Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Testing Resistance & Reform News: December 24 - 30, 2014 – FairTest - Bob Schaeffer #EdBlogNet

FairTest doesn't just report the assessment reform news -- we often help make it to support the movement. Check out this week's stories.

Please support an expansion of our crucial public education campaigns in 2015, FairTest's 30th Anniversary Year, with a contribution at http://www.fairtest.org/donate or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

With best wishes for a Happy New Year filled with testing resistance victories!

Remember that all donations to FairTest made by midnight, December 31 qualify for a 2014 federal tax deduction.

Rage Against The Common Core and Its New Tests

Standardized Testing Resistance Expected to Grow in 2015

Colorado Districts Debate Move to Online Exams

Connecticut Test-Scoring Guarantees "Failure"

Hazards of Florida's Testing Rush
New State Committee Will Tackle Florida Testing Controversies

Re-Evaluating Illinois' Assessment System: Who Are Out Masters?

Massachusetts Superintendents Say, "Too Much Testing

Minnesota Schools Hit Glitches With Online Testing

Nevada Will End Up on Short End of Common Core Testing

New York Governor Vetoes His Own Bill to Protect Teachers From Flawed Test-Score Ratings
New York Testing Protest Song

County School Leaders Want North Carolina to Abolish School Grading System

Pennsylvania Student Condemns Test-Driven Education

Virginia Ed. Secretary Supports Assessment Reform

Testing Under Fire on Capitol Hill . . . And in the States

Arne Duncan's False Assumption About Standardized Testing

U.S. Approach to Closing "Achievement Gap" Is All Wrong

Standardized Testing Resistance Expected to Grow in 2015

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web-  http://www.fairtest.org



Posted by Aurelio Montemayor 
Aurelio Montemayor
I admire the work of Bob Moses although I haven't been able to see it up close.
I've been trying to follow this project for several years but haven't been able to get through for nuts & bolts information on how to carry it out on the ground. Even if some of the data presented on the website doesn't show very dramatic gains for the students the effort is worth the focus. The gains might go far beyond the results on mandated state tests.

I'm especially interested in some sort of 'math-for-the-masses' approach that demystifies higher math and increases the number of students of color and poor students who are competent and comfortable with algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and whatever other advanced forms of math are necessary to survive and flourish in the 21st century professional world.
All this regardless to all the current information about the lessened value of college degrees and the conversations about the various non-degree paths which might be more practical for young people. 


The Algebra Project, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) national, nonprofit organization that uses mathematics as an organizing tool to ensure quality public school education for every child in America. We believe that every child has a right to a quality education to succeed in this technology-based society and to exercise full citizenship. We achieve this by using best educational research and practices, and building coalitions to create systemic changes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sponsors of Policy: A Network Analysis of Wealthy Elites, their Affiliated Philanthropies, and Charter School Reform in Washington State


Sponsors of Policy: A Network Analysis of Wealthy Elites, their Affiliated Philanthropies, and Charter School Reform in Washington State

by Wayne Au & Joseph J. Ferrare — 2014

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, today’s plutocrats are not like you and I; nor do they resemble the politicians we elect. Even when they assume the authority to set public policies, they are, I fear, not sackable. (Bosworth, 2011, p. 386)

