Sunday, December 22, 2013

Will Memphis Parents Turn Their Children Over to Corporate Charter Schools?

Unless the public stops the corrupt capitulation by Memphis politicians to the Gates agenda for privatizing American schools, the children of Memphis will soon become the educational property of corporate charter schools that receive public money to subject the poorest children to their cultural and behavioral neutering programs.  Here is a telling chunk of a piece on the developments in New Orleans, whose Recovery School District was the model used Tennessee's Tea Party hustlers:

. . . . Of the 89 public schools in New Orleans, only five will not be charters next fall, all under the local Orleans Parish School Board. The city already has by far the highest charter school enrollment in the country, with 85 percent of its public school students in the schools, which are publicly funded but run by largely independent boards.
The state's decision to go all-charter in New Orleans has implications for the rest of Louisiana. Dobard said the Recovery School District would run fewer and fewer schools in Louisiana, and would either close schools or do full-school charter transformations rather than trying to gradually phase out schools, because district officials have learned that doesn't work.
And it has implications for the rest of the country as well, because the system has become a national example. Tennessee and Michigan have created their own state takeover districts, and other states are considering it.
Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the conservative Fordham Institute think tank, marveled at the news. "Don't mess with success!" he said. "We will now have a full experiment" for others to learn from. "There will be important lessons -- once the charter sector is the main game in town."
The Recovery School District was created in Louisiana in 2003 to transform persistently failing schools. It started small in New Orleans, taking and chartering only five of the many eligible schools. However, Hurricane Katrina triggered a massive takeover: All but 17 of the city's schools were handed over to the state. And while the initial goal was to create charters, the system found itself having to open and run schools to meet demand. At its peak, the Recovery School District ran 34 schools directly.
The balance began to shift, however, as the charter community's capacity increased. This year, the system has five traditional schools and 59 charter schools. The Recovery School District also runs or oversees schools in Shreveport, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena and East Baton Rouge.
Dobard acknowledged that he had previously promised Carver and Reed juniors they would be able to graduate with their class in June 2015. However, he said administrators realized that gradually cutting down the schools grade by grade wasn't giving anyone a good experience. Reed was unable to field a football team this September, and the schools cannot offer a full range of classes.
Discussion has raged this month about the future of Sarah T. Reed, with community members pleading with the Orleans Parish School Board to find a way to take the school back and keep it open.
Still, "I don't anticipate much pushback, if any, because everyone is expecting it," Dobard said. "Everyone knows the transition was happening. The transition is just happening a year earlier."
Alumni and some community members have decried the loss of many of the city's historic high schools, which the Recovery School District has closed, merged or never reopened after the storm, including L.E. Rabouin, John F. Kennedy and Booker T. Washington.
Dobard emphasized that neither Reed nor Carter is disappearing. Two new charters are operating in eastern New Orleans under the Carver imprimatur: Carver Collegiate Academy and Carver Preparatory Academy. Design work will start this winter on the new Carver High School campus in the Desire area.
As for Reed, Dobard said there would be a school in that building in the long term. "We want to create a great high school at the Sarah T. Reed site," he said. No charter operator has been chosen; Dobard said he is open to talking with the School Board or anyone who has a plan. KIPP Renaissance will continue to use the Reed building temporarily next year.
At least one force behind the Reed protests still felt optimistic. "It's definitely a setback for us, for the community, but we're very hopeful for the future of Sarah T. Reed," said Minh Nguyen, director of the Vietnamese American Youth Leaders Association. He said they looked forward to developing a vision for the school with the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board.
Petrilli, of the Fordham Institute, said the Recovery School District has succeeded in improving education in New Orleans, and also has made important strides toward guaranteeing fairness, including equal opportunity for students in special education to choose their schools. "These leaders in New Orleans have been very thoughtful about the infrastructure you need to make this kind of a system work well," he said.
He foresaw the same all-charter future for other school systems that are leaning heavily toward charters, including Detroit, Washington D.C. and possibly Kansas City. "New Orleans is getting there first, but I'm suspecting it won't be the only one" in five years, Petrilli said.
Taking the local perspective, advocate Karran Harper Royal thought the decisions showed "a total disrespect" for children in the Village de l'Est neighborhood of eastern New Orleans, where Reed is located. "This is a clear indication of how the Recovery School District in New Orleans is not listening to the public," she said. "I guess this is what you get when you don't have elected control of your school dollars."
The Recovery School District is nominally overseen by the partially elected, partially appointed state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. . . . .

