Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Call Bloomberg's bluff - analysis of the layoff deal from SocialistW


Call Bloomberg's bluff

Ralph Johnson and Doug Singsen argue that the unions and community activists have the leverage to stop all of Michael Bloomberg's proposed cuts.
June 27, 2011

WITH A June 30 deadline looming for the New York City budget, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew made a deal June 24 that averts 4,100 proposed teacher layoffs and the proposed closing of 20 firehouses.
The deal involved two concessions from the UFT. All study sabbaticals for the 2012-2013 school year will be canceled, and teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool (teachers without a regular teaching assignment who still receive a full salary)--are to be more effectively placed in long-and short-term school vacancies in their districts.
According to the UFT, "Such use is designed to save much of the money the [Department of Education] now spends on 'per diem' substitutes to fill these vacancies." The details of the full budget proposal, which has come from an agreement between Quinn and Bloomberg, have yet to be released as of this writing. A City Council vote on the budget is slated to take place June 28.
Many teachers who were on the chopping block, along with parents and students of teachers slated to be laid off, will surely breathe a sigh of relief. We can also take heart that an already embattled Bloomberg was forced to back off his repeated insistence that massive teacher layoffs were the only solution to the budget crisis.
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THIS INTRANSIGENCE has been exposed as so much bluff and bluster in a failed attempt to attack union seniority rights. And in the context of vicious attacks on unions and budget cuts throughout the country, on first glance, it would be easy to see this deal as a victory, or at least to view it as the best possible in the given circumstances. Indeed, if ATRs, many of whom are veteran teachers who have spent one or two years or more without a regular teaching position, are indeed able to fill otherwise vacant positions, this part of the deal is positive.
But a closer look at the deal reveals the highly problematic nature of this agreement. The leadership of the UFT appears to have unilaterally agreed to a framework which will lead to layoffs in other sectors and cuts to essential services. As Bloomberg himself said, "Make no mistake about it--this is not a good-news budget."
Schools still face school-based cuts to their budgets.According to the New York Times, 1,000 city workers still face the axe, many of them health care workers. Quinn claims that restorations will be made to previously announced "cuts in child-care services, libraries, senior centers and social services."
However, it is yet to be seen how much of this funding will be restored, as the full details of the budget agreement made between Quinn and Bloomberg have yet to be released. Bloomberg's most recent budget proposal included a 29 percent cut in funding for libraries, which would cause many to operate only three days a week, cuts to senior centers, hospitals, cuts in child care and more. The deal with the UFT does nothing to guarantee these cuts will be restored.
While the 4,100 layoffs have been averted, a significant workforce reduction will only lead to further increases in already ballooning class sizes. Bloomberg's initial proposal--to not replace those teachers lost through attrition--remains in place. Despite initial estimates of 2,000 positions lost through attrition, the current estimate is 2,600, though even this number could increase, as the school year ends June 28.
Some of these positions may be replaced by the 1,200 ATRs. But teacher attrition has been ongoing in recent years. If we assume the 2,600 number, when you combine this year's attrition with the attrition in the previous two years, then there will have been a loss of one of every 12 teachers since the 2008-2009 school year.
There will be 72,400 teachers next year, and there were 79,000 in 2008-2009--which inevitably leads to ongoing class size increases and a declining quality of education. We need a restoration of the lost positions, not further cuts.
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WHILE THE budget proposal that will come up for a vote this week didn't live up to Bloomberg's threats, a closer look at the negotiations that led up to it indicates that all the cuts could have been avoided if a stronger fight had been waged.
While the UFT did participate in a 20,000-strong march on Wall Street May 12, the only major union mobilization specifically against the cuts was a rally of 10,000 called by AFSCME District Council (DC) 37. The UFT did not call its own protest, and while it did endorse the DC 37 demonstration, it did so at the last minute and turned out only 1,000 or 2,000 members, a small number for a union the size of the UFT, which has more than 100,000 members.
Had the UFT, DC 37 and other public-sector unions insisted that no cuts were necessary if the city raised taxes on banks, corporations and the rich, had they mobilized more members over a more extended period of time, and had they refused to accept compromises from Bloomberg, they may well have been able to avoid any cuts or concessions.
One indication that support could have been built for stopping all the cuts is the fact that Bloomberg's popularity ratings are at an all-time low of 39 percent, placing him in a very weak bargaining position.
More could have been won if the unions in the Municipal Labor Council (MLC) had stuck together. The MLC had proposed taking $262 million from the unions' Health Stabilization Fund, a deal that fell apart due to a lack of consensus on the council, with key opposition coming from DC 37. The UFT had also backed this proposal, and then struck out on its own when it collapsed on Thursday.
The current deal appears to have been done unilaterally by Mulgrew, outside of the framework of the MLC--essentially selling out other unions and other services that still potentially face cuts.
For his part, Bloomberg appears to be chiding the workers of unions who did not take part in this deal like children--and punishing them with layoffs, while rewarding the UFT with no layoffs. Bloomberg said, "The UFT, in all fairness, came through" adding that, "other unions had the opportunity to [avoid layoffs] and chose not to."
The total savings of the side agreement with the UFT adds up to $60 million. But while demanding cuts in jobs and services, Bloomberg continues to run up spending on his pet projects. To cite just one example,Bloomberg has budgeted a massive increase in education technology for the coming year--totaling $900 million, including $52 million for technology contractors, up 86 percent from a year ago.
This exorbitant spending comes after the city devoted $722 million--more than 10 times what was originally projected--on a no-bid contract to corruption-laden CityTime to run the New York City time sheet system.
Thanks to the reporting of Juan Gonzalez, Bloomberg finally ended the city's contract for CityTime, and key players in the scandal were forced to flee the country.
What's more, increased tax revenues from Wall Street, which is once again profitable and receiving huge bonuses, should have staved off cuts and allowed the city to restore services curtailed in previous years. And as the budget deal came out, it was revealed that $170 million in extra tax revenue came in. Nevertheless, the MLC and UFT accepted the need to accept some cuts and make compromises.
Meanwhile, others argued that there was plenty of money in the city that could have been used to avoid all cuts, including the record profits now being made again on Wall Street, the hundreds of millions of dollars being given by the city in corporate giveaways, the low tax rates paid by the rich in the city, and the existence of a $3 billion rainy day fund held by the city.
One group that took up the call for no cuts and no layoffs were the protesters of Bloombergville, an encampment held by workers, students and others affected by the cuts 24 hours a day beginning on Tuesday, June 14.
While the numbers at Bloombergville were small, ranging from 15 to 150, it was able to put forward an argument that there was an alternative to the cuts--and a need for a stronger, more sustained form of resistance.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bloombergville: New Yorkers Occupy Streets to Protest Budget Cuts

