Thursday, November 27, 2014

In Defense of "Thugs"

I am not here to demonize Darren Wilson. I have many former students, and people I coached who are police officers and when tragedies like this happen, I prefer to focus on how police are being deployed, trained and instructed to perform rather than an individual officer's actions.

However, I am beyond ENRAGED by the campaign of demonization directed at Michael Brown. This so-called "thug" was no different from hundreds of thousands of young men playing high school and college football, no different from scores of young men I coached, and not much different from what I was like at his age. The chances were excellent, given his family and his future college plans, that he would lead a productive life, like millions of other so called "thugs" before him. Like my players. Like my students. Like me

.His death was an unspeakable tragedy. A waste of talent and potential. And a terrible blow to the prospects of unity and understanding in our divided nation.

Until we learn to love and protect our Michael Browns, we are descending into a very deep hole, one our history has prepared for us, but
from which we still have time to escape.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Young People Are Taking to The Streets Following the Grand Jury Decision- And Not Only in Ferguson

The response to the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson is going to be a referendum- in the streets and on social media- on how young people, especially young people of color, view their lives and opportunities in an increasingly hierarchical and racially polarized society and on what role police play in maintaining that hierarchy. If they are taking to the streets in rage, it is because they don't see what happened in Ferguson as an isolated incident, but as something which resonates because of their own experience with police, school officials, and other symbols of authority in American society. It is also a telling commentary on what they think about about their own prospects for a secure future in a society where wages are stagnant and college is increasingly out of reach. Make no mistake about it- the police are a symbol of something far larger. The huge power invested in them, the latitude given police officers to use deadly force and the militarization of police in communities large and small, is a refection of what the public expects them to do, For a young person of color and perhaps for any young person who feels marginalized and trapped, the message is clear- they are a National Security Threat and their lives are expendable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brian Crowell's Critique of the Badass Teachers Association

How Badass Teachers (BATS) Lost Their Soul;
A Critique By Brian Crowell

My name is Brian Crowell. I am former member of The Research Team of The National Badass Teachers Organization. I am one of the organizing members of the new Badass Teachers of Color Organization. This new organization was founded by 14 members including co founder of BATS, Professor Mark Naison of Fordham University. This critique will be a technical critique of how the policies of BATS is inconsistent with its creation and how its response to the dismal election results forced a split within the organization of BATS. This analysis is not meant for any personal attacks but rather to show a direct conflict in policy prescriptions for current problems facing labor. I will not discuss non progressive views of certain members of BATS, as I think that will dissuade from the current crisis facing American Labor.

Critique 1. The National BATS Organization has no interest in restoring the true left and progressive roots of Labor. When presented with a resolution to restore FDR’s Second Bill of Rights as a primary platform of policy, the resolution was killed in the National BATS
Leadership. Even though the resolution was very popular, and had much input from members of BAT leadership, the Leadership of BATS didn’t “want to offend NEA or AFT” by presenting them with the resolution. Given the election results and the difficult terrain for labor going forward I believe a return to the spirit of FDR is what”s needed to reignite labor. Some in BATS are comfortable with “capitulation” as a political strategy. (See resolution in Appendix 1 below)

Further analysis. The economic condition of many citizens in the United States is beyond dismal. 1 in 30 children in America are homeless while the stock market is at an all time high. Student Loan Debt is at an all time high. Wages have been stagnate for the better part of 2 generations. (See Appendix 2 below) All of these facts have happened under the watchful eye of the unions. African American Veteran Teachers, and teachers as a whole are being forced out of the profession, with many due process rights being stripped away. Logic would suggest that the prescription to address this war on the 99% is the direct mobilization of labor to challenge these problems. However, the BAT Leadership doesn’t want to “offend” the existing leadership of the union community. Therefore, we indeed have a philosophical difference on policy.

Critique 2.

Whether its known or not the National NEA and AFT Leadership have a direct relationship with Wall St. This relationship manifests itself in the form of union sponsored credit cards and insurance company products. Let me be clear, I am not opposed to unions making money. What I am opposed to is the high interest on revolving debt and the direct relationship to the corrupt financial institutions who ran our economy into the ground. The 700 billion dollar TARP bailout was the largest example of welfare for financial institutions in the history of America. (See Matt Taibbi;

At minimum the “usury relationship” between wall st. and unions should be reconciled via a lower interest rate for members on revolving debt. (See Appendix 3 below). Again how can we as labor get bank reform, (Glass Steagall) if we don’t address the conflicts of interest in our own unions? Again this is a philosophical difference in policy that I would like to highlight.

