Wednesday, July 6, 2016

HRC meets the NEA

Hillary Clinton came to town and got a good hug. Her only bad moment (she did have one) … but let’s leave that for its proper place.

Peter Greene, our favorite curmudgeon of Curmudgucation fame, often says that he’s read something so you don’t have too. To paraphrase him, I watched the candidate’s speech and took detailed notes so you don’t have to. I will add my commentary as I go.

HRC promised educators a seat at the table—always, as if there was a question that at some point she would dismiss us from the room. “… listen to educators when making decisions about education.”

So you will meet with Diane Ravitch, right? I mean, my social media feed and email have been blowing up all day with people signing the petition I started:

HRC asks for our support because ‘it’s for the children.’

Hmm, that one’s been around for two and a half decades. Got another reason, Ms. Clinton?

“Every child [should] receive a world-class education with good schools and good teachers no matter what zip code they live in.”

Nice to know you can sling the clichés as well as Bill. Could you be more specific?

“And you know what that means … supporting parents, expanding access to high-quality health care and universal pre-K for every child.”

Which neither I nor anyone who considers themselves a human being can argue with. Not that I want to. But the issue is not access to these things, it’s how and WHO should pay for it. More specifics, please.

“… repairing crumbling schools, building modern schools, investing in the training and support our educators deserve to have … because when we invest in education, we invest in our country’s future and we invest in an economy that works for all of us and not just for those at the top.”

Yet again, where are the specifics? How and who will pay for it?

A personal note: spare me the training. I’ve sat through too much whack-your-head-on-the-table-it-won’t-be-as-painful-as-this trainings mandated by some federal, state, or district bureaucrat with a checklist that they believe absolves them of responsibility—yeah, yeah, let’s make teachers suffer through this and then it’s THEIR fault our dumb ideas don’t work.

“[We should] focus on reaching new heights, not rehashing old arguments.”

So forget what I said a few moments ago about listening to educators when making decisions about education.”

“It is time to stop focusing on only quote failing schools—let’s focus on all our great schools, too. Let’s replicate their success everywhere across America.”

And here it comes …

“And when schools get it right—whether it’s traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working … and share it with schools across America.”

In the walnut-paneled offices of Wall Street hedge fund managers, cheers broke out. Brandy and cigars all around, their investment is about to pay off in a huge way. Meanwhile, teachers connected by social media are saying [censored]. But Congress heard them. In unprecedented legislation, Paul Ryan introduced a bill to outlaw the letters F, T, & W from the English language.

Whoops, there’s that sarcasm thing people warn me about. But charter schools have had 30 years to figure out what’s working and if they know, they haven’t shared it with schools across America. Most of us realize the truth: charter schools have less of a clue about true student learning than traditional public schools.

“We can do that. We have no time for all these education wars where people on the outside try to foist for-profit schools on our kids … I will never stand for that. That’s not acceptable.”

For someone so inept with email and technology, you keep hitting all the right abbreviations: Teachers, STFU. Maybe you should check out the Urban Dictionary.

You won’t stand for what, exactly? Teachers speaking out about the deprivations on their schools?Troy LaRiviere calling out the mayor of Chicago? Where are you going with this? Again, could you make a few detailed policy proposals and let us know what you plan to do?

Also, you were only kidding about listening to educators? Oh, these silly, silly teachers …

“Let’s sit at one table …”

Ah, you’ve been reading Peter Greene with his brilliantly comic references to the Thanksgiving kids table …

“… let’s listen to one another and particularly, let’s listen to you, the teachers and support professionals who have been with our kids all day, every day.”

Dangerous moment. Are you not aware that our union leadership, particularly Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten, have pushed you despite the massive protests from the rank and file? Naw, you ended your speech with a big hug. But I am getting ahead of myself.

But if you’re listening to teachers and support professionals then you know that we are withholding our endorsement for now no matter what our leadership does.

“Rather than starting from ideology, let’s start from what’s best for our kids …” And now a stroll down Memory Lane, during which Ms. Clinton takes credit for the IDEA legislation.

“My plan for strengthening public education comes down to three things: TLC—teaching, learning, community.

“Let’s start with teaching … everyone looks to you to fill in the gaps that we as a country have neglected.

“We ask so much of you and we don’t give you near enough in return.

“As President, I’ll launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate … at all stages of your careers so you can keep learning, improving, and innovating—and that goes for administrators, too.”

You really don’t have a clue, do you?

You promise to raise our pay—as if the Federal Government pays us.

I’ll give you props, though, for at least mentioning that our paraprofessionals and other support personnel have it much worse than teachers and need to be included in all pay discussions.

Thanks for the nod on student loans … on Wall Street, though, the brandy and cigars have been dropped on the carpet:

“[about teacher’s student debt] you will be able to refinance student debt so you can afford to teach. Any remaining student debt, after you refinance, will be forgiven after 10 years.”

I guess Bill handled the family finances. Because refinancing a debt doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay it back. As for that 10 year forgiveness? I bet you got some crazy phone calls from your backers after your speech was done. Are you really telling me all I have to do is delay for 10 years and I’m off the hook? And who do you think will refinance a teacher’s loan knowing that he/she will get stiffed at the end of 10 years?

“And will go even further in hard to teach subjects such as computer science or special education …”

Ground Control to Major Clinton. Every subject, every area has become hard to staff because of the destructive policies of the last 20 years, including the ones of a certain president you are eager to associate yourself with. Especially because of something called Race to The Top.

“Tests should go back to their original purpose—giving useful information to teachers and parents (pause) so you know and parents know how our kids in our schools are doing to help them improve.”

May I recommend a half dozen teacher blogs regarding this issue that are well written? If you really believed that, you would call for an end to testing and say let the teachers test students as they did 30 years ago. No standardized testing, no PARCC, no SBAC, none of that is needed.

“But when you’re forced to teach to a test, our children miss out on some of the most important experiences in the classroom … That hurts our low-income kids and communities the most. Extra-curricular activities stripped out, but not in better schools … [This is] fundamentally wrong … [a mention of inequality]

You need to catch up, Ms. Clinton. It’s not an issue of inequality but of inequity. If you don’t know the difference, well, sit down at the table you pretend to be setting for us educators and find out.

Also, here is where you share the details of your major education policies. Otherwise, we dismiss your platitudes as the pandering of a politician.

But don’t worry, be happy, because …
“[in the face of] hostile state legislatures, union busting government, I’m here to tell you that help is on the way.”

(That’s Mighty Mouse singing, “Here I Come to Save the Day!”)

“… will fight for your right to collective bargaining.”

Forgive me, but by this point, I live in Missouri: SHOW ME.

“[We] have to have a partnership. Work with me, advise me, hold me accountable.”

So you will meet with Diane Ravitch? As for accountability, you will rue the day you said that. 30,000 emails don’t lie.

I was pretty exhausted by this point, but let’s soldier on. Her next point was Learning and she talked about technology. She will prioritize the “integration of digital tools into the curriculum.”

Good thing Bill Gates, Pearson, iReady, etc. etc. got to parse your speech before you gave it. Thumbs up from that trio!

She’ll close the gaps, yada, yada, yada … affordable high speed broadband yada, yada, yada for all kids to do homework …

Has it ever occurred to this woman to talk to educators about whether computer homework works for children? Has she even heard of Photomath, the app that not only gives a correct answer, but all the steps for a child to copy down to hand in? All one has to do is activate the app and let the phone camera have a peek?

Then she talked about community. Here’s an oldie but goodie to divert you from yet more clichés and generalities that don’t mean diddly squat:

Apple trees and honeybees …
The only thing left was to spout about needing wrap-around services in schools.

But no policy proposal, no details. “It’s the real thing, Coke …” the commercial sang.

Does Hillary Rodham Clinton realize that her election rides upon this question and that she squandered an opportunity to convince teachers that she is the real thing?

Monday, July 4, 2016

What Is a Public Charter School?

We see this term used more and more often, by candidates for elective offices and by charter schools. Let’s look into what is meant by a ‘public’ charter school and I put the word into quotes because logic tells us if there are public charter schools then that is in distinction from non-public charter schools.

(Let me confess at the outset that I doubt the term has any meaning at all. It is a reflection of the ongoing attempt by charter school chains to present themselves as public schools. Why, I cannot imagine, since charter schools trumpet their superiority over public schools in their promotional campaigns and political machinations.)

(However, political candidates are trying to steer an impossible course between charter school advocates and defenders of traditional public schools by saying that they support PUBLIC charter schools but not all charter schools. It’s time to call upon them to clarify what they mean.)

A charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education.” (Georgia Department of Education, General FAQs) (Emphasis mine.)

Varying versions of this definition are put out but they all have the same essential point: a charter school, by virtue of its charter, its authorizing governmental body, and state laws is a public school.

But then, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools features this mission statement on its website ( "We are working to grow the number of high-quality charter schools available to all families, especially those who do not have access to high-quality public schools."

Wait, what? Charters AREN’T public schools because they exist as an alternative to public schools?

From their website, here’s some more:
Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are:
·         Open to all children;
·         Do not charge tuition; and
·         Do not have special entrance requirements.
Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit.”

So many issues, so little time. For starters, traditional public schools have gotten a ton of accountability but not the freedom to do what they think is best. That has been taken away. Second, when will you publish your Lessons Learned report for the benefit of the ‘broader public school system?’ I’m working through your website. Can’t find it.

Anyhow, I’m maintaining this question as an open question for anyone to answer. I have three specific groups in mind: charter schools (although I think the above has answered the question I will keep an open mind), politicians, and you.

I’m contacting places with a simple request: Can you tell me what you mean by ‘public charter?’ The answers will be illuminating.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fresh Eggs for your July 4th Celebration

1.       “Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” “Crooked Hillary,” and “Goofy Elizabeth Warren:” Why haven’t we seen a quiz on Facebook titled: What Donald Trump Insult Are You?

2.       The violence at the Mexican teacher protest, including several deaths of the teachers because the federales shot them, put me in mind of the 1894 Pullman Railroad strike and the 1896 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. Violence at the protests of labor is nothing new and it has happened here.

3.       The Megamillions lotto is up to Mega Megamillion Dollar levels. Somehow there’s not the excitement of the Powerball frenzy six months ago. That’s a good thing if we can take it or leave it.

4.       Can’t blame you, though, if you’re keeping a dog in the hunt.

5.       While we were focused on the new cut scores for achievement levels, the Florida Department of Education did something truly appalling with the calculation of learning gains. Simply put, the non-passing levels were divided into five sublevels and only if a student moves up a level are learning gains deemed to have taken place. On passing levels, students must gain at least one point on the scale score. Schools are used to healthy boosts for their grade based on learning gains. No more. Look for the pushback to begin in another two weeks. FEARLESS FOSDICK prediction: The commissioner and the state board will cave with an emergency rule to keep schools from declining drastically in their letter grades.

6.       Bonus point if you know who Fearless Fosdick is.

7.       It’s a tough choice for Corrinne Brown’s supporters. For the first time in two decades, she needs their votes in the August 30 primary as she competes in the new East-West district that runs along I-10 to Tallahassee. Al Lawson has his own base in the western part of the district and will be hard to beat. Yet, they also want to replace Angela Corey. But due to the electoral shenanigans of a Corey supporter filing for a write-in campaign, her primary is closed—Republicans only. There is no Democratic opposition: to vote Corey out (by changing their registration to Republican for the primary), they will have to let Brown take her chances. A tough choice.

8.       As I have listened to the complaints across the long presidential primary campaign and now going into state contests, it seems clear a large majority favor reworking our election laws for unitary campaigns.

9.       Given that such campaigns tend to foster competitive races and threaten incumbents, look for the idea to go into the same file as the fair tax.

10.   The markets have returned to pre-Brexit vote levels. Not surprised.

11.   Europe needs Britain as much as Britain needs Europe. A ‘United States of Europe’ was never going to happen. 28 diverse cultures and languages, they thought they could achieve the cohesiveness of the USA, with a dominant one language and culture? And even we have our regional difficulties, not to mention social justice issues within our society. Europe needs to reduce the power of the Brussels bureaucracy and allow more discretion to member countries or others will follow Britain.

12.   What Trump insult am I? Oh, call me bald-headed. I always swore I would never do a ridiculous comb-over as my genetic heritage asserted itself.