Charter Failure and Corruption

Another conservative failure – privatization of schools.

The Charter “Movement” never was about better education for kids – it is all about lining folks pockets and destroying politically influential teacher’s unions.

So…when is someone going to step in and stop this criminal farce?

The truth about charter schools: Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results

Imagine your 5-year-old boy went to a school where he was occasionally thrown in a padded cell and detained alone for stretches as long as 20 minutes.

Or you sent your kid to an elementary school where the children are made to sit on a bare floorin the classroom for days before they can “earn” their desks.

Or your kid went to a school where she spent hours parked in a cubicle in front of a computerwith a poorly trained teacher who has to monitor more than 100 other students.

Maybe you don’t have children or send them to private school? So how do you feel when you find out the local school that you pay for with your taxes is operating a scam that diverted millions of dollars through fake Medicaid billing?

Or the school used your tax dollars as “grants” to start up other profit-making enterprises … orpay lavish salaries – $300,000, $400,000 or more – to its administrators … or support a movement linked to a reclusive Turkish cleric being investigated for bribery and corruption.

Welcome to the world of charter schools.

Are there wonderful charter schools doing great things for kids? Probably. Are all these cumulative anecdotes an unfair representation of the value that charter schools can bring to some communities? Maybe.

But neither of those questions matters because of what the charter school movement has come to represent in the landscape of American education.

 

Charter schools have been relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students.

Politicians in both parties speak glowingly of these schools – which, by the way, their children seem never to attend.

Opening charter schools has become the latest fad for celebrities including athletes and rap stars.

Huge nationwide chains – called education management organizations (EMOs) – now run many of these charters. A recent study by the National Education Policy Center found, “Students across 35 states and the District of Columbia now attend schools managed by these non-government entities.” These for-profit and nonprofit EMOs – such as K12 Inc., National Heritage Academies, Charter Schools USA and KIPP – now account for nearly half of the students educated by charter schools.

Substantial, well-funded nationwide organizations have rapidly developed to lobby for these schools. One such organization, the Alliance for School Choice, recently received a $6 million gift from the Walton Foundation, of Wal-Mart fame.

Slick marketing campaigns have been rolled out in communities across the country to tout the coming of new charters.

The actual academic results of these schools seems to hardly anyone, despite report after reportshowing that these schools tend to do poorly on state and national tests and fail at providing equitable education to underserved students.

Yet lobbying for more of these schools continues unabated with more money funneled into the campaigns of politicians who support charters and more efforts to press state lawmakers to lift any provisions currently in place to regulate how these schools operate and are held accountable to the public. Continue reading

How Conservatives Destroyed Education in the US

Conservatives and the privatization to failure in the schools…

 

Educational Fraud..Voucher Programs Fail

The whole voucher thing in Louisiana reminds me of the new Mercedes commercial with Willem Dafoe…

Dafoe, playing the Devil in this case selling Gov Bobby Jindal on a shiny new Voucher program for his state instead of the cute entry level Mercedes.

But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails…

Indeed.

According to conservative hucksters, voucher programs are all about helping poor black kids in “failing” public school systems

Having watched this movie one to many times, when conservatives tell me they are “doing good for black folks”, whether such is presented by an actor I think is one of the 10 best male character leads active in hollywood right now or not…

I tend to cinch my belt, put a hand on my wallet to assure it’s still there, make sure Momma and the kiddies are in a safe place…

And flip off the safety on my Colt.

Vouchers have been a failure nationwide. And what the DOJ should be doing is looking at the folks who are setting this crap up as organized crime.

Vouchers don’t do much for students

Ever since the administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled President Barack Obama for trapping poor kids in failing public schools.

The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused him of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”

But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.

In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading.

In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

And across Louisiana, many of the most popular private schools for voucher students posted miserable scores in math, reading, science and social studies this spring, with fewer than half their voucher students achieving even basic proficiency and fewer than 2 percent demonstrating mastery. Seven schools did so badly, state Superintendent John White barred them from accepting new voucher students — though the state agreed to keep paying tuition for the more than 200 voucher students already enrolled, if they chose to stay.

