is this helping? And more importantly, who is going to want to work with these students once salaries are tied to test scores?

Charles Finn
Teacher, Oceanside Unified School District

The Back to School speech


Ok. All you conspiracy theorists, stand up. Now, the speech by the President has been made. (see transcipt below)
You can come out of your self inflicted panic. The U.S. is strong. The U.S. schools are improving.
The President talked about students own responsibility. Students need to hear about personal responsibility. I hope that you were listening. You need some focus on personal responsibility.
The paranoia and panic were silly.
The President talking to students was totally appropriate.
It is not a "cult of personality", as you accused. It was not a plot, nor subversive.
Your attacks were mean spirited and nasty.
Take a chill pill, and grow up.
BTW. Your panic probably increased the attention to the speech by at least 4 times. That is, this speech would have passed with a yawn by hundreds of thousands of kids. Now, they are watching it.
You scream, you lose !

Monday, September 07, 2009

Barack Obama to school kids on education

The speech for Sept.8,2009. See comments in prior post about paranoia.
President Barack Obama.
Hello everyone - how's everybody doing today? I'm here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I'm glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I'm here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to talk with you about your education and what's expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I've given a lot of speeches about education. And I've talked a lot about responsibility.
I've talked about your teachers' responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working where students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world - and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer - maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper - but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor - maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine - but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

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And no matter what you want to do with your life - I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that - if you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.

Now I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn't always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn't fit in.

So I wasn't always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I'm not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn't have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life - what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home - that's no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That's no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer - hundreds of extra hours - to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he's headed to college this fall.

And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That's why today, I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education - and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That's OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can't let your failures define you - you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. It's the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust - a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor - and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you're struggling, even when you're discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you - don't ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down - don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Obama and the paranoid style in educational politics

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.” So opened a classic 1964 essay of the renowned American historian, Richard Hofstadter, in which he analyzed a style of politics which is remarkably evocative of what has passed for political discourse these last two months. Consider how Hofstadter’s pithy characterization of this political style – “[a] sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” — so aptly fits the sort of behavior we have seen on display in town halls, on Fox TV “news” shows and on blogs from the right. What term better describes the conjuring of “death panels” out of thin air, the waving of photos of Obama defaced to resemble Hitler, than that which graces the title of Hofstadter’s essay, the “paranoid style?”
After weeks of the paranoid style in health care politics, it is now in full bloom in the realm of educational politics as well. Obama, we are told, has set out to indoctrinate American school children with his socialist doctrine through a planned address to American school children next week. The Cato Institute blog has outstripped its usual prodigious output with nearly hourly condemnations of Obama’s planned speech and the lesson plans produced by the USDoE for the event. Its torrent of criticism culminated most recently [at least at this hour] with the charge of an Obama “cult of personality,” a term of art that arose to describe the murderous rule of Stalin.* The Amen chorus at the National Review blog, led by Jonah Goldberg of Liberal Fascism fame, all agree with Cato on the existence of a dangerous Obama “cult of personality.”¶ Fox News commentator Monica Crowley decries Obama’s words urging students to stay in school and work hard as “Orwellian,” proclaiming that “this is what Chairman Mao did.” World Net Daily’s Bob Unruh compares the Obama speech on the importance of education to Hitler Youth. For the second time in two days, American Enterprise Institute house educational expert Rick Hess denounces the proposed Obama message of personal responsibility, this time as “groupthink.” Hess approvingly quotes Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame, that “if George W. Bush had proposed to make a national speech to schoolchildren, complete with lesson plans, isn’t ‘creepy’ a word that would have come to mind?” Little does it matter to Murray and Hess that George W. Bush [and his father] not 0nly proposed, but actually delivered such speeches. Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer opines that he is “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.” And for good measure, Michelle Malkin throws in a shot at “zealous teacher unions.” It appears that someone forget to tell both the Obama DoE and us that teacher unions were the instrumentalities of Obama’s socialist propaganda.
This is surreal beyond all belief, in a way that makes the descriptor “paranoid” an inadequate understatement. Obama is so much of a socialist that in the real world he could not bring himself to propose the modestly social democratic single payer system of health care insurance, a form of which exists in every other Western democracy, and he has been hinting of his willingness to abandon the “public option” in his proposals for health care reform. Get a grip, boys and girls.
* Republican State Senator Steve Russell of Oklahoma makes the reference to a “cult of personality” explicit for the historically illiterate: “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”
¶ “The quintessential liberal fascist,” Jonah Goldberg informed us in his book by that name, “is not an SS storm trooper. It is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”

by Leo Casey

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Atlanta Teachers' union: a viewpoint

