Thursday, November 30, 2006

Schwarzenegger has a chance at non partisan leadership: Education

With the resignation of Alan Bersin as Secretary of Education the Schwarzenegger Administration has an important opportunity to appoint a much needed educational leader for California.
Rumors persist that he will appoint Margaret Fortune or Peter Mehas.
Will he appoint a person who can lead, or will he appoint a partisan policy advocate?
This is a real test of bi-partisanship.
A leader should be willing to look at the data and to propose new directions to respond to the several crisis in California education. A non leader would occupy the position and advance narrow ideological interests while advancing their own career. (See Kathryn Emory, Why Are the Corporations Bashing our Schools?)

Or, is there some time when a former partisan hack becomes a policy leader? We can certainly see that in the rise of former Reagan Administration actors in the Iran/Contra affair to prominent positions of foreign policy control in the administration of George W. Bush. ( see David Corn in the online version of The Nation)

Duane Campbell

No progress as consequence of NCLB

Testing the NCLB: Study shows that NCLB hasn't significantly impacted national achievement scores or narrowed the racial gaps
June 14, 2006:
Cambridge, MA—June 14, 2006— The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) released today a new study that reports the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) hasn't improved reading and mathematical achievement or reduced achievement gaps. The study also revealed that the NCLB won't meet its goals of 100 percent student proficiency by 2014 if the trends of the first several years continue.
The report, Tracking Achievement Gaps and Assessing the Impact of NCLB on the Gaps: An In-depth Look into National and State Reading and Math Outcome, compares the findings from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) to state assessment results and concludes that that high stakes testing and sanctions required by NCLB are not working as planned under the NCLB. The findings contradict claims of the Bush Administration and some previous studies that showed positive results under NCLB.
Under the NCLB, states can decide which tests to use for accountability and proficiency. In turn, states are required to look at their results and sanction low-performing schools. NCLB requires yearly progress of all groups of students toward the state proficiency levels. The report demonstrates how over the past few years since the NCLB's inception, state assessment results show improvements in math and reading, but students aren't showing similar gains on the NAEP—the only independent national test that randomly samples students across the country.
"Students should perform well on both tests because they cover the same subjects," said the study's author Jaekyung Lee, professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. "What we are seeing is, the higher the stakes of the assessment, the higher the discrepancies in the results. Based on the NAEP, there are no systemic indications of improving the average achievement and narrowing the gap after NCLB."
The report also shows that federal accountability rules have little to no impact on racial and poverty gaps. The NCLB act ends up leaving many minority and poor students, even with additional educational support, far behind with little opportunity to meet the 2014 target.
"This report is depressing given the tremendous amount of pressure schools have been under and the damage that a lot of high poverty racial schools have undergone by being declared as failing schools," said Gary Orfield, director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and professor of education and social policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education. "We have not focused on the kinds of serious long-term reforms that can actually produce gains and narrow the huge gaps in opportunity and achievement for minority students."
Key Findings
The report compares the NAEP results with state assessment results during the pre-NCLB period (1990-2001) with the post-NCLB period (2002-2005). It compares post-NCLB trends in reading and math achievement with pre-NCLB trends among different racial and socioeconomic groups of fourth and eighth graders from across the nation and states.
-1. NCLB did not have a significant impact on improving reading and math achievement across the nation and states. Based on the NAEP results, the national average achievement remains flat in reading and grows at the same pace in math after NCLB than before. In grade 4 math, there was a temporary improvement right after NCLB, but it was followed by a return to the pre-reform growth rate. Consequently, continuation of the current trend will leave the nation far behind the NCLB target of 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Only 24 to 34 percent of students will meet the proficiency target in reading and 29 to 64 percent meeting that math proficiency target by 2014.
-1. NCLB has not helped the nation and states significantly narrow the achievement gap. The racial and socioeconomic achievement gap in the NAEP reading and math achievement persists after NCLB. If the current trend continues, the proficiency gap between advantaged White and disadvantaged minority students will hardly close by 2014. The study predicts that by 2014, less than 25 percent of Poor and Black students will achieve NAEP proficiency in reading, and less than 50 percent will achieve proficiency in math.
-1. NCLB's attempt to scale up the alleged success of states that adopted test-driven accountability policy prior to NCLB, so-called first generation accountability states (e.g., Florida, North Carolina, Texas) did not work. It neither enhanced the first generation states earlier academic improvement nor transferred the effects of a test-driven accountability system to states that adopted test-based accountability under NCLB, the second generation accountability states. Moreover, both first and second generation states failed to narrow NAEP reading and math achievement gaps after NCLB.
-1. NCLB's reliance on state assessment as the basis of school accountability is misleading since state-administered tests tend to significantly inflate proficiency levels and proficiency gains as well as deflate racial and social achievement gaps in the states. The higher the stakes of state assessments, the greater the discrepancies between NAEP and state assessment results. These discrepancies were particularly large for poor, Black and Hispanic students.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Civil Rights Project moves to UCLA

Civil Rights Project plans move from Harvard campus to UCLA
Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, perhaps the most prominent U.S. academic research center on issues of civil rights and racial inequality, will relocate to UCLA after the first of the year…
At UCLA Gary Orfield, the project’s current director and its co-founder will be joined by Patricia Gandara, a UC Davis education professor since 1990 [and a CSU-Sacramento professor prior to that] and frequent collaborator in Civil Rights Project research.
Welcome to California Gary Orfield-there is much to be done. And, welcome back Patricia.
Duane Campbell

Testing Regimes block school improvement

High-Stakes Testing and Student Learning
No Child Left Behind
“The Department of Education has recently claimed that No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) reforms have resulted in landmark improvements in student achievement, in
both reading and math, and for African Americans as well as Hispanics, as evidenced by
the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).56 Despite these broad claims
of success, other researchers have argued that there was no change in average reading
scores on the NAEP between 2002 (before NCLB effects would likely be measured) and
2006, and only a small increase in math scores.57 Thus, the Administration’s claims of
great success may be overstated. “ Laitsch


High-stakes assessment systems for schools have a number of unintended consequences that undermine their goal of reforming public education, according to a new policy brief from the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University.

Instead of promoting comprehensive, effective school reform, reports Dan Laitsch, of Simon Fraser University, "the stress on rewards and punishments based on test scores forces schools to consider the data generated as evaluative rather than as useful for informing instruction.
The result is a system that appears coordinated, but results in a number of unintended-although not unpredictable-negative consequences."

Laitsch sets forth his argument in the report "Assessment, high stakes, and alternative visions: Appropriate use of the right tools to leverage improvement," released today by the EPSL.

Laitsch identifies a wide range of audiences who each have an interest in the outcome of school reform efforts. Internal stakeholders include associations of educators, administrators and policy makers; external stakeholders include parents, businesses, and think tanks. 

"Each group has members with diverse ideas about public education's goals and about how to judge a school's effectiveness,"
Laitsch writes. "In contrast, the current high-takes system assumes that it is self-evident that all schools should pursue increased test scores as their dominant goal and that those scores offer the most reliable evidence of how well a school is performing."

The federal No Child Left Behind act has helped promote the high-stakes model of assessment, in which test scores are used to make decisions affecting both individual students and the schools they attend-up to and including whether those schools will remain open.

Negative consequences, Laitsch writes, include:

* Narrowed curriculum and instructional strategies, so that "students experience an impoverished academic experience." 
* Efforts to bypass high-stakes tests, undermining their efficacy; disparate impacts on minorities and other disadvantaged subgroups of students.
* Reallocation of services away from high- and low-achieving students and disproportionately toward those whose scores are closest to the cutoff between passing and failing for a particular test: "Students likely to pass the tests easily are left to manage on their own, as are students who are so far from passing the test that it is exceptionally unlikely that they will succeed."
Negative impact on students as a result of testing errors that improperly categorize them.

"In effect, high-stakes systems may result in practitioners changing their behavior from what they consider ethical best practice to altered, undesirable behavior in order to achieve the mandated outcomes and avoid punitive consequences," Laitsch writes.

Yet, as Laitsch points out, there are a variety of other models of assessment, some incrementally different from NCLB while others represent a radical departure from the high-stakes assessment model.

The report recommends refocusing reform emphasis toward building school capacity and imposing professional accountability; abandoning high-stakes accountability systems, "which produce not only questionable improvement in student learning but also unintended, significant negative consequences";
aligning new assessment systems with professional guidelines for their ethical use; and broadening data collection methods "to better evaluate the multiple purposes of education."

