Saturday, January 31, 2015

In Defense of "Whiteness Courses"- At Arizona State or Fordham

Not only do I think the content of such a course is legitimate, but I address the "politics of whiteness" in my own undergraduate and graduate courses in African American History. "Whiteness studies" is a growing field in academia, and my own book "White Boy: A Memoir" has been used as a text in several such courses one of which was offered at Princeton University by the former president of the Organization of American Historians , Nell Irvin Painter. My students and I actually sponsored a "Whiteness Conference" at Fordham several years ago that attracted more than 350 people inside and outside of the University

What makes "whiteness" a legitimate field of study is that throughout American history, huge advantages were given to people who were defined as "white"- but the definitions of who was "white" changed over time, as well as the advantages attached to the designation. Not only were Jews and Italians not always classified as "white" when they first came to the US, but large numbers of light skinned African Americans moved to different parts of the country and became "white" in the years before the Civil Rights movement led to the reduction in some of the advantages of "whiteness" and the disabilities attached to being "non white."

Anyone who thinks this is not a subject worthy of study has not spent much time examining race in American history

I would love to offer a course on Whiteness at Fordham, if I could find time to fit it in my schedule. I'll bet the class will fill quickly

As for the Fox news attack, it is exactly what you would expect when anyone in the media decides to critique a college course which they are not actually attending or participating in. You cannot assess how open a class is to varying points of view unless you hear the lectures, participate in class discussions and do the readings.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Time to Make it "Personal" for Those Undermining Public Education

At this difficult moment, everyone's contribution to the defense of public education is welcome. This movement has a lot of unsung heroes, working hard every day, and I would be the last person to minimize what they are doing. What I am saying, based on my own studies of history, is that for the defense of public education to succeed, given the power of the forces arrayed against , some people have to ramp up the pressure by adding much more disruptive and confrontational tactics to help get the movement's message across and let those who implement abusive policies know that there is no where for them to hide. Our movement is now on the defensive everywhere in the country. The more we take the offensive, the better chance we have of succeeding. The War on Public Education has become very "personal" for those on the receiving end of these policies- teachers, students and families. It should become personal for those formulating and implementing them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fighting Cuomo From the Top Down

I would like to see the principals of the highest rated schools in New York State, and the superintendents of the highest performing districts, publicly state that they will refuse to cooperate with Andrew Cuomo's education program, especially its ridiculous protocols for teacher evaluation, because it will demoralize their teachers and undermine the quality of the education they provide. And then dare Cuomo to come after them.

Faculty at the nation's top colleges took such action when the US Department of Education tried to force universities to follow an assessment plan that would have the US controlling and monitoring what took place in every college classroom. So many faculty members at Fordham, and other schools like it, said they would refuse to do this that the US DOE ended up backing off, and coming up with something far less burdensome, which has yet to be implemented.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Would You Want Andrew Cuomo To Be Your Child's Teacher?

He is mean, vindictive,cynical, cruel, and prefers intimidation and bribery to argument and persuasion.

 If you don't want him as a teacher, do you want him to control who becomes a teacher and how they teach? That is the power he plans to take, unless he is stopped by the citizens of New York State:

By Increasing the role of testing in teacher evaluations
By taking away power from principals to evaluate their own teachers
By requiring termination of teachers based on criteria that defy common sense
By turning over control of troubled schools to hand picked organizations without public oversight
By nullifying the power of school districts to control how teachers are selected, trained, promoted and terminated

If  you find it frightening to think of teaching and learning in New York State under Andrew Cuomo's dicatorial control,  it is time to resist, and even better yet revolt.

Refuse the tests on which Cuomo's entire Reform apparatus rests. Starve the data beast.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Collateral Damage of Testing

Many people testifying before the Senate Committee on Testing seemed to suggest that the only way to assure that special needs students, students of color and students in poverty are assured of a sound and equitable education is to test them constantly and compare their performance to others on a national data grid. They propose this even though such testing is incredibly expensive and will force class sizes to rise, lead to cuts in the arts, libraries and counseling , turn instruction into test prep and lead to the disappearance of recess and play. Is this collateral damage worth the "accountability" or will the cure be worse than the disease

The Personification of Pearson- A Guest Post By Lucianna Sanson

The Personification of Pearson: Always Earning

My daughter was in Kindergarten when she first met Pearson. According to my daughter, Pearson was the bully that chased you around and around the playground until he finally got a grip on your blue denim jacket- and- with a mighty heave, stopped you dead in your tracks, spun you around, grabbed you by the collar, put his face right up close into yours, demanding not only your lunch money, but anything else you had in your pockets: coins, pencils, rubber bands, erasers, paper scraps, chewing gum, jawbreakers, even lint. Even Lint. Yeah, Pearson was THAT kind of bully. It seemed that he wanted everything that every kid had- all of your money, paper, ABC gum- you name it.