The Atlanta, Ga. Teachers Union.

WARNING: MACE is the kick-ass teachers union, and MACE does not think that you can have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions! If you are squeamish, faint of heart, and are not disgusted by how angry and arrogant administrators abuse classroom educators, then you need to EXIT this website immediately. This website is not for those who are easily offended by MACE’s aggressive style. MACE has been dubbed “a radical teachers union” by the media. Well, MACE feels that it is radically wrong for the administrators to allow students (1) to curse out teachers (using the most vile language), (2) to physically assault teachers (as well as fellow students on a regular basis), (3) to falsely accuse teachers so that they themselves can be exempted from doing any real school work, (4) to cheat on exams and school work with total impunity, and (5) to expect the teachers to be blamed for all of their own failures, be they in academics or comportment. MACE believes that this current BLAME THE TEACHER CULTURE is radically wrong and that radical measures have to be employed accordingly. MACE radically defends classroom educators. Radically, not illegally. MACE is always armed with the U. S. Constitution and the State Statutes. The problem is that so many school systems are “gangsta” by their nature and in their scope. School systems have tried to “ban,” to no avail, MACE and its officials. MACE officials have been falsely arrested and falsely incarcerated standing up for teachers. Most of the charges are summarily dismissed. Not one charge has been prosecuted. What other so-called unions (full of abusing administrators in their membership ranks) fight for teachers like MACE? MACE believes in No Teacher Left Behind. MACE. Radical Responses to Radical Situations. MACE. The Teachers Union For Teachers Teaching In Tough Situations. MACE believes that angry and abusive administrators are ruining our public schools and that student-thugs are running our public schools. There is epidemic violence in our public schools. Children deserve futures, not funerals. So many of today’s administrators simply lack guts; they are weasels. They kiss up to the students, the sudents’ parents, and their administrative bosses downtown, but they kick down toward the teachers. Kiss up & Kick Down. They actually think that this is how you run a school. These so-called administrators are gutless and clueless. This is MACE’s position. So, be WARNED.

Posted to inform.
Happy Labor Day.

Glenn Beck gets Van Jones fired.

UPDATE: On "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, Gibbs told Stephanopoulos that Obama thanks Jones for his service but doesn't endorse his views or object to his resignation.

"What Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual. The president thanks Van Jones for his service in the first eight months," Gibbs said.

Before Gibbs came on his show, Stephanopoulos tweeted ominously:

Van Jones resigns Hardly Saturday Night Massacre, but when's last time WH official let go at midnight? Clearing deck pre Gibbs on This Week
Van Jones, under fire from the extremist television show host for his background in radical activism, has resigned from the administration.

Jones was Special Adviser for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality - the so-called 'Green Jobs' Czar. Jones' 2008 book, The Green Collar Economy, was a New York Times best-seller.

The saga began with Glenn Beck, a talk show host for Fox News, who hammered at Jones relentlessly the last several weeks for his radical past.

Jones never denied his past affiliation with the radical left. In the '90s, he was involved with the group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), which sympathized with Maoist-inspired peasant movements throughout the world and was organized to protest police brutality.

Jones, however, left radical politics and made the decision to work within the system, rather than try to overthrow it. For Beck, however, Jones' past statements were evidence that Obama is secretly marshaling a cadre of lieutenants pushing an agenda that is "radical, revolutionary and in some cases Marxist." (Meanwhile, in reality, Obama is backing away from even including a public health insurance option as part of health care reform. How that squares with Obama's Marxist agenda Beck has yet to explain.)