Find this document on the web at:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iran/Contra Terrorists twenty years later

Iran-contra: 20 Years Later and What It Means
David Corn

It's the 20th anniversary of the Iran-contra scandal. Two decades ago, the public learned about the bizarre, Byzantine and (arguably) unconstitutional actions of high officials in the post-Watergate years. But many Americans did not absorb the key lesson: the Iran-contra vets were not to be trusted. Consequently, most of those officials went on to prosperous careers, with some even becoming part of the squad that has landed the United States in the current hellish mess in Iraq.

Before tying the then to the now, let's revisit the basic narrative. When Congress, by fair vote, decided in the 1980s that the United States should not assist the contras fighting the socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua, the Reagan White House concocted several imaginative ways to pull an end-run around democracy. This mainly entailed outsourcing the job to a small band of private sector covert operators and to foreign governments, which were privately requested or pressured by the Reaganites to support the secret contra support operation. The "Iran" side of the scandal came from President Ronald Reagan's covert efforts to sell weapons to Iran to obtain the release of American hostages held by terrorist groups supposedly under the control of Tehran--at a time when the White House was publicly declaring it would not negotiate with terrorists. The two clandestine projects merged when cash generated from the weapons transactions with Iran was diverted to the contra operation.

Conservatives for years--make that decades--have argued there was nothing really criminal about the Iran-contra affair and that it was merely a political dispute between the pro-contras Republicans in the White House and the Democrats controlling Congress. Yet at the time the architects of these schemes worried they were breaking laws and placing Reagan in jeopardy of being impeached. Look at how the National Security Archive, a nonprofit outfit that gathers national security records, summarizes a memo documenting a key White House meeting on the clandestine contras program:

At a pivotal meeting of the highest officials in the Reagan Administration [on June 25, 1984], the President and Vice President [George H.W. Bush] and their top aides discuss how to sustain the Contra war in the face of mounting Congressional opposition. The discussion focuses on asking third countries to fund and maintain the effort, circumventing Congressional power to curtail the CIA's paramilitary operations. In a remarkable passage, Secretary of State George P. Shultz warns the president that White House adviser James Baker has said that "if we go out and try to get money from third countries, it is an impeachable offense." But Vice President George Bush argues the contrary: "How can anyone object to the US encouraging third parties to provide help to the anti-Sandinistas…? The only problem that might come up is if the United States were to promise to give these third parties something in return so that some people could interpret this as some kind of exchange." Later, Bush participated in arranging a quid pro quo deal with Honduras in which the U.S. did provide substantial overt and covert aid to the Honduran military in return for Honduran support of the Contra war effort.

The Iran arms-for-hostage-deal was also illegal--or so Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger thought. At a December 7, 1985 White House meeting, Weinberger argued the Iran missile deal was wrong and criminal, according to his notes of the session. Weinberger pointed out to Reagan that selling missiles to Iran would violate a U.S. embargo on arms sales to Iran and that even the president of the United States could not break this law. Nor, Weinberger added, would it be legal to use Israel as a cutout, as was under consideration. Both Secretary of State George Shultz and White House chief of staff Donald Regan, who were each present, agreed that a secret weapons deal with Iran would be against the law. Reagan, though, insisted on proceeding, noting he could answer a charge of illegality but not the charge that he had "passed up a chance to free hostages." Weinberger then quipped, "Visiting hours are Thursdays"--meaning the deal could land someone in jail. After the meeting, Regan told Weinberger he would try to talk Reagan out of the deal. He failed to do so.

Soon both the clandestine contras program and the secret Iran deal were underway, with the relevant agencies--most notably, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department--providing back-up and National Security Council officers Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter and Oliver North overseeing operations. In supporting the contras project, the CIA worked with individuals it suspected of being involved in drug-dealing, according to a subsequent CIA inspector general's investigation.

The skullduggery began to unravel in the fall of 1986. On October 5, 1986, a C-123 aircraft ferrying supplies to the contras was shot down by the Sandinistas, and an American named Eugene Hasenfus was captured. He told the Nicaraguans that his flight was part of a CIA-approved operation. Days later, Reagan said of the Hasenfus operation, "There was no government connection with that at all." He was not telling the truth. Shortly after that, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams testified in Congress that the administration had arranged for no foreign donations--"not a dime"--to the contras--even though he had arranged for a $10 million contribution to the rebels from the Sultan of Brunei.

On November 3, 1986, a Lebanese weekly revealed that the previous May National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane had secretly flown to Tehran. McFarlane's covert mission had been part of the arms-for-hostages deal--which now stood exposed. On November 25, Attorney General Edwin Meese held a press conference and disclosed that funds from the arms sales to Iran had been diverted to the contras support program. (I happened to be watching that press conference with Abbie Hoffman, the former Yippie, who exclaimed, "I couldn't make this stuff up.")

A full-scale scandal was born. Investigations were convened. The Reagan presidency was hobbled. But impeachment never became an issue--in part because Democratic congressional investigators removed it from the table at the start of their inquiries. White House partisans threw up a defense of spin and obfuscation that turned the affair into a political muddle. (That is, mission accomplished.) Oliver North became a hero to conservatives. Bush the Elder, who lied about his involvement in Iran-contra (saying he had been "out of the loop," though noting in a private diary that he had been one of the few officials in-the-know), was elected president in 1988.

The investigations continued. Abrams, McFarlane (who botched a suicide attempt), and a CIA officer named Alan Fiers pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress. Two other CIA officers--Clair George and Duane Clarridge--were indicted on perjury-related charges. Former General Richard Secord and Albert Hakim, who managed the secret contra supply operation, pleaded guilty to minor charges. North and Poindexter were convicted of various counts, but their convictions were overturned on legal technicalities. Weinberger was indicted for illegally withholding his notes from special counsel Lawrence Walsh.

The affair came to an ignominious finale on Christmas Eve, 1992. George H.W. Bush, who had been defeated by Bill Clinton seven weeks earlier, issued pardons for Weinberger, Abrams, McFarlane, Clarridge, George and Fiers. Only Thomas Cline, a former CIA officer and partner of Secord and Hakim, who was found guilty of tax charges, ended up going to jail due to the Iran-contra scandal.

But history never ends. Twenty years later, Abrams is deputy national security adviser for global democracy in the George W. Bush administration. A fellow who admitted that he had not told Congress the truth and who had abetted a secret war mounted by a rebel force with an atrocious human rights record now is supposed to promote democracy abroad. Other Iran-contra figures are leading players today. Here's a partial list from the National Security Archive:

* Richard Cheney - now the vice president, he played a prominent part as a member of the joint congressional Iran-Contra inquiry of 1986, taking the position that Congress deserved major blame for asserting itself unjustifiably onto presidential turf. He later pointed to the committees' Minority Report as an important statement on the proper roles of the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

* David Addington - now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and by numerous press accounts a stanch advocate of expanded presidential power, Addington was a congressional staffer during the joint select committee hearings in 1986 who worked closely with Cheney.

* John Bolton - the controversial U.N. ambassador whose recess appointment by President Bush is now in jeopardy was a senior Justice Department official who participated in meetings with Attorney General Edwin Meese on how to handle the burgeoning Iran-Contra political and legal scandal in late November 1986. There is little indication of his precise role at the time.

* Robert M. Gates - President Bush's nominee to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, Gates nearly saw his career go up in flames over charges that he knew more about Iran-Contra while it was underway than he admitted once the scandal broke. He was forced to give up his bid to head the CIA in early 1987 because of suspicions about his role but managed to attain the position when he was re-nominated in 1991.

* Manuchehr Ghorbanifar - the quintessential middleman, who helped broker the arms deals involving the United States, Israel and Iran ostensibly to bring about the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon, Ghorbanifar was almost universally discredited for misrepresenting all sides' goals and interests. Even before the Iran deals got underway, the CIA had ruled Ghorbanifar off-limits for purveying bad information to U.S. intelligence. Yet, in 2006 his name has resurfaced as an important source for the Pentagon on current Iranian affairs, again over CIA objections.

* Michael Ledeen - a neo-conservative who is vocal on the subject of regime change in Iran, Ledeen helped bring together the main players in what developed into the Iran arms-for-hostages deals in 1985 before being relegated to a bit part. He reportedly reprised his role shortly after 9/11, introducing Ghorbanifar to Pentagon officials interested in exploring contacts inside Iran.

* Edwin Meese - currently a member of the blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, he was Ronald Reagan's controversial attorney general who spearheaded an internal administration probe into the Iran-Contra connection in November 1986 that was widely criticized as a political exercise in protecting the president rather than a genuine inquiry by the nation's top law enforcement officer.