Nationwide, many schools participating in voucher programs infuse religion through their curriculum. Zack Kopplin, a student activist who favors rigorous science education, has found more than 300 voucher schools across the U.S. that teach the biblical story of creation as science; some also instruct children that the world is just several thousand years old and use textbooks describing the Loch Ness Monster as a living dinosaur. Parents at one such school in Louisiana received a newsletter calling secular scientists “sinful men.”

Asked whether he was confident that the private schools funded by vouchers are better than the public schools students would otherwise attend, Jindal told POLITICO that parents, not government officials, should make that decision. “We make no apologies for giving parents the option to determine the best educational path for their children,” he said. “President Obama has the means to send his children to the school of his choice. Parents in Louisiana should have the same opportunity.”

His rationale resonates widely these days.

Vouchers are booming in popularity; a record 245,000 students in 16 states plus D.C. are paying for private school with public subsidies, according to the Alliance for School Choice. Nine states added or broadened voucher programs this year and new initiatives are on the table in states including New Jersey and Tennessee.

By 2014, states will be spending $1 billion a year to send children to private schools through vouchers, tax credits and similar programs, according to Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation, an advocacy group for school choice.

“These programs are expanding, and they’re not going away,” said Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group that just released an emotional campaign-style video promoting vouchers.

The expansions are stretching voucher programs far beyond the stated intent of rescuing poor families from failing public schools.

Condo Remembers Denise McNair, 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in 1963

Interesting – because prior to now, I don’t remember seeing anywhere that Condo talked about any of this. Condo’s father was not in the Civil Rights Movement, choosing instead to take a back seat. The ethics of that are up to debate…

As well as Condo’s ethics in working for the Bush Administration. While I don’t believe there is any evidence that GW is a bigot, there is more than a little evidence that some of the folks he brought to Washington were and are. The nuances of whether she could have done more not taking the job, or accomplished more by taking the job are also open to debate. Calling Condo a latter day Hattie McDaniels is unfair. Calling her a failure because of her role in a failed Presidency..isn’t.

I think this reaction is because of he Trayvon Martin murder. Like the George Zimmerman trial, initial efforts to convict the murderers were stymied, with the first conviction not coming for another 14 years, with others not being convicted until 30 years later. Justice in some parts of America moves much more slowly for some people.

American actress Hattie McDaniel (1895 – 1952) with her Academy Award of Merit for Outstanding Achievement, circa 1945. McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in ‘Gone With The Wind’, making her the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

Condoleezza Rice Recalls Birmingham Bombing That Killed Childhood Friend

When a church bombing killed four young black girls on a quiet Sunday morning in 1963, life for a young Condoleezza Rice changed forever.

The racial attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church, in the former secretary of state’s hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, rocked the nation and led to sweeping changes in laws governing civil rights.

But for Rice, just 8 years old at the time, the tragedy meant the death of a little girl she used to play dolls with, and the loss of her own youthful sense of security.

“As an 8-year-old, you don’t think about terror of this kind,” said Rice, who recounted on Friday her memory of the bombing and its aftermath in remarks to a gathering of civic leaders in Birmingham as part of several days of events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the bombing on Sept. 15.

Rice’s hometown had become a place too dangerous for black children to leave their own neighborhoods, or go downtown and visit Santa Claus, or go out of the house after dark.

“There was no sanctuary. There was no place really safe,” she said.

Rice’s friend, 11-year-old Denise McNair, died in the blast along with 14-year-olds Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley. Their deaths at the hands of Ku Klux Klan members garnered national support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Events for the 50th anniversary of the bombing will include a screening of filmmaker Spike Lee’s new documentary, “Four Little Girls,” and a memorial service on Sunday scheduled to include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Rice has a treasured photo of her friend accepting a kindergarten certificate from Rice’s father, who was a pastor at another church. McNair had gone to preschool there. McNair’s father was the community photographer, documenting birthday parties and weddings in happier times.

“Everyone in the black community knew one of those girls,” Rice said.

Her father told her the bombing had been done by “hateful men,” she said, but it was an act that later uncovered something ultimately good.

“Out of great tragedy, people began to recognize our humanity, and it brought people together,” said Rice.

The bombing left its mark on her even as an adult, when as U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, she used the experience to understand the plight of Palestinian and Israeli victims of bombs and attacks during peace negotiations.

“I told them I know what it is like for a Palestinian mother, who has to tell her child they can’t go somewhere,” Rice said, “and how it is for an Israeli mother, who puts her child to bed and wonders if the child will be alive in the morning.”

But with all of the progress made in civil rights during the 50 years since the blast, Rice cites education as the biggest impediment to equality in modern times.

She expressed dismay at racial disparities in the quality of education for minorities and criticized the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in a system she said challenges black students less than others.

“Even racism can’t be an excuse for not educating our kids,” she said. “If a kid cannot read, that kid is done. A child in a bad school doesn’t have time for racism to be eradicated. They have to learn today.”

A Stained Glass window in the 16th Street Baptist Church after the bombing.

Moss Hollow – STEM Summer Camp for Girls

 

‘Bout time. As the father of a daughter who is degreeing in the Bio-Tech field, I am aware of the shortage of women in these fields…

And the shortage of Americans in the STEM fields nation wide.

Maybe the coming generation of girls can save us from becoming a Third Rate, Third world nation.

At Moss Hollow, a tasty start to a space race

The way Darrian Loganexplained it to the 20 or so 7- to 11-year-old girls seated around four tables in a summer camp dining hall, the future of American space travel rested on their little shoulders.

“NASA gave us a little project to do,” Darrian said. “In a few years, they need people like you ladies to build rockets for them.”

Then he and his fellow Camp Moss Hollow staffer Evan Simmons put a bowl of marshmallows and a pile of uncooked spaghetti at each table.

The link to rockets may not have been obvious, but this was part of a new class at Moss Hollow. It’s part of an effort by NASA’s education office to teach STEM concepts — science, technology, engineering and math — in interesting ways. Earlier this year, representatives from the space agency taught the curriculum to camp staffers. Other lessons include making paper airplanes and building tiny cardboard cars propelled by balloons.

This afternoon’s assignment: the Leaning Tower of Pasta. The girls of the Boxwood cabins had to work in teams to design and construct spaghetti-marshmallow towers capable of holding a Ping-Pong ball. If the Ping-Pong ball was safely cradled, a highlighter and then a pair of scissors would be added to see if the towers could stand the strain.

“And, yes, you can eat the marshmallows,” Darrian said. “At the end of the exercise.”

I don’t know what motivates NASA engineers, but marshmallows seem to work with 7-year-old girls.

“Let’s make a castle,” one camper shouted.

“Who wants to make a rectangle?” asked another.

“How many corners does a rectangle have?” asked counselor Rani Lewinson.

The girls from her cabin — Boxwood 3 — decided that a rectangle has four sides and proceeded to sketch out their design on construction paper. It was a basic cube, with a marshmallow at each corner and spaghetti struts in between.

The girls of Boxwood 1 went for something more pyramidal in shape. The girls from Boxwood 4 had an organic shape, semi-pentagonal. It looked a bit like a model of a newly discovered molecule: marshmallonium, perhaps.

Boxwood 2 started out with a wall — tall and narrowly horizontal — until the girls realized it wouldn’t stand up on its own and disassembled it to make something a little more sturdy.

Marshmallows were precious — there was a finite supply — but the spaghetti seemed endless. A lot of measure-once-and-cut-twice was going on as lengths of pasta were snapped in half or quartered, only to discover that they were now too small.

The girls had 12 minutes to construct their towers. When they were done, they admired their sticky handiwork. None of the creations were particularly soaring. Saturn V’s they were not. But they didn’t have to be graceful. They only had to work…

 

The New Jim Crow – Racism or Class?

An interesting view from Author Robert D. Putnam on inequalities in American society and the economy. Putnam believes that racism isn’t the major impediment to economic mobility in the country anymore – class is. And as far as that goes he may be correct. However, in weighing whether racism is an issue – a lot depends on just what you define as “racism”. The conservative view of that is “we aren’t hanging you from trees and burning down your homes anymore – so there is no racism”. Of course to anyone else with an IQ above freezing water – racism is a lot more nuanced that just physical acts of depravity. I mean – just because you aren’t shooting me – doesn’t mean you aren’t trying to kill me with a knife.

Robert Putnam: Class Now Trumps Race as the Great Divide in America

Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, issued a strong warning to anti-poverty advocates at a forum on social connectedness at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday, urging the audience to get beyond talking about poverty and race and start thinking about social mobility and class instead.

“Those two conceptual moves, framing it as poverty and thinking about it as a matter of race, have a very deep history… and I think both politically and analytically that’s an almost fatally flawed framework,” said Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in response to remarks from co-panelists Anne Mosle, vice president of policy at the Aspen Institute, and Mario Small, chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago.

“You say poverty to most ordinary Americans, most ordinary voters, they think black ghettos,” he continued, whereas over the last couple of generations “class, not race is the dominant — and becoming more dominant — dimension of difficulty here.”

“Relatively speaking, racial differences controlling for class are decreasing while class differences controlling for race are increasing in America,” he said. “Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven’t gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like nonwhite folks who haven’t finished high school.” Continue reading

Re-Education – Louisiana Style

During the Communist era and Russia and China, and again during the Pol Pot Dictatorship in Cambodia – millions of people were sent for re-education or re-programming. Communism may be dead in most of the world – but the Republicans in Louisiana have fully embraced reprogramming as a way to ensure future loyal followers. This isn’t dissimilar to the Hitler Youth, and Stalin’s education of children to be good communist robots…

“Christian math”? Does that mean that numbers past 10 aren’t taught – because if God had wanted us to count past 10…

He would have provided us with more fingers? Set Theory is “un-godly”? You don’t need no Geometry and Trig – much less the Calculus to be properly “learned”!

Which gets to the point of whether the State Tests are also going to be dumbed down enough so these modern Luddite Youth can pass an exam which means anything to anyone outside of Louisiana.

Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools

 Louisiana is embarking on the nation’s boldest experiment in privatizing public education, with the state preparing to shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to pay private industry, businesses owners and church pastors to educate children.

Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will getvouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.

The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.

Every time a student receives a voucher of either type, his localpublic school will lose a chunk of state funding.

“We are changing the way we deliver education,” said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. “We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.”

BIBLE-BASED MATH BOOKS

The concept of opening public schools to competition from the private sector has been widely promoted in recent years by well-funded education reform groups.

Of the plans so far put forward, Louisiana’s plan is by far the broadest. This month, eligible families, including those with incomes nearing $60,000 a year, are submitting applications for vouchers to state-approved private schools.

That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery.

Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.

The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.

At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains “what God made” on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

“We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children,” Carrier said.

Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution. Continue reading

How Do You Make Our Schools Smarter… By Dumbing Down Our Elected Officials?

A favorite Republican whipping post is our “failing” educational system”…

The problem being that many of the Republicans who most vociferously shout about American Educational shortcomings…

Have benefited so little from their experience  in a learning environment.

I mean, if the first step to building a strong house is to dig a good foundation…

Then you best better hire a builder with more than a passing familiarity with a shovel.

Didn’t do so great on that last vocabulary test? That’s OK, there’s a place in Congress for you. The current class of congressmembers speaks at a 10.6 grade level—down almost a full grade from 2005′s 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. According to a political scientist at the Sunlight Foundation, the open government group that ran the numbers, one reason for the decline is the influx of new members who were elected in 2010, many of them with Tea Party support. “Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right,” he says. In easier-to-understand terms: All of the 10 members who speak at the lowest grade levels are Republicans, and nearly all are freshmen.

Sophomoric? Members Of Congress Talk Like 10th-Graders, Analysis Shows

It turns out that the sophistication of congressional speech-making is on the decline, according to the open government group the Sunlight Foundation. Since 2005, the average grade level at which members of Congress speak has fallen by almost a full grade.

Making The Grade

The Sunlight Foundation analyzed the Congressional Record and found that Congress’ ranking on the Flesch-Kincaid scale — which evaluates readability — has dropped a grade level in recent years.

Average grade level of Congressional speeches

Every word members of Congress say on the floor of the House or Senate is documented in the Congressional Record. The Sunlight Foundation took the entire Congressional Record dating back to the 1990s and plugged it into a searchable database.

Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight, took all those speeches and ran them through an algorithm to determine the grade level of congressional discourse.

“We just kind of did it for fun, and I was kind of shocked when I plotted that data and I saw that, oh my God, there’s been a real drop-off in the last several years,” he says.

In 2005, Congress spoke at an 11.5 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. Now, it’s 10.6. In other words, Congress dropped from talking like juniors to talking like sophomores.

Of the 10 members speaking at the lowest grade level, all but two are freshmen, and every one is a Republican. For the record, though, Drutman isn’t passing judgment about whether speaking at a lower grade level is a good thing or a bad thing.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney ranks the very lowest, with a grade level of 7.94. Continue reading

Great Teachers – Presidio, Tx Rocket Club

Been through this little town once – on my way to somewhere else…probably Chihuahua, Mexico or Big Bend Park. It’s about the only settlement bigger than a gas station between El Paso, Texas and Nueveo Laredo about 600 miles away (Texas is BIG, Y’all!). The only reason it sticks in my mind at all is the name similarity to the Presidio in San Francisco.

People are scarce out there!

This one also caught my eye because I, as a kid was also into building rockets…

And what, at least to my viewpoint is one cool teacher!

File this one under – “Save America – Deport a Republican!”

For Texas rocketry club and their inspirational teacher, the sky is just the beginning

Where the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos meet in west Texas is believed to be the oldest continuously-cultivated land in America. But the most precious crop you’ll find there today is dreams.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman went “On the Road” — and met a woman who cultivates them.

In the middle of the Texas desert, on the border with Mexico, there’s a brief break in the cactus called Presidio.

If you’re a kid looking to escape the poverty and isolation of Presidio, there’s really no greater vehicle than the Presidio Rocket Club. In fact, even though it is in one of the poorest school districts in Texas, Presidio probably has more aspiring aeronautical engineers than any other town in America.

And what’s even more amazing than their location is their inspiration — a little firecracker of a science teacher named Shella Condino.

“I wanted to teach the kids: You want something so bad, you put your heart into it,” she said.

Shella started the club five years ago. Never mind that she didn’t speak Spanish and the kids barely spoke English. Never mind that rocket science is rocket science. The fact that it’s hard is part of the reason she thought these kids absolutely had to learn it. Continue reading

Santorum – Stuck on Stupid

Santorum: Calif. Schools Don’t Teach US History

Rick Santorum continued hisverbal assault on higher education today by accusing California universities of failing to “even teach an American history course.” The GOP candidate slammed UC universities during a speech in Wisconsin, Mediaite reports, saying that “I think it’s seven or eight” schools that neglect US history: “Just to tell you how bad it’s gotten in this country, where we’re trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are, so they have an understanding of what America should be.”

But a University of California rep emailedThinkProgress to say that all UC undergraduate programs require US history credits. According to Mediaite, only the San Francisco campus fails to offer US history courses—because it’s a medical school. Perhaps Santorum is on a roll after calling President Obama “a snob” for wanting “everybody in America to go to college.” He’s not alone among Republicans, however: Mitt Romney has taken a whack at higher education by pooh-poohing the notion of student aid.

Condo Rice, Education, and National Security

Interesting from a woman whose Party is most responsible for the destruction of the Education system in America…

Parent Gun – Pulling the Trigger on Non-Performing Schools in California

An interesting concept. I can see both sides of this, where something needs to be done – but what may be done may be worse than the old school. Charters are almost universally failures with a few bright exceptions, and consistently under-perform the Public Schools they were supposed to replace. The ability to shake up the school administration, and make the educators accountable (IF the educators are the problem) is a positive step. Unfortunately, most failing schools are also populated by “failing parents”. Someone needs to ask the question as to why the educational system in the United States, despite spending several times what other countries spend – is so bad? Is it actually a failure of the system, or a failure of the folks who run and fund the system? Seems that every time someone comes up with a bright idea to tweak the schools, from “No Child’s Behind” to high stakes testing -the result is worse than the system being replaced. That is not a failure of the school system. It isn’t a failure of the educators or kids for that matter – and to an extent the parents…

It’s a failure of the clowns in charge.

Parent trigger: School tests California law that allows takeover via petition

The national battle over the best way to fix failing schools is ripping through this desert town like a sandstorm, tearing apart a community that is testing a radical new approach: the parent takeover.

Parents here are trying to become the first in the country to use a trigger law, which allows a majority of families at a struggling school to force major changes, from firing the principal to closing the school and reopening it as an independent charter. All they need to do to wrest control is sign a petition.

The idea behind the 2010 California law — placing ultimate power in parents’ hands — resonates with any parent who has felt frustrated by school bureaucracy.

“We just decided we needed to do something for our children,” said Doreen Diaz, a parent organizing the trigger effort. “If we don’t stand up and speak for them, their future is lost.”

Her daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary, where last year two-thirds of the children failed the state reading exam, more than half were not proficient in math, and nearly 80 percent failed the science exam. The school has not met state standards for six years, and scores place it in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide.

The children can’t wait years for improvement, Diaz said.

It’s just the type of situation that reformers had in mind when they crafted the trigger law, which applies to 1,300 public schools in California that under certain criteria are labeled as “failing.”

Others see the trigger law as dangerous, handing the complex challenge of education to people who may be unprepared to meet it. Critics also say the law circumvents elected school boards and invites abuse by charter operators bent on taking over public schools.

Trigger laws are spreading beyond California, passing or sparking debates in other states, including Maryland. Even Hollywood has noticed; a feature film, made by the producers of the 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman,” is coming out this fall.

In Adelanto, the debate is destroying friendships, sowing suspicion and attracting powerful outside interests to this town on the edge of the Mojave Desert.

Parents trying to pull the trigger are backed by Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles organization funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In recent weeks, a group of parents opposed to the trigger has formed, with help from the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

“We all agree we’d like to see some improvements, but would you rather blow everything up, start from scratch and hope for better?” asked Lori Yuan, who has two children at Desert Trails and is fighting the trigger. “That doesn’t sound very good to me.”

In a plotline worthy of a soap opera, each group has accused the other of intimidation, harassment and hidden agendas. The district attorney has been asked to investigate charges of fraud, and lawyers are lining up.

“This has never been done before, and it’s very confusing,” said Carlos Mendoza, the president of the Adelanto School District Board of Trustees, who is also a high school teacher and a union member. “If we can get all these outsiders out, we can work out something.”… (more)

Best Educated Janitors…

Fresh on news that there are 21 million Americans out of work – there is the question of the undremployed–

Why Did 17 Million Students Go to College?

Two sets of information were presented to me in the last 24 hours that have dramatically reinforced my feeling that diminishing returns have set in to investments in higher education, with increasing evidence suggesting that we are in one respect “overinvesting” in the field. First, following up on information provided by former student Douglas Himes at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), my sidekick Chris Matgouranis showed me the table reproduced below (And for more see this).

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.

Now I’ve said for a while that one the the great myths of the new depression is the existence of high tech jobs needing high education. At this point there are millions of college educated out of work or substantially underemployed. You cannot fix the roots of the current economic malaise by by generating more job seekers - no matter how well educated or qualified. The brutal fact is, very little of our current economy is actually dependent on new technology. Think of it this way – the leading cell phone platform is dependent on thinking and aa technology concept first developed in Xerox Labs in the 70′s. Very little of the development today of “new technology” is actually “development’ = it is actually execution against old technology. So if you trin them – what would this new legion of scientists and engineers do?

And there is the crux of the problem.

Back to the Affirmative Action Wars…

In case you missed it the right has been reconditioning and rolling out their anti-Civil Rights crew frantically over the past several months.  One of the folks to get a shiny new paint job was Pat Buchanan - although with his vision of a white America as a precondition for continued greatness – I think he let the real cat out of the bag a little too quickly. George Will blubbering about how AA has hurt minorities… A Republican sitting a panel which dealt with discrimination gets canned – by railing against minorities… They have even have stalwart Lawn Jockeys like Larry Elder and Walter Williams de-fossilized and trotted out in a reprise of their racism shielding role for the conservative right in the 90′s.

So why all the sudden attention?

U.S. Urges Creativity by Colleges to Gain Diversity

The Obama administration on Friday urged colleges and universities to get creative in improving racial diversity at their campuses, throwing out a Bush-era interpretation of recent Supreme Courtrulings that limited affirmative action in admissions.

The new guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education replaced a 2008 document that essentially warned colleges and universities against considering race at all. Instead, the guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions involving the University of Michigan, suggesting that institutions use other criteria — students’ socioeconomic profiles, residential instability, the hardships they have overcome — that are often proxies for race. Schools could even grant preferences to students from certain schools selected for, among other things, their racial composition, the new document says.

“Post-secondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity,” reads the 10-page guide sent to thousands of college admissions officials on Friday afternoon. In some cases, it says, “race can be outcome determinative.”

The administration issued a parallel 14-page outline on Friday for the nation’s 17,000 public school districts, explaining what government lawyers consider to be acceptable ways that educators can seek to reduce racial segregation, which has been increasing nationwide.

The two documents, issued as the presidential campaign heats up and as the Supreme Court considers whether to hear a new affirmative action case, were designed to give educators a clear administration interpretation of three high court cases that, since 2003, have limited the use of race in admissions, zoning and other school policies.

The contrast with the Bush guidelines interpreting the same three cases is stark. Where the Bush administration’s letter in 2008 states, “Quotas are impermissible,” the 2011 version says “an institution may permissibly aim to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented students.” Even in addressing the same principles, the framework is practically reversed.

Bush guidelines: “Before using race, there must be a serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives.”

Obama guidelines: “Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable.”

Colleges seeking to increase diversity while not running afoul of Supreme Court guidelines, the new document says, “could select schools (including community colleges) based on their demographics (e.g., their racial or socioeconomic composition), and grant an admission preference” to graduates of those schools. They could also “select high schools for partnership” based, among other things, on “racial composition of the school’s student body” and former partnerships with historically black colleges and universities”; consider race as they select students for mentoring programs; and sponsor retention or support programs that highlight, for example, “the accomplishments of Latino business leaders.”

Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 universities and colleges, predicted that educators would immediately begin to pursue ways to draw more racial minorities, as the new guidelines would ease fears of legal challenge.

“University administrators have been confused about how they could follow the court’s rulings and still achieve the benefits of diversity,” Ms. Meloy said. “So they will welcome this practical, step-by-step set of directions.”

For kindergarten through 12th grade, the guidelines tell school districts that they can shape policies on locating schools, drawing attendance boundaries and governing student transfers to achieve a better racial mix. For example, a school district with two elementary schools with distinctly different demographics could consider making one school serve kindergarten through second grade and the other grades 3 to 5 in order to force a better mix.

“Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world,”Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “The guidance announced today will aid educational institutions in their efforts to provide true equality of opportunity.”

Lee C. Bollinger, an advocate of affirmative action, was the named defendant, as president of the University of Michigan, in the two 2003 Supreme Court cases that laid down new markers on the permissible use of race in admissions. He described the new guidelines as “perfect.”

“It’s a very fair interpretation of what the court decided,” said Mr. Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar who is now president of Columbia University, “which is primarily that race can be one of many factors, and as long as your policies truly embody that approach, you’ll be fine, and can strive for diversity in all its benefits.” (more)

Occupy Baltimore Gets Support of Police and Firefighters Unions

One of the things being challenged by Occupy Baltimore is the failure of the Education System…

The Occupy Movement evening meetings appear to be the only place democracy is actually working in America anymore. There certainly isn’t any democracy left in the big marble buildings just 30 miles down Interstate 95 from Baltimore.

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