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Before Beck mentioned Jones in the last few weeks on his Fox News television show, Jones remained an obscure figure in the administration. After Beck mentioned him, protesters at town hall meetings made Jones a staple of their complaints.

Jones, in a statement, said he no longer wanted to be a distraction.

"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide. I have been inundated with calls - from across the political spectrum -- urging me to 'stay and fight.' But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future."

It's exceedingly unlikely that Beck will be satisfied by Jones' resignation, seeing in it evidence that he was correct in his assessment of Obama's supposed radical lieutenants. "Jones is the tip of the iceberg," Beck has said.

Once Beck made Jones a target, a series of revelations put him in political danger. Asked in February of this year why Republicans were able to block Democratic legislation despite being wildly outnumbered, he said, "The answer to that is, they're assholes."

Jones went on: "And Barack Obama is not an asshole. So, now, I will say this: I can be an asshole, and some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama, are going to have to start getting a little bit uppity."

It also emerged that Jones had signed a "truther" petition back in 2004. Truthers insist that there are unanswered questions about what U.S. officials knew about the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks before they occurred and want further investigations.

There's nothing inherently left-wing about 9/11 conspiracy theorists or right-wing about birthers, though backers of each theory tend to fall on opposite ideological extremes because of mistrust of the president in question, be he Bush or Obama. But the birther movement includes prominent Republicans, including members of Congress, while connection to the truther movement can help cost a relatively obscure administration official his job.

There's a lesson to be learned. "If you want to say batsh*t-crazy stuff and still be treated as a respectable participant in the national debate, you'd better be a Republican," gauged blogger Mark Kleiman after hearing the news of Jones' resignation. "Suggesting that President Bush invited the 9/11 attacks in order to start a war is really no crazier than suggesting that President Obama wants to let terrorists loose in the United States, or that he plans to kill old people and disabled children, or that there's something sinister about his encouraging schoolkids to study hard."

Those latter three charges, of course, have been leveled recently by elected Republican members of Congress.

A Jones remark about environmental justice also landed him in trouble. He was accused of race-baiting for suggesting that "[t]he white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people of color's communities because they don't have a racial justice frame."

During the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly threw aides overboard who became political liabilities; White House observers saw Jones' departure more as a matter of when rather than if.

His fate was sealed when Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to defend him at a recent press conference.

QUESTION: Van Jones. I know he has issued an apology for his proctological remarks, but apparently there is also video of him accusing white polluters of poisoning people of color communities. Does the president still have confidence in this guy?

GIBBS: He continues to work in the administration, and I would refer you to the statement that CEQ put out last night about this.


GIBBS: That's the Council on Environmental Quality

QUESTION: Yeah, but Robert is that as far as you are going to go with this?

GIBBS: That is the statement that has been put out last night.

QUESTION: The stories on television have been pretty offensive.

GIBBS: And I think if you refer to the statement, he apologized.


QUESTION: Van Jones. His name appears on a 2004 petition, demanding to know the truth about 9/11, whether or not the Bush Administration played a role in 9/11 so as to justify a war for oil. He said in his statement yesterday that he doesn't agree with that, and an administration source said he didn't fully read it before he signed it, he agreed to have his name signed to it. Now it comes out today that in 2002 he was on an organizing committee for a 9/11 Truther march. Your administration has been very active in knocking down the so-called Birthers, the people who allege without any evidence, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that the president was not born in the United States. How can the administration tolerate somebody who subscribes to a different insane conspiracy theory, as a senior adviser?

GIBBS: Again, it is not something that the president agrees with, and again I would point you to the statement from CEQ.

QUESTION: How many past statements have to emerge before he no longer has the confidence of the president?

GIBBS: A good question for next time.

Jones' resignation, coming around midnight on the Saturday of a three-day weekend, minimizes the amount of time Beck and his allies can spend celebrating.

"It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead," Jones said.

UPDATE: TWI's Dave Weigel has the tick-tock on the Beck Effect.