Friday, December 6, 2013

SCS Cry about Reading Problems As They Hand Over Schools to Corporate Charters Without Libraries or Librarians

Having handed over 29 public schools to charter reform schools without libraries or librarians, and with 8 more on the way by 2015, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and the Shelby County School Board all of sudden have noticed that these children are far behind in reading.  Since poor children get their books more often from libraries, and since the research has demonstrated over the past 25 years that schools with library programs and librarians have more proficient readers than school that don't (go figure!), it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Shelby County's plan to cut librarians to pay for corporate charter schools without libraries is about the worst policy decision that the Gates Foundation could come up with for the rubber stamps on the school board to implement.

And yet there is much gnashing of teeth and beating of chests at the school board, not to mention new "moral imperatives" around literacy.  Superintendent Hopson has even gone so far as to notice “there’s a parade of horribles that goes along with kids who can’t read by the time they leave third grade.”  What Hopson apparently has not noticed is the parade of horribles (no jobs, hope, respect, housing, safety, etc.) that predict the future of impoverished three-year-olds long before they even enter school in the segregated Bluff City of King Cotton where politicians continue to thump their chests about "moral imperatives" while ignoring the vestiges of slavery.

When you read the reporter's account below, you have to wonder how deep the disconnect can get and how ethically blind and humanly callous the corporate ideology can express itself.  Is autonomy within schools really the answer to literacy problems, or is it an easy way of washing your hands clean of the problem when you know the newly "autonomous" charter schools will get rid of the school librarian to put more money into the school CEO's pocket?  Are "literacy coaches" with clip boards and fascist efficiency goals preferable to caring, mature librarians who know how to connect children with great books?  What can we expect from "pilot" interventions by the University of Memphis, where the Gospel According to Gates rules? And which slime balls from the education industry are selling their oppressive scripted bullshit lessons to the newly-concerned Shelby County School Board?  How much stupider to the effects of segregation and poverty can politicians get?

. . . .“We have a problem,” Deputy Superintendent David Stephens, who is leading the literacy effort, told school board members last month at their first briefing on the plan that is still taking shape. “To me it’s a moral imperative for every one of us to say that every one of our third-graders, by the time they leave third grade, they are going to be proficient or advanced.”
The first look was also Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s first indication that the pursuit of that goal will mean changes in the school system’s budget that starts to take shape in the spring.
Hopson has repeatedly made a simple statement of a basic problem even more basic.
“Our kids can’t read,” he has said numerous times since this year’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test scores showed that on average only 36 percent of students in the district are proficient in reading and language arts.
“When you dive deeper in the numbers and look at the areas with a higher poverty rate … the numbers are more like 28 percent proficient,” Hopson told the school board last month. “There’s a parade of horribles that goes along with kids who can’t read by the time they leave third grade.”
And Hopson has been equally blunt about the price tag for a comprehensive intervention in classrooms to raise the percentage as well as efforts outside classrooms and that bring volunteers into classrooms.
“At the end of the day, the school district has resources to do some of this, but it’s going to take much more,” he said. “We need everybody to roll up their sleeves.”
School board member David Pickler urged the board in its upcoming budget season to use “a different lens and decide what business we are in.”
“Clear the landscape and put sufficient resources into making this a reality,” he added. “This has got to be a focus that brings everyone together. It’s got to transcend urban and suburban.”
School board member Billy Orgel said there should at least be an assistant for teachers in every school. But he also said budgets to carry out the goal of third-grade proficiency shouldn’t be the same from school to school.
“The pushback that we’re going to get is we can’t fund that,” he said. “Why do we have the same treatment at a 2 percent proficient school that we do at an 80 percent proficient school? All budgets for these schools should not be equal.”
Hopson agreed, citing the need for more autonomy at schools.
“Teaching reading is rocket science,” said Dr. Linda Kennard, Shelby County Schools director of curriculum and instruction. “This is tough work.” [Very interesting meeting minutes here involving Dr. Kennard]
The move toward more specific instruction for teachers on how to teach a classroom of students with varying levels of reading proficiency began this past summer. From the teachers who took part in that summer training, the school system is now offering the same training at all of its Innovation Zone Schools and 23 high priority schools where student achievement levels remain low. When the current school year ends, the same training will be offered to all Shelby County Schools teachers.
The other measures being considered include adding a literacy coach to the school system’s coaching model and coming up with a common assessment every three weeks or so focused on the literacy skills of students in kindergarten through third grade.
Classroom observations of teachers that are part of teacher evaluations could shift to make half of the observations in reading for teachers who teach all subjects and the observation standards would include specific “look fors” in the way the teachers tackle reading.
A small-scale “team read” program at Treadwell Elementary School in which volunteers help with vocabulary could expand. [Suggested additions to vocal list: exploitation, oppression, apartheid, marginalization]
Outside the teacher-student relationship, Kennard said the school system is considering items like sponsors to provide incentives to students for meeting reading goals, a literacy calendar for parents and nonprofit literacy organizations to show activities for each week of the year and parental training on literacy outside the school day.

