The more parents who opt out of making their children go through the pointless and educationally destructive Common Core standardized testing that is the fad of Rheeist politicians of both parties, the better. I certainly implore all the parents who read this blog to stand up against this horrible education policy that hurts both students and teachers.
Another sign that most Democratic politicians simply don’t care about organized labor outside of writing checks and getting on votes on election day. Illinois governor Pat Quinn has named Paul Vallas as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Who is Vallas? The ultimate Rheeist, Vallas attacked teacher unions in Chicago before going on to doing the same in New Orleans and Bridgeport, where voters have just repudiated his “reforms” that had both Democratic and Republican support.
“Paul Vallas is one of the least popular leaders among the rank and file educators in Chicago public schools we’ve ever had,” said laid-off teacher Xian Barrett, a former member of the Chicago Teachers Union executive board currently working for a non-profit. Barrett cited Vallas’ moves that “reduced the power of the local schools councils,” and said before his 2001 departure he “was already laying the groundwork for a lot of the privatization movements” that progressed under his successor Arne Duncan, now President Obama’s Education Secretary. Barrett said Quinn’s choice of Vallas “reflects a disconnect between our state governance and the people, and specifically in this case a lot of the educators who’ve been Quinn’s greatest supporters his last time getting elected.” (The CTU, an AFT affiliate, did not respond to a Friday afternoon inquiry.)
Rob Traber, the vice president of Bridgeport Education Association, disputed Quinn’s praise for his new running mate. “I have seen nothing to show that he has been successful anywhere he’s gone, including Bridgeport,” Traber told Salon Friday. “And he has moved from one place to another and left it in worse shape than when he got there.” Traber contended Vallas and Finch had wrongly taken credit for construction of a new high school that “was already in the pipeline,” and that “the ‘miracle’ of balancing the budget” under Vallas was a response to “a budget crisis created by Finch.” Traber added that “the only reason it was balanced was Finch suddenly came up with money, which he hadn’t done for five years,” as did the state of Connecticut. “And so you know,” charged Traber, “that seems a little phony to me.” Like the IEA, the BEA is an affiliate of the NEA, the largest US union.
This is a case where organized labor should withdraw all support for Pat Quinn and the Illinois governor’s race. If the governor is openly opposed to labor’s interests, why should labor support him at all? This is a classic Samuel Gompers mentality–labor supports candidates who support labor. Labor does not support candidates that do not support labor. Progressives may look askance upon Gompers today for a number of reasons, but he understood the interests of his people and if Pat Quinn wants to put a teacher union busting Lieutenant Governor on the ticket in a relatively pro-union state like Illinois, then how much worse is a Republican going to be for organized labor? And while the answer to that question is potentially a Scott Walker and that would be horrible, we have to ask–would we expect pro-choice women to give money and support to an anti-choice candidate? Pro-gay marriage groups to support a candidate who named a homophobe as his running mate? Civil rights groups to support a ticket that included someone who backed voter ID laws? Ultimately, labor can’t be the only group asked to sacrifice when the Democrats promote people who oppose its interests. There has to be a payoff.
Andrew Delbanco has a largely excellent review of the new books by Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee in the latest New York Review of Books. Essentially, the two come across in their books as you’d expect. Ravitch is passionate in her defense of teacher unions, subtle in her understanding that we need to fight both poverty and improve schools at the same time. She sees schools as largely succeeding (the idea that schools are failing our students seems to be conventional wisdom yet largely lacks evidence. And where are schools are failing, such as the teaching of art and music, its precisely because of the policies that people like Rhee support) and that if SAT scores declined in the 70s, it’s because far more children were taking them in an increasingly inclusive education system. She sees privatization as a great threat to our schools, with little accountability for charter schools and national priorities moving toward giving snake-oil salesmen access to our schools.
Rhee’s book seems to be an exercise in pure narcissism. She is perfect, everyone who opposes her is not just wrong but has evil, nefarious motives and must be personally impugned (an attitude and style of argument that I find particularly distasteful). She has no understanding of historical context and doesn’t care. Teacher unions are evil, she is pure. She wants the shock doctrine applied to the public schools and brooks no opposition to her project of turning our schools into a capitalist experimentation station. She thinks the whole world should be competing viciously in a William Graham Sumner-esque race to the top. She lacks the ability to look outside her own experiences growing up in a household where she was pushed hard by her parents to understand why others might not find this valuable or desirable or even possible.
