Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A simple question teachers should now ask about their profession

From The Answer Sheet By 
The Washington Post - 2-27-2012

"As the debate rages on I suggest that teachers ask themselves one simple question: Should my professional work be reduced to a number that is public and thus will affect my relationship with my community, students and their families? If the answer to that question is “no,” then let your elected representatives know that you are a taxpayer and a voter, as well as a teacher. Educators must not “Race to the Top” of a hill only to find we are lemmings going over a cliff, with our public schools and our students falling behind us." 

Click Here 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

East Gate Baptist Church presents African American Celebration

Celebration - East Gate Baptist Church - Family Life Center
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Garland Mayor Ronald Jones
The Jubilant Jewels of the community outreach connection at East Gate Baptist Church hosted a grand African American Heritage event in the Family Life Center.  The activity was a feast of history, culture and food. The theme for this 7th annual program was, "Great African-Americans Past and Present." 

The program featured youth and elders in various presentations of historical figures, fashions and food that highlighted African American contributions yesterday and today. Several Dallas ISD students and parents were present and appeared on the program.  

In recognition of their regular positive responses and efforts, program planners recognized community servants, supporters and entrepreneurs by giving them Awards of Honor for their actions to advance neighborhood and individual progress.

Obviously a highly anticipated annual event, the Celebration was colorful with a variety of program activities that embraced families, extended families and friends.  Tables and people were all around the large Center.

Thanks to church member and community worker Dorothy Dean for her work to make this a successful African American Heritage Month event.

Rev. H. D. Reagan is pastor of East Gate Baptist Church. 

Congratulations, Jubilant Jewels, for a sparkling Black History Month observance.

Students build STEAM today at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

TAG students Jonathan, Nicholas and Rachel - STEAM presenters

For his senior thesis TAG student Nicholas Okafor took Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) a step beyond.  He introduced STEAM -- Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math. After being selected to participate in the prestigious Bezos Scholars program where he was exposed to STEAM, Nicholas desired to share this concept of using creativity and art to enhance student learning in the technical arena.

Assembling a team of TAG peers to help, Nicholas welcomed students and parents from other DISD schools to STEAM through Education workshops from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. today.  TAG students facilitated every aspect of the day, including registration, breakout sessions and  lunch. 

In addition to interactive STEAM workshops for students, orientation sessions for parents and educators were planned to parallel student events.

Approximately sixty 9 - 12 grade students came to participate in workshops
exploring science and art to diminish global environmental abuse, as well as one loosely based on a Winston Science and Destination Imagination activity led by students Joy Hill and Andrew Mills.

STEAM participants gather for wrap-up
Educator Scholar Erika Ellis is Nicholas' teacher and advisor. 

Congratulations to Nicholas Okafor and his student team for a successful day of learning and fun at STEAM through Education.

It was good sharing part of this experience today.  Here's wishing all ... 

Full STEAM ahead!!!

Sam Tasby Middle School annual community brunch

Mr. Sam Tasby and guests

Students,  parents, school partners and community supporters gathered today to honor an humble citizen of high distinction.    The 4th Annual Community Brunch entitled, Mr. Sam Tasby -- An Honorable Citizen was held in the Sam Tasby Middle School cafeteria.  The place was packed.

Tasby family members, including some of Mr. Tasby's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were also present to celebrate the occasion.  The 90 year old icon was surrounded with love and respect.

Students showed their hospitality training with friendly greetings and service.  How impressive they all were.

The outstanding program included an international tribute, Nepalese dancers, Burmese guitar players,  drummers, mime performers, and singers. In addition, the Bethune Elementary School twirlers and the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center Vision Step Team displayed their talents in honor of Mr. Tasby.  Pastor Michael Greene was guest speaker.

Sam Tasby Nepalese Dancers
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano and Dallas City Council member Ann Margolin, along with former Dallas ISD Trustee Se-Gwen Tyler, who assisted with planning, were also present.  

Ms. Adrian Henderson is Tasby Middle School principal.

Again this year, continuing the tradition of hosting an enjoyable Community Brunch,  planning  committee and partners completed another fitting tribute.

Mr. Sam Tasby waved approval and radiated smiles.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eleven closed Dallas ISD Schools could have been saved

I was not going to vote to close eleven schools - I made that quite clear at the January Board Briefing and elsewhere.

Click Here: Slow Down the plan to close DISD Schools-Dallas South publisher Shawn Williams

"Trustee Carla Ranger made her position on the matter very clear. 'I believe that the schools should not be closed, not one school for next year.' I agree. There should not be any schools closed for the coming year."

There was a way to save eleven schools. The schools were not closed solely because of money.  They were also closed because of politics.  The money ($11.5 million dollars) will simply be used for other purposes.

If the Board President wanted to save eleven schools, all he had to do was pull the item from the agenda.  

Board Policy clearly gives the Board President the authority to remove an item from the Board Agenda at any time.

Board Policy (BE) Local states: - Removal of Items From the Agenda"Items may be removed from the agenda once published upon the recommendation of the Board President or the Superintendent of Schools..."

The Board President alone had full authority to pull the item.

On Wednesday morning, January 25, 2012 at 3:00 AM, I sent the following request to the Board office hoping this would help save the eleven schools:

From: Carla Ranger
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 3:01 AM
Subject: School Consolidations

Good morning,

This is to recommend that the Board Agenda items relating to school closings 
be pulled from the agenda.

Thank you.

I believe this was the fifth request by a Trustee..

Click Here - DMN reporter Matthew Haag-11:44 AM-Wednesday-1-25-12
Pressure Mounts to pull school closure plan from tomorrow's Dallas ISD school board meeting

"Board president Lew Blackburn said he has heard from four board members who want to postpone the decision and four who do not. Blackburn called himself the "middle guy" and refused to cast the deciding vote

"If it's up to me, it's going to stay on the agenda," he said. "Trustees Carla Ranger and Adam Medrano have both publicly said they will not support the plan..."

Later in the day, it was confirmed again that Lew Blackburn would refuse to pull the school closing item from the agenda.

The outcome was clear - eleven schools would be closed.

District 5 - N. W. Harllee Elementary School

District 6 - D. A. Hulcy Middle School

District 8 - James B. Bonham Elementary School
District 8 - Oran M. Roberts Elementary School
District 8 - Arlington Park Elementary School

District 9 - City Park Elementary School
District 9 - Julia C.Frazier Elementary School
District 9- Phillis Wheatley Elementary School
District 9 - James W. Fannin Elementary School
District 9 - H.S. Thompson Elementary School
District 9 - Pearl C. Anderson Middle School (2013-2014 School Year)

At the Board Meeting the next day - in a meeting room in which the President had stated to the public "... you will not be a part of it," the vote was 6-2 to close the schools.

Voting "Yes" to close eleven schools

Bernadette Nutall ...............  District 9 -- six schools closed

Mike Morath ....................... District 2 -- no schools closed
Nancy Bingham ...................  District 4 -- no schools closed
Edwin Flores ......................  District 1 -- no schools closed
Eric Cowan ........................  District 7 -- no schools closed
Bruce Parrott .....................  District 3 -- no schools closed

Voting "No"

Adam Medrano .................... District 8 -- three schools closed
Lew Blackburn .................... District 5 -- one school closed

Remaining in the Board auditorium

Carla Ranger ...................... District 6 -- one school closed  (I would have voted "NO")

I remained in the Board auditorium with the public because it appeared that Board Policy BED (Local) was violated when Board President Lew Blackburn ordered Dallas ISD police to remove Dallas ISD Bond Committee Member Joyce Foreman from the meeting without warning or a just reason - while she was simply standing quietly at the microphone waiting for several Trustees to return to the meeting.
Board Policy BED(Local) states: The Board shall not tolerate disruption of the meeting by members of the public. If, after at least one warning from the President, any person continues to disrupt the meeting by his or her words or actions, the Board President shall request assistance from law enforcement officials to have the person removed from the meeting.
Board policy BED(Local) was clearly violated. It requires at least one warning from the Board President before he has the authority to remove a citizen from a public meeting. The Board President can also give more than one warning.
Lew Blackburn entered the auditorium after a long absence and immediately gave the order to Dallas ISD police: "Security I would like you to escort Miss Joyce Foreman out of this meeting right now." No warning - no disruption.  All was quiet at the time. "Right Now."
Audience: "Boo". - clearly upset by the unjust treatment of Joyce Foreman standing alone at the microphone waiting for Trustees to return.

Lew Blackburn:  "We will not have disorder in this meeting."  
Audience repeats: "No Justice - No Peace"
Lew Blackburn: "If we do not get quiet, we will move this meeting down the hall and you will not be a part of it."
Citizen in the Audience: "Lew, you should have been in in your seat."
Lew Blackburn: "Sir you need to  be quiet. Trustees we are moving down the hall." Raps gavel.

Trustees moved to the small Board room from the much larger auditorium.  I remained in the auditorium. I believed that there was something very wrong about the way the meeting was suddenly closed down by the Board President.

During the time of the move from the large auditorium to the small board room, Trustee Bernadette Nutall is heard to say, "They don't even know what justice is."

What I witnessed reminded me of how power will be abused and citizens deprived of important rights. 

This entire episode was caused by the Board President's action when he returned to the auditorium. The very first words he spoke gave the order to police to remove Joyce Foreman from the auditorium.  She was doing nothing at the time - just standing at the microphone waiting to speak. The Board President gave no warning as required by Board Policy BED(Local) - nothing.


 7:44 p.m.: I've just been stopped from going to the small board room. I'm being told that the trustees will be watching the speakers from the small boardroom. This could be a violation of the open meetings act -- you've got a quorum of trustees meeting privately and the public is not allowed in the room.

7:49 p.m.: After some side conversations, I've been allowed in the small board room.

7:55 p.m.:
Speakers are being called to the small boardroom to speak. It will be broadcast to the auditorium for the large crowd to hear."

After Trustees left the auditorium, some of the public left the auditorium thinking the meeting was over or that they would not be able to participate.

I remained in the auditorium with the public because the Texas Open Meetings Act requires a Trustee to not participate in a meeting if it appears there might be a violation of the state law.

I would have voted "No" on closing eleven schools.

The Board President could have stopped the school closures by pulling the item from the agendaHe refused.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Branded - Corporations and our schools
"Education and marketing are like oil and water. Public education has an agenda that is already crowded enough. When we become marketers and distributors, we confuse our mission. I worry about a time when our educational goals might be influenced or even set by private companies targeting our students with their own narrow messages. . .Yes, schools need money, but turning to commercial sales for income is a cop-out. It sends the message to our voters and legislators that we can let them off the hook-that advertising and sales of consumer products can fill the gap when it comes to supporting education."

Board of Trustees Workshop Agenda and Notice
Monday, February 13, 2012 - 5:00 PM

1. Notice and Return
2. Moment of Silence and Pledge of Allegiance
3. Discussion of Communication Practices and Procedures
4. Discussion of Community Relations Commission
5. Discussion of Board Focus 2012
6. Adjournment 

"Therefore, Mike Rawlings' appearance in the capacity of a private citizen does not appear as a requirement to be posted on the Agenda and Notice which was duly posted. However, Mike Rawlings' appearance at the DISD Trustees Worksop in the capacity of Mayor on behalf of the City of Dallas may need to be included on the Agenda and Notice, only if such appearance and presentation substantively changed or modified subject to be presented."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cornerstone Baptist Church annual African American Read-In program

Cornerstone Baptist Church - AARI 2012
This month continues to bring good news about the success of 2012 African American Read-In (AARI) activities, like the one we enjoyed today.  Ignoring the rain, students and community gathered in Sunny South Dallas, answering the call of reading, books and sharing African-American heritage at the second annual Cornerstone Baptist Church Read-In.

Today's literacy event was patterned after the long running Dallas city-wide African American Read-In I was honored to lead for ten years at the Majestic Theater (2000 - 2009) for the Dallas County Community College District.The city-wide African American Read-In was discontinued.

The Cornerstone AARI activity featured a Readers Walk of  1st - 12th grade students who read fiction and non-fiction excerpts written by a variety of Black authors. Readings were book-ended with lively song and dance performances. The diverse audience-- young, old, African American, Hispanic, Anglo, literate, non-literate, etc. -- all were delighted to participate and applaud..

Kofi Wadie Forson, student at Cabell Elementary School and first-place winner of the 2012 Gardere MLK Oratory Competition, delivered his speech of inspiration. 

Children's author Quineka Ragsdale, graduate of Roosevelt High School, showed passion for literacy as she urged adults to listen to children talk about reading and challenged students to read everything they enjoy.  Alejandro Perez, Jr., multi-disciplinary arts educator, engaged us with his learning technique of applying melodies and rhythms.

Students got books, backpacks and tee-shirts with theme: Reading is the Key to All Doors

Cornerstone Baptist Church  is led by Pastor Chris Simmons.  Member Charlotte Runnels coordinated the read-in. Pastor Ernest Baylor was the emcee.

It was good to see the learning and sharing today at the 2012 African American Read-In at Cornerstone Baptist Church, 1819 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Sunny South Dallas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Commissioner Robert Scott Modifies 15% of final grade rule

Texas Association of School Boards Legislative Report\

Commissioner of Education Robert Scott has announced that public school districts and charter schools have the ability to defer implementation of the statutory provision that requires performance on an end-of-course assessment to count as 15 percent of a student's final course grade.

The decision brings to a (temporary) close weeks of debate surrounding the "15 percent rule" associated with the new end-of-course exams ninth-grade students will be taking this year.

The controversy started following recent comments made by Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott at the TASA Midwinter Conference.

"I believe that testing is good for some things, but the system we have created has become a perversion of its original intent," Scott said. "The intent to improve teaching and learning has gone too far afield."

Both Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), chairs of their chambers' education committees, submitted letters to Commissioner Scott supporting a phase-in of the "15 percent rule."

"While we agree that the provisions of Chapter 39 may not be waived under your general waiver authority, we believe that you have defer the requirement that an end-of-course assessment count as 15% of a final grade until the 2012-2013 school year to coincide with full implementation of the testing and accountability changes," Shapiro said in a letter signed by Sens. Royce West (D-Dallas), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Rep. Eissler's letter was reportedly signed by about three-fourths of Texas House members.

Shapiro added that it was unfair for students to feel the consequences of the new exams while school districts will be given a one year reprieve from having their scores factored into accountability ratings.

"Based on my conversations with the Governor's Office and clarification of legislative intent from the House and Senate, I am modifying the Texas Education Agency's House Bill 3 Transition Plan," Commissioner Scott explained in a statement. "The modification applies only to the 15 percent grading requirement in Chapter 39 of the Texas Education Code, and will affect only the 2011-2012 school year. For this school year, the ultimate decision whether to include end-of-course exam scores as part of course grades will be determined locally by school districts and charter schools."

"The law still requires students that are first entering the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year to achieve a cumulative score on the end-of-course assessments to complete their graduation requirements," Scott continued. "Districts and charters choosing to defer implementation of the 15 percent requirement for the 2011-2012 school year will only need to notify TEA of that decision. Districts and charter schools will receive instructions from the agency regarding this policy change next week."

House Pub Ed Discusses Charter Schools

 Texas Association of School Boards Legislative Report

The House Public Education Committee met on Friday to consider its interim charge to evaluate the charter school system in Texas.  

The charge calls for the committee to:
  • examine success and failure stories in Texas and other states;
  • review the educational outcomes of students in charter school compared to those in traditional schools; and
  • identify any best practices and how those practices may be applied statewide. 
Texas Education Agency staff led off by providing an overview of charter schools in Texas, stating that 297 charters have been awarded since 1996 while 91 of them have been revoked, returned, merged or expired.

Currently, the state has awarded 206 open-enrollment charters.

Catherine Maloney, the director of the Texas Center for Education Research (TCER), provided invited testimony that, overall, parents are happy with their choice to enroll their students in an open-enrollment charter school.

Parents cite "smaller classes" and a "safer environments" as the reasons why they are satisfied. However, research shows traditional public school student performance is higher than that of charter school students.

Maloney's findings are a result of several years of TCER research which concluded in a number of evaluations funded by TEA.

TASB provided the committee members with a document that highlights several eye-opening statistics collected from TEA data.

The hearing featured several supporters and skeptics of charter schools. A common theme recurring throughout the hearing was that there exist a handful of very successful charters that overshadow the majority of below-average charter schools.

Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) repeatedly reminded those testifying that the original role of charter schools to serve as laboratories of innovation for all public schools is hard to fulfill because students in charter schools tend to have more involved parents than students in lower performing traditional public schools, making the portability of business and teaching models difficult. 

