Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not all it’s cracked up to be

California uses the Academic Performance Index (API) for its school rankings, with a score of 1000 considered to be perfect. Scores over 800 are viewed as excellent. The API is annually derived from a complex calculation which uses schools’ scores on state tests. From year to year, this is how California measures its public schools’ academic growth.

The American Indian Public High School is a high-performing charter school in Oakland that opened in 2006-07 as an offshoot from the notorious American Indian Public Charter School, a middle school. A second middle school, AIPCS II was opened in Oakland in 2007-08. 

These “American Indian Model” (AIM) schools use the “no excuses” model of education and were included in David Whitman’s Chester Finn-promoted book “Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.”  Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the original AIPCS school in 2006 and called it “an education miracle”. All three AIM schools consistently rank at the top of California’s API school rankings. The school leaders are not to shy to say that their goal is that 1000 score of “perfection.”

However, when it comes to AIPHS's SAT scores, the school's ranking is nowhere near outstanding. The other local high schools with comparable APIs (> 900) all have substantially higher SAT scores. One could speculate on the possible reasons.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jim Horn: “Charter Schools: What Would Dr. King Say?”

Jim Horn is one of my favorite education issue writers. He is associate professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Mass., and is founder and contributor to Schools Matter.

“Charter Schools: What Would Dr. King Say?”
It is unfortunate that the charter school industry now finds itself on the wrong side of educational progress and civil rights history, even as industry spokesmen like Nelson Smith engage in a public relations campaign aimed to minimize awareness of the segregated conditions that exist in the majority of American charter schools today.  Whether located in the poorest, brownest neighborhoods of the Twin Cities or in the leafiest, whitest suburbs of North Carolina, charter schools often engage in a form of intensely-segregated schooling that either contains and isolates minorities in urban centers, while offering middle class parents escape routes from traditional schools that are increasingly tainted by the burgeoning poor, which now comprise 20 percent of American children

In system-wide comparisons, the charters were 20 percent more segregated than the public schools, and in the more localized comparisons, the charters were 18 percent more segregated than neighboring publics.  In the words of the Report's authors, the "data show that we are in the process of subsidizing an expansion of a substantially separate-by race, class, disability and possibly language-sector of schools, with little to no evidence that it provides a systematically better option for parents or that access to these schools of choice is fairly available to all."

If charter schools had some pedagogical advantage to recommend them, then perhaps the social costs of re-segregation, anti-cultural curricula, and total compliance instructional methods would be easier to accept.  Perhaps.  But in study after study after study over the past ten years, corporate charter schools, either the for-profit or non-profit varieties, are more likely to be academically weaker or no better than the public schools they seek to replace.  The largest of the studies conducted by Stanford's CREDO group included a longitudinal and peer-reviewed examination of 70 percent of the nation's charter schools in 15 states and Washington, DC.  Significantly, it was funded by supporters of the charter movement, who, no doubt, got results they had not anticipated.

The study found that only 17 percent of charters do better than matched public schools, 46 percent show no significant difference in performance, and 37 percent do worse than matched public peers.  Unfortunately, a very recent Fordham Institute study now finds that, despite the charter industry's mantra that "bad schools don't last-ei­ther they improve or they close," 72 percent of bad charters remain open five years after they were identified as bad…

As we approach another day of commemoration for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we may wonder what Dr. King would make of our current state of educational affairs, wherein education is declared by reformers, with no apparent irony, as the civil rights issue for a generation of children whose schools are more racially segregated by race and class than those of thirty years ago.  We can only guess how he might respond to business and political leaders who offer segregated total compliance schools run by corporations as the only other choice for parents who desperately want something more than the malignantly-neglected public schools that have recently had the remaining trust and human caring squeezed out of them under the weight of test and punish reforms.  Indeed, we may wonder what Dr. King would say to those federal officials and corporate foundation heads who view children principally for the future capital they will generate to maintain a corrupted anti-worker political economy and corporate welfare system that threaten to undermine democracy, equal opportunity, and free enterprise, itself…

…In the coming years, if corporate foundations like Gates, Broad, Fisher, and Walton, along with the political establishment whose favor they curry, would put as much economic and ideological weight behind rebuilding a stronger and more equitable public system of schools, rather than tearing down a system that took almost 200 years to create, then the ideals of American democracy would have a much better chance to survive these difficult times and, perhaps, one day flourish in ways we have yet to witness.  I believe Dr. King would agree.



Friday, January 7, 2011

“…our schoolchildren should not be mixed up in geopolitical games.”

A memoir by a top former Turkish intelligence official claims that a worldwide moderate Islamic movement based in Pennsylvania has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s.

The memoir, roughly rendered in English as “Witness to Revolution and Near Anarchy,” by retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes, says the religious-tolerance movement, led by an influential former Turkish imam by the name of Fethullah Gulen, has 600 schools and 4 million followers around the world. [This would include a network of 122 U.S. charter schools.]
In the 1990s, Gundes alleges, the movement "sheltered 130 CIA agents" at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone, according to a report on his memoir Wednesday by the Paris-based Intelligence Online newsletter…
Former CIA operative Robert Baer, chief of the agency’s Central Asia and Caucasus operations from 1995 through 1997, called the allegations bogus. "The CIA didn't have any ‘agents’ in Central Asia during my tenure,” he said.

It’s possible, Baer granted, that the CIA “turned around this ship after I left,” but only the spy agency could say for sure, and the CIA does not comment on operational sources and methods…

Likewise, Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul and author of “The Future of Political Islam,” threw cold water on Gundes’s allegations about Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan… [The Rumi Forum, a Gulenist organization, helps Fuller promote his new book.] 

“I should hasten to add that I left CIA in 1987 -- nearly 25 years ago -- and I have absolutely no concrete personal knowledge whatsoever about this…

The imam left Turkey in 1998 and settled in Saylorsburg, Pa., where the movement is headquartered. According to Intelligence Online, he obtained a residence permit only in 2008 with the help of Fuller and George Fidas, whom it described as head of the agency’s outreach to universities…

Fidas could not be reached for comment, nor would the CIA answer questions about him…
And Sibel Edmonds’ response to the WaPo article, “TURKISH INTEL CHIEF EXPOSES CIA OPERATIONS VIA ISLAMIC GROUP IN CENTRAL ASIA”; January 6, 2011; Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs blog
Yesterday Washington Post’s Jeff Stein published a very interesting but incomplete story regarding a recently published memoir by former Turkish Intelligence Chief Osman Nuri Gundes…

...The only background provided on Gulen is the following with only one link which takes you to Gulen’s marketing site…

There is no mention of Gulen’s decade-long ‘wanted’ status in Turkey (until recently), no mention of the ban on Gulen and his Madrasas in several Central Asian countries, no mention of various investigations of Gulen by other western countries, no mention of the unknown sources of his billions of dollars…As we all know except for a very few, and by that I mean a number in 100s if that, no one in this country has ever heard of this guy with his billions, with his castle in Pennsylvania, his hundreds of Madrasas, now hundreds of US charter schools, his dubious businesses….Yet, for an article as serious as this (Madrasas and mosques as CIA operation centers in Central Asia), the central figure in the story has been given one sentence; no history, no relevant facts…

…below is a list of a few Gulen related facts totally (mysteriously?) absent from Washington Post piece:
-In 1999 Gulen defected to the US shortly before his scandalous speech, where he is heard calling on his supporters to “work patiently and to creep silently into the institutions in order to seize power in the state”, became public. Turkish prosecutors demanded a ten-year sentence for Gülen for having “founded an organization that sought to destroy the secular apparatus of state and establish a theocratic state”. Mr. Gulen has not left the United States since.

-The Netherlands has taken major steps to cut funding to all Gülen associated organizations and is investigating his operations. The Turkish Fethullah Gülen movement is really an Islamic fundamentalist group, claims Rotterdam council member Anita Fähmel (Leefbaar Rotterdam) on the basis of her own study of the Turkish movement.

-The Russian government has banned all Gülen schools and the activities of the Nur sect in Russia. Over 20 Turkish followers of Gulen were deported from Russia in 2002-2004.

-In 1999 Uzbekistan closed all Gulen’s Madrasas and shortly afterward arrested eight journalists who were graduates of Gulen schools, and found them guilty of setting up an illegal religious group and of involvement in an extremist organization.

-In Turkmenistan, government authorities have placed Gulen’s schools under close scrutiny and have ordered them to scrap the history of religion from curriculums.
[Read Edmonds' entire post HERE.]

Then there was this interesting comment under the WaPo article posted by someone using the name “CASILIPS.”
Mr. Stein is to be commended for finally raising this issue in the mainstream US media. It is correct that the Turkish media portrayed Gundes' book as a shock:

However, allegations of a Gulen-CIA are hardly anything new. It is surprising that Stein makes no mention of other prominent Turks who brought up this issue years ago, for example, the late Ankara University professor Necip Hablemitoglu
and journalist/authors Hikmet Cetinkaya (of the Turkish national newspaper Cumhuriyet) and Merdan Yanardag. A translation of an excerpt from Yanardag's book can be read here

Many people in Turkey and other countries such as Russia have believed for years in a CIA-Gulen connection. The interesting question here is why the American media was never willing to investigate, especially given Gulen's already significant and rapidly growing influence on US society through his nonprofit "dialog" and political lobbying organizations, and even more importantly, through his network of over 130 charter schools in 25 US states.

We oppose the involvement of the Gulen Movement in the US charter school system. We feel that our schoolchildren should not be mixed up in geopolitical games. Our public education system should not be a forum for special interest groups such as the Gulen Movement to advance their agenda and raise funds.

The Gulen Movement has gone to great lengths to portray itself here in the US as a benign force for good. In fact, it is nothing but a machine that works relentlessly to acquire money and power. In every part of the world, it tells the people and leaders what they want to hear. This gives the movement access to markets, including the educational market. Consider prominent Gulenist Muhammed Cetin, former president of the Texas-based Institute of Interfaith Dialog, a Gulenist non-profit that supposedly works for "peace," "social justice" and "positive social change." Yet he served as advisor to the repressive dictator Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, and translated Niyazov's book "Ruhnama." This book was the instrument for the destruction of public education in Turkmenistan. [View the film “Shadow of the Holy Book in YouTube segments HERE] The Gulen Movement was not troubled at all by this, as long as it facilitated their ability to run their own private schools in Turkmenistan. Is this a group that should be running our public schools?
Watch Kenneth Bedell, one of Duncan’s Senior Advisors, praise Fethullah Gulen (@2:00 min.) as he accepts Arne Duncan's award from the Gulenist Rumi Forum on October 26, 2010. The Rumi Forum’s “Honorary President” is Fethullah Gulen “regarded as the founder and inspirer of the global social movement known as the Hizmet (Service) Movement, more popularly known as the Gulen Movement.” When you visit the website, underneath Gulen’s photo in the right-hand bar are links to more promotional information on Fethullah Gulen, “The Gulen Movement” and “Gulen Inspired Schools.”

So a direct connection exists between the Gulen Movement and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who also happens to be a strong advocate of charter school expansion. Very strange things are going on indeed. And as the comment board entry so correctly stated, “…our schoolchildren should not be mixed up in geopolitical games.” This is all public information I've culled from easily accessible online sources. As far as I see it, my choices are to sit and say nothing, or to let you know.

ADDED on Jan. 8th: The Gulenists are also Creationists. Read "Turkey's survival of the fittest: The Islamic anti-Darwinism movement in Turkey is being helped by an unlikely source - US Christian conservatives"; March 12, 2008; ISN Security Watch
War makes strange bed fellows, especially in Turkey, where a dispute over creationism vs Darwinism has created an unusual alliance between the country's Islamists and conservative Christians in the US…

The Gulen Movement, along with other creationist advocates, has been lobbying with increasing success for school textbooks to put creationism on equal footing with Darwinism...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Education is Not a Business"

From the "Education is Not a Business" movie website:
The real story of public education is not being told. "Education is Not a Business" will expose the current school "reform" movement as an assault on public education by unregulated capitalism. The real problems in education (such as the achievement gap) are NOT due to teachers, public school systems, the unions or a lack of testing. The real problems facing education are caused by the profound wealth gap, increased child poverty and entrenched racism. Public schools and teachers are being scapegoated for a larger societal problem that we are not willing to resolve. "Education is Not a Business" featuring Diane Ravitch (author of the best-selling "The Death and Life of the Great American School System) will tell the true story.


Directed by Markie Hancock.

Release date TBD.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A clever animate featuring Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson on factory education, standardized testing, the ADHD diagnosis epidemic (and resulting pharmaceutical response), and creative capacities of human beings.