Needless to say, I marched myself down to the elementary school and discussed Pearson with my daughters teacher. I was told that Pearson was a challenge but that he had been adopted by the state and would be staying in my daughter’s school. As a ward of the state, there was nothing the teacher could do about that; however, she would make sure that my daughter was exposed to Pearson as little as possible and that she would never have to be in the same room with him during testing. Time passed- and my daughter- through lack of contact- rarely saw Pearson during the remainder of elementary school.

Fast forward to Middle School. Orientation. Guess who greets us at the door???? Yup. Pearson. This guys is everywhere AND suddenly he is popular!!! POPULAR! He is the darling of the new Teach for America teachers and old school testing gurus alike. He is still a bully, only now he is a sly one, a sneaky one, a slithery serpent of a bully who insinuates himself into the good graces of both Guidance and Gradebook alike. My daughter is wary of him, but this time, they are in every class together. She said that he doesn’t pick on her anymore but sitting next to him still makes her uncomfortable. I told her to just do her work and ignore him unless he becomes a real issue during testing and essay writing time. Thankfully, other than his overbearing and popular persona, Pearson doesn’t influence my daughter much during middle school. High school, however, will be a different story.

In high school, as luck would have it, my daughter actually began to enjoy spending time with Pearson. I don’t know what she saw in him, but she liked working with him on the school computer programs. The more time she spent with him, the more she began to like him. She had no problem with how much personal information he wanted from her. As much as it creeped me out, it didn’t seem to phase her. Perhaps this is due to a “generation” gap, but I can’t seem to shake the image of that pilfering bully on the playground all those years ago.I can’t stand the thought of his nimble fingers picking her pockets, rifling through her purse, or picking her brain.

These days, Pearson isn’t so much a bully as he is nosey. He wants to know everything about my daughter. He asks her questions about her name, ethnicity, her likes and dislikes, questions about her parents. He records all of it in his data-bank of a brain, squirrelling it away for use at a later date. What is he going to do with this data? Where is it going? Who sees it? My daughter has even told me that he asks about us, her parents. Where we live, how much money we make, our phone numbers, our email addresses. I told my daughter our personal information is none of Pearson’s business and she doesn’t have to tell him anything about us- or her- if she doesn’t want to. She can refuse to answer any of his questions.

Hopefully, my daughter will take my advice about Pearson to heart. She will start college before too much longer, to become a school teacher, and Pearson will be at the same school. Pearson, it seems is EVERYWHERE. Apparently, Pearson isn’t going to a four -year college; high school (and some dual enrollment classes) gave him all the tools he needed to be college and career-ready.

Ironically, although he isn’t going to be attending my daughter’s college as a student, he IS going to be there. He got a job working for a company where he is in charge of monitoring the student teachers at my daughter’s college. Although he has no formal degree, he is working for the company my daughter will be PAYING to grade her student teaching experience! So Pearson, with his lack of education and lack of teaching experience, will be making money grading videos of my daughter ( which she has to pay money to upload ) while evaluating her as a student teacher. Wow. Pearson certainly does get around. In fact, you could say that from the moment my daughter met him, he was always earning.

by Lucianna M. Sanson

Lucianna Sanson is a high school English IV and AP Literature teacher in Franklin County Tennessee. She is a public school parent and she is married to a public school teacher. She is FCEA President, and the Associate Co-Producer of the War Report on Public Education internet radio show. She is a warrior goddess activist for students and public education. She is admin on several FB pages and she can occasionally be found on twitter. You can also find her delivering nasty bits of edu-reform wisdom via Honey BADger Blurbs.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What We Had At PS 91 in Brooklyn in the 1950's

  I grew up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn shortly after World War II, in a working class neighborhood that was predominantly Jewish and Italian, with a handful of Black and Irish residents . Our local public school was PS 91, on the corner of Albany and East New York avenues, a formidable five story brick building that was taller than any of the surrounding houses and apartment buildings. Right next to it was a huge schoolyard that  took up half the rest of the block that had the equivalent of two diamonds that could be used for softball or punchball, along with some basketball hoops.

