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Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools, speaks during
Michelle Rhee (Hyungwon Kang/Reuters)
If there's a dollar to be made by taking a public service provided by the government, privatizing it and inserting an unnecessary middleman to suck up profits at taxpayer expense, there will always be a corporation for that. The fact that these corporations who seek to profit at taxpayer expense have armies of lobbyists and politicians in Congress ready and waiting to do their bidding is bad enough, even when there is a progressive movement there to fight against it. But when this conservative shift toward private profit in any service is viewed by the public and the media as the progressive alternative to the status quo, that service may not be long for this world.

That is exactly the concern with the fate of public education. It goes without saying that the conservative movement seeks to eviscerate funding for public education, for the sake of both profit and theocracy. But the bigger danger is the fact that the trend toward corporate, for-profit education is frequently seen as the progressive alternative to the current education system. Groups such as Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst and others that seek to "reform" education by introducing for-profit charters and weakening teachers' unions are often supported by popular Democratic politicians and philanthropists, such as Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, a rising star in Democratic political circles and a current director on the board of Democrats for Education Reform, another group dedicated to the agenda of weakening unions and privatizing education. This popular support, combined with major support from the financial sector, has allowed the for-profit education agenda to spread like wildfire across the country, with unions and progressives who support public education a step behind in fighting back.

Fortunately, the tide may be turning in a significant way. The popular petition site Change.org, commonly seen as a site dedicated to building popular support for progressive causes, was recently pressured into allowing their promotional contracts with both StudentsFirst and another group with a similar agenda, Stand For Children, to expire. While the promotion of petitions by these two groups had rankled public education advocates for some time, a line in the sand was crossed when the site promoted a petition by StudentsFirst targeting Chicago's public school teachers, who had just voted to authorize a strike. This petition galvanized the progressive community, which responded—how else?—with a petition of its own asking Change.org to, at the very least, not interfere in ongoing labor disputes. The heap of progressive pressure ended up forcing Change.org to publicly announce that they would not be renewing their contracts with StudentsFirst and Stand For Children.

The major significance of this development is a publicly perceived divorce between promotion of progressive ideals, and the anti-union agenda of privatization: If, after all, a progressive petition site refuses to do business with the "education reform" movement, it carries the implication that this brand of reform is not the progressive one. But it's a problem that it even came to this in the first place. By its own policy, a progressive petition site like Change.org, which has done wonders to promote activism for positive social causes, would never consider a contract with an organization that opposed equal rights for gays and women, or environmental protection. But for some reason, engaging in contracts with organizations whose founders publicly brag about undermining collective bargaining for teachers is perfectly acceptable for a progressive organization, as long as they claim that their goal is to improve education and help students. If education is to be maintained as a public good, this mentality will have to go by the wayside.

Two weeks ago, kos wrote about the differences between the first YearlyKos convention in 2006 and the most recent Netroots Nation last month. By far the biggest difference, according to kos, is the mutual integration of the netroots movement and the labor movement:

About a month after that convention, a coalition of labor and netroots activists helped boot Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party. And baby step by baby step, we learned to tolerate each other. Then came respect. And now?

This is where things have changed. For the first time this year, I could no longer discern a divide between "them" and "us." There is just "we." And I don't mean this in the corny "we're all in this together" way. I'm not saying that we're all part of the same coalition. I'm saying there is no longer a distinction between most of the old-school progressive institutions and the netroots.

Labor unions like SEIU and AFSCME have sophisticated in-house netroots operations. It's hard to find any advocacy group that doesn't focus significant effort on building their email and Facebook presence. If you want to be a factor in today's political world, you have to play online. It's virtually impossible to stay relevant otherwise.

We understand this concept when it comes to American manufacturing. We understand this concept when it comes to supporting hotel workers—so much so that Netroots Nation only came to Providence after the intended convention hotel had settled a fair contract with UNITE HERE. We certainly understand this concept when it comes to most of our public sector workers. But for some reason, we seem a bit slower on the uptake when it comes to the rights of our public school teachers to not only gain a fair wage, but to be able to do their jobs in a way that takes advantage of their skills rather than one that forces them to herd their charges down an assembly line of standardized tests.

Progressives love reform, and our public school system could certainly use improvement. But any reform that seeks to introduce a profit motive to education while weakening our teachers is simply not progressive, no matter whether the word "reform" is a part of a carefully focus-grouped tagline or not. We don't consider "tort reform" to be progressive when it limits the rights of ordinary people to seek redress through the courts against bad corporate actors, and we don't consider Medicare reform "progressive" when Paul Ryan seeks to privatize it to make insurance companies even wealthier at the expense of our seniors. We need to apply this same suspicion to all the players in the increasingly complex movement geared toward changing education policy.

The progressive victory regarding Change.org is a small but significant step in raising awareness about this issue, but solidarity is key: Progressives must hold Democrats accountable for supporting the for-profit education agenda just as much as they would for supporting attacks on any other union or worker group. The fight to save public education can be won, but it will require standing together to recognize the threat and oppose it everywhere, every time.

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Comment Preferences

  •  great post... (30+ / 0-)

    ... and for anyone interested in continuing to use change.org to help push back against corporate-backed reform, check out this petition:  http://www.change.org/...

