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Member since: Sun Jul 11, 2004, 07:58 PM
Number of posts: 39,405

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THIS AMERICAN LIFE: When education "reform" killed a good public school

From Diane Ravitch:

A reader remembers an important radio program about school reform. Listen up.

The strike in Chicago reminded me of an episode of This American Life from 2004, 10 years after “school reform” began in Chicago. It tells the story of one amazing public school that did a lot with very little. When “reform” began, the school culture deteriorated. This is a very moving account, and worth an hour to listen.

I have been writing This American Life to do a follow up to this story, or perhaps a series of episodes on school reform. I encourage the readers to do the same.



If you haven't heard the show, it is rarely political, but when it is, its storytelling style delivers a powerful emotional punch.

I didn't really get why people were upset about Hurricane Katrina beyond any other natural disaster until I heard their episode on it--then I copied it and sent it to my friends and family.

Ira Glass is like the Mr. Rogers, zen master Michael Moore.

It might help if we contacted THIS AMERICAN LIFE and asked them to do a follow up or at least rebroadcast given the timeliness with the strike. It's episode 275 Two Steps Back

email address: web@thislife.org

Twitter: @ThisAmerLife for Chicago teachers strike replay ep. 275: Two Steps Back about a good school undone by "reform."

Is it just me or is the response the right seems to want in Libya that we bomb the shit

out of the rebels we just helped put in power there?

I didn't even agree with backing that revolution, but it seems like the only response conservatives can imagine is collective punishment (ie mass murder) of people either the same religion, ethnicity, or both of the attackers.

Just realized, on foreign policy, Obama speaks softly & carries a big stick. Romney...

blusters constantly and steps on his dick.

UK GUARDIAN: The Chicago strike is typical of American politicians' war on teachers

The Chicago teachers' strike is barely a day old, and the teacher-bashing is already well underway with great gusto.

As you may have heard, these teachers are greedy, lazy bullies who are holding kids hostage in their mad lust for power. Their choice of profession is not at all motivated by an interest in child betterment, but entirely by the obscenely lavish salaries they receive – some even approaching those of skilled jobs that actually contribute to the public good, like sales managers and insurance underwriters. All this at – never forget – taxpayers' expense. Even liberal bloggers warn that this strike will leave children forever scarred and ruin their future earnings, or at least their test scores.

Teachers might respond that they're not striking over money: both the teachers' union and the school board acknowledge the two sides are close to agreement on wages. They might point out that their demands that are the real sticking points – smaller class sizes and air-conditioned classrooms – are entirely reasonable things most parents also want for their kids. Or they might point out that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's key demand to tie teacher evaluations to student test performance reflects a bureaucratic zeal to replace more and more of the curriculum with standardized tests (one Chicago teacher says 18 to 25 days of the school year are already lost to testing) – an ethos and aim that many parents, and certainly most students, do not share.

Then, at a certain point, teachers' unions woke up to find their favorability rating hovering somewhere between al-Qaida's and herpes. This didn't happen overnight, but a confluence of state budget crises, urban blight and suburban flight, a well-funded school reform movement and private charter school industry created the need for a scapegoat for bad public schools. Could it be their financing structure, dependent locally on grossly unequal property tax revenues? Or their unaccountable school boards, such as the one appointed by Rahm Emanuel? Might poverty and unemployment not be to blame? The drug economy? Poor parenting?
No, none of the above. It's teachers and their pesky insistence that they know how best to educate kids simply because they spend most of the day with them.


Should Obama & Dems back striking Chicago teachers or corporate ed "reformers" & Rahm?

Top Democrats have tried to have it both ways on education: give what they want to the corporate "reformers" who want to prove public schools are failing with endless standardized testing as an excuse to privatize public schools so they can skim our tax dollars as profits on the one hand, and keep teachers in the tent by funding ed at a higher level than republicans would and even budgeting money to keep teachers from being fired on the other.

But they can't have it both ways forever. They are either going to screw teachers and students to get that corporate cash, or side with those who signed up for a job with no expectation of getting rich, but just wanted to teach kids and be able to support their family. The latter also happen to be loyal voters and foot soldiers for the Democratic Party.

Education has broader implications too: it is part of the trend of merging corporation and state, with the corporate governance model of one dollar one vote instead of one person one vote dominating.

That the president's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is a point man for the privatizers in Chicago, shows the cancer on the Democratic Party of trying to be the OTHER corporate party instead of a real alternative to the GOP.

I want a real alternative, and it's time for Democrats in office and candidates to decide if they are going to provide it.

Which side should Obama and Democratic politicians take?

LA school board members asks why privatized charter schools aren't held accountable

You know something is fishy when the same people who insist on testing regular public schools every other week, and using the results as an excuse to fire teachers or even close schools don't seem to care much about how their preferred replacements are doing.

They could save everyone a lot of time and trouble and just let public school teachers "innovate" the way they allow charter schools to, and save the micromanaging for professionals who need it, like the sociopaths on Wall Street.

Zimmer has the temerity to ask where the charter movement is going in Los Angeles. What is the end game? Who is looking out for the 86% of students who are not in charters? What are the consequences of "co-location" (i.e., giving charters free space in a public school, taking classrooms, facilities and resources away from the public school students)?


Zimmer points out that the 232 charters in the city of Los Angeles enroll 14.5% of the district's students, yet the board approves charters without more than five minutes of deliberations.

Only 7 of the city's 232 charters participate in the LAUSD data system, making it hard to know who they are serving and what they are doing.

He notes that charters are supposed to be incubators of innovation, yet they share nothing with public schools, and the board has no process by which to evaluate and share any best practices incubated in charters.


Why Bill Clinton spoke and Baby Bush didn't: impeachment polls

This got more hits than anything else on my blog when I originally ran it.


Was it just me or was there more policy substance in Michelle Obama's speech than Mitt Romney's?

yes it was mostly biographical, but she made real points about equal pay and student loans.

Romney was quite a bit more general.

Maybe he accidentally read his wife's speech again.


It's pretty sad that someone has to imagine a Democratic president needing to say these words, even sadder that it is unlikely to happen.

If these words aren't said though, every teacher is going to wonder why they bother to vote when both parties treat them like punching bags and their students as so many pork bellies big campaign donors are champing at the bit to privatize so they can drain our tax dollars into their profits.

I'd like to vote for a president who is right on this issue instead of being just slightly better than the alternative.

“You know that I have spoken out repeatedly against teaching to the test. I would not want this for my children, and you should not want it for yours or the children in your care. This is mis-education.

“Our country is now spending billons of dollars on testing and test preparation that should be spent in the classrooms of America, bringing back the 300,000 teachers who lost their jobs. reducing class sizes, restoring libraries, and providing services directly to children.


“One more thing. I realize that we were wrong to require states to allow more privately-managed schools as a condition of getting money from the Race to the Top.

“Through our mistakes, we inadvertently unleashed a movement to privatize our nation’s public schools and to turn them into for-profit centers for equity investors and technology corporations..."

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