Tag: Arne Duncan

School Reform’s Time for Choosing

When will Eva Moskowitz disavow her association with the Trump Administration? That is a question. When will Betsy DeVos resign as Secretary of Education? That is also a question. Will…

When will Eva Moskowitz disavow her association with the Trump Administration? That is a question. When will Betsy DeVos resign as Secretary of Education? That is also a question. Will other reformers join Teach For America’s Elisa Villanueva Beard, former Secretaries of Education John King and Arne Duncan, and Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jeffries and call out the President of the United States for his bigotry? That question also lurks at the surface.

But the biggest question of all for school reformers who have defended working with this regime in any way is this: What will they do now after the current occupant of the White House made clear yesterday that he is an ally of bigot who want to harm the futures of poor and minority children? After Donald Trump’s defense of Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists, now is what Ronald Reagan would call a time for choosing. All reformers must choose morally and wisely if they want to truly be champions for all children.

As you already know, the demagogue who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doubled down on a false contention he made three days earlier that White Supremacists participating in last week’s terrorism in Charlottesville, Va. were only partly responsible for the violence that resulted.

The president ignored the facts: Unite the Right participant James Alex Fields’ hit-and-run murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring of other protesters. The assaults and other thuggery by other Neo-Nazis during the mayhem, including the beatdown of Deandre Harris in a parking garage. The evidence that the White Supremacists came to town with arsenals of guns and other weapons. The presence of White Supremacists and militiamen menacingly walking around with semi-automatic weapons in full view. Gun-toting bigots threatening a local synagogue. Instead, Trump went on a tirade that included comparing peaceful civil rights and Black Lives Matter activists to the violent bigots, as well as proclaiming that some of the United the Right protesters were “very fine people”.

The “very nice” bigots Trump talked about beat Deandre Harris during their protests — and murdered a woman as well.

Trump also claimed that the nighttime tiki torch-lit march held by the Unite the Right protesters the night before the rampage — a spectacle reminiscent of Klu Klux Klan rallies and Nazi Party rallies on the Nuremberg parade grounds — as “quiet” and peaceful. As his want, he failed to mention the overwhelming videotaped evidence that the bigots chanted “Death to Jews”, shouted homophobic slurs, loudly declared that White people wouldn’t be “left behind”, and surrounded a Black church where Black Lives Matter activists and others were preparing their counter-protests.

He went even further by expressing his opposition to efforts by civil rights activists and others to remove statues of Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee (whose statue in Charlottesville has been targeted for removal by city officials). Why? Because he believes that removing the statues of men who committed treason against this country in order to preserve slavery and oppression was akin to erasing the memory of Founding Fathers such as George Washington, who promoted the ideals of liberty and freedom despite their own moral failings in regards to Black people.

There has been plenty of outrage and condemnations of Trump’s latest statements. But let’s be clear: Nothing is shocking about Trump’s defense of bigotry. This is because he is a bigot himself.

Ever since he began his eventually successful campaign for president, Donald Trump has racked up a long and ignominious record of race-baiting, rank demagoguery and blunt anti-Semitism. This includes accusing Mexican immigrants, undocumented and legal, of being “rapists”; embracing conspiratorial rhetoric from the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion in a speech given a month before his victory; denigrating the family of a dead soldier who was also a Muslim; and accusing Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge presiding over a case involving one of his business of being biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.

Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz is among the reformers who must answer for their association with (or silence about) the Trump regime.

Since taking office, Trump has indulged his bigotry, often with the help of his appointees. This includes the executive orders banning Muslims from several countries from entering the country; to the repeal of the Obama Administration’s executive order requiring traditional districts and other public school operators to allow transgendered children to use bathrooms of the sex with which they identify; to the round-ups and deportations of undocumented immigrants who contribute greatly to the nation’s economy.

The president has also refused to back down from his nativist rhetoric. Last month, at a speech in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump took a page out of the bigoted white slavery rhetoric of a century ago by claiming that Mexican emigres were animals who wanted to take young women and “slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.”

Given his political record, his proud association with bigots — including Breitbart publisher and campaign manager-turned chief adviser Steve Bannon — and the laundry list of alleged racism that dates back to his days running his father’s real estate empire, there is nothing new about Trump’s defense of bigotry. No one should be shocked at this point. Because he has never been dishonest about his immorality.

The nice people Trump aided and comforted yesterday.