    In a nutshell, they are trying to use invalidated and highly unreliable value-added measures to evaluate teachers in New York State - measures with margins of error as high as 50%+. A teacher rated ineffective on the 40% of their evaluation based on this faulty data must - according to this new evaluation system - be rated ineffective overall. Even if they receive a perfect score on the other 60% of their evaluation based on observations. And a teacher rated ineffective 2 years in a row can be fired. Their is a lot of research that shows these value-added measures are unreliable. A teacher who is rated in the top percentile one year can be rated in the lowest percentile the next - because these measures are unreliable and based on tiny sample sizes (the 30 students in a teacher's class for example). This is starting to spread throughout the country, and it's going to force smart, hardworking teachers out of the profession. The good teachers - ones with options - won't stay when their job security becomes beholden to - in essence - the roll of the dice. Please take a moment to sign the petition and spread the word... and put a stop to measures that minimize the profession... measures born out of this corporatist movement.  http://www.change.org/...

  •  reform requires re-regulation and greater (8+ / 0-)

    emphasis not on profitability subsidized by the public but on de-privatization of public goods

    But for some reason, engaging in contracts with organizations whose founders publicly brag about undermining collective bargaining for teachers is perfectly acceptable for a progressive organization, as long as they claim that their goal is to improve education and help students. If education is to be maintained as a public good, this mentality will have to go by the wayside.

    slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

    by annieli on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:13:17 PM PDT

  •  As for reforming public education itself... (10+ / 0-)

    It's worth remembering now and then that this idea of educating everybody, regardless of gender, race, physical ability, and so on, is still a pretty new thing in our history.  The fact that, however imperfectly, we do it at all is itself a huge victory that seems often forgotten.  And as long as public education isn't killed off, we'll only get better at it with time.

    •  I think what the author is pointing out is that we (14+ / 0-)

      are indeed killing off public education. There will soon be precious little to get good at, if we don't get behind our public school teachers and fight back.

      Substitute (for profit) funding -- in the form of fundie and charter school cash, for-profit high school, community college and secondary colleges cash, cash for private consultants -- is what is killing off public education, IMHO.

      "Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates.” Simone Weil

      by chuco35 on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:22:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There has never been a golden age in American (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jeff bryant, Shockwave

      education.

      It is not the case that young hispanic girls or young black boys got better access to education 50 years ago.

      We do get better at it every year.

      This is excellent:
      http://zhaolearning.com/...

      So who has made America “the largest, most prosperous economy in the world?” Who are these most productive workers? Where did the people who created the successful companies come from? And who are these inventors that received the most patents in the world?

      It has to be the same Americans who ranked bottom on the international tests. Those 12th graders with shameful bad math scores in the 1960s have been the primary work force in the US for the past 40 years. The equally poor performers on international tests in the 70s and 80s have been working for the past 30 years now. And even those poor performers on the 1995 TIMSS have entered the workforce. Apparently they have not driven the US into oblivion and ruined the country’s innovation record.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:03:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been trying to explain this (0+ / 0-)

      I've been trying to explain this since I became a teacher in 2005.  I would not say that I have been successful.

      I always ask, if no one has done it before, how can you call not doing it a failure?

      The general public loves, really loves, the opportunity to bash teachers.  The standardized test scores give them the thing they can focus on to the exclusion of all other things.  Well, sir, I guess there's just a meanness in this world.

      And another thing.

      There is no real consensus on what an educated person is or should be.  There are some general agreements, but there is not enough discussion or debate on what we want our high school graduates to know or be able to do.

      •  bashing (0+ / 0-)

        Remember that for most people, there was some time in their school experience that they really hated. They didn't like a teacher, or they got a low grade, or they just didn't want to be there. Add to that the fact that most people's idea of a teacher's job is comprised of their experiences in the classroom (i.e., they don't have a clue what we do outside of the classroom), and it makes it easy for them to channel their bad memories into teacher-bashing as adults.
        I think we need tv shows about teachers that are entertaining and (at least somewhat) honest. A 21st-century "Welcome Back Kotter" anyone?

  •  Reform that isn't reform (18+ / 0-)

    I published a diary on this Thursday:Political Rhetoric (3): "Education reform?" STOP IT! Privatization or union-busting, please!  It's actually worse than you think, Dante.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:15:52 PM PDT

  •  Another challenge on the education front (9+ / 0-)

    is the lack of a progressive agenda for public education reform. There needs to be a competing vision to combat the simplistic test-'em-and-fire-'em narrative of the Rhee people.

  •  The oddest part of all (15+ / 0-)

    is that I can't imagine a democrat of anything but the doggiest of blue-dog stripe winning any significant elected office anywhere without the presence of a strong teachers' union.  In almost every community, the basis of your city Democratic committee is built on teachers, your outreach and GOTV operations in largest part carried out by teachers union members.  For Dems to join in the cause of busting teachers unions, whatever the pretexts, is a deliberate, informed and conscious choice of political suicide of the Democratic Party as an effective political force for the long term.

    The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:20:24 PM PDT

    •  Hence the Attack on the Unions, So That They're (10+ / 0-)

      no longer a support base to tempt Democrats to be progressive.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:45:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The first Howard Dean meet up in 2003 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      banjolele, ActivistGuy, JanL

      I attended in my city was mostly teachers school supervisors and board members even some Republicans their ranks were there. They were alarmed at 'No Child's Ass Left Behind ' they saw the corporate handwriting on the wall and had come to try and help a candidate who as he said was from the Democratic wing of the party.

