Who could ever forget comedian Jon Stewart’s commentary in early 2009 on how financial reporters totally botched reporting of the Great Recession. Stewart mocked journalists at CNBC for missing all the warning signs of the over-valued housing market and their failure to question wild speculation on sub-prime mortgage debt. In one famous clip, Stewart said financial reporters’ astonished reaction to the economic calamity was like a journalist from The Weather Channel reporting at the scene of a tropical storm and wondering why he was getting rained on.
Stewart’s commentary about financial reporting back then would ring true today in describing how journalists are responding to recent fights over American education policy.
Indeed, those in prominent news outlets tempted to jump into the fray of the nation’s education debate should be aware they are late to the scene and way behind the narrative proceeding recent events.
Trying To Catching Up
Opinionators have been sleeping through a veritable rock concert of dissent over current education policies and are now suddenly awakening to declare the band just started and, “Boy, is it loud.”
“Teachers Turn On Obama,” the headline blared from Beltway news source The Hill. “Teachers unions have turned on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration,” the story went, “creating a major divide in the Democratic Party coalition.”
The reporter, Peter Sullivan, seemed to believe that the Obama administration and public school advocates had been copacetic until recently when the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, voted in favor of demanding that Secretary Duncan resign. As proof, he quoted laudatory comments from former District of Columbia education Chancellor Michelle Rhee praising “the work Duncan and Obama have done,” and hailing a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality that found that because of federal pressures, 20 states now “require student growth to be the main factor in teacher evaluations, up from just four states in 2009.”
All these changes “progressed with little fanfare,” Sullivan declared. But suddenly now, teachers unions and Democrats are “fiercest sparring partners.”
Another headline, “Teachers Unions Turn Against Democrats,” came from New York Magazine. Jonathan Chait warned that teachers “are growing increasingly obstinate in their opposition of the sorts of accountability and pressure that Obama has helped bring upon them.” The inspiration for their growing disenchantment: education historian Diane Ravitch.
Ravitch, Chait insisted, “Has depicted education reform as a plot by corporate elites to privatize schools and destroy unions.” Her “militance” is turning leaders of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – into vehement opponents of what Chait appeared to endorse: opening more charter schools, extending school days, curtailing teachers’ job Waking Up To Our Broken Education Policies:
Some local leaders appreciated his willingness to challenge the status quo to improve the 43,000-student district in the face of poverty and language barriers. But his maverick ways alienated the teachers union and some community members who felt he ignored their concerns.
Enter José L. Banda, 57, the Seattle Public Schools superintendent known for his low-key demeanor, preference for collaboration and tendency to delegate some difficult decisions to handpicked administrators.
Sacramento City Unified trustees are expected to name Banda as their new superintendent Thursday, a shift welcomed by a teachers union still frosted about Raymond’s policies and neighborhood advocates alienated over last year’s closure of seven elementary campuses in low-income areas.
In contrast to Raymond, Banda appeared to generate little buzz during low-profile stints in Seattle and Anaheim.
“I don’t go out and make headlines,” he said. “I build relationships.”
Sacramento City Unified faces some of the most difficult education challenges in the region. Nearly 70 percent of students are considered low-income by federal standards, and one-fifth of students are English learners. Enrollment continues to decline, posing hurdles that have left Sacramento City Unified as the area’s only district on the state fiscal warning list.
Banda has said he’ll watch the Sacramento district for a while before launching initiatives to tackle these challenges. But he’ll likely start by the same path he followed in Seattle: Team building,community outreach and building trust.
“Anytime there’s a change in leadership I think it’s a little unsettling,” he said after the district named him as its superintendent finalist. “My style has always been to take the time to understand the community and culture and initiatives before determining what we need to change.”
In an email Wednesday, Banda said he will create a plan for his first 90 days on the job once he is hired.
He said last month he pursued the Sacramento job because he has family in California. In an interview with Seattle radio station KUOW, he also said, “As I near the latter part of my career, it’s an opportunity to get back into the retirement system that I spent almost my entire career in.”
Banda said he succeeded in getting Seattle voters to pass a more than $1 billion school bond. He also oversaw the creation of a strategic plan with a 70-member task force that focused on closing the achievement gap among disadvantaged students.
In Seattle, Banda became known for his links to community groups.
“There are a lot of people who come into new jobs with a lot of bluster,” said James B. Smith, education chairman of The Breakfast Group, a Seattle nonprofit of about 65 African American professional men focused on student mentoring.
“I think José came in with a low-key approach, listened first and digested what he heard, and came up with ways to fulfill challenges brought to his attention without a lot of fanfare.”
When Banda arrived in Seattle, Smith said, “one of the things that tipped us off right away that he was different was that he arranged for a series of meetings with communities of color and listened to what they had to say.
“There had been a little bit of disconnect with communities of color and the district as far as the perception that people weren’t as appreciated or listened to or valued,” Smith said. “He picked up on that right away.”
In an appearance before the group, someone asked Banda about having a more diverse administration. He promised to change things, Smith said, and “he really fulfilled that commitment.”
Banda, who speaks Spanish fluently, ultimately formed a 26-member extended cabinet. Half are people of color: Six are African American; five are Latino, and two are Asian American. Twelve are women.
“Jose is an effective delegator. I think one of the things he is recognized for is gradually putting together a high-quality team in Seattle. We had a lot of turnover prior to his arrival” in 2012, said Michael DeBell, a member of the Seattle Public Schools Board of Education from 2005 to 2013.
DeBell said said he does not view Banda as a “big-picture person. But he does put a lot of time into building trust relationships and a strong team.”
Forget about the flourish that was Raymond, who was a product of The Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains business and education leaders how to run school districts. Raymond arrived at Sacramento without a traditional schools background, having served as a nonprofit leader and private lawyer rather than working through the ranks.
His moves tended to be bold. During Raymond’s reign, Sacramento and seven other school districts joined forces to win the first district-level waivers from federal “No Child Left Behind” requirements for low-performing schools.
That gave the district flexibility in spending about $4 million in federal dollars meant to aid low-income students – money that previously had gone to for-profit tutoring companies.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association railed at a promise the district made as part of the federal waiver to link test scores to teacher evaluations. The discord with the association over that promise led the school board to abandon the waiver four months after Raymond’s departure.
Teachers also were angered over Raymond’s “Priority Schools” program to overhaul struggling campuses. The district inserted new principals, who were given authority to remove teachers regardless of tenure protections, which led to a legal battle.
The union won’t quickly forget its alienation with Raymond.
“I’ve done a lot of research on (Banda),” said Nikki Milevsky, president of the teachers association, “and I think it will be great to work with someone who is honest and competent. I think that would be a great improvement over our last superintendent.”
Sacramento City Unified trustee Jeff Cuneo said that after the federal waiver dispute, the district is ready for “someone who can work with disparate groups.”
“In general, we need to remember we have to get everybody to the same place at the end of the day,” he said.
But Scott Syphax, chief executive of Nehemiah Companies, a faith-based group that supports home ownership and community development in underserved neighborhoods, saw Raymond as an innovator who knew how to drill down for data to identify areas that needed special attention.
“The Priority Schools program was one of those areas,” Syphax said. “I think that many of us felt that Jonathan’s approach really focused on where the needs were and matched those needs with resources to try and not just poke at the problem but really make a sincere attempt to move the needle in bettering our children’s educations.”
Kathleen Carroll Soars on the Wings of Research Blunder; Jim Horn Hitches a Ride
July 16, 2014
On July 15, 2014, California attorney Kathleen Carroll posted a piece on the City Watch LA blog entitled, When Did Teacher Unions Decide to “Turn”… Against Collective Bargaining Rights? Based upon emails I have received referencing this same piece, it appears that Carroll first publicized this piece on July 12, 2012 (though possibly before).
Also on July 15, 2014, the Carroll post was featured on Cambridge College professorJim Horn’s blog, Schools Matter. In his posting, Horn introduces the Carroll post with a refocusing of attention on educational historian Diane Ravitch, as evidenced in his title, Ravitch Lashes Out at Union Misleadership Critique.
Both posts purport to address issues of corruption related to teacher union officials. While some of their argument is valid, much of it is distorted and strays notably from solid research and reporting procedure.
In this post, I will address issues with both the Carroll and Horn posts, of which there are a number in total. I will begin with the the Carroll post.
Carroll’s Link-lacking TURN Post
The first issue I notice with the Carroll post is an amazing lack of linked evidence to support the numerous points she attempts to demonstrate. Indeed, the entire 1,600-word post includes only a single link. Carroll claims to offer readers evidence of corruption, yet she stops short of providing the bedrock upon which she supposedly established her arguments.
Not only is this unacceptable– it is a red flag waving to anyone with research experience.
On July 15, 2014, California attorney Kathleen Carroll posted a piece on the City Watch LA blog entitled, When Did Teacher Unions Decide to “Turn”… Against Collective Bargaining Rights? Based upon emails I have received referencing this same piece, it appears that Carroll first publicized this piece on July 12, 2012 (though possibly before). Also on July 15, 2014, the Carroll […]
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Information about and instructions how to apply for a HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Award.
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary certification initiative established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), to recognize schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of nutritious meals, physical activity, and nutrition education.
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign incorporates the HUSSC by acknowledging schools that are actively working to reduce the childhood obesity epidemic. Four levels of superior performance are awarded and the USDA is offeringmonetary incentives with each level: Bronze ($500), Silver ($1,000), Gold ($1,500), and Gold Award of Distinction ($2,000).
For questions or to submit a HUSSC application, please contact Elizabeth Moreno, Nutrition Education Consultant, by phone at 916-324-9749 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Desiree Rojo, Child Nutrition Consultant, by phone at 916-323-0213 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Guest Post from Denny Taylor, Friend of Public Education, Families and Children
Denny Taylor is author of the influential books Family Literacy and Learning Denied, two books that had a huge influence on my thinking about literacy instruction. When she speaks, we all should listen. After years away from publishing, but not from researching, Denny is back with a vengeance. She deserves our support. Please read her letter below.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am writing to urgently request your help. If you find the political circumstance and the research base for the four propositions that I have outlined in this letter are compelling, and you support the course of action suggested here please send this letter to friends and colleagues. Use your websites, Facebook, and any other means to get the message out. Given that I rarely enter the public sphere my friends will know that the situation of which I write is pressing. Time is of the essence, I fear.
Some of you will have read books I have written based on forty years of longitudinal research in family, community, and schools settings with children, families, and teachers who live and work in challenging social and physical environments. Except for my doctoral dissertation, all my research has taken place in sites of urban and rural poverty.
About fifteen years ago I became more focused on catastrophic events, including extreme weather events, industrial disasters, war and armed conflict, and acts of mass violence that occur with little warning and in a matter of a few seconds change the lives of children, teachers, and their families forever.
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NYC Public School Parents: Our comments on how the city's proposed Contract for Excellence plan violates the language and the spirit of the law: Our comments on how the city's proposed Contract for Excellence plan violates the language and the spirit of the lawPlease send your comments to ContractsForExcellence@schools.nyc.gov by the deadline of July 19; Mine are below. thanks! Comments on the p
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