The real question lies with how all of us, especially for those in the school reform movement, will deal with Trump now. This matters because everything we do will be viewed now and in the future through how we confront him.

Certainly there have been plenty of reformers who have called out Trump’s bigotry and rank immorality. Jeffries, King, Duncan, along with Teach For America’s Elisa Villanueva Beard, Jonas Chartock of Leading Educators and charter school leaders such as Richard Barth of KIPP have admirably and consistently opposed the Trump Administration’s agenda. Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also wrote a rather touching piece on Monday that excoriated the bigotry, and announced today that he would no longer be a registered Republican.

But far too often, conservative reformers, school choice advocates and others within the movement have been silent in the face of the administration’s bigotry. The usually-voluble American Enterprise Institute education policy boss Frederick (Rick) Hess, who took time out of his day last month to rip apart a rather demagogic screed about school choice and racism from the usually-sensible (and pro-reform) Center for American Progress, has remained quiet about Trump’s rhetoric. So has Jeanne Allen of Center for Education Reform, who called out American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s equally rank demagoguery about choice.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (on right) is one of the reformers who have betrayed their commitment to children by joining common cause with Trump.

Others have been active collaborators with the regime itself. This includes DeVos, who continues to sully her once-stellar reputation as an advocate for expanding school choice for poor and minority children by serving as the president’s education czar, and former 50CAN executive Jason Botel, who serves directly under her. [DeVos further debased herself by refusing to specifically call out Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in her statement on the events in Charlottesville.]

Then there is Success Academy’s Moskowitz, whose schools serve mostly Black and Latino children. Early on after Trump’s victory, she volunteered early on to work with his administration. Her refusal to distance herself from the regime (along with troubling penchant of Success Academy’s schools to overuse harsh traditional school discipline) is a likely reason why Jeffries resigned from the charter school operator’s board last month.

Before yesterday, those folks could offer up excuses for why they collaborate with the Trump Administration or remain silent about its bigotry. Among them: Because working with the administration can help poor and minority children access high-quality education; and because it is an opportunity to serve their country and not actively support the intent of the administration to do harm to communities black and brown; that Trump’s bigotry has nothing to do with their work on education policy and practice.

This Guardian cartoon has it right.

The excuses were specious — and after the past seven months — incredible even before Trump opened his mouth about Charlottesville for a third time. But now, after he defended bigotry in such a way that brought cheers from demagogues such as former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, there are no more excuses for silence or collaboration.

As champions for brighter futures for all children, reformers can never tolerate or accept bigotry, state-sanctioned or otherwise. As defenders of the most-vulnerable, reformers cannot stay silent in the face of credible threats to their well-being. As Children of God and members of the Family of Man, reformers cannot sit idly by as an elected official, especially the Leader of the Free World, bloviates, obfuscates, and gives comfort to bigots at expense of our fellow human beings. As Elie Weisel would say, silence is complicity with immorality — and active support of bigoted regimes is immorality itself.

Certainly Archbishop Charles Caput of Philadelphia is right to say that racism (along with other form of bigotry) is “a poison of the soul” that cannot simply be overcome with condemnations alone. Transforming American public education, whose failures, deliberate and otherwise, have condemned the lives of Black and Brown children, is part of draining that pernicious tribalism. But condemnation and active disassociation with those who want to harm our children are two important steps towards that goal.

If reformers can take time out to castigate traditionalists like Weingarten for their sophistry, they can surely muster a few words to call out President Trump for being a White Supremacist and rank demagogue. More importantly, for those working for and with the administration, it is time to walk away from the regime and end all meaningful association with it. Repentance is good for their souls — and for the futures of all children.

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Voices of the Dropout Nation: The Need for a New Normal in Education

Our K-12 system largely still adheres to the century-old, industrial-age factory model of education. A century ago, maybe it made sense to adopt seat-time requirements for graduation and pay teachers…

Our K-12 system largely still adheres to the century-old, industrial-age factory model of education. A century ago, maybe it made sense to adopt seat-time requirements for graduation and pay teachers based on their educational credentials and seniority… But the factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century….the legacy of the factory model of schooling is that tens of billions of dollars are tied up in unproductive use of time and technology, in underused school buildings, in antiquated compensation systems, and in inefficient school finance systems.

Rethinking policies around seat-time requirements, class size, compensating teachers based on their educational credentials, the use of technology in the classroom, inequitable school financing, the over placement of students in special education—almost all of these potentially transformative productivity gains are primarily state and local issues that have to be grappled with.

These are tough issues. Rethinking the status quo, by definition, can be unsettling. But I know that these discussions will be taking place in the coming year in schools, in districts, in union headquarters, in statehouses, and the governor’s mansion. The alternative is to simply end up doing less with less. That is fundamentally unacceptable.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, proclaiming during yesterday’s American Enterprise Institute conference that the status quo in American public education has to change. Well, it needs more than that: A revolution, not an evolution.

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Teachers Union Walk-Around Money

Let’s just call the recently-passed Edujobs bill what it really is: A congressional Democrat plan to keep control of the federal legislative branch by subsidizing the National Education Association and…

Doling out the election cash.

Let’s just call the recently-passed Edujobs bill what it really is: A congressional Democrat plan to keep control of the federal legislative branch by subsidizing the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — and absolutely useless and unnecessary to boot. It really is that simple. As I pointed out in The American Spectator earlier this year, congressional Democrats — fearful of losing seats (and possibly, control) in both houses — were looking for a way to placate the NEA and AFT (whose $71 million in donations during the 2007-2008 election cycle makes them the single-biggest forces in campaign finance) and keep their money and bodies in the game.

As it has been pointed out over the past few months, there is almost no need for these subsidies. For one thing, the original estimates have turned out to be illusory as school districts such as New York City have figured out ways to stave off layoffs, either by cutting jobs in other areas of education (including school staffers represented by the Service Employees International Union and other unions), holding off scheduled teacher pay raises or cutting other areas of school district operations. For all the caterwauling by teachers unions, their allies and congressional leaders such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave “Walking Around Money” Obey, the subsidies were absolutely unnecessary. More importantly, given that the layoffs would only affect at best five percent of the 6.2 million people working in education — small potatoes compared to the wrenching layoffs within the private sector — school districts would have done just fine without the money.

Though the bill does benefit the NEA and the AFT, it’s difficult to discern how it will really help congressional Democrats. For one, the waves of dissatisfaction among voters have more to do with how the party and President Barack Obama have handled such issues as federal economic stimulus subsidies (that has done little), continued mismanagement of budget deficits (a continuation of Bush II-era mismanagement) and the passage of a healthcare reform bill no one outside of pharmaceutical giants, unions and “progressives” want. If congressional Democrats want to keep power (which they may still do based on recent polling in states such as Connecticut), the solution lies in pursuing a more fiscally-prudent set of budget policies, cutting federal spending, reducing taxes and taking on the long-term strains on economic growth — including deficits in Social Security and more-aggressive education reform.

Congressional Democrats also didn’t need to give any money to the NEA and AFT because the two don’t have any other options in the general election cycle. Although the two unions give plenty to Republicans at the state and local levels, they hardly give any money to Republicans in Congress. This means that the NEA and AFT don’t have many allies on the national level (even though both the unions and conservative and suburban elements within the GOP share a heated disdain for much of the Bush/Obama school reform agenda). Given the lack of allies and the fact that the NEA and AFT have other issues on which they share common ground with Democrats (the moribund card check legislation and healthcare reform), the two unions have little choice but to back congressional Democrats at all times.

What Edujobs represents is lost opportunity to further advance school reform. Teacher quality reforms such aren’t advanced by the subsidies because  school districts aren’t required to end Reverse Seniority (“last hired-first fired) layoffs and other seniority-based privileges in exchange for the money. There is no provision requiring districts and states to address their long-term fiscal problems, namely at least $600 billion in pension deficits and unfunded retired teacher health liabilities. There is no Race to the Top-like component that would reward states and districts for innovating how they handle human capital management issues. Education doesn’t begin to understand that the sector shouldn’t be treated different than any other during periods of economic dislocation.  Not one thing of value for children or for improving the abysmal quality of American public education.

Essentially, Edujobs has all the hallmarks of Tammany Hall dealmaking devoid of strategic cleverness or plain common sense.

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This Is Dropout Nation: This Week’s Quotes

“One of the big problem in this industry is the whole human capital chain… can be improved… A great teacher in a dysfunctional school or a great school in a…

“One of the big problem in this industry is the whole human capital chain… can be improved… A great teacher in a dysfunctional school or a great school in a dysfunctional district isn’t going to affect the change we need. We need to change the whole system.” — Arne Duncan’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, on improving how education recruits, develops and deploys talent.

“Made in America still means something… [But] we need to educate every child so that we can maintain the quality of life we have.” — U.S. Trade Representative (and former Dallas Mayor) Ron Kirk at the National Urban League Conference’s business dinner.

“What does [high-quality education] mean at the end of the day? We need to do a real better job of explaining what a high-quality education should look like.” — Byron Garrett, CEO of National PTA, on empowering parents, during a panel discussion about innovation in charter schools.

“We have not just written off kids in special education, but by association, teachers in special education. It’s a travesty.” — Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, discussing the low quality of teacher training at ed schools.

“States have been setting the bar artificially low, everywhere, for the past decade. This isn’t news… Standards aren’t the problem. Low standards are the problem.” — Derrell Bradford of New Jersey’s  E3 on the chatter about low cut scores in New York State.

“Parents can’t wait. They see pockets of educational excellence and ask why it can’t be everywhere—when their children have only one chance for an education.” U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan before the National Urban League’s conference, on why old-school civil rights activists can’t keep offering their old paradigm for improving education.

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Voices of the Dropout Nation: In Quotes

“We’re going to stop lying to children and lying to families [about curriculum quality]… We have to challenge the status quo on when schools are failing… We think it is…

Remember, read to your sons and daughters.

“We’re going to stop lying to children and lying to families [about curriculum quality]… We have to challenge the status quo on when schools are failing… We think it is unacceptable” — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Common Core State Standards and overhauling failing schools at the Military Child Education Coalition’s annual conference, via Dropout Nation’s Twitter feed (go ahead and follow).

“What’s frustrating is that there is a real issue here demanding attention. The trade-off between flexibility and prescriptiveness in federal school turnaround policy is a complicated one without a lot of good answers.  Too much flexibility and districts and states take the easy way out and do nothing meaningful for students stuck in lousy schools. Too prescriptive and you get meaningless box-checking (as we may be seeing overall with the current dollop of school improvement funds), perverse consequences, or you stifle innovative approaches that might work if educators could try them.” — Andy Rotherham responding to Michael Winerip’s claptrap of an article on the consequences of federal education policy.

“We need to push school districts to frame summer school as a good thing, something extra — not a punishment. There is a cultural barrier that we have to overcome.” — Ron Fairchild of the National Summer Learning Association on the need for summer learning (and ultimately, for year-round schooling), in Time.

“But why are we more willing to overlook lackluster test scores in middle class schools?” Mike Petrilli on laggard middle class schools (traditional and charter).

“My hope is that many of them improve, but at the same time, we need to make sure the bar is high. I’ve got two children in the system, and I don’t want a ‘minimally effective teacher’ and I don’t think anyone else does, either.” — D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on her decision to dismiss 241 laggard teachers.

“Each year we visit the teachers at least twice – once in the beginning and ten again towards the end of the year. It’s a great opportunity to understand how our kids are progressing and to brainstorm areas of concern or ask questions. But the one thing that always surprised me is that no one from the school has ever asked us to review the teachers. Ever… I think the current model doesn’t give enough credit to our great teachers and doesn’t shine a bright enough light on the teachers that aren’t delivering the goods.” — Tech investor Bijan Sabat on the need to evaluate teachers.

“While you argue about Duncan and standardized testing and charters…teach little keisha, tyrone, twon how to read, ok?” — Nikolai Pizarro (@iwantwealth) on the complaining of defenders of traditional public education over school reform.

Check out Dropout Nation this week for news and commentary on the reform of American public education. And listen to this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast on recruiting, developing and rewarding more good-to-great teachers.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Abandon Edujobs to Build Parent Power

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine the debate between congressional Democrats, President Barack Obama and centrist Democrat school reformers over the edujobs bill. The proposed $10 billion school…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I examine the debate between congressional Democrats, President Barack Obama and centrist Democrat school reformers over the edujobs bill. The proposed $10 billion school bailout bill will do little to advance school reform or stem (ever-dwindling) teacher and school employee bailout numbers. Instead of another bailout, President Obama, outgoing House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey and his fellow congressional Democrats should focus on building parent power and making families true decision-makers in education.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. Also, subscribe to the podcast series. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley, the Education Podcast NetworkZune Marketplace and PodBean. Also, add the podcast on Viigo, if you have a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android phone.

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