Friday, February 29, 2008

Campbell's Law

No, not this Campbell.

Campbell’s law

by Sharon Nichols and David Berliner entitled Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools, which demonstrates the accuracy of what those in social science research know as Campbell's Law:

"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Also see:
Accountability Frankenstein: Understanding and Taming the Monster (PB) (Paperback)
by Sherman Dorn

Thursday, February 28, 2008

California School Finance

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Issues Statement
Regarding Legislative Analyst's Budget Finding
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today issued the following statement after the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) released its analysis (Outside Source) of the state budget:

"The Legislative Analyst's Office projects an even direr fiscal picture for our state than was presented in the January Governor's budget, and proposes cuts to schools in the current year in addition to those approved by the Legislature last week. While the LAO proposes a smaller reduction to Proposition 98 in the upcoming budget year than the Governor, any suspension of Proposition 98 would result in direct harm to programs critical to closing the achievement gap and preparing all students to succeed in a demanding future.

"I am opposed to suspending payments to our schools under the Quality Education Investment Act, a program that is vital to serving students most in need of extra assistance. I also strongly oppose changes to the Class Size Reduction program that could lead to larger classes and threaten the quality of education of California's students.

"While it is true that our fiscal situation is dire, the need to invest in education has never been more important to securing the future of our state. Just a few weeks ago Education Week ranked California 46th in the nation in per-pupil funding. Cutting even further into education programs serving our diverse and challenging student population is both unfair and unwise."

School Accountability

Great podcasts on a complex topic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A challenge to Education Week

A challenge to Education Week

Yesterday Deborah Meier, Susan Ohanian, Gerald Bracey, and a few others sent a letter taking Education Week to task. This was not a run-of-the-mill complaint about inaccuracy or bias. Rather, it lodged a serious charge about journalistic ethics: that the newspaper’s Quality Counts feature makes a pretense of “objectivity” while covertly advocating for “the standards-and-testing industrial school paradigm of No Child Left Behind.”

It’s about time somebody pointed this out. As the authors note:

for more than a decade [Editorial Projects in Education] has published its Quality Counts annual volume, purporting to assess the condition of American public schooling from a neutral and fair-minded vantage. … But a quick inspection of the 2008 volume reveals the dishonesty in this presentation. Quality Counts is not reporting in any normal sense of the word. Rather it is advocacy. Its assertions and conclusions often support particular policy positions.

They go on to document how Quality Counts adopts the criteria of NCLB enthusiasts — “rigorous" standards, high-stakes testing to judge school quality, “sanctioning of low-performing schools,” “teacher evaluation tied to student achievement” — and uses them to grade states in their school reform efforts. In other words, Quality Counts promotes an ideology under cover of “objective journalism.”

I hope the editors of Education Week will take the criticism seriously and rethink what they are doing. As Meier et al. point out, this is an egregious breach of journalistic ethics. It’s also a disservice to an above-board and productive debate on education policy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Corporate Agenda and Schools

Personal Opinion Paper: Exterminating Public Education

Personal Opinion Paper
Exterminating Public Education
Jack Gerson and Steven Miller, Oakland Public Schools, California

“The merits of a marketplace model for public education have been among the most prominent themes in education policy discussions over the last two decades. The 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, popularly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has accelerated the trend toward private, for-profit activities in public education.”

--Alex Molnar, “For-Profit K–12 Education: Through the Glass Darkly,” Chapter 5, Educational Entrepreneurship, Frederick M. Hess, editor. Harvard Education Press, 2006.

The corporate campaign to privatize public education entered a new phase on December 14, 2006 when the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce released its book-length report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, published by the National Center on Education and the Economy. (The executive summary is available at This is the definitive corporate statement on public education. It is a statement of intent.

Tough Choices or Tough Times calls for, among other things: making all public schools into something beyond charter schools, something called “Contract Schools”; ending high school for many students after the 10th grade; ending teacher pension plans and cutting back on teacher health benefits; introducing merit pay and other pay differentials for teachers; eliminating the powers of local school boards (with the “public” schools to be owned by private companies and all regulation done by the states).

These measures would cut the heart out of public education, would severely penalize students, and would deal a heavy blow to teacher unions. No one should take the report lightly:

• It was funded by some of the world’s richest and most powerful entities (most notably, Bill Gates and his GatesFoundation). It represents their interests and, indeed, puts forward the current consensus
recommendations of U.S. corporations and politicians.

• It was issued by a group with a track record: the last report issued by the Commission on the Skills of the
American Workforce helped lay the groundwork for No Child Left Behind.

Bill Gates has apparently decided to take charge of public education in the U.S., whether we like it or not. NYU professor Diane Ravitch, writing in the July 3, Los Angeles Times, explains that:

“With the ability to hand out more than $1 billion or more every year to U.S. educators without any external review, the Gates Foundation looms larger in the eyes of school leaders than even the U.S. Department of Education, which, by comparison, has only about $20 million in truly discretionary funds. The Department may have sticks, but the Foundation has almost all the carrots.

“In light of the size of the Foundation's endowment, Bill Gates is now the nation's superintendent of schools. He can support whatever he wants, based on any theory or philosophy that appeals to him. We must all watch for signs and portents to decipher what lies in store for American education.”

Ravitch calls Gates “The Nation’s Superintendent of Schools.” But the nation didn’t elect Gates to run our schools, much less to convert public schools to contract schools, to kick millions of kids out of school after 10th grade, or to undermine teacher unions.

The Commission
In 1990 the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce issued the influential report titled America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages! This report argued that the U.S. could compete in the global capital and jobs markets only if American public education adopted a strongly standards-based approach that used standardized tests to enforce accountability of students and teachers. That report too was a statement of intent. In its wake followed No Child Left Behind with its emphasis on high stakes testing (with ridiculously unrealistic and statistically meaningless targets for student reading and math scores). NCLB is an unfunded mandate that strangles public schools and leads to school closures and privatizations.