To conclude, it is clear under the current trajectory that unless a major change in policy in the union leadership is adapted, labor and the middle class will continue to be diminished. Teachers don’t feel enthusiastic about giving their paychecks to unions and be told to feel good about getting steamrolled in elections. Elections have consequences for better or worse. The philosophy of Badass Teachers of Color seeks to harken back to the principles of old labor and apply them to modern difficulties. To pretend that the status quo is above reproach, and fear of offending existing leadership is no path to prosperity for labor.

Brian Crowell

Appendix 1: Resolution;

A Resolution
In light of the NeoLiberal Economic Policies that openly attack the poor and middle class, The American Federation of Teachers has formally resolved the following and ask The American Federation of Teachers to support the following:
We demand that the American Federation of Teachers adopt the following policies, taken in the spirit of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights:
We demand the right to:
Employment, with a living wage
Food, clothing and leisure
Farmers rights to a fair income
Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
Medical care
Social security
Consistent with President Franklin Roosevelt’s 2nd Bill of rights, and in the light of current issues facing the nation’s teachers, we also demand the following of our unions and associations:
We Demand that AFT must fight to defend veteran teachers from being forced out of their jobs by administrative harassment.
We Demand that AFT must fight to dramatically increase the number of teachers of color in our classrooms.
We Demand that AFT must stand up as strongly to denounce Democratic politicians who attack teachers and public education as Republican Ones.
We Demand that AFT actively support Constitutional Protections for Migrant and and Documented workers and children.
We Demand that AFT actively organize to unionize retail workers, fast food workers, childcare workers, domestic workers, home care and hospice workers, and to advocate for these workers a living wage.
Consistent with The New Deal Legislation of the 1930’s we Demand that AFT advocate for WPA/TVA work and employment programs to alleviate homelessness and poverty.
We Demand that NEA actively actively engage policy makers to enforce Constitutional Protections for LGBT Citizens.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that protect public education from Unfair Competition from Charter Schools.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that promote Equal Equality and Equal Pay For Women; without compromise.
Consistent with Farming Legislation of the 1930’s, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to promote small and medium size farming in lieu of large agribusiness farming.
Consistent with The Hill Burton Act of 1946, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to fully enact a single payer health care system.
Therefore, be it resolved that BATS vote and stipulate to the above mentioned language. Effective immediately, the terms and goals of this resolution will become codified policies of AFT.

Approved by AFT Executive Committee _________________________________

Appendix 2:

Appendix 2B:

Appendix 2C:

Appendix 2D:

Appendix 2E:

Appendix 3:

Appendix 3B:

Appendix 3C:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

When Teachers Drop the Ball on Uncontrolled Testing: A Guest Post by Daniel Hornberger

Due to an administrative error at the high school where I teach, a large group of students fell through the cracks and were not given the state-mandated tests. When the state’s idiotic State Performance Profile was released two weeks ago, the school’s number had dropped significantly...due to the above “problem.” So when the high school principal addressed the faculty, he explained that, yes, the number did drop, and, yes, it was due to miscommunication among the outgoing and incoming administration. He closed by saying this wouldn’t happen again and we would all need to work together to ensure that number would increase.
When he finished his report, I walked to the front of the LGI and, armed with a simple PowerPoint, explained to the entire faculty exactly how the SPP is calculated: 90% of the score comes from test data...including SAT participation. I asked the staff, “Can anyone tell me why that makes sense?” A few shook their heads. When I showed them that the final 10% considers graduation rate, attendance rate, and PSAT participation, I anticipated they’d quickly become as angry as I was. But I was wrong. They simply stared at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. I tried to make them understand that it makes no sense at all to include scores from tests created by the College Board let alone the PSSA tests, which are highly invalid, ineffective, and damaging to kids.
One colleague said, “But the SPP is still out there and realtors use it on Zillow when they sell homes.”
I responded, “So we’re using kids’ test scores to establish real estate value?”
Someone diverted the discussion into complaining about our district’s lack of strong leadership. The principal and assistant principal didn’t comment because they had departed before I even began. I leaned against a table and listened as they attempted to deflect all of the district’s ills onto the administration. One quote in particular made me laugh. A colleague said, “Well, we probably shouldn’t complain about our current administrators. If they leave, we have no idea who we’ll get.”
That vapid remark almost sparked my departure, but another colleague asked, “Aren’t our evaluations and salaries based on these scores?”
I wanted to yell, “OUR SALARIES ARE DETERMINED BY THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT! AND IF WE REFUSE TO ADMINISTER THE TESTS, THEN THEY CAN’T USE THE DATA IN OUR EVALUATIONS!” At that precise moment, I thought of something Dr. Mark Naison said to me: “Pennsylvania won’t take the lead. It’ll be New York, New Jersey or even California who will. People in Pennsylvania tend to wait until other states make the big decisions.”
Most of my colleagues simply don’t care. It’s easier to follow orders. It’s easier to nod in agreement with whatever the administration says. It’s easier to complain about the lousy free breakfast during Education Week or not having enough “Wear Blue Jeans Days."
I simply shook my head and said, “Look, if you’re okay perpetuating something that harms kids in order to pad your own wallets, that’s on you.” I picked up my laptop and walked out. I’m disgusted and disillusioned. Dr. Naison hit the nail on the head.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What We Lose When We Replace Public Schools With Charter Schools

