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 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.