Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mexican Americans and the 2012 elections

Republican myopia regarding Latino voters is turning out to be a huge blessing bestowed on Democrats, as some recent statistics indicate:
Most repeated word in the GOP debate last night: "border" (followed by "illegal" and "fence")Percentage increase in the Phoenix Latino turnount from 2010 to 2011: 480%
Percentage of likely Republican primary voters in Arizona who "said they'd be more inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who backs SB 1070, according to the NBC News/Marist Poll": 67+%
Percentage of Latino respondents saying the GOP 'did not care about their support or was hostile to their commmunity' in a recent Latino Decisions poll conducted for Univision: 72%
Number of GOP presidential candidates who have "voiced support for a broad amnesty that would allow younger illegal immigrants to become permanent legal residents": Zero
Number of Times Rick Santorum said "Jobs" in the debate last night:Zero
From. J. Green. On the Democratic Strategist. blog

For profit schools

On line, for profit schools are exploiting G.I.s, and G.I. benefits.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Duncan and RESPECT for teachers

At the Department of Education, Warm Snow Falls Up
By Anthony Cody on February 23, 2012 10:32 AM

As the Simpson family prepared to travel south of the equator to Brazil, Homer revealed some misconceptions. In opposite land, according to Bart's father, "warm snow falls up." Reading the latest press releases and speeches from the Department of Education, sometimes I feel as if this is where we have arrived.
For the past two years, the Department of Education policies have been roundly criticized by teachers. The latest response from Arne Duncan is a big public relations push bearing the title RESPECT -- Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.
However, as in Homer's opposite-land, everything seems to be upside down.
In his speech launching the project last week, Secretary Duncan laid out what he feels are the problems afflicting the teaching profession.
The Department has solutions to each of these problems - but they often have pursued policies that actually make things worse. Here are the problems, and the solutions the Department of Ed has offered -- many of which are mandatory if states wish to qualify for Race to the Top or escape the ravages of NCLB:
Problem #1: "Many of our schools of education are mediocre at best. A staggering 62 percent of young teachers say they felt unprepared to enter the classroom."
Solution: Evaluate schools of education based on the test scores of the teachers they graduate. Use VAM scores to rate schools of education, and remove funding from those that do not produce teachers with sufficiently high VAM ratings. Since VAM ratings have been shown to be lower among teachers of English Language learners and special education students, programs that place teachers in these classrooms are likely to do poorly. All schools of education will feel significant pressure to prepare their teachers to focus on test scores.
Problem #2: "Many teachers are poorly trained and isolated in their classrooms."
Solution: Continue to support programs such as Teach For America, which places novice teachers in the most challenging classrooms with only five weeks of training.
Problem #3: "Teachers are given little time to succeed--and they are under increasing pressure to get results to meet accountability targets."
Bizarre. What agency of the federal government made competitive grants and the continuation of federal funding contingent on whether states created evaluation programs like the one released last week in New York, that will result in teachers being fired after two years of poor VAM ratings?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ravitch: Teachers Should be Evaluated

Of course, teachers should be evaluated. They should be evaluated by experienced principals and peers. No incompetent teacher should be allowed to remain in the classroom. Those who can’t teach and can’t improve should be fired. But the current frenzy of blaming teachers for low scores smacks of a witch-hunt, the search for a scapegoat, someone to blame for a faltering economy, for the growing levels of poverty, for widening income inequality.
 The New York Review of Books
No Student Left Untested
February 21, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Respect for Teachers

Billed as a new initiative to rebuild the teaching profession and elevate teacher voice, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s new RESPECT Project (which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) seeks to involve teachers and principals in a national conversation about teaching. The work builds on the more than 100 roundtable discussions that the Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows have had with fellow teachers across the country and will continue to have throughout the year.
During a teacher town hall to launch the RESPECT Project, Duncan outlined his goals for revamping the teaching profession, which include
                Improving teacher preparation programs;
                Dramatically increasing teacher salaries and tying pay to job performance, skills, and demonstrated leadership ability;
                Establishing career ladders that allow for advancement and leadership opportunities without requiring teachers to completely leave the classroom;
                Improving professional development and providing teachers more time for meaningful collaboration;
                Providing teachers with greater classroom autonomy balanced with more accountability; and

Monday, February 20, 2012

Greece and California budgets

Pain without Gain.  Paul Krugman. 2/20/12. NYT.
“And this downturn is hitting nations that have never recovered from the last recession. For all America’s troubles, its gross domestic product has finally surpassed its pre-crisis peak; Europe’s has not. And some nations are suffering Great Depression-level pain: Greece and Ireland have had double-digit declines in output, Spain has 23 percent unemployment, Britain’s slump has now gone on longer than its slump in the 1930s.
Worse yet, European leaders — and quite a few influential players here — are still wedded to the economic doctrine responsible for this disaster.
For things didn’t have to be this bad. Greece would have been in deep trouble no matter what policy decisions were taken, and the same is true, to a lesser extent, of other nations around Europe’s periphery. But matters were made far worse than necessary by the way Europe’s leaders, and more broadly its policy elite, substituted moralizing for analysis, fantasies for the lessons of history.
Specifically, in early 2010 austerity economics — the insistence that governments should slash spending even in the face of high unemployment — became all the rage in European capitals. The doctrine asserted that the direct negative effects of spending cuts on employment would be offset by changes in “confidence,” that savage spending cuts would lead to a surge in consumer and business spending, while nations failing to make such cuts would see capital flight and soaring interest rates. If this sounds to you like something Herbert Hoover might have said, you’re right: It does and he did.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fix poverty , not add more tests

Mercedes Olivera
Tests, tests and more tests won’t fix the problems with our nation’s schools.
More funding would certainly help in an era of widespread state budget deficits.
But the real problem, says Stephen Krashen, is poverty.
Stephen Krashen.
That’s the message the linguistics and education scholar gave to bilingual educators at the annual conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education. About 3,000 educators attended the event in Dallas this week.
Krashen has a point.
It’s become almost axiomatic these days to talk about America’s educational system as “broken.” U.S. students do poorly on tests when compared with those in other countries, especially in math and science.
But recent studies also reveal that U.S. students from middle-class families and
well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries.
“Our average scores are less than spectacular because the U.S. has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries,” said Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California.
“People think that our schools were once very good and that they have declined, and the best way to make them better, as good as they were in the good old days, is ‘rigorous’ standards and tests to enforce the standards. But the assumptions aren’t true.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Obama Budget proposes preventing teacher lay offs

By Alyson Klein: Education Week.

Education takes a marquee spot in President Barack Obama’s last, otherwise austere, election-year budget requestRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, with his spending plan calling for new investments in community colleges, money to prevent teacher layoffs, investment in school facilities, and funds to spur state action on teacher quality.
But the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal—which also emphasizes the administration’s signature competitive-grant programs while flat-funding key formula grants, such as Title I aid to districts—faces an almost-certain dead end in Congress, where Republicans are seeking to squelch the federal role in K-12 policy and rein in spending.
The president unveiled his $3.8 trillion budget in a speech at Northern Virginia Community College, in Annandale, which emphasized the importance of education and training to the nation’s economic recovery—a central theme of his administration’s message going into the election campaign.
The president is requesting $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, an increase of $1.7 billion, or 2.5 percent, over the current budget year.
“The skills and training that employers are looking for begins with the men and women who educate our children. All of us can point to a teacher who’s made a difference in our lives—and I know I can,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on the Northern Virginia campus. “So I want this Congress to give our schools the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best teachers.”
Among his budget proposal’s highlights:
• $30 billion to prevent teacher layoffs, including $5 billion dedicated to a competition aimed at bolstering teacher-quality initiatives.
• $30 billion to revamp school facilities nationwide.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tax choices for California

by Duane Campbell
It is time that California work again for people who work for a living. There are over 2 million working people who lost their jobs in the financial crisis through no fault of their own.  They would be happy to be working and paying taxes again.  California must reinvest in our schools to make certain that every child has access to the kinds of public schools that will prepare them to compete in the global economy.

Public schools  are being decimated amidst budget cuts and the growing accumulation of wealth by the 1%. The Courage Campaign, CA Calls and the CA Federation of Teachers have partnered to get a Millionaire's Tax on the November ballot.  The Millionaire's Tax would raise $6 billion for public education, safety, and infrastructure by raising additional taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. 

There is a competing tax initiative by Governor Brown that asks us all to pay a temporary  increased sales tax – and it will produce no new money for the schools. If working people and the middle class are going to take a hit in tough times it shouldn’t be to pay for the tax breaks for millionaires and the big companies that ship our jobs overseas.  It’s time the middle class stop picking up the tab while the rich and the big corporations get loopholes and tax dodges.  Its time that the rich and the corporations start living by the same rules  and pay their fair share of taxes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Michelle Rhee tells her tale

Courtesy of Monty Neill at Fair Test.  Long, but worth reading, especially the suggestions at the end on how to more successfully reframe the debate:
Rhee's Framing of the Debate on Education
On the evening of February 7, Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of DC
public schools and the public face of the opaquely funded StudentsFirst,
addressed an audience of some four thousand people at the Paramount
theater in Oakland. This lecture was one of a number of lectures
purchased as a series, and did not imply any particular interest in Rhee
or in education by the older and relatively affluent crowd attending, the
sort of crowd one finds at similar series, whether theater, ballet, or
classical music.

As I have never heard Rhee speak before, I cannot say that she tailored
her talk to this particular audience, but given her consummate skills as
a public speaker, I would be very surprised if she had not.

The lecture was divided in three parts. First, Rhee introduced herself
and described her leadership of the DC public schools; next, she outlined
her fundamental principles about education; finally, she answered
questions from the audience.

In the first part, Rhee established her persona: a mix of unprepossessing
but feisty "Korean lady," finding herself unaccountably charged with the
management of DC public schools and concerned only for the good of the
children. Her narrative of her three years as DC chancellor, a position
for which she had no qualifications or experience, framed her dictatorial
and disruptive tenure as the story of a plain speaking firebrand who
sliced through every piece of red tape and obstruction to transform
institutional corruption into a working school system. Rich in anecdote
and short on facts, the main point of the story was to set up Rhee as a
concerned citizen who was out of patience with a dysfunctional system and
whose arbitrary and devastating actions (performed under the aegis of
Mayoral control) were not a violation of the democratic rights of parents
and teachers and children, but the necessary and heroic actions of a
woman more concerned with the good of the children than with the interest
of other "adults" involved in the educational system. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

What is happening in Greece: Financial Crisis ?

Financial Crisis, Markets and Democracy, Climate Justice: SI Council in Costa Rica


23-24 JANUARY 2012

Speech by George Papandreou, President of PASOK and President of the Socialist International
at the Council meeting of the Socialist International, San José, 23 January 2012

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today, in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is a special honor for the Socialist International to have with us her Excellency the President of Costa Rica Ms. Laura Chinchilla. As Costa Rica's first woman President she is a symbol of women empowerment in Central America and beyond. We are looking forward to her remarks. 

Dear friends, dear comrades,

I often hear a question, even a complaint: Is our movement relevant to today's problems? Here in Central and Latin America you know very well we are relevant. It is not only the fact that we have become a strong political force for change and progress but we have shown that progressive governance does matter.

This region has experienced - as we in Greece are experiencing - deep economic crises. The rule of the IMF, the mistrust of the financial system, the austerity of the measures. Yet you know. You know more than anyone else that both Latin and Central America are rich areas. Rich with resources, rich with human capital. But these resources have often been mismanaged, squandered, usurped by the few and powerful, by dependencies and interventions.

That is why these crises are not primarily financial but they are political. They are crises because of the lack of democratic governance, because of the inequalities, because of the lack of opportunities, the lack of transparency, corruption, the clientilist and authoritarian regimes. Regimes under which our citizens were marginalized or even oppressed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Idiotas, Jan Brewer and Arizona

Enduring Fools,  By Rodolfo F. Acuña

Growing up, we used a plethora of words to dismiss fools. Fom two different worlds, my father was from Jalisco so his sayings were always blander my mother’s Sonorense expressions, which always seemed franker and more to the point.  If you were ugly, they called you el feo It was the cow culture that reveled in a no bull sh.. mentality. When I messed up badly, I was the pinche güero or the pinche buey, which depending on how it was said was generally a put down.

Words such as cabrón or chingado were rarely used unless in anger and mostly directed at someone outside the family.  Even to this day they are words that are not taken lightly in Mexico, especially if used in the context of chinga tu madre.

(It was unlike today when an 85 year old lady will flip you off on the freeway.)  

When you thought someone was stupid and just did not want anything to with them, it was estúpido,imbécilbaboso or pendejo. They had a shock value.  My family was more passive and would just give you the señal de la cruz  -- why call them names if they don’t exist for you.

In the past several years I have found myself giving most Tucson racists the sign of the cross – they are brain-dead.  

Under normal circumstances, I would have given people like Arizona Attorney Tom Horne, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal and the great majority of the board members of the Tucson Unified Schools the señal de la cruz However, this was impossible because they do so much damage to an entire community. Reaching back into my consciousness I came up with the perfect descriptive word, idiota, a word that always had a poetic sound. Pinche güero was nice next to idiota!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Millionaires should pay their fair share of taxes

 by Duane Campbell
California needs additional revenue to fund schools and to invest in the future.  A tax plan known as  The Millionaires Tax has been   proposed by the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign to increase revenues to pay for vital services.   It was assigned the official title "Tax To Benefit Public Schools, Social Services, Public Safety, And Road Maintenance," on Friday, Feb.2,   by California  Attorney General Kamala Harris.
A report of the California Budget Project notes that  measured as a share of family income, California’s lowest-income families pay the most in taxes. The bottom fifth of the state’s families, with an average income of $12,600, spent 11.1 percent of their income on state and local taxes.  In comparison, the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of $2.3 million, spent 7.8 percent of their income on state and local taxes.”
The Millionaires  Tax  plan, of  the California Federation of Teachers and the Courage Campaign would raise taxes by three percentage points on income above $1 million and five percentage points on income over  $2 million.    Analysts say the proposal would generate $4 billion to $6 billion annually.  Signature gathering for the plan will begin within weeks.
The plan competes  with Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, which would raise income taxes on earners starting at $250,000 for single filers, as well as increase the statewide sales tax by a half-cent.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Charter Schools Grow

Charter Schools Grow Amid Questions
By Seth Sandronsky
Traditional public school students and their teachers are facing a
shortfall of tax support across the US. But things are brighter for
tuition-free public charter schools, which operate with a contract
(charter) from a public entity.

There were over 2 million students enrolled in about 5,600 public
charter schools around the US in 2011, according to the National
Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington, DC-based,
non-profit advocacy group. A recent NAPCS statement said that total
student enrollment represents a 13% increase in one year.

According to the federal Department of Education, 4% of US public
school students, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, attend public
charter schools. In 2010, California led the nation in public charter
schools with 983, according to the NAPCS, serving over 412,000
students (7% of the over-all enrollment of 6 million pupils
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