Archive for March 2010

We're On Spring Break!

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Hey guys, we've been going five months straight and it's time for a little rest. We'll be back Monday!

29

03 2010

What Does It Mean To Be American?

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Yesterday was my 63rd birthday and after spending the last 5 months writing posts for perdaily, I would like to reflect on why education reform is so important to me. When I used to teach history, I always started out class by having the students read the front page of the Los Angeles Times while I took the roll and did the our mundane classroom maintenance tasks. In confronting student reticence about the relevance of reading today's newspaper in a World or American History course, I would respond that if I could not connect what was on the front page of the paper to what we were studying, I would not have them read the front page of the newspaper anymore.

26

03 2010

Social Promotion Vs Retention

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Dr. Shane R. Jimerson of the University of California at Santa Barbara, seems to have spent a considerable portion of his professional life studying the companion issues of grade retention and social promotion to see if either approach is better than the other in helping to assure ultimate student success. After a cursory view of the data he has gathered on his website, one comes to the conclusion that there is not a nickels worth of difference between the two failed approaches that have shown little or no success over the years in turning around students who for one reason or another have been allowed to fall behind their peer group in school without appropriate intervention. Professor Jimerson, "encourages researchers, educational professionals, and legislators to abandon the debate regarding social promotion and grade retention in favor of a more productive course of action in the new millennium."

25

03 2010

The Illusion Of A Teachers' Union

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Throughout my life I have always been a supporter of unions, although I have never been the member of a union that really looked out for its rank-and-file. As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I was a member of the projectionists union, Local 150 of the IATSE, which had the distinction of turning down a cost of living increase. When I drove cab in New York, our union was headed by an electrician who had never driven a cab. And now as a teacher, I am a member of UTLA, which is headed by staff and administration that will never see the inside of a classroom again and whose president A.J. Duffy controls access to the UTLA newspaper, so that rank-and-file are unable to express their ideas.

24

03 2010

The 'Jihad' Against Diversity In Education

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Last Monday, March 16, 2010, radio and podcast Democracy Now with Amy Goodman spent an hour with Debbie Almontaser, the former principal of the Kahlil Gabran International Academy in Brooklyn, New York. Almontaser was forced out of her position  in 2007 by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott upon orders of Mayor Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg succumbed to pressure from bigots in New York and elsewhere who had launched a smear campaign against Principal Almontaser

Executive Director At PALI Charter Resigns

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Amy Dresser-Held has announced that she is leaving Palisades Charter High School in June of this year for a start up charter. She was initially given the position by a Pali Board of Directors that included her father-in-law Richard Held and his business partner Jim Suhr in what remains an undisclosed conflict of interest that should have disqualified them in this selection process. Now somebody else gets to clean up the mess she left behind.

Detroit To Ban Social Promotion... Unless It Costs Too Much

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Detroit, which already has a $219 million deficit is about to find out if the social promotion issue can be effectively addressed. Detroit Public Schools "Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb signed an executive order Friday immediately banning teachers from passing students who are not proficient at their grade level to the next grade -- to the outrage of Detroit school board members who called it a political ploy in the midst of a court battle between Bobb and the board over academic control of the district. It is estimated that Bobb's edict will effect 20,000 students...nearly a quarter of the district's 84,600 students."

Prez Of Detroit Public Schools Can't Write A Coherent Sentence

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The president of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS), Otis Mathis, is condemned to "waging a legal battle to steer the academic future of 90,000 children, in the nation's lowest-achieving big city district," without himself having the basic English language skills that would make his job a whole lot easier. Mr.Mathis "acknowledges he has difficulty composing a coherent English sentence". Unlike many of his counterparts, Mathis never had the possibility to address his deficits in even a moderately rigorous educational environment. He got through college by simply waiting out the system until the graduation requirement for minimal English competence was dropped. The following is an example of one of his emails to colleagues...
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18

03 2010

The LA Compact Gives A 'Dollop' Of Hope

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If the Los Angeles Compact's public education reform proposals that Professor Charles Kerchner talks about in his Huffington Post article or any other proposed public education reform has any chance of bringing a "dollop of hope" to public education, it must concentrate on causal factors of present public education failure and not monitoring the effects one at a time after the fact when the horse is already out of the barn. The "parochialism and pettiness" will not be stopped unless the soil in which it has flourished for generations is treated to make it toxic for such counter productive behavior.

17

03 2010

Revisionist History 101: Texas Edition

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The mistake that most intelligent people make is failing to factor into their logic the transitory nature of almost everything we encounter during our brief sojourn on the face of the earth. An Indian Rajah once asked his wise man for an answer to all the thorny problems that constantly plagued him, to which the wise man responded, "And this too will pass." This is not just true of our problems, but it is also true for the wealth of human knowledge that countless generations of homo sapiens have acquired since the dawn of their existence in Africa about 1 million years ago. Can someone tell that to the school board in Texas?

Bill Maher Takes On The Rhode Island Firings (Video)

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It is the simplistic thinking of poorly educated bureaucrats that seems incapable of the intellectual rigor necessary to analyze and propose a well thought out program that has even the remotest chance of being successful. Bill Maher, somebody who does not suffer from these infirmities of thought process, trained his wit on the absurdity of just one aspect of what these intellectually challenged education reform wannabes saw as the reason for failing public education and annihilated them. For him, the thought of laying all the responsibility at the foot of the teaching profession is a "comprehensive education solution from completely ignorant people."

A Quick Word On School (Fore)closures

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As a moderately well-educated remnant of the bygone LAUSD era of the 1950s and 60s, I always try to rationalize what I read in the news to see if I can make sense of what initially appears to be a contradictory 2010 American reality. In reading an article yesterday morning in the Los Angeles Times in which a Kansas City superintendent says closing half its schools is painful but the 'right thing to do' I immediately tried to put this event in a global and historical context that might allow us to make the best of what initially seems to be a bad situation.

Feds Wonder Why LAUSD Students Can't Do Anything In Proper English

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As I write this post, I am cautiously optimistic that at least one major aspect of fraud and malfeasance at LAUSD might finally be addressed by the Civil Rights Office of the federal Department of Education. After Secretary of Education and President Obama made speeches and appearances on how existing civil rights laws would be used to gain compliance from districts like LAUSD that have little concrete results to show in dealing with their predominantly Latino and African American population, I didn't expect that they would move so fast.

11

03 2010

The Four Day School Week (Or When Thursday Becomes The New Friday)

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I sure hope ignorance is bliss, because the awareness that comes from being educated creates nothing but pain when confronted on a daily basis with the short-sighted thinking that is rapidly sending this country up a certain creek without a paddle. The latest panacea for fixing education -- in what more and more seems akin to the way one fixes a dog -- is to have a 4 day school week to balance the budget of many school districts throughout the country. As yet this hasn't been proposed by Superintendent Cortines at LAUSD, but it is early yet and the $640 million shortfall this year is only a harbinger of the cuts already being proposed for the next two years.

Nuggets? Fries? Pizza? School Lunches Are Doing More Harm Than Good...

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On several recent posts and comments to people have wondered how our view of public education might differ from that which is presently being proposed. While a variety of our prior posts have given major dos and don'ts of such a viable plan for education reform, today I would like to take a microcosm look at only one aspect of what should go on in an American public school that would have a profound effect on the students being educated, even though it is not normally given the important place it should have in a discussion of school reform.

Where Does Reform Go From Here?

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We have about as much chance of fixing public education in this country with the mass firing of teachers and administrators in Rhode Island and elsewhere as we would if we threw a virgin into a volcano. This type of post hoc fallacy thinking would rather create a causal relationship between teachers and student failure, then look at the immutable structure of all public education reform over the last 100 years that fails to address the underlying student problems and deficits that are brought to the system. In listening to President Obama's endorsing of Rhode Island's simplistic pogrom-like solution to solve its public education problem, he fails to take into account that the town of Central Falls, like many of our educational failing communities in Los Angeles, was "one of the poorest districts in Rhode Island" long before the teachers did their level best to try and fix it.

Today's Protests: All The Info + Thoughts

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EVERYTHING you need to know about today's protests. LOCATIONS, RALLY TIMES, MAPS and FLYERS as well as thoughts and advice.

How Testing And Choice Are Undermining Education

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In what more and more appears like a reverse Renaissance -- aka self-inflicted Dark Ages -- those in power seem to be seeking the destruction of public education, so that the reflective thought necessary to question and hold accountable the greedy leadership of this country will no longer exist. In The Death and Life of the Great American School System - How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch concisely analyzes the very real threat to a viable constitutional democracy that consciously chooses to vest power in an educated citizenry. Beyond the strength of the arguments she makes in questioning the much touted educational reform we constantly hear about in the media is the fact that this politically conservative educator is coming up with the same critiques that politically progressive people have leveled at constantly changing public education reforms that never seem to come to fruition in any measurable way, except in the profits that these reforms seem to generate for everyone except the students.