Sunday, May 01, 2016

This and That

Students in the gifted program knew they do well in math but thought this test was way too easy. That's because the algebra test they were supposed to take wasn't what they got.  Among the other tidbits of info from this story.
Christiana said he doesn't think it's fair to the students that they wasted an afternoon on the wrong test. "Now they are told their test was nonsense and they have to take another one," Christiana said. "I am frustrated, and they are not giving us any answers."
Less than a week earlier, students were locked out of PARCC testing because of an error by an employee at Pearson, the company that provides the exams.

Teachers are instructed not to look at student's computer screens during PARCC testing, even if a student has a question, said Matthew Stagliano, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.
So the kids can tell something is wrong on the test and can't point it out to the teacher?  I'm assuming that's because the teacher isn't supposed to see the questions but this all seems pretty unfair if something is wrong.

School staff having guns in schools? How about anybody bringing a gun into a school because, after all, it is election day. 

Following reports of people carrying guns with them when they voted in schools for the primary election, Ann Arbor Public Schools is still exploring the legality of enforcing its no-weapon policy during elections.

"We had to really think carefully about our ability to do that when we're also polling sites in 22 of our buildings for voters. Voters have a right to vote, and we can't get in the way of that."
State law says people with concealed pistol licenses may carry their firearms in gun-free zones, but they cannot conceal them.
The board was not able to guarantee students' safety with the confidence they would like because of open carry advocates, Stead said, so they felt they had to cancel classes. Many board members expressed their regret that students will not be able to observe the democratic process like they have in the past.
There a group, Media Matters in America, that I have sometimes used for research. Here's their "About" from their website:
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
But, as ace education blogger, Mercedes Schneider, points out, in Media Matters latest piece on ed reform by Pam Vogel entitled,  “Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement: A Guide To The Funders Behind A Tangled Network Of Advocacy, Research, Media, And Profiteering That’s Taking Over Public Education"  the author leaves out some key players.  Namely, Gates, Broad and Walton.

Anyone who has read even the slightest bit about ed reform (or just public education), knows that Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation are the big khaunas for pushing their ideas.  
Also remarkable is that Vogel includes the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which has received to date $2.6 million from the Gates Foundation just to remain in existence (i.e., for “general operating support”). She also includes Stand for Children (to date, $17 million from Gates). Still, Vogel omits Gates.
In addition, Vogel makes no mention of the corporate reform money and proselyte funnel, Teach for America (TFA), which is Walton-Broad-Gates-funded ($5 million from Walton in 2015; between $1 million and $5 million from Broad in 2015, and $761,000 from Gates in 2015– and $11 million from Gates since 2007), nor does she mention the election-purchasing Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
But Schneider knows how to connect the dots.
Media Matters is a nonprofit chaired by David Brock, who happens to be Hillary Clinton’s controversial campaign manager.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a steady contributor to the Clintons. To date, Gates has contributed over $200 million to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc.; $13.5 million to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation; $2 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, Inc., and $19.8 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation. (As the February 2016 Economist notes, the “formidable fund-raising machine” that is the Clinton Foundation is a vulnerable issue in that “donors appear to hope to gain access to the corridors of political power with their gifts.”)
Broad and Walton have also contributed to Clinton's campaign.

Schneider's last thought about the "About"
Media Matters: Selectively exposing corporate reform while trying not to implicate or offend the current or potentially-future Democratic White House.
How the mighty have fallen.  From the LA Times, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst will merge with education advocacy group 50Ca:
Some of StudentsFirst's remaining chapters will be absorbed into 50Can, which has similar goals. The most well-known objective of Rhee's group was to become a counterweight to teachers unions. StudentsFirst expects to cut its staff significantly but will maintain a small presence in its national office. Jim Blew, the group's president, confirmed the news Tuesday morning.  