(http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56232) .

New Yorkers Occupy Streets to Protest Budget Cuts
By Elizabeth Whitman
Bloombergville organisers hold assembly meetings twice daily to discuss
concerns and plan events.

Credit:Elizabeth Whitman/IPS_ (http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56232)
_Buy this picture_ (http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56232#pictures)

NEW YORK, Jun 25, 2011 (IPS) - They have taken over a strip of the
sidewalk at Park Place and Broadway, handing out flyers to passersby and taping
posters to the ground and to the metal crossbars of the scaffolding that
shelters them from the rain.

They sleep here too, on the sidewalk, and hold assembly meetings twice
daily for people to raise concerns and plan events. Their bottom line: no
budget cuts.

Calling their takeover and sleep-in _Bloombergville_
(http://bloombergvillenow.org/) - an allusion to the infamous shanty towns known as Hoovervilles
that sprung up during the Great Depression - they are _New Yorkers Against
the Budget Cuts _ (http://nocutsny.wordpress.com/) (NYABC), a coalition of
different groups and individuals united by their opposition to Mayor
Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget for next year and their determination to
press the City Council not to adopt it.

Bloomberg, citing debt and decreases in state and federal aid, proposed to
cut funding for public services including higher education, libraries, and
child care as part of his approximately 65- billion-dollar budget for the
fiscal year 2012 (Jul. 1, 2011 through Jun. 30, 2012). He also wants to
eliminate jobs for over 6,000 teachers - 4,100 through lay-offs and 2,000
through attrition - and close 20 firehouses.

Negotiations on the mayor's proposal are ongoing in the City Council,
which must adopt a budget by Jun. 30, although it "may change budget priorities
and add 'terms and conditions' on the expenditure of appropriated city
funds," according to the City Council website.

Since Jun. 15, Bloombergville and NYABC have been staging their sleep-in
or, as several participants deemed it, "occupation", to protest the cuts and
lay-offs and are currently in their sixth location, having moved due to
rain and police.

Their assemblies usually average 30 to 50 people, and 70 people spent the
first night.

"Bloombergville is an encampment to intensify and strengthen the struggle
against austerity in New York City," reads the _Bloombergville Declaration_
(http://bloombergvillenow.org/declaration/) . "We are in active solidarity
with those refusing any and all cuts."

During the day, members participate in rallies, marches, and other forms
of public action to spread awareness of the budget issue and garner
attention to their cause. In the mornings and evenings, they gather in assembly
meetings to plan these events and to discuss issues that anyone might raise.

