NAACP’s Moratorium

Here is the part of the NAACP statement regarding what conditions they hope can be met in order to move past the moratorium on charter school expansion. The entire piece regarding the moratorium (from mid-October) can be found by clicking on this text:

We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

I had been wondering for some time why reformer pundits and edu-propaganda outlets had slung so much mud at the NAACP, suggested that they were trying to steal choice from poor parents, or preventing them from having choice to begin with…Seems that some may see conditions as only being for underfunded and disrespected traditional public schools (and not the innovative and privately managed choice schools), or maybe it was a touch of shame resulting from having their.

Buyer beware: This is what “choice” can mean.

I have been made aware of another “choice” story. I understand they are not all the same, but c’mon. Maybe this is why thinking people understand we need to be loyal to people and address the needs of society, not create a market that commands loyalty to it over them. Instead of “choice”, maybe we need other words to describe schools like this. “Privately managed semi-selective option” schools?

Anyways, I came across this story from a parent whose child struggles with the same condition my youngest has (P.A.N.D.A.S.). I wrote about it in January in a letter put on educationpost after a call for uplifting, positive stories. It really is sudden, alarming, and so far my wife and I appear to have been fortunate. Click on the link to go to the archived original, or just read the story below (more about the teacher, but describes my daughter).

 

A colleague recently suffered a series of tragedies, starting with the loss of a son who was grown—but still a young man. Despite this, she kept her composure, her warmth, and her professionalism in front of the children she teaches.

One girl, in particular, had come down with a rather serious condition resulting from a strep infection that had not been effectively treated. The student, formerly bright, capable, active, and always well-behaved, had disappeared and been replaced by a withdrawn, nervous, malnourished ghost…but was slowly coming back.

This colleague found ways to be there for her class and involve and encourage this young girl on the heels of and in the middle of the series of her own personal tragedies (that would have had other teachers taking as many days/weeks off as their contract would allow). I watched and listened as she prepared to send kids off for the holiday break with a few small gifts and the advice to hug, love and thank their parents because their parents love them very much.

How she didn’t lose it—I don’t know. But I do know that her whole class, especially that little girl who is sitting three feet away from me right now and doing well, is blessed by the presence of this teacher in her school.

Now this other parent, with a story of her own that I just read this morning, describes a “choice” school she got her children into-that is now sending her child back to the “home school” because medical treatment is needed that would temporarily impact attendance-maybe for a month or so. “Forced out” and transferred. Is this the kind of thing that “choicers” promote and defend? Again, I like parents having choices-but I want those choices to be honest, held to the same expectations and standards, and to not boast and/or be promoted for results attained through manufactured enrollment. Prove yourself with the same populations, by overcoming the same struggles, and by providing the security and stability of a group of adults that serve children-not numbers.

Here is what I wrote to this parent:

Tell me about “forced out”. How does a conversation like that happen in a school that wants a great reputation, but is unwilling to welcome a sick child and work with parents to make good things happen? I only ask because I am an elem teacher of 15+ years, have a 10 yr old w/PANDAS (thankfully in the school I teach in), and have been exposed to the rhetoric of failing public schools and how much greater “choice” schools are [or how every parent deserves choice, is better served by choice…].My suspicion is that they are sometimes great because they do the selecting and are unwilling to be a welcoming “home” school for kids if that relationship requires any effort on their part. I know this sucks, I can’t imagine a school sending a kid away, and I wonder if you are free to respond to them

“No, this is my child and your student. I will meet my responsibility and you will meet yours-that is serve the children, not your bottom line. On the other hand, I’m sure the local radio station/ news-paper would like to help me share out my dilemma while I try to figure out what to do.”

Good luck with this and with treatment.

Children who are ill, children that require understanding and low-level accommodation…if any school “forces out” a child like that…that is definitely not a “choice” school.