Blew said the move makes sense because with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the replacement of the No Child Left Behind Act, state legislatures are crucial in determining the future of education in America. StudentsFirst, Blew said, is stronger on the lobbying side, and 50Can is stronger in advocacy.
Blew, who had worked for the Walton Family Foundation, took over as its president in the fall of 2014. 
What is Rhee doing?
In summer 2014, Rhee announced she was stepping down as chief executive officer and moved into a position on the board. She also became the board chair of St. Hope Public Schools, Johnson’s charter school chain, and joined the board of Scotts Miracle-Gro. The group then downsized, and shut down its chapters in several states. 
Yet another entertainment name, like Andre Agassi before him, for example, is getting into the charter school business.  From the La TimesSean 'Diddy' Combs is opening a social justice charter school in Harlem.
 At the charter school the music mogul is opening in Harlem, teachers will be called "Illuminators" and social justice will be key.
“What I did as a teacher was not what illuminators do," Jones said. “Illuminators literally ... coparent.”

That level of involvement includes calling parents every two weeks, setting aside time each day to check in on students' social-emotional needs, helping them identify and solve community problems, and getting them to a four-year college.
That's an interesting quote about "co-parenting" because, more and more, it is what I read about when I am looking at what charter schools in some states are seeking to do at their schools.  Basically, help mold kids.  Sometime we should have a discussion about this because there is something very paternalistic about this idea that bothers me.  But maybe, that's what some parents are seeking, even to that far edge of parenting.
As Perry recalls, Combs stopped him as he was leaving a mutual friend's engagement party about six years ago.
"He said...'No one knows this, but I’ve always wanted to start a school,'" Perry said.
For years, Perry tried to convince Combs to start a scholarship or after-school program instead. But Combs was relentless.
That quote reminds me of a long-ago time in Seattle Schools when I was talking to an administrator about philanthropists and he said, "Why is it rich people always want to start something new, rather than help us fix what we have?" 

Lastly, in talking about billionaires and their influence in public education, Diane Ravitch had a lengthy but fascinating e-mail conversation with Whitney Tilson.  From the Washington Post:
Whitney Tilson is a billionaire hedge fund manager who has long been involved in school reform. Among other enterprises, he was a founder of Teach For America as well as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER.)
I loved how they were both trying to find common ground and did...on many things.
TILSON: I’ll admit that this creates quite a dilemma for me: I want the teachers unions, which remain the single most powerful interest group supporting the Democratic party, to be strong to help as many Democratic candidates as possible win. But when it comes to my desire to implement the reforms I think our educational system needs, I usually want them to be weak.
TILSON: The creation of DFER helped resolve this dilemma because I could fight against union policies when I felt they weren’t in the best interests of kids, without fighting against the principle of collective bargaining, which I believe in.
I find that hilarious. He wants the union with their size and numbers to help shore up Democratic candidates that he wants elected BUT not to be part of our education system.  Is the purpose of the teachers unions to serve the party or their members' careers?  Ravitch has a great long answer.

Here's another interesting quote from Tilson that Ravitch liked as well:
TILSON: If one had to choose between fixing all schools or fixing everything else outside of schools that affects the ability of children to learn (poverty, homelessness, violence, broken families, lack of healthcare, whether parents regularly speak and read to children, etc.), one would choose the latter in a heartbeat.
RAVITCH: I certainly agree because reducing poverty and its ill effects would improve schools at the same time.
And this:
TILSON:  Charter schools, like regular public schools, should: a) take their fair share of the most challenging students; b) backfill at every grade level; and c) follow comparable suspension and expulsion policies.
This is certainly not true in the present-day so I applaud someone on the ed reform side for saying it. Ravitch replies:
However, if we were to take your good suggestions, we would have two publicly-funded school systems, one managed by public officials, the other by private entrepreneurs. I see no reason to have a dual school system–one highly regulated, and the other unregulated, or as you propose here, regulated to a greater extent than at present. If charters do continue as they now are, your proposal would make them fairer and less predatory. In their current state, they are bankrupting school districts and skimming off the easiest to educate students, and that’s not fair.

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