Archive for August, 2013

What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch ?

August 18, 2013

What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to "Monitor" Diane Ravitch ?.

What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch ?

August 18, 2013

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

I usually avoid the Huffington Post at all costs and will continue to do so until they begin to actually pay the writers whose labor is making its owners very rich, but I make an exception this morning due to information in an article that came to me in a sideways fashion via a fine post by Paul Thomas. In his post, Thomas eviscerates an adhominen attack on Diane Ravitch by one Peter Cunningham, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for the U.S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. The catalyst of Cunningham’s sophomoric attack is Ravitch’s soon to be published, eagerly anticipated and apparently just as eagerly feared new treatise, Reign of Error. Cunningham’s words are nothing but a preemptive attack on Ravitch’s person, which Thomas handily displays as utterly unfounded and barely meriting a response. There is a reason that, for teachers, Ravitch has emerged as the most respected, revered and, yes, beloved figure in America. And that reason is character, above all the character it requires to admit you were wrong and set out making it right because it is the right thing to do.

What should merit a response, however, is what Cunningham’s first sentence reveals about how the U.S. government apparently now routinely monitors its critics and pays people like Cunningham to do so. Consider only Cunningham’s opening sentence:

During the Obama administration’s first term, I served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, where one of my jobs was to monitor criticism of our policies and develop our responses. One of the people I monitored pretty closely was Diane Ravitch.


I find this an extraordinary and disturbing statement, not merely for its content but for the equally disturbing and extraordinarily casual tone.
The US Department of Education “monitored ” Diane Ravitch ? And others ? Who are they ? To what end ? Does this mean that the DOE, like the FBI and the CIA and the NSA is building dossiers on those, like Dr. Ravitch, who have the temerity to point out their inconsistencies, absurdities, failure and lies?

Hi!  I'm Arne Duncan and I'm watching you.

Hi! I’m Arne Duncan and I’m watching you.

I suppose I should not be surprised that an administration that would shred the constitution to preserve the NSA’s ability to have total surveillance over every American citizen would so casually monitor education critics but I am.

I am also disgusted and wonder, how many more critics did Mr. Cunningham “monitor? ” What does it mean to ‘monitor” somebody? Do taxpayers know that their money is paying for this ? Does Congress ? What has this to do with education ? Is there now a Monitoring Departing in the DOE to keep an eye on dissidents ? Where have we arrived when this kind of stuff is allowed ? How do we put an end to it, now ?

Why Does Commissioner John King Still Have A Job?

August 16, 2013

Smiling, soft spoken, treacherous John King
Smiling, soft spoken, treacherous John King

Despite their wrecking of the global economy and consequent creation of what looks more and more like a permanent recession, neo-liberals, corporatists, hedge fund managers and their supporters continue to babble on incessantly about the inherent superiority of private, as opposed to public, management, of efficacy and accountability, and “competing in the global economy.” What passes in the public sphere, they like to say and endlessly insinuate, would never stand in the “real world.” Moreover, such shabbiness as found in the public sector is ruining the country. Didn’t Condi Rice declare the public school system a “threat to our national security” at the Republican National Convention ? Isn’t such thinking implied in every syllable of Barack Obama’s Race To the Top ?

New York State Commissioner John King, like all “education reformers”, is a strong proponent of such lines of thought. Such thinking is, indeed, one of the reasons King and his confederates thought it was somehow a good thing that student’s test scores dropped 30% last year across the state.

King loves efficacy and accountability as much as he loves privately managed publicly funded charter schools and phony grass roots organizations like Students First and Educators 4 Excellence. What John King doesn’t seem to love are public schools and the teachers who teach there. This, despite the fact, as the top education official in New York State, his job is to insure their success; this despite his meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the New York State Public School system after a mere three years in the classroom, two of them in a charter school.

King’s new teacher evaluation plan recently imposed upon New York City and set to kick in in a couple of weeks, reveals such thinking about efficacy and accountability to be joke. Indeed, to be a very bad joke and one played on every teacher, principal, student and, ultimately, every community in the city.

Consider the following: as a result of educational policies completely dictated by billionaires and corporatists and imposed in policies like Barack Obama’s insidious Race to the Top, teacher evaluation schemes must now include (among many, many other things) standardized test scores of said teacher’s students.

This must be so even if there is no evidence anywhere that such tests actually improve the quality of education
This must be so even in the case of art, music, gym and speech teachers and others, where no such tests even exist.

