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Modern School

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Member since: Sun Dec 12, 2010, 01:09 PM
Number of posts: 794

Journal Archives

CA Re-rewrites Textbooks to Eliminate Propaganda By Plastics Industry

Portions of an 11th grade science textbook in California had been lifted directly from comments submitted by the American Chemistry Council that were very favorable to the Plastics Industry, according to a new report by California Watch. While this is hardly new or unusual (private industry has always been a major influence on curricula and textbooks), what is unusual is that the state of California has stepped in to fix the biased chapter.

Last year, a California Watch investigation found that whole sections of the 11th-grade teachers’ edition guide had been copied almost exactly from comments submitted by the American Chemistry Council. Soon after, the head of state schools Tom Torlakson issued a statement saying his office would work with CalEPA to examine and review the material.

The new chapter fixes problems with a section that was originally titled, “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags.” Overall it incorporates 33 changes, including more recent and accurate recycling statistics and other changes to the text. One example from the original version suggested that Californians recycled their plastic bags at a rate of 12%, a number high enough that it should have raised eyebrows. The new version provides state estimates that are closer to 3%.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/ca-re-rewrites-textbooks-to-eliminate.html
Posted by Modern School | Thu May 10, 2012, 10:24 PM (1 replies)

LAUSD’s Rubber Room for Victims of Abuse Hysteria

Following the January arrest of former teacher Mark Berndt, who was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct in the classroom, the entire staff was fired at Miramonte Elementary School, in Los Angeles. Last week, at least 40 displaced teachers and staff members rallied outside Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles, the “Rubber Room” where they have reported for the past three months while awaiting reassignment. (Hawkins High is not currently in operation). More than 150 students and parents also joined the demonstration.


Superintendent John Deasy said he was replacing the staff to restore confidence in the school. Yet only 2 staff members have been charged or even accused of misconduct. Teachers at the rally expressed anger and frustration at having “been publicly punished and humiliated for the alleged acts of one person," according to the Los Angeles times. Another teacher said, "I no longer tell people I'm a teacher. Until very recently, I was proud to be one."


In a particularly disturbing consequence of the mass firing, staff members who are also parents of Miramonte students have not been allowed on campus to drop off or pick up their children, or to meet with a teacher during school hours.


In related news, a lawsuit was filed this week against LAUSD for negligence on behalf of 20 former Miramonte students (see LA Times Blogs). The lawsuit claims the district did not do enough to protect students who had complained about inappropriate teacher behavior and that it ignored student allegations. Berndt’s personnel records contained no records of prior sexual abuse allegations, despite the fact that there were at least four past sex abuse allegations against him prior to the most recent case. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports that LAUSD has no record that it ever conducted an internal investigation.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/lausds-rubber-room-for-victims-of-abuse.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed May 9, 2012, 09:45 PM (2 replies)

The Pendulum of Stupidity: All Reforms Lead to Broken Schools

I’ve written a lot about the Common Core Standards movement recently and its corporate benefactors (click here, here and here). Anthony Cody just published a wonderful interview with Yong Zhao (Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon) on the topic. Rather than republish the entire interview (you can click here http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/05/yong_zhao_common_core.html to read it) I’d just like to reprint two choice quotes:

What will be different five years from now if the current plans go forward?

Yong Zhao: It's always dangerous to predict the future. But if history is any indication, judging from the accomplishment of NCLB and Race-to-the Top, I would say that five years from now, American education will still be said to be broken and obsolete. We will find out that the Common Core Standards, after billions of dollars, millions of hours of teacher time, and numerous PD sessions, alignment task forces, is not the cure to American's education ill. Worse yet, we will likely have most of nation's schools teaching to the common tests aligned with the Common Core. As a result, we will see a further narrowing of the curriculum and educational experiences. Whatever innovative teaching that has not been completely lost in the schools may finally be gone. And then we will have a nation of students, teachers, and schools who are compliant with the Common Core Standards, but we may not have much else left.