Ryan Grim is the author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America
Read more from Huffington Post bloggers:

David Sirota: Taking the Movement Out of the Obama White House
Van Jones was one of the only people in the White House who came out of grassroots movement work and not just political/partisan hack work.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Arne Duncan at the Sacramento Town Hall meeting

Arne Duncan was in Sacramento today, pushing his particular view of test based school reform entitled Race to the Top. The Sacramento Bee carried two opposing views on their editorial page, one featuring two outstanding teachers who made the case well for the limited value of an over reliance upon testing. Here;

Duncan met today with legislative leaders, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and advocates of charter schools. In his town hall meeting Duncan was an effective an effective cheerleader for school reform. You and I would agree with most of what he said. Over 100 business and community leaders were in the front rows. Another 100 teachers and parents were in the back roles.
As has been argued here before, the most essential problem with the politicians approaches to school reform is that they listen to promoters and not to teachers.
Arne Duncan and Kevin Johnson well represent this promoters view of school reform Both Duncan and Johnson, along with Sarah Palin, like to use basketball metaphors. So, lets try one out.
Arne and Kevin Johnson are cheerleaders for an ideology of how school reform should work. They chant and cheer and show a little flash. But, they are cheerleaders.
The players who make school reform work are teachers and students. If you want to win the game, you need to practice and improve the fundamentals – not watch the cheerleaders. Lets look at some fundamentals. Some schools have 17 students per class, some have 34 students per class, and some have as many as 42 per class- particularly in California. Then, all the students are measured on the same test. That would be like having one team field 12 players while another could only field 5 players.
A problem exists in that the media, editorial writers, columnists, the poorly informed and elected officials listen to Arne Duncan as if he were the coach of the players- he is not. He is the coach of the cheerleaders. An interesting coach, particularly since he has $10 B to distribute, but he remains a coach of the cheerleaders. Now, I like cheerleaders. Duncan's message is substantially positive. But, he is on the sidelines of the real game.
In the Town Hall meeting two teachers asked questions about the role of testing. Duncan argued that test scores should be used as one of several measures, not the only measure.In particular he cited that there was a need to change the nature of using test scores for ELLs.
The most basic decisions on class size in schools are made by the Governor, the legislature, and the voters. In last year’s budget deal, the legislature and the Governor cut some $6 billion from the k-12 schools forcing lay offs of teachers and increasing class sizes. California now has the largest class sizes in the nation.
The legislature, enjoying a 16% approval rating by voters, today listened to Arne Duncan, the coach of the cheerleaders. This particular coach has $10 Billion dollars to distribute. But, the federal competition is a distraction from the more basic issues. Until the schools are adequately funded, and class sizes reduced to at least the national average- no amount of cheerleading will improve test scores. You can’t win the game by only putting half of the team of teachers on the floor.
He was asked a couple of strong questions, polite, but firm, about the lack of resources for schools due to the California economic crisis. He cited the additional aid provided by the stimulus bill and the $10 billion available through the Race to the Top and other competitive grants. This is, of course, a very limited response. The economic crisis of school funding is beyond any investment provided by federal funds.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Plunder and Blunder: The economy

Excerpts from Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy,
Dean Baker. 2008. Polipoint Press.

Holding the incompetents accountable.
“The level of incompetence in high places was and is truly astounding….
In the absence of serious consequences for poor performance, experts have little incentive to question the consensus view. During the bubble years, those who raised questions about bubbles were largely marginalized… The exorbitant pay received by top executives is passed on in higher prices to everyone. The bubbles were allowed to grow only because the people in a position to restrain them failed in their duties… The financial industry proved to be more incompetent and corrupt than its worst critics could have imagined….
Wall street sold these instruments to pension funds and other institutional investors…Knowingly or not, these outlets have covered up the extraordinary incompetence and corruption that allowed these bubbles to grow. “
The stock and housing bubbles have wreaked havoc on the economy and will cause enormous pain for years to come. “

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Los Angeles Board votes for Charter Schools

Vote could open 250 L.A. schools to outside operators
Backers of the Board of Education decision tout choice and competition. Foes call the move illegal, illogical and improper.