Others noted the ability of charter schools to retain the students they choose and send others back to traditional public schools at any time during the school year if students fail to adhere to a charter school's code of conduct or other requirement.

Committee members will make policy recommendations based on testimony and research that may result in proposed legislation in 2013.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TAG High School Talent Show

TAG students introduce talented performers at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

A few hours ago, students and parents at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center High School Magnet for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) produced and presented “Griffins Got Talent."  In every way, this show was top value in Dallas this evening!    
House seats were filled, and many stood around the Theater walls as TAG students showcased their talents and gifts by singing, dancing, playing instruments and reciting.  The performances were creative.  Some were original.  All were ready for curtain call.

Student crew members, assisted by families and friends, were well-coordinated, quick and smooth.  Effortlessly staging props and working lights, they moved through twenty-five performances with  professionalism.  

The TAG Talent Show is a popular fund-raiser produced annually by the TAG Magnet PTSA.  Students from all around the city are enrolled in the TAG Magnet at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center.

Families volunteer and work with faculty and staff each year to make the talent show a quality event.  Offering much enjoyment, this delightful evening fell in line with the tradition.

Thanks to Kyle Renard - TAG PTSA President

Congratulations, TAG students!  You showed “Griffins Got Talent!”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mayor Mike Rawlings' presentation not posted on board workshop agenda

The conduct of the meeting on Monday greatly concerned me. 

I do not recall when a Mayor of Dallas has appeared on a Dallas ISD Board Workshop Agenda or Board Meeting Agenda in recent or past history.  Maybe there is a reason. 

Board Presidents have understood the independence of the school district, and generally Mayors have respected that independence. 

It was reported that the last Mayor of Dallas was interested in taking over the school district.  He resigned as Mayor to run for a higher state office - United States Senator. 

Click Here: Few See Mayor As Schools Chief 

On Monday February 13, Dallas ISD Board President Lew Blackburn introduced Mayor  Mike Rawlings as his "good buddy" - not as the Mayor of our City.  At the invitation of the Board President, although not on the posted meeting Agenda, the Mayor proceeded to give multi-year marketing advice to the assembled Board and staff. 

The Board Agenda did not provide notice to the public of an appearance by the Mayor of Dallas to give a marketing presentation.  This appeared to have been thought up at the meeting. Perhaps it was planned.

Trustees were not officially informed that the Mayor of Dallas would be invited to attend and participate in the meeting. We were not asked for our opinion. The Board President spoke to DMN reporter Tawnell Hobbs but never provided any official notice to the Board or to the public of a Mayoral Presentation to the Board. 

I believe what was done might violate the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA).  Dallas ISD should not be governed by a "good buddy" system.  Like the Dallas City Council, we are governed by state laws and Board policies.  I believe the Board President abused his authority. 

The Mayor of Dallas is elected by the citizens of Dallas and is accountable to the citizens. 

The Board President of Dallas ISD is accountable to the Board of Trustees. The Board elects the President

We don't have a marketing problem at Dallas ISD. 

We have a governance problem. 

We have a real openness and transparency problem. 

We have a constant cover-up of wrongdoing problem. 

We need to be focused on governance of the district and dealing with important issues that develop almost weekly. 

We have a Board President who regularly abuses his authority. 

We have a Board President who is undermining the independence of Dallas ISD. "Independent" is the most important word in the Dallas ISD name. 

We have a Board President who had another secret meeting with the Mayor on Friday, January 27, 2012 - the day after a majority of the Board voted to close eleven schools.  Nothing about this meeting with the Mayor has been disclosed to the Board of Trustees. 

This meeting was also the day after Board President Lew Blackburn excluded taxpaying citizens from one of the most important public meetings in the history of Dallas ISD. 

Our most important task is to hire a good Superintendent and educational leader of the district. 

Until then, the Interim Superintendent is supposed to run the District and staff - not the Board President. 

The last thing Dallas ISD needs is "good buddy" governance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Diane Ravitch - why I changed my mind - charter schools

"When I joined the administration of George H.W. Bush in 1991, I had no preconceived ideas about choice and accountability. "Choice" meant vouchers, a cause that had been rebuffed repeatedly in state referendums and by the courts; the issue had never gotten my attention. "Accountability" was one of those platitudinous terms that everyone used admiringly but no one did anything about. My abiding interest, then and now, was curriculum—that is, the knowledge that is purposefully taught in subjects like history, geography, the arts, literature, civics, science and mathematics. I believed that American schools should have a coherent curriculum so that teachers would know what they are expected to teach and children would have continuity of instruction, no matter where they lived.

 However, after I left the administration in 1993, I supported the nascent charter school movement, even going to Albany, New York, to urge legislators to adopt a law permitting such schools to be created in the state. I supported merit pay as a form of accountability, on the assumption that teachers whose students are more successful should be paid more than their peers. I supported testing, expecting that better information would help to pinpoint where improvement was needed. I was affiliated with conservative think tanks, including the Manhattan Institute, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the Hoover Institution. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation in 2001 and President George W. Bush signed it in 2002, I applauded."


"The other popular nostrum of our day is "choice," which has captured the imagination of big foundations and many wealthy business leaders. Vouchers still have fervent proponents, even though only 30,000 students use them, and there is slight evidence of their effectiveness. Vouchers have been replaced by charters as the vehicle for promoting free-market reforms. What was but an idea in the late 1980s is a full-blown movement today, with 1.5 million students enrolled in 5,000 charter schools.