 PS 91 was my home for 6 years, from 1951 to 1957, and while it would be foolish to say all the teaching was inspired ( there was a lot of memorization and writing on the blackboard) and all the kids got along wonderfully ( I had more than my share of fights), my overall experience there was positive because there were so many out of classroom activities to supplement the classroom teaching.  

  There was a tremendous amount of physical activity. There was a free play time before school when kids were lining up for class and a recess right after lunchtime where we also played games. Those were in addition to physical education which we had in the school gym. We also had the chance to participate and attend school plays, which broke the monotony of school assemblies. I remember writing a play about the English conquest of New York City from the Dutch which was performed before the entire school. We also had regular film showings in class, and regular school trips, sometimes to a show at a place like Radio City Music Hal, more often to a museum.  We also had annual science fairs at which students could display innovative projects, along with art shows.  If you look at the sum total of these activities, students had an opportunity to showcase their talents in many other ways than performing well on classroom assignments or citywide tests, plus the sheer range of this activities build camaraderie in individual classes and in the
school as a whole

  Finally, the school featured an amazing free after school program, from 3-5 and a night center 7-9, open five days a week, were students could play basketball, nok hockey, jump rope, do arts and crafts projects or practice musical instruments.

  This culture and exercise rich environment helped created a tremendous sense of optimism in the young people who went to the school, most of whom had non-college educated parents, a few of whom were genuinely poor. Not everyone was academically gifted, or adapted well to classroom instruction, but almost everyone had a talent that was recognized within the school community, and given an outlet or a means of expression.

   And I wonder. Are there schools like this today. Or has the testing pushed out the art, the music, the science, the trips, the recess and the play.

   If so, a precious spark has left public education, and it makes me sad to think that young people growing up in working class families now don't have the opportunities I had 60 years ago.

Lessons from 45 Years of Teaching that No one in Power Listens To

1. Teaching in one school for a long time and remaining in touch with your former students can be a very powerful asset to your current ones. Former students can be extremely helpful, sometimes with making classroom presentations, more often in advising students on research projects and helping them find employment.

2. Sometimes the most powerful events in a class take place when you throw away the script and let students talk from the heart about subjects which excite them or intrigue them. If you don't leave room for those moments, you miss an opportunity for students to get emotionally connected to the material and experience their own power to launch new ideas.

3. Any time you can use the arts to enhance understanding of a subject, do it. Having students write songs or poems, perform plays, make films are all ways of bringing material to life. Give students that option whenever possible. And don't hesitate to use music, film and video in your daily instructional routine.

4. Whenever possible, give students the option of substituting independent projects for standardized or even in class exams. Some students thrive when given research projects; others would rather have a test on a fixed body of material. If you give them both options, the quality of work, and the level of engagement, is likely to be higher than when you have a one size fits all assessment.

Do you think that these instructional strategies make sense?

If so, just compare them with what teachers are now asked to do.

And weep.

BTC Resolution on Civil Rights and High Stakes Testing

The Badass Teachers of Color categorically rejects the idea that the current practice of annual, high-stakes testing of public school students advances the cause of Civil Rights and will lead to better instruction and greater achievement for all  students, especially for students of color and those living in poverty

Friday, January 23, 2015

No Room For History in Our Public Schools:

Last night, I gave a lecture on the history of the Vietnam War to a cross section of Catholic high school students from Bergen County who had joined together to put on a performance of the musical "Miss Saigon." This was the fourth history lecture I had given to high school students in the last two years. My other lectures, where the topic was the multicultural origins of Bronx hip hop, were given at West Catholic High School near Hartford Conn, at Trinity School on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn.
If something sounds strange to you think about this: Only one of those three schools was a public high school! Is it that the subjects of these lecture, the history of the Vietnam War, and the history of Hip Hop, have no interest to public school students? I think, if you spoke to public high school teachers, that the opposite is true. Public high schools students would love to talk about these subjects.
So what is getting in the way? TESTS! Public high schools, especially those in working class and middle class communities, are so desperate to have their students score well on standardized tests- under the threat of closure- that they simply have no time to have lectures on subjects which may get students excited about history, but will not translate into higher scores on high stakes tests
This situation is in huge contrast to what I experienced 10 years ago when I joined with scholars and community leaders to launch the Bronx African American History Projects. Within three years of the projects founding, I was invited to give lectures, presentations and tours to students at more than
20 Bronx public schools. Among these were lectures at at least five Bronx high schools, including small schools located at Evander Childs,
Taft and Morris High Schools.
These lectures, some of which were attended by upwards of 500 students, were incredibly well received, in part because I affirmed cultural traditions the students there viewed as their own. Students were clapping, shouting, joining me on stage, I even got invited to speak at one high school graduation
So what happened? I haven't received an invitation to speak from a Bronx high school in more than 6 years
Testing happened.
School grades happened
School closings happened
And a whole generation of Bronx high school students, and their teachers were made to feel that the only thing that counted in their education were scores on their tests.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Cuomo Fallacy-Public Schools Showcase the Society's Failures- Not That of Teachers