The standards-based, high stakes testing approach espoused by the 1990 Commission report and executed by NCLB has failed miserably—so miserably that it is finally losing much of its support (NEA and AFT have grown increasingly critical; Democratic and Republican politicians are expressing their doubts). In fact, NCLB is up for renewal this year by the now Democratically controlled Congress. But rather than fade quietly into the night, the folks who brought us the 1990 report are back with a new plan for public education.

The so-called Skills Commission is not a public body. The report is not the result of testimony and analysis presented democratically in open meetings, nor is it the synthesis of a public analysis of our schools. It is a corporate vision of what corporations want. It is an attempt to seize the debate about public education and channel it in very specific directions.

The report is bipartisan in the sense that it represents a broad consensus of the U.S. corporate elite. It was funded by Bill Gates (the world’s richest man) and his Gates Foundation; the Hewlett (as in Hewlett-Packard) Foundation; the Casey Foundation; the Lumina Foundation. The Commission includes two former U.S. Secretaries of Education--Rod Paige (Bush Jr.'s) and Richard Riley (Clinton's); a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall (LBJ’s); the heads of the NYC and Washington D.C. public schools (respectively, Joel Klein and Clifford Janey); the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education (David Driscoll); the former head of the Boston schools (Thomas Payzant); the head of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (Harry Spence); the "President Emeritus" of the Communications Workers of America (Morton Bahr); the head of the Urban League (Marc Morial); the head of the National Association of Manufacturers (John Engler, formerly governor of Michigan); major corporate players (e.g., Henry Schatz, former CEO of Lucent); and a few other prominent politicians and academics.

What’s their rationale?
"We" (U.S. capital) need a highly skilled and highly creative work force to compete in the world market. The report admits that the 1990 report’s program of emphasis on standards-based learning discouraged creativity in favor of rote learning. And, the new report says the 1990 report’s emphasis on educating for high skills is inadequate for the current global economy, where the only way to thrive will be to always be the first to come up with new technological breakthroughs.

This vision of a dog-eat-dog world is, unfortunately, an accurate portrayal of the dynamics of global capital. And, as the new report admits (and even explains), automation and digitization have made it possible for U.S. companies to export almost all manufacturing and many service jobs, skilled and unskilled alike: anything that can be routinized will be digitized, automated, and outsourced. But the folks behind the report—Gates, Engler, now head of the National Association of Manufacturers, et al.— are the very folks who shift capital around the globe, to wherever labor is cheapest and profits are highest. And that’s the real source of tough times.

Tough Choices or Tough Times
The Commission writes:

"First, the role of school boards would change. Schools would no longer be owned by local school districts. Instead, schools would be operated by independent contractors, many of them limited-liability corporations owned and run by teachers. The primary role of school district central offices would be to write performance contracts with the operators of these schools, monitor their operations, cancel or decide not to renew the contracts of those providers that did not perform well, and find others that could do better….The contract schools would be public schools, subject to all of the safety, curriculum, testing, and other accountability of public schools".
(“Executive Summary,” p. 16, emphasis added)

This is exactly the same language of de-regulation and “letting the free market decide” that gave us ENRON, the rape of California by energy companies and the trillion dollar Savings & Loan scandals of the early 1990's. Re-stating that contract schools are public schools is an attempt to obfuscate the real intent. If simple “regulation and accountability” mean public power, then Exxon is a public corporation too!

Basically, the Commission wants to change state education codes to accommodate the kinds of exceptions and practices currently being piloted by charter schools. In effect, all public schools would be run like today's charter schools—run by private companies, with "flexible" hours, longer school days, longer school years, no teacher seniority rights, no pensions, limited health benefits, etc. Or, to put it another way: ALL public schools would be charter schools—only the charters would no longer be needed, because the charter exceptions would be written right into the state education codes. The report calls their proposed schools “contract schools,” but it’s clear that these are basically charter schools writ large.

This is so clear that the two labor members of the commission, Morton Bahr and Dal Lawrence (past president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers), wrote a short statement registering “concern” that “The design for contract schools can become an open door for profiteers,” citing the example of Ohio, “where charter school legislation has resulted in almost universal poor student achievement, minimal accountability, and yet considerable profits for charter operators, many with peculiar political agendas.”

The Commission claims it will save $60 billion on K–12 education. It does not mention that corporations today already feast on a trillion dollar a year market based on privatizing public schools and their services. This is the corporate plan to expand that market. It is a vision of schools as “profit centers,” run by “entrepreneurs,” where children are commodities. The role of the public is reduced from having the final power over schools to being consumers. Let the buyer beware.

Students would face severe tracking that would end high school for millions of children by the 10th grade, by the ages of 15 or 16. This would be enforced by "benchmark" high school exit exams to be administered in the 10th grade, created at the state level. The report explicitly calls for these tests to assess high school grade level skills, not the middle school skills that are typically “measured” by routine high school exit exams. In other words, the Commission demands tests pitched well beyond the current level in many states.

(1) Students who do poorly get tossed out of school. The "Commissioners" argue that students can retake the tests any number of times, so if they're really motivated they may eventually pass, albeit years later, and, essentially, on their own.

(2) Students who do OK go to community college or technical school. The door is left ajar for the possibility of letting some students stick around high school for another couple of years to prepare for university. Is this an escape clause for mediocre but rich suburban students?

(3) Students who do well can go on to university.

The "Commissioners" predict that 95% of students will pass the exams because they will be motivated, and because they will be taught by better teachers. [Right. And No Child is Left Behind.] In fact, things will be so splendid that remediation won't be needed—you see, students will be taught right in the lower grades and will get it right the first time. In practice, corporations want to dump special education and intervention programs, just like they dumped bilingual education.

The report argues that students must become proficient in ALL areas: math, science, humanities, social sciences. And it says that education must emphasize concepts and creativity, not just rote learning. The Commission explicitly criticizes current standardized tests in that regard. (So high stakes testing may go down in flames. It was always just a means to an end—the end being the demolition of public education with the victimization of poor children.) The new goal of all students being polymaths is absurd. As we all know, everyone has different strengths and abilities. When exactly did we abandon the decades-long vision of public education? This vision guaranteed everyone an equal, quality public education precisely so that they could be all that they could be!

States supposedly will increase teacher pay at expense of pensions and health benefits. The report argues that teacher compensation is "backloaded" (heavy on benefits, light on salary) which favors veteran teachers over new teachers. They want to turn this on its head and propose "frontloading" (increase salary, eliminate pensions, and cut health benefits).

This will victimize veteran teachers and generally eliminate traditional defined-benefit pensions. The result will be to accelerate the already unacceptably high teacher turnover rate, which is especially destabilizing to inner city schools and communities. The report's rationale that this will improve instruction rings hollow for at least two reasons: a) studies show high correlation between teacher's experience and student's achievement, so chasing out veterans will hurt students and learning; and (b) corporations are trying to eliminate pensions and health benefits everywhere—not just in education.

The underlying assumptions in the report reveal the typical “bait and switch” public policies that have ruined public access to health care, created NAFTA, and have led to the war in Iraq. The report notes (page 5) that corporations everywhere now have access to a worldwide workforce. It states, “Today, Indian engineers make $7500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications…why would the world’s employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work?” Unfortunately, they have no real answer for this question.

The significance of the report is that the march towards the privatization of public schools came completely out of the closet in 2006. No longer is it a hidden agenda. Now the open campaigning will begin, the lobbying and bribery will ensue, and laws will be debated to change public schools in the corporate direction.

There was plenty of evidence for this in 2006. The public schools of New Orleans were almost completely privatized, charter schools are appearing everywhere, the Mayor of Los Angeles is trying to take over the public schools to facilitate charter school corporations, and Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York City Public Schools (a public office and public trust), sits as a commissioner on the (private) “Skills Commission.”

Meanwhile, the Broad Foundation—with an openly corporate agenda—has its fingers in a hundred public school systems. Eli Broad joins with fellow billionaires like Gates and Donald Fisher of The Gap as “philanthropists” who have suddenly become civic-minded and want the best for the nation’s children. During 2006 individual billionaires put billions of dollars into foundations to control social policy in our country.

Few people are aware that the great state university systems, including publicly funded institutions like the University of Illinois, the University of California, Michigan State, etc., were essentially privatized by corporations in the ‘90s. Virtually all of them now receive the majority of their funding from “partnerships” with corporations. Now corporations are drawing a bead on the country’s school system for children, for people under 18 years old.

Engineering the Future
How we reckon with the report’s impact, how we learn the lessons, will help bring to pass one kind of future or another. The implications for our country are obvious. Teachers, and everyone, must begin speaking in the name of all society. Corporations have no problem saying this is how things should go. Why should they have the predominant voice?

One thing is certain. The very richest Americans, all based in hugely powerful and influential corporations, are proposing that the United States, the first country to develop free, universal public education, now abandon it.

Isn’t this worthy of some public discussion and debate? Call it what you want, when corporations meet privately to determine what to do with a public institution, one that mainly serves the people who must work for said corporations, this smells a lot like class warfare. You can bet the campaign to implement contract schools will soon be pushed by the corporate media to turn this into public policy. We will be sold on it with minimal public discussion, without letting the people whose lives will be most altered by this public choice have much say over it. Then suddenly the laws will have changed.

Let’s accept the challenge. Let’s open up the discussion of what kind of society the majority of people need and put it on the table. Let’s make it as open and as public as possible. If we fail in this, we will pay a bitter price. If corporations can openly call for re-engineering society, then it is appropriate to discuss what kind of changes shall be made, whose interests they will be made in, and who shall benefit.

Since the corporate attack is openly against the public nature of education, there is no way to protect our hard-won gains towards equal and public education without defending and expanding the very nature of what “the public” means. It’s not just corporations who have the right to put the reorganization of society on the table. Let’s look behind the hype and see who are the winners and the losers here. It’s not hard to do.

The privatization of public education already results in the transfer of tens of millions of dollars in public assets into corporate hands without a discussion of compensation or, still more fundamentally, whether society should allow public education to fall into private, corporate hands.

Public schools originally arose in opposition to the child labor of the 1830's, where the only children who attended school were those whose families could afford it. What will happen when schools are completely privatized and only the rich can afford to give their children an education?

As high technology inevitably replaces jobs, corporations that profit from human exploitation will simply no longer have a need for an educated workforce, or even much of a workforce at all. Public education must be guaranteed as a human right, just as are the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and culture.

Many people confuse the Apocalypse with Armageddon. Armageddon is the final battle between good and evil, but it is the end of the process. The Apocalypse arises first and plays a formative role in the events that follow. The Apocalypse means, in Greek, “the raising of the veil.” This is when fog lifts, the moment when things finally become clear, indicating the path ahead.

As always in human affairs, it’s up to us and to what we do. There can be no question that the world is being rapidly transformed. That transformation is not the property of corporations. Let’s make our future into our property—public property.


Tough Choices or Tough Times. The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Unions endorse Obama

WASHINGTON (February 21, 2008 AP) -- The new Change to Win labor federation gave its first presidential endorsement to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday, saying its 6 million members could help push him over the top and into the general election as the Democratic nominee.

"We think we can make a difference," chair Anna Burger said. "We think it's time to bring this nomination to a close."

The endorsement came after a teleconference between Change to Win's leaders and the heads of the seven unions that make up the federation. The federation's members will now head to the crucial election states of Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island for the upcoming March 4 primaries, as well as Pennsylvania on April 22.

Change to Win has 175,000 members in Ohio, 60,000 in Texas and 25,000 in Rhode Island, Burger said. Besides leafletting, knocking on doors and advocating for Obama at workplaces, Burger said she expected more than 100,000 Change to Win voters to participate in the Ohio primary alone.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost the last 11 presidential contests to Obama.

"There is certainly a movement building here," Burger said. "The winds of change are blowing and they're blowing for Barack Obama."

The federation's endorsement was more about approving of Obama than disapproving of Clinton, Burger said, but she did note that NAFTA was passed while Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, was in office. Unions have been highly critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it disproportionally hurt working-class voters. Clinton has become a NAFTA critic even though she has previously helped champion the measure as a product of her husband's presidency.

"Barack Obama has a history of standing up for working-class families," said Burger, who called him the strongest candidate for Democrats in the general election.

Four of Change to Win's unions already had endorsed Obama, with the Teamsters endorsing him Wednesday. UNITE HERE, the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers also have endorsed Obama.

The federation's endorsement now means those unions will coordinate their efforts for Obama and have access to Change to Win resources. "We think we can make a huge difference for him," Burger said.

The vote was unanimous although the United Farm Workers, the Laborers' International Union and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners had abstained. The farmworkers already had endorsed Clinton; the Carpenters originally endorsed John Edwards, who has dropped out, and the Laborers have yet to make an endorsement. The three unions released the federation to work for Obama in the upcoming primaries and caucuses.

"Everybody agreed it was time for us to move forward," Burger said. She noted that none of the abstaining unions objected to the endorsement and the United Farm Workers is based mostly in California, which voted on Feb. 5.

The Laborers union will survey its members next week to see if either candidate has support of 60 percent of the union, said Terence M. O'Sullivan, the union's president.

The unions in the Change to Win federation broke from the AFL-CIO in 2005 over internal disagreements on how best to build organized labor's membership and political clout.

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, has not endorsed any candidate in the Democratic primary, although it has allowed its 56 member unions to make individual endorsements. The AFL-CIO's executive council will meet in San Diego March 3-5, and a decision could be announced about whether the 10.5-million member federation will endorse.

Clinton has been endorsed by 12 AFL-CIO unions, as well as the United Farm Workers. Obama has been endorsed by three AFL-CIO unions: the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the Transport Workers Union and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. He also has the backing of the independent National Weather Service Employees Organization.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

California budget crisis

Dos and Dont's of Coping With State Budget Crises
The budget news is grim in some states. Twenty states face a combined budget shortfall of at least $35 billion for 2009, according to analysis by the Center on Budget Policy & Priorities (see CBPP graph below). Another 8 states will likely have budget problems next year or the year after.

The impulse by some state leaders is to slash state spending, but that could be disastrous for the economy if multiple states lay off state workers and cut-off help to those in need just as private spending is falling.
In fact, the right kind of revenue increases may be just what is needed for economic recovery. As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, and Peter Orzag, now the director of the Congressional Budget Office, have emphasized, budget cuts during a recession will usually hurt state economies far more than tax increases, since cuts come dollar-for-dollar out of the economy, while tax increases, especially if targeted at the wealthy, often "reduce saving rather than consumption, lessening its impact on the economy in the short run."
This Dispatch is designed to be a primer on what states can do to ease the burden on working families in distress, while asking wealthier taxpayers and corporations to shoulder their fair share during tough times.
Read More

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No you can't

School restructuring not working in California

Restructuring Gains Scant in California, Study Finds
By Linda Jacobson
In a report that raises questions about school restructuring under the No Child Left Behind Act, a national research and advocacy group says that few of the hundreds of failing California schools that enter restructuring each year pull their test scores up enough to exit the process.
The Washington-based Center on Education Policy found that in the 2006-07 school year, only 33 schools—or 5 percent of the more than 700 schools that were in restructuring that year—made enough progress to leave what is known as “program improvement.”
The center, which has followed the restructuring process in California since 2004, is also monitoring such efforts in Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio.
California, however, provides especially “useful lessons” on restructuring, the authors of the report say, because it has such a large number of schools in that phase—1,013 this school year. It also started implementing its standards-based accountability system earlier than most other states, and it even identified schools for improvement before the NCLB act became law six years ago.
“Federal restructuring strategies have very rarely helped schools improve student achievement enough to make [adequate yearly progress] or exit restructuring,” says the report, released Feb. 8. “Our findings in California point to the need to rethink restructuring across the nation.”
Titled “Managing More Than a Thousand Remodeling Projects,” the report comes as California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell prepares to present the state board of education with more details of a plan to intervene in 98 school districts that are facing sanctions under the law because they have not met student-achievement targets for at least five years.
During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, announced that California would be “the first state to use its powers given to us under this No Child Left Behind Act to turn these districts around.”
He has laid out a “differentiated” approach that ranges from simply revising local-education-agency plans in some districts that came close to meeting their goals to what he called “abolishing” districts in the most extreme cases.
Menu of Options
The federal law seeks to hold schools and districts accountable for their performance by requiring annual student progress on tests of reading and mathematics and providing for a range of consequences for failure to meet achievement targets.
Under the law, schools that enter the restructuring phase have several options available to them, including contracting with an outside organization to run the school, becoming a charter school, replacing the staff, turning operation of the school over to the state, or following “any other major restructuring effort” that is likely to produce significant changes. The remedies for districts are similar.
California schools overwhelmingly are opting for that last choice, the Center on Education Policy study shows. During the 2006-07 school year, 90 percent of the schools in restructuring chose the option of “any other” effort. Such options might include adopting a new curriculum, having teachers reapply for their jobs, or beefing up technology.
At the state school board meeting next month, Mr. O’Connell is expected to provide more details of what he is calling “a system of triage,” which includes first assigning technical-assistance teams to the lowest-performing of the 98 districts.
The state’s involvement would build on some pilot intervention projects already taking place in districts across the state.
Questions about Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to step up the restructuring process are numerous, though. Some districts wonder why they are even among those on the list, and others doubt that money will be available to make the plan work when the state is facing a $14 billion deficit for fiscal 2009.
Turnaround Progress
Between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years, the number of schools in restructuring in California increased to 1,013 from 701.
The percentage of suburban schools in restructuring is rising ‐ 35 percent this school year, compared with 26 percent during the 2005-06 school year.
The percentage of schools that leave restructuring is rising slowly‐ from 3 percent in 2005-06 to 5 percent in 2006-07.
No single federal restructuring strategy seems to be more effective than any other at raising student achievement.
Source: Center on Education Policy
“Who is going to do something, what is it, and who is going to pay for it?” said Merrill Vargo, the executive director of Springboard Schools, a San Francisco-based school improvement organization that has worked with some of the districts on the list.
The governor has said he plans to release $29 million in federal Title I money to help the districts—but until the legislature, which is in a special session, decides how to address the fiscal crisis, lawmakers can’t take action on other issues.
Local educators are hoping the paths chosen by the state for their districts don’t ignore progress already being made.
“We’ve gotten schools out of [program improvement] and we’ve kept schools out of [program improvement],” said Roger Gallizzi, the superintendent of the 22,500-student Palmdale Elementary School District in northern Los Angeles County. “We’ve seen marked improvements in instruction.”
Mr. Gallizzi was one of many superintendents from the 98 districts that recently had the chance to give state board members more of what he termed “qualitative” information about their districts in a series of forums held earlier this month.
His district, he said, has had significant turnover in both administration and the teaching staff. He said he appreciates that the governor’s approach is “not a one-size-fits-all” plan.
“We’re not all in program improvement for the same reasons,” Mr. Gallizzi said.
Hoping for Results
Interviews with district and school administrators conducted for the CEP study showed that most people believed their schools would eventually make their targets for adequate yearly progress, or AYP, a key measure of success under the federal law. Others said that they were using practices that had been successful in similar schools, and that they expected those strategies to help their students as well.
While state officials in California are focusing on restructuring districts, the CEP report offers a few recommendations for how the state could further help schools that have long been at that stage, including providing them with “more guidance on how to actually raise achievement.”
Ms. Vargo said she has found that school officials and teachers have become skilled at analyzing data, but tend to fall down on carrying out their plans.
“The question we ought to worry about,” she said, “is: Does somebody have a plan to help these schools better serve the kids who got up this morning and went to school there?”
Vol. 27 : Education Week. online. Feb. 14, 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How the University Works

From the blog site:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Unstoppable Obama?

Unstoppable Obama

Barbara Ehrenreich
February 14, 2008

When did you begin to think that Obama might be
unstoppable? Was it when your grown feminist daughter
started weeping inconsolably over his defeat in New
Hampshire? Or was it when he triumphed in Virginia, a
state still littered with Confederate monuments and
memorabilia? For me, it was on Tuesday night when two
Republican Virginians in a row called C-SPAN radio to
report that they'd just voted for Ron Paul, but, in the
general election, would vote for... Obama.

In the dominant campaign narrative, his appeal is
mysterious and irrational: He's a "rock star," all flash
and no substance, tending dangerously, according to the
New York Times' Paul Krugman, to a "cult of
personality." At best, he's seen as another vague
Reagan-esque avatar of Hallmarkian sentiments like
optimism and hope. While Clinton, the designated
valedictorian, reaches out for the ego and super-ego, he
supposedly goes for the id. She might as well be
promoting choral singing in the face of Beatlemania.

And, another view:
The attack of the liberals:
Interesting views on academic cultural myopia.

What's the Matter with Paul Krugman?

Scott Kurashige
Posted February 14, 2008 | 02:56 PM (EST)
The Huffington Post

On February 11, Paul Krugman touched off a mini
firestorm with his New York Times column, "Hate Springs
Eternal," which asserted that Obama supporters had been
infected with the disease of Clinton-hating spawned by
the right wing. "I won't try for fake evenhandedness
here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters
of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody," wrote
Krugman. Then, came the real fireworks: "I'm not the
first to point out that the Obama campaign seems
dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality."
While Krugman may not have been the first to compare the
Obama campaign to a cult (see this insightful piece by
Jonathan Tilove of Newhouse News), being the first to do
so in the pages of the New York Times raises eyebrows.
This came on top of his assertion that it was not the
Clinton camp, but the Obama camp that was playing the
"race card."

Yes we can

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama adopts populism on trade deals

February 13, 2008 8:22 AM
Smart Move: Barack Obama Goes Populist In the Home Stretch
In my nationally syndicated newspaper column last week, I outlined some of the difficult terrain Barack Obama faces in trying to both court working-class voters and avoid the media's racist characterization of power-challenging African-American leaders as race-centric radicals. This is a very, very difficult thing to do, and I sympathize with Obama in moving carefully up to this point.

But with the next round of states overrepresenting for the constituencies Obama has done most poorly among - working-class whites and Latinos - he knows he has to try to thread the needle. He has to try to offer up more full-throated, class-based populism. And indeed, that's what he's doing.

In his victory speech last night, Obama hammered the North American Free Trade Agreement, previewing a major economic speech today. Here are some excerpts:

"It's a Washington where decades of trade deals like NAFTA and China have been signed with plenty of protections for corporations and their profits, but none for our environment or our workers who've seen factories shut their doors and millions of jobs disappear; workers whose right to organize and unionize has been under assault for the last eight years...So today, I'm laying out a comprehensive agenda to reclaim our dream and restore our prosperity. It's an agenda that focuses on three broad economic challenges that the next President must address - the current housing crisis; the cost crisis facing the middle-class and those struggling to join it; and the need to create millions of good jobs right here in America- jobs that can't be outsourced and won't disappear.
For our economy, our safety, and our workers, we have to rebuild America. I'm proposing a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years. This investment will multiply into almost half a trillion dollars of additional infrastructure spending and generate nearly two million new jobs - many of them in the construction industry that's been hard hit by this housing crisis. The repairs will be determined not by politics, but by what will maximize our safety and homeland security; what will keep our environment clean and our economy strong. And we'll fund this bank by ending this war in Iraq. It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money on putting America back together instead...

It's also time to look to the future and figure out how to make trade work for American workers. I won't stand here and tell you that we can - or should - stop free trade. We can't stop every job from going overseas. But I also won't stand here and accept an America where we do nothing to help American workers who have lost jobs and opportunities because of these trade agreements. And that's a position of mine that doesn't change based on who I'm talking to or the election I'm running in.

You know, in the years after her husband signed NAFTA, Senator Clinton would go around talking about how great it was and how many benefits it would bring. Now that she's running for President, she says we need a time-out on trade. No one knows when this time-out will end. Maybe after the election.

I don't know about a time-out, but I do know this - when I am President, I will not sign another trade agreement unless it has protections for our environment and protections for American workers. And I'll pass the Patriot Employer Act that I've been fighting for ever since I ran for the Senate - we will end the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas, and we will give those breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages right here in America."

This is really terrific stuff, and I say that as someone who has been critical of Obama in the past for his timidity on issues like trade - issues that make the Establishment particularly uncomfortable.

Politically, the benefits to Obama of voicing a populist message on trade are obvious. Recent polls in the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to America's current lobbyist-written trade policy. While this trade policy may be popular on K Street, it ain't popular on Main Street. And as it relates to Obama's message of reconfiguring the political map and attracting Republican voters, a populist line on trade is perhaps the single most powerful tool to do just that. A post-2006 election poll for the Democracy Corps and Campaign for America's Future showed that among Republican voters who considered voting Democratic that year, the GOP's support for unfair trade deals was the top reason they considered switching. While Clinton insultingly says many "red states" Obama won are unimportant because they supposedly can't be won by a Democrat on election day, these numbers suggest a populist message on trade against a "free" trader like John McCain (R) could profoundly change the map.

Substantively, Obama certainly hasn't been as aggressive as many would like on trade, and my reservations about him on this issue will persist. However, this is undoubtedly an encouraging step and it's fair to say he understands the real-world impact of this issue. This is a person who represents Illinois and who talks about working in the shadows of shuttered steel mills. With the departure of John Edwards, Obama is a candidate whose top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, is the only remaining top presidential economic guru who acknowledges that our current trade deals are horrifying - rather than wonderful. And though we've seen people like Bill Clinton promise as candidates to get tough on trade and then as president do exactly the opposite, this is a different candidate and a different era - with a much more angry public.

True, Obama's a bit late to this - but as someone concerned more with movement building than with an individual candidate, I say better late than never. And, after all, the primary process is a time that can truly shape candidates in a genuine way. As just one example, Howard Dean was the moderate, near-DLC governor of Vermont, and had a very authentic and profound conversion into a more proud progressive populist during his 2004 presidential run. We should embrace that kind of transformation - and hold out the possibility that perhaps a similar dynamic is playing out with Obama on an issue like trade.

Sure, there's some opportunism here as well. Obama is likely trying to walk down the path John Edwards first courageously blazed in this race. He is looking out at the next cluster of primary states and knows that these are the ones that have been hit hard by NAFTA and other rigged trade deals. He looks at Ohio and sees Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) - a man who was elected in 2006 based largely on his opposition to our current trade policy. He also sees the New York Times report that former President Bill Clinton is going to be campaigning in Ohio - and knows that the best way to make that boomerang against his opponent is to remind Ohio voters that it was Bill and Hillary Clinton who jammed NAFTA down the Buckeye State's throat.

But opportunism isn't bad. If Obama sees his opportunity in voicing a progressive, populist message on trade, then that's a good thing. That means that we have a leading presidential candidate who sees being a populist and a progressive as a major opportunity. For the progressive movement, that's what success looks like.

Obama is sure to be berated by national pundits for going populist - it's precisely the kind of message that drives well-heeled Establishment propagandists across the partisan spectrum crazy. From Joe Klein to David Broder to David Brooks, questioning the economic elite is seen as the ultimate blasphemy. As Sherrod Brown told the Nation this week, when he ran in 2006, "I got one newspaper endorsement in the state of the big nine papers." Most opposed him because he dared to challenge the economic orthodoxy that says we must have trade deals that encourage corporations to eliminate jobs, destroy the environment and exploit workers, while legislating protectionism for patents, intellectual property, copyrights and other corporate profit shields.

But Brown didn't cater to elite opinion - he was talking directly to voters. If Obama can withstand the inevitable onslaught of scorn from the Punditburo, his new populism may deliver him the presidency.

Posted by David Sirota

94,000 missing votes in Los Angeles

About Those 94,000 Votes Missing in L.A. County’s Democratic Presidential Primary Totals

By Paul Hogarth

While Hillary Clinton won last week’s California primary, the gap would be narrower if we counted every vote. But in Los Angeles County, the Registrar of Voters disqualified 94,500 ballots from “decline to state” (DTS) voters – because most did not fill an extra bubble to say they were voting in the Democratic primary. These voters requested a Democratic ballot, were given a ballot with only Democratic candidates listed, and a manual re-count would clearly indicate who they meant to vote for. But if they didn’t check the extra bubble, the machine did not pick up their vote – a fatal design flaw beyond any voter’s control. To not count these votes would violate state law, as well as the California Constitution – which requires every vote to be counted. With the close delegate count at stake – along with overwhelming proof that non-partisan voters favored Barack Obama – it is incumbent on L.A. County to count every vote, and to do it now.

Last week, 189,000 “decline-to-state” (DTS) voters in California’s largest County participated in the presidential primary – a 20% increase in turnout over 2006. Each party can choose whether to allow DTS voters in their primary, but only two have done so: (a) the Democratic Party, and (b) the American Independent Party – an ultra-right, nativist party. For a DTS voter to participate, they had to request a ballot in one of these two parties. An overwhelming number picked the Democratic ballot, as poll workers were required to keep track by marking it in the voter rolls.

But here’s where it got tricky. As the sample ballot shows below, DTS voters who got a Democratic ballot were given a list of the presidential candidates. But directly above (and in smaller font), they were also told to mark a bubble that they were voting in the Democratic primary. According to the election machines, 94,500 DTS voters who asked for such a ballot did not pick a candidate. While some may have abstained, it’s clear that a solid majority were disqualified simply because they did not fill in that extra bubble.

Was filling the bubble necessary to prevent DTS folks from voting in more than one primary? No. If you asked for a Democratic ballot, you only got a list of Democratic candidates – and so could not possibly vote in the American Independent primary. From the voter’s mindset, taking that extra step appeared redundant – assuming that they even noticed the fine print in the first place. Given the circumstances, most probably did not see it at all.

It turns out the bubble was there for mechanical reasons – due to a fatal design flaw in the voting machines that was beyond any voter’s control. The optical scanners were only set up to read your choice if you filled in the bubble, because each candidate was then boiled down to a number. If, for example, a DTS voter picked candidate #10 without filling in the bubble, the machine wouldn’t know whether to count Democrat Hillary Clinton – or Diane Beall Templin of the American Independent Party. So they would just say that the voter picked no candidate.

Machines are not humans, so it’s easy to see how they couldn’t catch that problem. But a hand count could determine what the machines did not – basic voter intent. When we learned in 2000 about Palm Beach’s infamous “butterfly ballot,” everyone was sure that Holocaust survivors did not vote for Pat Buchanan – including Buchanan himself. But there was no way to definitively prove that they meant to vote for Al Gore – and the remedies under law were not clear. Here, it’s just a question of getting enough human beings to sort through the 94,500 ballots – and determine which candidate they picked.

So far, the L.A. County Registrar of Voters only agreed to do a sample hand count of 1% of the “unmarked” ballots. But that's illegal, because the State Constitution requires them to count them all. Proposition 43, which passed in 2002, gave each California voter the constitutional right to have their vote counted. And California Elections Code Section 15701 says that even if it takes longer than a statutory deadline, the county can ask for an extension.

“It’s not good enough to do a 1% count,” said Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign. “The statute is very clear – all votes have to be counted.” The Courage Campaign, a political non-profit based out of Los Angeles, alerted the Registrar of Voters about this ballot problem on the eve of the primary – and have hired attorneys to enforce the law if necessary. 20,000 people have signed their online petition since Thursday, and State Senator Dean Florez has demanded hearings in Sacramento.

These votes must be counted – for legal reasons, moral reasons, and (yes) political reasons. Barack Obama has wide appeal from unaffiliated voters who joined the Democratic Party to vote for him in the primary, so it’s fair to assume that the bulk of these voters are his. Counting these votes won’t change who won California, or even Los Angeles – as Hillary Clinton won the County by almost 170,000 votes. But in the critical delegate race that may go down to the wire, these 94,500 votes could make a real difference in several Congressional Districts.

“It is a basic issue of trust,” said Jacobs. “Are we going to tell people that their votes didn’t count – when an unprecedented number of independents turned out to participate in the presidential primary? It’s simply a question of voter rights.”

Voters were outraged in 2000 that Florida couldn’t get its act together in the general election – besides the blatant chicanery that the President’s cronies were involved in. But the “butterfly ballot” in Palm Beach County only affected 19,000 voters. Here we have a fatal flaw in L.A. County that disenfranchised 94,000 people. And with the delegate count as close as it is, like Florida it could prove decisive in picking the next President.

It’s not a question of introducing legislation to prevent this matter from happening again -- the law already requires it. These votes are just sitting here – and the Registrar must do a hand re-count to determine what voters really meant. It isn’t rocket science, or even brain surgery. It's democracy.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, an alternative online daily newspaper, with whose permission this article is republished.

Posted on February 12, 2008
On California Progress Report

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Time for the Peace Movement

After Super Tuesday, Time for Peace Movement to Get Off the Sidelines
by Tom Hayden

With Iraq a key issue and the Democratic primaries unresolved, isn’t it time for the peace movement to get off the sidelines and become more engaged? Shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to make the candidates compete for the peace vote? Think of the battlegrounds ahead where the peace vote is up for grabs: Washington on February 9, Maryland and the District of Columbia February 12, Wisconsin February 19, Rhode Island, Vermont and Ohio on March 4, and other states like Oregon and Pennsylvania through May.

On one side it appears that the pro-Democratic groups with millions of dollars are sitting out the primaries, saving their energy for the coming battle with John McCain. That plan just got delayed for many weeks as the primaries go on. On the other side are the grass-roots peace coalitions that generally forsake political engagement and busy themselves with plans for civil disobedience while 13 more states are voting.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters will make up their minds on which of the candidates is best on ending the Iraq war with little involvement by peace activists in the debate.

There are differences that matter between Clinton and Obama, not as great as between the Democrats and McCain, but significant nonetheless. They are these:

Obama favors a 16-18 month timeline for withdrawing US combat troops. Clinton favors “immediately” convening the Joint Chiefs to draft a plan to “begin” drawing down US troops, but with no timetable for completing the withdrawal.

Obama opposed the measure authorizing Bush to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, widely regarded as an escalating step towards another war. Clinton voted for the authorization.

Obama opposed the 2002 authorization for war that Clinton voted for. Clinton still calls that decision a “close call” and refuses to say it was a mistaken vote.

It’s true that both candidates support leaving thousands of “residual” American troops behind for a likely counterinsurgency conflict that we should all oppose. Peace activists should demand a shift to peace diplomacy beginning with a US commitment to end the occupation and withdraw all troops.

But Obama’s position is clearly better than Clinton’s, and both candidates should be encouraged to see that the strongest anti-war position wins votes. The primaries are probably the last opportunity to push for a tougher stance, before the debate shifts to criticizing McCain/Lieberman/Podhoretz/Petraeus and whomever else in the general election. If one is a Clinton supporter, she should be pressured to keep catching up with Obama’s positions. Instead, she is floating a demand to make Bush bring any Washington-Baghdad military pact before Congress, which is a fine idea but avoids whether and when to end the occupation. If you are an Obama supporter, he should be pressured to connect the drain of the Iraq War on our economy and any possibilities for funding national health care. The point is to push the peace position forward on the promise of winning close primaries.