No matter. Such teachers must be held accountable by standardized tests.

So what happens then? Does Dr. King say, perhaps we need to hold off on this evaluation thing until it is fair to all or, at the very least, exclude the teachers we have not yet created tests for?

Think again.

Will such teachers be rated as they have been rated before the obsession with standardized tests?

Surely you jest!

Will the state take no responsibility for the debacle they have foisted upon an entire system, and leave it to principals and teachers to lose their minds attempting to find some way to retain their ever more degrading and stress filled jobs?

Yep. Exactly.

Naturally, the state takes no responsibility at all, even when it places the livelihoods of teachers in serious jeopardy for a system that is as absurd as it is blatantly unfair.

But King and company are not without suggestions.

One suggestion is that such teachers be rated on the tests scores of other teachers.
( You read that correctly.)
Another is that they be rated on their work on students in displines they do not teach, such as math and English.

(These are not joke suggestions.)

There are thousands and thousands of such teachers.

And under the new system, if such teachers are rated badly on standardized tests they had nothing to do with, they will nonetheless be rated “ineffective.”

If they are rated “ineffective” two years in a row, they are fired and can no longer work as a teacher in the NYC Public school system. Their teaching careers are over.

Even if you accept (as I most definitely do not) the perverse and completely unproven notion that scores on standardized tests are a fair measure and reflection of student learning, no sane and responsible person could think of any new evaluation plan that includes such absurdities as anything but utterly irresponsible and unprofessional.
And the above, mind you, is merely the most obvious problem of this incomprehensible and incomplete scheme that a system serving a million children must now deal with on a daily basis.

Why the UFT not only went along with this disgrace but actually helped craft it and then insured it was passed into law is yet another kettle of decomposing fish. Their actions remain incomprehensible to me.

How is such a debacle possible? Why is it permissible to treat teachers with such open contempt and gross institutional injustice? Can you imagine the performance of a cop or fireman — or for that matter a hedge fund manager or a banker — being judged on the work of someone else?

Of course, not. Not in a million years. So why is this acceptable for teachers ? How is it even legal? Indeed, how was even legal for a figure like King to impose this on us ?

Part of this madness is due to the orchestrated sense of urgency, if not outright emergency, manufactured by the reformers as a political ploy to ram their idiotic ideas into policies before most people even know they exist. Consider the genesis and the tsunami like implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In this line of thinking, every moment not “reforming” education, closing schools and firing “bad teachers” is a moment in which we heartlessly condemn yet another generation of children to the hell of the achievement gap, un-ready for college and career, incapable of competing in the global economy.

Under such circumstances, as in war, extreme measures are called for, scream the reformers. Remember: Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Thus, as with all education reform schemes, policies are rushed into place as quickly as possible and in as large a scale as conceivable in a kind of “too big to fail” insurance policy, with as little discussion or public oversight as you can get away with. This “not a second to spare” approach, perfected by Geoffrey Canada, is practiced by both every three card Monty con artist and Ed reformer hustler from coast to coast.

The other explanation for so cruel and ridiculous a plan is that, just as the Common Core aligned tests were designed to insure mass student failure, this scheme is designed to fire as many teachers as possible with no regard whatsoever to fairness.

Hard to argue with that one.

Some questions: in what other profession would such craziness be permitted?
In what other profession are people’s careers — careers that requires years of schooling before you can even step into the classroom — considered so expendable?

More to the point of accountability and all that, what would happen to the leadership of any other organization that dared to present as reckless, half assed, and inequitable a plan as King has imposed upon an entire city ?

In short, giving the disaster-by-design test scores of last week and the disaster–by-design teacher evaluation that begins in two weeks, how does this man even have such a job and why are we as parents and educators standing for it?

For In My Soul

August 15, 2013

click title for video

For In My Soul

Each day I rise,
Each day I rise up determined to see the sky,
But then my eyes,
But then my eyes they adjust, for I need survive;
Shrink me down to here , shrink me down to where the sun
Is only some thing there

But in my soul turns the fire, the fire of pride.


Each day my tears,
Each day my tears they spill out,
Oh so secretly,
and then my fear.
And then my fear and my doubt
Blind me not to see;
See the circle spin, see me caged within, within
Seeking some to sin to blame

But in my soul, for in my soul yearns,
The fire the fire of love.