This year, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo will be trying to make his mark on New York and national politics by attacking the public school system as "the greatest single failure" in New York State.
His attack will not use arguments invented out of whole cloth. The public schools of New York display vast disparities in performance between children by race and class, both within individual schools and between entire school districts. And you don't need a battery of new tests to reveal those disparities. They were documented 20 years ago when there was far less testing and in fact are highly visible to any intelligent observer who visits schools around the state.
What the Governor will not say however, is that these disparities in educational performance precisely mirror disparities in income and personal wealth around the state, which if anything are sharper than performance disparities in the public schools. Since public schools, unlike private schools, religious schools or charter schools, have to take everyone who applies and cannot throw students out who perform poorly, they end up being a fairly precise mirror of how middle class, working class, and poor children are doing in the state of New York, in cities, small, towns, and rural areas. And if what the mirror reveals, not only on tests, but in attendance records and in the atmosphere in classrooms, and hallways and auditoriums, is one which has more than its fair share of rage and pain and confusion, then that ends up being a telling commentary on what is happening in our homes and neighborhoods.
In placing the blame for that rage and pain and confusion on teachers and school administrators, Governor Cuomo not only masks the real causes of poverty and inequality in our state, which lie in local and global labor markets, tax and housing policies, and the continuing impact of racism on people's lives and communities; he sets up convenient scapegoats for our collective failures.
But more than that, Governor Cuomo is setting up an opportunity for massive profit taking and career building at the expense of the public schools he plans to transform- to test makers, publishers, consulting firms, charter school entrepreneurs. There are hundreds of millions of dollars, eventually billions of dollars, to be made as teachers are removed, schools are closed, and charters schools are put in their place, all to the accompaniment of a rising crescendo of testing and teacher evaluation systems which are conveniently created by private companies.
And when all this is done, and tens of thousands of union teachers have lost their jobs, to be replaced, in the most part, by easily intimidated teacher temps, the middle class in the state will have shrunk; wealthy companies will have reaped more profit, and the underlying inequalities in the state, those in income, wealth and educational performance, will have been reduced not at all

Monday, January 19, 2015

Do We Need to Redefine Civil Rights for Students?

If I were to start a Civil Rights group to defend the rights of children, especially children in poverty, I would begin by demanding that all students have the same access to art, music, science, counseling, libraries and school trips that students at the nation's top private schools have, along with classes that are small enough to give them personal attention, and a curriculum that acknowledges and recognizes their cultural traditions. I would also ask that student voices should be part of every institution, from the school level to the legislature, shaping education policy
However, such a group is unlikely to receive funding from the Gates Foundation or get invitations from the US Department of Education to help shape policy. The equation of Civil Rights with Universal Testing is a phenomenon that could never have occurred had not a small number of extremely powerful foundations and corporations decided to use their fortunes to reshape the education philosophies of government bodies and non profit organizations

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Few Thoughts on the Testing Crisis and Attacks on Public Education

1. Although there is no evidence that a stagnant public school system has been a major cause of growing poverty and inequality in the United States- which is in large part caused by wage compression, outsourcing of jobs,  regressive tax policies and the burdens imposed by a huge and expensive prison industrial complex- many liberals have decided that a revamped and privatized public education system, carefully monitored and regulated by the federal government, represents out the only realistic hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. This is partly wishful thinking, but it also represents a cold assessment of political reality, because liberals view school reform is the only anti-poverty strategy that has any hope of gaining bi-partisan support.

2. Once you decide to make the schools the major instrument of reducing inequality, your focus inevitably turns to teachers and teachers unions, who, in stead of being seen as allies in this effort, are increasingly seen as obstacles to the great national crusade. Many liberals have convinced themselves that if teachers feet are not held to the fire by nationally mandated tests and test based evaluations, they will spend their time baby sitting low income students rather than teaching them. This pessimistic assessment of the nation's teaching force underlies every pronouncement of the Duncan headed US Department of Education, who sees teachers as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

3. We have now had nearly 15 years ( since 2011) of the bi-partisan school reform crusade launched by No Child Left behind, and by every indicator- from child poverty, to racial wealth gaps, to housing quality and distribution of income across the racial and economic spectrum- poverty and inequality have grown in the US. Has this led liberals to question using Test based school reform and attacks on teachers and teachers unions as their major strategy for achieving equity? No! To judge by what is happening in New York State with Governor Cuomo, and in the US Department of Education, they are doubling down on failed policies.

4.Eventually, the nation will wake up to the fact that School Reform is a disastrous anti-poverty strategy, especially when that strategy involves deluging schools with tests, closing neighborhood public schools and terrorizing, scripting and micromanaging teachers, but by that time, the nation's public schools may have suffered near fatal damage.

Time is short. Many conservatives see the damage imposed by excessive testing. Liberals had better wake up

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How the Ghost of Booker T. Washington Haunts Today's Testing Advocates

When I read the statement from 19 Civil Rights organizations supporting universal testing in the nation's public schools,  I couldn't help but recall a time in American History when an African American eductor named Booker T Washington stepped forward with a plan to have character training and instruction in  skilled trades supplant liberal arts education in schools serving African Americans, and in so doing managed to neutralize opposition to Black Education in the South, while attracting the support of education philanthropists in the North.

Washington put forward his plan at a time, eerily akin to ours, when the rights of African Americans and working class Americans were under assault. In the South, white supremacists were moving forward with plans to put a final end to the voting rights of African Americans which had been secured during Reconstruction, while passing laws requiring segregation of Blacks and whites both public and private institutions. In the North, powerful industrialists were banding together to crush an emerging industrial labor movement, imposing devastating defeats on organizing efforts among steel workers in the Homestead Strike of 1892 and to efforts to build a national railroad union in the Pullman Strike of 1894.

Washington, one of the most astute political thinkers of his age, saw which way the wind was blowing and decided that to create any space for Black education,  he had to make an accomodation with both Southern segregationists and Northern industrialists. As a result, he put forward his plans to remake Black education as a narrow skill and character enterprise, while proclaiming his opposition to civil rights agitation, labor organizing and efforts by Blacks to seek political power.

Washington's program, by most standards, was an astonishing success. Not only were schools on his model allowed to survive in the south at time of fierce anti-black violence, and the imposition of the Jim Crow regime, he became the single most powerful Black man in America, single handedly controlling the flow of philanthropic dollars to Black educational institutions and Republican party patronage in the black community.

However, many Black intellectuals, led by the brilliant Fisk and Harvard trained social scientist, W.E.B.DuBois, felt that Washington had conceded too much. Not only did DuBois criticize Washington for arguing that Blacks could defer their quest for full citizenship rights, saying that such a position would actually invite white attacks, he bitterly attacked Washington for selling Black youth short by saying they didn't need poetry, didn't need literature, didn't need history, didn't need exposure the full range of subjects that in most advanced societies were seen as the essential background of those seeking political or cultural leadership.

And when I think about current Civil Rights leaders demanding a narrowly test based curriculum for young people growing up in poverty, and young peole of color, a curriculm that leaves little room for creative thinking, the arts, and the exploration of cultural traditions of the communities they come from, i think of what DuBois wrote in the "Souls of Black Folk" more than 100 years ago. Namely that every  child, no matter how poor, now matter how isolated, no matter how stigmatized the group they come from, should have the opportunity to become a poet, a writer, a scientist, a great political leader or orator, and should not be assumed to  be consigned to a future as a low wage worker maintaining a respectful silence while others lead.

And because of that, i think we need to have a proliferation of voices, modeled on that of Dr Dubois, who insist that ALL our children be given an education which allows them to dream, to create, to challenged received authority, and to make history,

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Happens When You Equate Testing With Civil Rights

  A group of 19 Civil Rights organization just joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a plea to retain annual testing of public school students as a way of guaging progress we are making toward education equity.

  i get why they did that. They are terrified if we don't have statistics documenting how far low income students and students have colors have fallen behind their more advantaged peers, those students will be neglected because educators and elected officials will feel no pressure to make sure they catch up.

 But there is another, and perhaps, worse danger-- one we are experiecing right now: namely that low and moderate income students are being deluged with a test driven curriculum, taught be browbeaten and terrorized teachers, that will kill their intellectual curiosity, make them hate school and cost so much that their schools drop the very activities that most promote school engagement- particularly sports, the arts and physical education.

  Right now, with the toxic combination of Common Core, school closings, charter school preferences and test based teacher evaluations that are accompanying a regime of universal testing, low income students are actually falling further behind those in higher income families

Why?  Because wealthy and advantaged parents understand the value of creative thinking, the arts, and relationship building in their children's education and do anything to make sure their children benefit from those experiences,; either by enrolling their children in private school, home schooling them, or  opting out their children andc putting pressure on their schools and school districts to drastically lower the number of tests.

  The Department of Educatoin and their short sighted cheer leaders among Civil Rights groups are actually hastening the development of more of a two tier education system than we already have- with poor and moderate income kids have nothing but testing and test prep, imposed on them by revolving door teaching staffs, while wealthier children have a more personalized education  where testing takes a back seat to content and experience based learning taught by teachers enjoy their jobs.

  i understand that most Civil Rights groups are led by lawyers, not teachers, and that lawyers believe that extensive data gathering is essential to the achievement of equity in all walks of life

  But the collateral damage their approach has imposed on the  unfortunate children they claim to be defending dwarfs the gains their approach might produce

 There is no excuse for making our needest children , who should love school the most, hate their school experience

  The Civil Rights groups endorsement of universal testing a terrible, terrible mistake

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Teacher Pensions and US Foreign Policy: A Guest Post by Brian Crowell

After scanning the Cal STRs and the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System two countries stood out in the pension portfolio list. Those names being Russia and Venezuela. As you may or may not know Russia and Venezuela are under economic sanctions. These countries have been ravaged by United States Sanctions and the dramatic drop in oil prices. Although consumers have benefited of the savings in gas prices, there is also I argue unintended consequences of economic sanctions on Russia and Venezuela. (Please see footnotes below)

As you can see Cal Strs has invested roughly 4.2 million in the Russian Federation, with a nice 7.5% return on investment. (See below; numbers are in thousands 3 zeros)


The bonds run through year 2030. If Russia defaults that would be a loss in the pension portfolio for teachers. Lets take a look at Venezuela for the sake of inquiry. Again an impressive return on investment. These countries encompass a small percentage of the portfolio but the overall yield is in line with the Cal STRS mandate of return on investment. 9.375% on the high end and 5.75% on the low end.


The Connecticut Pension Fund has similar investment albeit smaller but the trend lines are the same. The whose who on the list of the Cal STRS pension fund fixed income assets include, Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, MGM Grand, Bank of America and the now defunct Bear Stearns Investment Bank. Several questions come to mind when seeing the direct connections between teachers, wall st. and foreign policy.

1. Whose interest is served if the economics of Russia and Venezuela suffer?
2. With Americans being on the hook for derivative exposure what happens to the pension of teachers if wall st goes belly up again with their reckless gambling? ( See citation:

3. Isnt in time that world relations be handled in a more productive way? It is clear that this is an interconnected world and an inter connected economy. The country of Argentina is also on the Cal STRS portfolio and has frosty relations with the United States. (See: citation;

4. How can teachers have more of a say who our Pension Managers do business with? After all its our money that we pay into every month. Monsanto and Wall Mart dont have many fans in teachers on the left center of the political spectrum. Questions like these will have to be addressed in 2015 as we go deeper into an interconnected multipolar world.

5. Is the interconnectedness with wall st. risky assets the reason the unions are so captured by corporate education reform?