Rhee says that we can’t solve poverty until we solve education. This is absurd on the face of it. First and once again, does education need to be solved? That’s not to say it can’t get better; of course it can. But not only is there zero evidence that Rheeism will improve education for the average child, but her policies make it harder to do what we really could do to improve education–increase funding for school programs, hire more teachers for smaller class sizes, increase funding to teach foreign languages and better prepare our students for 21st century global life, build schools with better learning (and working) conditions that actually have air conditioning (a major issue in the Chicago Teachers Union strike), increase the salaries of teachers to make it an appealing profession for young people, improve the intensity and quality of education programs at the college and university level, etc. But of course these things cost money and take political power and Rhee’s interest in those questions go only so far as it profits her and her friends.
I’m also curious, even if we do “solve education,” how Rheeism will solve poverty. Will it convince Congress to improve the food stamp program? Raise the minimum wage? Pass a national guaranteed income? Undermine racial segregation? Bring industrial jobs back to the United States for the working class? Of course it will do none of these things. I guess it’s supposed to make “job creators” or something, but the end game of Rhee’s ideas are never spelled out precisely because she completely lacks interest in the long-term implications of her project.
Overall then, the review is great except for the last paragraph. After spending an entire article talking about Rhee’s own self-regard and unwillingness to admit the problems in her points while also talking about the sense Ravitch makes, Delbanco closes with the following sentence: “One thing that certainly won’t help our children is any ideology convinced of its exclusive possession of the truth.” Ah, a classic both sides do it ending! Earlier, Delbanco talks about how Ravitch’s ideas make more sense but they won’t get you on the cover of Time. I guess a true judgment at the end of a hot topic domestic article won’t get you the featured New York Review of Books piece either.
Nonetheless, a review very much worth your time.
Just in case anyone wasn’t aware that Teach for America is a tool of the capitalists, the organization has teamed up with Goldman Sachs to funnel TFA members into a career with a corporation that only played a major role in the crisis that helped bring down the world economy in 2007 and 2008.
Rheeism and toxic investments–what could be a more perfect union in the 21st century?
The Philadelphia school system has decided to use a classic union-busting tactic: destroy seniority provisions:
There’s something about seniority that really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It challenges our national mythology about meritocracy, a myth that ignores the race, gender, and class privileges that underlie a system where I as a white dude just happen to succeed where others don’t. Unions defend seniority not because it is perfect. No system is perfect. They defend it because it is the only system that is fair to workers.* Otherwise, how do we decide who has job preference? Like the Philadelphia schools, it is employers who want to decide. Employers are going to favor those they like, those who don’t support the union, those that are toadies. It is also an illegal labor action and let’s hope this pernicious union-busting gets fought off.
*Obviously the one exception to this was with affirmative action. That’s a complex story. The exception is noted before someone brings it up.
Less than three months after Rahm Emanuel closed 50 Chicago public schools to
bust the teachers union move resources around efficiently, the august mayor has issued a call for new charter schools in the very neighborhoods where the public schools were shuttered. It just so happens that these are non-union jobs led by people who will probably not hire the laid off teachers. I’m sure it’s all a coincidence.
In the Stephanie Simon report she mentions that KIPP Star and Democracy Prep hadn’t done so well with their proficiency rate, but she doesn’t mention how far they had dropped. Out of over 500 schools, which includes about 35 charter schools, of the one hundred largest drops, 22 were charter schools.
The most stunning example is the famed Harlem Village Academy which had 100% passing in 2012, but only 21% passing in 2013 for a 79% drop (you can see that sad dot all the way at the right of the scatter plot). Democracy Prep Harlem Charter, run and staffed by many TFAers, dropped 84% in 2012 to 13% in 2013. KIPP Amp dropped from 79% in 2012 to just 9% in 2013. The Equity Project (TEP) which pays $125,000 for the best teachers had finally gotten some test scores they can brag about with 76% in 2012, but that has now sunk to just 20% in 2013. The Bronx Charter School Of Excellence, which recently received money from a $4.5 million grant to help public schools emulate what they do, dropped from 96% in 2012 to 33% in 2013. So these are the schools that are the red ‘outliers’ hovering near the bottom right of the scatter plot. In general, the average charter school went down by 51 percentage points compared to 34 percentage points for the average public school. The most plausible explanation for charters dropping so much more than public schools is that their test prep methods were not sufficient for the more difficult tests. In other words “you’re busted.”
I just don’t see how the ‘reformers’ can reconcile these statistics with their statement that these lower scores are a good thing since we are now being honest about where we stand. The low scores in general do not decisively prove anything. The cutoff scores for passing were an arbitrary choice by some politicians in Albany. But the evidence that charters are certainly not working the miracles they claim is very clear from this data.
Ouch. It’s all about the data for education reformers, right? Well the data suggests that the promises reformers tell about charter schools aren’t coming true.
Conservatives in Kentucky are very angry. After all, the state might adopt scientific standards that teach actual science instead of Christian mythology. The responses are quite rational:
Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister, is one of the opponents who spoke to the board about why the standards should not be adopted, according to The Courier-Journal. “Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Singleton said. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.”
Another opponent, Dena Stewart-Gore, suggested that the standards will make religious students feel ostracized. “The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them,” she said, per the The Courier-Journal. “We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.”
What killed the Jews in the Holocaust was the Nazis teaching them that the Earth was not 6000 years old. They all dropped dead of heart attacks or something.
Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan’s school received an “A,” despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a “C.”
“They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.
The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan’s grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.
Why, it’s almost as if school reformers care more about pushing Republican policy points than helping children! Surely those scoundrels at the American Federation of Teachers are at the bottom of this! In fact, teachers did lead a campaign to defeat Bennett, who was rewarded for his failure by getting a sweet job doing the same thing in Florida.
While I don’t doubt that Chicago has a real budget crisis coming from unfunded pension requirements, this is pretty telling of how Rahm Emanuel plans to use Teach for America as a way to undercut the teachers’ union. Last week, Emanuel laid off 1036 teachers, including CTU activist Xian Barrett, profiled here. This was buried but quite telling:
Some of the teachers could be replaced by Teach For America recruits, as the district has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program that trains college graduates for five weeks then sends them into schools for two years at a time. The Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns”.
TFA spokeswoman Becky O’Neill said about 200 of the new recruits are destined for charters, the rest to interview for openings in neighborhood schools.
“We’re looking forward to getting more information and better understanding how all of this impacts the schools and principals with whom we partner,” she said.
Sharkey denounced CPS’ TFA placements “at the same time it’s laying off veterans. This is an organization who started out saying their mission was to serve underserved children with a teachers shortage. There’s no longer a teacher shortage.”
Rather than decrease TFA funding and save teachers jobs, TFA funding skyrocketed. Teach for America is basically a union-busting organization. Seeing teachers’ unions as a problem is central to its ideology and it is happy to take jobs away from experienced teachers and give them to underprepared recent college graduates.
If the students of Hoover, Alabama want the government to provide bus service so they can get to school, they are basically moochers anyway and we don’t need them getting in the way of our freedom to not provide basic 20th century government services.
Jeff Guo has a good piece at The New Republic on how Michelle Rhee’s Students
Last First organization has centered on Tennessee to push its anti-teacher union agenda. Yet despite the massive amount of money it and its corporate supporters have poured into Tennessee politics, they have received almost nothing to show for it. Tennessee Governor Jim Haslam hired Rhee’s ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, to run the state Department of Education. Rhee considers it her personal mission to crush Tennessee teacher unions and promote her own brand of corporatized education. But it turns out that the people of Tennessee resented huge amounts of money poured into local school board elections and began voting for opponents of the recipients of that largesse precisely because of it.
This hardly means Tennessee is going to become a pro-teacher union state. Probably some of Rhee’s insidious agenda will end up passing next year. What it does suggest is that Rhee has a very poor understanding of how politics actually work outside of Beltway board rooms and corporate fundraisers. In the end, money doesn’t always actually buy votes. Especially when it looks like your children are being used for an experiment.