L.A. Unified School District to vote on school choice

District to relinquish control of some schools
In a startling acknowledgment that the Los Angeles school system cannot improve enough schools on its own, the city Board of Education approved a plan Tuesday that could turn over 250 campuses -- including 50 new multimillion-dollar facilities -- to charter groups and other outside operators.

The plan, approved on a 6-1 vote, gives Supt. Ramon C. Cortines the power to recommend the best option to run some of the worst-performing schools in the city as well as the newest campuses. Board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte dissented.

The vote occurred after a tense, nearly four-hour debate during which supporters characterized the resolution as a moral imperative. Foes called it illegal, illogical and improper.

The action signals a historic turning point for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has struggled for decades to boost student achievement. District officials and others have said their ability to achieve more than incremental progress is hindered by the powerful teachers union, whose contract makes it nearly impossible to fire ineffective tenured teachers. Union leaders blame a district bureaucracy that they say fails to include teachers in "top-down reforms."

"The premise of the resolution is first and foremost to create choice and competition," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who brought the resolution, "and to really force and pressure the district to put forth a better educational plan."

She and other backers said they expected the district to improve its own performance and to also compete to turn around schools. Bidders could apply to manage schools by mid-January.

For the charter school operators, the biggest prize is 50 new schools scheduled to open over the next four years.

"It's absolutely indispensable, of critical importance to us," said Jed Wallace, chief executive of the California Charter Schools Assn. "It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity: 50 new school buildings coming online at the exact same time that a cadre of charter operators has demonstrated that it can generate unprecedented levels of student learning."

Charters are publicly funded but independently operated and free from some regulations governing the traditional administration of schools. They also are not required to be unionized.

Some of them have failed to outperform regular schools, according to some recent research. But backers of the new plan say that only the top-notch charter companies have a realistic shot at operating any of the 250 campuses that could be included, about a fourth of all district schools.

Finding locations for schools has been a paramount problem for charter groups. Synergy Academy in South Los Angeles, for example, occupies rented space in a church 500 feet from where a new L.A. Unified school is being built.

Among those who could take advantage of the board action is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who could use it to enlarge the 11-school effort run by a nonprofit that he controls. Villaraigosa, who helped elect a majority of the seven-member board, was an active participant Tuesday, speaking before more than 2,000 parents, teachers and others before the vote.

For several board members, particularly those with strong union ties, the debate was heated and often agonizing. Steve Zimmer, for one, sought to require that teachers, other union members and parents approve any school's reform plan through separate majority votes. At high schools students would also vote.

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles were once again frustrated that their own version of reform -- democratically run school sites with substantial and mandatory teacher input -- played second fiddle. Union President A.J. Duffy threatened legal action to thwart the Flores Aguilar plan.

Duffy chastised board members, especially those most closely allied with the mayor.

"When all is said and done you will have sold this district down the road for political gain for some of you," he said at the meeting, "and for a mayor whose own program has been a dismal failure. And if you end up . . . giving the mayor more schools, then shame on you."

Other critics have joined Duffy in questioning whether schools built with bond funds to relieve crowding, can be turned over to entities not under direct district control.

For their part, charter schools may have to operate differently in district-owned sites. They could be required to enroll more disabled students and higher numbers of lower-income students than at some current charter schools.

Both sides gathered coalitions of supporters. The charter-backed group Families That Can organized a massive rally outside district headquarters before the vote.

And the critics were not exclusively union members. Some called the plan an abdication of district responsibility or a failure to acknowledge district progress.

David Crippens, who chairs the committee overseeing school-construction spending, cautioned against "change for the sake of change."

But school board President Monica Garcia, a Villaraigosa ally, asserted that "kids can't wait. . . . My support for this resolution is in the hope that the district can move faster."

Shortly after the vote, Villaraigosa savored a political and policy victory at district headquarters in downtown L.A.

"We're not going to be held hostage by a small group of people," Villaraigosa said, referring to the teachers union and other opponents. "I'll let you infer who I'm talking about."
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