Monday, December 31, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Created by Republican Irresponsibility

This article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
 If your tax bill goes up $2,200 a year, or you're one of the millions who would stop receiving unemployment benefits, the cause of your economic pain is not some a natural disaster, or a major structural flaw in the economy. The cause is Republican fear of being beaten in a primary by people like Sarah Palin, Sharon Angel or Richard Mourdock - funded by far Right Wing oligarchs like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers. It's that simple.
Most normal Americans will have very little patience with Republicans as they begin to realize that GOP Members of Congress are willing to risk throwing the country back into a recession because they are worried about being beaten in low turn out primaries by people who do a better job than they do appealing to the extreme right fringe of the American electorate - and to the far Right plutocrats that are all too willing to stoke right wing passion and anger.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

First Nations - Hunger Strike for justice

Chief Theresa Spence on 14th day of hunger
strike - Craig Brown, staff writer

The 'Idle No More' movement, a campaign of grassroots
First Nations protests, has spread like wildfire over
the past week in response to bills passed by the
conservative Canadian government.

First Nations protesters march towards Parliament Hill
during a demonstration as part of the spreading 'Idle
No More' movement in Ottawa, Canada, December 21,
2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie Anger to the recently
passed C-45, the Harper government omnibus budget
bill, has fueled the growing movement.

Bil C-45 includes changes to the Canadian Indian Act
regarding how reserve lands are managed, making them
easier to develop and be taken away from the First
Nation people.

The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams
from the list of federally protected bodies of water.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NRA position "irresponsible and dangerous" - Teachers' Union head

Two leading teachers unions came out strongly against a proposal Friday by the National Rifle Association to place armed police officers at the nation's schools.
The suggestion by Wayne LaPierre, the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, came in an eagerly anticipated news conference that broke the organization's week-long silence since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 26 people at the school.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said, in an appearance that many pundits quickly declared a disaster.
Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, immediately called LaPierre's proposal "irresponsible and dangerous."

Friday, December 21, 2012

What schools need. ( hint. not armed police)

A Broader, Bolder Christmas: Top Ten “Gifts” for Under the (Education Policy) Tree
Co-authored with Elaine Weiss
10. A Roof Over Every Student’s Head: Children who lack stable homes are more anxious and less focused than their peers who have adequate housing. They are also at higher risk for poor health and developmental problems, and have lower educational attainment. There is no reason why any child in the United States should not enjoy stable housing. Moreover, we end up paying more for children to sleep in cars or in shelters than we would to provide their families with apartments. It’s time to fund the National Housing Trust Fund that was signed into law by President George W. Bush but never funded.
9. School Breakfast and Lunch for All Eligible Students: Children who are hungry have difficulty concentrating and an impaired learning ability. The recession raised already unacceptable levels of child food insecurity to crisis levels. In Ohio, one in four children was at risk of going hungry in 2012. More than half of surveyed teachers told Share our Strength that they buy food to feed their hungry students. Eating school breakfasts is associated with increased math and reading scores, improved speed and memory in cognitive tests, stronger academic performance, and improved attendance and punctuality.  It’s time for schools to adopt policies like universal breakfast and breakfast in the classroom.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

School alternatives to suspension.

New state law as of Jan.1, schools must seek alternatives to suspension.  One alternative is called Restorative Justice.
Teachers, administrators, FYI

What Does AB 1729 Do And How Does It Help Students?

1.     Sets out the legislature’s intent that alternatives to suspension and expulsion should be used and school exclusion should be avoided and recognizes that vulnerable student groups are receiving the brunt of all discipline removals in California!  This is important because it tells school districts who are using harsh and punitive out-of-school discipline and giving more punishments to students of color and others that state law does not support this and that they need to change their practices.  Here are a few things that the legislature said:
  “The overuse of school suspension and expulsion undermines the public policy of this state and does not result in safer school environments or improved pupil behavior.”
  “School suspension and expulsion are disproportionately imposed on pupils of color, pupils with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pupils, and other vulnerable pupil populations.”
  “Research has found that nonpunitive classroom discipline . . . are more effective and efficient than suspension and expulsion for addressing the majority of pupil misconduct.”
  “The public policy of this state is to provide effective interventions for pupils . . .  avoid exclusion from school.”

2.     Requires other means of correction be used and FAIL prior to “in-school suspension” in addition to “out-of-school suspension”.  This is important because we want to be sure that schools are working to teach students how to correct their behavior and re-integrate into the school community before they lose valuable instruction time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Teachers of Newtown

The Hero Teachers of Newtown

by Diane Ravitch

This much is clear: the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook
Elementary School reacted with astonishing courage to the
unthinkable, the terrifying intrusion of a man intent on
murdering them and their students. With no thought of
their own safety, they defended their children..

Vicki  Soto.

Everyone of them is a hero, those who died and those who
survived.   Six of them died protecting the children.

We don't know the names of the survivors, but we know who made
the ultimate sacrifice. For their courage and selflessness,
they are heroes of American education.

The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and the school
psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 52, ran towards the intruder to
try to stop him. They both were killed.

The killer went in search of defenseless babies and teachers.
The teachers heard the gunfire, tried to hide their children,
hid them in closets and cabinets.

Vicki Soto, 27, put herself between the killer and her
children. He killed her. Somehow some of them escaped. Six ran
to a nearby house. They told the surprised homeowner,, "We
can't go back to our school. Our teacher is dead. We don't
have a teacher."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

America's Teachers: Heroes or Greedy Moochers ?

America’s Teachers: Heroes or Greedy Moochers at the Public Trough?

I’ll be brief here. Let’s just note that the heroic teachers who died while courageously trying to protect their kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and the others who survived but stayed to protect the kids, were all part of a school system where the employees are members of the American Federation of Teachers.
Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Those teachers, who are routinely being accused by our politicians of being drones and selfish, incompetent money grubbers worried more about their pensions than about teaching our children (though most, even after 10 years, earn less than $55,000 a year for doing a very difficult job that involves at least 12-14 hours a day of work and prep time counting meetings with parents), stood their ground when confronted with a psychotic assailant armed with semi-automatic pistols and an automatic rifle, and protected their kids. The principal too, a veteran teacher herself, stood her ground, reportedly suicidally charging at the assailant along with the school’s psychologist in a doomed effort to tackle him and stop the carnage.
How many of us would have had to the courage to stand in front of a closet door to keep an armed madman from finding the kids hidden behind it, as one slain young teacher, Vicki Soto, died doing? How many of us would charge at an armed shooter, to almost certain death, in an effort top stop him from further killing? How many would bravely hide in a bathroom with a class of kids when we could have run away and saved ourselves?
And this: How many of the politicians in Washington and in state capitals and how many conservative think-tank “researchers” who attack teachers as leeches and drones would have shown such heroism under fire?

Friday, December 14, 2012

School to Prison Pipeline

Susan Feriss,
The so-called “school to prison pipeline” — which has been the subject of several Center for Public Integrity stories —was the focus of new attention on Capitol Hill Wednesday.  Sen. Dick Durbin presided over the first Congressional hearing on schools suspending students and sending them to juvenile-justice authorities for minor discipline problems.
“For many young people, our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system,” Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and assistant majority leader, said in his introductory remarks. “This phenomenon is a consequence of a culture of ‘zero tolerance’ that is widespread in our schools and is depriving many children of their fundamental right to an education.”
Durbin said he hoped the hearing, archived here, would highlight the troubling consequences of sending  kids to court and placing them in the juvenile system for relatively minor reasons. He also called on speakers who testified that it’s possible to keep schools safe – and boost kids’ engagement in school – by cutting referrals to the justice system and instead employing counseling and innovative discipline methods.  

Friday, December 07, 2012

Compelling description of real school reform

by Pedro Noguera

Public schools, especially those that serve a disproportionate percentage of low-income students of color, are confronted by a number of constraints that make the job of educating children, well, difficult. These constraints include, but are not limited to:
                The political—particularly those created by the NCLB related to the inappropriate and excessive reliance on high-stakes assessments to judge students, teachers, and schools. This often leads to a narrowing of the focus of the curriculum, and a narrow focus on achievement without sufficient attention to academic performance and child development;
                The economic—caused by the shortage of resources (especially in poor communities) that compel schools to do more with less. The financial pressures experienced by low-income families also make it difficult for them to provide the support children need; and
                The social—which might include everything from concerns about safety, nutrition, health, crime, drugs, and a lack of parental guidance and support.
I describe these as constraints because I reject the "no excuses" position typically offered by the group I called the naïve optimists.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

California budget spends less on education

by Laura Rosenhall

Education may be the largest single segment of California's budget, but the state proportionately spends less of its money on elementary and high schools and colleges than the national average, according to a new Census Bureau report.
The statistic is gleaned from the bureau's annual report on state government finances, the latest of which covers 2011.
The report tallies California's "general expenditures" last year at just under $225 billion -- spending from both the state's own taxes and other resources as well as $64.5 billion in federal funds. Education is almost $75 billion of that, according to the report -- or exactly one-third, somewhat below the national average of 35.8 percent.
California's level of education spending in 2011 was fractionally lower than in 2010. Other states ranged from a high of 46.6 percent in Georgia to a low of 24.9 percent in Alaska.

Read more here:

Defending Teachers and Teaching: Standardized Testing Cons | California Progress Report

Defending Teachers and Teaching: Standardized Testing Cons | California Progress Report

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

WalMart Schools and Kevin Johnson

WalMart schools in Sacramento
A fine by the California Fair Political Practices Committee (FFPC) against Mayor Kevin Johnson revealed that the Mayor has received  $500,000 dollars from the Walton Family – the owners of WalMart- for his advocacy through the organization StandUP. 
The money did not go to the public schools but to advocacy for specific positions. Mayor Johnson has a number of well known positions on “school reform” starting with his initial role in privatizing Sacramento High School as a charter.   He serves as Chair of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Education Reform Task Force.
Applying the WalMart perspective to schools would privatize  the public institutions.  WalMart is notoriously anti union and exploits its workers for the family’s own gains.  Low wages; pushing wage scales down: few benefits; passing  costs such as  adequate food and health care of workers off to the public programs; and an authoritarian even totalitarian management environment  are mainstays of WalMart stores.  I don’t think they will be able to import the teachers from China, but they will be able to cut wages, benefits, and job security. See
One way you could improve schools would be to adequately fund them, however during the recent vital election to  fund the schools through California Prop. 30, Mayor Johnson and his wife Michelle Rhee were occupied in campaign events in other states.
Kevin Johnson’s approach to school change is consistent with the anti teacher  efforts of Democrats for Educational Reform (see prior posts). Also see

Monday, December 03, 2012

Foundations and school reform

One of the things the right wing does is keep organizing.  While we rest and recover from an election such as California Prop. 30, they are off on their next campaign.  They do this by having hundreds of advocates. So that while some recover, others launch their next campaign.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual conference was held  Nov 26-27   in Washington, D.C. The agenda hits most of the main policies former Gov. Jeb Bush has supported: How to make teachers more effective; school district accountability; charter school accountability; the parent trigger and funding; and what to expect from new Common Core assessments.
The agenda of the agenda of the right and of the Obama administration has focused on Common Core Standards.  To date there has been no evidence that common standards actually change what happens in classrooms.  This is the kind of reform that the well funded foundations like because they can go out and advocate and raise funds without having to get their hands dirty by talking with teachers, students or parents.
Major donors such as the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and others  are increasingly driving education agendas and that influence just continues to grow. These foundations  have no public accountability, but they  been successful in capturing the policy agenda from local school boards, state legislatures, in the press  and  in Congress  despite their lack of evidence of  success.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

BMED Graduate - Principal puts struggling school on new path


This is the third in an occasional series on principals who are turning around local schools.
Maria Lewis spends much of her day on bent knee. The 44-year-old principal bends down to give direction to bigger kids and to soothe the smallest. But mostly she bends down to listen.
It's clear that kids come first on the T.L. Whitehead Elementary campus in Woodland.
"Every child can learn," Lewis said. "They may be lacking some skills. So what? Let's try to build on prior knowledge."
She must be right. The school's Academic Performance Index has grown from 704 to 793 in the two years since she took the reins of the school. On a scale of 200 to 1,000, the statewide benchmark is 800 for each school.
The increase was enough to make Whitehead Elementary the only traditional school in the four-county region to come out of program improvement this year, a designation Title 1 schools receive if state officials don't think they are improving their scores quickly enough.
"We are really proud" of Whitehead Elementary, Debra Calvin, an associate superintendent at Woodland Unified, told The Bee in October. "It's an incredibly difficult thing to do to pull a school out of Program Improvement."
Mrs. Lewis is a graduate of the Sac State BMED program. Like hundreds of other graduates she has done a great job.  The program has now been terminated.  For details see, The Chicano / Mexican American Digital History project.
read the entire piece on Mrs. Lewis at the Bee.
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