Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Building a Progressive Agenda

This essay is from Democratic Left and Tikun. It provides a context for future work in seeking to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and to change NCLB.
Part II: Mobilizing from Below to Enact an Economic Justice Agenda

The impressive depth and breadth of Obama’s electoral victory, combined with Democratic gains in both the House and the Senate, provides the possibility of reversing three decades of growing inequality that is the primary cause of an impending global depression. But these electoral gains will prove temporary if the Obama administration does not improve the living standards of middle and working class voters. To do so, the new administration will have to govern “big” and “quick.” While there is short-term consensus in favor of a major stimulus package, some of his centrist Democratic advisers are already warning that long-term spending plans will have to be put on hold, particularly universal health care and the increased taxes on the wealthy originally set to fund the program. And the moderate punditry, led by global-capitalist enthusiast Thomas Friedman, reminds Obama that “excessive regulation” of the financial industry could “strangle” the “entrepreneurial risk-taking spirit of capitalism.” We are in the midst of a global “liquidity crisis” in which banks will not lend capital out of fear that borrowers will not be able to pay them back. The mainstream media – and the Obama campaign and transition team – does not yet comprehend that this crisis has everything to do with the massive growth in inequality of the past three decades. The policies of deregulation, privatization, and de-unionization, supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations, led working and middle class Americans to try to maintain their living standards by taking on massive consumer debt and borrowing against their home equity. Once the housing bubble collapsed, so did their purchasing power.
Only activist pressure from below can force an Obama administration to govern in a manner than could secure a Democratic realignment. With the constitutional system of checks and balances and separation of powers consciously aimed at forestalling rapid change, it is no surprise that almost all the reforms identified with the twentieth century Democratic Party – Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act, the Civil Rights Acts and Medicare – occurred in the period 1935-1938 and 1964-66, the only time when the Democrats controlled the presidency, had strong majorities in both chambers of Congress and insurgent social movements at their heels.
If upon taking office the Obama administration boldly leads, his administration could pass major legislation for universal health care, massive investment in green technology, and labor law reform that would transform United States social relations for generations to come. But already the corporate community is mobilizing heavily against the Employee Free Choice Act. As a former community organizer Obama understands that reforms do not come from the top down; in the past, they arose because moderate elites made concessions to the movements of the unemployed and the CIO in the 1930s and to the civil rights, anti-war, women’s and welfare rights movements of the 1960s. But while the December sit-down at Republic Windows indicates that a new wave of labor militancy could be in the offing, the strength of the labor movement and the Left is even weaker than they were in 1932, when an economic crisis still demobilized workers fearing losing their jobs if they rocked the boat. Nor does there exist the degree of social mobilization within excluded communities of color parallel to the vigor of the civil rights movement of 1960.

]Specifics of a progressive agenda [
Thus, a “realigned” new Democratic majority can only be built if the Obama administration enacts a legislative agenda that reconstructs a new “productive” egalitarian economy. I emphasize “productive” because as this economic crisis should teach us, an economy whose major “wealth” is created by the shuffling of paper assets by ‘mega-banks,’ hedgefunds, and corporate law firms will inevitably be divided between a privileged top 10 or 20 percent of credentialed “symbolic manipulators” and a precarious middle and working class who “serve” them.. Only an economic system that invests in production for human needs – such as renewable energy, mass transit, and urban infrastructure, school and housing construction – can generate a sufficient number of “good jobs at good wages.” The infotainment, finance, and service model of “post-industrial” capitalism is vulnerable to continuous speculative bubbles because it does not produce sufficient real value to sustain mass middle-class living standards.
And if the production of “useful goods” is increasingly off-shored, then United States living standards can only be sustained if the rest of the world will lend it the money to run massive trade deficits. If and when East Asian central banks decide that investment in Euros rather than U.S. Treasury bonds is a more secure way to preserve value, the entire United States model of indebted growth could collapse.. The dirty little secret is that aside from the auto industry, it is mostly military-related aerospace and military hardware production that sustains a high-wage manufacturing base in the United States. That base still produces 25 per cent of our GDP, while only employing 12 per cent of our workforce, whereas the financial industry has those figures reversed.. Such an imbalance between those who produce real value and those who shuffle paper value cannot sustain an egalitarian economic system. Republican intransigence and virulent anti-union sentiment is close to destroying our domestic auto industry.. Our domestic parts manufacturers alone employ 650,000 workers – or nearly triple the 230,000 remaining employees of the (once) Big Three— and sizeably in states outside of the Midwest. Should domestic parts suppliers go under with the Big Three, we could well lose several million industrial jobs forever. Even foreign transplants will switch to importing parts and supplies from foreign suppliers. Add in the Big Three auto dealers, who employ several hundred thousand workers, and the magnitude of the problem is clear.
Our other major remaining industrial centers – aerospace and machine tools -- are heavily tied to military production. While this is a form of high-wage industrial production, it is heavily capital intensive and produces goods that have little “multiplier” effect Tanks and planes are not capital goods – they don’t produce more material goods; rather they either depreciate or are blown up!. Thus, the truth that no “strong on defense” Democrat speaks is that unless we transition our military production to industrial production for civilian use, we cannot create a new “productive” economy that creates a larger number of high-value-added productive jobs. Obviously, not all jobs can be outsourced. There are , and will remain, large numbers of people employed in the “infotainment” industry, health care, retail, construction, and the food and hospitality industry., and further unionization could raise the living standards of those employed in these largerly service sectors. But if the purchasers of care and leisure goods are going to be able to pay human wages to their service providers, then there must be enough industrial high-wage jobs to sustain those not working in the service sector.
Only insurgent social movement activity will push the pragmatic Obama and his centrist, technocratic cabinet to govern “big.” While Obama’s web-based network of predominantly white and youthful middle-strata progressives could be activated in favor of “global warming” policies and major investment in green technology, they are unlikely to agitate for the industrial and social policies outlined above, which only mobilization by organized labor, new immigrant communities and excluded inner-city residents could engender. Obama’s victory raised hopes among these communities; but is there the organizational base within the labor movement, immigrant rights movement and inner city communities to mobilize quickly around an economic justice agenda? A sense of hope may lead the excluded to engage in more spontaneous acts of disruption that can scare elites into offering legislative change. (FDR’s pre-1935 reforms responded more to the homeless and unemployed movements of 1932-33 and the labor unrest in Toledo, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle of 1934 than to the later emergence of the CIO.) Perhaps we will see urban militancy akin to that of the mid-1960s -- though the protests against police brutality that led to mass riots were led by working and middle class community activists who no longer reside in the largely impoverished urban ghettos. And whether mobilization of communities of color would provoke a similar politics of white racial backlash to those of 1966 onwards remains an open question.