Kennard said the University of Memphis education college is proposing a partnership on literacy efforts that could begin as a pilot program. . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Harry and the Common Core

A couple of nights ago I was at a small gathering where Harry's mom was responding to comments about how much Harry, now "five and a half" as he is quick to tell you, has shot up in the past few months.

Oh, he's doing great, says Harry's mom, except for a bit of a dexterity problem in his hands.  

And how do we know of this problem?  It has been pointed out by Harry's kindergarten teacher when he does his practice tests by clicking with the mouse pointer.  (Unlike most of Tennessee's schools, Harry's Germantown school already has all the technology in place that will be needed to take all the new tests online).

And since the tests are timed, well, any glitch in Harry's motor skills can bring down his score on the real test later on, which can bring down his teacher's evaluation scores, and you see where this is going.

Harry's mom is learning a great deal, too, during his first year of school.  She has learned already of something called the Common Core that makes it necessary for the kindergarten teachers to eliminate nap time in order to get across all those skills that Harry is doing his best at clicking in to prove he has learned them.  She has learned of the detailed report cards that have noted how Harry does not track the teacher at all times and that he prefers to do things at his own pace.  Areas to work on, the teacher says.

Harry's mom and the other moms are not happy about the loss of nap time and all the practice testing.  The children come home tired and cranky and not up to enjoying play and family time.

Without looking up from his Legos over near the fireplace, Harry says, "I don't like hands, but I like football."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why I Won't Be Buying a Subaru in Memphis or Anywhere Else

A letter I sent to a very nice salesman at the Memphis Subaru dealership this morning:


Dear David,

I saw a friend the other night who bought a new Subaru from you earlier this Fall, and I was admiring his car.  With one of my cars on the verge of needing a new timing belt, I was planning to visit your place just after the Christmas rush to take advantage, perhaps, of any kind of year-end deals.  

All that changed, however, when I saw the Subaru ad yesterday that listed the miseducative outfit, Teach for America, as a recipient of your corporate giving program. Because TFA is one of the most destructive corporate education reform initiatives yet established to further limit access of urban children to the possibility of mature caring teachers, I wanted to let you know that I won't be visiting your showroom. You see, I am an educator who believes that untrained corporate temps are not the solution to the problems facing poor urban and rural public schools.

Just as I do not buy my groceries or incidentals at Walmart because of their TFA sponsorship, and just as I do not send my goods via FedEx because of their TFA support, I will not be test driving or buying a new Subaru--even though I like your product line very much.  

If your company wants to do something for education and children, Subaru might consider offering teacher education scholarships for the best, brightest, and poorest minority students to become professional teachers, ones with some real understanding of the challenges of being poor, rather than the cultivated misunderstanding of white post-adolescent missionaries coached to believe that their privileged guilt naturally carries with it some superior capacity to cure cancer with aspirin.  

Or better yet--your company may consider relocating some of your Subaru production to areas of America where large swaths of our population are contained by joblessness, racism, and a loss of hope.  Now that would be some real teaching for America that could yield benefits beyond what we mere educators could ever accomplish.

Jim Horn

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Selmer Teacher Speaks Out

Jeff Lipford
Selmer, Tenn.
As a lifelong educator who has taught in public schools for almost 28 years, I find it very troubling to see what is happening in public education in regard to assessing students. We need to re-evaluate what we are doing in Tennessee.
At a recent public forum in Jackson, students and parents told of testing anxiety to the point that children were becoming physically ill from the pressure to do well on standardized tests. Teachers expressed concern about the amount of time spent preparing students for the tests. In many cases, as much as six weeks of instruction time is lost to preparing students for standardized tests.
I believe that Tennessee is spending too much time and money on testing. Tennessee spent $40 million on testing in 2013 and with the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) assessment for the Common Core standards the cost will rise. All of these tax dollars for testing are going to out-of-state vendors rather than staying in our state to help children.
In addition to being a teacher, I am also a county commissioner. My county could use more help from the state in providing just the basics that our students need, such as textbooks, technology, science labs, career technology programs and buildings.
I work at a school that has as many as 15 floating teachers in any given year because there are not enough classrooms. Tennessee’s school reforms are placing more of the funding burden on local government and limit our ability to provide basic services.

