Saturday, June 30, 2012

Texas Republicans oppose critical thinking skills

Texas GOP: No More Critical Thinking in Schools

Teachers, you may want to be sitting down for this one.
The 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform, adopted June 9 at the state convention in Forth Worth, seems to take a stand against, well, the teaching of critical thinking skills. Read it for yourself:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
As a top commenter on a Reddit thread wrote about the language, "I was absolutely sure this had to be an elaborate fake ... ." It's not.
We at Teacher think this may be a kind of first. While the push for accountability via standardized testing—which the current Democratic administration has stood behind—has frequently been characterized as potentially undermining instruction in critical thinking, blatant opposition to teaching students to think deeply has not often (ever?) been a part of the policy conversation.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Affordable Care Act- DSA

The DSA National Political Committee (NPC) welcomes the 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The decision affirms the right of Congress to legislate in the interest of the general welfare of the American people.
We applaud the gains for ordinary American families that will come with the ACA. Over ten million members of moderate income families will gain coverage under Medicaid; millions of young Americans between the age of 21 and 26 will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance; children and adults with pre-existing conditions will now be covered by the same policies as those deemed by insurers to be “healthy”; and over one hundred million Americans will now be free of lifetime expenditure limits on their coverage.
DSA also recognizes, however, that the ACA will fail to curtail ever-rising health care costs driven by the profit-seeking of private insurers and private health-care providers. Only a single-payer or “Medicare for All” system would provide truly affordable universal coverage by granting a single public insurer bargaining leverage over private providers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

California High School Dropout Rates

 SACRAMENTO—Graduation rates among California's public school students are climbing and dropout rates are falling, with the biggest gains being made among English learners and the state's largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today. (at
More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.
"Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools," Torlakson said. "These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state's future."
Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All these links between Michelle Rhee and the far right are no coincidence

All these links between Michelle Rhee and the far right are no coincidence

Supreme Court invites more racial profiling ; NNIRR

In allowing the notorious "show me your papers" provision of Arizona's SB 1070 bill, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively supports the rollback of rights and protections that have been long fought for and honored in this country -- specifically,  the freedom from racial discrimination. Importantly, the Court struck down the other three provisions that had been challenged in the case.
Ruling on whether or not the "show me your papers" provision (Section 2B) "pre-empted" federal authority in immigration, the highest court in the country decided it was "premature" to block it. However, we are alarmed that this provision, very much the heart of SB 1070, can only be implemented through racial profiling.
The provision requires state and local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped, detained or arrested whenever there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person may be undocumented, and to verify that person's status with the federal government.
As an Arizona community leader has pointed out, "and we know what 'reasonable suspicion' is: brown skin."
Although the ruling left open the potential for legal challenges on the implementation of the law, we are deeply concerned, in the meantime, about the rights and protections of our communities in Arizona. Already, it has been the practice of police in the Tucson sector to "hold" people they have stopped for 20 minutes until they can make contact with a federal agent - not a problem given that there are literally thousands of Border Patrol agents constantly milling around, particularly with the decrease in cross border migration. This practice will undoubtedly increase the number of immigrants who are being detained and deported simply because they were driving their children to school, going to a grocery store, or just going about their daily lives.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme Court strikes down most of Arizona immigration law

 The U.S. Supreme court today struck down most provisions of the Arizona law SB 1070 while sustaining one of its most controversial provisions.
The court sustained the “show me your papers” provision of the law that requires state law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest.
The most conservative members of the court voted to sustain the entire law.  Imagine this.  Judges who consider themselves conservative support a law that requires all persons to carry papers to show their immigration/citizenship status.   This is a practice most often found in repressive regimes such as that of Syria or Nazi Germany.
The decision was a partial victory for the Obama administration, which had sued to block several parts of the law.
In a statement President Obama said that he was "pleased" with the Court's decision to strike down some aspects of the law, but he voiced his concern about the remaining provision.
"I agree with the Court that individuals cannot be detained solely to verify their immigration status. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," Mr. Obama said. "Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Randi Weingarten, Netroots Nation

It takes a couple of minutes for her to get started.  It is worth the wait. This is 2011, but precisely relevant today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Layoffs hitting public workers (teachers): Recovery is hurt.

Shaila Dewan and Motoko Rich. New York Times. June 20,2012.

Companies have been slowly adding workers for more than two years. But pink slips are still going out in a crucial area: government.

In California, the governor is threatening to eliminate 15,000 state jobs. When school begins in Cleveland this fall, more than 500 teachers probably will be out of work. And in Trenton — which has already cut a third of its police force, hundreds of school district employees and at least 150 other public workers — the only way the city will forestall the loss of 60 more firefighters is if a federal grant comes through.
Government payrolls grew in the early part of the recovery, largely because of federal stimulus measures. But since its postrecession peak in April 2009 (not counting temporary Census hiring), the public sector has shrunk by 706,000 jobs. The losses appeared to be tapering off earlier this year, but have accelerated for the last three months, creating the single biggest drag on the recovery in many areas.
So while the federal government has grown a little since the recession, and many states have recently begun to add a few jobs, local governments are making new cuts that outweigh those gains. More than a quarter of municipal governments are planning layoffs this year, according to a survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. They are being squeezed not only by declining federal and state support, but by their devastated property tax base.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are Charter Schools Public? Diane Ravitch

Are charter schools public?
by Diane Ravitch 
I noted in my blog last week that the visionaries of the charter school idea—Raymond Budde of the University of Massachusetts and Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers—never intended that charter schools would compete with public schools.
Budde saw charters as a way to reorganize public school districts and to provide more freedom for teachers. He envisioned teams of teachers asking for a charter for three to five years, during which time they would operate with full autonomy over curriculum and instruction, with no interference from the superintendent or the principal.
Shanker thought that charter schools should be created by teams of teachers who would explore new ways to reach unmotivated students. He envisioned charter schools as self-governing, as schools that encouraged faculty decisionmaking and participatory governance. He imagined schools that taught by coaching rather than lecturing, that strived for creativity and problem-solving rather than mastery of standardized tests or regurgitation of facts. He never thought of charters as non-union schools where teachers would work 70-hour weeks and be subject to dismissal based on the scores of their students.
Today, charter schools are very far from the original visions of Budde and Shanker. Few are run by teams of teachers. Most are managed by for-profit corporations or by nonprofit corporations with private boards of directors. The charter reflects the aims of the corporation, not the aims of its teachers. Most charters are non-union and rely on young teachers who work long hours and leave after a few years, thus keeping costs low. Many have high executive compensation. Charters have a high rate of teacher and principal turnover. Clearly, charters do not "belong" to the professionals who work in them, but to the corporation and its directors, who hold the charter.
Which raises the question of this blog: Are charter schools public schools? They say they are. But what we now see is that they are public when it comes to collecting tax money, but not in most other respects.

The Importance of Mexican American Studies- Acuña

Mexican American Studies : A Pedagogy
Not Sociology
Rodolfo F. Acuña

We have allowed the uninformed and ignorant to define what Mexican American Studies is. Every time I discuss the subject I feel as frustrated as a scientist trying to explain science to a creationist. No matter how well you know the field those who do not want to believe will distort your words to fit their preconceptions and belief system.

As I have explained, MAS or Chicana/o Studies is not sociology. MAS has courses in sociology that examine the MAS corpus of knowledge but MAS does not belong to the field of sociology.  If it were just sociology, it could be reduced to one or two courses on race.

MAS is a strategy that incorporates multi-disciplines. The truth be told, if the academy had cared about Latinos, which are the second largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world, it would have hired specialists to explore the role of Mexican Americans and other Latinos in the United States.

If this had happened Latino courses would be integrated organically within departments. But consequent to the racism in higher education this field of study has been ignored. Even today, most academic departments do not offer a single MAS or Latino course or employ a single Latino faculty member.

Incredible but most schools of education have not developed courses on how to teach or counsel Latino students. This is criminal since I would not expect, no matter how good she is, an optometrist to perform open heart surgery.
(Editors note: Apply the above to the elimination of Bilingual Multicultural Education at CSU Sacramento. Including support of the elimination by "Latino" faculty.)
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