Background/Context: Charter school policy has evolved into a major component of the current education reform movement in the United States. As of 2012, all but nine U.S. states allowed charter schools, and in one of those nine, Washington State, charter school legislation was passed by popular vote in November 2012. There is a substantial, if contested, research base focusing on charter school effectiveness, particularly related to test score achievement, as well as an equally contested literature base on charter school enrollment selectivity, student expulsions, and increased segregation in charter school populations.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to analyze the network of relations of policy actors surrounding the statewide campaign to pass the charter school Initiative 1240 in Washington State in order to better understand how wealthy individuals and their associated philanthropic organizations influence educational policy.
Research Design: Making use of available tax records, public election information, individual and organizational websites, and institutional and foundation databases, this study uses simple directed graphing techniques from social network analysis to analyze the complex relationships and affiliations of policy actors relative to the campaign to pass charter school Initiative 1240 in the state of Washington.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study concludes that, compared to the average voter in Washington, an elite group of wealthy individuals, either directly through individual donations or indirectly through their affiliated philanthropic organizations, wielded disproportionate influence over the outcome of the charter school initiative in the state, thereby raising serious concerns about the democratic underpinnings of an education policy that impacts all of the children in Washington State. This study also concludes that elite individuals make use of local nonprofit organizations as a mechanism to advance their education policy agenda by funding those nonprofits through the philanthropic organizations affiliated with those same wealthy elites. In light of these conclusions, the authors recommend that a mechanism for more democratic accountability be developed relative to education policy campaigns, initiatives, and legislation.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Stanford U's free-market advocate Dr. M Raymond says corporate Charter schools don't work in education #EdBlogNet

This post has been updated to include Dr. Raymond's complete comment on the effect of markets in education. The quote was taken from the City Club's podcast, which hadn't been posted when this post was first written.

I was all prepared to summarize what Dr. Margaret Raymond had to say about Stanford's latest study from its Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO), which Raymond heads, at today's City Club of Cleveland event.

How only in Cleveland does it appear that Ohio's charter school sector is providing meaningful, positive benefits to kids. Or how CREDO's methodology works (averaging kids in traditional public school buildings and comparing these "virtual" kids' performance with real charter kids). Or how Ohio's charter school sector has been making very minimal improvements over the years. Or that the state's charter reform initiatives over the last few years haven't had much impact on charter school performance. Or that Cleveland charters are doing a good job educating poor, minority kids. Or that 93% of Ohio charter schools' proficiency scores are below the 50th percentile in the state. Or that 44% of charter school kids are seeing low growth and performance.

But then, in response to a question from the audience nearly at the end of the event, Dr. Raymond dropped this on the crowd: She said she's a "free market kinda girl", but after decades of looking at the nation's charter school sector, she has come to the conclusion that the "market mechanism just doesn't work" in education. Here;s the podcast from the City Club. Her market comments start at 50:18. Here is the remarkable commentary:
I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed… The policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. We need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools. But I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

Considering that the pro-market reform Thomas B. Fordham Foundation paid for this study and Raymond works at the Hoover Institution at Stanford -- a free market bastion, I was frankly floored, as were most of the folks at my table.

For years, we've been told that the free market will help education improve. As long as parents can choose to send their kids to different schools, like cars or any other commodity, the best schools will draw kids and the worst will go away. The experience in Ohio is the opposite. The worst charter schools in Ohio are growing by leaps and bounds, while the small number of successful charter schools in Ohio have stayed, well, a small number of successful charter schools.

Raymond made the point too that parents are not informed enough to be true market consumers on education. Websites like Know Your Charter can help with that educational aspect of the parental choice, better arming parents with the necessary information to make a more informed decision. But to hear free market believers say that 20 years into the charter school experiment its foundational philosophy -- that the free market's invisible hand will drive educational improvement -- is not working? Well, I was stunned to hear that.

Raymond also made the point that the states that are seeing the best charter school performance are states whose charter school authorizers are focused on quality and have robust accountability measures -- in other words, well-regulated. Yesterday, when the CREDO report was released, it was discovered that if online and for-profit charter schools are taken out of the equation, Ohio charters don't perform all that bad. Problem is that more than 57% of Ohio charter school kids are in those schools. In fact, at Know Your Charter, we found that less than 10% of Ohio's charter school kids are in schools that score above the state average on the Performance Index Score or have an A or B in overall value added.

The point is that there are a few very high-performing charters in this state, like the Breakthrough Schools in Cleveland, or the Toledo School of the Arts, or Columbus Preparatory Academy. While these schools represent a smattering of Ohio's 400 plus charter schools, the state's failing charter schools are legion.

