Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Recount : Florida 2000

‘Recount’ Gets It Right, Even if America Didn’t
By Brad Friedman
This review was originally posted on The Brad Blog.

I don’t mind admitting it. For an Election Integrity journalist, HBO’s Recount is pure pornography.
So it was with great anticipation that I sat down on Sunday night to watch the film as it premiered, along with the “Diebold Document Whistleblower” (and my new colleague at Steven Heller and his wife, and Robert Carillo Cohen, one of the filmmakers of HBO’s landmark documentary, the Emmy-nominated Hacking Democracy which enjoyed a re-airing earlier in the day, as the cable net set the stage for its newest democracy thriller/heart-…

As it turns out, HBO seems to have gotten just about all of it right from a factual standpoint. At least from the perspective of someone who followed those extraordinary 36 days incredibly closely both during and since, as the country hung in limbo as if, yes, dangling by a chad. There was quite a bit of nuance packed in to the two fast-paced hours, even down to the dirty machinations of Florida’s corrupt and soulless Rep. Tom Feeney who played a minor, but key role in both the film and the stolen election.
Getting it right, or close to it, is apparently no small feat, since even the New York Times, the “paper of record”, was unable to do so even in their review of the film, seven years after they covered the actual events, and six years after they correctly wrote, “If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards...Mr. Gore would have won.”
Never mind history though, now for the Times it’s the revisionistic: “Mr. Bush would have come out slightly ahead, even if all the votes counted throughout the state had been re-tallied.” (For the record, the Times was right six years ago, here’s the evidence [PDF], and wrong last week.)
While time has done few favors for the Times, the historical distance, and time-compression of the two hour film, managed to capture the thrilling, exhausting and disappointing back and forth, up and down roller coaster of the original saga --- while identifying the players who deserve much of the thanks for the failure to count every vote accurately, as per the voters’ intent, or even at all --- in what was finally democracy lost.
Among the players targeted for failing to ensure the proper administration of democracy: then-Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, who the film identifies as having almost single-handedly allowed hundreds of military ballots to be counted for George W. Bush despite any evidence whatsoever that any of them were actually cast prior to the close of polls on November 7th, 2000.
While I had been aware of the Gore campaign foolishly rolling over to the cynical and opportunistic GOP attempts to bully them, by painting them as anti-troop --- based on their eventually-abandoned premise that all counted ballots should actually be legal ones --- I hadn’t drawn a direct bead on Lieberman for blowing that call.
If the filmmakers were accurate in that depiction, then it looks like one of John McCain’s biggest supporters in 2008 had been undermining Democratic White House ambitions long ago.
Given the film’s familiar outcome, no small amount of credit is due the filmmakers who were able to succeed in having a room of jaded (understatement) election buffs still rooting for the good guys to pull it out this time around. (Without giving too much away, they didn’t. Gore was still named the loser, despite having received more votes in Florida in 2000 than Bush [PDF], even after tens of thousands of legal minority voters were excluded from voting at all, merely because their names sounded something like others who had purportedly been convicted of a felony at one time or another.)
The result: a taut, often hilarious, consistently engaging, still-maddening and sick-making political thriller. History would thank you for watching it. Again and again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The California budget, schools, and a bridge to nowhere

The Budget; education; and selling us a bridge to nowhere.
The California budget is a mess- at least a $15 Billion deficit.
About half of California’s schools are in a mess: California’s students rank 48th. out of the states in 4th. grade reading on the NAEP, 47th. in 4th. grade math, and 43rd. in 4th. grade science. California ranks 48th. in 8th. grade readingon the NAEP, 45th. in 8th. grade math, and 42nd in 8th. grade science.
That is, our schools are in crisis, particularly our schools serving Black, Latino and economically disadvantaged students. And, after 20 years of “school reform,” there has been no real progress.
So what is proposed in the Governor’s budget. Well first they propose to cut $4.1 billion from the schools. This will increase class size, eliminate counselors and lead to teacher lay offs. The Governor would also will cut health care to some seniors, the disabled, and children.
While cutting and slashing, the Governor also proposes spending at least 9 million additional dollars for a new video based test for new teachers (TPA or PACT). This new test has no relationship to the crisis in school achievement of California’s failing schools. It does, however, provide career advancement for test writers and professors at Stanford and elsewhere, provide them with coffee, donuts and catered food while they meet, and keep them from having to work with real teachers in real classrooms to deal with the problems students in real schools.
It is a bridge to nowhere. A boondoggle. The state might as well fund research on developing rain forests in the Iowa prairie. And, unless the California Assembly Budget Committee acts, it is a boondoggle that you and I will pay for.
It is a bridge to create a test that is not needed and will not improve teaching nor learning, but a few bureaucrats and three college professors want it. So, while we don’t have money for class size reduction, summer school, and safe schools, we have money for this. Excuse me- I thought that we had a budget crisis and a school crisis, but I haven’t heard of a test crisis.
You may have heard the story of the drunk who lost his/her keys in the dark alley. He couldn’t see well enough to find the keys. So, he went down the block to where there was a street light and searched there. Along came a friend and offered to help. After a few minutes the friend asked, Where again did you lose the keys?
The drunk replied, back there in the dark alley. The friend asked- if you lost the keys in the dark alley, why are you looking here at the corner? The drunk replied, because there is not enough light to see in the dark alley.
The proposed funding of Teacher Performance Assessment during a state budget crisis is like turning on the street lights in the next block. That is not where the school crisis is- and you won’t find the keys to quality education there.