Each day I know,
Each day I know I’m not yet,
Though I’m frayed and worn.
Each day I go,
Each day I go to the river
There to be born,
Someday this shall be,
Someday soon I shall be free
And on that day I ‘ll sing
For in my soul, for in my soul,
Burns the fire, the fire of God


Words and music by Patrick James Walsh
All rights reserved 2007 ASCAP

Jeb Bush Is Planting Seeds

August 13, 2013
A "Chief for Change" Speaks

A “Chief for Change” Speaks

Fresh off addressing the American Legislative Exchange Council ( the infamous ALEC, ) former Governor of Florida, friend of President Obama, “Chief For Change”, and non-educator education expert Jeb Bush made an extraordinarily radical and revealing suggestion about the future of teaching in an interview to 89 WLS in Chicago. Bush, calmly displaying his usual oceanic contempt for teachers at the same time that he feigns reverence, repeated much of what have become corporate education reform memes (wholesale identification of learning with standardized test scores, “embracing digital learning” ) and strategies ( merit pay, elimination of due process or tenure. )
In the midst of this, Bush serenely makes the insane suggestion that the teacher certification process be eliminated. In doing so, Bush simultaneously suggests that teaching is a field needing no preparation and is one effectively open to every
( presumably literate ) adult in the United States.

For Bush, the professionalism of teachers is established by their desire to separate themselves from teacher unions and be paid according to their “doing a good job. “
“Doing a good job”, in turn, means a teacher raising the standardized test scores of their students.

It is tempting to dismiss such a reckless and ignorant suggestion as the elimination of certification with a snide comment and a laugh, but such a response, I believe, at this stage of the game would be very much a mistake. Indeed, it would be playing into the hands of those who wish to destroy us.

What is disturbing about suggestions such as the elimination of teacher certification is that there is a very discernable pattern over the last decade of “reformers” putting out suggestions and making claims that then seemed equally absurd and reckless and would have been laughable a short time before only to become horrific realities shortly thereafter. What teacher would have ever predicted the advent of Obama and his reprehensible Race to the Top, now successfully undermining schools and unions from coast to coast? What teacher would have ever predicted that tenure in the city of New York would be effectively nullified by an evaluation plan created and pushed into law by the teachers union? What teacher would have ever predicted the appalling condescension emanating out of the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards? What teacher, in short, has foreseen the chilling combination of military precision and utter ruthlessness on the part of the predator class and its political employees like Cuomo, Emmanuel and Obama, ramming through their once unthinkable agendas with ease ?

Not I.

And yet, all of the above degradations masquerading as reforms begin precisely this way. One figure making a speech here, giving an interview there, writing an editorial over there, and on and on. Consider these actions the planting of seeds in the public consciousness, the first step in the manipulation of perception management. Soon enough a notion vomited out of a grotesquerie like ALEC is repeated ad nauseum and treated as if it arose from the soil. It is then earnestly parroted by the likes of Brian Williams, wept over by Oprah, championed by PBS and NPR, ogled by Thomas Friedman and Nicolas Kristoff, and chanted by members of billionaire created “grass roots” organizations like Educations 4 Excellence, Parent Revolution and Stand For Children and so on.

And such is the way conventional wisdom is manufactured today in the US of A.
Consider the robust debates that never took place over the merits and value of standardized testing, now the central nervous system of America’s entire school system.

“Bush” according to the article that reported the interview, “ said his education plan would also do away with certification processes. He said they make eligibility requirements for teachers too restrictive, Chicago being a prime example.”

What Bush did not say, however, is of even greater import that what he did. Besides an overall disgrace, what would result from the implementation of Bush’s plan of eliminating teacher certification combined with the elimination of due process or tenure ?
There would be an instantaneous exponential increase in the teacher labor pool allowing and even “incentivizing “the wholesale firings of entire teaching staffs as they would be as instantly replaceable as migrant farm workers. This, in turn, would further degrade the public school system and thus disgust parents who would then be offered the alternative of charter schools or perhaps a voucher.
Most importantly, it would eviscerate the solidarity of teachers, which would in turn eviscerate unions.
If the past were indeed prologue, than we would do well to take Bush’s suggestion, as disgusting as it is, with great seriousness. In it one sees, perhaps more transparently than usual, the true, long term underlying intention of education reform: the evisceration of unions and the privatization of the most vital and glorious of all American public institutions, the public school system. This, in turn, is meant as a major step in the radical reconfiguration of labor relations in all fields for all American workers.

These people think in terms of decades.
Americans must understand: Education reform is not about education and it never was.

Following is the interview.