Here's another sort of bombshell from me, to counteract the free market one: I'm not convinced that the free market can't work for education.

But it can only do so if the public is fully informed, parents are armed with good information and make well-informed, thoughtful decisions while the state and its authorizing groups focus like a laser on quality, not quantity, of choice. The way Ohio's charter school laws are currently drafted does not allow that to happen. Sites like Know Your Charter can help, but the state needs to have a better mechanism in place to ensure that parents and kids can make truly informed and good decisions for their future.

It's not like buying a car where if you buy a lemon, you can just go try another one. It's a pain, but not the end of the world.

If parents choose a lemon of a charter school, their children may never recover.

That isn't a pain.

It's a tragedy.

Re: Stanford CREDO Director says free market doesn't work in Education

Lloyd Lofthouse posted a comment about this message on Basecamp. 

I think Word of Mouth leads to physical, in-your-face protests, and in the age of internet social media, Word of Mouth spreads fast.

Before teachers, parents and children of all ages join together to protest in the streets, in front of the DOE in Washington, in front of the Gates Foundation in Seattle, and in other states and cities, they have to become informed and that information comes through social media and Word of Mouth.

§  Social media > Word of Mouth > real-world protests

Stanford U's free-market advocate Dr. M Raymond
says corporate Charter schools don't work in education

Badass Teachers Association versus Corporate War on Public Education

Alleged Liar & Deceiver
who pays herself 500K+ annually from tax payers

History of Successful US Pub-Ed

Thank a worker this holiday season

By Hector Guzman Lopez and Erika Galindo, Special to Equal Voice News
The end of the year is here once again, and in what has become tradition throughout the United States, family and friends will gather this month to enjoy pleasant moments, food, smiles and conversations.
Many people will engage in reflection, some deeper than others, on why they are thankful and what warrants their family's gratitude.
Health, family, a roof over one's head, jobs.
These are just some of the most common things people include in their list of blessings. Rarely does society focus on the contributions of different people in the population to our well being as something for which to give thanks.
We hope to highlight the contributions of working families, especially immigrant working families as a reason warranting our gratitude. Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center gives thanks to working families this holiday season and beyond by consistently supporting the transformation of our society to achieve more just and equitable communities.
We urge families to reflect and share on these endeavors.
The "Texas Miracle," a phenomenon many of our politicians are quick to make reference to when speaking of the Lone Star State, is in large part due to the construction industry with record amounts of projects in every major urban area of the state.
There are close to 1 million construction workers who have built the state of Texas -- and continue to do so. They labor in the most dangerous state to work in construction with the most deaths on the job than any other field in any other state.
Construction companies, contractors, subcontractors and society have another reason to be grateful this season. It is thanks to the construction workers that the industry has managed to grow at the pace it has, making an estimated $54 billion a year.
Without Texas construction workers, our state would not flourish near that rate. We should give thanks to the men and women who labor every day to build our state, from roads to schools. They work on government buildings, private businesses and homes.

In giving thanks to Texas construction workers, we should acknowledge that about half of them labor in our state without documents. In other words, without immigrant workers, our state would not have the growth that people see today.

Beyond the holidays, we should demonstrate our gratitude by supporting and prioritizing the transformation of the construction industry to make it one that is more accountable to working families, where there is proper safety training, adequate water and water breaks and to try to ensure that the rampant problem of wage theft is no longer embedded in construction work.

Texas worker centers, such as the Workers Defense Project and Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center will be pushing for new legislation this session to support working families and make the construction industry more accountable to workers.

Also, this month, many families will not cook their meals for the holidays. Rather, they will have domestic workers prepare their meals, clean their homes and help their children prepare for celebrations.

Numerous professionals depend on domestic workers to take care of their homes, cook their food and assist their children and parents in order to fulfill their own careers and enjoy their free time.

This season, let us give thanks to domestic workers who take care of homes and families and allow for vast sectors of society to work. Let us give thanks beyond this symbolic holiday and support domestic workers who struggle to end wage theft, sexual abuse, mistreatment, low wages and other rampant labor injustices.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has been instrumental in galvanizing workers' centers and community organizations that focus with domestic workers on these issues and have successfully supported the passage of Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights in California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights widens labor rights under state law for domestic workers. Fuerza del Valle is committed to supporting this movement for economic justice.

As we lay out our holiday spread and eat our meals, let us also remember the men and women who harvest our food in the fields of America. Let us be conscious of the families who work hard to put food on our table and the supply chain that allows for this to happen.

Let us think of the millions of farmworkers, tens of thousands of whom are from the Rio Grande Valley which is a historical hub for migrant workers, who diligently harvest the fields. Let us think of the warehouse workers and the truck drivers who do their part in this supply chain, as well as the retail workers who work at Walmarts and supermarkets of America.

Let us think of all the workers who take part in getting food to our table. We should think of them and thank them for fulfilling such sacred work and for allowing us to nourish our bodies and support the health of our families.

Warehouse workers, retail workers and farmworkers are organizing across the country to fight poverty and exploitation in our supply chain. Let our gratitude extend from the holiday season and into concrete support for these historic campaigns by showing solidarity with working families.

This means attending their events, respecting picket lines and, most importantly, listening.

This holiday season, Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center recognizes and appreciate the contributions of all working families, documented and undocumented, to our society.

We encourage you to acknowledge them in your holiday dinners and celebrations and to give thanks to them on a day-to-day basis by supporting the movement for economic justice.

(Hector Guzman Lopez is an immigrant worker from Guanajuato who coordinates the Texas-based Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center and works for the Texas Civil Rights Project. Erika Galindo is a media advisor for Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center. She attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she served as managing editor at Island Waves Student Newspaper. She edits the Fuerza del Valle newsletter.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughts by Choco Gonzalez Meza

Status Update
By Choco Gonzalez Meza
For all my friends, whether close or casual, just because, One of the longest posts I will ever do.. and the most real, too. Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn't easy. Just something to think about...did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are ...usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the three hardest things to say are I love you, I'm sorry, and Help me? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now--let's start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will!! I did it for a friend and you can to. You have to COPY & PASTE this one, NO Sharing! Be encouraged!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jersey Jazzman: Civil Conversations Are Honest Conversations

Jersey Jazzman: Civil Conversations Are Honest Conversations: Via Peter Greene , I see that Andy Smarick , formerly of the New Jersey Department of Education, is quite vexed at the idea that someone&#39...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Too Much - Images of Inequality - Progress & Promise

John Oliver
Comedian John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, last weekend ended his latest charming rant against America’s wealth gap with a brilliant send-up of the rigged lottery the American economy has become. The 14-minute video of Oliver’s performance would quickly go viral online. A little pinched on time? Start watching at the 12:09 point, the beginning of the lottery segment.
Web Gem
Against Monopoly/ This research-rich site zeroes in on the intellectual property rackets that contribute so much to the concentration of contemporary corporate power and wealth.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives may be getting serious about checking executive pay excess. At least a little. Last week, House Democratic leaders unveiled a package of reforms designed to spotlight what Democrats will accomplish next year if they gain a House majority this November. The package includes a proposal — the “CEO/Employee Pay Fairness Act” — that would deny corporations tax deductions on any CEO pay over $1 million unless “they give their employees a raise.” House Democratic leaders gave no further details on the proposition. The good news here: House Democrats have never before as a group hinted they would in any way support linking tax code provisions on CEO compensation to worker wages. Whether this proposal signifies anything more than rhetorical progress on that front will have to await the details.