* John Negroponte - the career diplomat who worked quietly to boost the U.S. military and intelligence presence in Central America as ambassador to Honduras, he also participated in efforts to get the Honduran government to support the Contras after Congress banned direct U.S. aid to the rebels. Negroponte's profile has risen spectacularly with his appointments as ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and director of national intelligence in 2005.

Another Iran-contra veteran has dramatically returned to the scene recently: Daniel Ortega. On November 7, as the Bush White House prepared itself for congressional elections that would be widely seen as a repudiation of its war in Iraq, the morning newspapers carried the news that Ortega, the Sandinista leader whom the Reagan administration had targeted, had won a presidential election in Nicaragua. The old contras backers now running the Bush administration had to watch their old nemesis (not that Ortega was ever much of a threat) regain power, as their hold on power was slipping. The arc of history is indeed long.

As for the current relevance of Iran-contra, one could argue that the affair taught Reaganites and neocons a lesson, the wrong lesson: you can get away with it. Though the operations ended up being exposed and the Iran deal crashed and burned, the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration did create enough pressure on Nicaragua and forced the expulsion of the Sandinista government in a 1990 election. Perhaps more important for this crowd, no one involved in the shady activity was held accountable. Bush the First was elected. Abrams and other scandal vets were rewarded with prominent posts in the next Republican administration--that of Bush the Younger. The Reaganites had lied to Congress and the public about Iran-contra and ultimately escaped retribution.

This sordid episode hardly served as a warning--either for the Iran-contra alumni who would lead the United States into the debacle in Iraq or for voters who would support an administration staffed with people who twenty years earlier had made their bones in a scandal involving war and truth. One can hope, though, that the disingenuous, reality-defying engineers of the current disaster will be too old or too discredited to return to power two decades from now.


DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading."

Organizing for school change

There are more than 14,900 school districts in the nation, and almost one thousand in California, yet researchers and advocates can not identify more than a handful of districts that have achieved substantial school reform. We can find a school or a grade level, but seldom an entire district. Part of the reason is simply mathematical. At least half of the districts serve primarily middle class students and do not need reform.. But, what about the other half?
Nationally, some 40 % of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch , a standard measure of poverty. And, 38 % of African American and 39% of Hispanic 4th. Graders attended a school that was at least 90 % minority in 2003. (NCES, 2004). These are most often the schools needing reform.
Since there are only a few reformed school districts ( and these may be cooking the books), after twenty years of so called school reform, it is reasonable and legitimate to say that the current school reform efforts are not working. Hundreds of consultants and experts are writing about school reform in the professional literature, but very few are producing reformed schools and reformed systems.
Testing and accountability models are the most common and frequent efforts at reform. Inspired by conservative business interests and advanced by federal and state legislation, school leaders have imposed testing and control of curriculum decisions.
Research on these systems indicate that when they work, they work at best based upon voluntary compliance by teachers – and the effects last for only a few years.
When the reform narrows the curriculum, ignores language minority populations, takes the joy and relevance out of schooling, we should not voluntarily comply. Instead we should resist. There repressive system depends upon our voluntary compliance, instead we should organize for justice and educational equity.

Duane Campbell

Monday, November 27, 2006

$6 Billion for what the established powers (not teachers) want

$6 billion windfall a bonus to schools
Groups to pitch uses as state revenues rise, enrollment declines
- Lynda Gledhill, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Monday, November 27, 2006

(11-27) 04:00 PST Sacramento -- California schools are in line for a $6 billion windfall over the next five years, and interest groups are already lining up to get their share, promoting ideas like improving high schools, paying teachers more, and helping urban districts with severely declining enrollment.

The money is anticipated because K-12 enrollment is expected to drop while the state's general fund revenues continue to increase. Several factors are contributing to the declining enrollment: Children of Baby Boomers are exiting the 5-to-17 age group, fewer people are moving into the state, and there has been a decline recently in the state's birthrate.

School funding has been a thorny issue in recent years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger borrowed school funds to help bridge the state's budget gap in 2004 and then was condemned by school groups the next year when he went back on his promise to pay it back.

The strength of the education lobby, coupled with voter rejection last year of a Schwarzenegger plan to tinker with the constitutional education funding formula, leaves little doubt that schools will be able to keep the expected windfall. Schwarzenegger himself told The Chronicle last month that he has no desire to change funding formulas for education.

The state's nonpartisan legislative analyst recommended that lawmakers begin to consider how to use the money strategically to improve the state's schools.

To do that, lawmakers would have to wrestle with school groups, the governor and their own members, who often have their own ideas about what to do with school money.

"The emphasis on reform and change should be significant," said Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. "We don't want to use all this money to maintain the status quo. But it is hard because everyone has a vested interest."

This year, 44 percent of the general fund, or $41 billion, is being spent to educate the state's nearly 6 million students. The share of general fund money dedicated to schools declines as enrollment drops but cannot go below 40 percent under Proposition 98, the voter-approved school funding scheme.

With enrollment expected to drop by 80,000 students by 2010-11, California schools are positioned to get an extra $6 billion over the next five fiscal years when revenue from local property tax collections is figured in.

Perata and others are eagerly awaiting the results of an independent study on the adequacy of the state's school system that is expected to be released in March. The $2.6 million study by four philanthropic foundations was commissioned by Perata; Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles; Schwarzenegger; and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

The idea is to assess -- without regard to how schools are currently funded -- how much it costs to educate a child in California so that he or she can pass achievement tests and be a productive worker.

"The idea of the adequacy study is to try to put science behind the rhetoric about what it really costs to educate a child in California," Perata said. "Now, these are not tablets coming off the mountain but an independent source to measure decisions by."

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, said she hopes the study will provide a common thread that everyone can agree on.

"This is an opportunity to talk about what we need to do and answer the question of what does it really cost to educate a child in California," she said. "From there, we can look at equitable funding."

Kerr said she believes more money needs to be spent on education to properly teach every child, and she noted that teachers are the biggest part of the classroom experience. Teacher pay and professional development are issues the union frequently pushes.

Alan Bersin, who is leaving his post as Schwarzenegger's education secretary in a few weeks, said the state needs to continue its emphasis on school reform tied to achievement tests. He said elementary education has been improved through spending on better instructional materials, teacher training and the professional development of principals.

"The big challenge in California public education is that we have to focus in on secondary school reform now," he said. "We need to stay the course, invest in standards, and in the next five- to seven-year period have an increased emphasis on improving high schools in both urban and rural areas."

Bersin said the adequacy study could be a guide but stressed that policymakers should "get a better handle on using money effectively before we get into this notion that we have to spend more."

O'Connell also favors concentrating on secondary education, said spokeswoman Hilary McLean.

"He wants to focus on rigor, relevance and relationships in middle and high schools," she said. "That means holding students to a higher bar and also making the classroom more relevant, expanding career technical education availability, and having more adults on campuses that are able to give kids attention."

The California School Boards Association wants to see some of the money go toward helping districts that have seen a sharp decline in students. Urban school systems such as the San Francisco Unified School District are experiencing steady enrollment drops. Rick Pratt, assistant executive director of the organization, said school districts get less money as their student population decreases but that costs do not go down as quickly.

For example, he said, a school could lose five students but still need to have the classroom, pay the teacher, and pay for the utilities.

"They lose funding at a faster rate than the costs go down," Pratt said. "Expenses don't really go down with declining enrollment."

Pratt said his organization would like to see a formula so that school districts lose money over several years. Currently, schools have a one-year grace period before their funding goes down.

E-mail Lynda Gledhill at

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The high cost of dropping out

Kids are not born with an intrinsic motivation to seek success in school. They have to be taught this preference. With older students, in their teen years, when identity is contested by youth culture, they need to be taught and re taught, they need to be convinced of the basic value of staying in school, of graduating, and of going to college.
Duane Campbell

High costs of dropping out.
Illinois lost nearly $10 billion in 2005 from the “social costs” of high school dropouts. Some argue that boosting school funding will lower those costs, but others are not convinced.