Charter schools receive public money but are privately managed. Unlike regular public schools, they operate free of most rules and regulations. More than 95 percent of charter schools are nonunion. When the state comptroller in New York sought to audit the state's charter schools, they sued to block him, claiming that they should be trusted to do their own audits.

Charters vary widely in quality. Some are excellent, some are abysmal, most are somewhere in between. The only major national evaluation of the charter sector was carried out by economist Margaret Raymond at Stanford University. Her study was funded by the staunchly procharter Walton Family Foundation, among others; yet she found that only 17 percent of charters outperformed a matched public school. The other 83 percent were either no better, or they were worse. On the NAEP exams in reading and mathematics, students in charter schools perform no better than those in regular public schools, whether one looks at black, Hispanic or low-income students, or students in urban districts.

Yet charter schools have passionate advocates, certainly on the right and also from a group called Democrats for Education Reform. Some charters are run by for-profit firms, some by nonprofits, and some are managed by community-based organizations. Their business model often involves a high turnover of teaching staff, because teachers are expected to work long hours, sometimes sixty to seventy hours weekly, plus be available by cellphone at all hours to their students. This works because so many charters are nonunion schools, but it is difficult to see how this model could be replicated. Not only does it preclude teachers' unions; it precludes a teaching profession in which teachers expect to make a career of teaching and have families.

The media like to focus on a star charter school, as though one extraordinary school is typical. The teachers are young and enthusiastic; the children are in uniforms and well behaved, and they all plan to go to college. But such stories often overlook important factors about charters: one, the good charters select students by lottery, and thus attract motivated students and families; two, charters tend to enroll a smaller proportion of students who are limited–English proficient, students with disabilities and homeless students, which gives them an edge over neighborhood public schools; and three, charters can remove students who are "not a good fit" and send them back to the neighborhood school. These factors give charters an edge, which makes it surprising that their performance is not any better than it is.

The original vision of charter schools in 1988, when the idea was popularized, was that they would be created by venturesome public school teachers who would seek out the most alienated students, those who had dropped out or those who were likely to do so. The teachers in these experimental schools would find better ways to reach these students and bring what they'd learned back to the regular public school. The fundamental idea at the beginning of the movement was that charter schools would help public schools and enroll students who needed extra attention and new strategies.

Now the charter sector sees itself as competition for the public schools. Some are profit-driven; some are power-driven. In some cities, charter chains seek to drive the public schools out of business. In Harlem, which has a heavy concentration of charter schools, the regular public schools must market themselves to students and families; they typically have a budget of $500 or less for fliers and brochures. The aggressive charter chain that competes with them has a marketing budget, according to the New York Times, of $325,000. The expansion of charters has been mightily underwritten by hedge-fund managers, the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other major benefactors.

Just at the point where I had made an ideological break from my past support of accountability and choice, the Obama administration came into office. I expected that Obama would throw out NCLB and start over. But, on the contrary, his administration has embraced some of the worst features of the George W. Bush era. Obama's Race to the Top competition dangled $4.3 billion before cash-hungry states. To qualify for the money, states had to remove any legal barrier to the expansion of charter schools. States also had to agree to create data systems making it possible to evaluate teachers by their students' test scores. And they had to pledge to "transform" or "turn around" low-performing schools.

Each of these elements is an echo of Bush's policies. The expansion of charters fulfills the dreams of education entrepreneurs and free-market advocates, who would dismantle public education if given the chance. Judging teachers by test scores is wrongheaded because students' scores are affected not only by what the teacher does but by such important factors as poverty, student motivation and family support. Yet only teachers will be held accountable. "Turning around" low-performing schools is a euphemism for NCLB-style punishments: if scores don't go up, schools are closed, privatized, turned into charters or handed over to the state.

None of the policies that involve testing and accountability—vouchers and charters, merit pay and closing schools—will give us the quantum improvement that we want for public education. They may even make matters worse.

We need a long-term plan that strengthens public education and rebuilds the education profession. We need better-educated teachers who have degrees in the subjects they teach; we need principals who are themselves master teachers, since they are the ones who evaluate and support the teachers; and we need superintendents who are knowledgeable educators, since they make crucial decisions about curriculums, instruction and personnel.

We must ensure that every student has the benefit of a coherent curriculum, one that includes history, literature, geography, civics, science, the arts, mathematics and physical education. And we must attend to the conditions in which children live, because their ability to attend school and to learn is directly influenced by their health and the well-being of their families."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Charter schools help privatize public education

Private charter school choice doesn't help strengthen public education. It helps privatize public education and turn it into a business for entrepreneurs and investors - whether profit or non-profit.

The head of Teach for America is married to one of the top officers of KIPP Charter schools. Would you like to guess the total annual income of this so-called non-profit couple helping poor kids get an education?

Compare their combined incomes to the salary of demoralized public school teachers who serve every day of the front lines of teaching and learning and who are ignored in the discussions about the future of their profession.

Today the big money in education is found in the corporate reform movement funded by large private foundations.  Good education policy should by determined by the public interest - not the private agendas of corporate reform foundations pushing one failed reform after another - all helping to push public education dollars toward private control.

Economist Milton Friedman made it plain before he departed this life. He commented on the opportunity presented by Hurricane Katrina to privatize education in New Orleans:

 "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity."
"In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools." (The Shock Doctrine)
Charter schools were rushed into operation in New Orleans to conduct the largest charter school takeover in the nation while the poor citizens were missing and had no say.  The current Superintendent of Schools in New Orleans is a former Teach for America employee.

"What has emerged since Katrina wiped out New Orleans Schools is the quintessential corporate education model, with corporate charter schools now constituting 3 out of every four schools in the Big Easy.  This system based on the "portfolio model" was developed under the leadership of Paul Vallas, who became the highest paid superintendent in Louisiana history (over $400,000 annually) at at time when large numbers of children in New Orleans did not have textbooks and teachers bought their own chalk.

While Vallas and his toadies claimed the new charter system was open to all comers, what quickly emerged was a school caste system, with the poorest and neediest children shut out of schools where their test scores could damage the charter brands that were set up as the urban model for the nation." Schools Matter

What helps public education is public investment of time and resources to improve traditional public schools. There is no miracle. There is no short-cut. There is no simple solution. There is only hard work, dedication and commitment to providing a quality public education for all children.

Corporate reforms will not create excellent schools

Posted on March 7, 2011 - 5:00pm by Erik

Increase competitiveness.

Focus on maximizing short-term output over long-term investment.
Layoff workers.
Squeeze more productivity from the remaining beleaguered workforce.
Demonize unions that oppose the changes.
And when the enterprise collapses, shut it down and outsource the work. 

 Sound familiar? 

This is not just the recipe for the current global financial crisis and economic meltdown.  It is the same corporate model that is driving much of what passes for education reform these days. 

It is a corporate model that prioritizes short-term production and profits - call them higher test scores - over long term investment. 

A model that focuses on outputs and accountability more than inputs - the economic, social and cultural context within which we try to educate children. 

A model that equates workers joining together to negotiate fair contracts with their employers in good faith as something evil and to be feared, rather than the fundamental foundation for democratic debate and cooperation

A model that lays off workers at the same time insisting that they are the most valued ‘asset.' 

And it is a corporate model that deskills education and applies economic rationalization (Taylorization) to pedagogical practice, rather than supporting and promoting what creates a team of highly motivated, collaborative, and skilled educators. 

This model hasn't worked so well for our economic well-being, nor do I suspect it holds much promise for our educational health, either. 


This is not to say that there are not real problems facing our public schools.  Too many students fall through the cracks.  The achievement gap between white students and students of color is alarming.  And too many students (although it must be said it is still a relatively small percentage overall) leave school ill-prepared to succeed.  But these are merely descriptions of impact, the symptoms caused by a problem, not the problem itself.  And as Dr. Lowell Levin has said, "Whoever defines the problem controls the range of solutions." 

On a flight to Boston this past year I sat next to an apparently high priced lawyer who was flying home after representing a student at a private school.  We started to talk about education and quickly shifted to education reform.  This attorney complained that it was incomprehensible to him why teachers opposed being tested on their subject matter to determine whether they were competent to teach.  "If they are scared to be tested because they will fail, no wonder we are having such problems in the schools," he lamented.

There are so many things wrong with his statement, but what I asked back was whether he thought the reason we were having "such troubles" in the schools was because the third grade teacher didn't know as much as her third gradersHe admitted they knew more.  "Why then," I asked, "did they need to be tested on content?" 

Many of the current reformers define the problem as a lack of accountability, inadequately trained or incompetent teachers, a public school monopoly that restricts competitionrecalcitrant unions, or poorly structured schools. 

The solutions then become almost self-evident: deliver rewards and sanctions based on increased testing and reporting; fire teachers or proscriptively prescribe how they should teach; break public school "monopoly status" through charter schools and vouchers; attack unions and either cow them into silence and acquiescence or put them in the impossible situation of choosing to defend their members (their legal obligation) over securing desperately needed "reform designated money"; restructure schools by centralizing control and imposing draconian personnel reshuffles with the same layoffs, job insecurity, job combination, increased workload, dislocation, instability and stress that accompany draconian restructurings in any private sector business. 

And for what real end? 

 Test scores may go up in the short term, perhaps - but so do short term profits in most corporate restructurings. 

The question is whether there is better teaching and learning?  Are students better equipped to lead successful lives in a rapidly changing world?  Are they more engaged democratic and global citizens?  Have they grown and developed into more full human beings?  Have they learned critical thinking and content other than literacy and math?   Beyond the anecdotal, heroic individual success stories the answer is almost always "no." 

 The problem with many education change initiatives are that they adopt unquestioningly the basic tenets of free-market fundamentalism and its corporate model that focuses on maximizing outputs without attention to making sure the inputs are right.  They narrow the focus of education just at the time it needs to be broadened.  And they erase the act of teaching and the culture that supports and nurtures it, just as corporate America routinely erases the lives, work, and communities of the workers who make our products.  (If you doubt this, recall how vociferously labeling laws and anti-sweatshop monitoring are fought by industry.)

So what is the problem? 

What truly impacts a child's ability to learn? 

And what is currently working? 

Certainly there are teachers that shouldn't be teaching, and there are unions that are stuck in models of operating that no longer make sense, just as there are incompetent and self-serving elected officials that shouldn't be in office, CEO's who shouldn't be running a business, parents who shouldn't be parenting, and foundations that promote extreme self-interest under the guise of the public good. 

The problem is not poorly skilled teachers or obstructionist teacher unions.  Poverty, violence, a culture of hopelessness and underachievement, lack of parental support - or no parents at all - the lack of health care, racism, deteriorating schools, and teachers and principals who have given up hope after having been asked to do the impossible are all far more likely to impact teaching and learning.  Schools are being asked to mitigate a series of social ills that are far beyond their scope or ability to address.  They are asked to heal catastrophic illness with Band-Aids. 

Rather than deal with these larger economic, social and cultural issues, which are far messier and could severely challenge the economic and political powers that created them, many of the corporate education reformers are content to focus on finding someone to blame, or on building intricate systems of goals and accountabilities, or simply restructuring the enterprise. 

So what creates better learning outcomes and a culture of success? A drive to learn and teach?  A sense of optimism and hope? 

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from Finland, whose schools are now vaunted as some of the most successful in the world after languishing in mediocrity for much of the last century. 

Their magical turnaround relies on no magic at all: Finland addresses poverty, lack of housing and health care as part of a national provision of social benefits.  Then they start with what drives a child to want to learn (for every kid is born hard-wired wanting to learn) and what inspires teachers to excel at teaching. 

Hint: It isn't through narrowing the curriculum to focus more rigorously on core subjects.  Nor is it to create more structured days, or more accountability to a unified curriculum, or more testing, or performance pay for teachers, or any of the myriad of other palliatives being offered up in the United States. 

 Rather, elementary school children in Finland play a lot.  They spend 75 minutes a day in recess, compared to about 25 minutes a day for American children.  They do mandatory art, music, and crafts classes, which become venues for learning math, science and reading.  Class sizes are small, and in high school science they are kept to 16 students to emphasize lab based activities.   Finnish children learn by doing.  Learning is exciting and fun, not the relentless drills on how to take multiple choice tests that many U.S. children endure. 

Teaching is not only a highly respected profession in Finland, but a highly sought after and competitive one.  Teachers must achieve the equivalent of a Masters degree before being hired and then they are paid well.  Finnish teachers are almost 100% organized in strong unions and they make about 105% of what their non-teaching counterparts earn with the same education, compared to about 70% for the United States. 

Finland uses national core standards as guidelines (rather than prescriptions) for teachers planning their curriculum, and schools are staffed so teachers have time during their day to create curriculum, plan collaboratively and discuss challenging questions around teaching and learning. 

Students are tested, but tests are used diagnostically, instead of being wielded as high stakes judgments to reward or punish schools and instructors. 

This creative teaching and learning environment is the high octane juice that fuels excellence.  The result: highly qualified, highly motivated, highly innovative teachers who are allowed to do what they do best - teach kids. 

Is this approach to reform cheap? - No.   But we have already seen the results of the cheap corporate turnaround models applied to public education: the quick grab for instant results, consultant driven panaceas, and the myopic narrowing of learning to higher reading and math scores. 

This is exactly the same short-term focus and restructuring that corporate America has pursued for the past three decades - merge, restructure, privatize, layoff, scapegoat and outsource - with dismal consequences.  

Free market fundamentalism didn't work for our economy or for workers and our communities; there is little reason to hope that this same corporate approach will produce anything better for our schools and children.

Are Money and Profit Behind the Charter School Fever?

September 24th, 2010 - By TheEditor
"Yvette Carnell"
On Monday’s episode of Oprah, the hyperbolic excitement wasn’t because of a trip to Australia, or one of Oprah’s favorite things, but her interview with Waiting for “Superman” director Davis Guggenheim.

Guggenheim, also director of “An Inconvenient Truth”, gushed about how he hoped his movie would spark a national conversation on education much like the one we’re still having on global warming. First we had a national conversation on race, then global warming, and now we’re being urged to embark on a national conversation about our crumbling education system. I am exhausted of conversations.

My exhaustion notwithstanding, I managed to trudge along and watch the Oprah episode in its entirety. What struck me most about the conversation between Oprah and her guests was the way in which they all went on and on about the success of charter schools.

It is true that some charter schools have displayed innovative approaches to education which resulted in increased test scores and graduation rates. There are, however, an equal number of charter schools which have either run out of funding or shown less achievement than their public counterparts. Had you watched the Oprah show on Monday, you wouldn’t have known that such disparities existed among charter schools. So why the race to bless charter schools and anoint them the saving grace of our public school system?

The answer: Money.

Policy analyst and former charter school advocate Dr. Diane Ravitch recently reversed her position on charter schools because of what she describes as an “effort to upend American public education and replace it with something market-based. In the end, Ravitch concluded that charter schools “were proving to be no better on average than regular schools, but in many cities were bleeding resources from the public system.

Many advocates of charter schools see dollar signs and not the despondent faces of sweet little urban and minority youth who are trapped in failing schools. There are millions of dollars in public education and charter schools are one way of redirecting those federal funds to private institutions.

Over the past 10 years we’ve seen a variety of tasks normally reserved for the federal government outsourced to private corporations. The Internal Revenue Service now hires private debt collection firms to supplement their own agents, the U.S. Military hires Haliburton to protect U.S. diplomats, and very soon charter schools will be hiring teachers and administrators to the job that underfunded public schools can no longer manage.

And the push back against charter schools isn’t at all aided by Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, one of charter school’s biggest advocates, who hustles American Express credit cards in television ads. The advertisement only highlights charter school’s connection to free market principles. Like it or not, it is the job of public schools to educate America’s youth. If lawmakers and education advocates were truly serious about renewing our education system, they would do as Ravitch advises and follow the lead of other nations. As Ravitch points out, “nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect.” 

To look toward charter schools as the savior of our public school system is absolutely absurd.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem -- Star Spangled Banner

In celebration of America during Black History Month

Television's Greatest Moments - Superbowl XXV
January 27, 1991 at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida

I still get tears in my eyes when I hear this recording from Whitney Houston. I am a Marine and I love The United States of America and our National Anthem. We are Blessed to live in this Great Country. Whitney sang with such emotion and Pride. Thank You and Bless You Whitney, RIP

Not that I'm the soft/sentimental type, but I remember sitting in a desert hospital's day room watching this woman sing this song and thinking, above all other things, how absolutely beautiful she sang it. It was, BY FAR, to me, the most beautiful rendition ever performed. I was missing my family, my friends, and my country, but for that moment it all was gone. EVERYONE in that day room was crying. 1 paratrooper mike

Monday, February 6, 2012

Diana Ross - We Shall Overcome

In celebration of Black History Month

Charter schools lose their magic

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012, 3:00 AM

Milton W. Hinton Jr. 

I find it interesting that some very influential people have come out in support of the expansion of charter schools in our state, including Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, and Reginald Jackson,  director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey.

I attempted to view charter schools as a valued educational initiative, as I wanted to believe that these folks knew what they are doing as they appeared to have a solid track record of accomplishment. But then two things happened. The first was that I began to do some research on charter schools in New Jersey, and secondly, good common sense kicked in.

Charter schools are often viewed as a way for many children, especially those from “low performing schools” to receive a “better” education, with many parents embracing the idea. Education is often a great equalizer in our society, regardless of someone’s socio-economic background. It appears to me that some of these unsuspecting parents are being misled by those who have anointed themselves educators, but are actually charter school and voucher advocates. But the fact remains that charter schools have no better track record in educating children than the public school system. 

This is not just me haphazardly tossing out my opinion, but the view of many educators, statisticians, and educational policy makers from coast to coast.

It is also significant that charter schools are allowed to follow a different set of policies and procedures than public schools. Advantages include allowing charter schools to set their own pay scale for administrators, ignoring the salary constraints imposed upon public schools by the Christie administration. Even so, charter schools fail at a significant rate, according to the state.

Currently, there are five charter school sites in New Jersey for which the commissioner of education approved the application, but denied a final charter. Apparently, these schools failed at the launch pad. Eleven charter schools that were operational with students enrolled had their charters revoked by the commissioner later, leaving parents scrambling to enroll their children somewhere else. Most likely they’ll be going right back to public school.

There are another 20 charter schools which voluntarily closed down. Apparently operating a charter effectively is not as easy as some applicants thought. It takes expertise, money, and the ability to keep religion out of the curriculum. Yet, I do not believe it is coincidental that a large number of churches, often predominantly black ones, are jumping into the charter school business.

The Rev. Reginald Jackson has submitted an application for a charter school and has also assisted others from the Black Ministers Council to open schools. If all goes as desired, ministers will open charter schools in Linden, Camden, Mays Landing and Trenton.

The last thing the public school systems in any of these cities needs is a charter school siphoning off financial and other resources from the public school system. It is also interesting to note that the residents of these cities have absolutely no say whether a charter school opens or not. 

The state is the only and final authority in the matter, even though taxes paid by the residents will go to operate these schools. Tax money will now fund both public and charter schools; the same pool of money, but different buildings, teachers, books, computers, etc. 

I also find it interesting that although religion cannot be a part of the curriculum, a church or religious institution can be used to house the school and students. Thus, several Jewish organizations have applied to operate charter schools. The Hebrew language will be part of the curriculum, but no religion will be taught.

Opening charters is, in essence, discriminatory. This is not racial or ethnic discrimination, but discrimination based on class and academic ability. The black churches that are petitioning to open charter schools will first and foremost attempt to serve the children of their congregants. They will desire the path of least resistance and embrace good students, just as a Hebrew language school will attract primarily Jewish students with an interest in, and desire to learn Hebrew.

Show me the charter school ready and willing to admit students with learning disabilities, or attention deficit disorder, or a child with behavioral issues that require additional supports, or just children who learn differently. No, charters will seek out the academically strong with the grades to prove it, and that’s a big concern for me.

This appears to me to be an attempt by some to dismantle the public school system, which does have its own set of issues. But instead of wasting money and trying to start a competing school system, fix the one that is currently up and running, and has a solid track record. 

Right now, no one — not Gov. Christie, not Mayor Booker, not Rev. Jackson — is saying anything aboutthe long-term outlook for those kids who will remain in public schools, which will face larger classes, more layoffs, and less money for technology, curriculum, and instruction. 

While looking forward to charter schools, don’t forget to look back at, and discuss, those left behind.
Milton W. Hinton Jr. is director of equal opportunity for the Gloucester County government. He is past president of the Gloucester County Branch NAACP. His column states his personal views, not those of any organization or agency. E-mail:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Suspended elementary teacher Joseph Drake information request

On Tuesday, January 31, 2012, I sent the email below to the administration requesting
all staff communications relating to the case of suspended elementary teacher Joseph Drake  

I am awaiting receipt of the information requested.  
Since a Trustee was involved, I view the issue as a Board governance concern.

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: Suspended Teacher Joseph Drake
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2012 11:36:38 -0600
From: Carla Ranger <>

Good morning,

Please provide a copy of all communications between staff members and Trustee Edwin Flores relating to suspended teacher Joseph Drake.

Also, please provide a copy of all Dallas ISD Board policies relating to employee contact with Trustees.

Thank you.


Find an experienced educator to be Superintendent

Dallas Morning News-Diane Ravitch: 20 Years later, debunking the 'Texas Miracle'

Published: 23 September 2011 05:00 PM

Diane Ravitch
"The current national school reform was born in Texas, probably hatched in Dallas." 

"As Dallas seeks a new superintendent, I have this advice: Find an experienced educator, someone who was a master teacher and then a highly successful principal. Don’t recruit a corporate leader who knows nothing about teaching and learning. Find a man or woman who knows how children learn, who knows how to encourage teachers and principals, who knows how to reach out to all parts of the community and bring them together to support Dallas’ children. Above all, look for someone who has a compelling vision of what a great education is and the energy to make it happen for all the children."

Diane Ravitch is the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Her website is