Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Andrew Wolf on Failures of Bloomberg Top Down Management

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Education Reformers vs. “New Reformers”

The Answer Sheet- Valerie Strauss

My guest is John C. Fager, a school teacher in New York City. In the 1990s, he was the education columnist for the Daily News, a parent leader, and education adviser to the New York City Council president.

By John C. Fager
At the end of the last school year, the principal at the New York City high school where I teach announced the following: Because of budget cuts, three teachers would be transferred to the central office, support personnel would be laid off, summer school would be halved, fewer after-school programs would exist in the fall, and more cuts might be necessary in September.
As the new school year approaches, such trouble faces the majority of schools in most states. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 teachers could receive pink slips without federal intervention.
As a result, millions of children would be assigned to larger classes, receive less one-on-one intervention and have more time after-school with nothing to do. Many kindergartners may no longer have classes to attend and the cohesiveness of many school communities would shatter.
House Democrats, led by Chairman David Obey of the Appropriations Committee have been trying, since early June to provide $10 billion in funding to stem some of this damage. The House is reconvening this week to take up a Senate bill to provide the money, but this has been anything but easy.
First the House’s efforts were stymied by Senate Republicans--who spent eight years under president George W. Bush adding trillions to the deficit--and some conservative Democrats who objected to an increase in the deficit. Then Obey proposed an Education Jobs Fund (Edujobs) to keep 140,000 teachers in the classrooms and he included cuts of $10 billion to respond to the deficit argument.
But all hell broke loose in Washington and among the so-called "new reformers" of education because Obey had the nerve to fund $800 million of the total by temporarily trimming some of President Obama’s high priority education programs: $500 million from the $4.35 billion Race To The Top (RTT), $200 million from performance pay, and $100 million from charter school funds.
This was heresy to the new reformers, who include some elected officials, too many editorial boards, some educators, many CEO’s, billion-dollar foundations, hedge fund managers, and, sadly, President Barack Obama. He immediately threatened to veto such a measure. The rest of the group used its considerable influence to pressure senators not to go along, and 13 Democratic senators urged their fellow Democrats to vote against the measure.
But those of us who toil in the trenches find it unbelievable that temporarily trimming the funding of unproven programs that will mostly benefit fewer than half of the states would take precedence over keeping 140,000 teachers in classrooms. Only true believers, who seem to dominate the discussion about education reform, would favor such a course of action.
R. Brooks Garber, a vice president with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told Education Week that the organization opposes cutting $100 million from the fund for charter schools because 200 new charter schools wouldn’t be started and 6,000 new teachers wouldn’t be hired. Charter school advocates seem to favor hiring new charter school teachers over retaining existing public school teachers.
If charter schools were so superior to public schools you might make a principled argument that funding should be allocated to where it will be effectively used. But the largest study of charter schools, done by Stanford University, found that for most students charter schools were not an improvement over public schools.
The study found that 17 percent of the schools studied (representing more than 70 percent of the charter school students nationally), provide superior education opportunities for their students, nearly half have results no different from the local schools and 37 percent deliver learning results that are worse.
Opposing the $500 million temporary cut to the $4.35 billion RTT program was even more outrageous. This program continues and expands on the Bush administration’s heavy emphasis on high stakes--students will be failed, teachers will be fired, schools will be closed--standardized testing.
What we have learned during the last eight years is that when Washington exerts this kind of pressure, it does not produce greater student achievement. What it leads to is manipulation and fraud in the testing programs. State tests tend to show progress, sometimes dramatic, almost miraculous, progress as here in New York, while the federal National Assessment of Education Progress, the so-called nation’s report card, finds little or no progress.
The massive emphasis on standardized testing also corrupts education itself by turning the curriculum into test prep; it also has another adverse impact on many students. Last November, First Lady Michelle Obama was asked by students at a Denver high school whether it was fair that they and their school would be judged by such once-a-year tests.
She told them, “I was never a great standardized test-taker....I would always get nervous and feel a great deal of anxiety over test taking. So it was always a point of frustration for me personally....It was just some people are really good test-takers and some aren’t.” She concluded, “But don’t let these tests defeat you. Don’t let them define you.”
This debate about Edujobs and The Race To The Top is part of the initial skirmishing about the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) now called No Child Left Behind.
House education committee hearings have already raised questions about the four school turnaround policies prescribed in RTT that seem to rely heavily on closing lots of schools and firing many, many teachers and principals.
Both branches of Congress have authorized spending for RTT for another year but at lower amounts than the Obama Administration had requested. But before Congress reenacts ESEA, the education committees need to hold hearings in New York City and Chicago where many of the elements of the administration’s agenda have been in effect. Huge holes are appearing in the rosy picture of what has been accomplished in the New York City public school system during the last seven years.
I am not a defender of the current system of education; it is obsolete and we have known that as a nation since the publication in 1983 of the “Nation at Risk” report.
But we have wasted two decades trying two different reform strategies (Education Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind) while many industrialized countries have passed us and now enjoy the education advantage that we once held.
My experience with the new reforms tells me that they are harming education and setting the country back. Many educators with whom I talk or whose writings I read also believe that Race To The Top is a race to the bottom. As a nation we are running out of time and we need to effectively reinvent education now. We can’t let another decade slip by.

Friday, August 27, 2010

DOE is eliminating the EGCSR program

According to their budget allocation memos, DOE is eliminating Early Grade Class size reduction program, which started in 1999, meant to hire extra teachers in grades K-3 to reduce class size to 20 or below.  They had promised to keep this program intact, as part of their citywide class size reduction plan under the C4E, but now have retroactively deep-sixed it, perhaps so no one can audit it again, as the city comptroller did last year.

Yet as far as I know, they have gone through no process with the state to cancel it.

(According to the document still posted on their page entitled “Contracts for Excellence: Class Size Reduction” Updated January 27, 2009 Updated Five Year Class Size Reduction Plan; It says: the Department continues to be committed to reducing class size in early grades via the Early Grade Class Size Reduction program." http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3F12A337-2FAF-492B-AEBB-59509284098A/0/NYCDOECSRP5YR_YR2_FINAL.pdf  See also NYC Comptroller, “Audit report on the Department of Education’s Administration of the Early grade class size reduction program, fm09-113a, September 9, 2009.  For more background, see NYC Public School Parent blog, Class size audit: another broken promise to our children, Sept. 11, 2009.)

Here is the new budget allocation memo, now called “School Support Supplement.” http://schools.nyc.gov/offices/d_chanc_oper/budget/dbor/allocationmemo/fy10_11/FY11_PDF/sam26.pdf

In FY11, the allocation category Early Grade Class Size Reduction (EGCSR-State) will be
renamed “School Support Supplement.” This does not change the school allocations. Schools
which last year received funds under Early Grade Class Size Reduction (EGCSR -State) will
continue to receive these funds but through the new allocation category, “School Support

The change in name reflects a decision made by New York State in FY08 to convert EGCSR
(State) into unrestricted Foundation Aid. Although no longer required to do so by New York State,
in FY08, the DOE chose to continue EGCSR (State) in order to minimize disruptions to schools
during a year in which both a new school allocation method – Fair Student Funding -- and the new
State-mandated Contract for Excellence program were implemented for the first time. In FY09 and
FY10, the DOE continued EGCSR (State) but afforded schools more flexibility to use funds to
either open classrooms or provide push-in and team teaching methods.

Particularly in the context of the large budget reductions experienced in FY10 and FY11, schools
receiving School Support funds may use these funds to retain classes formerly funded with State
EGSCR allocations as well as to support other instructional priorities as needed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Howler Takes Down Thomas Friedman

Special report: Who cares about black kids?
INTERLUDE—DOES TOM FRIEDMAN CARE (permalink)Tomorrow, we'll return to the massively underplayed scandal concerning the state of New York's testing program. In the wake of this underplayed scandal, what is the record of the Bloomberg years in New York City's public schools? What has happened to student achievement? What has happened to those achievement gaps? (Those are totally different questions.) We'll take a look at both question tomorrow, using test results which haven't been thrown down the stairs—results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), the widely-praised "gold standard" of American testing.
On Friday, we'll use the NAEP to ask those same questions about other big urban school systems, and about the nation as a whole. On a national basis, what has happened to achievement in the past decade? What has happened to achievement gaps? Those are vastly different questions, a fact the New York Times grossly obscured in last week's lengthy report.
We'll return to Gotham tomorrow. Today, let's consider today's column by one of New York City's alleged finest, asking a very unpleasant question:
Does Tom Friedman care about black kids?
In today's column, Friedman is waxing eloquent about a topic he seems to know little or nothing about. He recommends a new film we're eager to see—a new documentary, "Waiting for Superman," about attempts to improve the nation's low-income schools. But does Friedman know what he's talking about when he pontificates in this area? Does he care enough about black and Hispanic kids to keep his big pompous trap shut in areas where he just isn't knowledgeable?
In theory, it's a good thing when Friedman stoops to discuss the problems of low-income schools. But does he know whereof he speaks? For ourselves, we suspect that he doesn't.
Below, you see Friedman's first two paragraphs. We highlight our first point of concern:
FRIEDMAN (8/25/10): While Washington is consumed with whether our president is secretly a Muslim, or born abroad, possibly in outer space, I'd like to talk about some good news. But to see it, you have to stand on your head.
You have to look at America from the bottom up, not from the top (Washington) down. And what you'll see from down there is that there is a movement stirring in this country around education. From the explosion of new charter schools to the new teachers' union contract in D.C., which will richly reward public school teachers who get their students to improve faster and weed out those who don't, Americans are finally taking their education crisis seriously. If you don't want to stand on your head, then just go to a theater near you after Sept. 24 and watch the new documentary "Waiting for Superman." You'll see just what I'm talking about.
Friedman praises the new teacher contract in DC, "which will richly reward public school teachers who get their students to improve faster." But does Friedman know that a problem lurks there—that teachers may flat-out cheat on future tests to acquire those financial rewards? (Cheat, not "teach to the test.") Just a guess: This thought has never entered his head. We'll guess he is completely clueless about this decades-old point of concern.
Does Friedman have any idea what he's talking about? Our second and third points of concern surfaced in paragraph 4:
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly): Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for Superman" takes its name from an opening interview with the remarkable Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. HCZ has used a comprehensive strategy, including a prenatal Baby College, social service programs and longer days at its charter schools to forge a new highway to the future for one of New York's bleakest neighborhoods.
Canada's point is that the only way to fix our schools is not with a Superman or a super-theory. No, it's with supermen and superwomen pushing super-hard to assemble what we know works: better-trained teachers working with the best methods under the best principals supported by more involved parents.
Does Friedman know how stupid it sounds to say we know "the best methods" work best? We will guess that he doesn't. By the way, assuming that everyone wants to employ "the best teachers," how do we identify such people? Do you think Friedman have the slightest idea of the technical problems which lurk behind this second familiar bromide?
Do you think Friedman has any idea what he's talking about?
As Friedman continues, he continues reciting Complete Standard Cant, typing the types of conventional wisdom any true pundit can tick in his sleep. How about this passionate passage, in which he recites conventional wisdom about "schools that work?"
FRIEDMAN: It is intolerable that in America today a bouncing bingo ball should determine a kid's educational future, especially when there are plenty of schools that work and even more that are getting better. This movie is about the people trying to change that. The film's core thesis is that for too long our public school system was built to serve adults, not kids. For too long we underpaid and undervalued our teachers and compensated them instead by giving them union perks. Over decades, though, those perks accumulated to prevent reform in too many districts. The best ones are now reforming, and the worst are facing challenges from charters.
Minor gripe: We're not entirely sure what those "union perks" were, if they didn't even include adequate pay. But Friedman asserts, with perfect assurance, that there are "plenty of schools that work and even more that are getting better." He doesn't name any "schools that work" at this point, but: Is he sure that these schools don't "work" (in part) because of the "creaming" effect, where charter schools may attract kids who are more skilled or more determined than most? Whose parents are more determined? Does he know that his own newspaper wrote a long report, just last week, which suggested that one of the claims about charter "schools that work" right in New York City took a hitjust in the last month when achievement gaps rose again in the wake of the state testing scandal?
Do you think Friedman even knows that a scandal has just taken place in the state? Do you think he has even heard about the blow to the "Scarsdale-Harlem" thesis which was alleged in last week's report in the Times? Do you think he has heard about this recent matter, let alone puzzled it out?
As he nears completion, Friedman uses the language that is found in almost all such high-minded cookie-cutter pieces—pieces written by pompous bags who are simply reciting the latest views of the "educational experts." We know what works, this blowhard recites. But does Tom Friedman know anything?
FRIEDMAN: Because we know what works, and it's not a miracle cure. It is the whatever-it-takes-tenacity of the Geoffrey Canadas; it is the no-excuses-seriousness of the KIPP school (Knowledge is Power Program) founders; it is the lead-follow-or-get-out-of-the-way ferocity of the Washington and New York City school chancellors, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein.
Do you think Friedman has any idea whether Rhee is producing real long-term gains? As you see him extend the Standard Requisite Praise of Klein, do you think he knows that "outraged" parents drove Klein from a public stage one week ago, chanting slogans about a vast embarrassment to New York City schools?
Do you think Friedman has any idea about any of these serious matters? We doubt it. In fact, he might as well have had this column ghost-written by Nicholas Kristof, who types all this Same Standard Cant on the rare occasions when he deigns to discuss the interests of low-income children.
Does Friedman know what he's talking about? We doubt it. Indeed, as he typed the stirring passage which follows, it probably didn't enter his head that he had omitted one major group from his list of those he would challenge:
FRIEDMAN: Although the movie makes the claim that the key to student achievement is putting a great teacher in every classroom, and it is critical of the teachers' unions and supportive of charters, it challenges all the adults who run our schools—teachers, union leaders, principals, parents, school boards, charter-founders, politicians—with one question: Are you putting kids and their education first?
Like all pompous blowhards of his class, Friedman is eager to challenge every societal group—except his own. He wants teachers to get their asses in gear—and everyone else, including those parents! But how about our ratty pseudo-journalists, Friedman's own under-performing class? You know? The wind-bags who type this column each year, then disappear into the ether?
A final point: We greatly honor the work of Geoffrey Canada, which doesn't mean that he will be right on every single question. (Canada thought Superman was a real person until the fifth grade, Friedman ominously says.) Beyond that, we don't mean anything we've written to be construed as criticism of Rhee or Klein. But can we talk? Unlike Canada, Rhee and Klein, mainstream journalists don't give a rat's ass about the interests of black and Hispanic kids. For the most part, neither do editors of your "liberal journals," even as they prance about the land, name-calling tens of millions of bigots and proclaiming their deathless racial perfection, and that of their own lofty tribe.
We'll return to Gotham tomorrow, hoping to clarify a basic distinction—achievement versus achievement gap. But in our view, Tom Friedman has a hell of a nerve. But then, so do the ratty, self-impressed frauds who run our "liberal" journals.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama's truce with teachers

Obama's truce with teachers
By: Kendra Marr
August 22, 2010 05:00 PM EDT


In the past few weeks, President Barack Obama delivered two major speeches touting education reforms. He invited teachers to the Rose Garden and pushed the House to pass an emergency spending bill saving thousands of school jobs. This week, his education chief is traveling on a cross-country bus tour to highlight school success stories.

“Teachers,” Obama said in Ohio Wednesday, “are the single most important ingredient in the education system.”

The White House says it’s a back-to-school message that fits squarely into the president’s plan for economic recovery, stressing the role of educators in shaping a competitive American work force.

But all this apple-polishing hasn’t gone unnoticed by teachers unions, which have had a rocky relationship with the White House from the start over Obama’s unflinching support for reforms that unions view as an affront. After 18 months of frosty relations that at times bordered on outright hostility, it seems that Obama has called a truce — one that several education experts noted comes just in time for the midterm elections, when teachers unions can be a powerful Democratic ally.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan disputed that there’s any political motivation. “This is part of that continued outreach,” he told POLITICO. “That’s the furthest thing from our mind.”

Yet, as Obama’s outreach has continued, tensions have simmered down.

“In the last month, there’s been a shift in tone,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Obama’s recent speeches, she said, have “made it clear that his strategies were not about firing teachers.”

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel — whose group’s recent convention included several speakers calling for Duncan to resign — downplays the notion of a major mood swing, but said that Obama’s recent pro-teacher language has been appreciated.

“He’s recognizing that the very thing he cares most deeply about can’t happen without the involvement and collaboration of those people who are teaching,” Van Roekel said. “I like the message he’s sending.”

The politics of education can be as complex as multivariable calculus.

Obama and Duncan have presided over historic increases in school financing and hastened changes, such as new teacher evaluation systems in states and school districts, often with the cooperation of local unions. At the same time, this Democratic president has aggressively confronted teachers unions with a spate of reforms out of a Republican playbook: more charter schools, merit pay for teachers and firing educators in failing schools.

Nationwide outrage among teachers exploded in March when both Obama and Duncan justified the mass firings of educators at a failing Rhode Island school. (Teachers ultimately kept their jobs in a concession deal.)

“The administration has strong reformist credentials, but this went way too far for many people,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who studies teachers unions. “I think the average American who worries about getting laid off unfairly could relate to the teachers.”

Just last month, delegates at the NEA convention took a position of “no confidence” on Race to the Top, the administration’s multi-billion-dollar sweepstakes to encourage schools to adopt Obama-backed policies. “Today, our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Van Roekel told thousands of attendees.

But the union president has since dialed it back. “Everyone assumed I was only talking about the Obama administration,” he told POLITICO. “I was talking about states, too.”

Duncan expects to join Van Roekel in Albany, N.Y., as he travels on his bus tour at the end of the month. The secretary will also drive through Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.

Teachers have long been among the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party. For decades, they’ve walked precincts, knocked on doors and staffed phone banks for candidates.

And while Duncan contests the idea that the administration is pacifying teachers unions before midterms, improved relations are important. The two national teachers unions’ combined 4.6 million members spent tens of millions of dollars to help elect Obama and other candidates in 2008.

“The danger is not that they go help Republicans but, rather, that they sit on their hands and don’t get involved in the election,” Kahlenberg said. “And that would be a disaster for Democrats.”

“Given the stakes on the table in November and given there’s a number of things they can agree on together, they’re in this delicate dance of trying to make it work,” said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Duncan, who visited 39 states last year, said he will use his bus trip to listen to suggestions and complaints about all of the administration’s programs, including its crown jewel, Race to the Top.

“We’ll spend a lot of time talking to teachers,” Duncan said. “What’s working? What’s not? And how can we help?”

“The best ideas in education are never going to come from me. They never come from Washington,” said Duncan, who is planning events with both top union leaders throughout the year. “We can’t do enough to support great, great teachers.”

Holding an informal town hall in an Ohio family’s backyard, Obama made his own promise to strengthen science and math education, as well as to forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses.

“What we need to do is tailor people’s education so that they are linked up with businesses who say, we need this many engineers, or we need this kind of technical training,” he said.

Over the next few months, the Education Department is injecting up to $20 billion into the nation’s education system, a chunk of which aids reforms chasing the president’s goal of leading the world in college graduates by 2020.

“Education is the economic issue of our time,” Obama told the University of Texas at Austin on Aug. 9. “It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college. Education is an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. Education is an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today, they will out-compete us tomorrow.”

The president will continue to talk up his education reforms, like cutting out the middleman for student loans, White House officials said. Duncan aims to disburse a $10 billion education jobs fund over two weeks. And the Education Department will soon release federal dollars for the winners of Race to the Top and other grant programs.

Next up: Congress will take on Obama’s blueprint for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind law. While Obama’s proposal maintains the spirit of the Bush-era annual testing and data-driven accountability, it adds resources and flexibility to help students prepare for college.

Already, conflict is beginning to bubble up, though Democrats express confidence they can get bipartisan support.

Leaders of the two national teachers unions flanked and applauded Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), a member of the Education and Labor Committee, as she unveiled her own framework in May giving individual districts the power to decide how to fix schools, a measure she believes will stop the teacher blame game. “If teachers really felt like input was valued and could be implemented, I think we’d see a huge difference in our schools,” she told POLITICO.

And a handful of civil rights groups have joined teachers unions in calling for more equity and better initiatives to close the achievement gap.

“We need to work through the details. But those details can’t mask our overall united front,” Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) told POLITICO. “This is the best chance in 50 years to get constructive federal involvement in moving our schools forward.”

Los Angeles Teacher Union Election Update

Race is on to lead LA teachers union - See article below Andy Grigg analysis

Analysis by Andy Grigg

When all three candidates for Presidents that I am aware of (there could be more), have published platforms and statements, I will be glad to comment. I do think there will be some contention among some of the "progressive" elements of the union, and maybe some challenges from past leadership as well.

At this time, Julie Washington (terming out as Elementary Vice President), Jordan Henry (mentioned in the original post), and Mat Taylor (South Area Chair and Board of Directors) have announced for President; Julie has a full slate running with her for the 7 citywide offices; Mat has two other people running, and I do not know whether Jordan has others running with him.

Duffy, termed out current President, is running for CTA Vice-President; Josh Pechthalt, termed out AFT Vice President, is running for the presidency of CFT. David Goldberg, current Treasurer, is on the CTA Board of Directors, and is eligible for at least another term there. Betty Forrester, current first term Secretary, is running for AFT Vice President (on Julie Washington's slate). I am assuming Ana Valencia, current NEA VP, and Gregg Solkovitts, current Secondary VP will run again, and at least in Ana's case will be challenged.
UTLA is run on a day to day basis by the seven citywide released officers (President, NEA Vice President, AFT Vice President, Secondary Vice President, Elementary Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer). There are 49 members of the Board of Directors; the 7 citywide officers; 4 Directors from each of the 8 geographical areas (3 NEA, 1 AFT) elected by the members in that particular area, and the special constituency Directors (Bilingual Ed, Adult/Occupational Ed, Early Childhood Ed, Health and Human Services, Special Ed, Substitutes, Year-round Schools, UTLA-PACE, UTLA-Retired, and the immediate past president, elected by members of those constituencies, except the PACE Director, appointed by the President. The Board of Directors meets monthly and implements the policies adopted by the House of Representatives, as well as making fiscal decisions and the overall management of the union.

The House of Representatives meets from 8-10 times annually, and members are elected in the areas (it consists of about 350 members). Elections for these positions are at the Area meetings (about 8 a year), and only those who attend meetings vote (generally chapter chairs from each site). This is the group which formulates UTLA policy.

One of the progressive caucuses of the union, PEAC (Progressive Educators for Action), which has in the past two elections joined and supported a coalition slate called United Action, has made initial statements that has said they will put up candidates for Board of Directors in the eight ; and are formulating their own platform. They will interview candidates for citywide office who ask for their endorsement, and decide who to support. 

I would assume that other candidates will make themselves known this weekend at the UTLA leadership conference or in the near future. Since balloting is by mail, turnout is usually small, and it is incumbent upon candidates to garner as much support as they can among chapter chairs (building reps), who then often pass on their recommendations to the members at their site.

It should be an interesting election, with voting in early 2011.

Race is on to lead LA teachers union
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/19/2010 10:42:08 PM PDT
Updated: 08/19/2010 10:45:26 PM PDT

Launching election season for the leadership of the Los Angeles teachers union, veteran educator Jordan Henry announced Thursday he plans to run for president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
Henry, a teacher with Los Angeles Unified since 1994, said he wanted to provide new leadership for the union, which he said has lost public support because of its tactics.
"I believe this union has been conflict driven for so long that now, faced with innumerable conflict, we've got few partners and little public collateral," Henry said.
He made his announcement during an education forum in Hollywood on Thursday sponsored by the website and magazine Good Inc. and the University of Phoenix.
Henry, 39, currently teaches English at Santee High School in downtown Los Angeles. In 2003-04, he took a break from the classroom to work in the office of then-school board president Marlene Canter.
"UTLA is a union 42,000 members strong," he said. "We are either going to lead this city and state ... or stand in the way. That is why I am running for president of UTLA."
Julie Washington, UTLA's elementary school vice president, is also expected to run for president in the union's February election. UTLA's current president, A.J. Duffy, is termed out after serving two three-year terms.

Lee Sustar: Stealing the money to save teachers?


Stealing the money to save teachers?

Lee Sustar reports that school districts around the country are trying to pocket billions in federal money intended to put laid-off teachers back to work.

August 19, 2010

YOUR PRESIDENT wants you to save teachers' jobs--and gave you billions of dollars to do it. So why are you putting the money aside instead?

That's the question that teachers' unions across the U.S. are asking their bosses in the wake of the $10 billion education jobs bill passed August 10. Although the money is dedicated to putting laid-off teachers back in the classrooms, local school districts and politicians are trying to use the money to advance their "reform" agenda rather than restore jobs.

So it's time for teachers' union activists to dust off the old line about the 1930s labor law reform under President Franklin Roosevelt--"Your president wants you to join a union"--and use the unequivocal pronouncements of President Barack Obama to hold school officials accountable.

And for his part, Obama was unequivocal [1]. Standing alongside laid-off teachers on the eve of a special session in the House of Representatives, Obama said, "I urge Congress to pass this proposal so that the outstanding teachers who are here today can go back to educating our children."

Yet the question remains as to whether the $10 billion allocated to restore teacher jobs will be grabbed by local school districts intent on using the money to protect administrators and to push for "school reform" instead.

That's been the initial response of school officials around the U.S., who claim that they have to bank the funds to avoid future job cuts rather than rescind the layoff notices that have gone out since the end of the last school year.

In Chicago, for example, a school board official speaking at a press conference about the education jobs bill announced that the money would go to "programs." As Substance News, the Chicago rank-and-file teachers' newspaper and Web site, pointed out [2], Sen. Dick Durbin, the number-two Democrat in the Senate, who also spoke at the press conference, said the money was to put teachers' back in the classroom, period.

Nevertheless, as the New York Times reported [3], most school administrators are angling for ways to hold on to the money rather than put teachers back to work--even at the cost of significantly larger class sizes. "With the economic outlook weakening," the Times wrote, "they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs."

In California, school officials claim the legislature's deadlock over the state budget has made it difficult to decide when and how to allocate the $1.2 billion in federal money allocated to save teachers jobs. In Los Angeles, where teachers have taken both layoffs and a pay cut as the result of furlough days, officials aren't committing themselves to rolling back those concessions, arguing instead that the money is needed to avoid layoffs in the future.

In San Francisco, most layoffs have already been rolled back. That sounds like good news--but the apparent reason for the pullback is that a larger than expected number of veteran teachers have retired, and young teachers have quit rather than wait for the axe to fall.

And in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying to foist a two-year pay freeze on teachers in exchange for a no-layoff deal, school officials claim they had already budgeted for the additional federal money, and therefore couldn't roll back any layoffs. But New York City teacher union activists are highly skeptical, as the education jobs bill was seen as a lost cause until recently.

So while $10 billion of federal money is in the pipeline, teachers unions will still have to fight to make sure it goes where it belongs--to put laid-off teachers back to work and keep class sizes to at least tolerable levels.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE BATTLE to roll back layoffs is well underway in Chicago, where the new leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), backed by union delegates, rejected demands for a wage freeze and other concessions in order to avoid a threatened 1,000 layoffs. Their no-concessions position was vindicated by the education jobs bill that was based on the clear message that adequate class size is critical to decent public education--which means rehiring laid-off teachers.

The education jobs bill will likely force the Chicago Board of Education to take those demands off the table. But the board is trying to make its earlier layoffs stick while pushing through a program of more targeted layoffs and terminations.

For example, Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman, who got the authority from the board to increase high school classes from 31 to 33, announced the limit would stay at 31 after all. But a look at the union contract shows that high school class size should actually be pegged at 28.

Even aside from the influx of federal funds, there's plenty of misallocated money in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) budget that could be allocated to avoid layoffs. At an August 18 Board of Education public hearing on the budget, Margaret Royzen, a math teacher at Hyde Park High School, identified tens of millions of savings buried in the 425-page budget book released at the meeting, as did Jay Rehak, a CTU representative on the teachers' pension fund board.

But the most telling information at the hearing wasn't in the printed CPS budget or the hundreds of additional pages released on a CD-ROM drive. While the board representatives refused to answer questions--responses will be forthcoming at the next board meeting, they said--union members took the opportunity to make their case to the public.

Among those who testified was Xian Barrett, a prominent activist in the CTU's Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), which swept union elections earlier this year. Barrett, a teacher at Percy Julian High School on Chicago's South Side, was among the young teachers who got the axe in recent days. He spoke movingly about his experience as a Japanese teacher at a school where the public "only notices our students when we have to bury them."

But veterans are also under fire--people like Gina Baruch, a nationally certified art teacher at Northwest Middle School. After 17 years on the job--14 of them with tenure--and excellent ratings, she was "honorably dismissed" after the last school year. Not laid off, but fired--which means she's out of the system, rather than placed in the pool of displaced teachers who have a year to get another job before.

If this decision stands, Baruch--who brought in $90,000 in grant money to her school--won't get rehired, despite the federal teachers' jobs money. She won't achieve the 20 years on the job she needs for a maximum pension. "I'm not entitled to health insurance," she told the audience of teachers, parents and students. "I have to go on unemployment."

The principal at Baruch's school justified her firing by citing a change in the school program. But in fact, principals across CPS have been targeting tenured teachers in order to keep their school's payroll down--and they're not letting the union contract get in their way.

Another "honorably dismissed teacher," Dee Bolos, was fired from Social Justice High School despite her nomination for the prestigious Golden Apple award, her contribution as a basketball coach, and her work as a drama and English teacher. "I don't want to work in a private school," she said in her testimony. "I don't want to work in the suburbs. I don't want to be anything but a neighborhood school teacher."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE CTU filed a lawsuit August 2 to overturn the firing of some 1,000 teachers on the basis that teachers' rights to due process were violated. "The case is on a fast track, and we look forward to every dismissed tenured teacher being reinstated to their position," said CTU attorney Tom Geoghegan, who will help present the union's case in court on September 15.

The lawsuit highlights the more aggressive approach of the new CTU leadership. Now, passage of the federal education jobs bill only reinforces the union's argument--that keeping teachers in the classroom is a top priority.

Of course, the money for the education jobs bill is miniscule compared to the trillions of dollars that was used to rescue the banks or the hundreds of billions used to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, teachers across the country have been handed a rare opportunity to emerge from their defensive crouch and take the initiative to demand for fully funded public schools.

Pushing to overturn layoffs--with the official backing of the White House, no less--is an excellent place to start. But school officials' stingy approach has made it clear that teachers' unions and their allies will have to fight to bring those jobs back.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Material on this Web site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [4] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.

LA Teachers union agrees to reopen talks on evaluations

UTLA head says he's open to a new evaluation system

August 20, 2010 | 10:43 pm
United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy told hundreds of his members Friday night that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system for instructors that is "good for kids and fair for teachers." He indicated this might mean using student test scores as one measurement of teachers.
Duffy, who has steadfastly said he opposes the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, appeared to soften that stance in his speech to UTLA's annual leadership conference being held this weekend at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Indio.
"We are in favor of legitimate uses of student data to help improve teaching," Duffy told the local school union representatives. "We are in favor of a genuine evaluation system that supports teachers and helps them grow in their profession."
John Deasy, deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, told Board of Education members Friday afternoon that he wants to use the so-called value-added analysis of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations and that he is urging the unions to meet with him.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten met with district and union officials during a visit to Los Angeles this week. She has been in favor of revamping teacher evaluations and has helped negotiate contracts that use test score data as one of multiple factors in instructors' reviews.
The Times published an article earlier this week that used a value-added analysis to measure teacher effectiveness. Value-added compares a student to his or her past test performance. The approach measures how much teachers can add -- or subtract -- from students' growth. The method is controversial among some educators and others, but it also has been embraced as one way to judge teachers and principals.
The Times is planning to publish a database later this month showing the value-added ratings of more than 6,100 elementary schoolteachers. In advance of publication, The Times has allowed teachers to receive their score; so far, more than 1,200 teachers have done so.
Duffy said measuring teachers solely by their students' test scores will lead to more "teaching to the test' and reduce critical-thinking skills. He said several experts have decried The Times' methodology as imperfect.
As he took off his jacket in the packed room, Duffy said public education is "under attack like never before and the threats are coming from all sides. The latest attack," he said, "comes from the L.A. Times." 
Many in the audience booed when he named the newspaper.
"It's hard to feel anything but outrage when they drag our profession through the mud," he said.
-- Phil Willon

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said Saturday that he has accepted city school district officials' proposal to reopen negotiations over teacher evaluations but stopped short of saying whether a method tying teacher reviews to their students' test scores would be on the table.
Los Angeles Unified School District leaders on Friday requested that the union consider making the method, known as value-added analysis, count for part of teachers' evaluations — a move that would transform how instructors are assessed in the nation's second-largest school district.
United Teachers Los Angeles and its president, A.J. Duffy, have staunchly opposed the use of students' standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. But they have come under pressure over the last several days from local leaders and the head of a major national teachers union to accept value-added analysis as one measure of teacher performance, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Duffy has long said the current evaluation system is broken and needs to be revamped, but Saturday's announcement was his first formal step toward opening negotiations over it. This is also the first time in recent years that the district has requested renegotiation of the evaluation system.
The sensitive exchanges between the district and union follow a Times report published last week in which the newspaper, based on a value-added analysis of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers, found sometimes huge disparities in instructors' effectiveness.
In a speech to hundreds of union members Friday night at UTLA's annual conference in Indio, Duffy said that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system that is fair for teachers. "We are in favor of legitimate uses of student data to help improve teaching," he said.
His position on value-added analysis itself was harder to discern. In the speech and an interview Saturday, he voiced strong criticisms of the approach, which estimates the effectiveness of teachers based on student progress on standardized tests. But when pressed repeatedly on whether he would try to take value-added off the table, he declined to answer.
"I've said it the way I prefer say it," Duffy said at the conference, dressed casually in shorts with a wireless headset affixed to his ear. "I am answering the way I think is best."
In the past, he has adamantly opposed any use of value-added analysis in formal evaluations, though he has said he was open to using it as a way to give feedback to teachers.
On Saturday, Duffy criticized The Times for its use of value-added analysis and its plans to publish a database that will include value-added ratings of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers later this month. Duffy said that value-added scores are too narrow a measure on which to rate teachers — they only take math and English standardized test scores into account — and that the database could endanger teachers by publicizing where they work.
Duffy, along with the presidents of the California Teachers Assn. and the National Education Assn., sent a letter to Times editors earlier this week, asking the paper not to publish the database and calling the planned publication a "reckless and destructive move."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, met with Duffy last week and urged him to consider agreeing to using value-added analysis as one component of evaluations, according to people with knowledge of those meetings. In an interview last week, she said she believes parents have a right to know how well their child's teacher rated, but she opposed making teachers' scores available to the public.
Weingarten is more open to value-added analysis than other union leaders and said she has negotiated 54 contracts in districts where it counted for 10% to 30% of a teacher's overall review.
Duffy refused to discuss the specifics of their meetings.
"She doesn't pressure local leaders to do anything," he said. "UTLA is a giant … so they don't dictate to us."
Weingarten could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified leaders last week moved to use value-added analysis in ways that do not require union agreement.
John Deasy, the district's deputy superintendent, sent a memo to board members Friday outlining the district's plans, which include informing teachers and principals confidentially of their value-added scores by October. He indicated that this would not result in any punitive actions but was designed to help instructors improve.
"This will be a no stakes opportunity for educators to begin working with this information that will become part of a new performance review system," he wrote.
He said the scores could help administrators identify struggling teachers for extra help.
In the memo, Deasy also said that report cards for individual schools, which are now made available to the public, would eventually also have value-added scores reflecting the overall effectiveness of their teaching staffs.
Deasy said that he hoped value-added analysis would make up at least 30% of the new evaluation, but that the majority should rest on classroom observation and other factors.
Without commenting on the specifics, four of the seven school board members expressed general support for Deasy's approach last week. The others could not be reached or had not come to a conclusion on the issue. The board members interviewed expressed concerns about the publication of the database.
"I don't want to see these 6,000 teachers be the unwilling pioneers," said board President Monica Garcia.
Teachers attending the conference booed Friday night when Duffy mentioned The Times and expressed doubt about the accuracy of value-added analysis.
The role of value-added could become a factor in upcoming union elections to succeed Duffy, who has reached his term limit.
Jordan Henry, a veteran teacher at the Santee Education Complex south of downtown who announced his candidacy late last week, said standardized testing could play a role in evaluations, although he opposes The Times' plan to publish the database.
He also criticized Duffy's call for a boycott of the paper early last week.
"I was disgusted this week when my current union president called for a boycott…. simply because the L.A. Times took the initiative," Henry said.
Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.
© 2004-2010 LSN, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Story posted 2010.08.21 at 09:12 PM PDT

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Testing Mess - Sol Stern

The Testing Mess

The fastest way to “improve” students’ performance: Lower your standards.

The only thing surprising about last week’s revelation that the fraction of New York City students passing the state’s reading and math tests had dropped by an average of 25 percentage points is that anyone was surprised at all. Student pass rates dropped precipitously all across New York State for one reason, and one reason only: State education commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch decided to make the tests less predictable this year, and to raise the “cut scores” required for students to reach each of four designated achievement levels — below basic, basic, proficient (i.e., “passing”), and advanced. Student achievement levels had risen spectacularly from 2007 to 2009 because a different group of Albany education authorities decided to lower the bar for proficiency by reducing the cut scores.

Such elasticity in the definition of student achievement is one of the nation’s most serious education problems. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 left the door wide open to massive test inflation by stipulating that all American students “will be proficient” by the year 2014 — and imposing a series of increasingly onerous sanctions on districts and schools that do not move fast enough toward that goal — yet allowing each state to develop its own tests and set its own standard for “proficiency.” Since men are not angels, it was inevitable that state and local education authorities would lower the proficiency bar to make themselves look good politically and avoid federal sanctions.
- - - - - - -

The best evidence of test-score inflation is the wide gap between the number of students that states deem proficient on their own tests and the number called proficient by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the “nation’s report card.” The NAEP tests are the gold standard in student assessment because they can’t be gamed by educators: Because the federal tests are given to only a sample of students in each state, teachers can’t “teach to the test” and schools can’t offer students practice tests.

The problem of test inflation has been particularly acute in New York. As shown in two separate state-comptroller reports, one in 1991 and another last year, the state’s education department has historically failed to maintain the integrity of the testing system (by, for example, establishing a standardized scoring system and verifying its use). The situation became far worse in 2002, when NCLB came into effect and mandated reading and math exams for grades three through eight. The state education department should have hired a highly qualified director of assessment, someone committed to creating an honest and transparent testing regime. Instead, the job went to David Abrams, a high-school English teacher who had spent ten years as an administrator in an Albany-area school district. Abrams lacks professional credentials in the field of education testing. One member of the Regents told me that the testing director “has no qualifications for the job, and he’s responsible for many of our blunders on the tests.”

Abrams’s most consequential blunder was ignoring a warning from assessment experts Daniel Koretz and Howard Everson about the integrity of the state tests. In a September 2008 memorandum to Abrams, they cited growing public skepticism about the reported score gains and requested the education department’s “support for a program of validation studies” to measure the extent of “score inflation and the undesirable instructional activities that produce it.” The inflation was produced not only at the state level with lowered standards, but locally through such practices as “teaching to the test,” having teachers grade their own students, and even the possibility of cheating.

Abrams shrugged off the experts’ warning, and scores on the 2009 state tests then reached astronomical levels. In many school districts, the number of students scoring above the proficiency bar was nearly 100 percent. It was even possible for test takers to reach the “basic” level by simply guessing on all the multiple-choice questions, while ignoring test items that required longer written answers. Not surprisingly, almost no students in the state scored below the basic level in 2009. I’ve called these results the “Lake Wobegon test scores,” after Garrison Keillor’s tales about a town where “all the children are above average.”

For Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, test inflation was the gift from Albany that kept on giving, and they found ways to build even higher monuments to their reputations as school reformers. The city offered school employees a variety of inducements, including cash payments, for pushing test scores up even farther. The Bloomberg administration didn’t bother to ask too many questions about how the deed was done. Principals received cash bonuses of up to $25,000, and thousands of teachers were offered smaller bonuses for improved test scores — a powerful incentive to inflate the results by any means necessary. Finally, the city provided a powerful additional tool — the “Predictive Assessment” — to help teachers get the scores up. This is essentially a test-prepping device disguised as a mini-test that students take once a year; it closely reflects the blueprint and structure of the state tests.

To believe that the rising state and city test results had any objective validity was, by 2009, to believe that education nirvana had arrived in the Empire State. The new commissioner of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, made it clear that she didn’t believe it. Tisch suspected that state education officials, including outgoing education commissioner Richard Mills, were deliberately setting the cut scores low, leading to the big boost in test results in 2008 and 2009. She not only brought in the reform-minded David Steiner to succeed Mills, but leaned on the education department’s lethargic bureaucracy to provide comprehensive student test data to Koretz, one of the country’s leading testing experts. Koretz and his team of Harvard researchers will produce a long-range empirical study that promises to pinpoint the extent and source of the test inflation of the past few years.

Tisch and Steiner deserve the public’s praise for their courage in challenging some of the powerful political interests in education. One of the most important revelations produced by their recalculation of cut scores this year was debunking the claim made by Mayor Bloomberg that his reforms had led to a significant narrowing of the black–white achievement gap. Still, Tisch and Steiner have taken only the first small steps towards creating a fair and transparent assessment system. Such a system should encourage classroom teachers to teach a well-rounded curriculum and then test students on their mastery of its academic content. This is Tisch and Steiner’s long-term challenge. In the meantime, it would certainly help if they were able to hire a testing director with a national reputation and a commitment to assessment reform. It is dismaying to discover that David Abrams, the Albany bureaucrat who was squarely in the middle of the test-inflation scandals of the past few years, is still New York’s state testing director.
— Sol Stern is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of the Institute’s City Journal.

This is How a Tipping Point Feels

This is How a Tipping Point Feels

| 27 Comments | No TrackBacks
We are accustomed here on this blog, and elsewhere in education policy-land, of discussing education issues as if they were a realm of their own, with Arne Duncan (and maybe Bill Gates) as the biggest players. We debate policies like merit pay and charter schools, and sometimes reference the influence of economic and social factors, but we sometimes lose sight of the larger political context that is driving these policies.

Things are getting ready to shift.

It is said that education policy is like a pendulum. It tends to swing from one extreme to another. In the 1970s, when the progressive social movements peaked, we had the rise of desegregation, whole language instruction and constructivism, with a great emphasis on student-centered instruction. The past decade the pendulum has swung way back to the other extreme, with the rise of test-driven accountability and pre-digested curriculum.

How educational leaders have responded to this is very instructive. Diane Ravitch is a fascinating case study. She genuinely believed that we could drive improvement in our schools through tough standards and high-stakes tests, and actively promoted these methods. As the decade unfolded and evidence accumulated that this was not working as intended, the honest historian in her forced a change of stance, and she has become a sharp critic. She is a bellwether.

It is a fascinating, frustrating and exciting time, this tipping point we are approaching. The broader political setting is hugely important. We are two years into an administration that made fantastic promises to an America hungry for change. "We are the people we have been waiting for." Obama and his electioneers tapped into every hopeful beat of our hearts. We would bring the troops home from Iraq, close Guantanamo, stop the phone tapping, rein in corporate greed, and inspire the world with a more humane foreign policy.

In education, we were told we would enter a new era of "mutual responsibility," stop spending the year preparing for bubble tests, and stop blaming teachers for all the problems in our schools. We thought we would have a leader smart enough to understand that slogans and profiteers will not be our saviors, and that local leadership at the school and community level is the wellspring of school improvement.

But here we are, approaching the two year mark. At first, we were dismayed, when cruel practices of NCLB were extended. Did they not understand what they were doing? Could they not see this was not consistent with our shared vision? So we wrote, we organized on Facebook, we lobbied, and we spoke by phone with the Secretary himself. It has become clear they know exactly what they are doing, and nothing we say matters.

Teachers are not alone in this feeling. The chance to rein in corporate salaries has been squandered, and companies who received billions in bailout funds have showered their executives with billions in bonuses. The hedge fund managers - heavy investors in charter schools, by the way, have invested in politicians as well, and our system remains rigged in their favor. The war in Iraq, which Obama pledged to end this summer, drags on endlessly, and Afghanistan may well do to the American empire the same thing it did to the Soviets. A mixed blessing, perhaps, but a colossal waste of lives and resources.

Diane Ravitch is gaining company.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, not a radical by any means, just filed a column that describes the situation this way:

...if Duncan really wants to stop the biggest bully in America's schools right now, he'll have to confront his boss, President Obama. In federal education policy, the president and his education secretary have been the neighborhood toughs -- bullying teachers, civil rights groups, even Obama's revered community organizers.

Milbank points out what many of us have been saying for months.

Obama has taken the worst aspect of Bush's No Child Left Behind education law -- an obsession with testing -- and amplified it.

Obama has expanded the importance of standardized testing to determine how much teachers will be paid, which educators will be fired and which schools will be closed -- despite evidence that such practices are harmful. In the process, he's offended just about all the liberals involved in or advocating for education without gaining much support from conservatives.

One must assume that Obama has made a Clintonesque political calculation. Faced with tremendous pressure from an alliance of corporate-sponsored education reform organizations and their allies in the media, Obama chose the easy way. He appointed an education secretary who would advance their agenda, apparently assuming that this was a battle he did not need, given all his other troubles.

But those of us working in the schools are not concerned about political calculations. We are trying to make sense of a society that has abandoned those in poverty in every meaningful dimension, and dropped even the pretense of desegregating our schools, and yet expects teachers to close the achievement gap all by ourselves.

Some of us are pendulum-pushers, and some are pendulum-riders.
A curious thing has happened as we approach this tipping point. Even as evidence accumulates and is documented by honest scholars such as Ravitch, the "education reformers" are becoming more desperate to shore up their collapsing project. They are very smart, and have incredible resources at their disposal. Even in the midst of an economic crisis, they have marshaled billions of dollars to purchase people's energy. The Race to the Top was ingenious, and so well-timed, as to put maximum pressure on states struggling with impossible revenue shortfalls. So now we have new projects within the education reform effort. There is money for the "new and better" assessments that will solve all the problems we had before with those "bad" assessments. There is money for teacher pay, so long as it is tied to test scores. Those who buy this (or are bought) increasingly insist this trend is irreversible, and "resistance is futile," as a certain queen once asserted.

Those of us who have a name as teacher leaders may even be offered opportunities on these projects, and may have to do some soul searching and investigation, to be sure we can live with the results that our work may yield.

We who are pendulum pushers are hanging on, holding our ground, and continuing to push back. The time has come for the pendulum to start moving the other way.

With an actual pendulum, it is gravity that eventually wins out over the momentum of the device. In the case of education policy, as with corporate banditry and endless war, we cannot wait for the laws of physics to do the job. We need to be pushing, slowing the swing, and pushing it towards a new direction. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in The Tipping Point, there are moments when ideas catch hold and begin to spread almost like a virus. There is some combination of outrage and hope that crystallizes into social change. I hope these ideas are infectious. It is about time for this pendulum to swing.

Update: An anonymous reader posted the following complaint today: "It's clear what Anthony is against. What is he for?"
Just in case anyone else would like to see some of the alternatives we have been discussing here on this blog, here are some links to recent entries:
These Seven Principles: Our Plea to Congress

A Teachers NEWprint for School Change

A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: New Report Takes on Evaluation

Strengthening our Schools Takes Persistence -- But Firing people is So Satisfying!

We certainly do need strong alternatives to current policies, but claims that these are missing are simply wrong.
What do you think? Are we approaching a tipping point? How can we make it so?