Duane Campbell

Monday, May 12, 2008

California ranks first- in failing schools

School districts start to face sanctions under landmark law
The Associated Press
Saturday, May 10, 2008; 1:06 PM

THERMAL, Calif. -- At Las Palmitas Elementary School, nestled between rundown homes and fields of grapes, peppers and dates in Southern California, 99 percent of students live in poverty and fewer than 20 percent speak English fluently.

Las Palmitas and other schools in the Coachella Valley Unified School District are just the type policy makers had in mind when Congress passed the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to shed light on the disparities facing poor and minority children.

Nineteen of the district's 21 schools _ including Las Palmitas _ have not met the federal law's performance benchmarks for four years. Now the entire district faces sanctions for the first time.

"We have hardworking, dedicated, trained teachers like everybody else. They've got to teach a language, they've got to teach the content, and they've got to counter poverty," said Foch "Tut" Pensis, the district's superintendent. "We are the poster child for NCLB."

California has 97 school districts that failed to meet their goals under the law for four years, more than twice as many failing districts as any other state so far. Kentucky has the next highest number facing sanctions, with 47.

Nationwide, 411 school districts in 27 states now face intervention.

Over the next few years, hundreds more districts are destined to enter the next phase that California already has begun. The state has ordered districts to undergo everything from reporting how they are implementing the federal law to having a team of specialists assess every aspect of their operations. In the most extreme cases, California districts could be subject to a state takeover.

How California and the other states will turn around those struggling districts is unclear.

"No one, on a large scale, has figured out how to solve the achievement gap," Pensis said. "Everybody's looking for that answer."

If they need better teachers and administrators, it's not apparent where they will come from. Some federal money is available, but it's unlikely it will be enough to cover all the failing districts.

Many states already are losing revenue due to the sliding economy. California's budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins this summer is projected to be anywhere from $15 billion to $20 billion.

No Child Left Behind sought to shine a light on inequality in the nation's education system, where schools have been accused of setting lower expectations for poor and minority children. Nationwide, black and Hispanic students consistently lag behind their white and Asian peers in performance, a chasm referred to as the achievement gap.

The law also set tough goals for districts to demonstrate steady improvement.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says California is taking the right steps. It is the first state to take widespread action against all its districts that have failed to meet the achievement target set by No Child Left Behind.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O'Connell, proposed the sliding scale of punishment for the 97 districts _ which are responsible for educating nearly a third of California's 6.3 million students.

Their approach reserves severe measures, such as replacing administrators or a takeover by the state, for districts that have shown the least improvement.

"He is the first governor to kind of embrace this law, to take it on himself, to be acting for it, and in keeping completely with the spirit of No Child Left Behind," Spellings said in an interview.

By taking action now, California can collect $45 million from the federal government. The districts facing the most severe sanctions each will receive $250,000 in federal money to pay for intervention teams and to start following their suggestions.

They will need to hire turnaround experts, new principals and coaches, and many more teachers to replace those judged to be ineffective. Where the districts will find those top-quality educators is unknown. California expects to face a shortage of as many as 100,000 qualified teachers in the next decade, even without changes to its existing school system.

"I think it's going to take leadership, commitment and expectations," she said. "It's just like with the kids: If you think you have a bunch of kids who can't get to grade level, that's what you have. If you think you have superstars, that's what you have."

With half the black and Hispanic students in the country dropping out before graduation, anything less than aggressive action to turn around the failing districts is unacceptable, Spellings said. Under some of the states' current improvement plans, it would take some districts more than 100 years to bring students' reading and math skills to grade level.

"The accountability _ all the testing, all the data, all the stuff we do _ are meaningless unless we have real consequences for failure," Spellings said.

