Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contradictions & ed deform

Has anyone else noticed that the talk and actions don’t jibe?

For example, experienced, high quality teachers are held up as the ideal; people bemoan when poor kids don’t get to have them. On the other hand, recent college graduates with five or six-weeks of summer training are held up as a model of perfection. Which is it folks?

Then there’s class size. Some people argue that class size really doesn’t matter all that much; it's only a matter of teachers trying harder. But then small class sizes with benefits touted are used as a main selling point to entice parents into both elite private and charter schools. Again, which is it folks?

There’s also the issue about reading. If the universal achievement of high reading levels is as important as everyone says it is, then why have school libraries been utterly abandoned in the schools where children need them most? Everyone must realize that this set of kids hasn't been read to since they were babies by educated, middle-class parents and also that they are likely to have very few books in their homes. Since they most definitely can use the inspiration and access to a wide range of lovely books, then why, oh why, have school libraries been barred from their existence?

For example, in 1999 Oakland Unified had librarians and functioning libraries in every of its middle and high schools (14 middle schools + six comprehensive high schools = 20 secondary school librarians). Today, after ten years of the standards and accountability movement and with the closure and/or break-up of secondary schools, the District only employs four librarians, three at the large remaining comprehensives and one that roves around. Many of the libraries in the schools with the lowest performing kids have either been closed or, if they were saved, are skeletally staffed by a part-time library clerk. School counselors have suffered a similar fate.

This mismatch between words and actions betray the true feelings this country has about its poor kids. To me, they are being told they are cared about, while at the same time they are being abused.

And along with contemplating the inconsistencies, I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of “closing the achievement gap.” This brings me to basic poverty facts from the National Poverty Center:

How has poverty changed over time?

In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent.

For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, increasing to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it rose each year to 12.7 in 2004.

How many children live in poverty?

Children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 25 percent of the total population, but 35 percent of the poor population. In 2008, 14.1 million children, or 19.0 percent, were poor. The poverty rate for children also varies substantially by race and Hispanic origin, as shown in the table below.

Children Under 18 Living in Poverty, 2007

Category

Number (in thousands)

Percent

All children under 18

14,068

19.0

White only, non-Hispanic

4,364

10.6

Black

4,202

33.9

Hispanic

5,010

30.6

Asian

494

13.3

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008, Report P60, n. 236, Table B-2, pp. 50-5.

Isn’t the whole fantasy behind “closing the achievement gap” to insure that all groups ultimately end up with identical poverty/non-poverty rates, so no group has to suffer more than the other? Presuming that is the point, what will it look like as equilibration proceeds?

It seems like a huge proportion of White and Asian families will need to be moved from the middle class into poverty. Alternatively, a critical mass of Black and Hispanic families will need to be propelled into higher income levels by policies that offer them higher salaries and improved employment. It would be a matter of balancing things out somehow, so everyone ends up in the same place and America is ushered into an era of perfect bliss.

In The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, two British epidemiologist authors demonstrate repeatedly that narrow income gaps are beneficial to the wider society. The United States will talk the talk that it wants the circumstances of its poorer citizens to improve, but I'm not convinced that it actually has the will to do what it would take to do that. From Publishers Weekly:

Wilkinson and Pickett make an eloquent case that the income gap between a nation's richest and poorest is the most powerful indicator of a functioning and healthy society. Amid the statistics that support their argument (increasing income disparity sees corresponding spikes in homicide, obesity, drug use, mental illness, anxiety, teenage pregnancies, high school dropouts—even incidents of playground bullying), the authors take an empathetic view of our ability to see beyond self-interest. While there are shades of Darwinism in the human hunt for status, there is evidence that the human brain—with its distinctively large neocortex—evolved the way it has because we were designed to be attentive to, depend on, and be depended on by others. Wilkinson and Pickett do not advocate one way or the other to close the equality gap. Government redistribution of wealth and market forces that create wealth can be equally effective, and the authors provide examples of both. How societies achieve equality, they argue, is less important than achieving it in the first place. Felicitous prose and fascinating findings make this essential reading.

And speaking about increases to the well-being of children that come about when family income is improved, it's worthwhile to recall the study which showed that children's mental health improved when their family incomes were improved.

The report appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October 2003. Here’s the abstract:

Relationships Between Poverty and Psychopathology

A Natural Experiment

E. Jane Costello, PhD; Scott N. Compton, PhD; Gordon Keeler, MS; Adrian Angold, MRCPsych

JAMA. 2003;290:2023-2029.

Context Social causation (adversity and stress) vs social selection (downward mobility from familial liability to mental illness) are competing theories about the origins of mental illness.

Objective To test the role of social selection vs social causation of childhood psychopathology using a natural experiment.

Design Quasi-experimental, longitudinal study.

Population and Setting A representative population sample of 1420 rural children aged 9 to 13 years at intake were given annual psychiatric assessments for 8 years (1993-2000). One quarter of the sample were American Indian, and the remaining were predominantly white. Halfway through the study, a casino opening on the Indian reservation gave every American Indian an income supplement that increased annually. This increase moved 14% of study families out of poverty, while 53% remained poor, and 32% were never poor. Incomes of non-Indian families were unaffected.

Main Outcome Measures Levels of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, psychiatric symptoms in the never-poor, persistently poor, and ex-poor children were compared for the 4 years before and after the casino opened.

Results Before the casino opened, the persistently poor and ex-poor children had more psychiatric symptoms (4.38 and 4.28, respectively) than the never-poor children (2.75), but after the opening levels among the ex-poor fell to those of the never-poor children, while levels among those who were persistently poor remained high (odds ratio, 1.50; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-2.09; and odds ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval, 0.77-1.07, respectively). The effect was specific to symptoms of conduct and oppositional defiant disorders. Anxiety and depression symptoms were unaffected. Similar results were found in non-Indian children whose families moved out of poverty during the same period.

Conclusions An income intervention that moved families out of poverty for reasons that cannot be ascribed to family characteristics had a major effect on some types of children's psychiatric disorders, but not on others. Results support a social causation explanation for conduct and oppositional disorder, but not for anxiety or depression.

For more, read a summary of the study called "Relief of Poverty Improves Child Mental Health." Here are the concluding paragraphs:

The study concluded that the increase in income that moved 14% of the American Indian families in the study out of poverty had a major effect on certain types of psychiatric disorders. These results support a social causation theory for behavioral and oppositional disorders among children. In other words, poverty comes first.

After further analysis, the researchers also found evidence to suggest that the primary reason for the decrease in symptoms of mental illness among these children was due to improved parental supervision. There appeared to be two reasons for this. First, the number of single parent homes decreased. Second, among two-parent homes, there were more homes in which both parents were working. This resulted in decreased time-demands on the primary caregiver.

An editorial published in the same issue of the journal stated that the findings of this study go a long way towards demonstrating the reality of the social causation theory. This would suggest that programs designed to treat behavior disorders in poor children must be linked with programs that first and foremost address their underlying poverty.

All I know is that the outcomes in urban schools would definitely improve if they had fewer students with conduct and oppositional disorder. I think it would also help a lot with getting teachers to stick around!

Then there are the results of the 2008 study which showed that the brains of low-income kids and stroke victims have gross similarities:

Study: Poverty dramatically affects children's brains

A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

"It is a similar pattern to what's seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex," which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. "It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way."

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows how poverty afflicts children's brains. Researchers have long pointed to the ravages of malnutrition, stress, illiteracy and toxic environments in low-income children's lives. Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and "executive function," or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.

Such deficiencies are reversible through intensive intervention such as focused lessons and games that encourage children to think out loud or use executive function.

To Arne Duncan and the other ed deformers: Why don't you ever publicly acknowledge these types of facts? For your failure, all I can say is shame on you. For that omission on your part there are NO EXCUSES!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grannan: Reauthorization of NCLB-II and George Miller, Ravitch and the Poison Pill


Diane Ravitch, education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education, has been traveling across the United States to inform audiences how Race to the Top is using exactly the same "measure and punish" philosophy as No Child Left Behind.
RTTT is considered to be the prototype for what is certain to become another cleverly named version of NCLB II. Ravitch warns if the bill is approved it will turn out to be a poison pill for American education.

This guest post by Caroline Grannan features the essential arguments.

Noted education commentator and author Diane Ravitch was in the Bay Area last week urging Bay Area residents to launch a protest campaign to pressure Rep. George Miller to stop defending the No Child Left Behind law -- based on (as Ravitch says) "measure and punish." Miller co-sponsored the original law, but I asked her why there's any reason to pressure him at this point. She explained that he can control reauthorization of the law, and that Nancy Pelosi and the House Education Committee do what he wants. Miller’s district is in the Easy Bay, and he has offices in Richmond, Concord and Vallejo. Contact info at the end of this post.

I'm posting a string of quotes from Ravitch -- both from her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" and from commentaries by her and interviews with her -- to clarify why No Child Left Behind should be viewed as harming schools and even as a threat to the future of public education.

Quotes:

"As 2014 draws nearer, growing numbers of schools across the nation are approaching an abyss. Because NCLB requires states to promise that they will reach an impossible goal, the states have adopted timetables agreeing to do what they can't do, no matter how hard teachers and principals try. Most have stretched out the timetable—putting off the biggest gains for the future—to stave off their inevitable failure. The school officials who wrote the timetables in the early years of implementation must have hoped or expected that they would be retired and gone long before 2014 arrived. With every passing year that brought the target date closer, more and more public schools failed to make AYP and were labeled as "failing." Even though some states lowered the cut scores (or passing marks) on their tests to make it easier for schools to meet their target, many still failed to make AYP toward 100 percent proficiency for every subgroup. And in states that maintained high standards and did not lower the cut scores, even more schools fell behind."

***

"One of the unintended consequences of NCLB was the shrinkage of time available to teach anything other than reading and math. Other subjects, including history, science, the arts, geography, even recess, were curtailed in many schools. Reading and mathematics were the only subjects that counted in calculating a school's adequate yearly progress, and even in these subjects, instruction gave way to intensive test preparation. Test scores became an obsession. Many school districts invested heavily in test-preparation materials and activities. Test-taking skills and strategies took precedence over knowledge. Teachers used the tests from previous years to prepare their students, and many of the questions appeared in precisely the same format every year; sometimes the exact same questions reappeared on the state tests. In urban schools, where there are many low-performing students, drill and practice became a significant part of the daily routine."

***

"NCLB was a punitive law based on erroneous assumptions about how to improve schools. It assumed that reporting test scores to the public would be an effective lever for school reform. It assumed that changes in governance would lead to school improvement. It assumed that shaming schools that were unable to lift test scores every year—and the people who work in them—would lead to higher scores. It assumed that low scores are caused by lazy teachers and lazy principals, who need to be threatened with the loss of their jobs. Perhaps most naively, it assumed that higher test scores on standardized tests of basic skills are synonymous with good education. Its assumptions were wrong. Testing is not a substitute for curriculum and instruction. Good education cannot be achieved by a strategy of testing children, shaming educators, and closing schools."

***

"In the NCLB era, when the ultimate penalty for a low-performing school was to close it, punitive accountability achieved a certain luster, at least among the media and politicians. Politicians and non-educator superintendents boasted of how many schools they had shuttered. Their boasts won them headlines for "getting tough" and cracking down on bad schools. But closing down a school is punitive accountability, which should happen only in the most extreme cases, when a school is beyond help. Closing schools should be considered a last step and a rare one. It disrupts lives and communities, especially those of children and their families. It destroys established institutions, in the hope that something better is likely to arise out of the ashes of the old, now-defunct school. It accelerates a sense of transiency and impermanence, while dismissing the values of continuity and tradition, which children, families, and communities need as anchors in their lives. It teaches students that institutions and adults they once trusted can be tossed aside like squeezed lemons, and that data of questionable validity can be deployed to ruin people's lives."

***

"Tests are necessary and helpful. But tests must be supplemented by human judgment. When we define what matters in education only by what we can measure, we are in serious trouble. When that happens, we tend to forget that schools are responsible for shaping character, developing sound minds in healthy bodies (mens sana in corpore sano), and forming citizens for our democracy, not just for teaching basic skills. We even forget to reflect on what we mean when we speak of a good education. Surely we have more in mind than just bare literacy and numeracy. And when we use the results of tests, with all their limitations, as a routine means to fire educators, hand out bonuses, and close schools, then we distort the purpose of schooling altogether."

***

"Results from this multibillion-dollar undertaking have been disappointing. Gains in achievement have been meager, as we have seen not only on NAEP's long-term-trend report, but also on the NAEP tests that are administered every other year. In national assessments since the No Child Left Behind legislation was passed, 4th grade reading scores went up by 3 points, about the same as in the years preceding the law's enactment. In 8th grade reading, there have been no gains since 1998. In mathematics, the gains were larger before NCLB in both 4th grade and 8th grade.

"In the latest international assessment of mathematics and science, released this past December, U.S. students again scored well behind students in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Taipei. Our 4th grade and 8th grade students recorded small improvements in mathematics, but not in science, where those in both grades scored lower than in years predating No Child Left Behind.

"The decline of 8th grade test scores in science from 2003 to 2007 demonstrates the consequences of ignoring everything but reading and mathematics. Because NCLB counts only those basic skills, it has necessarily reduced attention to such non-tested subjects as science, history, civics, the arts, and geography."

***

"(NCLB) has encouraged the states to dumb down the standards by saying that every state would have its own definition of proficiency, every state would use its own test, by setting a deadline of 2014—which is totally unrealistic—by which all students are supposed to be proficient, and then having very onerous sanctions for schools that are unable to meet this completely unrealistic deadline. It's meant that everyone is encouraged to find ways to produce the numbers, and one thing we know from the market sector is that when the numbers are what counts, people meet the numbers, even though they sacrifice the goals of the organization. What we're doing instead of producing well-educated people is producing the numbers. The gains since No Child Left Behind was adopted are smaller than before No Child Left Behind was adopted."

***

"The basic strategy is measuring and punishing. And it turns out that as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there's a lot of cheating going on; there's a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards, it's actually lowered standards because many states have dumbed down their tests, or changed the scoring of the tests, to say that more kids are passing than actually are.

There are states that say that 80 to 90 percent of their children are proficient readers and proficient in math. But when the national test is given, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the same state will have not 90 percent proficient, but 25 or 30 percent."

***

"The Obama education reform plan is an aggressive version of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind, under which many schools have narrowed their curriculum to the tested subjects of reading and math. This poor substitute for a well-rounded education, which includes subjects such as the arts, history, geography, civics, science and foreign language, hits low-income children the hardest, since they are the most likely to attend the kind of "failing school" that drills kids relentlessly on the basics. Emphasis on test scores already compels teachers to focus on test preparation. Holding teachers personally and exclusively accountable for test scores -- a key feature of Race to the Top -- will make this situation even worse. Test scores will determine salary, tenure, bonuses and sanctions, as teachers and schools compete with each other, survival-of-the-fittest style."

*********************

STOP THE OBAMA EDUCATION REFORM PLAN!

CONTACT U.S. CONGRESSMAN GEORGE MILLER TODAY!

E-mail Miller via a form here: http://georgemiller.house.gov/contactus/

By U.S. Mail (Note: items sent to Washington D.C. are subjected to delays due to security inspections)

Hon. George Miller

2205 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

These are Miller’s local offices:

In Concord

1333 Willow Pass Road, Ste 203

Concord, CA 94520

In Richmond

3220 Blume Drive, Ste. 160

Richmond, CA 94806

In Vallejo

375 G. Street, Ste. 1

Vallejo, CA 94592

Phones:

202-225-2095 (D.C.)

925-602-1880 (Concord)

510-262-6500 (Richmond)

707-645-1888 (Vallejo)

Facebook:

Contact Miller through Facebook (the version with the picture of him that says “Local Business”).

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT GEORGE MILLER

From 2001 to 2006, U.S. Congressman George Miller was the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee. With that committee's chairman and their Senate counterparts, Miller helped draft the No Child Left Behind Law. Today he is the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. He was elected by California's California's 7th congressional district which includes:

  • Benicia
  • Concord
  • El Cerrito
  • Martinez
  • Pittsburg
  • Richmond
  • San Pablo
  • Vacaville
  • Vallejo

---

Miller’s staff:

  • Chief of Staff: Danny Weiss
  • Scheduler: Courtney Rochelle
  • Legislative Director: Ben Miller (not Miller’s son)
  • Press Secretary: Amy Peake

---

Miller’s bio:

George Miller was born in Richmond, CA, on May 17, 1945 and lives in Martinez. He graduated from Diablo Valley Community College, San Francisco State University, and earned his law degree from the University of California, Davis, Law School. He served on the staff of then-State Senate Majority Leader George Moscone in Sacramento. He is married to Cynthia Caccavo Miller, a life-long resident of Contra Costa County. They have two sons and five grandchildren.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Message for Vander Ark & the ed deform crowd


Tom Vander Ark is a participant on the National Journal’s Education blog. Recently he posted a comment on Crist's veto of the Florida teacher bill (SB-6) and called it “Putting the Brakes on Progress.” The bill sought to tie 50% of a teacher’s evaluation and pay to test scores, and to make it easier for them to be fired.

As an ed defomer mouthpiece responding to a defeat, here’s Vander Ark description of what happened in Florida: “…despite overwhelming public, philanthropic, and federal support for teacher effectiveness, the brakes have been applied by well organized and funded forces protecting the status quo.” Funny how he can put a negative spin on people in a democracy organizing themselves for a cause they believe in.

Indeed, Florida’s resistance forces became well organized, but the movement didn’t turn into a flood of opposition because of money. This movement was generated at the grassroots level using online social networking tools. Anthony Cody described how it worked in “From Facebook to YouTube: A Teacher Movement is Born.”

The large response in Florida may be an indication that a major pushback to the ed deform movement is finally getting underway. The drive is coming deep from people’s hearts and is emerging out of a sense of frustration and a desire for the truth to be told. It taps into anger that has been produced by one’s hard work being publicly insulted and disregarded for years.

People in the ed deformer crowd like to present themselves as supremely righteous warriors on a battleground where they are fighting for “teacher effectiveness” (their own personal view). They broad brush their opposition (= public school supporters) as an entity who never wants the public schools to improve, and doesn't mind if bad, lazy teachers are running the classrooms. And the ed deform propaganda constantly blurts that public school teachers ARE “bad, lazy” teachers who all deserve to be fired. The media and politicians have come to parrot and support their message.

But this oft-repeated, skewed outlook on teachers has never made sense, and, to me, has always been the main clue that something about their message just isn’t right. Anyone with a pinch of practical experience in an urban public school knows that the volume of teacher-bashing is turned up way too high. Any critical thinker can deduce that ulterior motives must be at work.

The presence of a tiny number of flawed employees – which will exist in any workplace – has been magnified and dwelled upon and talked about incessantly and loudly. What is being ignored is the fact that the majority of teachers in public schools are either perfectly okay or good, and some of them are even great.

If public school teachers were as bad as the ed deformers like to say, one would think that public school parents would be greatly dissatisfied. But as it happens, this is not the case.

In 2007, the National Center for Education Statistics conducted a Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey (PFI) as a part of its National Household Education Surveys Program.* The final report, “Parent and Family Involvement in Education, 2006-07 School Year” was released in August 2008.

This study asked a large number of K-12 parents if they were 1. “very satisfied,” 2. “somewhat satisfied,” 3. “somewhat dissatisfied,” or 4. “very dissatisfied” with their child’s teachers. Interestingly, the report only revealed the first of the four possible responses. But it was produced under the Bush/Spellings regime, so it might have been intentionally written in such a way to make public school teacher satisfaction appear worse than it actually is.

Overall, 64% of surveyed parents were “very satisfied” with their teachers. Here’s the breakdown:

    · Public, assigned – 61% (representing 37,168 students)

    · Public, chosen** – 68% (representing 7,951 students)

    · Private, religious – 79% (representing 4,560 students)

    · Private, nonreligious – 78% (representing 1,438 students)

    · City dwellers – 65% (representing 16,195 students)

    · Poor families – 64% (representing 10,012 students)

    · Non-poor families – 64% (representing 41,487 students)

When a clear majority of parents are reporting that they are “very satisfied” with their child’s teachers, things are certainly not as bad as the ed deform camp has been trying to make it seem.

I wanted to see a breakdown of the remaining three possible responses for all school types, because if the truth was as bad as we hear about public school teachers these days, I'd expect to see at least 50% of the parents report that they were "very dissatisfied."

I inquired with a staff member at the National Center for Education Statistics who promptly and politely directed me to “Trends in the Use of School Choice.” (so much for 'dissing' federal government employees!). He suggested the variability seen in the figures (eg. 61% vs. 57%) might due to the fact that the second report used data for grades 3-12, while the other used K-12. (He's put out that query and if I get a response I'll post it in the comments).

So here is the data-based truth about what parents think about their child’s teachers.

TEACHER SATISFACTION


Public, assigned

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

91%

(56+35)

92%

(54+38)

91%

(56+35)

91%

(57+34)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

9%

(7+2)

8%

(6+2)

8%

(6+2)

10%

(7+3)

Public, chosen

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

95%

(62+33)

93%

(62+31)

94%

(65+29)

94%

(64+30)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

6%

(4+2)

6%

(5+1)

6%

(4+2)

7%

(6+1)

Private, religious

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

98%

(75+23)

98%

(76+22)

95%

(72+23)

97%

(76+21)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

2%

(2+0)

2%

(2+0)

4%

(3+1)

3%

(2+1)

Private, nonreligious

1993

1999

2003

2007

Satisfied

(very satisfied + somewhat satisfied)

97%

(77+20)

97%

(75+22)

94%

(70+24)

97%

(74+23)

Dissatisfied

(somewhat dissatisfied + very dissatisfied)

3%

(1+2)

3%

(2+1)

6%

(4+2)

3%

(3+0)

The difference in overall satisfaction between the assigned public schools and other school types only ranges from 3% to 6%.

So, why would some people be working so hard to convince the public that 99.9% of the public school teachers are lazy, ineffective bums?

Because one of the things that the ed deform movement is after is to kill off the morale of public school teachers, and undermine any citizen support. They want to make the teachers weak, demoralized, and submissive, and they want to destroy their unions. This is the oligarchs' current national economic agenda.

And going back to Vander Ark’s original statement: “…despite overwhelming public, philanthropic, and federal support for teacher effectiveness…”

Well, “overwhelming” public support for his whatever-defined version of “teacher effectiveness” is pretty exaggerated. But I certainly know who he specifically means when he refers to philanthropic and federal support for the Florida bill. Naturally, this would be Eli Broad, Bill Gates and others, along with Arne Duncan and the Eli Broad and Bill Gates’ plants that Duncan installed as his senior staff members. These are Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights (former assistant director of policy and research at the Broad Foundation, and member of the review board of the Broad Prize), Thelma MelĂ©ndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2006), Carl Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives (Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2002), James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement (former program director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who has strong ties to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a Broad/Gates, etc. supported, charter school start-up/financial support organization), and of course Joanne Weiss, who Duncan pulled from the NewSchools Venture Fund to become his Director of Race to the Top. And if you don't believe that some people who are working in government aren't there to fulfill other missions, just read here. So it does make sense that Vander Ark would consider these particular entities as the primary stakeholders in public education -- they are directly interested in its demise.

Broad, Gates, Bloomberg, the Waltons, the Dells, and other corporate malanthropies have poured billions of dollars into making their version of market-based ed deform happen. I hate that this country has become an oligarchy, as Simon Johnson defines as “political power based on economic power.”*** I hate that national education policy is now being dictated by a handful of wealthy, powerful forces who do their dirty work behind the scenes and never appear before the public for challenge or questioning. But enough about me.

Don’t forget that Teacher Appreciation Week & Day for 2010 are just around the corner:

  • Teacher Appreciation Week is May 3-7
  • Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 4th

The big foundations should send each of the nation’s urban school teachers a thank-you-for-your-hard-work note, a bouquet of flowers, and a box of chocolate. At least.

` ` ` ` ` ` `

*From the report:

The survey addressed many topics, including school choice, homeschooling, family involvement in children’s schools, factors affecting parent and family participation in school, parent support for and satisfaction with the school, parents’ communication with other parents, school efforts to involve families, parent involvement with children’s homework, parent and family involvement in activities outside of school, parent and family plans for postsecondary education, and child health and disability status.

The sample was selected using random-digit-dial methods, and the data were collected using computer assisted telephone interviewing technology. NHES:2007 was conducted by Westat, a social science research firm, from January 2 through May 6, 2007. PFI interviews were conducted with parents or guardians of a nationally representative sample of children enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade including children who were enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled. The total number of completed PFI interviews was 10,681, which represents a population of 53.2 million students in grades K through 12, when weighted to reflect national totals.

**Here’s something interesting about the “School Characteristics” definition in the glossary of the original report:

“Schools that are public are further classified using the variable SCHOICE according to whether the parent reported having chosen the school or whether the school had been assigned to the student by the school district. Students in public school whose parents reported that their assigned school is their school of choice are categorized as attending a chosen school.”

So, someone like me who is required to participate in my district’s “Options” program by filling out a form in which I list my neighborhood school as my first choice can be interpreted by the Department of Education as engaging in school choice. It just seems odd and a bit off.

***From Simon Johnson on the Bill Moyers Journal, April 16, 2010:

"Oligarchy is just- it's a very simple, straightforward idea from Aristotle. It's political power based on economic power… I know people react a little negatively when you use this term for the United States. But it means political power derived from economic power. That's what we're looking at here. It's disproportionate, it's unfair, it is very unproductive, by the way. Undermines business in this society. And it's an oligarchy like we see in other countries."