]Stimulus plan needed now[
Even before taking office the Obama administraiton confronts the most serious breakdown in the global economy since the Great Depression. Obama’s Treasury department and the Congressional Democratic leadership are likely to agree on a massive two-year stimulus package of at least $850 billion, but Republicans – perhaps joined by fiscally moderate Southern and Western Democrats – are likely to filibuster against such “massive deficit spending,” particularly if major public investment in alternative energy technologies is part of the package.. The Obama administration will have to remind the American public that Ronald Reagan ran deficits equal to 7 per cent of the GDP in each of 1981 and 82 (or the equivalent of $680 billion per year (!) in today’s dollars), in the face of a much less severe recession. In addition, the Obama administration must press Congress to implement a major anti-foreclosure program (similar to FDR’s Home Loan Corporation), as the income stream from homeowner payments on refinanced, affordable mortgages should significantly increase the value of the toxic assets of “securitized mortgages.” The Bush administration’s failure to protect the foreclosed (particularly those who could pay a reasonable renegotiated mortgage rate on a readjusted home value) explains in large measure its utter inability to improve the balance sheets of major financial institutions.
The stimulus package should include major government funding of job-training in the inner cities (in green technologies, for example) and of opportunities for both GIs and displaced workers to return to university as full-time students (and for women on TANF to fulfill their ‘workfare’ requirements through secondary and higher education pursuits). While affluent suburbs provide their residents superb public education and public services, federal cutbacks in aid to states and municipalities has worsened the life opportunities of inner city residents. With all but seven states’ budgets in the red, cuts in social services and public-sector layoffs will devastate already hard-hit communities. .
The inefficient and inequitable United States health care system cries out for replacement by a universal and cost-efficient alternative. If private insurance administrative and advertising costs of 25 per cent on the health care dollar could be reduced to Medicaid and Medicare’s three per cent administrative overhead, both universal and affordable coverage would be achieved.. Even securing “opt-out” provisions from the Obama’s ‘pay or play’ system of private insurance would be an improvement. Such ‘opt-outs’ would allow states to create their own single-payer systems, and enable Medicare or the federal employees health plan to market to employers as a lower-cost alternative to private group plans.
]Looking at the revenue side[
But how to pay for all this? The Obama administration should reverse not only the Bush tax cuts, but also the Reagan cuts in marginal rates on high-income earners, which would each return some $300 billion in revenues to the national treasury. In addition, abolishing the preferential 15 per cent tax rate on hedge fund and private equity managers’ earnings could garner another $100 billion in annual revenues. Truly ending the war in Iraq should save $100 billion per annum; a 1/3 cutback in United States military bases abroad and an end to Cold War era plans to build a next generation of fighters and an anti-ballistic missile defense could save $216 billion in federal revenue per year.
The military budget is hideously oversized for a nation that claims armaments are necessary for defense, and not defense of empire. One fights terrorism by intelligence and espionage cooperation among states and via a multilateral diplomatic strategy that provides hope for the billions who still live under authoritarian governments and in extreme poverty. Obama’s call to send more United States troops to Afghanistan ignores the lessons of the Soviet experience: that foreign military presence only elevates the forces of Islamic fundamentalism into national resistance fighters.
When the ponzi scheme of “securitized mortgages” collapsed with the end of the irrational run-up in housing prices, the federal government had to bail out Bear Stearns, then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and then AIG. American capitalism has “privatized” gain, but “socialized” risk. Yet if risk is to be “socialized” then so should investments. The Obama administration should not only demand equity shares in the banks and corporations that are bailed out by the public treasury, but should also require that consumer, worker, and government representatives be added to the board of directors of corporations receiving government aid. And the administration must stick to the goal of re-regulating the finance industry so that it serves the interest of the productive economy and not those of run-amok speculators.
A “new New Deal” would have to restructure international economic institutions so that they raise-up international labor, living, human rights, and environmental standards. In large part Obama owes his victory in the key battleground states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania to the efforts of one of the few integrated institutions in the United States – the American labor movement. Restoring the right to organize unions (a right that no longer exists in practice in the United States) is a key policy component in the battle against economic inequality. Given the massive corporate and media offensive already launched against the Employee Free Choice Act, Obama will have to place the entire prestige of his presidency behind the legislation. He must use the bully pulpit to explain to the American public that NLRB elections are not “free” – not when the time lag between petitioning and the election works in managements’ favor, allowing management to intimidate workers, require them to attend anti-union meetings and leaves management free to fire pro-union workers with impunity.
]What’s next for the democratic Left?[
An Obama presidential victory by no means guarantees the bold policy initiatives necessary to restore equity with growth to the United States economy. His campaign did not advocate major defense cuts, progressive tax reform, and significant expansion of public provision. But FDR did not campaign on bold solutions in 1932. It was pressure from below that forced FDR’s hand. Similarly, Obama’s victory may provide space for social movements to agitate in favor of economic justice and a democratic foreign policy. Let us hope that as a president who understands the process of social change, Obama will realize that those demanding the most from his administration are those who can best help him succeed in office.
Obama, a supreme pragmatist , will respond to the balance of social forces that press upon his administration, or ignore them in the absense of pressure. Thus, the work of DSA, YDS and the rest of the democratic Left has just begun. We must join with our allies in the labor movement, communities of color, the feminist, and gay and lesbian and immigrants rights groups to advance the transformative social and economic policies outlined above and in DSA’s Economic Justice Agenda (see www.dsausa.org) . And we should begin to gear up to defend progressive House and Senate gains made in the 2006 and 2008 elections and replace Republicans and conservative Democratic officials at every level of government. To do this, DSA and YDS must not only build more capacity on the ground, but also build working relations with such groups as Progressive Democrats of America as well as trade unions and communityorganizations active in progressive electoral politics.
What will be the unique “value-added” of DSA and YDS in these broad coalition efforts to press the Obama administration from the left? As all crucial economic justice reforms – universal national health care, EFCA,public investment in green technology and inner city infrastructure – involve state action to limit the prerogatives of corporate capital, the right will charge these reforms as being “socialist.” DSA’s role is to educate the American public as to the historic role of socialist-inspired reforms in rendering capitalist societies less capitalist and more democratic. Until more average Americans say “what’s wrong with socialism” even a less exceptional and more humane American mixed economy will remain a utopian dream.

Joseph M. Schwartz , a national vice chair of Democratic Socialists of America, teaches politics at Temple University. His most recent book is The Future of Democratic Equality: Rebuilding Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America (Routledge, 2008). Parts of this article is revised from “Memo to Obama,” which will appear in the January-February issue of Tikkun magazine.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why our schools will run out of money this year

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs

FRANK BASS AND RITA BEAMISH | December 21, 2008 10:07 PM EST |

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits in the calendar year 2007, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for 53 of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

"Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. "We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"

The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:

_The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

Story continues below
_Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million.

This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said. Facing increasing concern by its own shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives "whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels." Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report.

The New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

_Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

_John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.

Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28.

The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks' commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program's goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks in a bid to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes.

Banks that got bailout funds also paid out millions for home security systems, private chauffeured cars, and club dues. Some banks even paid for financial advisers. Wells Fargo of San Francisco, which took $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, gave its top executives up to $20,000 each to pay personal financial planners.

At Bank of New York Mellon Corp., chief executive Robert P. Kelly's stipend for financial planning services came to $66,748, on top of his $975,000 salary and $7.5 million bonus. His car and driver cost $178,879. Kelly also received $846,000 in relocation expenses, including help selling his home in Pittsburgh and purchasing one in Manhattan, the company said.

Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $233,000 per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year that financial counseling and chauffeurs are important in giving executives more time to focus on their jobs.

JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $211,182 private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $25 billion in bailout funds.

Banks cite security to justify personal use of company aircraft for some executives. But Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., questioned that rationale, saying executives visit many locations more vulnerable than the nation's security-conscious commercial air terminals.

Sherman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said pay excesses undermine development of good bank economic policies and promote an escalating pay spiral among competing financial institutions _ something particularly hard to take when banks then ask for rescue money.

He wants them to come before Congress, like the automakers did, and spell out their spending plans for bailout funds.

"The tougher we are on the executives that come to Washington, the fewer will come for a bailout," he said.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Duncan's Record in Education

From: Chicago Catalyst
Duncan's track record
by Sarah Karp and John Myers
December 15, 2008

In his seven years as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan has taken on a host of urban education policy challenges to varying degrees of success.

This week, Catalyst revisits some of these signature initiatives, and weighs their significance on the national scene.

Today, we look at the efforts of the Secretary of Education designate to transform high schools, offer families more and better school choices and raise the performance bar for teachers, principals and administrators.

Reforming high schools

Duncan’s oft-stated goal was to create the “best urban school district in the nation.” Yet here, as elsewhere, high schools have made little progress.

Overall high school graduation rates improved under Duncan (up to 55 percent from 47 percent), as did college-going rates (up to 50 percent from 44 percent).

Also improved is the district’s accountability around making sure students go to college. Duncan created the Office of Post-secondary Education and charged it with tracking students after they graduate. CPS is one of the few urban districts that partners with the National Student Clearinghouse, a data warehouse, so it can keep tabs on its graduates. And this past year, Duncan personally pushed principals to get more students to fill out financial aid eligibility forms.

But even with these modest improvements, fewer than a third of the students who were freshmen in 2003 and graduated four years later enrolled in college.

Individual schools, particularly neighborhood high schools like Marshall in the impoverished West Garfield Park community, have not done much better under Duncan’s leadership. Marshall’s graduation rate, for instance, is 40 percent, up only four points; and its college-going rate actually declined 4 points to 31 percent.

Meanwhile, districtwide high school test scores remain stagnant—only 31 percent of juniors meet state standards—leading many to question whether CPS graduates can succeed in college or in the job market. All but two of the 10 lowest performing high schools in 2001 lost ground by 2008.

Duncan has used three strategies to fix high schools: Close them down and replace them with new, smaller schools (Renaissance 2010); fire school staff and reopen under new management (turnaround strategy); or infuse classrooms with new curriculum and materials (High School Transformation). On all fronts, long-languishing, often-ignored high schools got some much needed attention. Also, education experts laud the focus that these efforts have placed on what goes on in the classroom.

But problems with high schools are so entrenched and intertwined with poverty that it is difficult to predict whether these efforts will be enough.

High School Transformation, for instance, launched in 2005 with the promise of delivering carefully chosen curricula designed to engage low-income students, and the teacher training to go with it. Currently, 50 schools are participating at a cost of $80 million. The influx of equipment, such as laptops and science lab materials, has been especially welcome in resource-starved schools.

But the implementation has been rocky. Earlier this year, Catalyst reported that hundreds of students in the city’s worst high schools showed up weeks after the school year had begun. On average, students in these schools were absent 50 days or more. Teachers wound up spending weeks doing catch up and back tracking. Meanwhile, this problem has received little attention in recent years, and the one tool schools need to combat it—truancy officers—are long gone. [See High School Transformation]

Duncan concedes High School Transformation has its limits. To fill some of the gaps, he has created programs to keep freshmen on track academically, and to support small groups of students most at-risk of dropping out.

For individual students, these kinds of supports show promise. The question is: Can Duncan bring them to scale, especially nationally?

Also see this piece:

Lisa Schiff, a parent who lives in the Bay Area, wrote this piece on Duncan that provides a perspective from the parental side of things. Much of her content/information comes from PURE, the Chicago-based parent group who are no fans of Duncan. Parents who are part of PURE are against his corporate approach to education and decry that parent involvement is not part of the agenda of Duncan's Renaissance 2010 program, which they perceive as an attempt to privative schools and/or set up charter schools. It remains to be seen how much leeway Obama gives to Duncan in establishing a similar program on a national level, and how Duncan's penchant for standardized testing as the gold measure of success will impact NCLB reauthorization...


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education

Education Secretary Announced

After more than a month of speculation and debate, President-elect Barack Obama finally announced that Arne Duncan will be Secretary of Education in his administration.

Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since 2001, has never been a teacher, but has been deeply involved with education for many years, beginning when he was playing professional basketball in Australia and working with children who were wards of the state. Once returning from Australia, the Harvard graduate became director of the Ariel Education Initiative before joining CPS in 1998.

Duncan has earned a reputation as a reformer who backed paying students for grades, charter schools, and he supported a failed proposal for a gay-and lesbian-centered high school. Despite angering some people with his reforms, Duncan has managed to get nothing but praise from teachers' unions for working with them instead of engaging in constant battles.

Obama faced a tough choice in appeasing the more traditional unions and the reform-minded generation of educators, and Duncan seems to be a good fit to placate both sides. He's a progressive who pushes for reform, but he also works closely with the unions and their allies.
An Opinion:
For all of Obama's touting of governmental change, his selection of the Secretary of Education disappointingly is more of Chicago-style "business as usual." During Duncan's tenure with Chicago Schools, there has been little real systemic change - just a continuation of the top-down, test-them-till-they-drop-in-the-guise-of-accountability that George Bush's administration rammed down school district's throats. Real systemic change cannot occur without the voice and ownership of those expected to implement the change. Duncan doesn't get that and it would appear Obama doesn't either. Sadly, teachers will continue to be the whipping boy for society's ills and students will continue to be political pawns instead of valued citizens of and contributors to this country.
Priscilla Gutierrez

See the comments here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/16/ifreakonomicsi-levitt-pra_n_151404.html

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Secretary of Education fight heats up

No one ever said that this was going to be easy.
Now David Brooks has weighed in on the Secretary of Education.
One of several problems with this analysis is that those of us opposing Klein have been opposed to the education bureaucracy all along. We have been trying to make urban schools work.

December 5, 2008
Who Will He Choose?

As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

During the presidential race, Barack Obama straddled the two camps. One campaign adviser, John Schnur, represented the reform view in the internal discussions. Another, Linda Darling-Hammond, was more likely to represent the establishment view. Their disagreements were collegial (this is Obamaland after all), but substantive.

In public, Obama shifted nimbly from camp to camp while education experts studied his intonations with the intensity of Kremlinologists. Sometimes, he flirted with the union positions. At other times, he practiced dog-whistle politics, sending out reassuring signals that only the reformers could hear.

Each camp was secretly convinced that at the end of the day, Obama would come down on their side. The reformers were cheered when Obama praised a Denver performance pay initiative. The unions could take succor from the fact that though Obama would occasionally talk about merit pay, none of his actual proposals contradicted their positions.

Obama never had to pick a side. That is, until now. There is only one education secretary, and if you hang around these circles, the air is thick with speculation, anticipation, anxiety, hope and misinformation. Every day, new rumors are circulated and new front-runners declared. It’s kind of like being in a Trollope novel as Lord So-and-So figures out to whom he’s going to propose.

You can measure the anxiety in the reformist camp by the level of nervous phone chatter each morning. Weeks ago, Obama announced that Darling-Hammond would lead his transition team and reformist cellphones around the country lit up. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a sharp critic of Teach for America and promotes weaker reforms.

Anxieties cooled, but then one morning a few weeks ago, I got a flurry of phone calls from reform leaders nervous that Obama was about to side against them. I interviewed people in the president-elect’s inner circle and was reassured that the reformers had nothing to worry about. Obama had not gone native.

Obama’s aides point to his long record on merit pay, his sympathy for charter schools and his tendency to highlight his commitment to serious education reform.

But the union lobbying efforts are relentless and in the past week prospects for a reforming education secretary are thought to have dimmed. The candidates before Obama apparently include: Joel Klein, the highly successful New York chancellor who has, nonetheless, been blackballed by the unions; Arne Duncan, the reforming Chicago head who is less controversial; Darling-Hammond herself; and some former governor to be named later, with Darling-Hammond as the deputy secretary.

In some sense, the final option would be the biggest setback for reform. Education is one of those areas where implementation and the details are more important than grand pronouncements. If the deputies and assistants in the secretary’s office are not true reformers, nothing will get done.

The stakes are huge. For the first time in decades, there is real momentum for reform. It’s not only Rhee and Klein — the celebrities — but also superintendents in cities across America who are getting better teachers into the classrooms and producing measurable results. There is an unprecedented political coalition building, among liberals as well as conservatives, for radical reform.

No Child Left Behind is about to be reauthorized. Everyone has reservations about that law, but it is the glaring spotlight that reveals and pierces the complacency at mediocre schools. If accountability standards are watered down, as the establishment wants, then real reform will fade.

This will be a tough call for Obama, because it will mean offending people, but he can either galvanize the cause of reform or demoralize it. It’ll be one of the biggest choices of his presidency.

Many of the reformist hopes now hang on Obama’s friend, Arne Duncan. In Chicago, he’s a successful reformer who has produced impressive results in a huge and historically troubled system. He has the political skills necessary to build a coalition on behalf of No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Because he is close to both Obamas, he will ensure that education doesn’t fall, as it usually does, into the ranks of the second-tier issues.

If Obama picks a reformer like Duncan, Klein or one of the others, he will be picking a fight with the status quo. But there’s never been a better time to have that fight than right now.
David Brooks.
Be certain to read the earlier posts on this topic below.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Michelle Rhee In Sacramento

Michelle Rhee
The Sacramento Bee on Sat. Dec.6 has an important education story on B1 concerning the role of Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools and her role in advising and staff selection for new Mayor Kevin Johnson. It is a valuable piece, however it tells less than half of the story. What makes Michelle Rhee a story is that she is the leader of the Washington D.C. public schools, one of two or three school systems which regularly score below those of California if reading, math, high school graduation and other basics.

As noted, Ms. Rhee came to the job of Chancellor from leading the New Teacher Project which has placed lots of teachers in urban districts. However, these teachers have not improved student achievement because the new teachers are minimally prepared to teach and they leave their positions at a very high rate before they learn to teach well.

From this position Michelle Rhee was selected to run the Washington D.C. schools. The article by Mary Lynne Vellinga describes some of the major issues there. It is correct and useful to say that these are difficult schools traditionally failing students. This is a tough job.
Chancellor Rhee uses a management style currently advocated by a number of school business managers including Joel Klien of New York City and others. ( see previous posts)
The administration of Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Schools in is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which I oppose because it assaults teachers and does not improve schools. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Rhee repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The Department of Education under Rhee has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. You can not improve schools without working with – not against the teachers.
The bottom line is that this form of arbitrary management has not worked to improve student achievement. Yes, she has closed schools and fired teachers, but have the students scores have not improved? This brand of drive by school reform produces headlines but has not improved the schools. The pattern is clear, generate a lot of controversy, impose harsh conditions, make claims based upon one or two years data, and then move on quickly before the data from several years of failed efforts catches up with you. A new “leader” is brought in and the process starts all over again.
Sacramento has had several years of this kind of faux “reform” not only at Sacramento High ( with Rhee’s participation) but in the reform cycles of Terry Greer ( currently in San Diego), John Sweeney, and others. This “business approach” was also the driving force behind Alan Bersin in San Diego before he left and became Secretary of Education for the entire state of California. And, is the current mantra of the failing Superintendent in Los Angeles Unified.
The press should look at the data. These management approaches have not worked.
So now, according to the story, Michelle Rhee is consulting in Sacramento to the new Kevin Johnson Administration. She has worked here before as a hands-on advisor in the transition of Sacramento High to a Charter School. Look at the data.
By the way, while Michelle Rhee consults in Sacramento the Washington D.C. schools have not improved achievement for the students. Perhaps she hopes to bring the achievement scores of all of Sacramento students down to the level of those of Washington D.C.
If I were her boss, I would counsel that it is time for her to pay attention to her day job.
Duane Campbell

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Joel Klein debate

Teach for America (TFA), which claims to be for equity in education, opposes education equity champion, Linda Darling-Hammond for Obama’s Secretary of Education and indeed, any role in the Obama administration! Why? In the words of TFA’s political arm, Leadership for Education Equity, Darling-Hammond’s appointment “COULD HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR TFA!”