Be cautious, not bold, for our children

November 16th, 2016

Dear President Elect Trump,

First, let me say congratulations. I am not surprised by the outcome the way many are-especially those whiners in the so-called mainstream media. Clearly they are out of touch with Main Street America, but that was pretty obvious the moment they started getting their knickers in a twist over the immense popularity of Bernie Sanders and going out of their way to put a forensics team onto anything you’ve ever said or done-all while ignoring the entrenched establishment connecting lobbyists, policymakers and media outlets. Don’t get me wrong, I think you come off like a jackass when you promise to cover the legal fees of a violent Trump fan willing to assault a protester. The Tic-Tac and “move on her like a bitch” stuff deserves to be hammered hard (don’t get excited, that’s not sexual euphemism) because it’s crass, misogynist, and adolescent in all the worst ways-especially coming from a guy old enough to be my dad and more so considering my perspective: an actual adult man with three beautiful daughters. Don’t get excited-it’ll never happen. In the end, the campaign behind us was a perfect storm: a combination of the ineptitude of the DNC and your ability to play the crowd and the media. You are a true showman, bold-and-beyond, so again-congratulations.

Next, I want to address the issue of education. There is a lot of curiosity regarding how things will go moving forward. I think you should focus less on abolishing the common core standards, and more on:

  1. Reducing federal pressures on and intrusions into the minutiae of how schools prepare their students for the world that is.
  2. Moving away from the exclusionary test-driven rigged system that sheltered, elite and arrogant Democrats say readies students for “college and career”-with zero honesty about what that really does in terms of protecting them in their establishment bubble over addressing student needs.
  3. Ensuring more equity in opportunity for students between less affluent and more affluent districts. The opportunities to be exposed to a wider variety of enriching experiences from an early age is what prepares young learners and then motivates them to excel as they grow and seek out more opportunities on their own.

Your comments on bringing control back to the local level are encouraging-breaking free of the Chicago edu-mob and promoting some honest educators with understanding of what children need and how they learn would be a great step forward. But don’t get too loosey-goosey with it (again, don’t get excited, go for the tic-tacs and start grabbing at anything down-low and within reach, I just mean don’t go too “slash-and-burn”). Some fed oversight into overall common expectations isn’t bad, but those expectations should be based on developmentally appropriate standards and respecting the fact that while teachers should be evaluated-children also need to come to school prepared to learn and freed of much of the physical, psychological and emotional baggage more of them are bringing to school these days. Standardized tests won’t hug or feed these kids, or read to them or help with homework, but stable homes and present parents will. This country is failing these folks at the community and family level by not having jobs and incomes that keep communities and families stable. Stability in these areas is a more powerful booster than any temporary teacher whose claim to fame is firing a real educator on T.V... oops. Please don’t take that wrong, firing people on T.V. might work as a vicarious thrill-I’m just saying I hope that the Michelle Rhee thing is just a rumor when it comes to how we raise and educate children. It’s one thing to inspire tall buildings labeled with giant gold letters-another to rise inexplicably from not good at a job to judging how others do it-could be part of that self-important, image-over-substance “education reform” establishment, I guess.

Let me wrap this up by telling you I did not vote for you, but I felt no remorse at Clinton’s loss (I didn’t vote for her either). The nation has suffered under pretend progressives and while the party I almost never vote with has won-I am keeping an open mind and a hopeful heart. I hope you will do the same.

Sincerely,

Dan McConnell

P.S. I hope you got the letter my daughter wrote you last year and took some of it’s advice to heart. Be a little more cautious and a little less “bold” when it comes to how you model true leadership. I have my own children as well as those I teach to think about.

I endorse my children

In the upcoming election, I endorse my children. They are who I support, along with the rest of their generation. My concern is: What do I say to them? What is already being said to them when top billing belongs to two of the most undesirable candidates ever? On one hand is a suspicious, difficult to like, habitually evasive, entitled and dishonest candidate that has been accused of horrible things.

On the other hand is Donald Trump.

I have three daughters. While my 17 year old wanted a fake I.D. for voting purposes (I trust that was the reason and if you know her you’d believe it), I figured that wasn’t the responsible path forward. She is likely to be an active participant, my 15 year old will be of legal voting age by the next election, and my youngest, 10 years old now, wrote a letter of gentle reprimand to Mr. Trump last year-regarding the way he talks about others and his language in general-so I predict she will end up being a lot like her sisters and have a very reasoned and thoughtful approach when it comes to her right to vote-assuming we still have that right by then.

So what do I say? I say to my children, and anyone willing:  stay informed, stay involved and do not be deterred by two deplorable options, a media complicit in political theater and distraction while failing in really informing the public. So with them in mind and with their generation in mind I will be voting.  Everyone who can vote should, regardless of who it is for. Record turnouts will get attention and make accountability and responsiveness more likely out of respect for the number of willing and active voters.

Remembering Malatras

After reading last week of Jim Malatras’s pending departure from the Cuomo administration, I remembered a long ago long-winded missive from him to education officials in N.Y., and a response I had written. Almost two years ago now, but a reminder of how the politics and privilege employment carousel spins round and round, the faces and names change, but the B.S. and the fallout victims remain the same. Originally it appeared here, on my old blogspot blog where I occasionally reach back in time for some of my old stuff.

This is my response to the letter written by Jim Malatras, Director of State Operations for Governor Cuomo. His letter to the NYSED chancellor and commissioner goes to great length to focus blame on teachers for supposed failings of public education, and highlights popular teacher-bashing statistics, while also asking that in response to his loaded questions: politicizing is avoided. My tone is a tad snarky because I mirror his tone and structure, but I hope to provide a counterpoint and provoke some thought.

Dear Mr. Jim Malatras, Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Tisch, and Commissioner King,

As you know, citizens of the state of New York have an obligation to hold their elected officials responsible for the policies they promote, the people they appoint, and the words they either write or speak-whether it’s campaign season or not. It is one of the most important things we can do: model for our children and young learners (future citizens) the civic duties to promote honest, productive leadership for the good of all, and eliminate the destructive policy-making that promotes narrow interests and inequities in opportunity. Although those in education policy and in other leadership positions have spoken strongly about the need for improvement in educational outcomes for public school students, they have chosen to pursue this goal with an attack on public education while largely ignoring the greater burdens facing students, families, and schools. Despite the ongoing damage of market-based policies and data-driven, investment style formulas- this is the precise type of approach to education that is currently being called “reform”.

We all can agree that this is simply unacceptable.

The citizens of New York believe in leadership with a foundation in good character, informed and guided by the people of the state over the narrow interests that have already divided wealth with growing disparity and reduced opportunity for the majority of people. Character-based leadership would be evident when citizens do not have their value, or the value of their children, defined by a market-driven approach where people are turned into data and that data gets churned in a so-called “value-added” system. A market based approach such as this prioritizes the goals of the market and squanders the public-the true value in public education. While citizens understand that it is difficult for politicians to free themselves from their intimate relationships with big-money donors, advisors driving policy while avoiding accountability, and the desire to remain politically positioned for future campaigns and opportunities, it is more important to promote the needs of the many over the greed of the few. So let’s reframe the narrative regarding education reform. Instead of blatant attack on those coming to schools burdened by the failures in our leadership, and those serving the public in order to address those failures, let’s focus on systemic reform. It is time for leaders to own up to their responsibilities and submit themselves to evaluation and accountability with the same fervor with which they demand those from the public.

As you know, the public has had little influence over the roll-out and roll-ahead of destructive forces behind misguided reforms in our state.  The most that concerned citizens have been able to get is a short-lived “listening tour” from Commissioner King, a campaign-season admission from the governor that common core standards were rolled out ineffectively and a television ad regarding the importance of kitchen tables and parents. For the most part, though, officials at the state level have essentially gave up listening long ago and continue repeating talking points and party lines. But parents, students and educators have had, from the beginning, many questions about how leadership in our state and in education policy could have degraded to this extent. What can be done to answer these questions?

In essence, how can we address what is really wrong with how education is currently funded, organized, and evaluated in New York, where the root causes of student-struggles are ignored and the one group continually burdened with undoing the damage done by lack of character in leadership and failed economic and social policies gets blamed?

Please give your opinion on these questions without the typical parsing of words that is the hallmark of those wishing to sound willing and interested while at the same time avoiding responsibility. Truly enlightened policy comes when citizens know what policy makers think.

  1. How is the current lack of equity in funding and opportunity for students in public schools a defensible condition if the future of public school systems and teaching  careers hang in the balance based  on results impacted by funding inequities? Data shows that the best funded schools spend in the neighborhood of 80% more per-pupil and enjoy about double the proficiency rates on state tests. State test results being the governor’s go-to criticism of public education should ride tandem with his admission that funding inequities need to be addressed. How does the governor plan on addressing funding inequities?
  1. Should students, families, schools and educators be reaped for private and personal data to serve commercial interests? In addition, should testing companies enjoy privacy and protection in the process of test design and scoring when the tests themselves are intended to be used on public school students with results to be shared publicly? The governor’s own reform commission cited the importance of collaboration in moving forward with reform and this approach to assessment is in opposition to that goal. How will the governor increase collaboration with the professionals who understand teaching, learning and the best use for assessments?
  1. Along with number 2, should testing companies and third-party vendors enjoy profitable state contracts for creating high stakes tests when actual educators could design and use tests as intended-not as high stakes end-product but to inform instruction and intervention going into the future?
  1. Should educators be elevated to enemy number one in the battle for student outcomes when it is the investment/banking/finance industry that has done the most damage to parents and kitchen tables (the most important tools a student can have)and has still enjoyed the greatest protection from policy makers?
  1. Should charter schools enjoy  promotion and praise without operating under the same level of scrutiny and mandates? Often, charter schools  are run by those with few (if any) credentials, have enrollment that can be shaped and filtered, and students that prove difficult or may threaten high proficiency rates are counseled out. How will the practice of creating charters ensure that it is about all students, not just a few, and prevents public dollars from going into the pockets of undeserving private charter-school operators?
  1. While promotion to the national level seems to be the reward for an education commissioner that appeared disconnected from the citizens and students of New York, the opportunity for new leadership and a new direction holds promise. What new approach is planned for the next commissioner?
  1. Can the many hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York, being paid quite poorly compared to other professionals with graduate degrees, serving in some cases difficult and dangerous student populations in under-funded and over-mandated schools really be called a “special interest”? Can the small group of very wealthy individuals and the corporations looking to cash in on the standards-curriculum-testing-“school choice” agendas be less of a “special interest”? Teachers’ special interest is being allowed and empowered to do what is best for students and to not be made to suffer for doing it. How will education policy moving forward make this possible?
  1. While the state regulations describe pathways and opportunities available to all students, the reality is that funding does not support availability of these opportunities to all students in all schools. Can teachers be blamed for this? How will the governor address this?
  1. Can the governor, the commissioner, or most of the regents look into the eyes of a student who comes from a violent and broken home and know instinctively how to approach that student first thing in the morning to make the rest of the day go as well as possible? Who among you is willing to admit that the ability to teach, to an extent, is a gift that often can’t be reduced to data on a spreadsheet and the positive gains realized with this type of student are outside of what any standardized test can show. How does the governor plan to honor that gift and reverse the tide of turning education into sterilized training?

It is clear that powerful people are driving the agenda to turn public education into a game of numbers that absolves leaders from the moral obligation to target the true areas of need for reform.  The bureaucracy of the wealthy minority (silent advisors, campaign donors and private interests) that enjoys influence over policy that restricts opportunity for the majority of citizens presents a challenge we must face cooperatively. As the commissioner prepares to take his reform agenda to the national level, it will be good to hear his thoughts on how to break free of the status quo of wealth-driven inequity for public school students.

Sincerely,

Dan McConnell

Pinto Owners are People

They’re kinda ugly-the Pintos, that is. And it’s been a long while since one has rolled off the factory floor-thirty years or more? So you have to imagine if one is still being driven it has left much rubber, many years, and many miles behind. It’s the type of car Jay Leno probably does not have in his warehouse-of-cars collection-nestled between one of the McLarens and a Jaguar (I now know its pronounced Jeg’-yoo-ahh…but maybe that’s only on the other side of the pond).

But should we pass judgment on a car that might be good enough to get someone to work and back, to get their kids to school and yet is not good enough to make it into the Leno collection? When you see a Pinto parked in a neighborhood in decline, or in front of a home that looks as if it’s in disrepair; or if you see a family piling into or out of one (rust around the wheel wells and a bungee cord holding down the hatch-back trunk, maybe even a piece of cardboard duck-taped over the space where a window used to be), cigarette dangling from the mouth of the man climbing into the driver’s seat with a fistful of scratch-off lottery tickets in one hand; four kids, all looking a little unwashed, squeezing and climbing into a backseat that has room for only three…No-you shouldn’t pass judgement.

While knee-jerk judgments might be made about people who spend money on smokes and scratch-offs while their kids skip breakfast entirely, eat bagel bites and boxed mac and cheese for dinner, and hope the “free and reduced” will fill the hunger and nutrition gaps…it is the impact (not the details) of living in poverty that needs to be considered-not how you feel about the people living in poverty and the choices they make. We can’t pass judgment on the decisions people make because they have to, or feel like they have to.

We should, though, counsel those who ignore forces feeding into poverty, and those who dismiss the impacts of poverty-especially if they do it to suit an agenda. I will call them the swollen ticks on the ass of society, for want of a better term. Take, for example, Walmart. Lauded for the willingness to employ, for its profits, and for the founding family’s willingness to support the undermining of public education, the corporation is often overlooked in terms of its genius business model. They have found a way to have taxpayers subsidize their fabulous profits as well as their mission to create more poor people and keep them poor. Their wages are so low that workers often need food stamps to survive. That absolves Walmart of the guilt that would gnaw at your average non-nightstalker because: “Hey…the taxpayers will help feed their babies!” The good news is that you can get real cheap stuff at Walmart-which makes keeping people poor less of a burden on your soul, I guess.

Do nightstalkers have souls? I guess that’s writing for another day.

Where it becomes suspicious, even dangerous, is when the approach to things like education reform is formed and framed carefully by those who live comfortably distanced from poverty. This means they are unfamiliar to any practical degree with the jobs and situations they comment on, and are also protected from the agenda they promote. So while some applaud, for example, Campbell Brown’s efforts to highlight an imagined army of pervert teachers using tenure to protect their sicko inclinations as well as their professional ineptitude, I view it with a mixture of caution, regret, and a pinch of sympathy. This approach is the mac and cheese of the privileged; their cheap-n-easy go-to. That’s all they have because they can’t/won’t and don’t want to do the real work; because they don’t really know what it’s like to have your choices limited to “this” car and “that” food; because they make their money within the very system benefiting from poverty to begin with! If education reformers were to participate in a more truthful and comprehensive examination of what is behind the “reform” movement, and why reform is really needed; if they committed themselves to finding a cure: they’d be undermining their purpose (which is avoiding those cure-conversations and focusing instead on an efficient and marketable prescription-thereby protecting the system that is and pays them to protect it).

But in time, strategies that lean in to profit and away from people are exposed. Consider this description of how Ford negatively impacted their own reputation with their private take on customers:

Much of the negative sentiment toward Ford was in response to their use of an economic risk-benefit decision making analysis which found that the cost of a recall would outweigh the value of the lives it would save.

So for the same reason you cannot pass judgement on the Pinto family, you can’t justify judgement on the nightstalkers. It’s economic risk-benefit. It’s what they know. They move from one unsuspecting endeavor to the next, and as one host is bled out or fails, they are promoted to/shifted to/ pop up in another opportune location with a formula, a sure-fire plan, a consulting position and some talking points to buttress their value… It’s like soulless immortality in a way-and the ultimate in job security. But sooner or later, people who know better find out.

 

And Pinto owners are people.

The road to…well, some place kinda hot

Did Ken Salazar really get tapped by Hillary Clinton to head her transition team? Ken Salazar??? This gives Hillary Clinton absolutely no street cred in progressive city, or as having potential as a friend to the environment. In fact, In an article at The Intercept, authors Zaid Jilani and Naomi LaChance write:

“As a senator, Salazar was widely considered a reliable friend to the oil, gas, ranching and mining industries. As interior secretary, he opened the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling, and oversaw the botched response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since returning to the private sector, he has been an ardent supporter of the TPP, while pushing back against curbs on fracking.”

The writers continue on to describe Salazar’s history of advocacy for the fracking industry, and blatant denial of the harmful effects it has on the environment and on drinking water (despite EPA findings). So this latest Clinton-pick is one more incident that conflicts with her posturing as a progressive-posturing brought on largely by the pressure of the Sanders campaign. At one point in the contest for the Democratic nomination she even began waving her arms around and yelling-trying to act like an angry old socialist-Jew, and indignantly proclaimed her progressive-ness. It seemed that Sanders style and his questioning her “for the people” credentials (considering speeches to big banks that raked in a lot of cash, vote for Iraq war, deference to Wall Street…) started to resonate too much and Sanders had gained traction in the polls. So what to do? Start claiming to be progressive, and one-hundred-percent for those things you never have really been for; say that you supposedly said things you probably never said (like told those banks to “cut it out”); pretend that you are against that other stuff that Sanders fans seem to really not like.

What ended up happening, though, was a refusal to release the transcripts of the big-bank speeches (speeches that those bankers paid her obscenely well for), a crooked establishment-fix win despite all denials from the establishment, and a lot of mistrust of Hillary Clinton.The problem? There was already a real, honest progressive taking part in the contest-and it was Sanders, not Clinton.Clinton just could not, cannot, and seems to have zero ability to come off as genuine or consistent with herself. It is a problem that dogs her, and in my mind means far more than Benghazi.

While a DNC fix from day 1 (and even before?) and primary voting shenanigans may have helped preserve a win that had already been reserved for Clinton, you would think recent revelations verifying these suspicions as facts would prompt some real progressive reform movement from one of the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history.Quite the opposite: Clinton seems even more entrenched in the establishment and the political/economical status quo. By airlifting  Debbie Wasserman-Shultz out of nomination-rigging disgrace and into her personal fold, then picking Tim Kaine for VP, and now the Salazer pick…Clinton reveals that she considers herself having graduated from presumptive nominee (a position she has likely held since 2008)to pretty much the presumptive next president of the United States.

Here’s the thing, though. It would seem that she can afford to be so presumptuous. Clearly the fix was in against Sanders and any other opponent in the primaries. And now? She is running against the other most unpopular presidential candidate in history. You couldn’t make it any more easy for an un-trusted, disconnected, elite, establishment, Democrat-in-ballot-line only if you had planted a sure loser for him or her to run against. The only way to make it easier would be if the opponent was not only unpopular, but behaved like a narcissist moron and said the most god-awful and idiotic things.

Hey…wait a minute.

But back to being a progressive. As a criticism of Clinton’s sudden urge to put herself out there as a progressive (when it looked as if it might poll well), Senator Sanders said:

“You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive,” he said. “Most progressives that I know don’t raise millions of dollars from Wall Street.”

A true progressive is interested in change- progressive movement away from an undesirable status quo. Our nation has slowly been sacrificed the “free market”-an economy that grows on paper for the few, but loses opportunity, stability and security for the many. Even the “hope and change” president is enthusiastically selling out our jobs and our schools to the “global economy” through the TPP agreement.The status quo approach to the masses has been accepting and being grateful for what little you have, and competing against others with little-hoping to take some from them.

Clinton, along with the help of Obama’s trade agreement, Salazar’s love of Earth-busting, and Wall Street’s ability to buy morality, will definitely make “progress”…but in what direction and down what road?

Is anyone else feeling a little warm?