TOO MUCH - Greed at a Glance & Petulant Plutocrat of the Week

The one thing you’ll never find on Craigslist: a billionaire. So where do deep pockets go trolling online for bargains? They click their way to “POSH,” the online classifieds that come with an annual $24,000 subscription to the Bloomberg terminal. You’ll find these terminals all over Wall Street. Heavy-duty financial industry types simply cannot live without the constantly refreshed Bloomberg market stats. But investment bankers need a little escape time, too, and they can get plenty of it from POSH. Among the recent POSH listings: a dressage horse for $40,000 and a 15th-century Italian castle for just over $27 million . . .
Stanley FischerU.S. Justice Department officials last Monday announced a $7 billion fine on banking giant Citicorp for its “egregious” mortgage misconduct before and after America's 2008 financial meltdown. The reaction in Citi’s executive suites? Relief. Citi shares actually rose in price after the fine went public. Citi execs have plenty of other cause to celebrate. None of them have yet been personally indicted for Citi’s frauds and cover-ups. Nor have they had to disgorge the windfalls they pocketed during the subprime years. Among the windfall recipients: current Federal Reserve vice chair Stanley Fischer, who has of late been speechifying against breaking up America’s biggest banks. Fischer’s three-year stint as a Citi exec helped him build, says Bloomberg News, a personal fortune now worth up to $56.3 million . . .
What’s summering in the Hamptons like? Fantastic sunsets from oceanfront manses that list for $20 million. What’s working a Hamptons summer like — as a nurse or a gardener? Journalist Frank Eltman has just told that not-so-pretty story. Few workers, he notes, can afford to live anywhere close to their jobs in the Hamptons, that stretch of Long Island shore 80 miles east of Manhattan where the awesomely affluent congregate every July and August. Commutes on the traffic-clogged local roads regularly run three hours round-trip. All that wealth in the Hamptons drives up prices on more than housing. Milk and eggs run double the prices elsewhere on Long Island. Southampton’s food pantry is now helping 6,000 people per year. Income disparities in the Hamptons, former pantry director Mary Ann Tupper says simply, have become “tremendous.”

Quote of the Week
“No state has ever lost revenue by raising taxes on rich people.”
Michael Mazerov, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Governing, July 16, 2014

Paul GosarArizona congressman Paul Gosar likes to tell his constituents that “I live just like the rest of you folks.” He doesn't. Gosar's lawmaker salary alone runs five times his district’s median income. Gosar also owns “substantial real estate,” plus a local business and a dental practice. His total net worth runs north of $2 million. A fortune that “modest” won't by itself, of course, gain Gosar entry into top plutocratic circles. What will: his push last week to slash funding for the IRS. A Gosar House floor amendment to ax the IRS budget by $353 million passed on a voice vote. Gushed Gosar: “I am ecstatic.” Gosar’s move cuts a quarter of the resources the IRS can devote to keeping tabs on tax cheats. The IRS already only audits 0.4 percent of partnership returns, a tax return category near and dear to the hearts of wealthy tax evaders.

Too Much - July 21

Simple numbers can sometimes tell incredibly powerful stories, as tax analyst Bob Lord demonstrated once again last week. Start with 100,000, the approximate population of Lansing, Michigan and Burbank, California. Residents of those cities spent about 100 million hours or so working last year.
For that 100 million hours, the Phoenix-based Lord points out, each city’s residents earned about $3.5 billion.
David Tepper last year took home that same $3.5 billion. He labored no more than a few thousand hours — as a hedge fund manager. He spent his working hours shuffling the investments of America’s most financially fortunate.
What kind of nation, Lord wonders, values the work of one individual as much the work of an entire city? We wonder, too. In this week’s Too Much, more musings on the fruits of our labor — and their distinctly less-than-wonderful distribution.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Russ on Reading: I Blog; Therefore, I Am

Russ on Reading: I Blog; Therefore, I Am:        Descartes said, “I think; therefore, I am.” I want our students to say, “I read and write; therefore, I can think.” Rene Descar...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

All Things Education: A DCPS Teacher Resigns

All Things Education: A DCPS Teacher Resigns: A few summers ago at the  SOS March & National Call to Action , I met a young and enthusiastic, but independent-minded and healthily-sk...

Friday, July 4, 2014

CURMUDGUCATION: Dancing into the Apocalypse

CURMUDGUCATION: Dancing into the Apocalypse: I'm writing this now so that I can read it to myself when the first day of school rolls around. Sometimes you have to be your own moti...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Teacher Unions - California Tenure Law - The Vultures 

By  Rodolfo F. Acuña,

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu's decision in Vergara v. California blames teachers, for the failure of poor and minority students to close the education gap between them and their affluent peers.

Treu argues that California laws allow public school teachers to secure tenure after 18 months shielding "grossly ineffective teachers," and concludes that minority and poor students are disproportionately impacted by bad teaching.

The judge draws parallels between his opinion and the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that supposedly ended "separate but equal" laws. However, sixty years after Brown the Los Angeles Unified School District is still one of the most segregated districts in the country.

While I agree that incompetent and perverse teachers should immediately be terminated, the finger waving has to be put into context, and the penalties of crooked and perverse corporate executives and politicians must also be addressed and how they disproportionately affect the poor and the minorities’ opportunity to get an equal education. After all teachers did not create the income gap.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, says "[The decision] doesn't change the fundamental problem, which is who in the world is hiring these people who are not qualified?"

I hate hypocrisy and I am offended by the pious 'students matter' pretensions of the plaintiffs' attorneys. I am offended by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy's scapegoating teacher unions for the district's abuse scandal. Deasy said he wanted one thing from the Legislature: the ability to quickly fire offending teachers inferring that bad teachers were being shielded by tenure.

Deasy's claim to fame is that he worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a foundation that has gained access and the Gates the reputation of reformers largely based on its distributing huge amounts of money to cash starved school districts. Deasy has never been a classroom teacher and knows little about pedagogy.

AGREED: layoffs should not be based solely on seniority. However, after 60 years of teaching I know the system and can say that teacher assignments are more often based on favoritism. Wealthy schools generally have more fully certified and experienced teachers than poor schools. Moreover, rewards such as merit pay are based on the preferences of administrators rather than the needs of students.

Race is a factor, but it is rarely considered in teacher training programs. Student needs should not solely be at the discretion of an administrator; a greater voice has to be given to the community.

Ok, schools are failing, but what is the CONTEXT as to why? For example, teacher training institutions fail to adequately prepare teachers. Has teaching improved in the past ten years? Surely this failure is not because we don't give enough tests.

FOLLOW THE MONEY. Students did not initiate the suit. It was pushed and financed by a Silicon Valley millionaire. It is part of a well-financed campaign promoted by billionaires that include Bill Gates, Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. They want public schools to be run like businesses, i.e., WALL STREET? They promote charter schools and privatization.

The Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner who represented the students, said that an estimated 3 percent of public school teachers in California are 'highly ineffective', estimating a loss of $11.6 billion in lifetime earnings for students with a poor education. Demographer Donald Bogue has tied student achievement to father's income. Moreover, even with an education, has the vaunted private sector created well-paying jobs? CONTEXT!

Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres (Tell me who you hang with and I'll tell you who you are). Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., the lead attorney, is a hired gun for right wing interests. He served on the legal team that worked to overturn California's Proposition 8 (banning same-sex marriage). Boutrous hypocritically says "This system is harming students every day. When students are denied this lifeline when they are told that they are incapable of success or when they are denied the basic building blocks of an education the effect is catastrophic."

HYPOCRISY? Who created the separate but unequal society?

Los Angeles public institutions are for sale. Billionaire and philanthropist Eli Broad has gained unprecedented power. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told CBS, "Eli Broad sets the standard..." Broad is a feared and admired dictator, spreading around a half-billion dollars worth of cultural improvements.

Sounds good but he and his billionaire cohorts now control the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Intent on privatizing the public schools they have suppressed investigative reporting. PBS once the voice of reform has been silenced by the Walton family (Walmart), Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, and Rupert Murdoch.

The cabal has donated big bucks to right wing advocacy groups, think tanks, and elected school board members and local, state and national politicians.

PBS has blacked out critics such as Historian Diane Ravitch, whose book is title is "Public Schools for Sale?"

The privatizers push for charter schools, vouchers (frequently called "opportunity scholarships"), business-style management, high-stakes testing to evaluate students and teachers, weakened teachers unions, and "parent trigger" law to allow disgruntled parents to turn public schools into privately-run charter schools.

The billionaires supply the cash, they hire guns such Michelle Rhee (former Washington, D.C. school chief who now runs Schools First, a corporate-funded lobby group), Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America), Geoffrey Canada (founder of Harlem Children's Zone), and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The innocuous Gates has donated billions to privatize public schools. No wonder Gates pushed the film "Waiting for Superman" that was shown at the national PTA convention. Some have wondered if the PTA's decision to promote the film has anything to do with its receipt of a $1 million donation from the Gates Foundation. Gates' solution to the budget crisis is for school districts to cut pension payments for retired teachers.

Make no mistake the Broad and Gates cabal seeks to privatize public education; it is no less greedy than the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that attempted to seize political control of Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio with the goal of privatizing education, the prisons, and the state governments. The cabal's goal is to destroy trade unions, seize control of pension funds and pay no taxes.

BLAME: Teacher unions have allowed the corporate raiders to control the narrative. Free and independent trade unions are the only force strong enough to take on the corporate raiders. They cannot match the billionaires' club money power, but they can slow them down. Unions are an important check on the greed of the Kochs, ALEC and the Broad cabal.

History shows that the Russian and Mexican Revolutions were subverted by the absence of independent trade union movements. True democracy depends on them.

However, trade unions must clean up contradictions if they want public support. In order for tenure to survive union members must get rid of bad teachers and promote the interests of communities they serve. Teachers must serve poor schools with the same intensity and vigor that they do more affluent schools. They are also going to have to demand better teacher preparation.

Today the Latino student population is a majority in many school districts, and teachers are not only going to have to adapt to this new reality but also advocate for the interests of the new majority.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Thorny Path of the Non-compliant Xeriscapist (in San Antonio, Texas)

It’s been almost 25 years of xeriscapery, though passive at first…lazily letting whatever would grow flourish. I had finally stopped paying rent and moved into my own little house with plenty of yard space in front and back.  I took pictures of the lush growth in my enclosed back yard. My green reverie was soon desiccated -- I received a citation from the city! My verdant grasses and tall plants were in violation of the city code. If I didn’t comply within a certain time limit there would be a hefty fine to pay.
For several years I would wait for the notice and then retreat over the city code line that my natural vegetation had again criminally crossed and trim the luscious growths back to a code-acceptable height and width.
It seemed that someone in my neighborhood didn’t like my yard style and would regularly make complaints. I don’t think there is enough staff to patrol all our streets in search of weedophiles (it would be runcophile if I used the Latin word or hierbaphile if I used the Spanish) – there had to be some self-appointed monitors who would call in the official weed-killers.
About ten years ago I decided to become an active xeriscapist. I researched catalogues and other online sources and found Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas -- exactly what I was searching for: offering seed mixes for this region and also for special purposes, e.g., attracting butterflies. I bought seeds by the pound and randomly strewed them in my front yard.

I was getting mixed results but every year I would have more beautiful flowers that were natural to the region and needed very little care and watering. I am not a dedicated gardener – my hobbies lie elsewhere.
I continued getting periodic visits from our code compliance friends from the Development Services Department – Field Services Division – Code Enforcement Section of our venerable City of San Antonio.
One winter friends helped clear my front yard, turn the soil and plant about $200.00 of Texas native wildflowers. I had included a variety of sunflowers that grew to be huge golden borders. I was very new to all this so I had many smaller flowering plants that were hidden by the large sunflower plants.