What is TFA afraid of? To ensure equity in education, Darling-Hammond has advocated for putting only qualified teachers in every classroom. She has opposed assigning unqualified teachers to the poorest and most vulnerable students. TFA teachers are just such unqualified teachers. Darling-Hammond’s research as well as the research of other objective education researchers has shown that the students of untrained TFA teachers do poorly on standardized tests compared to the students of trained teachers. Her research shows that once TFA teachers participate in quality teacher preparation programs and become qualified their students perform better. The problem is that 66% of TFA teachers never get trained. They leave at the end of 2 or 3 years. Darling-Hammond.

When put to the test, TFA puts its self interest above equity for students! TFA is supporting NYC School’s Chancellor for Education Secretary, because he will protect their organization, even though education equity under Klein has taken severe blows:
• Parents have been silenced. In a recent survey, more than 75% or parents felt that Klein was doing a poor job.
• The percentage of Black and Latino students admitted to NYC’s top performing high schools has declined!
• The percentage of Black and Latino students admitted to NYC’s gifted and talented programs has declined!
• The percentage of Black and Latino students admitted to NYC’s 4-year colleges has declined!
• The percentage of Black and Latino educators in the school system has declined!
• According to the NAEP, NYC students have made no gains in reading and math!
• Klein has only one person of color in his leadership team: the invisible position of Deputy Chancellor for Curriculum and Instruction.
• Klein has narrowed and dumbed-down the curriculum to all test-prep all of the time.

Tell the Obama transition team that you want a Secretary of Education who has a proven track record of equity in education. That is Linda Darling-Hammond! For over 20 years, Darling-Hammond has developed accountability policies and practices that focus on student learning and achievement, eliminating harmful practices and ensuring effective practices at the classroom, school, district, state and Federal levels. Her work is accepted by teachers, school, district, and state administrators, parents, policy makers, politicians, researchers, business leaders, and heads of teachers, principal and superintendent preparation programs. Like Obama, Darling-Hammond has been successful in bringing together diverse stakeholders to support education equity. She worked closely with former NY State Education Commission, Tom Sobol to develop NY’s standards, assessment, and accountability system.

If you like the education policies Obama has been discussing, let his transition team know that you want more of Linda Darling-Hammond: .
Jackie Ancess

To see prior posts on this debate, see http://www.choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Community Colleges and the California State Universities

In last Wednesday's NY Times article, "California Universities Will Cut Enrollment Unless State Increases Money," California State University System Chancellor Charles B. Reed had some tough words for the legislature's proposed cuts to a system already operating at $215M below its operational needs.
Particularly important to note is that the already-strained system saw a 20 percent increase in applications this year, with 36 percent of those coming from students hoping to transfer from community colleges.
Community colleges serve a hugely diverse population of less traditional students, with fewer economic resources, who rely on state schools to finish their degree goals.
Some demographic considerations (according to the Lumina Foundation):
  • Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.
  • Fifty-eight percent are women.
  • Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.
  • Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.
  • Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.
  • Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.
So, what do all these budget cuts mean to the transferring community colleges students? While their applications will receive prioritized consideration by admissions staffs, there may not be enough funding for them to actually attend once accepted. As Chancellor Reed noted "student demand is increasing, while state funding is declining."
Students coming from community colleges may find themselves shut out of some of the most popular Cal State campuses because of tougher admissions requirements and earlier application deadlines.
For an increasing number of students, community colleges are not the end to the educational road, but a stepping stone to loftier educational goals. Though their path may be more circuitous, their contribution to state universities is no less substantial and they must be provided the resources they need to achieve the goals for which they've worked so hard.

By-line: This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of online state community colleges. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24@gmail.com

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Education and the Economy

Randi Weingarten’s Address On Education And The Economy : President AFT.
Randi Weingarten’s speech on education and the economy, delivered the morning of Nov. 17 at the National Press Club in Washington. The compilation begins with a clip of Mayor Bloomberg’s introduction. Here’s the full text of Randi’s speech [PDF].

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

California Education Cuts

A million dollars here, a million dollars there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.
We know that California faces a serious budget crisis and that K-12 and higher education will face severe budget cuts.
We are shocked by the governor’s proposals to cut $31.6 million from the CSU as of Oct 20, and the cut last year of 3.1 billion from K-12 education for 2008/2009. Now the governor plans an addition k-12 budget cut of over $ 2.1 Billion. California can not accept such an abandonment of its educational infrastructure. . We still consider ourselves bound by the promise of the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, and these cuts would break that promise.

It is a mystery to me why is the Governor and the legislature not looking for reasonable budget cuts rather than cutting education and health care.
Last year the Governor added $ 10 million to the CSU budget to pay for a Teacher Performance Assessment program (TPA). The TPA and/or PACT is a poorly designed, redundant and invalid process for assessing the quality of teacher credential candidates. The supporters of TPA seek to fix a problem that does not exist.

SB 2042, in 2000, required a major revision of teacher preparation in California based upon a new set of state standards and a set of teacher performance expectations (TPEs) . The universities have responded by revising their programs. In 2042 The legislature created a system where the state must continually train new teachers to replace those driven out by inadequate working conditions. One element of 2042 required the development of high stakes performance assessment of California teachers (TPA) based upon the teacher performance expectations (TPE) to be developed by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
The problems with this are several. There is no evidence that TPAs are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher. Beyond this overwhelming substantive concern about the damage to teacher education, we must also point out that the implementation of TPA assessment was initially contingent upon state funding. But SB 1209 in 2006 removed the funding requirement and required implementation of the TPA throughout the CSU effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program.
In the May revise the Governor added $91 million to the CSU budget and asserted that $10 million was for TPA. There was no controlling legislative language.
Thus the legislature and CTC have imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis. Not that we want the TPA program funded -- it would be a gross injustice to add funding for performance assessment into the budget when our schools are having to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, reduce career technical education, cancel transportation, and delay long needed school reforms.

In place of the current system of on-site supervision of student teachers, future teachers would be measured ultimately on how well they produce a twenty minute video tape of a classroom; not at all an authentic assessment of teaching performance.
CSU Campuses who have tried early pilot versions of this system –TPA and PACT- have found that the system angers and frustrates teachers and our students, and limits the quality of the credential process and therefore is likely to discourage many potential candidates from entering a credential program.
It is frustrating to try to understand why TPA and PACT have not been cut from the budget to save money for essentials. Last year Senator Jack Scott was the primary supporter of TPA, and few wished to offend this powerful senator. But, now he is termed out. Several of his education staff remain on the education committee and they are clearly committed to TPA.
Is it just that the bureaucracy can not admit that it was wrong? Or, since the CSU is preparing to pass the costs along to the student, they think that it is off their budget. But, that is clearly a tax on future teachers. If any reader can explain this lack of interest in saving budget money, please let me know.

So, we have a serious budget crisis making cuts in schools inevitable; and the legislators will not look at ending boondoggles.

Duane Campbell

Monday, November 10, 2008

Petition: Oppose Joel Klein

Please read and sign. Written for educators.

The Petition to oppose the appointment of Joel Klein.

We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures.
Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. ( It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react.
This petition is a reaction.
The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of Schools in New York City is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.

Teachers, educators, and future teachers, read the entire petition and sign it at:

posted by Duane Campbell

Thursday, November 06, 2008

AFT election work

“So much about this campaign has been historic and electrifying,” Weingarten said. “The incredible voter interest Barack Obama generated, especially among young, independent and first-time voters; the sea change in voting patterns across America; and the election of America’s first African-American president are all extraordinary milestones for our country. I am hopeful that this civic excitement and engagement will be sustained for the benefit of our great democracy.
“At a time when the focus on strengthening public education has been all but eclipsed by other issues, Sen. Obama has shown both deep understanding of, and real interest in, the need to ensure every child receives a world-class education. The members and leaders of the AFT welcome President-elect Obama’s commitment to working together to strengthen public education. We look forward to partnering with him and with members of both parties to fulfill this promise.”
The AFT’s political operation in the 2008 elections was unprecedented. The union deployed nearly 600 full-time campaign coordinators and 5,000 volunteers to assist affiliates and the AFL-CIO in member-education and get-out-the-vote efforts. Since endorsing Sen. Obama at its national convention in July, the AFT made more than 4 million contacts with its membership, including phone calls, mail, leaflets and—the means of communication proven to be most effective—direct member-to-member contact at home and at the workplace.
“We were in more states, with a greater presence, than ever before. And it worked,” Weingarten said. “I saw this firsthand in the 18 states I have visited since becoming AFT president in July.”
States with a strong AFT and union presence made a decisive difference in the elections, not only in choosing the next president, but also in giving him a Congress to work with that will champion the concerns of working people and will support public education and other vital public services.
“Barack Obama will be a president for all Americans,” Weingarten said. “For Americans from every state in the Union, for those who enjoy great wealth as well as those who suffer terrible want, for Americans of every color, creed and walk of life. This is the time for our country to come together in common purpose to create a better life for all Americans.
“President-elect Obama faces considerable challenges—a severe economic crisis, a broken healthcare system, the needs of an aging population, enormous infrastructure strains and American troops engaged in two wars. But he is welll-equipped to lead our country, which is unparalleled in its ability and determination to face such challenges.”
Wiengartner is the President of the AFT.
From AFT Release

Congratulations Eric Mar

We congratulate Eric Mar on his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
No one said this would be easy.