(This version CORRECTS that state has already called on districts to fulfill various requirements).)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Education for All May 9, Sacramento


Teachers, Students, and Parents will be available for interviews
Spanish speakers available
On Thursday, May 8, 2008, members of the Association of Raza Educators (A.R.E.) will lead a protest caravan to Sacramento, California. Teachers will meet in Chicano Park (San Diego, CA) at 3:30pm and the caravan will leave at 4:00pm. Teachers in Los Angeles will also meet at the Governor's office in Downtown LA at 5:00pm. Other caravans will leave Oxnard, the three caravans will then converge in downtown San Francisco where they will unite with Bay Area teachers for a press conference that begins at 10:30am, on Friday May 9th. The caravans, part of a statewide effort, will continue to Sacramento, where there will be a massive teacher rally on the grounds of the State Capitol Building at 3:00 pm.

The purpose of the A.R.E. Caravan will be to express to all government and public school officials our indignation and opposition to the current massive cut backs facing the public schools. Through the caravan, A.R.E. hopes to inform our communities that Mexican-Latino educators are united in their opposition to the cutbacks in both school funding and the elimination of courses that truly work towards educating children. We also intend to expose the hypocrisy of government officials who publicly 'desire' to improve test scores yet vote to deny the funding necessary to provide a quality education for all students.

Above all, the proposed cutbacks will more dramatically impact and deny children of poor and working class communities their right to a quality education. It is no secret that the cut backs will specifically hurt Mexican-Latino and African American children who historically have been neglected by racist policies and government officials. It's a shame that the government can cut funding for education, yet increase spending on the state prison system.

A.R.E. will not stand idly by, while our children's future is being destroyed. The caravan will be just one of many acts of resistance on our part to the on-going attacks on public education and the teaching profession.

Please Contact Eduardo Enrique Ochoa via
e-mail or by phone
(619) 252-7891 for more information regarding the
San Diego Press Conference

Please Contact Miguel Zavala via
e-mail or by phone
(626) 617-0401

also: on May 9. Focus group on the California History Social Science Framework. 3 PM. State Dept. of Education.
See prior post.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: Sorry Mexicans- you don't exist

California Education to Latinos: Sorry, we forgot that you exist !
After 20 years of using a California History-Social Science Framework which is ahistorical and misses the significant contributions of Mexicans, Latinos, and Asian to U.S. and California history, the State Board of Education will hold hearings on whether the current framework should be revised. I hope that you have an opinion.
California has the largest population of any state, with more than 6,286,000 students in school in 2006 California students make up more than 11 percent of the United States total. California, along with some 16 other states, adopts textbooks for the entire state instead of district by district. This makes the California adoption the largest single textbook sale in the nation. Succeeding in market is an important goal for textbook publishers. Many publishers write and edit their books in a targeted attempt to win control of the large and lucrative California and Texas markets. In an effort to increase their profits, publishers promote and try to sell throughout the nation books developed in California and Texas.
The election of 1982 began 16 years of conservative, Republican control of the California governorship. Governors appoint the members of the State Board of Education. The conservative control changed the history–social science, language, and reading curricula and textbooks for the state, and influenced textbook decisions throughout the United States.
The 1987 draft of the History-Social Science Framework (a guide for teachers and textbook selection still in use today ) excluded an accurate history of Latino and Native American settlement of the Southwest and did not cover the substantial Asian history in the West (see Almaguer, 1994). By electing to concentrate on a melting pot, consensus point of view, the History-Social Science Framework assumed that telling the history of European immigrants adequately explains the experiences of Mexicans, Native Americans, and Asians.
The Framework does not describe the displacement and destruction of Native American, Mexican, and Mexican American communities from 1850 to 1930 throughout the Southwest, including in Los Angeles and San Diego. The authors—among them, educational historian Diane Ravitch—failed to note that the present mosaic of Southwest culture was created by the subjugation and domination of previously existing groups, both Native American and Mexican American.
The California document won the praise of conservative reform advocates around the nation. Honig and Ravitch and numerous funded advocacy organizations such as the Brookings Institute cited it in their writings and speeches as a positive example of the kind of multiculturalism they supported.
In California, committees and the State Board of Education select texbooks for all the students in public schools. The U.S. history books submitted for the 1990 California adoption, and readopted in 1998 and 2005, were required to be based on the Framework. The 1987- 2005 document expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but were totally inadequate in their coverage of Latinos and Asians—both significant population groups in the development of history of the West. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and a photo of Cesar Chavez. Latinos make up 48.1 percent of California’s student population and Asians make up 8.1 %. Coverage of Native Americans in fourth-grade books was embarrassingly Euro-centric. The books do not accurately describe the interactive and interdependent nature of the African, European, Native American, Latino, and Asian communities. (For a detailed analysis of this curriculum conflict, see Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995. For an opposing view, see Gitlin, 1995.) Above Excerpt from Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004)
Focus group: Friday, May, 9,2008. Sacramento.
An agenda for the focus group meetings are posted at the CDE Web site at