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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wait, What? and I need a little help from our friends…. - Wait What?

Wait, What? and I need a little help from our friends…. - Wait What?:

Wait, What? and I need a little help from our friends….

Thanks to nearly three dozen generous donors in Connecticut, and around the nation, we have surpassed the 50 percent mark in the 2016 spring Wait, What? Fundraising Appeal.
However, with only ten days to go in this fundraising effort, Wait, What? and I really need your help.
I know these are extremely difficult economic times and you receive an extraordinary number of fundraising requests from worthy causes every day, but silence and going dark is not an option, so I am turning to the readers – yet again – for your help and support.
The charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies spend tens of millions of dollars – every year – on public relations, lobbying, campaign donations and faux media outlets.
By comparison, those of us who are fighting to shine the light of truth about their efforts to undermine public education, while holding our elected officials accountable for their actions, are left to rely on the support of small contributors from people who believe in our mission.
Up against the power and money of the education reform billionaires, as well as the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation and dozens of other deep pockets, some would say the best course of action is to throw in the towel and give up.
But we are fighting for our principles, our values, our democracy and most importantly, our children.
We will never give up…
We will never be silent.
That said, there are real costs associated with the effort to educate, persuade and mobilize people about the important issues that we face … and to help with those expenses, we need your help.
Please give what you can to keep the Wait, What? blog moving forward.
When it comes to the battle at hand, no contribution is too big or too small…
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Wait, What? and I need a little help from our friends…. - Wait What?:

Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog: Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.

Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog: Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.:

Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.

“You can’t avoid democracy forever, nor should you.” -- Neerav Kingsland, who worked for New Schools for New Orleans
In a move designed to, "close the wounds left by the state takeover" without threatening the power of private charter school management boards, the state of Louisiana is "giving back" the 52 charters schools it took from the New Orleans public school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Washington Post:

In the decade since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and swept away its public school system, the city has become a closely watched experiment in whether untethering schools from local politics could fix the problems that have long ailed urban education.
Before we go any further, let's be clear about one thing. It wasn't Katrina that "swept away" the N.O. public school system. It was a gaggle of opportunistic profiteers and union-busters who made the hurricane their rationale for firing every public school teacher in the Big Easy and for breaking their union. What they did in N.O., Detroit and other cities was no natural disaster. It was man-made.

The district's charter operators are still fighting off attempts by their teachers to unionize.

As for the so-called "give-back", Karran Harper Royal, an advocate for special-education Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog: Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.:

Holy freeloading! Here are 10 ways religious groups take from the public purse

Holy freeloading! Here are 10 ways religious groups take from the public purse:

