Book Review: Tested


The argument hasn’t changed, but the evidence continues to mount: The emphasis on high-stakes testing, more time for test prep, the narrowing of the curriculum to the subjects tested to meet NCLB goals. It’s not good for children.

The test, to be administered in the spring, rules all strategies of teaching and allocation of funds and attention. Narrowed down to math and reading, the students spend hours each day on mind-numbing drills, consultants are hired, curriculum purchased, constant assessments given, and near-daily strategy sessions called for teachers, administrators and counselors to the point where education appears to have taken on more the flavor of grim battlefield maneuvering instead of a flowering of curiosity and spirit. And through it all is the strain on the professionals charged with churning out test-passers … without the acknowledgement that what is going on is teaching to the test. The test. The test.

Susan G, on the Daily Kos, reviews Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade
By Linda Perlstein
Henry Holt and Company
New York, 2007

Three over coffee.


Saturday, and something is up in Springfield.

News coming out of Springfield is that a deal is in the making. How good? We’ll see.

Backing George Miller

The blog site Eliminate NCLB has a list of Congressman George Miller’s major financial contributors who have economic interests in education. And the blog School Matters has more data. Miller heads the House committee dealing with NCLB reauthorization and was a sponsor of the original legislation.

Forman on Merit Pay

James Forman Jr.’s blog Extra Credit has a lengthy think piece on the topic of merit pay. Worth the read.

Unions Organizing Charter School Teachers: A forum.

The Small Schools Workshop, National-Louis University & Catalyst present: Unions Organizing Charter School Teachers

A conversation with charter school activist Steve Barr, Chicago Teacher Union President, Marilyn Stewart and Illinois Education Association Executive Director,  Jo Anderson.


“If union bosses start patrolling their hallways, that’ll be the death knell of charters, as it has been for public schools.” –Charter school advocate Clint Bolick

“We could have and probably should have organized the Green Dot schools…They started with one charter school, now have 10, and in short order they’ll have 20 schools in Los Angeles, with all the teachers paying dues to a different union. And that’s a problem.”–UTLA President A.J. Duffy


In Los Angeles, Steve Barr founded the Green Dot Public Schools, which currently operate 10 high-performing, unionized public charter high schools. They are about to start a new high school in New York in collaboration with the UFT and its president, Randi Weingarten. Is Chicago next? How will local unions respond?

The Small Schools Workshop’s Michael Klonsky will moderate a panel discussion with Green Dot CEO Steve Barr, CTU President Marilyn Stewart, and IEA Executive Director Jo Anderson, exploring the role of teacher unions in charter schools in Chicago and other Illinois districts.

Wednesday, August 15th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

National-Louis University downtown campus, 122 S. Michigan Avenue, 2nd floor Atrium

This event is free of charge and open to the public.
For additional information:

Call: 773-384-1030

“Ed in ’08.” Is anybody watching?


Rich guy, Eli Broad

When billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad announced that they were forming a group, Ed in ’08, and pooling some of their spare change to try and influence the education policy discussions leading up to the election in 2008, there were some postings on some ed blogs (I have officially sworn off using the word “blogosphere”). But since the original announcement, there hasn’t been much said.

I was attending the Illinois caucus at the NEA RA one morning. Between presidential candidate speeches, we were trying to get through 95 New Business Items. Your eyes glaze over after a while. An NBI came up trashing the Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The fact was that in a room full of 600 IEA delegates, few knew what the Broad Prize is, or who Eli Broad is, or much about Ed in ’08.

Those who had initiated the NBI attacking the Broad Prize had clearly done it for the same reason as many of the delegates propose NBIs to the convention. They want to shine a light on an issue. Whether or not the NBI ends up passing is less important than a chance to talk about an issue. That’s fine.

And so it was at the Illinois caucus (I frankly don’t remember what happened to the issue when it got to the floor of the RA). Although it wasn’t my NBI, I did go to the microphone and talk about Gates and Broad and what I thought was their top-down change, corporate approach to school reform. The NBI opposing Broad ended up being supported by the Illinois caucus and a little education had been done.

Susan Ohanian writes more about the stealth Ed in ’08 campaign.



A+ Illinois, the state coalition fighting for school funding has sent this message:

Will lawmakers pass another “band-aid” budget that leaves schools and families behind? Illinois’ temporary one-month budget is about to expire, and legislators will be in Springfield all weekend crafting a new plan. We’re asking A+ Illinois supporters across the state to call their state representatives and senators on our toll-free legislative hotline. Even if you’ve called before, lawmakers need to hear the message again before its too late.

Spread the word! Copy and paste this message into e-mail and forward it to your friends and colleagues.

Springfield Update from IEA.

Today, the IEA posted this latest report on their website:

Despite rumors a one-year budget would be passed out of the Illinois Senate, it doesn’t appear there are sufficient votes for that plan. The budget would be balanced with gambling expansion and loophole closings, however, the internal politics that have permeated the Senate all session long may prevent this bill from passing.

The bill includes a $900 million increase for education and the education component is viewed by many of the members of the General Assembly as one of the key motives for the budget idea. In fact, several legislators have been holding back on supporting the health insurance plan until they see some progress on education funding. President Jones’ “bottom line” on an education funding increase is said to be $900 million, with 20 percent of that going to the Chicago public school system.

Finally, next week there will be a Committee of Whole in the House to discuss, you guessed it, education! Stay tuned.

Getting Extra Credit.

Thanks to James Forman Jr. for putting PREA Prez on his blogroll. As is tradition his blog is now on mine and I encourage you to visit Extra Credit. Forman is involved in charter schools in Washington DC. His blog deals with schools, race and social justice issues.

Rotherham: We claim the legacy and name of Cesar Chavez. (Updated)


Mexican-American hero and Union Man, Cesar Chavez.

Andy Rotherham of Eduwonk hates teacher unions. That’s a given.

But that in no way gives him permission to lie about the work of a great man, a Union Man.

I grew up in California. As a teenager I rode in car pools and car caravans to Salinas and Delano and Fresno to support the United Farm Workers. The fight to organize farm workers into the United Farm Workers union in the fields of California, along with the fight to end the war in Vietnam and the Southern Civil Rights Movement, were the great moral battles of the era.

Cesar Chavez, the leader of the UFW, was a Union Man.

No doubt.

But Andy Rotherham wants us to believe, like some BS death bed confession story, that Chavez once told a school choice guy in 1979, that he, Chavez, supported choice schools but was bribed by the AFT to keep quiet. Bribed for $200,000.

Chavez. The guy who stood up to the goons of the agri-business giants and county sheriffs and anti-union thugs was bought for a couple of bucks.

And then he reaches for that old American racist argument. Rotherham says that those who have exposed him and the other school privateers for desecrating the names of Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King by naming non-union schools after them, that somehow we believe :

Anglo teachers’ union professionals have more claim on the legacy and name of Cesar Chavez than, just for instance, the daughter of Mexican migrant workers.

If the guy ever came close to a teacher union member or a teacher union professional (let alone immigrant farmworkers) he would see:

1. That all teacher union members and professionals aren’t Anglo.
2. That we do have a claim on the legacy and name of Cesar Chavez.

He was a Union Man.


Leo Casey responds to Rotherham:

Over at Eduwonk, Andy Rotherham thinks it is “preposterous” to suggest that unions have more of “a claim” on the legacy of Cesar Chavez than an anti-union Chicana daughter of migrant workers. But this is precisely the sort of shallow identity politics that Chavez so strongly opposed — the notion that one’s ethnic identity, one’s parentage, is more important than one’s substantive politics and one’s actual work in the world. Chavez’s unambiguous stand on this question was exactly the point of the anecdote I cited in the original post. The notion that Chavez would lend his name to an enterprise that opposes the right of its employees to organize into an union and bargain collectively, whether those employees be farmworkers or teachers, is one that can only rest on a complete misunderstanding of his life’s work for justice for all working people. The argument that he would have foregone the core principles of that life’s work simply because opposition to them came from a Chicana is beyond incredulous. There are also a great many teacher unionists of Latin American descent, including notable AFT leaders, who would take considerable exception to the notion that the union to which they belong is an “Anglo” institution.
Further, the notion that Chavez was a man whose principles could be bought for any amount of money, much less for $200,000 a year of AFT support for the United Farmworkers, is completely scurrilous. He led a life of great sacrifice for La Causa. Union solidarity may be a foreign concept to some, but in the AFT, it is a principle we hold dear — and that it why we have supported the UFW and other unions, when we could. We are proud of our solidarity work. That the claim of Chavez’s silence for money comes in the form of a report of a rumor of a personal conversation — none of it in the slightest verifiable — says just about everything that needs to be said on the subject.

And at Small Talk, my brother’s blog where the issue was first exposed:

Remember, I raised the question of how a school named after the great union leader Chavez, could bar teachers from union membership, even fire teachers because they tried to unionize, as they did at Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit. Leo Casey at Edwize along with my brother PREAPres, picked up the story and deepened it. This led Andrew Rotherham at Eduwonk to go ballistic.

“It’s preposterous,” sputtered Rotherham, that anyone would dare challenge a charter school’s anti-union policies, especially one where he sits on the board of directors. Rotherham even tried to paint Chavez himself as a sellout who, he claims, told a choice advocate back in 1979, that he secretly supported a policy, but was afraid to say so because “the American Federation of Teachers would cut off his $200,000 yearly subsidy.”

A Chicago Conversation with Steve Barr of Green Dot, the CTU and the IEA.


August 15th at 6:30 p.m.

Chicago Conversation with Steve Barr, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools


“If union bosses start patrolling their hallways, that’ll be the death knell of charters, as it has been for public schools.”
–Charter school advocate Clint Bolick

“We could have and probably should have organized the Green Dot schools…They started with one charter school, now have 10, and in short order they’ll have 20 schools in Los Angeles, with all the teachers paying dues to a different union. And that’s a problem.”
–UTLA President A.J. Duffy

Chicago charter school teachers are currently barred by law from joining the Chicago Teachers Union. Charter laws in many states also deny teachers collective bargaining rights. But in Los Angeles, maverick Steve Barr founded the Green Dot Public Schools, which currently operate 10 high-performing, unionized public charter high schools. They are about to start a new high school in N.Y. in partnership with teachers union president Randi Weingarten. Is Chicago next?

The Small Schools Workshop, in collaboration with National-Louis University, presents a panel discussion with Green Dot CEO Steve Barr and leaders from both the CTU and the IEA, to explore the future of charter schools and teacher unions in Chicago and other Illinois districts.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 6:30 – 8:30 pm

WHERE: National-Louis University downtown campus, 122 S. Michigan Avenue, 2nd floor Atrium

This event is free of charge and open to the public.
For additional information please call: 773-384-1030

Rotherham Watch


Rotherham Watch

Timing is everything Andy.

On today’s Eduwonk you post a snide one-liner dismissing a Thornburg Center article about how NCLB has had a negative impact on environmental education.

Global Warming: Relax, your carbon footprint is not the problem…it’s No Child Left Behind.

The silly (according to Rotherham) Thornburg Center post says:

School systems have shortened recess and physical education to meet the needs of NCLB.

There is no significant mention of environmental education in NCLB, the dominant policy shaping virtually all short and long term, local, state and federal education decisions. In fact, environmental education is not even organized under the U.S. Department of Education at the federal level.

Instead, the office of environmental education is part of the U.S. EPA. While the administration may have a new focus on science and NCLB, that focus is on global economic leadership and homeland security.

In fact, the crucial environmental issues facing our society are not even mentioned.

How ironic it is then that Sam Dillon in today’s NY Times reports on a study by the Center for Economic Policy that says (what!?) the very same thing:

The report, by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington group that studies the law’s implementation in school districts nationwide, said that about 44 percent of districts have cut time from one or more subjects or activities in elementary schools to extend time for longer daily math and reading lessons. Among the subjects or activities getting less attention since the law took effect in 2002 are science, social studies, art and music, gym, lunch and recess, the report said.

The report, based on a survey of nearly 350 of the nation’s 15,000 districts, said 62 percent of school districts had increased daily class time in reading and math since the law took effect.

Within a year of the law’s implementation, teachers and their associations were reporting that schools and districts were suggesting or requiring that they spend more time on reading and math to improve test scores, and that they cut back time spent on other disciplines.

So Andy, let me explain it to you. At the risk of being attacked as a post modernist by you again, our carbon footprint and what we teach our children can (what!? Get outta here!) be related.