According to Sum, by dropping out of high school, Webb is costing himself an average of close to $8,000 a year in earnings---or nearly $355,000 over the course of his lifetime.
Webb said he remained directionless after he dropped out. He tried to find work but was unable to. His low point came when he got caught in a stolen car and landed in Cook County Jail for three long days and three long nights. "That is the worst place ever," he said.
For that offense, Webb got probation.
But the lower wages and higher unemployment rates also result in costs for everyone, according to Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
While dropouts paid an average of $1,761 in state and federal taxes in 2005, graduates paid $4,423---a difference of close to $2,700. For the nearly 880,000 in Illinois without a diploma or GED, in 2005, the "losses" totaled nearly $6.65 billion in earnings and $2.34 billion in state and federal taxes.
The costs were not limited to earnings and taxes.
Sum estimated that dropouts collected an average of $2,905 in public benefits in 2005---about $114 more than graduates. These include costs for health programs like Medicare and Medicaid, public assistance, food stamps and unemployment.
click on title for full article.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

School reform claims vrs. reality

Let us be clear. One activist teacher in a school is excellent, but is not school reform. Two activists are not school reform. One progressive principal is not school reform. Few or none of the superintendents of major school systems – and their staffs- have reformed their schools to produce equal opportunity. Reform will occur when groups of teachers work together to create a new, more democratic school system.
We need to change the system which recreates unequal opportunity in our schools.
See prior postings.
Duane Campbell

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Phony school reform leads to phony teacher education reform

We have experienced over twenty years of corporate driven “school reform”. Usually the administrators in charge have adopted an accountability model and relied upon test scores as a primary measure of progress. The accountability model has been successfully promoted by business interests notably the Business Roundtable.
Administrators seeking change have focused on implementing a common curriculum. Given the short comings of measurement, they have focused on an easy to measure curriculum leading to the choice of reductionist and behaviorist curriculum such as Open Court. In math they have focused on the drill and drill approaches of Saxon Math.
School reform from these efforts has been largely confined to press releases. When you look at drop out rates, or national tests such as NAEP, there has been little substantive progress. However administrators come and go and consultants make their careers from these efforts.
Let us be clear. One activist teacher in a school is not school reform. Two activists are not school reform. One progressive principal is not school reform. Few, or none of the superintendents of major school systems – and their staffs- have reformed their schools to produce equal opportunity. Reform will occur when groups of teachers work together to create a new, more democratic school system.
In the prior article from the New York Times (see below) this situation was summarized as:
Across California, however, achievement gaps have not narrowed, and in some cases they have widened since 2001, according to a study of California test results released last week by Policy Analysis for California Education, a research center run jointly by the University of California and Stanford.

“Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study.”
The study is,
Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working?
The Reliability of How States Track Achievement
Working paper 06-01. PACE. 2006.
Bruce Fuller, Kathryn Gesicki , Erin Kang ,Joseph Wright

In summary, in spite of over 10 years of implementation, we do not yet have evidence that the performance measurement driven school reform has improved achievement; particularly in California. And, we have significant evidence that the data is being manipulated and slanted by state departments of education and others to serve their own ends of increased funding. That is, increased funding for their test driven, accountability form of school “reform’.
Lacking evidence for their change, this ideologically driven project also seeks to impose their ( as of yet un proven) model on teacher preparation in the state. A new system of teacher assessment is being imposed on our teacher preparation institutions. Ironically the data driven form of school improvement does not have data to demonstrate its success.

The faculty are being told to revise their programs to significantly increase the amount of measurement and evaluation, perhaps at the cost of teaching time and practice in the schools. Here is a description from the Teacher Education Caucus of the California Faculty Association:

California Faculty Association.
Teacher Education caucus.

As part of a massive movement by the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California (SB2042, 2000), new accountability measures have been implemented, some without financial funding. As part of these mandates, the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has mandated that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The TPA as an assessment tool is based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). As an assessment tool, it is even more simplistic and rigid than these expectations, requiring the development of lower-level teaching skills needed to teach the scripted curriculum regulated by the high stakes tests required under No Child Left Behind. It may be inferred from the content of the TPA that programs employing this tool will lose quality in terms of equity and social justice as well as critical thinking, creativity, and the holistic growth of all participants: faculty, student teachers and teachers. These requirements imposed upon teacher education are only the beginning of state and national efforts that are currently referred to as student learning outcomes, assessment and accountability. These efforts are directed towards corporate control and standardization of all disciplines of higher education.

See the entire resolution at

So, we have an ideologically driven school reform system that has failed to demonstrate progress on its own terms ( measured student achievement) being extended to an ideologically driven reform of teacher preparation without data to support its mandates. That is what presently passes for school reform in California.
For more on the ideology behind this movement see Kathy Emory’s pages Education and Democracy at

Duane Campbell

Monday, November 20, 2006

Achievement gap persists

Across California, however, achievement gaps have not narrowed, and in some cases they have widened since 2001, according to a study of California test results released last week by Policy Analysis for California Education, a research center run jointly by the University of California and Stanford.

“Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study.

November 20, 2006
Schools Slow in Closing Gaps Between Races

When President Bush signed his sweeping education law a year into his presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have persisted since standardized testing began.

Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year, researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal. Slight gains have been seen for some grade levels.

Despite concerted efforts by educators, the test-score gaps are so large that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school.

“The gaps between African-Americans and whites are showing very few signs of closing,” Michael T. Nettles, a senior vice president at the Educational Testing Service, said in a paper he presented recently at Columbia University. One ethnic minority, Asians, generally fares as well as or better than whites.

The reports and their authors, in interviews, portrayed an educational landscape in which test-score gaps between black or Hispanic students and whites appear in kindergarten and worsen through 12 years of public education.

Some researchers based their conclusions on federal test results, while others have cited state exams, the SATs and other widely administered standardized assessments. Still, the studies have all concurred: The achievement gaps remain, perplexing and persistent.

The findings pose a challenge not only for Mr. Bush but also for the Democratic lawmakers who joined him in negotiating the original law, known as No Child Left Behind, and who will control education policy in Congress next year.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative George Miller of California, who are expected to be the chairmen of the Senate and House education committees, will promote giving more resources to schools and researching strategies to improve minority performance, according to aides.

“Closing the achievement gap is at the heart of No Child Left Behind and must continue to be our focus in renewing the act next year,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement.

Experts have suggested many possible changes, including improving the law’s mechanisms for ensuring that teachers in poor schools are experienced and knowledgeable, and extending early-childhood education to more students.

Henry L. Johnson, an assistant secretary of education, said: “I don’t dispute that looking at some comparisons we see that these gaps are not closing — or not as fast as they ought to. But it’s also accurate to say that when taken as a whole, student performance is improving. The presumption that we won’t get to 100 percent proficiency from here presumes that everything is static. To reach the 100 percent by 2014, we’ll all have to work faster and smarter.”

The law requires states, districts and schools to report annual test results for all racial and ethnic groups, and to show annual improvements for each. It imposes sanctions on schools that do not meet the rising targets.

Many experts and officials, including the president’s brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, have supported the goal of raising all students to academic proficiency, but they have also called it unrealistic to accomplish in a decade.

But President Bush, who put education at the center of his 2000 campaign, has been insisting that it is not only feasible but that the gaps are already closing.

“There are good results of No Child Left Behind across the nation,” Mr. Bush said last month at a school in North Carolina. “We have an achievement gap in America that is — that I don’t like and you shouldn’t like.”

“The gap is closing,” he said.

The researchers behind the reports issued last week in Washington, D.C., New York and California were far more pessimistic, though.

“The achievement gap is alive and well,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, an author of the report issued in Washington by the Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in Oregon that administers tests.

Examining results from reading and math tests administered to 500,000 students in 24 states in the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005, the study found: “For each score level at each grade in each subject, minority students grew less than European-Americans, and students from poor schools grew less than those from wealthier ones.”

Minority and poor students also lost more academic ground each summer, the study said.

Ross Wiener, a principal partner at the Education Trust, a group that works to close achievement gaps and has consistently supported the federal law, called those findings “profoundly disturbing” and said it showed that schools continued to be a “significant source of disadvantage for minority students.”

“The Bush administration wants to hang a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner over N.C.L.B., but a fair assessment is that progress thus far in closing achievement gaps is disappointing,” Mr. Weiner said. He pointed to financing and teacher assignment systems that lead to schools with mostly poor and minority students getting less money, offering fewer advanced courses and having weaker teachers.

The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a battery of reading and math tests administered to thousands of students in every state, showed some rising scores for all ethnic groups, and the black-white score gap narrowed in a statistically significant way for fourth-grade math. But on fourth-grade reading, and on eighth-grade reading and math, the black-white and Hispanic-white gaps were statistically unchanged from the early 1990s.

Over the past three decades, the gaps narrowed steadily from the 1970s through the late 1980s but then leveled out through 1999. Since then, some have narrowed again, but at a rate that would allow them to persist for decades. That picture showed up in a separate National Assessment test devised to measure long-term trends, administered in late 2003 and early 2004.

That test showed that regardless of race, scores increased a bit over three decades for 9- and 13-year-old students, with the best gains coming between 1999 and 2004.

Test administrators warned against attributing those gains to the federal law, because it had been in effect for about only a year when the 2004 test was given. Prekindergarten programs, higher standards and increased testing carried out by many states during the 1990s also contributed, they said.