      I live next door to a 42 year old hs socail studies teacher. He is a great teacher and specializes in teaching worker/union history in the US. He teaches at a vocational oriented high school. The perfect students to learn the history he focuses on.  He is also an old school FDR Democrat. He's pissed off at the Dems. He says he'll vote for the Dems. as he has no choice but is insulted when they call what their doing to public education under the guise of reform.

      Reform with this lot of Democrat's, those who are our duly elected representatives seems to mean privatize these days. Insurance reform, FIRE reform, SS reform, that oldie but goodie, Welfare reform  any reform they come up with is code for we're going to turn public into private and for profit.

      Bush called it the ownership society.  This administration bills it as savvy businessmen winning the race to the top or the way forward. Trouble is that the common/public good of our society, not to mention our 'national interest' is indirect conflict with this privatized for profit global corporate NWO.

      It's neither democratic or Democratic, no matter how much they feel our pain.            

    •  Come to New Jersey (0+ / 0-)

      And see what the (Democratic) Norcross political machine has done without the support of unions.

      Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. - John Dickinson ("1776")

      by banjolele on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:27:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very important post. (14+ / 0-)

    This can't be said enough:

    If there's a dollar to be made by taking a public service provided by the government, privatizing it and inserting an unnecessary middleman to suck up profits at taxpayer expense, there will always be a corporation for that.
    Exactly right. Social Security, highways, Medicare, parking meters in Chicago, garbage collection, all kinds of things. The plutocrats oppose the notion that government can or should do anything well, except transfer tax dollars to them in the form of various subsidies.

    So if they can't break a functioning public service, they'll try to privatize it.

    Barack Obama: Gives people who tortured other people to death a pass, prosecutes whistleblowers. Change we can believe in!

    by expatjourno on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:20:52 PM PDT

    •  They are just looking for a way to suck money off (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      expatjourno, elfling

      the government teat (that is, money provided by you and me as tax revenue).

      They DO NOT care about the quality of services they provide.

      Perfect example:  PRIVATIZED PENAL SYSTEMS in places like Arizona.  

      If they argue that they can do it CHEAPER, what they are saying is that after they add a profit, they have to CUT funding dedicated to providing the services by an amount larger than their profit.

      That is the only way they can try to make the math work.

      And the outcome is that the service provided has to be inferior, because there is so little money left to carry the service out.

      "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." -- Patrick Henry

      by BornDuringWWII on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 10:35:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. There is a myth about the efficiency... (0+ / 0-)

        ...of private enterprise.

        Private enterprise is often more efficient when demand for the product or service is elastic enough for the price mechanism to efficiently allocate resources. That does not apply to health care, public safety, sanitation and many other things.

        Barack Obama: Gives people who tortured other people to death a pass, prosecutes whistleblowers. Change we can believe in!

        by expatjourno on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:43:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  theocracy scares me more than the profit motive (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrsgoo, cocinero, slowbutsure, JanL, Sprinkles

    OK, maybe they are equally frightening.  In Louisiana the privatization movement is appalling.

    http://www.reuters.com/...

    However, the Texas SBOE holds disproportionate power over education nationwide.  It is off most persons' radars, and many of its members are blatant in their theocratic bias.  That's not just appalling, it's terrifying.

  •  we are the tide (6+ / 0-)

    They try to turn it, but they will always fail in the end, because we are the tide.  In 17 years as an educator, 10 of which have been under NCLB, I have seen the strength of oppressed teachers, like arm wrestlers, pin the autocrats again and again.  The authoritarians' case is not about ideology, or best practices; it's about greed and power.  Just by showing up every day, we make it about service and strength.  More and more admins are also seeing the good path as well.

    Stand strong!  And remember those in the past who fought for us to have due process.

    Call exploitation and debt slavery whatever you want. How undignified is getting rich off of the work of others!

    by jcrit on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:29:47 PM PDT

  •  Corey Booker is playing the same role (9+ / 0-)

    for Democrats for Education reform that he played when he went on MTP and undermined the Obama Campaign's message on Bain, namely he's shilling for Wall Street. DFER is a group using education reform to undermine unions by attacking one of the largest and most popular groups of unionized workers, teachers.

    Sadly the President and Arne Duncan have been huge allies in this effort. It is a short step from attacking these teacher unions to the kinds of policies now in place in Wisconsin undermining all public sector unions and thus the entire labor movement.

    Similarly you can see the nexus with Michelle Rhee and "Students First". Rhee is working with Rick Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Mitch Daniels in the very same states were public sector unions are being attacked legislatively.

    I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

    by Lcohen on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:31:34 PM PDT

  •  So if we're going to clean up our own act - (7+ / 0-)

    people who should be progressive Dems supporting that nonsense - can we start with Obama? I'd think the top of our agenda should be giving Arne Duncan the boot. He and his abysmal "Race to the Top" aren't any real improvement over Margaret Spellings, W's girl. His main qualification for the job seems to be that he's the POTUS's basketball bud.
    And it sure doesn't do our cause any good when Obama says things that seem to indicate he agrees with the deformers, or supports teacher-union busting. Your diary makes it sound as if privatization and union-busting are conservative goals, but, I have to tell you, all too many Dems seem to be on board.
    I'm not sure who's to blame (I blame the media for gross failure to report the truth), and I don't know what the solution is. But I do know that we have two candidates for President this year, both of whom are on the wrong side of the issue.

    I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Blue Knight on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:31:51 PM PDT

  •  Corporate think is invading the public (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, indie17, JanL

    institutions, too:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
    You are definitely correct that diligence in fighting the invasion is imperative.
    As usual, you've provided a well done, thought provoking entry.

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, JanL

      Great article.  A couple of quotes from it:

      "Reading a few op-eds and articles in the Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Chronicle of Higher Ed does not qualify you to make definitive judgments about hugely complex issues such as the promise and perils of online learning," says John Arras, director of the UVA Bioethics Program. "We are dealing here for the most part with a bunch of amateurs who think they know everything, but really know very little about the academic culture and what makes us tick."
      ...

      "Making a lot of money does not demonstrate that you are very smart," says Arras, the Bioethics Program professor. "And even if you are very clever, there are different types of intelligence. A successful real estate empire is not at all like a university. These people are talking about cutting classics -- Greeks and Romans, the foundations of Western thought -- because it's not profitable enough."

  •  Anyone know (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fiddler crabby

    If there is a substantial difference in student test scores, graduation rates, and college entrance between public vs charter schools?

    Not taking a stand either way, just curious.  If I were a parent, this is something I'd be interested in when it comes to making up my mind.

  •  Choice, with non-profit (0+ / 0-)

    Being a veteran of a non-profit, parent- and teacher-joint run public charter school, let me propose the best way to forestall the profiteering off our tax dollars and our children is to encourage alternatives to the over-centralized and bureaucratized school district systems we have. One can preserve diversity, equality of opportunity, affirmative action, and quality of educational opportunity while still having strong teachers' unions AND student/parental choice. The trick is in loosening up the tight rules that have traditionally made school such a nightmare for student, parent, and teacher alike in trying to innovate. Lessen testing, increase experimentation, allow easy movement between schools by families, let 1000 flowers bloom.

    If we come out collectively as being in favor of this kind of reform -- and of letting teachers self-organize, whether or not that means a union in the particular instance, but with their collective interests preserved -- it will resonate, and will reinvigorate public education. If we just drag our feet it will give the privatizers plenty of opportunity to come in and steal the school system away from parents, students, teachers, and administrators alike.

    Question your school administration's authority, rededicate to the principle of appropriate free public education.

    Some people are intolerant, and I CAN'T STAND people like that. -- Tom Lehrer

    by TheCrank on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:35:49 PM PDT

    •  You take away the middle management structure (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jcrit, banjolele, JanL, musiclady

      in public school districts, and what you get are floating, isolated schools with no connection to the support systems that are in place.

      Trust me, it's happened in Bridgeport, CT. If I get an emotionally disturbed student, there's nobody I can now contact to let me know of the available placement options.

      Our entire middle management structure have  been reassigned to classrooms.  It's just like being in a self - sufficient charter, without the funding!

    •  respectfully, no. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hugin, banjolele, JanL, musiclady

      Your rhetoric (i.e., "whether or not that means a union") betrays a desire to have it both ways.  You can't.

      We have seen here in Portland, Oregon that "choice" is a code word that allows the best prepared families - and that almost always means the middle class-and-above white families - to migrate to the best funded schools.  The extra numbers in turn justify extra programs at those schools, which provides a cover for the institutional racism and classism that has always existed just below the surface of the educational "reform" movement.  

      So, no.  Teachers union for all teachers - closed shop.  Strong public education for all, which means enforcing a rule that, if a program exists in one school, that it must be available in every other school.  And a rededication to teaching the pedagogy of the oppressed, so that the brutal lie that we can have an adequate public education system without ever addressing and correcting the "savage inequalities" that are the cancer eating away at America.

      For what is the crime of the robbing of a bank compared to the crime of the founding of a bank? - Brecht

      by Joe Hill PDX on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:14:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  With equal respect, alternatives are possible (0+ / 0-)

        I've been a union member myself and I've worked for a union and I have a close family member who's a senior union official. I've had a half dozen family members who are or who were (unionized) teachers. I am most assuredly not anti-Union. I am anti-organizational-inertia.

        And I respectfully counter that the key element here is self-organization. That means charter schools shouldn't fear unions (and as far as charters go, I'm heavily biased towards the non-profit, board-run model), and neither should teachers dismiss out of hand alternate organizational structures. When schools view teachers as partners, not just equal partners, but the primary drivers of the education, and not as employees providing some kind of replaceable service, then the schools will thrive. Whether that's in a union or as part of the board or whatever, is a detail.

        Some people are intolerant, and I CAN'T STAND people like that. -- Tom Lehrer

        by TheCrank on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:00:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Progressive = privatization? (3+ / 0-)

    Public education is not the only venue in which this progressive = privatization mindfuck is being pulled off.

  •  Cory Booker may be a tool of the (0+ / 0-)

    privatization movement, but he's a smart tool. He recognizes the power of the netroots and seeks to shape opinion online to further the agenda of the Masters of the Universe:

    From Raw Story:

    In a bid to fight what he calls “an oligarchy in the media,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker told TechCrunch he’s been working on an alternative news service geared toward the Millenial generation.
    ...
    “There are practical solution to [creating] more jobs, lower crime, better education,” Booker said. “If more people could find their voice and be part of the national dialogue, we could solve these problems.”
    •  One additional snip: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sprinkles, JanL, smiley7
      The project has already garnered $1.75 million in funding, including donations by Oprah Winfrey and LinkedIn head Jeff Weiner, among others, with former Dow Jones online and ContextNext Media head Nathan Richardson serving as CEO.
      This represents a serious effort to persuade Millenials that Charter Schools are the path to "reform."
  •  Theocracy-Exxon ad on Science Ed has me confused (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge, cocinero, jcrit, JanL

    The gist being we ranked at the bottom of some planet wide science test as per this ad. Of course Exxon has a solution but I'm sure it's tied into you thesis.

    I am bemused since because of theocracy, evolution curriculum is impacted and environmental sciences is hindered thanks to folks like Exxon who encourage to teach the controversy.  

    Not blaming Bush for the mess we're in, is like not blaming a train engineer for a fatal train wreck because he's no longer driving the train.

    by JML9999 on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:37:43 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary. (11+ / 0-)

    I am a high school teacher working in a district that adopted the type of teacher evaluation process you mentioned above.  

    To give you an example of why the the "value added" component of our evaluations is ridiculously unfair to both students and teachers, consider the following.  Much of the "end of course" testing that is used to determine a teacher's effectiveness must begin months before the end of the school year, and hence, months before all of the content for the courses has been taught.  This is because the testing is computer based and there are far too few computers to test the students all at once.  So, a schedule must be developed to test the students in shifts, pulling them out of their regular classes for days and weeks at a time, two months prior to the end of the school year.

    Consider also that the end of the course exams are by no means the only standardized tests the students take.  There are several other state mandated tests we currently administer, with more being required each year.  

    We teachers have a running "joke" that soon we will need to begin "end of course" testing in September in order to comply with state requirements.  Unfortunately, the joke is on us.

    Who benefits from all of this?  Certainly not the students or teachers.  

    - "Justice is what love looks like in public." -Cornel West -

    by FreeWoman19 on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:38:10 PM PDT

  •  From one of my faves, Jon Pelto (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stagemom, jcrit, cocinero, banjolele, JanL

    http://jonathanpelto.com/...

    With the end of the 2012 Legislative Session, came the final lobbying reports from the corporate-funded “Education Reform” groups.  From January through May 2012, Michelle Rhee, Patrick Riccards and the various corporate executives pushing Malloy’s education plan spent over $2.6 million in Connecticut.

    Overall, the corporate reformers outspent those supporting public education by at least two to one.

    Although Connecticut law requires organizations to reveal how much money they spent on lobbying, they do not have to identify where the funds came from.  The reports indicate that approximately $1 million or more came from out-of-state “reform” groups.

    clippa ~
    The new lobbying reports reveal that at least two “education reform” organizations that were engaged in lobbying activities failed to file any reports this year, raising the question as to whether the Office of State Ethics has begun an investigation in ethics violations by any of the “reformers” or “reform groups.”
  •  as I've mentioned a few times (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indie17, elfling, banjolele, Azazello, JanL

    I had a chance to visit a so-called good charter school in Houston - the Kipp School.
    It was a nightmare.
    Poorly educated teachers - one couldn't spell or teach.
    A phony dog and pony show put on for the visitors where the 3rd or 4th graders marched out to the recycling bin to drop a bag of papers in it but didn't have a clue about what they were doing or why.
    Rote cheers put on for a show to prove I don't know what.

    And our dear friend Charles Hurwitz of the devastation of old growth redwoods in the northwest - his son was there - they give money to this effort?
    WHY?
    Charles Hurwitz has a dog track in Houston a failed thrift where taxpayers paid off 1/2 billion in the 80's.
    I just don't get what is going on......

    As Dante Atkins says in his excellent piece:

    That is exactly the concern with the fate of public education. It goes without saying that the conservative movement seeks to eviscerate funding for public education, for the sake of both profit and theocracy.

    Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

    by eve on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:54:06 PM PDT

  •  I just spent the last 27 yra teaching HS... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, generationyasky, jcrit, JanL, Mostel26

    and if my ideas are a little simplistic, I apologize.

    -For starters, get the big money out of district admn., especially the superintendents. Why people are rewarded with 6-figure salaries for LEAVING the classroom, I do not understand.

    -Write your own tests. There's no reason to spend millions of $$ on standardized tests when any respectable faculty can write their own.

    -STOP SOCIALLY PROMOTING STUDENT TO HIGH SCHOOL!! Intervention is the new hot word and the suits in offices think this (intervention) should happen in every classroom. (Good luck with that)

    -Kids need to be responsible for their education and should suffer reasonable consequences if they fail to hold up their end of "the bargain".

    Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

    by rreabold on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 05:54:38 PM PDT

  •  Where Profit, GOP, and Public Service Unite (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sprinkles, Azazello, JanL

    there's always scandal

    Here's my response to those pushing for Charter Schools

    The huge list of Charter School Scandals.

    Amazing ways of bilking exposed.  Very clever folks.

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:00:54 PM PDT

  •  Teacher Resistance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli

    During the 1970's I was a consultant to the California Department of Education working to promote the concepts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  
    ESEA, specifically Title III, was created to bring innovations to the classroom that would improve the quality of education for the students.
    One of the major tenets was "Individualized Instruction".  Each student would be treated as an individual and would progress at their own pace.

    That created a problem for the teachers.  The organization of a classroom into grades (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) was done to make the classroom more manageable.  The division of the thirty students into groups help keep track of where each student was in learning a subject.  Usually that meant three groups.
    Individualized instruction meant thirty groups (each student) capable of working on any of 250 learning objectives in Reading and Mathematics each.  The teachers considered it a management nightmare.

    The teachers rebelled.  It didn't make any difference that the learning experience for the student was greatly improved.  The teachers job was made harder.  End of story.

    As a computer consultant, my job was to introduce new management support systems that would relieve the management load on the teachers.

    We did two three year projects where we supplied computer supported tracking of each student.  The end of project evaluations showed increased student interest and learning, and high teacher satisfaction.

    But the Teacher's Union was against it and it died.  Why?  I don't know.

    One theory was that the teachers who were not in the studies were envious that they weren't the ones picked for the project.  Another theory was that as a group they were resistant to change.  What they didn't appear to care about was the student.

    So we come to today, where the management of the classroom is the same as it was in the 60's and 70's.  Classroom management techniques have not change at all.  The teachers are even more overworked trying to keep up with student progress with classroom sizes larger than thirty students.

    Students are unready for the subject being taught, or they already know it, and usually they are bored out of there skulls waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do.  It didn't have to be that way.

    I don't blame the individual teachers for today's situation, or even for the positions they took back then.  They are not the problem.  The classroom management techniques that haven't change in 50+ years are the culprits.  Applying For-Profit systems definitely will not solve that problem.

    In California, a lot of the problem can be laid at the feet of Proposition 13.  When money disappeared from the schools, their management problems increased.

    Somewhere in the Archives of ESEA Title III is the answer.

    "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve; if impeached, I will not leave" -Anon

    by Graebeard on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:11:20 PM PDT

    •  Definitely sounds like Success for All (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, JanL

      which, I believe bombed wherever it was implemented.

      And for good reason.

    •  I went through the California Ed system in the 60' (0+ / 0-)

      We had classroom sizes 30+ in almost every class.  

      Kids then were interested in learning...cared about grades...tried to succeed within the system.  

      Our culture has changed.  That's the biggest problem in education today.  Most teachers would agree if they're talking to you alone about it.  

      We had high school graduation rates exceeding 95% and nearly half went on to at least a junior college or into a trade school kind of environment.  It was expected by society AND parents.  Today?  Not so much anymore.

      Oh, sure, I know there'll be arguments to that here, but they won't make what I'm saying less true.

      The truth is sometimes very inconvenient.

      by commonsensically on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:20:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the desire of children to learn has not changed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanL

        You suggest that back in the day students wanted to learn and imply today they don't. I wasn't a teacher or student in the 60s so I will take your world about students then but I think you are unfair in saying young people today aren't interested in learning.

        The much bigger problem in my view is that what we offer them today does much to frustrate learning. Overworked and undersupported teachers. Decaying facilities. Ancient textbooks. Pathetic science equipment. Test upon stupid test. A focus on a regimented learning model. Too little unstructured time. Whether or not a student wants to learn, it is hard to do so if the school system has been starved and bent to undesirable ends.

        That said, I also think most children do learn, even despite these obstacles, because the desire to learn is mostly innate and because most teachers are heroic professionals intent on teaching even in the face of the difficult and rising obstacles placed in their way.

      •  Maybe your school had a 95% grad rate (0+ / 0-)

        I assure you, that has never been the norm across the entire state.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:12:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's not "education reform," it's "privatization." (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jcrit, Sprinkles, banjolele, Azazello, JanL

    Big difference.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:13:15 PM PDT

  •  The crisis in our schools is manufactured. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Earl, JanL, Mostel26, elfling

    This is a fine book, unfortunately about 15 years old, but I understand the facts remain the same:

        The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, fraud and the attack on America's public schools, David Berliner

        (summary) Typically, much larger percentages of U.S. students take international comparison tests. In the first International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP), 75% of U.S. students were compared to the top 9% in Germany, the top 13% in the Netherlands, and the top 45% in Sweden.

  •  Yeah CT bloggers, Lamont and SEIU! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hugin, JanL

    Not gone and not forgotten  ~

  •  Dante, Ms. Rhee doesn't know she is a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    50sbaby

    corporate shill, imho. She reminds me of Condi Rice.  Her intellect is compelling, her logic is mystical.  

    As a former corporate shill, I understand.

    •  I simply cannot comprehend (4+ / 0-)

      why someone with so little classroom experience (and the little bit of time she did have is hardly something anyone, a parent, fellow teachers, admin, could look upon as positive) has been given such visibility and so much voice in education.   I am a retired teacher.  I taught in public schools for four decades.   I know a ton of superior educators.........who could teach circles around this woman.  They are men and women who are dedicated to their students, who are artists (because teaching is more of an art than a science) that can be creative, can switch gears on a dime, who can use everything from humor to sadness in storytelling to motivate.    

      Great teachers are performers who are "on" for hours daily, and in between being "on", they are organizing, comforting, cheering, consoling.    Yet a dolt like Rhee is given and voice and the great teachers of our public schools get trashed.  Aaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhh......

  •  Thanks for this great piece, Dante n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dante Atkins, smiley7

    I'm proud to serve as Director of Online Programs at the Courage Campaign.

    by Adam Bink on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:57:00 PM PDT

  •  A particular issue for teachers with Change.org (0+ / 0-)

    is that the two organizations in question had floated multiple petitions of generic "yay schools" without revealing the sponsor of the petition, at least not in a way that the readers discerned. Thus, you had teachers and even education leaders realizing that they had signed these petitions and were now counted as "members" of organizations they bitterly opposed. Then, Students First and Stand For Children issued press releases touting their membership numbers, as if those people totally embraced the organization's agenda past, present, and future.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:57:45 PM PDT

  •  Sorry, but I must dissent on this one... (0+ / 0-)

    I rarely post here (or anywhere on the internet) but I feel compelled to comment on this diary based on specific personal experience.

    I work for a charter school management company (will go unnamed to avoid getting blasted from here) and my company takes over grossly failing schools in poor districts and turns them around sometimes as few as 2 years.  I visit them around the country often (bullet-proof vest in hand.....kidding.... sort of.. lol) and am amazed at the progress.  Furthermore, the operating costs are often less than HALF of what they were when they were state run.

    I'm sure there are plenty of bad companies out there that do this solely for a profit, but in some instances, the private sector actually CAN do a far better job.  The profit motive can bust up a beurocracy and set things right far quicker.  And, while people like Scott Walker are cowardly douchebags, the teachers unions are beyond out of control in this country.

    If a company can turn a profit, turn around a school, and spend far less taxpayer money, I'm hard-pressed to oppose it.  The education of our youth is EVERYTHING in regards to the future of this country (thus preventing more Michelle Bachmanns and Sarah Palins from being created.)

    This diary is a blanket opposition to this cause; it would be wise to take a broader view on this particular situation given the stakes.

    •  Bull (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, high uintas, smiley7, Mostel26

      I am sure your overlords pay you well to type this crap.

      I would type more, but I’m a lady.

      •  NYCteach (0+ / 0-)

        @NYCteach:  Thanks for that constructive reply.  That was a big help and will really help the progressive cause.  Perhaps you'll go tour the "real america" now and get your snow machine ready for wintertime.  Can you see Russia from your house?

        @BornDuringWWII:  Given the replies I got, it's shocking that I wouldn't tell you who I work for, isn't it? (that was sarcasm in case it isn't obvious)

        @-the rest of you:  If there weren't such hatred in your comments, I'd be happy to provide a few schools for you to visit.  I visit them regularly, but I wouldn't expose any of their students or staff to this vitriol.  If you were really interested in educating our youth, you'd approach this more rationally.  A lot of what you're saying is true, but I just feel like, in this case, in areas that fail year after year after year, it's time to try something else.  In any case, let the hatred resume...

    •  I oppose for-profit charter schools (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, high uintas, smiley7, Mostel26

      There is no reason it makes sense to skim education dollars into anyone's profit margin.

      There is no company that I'm aware of that is turning around schools in two years (whatever that means, exactly) without replacing the students. And if you get to replace the students, then honestly anyone can turn around a school over the summer break.

      To the extent that charter schools get less money (rarely true when you count outside money), they also provide fewer services. They generally don't provide transportation or meals; they serve far fewer special ed students, of lower severity; and they compel parents to volunteer and in many cases to donate. Bruce Baker at SchoolFinance101 has done quite a few comparisons that are worth reading.

      There are a lot of great schools in America. Indeed, even the international comparisons say so. Our schools in crisis are schools where the majority of kids are in poverty. There are no schools in crisis with fewer than 10% of the kids qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Unfortunately, 25% of American children are currently living in poverty. Taking more money away from them and giving it to shareholders will not solve it.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:26:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have absolute no trust of any (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, high uintas, smiley7, Mostel26

      person or corporation that puts a dollar sign on the heads of children.  

      Turn a school around in two years?  BS!!    I have run into this spin before.   Do you even know what that means??  Seriously in two years you can tell success???????   With what?  Tests?  

      Teachers unions are out of control???  Laughable.   Simply laughable.   Your ignorance is overwhelming.  

      For the record, it's bureaucracy, not beurocracy.   Perhaps learning to edit or spell would make your argument more compelling?   Never mind!  Even perfect spelling and impeccable grammar could not make this kind of malarkey palatable.  FOR PROFIT is totally wrong when it comes to public education for all.  

      •  absolute should be absolutely.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, smiley7, Mostel26

        I was so angry while writing this comment I was lucky I could edit my own post and simply forgot to check the subject line.
        Why corporate crooks, aka snake oil salesmen, are defended on this site, confounds me.  I see red when the anti public education folks do their teacher trashing here.

    •  Explain how teacher's unions are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, smiley7, Mostel26

      "beyond out of control in this country" plz. I think you are blowing smoke.

      "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

      by high uintas on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:45:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  With your emphasis on low costs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26

      you're simply engaging in the race to bottom that infects every other sector of the economy (except maybe health care). With your logic, if we could offshore students to India or China, that would be an improvement.

      People need decent salaries - even teachers and public employees, not just hedge fund managers and bankers and charter school owners. For the most part, you're not going to get good teachers without college degrees - it takes education both to learn your subject area(s) thoroughly and to learn how to teach it to others.

      People are not going to go through 4 years of college and accumulate student loan debt to take jobs where the pay is minimal, employment is at the whim of mid-level martinets or greedy for-profit operators, where benefits and especially work rules can't be negotiated, and still have to put up with vilification from 2-bit politicians like Walker, Romney, or even some Democrats.

      You might see some improvement in your schools now and for the near term. For one thing, a lot of good people who can't find jobs will be willing to jump at for-profit teaching jobs now - we'd all better hope those kind of economic conditions don't last. For another thing, look up the Hawthorne Effect, because that's probably what you're seeing.

      Prove that you can maintain your "success" level for 10 or 20 years. Public education has been turning out well-educated students since some time in the 19th century, and still is in a lot of cases - the story about its failures is grossly exaggerated by people like Rhee or other greedy folks.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:54:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Profit and Education... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26

      What indicators are you using to say that you have turned around a school?  Are your test scores better?  So what?  A school that focuses on test scores doesn't mean that children are receiving a great education. You say your costs are lower.  I would bet that what you have done is assemble a school of beginning teachers whose salaries are less than those of the regular public school and you probably work them to the bone too. Are you going to fire them every few years to keep costs low?  What about art, music, phys ed, a school library? How about special ed teachers and teacher assistants for those classes and students.  All of that costs money.
      I've experienced charters returning trouble makers, or special ed students back to the public school while keeping the money.
      What about the sense of community that a neighborhood school brings? I'm sorry, when it comes to our children's education... profit and education do not mix.  Our children would be the losers every time!

    •  ScubaCat, got any HARD data? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26

      You won't name the company you work for.

      How about telling us what schools are doing better with a lower expenditure of money?

      I am not suggesting that it is impossible (especially if the public system in that area is very bad), but i doubt that it is "the norm."

      It is hard to take you seriously if you don't give any specifics.

      "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." -- Patrick Henry

      by BornDuringWWII on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 10:46:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is no reason for private profit (0+ / 0-)

      from taxpayers' dollars paid for public education.  That money could be used to lower class size, fund school libraries, hire school nurses . . . the list goes on.  Some years ago, the city of Baltimore hired Edison schools to take over their most troubled schools.  Things didn't go so well as there was constant churn and burn when Edison paid lower salaries to school employees.  As soon as something better came up, those employees would moved on, often staying for just a few months.  This is no way to run a school.  There were other issues too.  It was such a problem that the city terminated their contract with Edison early. As a result of this, the state of MD now has a law that requires charter schools to abide by the collective bargaining agreements in the districts they serve.  This created an issue for the KIPP schools in the city when they didn't want to pay their teachers accordingly for the 10 hour days, 6 day weeks they were required to work.  This ended up going to court and KIPP is required to pay the teachers either 20 or 30% more than a typical teacher for a work week with 50% more hours.  

      One victory--the New Orleans Recovery school district, who fired all of their teachers after hurricane Katrina and converted all schools to charters--just lost a court case and now must pay back pay to over 7,000 teachers who were fired.

      “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

      by musiclady on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:58:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Played with the Newsmax poll (0+ / 0-)

    Don't believe any poll you see. Here's a sample of their language:

    3) Should Congress restore $500 billion in Medicare benefits for seniors that the Obama plan cut?

    Of course, there was no cut. The poll's 4th question is a push.

  •  And don't forget the students ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL

    ... who are likely to be left behind by the high school to four year university assumption made by many among the better educated. If there are problems with two year corporate business colleges charging too much with too many being too lenient and as a result leaving too many with debt and little to show for it ...

    ... there are also large numbers of people for whom that is the only ladder available to them, because that is where the public education system leaves them.

    We need to fight fire with fire, establish a system of private, not for profit, cooperative two year colleges, and give the students who presently have no real alternative but two year corporate "career" colleges a real alternative.

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:19:17 PM PDT

    •  In California, we have an excellent system of (0+ / 0-)

      Community Colleges serving that function. The problem is that they are being starved for funding in these last few years, just when the need is greatest.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:51:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some states have a good network ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... some have a mediocre network, some have an abysmal network ...

        ... but in which state are they gaining a growing real budget that reflects the growing need for trade and two year post-secondary education?

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:23:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, exactly. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, Mostel26

    I hope more articles on this problem/issue get posted on the main page. As I see it, this is the #1 problem with Democratic policy right now. It's pretty much the only issue I have to regularly challenge friends & family who are progressives. Once they know they facts they get on board, but the facts need to get out more.

    I support Obama and most Dems, I do GOTV stuff and everything, but I would be way more in if their policy was right on the issue I care about the most.

    For anyone wanting a good place to start, or continue, I love this list of the top 21 reasons why charter schools don't improve education:

    http://www.communityandeducation.org/...

    We can do this!

  •  Oooh, that woman gives me the hives. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, 50sbaby

    Rhee.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 08:02:18 PM PDT

  •  Privatization (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, elfling

    This is a topic I have been working on for over 35 years. I have spent most of this time in teacher preparation for multilingual, multicultural schools in California.
    Almost all that I learned is in a book I wrote, Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education. (2010).
    For a couple of strong background pieces on the money and the organizations behind the corporate raiders see
    www.educationdemocracyinstitute.org
    A first, essential step.  Listen to teachers.  They are doing the work every day, not the consultants, not the advisors, not the media pundits,  and not the whole crop of paid promoters like Michelle Rhee.
    Yes, some teachers are less than excellent.  some of the new ones, some of the older ones.  But, if you listen the basic wisdom of practice comes through.
    Duane Campbell.
    Sacramento, California

  •  Well said, important diary, thanks (0+ / 0-)

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 09:37:26 PM PDT

  •  wow only one troll and no dupes (0+ / 0-)

    Usually the anti-teacher trolls and the public school busing dupes attack education articles in full force on here. The fact that this article only had one show up is very encouraging.

  •  Don't believe Rhee for a moment. She repeats (0+ / 0-)

    her "doctored" statistics of success with no evidence to back up her so-called successes.

    Rhee is a paid Republican shill.

    Liberal (from Webster's Dictionary): tolerant of views differing from one's own; broad-minded

    by 50sbaby on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:17:57 AM PDT

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