Some argue that without a single high bar, we will continue to leave poor and minority students behind. How would you respond?

Yong Zhao: The lack of a "single bar" is never the cause of the problem in the first place. There is plenty of evidence to show that our poor and minority students have been left behind is because they are poor and minority--a social justice and racial issue that must be addressed by the whole society and government at all levels. For example, we know the early years matter a lot but our poor and minority children are not in schools until they are five or six years old. That is, even if a "single bar" mattered, it would be too late. After they begin school, they spend most of their time outside school, in impoverished homes and neighborhoods. More importantly, past experiences show that state level standards and assessment have not improved the educational outcomes of poor and minority students.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/pendulum-of-stupidity-all-reforms-lead.html
Posted by Modern School | Wed May 9, 2012, 09:44 PM (4 replies)

Teacher Strike Vote in San Francisco

Members of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union representing San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) teachers, are set to vote this week on whether to authorize a strike, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. The district is demanding a $30 million cut to teachers’ salaries and benefits over the next two years. UESF wants a 2% pay increase and says the district is sitting on an $80 million surplus.

Less than a week ago, the district declared an impasse in their contract negotiations. The 6,000-member UESF will take the first of two required strike votes this Thursday. Even though there are only three weeks left in the school year, UESF President Dennis Kelly said there is still time to strike. Indeed, a strike at the end of the year could be particularly effective, as it could delay or prevent the issuance of grades and report cards.

Like other districts throughout the state, SFUSD is crying “Uncertainty,” and claiming that any surplus is needed as insurance.

It is true that K-12 education faces $5 billion in cuts if voters reject the governor’s tax initiative in November. It is also true that even if the initiative does pass, SFUSD will still receive the same anemic funding it did during this school year. What is not clear is the veracity of the district’s claim that the failure of the tax initiative would result in $80 million in losses to SFUSD.

Squeezing Blood From Turnips
Even if the district’s claims are accurate, there is no justification for making further cuts since, by their own math, they would need only $80 million to cover the losses caused by the possible failure of the tax initiative (and only $30 million to cover teachers’ salaries, a sum they most definitely have in reserve). Nevertheless, their current contract proposal demands that teachers accept four additional furlough days for each of the next two years, even if the tax initiative does pass. (This would add $7 million to the district’s surplus), while Superintendent Garcia wants an additional five furlough days each year if the tax increase fails in November.

The austerity does not end there. Sup. Garcia wants to eliminate sabbaticals and the extra prep periods currently offered to Advanced Placement teachers, which would save the district another $3.5 million. The district has called for a reduction in teacher training, to save another $3.1 million. And it wants to cut pay and health benefits for full-time substitutes, which would save another $1 million. The district also wants to increase K-3 class sizes from 22 to 25.

Strike Early, Strike Often
San Francisco teachers (indeed most teachers) have made so many concessions over the past few years that there is virtually nothing left to give. Their union has argued that the concessions would save jobs or keep conditions close to the status quo. In reality, it has resulted in a downward spiral in pay, benefits and working conditions for teachers and a concomitant decline in learning conditions for students, with increasing class sizes and declining services, course offerings, librarians, nurses and counselors.

There have been very few significant teacher strikes in the past thirty years. As a result, school districts have grown more aggressive in their demands and tactics. They have become accustomed to the unions making compromises, giving concessions and accepting austerity in exchange for jobs and labor “peace.”

During this same time period, the locals’ parent organizations (AFT and NEA) have increasingly focused their resources and energy on political campaigns, often at the expense of organizing and the promotion of strikes.

The time has come for unions to start taking a harder line. It is time to start thinking of strikes as something potentially positive (since they are the most effective way of achieving improvements in working and living conditions), rather than something to be feared and avoided. While strikes may be risky and bad for students in the short term, they also have the ability to slow down and even reverse trends that are bad for students in the long term.

Strikes also have the ability to beget more strikes by inspiring workers in other districts or even in other industries. During the past few decades of increasing union-management collaboration and declining labor militancy, bosses had no reason to take seriously the threat of a strike. In contrast, when bosses start to see an increase in strikes, they understand that workers are becoming more aggressive and militant and they start to take their demands more seriously. If enough teachers unions go on strike at the same time, they can start to pressure the state, as well as their districts. In fact, a state-wide General Strike of public sector workers may be the most effective tactic for achieving a sufficient increase in taxes necessary to adequately fund schools, health, safety and other public services.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-strike-vote-in-san-francisco.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 8, 2012, 08:20 PM (1 replies)

Teacher Strike Vote in San Francisco

Members of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union representing San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) teachers, are set to vote this week on whether to authorize a strike, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. The district is demanding a $30 million cut to teachers’ salaries and benefits over the next two years. UESF wants a 2% pay increase and says the district is sitting on an $80 million surplus.

Less than a week ago, the district declared an impasse in their contract negotiations. The 6,000-member UESF will take the first of two required strike votes this Thursday. Even though there are only three weeks left in the school year, UESF President Dennis Kelly said there is still time to strike. Indeed, a strike at the end of the year could be particularly effective, as it could delay or prevent the issuance of grades and report cards.

Like other districts throughout the state, SFUSD is crying “Uncertainty,” and claiming that any surplus is needed as insurance.

It is true that K-12 education faces $5 billion in cuts if voters reject the governor’s tax initiative in November. It is also true that even if the initiative does pass, SFUSD will still receive the same anemic funding it did during this school year. What is not clear is the veracity of the district’s claim that the failure of the tax initiative would result in $80 million in losses to SFUSD.

Squeezing Blood From Turnips
Even if the district’s claims are accurate, there is no justification for making further cuts since, by their own math, they would need only $80 million to cover the losses caused by the possible failure of the tax initiative (and only $30 million to cover teachers’ salaries, a sum they most definitely have in reserve). Nevertheless, their current contract proposal demands that teachers accept four additional furlough days for each of the next two years, even if the tax initiative does pass. (This would add $7 million to the district’s surplus), while Superintendent Garcia wants an additional five furlough days each year if the tax increase fails in November.

The austerity does not end there. Sup. Garcia wants to eliminate sabbaticals and the extra prep periods currently offered to Advanced Placement teachers, which would save the district another $3.5 million. The district has called for a reduction in teacher training, to save another $3.1 million. And it wants to cut pay and health benefits for full-time substitutes, which would save another $1 million. The district also wants to increase K-3 class sizes from 22 to 25.

Strike Early, Strike Often
San Francisco teachers (indeed most teachers) have made so many concessions over the past few years that there is virtually nothing left to give. Their union has argued that the concessions would save jobs or keep conditions close to the status quo. In reality, it has resulted in a downward spiral in pay, benefits and working conditions for teachers and a concomitant decline in learning conditions for students, with increasing class sizes and declining services, course offerings, librarians, nurses and counselors.

There have been very few significant teacher strikes in the past thirty years. As a result, school districts have grown more aggressive in their demands and tactics. They have become accustomed to the unions making compromises, giving concessions and accepting austerity in exchange for jobs and labor “peace.”

During this same time period, the locals’ parent organizations (AFT and NEA) have increasingly focused their resources and energy on political campaigns, often at the expense of organizing and the promotion of strikes.

The time has come for unions to start taking a harder line. It is time to start thinking of strikes as something potentially positive (since they are the most effective way of achieving improvements in working and living conditions), rather than something to be feared and avoided. While strikes may be risky and bad for students in the short term, they also have the ability to slow down and even reverse trends that are bad for students in the long term.

Strikes also have the ability to beget more strikes by inspiring workers in other districts or even in other industries. During the past few decades of increasing union-management collaboration and declining labor militancy, bosses had no reason to take seriously the threat of a strike. In contrast, when bosses start to see an increase in strikes, they understand that workers are becoming more aggressive and militant and they start to take their demands more seriously. If enough teachers unions go on strike at the same time, they can start to pressure the state, as well as their districts. In fact, a state-wide General Strike of public sector workers may be the most effective tactic for achieving a sufficient increase in taxes necessary to adequately fund schools, health, safety and other public services.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/teacher-strike-vote-in-san-francisco.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 8, 2012, 08:20 PM (1 replies)

Paying to Play: How Financial Institutions Rip Off School Districts

The left has criticized attempts to privatize public education for years now, especially since No Child Left Behind took privatization to new heights. (See my own No Capitalist Left Behind and NCLB’s Biggest Winners).

During the last 10 years, we’ve seen an escalation in the number of for-profit charter schools. Obama’s Race to the Top required states to transfer billions of tax dollars to textbook publishers and open their doors to more charter schools. Cafeteria services are now dominated by just a few large corporations like Sodexo that rip off school districts and abuse their workers (see here, here and here).

No Capitalist Left Behind (The Prequel)
Yet corporate raiders have had their eyes on the public trough well before NCLB and they had numerous tricks up their sleeves for obtaining public education tax dollars. One of these has been to constantly lobby for lower taxes for the wealthy and their corporations, which keeps money in the pockets of the ruling elite and decreases revenues available for schools.

In addition to the direct benefit to the wealthy, this also provides lucrative opportunities for financial institutions to take advantage of school districts as they increasingly rely on bonds to finance their operations. According to a California Watch report (covered in the San Francisco Chronicle), financial firms donated $1.8 million to school bond measures in California over the past five years. In nearly every case, school district officials turned around and hired those same underwriters to sell the bonds for a profit.

The practice occurs nationwide and probably occurred well before the current financial crisis and even before the passage of NCLB. However, it is especially distinct in California, where underwriters gave 155 political contributions since 2007 to successful school bond campaigns. They have been so successful that only 5 donors (out of 111 successful bond measures) failed to receive a bond-selling contract from the school district (and in 4 of these cases, a competitor that also donated to the campaign did win the contract).

This is a clear cut case of “paying to play.” You donate a modest amount of money to get the bond measure passed and a virtual guarantee of being able to profit handsomely from it once it does pass. However, it is legal and all parties seem to be content with the arrangement.

School districts are forbidden from using their own resources to promote a bond measure, so they rely heavily on outsiders (including unions, parents, developers and construction companies) to do the promotion for them. Since they are almost always desperate for the funds provided by the bond, any help getting it passed is considered a blessing. Yet having prearranged contracts with underwriters eliminates competitive bidding and makes it unlikely that districts are getting the best deal available.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/paying-to-play-how-financial.html
Posted by Modern School | Tue May 8, 2012, 08:19 PM (1 replies)

Who Is Profiting From the Common Core Standards?

Common Core Standards (CCS) is one of the fastest growing Ed Deforms, with over 30 states already having adopted them in hopes of winning relatively small Race to the Top grants from the Obama administration. The basis for the “reform” is the presumption that all U.S. children should be learning the same things and all American teachers should be accountable for teaching the same things.

While this might seem a no brainer, it turns out that standards were already fairly consistent between states. On the other hand, imposing rigid standards stifles academic freedom, reduces opportunities for “teachable moments” and addressing student-generated questions, and it has a tendency to promote broad, superficial learning at the expense of critical thinking, creativity and learning material in depth.

Like most “reforms,” CCS is also a cash cow for corporate education profiteers like the textbook publishers (districts must buy new books to accommodate the new standards) and test publishers (who design and sell the new tests to districts adopting the CCS). It has also opened the door for consultants and others who hope to make a fortune training teachers and administrators how to work within the new CCS.

CCS: A Cash Cow For Corporate Education Raiders
David Coleman is one of these consultants (see Schools Matter and Susan Ohanian) and the “chief architect” of CCS. Like many of the most well-known Ed Deformers (e.g., Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Walton Family, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Mike Bloomberg), Coleman had virtually no real experience in the classroom. In fact, according to Schools Matter, his only pedagogical experience was a little tutoring he did while an undergrad at Yale, where he studied English. After this, he went on to work in business, making a lot of money with the Grow Network, which was bought by McGraw-Hill in 2005. In 2007 he left McGraw-Hill and co-founded the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, which played a leading role in creating the Common Core Standards. He now leads Student Achievement Partners in their work helping teachers and policymakers to implement the Common Core State Standards.

CCS: Creating Passive and Compliant Workers and Consumers
Ohanian and Schools Matter both rail against Coleman’s crackpot ideas, like his claim that no one really “gives a shit about what you feel or what you think.” Thus, he argues, schools need to deemphasize fiction and rid themselves of the notion that students should critique texts or speculate about them, since no one gives a shit about what they think anyway. Therefore, he argues that the teacher’s job is to keep kids on the text, as if the text was some sort of pure Truth, closed to interpretation or criticism. This, he insists, is what will make children competitive in the Global Market.

In reality, this is what will further stifle their ability to think for themselves and kill their enjoyment of learning. However, this may indeed make them more competitive in the Global Marketplace since the majority of jobs will be low wage service sector jobs that do not require great levels of initiative, creativity or critical thought. It will also encourage passivity and servility, traits that are much sought after by employers.

CCS: A Trojan Horse for Union Busting?
If Coleman’s predictions come true and teachers become mindless servants of the “texts” and the “standards,” CCS will hasten the deskilling of teachers, making them even cheaper and more replaceable. Why bother with 2 years of graduate school when the teacher’s job is merely to test students on the absolute truth of the texts which have been created by the all-knowing experts at McGraw-Hill and Pearson?

This will surely reduce the teacher shortage, since anyone with a four-year degree can stand in front of a bunch of kids and tell them to read the passage on page 41 and answer the review questions at the end. It will also solve districts’ budget problems since a bunch of automatons are a lot cheaper than a bunch of unionized professionals.

One might be inclined to call me bombastic or paranoid. Yet the unions have mostly rolled over and let CCS pass in their states without a word of caution or protest. Many have actively collaborated with their governors or legislatures to get CCS passed, not only because of their desperation for some of the federal RttT crumbs being waved before their faces by the Obama Administration, but also because their typical response to almost any criticism of education is that that it must be correct and therefore, as professionals, we must lead the mob. The California Teachers Association was certainly in this category.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/who-is-profiting-from-common-core.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon May 7, 2012, 09:28 PM (0 replies)

Trial Ends, Rotenberg Center Will Continue Shocking Students

A lawsuit against the Judge Rotenberg Education Center (JRC), in Canton, MA, came to a close on April 24. The lawsuit was filed by Cheryl McCollins, whose autistic son, Andre, was shocked 31 times over the course of several hours at the school.

The Rotenberg Center is a “special needs” school that openly uses “aversion” therapy, including electric shocks, to discipline its students. According to a former teacher at the school (who has started a Change.org petition to end the practice), teachers are instructed to shock students for infractions as insignificant as closing their eyes while at their desks, tearing an empty cup, or standing up when asking to use the rest room.

JRC’s website says that aversion therapy is only used when positive therapies have failed and only with parental, medical, psychiatric and human rights approval. Then, students are equipped with wired backpacks which teachers can activate to deliver shocks when desired. A 2007 expose in Mother Jones found that half of the school’s 234 students were wired for electroshocks. JRC is the only facility in the nation that disciplines students with electroshocks.

JRC, which charges parents $220,000 per year, has 900 employees and annual revenues in excess of $56 million. The school has been around for 36 years and, in that time, 6 of its wards have died, prompting numerous lawsuits.

The terms of the most recent settlement were not disclosed, according to the Boston Herald, but the McCollins family was presumably offered money, while the school did not admit any guilt and will be allowed to continue the “therapies,” which it continues to maintain are beneficial for some students.

The state of Massachusetts has twice tried to shut the facility down, according to the MoJo expose. Each time, parents rallied to the school’s defense and it prevailed in court. Several parents interviewed by MoJo not only approved of the shock therapy, but carry shock activators on them to use against their children when they come home to visit, arguing that they are no longer afraid of their children and that the therapy has helped them.

Child Abuse Mills
JRC was created in 1971 by Dr. Matt Israel, who was inspired by work of behaviorist B. F. Skinner. In 1977, he partnered up with Judy Weber, whose son Tobin is severely autistic, to found a sister school in California’s San Fernando Valley. In 1982, the California Department of Social Services filed a 64-page complaint against the school for numerous incidents of child abuse and the school ultimately agreed to stop using “physical” punishments.

The school is still in operation and has been renamed Tobinworld—a $10 million-per-year operation running day schools near Los Angeles and San Francisco. While Israel is no longer directly involved in Tobinworld, he still considers it to be a sister organization, which seems only fair since he recently married Weber.

Israel was forced to step down as head of JRC in 2011 to avoid a prison term for misleading a jury, destroying video evidence and for wrongfully administering electroshocks to two students at JRC.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/trial-ends-rotenberg-center-will.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon May 7, 2012, 09:26 PM (8 replies)

CSU Faculty Approve Largest University Strike In U.S. History


In April, the Faculty Union of the California State University system began the strike authorization process. The votes are finally in: 70% of the organization’s 12,501 members voted and 95% of them said yes to a two-day rolling strike at the university’s 23 campuses, should negotiations break down again, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. The strike would most likely occur at the beginning of the Fall, 2012, semester.

The union represents over 23,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches. About 54% of them are dues-paying members, but they all will be represented by the new contract, which would make it the largest university strike in U.S. history.

The union and the university have been haggling for 22 months with little sign of an accord on the horizon. The faculty is asking for an infinitesimal 1% pay increase, which might not even cover cost of living increases. They are also asking for greater control over class sizes and increased job protections for faculty working under temporary contracts.

Administrators and regents are, not surprisingly, crying poverty and pointing to the state’s yearly multi-billion dollar deficits. Indeed, CSU’s budget was slashed by $750 million this fiscal year and is looking at another $200-million cut next year if voters do not approve a tax initiative on this November’s ballot. Yet the regents have had no problem finding the resources to give 10% raises to many university administrators, including a 25% ($100,000) raise to SDSU’s new president.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/csu-faculty-approve-largest-university.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon May 7, 2012, 09:25 PM (0 replies)

CSU Faculty Approve Largest University Strike In U.S. History

In April, the Faculty Union of the California State University system began the strike authorization process. The votes are finally in: 70% of the organization’s 12,501 members voted and 95% of them said yes to a two-day rolling strike at the university’s 23 campuses, should negotiations break down again, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. The strike would most likely occur at the beginning of the Fall, 2012, semester.

The union represents over 23,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches. About 54% of them are dues-paying members, but they all will be represented by the new contract, which would make it the largest university strike in U.S. history.

The union and the university have been haggling for 22 months with little sign of an accord on the horizon. The faculty is asking for an infinitesimal 1% pay increase, which might not even cover cost of living increases. They are also asking for greater control over class sizes and increased job protections for faculty working under temporary contracts.

Administrators and regents are, not surprisingly, crying poverty and pointing to the state’s yearly multi-billion dollar deficits. Indeed, CSU’s budget was slashed by $750 million this fiscal year and is looking at another $200-million cut next year if voters do not approve a tax initiative on this November’s ballot. Yet the regents have had no problem finding the resources to give 10% raises to many university administrators, including a 25% ($100,000) raise to SDSU’s new president.

Modern School
http://modeducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/csu-faculty-approve-largest-university.html
Posted by Modern School | Mon May 7, 2012, 09:24 PM (0 replies)
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