But Bush administration officials have routinely credited the law for the improved scores on that test.

A group that has supported the federal law, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, whose leaders include former officials from the Reagan and the current Bush administrations, conducted a review of state exams and other indicators and issued a report this month. It found that none of the 50 states had made widespread progress in narrowing the gaps, and that eight states, including New York and New Jersey, had made “moderate gains.”

Chester E. Finn Jr., the foundation president, said, “Poor and minority students are doing very poorly, and in most states are not making significant gains — and this in spite of N.C.L.B. and all the other reforms of the last 15 years.”

Suggestions abound for ways to narrow the score gaps faster. Since scholars have documented that minority children enter kindergarten with weaker reading skills than white children, some experts advocate increased public financing for early education programs.

No Child Left Behind provides money for tutoring in schools where students are not succeeding, but critics say it does not provide sufficient financing to help states and districts turn the schools themselves around.

Several of the new reports urged better provisions to ensure that poor and mostly minority schools have quality teachers, to reward teachers who help struggling students improve, and to keep good teachers from leaving city schools for higher-paying suburban ones.

“If I’m in a bad school and make serious progress, I need a reward,” Dr. Nettles said. “If you perform on Wall Street, you get a bonus.”

But the news is not all bad. Individual schools in some states have made progress in narrowing the gaps between black and white, Hispanic and white, and the poor and more affluent, according to a Standard & Poor’s unit that analyzes school performance.

The unit credited Morgan County Elementary School in Madison, Ga., with significantly raising the scores of black fourth and fifth graders. The principal, Jean Triplett, attributed that success in part to after-school tutoring by volunteers in black churches.

Edwin E. Weeks Elementary School in Syracuse was singled out for narrowing the gap between black and white students. Dare Dutter, the principal, credited a prekindergarten program and a school health clinic that helped keep poor students from missing class.

Standard & Poor’s has sifted test data from 16,000 schools in 18 states, identifying 718 schools making significant progress toward the national goal.

“They are the classic diamonds in the rough,” said Paul Gazzerro, director of analytics at Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services. “But in general, schools are not closing achievement gaps.”

One of the exceptions, the unit said, is Hoover Middle School in Lakewood, Calif., a community in Los Angeles County where the aircraft manufacturing industry has been hit by job losses. The school has raised Hispanic scores so much that in the spring of 2005 Hispanic students outperformed whites, said the principal, Michael L. Troyer. He said the progress resulted from focused instruction, frequent diagnostic testing and several tutoring programs.

“Some of it’s after school, teachers do it at lunch, and we have people who tutor in the morning before school, too,” Mr. Troyer said.

Across California, however, achievement gaps have not narrowed, and in some cases they have widened since 2001, according to a study of California test results released last week by Policy Analysis for California Education, a research center run jointly by the University of California and Stanford.

“Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Privacy Policy

Education and technology

Posting this portion of the speech does not mean that I agree with the ideas.

President's Speech
Speech to the Center for the Study of Democracy
2006-2007 Economics of Governance Lecture
University of California, Irvine
By Janet L. Yellen, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
November 6, 2006, 4:00 PM Pacific Standard Time
Economic Inequality in the United StatesIn recent years, globalization and skill-biased technological change may have been working in combination to particularly depress the wage gains of those in the middle of the U.S. wage distribution, accounting for the twist in the trend that I mentioned earlier. The explanation goes like this. The surge in the use of new technologies that began in the mid-1990s led to major changes in the way business was conducted and organized within the U.S. and globally. Technological change and globalization, especially outsourcing, complemented the skills of highly able workers performing non-routine work requiring problem-solving skills. This explains the continued rapid increase in real wages at the top of the distribution. In the middle of the distribution, however, technology and globalization had the opposite effect—substituting for workers performing routine or repetitive tasks and depressing their wages. At the bottom of the distribution, these developments have had little impact during the last decade. By that time, many low-wage jobs that could be eliminated by technology had already vanished. Most of the remaining low-wage jobs involve manual and service work that cannot easily be automated. This may explain why, as I said, wages in the middle not only rose far more slowly than those at the top, they also rose more slowly than those at the bottom of the distribution during the 1990s.
Let me elaborate with an example from the technology side. Take the accounting profession. Computers and telecommunications technologies have increased wages for accountants, who tend to be at the top end of the distribution. In contrast, in the middle of the distribution are workers like bookkeepers, who are being replaced by technology. At the lower end, the labor market has already largely adjusted to the impact of skill-biased technological change. Therefore, the wages of those workers, who perform manual tasks in sectors like business services—janitorial work is an example—are now largely untouched by computers.10
Globalization in combination with advances in technology, especially communications technology, leads to similar patterns. At the upper end, it has boosted demand for those who have the skills to manage large, complex, global operations. In contrast, an increasing share of domestic jobs in the middle of the wage spectrum has experienced lower demand because companies can now look all over the world for workers able to perform computer programming tasks, communications tasks, and similar jobs—even medical services. At the same time, such outsourcing is far less feasible for manual jobs and for service jobs that require face-to-face interactions and lie at the low end of the wage distribution….


I will begin with education. There can be little doubt that programs that support investment in education, broadly conceived, are worthwhile. Increasing skill has been a significant source of productivity growth. Moreover, since the gap between the earnings of workers with more and less skill in part represents the return to education, a widening of that gap clearly signals the need for such investment to increase the supply of higher-skilled workers.
But investment in education takes resources, which complicates the debate: the resources are limited and to a large degree should be directed to where they will pay the highest return. At the college level, one possibility is just to "let the market work." If college pays off, more young people will enroll. Indeed, the rising returns to education at the upper end of the earnings distribution did precede an increase in college attendance through the mid-1990s, suggesting that market forces may have worked as expected. Since then, however, despite further growth in the returns to college and advanced degrees, college attendance has flattened out. For example, enrollment rates among recent high school graduates hovered around 65 percent between 1996 and 2004, after increasing noticeably in the preceding decade.22
Does this imply that the highest priority for public funding for education should be the college level? Not necessarily. There certainly is a lot of public discussion by educators and politicians about problems with the quality of K-through-12 education in the U.S., and international comparisons show that American students rank relatively low on standardized tests in science and math, the very kinds of skills that earn higher rewards.
But there is yet another contender for the scarce public funding for education. Recently, researchers led by James Heckman from the University of Chicago have argued that these funds should be targeted at even younger children.23 Family background factors are critically important in student achievement, and recent evidence suggests that the cognitive and social skills associated with college attendance are developed very early in life. Moreover, skill acquisition is a cumulative process that works most effectively when a solid foundation has been provided in early childhood. As such, programs to support early childhood development, such as preschool programs for disadvantaged children, not only appear to have substantial payoffs early but also are likely to continue paying off throughout the life cycle.
But what about struggling adults, especially those who find that their skills have become outmoded due to technological change or globalization? Should the highest priority for public funding of education be the expansion of federally subsidized retraining programs, such as those associated with the Job Training Partnership Act, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, and the Job Corps program for disadvantaged youth? Some researchers, such as Alan Krueger of Princeton University, view the outcomes of these programs as evidence that training investments often have high returns, especially for the economically disadvantaged, who cannot finance educational and training investments on their own.24

Entire speech: Federal Reserve Board
With important comments on the role of education.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Police assault on UCLA campus

Sacramento Progressive Alliance
Media Advisory
Nov. 18,2006

For immediate release: Nov. 18, 2006 For more information
Duane Campbell

Sacramento group condemns UCLA police assault on a student because his parents ( or grandparents) were Iranian immigrants.

Police from the University of California at Los Angeles on Tuesday demanded that a Sacramento area student Mostafa Tabatabainejad show identification while studying in the library and then assaulted him with taser weapons rendering him incapable of responding to their orders. Then, when he could not respond to their commands, they assaulted him at least six additional times with the tasers. Video of the event is readily available on You Tube.

We- the Sacramento Progressive Alliance- find it appropriate that the student is suing the University for violation of his rights. The student was assaulted based upon racial profiling. Defending the rights of individuals from abuse of authority “under color of law” is one means of limiting this behavior and protecting the rights of us all.

It is not clear if the repeated use of the taser was a deliberate act of torture or was it incompetence that the police did not know they were making demands that the student could not respond to. Use of a taser can prevent the subject from physical response.

A Taser delivers volts of low-amperage energy to the body, causing a disruption of the body’s electrical energy pulses and locking the muscles, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.
“It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control,” said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death,” Eliasberg said.
According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

It is the position of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance that terrorists can not destroy our democracy, but that we can- by simply allowing illegal assaults and torture to be used on persons based upon racial profiling because their parents were immigrants.
The number of times that the taser was used is important and is not covered in the television reporting of the assault. There might be a debate about the first use- but the six subsequent uses were torture.
Non-scientific polls on television stations and Youtube after the event revealed up to 80% support for the police action indicating wide spread acceptance of illegal behavior and torture.
The University of California is a tax payer funded institution, and the police at UCLA are public employees. If we accept this abuse of force we are giving away some of our hard won rights simply because a police officer, with minimal training, gives an order.

The police officers involved should be removed from duty (without pay) during the conduction of an investigation and police on all the campuses should be banned from using taser weapons until this matter is resolved.

The Sacramento Progressive Alliance is community based political action committee with over 1,400 members in the Sacramento region. For more information see:

# # #

Friday, November 17, 2006

Teachers and school reform

Don’t’ face school reform alone; organize
An organizing model for school change.

We know from experience in several cities that school reform efforts are not sustained beyond the tenure of a superintendent or a principal. And, there has been realistically little improvement in reducing the achievement gap in urban systems. See the several examples of phony reform described in prior posts.

Teachers as change agents.
We need to develop a new role for teachers as change agents for those teachers committed to civil rights and the success of their students. This potential role is under developed. We need active and activist teacher leaders to guide and direct change to a more democratic and a more equal school system. In most school districts administrators are not promoting democratic reform and perhaps their positions prevent them from promoting democratic reform.

There currently exists a number of leadership roles for teachers. They fill positions such as lead teacher , grade level leaders, host teaches, mentor teachers, student advocates, curriculum specialists, teacher organizers, language specialists, union leaders and change agents.

Teachers leaders are needed to provide a teacher voice and advocacy for quality education within the school reform efforts. Teacher organizers are in particular need when schools are under some form of re-constitution or re-organization to improve achievement

Duane Campbell

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New York City; more phony school reform

NY. Times. April 9, 2006
The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, is once again rethinking the nation's largest school system.
He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states. He has retained Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm that revamped the school system in St. Louis and is rebuilding the system in New Orleans. And he has enlisted Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain who is now at McKinsey & Company in London.
These consultants, often in pinstripe suits and ensconced in a conference room on the third-floor mezzanine of the headquarters of the Education Department in Lower Manhattan, are working with a small army of city education officials, all led by Mr. Klein's chief of staff, Kristen Kane. The effort is being paid for with $5 million in private donations.
Together, the consultants and officials are re-examining virtually every aspect of the system, not quite three years after Chancellor Klein and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg charted perhaps its most exhaustive overhaul and made it a laboratory for educational experimentation, closely watched across the country.
They are evaluating everything from how textbooks and paper are bought, to how teacher training programs are chosen, to how students, teachers, principals and schools are judged. They are running focus groups of dozens of principals, and they are studying districts in England, Canada and California.
A top goal is to find ways to relax much of the very centralization put in place by the Bloomberg administration and give principals a far freer hand, provided schools can meet goals for attendance, test scores, promotion rates and other criteria.
An ideal system, they suggest, would put schools near the top of the organizational chart and potentially eliminate or change dozens of administrative jobs. Hypothetically, principals, now supervised by a local superintendent, might choose either to keep that overseer or to use the money to hire a different achievement adviser. Support services, like counseling programs, could be outsourced.
"This is entire system reform," Mr. Cerf said over a cheeseburger lunch at a downtown bistro. "This is the most important and urgent thing going on in American public education today. If it can be done well and right here, it will be a national pace car for change."
Chancellor Klein, in an interview last week, said: "I see this as truly an evolutionary restructuring."
Even some principals who are avid supporters of Mr. Klein wonder, however, if the effort is futile. State and federal mandates limit the authority of principals and are largely outside the chancellor's control. There are also the constraints of union contracts, which regulate so much of the workings of schools, like teacher schedules.
"How much can the system support increased autonomy and authority of school leaders without making the commensurate changes with respect to the external demands," asked Anthony Lombardi, the principal of P.S. 49 in Middle Village, Queens. "Ideally there should be a balance of accountability, autonomy and contractual flexibility."
The search for a more flexible structure comes four years after Mr. Bloomberg won direct control of the schools. He reorganized the 32 community districts into 10 instructional regions under tight central direction. The system has imposed new promotion rules and introduced targeted help for struggling students; achieved sharp gains on state reading and math tests in most grades; and opened dozens of small high schools.
William G. Ouchi, a business professor at U.C.L.A. and the author of "Making Schools Work," praised the city's effort and said he believed it would succeed. But Professor Ouchi, who advised Mr. Klein during the first restructuring, also said the new effort was an acknowledgment of failures in the mayor's first term.
"I think it was a normal human error," said Professor Ouchi, who calls the current structure too rigid. "Those of us who study large organizations for a living know the first reaction of a new C.E.O. is to grab the reins of power and control everything, because they don't want anything to go awry."
Mr. Klein and his aides say a tighter fist was needed at first to stabilize the sprawling and often dysfunctional system. The decentralization they envision now, they say, entails the daily operations of schools, rather than the system's management.
"It isn't that the strategic direction is going in a totally new way, or that we have a clean slate and are starting from scratch here," Ms. Kane said.
"We feel have made a significant amount of progress over the last couple of years, but we have got to continue to change. We are not at all satisfied with all of the student achievement results, putting aside whatever improvements have happened."
She and other officials cautioned that the process was in its earliest stages and the final decisions, to be made by Mr. Klein and approved by the mayor, are still a long way off.
In his quest, Mr. Klein has turned to a team of outside experts, including Mr. Cerf, a longtime friend.
Mr. Cerf, 51, like Mr. Klein, 59, is a former clerk at the United States Supreme Court and worked in the Clinton administration. As president of Edison, the nation's largest private operator of public schools, Mr. Cerf helped the company's founder, H. Christopher Whittle, navigate many troubles, including an outcry over its handling of schools in Philadelphia.
Mr. Cerf, an expert on tracking school performance, was also an informal adviser to the chancellor in the mayor's first term and now works for the Public-Private Strategy Group, a consulting firm based in Montclair, N.J.
The firm of Alvarez & Marsal is widely regarded as having expertise on public school budgets. Sajan P. George, 36, a specialist in municipal finance who is leading the firm's work in New York, helped Orange County, Calif., out of bankruptcy in the 1990's and once assisted the Australian government with a review of the horse- and greyhound-racing industries.
And then there is Sir Michael, who served as Prime Minister Blair's top aide for putting into effect education, health, criminal justice and transportation initiatives. He is regarded as a leading thinker on holding educators and public officials accountable for student achievement.
Sir Michael, as a senior education official before joining Mr. Blair's cabinet office, served on a committee nicknamed the "hit squad" because it shut schools that were failing to meet national standards. Britain, which has a strict national curriculum and exams, has developed a system of inspecting schools every three years.
"As it happens, the English education reform has been through a lot of the stages they are now going through," Sir Michael said in an interview..
At Mr. Klein's direction, the consultants' most immediate mission is to create a framework for expanding the "autonomy zone," a pilot group of 42 schools whose principals were largely cut free of administration this year after agreeing to meet performance targets. Mr. Klein announced in January that 150 more schools would enter the zone this fall.
The consultants are also working to fulfill the chancellor's pledge to redirect $200 million from administrative budgets to schools.
But to hold principals accountable, the department must have a way to judge performance. So the officials and consultants, led by James Liebman, a former law professor at Columbia, are looking to develop more sophisticated measures of performance and to vastly increase the amount of data available to administrators and teachers."

OK. total reform 3 years ago. And now, major reform of the reform.
Consultants certainly make a good salary from this.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Class struggle: The new Senator from Virginia

Wall Street Journal Online
November 15, 2006


Class Struggle
American workers have a chance to be heard.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.
Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.
With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

Mr. Webb is the Democratic senator-elect from Virginia.


Just Whose Idea was all this testing?

Just Whose Idea was all this testing?
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006; A06
The Washington Post:
In ancient Greece, Socrates tested his students through conversations. Answers were not scored as right or wrong. They just led to more dialogue. Many intellectual elites in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. cared more about finding the path to higher knowledge than producing a correct response. To them, accuracy was for shopkeepers.
Today, educators often hold up the Socratic method as the best kind of teaching.
So how did we go from that ideal to an educational model shaped -- and perhaps even ruled -- by standardized, normed, charted, graphed, regressed, calibrated and validated testing? Students in the Washington area are likely to know more about the MSA (Maryland School Assessments), the SOL (Virginia's Standards of Learning) and the D.C. CAS (D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System) than they do about Socrates and his illustrious student Plato.
Critics say standardized testing has robbed schools of the creative clash of intellects that make Plato's dialogues still absorbing. "There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all," said educational psychologist Gerald W. Bracey, research columnist for the Phi Delta Kappan education journal.
Historians call the rise of testing an inevitable outgrowth of expanding technology. As goods and services are delivered with greater speed and in higher quantity and quality, education has been forced to pick up the pace.
Standardized exams have many sources. In imperial China in the A.D. 7th century, government job applicants had to write essays about Confucian philosophy and compose poetry. In Europe, the invention of the printing press and modern paper manufacturing fueled the growth of written exams.
By 1845 in the United States, public education advocate Horace Mann was calling for standardized essay testing. Spelling tests, geography tests and math tests blossomed in schools, although they were rarely standardized.
At the outset of the 20th century, educators began to experiment with tests that took shortcuts around the old essay methods. French psychologist Alfred Binet developed an intelligence test about 1905. Frederick J. Kelly of the University of Kansas designed a multiple-choice test in 1914. Scanning machines followed. Many Americans accepted these tests as efficient tools to help build a society based on merit, not birth or race or wealth.
Still, modern testing had a clumsy start as psychologists experimented with exams to help employers, schools and others rate applicants. In one early case, testing expert H.H. Goddard identified as "feeble-minded" 83 percent of Jews, 80 percent of Hungarians, 79 percent of Italians and 87 percent of Russians among a small group of immigrants assessed at Ellis Island.
"Consider a group of frightened men and women who speak no English and who have just endured an oceanic voyage in steerage," Harvard University science historian Stephen Jay Gould wrote of the Goddard study. "Most are poor and have never gone to school; many have never held a pencil or pen in their hand." Yet Goddard's interviewers expected them to sit down with a pencil and "reproduce on paper a figure shown to them a moment ago, but now withdrawn from their sight."
Eventually, testing experts focused on standardizing the measure of learning, not of innate intelligence.
The College Entrance Examination Board, founded in 1900, played a huge role. Now called the College Board, it "created the best, most consistent and most influential standards that American education has ever known," New York University educational historian Diane Ravitch wrote in March in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The board's early exams were written and graded by teachers and professors and had no multiple-choice questions. These essay exams, Ravitch wrote, led "everyone who went to high school, whether they were the children of doctors or farmers or factory workers . . . to study mathematics, science, English literature, composition, history and a foreign language, usually Latin."
Many educators who value depth and rigor lament what followed. In 1926, the multiple-choice SAT was introduced as a much faster way of testing college applicants. On Dec. 7, 1941, several members of the board, during a previously scheduled lunch, decided that the outbreak of world war would require faster decisions and less leisurely testing. They eventually canceled the board's old exam format. The SAT ruled.
Essay questions, however, made a comeback in 1955 when Advanced Placement exams began.
The launch of Sputnik, the Soviet space satellite, in 1957 fueled a space race and increased pressure on U.S. schools to show improvement. But rating schools through tests did not advance much until the mid-1970s, when the College Board revealed that average SAT scores had been falling since 1963. Then, in 1983, a national commission declared in the report "A Nation at Risk" that public school standards were too low. Over the next two decades, testing took off.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, several governors argued that they had to test all their students to raise school standards and improve their economies. Among them were Democrats Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Richard W. Riley of South Carolina, who would soon become president and U.S. education secretary, respectively. (Later in the 1990s, Republican Gov. George W. Bush of Texas also was a big proponent of testing.)
Some educators said a better way to improve schools was to spend more on teacher training, salaries and smaller classes. They dwelled on educational inputs; the politicians, on outputs.
The politicians prevailed. In 1988, Congress created the National Assessment Governing Board. It established new standards for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test that has been given to a sampling of students since 1970. In 2002, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind law. For the first time, it required annual testing of all public school children in certain grades and required states to use results to help rate schools.
The National Education Association and other teacher organizations argue that it is unfair to rate schools through such tests when teachers lack adequate training and pay. In a 2004 essay for the Hoover Digest, Ravitch wrote that the advocates of inputs and the champions of outputs "are in constant tension, with first one and then the other gaining brief advantage."
"How this conflict is resolved," she wrote, "will determine the future of American education."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

School realities ignored by political candidates/consultants

Bill Moyers
This I do know: We should be honest about what we mean by “urban education.”
We are talking about the poorest and most vulnerable children in America – kids for
whom “at risk” has come to describe their fate and not simply their circumstances.

Their education should be the centerpiece of a great and diverse America made
stronger by equality and shared prosperity. It has instead become the epitome of public
neglect, perpetuated by a class divide so permeated by race that it mocks the bedrock
principles of the American Promise.

It has been said that the mark of a truly educated person is to be deeply moved by
statistics. If so, America’s governing class should be knocked off their feet by the fact
that more than 70% of black children are now attending schools that are overwhelmingly
non-white. In 1980 that figure was 63%. Latino students are even more isolated. Brown
v. Board’s “all deliberate” speed of 1954 has become slow motion in reverse. In Richard
Kahlenberg’s words, “With the law in retreat, geography takes command.”

Not just the kids suffer. A nation that devalues poor children also demeans their
teachers. For the life of me I cannot fathom why we expect so much from teachers and
provide them so little in return. In 1940, the average pay of a male teacher was actually
3.6% more than what other college-educated men earned. Today it is 60% lower.
Women teachers now earn 16% less than other college-educated women. This bewilders
me. Children aren’t born lawyers, corporate executives, engineers, and doctors. Their
achievements bear the imprint of their teachers. There was no Plato without Socrates,
and no John Coltrane without Miles Davis. Is there anyone here whose path was not
marked by the inspiration of some teacher? Mary Sullivan, Bessie Bryant, Miss White,
the Brotze sisters, Inez Hughes – I cannot imagine my life without them. Their
classrooms were my world, and each one of them kept enlarging it.

Yet teachers now are expected to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our
country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families,
communities, and culture fail to do. Like our soldiers in Iraq, they are sent into urban
combat zones, on impossible missions, under inhospitable conditions, and then
abandoned by politicians and policy makers who have already cut and run, leaving
teachers on their own.
One morning I opened The New York Times to read that tuition at Manhattan’s
elite private schools had reached $26,000 a year, starting in kindergarten. On that same
page was another story about a school in Mount Vernon, just across the city line from the
Bronx, where 97% of the students are black and 90% of those are so impoverished they
are eligible for free lunches. During Black History month, a six-grader researching
Langston Hughes could not find a single book by Hughes in the library. This wasn’t an
oversight: There were virtually no books relevant to black history in that library. Most of the books on the shelves date back to the l950s and l960s. A child’s primer on work
begins with a youngster learning to be a telegraph delivery boy!

Bill Moyers, president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy,
delivered these remarks in San Diego on October 27, 2006 to the Council of
Great City Schools, an organization of urban public school systems.)

For full remarks see:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mayors and schools: More

From: LA Weekly. Voters Snookered. Nov.8, 2006.
As it turns out, those who want honest and accountable government have taken matters into their own hands. One day before Tuesday’s election, the Los Angeles Unified School District filed an ethics complaint against Villaraigosa and the massive fund-raising apparatus he assembled in his drive to obtain power at L.A. Unified.

Villaraigosa raised $1.1 million, one-fourth of it from powerful Westside developers, for his Mayor’s Committee for Governmental Excellence and Accountability, the political team of campaign consultants, opposition researchers and lawyers that helped him win passage of a bill in Sacramento that gave him new powers at L.A. Unified. The mayor registered his committee as the type that gives money to ballot measures, then spent the special-interest money on a Sacramento lobbying blitz instead, said Fred Woocher, an attorney representing L.A. Unified.

If Villaraigosa wanted to spend money on lobbying, he would have had to do so through his officeholder account — which, under city law, can collect only $75,000 per year, Woocher said. Instead, Villaraigosa blew the lid off those fund-raising limits by raking in six-figure contributions for his ballot-measure campaign, said Woocher, who sent a letter to the Ethics Commission and the Fair Political Practices Commission asking for an investigation.

“This sham has permitted the mayor to accept huge campaign contributions from persons with business before the City of Los Angeles — circumventing the intent of city law to prevent precisely such ‘pay for play politics,’ ” Woocher wrote.

Woocher raised his complaint on October 30 in a legal filing that he submitted to a judge in the case filed against Villaraigosa’s school bill. One day later, the mayor’s committee spent its first funds on behalf of actual ballot measures: $25,000 for Proposition H, the affordable-housing bond, plus another $5,000 for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infrastructure bond package. The two contributions were the first to go toward a ballot measure since the Villaraigosa committee was formed in February. “We filed our papers on the 30th, and they saw that we had nailed them on the fact that they hadn’t spent a nickel on a ballot measure,” Woocher added. “So they put some chump change into some ballot measures.”

Committee treasurer Stephen Kaufman referred questions to Villaraigosa campaign spokesman Nathan James, who described the ethics letter as a “frivolous complaint based on a fundamental misreading of state law.” “The [school] board should rescind this complaint, reject this tactic, terminate its contract with the firm of Strumwasser & Woocher, and get back to its job of educating kids,” said James in a prepared statement.
See prior posts on Mayors and Schools. May 16, 2006 and more.

Radical Possibilities; School Reform

Radical Possibilities; Public Policy, urban education, and a new social movement.
Jean Anyon. 2005
Radical Possibilities is a well written description of several of the current crises in our nation, focusing on public education. Prof. Anyon excels at placing the public school crisis in its appropriate and complex economic context. I recommend the book to the well informed, well read reader. The book is well written and clearly organized.
The later chapters offer a hope for change including an emphasis on working with Community Based organizations.
I teach in a graduate program in Multi lingual Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento. We have the good fortune of working with hundreds of teachers, over two thirds Latino and/or Asian. We used this book for the first time this year in a course on Advocacy and Change in Education.
The Anyon book served well along with my own book, Choosing Democracy: a Practical guide to Multicultural Education (2004)
We live in a very changing time from the era of the active Civil Rights movement. Teachers, and other educational workers, need to understand the complex interactions between social science analysis of the communities and school reform and/or school renewal. The Anyon book does this very well. She introduces important economics data in an understandable manner. In most settings readers will need assistance and further explanations of the basic economic concepts and relationships.

Duane Campbell

Radical Possibilities; School Reform

Radical Possibilities; Public Policy, urban education, and a new social movement.
Jean Anyon. 2005
Radical Possibilities is a well written description of several of the current crises in our nation, focusing on public education. Prof. Anyon excels at placing the public school crisis in its appropriate and complex economic context. I recommend the book to the well informed, well read reader. The book is well written and clearly organized.
The later chapters offer a hope for change including an emphasis on working with Community Based organizations.
I teach in a graduate program in Multi lingual Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento. We have the good fortune of working with hundreds of teachers, over two thirds Latino and/or Asian. We used this book for the first time this year in a course on Advocacy and Change in Education.
The Anyon book served well along with my own book, Choosing Democracy: a Practical guide to Multicultural Education (2004)
We live in a very changing time from the era of the active Civil Rights movement. Teachers, and other educational workers, need to understand the complex interactions between social science analysis of the communities and school reform and/or school renewal. The Anyon book does this very well. She introduces important economics data in an understandable manner. In most settings readers will need assistance and further explanations of the basic economic concepts and relationships.

Duane Campbell

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The bi-partisan theme

This is what Sen. Joe said today on the Meet the Press. Sunday, Nov.12, 2006

SEN. LIEBERMAN:" I’m going to be an optimist, and take some encouragement from the fact that this was an election in which, in the House and Senate, Democrats came to the majority of both chambers by electing moderates mostly. This was an election that might be called the return of the center of American politics. And I think that my colleagues and leaders in the Democratic caucus get that. The fact is that this was not a major realignment election in my opinion. This was the voters in Connecticut and elsewhere saying, “We, we, we’re, we, we’re disappointed with the Republicans. We want to give the Democrats a chance.” But I believe that the American people are considering both major political parties to be in a kind of probation, because they’re, they’re understandably angry that Washington is dominated too much by partisan political games, and not enough by problem solving and patriotism, which means put the country and your state first."

Lets see, the voters are angry at Washington because of too much partisan political games.
This from Lieberman who protected the corporate community during the Enron scandal, supported Bush and the war. and was, until recently, a leader of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Most reasonable polls show that voters are angry at the Republicans for failing at the war and for corruption in office. Lieberman protects the war and the corruption. I guess that is why he sees the problem as partisan games.

Duane Campbell

More phony school reform

Fuzzy Math
American Prospect.
For one proposed education reform, 65 percent doesn't add up.
By Alexander Wohl

Lost amidst all the punditeering about the potential Democratic resurgence today is the possibility that an ill-advised education scheme touted by a conservative group could also find new life, as the result of a pending Colorado ballot initiative. The education funding proposal known as the “65 percent solution” is misleading at best, and seriously (perhaps deliberately) harmful to public education at worst.
On its face, the 65 percent proposal seems benign enough. Its supporters, led by a small but well financed group called First Class Education (FCE), claim it is an effort to spend more -- a minimum of 65 percent -- of public education dollars on classroom instruction. Amendment 39 in Colorado would stipulate that each school district spend that minimum percentage of operational expenditures on specified classroom expenses, to be confirmed by audit at the end of the school year. As FCE suggests, “classroom education is the only activity that can possibly increase test scores and dynamically impact our students.” Who could argue with that goal? Actually, anyone who cares about public schools, it turns out. That’s because FCE’s definition of “classroom instruction” is limiting and dangerous.
FCE bases its criteria for “classroom instruction” on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) definition of “Instruction Expenditures.” There are several problems with this approach -- both logistical and factual. The most obvious logistical problem is that the FCE formula leaves out the other education funding categories used by NCES, which include vital student and instruction support services. In other words, if you vote for this “classroom” funding plan, you will be voting to include things like athletic activities, team uniforms, and field trips, but eliminate or reduce school funds for educational tools that provide critical classroom support. Services like school libraries, student transportation, school custodial services, school nurses, and food and nutrition programs are just a few of the important support systems that would be left behind. Under the 65 percent plan, funds would merely be shifted from one area to another, leaving an underfunded school system still underfunded -- just underfunded in different ways.
The factual failing was revealed in two research studies done by the nonpartisan Standard & Poor’s education arm, School Evaluation Services. The studies found that “student performance does not noticeably or consistently increase at 65 percent or any other percentage spent on education.” It’s not that money doesn’t matter, it’s just that you can’t create an arbitrary amount or mandatory minimum and make it work. It’s especially ludicrous to impose a one-size-fits-all formula on a subject that should be -- and always has been -- dealt with individually by states and school districts. After all, the costs of educating children are different depending on where there schools are located -- urban or rural areas, wealthy or poor districts, even hot or cold climates. How could -- and why would -- anyone want to calculate those costs in such an inflexible fashion?
The answer, it turns out unsurprisingly, is politics. As revealed in an FCE memorandum distributed to supporters, the real goals of these initiatives are to divide the education community and “win over large segments of the voting public -- especially suburban affluent women voters.” “Every time the education establishment attacks this proposal, it hurts its standing with the public and the majority of its membership." The memo goes on to say that once the First Class Education proposal is in place, “targeted segments of voters may be more greatly predisposed to supporting voucher and other charter school proposals.” Moreover, the campaign is designed to distract attention and money from the real issues involved in improving education, as the memo makes clear: “Every day and every dollar the education establishment uses to defeat this proposal is a day and a dollar they cannot spend on other political activities." The goals of the compaign, which include increasing Republicans’ credibility on education, can be achieved through the use of “unlimited non personal money for political positioning advantages.” This approach is not surprising given that the man bankrolling the initiative, Patrick Byrne, is a board member of the free market, pro-voucher Milton and Rose D. Freedman Foundation.
The good news is that although the 65 percent initiative gained some traction in various states early on, its success (and the resulting damage to public schools) has largely been limited. As understanding of the funding scheme increased, sentiment against it grew. Even many conservatives, including former Bush Secretary of Education Rodney Paige, conservative education activist and former Reagan assistant education secretary Chester Finn, and noted voucher advocate Jay Greene have acknowledged the initiative’s folly and come out against it. (Greene called it the “65 cent delusion.”) As a result, 14 states have rejected it. Two, Texas and Kansas, have passed watered-down versions, and only one state, Georgia, has enacted it.
Unfortunately, some big name conservatives, including George Will, continue to push the ballot effort, and if the initiative in Colorado passes, it could provide new enthusiasm both for this ill-advised “solution” and the political machinery that has championed it.
The threat from these kinds of schemes extends beyond the mere possibility of them passing, however. Whenever the public has been confronted with a choice between privatizing or radically altering the public education system or providing strong support for it, the public has chosen the latter approach. That’s why voucher schemes have been rejected by community after community. The real danger with these kinds of right-wing-funded initiatives is that they require significant time and resources to defeat -- effort and money that could be better spent on strengthening the public schools themselves.
Alexander Wohl is a former Communications Director for the U.S. Department of Education and speechwriter for U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.
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