Holy freeloading! Here are 10 ways religious groups take from the public purse

Have you ever thought about starting a new religion or perhaps a hometown franchise of an old one? Perhaps you’re just looking for a career ladder in a religious enterprise that already exists. No? Maybe you should.
Religion is big business. There are lots of options (over 30,000 variants of Christianity alone), and if the scale is right it can pay really, really well. Creflo Dollar, founder of World Changers Church, has an estimated net worth of $27 million. Benny Hinn comes in at $42 million. Squeaky clean tent revival pioneer Billy Graham bankrolled around $25 million. Even Eddie Long who has been plagued by accusations of sex with underage male members of his congregation can count his bankbook in the millions.
You say you don’t have star power? No worries. Millions of ordinary ministers, priests, missionaries, religious hospital administrators and other church employees earn solid middle- or upper-middle-class incomes in the God business. The pay is good, and for most positions it doesn’t matter what race you are or what grade you happened to get in chemistry.
That said, starting or expanding a religious enterprise doesn’t come cheap, even in an established religion that transforms ordinary members into volunteer outreach staff. Christianity spends an estimated $16 billion annually on the kind of marketing-service blend traditionally called “missionary work.”
Missionary work may include disaster relief or education with recruiting in the mix. An earthquake survivor might receive a solar-powered Bible to go with his rice and beans and sutures. A Hindu child might get free schooling, pencils and paper included, along with the message that the gods his parents worship are actually demons. Among people who are less desperate, the offerings can be more nuanced and less expensive. For example, a lonely student might get offered kindness and dinner by someone who is paid to live near campus as a friendship missionary. Sometimes mention of heaven or hell is all the enticement needed, though even then there may be costs associated with print materials and distribution. Soldiers in Iraq gave out Jesus coins and a little cartoon book showing that when an IED killed a Muslim, he or she went to hell, a fate that could be averted by conversion.
The cost of rice, beans, medical supplies, pencils, swag, facilities and salaries can add up. Fortunately, some of religion’s bigger players have gotten creative in recent years. They’ve figured out how to pay for at least part of their growth on the public dime. Having taxpayers cover a portion your costs, even overhead or infrastructure, drives up your margin. It may actually make the difference between a religious enterprise that is a fiscal black hole and one that is lucrative. So, whether you’re thinking about positioning within a small religion or large, one that’s new or one that’s well established, it’s worth taking a look at these ten examples to see if there’s something you can borrow.
1. Fund your religion classes with school vouchers, tuition tax credits or capital grants. If your religion has or can open accredited private schools, public funding prospects are growing rapidly. Thirteen states created or expanded voucher programs in 2013, accelerating a trend from recent years. Vouchers allow parents to divert their children and tax dollars away from public schools and into private institutions, which then have wide religious latitude. Such a school can include classes in which children memorize sacred texts, for example, but also can infuse a religious perspective into classes as diverse as literature, history, and computer science. The opportunities aren’t limited to grade schools. In New Jersey, an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva is slated for $10.6 million in higher education grants to improve its male-only training in “Talmudic scholarship.” Mind you, the ACLU is quibbling.
To maximize your own public funding you may have to get creative. In Arizona any resident can divert a part of his state income tax to your school to fund a specific student. That means you need those students or their parents to get out and do the solicitation for you!
2. Get free facilities for after-school clubs in public facilities. Child Evangelism Fellowship recruits grade-school children in the U.S. and abroad to born-again Christianity. In 2001, they took a case all the way to the Supreme Court and won the right to use public school facilities for their afternoon clubs. They persuaded the justices that they were teaching moral values, rather like the Boy Scouts and other groups that have long had access to public facilities. But parents who have sat in on the clubs assure us that these “values” include very specific dogmas and doctrines—things like heaven, hell and even biblical justification of genocide. Last year CEF operated over 4,000 Good News Clubs in public school facilities.
3. Nudge your doctrines into public school textbooks and discussions. Texas sets textbook standards for the whole country, and if a tenacious group of Texans gets their way, you may be able to move your message directly into public school curriculum. Members of the state’s textbook review panel have recommended adding creationism to biology texts while reducing coverage of the dominant competing theory. You may think that their account of the creation story is mistaken; yours may be different. But in the long run, their long hard work to blur the boundary between science and myth helps the whole religious sector.
To make matter better, allies in the Texas Republican party proposed a platform in 2012 that prohibited schools from teaching critical thinking skills. Others have pushed to require that each high school offer “Bible as literature” electives, confident that devout teachers will know how to use the course material.
4. Support military missionaries on government salaries. Twenty to 30 years ago, Holy freeloading! Here are 10 ways religious groups take from the public purse:

Laura Chapman on the Gospel of Milton Friedman | Diane Ravitch's blog

Laura Chapman on the Gospel of Milton Friedman | Diane Ravitch's blog:

Laura Chapman on the Gospel of Milton Friedman 

Lara Chapman has written a valuable analysis of the religious, libertarian case for school vouchers. Thank you, Laura, for doing this prodigious research for the benefit of everyone else.
Laura writes:
“Long post. The author of the Friedman Foundations for Educational Choice “research,” Dr. Greg Forster ends his report–titled “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence On School Choice, Fourth Edition–with the following:
“Ultimately, the only way to make school reform work on a large scale is to break the government monopoly on schooling. The monopoly is not just one powerful obstacle to reform among many; it is what makes all the many obstacles as powerful as they are. The monopoly ensures that no meaningful accountability for performance can occur, except in rare cases as a result of Herculean efforts. The monopoly empowers a dense cluster of rapacious special interests resisting efforts to improve schools.
“Worst of all, the monopoly pushes out educational entrepreneurs who can reinvent schools from the ground up. Only a thriving marketplace that allows entrepreneurs to get the support they need by serving their clients better can produce sustainable innovation.
In any field of human endeavor—whether education, medicine, politics, art, religion, manufacturing, or anything else—entrepreneurs who want to strike out in new directions and do things radically differently need a client base.
“School choice has the potential to solve this problem by providing enough families (size) with enough dollars (strength) and enough choice (suffrage) to support educational entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, existing school choice programs fall short on all three dimensions. Only universal choice can open the door to the full-fledged revolution in schooling America needs in the new century. “ p. 36
“The author is preaching the gospel of the Friedman Foundation, but also a bit more. The author is a devoted believer in “universal choice,” evidently so religious schools can flourish and be tax-subsidized.
“I reach this conclusion from Forster’s discussion linking charters school programs to civic virtues and to religious values (pp. 30-31), and to his faculty position at Trinity International University a regionally accredited school operated by the Evangelical Free Church of America, headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois. His main job there seems to be serving as the director of the Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches.
“The Oikonomia Network includes over 100 “theological educators theological educators and 18 evangelical seminaries” initially funded by the Kern Family Foundation. The network operations include a newsletter, website, network-wide events and “content creation.” The content creation includes “Theology that Works,” a paper written by Greg Forster that explains “how theology as a discipline can be in fruitful dialogue with the world of economic disciplines and activities.” More here.
“Forster also has a faculty post at Acton University, where his bio says that he “has a Ph.D. with distinction in political philosophy from Yale Laura Chapman on the Gospel of Milton Friedman | Diane Ravitch's blog:



aPARCColypse Now

The last ten days have been a test of how diligent PARCC might be about protecting their sad test (and, yes, a test of the internet's ability to coin a PARCC-based pun to refer to this dustup). For those of you playing along at home, here's a rundown of what has happened and what issues are involved and some of the questions on the table at this point.

Events kicked off when Celia Oyler, an education professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, posted an anonymous critique of the PARCC fourth grade reading exam. That post was picked up by some other bloggers, including me, but within a few days PARCC was on the case.

Initially they went after tweets that linked to Oyler's article. That in itself was an.... interesting move because none of the tweets actually included allegedly copyrighted material, but they did link to posts that did include the test prompts. This suggests its own little DMCA research project-- just how many degrees of separation from copyrighted materials can companies legitimately pursue? Apparently a link to a post containing allegedly copyrighted materials is not okay. What about a link to a source that contains a link? A link to a link to a link to a link?

The clean-up of twitter seemed to be job one, taken on so quickly that the DMCA request filed included a misspelled job title for the guy at PARCC filling the request (Kevin Michael Days, Assoicate Director, Operations). Meanwhile, Oyler got a letter, not from the PARCC legal department, but from PARCC chieftain Laura Slover herself, requiring Oyler to take down the allegedly copyright materials AND requesting that she hand over the name of the anonymous teacher.

Next up-- going after the posts themselves. Diane Ravitch's post just kind of went away overnight; Ravitch's blog is on the wordpress platform, which turns out to be an important detail. Many other 

Great Reading Must Be Felt, Not Standardized | gadflyonthewallblog

Great Reading Must Be Felt, Not Standardized | gadflyonthewallblog:

Great Reading Must Be Felt, Not Standardized

I made my classes cry today.
That sounds terrible, but if I’m honest, I knew it would happen and meant to do it.
I teach in an urban district and most of my 8th grade students are African American and/or impoverished. We’re reading Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” together, and the kids were loving it.
Until today when we got to the verdict in the Tom Robinson trial.
Jaquan closed his book with wide eyes.
“What the heck happened?” he asked.
Other students in the room murmured their agreement.
“They found him guilty!? What the F!?”
“I hate this book.”
“This is so freakin’ racist.”
I let them go on for a moment.
Frankly, it was the reaction I had been expecting.
It happens every year around this time.
Until this moment, my kids were really into the book. They were enjoying the case and excited by how well the defense attorney, Atticus Finch, had proven that Tom, a black man in the 1930s South, is innocent of raping a white woman.
But even last night I knew what was coming. The next day – today – I’d have to go and break their hearts when they read what the jury actually decides. Some of them were bound to be crushed. And today they were.
For those who haven’t cracked this book open in decades, let me recap.
There is no physical evidence that the crime actually took place. Moreover, because Great Reading Must Be Felt, Not Standardized | gadflyonthewallblog:

Jim Wasserman: Stop treating teachers like saints | Dallas Morning News

Jim Wasserman: Stop treating teachers like saints | Dallas Morning News:

Jim Wasserman: Stop treating teachers like saints

Tom Fox/Staff Photographer
Harry C. Withers Elementary School teacher Irma De La Guardia teaches a dual language course for third graders.
There is a billboard off Central Expressway that drives me crazy. It says, Want to Teach? When can you start? To understand why this is bothersome, consider if it said, Want to perform Surgery? When can you start? or Want to design buildings? When can you start?
The fact is, we look at those professions and know they take more than desire. Yet, society seems to think teaching is just a matter of heart. As a teacher, I don’t perform surgery or design buildings, but I am responsible for the most precious thing in people’s lives, their children, and people should want a skilled professional doing this job, too.
Still, people laud me for following my “calling” or tell me what a noble profession I have, but the emphasis is on the “noble” part over the professional part. In fact, I had to train for many hours, be mentored, and, even today, 20 years later, I must continue to study and develop my craft. Sure, I care deeply about all my students, and I could not be an effective teacher without doing so. But just as you want more from an architect than that he cared greatly, I have to have a set of skills to coherently deliver information to students and effectively develop their skills for the future. Calculus is not taught nor empathetically learned merely out of a love of math.
On the other end of the spectrum, teachers often get counseled by people who advocate a disengaged “business model” to education, or who tout the latest educational program for student success. What neither group considers is how much professional personalization is required for teaching, and often on the fly. Does the businessman’s “product” ever refuse to be sold because it just broke up with his girlfriend, is dealing with a family divorce, or is contemplating suicide? And how does the latest educational program address the kid who just never enjoys or gets writing, no matter how much you empower her? Teaching (as opposed to educational theory) involves a room of students, no two of whom are exactly alike, with a teacher recalculating hundreds of variables in the moment. Indeed, some of my first lines of lessons today originated as fourth or fifth efforts while refusing to give up on an “unteachable” child a couple of years ago.
So what’s the problem with creating a sainthood of teaching? Believe me, I appreciate the accolades, even the (incorrect) assumption that I am of superior virtue. But the negative implication behind pedagogical hagiography is that accolades become my remuneration, and that it would be improper to reward me in a more pecuniary way. The median salary for a teacher in Texas is $38,000 per year, very low compared to other professions that require at least a college degree, certification and specialized knowledge. “God bless you” and Starbuck’s cards are nice, but mortgage companies don’t ask for those on loan applications. And please don’t say we get summers off. Those days are gone for most teachers who, in the ever-shortening summer, must devote time to professional development and lesson Jim Wasserman: Stop treating teachers like saints | Dallas Morning News:

Chicago Study Tests Mindfulness in Elementary Schools - The Atlantic

Chicago Study Tests Mindfulness in Elementary Schools - The Atlantic:

Does Mindfulness Actually Work in Schools?

Scholars want to know whether the practice helps young kids of color succeed academically.

Courtesy of Kathy Richland Photography

A research team in Chicago has spent a year studying whether students who are taught to be in touch with their emotions do better academically. And they say the initial results are promising.
Perhaps counterintuitively, when kids take a break from a classroom lesson on the solar system to spend a quiet moment alone watching a three-minute nature video, or participate in a teacher-guided breathing exercise with their class after lunch, they seem to become better overall students. That’s likely because the children have a renewed sense of focus, they handle transitions from one lesson to the next better, and they need less time to regroup if they become upset about something, said Amanda Moreno, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a child-development-focused graduate school in Chicago.
Moreno and her team received $3 million, most of it from the U.S. Education Department, to study what is known as “mindfulness” in more than 30 high-poverty Chicago public schools over the course of four years. They are watching approximately 2,000 kindergarten through second-grade students. My colleague took an in-depth look at mindfulness here, but the basic idea is to allow kids, as Moreno told me, to “slow down and not be on automatic-pilot and not be overwhelmed by all the things they could be focusing on.” The idea has been popular in some public and private schools for years, but there’s been little in the way of evidence to back it up as an effective academic intervention, and where studies exist, they’ve tended to focus on older students. Erikson says its ongoing research is the largest mindfulness study of children funded by the federal government ever conducted and the only in the country to focus specifically on whether mindfulness exercises improve academic achievement for young kids of color from low-income families.
That focus is important because, if mindfulness proves effective, low-income children of color may stand to benefit disproportionately. Children growing up in poverty are more likely than their affluent peers to be exposed to violence and to experience long-term stress that can derail their academic progress. Some research has suggested that children living in high-stress environments (drug-addicted parents, abusive caretakers, neighborhood gun violence) are constantly on edge, ready to fight or take flight, which can lead to outbursts in class that turn into suspensions and even expulsions, all detrimental for learning. And recent brain science suggests that exposure to stress can shorten periods of brain development, meaning it’s especially crucial to limit stress in the early years when brain growth is rapid.

When disadvantaged kids aren’t focused in class, achievement gaps can widen, and, Moreno suggests, purely academic attempts to close those gaps miss the significant impact that the state of a child’s emotional and social well-being can have on his ability to learn math. For kids who have suffered from prolonged stress or trauma, mindfulness seems to offer a way of “short-circuiting” the fight-or-flight response, Moreno said. It helps kids with the greatest self-regulation challenges adapt to slower, more methodical classroom settings. Moreno said she’s heard from teachers with students who have gone from five or six tantrums a day to none because they know they can go to their classroom’s “calm spot” whenever they feel like they’re spiraling out of control.

Moreno pushes back at the idea, levied by critics of mindfulness in the classroom, that it is a craze designed to turn kids into compliant robots or a form of victim-blaming. “[Proponents] see mindfulness as a way to amp up an education system that will create compliant students who can manage their own behavior, focus on Chicago Study Tests Mindfulness in Elementary Schools - The Atlantic: