Rick Ayers on Ronnie Kitchen

July 25, 2018


Gary Orfield said in one paragraph what it took me a whole book to say, and not as well…

July 24, 2018
The thing that is most irritating about most of the failed reforms is that they began under the leadership of people with no experience in public schools who had contempt for educators and researchers, who they assumed were very inferior to them because they took those low paying relatively low prestige jobs. They thought they were much more intelligent, they had a very romanticized version of markets that ignored the way markets often fail minorities and the poor, and they did not want to learn but simply to impose their obviously superior ideas. They thought that there was no downside risk because of these earlier assumptions and had no notion at all of the scale of damage they could cause in several decades of truly misguided reforms which became the agenda for the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama administrations and created another whole system of segregated low quality publicly supported largely unregulated charter schools that divided public resources and put the residual public system into even more difficult financial situations, giving up the idea of common schools and democratic values altogether.

Who Elected You to Run Public Education, Bill Gates?

July 23, 2018
Carol Burris, the brilliant executive director of the Network for Public Education, has written the definitive account of Bill Gates’s disastrous teacher evaluation project, which wasted $215 million of his dollars, but over $350 million of state, local, and federal dollars (ours).
I urge you to read it. Not many are likely to read the 600 page RAND report evaluating the project. Burris did. The results were both a tragedy and a farce.
A few excerpts:
The study examined the effects over six years of the Gates Foundation’s Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching (IP) initiative that included, as a key feature, teacher evaluations systems similar to New York’s. It concluded that the IP project did not improve either student achievement or the quality of teachers. In fact, it did more harm than good…
The cost was astronomical. Across the seven sites over half a billion dollars were spent — $574.7 million between November 2009 and June 2016. While many believed that the Gates Foundation paid the bill, overall the foundation paid less than 37 percent — $212.3 million. Taxpayers paid most of the costs via local or federal tax dollars.
Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools was one of the participants. Its program alone cost $262.2 million. Federal, state and local taxpayers paid $178.8 million, far more than the Gates Foundation’s contribution of $81 million. Gates used his money as a lever to open the public treasury to fund his foundation’s idea. The taxpayers picked up the lion’s share of costs.
There were indirect costs as well. According to the study, the average principal spent 25 percent of her time administering the complicated evaluation system and teachers spent hours every month on their own evaluations.
The report estimated that “IP costs for teacher-evaluation activities totaled nearly $100 million across the seven sites in 2014–2015 … the value of teacher and SL [school leader] time devoted to evaluation to be about $73 million, and the direct expenditures on evaluation constituted an additional $26 million.” According to Business Insider, the total cost of IP was nearly $1 billion.
When President Barack Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, decided to include compliance with similar models of evaluation in order for states to receive Race to the Top funds, billions of federal taxpayer dollars were put in play. States and local school districts were forced to ante up for data-collection systems, new tests designed to produce metrics of student growth, training seminars that infantilized experienced principals, and pages upon pages of rubrics designed to turn the art and science of teaching behaviors into a numerical score…One of the goals of IP was to help districts recruit better teachers and to assign the most effective teachers to classrooms with low-income minority students. This was to be accomplished through revised recruitment practices as well as financial incentives for teachers to work in high-needs schools.
One participating district, Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, turned over its teacher recruitment efforts to the New Teacher Project (TNTP). TNTP was founded by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of D.C. public schools who was a leader in corporate-style education reform. The Gates Foundation gave TNTP $7 million in 2009, the year that it published a report entitled “The Widget Effect,” which was highly critical of the teacher evaluation systems that the foundation was so anxious to replace.
Shelby County Schools allowed TNTP to run its human-resources department, resulting in a strained relationship between TNTP and the existing staff. Other participating districts and CMOs used some TNTP services and, following the advice of TNTP, sought teachers from alternative preparation programs, most notably Teach for America (TFA).
This, according to the report, resulted in increased teacher turnover, since many TFAers only “intended to remain in teaching for only a few years.” The report found no evidence that the quality of the teachers recruited improved.
Access to ‘effective’ teachers for disadvantaged students
A related goal of the project was to move “effective” teachers into schools with the most disadvantaged kids. Not only was this goal not realized, there was evidence that in one district access to more effective teachers declined.
Even with a cash incentive, teachers were reluctant to transfer to schools with high needs because they believed that would result in their receiving a lower VAM score, which was now part of their evaluation. VAM refers to value-added modeling, which in this case uses student standardized test scores in a complicated computer model to supposedly determine the “value” of a teacher on the growth of student achievement by in part factoring out all other influences.
There was statistically significant evidence that the project decreased low-income minority students’ access to effective teachers in Hillsborough County Public Schools — both between schools and within the same school — as teachers sought to flee to the honors classes to avoid low VAM scores, which under the new evaluation system, could cost them their jobs.
Although the report notes that some reformers hoped that the new evaluation system would result in teacher dismissals in the range of 20 percent, the actual rate of dismissal based on performance was similar to the rate under the former system — around 1 percent.
About Diane Ravitch:
My website is dianeravitch.com.
I am a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.
I was born in Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1960. I received my Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975.
I am the mother of two sons. They went to private schools in New York City. I have four grandsons: two went to religious schools, the third goes to public school in New York City, and the fourth will go to the same wonderful public school in Brooklyn.
I live in Brooklyn, New York.
Carol Burris is Executive Director of the Network for Public Education. She served as principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in NY from 2000-2015. Carol received her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her dissertation on equitable practices in mathematics instruction received the 2003 National Association of Secondary Schools’ Principals Middle Level Dissertation of the Year Award. In 2010, she was recognized by The School Administrators Association of New York State as the Outstanding Educator of the Year, and in 2013 she was recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals as the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Carol serves as a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center and is the co-director of its Schools of Opportunity program. She authored three books on educational equity. Articles that she has authored or co-authored have appeared in Educational Leadership, The Kappan, the American Educational Research Journal, Theory into Practice, The School Administrator and EdWeek.

Brother Rick Speaks Freedom

July 18, 2018


Notes on Living and Dying

July 16, 2018

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
― Louise ErdrichThe Painted Drum

Love Me, I’m a Liberal

July 15, 2018
The great Phil Ochs, a classic, dated in terms of references, but still rings true in spirit and message: “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”
I cried when they shot medgar evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot mr. kennedy
As though i’d lost a father of mine
But malcolm x got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
I go to civil rights rallies
And i put down the old d.a.r.
I love harry and sidney and sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don’t talk about revolution
That’s going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
I cheered when humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I’m glad the commies were thrown out
Of the a.f.l. c.i.o. board
I love puerto ricans and negros
As long as they don’t move next door
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
The people of old mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can’t understand how their minds work
What’s the matter don’t they watch les crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
I read new republic and nation
I’ve learned to take every view
You know, i’ve memorized lerner and golden
I feel like i’m almost a jew
But when it comes to times like korea
There’s no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
I vote for the democtratic party
They want the u.n. to be strong
I go to all the pete seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I’ll send all the money you ask for
But don’t ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal
Once i was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But i’ve grown older and wiser
And that’s why i’m turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal

Loud and Clear

July 10, 2018


Teachers Rising

July 7, 2018


PORTSIDE, July 4, 2018

July 4, 2018
Bill Ayers

The pitfalls of patriotism are everywhere, and at some point those hazards must be honestly faced.



In 1942 students at the University of Munich formed the “White Rose,” an underground resistance to Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich; when they were uncovered and captured they claimed to be German patriots even as they were denounced by the regime as “degenerate rogues” and sentenced to prison or death. At the Nuremberg trials after World War II several Nazis pointed out (accurately—but to no avail) that they obeyed not only orders but also the law, and were, therefore simply doing their patriotic duty as Germans.

A group of anti-communist Cubans, all self-styled patriots, backed by the US CIA, launched an invasion in 1962 of the island-nation from Florida in an attempt to overthrow the revolutionary government. They were defeated at the Bay of Pigs by another group of Cubans, mobilized under the banner “Patria o Muerte,” who thought of themselves, naturally, as patriots.

A self-described patriot in Shanghai told me years ago that “the student riots in 1989 were the work of foreign agents and local traitors.” More recently I met a Chinese graduate student at Harvard who said that the students who led the Tiananmen Square uprising were “true Chinese patriots.”

Finally, I had a lengthy back-and-forth at the University of Southern Georgia some years ago with a man wearing a jacket emblazoned with a Confederate Battle Flag and a “Tea Party Patriot” patch. I pointed out that the Confederacy was organized by traitors—not patriots—willing to blow up the nation in defense of a single freedom, namely the right to own other human beings; he disagreed.

However you start and wherever you look, patriotism is inevitably elusive, and always entangled in context—historical flow, cultural surround, political perspective or preference. It’s a wobbly concept at best, debatable and necessarily occupying a contested space—the young students of Parkland, Florida stare over a barricade at the irascible NRA leadership, each claiming the shiny mantle of patriotism; National Football League team owners lock out Colin Kaepernick in the name of patriotism, and decree that players must stand respectfully during the playing of the National Anthem, mistaking an enforced display of patriotism for the thing itself rather than what it actually is: a long-standing hallmark of authoritarianism and autocracy.

The instinct and desire to belong to something larger than oneself—a people, say, or a singular nation—is common; the longing for membership in a distinctive group with clear boundaries and stable expectations is clear. I don’t underestimate the sense of pleasure and solace that accompanies an embrace of patriotism, and I find the enthusiasm for a tribal identity, while troubling, understandable. But the pitfalls of patriotism are everywhere, and at some point those hazards must be honestly faced.

To begin, patriotism is not, and cannot aspire to be, a universal moral code like “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” say, or “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Patriotism is always embedded in the local, and can never express a general principle or a common human aspiration. After all, if everyone on earth claimed tomorrow to be a patriot of their current country of residence, 20% of the worlds people would be Chinese patriots, and 4.4% would be patriotic Americans.

When Mayor Rudy Giuliani was asked if waterboarding human beings constitutes torture, he offered the classic patriotic/nationalist response: “It depends on who does it.” In his own mind, he was surely acting as a textbook patriot, supporting the country and offering a rigorous defense against enemies or detractors. But note: to the patriot, actions are held to be good in some hands and bad in others depending solely on who commits the outrage. Torture, assassinations, bombing civilians, forced confessions, invasion and occupation, constant state surveillance, involuntary servitude, hostage-taking, imprisonment without trial—all of this and more is judged according to the patriotic nationalist by a single criteria: who did it? Patriotism, then, dulls the imagination, obscures reality, anesthetizes some people, and causes moral blindness or ethical amnesia in others.

Our country was founded on slavery and genocide—it’s part of our American character and country. Many self-defined patriots want to deny or forget that agonizing, painful, sometimes horrifying part of our  history, but the cost of not remembering can be excruciating as well—willful ignorance, sham innocence, and collective silence in the name of patriotism assure that the racial wounds will never heal, the horror will abide. The tragedy, shame, and pain of this country—including kidnapping, slavery, rape, murder, genocide, torture, terrorism, predation, exploitation and oppression, degradation and humiliation—are foundational, linked, and evolving. Slavery begetslynchingbegets Jim Crow and segregation and voter suppression and on and on to mass incarceration.

James Baldwin pointed out that the “American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians…[Our] tendency has really been…to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.” White identity politics has always simply called itself “American.”

“If we have to use force,” former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright famously said, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.” A benign interpretation of that extravagant claim might visualize the country as a shining city on the hill, the very paragon of democracy and freedom; a more execrable interpretation might see the US astride the world like Colossus, holding itself exempt from international agreements like the international criminal court and the Paris climate accords, above the laws that govern others, particularly concerning the use of lethal force. Because we are the unambiguous model of virtue and righteousness, our actions are always good; because our actions are always good, we are not subject to the ordinary rules that apply to all others—“we are the indispensable nation.” So while Russian meddling in US elections is widely seen by US patriots as outrageous (and it is), US meddling in elections from Honduras and Venezuela to Ukraine and Cyprus is (if they even bother to notice) not so bad. The hypocrisy and naked narcissism is breath-taking.

The great American poet, Walt Whitman, evoked a sense of universalism in his love songs to the country: “This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God…take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families…re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”

Patriotism promises a steady anchor and a convenient road map, but in reality it’s entirely unstable. Anyone wrapped in the flag or donning the crown of patriotism would be well-advised to pause before being lulled into a sense of settled comfort, or any fuzzy familiar feeling of self-righteousness. The wheel turns and people stumble into the vortex of a dynamic, living history, the crown suddenly tarnished or askew, the banner singed and torn, and they are, then, required to make their wobbly ways without any guarantees whatsoever.

All of this might move us to note that every human being is indigenous to planet Earth, and that there is, therefore, no such thing as a foreigner. We might work, then, to replace national patriotism with human solidarity—sin fronteras—in the spirit of Chicago’s poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks: “…we are each other’s harvest:/ we are each other’s/ business:/ we are each other’s/ magnitude and bond.”

Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

July 4, 2018
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.