Among most frightening things about the replacement of public schools with charter schools in low and moderate income communities are the removal of schools from public scrutiny, the institutionalization of authoritarian school management, and the suppression of parent, teacher and student voices
Our public schools, with all their faults, were places where the public had input, whether it was by legislators, school boards, parents, or community leaders. They were public institutions in the best sense of the world, where community meetings were held, where programs open to the community were often sponsored and where voting took place during elections for public office. In contrast, all too many charter schools see the communities they are located in as toxic and seek to insulate the children and families in them from their surroundings. They run their schools as heroic outposts of civilization and progress in a grim social landscape, limiting access to their buildings to those enrolled in the school, and seeing the communities cultural traditions as more a threat than an asset to their efforts to march students to "college and career readiness."
Along with that approach comes a top down management style where high paid school CEO's have far more power than public school principals to intimidate staff, discipline students, fire teachers and push out students and families. It is not uncommon for charter schools to have enormous teacher turnover, high rates of student expulsion, and disciplinary policies which would not be tolerated in a public school. Fear of the school CEO shapes school culture in a way that leave teachers parents and students little recourse, since charter schools are freed from many of the regulations that public schools operate under.
What we are seeing, unfortunately, is that political officials, in a desperate effort to produce better results on test scores in low and moderate income communities, are willing to sacrifice democratic traditions, community input, and due process for teachers and students.
That is a fearsome price to pay for "global economic competitiveness" and "the production of a 21st Century workforce" goals which our public officials and education leaders claim they are pursuing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Attacks on Test Refusers- Rising Tuition at Public Colleges- The Dual Face of our Education Crisis

Two things few people connect show the depth of the crisis we face-

1. The systematic attempt, across the nation, to deny parents the right of Test Refusal or Opting Out, saying that one of the requirements of enrollment in public schools is taking all tests those schools give and having the data put in a national data base, The number of states doing this simultaneously cannot be accidental. It reminds me very much of the eviction of the Occupy Protests within weeks of one another, something else which was coordinated nationally.  It also been accompanied by instructions to teachers to NOT discuss the politics of testing with parents.

2. The rise in tuition at public colleges, especially in flagship state universities, putting them beyond the reach of most middle class families in a time of income stagnation and decline. This is happening in California, Wisconsin, many other places,

Taken in tandem, this represents an attack on low and moderate income America's, the bulwark of our public schools, denying their rights and opportunities in the sphere of education from pre-K through higher education.
It does not speak well of the kind of country we are becoming

How PAR (Peer Assistance And Review) Has Become a Vehicle for Abusing Teachers- Written by a Former PAR Coach

Take it from a former PAR Coach. PAR is a scam. 
We were taught how to do backwards mapping- this is when we are told by administration what the candidate's score will be, and then we fill in the blanks and justify the score we give them.The candidate has no control over what score he or she will get. We have absolutely been given a score to give them. Nothing they do or don't do will change that.

We are also taught Gas-lighting Techniques to break the candidate down and get them to resign without finishing the PAR process or holding the district and union to task.The technique of Gas-lightings is used to completely break down the candidate and confuse the candidate. As PAR coaches are instructed to be vague, so the candidate doesn't really know what is expected. We were told never to model and we given many conversation workshops on how to answer questions without answering questions.We were given more money and promised advancement if we helped them fail out candidates. It was scary and I only did it one year.I'm always haunted by my involvement in PAR. Everyone should know the signs that you are being Gas-lighted
Here are the signs you are being Gas-lighted :
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your boss/PAR coach
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your employer/PAR coaches behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself. This is accomplished through the PAR coach being vague and constantly moving the target of accomplishment - you can't hit it, cause it is purposely being moved.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists. 
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.**** This is major. When you are in PAR, you are so broken down, you won't make simple decisions without extreme self doubt.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right. Again, this was done deliberately by the PAR program.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" employee.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Remember your employer can be an abuser. PAR coaches are specially trained to carry this out in a legal manner. PAR coaches learn how to Gas-light in stages, but they do move fast. 
PAR Coaches wil never help you as a teacher and they are not sent to do that. 

I'm so ashamed of my year as a PAR Coach. When I think of it, I can hardly live with myself. I hope that by educating others, I can begin to pay it forward a little. 

Namaste and Be Well.