If nothing is done now by the peace movement, consider this scenario: with Bush promising to withdraw 25,000 troops this summer, Gen. Petraeus comes to Washington in March or April to announce “progress” in Iraq with lavish media attention. If MoveOn, perhaps understandably, avoids direct engagement with the general, which peace advocates will step in? Will Obama or Clinton or the Out of Iraq Caucus be prepared to confront him with an educational counter-offensive, or will McCain obtain a polished halo for being the Petraeus candidate? These are deadly serious questions. Is anyone discussing them?

In the immediate context, it seems to me that a group like MoveOn has to consider whether its endorsement of Obama now deserves a blast of anti-war energy in places like Seattle, Baltimore, Madison, Vermont, suburban Ohio, Providence, and Portland. Television, radio and media advertising still can be purchased for peace voices. Progressive Democrats at the grass-roots level might flood these decisive areas with questions to the campaigns and informational leaflets designed to educate swing voters. Signs and banners asking “Peace By When?” might be seen at rallies and media events.

The new reality is that the primaries will grind on, the percentages will remain extremely tight, and the Iraq War can be made into a tipping issue over which the candidates compete. It takes a peace movement now.

Tom Hayden is the author of Ending the War in Iraq [2007].
From Common Dreams

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama: Ready to rumble

I was writing a note to you about the state of the race after Super Tuesday when we got some startling news.
The Clinton campaign just announced that Hillary and Bill Clinton injected $5 million of their personal fortune into her campaign a few days ago.
This is a dramatic move, and a clear acknowledgement that our campaign has the momentum. We saw undeniable evidence of that last night as the results came in.

Barack Obama won the most states and the most delegates on February 5th.
We have gotten to this point thanks to an unprecedented outpouring of support from ordinary Americans.
To date, more than 650,000 people like you have taken ownership of this campaign, giving whatever they can afford.

The Clinton infusion of $5 million -- and there are reports it could end up being as much as $20 million -- will give them huge resources for the next set of primaries and caucuses.

Thanks to you, we have raised more than $3 million since the polls closed on February 5th. But we have no choice -- we must match their $5 million right now.
We're going to do it the right way, with small donations from people like you. It's never been more urgent that you make a donation of $100 right now:

Just two weeks ago we were behind by double-digits in many of the states that voted yesterday, but Barack won 13 states to 8 states for Hillary Clinton, with one state (New Mexico) still counting votes.
This is an enormous victory, and it's all thanks to you.

We won yesterday because thousands upon thousands of individual supporters canvassed their neighborhoods, talked to their neighbors and friends, and made phone calls to remind their fellow supporters to get out the vote.

And we accomplished all of this with a campaign funded by ordinary people giving only what they can afford.

Yesterday was proof that America is ready for change -- and that you are the force to make that change happen.

But there's still a long way to go before Barack becomes the Democratic nominee. In the next week alone, six more states will hold their primaries and caucuses.
We need to match this $5 million personal contribution from the Clintons immediately and put these resources to work in the states that will vote next.

Please make a donation

Here are some details about yesterday's historic victory. According to official results and exit polls:

Barack won 2-to-1 in traditionally conservative states where Democrats are hungry for a nominee who can change the map and help Democrats up and down the ticket win in November

Our winning coalition included Americans of every race, background, and gender -- including 64% of women in Georgia
We scored wins in every region of the country -- New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states, and the West
Americans had a clear choice to make yesterday, and they chose Barack Obama.

Now let's match this $5 million and take this campaign into the next stage.

Thank you,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Large Latino Vote gave Clinton the victory

Clinton Win in California Larger Than Polls Predicted Because of Huge Latino Turnout

By Frank D. Russo
The California Field Poll released on Super Bowl Sunday before Super Tuesday’s presidential primary had a 2 point spread between Hillary Clinton at 38% of the vote and Barack Obama at 36%, with a pretty large 18% of likely voters being undecided. The actual results being tabulated right now, with 96.7% of the precinct votes counted and perhaps as many as 2 million vote by mail votes and other not yet tabulated, have a 9.5% spread with Clinton getting 51.9% of the vote and 42.4% voting for Barack Obama.
...The single biggest difference in the makeup of the electorate was the 20% share of voters Field expected to be Latino and the 29% share reflected in exit polls. Major news organizations use the same data in these exit polls on California and you can read them on CNN’s site.
Latinos in California voted overwhelmingly for Clinton and accounted for a greater segment of the vote. Also, if you look at the exit poll data and compare it with the Field Poll, blacks which were expected to be 12% of the vote in the Democratic primary (a reasonable assumption since although they are 6% of the state’s population, they are mostly Democrat) only turned out at a 6% share of the vote.
Read the entire article at California Progress Report.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

State budget cuts hurt children

Lets see. Today the state legislators wanted me to vote Yes on Prop. 93 on term limits.
Here is what the Governor is proposing for a budget. Will the legislature stand up to him?
Cuts Hurt Our Local Schools »
Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting nearly $4.8 billion from our schools. This would be disastrous for California’s students – the equivalent of laying off more than 107,000 teachers, reducing per-pupil spending by more than $800 per student, and cutting more than $24,000 from every classroom.
The fact is, students and schools did not create the current budget problem, and their progress shouldn’t be undermined because of it. California’s Education Coalition rejects the Governor’s budget because these cuts are fundamentally inconsistent with the state’s goal of improving student achievement.
According to a recent report from Education Week, California spends $1,900 less per student than the national average, dropping our state from 43rd to 46th in the nation in just a few short years. The report gave California an abysmal D+ in per-pupil spending!
We can do better for California’s students
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.