Brian Crowell
Teacher; California
Member NEA/AFT


*any factual errors on data will be corrected promptly if pointed out.*

The Perverse Logic of School Reform in the US- Follow the Data Trail

1. Education Policy in the US is being shaped by business leaders and lawyers.
2..Business people and lawyers worship data. They see data gathering as essential to quality control and compliance with the law.
3. To insure that American public schools have high level of performance as well as equity, business leaders and lawyers demand comprehensive data on school, teacher and student performance.
4,. The only way to get that kind of data on schools teachers and students is to introduce a program of comprehensive testing that touches every subject and every grade from pre-K through Higher Education.
5. The level of testing they require, along with the consequences they insist on for poor performance, fundamentally changes the nature of teaching and learning. Teaching to the test squeezes out joy, creativity, spontaneity and relationship building.
6. Data gathering gone mad becomes the norm in every school district in every state, making teachers hate their jobs and students hate school.
7...American public schools, once seen however imperfectly, as places where democratic values are practiced and passed on from generation to generation, become zones of fear and stress which students, teachers and families try to escape
8. A Nation, once it finally wakes up, begins to mourn what it lost.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It's Worse Here Than In NY! A New Jersey Teacher's Lament

It is not just NY. In NJ we are in deep trouble. I would guestimate that 80% of the senior teachers have retired, a large proportion of principals as well. There is a mass exodus. Young teachers are in hell. They weigh thier student loan debt against lifetime of data gathering, test prep and unfair evaluations. I hear the conversations in the teachers room "this is not what i signed up for". The ones that stay will be the acquiescent among them. Our school is a "focus school". under state scrutiny for possible take over. The game is fixed. The state scrutiny is the result of low test scores. We have a huge spanish speaking population that tests poorly. Are we spending money to hire people to educate them and allocating time for that education? No, instead, we have bought bandwidth, new routers, chrome book laptops, iPads, iPad stations, an evaluative system called McCrel, and CCSS aligned textbooks. Students are test-prepped to death. What is the effect of telling students "this matters" when it really doesn't? How can students respect teachers that lie to them every day? What is the effect on educators forced to suck the life energy from their students? This already has and will continue to have an effect. Behavior is the worst i have ever seen because school sucks for kids now. Teacher morale is the lowest I have ever seen because school sucks for teachers now. The majority of teachers have little awareness of the forces amassed against education. Very few are informed. Our local union has been weakened to the point that only 10% of membership shows up to general meetings. Parents are clueless, and the "unwritten law" that teachers must not tell the horrible secrets of CCSS, PARCC, ed reform and administrative data love is rarely to never broken. Teachers, fearing for their jobs, comply with ridiculous evaluation systems. There are four levels of proficiency in our system. To achieve each one, teachers must earn an evaluators confidence to check of EVERY box in a rubric that makes me insanely angry. Dozens of pages of evaluative rubrics that are weighted against teachers. If, in our 3 classroom evaluation visits, some of those categories are not checked, then to prove we deserve them checked, we must present "evidence" that we do them at a meeting with our evaluator. It is punitive by design. Some evaluators see it for what it is, and help teachers, other evaluators see their job as finding the lazy, ineffective teachers and setting them up for loss of tenure (Now possible thanks to new laws). It is hell. It also must be mentioned that the evaluative systems make no accommodations for art, music, gym, or other less quantifiable subjects. At the end of next year, when districts begin to shed teachers (the higher priced ones?, the trouble maker ones?) there will be hundreds of lawsuits. One possible outcome of this is a financial strain on the county and state unions. One of the benefits of union membership is that the unions will provide legal counsel if needed. What happens if hundreds or thousands of teachers need legal counsel to protect their jobs as a result of unfair evaluations, inequities in evaluators and other problems in that system? I have not mentioned that there are state mandated (Christie/DOE) "SGO's" (student growth objectives) that were sold to us as a way for teachers to work on their own growth, but have now become another evaluative tool to beat teachers with and strike fear in our hearts. This is "moment" is not just in NY, it is national.

School Closings and Real Estate Speculation: Buffalo in the Crosshairs

Wherever a small or medium sized city is targeted for massive closure of its public schools- as Buffalo New York is now- one needs to look at the larger economic forces that may be at work behind the scenes. If experience is a guide, one should not be surprised to see real estate investors and developers strongly supporting such a move, because in every city where public schools have been closed en masse and replaced by charters, especially New York Chicago and Washington, there has been massive displacement of longtime residents from working class communities of color, and huge profits made
by real estate developers in the most heavily targeted neighborhoods.

At a time when the logic of the market is pushing more and more poor people into the suburbs, one has to examine what closing neighborhood public schools will ultimately do to Buffalo's demographic profile.  If Buffalo is being targeted for new investment, who will benefit from it? Is the city building new affordable housing? Creating new community centers to anchor and stabilize depressed neighborhoods. Or is the closing of schools and opening of charters an invitation to private developers to raise rent levels in the affected neighborhoods and push long time residents out?

Buffalo has great community development strategists, like Professor Henry Louis Taylor of SUNY Buffalo, who seek to uplift neighborhoods by improving schools and business districts simultaneously while promoting democratic participation of community residents in all phases of planning.

But when it comes to education policy, voices like Dr Taylor's are disregarded and community voices smothered in favor of those of the city's economic elite. And the result it top down planning which will not only destabilize communities, but is likely to drive long time residents out.

This is the same impending catastrophe that we are seeing in other small cities like Camden, Newark, York PA, Benton Harbor Michigan, Huntsville Ala and scores of others around the country.

That this is being done in the name of reducing educational disparities and helping young people of color makes it all the more cynical- and criminal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Merryl Tisch Has Gotten Me Fired Up About Education Issues Again

Although I have been active and vocal on many issues other than education during the past 6 months, my rage at the unearned and illegitimate power of one individual- NY Regents Chair Merryl Tisch- is getting me fired up once again, big time, about the threat to teaching and learning in the public schools of New York State. Her latest proposal to have test scores count for 40 percent of all teacher evaluations so we can rate more teachers ineffective is just the latest outrage. Here is a person who has no track record as a teacher, an administrator or education scholar who heads the most powerful education policy body in the state, and has political leaders of both parties anxious to do her bidding. And why? It is because of access to the huge personal fortune the Tisch family commands, something which appears to override experience wisdom and common sense among the vast majority of New York State legislators. It matters not that the most respected teachers and administrators in the State think that Tisch's ideas are destructive, or that parents and students who have come to forums she organized have been treated with condescension and contempt. What matters is her access to funds for campaign contributions, grants, and investment capital for new projects. Which creates a grave and imminent danger that she will decide to reshape, and quite possible undermine, the entire public education system in the state.
I don't know about you, but as the child of two public schools teachers, the husband of a public school principal, and a product of New York City public schools who sent his children to those schools, I am ready to fight her tooth and nail on every misguided measure she proposes

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is It Time to Revive the Police Athletic League?

Call me sentimental, but I long for the days when police officers would serve as volunteer coaches and community workers in poor and working class neighborhoods and get to know the young people there in a different capacity than as would be law breakers and "perps." A great organization in NY, the Police Athletic League ( PAL), arose at the turn of the 20th Century to encourage that development, but I also saw it first hand in  a Brooklyn sports organization I once worked in during the 80's and 90's. the 78th Precinct Youth Council. When officials of the group asked me to take over a basketball league it sponsored which was plagued with fights and near riots, the coaches and referees I recruited to help me run it included several police officers, who were incredibly devoted to the young people in the league and helped turn it from a trouble spot into a success.

I think there is a lesson here that has been forgotten in our obsession with subjecting public service occupations to "data driven management." One great way to have police be more responsive and caring and knowledgeable in communities they patrol is to have them involved with neighborhood youth off the job. In that capacity, I would love to see the PAL revived and revitalized so that young people will see police officers as coaches and mentors, as well as people dispatched with orders from afar to enforce the law.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What Should Happen in Education Policy- But Never Will- Until we Have a "Revolution"

People like Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Merryl Tisch acknowledge that their efforts to improve the quality of teaching through school closings, teacher firings, relentless testing and Common Core,have failed miserably and instead decide to identify the best teachers and school administrators in the nation, people like Carol Burris, Liz Phillips,Jamaal Bowman, Renee Dinnerstein, Karen Jennings Lewis, Avram Barlowe, Pam Lewis, Jo Lieb, Lucianna Sanson, Terry Preuss, Amy Nicosia Morillo, Kevin Glynn and Aixa Rodriguez ( these are people I all know personally and can "vouch for") and ask them: what do we have to do to find great teachers and principals, keep them in the profession, and attract them to high poverty schools?
In no state, in no national forum, has this kind of discussion ever taken place among the most talented people who have spent their lives in the public schools.
Wouldn't it be refreshing if policy makers looked to the people who have succeeded, every day "on the ground" rather than business leaders, lawyers statisticians, and hot shot Teach for America types who thinks two years in a high poverty school qualifies them as an "expert."
Maybe this can start this in your community, your city, and in your state?
Having lawyers and politicians and business leaders shape school policies over the heads of teachers, principals and parents has been an unmitigated disaster