I am not opposed to assessments, but it has clearly gotten out of hand. Assessments shouldn’t be the sole indicator of success. Most of the school reform is being advocated by outside sources that will benefit financially. The quality and depth of learning are being sacrificed in Tennessee for an assessment score. That is a shame. Why not take a more safe approach in implementing proven educational policies, and then fund them accordingly? Nothing will change until parents begin to say enough is enough.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nashville Limits Charters as Memphis Doubles Down

Nashville Metro has acknowledged the impending $23 million shortfall in next year's budget is due to the drain from corporate charter schools.  As a result, the school board has decided to cut its losses by restricting the spread of these segregated zero-tolerance chain gangs.  With the TN Department of Education staffed by TFA cultists and losers from the Gates Foundation, there is plenty of gnashing in Nashville this winter as bogus charter reports are generated to show that life cannot continue without the total compliance punishment boutiques.

We have to wonder when Memphis and Shelby County will notice the missing $212 million that the new apartheid corporate reform schools are collecting to contain and culturally sterilize the poorest children of Memphis who have no other choices.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Custodial Privatization and Filthy Schools

Since school fragmentation consolidation went into effect in Shelby County (Memphis) Schools, the lawyers in charge of SCS have been trying to save every dime they can to pay for the $212 million dollar donut hole created to pay for corporate welfare charter reform schools for the urban poor.

Part of the savings came by way of relieving staff custodians of their jobs as the County accepted an offers from bottom-feeding outfit in Knoxville, GCA, to save money by privatizing cleaning services.  In the process, those workers who re-applied for their jobs had union affiliation eliminated, retirement plans axed, and salaries cut.

And what is SCS getting in their race to the bottom? Just what they paid for:

. . . .Principals and teachers have filed numerous complaints about the condition of restrooms, lunchroom tables and classrooms. A principal Friday said the restrooms smell at the end of the day and that he’s never seen the floors and sinks as dirty as they are.
Principals have said the mop heads are no longer replaced weekly and that floors are dusted with dirty mops and not buffed.
Last week, Hopson told the school board he was close to a potential solution. “We are very concerned with the flu season coming up. It’s fundamental to clean schools the way they need to be cleaned. This is not good for kids.”
Board members said they had heard similar complaints.
Last summer, the board voted to outsource the cleaning in legacy Memphis schools to Knoxville-based GCA, which held the contract in legacy Shelby County Schools. Aramark was the low bidder by more than $200,000, but GCA score higher in seven categories, including pay, benefits and minority participation.
Outsourcing saved the board $12 million, but from the beginning, there have been complaints that the workers were continually changing, didn’t clean as thoroughly as the higher-paid district employees and used questionable products and cleaning methods.
Workers say they have been told by GCA not to talk to media. They say privately that they are paid $9 an hour, but were promised $9.50. They also say they are expected to clean the same square footage with smaller crews.
School custodians lost their union affiliation when GCA took over.
Former Memphis City Schools custodians who took jobs with GCA took roughly a 25 percent pay cut. Many did not apply. When GCA could not fill all the positions, it subcontracted with ServiceMaster to clean 45 schools

Applicants said GCA required background and credit checks. They understood background checks but were angry about credit audits. . . .

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vote No to Raise Sales Tax for Corporate Pre-K

The Memphis Corporate Commercial Appeal has engaged in a very public and very losing campaign to  max out the state and local sales tax (on food, too) to pay for an increase of corporate ed early childhood seats in Memphis.  Here is a clip from today's Editorial, with my response below:
That’s why we urge Memphians to vote FOR a referendum Thursday that would increase the city’s sales tax rate by a half-cent on the dollar. The increase would generate about $47 million a year, with $30 million designated for pre-K classes. The remainder would be used to reduce Memphis property taxes. Voter approval would boost the sales tax rate in Memphis to 9.75 percent, the maximum allowed in the state.….The pre-K commission members are Rev. Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church Broad [sic]; R. Brad Martin, interim president of the University of Memphis; Barbara Hyde, chairwoman and president of Hyde Family Foundations; Barbara Holden Nixon of The Urban Child Institute; Elsie Bailey, former Booker T. Washington principal; Kathy Buckman Gibson, chairwoman of the Buckman International board of directors; Kirk Whalum, president and CEO of Stax Music Academy; and Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.
To the Editors:
If there were a plan to provide early childhood education for poor children, then the only remaining issue would be the fact that the poorest are expected to pay the most so that property owners can have a tax break at the expense of children who need the pre-K most. In other words, poor folks of Memphis, if you want more seats for your children, you have to pay for a tax cut for the middle class with your self-imposed tax increase. The only thing good about this? If passed, regressive sales taxes will have reached their limits.
When looking at the composition of the Commission to decide how the money is spent, there is a notable absence of any working poor representation, no parents, no early childhood educators, no child development experts.
There are plenty of Business Roundtable representatives, political hacks, and corporate education meddlers, however. The local education industry vampires and those who have been attracted to Memphis by the smell of public blood are lined up with their Powerpoint presentations cued up and sheafs of applications from white missionary do-gooders.

Call it robbing the poor so the rich can rob them some more. 

Jim Horn

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Memphis Paper Drops Pay Wall to Promote Sales Tax Increase

The Memphis Corporate Commercial Appeal has everything behind a pay wall unless the Editorial Board has an issue they want to promote, as in the latest campaign to lower property taxes and raise sales taxes to pay for a scheme to contract with corporations to provide early childhood cultural sterilization schools for Memphis's urban poor.  

Organize and vote against this effort to make those with the least pay the most for the worthless!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Tennessee NAEP Miracle of 2013 in Perspective

Previously posted at Schools Matter as Part 3 of series of posts on 2013 NAEP scores.  Part 1 here and Part 2 here:

The continued hydroplaning of NAEP scores nationally allows the world to see what the corporate education losers will not admit: the 3rd generation of test based accountability is not working. 

Rather than moving beyond corporate ed reform's status quo (oxymoron alert), however, Duncan and the shrinking elements of the corporate media that still print the CorpEd news releases point, instead, to the RTTT grant winners where scores rose in math and reading for both 4th and 8th graders: DC and TN.  Ignored are the 17 RTTT grant-winning states where they did not (full list here).  

We might expect a bit more for three and half billion public dollars, but with losing corporate welfare schemes put in place with NCLB's and RTTT, we have to wonder if Duncan did not experience a sigh of relief when scores did not go down.  Yet.  

And even though Jane Roberts wrote for the Memphis Corporate Commercial Appeal that TN's Gov. Haslam and Kevin Huffman were taking victory laps last week, they have probably not forgotten the NAEP story from 2011:

The state dropped from 45 to 46 in the nation in fourth-grade math; 39 to 41 in fourth-grade reading; 43 to 45 in eighth-grade math; and 34 to 41 in eighth-grade reading. Twenty-six percent of fourth-grade students are proficient in reading, and 30 percent are proficient in math. Twenty-seven percent of eighth-grade students are proficient in reading, and 24 percent are proficient in math.

When 2013 scores are compared to 2009, we see, in fact, that Tennessee actually lost ground this year in 4th grade reading (3 points) and 8th grade math (3 points).  Easy come, easy go. 

We should not forget, either, Tennessee's overarching First to the Top goal that it announced in 2010, when TN won the $501 million in RTTT cash: to have all students college and career ready.  I don't know about career ready, but if we use the metric that TN uses for college readiness, the ACT, then Tennessee has a long way to go.  In 2013, Tennessee ranked 47th in college readiness, just behind Mississippi, Louisiana, and North Carolina:
The big NAEP story this year that no one is paying attention to is the continuing progress made by the Dept. of Defense schools (DOD), where there is no RTTT teacher evaluation system based on test scores, where standardized tests don't dominate the schools, where teachers are respected and provided real professional developement, where resources are plentiful and classes small, and where minorities aren't segregated in corporate charter schools.  The DOD school students, in fact, are 40% minority and 50% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.   

Below is a summary comparison of TN, DC, and DOD, with an added category that averages the black-white achievement gaps for 4th and 8th grade Math and Reading:

Note that DOD has higher average scores for both math and reading in 4th and 8th grades.  Also note the black-white average score gaps are much lower at DOD schools than either TN or DC (same is true for Hispanic-White achievement gaps, too).

Michael Winerip did a story on DOD schools for the NYTimes in 2011 NAEP scores were released.  Here is a clip.  Please do read it:

. . . .It has become fashionable for American educators to fly off to Helsinki to investigate how schools there produce such high-achieving Finns. But for just $69.95 a night, they can stay at the Days Inn in Jacksonville, N.C., and investigate how the schools here on the Camp Lejeune Marine base produce such high-achieving Americans — both black and white.
They would find that the schools on base are not subject to former President George W. Bush’s signature education program, No Child Left Behind, or to President Obama’s Race to the Top. They would find that standardized tests do not dominate and are not used to rate teachers, principals or schools.
They would find Leigh Anne Kapiko, the principal at Tarawa Terrace Elementary, one of seven schools here.
Test preparation? “No,” Ms. Kapiko said. “That’s not done in Department of Defense schools. We don’t even have test prep materials.”
At schools here, standardized tests are used as originally intended, to identify a child’s academic weaknesses and assess the effectiveness of the curriculum.
Ms. Kapiko has been a principal both inside and outside the gates and believes that military base schools are more nurturing than public schools. “We don’t have to be so regimented, since we’re not worried about a child’s ability to bubble on a test,” she said.
Military children are not put through test prep drills. “For us,” Ms. Kapiko said, “children are children; they’re not little Marines.”
Under Mr. Obama’s education agenda, state governments can now dictate to principals how to run their schools. In Tennessee — which is ranked 41st in NAEP scores and has made no significant progress in closing the black-white achievement gap on those tests in 20 years — the state now requires four formal observations a year for all teachers, regardless of whether the principal thinks they are excellent or weak. The state has declared that half of a teacher’s rating must be based on student test scores.
Ms. Kapiko, on the other hand, has discretion in how to evaluate her teachers. For the most effective, she does one observation a year. That gives her and her assistant principal time for walk-through visits in every classroom every day.
“We don’t micromanage,” said Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, the agency that supervises the military base schools and their 87,000 students. “Individual schools decide what to focus on.”
The average class in New York City in kindergarten through the third grade has 24 students. At military base schools, the average is 18, which is almost as good as it is in the private schools where leaders of the education reform movement — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York; the former education chancellor in New York City, Joel I. Klein; and Bill Gates of Microsoft — have sent their children.
2001 study on the success of the military base schools by researchers at Vanderbilt University cites the importance of the smooth relations between the teachers’ union and management, and Ms. Fitzgerald said that continued to be true.
Helping children succeed academically is about a lot more than what goes on inside the schools. Military parents do not have to worry about securing health care coverage for their children or adequate housing. At least one parent in the family has a job.
The military command also puts a priority on education. Bryant Anderson, a petty officer who is stationed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., is given time off from work to serve as president of the base’s school board and coach middle school basketball and track teams.
Parents with children at the civilian schools where Ms. Kapiko has been the principal have not received that kind of support from their employers. “If Dad works in a factory, he gets three absences and he’s fired,” she said.
A family’s economic well-being has considerable impact on how students score on standardized tests, and it is hard to make exact comparisons between military and public school families. But by one indicator, families at military base schools and public schools have similar earnings: the percentage of students who qualify for federally subsidized lunches is virtually identical at both, about 46 percent.
What is clear is that the base schools have made impressive progress in narrowing the achievement gap.
In the last decade, the gap in reading between black and white fourth graders at base schools has decreased to 11 points this year (233 compared with 222), down from a 16-point difference in 2003 (230 compared with 214), a 31 percent reduction. In public schools, there has been a much smaller decrease, to a 26-point gap this year (231 compared with 205) from 30 points in 2002 (227 compared with 197), a 13 percent reduction.
The military has a far better record of integration than most institutions. Almost all of the 69 base schools are in the South. They were opened in the 1950s and ’60s because the military was racially integrated and did not want the children of black soldiers to attend racially segregated schools off base. . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From School Consolidation in Memphis to School "Decoupling"

From Schools Matter:

The Memphis Commercial Appeal has another no-news story today on questions remaining about how much it will cost to operate nine school systems in Shelby County, rather than one.  Let's see, we have six leafy boutique municipal systems, a Shelby County non-municipal system, the Achievement School District downtown, a high-rolling hedge fund backed charter system with KIPPs and Rocketships, and a local charter system run by black politicians paid off for their support of the Gates fragmentation plan.

The CM article continues to focus on the millions missing when the munis pull out entirely, thus avoiding any potential contact with kids of Memphis, where poverty is now at 27%.

How quickly things go from "consolidation" to "decoupling," which seems to be the new word to describe the fragmentation plan put into effect by the corporate know-nothings who put this "plan" together.

The elephant in the room that the CM still will not talk about is the $212 million that will be lost as almost 20 percent of Memphis students end up in corporate charter schools that collect around 8K per child, plus free rent in public school buildings. The suburban diversion is just that--a feint to keep the public focused away from the segregated chain gangs downtown run by corporate missionaries from Teach for America.
If there is a concern about benefits and pensions for teachers out in the leafy suburbs, why not "excess" those teachers like they were downtown and replace them with TFA temps who have had 20 days of teacher practice? Oh, I forgot, the kids in the suburbs need real teachers.
See the Transition Planning Commission report, linked here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CorpEd Losers' Quandary: How to Reward Teachers in High Poverty Schools With a System That Punishes Them for Working There

From Schools Matter:

Always looking for an opportunity to support corporate ed reform school losers, the Memphis Commerical-Appeal has an editorial today in support of Mississippi’s attempt toestablish merit pay for its teachers.  The editorial board offers no research to support its support, and the editors use the same conflicted rhetoric that CorpEd losers use to call for rewarding teachers based on test scores, while rewarding teachers for working in high poverty schools.  My reaction, just posted in the comments:

It would seem that you want too many things in one editorial, especially when one works against the others. Let me briefly explain. If you want good teachers to be rewarded for working with the neediest children in poverty schools, you do not accomplish that by having a system to determine merit based on test scores that punish teachers who work with low performing and high poverty children. You cannot use the same system of testing that effectively labels and punishes the poor to reward teachers who work with these children.
That is the system we have today in Mississippi and Tennessee, and that is one reason why teachers oppose it.
Another reason is based on research, which shows repeatedly in recent years (in Nashville, Chicago, and New York) that "merit pay" systems to do raise achievement as measured by test scores:
The third reason that teachers oppose the new evaluation systems is that they are neither valid, reliable, nor fair. The scientific evidence against teacher evaluations based on test scores is both massive and compelling, so much so that the National Research Council urged Arne Duncan against incentivizing its use in Race to the Top grant applications. Of course, we know he ignored that advice, and now we have the Rube Goldberg version of teacher evaluation that has made Tennessee first in the pursuit of federal dollars and last in the contest for credibility. Any system that mislabels 25 percent of teachers every year deserves the ridicule that has been offered by those who read the research or those who have bothered to talk with someone who has read the research.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Luttrell Ready to Turn Over $23 Million Head Start Budget to Corporate Cronies at Porter-Leath

From Schools Matter:

We posted on September 30 about Shelby County Mayor, Mark Luttrell, and his cozy relations with fellow corporate pol, Mark Threlkeld, who presides over the Board of Trustees of Porter-Leath, a non-profit corporation that is building an empire on backs of young victims of the Zero Tolerance Era.

The former Orphan Asylum
Porter-Leath's history goes back to the 19th Century, when it served as home of last resort for children of the destitute.  Today it is run by President Sean Lee, who lives across the border in a very white and leafy section of Mississippi.

Lee seems particularly qualified by corporate standards to take on the new duties of running an early childhood education program such as Head Start.  He has a Bachelors in Business, and his other job before coming to Porter-Leath was in HR at Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

But of course we know he will have lots of help from the Gates Foundation if Mayor Luttrell gets his way, when Porter-Heath becomes the recipient of the $23 million annual stipend from the Feds for Head Start, as well as any portion of a planned sales tax increase on food that is not swallowed up to lower property taxes for prosperous friends and neighbors of the Luttrells and the Threlkelds. Plus generous tax-shelter dollars from philanthrocapitalists who are eager to begin instilling compliance at a very early age in the black kids of Memphis.

And, too, there will be plenty of help to divvy up the cash from the State's corporate welfare agency, the Achievement School District, which has already established a "partnership" with Porter-Leath:

Porter-Leath Partners with ASD to Provide High Quality Pre-K
Posted on: Friday, September 06, 2013

Porter-Leath has launched a partnership with four Achievement School District Schools, one Aspire school and a second KIPP: Collegiate Memphis Elementary school, to provide high quality pre-kindergarten for over 200 children. The schools in the new partnership include:

  • Frayser Elementary
  • Corning Elementary
  • Whitney Elementary
  • Cornerstone Preparatory School 
  • Hanley Elementary (Aspire)
  • Shannon Elementary (KIPP)

The partnership follows recent Porter-Leath Preschool expansion efforts. Porter-Leath's partnership with KIPP began last school year on their Henry campus and the agency began operating Frayser Head Start and Child Development Center in January 2013. 

President Sean Lee already has help from once-upon-a-time businessman, Mike Warr, whose salary of $128,000 actually exceeds that of Lee at $112,000.  After Warr bought and sold the failing Monday's Child clothing outfit, he became Head of Development at Porter-Leath, and he has been trying to "close" on Head Start since 2008, when he barely missed:
Biggest missed opportunity: Unable to close on a Shelby County Head Start contract in 2008
The story has been unreported by the Commercial-Appeal until now.  Missing is any mention of what happens to public early childhood teachers if the Luttrell-Threlkeld-Barbic plan goes through:

The County Commission failed to approve a resolution on Monday that urged the county administration to apply for a $23 million federal grant to continue operating the county’s Head Start program. 
The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Steve Mulroy, was a request and would not have been binding. 
The commission also passed a resolution on Sept. 23 that urged the Shelby County Board of Education to take over the Head Start Program. According to the federal government website, Head Start “promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told commissioners that officials with non-profit Porter-Leath have said they planned to apply for the grant and that school officials have also indicated that Head Start would be a good fit for the system. 
Unless something changes before the Oct. 22 application deadline, there are no plans for the county to reapply, Luttrell said. 
Head Start began under President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s. A troubled local Head Start was taken over by the county 10 years ago. It now serves about 3,200 children.
Luttrell has said previously that an outside entity would be able to secure other funding for the program and be able to possibly double the number of students enrolled. 
Update 4 pm October 15:

Bill Dries at the Daily News reports that Shelby County Schools will make a bid on Head Start. It matters not to the 500 employees of Shelby County, however, who now work in Head Start.  Their jobs will be gone if either entity wins the $23 million to privatize Head Start in Memphis.

. . . . Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson told school board members Monday, Oct. 14, he and his staff will apply for the federal funding by the Oct. 22 deadline.

“He envisions that the district would need approximately four additional employees that would work for the district,” said school board chairmanKevin Woods. “Unlike the Shelby County government system, which had approximately 500 employees operating its program, we would contract with early childhood providers to run those centers.” 
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Monday that Porter-Leath, a Memphis-based children’s and family services provider, will also make a bid for the Head Start contract now operated by county government. 
Luttrell also said Monday he could foresee backing both applications once they are completed and he reviews them on their way to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
County Commissioner, Terry Roland, who is the poster boy for anger mismanagement in county government, had this to say:
“There is a layer of bureaucracy that has to be funded with local government,” said commissioner Terry Roland. “The quicker we get this out of the county’s hands, the better off the children will be.”
Yes, indeed.  Get that $23 million into the hands of those corporate welfare leeches who are lined up for blood.  That's what the poor children of Shelby County represent.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Corporate Christian Missionaries, Capitalism, and Public Servants of the Corporate Church

Published earlier today at Schools Matter:

Education historian, Carl Kaestle, developed the thesis that the American ideology developed in the 19th Century from an overlapping and mutually supportive combination of three elements: protestantism, capitalism, and republicanism.  They are so closely linked, Kaestle argued, that a challenge to one often brings defensive reactions from the believers of the others, so that a skeptic of reading the protestant bible in school was often attacked as un-American, or an organizer of unions might be attacked as an ungodly and un-American.

Today in Memphis, we see this ideology brought to a steroidal level with

  1. corporate welfare charter chains clamoring for some of the hundreds of millions of public dollars up for grabs, 
  2. the State's Achievement School District led by Chris Barbic (former CEO of the corporate charter chain, YES Prep), and
  3. the Christian Memphis Teacher Residency Program run by David Montague.

Montague was a Campus Crusader in East Asia until 2009.  Thanks to rich white Boston investors, he is now in charge of his own group of young missionary teachers who, along with their secular corporate counterparts from TFA, staff the growing number of charter chain gangs in the poor parts of Memphis.  A clip from an article in Christianity Today (my bolds):
Through MTR, teachers in training from across the country move to Memphis for an intensive one-year residency. In addition to classes and seminars, residents are paired with a teacher-mentor in a Memphis classroom. At the end of the year, residents have earned a Masters of Arts in urban education through nearby Union University and a Tennessee state teaching license. In return, the residents teach in an underserved school in Memphis for at least three years. 
MTR is not the only urban teacher residency program in the country, and the concept of training teachers in exchange for years of service is not new; since 1989 Teach for America has been recruiting college graduates and young professionals to teach in underserved schools for at least two years. However, MTR is the only urban teacher residency program in the country that provides this training in a Christian context. Along with education training, residents attend biblically based seminars and courses throughout the year.
L-R: Church, Corporation, State
In the photo above from Bill Dries of the Daily News, we see the three elements of American ideology represented, left to right, by Presbyterian minister, Sandy Wilson, the corporationists' Chris Barbic, and Shelby County Superintendent, Dorsey Hopson.  With so many poor children to pacify and convert and with so much money to be made by so few, there is growing awareness among these leaders that colonization, indoctrination, and pacification represent, respectively, the corporate issue, the religious issue, and the civil rights issues of our times.

Photos and text below from a Memphis Teacher Residency Conference--and no, I did not doctor the text to say "admit corporately our belief that it is God. . ."

Anissa Listak, Executive Director of Urban Teacher Residency United, and Bryan Loritts, Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, provided wonderful encouragement through their addresses. 
The evening served as a time to share and remember the impact MTR is making in our city, and to acknowledge and admit corporately our belief that it is God, and not simply hard working people, that is the giver and provider of all good things. 
Thank you to all who came for this inaugural event, and we can’t wait to see you next year.

Two of the enthused missionaries below: