November 2011 Archives

Interview with Diane Ravitch: California's Rejection of NCLB Waivers Sends a Message

California, with more public school students than any other state, has surprised many by declining to apply for waivers to No Child Left Behind. The implications of this decision are far-reaching, and so in the coming weeks I am going to be asking a variety of educational leaders for their thoughts. Today, I am sharing the thoughts of education historian Diane Ravitch. What do you think of the decision by elected leaders in California to forgo the opportunity to apply for waivers to NCLB? I was very pleased when California decided to turn down the waivers for California. I think ...


You Have Free Speech, So Long as it is Appropriate

Follow me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody We are seeing our First Amendment right to free speech redefined by the practices being carried out by our government. In Kansas, high school student Emma Sullivan, 18 years of age, has been ordered to write letters of apology by her school after sending out a tweet to her then-sixty in number followers that read "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot." The governor has someone on his staff monitoring Twitter for references to him, and this staffer informed the school about the negative tweet, whereupon ...


UC Davis Students become Powerful Teachers

you can follow me on twitter at @anthonycody. Yesterday I joined my 19-year-old son, a sophomore at UC Davis, and about 10,000 other people, for a demonstration on the Quad at his school. This was the location of Friday's infamous incident, when peacefully protesting students were sprayed in the face with military-grade pepper spray. But on this day, no police were to be seen. That made the place feel much safer. We heard first from the students who had been sprayed. They related their experiences one after the other, in shocking detail. Here is some of what student David ...


LA Times backs California's NCLB Defiance

Follow me on Twitter: @anthonycody Today the Los Angeles Times, the largest circulation newspaper in the largest metropolis in the most populous state in the nation, came out in support of the decision by Governor Jerry Brown and Superintendent Tom Torlakson to ignore the Department of Education's invitation to file for a waiver of No Child Left Behind. The newspaper's editorial board wrote: The U.S. Department of Education is wrongly attempting to impose its view of how states should improve education instead of just requiring them to show evidence of higher achievement. Test scores probably have some value in ...


Peaceful UC Davis Students Pepper-Sprayed

Students occupying the central quad at the University of California at Davis were pepper sprayed in the face as they sat peacefully on the ground yesterday afternoon. One of my two sons attends this school. I would like you to watch the entire eight minutes of this video. I attended UC Berkeley in the 1980s. We protested President Reagan's funding of death squads in Central America. We protested UC investments in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the Divestment movement created an encampment on the steps of Sproul Plaza that lasted for months. I spent several nights sleeping there with hundreds ...


Philip Kovacs Takes on TFA in Huntsville

In the past few weeks, Philip Kovacs has taken a public stance in Huntsville, Alabama, raising questions about the school district's decision to invest significant resources in bringing Teach For America interns to that city. This is a guest post by him, describing his concerns. Guest post by Philip Kovacs. When I first heard about Teach for America, I thought it sounded like a good program. Given a hard to staff school in a poverty stricken city, why not let enthusiastic college graduates with some training go in and put their hearts and souls into classrooms that would otherwise be ...


Deportations Throw Children into Foster Care

There is an ugly reality that many of us are spared from, but which is omnipresent in the lives of many of our students. Latino journalists last week confronted President Obama with the news that immigration enforcement is breaking up families. A yearlong investigation by the Applied Research Center revealed that at least 5,100 children are currently stuck in foster care because their parents have been detained or deported by immigration officials. A report in Colorlines highlighted a typical case: Ricardo's children were removed from his custody because a babysitter left them alone for less than an hour and ...


With Whom do We Stand? A Counterpoint for Education Reform

Guest post by Steve Silvius and Stephen Danley. Consider us optimists, but we think the high-stakes test movement has reached its apex and started its decline. It won't happen quickly given the powerful political forces aligned to promote the testing regime, but the test obsessed "accountability" package for education reform won't continue indefinitely. There are too many bad policies (NCLB, Race to the Top), bad performance reports (NAEP, CREDO, last week's Mathematica study), and corruption/cheating/score inflation scandals (ATL, DC, NY, and more). If you need hope, look back at how Diane Ravitch drove an intellectual stake into the ...


America Leads the World in Nonsensical Comparisons: What Really Matters?

Efforts to improve our schools have always been spurred on by comparisons between our nation and others, which usually find us somewhere in the middle of the pack. In the 1950s the Russians were winning the space race because Ivan studied 12 hours a day, while his American counterpart goofed off at the soda parlor. In 1983, once again, the nation was "at risk" because we had allowed our standards to fall so low. More recently we have heard the alarm sounded as a result of our performance on the PISA, where we once again find ourselves in the middle ...


NCLB Waivers get a Reality Check

The trajectory of our nation's schools from the train wreck of No Child Left Behind to a new and fresh set of calamitous policies has been checked by the ways in which these so-called reforms are playing out across the country. First, what is happening with student achievement? The latest results are in from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and they reveal that in spite of a decade of No Child Left Behind, growth in student achievement remains essentially flat. Lisa Guisbond of FairTest wrote here: Overall, growth was more rapid before and flattened after NCLB took effect. For ...


NCLB Waivers are not Worthy Reforms in California

A slightly abbreviated version of this post ran as an op-ed column in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. No Child Left Behind has put the schools of California in a vise. Next year, the vast majority of our schools will be declared "failing" based on our inability to make every child in the state proficient on standardized tests. As of last year, there were already almost 1,300 schools in year five of program improvement, meaning they will need to be radically restructured to satisfy the law. The Department of Education has created a waiver process however, which would allow our schools ...


Bill Gates' Big Play: How Much Can Money Buy in Education?

What would happen if one of the wealthiest men in the world decided to remake the institution of public education in America? What if that man believed he understood the secrets to success, and sought to align the nation's schools to his vision and methods? What if he decided to devote all his time and considerable money to this objective? Could he succeed? We are in the process of finding out just how far money and a sharply defined agenda can take you. Bill Gates' first challenge was to define a vision. After experimenting with small schools, he discovered that ...


Occupy Oakland: Striking Questions

I spent yesterday back in Oakland, participating in the Occupy Oakland general strike. Several hundred Oakland teachers were there as well, part of a crowd that swelled to around ten thousand in the afternoon. Below are photos and a video that capture some of the spirit of the day. And some thoughts about how the Occupation Movement is shifting the debate, and creating space for some new questions to be asked about how our schools are working. Oakland became notorious last week after city officials carried out a poorly conceived pre-dawn eviction of the downtown occupation. The operation was military-style, ...


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