Sunday, February 28, 2010

Poetry: A Schoolroom in Haiti

BY KENNETH KOCH


A Schoolroom in Haiti


In Haiti, Port-au-Prince, a man walked up and down the school hallways

carrying a bull whip.

Oh, he never uses it, the school administrator said. Its purpose is only to

instill good discipline in the students.

They were from fourteen to seventeen years old,

Boys in white shirts and white short pants. They stood up

And wouldn’t sit down till the Minister of Education

Beckoned them to do so.

They concentrated very hard on the ideas they were being given for writing

poems.

After the officials left, they started writing their poems in Creole.

After four or five days they were asking to come forward and sing to the

rest of the class these Creole poems. They did so.

This experiment was never repeated. The government became even more

repressive.

One poem begins “B is for black, Bettina, a negress whom I dote on.”

The assignment was a poem about the colors of the vowels or the

consonants in the manner of Rimbaud.

What has happened to those poems? What has become of those students?

I have the poems in New York. In Haiti I had asked to teach ten-year-olds

but I had been told

They won’t be able to write well enough. The reason was the didn’t know

French,

Not well enough to be able to write poetry. Their native language was

Creole,

The language they spoke at home, but at the Lycée Toussaint L’Ouverture

And every other school, the instruction was in French.

They were stuck behind the French language. It loomed over them a wall

Blocked out everything:

Blocked mathematics, blocked science, blocked history, blocked literature

While Creole stayed back with them, cooking up poetry

But that was all. For the most part, except for a few rich boys

Who could afford to study French in the afternoons

They were left fatally behind.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

A national ed policy trick?

STEM Education to New AdministrationSTEM Education to New AdministrationSTEM Education to New AdministrationSTEM Education to New Administration“We face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies.” -- AND -- “The failure to produce mathematicians, scientists and engineers in America is a tremendous threat to America's economic security.”

Comments like this are meant to be scary, scary, scary!

OR -- Is it that those types of comments are being launched by the corporatocracy to serve as a distraction, or a manipulation of public sentiment? The facts don't seem to jibe, and the arguments don’t make sense.

To expand your critical thinking, read the article by Beryl Lieff Benderly in the 2/22/2010 issue of Scientific American, Does the U.S. Produce Too Many Scientists?: American science education lags behind that of many other nations, right? So why does it produce so many talented young researchers who cannot find a job in their chosen field of study? Here are some excerpts, the bolding is mine:

For years, Americans have heard blue-ribbon commissions and major industrialists bemoan a shortage of scientists caused by an inadequate education system. A lack of high-tech talent, these critics warn, so threatens the nation’s continued competitiveness that the U.S. must drastically upgrade its K-12 science and math education and import large numbers of technically trained foreigners by promptly raising the current limit on the number of skilled foreigners allowed to enter the country to work in private industry. “We face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies,” Microsoft chairman Bill Gates testified to Congress in March 2008.

But many less publicized Americans, including prominent labor economists, disagree. “There is no scientist shortage,” says Harvard University economist Richard Freeman, a leading expert on the academic labor force. The great lack in the American scientific labor market, he and other observers argue, is not top-flight technical talent but attractive career opportunities for the approximately 30,000 scientists and engineers—about 18,000 of them American citizens—who earn PhDs in the U.S. each year.

~~~~~~~

At the same time, however, the U.S. annually admits large numbers of foreign graduate students and postdocs and finds itself increasingly dependent on an inherently unreliable stream of young foreign scientists, mostly in the country on short-term, non-resident visas, to do much of the routine labor that powers American research. [more of the cheap labor we adore]The American research enterprise—the indispensable engine of national prosperity and the world’s leading innovation establishment—has therefore become vulnerable, observers say, to conditions beyond its borders and its control. At the same time, experts note that recruiting sufficient amounts of the talent needed for vital defense-oriented scientific and engineering work that requires security clearances has become increasingly difficult.

~~~~~~~

One thing that’s not in short supply are scientifically talented American students, whose academic achievements have been increasing rather than declining in recent years. “Students emerging from the oft-criticized K-12 system appear to be studying science and math subjects more and performing better in them, over time,” said Teitelbaum in Congressional testimony in November 2007. “Nor are [they] lagging far behind comparable students in economically competitive countries, as is oft asserted.” The number of Americans earning PhDs in science and technical fields has risen by 18 percent since 1985, according to the authoritative Scientific and Engineering Indicators 2008, published by the National Science Board.

~~~~~~~

Arguments for the shortage based on the inadequacy of American education generally begin with the results of standardized tests used in international comparisons. Average scores for K-12 students in the U.S. never top those lists in either science or math (although they do in both reading and civics). On one widely cited assessment, Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), which tested American third and eighth graders between 1995 and 2003 and American 12th graders in 1995 and 1999, U.S. students ranked between fifth and 12th in math and science—results bemoaned by many as dangerously deficient.

But a detailed study of students’ performance on TIMSS as well as on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), another widely reported international comparison test, by B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration and Hal Salzman of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., suggests otherwise. “Their point is that the average performance of U.S. students on these comparative international tests is not a meaningful number,” Teitelbaum says. Far from trailing the developed world in science education, as some claim, “on PISA, the U.S. has more high-scoring kids in science than any other country” and nearly as many in the top math category as top-scoring Japan and Korea, Salzman says.

But crucially from a statistical standpoint, U.S. students are by far the most diverse of any industrialized country, ranging from some of the world’s best-prepared to some of the worst among the developed countries. On tests comparing the U.S., Japan and five Western European countries, for example, white Americans on average substantially outscored the Europeans in math and science and came second to the Japanese. American whites came first in reading by a wide margin. American black and Hispanic students, however, trailed significantly behind all other groups on average.

But scientists are not generally recruited from the average students, Salzman notes, but from those with the top scores, of whom America has large numbers. Compared with the products of Asian secondary schools, American students “are free thinkers,” says Vivek Wadhwa of Duke and Harvard Universities. “They didn’t spend the last 12 years of their lives memorizing books…. They’ve spent the last 12 years dealing with real problems and solving them. [In America], you can walk up to your teacher and tell her that she’s wrong or he’s wrong.” In Asia, he continues, “you wouldn’t dare do that.”

Raising America’s average scores on international comparisons is, therefore, not a matter of repairing a broken educational system that performs poorly overall, as many critiques suggest, but rather of improving the performance of the children at the bottom, overwhelmingly from low-income families and racial and ethnic minorities. This discrepancy, of course, is a vital national need and responsibility, but it does not reflect an overall insufficient supply of able science students.

~~~~~~~

Spot shortages may exist in certain limited fields, especially those that are new or that require citizenship for security clearance. But in general, writes Harvard’s Freeman, “the job market for young scientists and engineers has worsened…relative to… many other high level occupations, which discourages US students…[but] the rewards are sufficient to attract large immigrant flows, particularly from less developed countries,” in a study published by National Bureau of Economic Research.

~~~~~~~

Recruiting abroad "benefits the country by tapping a large and relatively inexpensive pool of talent at the cost of reduced incentives for native-born individuals to go into science and engineering,” he writes. His Harvard economics colleague, George Borjas, for example, has demonstrated that inflows of foreign students and scientists do, indeed, depress opportunities and incomes for both Americans and foreigners.

~~~~~~~

And from an Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) abstract on a 2005 paper published in the Phi Delta Kappan, “Is the United States Really Losing the International Horse Race in Academic Achievement?”:

It is widely believed and lamented that U.S. students perform poorly on international comparisons of academic achievement. For example, Edward Silver reports that U.S. seventh- and eighth-grade students performed poorly on the mathematics section of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 1995) and that this indicates "a pervasive and intolerable mediocrity in mathematics teaching." Likewise, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education attributed the reportedly poor performance of U.S. middle- grade students on the TIMSS 1995 mathematics assessment to the ineffectiveness of mathematics education. Such perceptions have led to grave concerns about the future economic competitiveness of the U.S. For example, Rita Colwell, the former director of the National Science Foundation, has stated that if the U.S. is to maintain its position in the world economy, it is critical for the nation's students to achieve at high levels in mathematics and science. The results of international assessments of student achievement are far more nuanced than the headlines lead citizens to believe. Having examined six comparisons of performance--in various subjects and at various levels--by students in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, Mr. Boe and Ms. Shin conclude that the dire pronouncements about America's standing are greatly exaggerated. Their examinations are described in this article.

Why can't these legitimate points get adequate national attention and traction? Why would the extremely smart Bill Gates and others want to spread misinformation?

Perhaps the CEO oligarch-types, now in charge of U.S. public education, might actually want to see a glut of highly educated American scientists produced, so they can eventually pay them even less. This would reduce their dependence on the cheap foreign workers they prefer to currently employ.

And remember, the CEO oligarchs are a big piece behind the starvation and privatization of U.S. public education. The "create-a-crisis" approach is a well-documented neoliberal tactic used to create panic and fear, so drastic changes never thought possible before, can be slipped by the citizens who have been emotionally-destabilized. It happens all the time; just read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine.

In this instance, global lies about public education inadequacies are being used to build suspicion and mass anti-public education public opinion -- it costs too much money, all the teachers are lazy, the schools are failures and need to be abolished, and everything is the unions' fault. In such a milieu, the structure can be more easily destroyed. To learn more, read the work of Gerald Bracey who passed away in October 2009, some of which is here:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The "Parent Trigger" and its connections to the phony LA Parents Union, Green Dot, Steve Barr, and Eli Broad

NOTE: This entry was updated on 2/24/2010 with an explanation of the relationship between the entities above and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). h/t to rdsathene.

Originally conceived in Los Angeles by Steve Barr’s (of Green Dot) Los Angeles Parents Union, and largely funded by the Broad Foundation, the "Parent Trigger" has spread east, and here and here. This is an initiative where if enough parents can be convinced, pressured, and tricked to sign a petition, a school will be closed down and replaced with a charter. On each Form 990 from 2005 to 2008, Steve Barr is listed as the CEO/President of the LAPU board.

Eli Broad contributed nearly 50% of the funding for the launch of the LAPU (formerly the Small Schools Alliance, aka the Parent Revolution). The money he supplied helped pay for the propaganda to make it seem like the movement is being generated by "the people," when in fact it is a carefully planned, targeted marketing campaign designed to wipe out the public schools.

It is most important to know is that this organization is not grassroots; it's astroturf!

An absolute lie is being spread that it was "developed by the grass-roots group Parent Revolution in the Los Angeles Unified School District.’ The lie is that group was not a grassroots group by any means. Danny Weil explains its true astroturf nature. Community members in LA have even stated that they were offered monetary compensation [by Green Dot] in exchange for their signature on a petition. But when a potential buyer for the LA Times is Eli Broad, who would there be to investigate?

Broad-supported State Senator Gloria Romero, in the running as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has been the main pusher at the California state government level.

GRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE BROAD FOUNDATION

Source: Broad Foundation Form 990s (EIN = 954686318) obtained at the National Center for Charitable Statistics

Year

To Green Dot Public Schools/Green Dot Educational Project

EIN = 95679811

To the Small Schools Alliance, dba as the Los Angeles Parents Union since 2007

(This organization became the “Los Angeles Parents Union” in 2007 and uses the same EIN = 202207418. The LAPU is the same organization as the “Parent Revolution” and has the web site www.parentsunion.org, making a total of four names for the same organization.)

To the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Education and Support Fund

2005

$700,000: “To support high-quality public charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2005 support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $5,315,065)

$100,000: General fund

(Total 2005 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance was $980,608. Broad supplied 10% of its direct funding)

None

2006

$700,000: “To support more high-quality public charter schools in Los Angeles

(Total 2006 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $9,524,116)

None

(Total 2006 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance was $383,500)

$64,750: “To engage SEIU members in Los Angeles around an education reform package to change the Los Angeles Unified School District”

2007

$1,210,040 total: $9,040 to the Green Dot Educational Project, plus $1,201,000 to Green Dot Public Schools, “To support the scale up of more high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2007 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $10,015,000)

$150,000 total: $75,000 “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance launch of the Los Angeles Parent Union” plus $75,000 “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance business plan of the Los Angeles Parent Union”

(Total 2007 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance/LAPU was $323,343. Broad supplied 46% of its direct funding)

None

2008

$1,859,000 total: $9,000 to the Green Dot Educational Project, plus $1,850,000 to Green Dot Public Schools, “To support the scale up of more high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2008 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization is not available at this time on 2/21/10)

$25,000: “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance business plan of the Los Angeles Parent Union”

(Total 2008 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance/LAPU was $324,628. Broad supplied nearly 8% of its direct funding)

None

QUESTION: What is the relationship between SEIU, Broad, and the Parent Revolution?

A presentation delivered at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform sponsored 2008 Emerging Knowledge Forum was called “Green Dot Public Schools & LA Parents Union.” The presentation team consisted of Steve Barr (Founder & CEO, Green Dot Public Schools), Sandy Blazer (Chief Academic Officer, Green Dot Public Schools), Christine Boardman, (President, Service Employees International Union, Local 73), and Ryan Smith (Executive Director, LA Parents Union). This is from their accompanying report.

“Steve Barr noticed that at one of Green Dots’ high schools, a large proportion of students has parents who were members of Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). From this observation, a partnership evolved between Green Dot and SEIU’s national organization, as well as its Los Angeles affiliate. While most professional unions have opposed charter schools, SEIU has embraced LAPU’s reform agenda because their members’ children are the main victims of failing urban schools. For almost a year, SEIU has formally worked with Green Dot and LAPU, providing LAPU with both funding and technical assistance from experienced organizers. In turn, SEIU is interested in exploring how Green Dot’s model and LAPU’s organizing efforts can drive school reform in other urban districts across the country.”

Mike Garcia, President, Service Employees International Union Local 1877, is currently listed as a member of Green Dot’s board of directors. Teacher union members beware: the SEIU is not your friend.

Interesting facts from Green Dot’s 2007 Form 990

Also, this is the document which contains the following:

“The Corpoation's [sic] review, which was completed on August 15, 2008, concluded that during the period from January 2004 through September 2007, the Corporation reimbursed Mr. Barr in error a total of $50,866 for charges that were either not reimbursable in nature, or were insufficiently substantiated or documented to qualify for reimbursement.” More information here.

About Ben Austin, the Executive Director of the Parents Union

The section “Compensation of the Five Highest Paid Independent Contractors for Professional Services” shows that Ben Austin, with an address listed in Beverly Hills' Benedict Canyon, was paid $94,475 that year. In April 2008 he became the Executive Director of the Parents Union (aka LAPU/aka Parents Revolution). In his bio, Austin proudly states that he will be sending his two daughters to Warner Avenue Elementary. To demonstrate how exceptional and affluent the families of this school are, in 2007 the Warner Avenue Foundation (EIN 95-4072053) provided the school with an extra $449,022 (or an extra $747/kid).

Parents like Ben Austin provided supplementary funds to pay for "teaching assistants for each classroom, as well as providing all students with access to a physical education, art, computer, science and music specialist" ($330,979), capital improvements and facilities maintenance ($7,223), educational, computer, copy, emergency and cleaning supplies ($49,639), and teacher and principal grants and student scholarships ($27,583). The biggest money making events were the spring auction ($94,844), a Halloween event ($61,470), a walk-a-thon ($40,238), and a holiday boutique ($14,064). Oh, the poor public school attending children of Ben Austin, their LAUSD experience will be just like that of everyone else. By the way, Austin's day job is an assistant city attorney for Los Angeles. He was previously a Deputy Mayor under Mayor Richard Riordan, who is a longtime friend of Eli Broad and another Gloria Romero supporter and have hosted big fundraisers for her.

Read here to find out how Austin/Parent Revolution is trying to distance itself from Green Dot. Good luck with that, folks, especially since Mr. Green Dot is your board CEO/President.

More eye-popping differences between Ben Austin's LA public school and that of everyone else

Warner Avenue Elementary

Los Angeles Unified

African American

2%

10%

Asian

17%

4%

Latino

5%

74%

White

75%

9%

Socioeconomically disadvantaged (

3%

78%

Gifted and Talented Education

25%

12%

English Learners

6%

31%

Students with Disabilities

7%

12%

Average Parent Education Level: "1" represents "Not a high school graduate" and "5" represents "Graduate school."

4.47

2.22

Academic Performance Index

971

694

So now we have the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parent Union and one of the originators/pushers of the “Parent Trigger” meeting with poor, limited English-speaking parents to convince them to sign school closure petitions and representing himself to them as just another typical LA Unified parent with children heading off to struggling schools, when in fact he resides in one of the most affluent areas of the city and will be sending his kids to one of the public schools which has absolutely no demographic relation to the schools used by his uninformed-about-the-dynamics and easily manipulated parent targets.

As a longtime public school parent who has used schools in my community with demographics much more aligned to my district as a whole, I am wise to the con Ben Austin is pulling off. ¡Qué cojones!

Addendum: Steve and Ben's project is certainly making the rounds. Arranging events and attending meetings must be what Barr has been busy with since he stepped down from his position as CEO of Green Dot last November.

From an email sent to me:

Get Smart Schools is part of a group of non-profits hosting an exciting new speaker series. Please join us at the event described below!

Want to help ensure that all kids in your community receive the very best education? Save the Date to join us for the next speaker in our series.

Speaker: Ben Austin, Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU) and a Parent Revolution representative.

Thursday March 4, 2010

This is in Denver, Colorado.

GetSmartSchools is a program sponsored by the Piton Foundation. Christopher Scott, a parent and past Denver Public Schools school board candidate warns about Piton in the following statement submitted to the Denver Post last fall. For those of us who have been studying this intense neo-liberal attack on public education which is referred to as "education reform," it's Denver's version of more of the same:

"Secondarily, DPS senior executives have allowed the District to become the domain of special interests. Organizations such as Piton Foundation have unfettered access to District leadership, sitting important District committees like the Application Review Team evaluating charter applications for charters funded by the foundations themselves, providing recommendations to the District for more charter schools, while profiting by these recommendations. Moreover, under Michael Bennet, political action committees were brought to town to shape the school board election. This PAC, Stand for Children, poses as a pro-parent organization, but, in reality, its Chief Executive, Jonah Edelman, is a long time friend of Mr. Bennet, grew up next door to Tom Boasberg, whose sister served on Stand's Board of Directors until this month. According to Mr. Boasberg, he had no idea Stand was coming to Denver, as the decision was made while Bennet was Superintendent."

It is important to know that "The Piton Foundation is a private, operating foundation established in 1976 by Denver oil man Sam Gary. It is funded by the Gary-Williams Energy Corporation to develop and implement programs to improve education, expand economic opportunities for families, and strengthen lower-income communities." On the advisory board of GetSmartSchools are the usual ed deform/school privatization malanthropic foundations, big business interests, and charter-linked suspects:

  • Amy Anderson, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Jill Barkin, JP Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Becca Bracey-Knight, Broad Foundation
  • Phil Caplan, Urban West Group
  • Heather Carroll, Edmonson Foundation
  • Yee-Ann Cho, Envision Schools Colorado
  • Ami Desai, Denver Venture School
  • Wayne Eckerling, Former Assistant Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
  • Sandra Elliott, Gnow-How
  • Nora Flood, Colorado League of Charter Schools
  • Lisa Flores, Gates Family Foundation
  • Marcia Fulton, The Odyssey School
  • Chris Gibbons, West Denver Prep
  • Merlin Holmes, National Heritage Academies
  • Rebecca Holmes, KIPP Colorado Schools
  • Brooke Johnson, Carson Family Foundation
  • Michael Johnston, Mapleton School District
  • Rachel Kelley, Teach for America
  • Ed Kennedy, Edison Schools
  • Kim Knous-Dolan, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Bill Kurtz, Denver School of Science and Technology
  • Cathy Lund, Walton Foundation
  • Zach McComsey, Atlas Prep School
  • Alex Medler, Colorado Children's Campaign
  • Gretchen Morgan, Envision Schools Colorado
  • Alex Ooms, West Denver Prep
  • Reyna Perez-Oquendo, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Audra Philippon, AXL Academy
  • Jane Shirley, William-Smith High School
  • Tim Taylor, Colorado Succeeds
  • Sean VanBerschot, Teach for America
  • Brian Weber, Stapleton Foundation

To see what I've written previously about Green Dot and Steve Barr, read here and here.

It is most important to know is that this organization is not grassroots; it's astroturf!