After that I increased the varieties of seeds and was more organized where I scattered them. I made sure to cover with a bit of topsoil so that the birds wouldn’t have a feast at my expense.  I no longer planted the big sunflowers with the edible seeds: birds, bugs and ants just love them and I won’t use pesticides. The wild sunflowers, quite common to this region do quite well on our roadsides, empty lots and my front yard.
And still I would get the code-enforcer visits. One year I was actually at home (I usually got the message from a form tacked to my front door). I tried dialoguing with the lady about my garden which was in full bloom that early summer day. She was adamant that I had to chop every green thing down to a height of one foot regardless of what the plant was because everything in my front yard was considered a weed or noxious plant.
I contacted my city council office and talked to some young intern who seemed perplexed by my situation. I emailed pictures of my yard and a kind civil note. (Which took some effort because diplomacy is not my strong suit.) A week later I got a note from a supervisor from the city department that has taken such an interest in my yard. He had driven by and saw the flowers and told me to chop them down when the yard was finally dry and flowerless.

The last two years had been uneventful until I got a Notice of Violation tacked to my door on this June 25, 2014.

This year I planted my seeds very late and so everything didn’t start coming up until late April. It wasn’t until late May and early June that I had a decent variety of flowers but no Bluebonnets and few Indian Blankets. Right now, aided by some rainy days, there’s a color riot dominated by the Zinnias and wild sunflowers (not the edible kind). A thick growth of a plant with a tiny yellow flower (a weed I didn’t plant) covered some sections of the yard and actually choked out some of my seeds. I assumed that was the noxious plant referred to. I had put fertilizer in the soil because I was planting so late and so I have a lush growth, mostly of plants I like and want.
What I didn’t do was trim the ‘weeds’ (plants I didn’t want) because I didn’t want to cut the flowers that are now blooming profusely.  

Several years ago I started encouraging plants that die in the winter but become nice bushes in the spring and that had just appeared in my yard with no formal invitation or planting.

One is a reed-like plant that spreads easily and blooms with pleasant (to me) wheat-like spikes. Another is a dark green leafy plant with daily purple blossoms that die in the evening. The reed-like plant, located at the intersection of the public sidewalk and the one leading to my front door, this year is huge! I love it but I think it is one of the main code-criminals. We trimmed it and left a few tall spikes.

So -- We went out there and trimmed more of the edges (from 1 foot wide to 2). We lawn-mowered through some of the thicker sections of the unwanted plants but there were too many floral casualties with that approach.  Because the soil was moist from a recent shower I was able to pull out almost each unwanted plant (weed to the City of San Antonio). 
I hope I made my horticultural design intentions clear: the plants that remain are “… cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.” 

Maybe I should give the whole subsection as given in the
San Antonio Property Maintenance Code – Notice of Violation – In Person/Posted.

302.4 Weeds All improved premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weed or plant growth in excess of 12 inches in height. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees and shrubs provided; however this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.

I’m old enough to remember my youthful appreciation of Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign for the bountiful natural variety of things that grow natively to Texas.  I fully induct myself in that horticultural order, culture and practice.

Maybe I have neighbors with time to spare and go around as amateur code-enforcement cops. I assume their concern is ‘property value’ and what is deemed proper for a middle-class neighborhood. They seem to prefer the ugly, un-ecological water-gorging regularly-trimmed lawns -- they need to see an order and design that fits within very narrow perimeters.  Some of my neighbors were stopped from erecting some really elegant iron fences. We are now a historical area and the codes are even stricter. (Forget that many ugly cyclone fences were left in place and grandfathered when the new codes were established.)

The only thorns along my xeriscaped floral path are the San Antonio Property Maintenance Codes! But in the Lady Bird Johnson tradition I will continue to let my Texas wildflowers grow.