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Weekly Update : The Philadelphia horror story, no more school libraries in DC if the school chancellor has anything to do with it, other privatizing insanity and the push back

All the news that fits…and there is a lot of it this week.

If you haven’t watch it yet, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman is a must watch on the subject of charter schools. We have the ability in our state to learn from the mistakes of others who have gone down the road of privatization of their public schools. To put it simply, the process of corporatizing a public trust does far more harm than good.

One action that the corporate privatizers of education do, instead of supporting our public schools and the individuals and institutions that support our schools, they simply close them and replace them with privatized services or don’t replace them at all.

They demand more than anyone could possibly live up to and when these individuals and institutions “fail” they state that the effort is a waste of time and money and shut them down. An easy solution for them but one that is painful, disorienting and damaging to the communities where these schools and institutions are located.

One action that happened recently that defies all logic is the shutting down of libraries, a place that provides solace for some, support for students who might not have computers at home, many times offer tutorial support and of course, a place of reading, learning and exploring.

From Mike Klonsky’s blog, No “payoff” so D.C. cuts “investment” in school libraries:

Taking their cue from Chicago’s mayor, D.C. officials are proposing to get rid of 34 school librarians in the 2012-2013 academic year as part of a cost-cutting measure proposed by Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Henderson, who replaced Michelle Rhee as D.C. schools chancellor, had this to say in a discussion with a local reporter:

“We have invested in full-time librarians for the last three or four years and we haven’t seen the kind of payoff we’d like” with reading test scores, Henderson countered, adding she is not disparaging librarians. “We have pulled away from programs where we haven’t received a return on our investment.”  — Washington Post.

Let’s review the logic here. Reading scores are down so you close the libraries. Why not offer tutoring services after school at the libraries? That would be a good investment. The standardized tests that Henderson is referring to cost millions of dollars. Why not invest in tutors as well or instead of the battery of tests that are given?

This “reform” movement was bordering on insanity before but I think with actions such as this one, the “movement” has gone off the deep end.

And then in Philadelphia, instead of investing in schools, once again, the privatizers have decided to close 64 neighborhood schools and place 20% of these students in charter schools around the Philadelphia area, destroying neighborhoods and communities along the way.

From PAA Founding member Helen Gym, Please help Philadelphia: Poster child for disasters of corporate reform:

It’s taken me a while to talk about what’s happening in Philadelphia because of the destructive forces threatening public education in our city.

In case you haven’t read the news, Philadelphia’s Chief Recovery Officer – a gas industry executive paid $150K over six months – hired the Boston Consulting Group for a cool $1.4 million to create a “Blueprint for Reform”. The Blueprint sets out a five year course of action which calls for closing one-fourth of Philadelphia’s schools, 40 alone next year (64 total), placing 40% of students into charters, and dividing up the remaining schools into NYC-inspired “achievement networks” run by third party operators under a five year performance contract.

There are of course the standard union-busting threats, the exclusion of parent and community voices, and the consolidation of political interests, large charter operators, and voucher supporters. There is also terrible shock and awe rhetoric to silence Philadelphians into accepting this plan. Our Mayor for example said the school district was on the verge of imminent “collapse” and said the plan was something Philadelphians needed to “grow up and deal with.” Our Chief Recovery Officer just last week stated that schools may not open in September unless Philadelphians funded the plan with $94 million in increased property taxes.

And all of this is happening in a state where a Republican Governor has slashed $1.1 billion from public education in the last two years.

To read Helen’s post in full, go to the Parents Across America website.

For more information on this Philadelphia horror story, check out Who’s Killing Philly Public Schools? Underfunded. Overburdened. About to be sold for scrap.

Thomas Knudsen, the man who was temporarily put in charge of Philadelphia schools in January, was running late to last Monday’s press conference.

He had been delivering the same presentation all day, and doomsday rumors had already leaked: The plan he was about to lay out would dismantle the central office and parcel out school management, at least in part, to private companies.

Knudsen, paid $150,000 to hold the newly created post of Chief Recovery Officer through June, made a point of shaking the hand of every single reporter in the room before beginning his presentation. “Philadelphia public schools is not the school district,” he announced, laying out the five-year plan before the School Reform Commission (SRC). “There’s a redefinition, and we’ll get to that later.”

He got to it, using terms like “portfolios,” “modernization,” “right-sizing,” “entrepreneurialism” and “competition.” In short, it was a plan to shutter 40 schools next year, and an additional six every year thereafter until 2017. The remaining schools would be herded into “achievement networks” of 20 to 30 schools; public and private groups would compete to manage the networks. And the central office would be reduced to a skeleton crew of about 200. (About 1,000-plus positions existed in 2010, and district HQ has already eliminated more than a third of those.) Charter schools, the plan projects, would teach an estimated 40 percent of students by 2017.

The plan is bold — after all, closing just eight schools this year prompted an uproar. It’s also terrifying, says former Philadelphia School District superintendent David Hornbeck, considering the poor academic records and corruption at many charter schools. “What is being proposed, in effect, is ‘charterizing’ the whole district, when there is a lot of evidence that at best [charters] have no positive effect on student achievement, and there is a lot of evidence they cost more,” he tells City Paper. And “charters in many instances, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, have served private interests — sometimes of public officials.”

What’s even more startling than the drastic overhaul proposal is who engineered it. The plan was prepared with the assistance of Boston Consulting Group, a major global-business consultancy and school “right-sizing” mastermind. Boston’s previous accomplishments include recommending that New Orleans, which has decimated its teachers’ union and put most schools under charter control, create the exact same species of achievement networks in 2006. Last year, Boston also recommended that Australian education leaders close schools and cut spending. Indeed, Boston recommendations seem like a forgone conclusion: Their website touts “reform” hallmarks like evaluating student achievement through standardized tests and undermining traditional teacher certification.

To read the story in full, go to the Philadelphia City Paper.

Many folks are pushing back and fighting back. First, seven students and a school board member in Florida are pushing back against standardized testing:

Then there are the parents in Snohomish, Washington who are opting their students out of the state test. See Snohomish parents keep 550 students from test.

As I noted before, in Texas there is a growing opt-put campaign on standardized testing. See School officials: High-stakes tests failing students.

There is also the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing with a list of signers that seems to grow every day.

In Massachusetts students and teachers are pushing back on the corporatization of student teacher evaluations. From an article in the New York Times titled Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest .

Barbara Madeloni, front right, who runs the high school teacher training program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with some of her students, who have refused to participate in a pilot program for a new licensing procedure being developed by the education company Pearson and Stanford University to be marketed to states nationwide.

Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson.

The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

They have refused to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test, requirements of an assessment that will soon be necessary for licensure in several states.

“This is something complex and we don’t like seeing it taken out of human hands,” said Barbara Madeloni, who runs the university’s high school teacher training program. “We are putting a stick in the gears.”

Lily Waites, 25, who is getting a master’s degree to teach biology, found that the process of reducing 270 minutes of recorded classroom teaching to 20 minutes of video was demeaning and frustrating, made worse because she had never edited video before. “I don’t think it showed in any way who I am as a teacher,” she said. “It felt so stilted.”

To see the article in full, go to the Education section of the New York Times.

Hopefully this next push back will gather steam. It’s a demand to take the word “Democrats” out of DFER which stands for Democrats for Education Reform. From a post on PURE, Time to edit the Democrats out of DFER:

While teachers spend every day in school educating our children — against great odds — propaganda flaks like Rebeca Nieves Huffman, new Illinois director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), write ugly, extremist op ed pieces like the one the Sun-Times printed last week. It started out this way: “For much of the last year, while parents, community leaders and policy makers have been focused on bringing much-needed improvement to the Chicago Public Schools, the teachers’ union has been not-so-secretly planning to hold our city — and our schoolchildren — hostage by calling for a strike.” You don’t really need to read the rest of this toxic dump to know what it said.

Time for Democrats to take action

Recently the chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party sent DFER a “cease and desist” letter directing the group to remove all references to the Democratic Party and the words “Democratic” and “Democrat” from its name or face action from the California Secretary of State. “It’s clear that the so-called ‘Democrats for Education Reform’ are an astro-turf group trying to trick voters into thinking they are, or speak for, the Democratic Party,” Democratic chair Eric Bauman said in a statement. He was objecting to DFER’s endorsement of a former Teacher for America member as a candidate for the California assembly.

Democrats everywhere ought to urge their local party to take the same action, especially when the party name is used in connection with ugly letters like Baumann’s Sun-Times diatribe.

Even Big Ed is getting into the act with his diatribes on the vilification of teachers.

And finally for some recommended weekend viewing, I would suggest Frontline’s four-part series Money, Power and Wall Street. Anyone who thinks that a lack of regulation and oversight is a good idea, which is one of basic beliefs of the ed reformers when it comes to charter schools, needs to think again.

Have a great weekend!

Dora

2 comments on “Weekly Update : The Philadelphia horror story, no more school libraries in DC if the school chancellor has anything to do with it, other privatizing insanity and the push back

  1. John Foster
    May 13, 2012

    Also, I only WISH I could contact the Washington State Democratic Party about the danger of DFER but it appears they’ve now wormed their way inside and have taken control.

    Why else would the Washington Democratic Party invite the charlatan and con man, Cory Booker to be their convention dinner speaker?!?!

    This would be like Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at a Republican gala celebration. It’s sickening.

    Are the Democrats in this state unaware of Booker’s strong support of Chris Christie? Or his speech he made, earlier this month, at an ALEC sponsored conference, with Christie and the odious Bobby Jindal?

    Or do they just not care or assume we won’t notice?

    A direct inquiry with the State Democrats, asking them why they invited such a prominent hater of teachers and public education is definitely in order.

  2. John Foster
    May 13, 2012

    Excellent post! It’s good to know that the Democratic Party in Los Angeles is pushing back against the deceptive and fraudulent “‘Democrats’ For Educational Reform”, which is a cynical, con job of the first order.

    This DFER group has never been vetted and exposed in the media: and they need to be, now! But this is the first instance I’ve heard of the Democrats objecting to their name being stolen and used to mislead and manipulate. (Did one of these billionaires forget to pay off—eh, I mean “contribute to” the powers that be in this particular party office?

    Can you imagine the level of outrage and vitriol if a well-funded group decided to form an ersatz organization called “Republicans For Social Justice” or “Republicans For Teachers Unions”?!?! The primal screams would be heard from Hunts Point to Scarsdale and back again! Fox “News” would have this as their lead story 24/7. The RNC would file suit in every jurisdiction the next morning.

    Is the Democratic Party asleep at the wheel on this or just bought off?

    The Corporate Privatizers are smart. They realized a while ago that while “education reform” is, of course, a right-wing, hedge fund supported, viciously anti-union, ultra- conservative movement, it would gain little traction if people were aware of that reality. So, they came up with this brilliant ploy to make it look like this anti-teacher effort was “bipartisan”

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