Troubled Waters : Podesta

Amid all the elation about Obama's victory, let's not forget that the struggle over NCLB is far from over. During the campaign, he made some encouraging statements about the abuses of testing and the need to increase federal funding for K-12. But his positions on the most contentious reauthorization issues were not very specific. Thus the direction an Obama Administration will take is anybody's guess.

Today's Washington Post -- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/04/AR2008110404573.html -- includes a couple of ominous notes on this score:

1. Obama has asked John Podesta, former Clinton chief of staff and currently head of the Center for American Progress, to head his transition team. CAP is a liberal think-tank that's been among the most uncritical supporters of NCLB. Last year Podesta teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to release a report bashing American schools, claiming that the vast majority of students are not proficient in reading. As Gerald Bracey pointed out, using the same absurd and arbitrary "proficiency" level, the identical conclusion could be reached about students anywhere in the world, including the top-scoring country, Sweden.

Unfortunately, whoever heads the transition team has a big say in major appointments -- e.g., U.S. Secretary of Education.

2. Among the trial balloons -- a.k.a. "names being mentioned" -- for that job is Joel Klein, chancellor of NYC schools and a big supporter of high-stakes testing, among other odious practices. No doubt New Yorkers on the list can provide additional details.

Along with Al Sharpton, Klein is co-chairing the Education Equality Project -- the Defend NCLB pole in the reauthorization debate: http://www.educationequalityproject.org/. During the campaign, Obama's top education advisor has been Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, who is decidedly not in the Klein-Sharpton camp. In fact, she's a representative of the other major pole, which calls itself A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education: http://www.boldapproach.org/.

It has been recommended that New York City Chancellor Joe Klein would be a candidate for Secretary of Education in your administration. This would conflict with your basic campaign commitments to an open and inclusive administration.
Klein represents the management view of school change with little input from teachers working in classrooms. The data simply does not support his claims. His own administration in New York has focused on testing without a legitimate analysis of the role of testing in school change. He has participated in massive budget cuts of schools while we know that schools need more resources.

As I noted in my previous message, we have our work cut out for us.
based upon position by Jim Crawford.l
Jim Crawford. ELL Advocates.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


October 24, 2008
In virtually every state that has released AYP results this SCHOOL YEAR (these are results based on 2007-08 tests that determine status for schools for the 2008-09 school year) the number of schools failing to make AYP has increased, dramatically so in many cases. In several states the rate at which schools are failing AYP doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled. These results are not unexpected.
AYP forces all states, school districts, and schools on a march to 100% proficiency by 2013-14. Each state had to establish a trajectory setting out for each year the percentage of students who must score proficient or higher on the state's reading and math test. Those proficiency percentages, or AYP thresholds, must increase over time to reach the 100% mandate. States do not have to raise the bar every year, but must do so at least once every three years. This is one of the years in which every state raised the bar to make AYP.
In addition, several states set their AYP trajectory so that much larger yearly rates of increases in the percentage of students who must be proficient occur in the last half of the 12-year path toward the required 100 percent proficient level. These “balloon payments” are likely to result in even larger rates of schools failing AYP in the next several years.
Indeed, several states that have conducted projections of AYP results in the year 2013-13 predict that between 75 and 99 percent of all school will fail AYP. A just-published analysis in the scholarly journal Science of AYP in California showed that almost all California elementary schools would fail to meet AYP by 2014.
Examples of state AYP results:
• Alabama: the percentage of schools failing AYP declined slightly from 17.8 percent last year to 16.6 percent this year.
• Alaska: the percentage of schools failing AYP increased from 34.1 percent to 41.3 percent.
• Arizona: the percentage of schools failing AYP held steady at 28 percent.
• California: the percentage of schools failing AYP increased from 33 percent to 48 percent, with only 34 percent of middle schools making AYP.
• Colorado: The percentage of schools failing AYP rose to 40 percent this year, up from 25 percent last year.
• Connecticut: the number of schools failing AYP rose to 40 percent, with 408 schools failing – 100 more than last year.
• Delaware: the percentage of schools not making AYP stayed the same as last year, with 33.8 percent failing to make AYP.
• Florida: the percentage of schools failing AYP increased

All states are in the release.
For more information contact:
National Education Association
Beth Foley (BFoley@nea,.org) or Joel Packer (JPacker@nea.org)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Teacher's Anger: Schools, markets and moral failure

A Teacher’s Anger: Markets, Moral Hazards And Schools


Over the last year, as the growing economic crisis took a grim toll among working Americans unable to make mortgage payments on their homes, we witnessed the introduction of a term of art from laissez-faire market economics into our national political conversation. It would be wrong for government to provide assistance to those facing foreclosure and the loss of their homes, we were told again and again, because such aid would create a moral hazard. The dream of working Americans to own their own home has led to financially risky behavior, the logic went, as too many bought homes beyond their means. When an economic downturn makes it impossible for these working homeowners to make ends meet, they have to face the hard consequences of their risky behavior: the loss of their home. Rescue them and others will be encouraged to engage in economically risky behavior. Market discipline must rule, unchallenged, whatever carnage it leaves in its wake.

Yet in recent weeks, as Wall Street’s leading financial institutions came crashing down, one after the other like falling dominoes, one heard no talk of moral hazards. When it comes to finance banks, insurance companies and mortgage providers, a different logic had to apply. If these corporate leviathans are subjected to harsh market discipline, if they are not rescued, we are now told, the American and global economies will collapse, resulting in a massive economic privation. It matters not that in this instance the risky economic behavior was in the service of sheer greed, as those with millions and billions of dollars sought more and more, rather than a modest dream to own your own home. All that is important is that the insolvency of Wall Street’s leading financial institutions would bring economic disaster far beyond their particular bottom lines.

Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, who was the CEO of the finance bank Goldman Sachs before he took his current position in the Bush administration, proposed that the rescue of Wall Street involve the unconditional handover of $700 billion. The legislation he brought to Congress gave him the sole authority over the use of this unprecedented amount of money. He and his one-time colleagues on Wall Street fought against provisions which would place limits on the pay of the executives of the rescued corporations, restricting the obscene bonuses and golden parachutes that were symptomatic of the current crisis, on the grounds that this would undermine the incentive of corporate brass to work hard. Incredibly, opposition was also mounted to providing financial aid to homeowners facing foreclosure. It was only Congressional resistance that forced Paulson and the Bush administration even partially off these positions.

Let’s be clear: massive government intervention is clearly necessary if we are to avert a total economic meltdown and the immense harm it would inflict on working people around the globe. But it must not be done on the terms of Wall Street and the Bush administration. Their economic vision treats private profits as sacred, but quickly loses market religion when it comes to socializing corporate losses and having working Americans pick up their bill with our taxes and cuts in our essential public services. Instead, America needs a new New Deal. An effective rescue package will have to address the structural causes of this crisis, restoring the public interest by re-regulating and redirecting an economy where corporate greed has been given free rein. It will need to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs through government spending, provide needed aid to working homeowners, and protect essential public services and the social service safety net. If government is going to save Wall Street from its own folly and avarice with our tax money, the public must have an ownership share in those institutions, and the public must recoup its investment when these corporations turn a profit once again. The government intervention that seems to have had the most positive effect in the current crisis – the purchase of equity shares in the troubled financial institutions – was fashioned by the British Labour government, and the power to implement it in the U.S. was written into law by Congressional Democrats, with the Bush administration unhappily bringing up the rear.

Working Americans have much good reason to be very angry about these developments, and none more so than teachers. For the last decade, Wall Street financiers, hedge fund operators and corporate moguls, together with the market fundamentalists who provide them their ideological support, have been mounting a steady drumbeat of attacks on public schools and on the educators who have dedicated their professional lives to teaching and caring for our children. Our schools are failing and our teachers are incompetent, they repeated again and again in a systematic effort to delegitimize public education, and market based reforms and privatization will make everything right. They know as much about education as Sarah Palin knows about foreign policy: they could see a school from their house. But for them ignorance was bliss: it meant that the laissez-faire market could be the answer to every educational question, without any danger of troubling information on what that actually meant in practice. One might think that the catastrophic failure of the financial markets of Wall Street they had fought to deregulate and remove from public oversight and checks and balances would have led to a little pause and a second thought or two on the wisdom of unfettered, unregulated markets in education. But let’s face it: there is not much capacity for self-reflection in these circles. The work of defending and improving the public schools that are vital to American democracy will rest with those of us who actually work in their classrooms.

Now more than ever, America needs a vibrant and flourishing public square, with public education at its center. The pursuit of greed and excess, the idolatry of unregulated and uncontrolled markets, are no substitute for the pursuit of our common good and the support of our public purpose. We will now pay a heavy price for having forgotten and abandoned this truth of our republic, so as educators, we need to ensure that it is a lesson fully learned.
Leo Casey. NYC. from Edwize

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why Obama?: Linda Darling Hammond

"Obama understands that teachers and schools cannot close the achievement gap by themselves, and there needs to be a broader effort by government and society to support children’s health, welfare, and learning.
With nearly a quarter of our children living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized nation in the world — Obama’s plans to address health care, housing, and employment needs are critically important."
Linda Darling Hammond.

In spite of Darling-Hammond's advocacy of PACT in California, she has some good things to say here.
From the AFT's New York city blog.
Duane Campbell

Friday, September 19, 2008

John McCain and Crony Capitalism

Crony Capitalism
The U.S. purchase of AIG is crony capitalism at its worst. We, the tax payers are left holding the bag for bad investments. AIG has 85 billion world wide of insurance and other products. The front page story in the BEE says the U.S. gets a stake in the insurance giant. No. We get a liability. So, we now sell insurance in Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Peru and Russia and Europe – all supported by our taxes and our bank accounts. But, John McCain says we can not afford health insurance for our own people.
AS described in a Salon.com article, this system was created and promoted by Phil Gramm, formerly John McCain’s principal economic advisor.
It is accurate that Gramm had assistance from Democrats, lead by Joe Lieberman, now Mc Cain’s primary advisor.
These politicians demonstrate the examples given in the book, The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.
Public money should be used for public purposes, for schools, roads, water systems. Not for crony capitalism and to reward millionaires.
This is socialism for the rich, and tax burdens for working people.
Its time to throw the bums out- the Republicans -to protect your home ,your job and your pension funds.

Duane E. Campbell

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain wrong on education

A major component of the John McCain campaign this week is to argue that he is a maverick, he has disagreed with his own party- and Barack Obama has not. You can see this quote on his stump speeches.
The problem, the claim is just is not true. Not only has John McCain voted with President Bush over 90% of the time, particularly on critical issues such as the war in Iraq, but Barack Obama has taken on his own party.
In yesterday’s major speech on education reform Barack Obama took two positions directly in opposition to the teachers unions and majorities in his own party.
(See below)
He has called for more funding of public charters and for teacher pay for performance. These two are key ingredients which the teachers’ unions oppose. Indeed, it was these positions that led the AFT to back Hillary Clinton, they are not supporting Barack Obama.
And, he opposed the majority of his party on the highly controversial FISA legislation.
Duane Campbell

New York Times
September 10, 2008
Obama Looks to Lessons From Chicago in His National Education Plan
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama learned how hard it can be to solve America’s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicago’s troubled schools and barely made a dent.
Drawing on that experience, Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is campaigning on an ambitious plan that promises $18 billion a year in new federal spending on early childhood classes, teacher recruitment, performance pay and dozens of other initiatives.
In Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, Mr. Obama used his education proposals to draw a contrast with Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent, and to insist to voters that he, more than his rival, would change the way Washington works.
Were he to become president, Mr. Obama would retain the emphasis on the high standards and accountability of President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind. But he would rewrite the federal law to offer more help to high-need schools, especially by training thousands of new teachers to serve in them, his campaign said. He would also expand early childhood education, which he believes gets more bang for the buck than remedial classes for older students.
Mr. Obama added a new flourish to his stump speech, promising for the first time on Tuesday to double federal spending on public charter schools while holding those with poor records accountable.
But more than most campaign blueprints, Mr. Obama’s education plan reflects his own work with Chicago’s public schools, campaign staff members and people who have worked with him said in interviews. His plan signals that he is looking to apply those lessons nationwide.
“Barack has been very engaged, very inquisitive about the dynamics of how do you improve public schools,” said Scott Smith, a former publisher of The Chicago Tribune who has collaborated with Mr. Obama on education projects here for a decade.
One of the biggest lessons Mr. Obama drew from his experiences in Chicago, associates said, is that student achievement is highly dependent on teacher quality.
In the two decades since Mr. Obama arrived in Chicago, its public schools have undergone a sweeping turnaround, from an education wasteland to a district that, while still facing major challenges, is among the most improved in the nation. The city has closed many failing schools and reopened them with new staffs, making it an important laboratory for one of the country’s most vexing problems.
The city closed the failing Dodge Elementary School, for example, in 2002 and reopened it as an academy where candidates for advanced degrees in education work in classrooms under master teachers while studying at a local university. Mr. Obama visited the school in 2005, liked what he saw and now proposes to create 200 such teacher residency programs nationwide. The goal, he says, would be to turn out 30,000 teachers a year to work in the toughest schools.
Mr. Obama’s views have drawn heavily from a cast of experts who helped mold the Chicago experience. Strategies for overhauling failing schools have come from Arne Duncan, who as chief executive of the Chicago public schools led the turnaround efforts. The senator derived his views on early childhood education in part from the work of a Nobel Prize-winning economist based in Chicago.
The scope of Mr. Obama’s plan has impressed many educators, but not everyone.
Michael J. Petrilli, a former Education Department official under Mr. Bush, said Mr. Obama’s plan was more comprehensive than Mr. McCain’s.
“That’s because Obama is proposing what somebody called a Christmas tree of new programs,” Mr. Petrilli said. “McCain is suggesting a couple of new things, but doesn’t think Washington should spend more on education than we already are.”

Monday, September 08, 2008

The legislature, the schools, and accountability

Budget stalemate: Day 70
The California legislature since 1994 has imposed accountability on the public schools. They have spent millions on tests. They have insisted that thousands of hours of professional work be dedicated to accountability. Their accountability work has a very weak record of reliability and validity ( See Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. Nichols and Berliner.

Now, the legislature does not pass a budget for over 70 days.
California’s schools are open and the teachers are at work. Over 6 million children have returned to school. Some 477,000 will be entering first grade in over 5,000 schools. Each of these schools have a budget and each of these budgets are in confusion while the state decides what to do about their budget crisis. At least 25% of the schools will not be ready for the students because the school doesn’t know what its budget will be.
Will the school have an ELL teacher or two?
Will there be a reading coach?
Will class size be 24 or 32? Which really means we will have to re-organize each of the classes and the teachers.
What will happen to the new programs established last year under the Quality Education Act?
Shall the district hire a new teacher or only a 30 day substitute ?
Do we have the money for an ELL specialist or will the money be for an Algebra teacher? And when we finally hear if we have the money, will the well qualified Algebra teacher have moved to another state where this annual disruption of their lives does not occur? Really, would you wait 2-3 months each year to see if you had a job?
And, even in mainstreamed classes, will there be two English Learners or eight?
These are but the start of the many decisions that need to be made. Rather than beginning school in late August, far too many classrooms will have to wait until October while the budget gets decided and allocations are made.

This is a state that ranks 47th. in math and about 48th in reading. A state budget impasse each year creates 4-6 weeks of school disruption, confusion, and disorganization.
And then the legislature calls for school accountability? Where is their accountability?
Duane Campbell

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fake School Reform

By Diane Ravitch. New York City. Historian.
This Strange New Era of "Reform"

Posted: 02 Sep 2008 11:00 AM CDT

Bridging Differences returns today with this entry from Diane Ravitch.

Dear Deborah,

Welcome back from vacation. School is open, and it’s time to start bridging differences. Let’s see what we can do to clarify the deep undercurrents in American politics that are changing what happens in the schoolhouse, and, in some cases, seem likely to change the very nature of the schoolhouse.

In my historical studies, I have usually found that the public debates about schooling may be heated, but teaching and learning change glacially. This has always been a source of frustration to reformers, whether they are progressives or essentialists, because they would like to prescribe big changes and see them happen fast. Ordinarily, that doesn’t happen.

Yet in these past six years, since the enactment of No Child Left Behind, we have seen bigger changes in daily classroom life than anyone could have imagined. The testing requirements of the law now define teaching and learning. As the old adage goes, what is tested is what is taught. So in district after district, all across the land, students are being prepared for the state tests in reading and math, often to the exclusion of other subjects, even recess.

This we all know. But something else is happening that is in some ways even more ominous than the Sword of Damocles that hangs over so many public schools.

We used to see a partisan divide about the big issues in education policy. The Democratic party advocated more funding for disadvantaged students and policies that promoted equity. The Republican party advocated choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability, and criticized the teachers’ unions as the main obstacles to reform.

In this election cycle, that familiar divide has changed dramatically. The Republicans still advocate choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability and are still critical of the teachers’ unions. But now there is a significant movement within the Democratic party that advocates the same positions as the Republicans.

The leading advocates of choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability appeared in a panel discussion during the Democratic convention, led by Chancellor Joel Klein of New York City and Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C. Along with such colleagues as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor Adrian Fenty of the District of Columbia, they present themselves as the true voices of “reform.” Listen to them and what one hears is the same views that the Republicans have been expressing since at least 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole launched an attack on the teachers’ unions. Now it is Rhee and Fenty trying to persuade D.C. teachers to abandon the tenure rights that their union won for them.

The “reforms” of the Klein-Sharpton-Rhee group are not at all new. They attack the teachers’ union, bash teachers, demand merit pay, promote charter schools and private management, and laud testing, lots more testing. They love NCLB, and they want it toughened. At bottom, they would like to see the public school system of the United States run like a business, with employees hired and fired at will. They are ready to privatize and outsource whatever they can, trusting private managers to succeed where the public sector (with themselves as leaders) has failed.

A number of articles recently have jumped on the idea that charters, testing, merit pay, etc. are the cutting edge of reform. (See here and here.)

It is curious, is it not, to see these two superintendents present themselves as successful reformers. Rhee has only recently begun her tenure, so it is indeed premature to anoint her a success, as so many in the media have already done, based solely on her bold rhetoric and her audacious effort to undercut the teachers’ union. Klein has been chancellor of the New York City public schools since the fall of 2002; he implemented his “reforms” in 2003. Since then, NYC has seen no significant gains on NAEP in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading, or 8th grade math. The city’s gains in 4th grade math are suspicious, since the exclusion rate for that grade and subject was an eye-popping 25 percent, something not seen in any other district tested by NAEP. At the same time, the city’s education spending increased by a startling 79 percent.

Some formula for success. Some business model.

So this is the strange new era we are embarked upon, in which the mantle of “reformer” has passed to those who would dismantle public education, piece by piece.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Republican budget proposal cuts schools

August 31, 2008 @ 4:56 PM

The Education Coalition announced opposition to the Republican Senate budget proposal that permanently cuts billions from our schools, and sets up yet another risky borrowing scheme that relies on temporary fixes and shortchanges our students by billions more in future years.


The Republican proposal cuts more than $5 billion from education and replaces ongoing money with one-time dollars that would only create a deeper budget hole next year.
The Republican proposal gives the governor the power to cut local school budgets in the middle of school year, making it extremely difficult for schools to plan or function, meet the needs of students or attract and retain quality teachers and school employees.
The Republican plan to "securitize" the lottery irresponsibly takes a big gamble with our students future, cutting schools by $2 billion and putting at risk more than $1 billion in lottery funds that currently support our schools, with only a hope that this scheme to borrow against the lottery can make up the difference.
The Republican proposal would put the Prop. 98 minimum school funding guarantee at risk, instead relying on one-time temporary funding that doesn’t address the long-term needs of our students.
The Republican plan will result in billions in more borrowing. The Public Policy Institute of California poll results show that only 8% of California voters think that borrowing is the right approach to fixing our state budget crisis. Borrowing shortchanges our students, now and in the future.
That’s why the Education Coalition strongly supports the original conference committee budget, which addresses our budget shortfall with a balanced package of cuts and on-going revenues that prevents deeper cuts to schools and students.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Schools and the California budget

The California budget remains in a stalemate. The Senate’s first vote was 3 votes short. That is, no Republicans voted for the budget. Passing a budget in California requires a 2/3 vote which requires that some Republicans vote for a budget to pass.

The proposed budget includes new “temporary” taxes. Then, in addition it requires substantial borrowing. Now I am not opposed to borrowing in general. However, at present the state has been borrowing for three years. When state and local governments borrow, they have to pay interest.
At present the interest we are paying on the borrowing is greater than the budget of the California State University system. If more borrowing is made necessary then more interest will be paid.
California dramatically under funds its schools. We rank about 27th in per pupil expenditure of the 50 states. If you compare the states and compare cost of living in each state, Superintendent O’Connell says that California ranks 49th. out of the 50 states.
In 2003, then Governor Gray Davis gave more money to the schools. In 2007 Governor Schwarzennegger gave more money in the Quality Investment in Education act. But now, in this budget crisis, we are limiting our spending on schools. California is not making educational progress in significant part because we refuse to adequately fund our schools.
So, if in response to Republican strategy the current budget can only be passed by borrowing, then in a future year there will be less money, and their will also be money spent paying interest on the debt.
This does not move us forward. Borrowing on the budget may be an unwelcome necessity. However, it does not move in any way toward school budget improvement nor toward dealing with California’s educational crises.
Duane Campbell. Sacramento

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democrats (?) for Education Reform

from The American Prospect


The Democratic Education Divide
A pre-convention education event was full of anti-union rhetoric, even as teachers' union members remain among the most loyal of Democratic constituencies.
Dana Goldstein | August 25, 2008 | web only

An interesting report from the DNC. Very poorly informed about school reform.
This essay has value as a report of the DNC meeting. It also includes some strong assertions not supported by the available date. These should be examined..

The author says,
In Washington, D.C., the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have been slow to embrace the mantra of uniform expectations and test-based accountability, which most national education reformers now believe are key to erasing the astounding achievement gaps between white and nonwhite students, and between the rich and poor.

The assertion that most national education reformers believe that test-based accountability is key to overcoming achievement gaps simply does not stand.

See, Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. (2007) By Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner. Harvard Education Press.
And see:
Accountability Frankenstein: Understanding and Taming the Monster. (2007) Sherman Dorn.
And the numerous writings of Richard Rothstein, including Class and Schools. (2004)
And a “ Bolder, Broader Approach.” .” Here: http://www.boldapproach.org/ With hundreds of educators signatory to the essay.

Persons who make this claim tend to know little about testing and even less about the effect that test based accountability has imposed on public schools.

The author then asserts:
And while No Child Left Behind is regarded as deeply flawed legislation in every quarter, it is also almost uniformly praised by policy wonks for shining a light on the achievement gap and for instituting the first national collection of education data correlated by race and family income. But the national teachers' unions wholeheartedly oppose NCLB, mostly because of its focus on standardized tests and its threat of defunding schools labeled as "failing."
See the 143 organizations dedicated to substantive reform in NCLB found here: ttp://www.edaccountability.org/Joint_Statement.html

There is nowhere near the agreement which the author claims.

The author then claims:
After all, if folks like Nancy Ruth White and the generations of teachers following her embrace of the Democrats for Education Reform agenda -- giving up tenure in exchange for higher starting salaries and merit pay tied to student achievement -- the unions will have to get with the program. If they don't, they'll risk becoming irrelevant to their own members.

The advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform does not have experience in improving schools. Look at the history of Roy Romer as Superintendent of Schools in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

David Bacon: Illegal People

Illegal People
How Globalization Creates Migration
and Criminalizes Immigrants

For a schedule of coming book discussions and photography exhibitions, go to:

In Illegal People Bacon explores the human side of globalization, exposing the many ways it uproots people in Latin America and Asia, driving them to migrate. At the same time, U.S. immigration policy makes the labor of those displaced people a crime in the United States. Illegal People explains why our national policy produces even more displacement, more migration, more immigration raids, and a more divided, polarized society.

Through interviews and on-the-spot reporting from both impoverished communities abroad and American immigrant workplaces and neighborhoods, Bacon shows how the United States' trade and economic policy abroad, in seeking to create a favorable investment climate for large corporations, creates conditions to displace communities and set migration into motion. Trade policy and immigration are intimately linked, Bacon argues, and are, in fact, elements of a single economic system.

In particular, he analyzes NAFTA's corporate tilt as a cause of displacement and migration from Mexico and shows how criminalizing immigrant labor benefits employers.

Bacon powerfully traces the development of illegal status back to slavery and shows the human cost of treating the indispensable labor of millions of migrants-and the migrants themselves-as illegal. Illegal People argues for a sea change in the way we think, debate, and legislate around issues of migration and globalization, making a compelling case for why we need to consider immigration and migration from a globalized human rights perspective.

"[I]ncisive investigation . . . Bacon's timely analysis is as cool and competent as his labor advocacy is unapologetic. In mapping the political economy of migration, with an unwavering eye on the rights and dignity of working people, Bacon offers an invaluable corrective to America's hobbled discourse on immigration and a spur to genuine, creative action." - review, Publisher's Weekly,

"Bacon, an award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, and immigrant-rights activist, follows the lives of undocumented workers at the Westin Suite Hotel in California and a Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina, who travel back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. . . . He ties together interviews, personal histories, and political analysis to provide a vivid image of what life is like for workers with little rights or protections in an increasingly globalized economy." review, Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"David Bacon is the conscience of American journalism: an extraordinary social documentarist in the rugged humanist tradition of Dorothea Lange, Carey McWilliams, and Ernesto Galarza.." - Mike Davis

Book webpage: http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2002

Saturday, August 16, 2008

California Star Test Results

State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Releases 2008 STAR Program Results Showing California Students Continue to Improve
LOS ANGELES/SAN JOSE — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today released the results of the 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program that show California students continue to make steady gains in English-language arts, math, science, and social science.

"California public school students are continuing to make solid, steady progress learning the skills and concepts necessary for success in school and in life. Since 2003, 532,494 more California students have become proficient in English-language arts and 415,129 more students have become proficient in math. While we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of universal proficiency, this year's gains are particularly encouraging considering they build upon five years of steady growth," O'Connell said.

"The results also show significant increases in science and social science. California has some of the highest standards in the nation, and I am exceptionally proud of the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents that led to this achievement," he said.

The STAR results may be found at: Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results.

In the six years since all California Standards Tests (CSTs) were completely aligned to state standards, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced increased by 11 points in English-language arts (ELA) or from 35 percent to 46 percent, (Table 1) and 8 points in math, from 35 percent to 43 percent (Table 5). The percentage of students scoring at the proficient and advanced levels on the fifth grade science test has increased by 22 points since 2004; the first year the test was given (Table 10).

The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in grades two, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine have increased in ELA by double digits over the five-year span beginning in 2003 (Table 1).

The greatest improvement over the five-year period for math was made by students in grades three, four, five, six, and seven with the proficient and advanced percentage increasing by 15, 16, 16, 10, and 11 points, respectively (Table 5).

"While we celebrate the progress made by all subgroups of students over the last five years, we can not lose sight of the fact that more than half of our students, and too many students of color, are still not meeting our high standards," O'Connell said. "It is good news that all students continue to improve. It is imperative that we help those students who have historically struggled the most to accelerate their learning so they may effectively and fully participate in school, the workforce, and in society."

All student subgroup populations have continued to improve since 2003, and the gap in achievement between African Americans and whites and the gap in achievement between Hispanics or Latinos and whites narrowed slightly since last year. But, overall proficiency rates for Latino and African American students were significantly lower than those of white or Asian students. (Table 14 and Table 15).

Particularly concerning are results that continue to show African American and Latino students who are not economically disadvantaged score lower in math than white students who are economically disadvantaged. (Table 8 and Table 9). In English-language arts, non-poor African American students scored at the same level as white students who are poor. Latino students who are not poor scored slightly higher than white students who are poor. (Table 3 and Table 4).

"It is a moral and economic imperative that we close the achievement gap. California cannot afford to allow our Latino students and our African American students to continue to lag academically behind their peers," O'Connell said.

"While we must close the gap that exists between all subgroups, I am acutely concerned about our African American students. African American students as a whole scored in English-language arts just one point above Latino students, a subgroup that includes a significant number of English learners. This, coupled with an alarming dropout rate among African Americans, indicates a crisis in the education of black children," he said. "My statewide P-16 Council has made a series of recommendations aimed at closing the achievement gap and improving the way we provide education services to African American students. We must redouble our efforts to find and share effective strategies that will help African American students succeed."

Note: while STAR test results continue to improve, national test results for California on the NAEP do not show improvement.
These test results are useful for district level management. They provide very little useful information for teachers.
This kind of test results primarily uses blame and shame as a strategy. Teachers working in low income and minority schools are blamed and shamed. Teachers working in high income schools are glad that they are not included in the blame. It does little or nothing to improve instruction.
To improve instruction test scores would need to be frequent and feedback provided during the teaching year.
And, teachers would need useful inservice on how to improve the scores.
On the other hand, the test results continue to indicate that the legislature and the governor have failed to adequately fund school improvement efforts. Current budget cuts will make matters worse,
Duane Campbell

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reclaiming Education

Reclaiming Education: How to Resist the Growing Threat to Public Education
By Susan Harman and Deborah Meier (online)

AMERICANS HAVE settled on the idea that many of our nation’s problems can be blamed on our school system and that the only way to solve them is through “school reform.” It’s an old story, but it's become the bipartisan line in 1983 with the publication of A Nation at Risk (ANAR). An odd alliance pulled this story together, led by corporate lobbyists, neoconservatives, and the media, and joined by civil rights organizations, union leaders, activists, some institutional liberals (like Ted Kennedy), and some school leaders eager for the attention that brings money. Together they have relentlessly sold a story that has wasted our time, energy, and resources, and pointed us in the wrong direction.

No matter what the question is, these alarmists have the answer. Why is the economy in bad shape? Look at the lousy math scores of U.S. students in the international competitions. Why are so many young African-Americans and Latinos in prison? They didn’t learn how to read in school. Why do poor and minority children score so much lower on tests than better-off white children (the notorious “achievement gap”)? Teachers are engaging in the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and have allowed some students to fail to meet high standards without any consequences. Why are students unprepared to accept the responsibilities of adult citizenship (voting, earning a good living, taking care of their children)? Schools help promote a bleeding heart, welfare state mentality and we need to reform our accountability measures.

Dissent plans on setting this record straight with "Reclaiming Education," a series of articles that will appear in print and online. Many researchers have carefully examined, challenged, and refuted various aspects of this radical reform agenda, and their arguments have appeared in a variety of academic journals and books, but only rarely have they been published in magazines aimed at a general public. As a result, the fact that much of this research calls into question the rationale behind No Child Left Behind remains a well-kept secret.

In these pages, we intend to connect the dots between the many pieces of research and demonstrate that the educational crisis is not what the public has been led to think it is, that there is virtually no research that supports ongoing corporate and federal policies, that the media has been irresponsible and complicit in hiding the truth, that the proposed solutions are unsupported and dangerous, and that the devastating consequences we are now seeing are not "unintended." To the contrary, these radical reforms were intended by a powerful, well-funded wing of the reform agenda to dismantle our public education system and replace it with precisely the kind of marketplace reforms that are by their nature untrustworthy and unaccountable. We hope these articles will mobilize policymakers and citizens to join us in resisting this attack on our public education system and democracy.

The 1983 assault of ANAR is the subject of Gerald Bracey’s opening critique in Dissent's forthcoming fall issue. Meanwhile, Kathy Emery will document the agenda of the corporate wing of the reform juggernaut for the Web.

The corporate agenda was implemented quite effectively under Governor George W. Bush in Texas and came to be known hyperbolically as the “Texas Miracle” because it apparently resulted in high test scores, high graduation rates, low drop-out rates, and a narrowing “achievement gap” between students of color and whites. The “miracle” turned out to be a mirage, as Linda McNeil will argue in her contribution to this series, but before we knew this, Bush exported his “miracle” to Washington, D.C. and forced it on the entire country as the 2001 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. False stories lead to false solutions; this is the history of NCLB. There will be other online pieces documenting the destructive impact and current disarray of the coalition that brought us NCLB.

For instance, when President Bush brags about how much money he’s given to education, he is talking about the $6 billion that has come through Reading First grants, a part of No Child Left Behind. The awarding of these grants has been the object of investigation by the Education Department’s Office of the Inspector General. Reading First’s results (or lack thereof) have been well-documented, and Congress has just cut off the project’s funding. In our first Web article, Stephen Krashen provides a critique of Reading First. Soon to follow is another article by Gerald Bracey on international comparisons of test scores and what they do and don’t mean about our schools.

We hope that each of the author’s accounts will help readers make connections between the current wave of education reform and the larger attack on public institutions and life. We believe that while schools cannot do it all there is a great deal to be learned from research about what a progressive agenda for school reform might look like. The slogan about leaving no child behind may be grandiose, but it’s surely worthwhile pursuing such an ambition.

Please check Dissent's Web pages often for this ongoing series that aims to help impact future educational policy and rescue our schools and democracy.

Read Stephen Krashen on Reading First

Susan Harman is a semi-retired principal, teacher, psychologist, and writer, and the Coordinator of CalCARE, the California Resistance to the standards and testing madness. Deborah Meier is currently a senior scholar at New York University, and has spent the past 45 years as a public school educator, activist and writer. Homepage and Feature Photo: A classroom at Detroit Holy Redeemer High School (Wikicommmons).