"Definitely not enough people" are aware of the circumstances surrounding
the budget cuts, Emily Turonis, the only member who has slept at the
encampment every night, told IPS. She says people's involvement and awareness
reflects how much they believe they'll be affected by the budget cuts.
Moreover, "people don't know the severity" of the cuts, she added.

"Every basic social service in this city is going to get hit," said Yotam
Marom, one of the leaders of the coalition.

Turonis suggested ending tax cuts for the wealthy as a source of possible
revenue, noting that the city has a three-billion-dollar surplus even as
Bloomberg plans to cut funding for essential public services.

However, Ronnie Lowenstein, director of the nonpartisan _Independent
Budget Office_ (http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/) , said in an _interview with WNYC_
surplus/) that the term surplus was "misleading" because the amount has
already been taken into account for next year's budget.

"You could use that three billion dollars for something else - you could
use it for a tax cut - but you would have to do something else to bring next
year into balance, and it's as simple as that," he said.

Nevertheless, Bloombergville's short-term aim "isn't even radical",
Turonis said. Its participants simply want the city to "stop creating loopholes
that allow gross profits" for the wealthy and for large corporations.

The coalition aims to enforce this point and "draw more people" to the
cause, said Larry Hales, a founder of NYABC, by maintaining a "constant

"Bloombergville is yet another example of everyone approaching these
budget negotiations with a spirit of 'shared sacrifice' except for Mayor
Bloomberg," Laura Banish, coordinator for the City Council Progressive Caucus,
told IPS.

"We're facing some of the worst cuts in decades and being told that
there's no other choice. That's simply not true. We have options, and cutting
vital social services is not one of them," she added, calling those who
participated in the sleep-in inspiring.

A spokesperson for Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat,
told IPS that Williams was "staunchly against" the budget cuts.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Finance Chair Domenic M.
Recchia Jr. wrote in the Council's response to the preliminary budget that
"further cuts in critical service areas endanger not only the progress we have
made in many areas… but also the welfare and safety of New York City

In a statement, they also said that the Council had presented several
alternate budget proposals that offered savings through cuts in contracts or
cuts in city agencies different from what Bloomberg proposed.

But Hales remained sceptical of the steps the Council said it has taken or
ideas it has put forward, dismissing it as political rhetoric and empty

Though NYABC members hail from a variety of groups and backgrounds, some
seem to share a common vision of what change needs to happen in New York and
the United States as a whole, beyond the immediacy of the Bloombergville
protests and the passing of next year's budget. They have infused the
structure of Bloombergville with this vision.

The coalition envisioned "democracy in a public space", said Turonis, and
it created that democratic space to reflect the vision that protesters were
demanding. The general assemblies provide that space - everyone gathers in
a circle and has the chance to voice his or her opinions and ideas, on any

Hales said, "What we need to do is build a people's movement" and
consolidate the organisations with a common aim but varying approaches, while Marom
offered a longer-term vision of a movement that would "reclaim space for
working people and oppressed people".

But even with these future visions and aims, ultimately, the budget that
the Council will adopt remains to be seen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Charter Ed Deformers Seek to Choose Next Mayor - Moskowitz or Cananda?

In the last several weeks, Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying organization that supports charter schools and other aggressive educational changes, has been interviewing possible New York City mayoral candidates over meals.
ā€ Call it The Great Suss Out of 2011,ā€¯ Joe Williams, the executive director of DFER, said by email. He did not indicate that the group has identified any emerging favorite, and he said that the group has not met with either Moskowitz or Canada.

Charter supporters seek kindred spirit to succeed Bloomberg | GothamSchools:

Charter supporters seek kindred spirit to succeed Bloomberg
by Elizabeth Green

A screen shot of the web site registered 9 days ago that touts Eva Moskowitz for mayor in its title.
Two websites registered recently ā€” one earlier this month ā€” raise an intriguing possibility: Could a charter school leader jump into the next mayoral race?
The website addresses tout Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Charter network, and Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Childrenā€™s Zone and Promise Academy charter schools, for mayor. Neither site includes any content.
The websites, EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com and GeoffreyCanadaForMayor.com, might reflect mounting concern among charter school supporters that Mayor Bloombergā€™s successor will not continue his level of support for charter schools.
The nervousness may have increased when Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress last week. Of all the likely mayoral candidates, Weiner had appeared to be one of the more supportive of charter schools.
ā€ Personally, as a New Yorker, Bloombergā€™s successor has weighed heavily on my mind,ā€¯ Democracy Prep charter network founder Seth Andrew, who registered the URL touting Canada in December, said in an e-mail statement. ā€ While I think Mr. Canada would be a great choice, weā€™ve never talked about it and heā€™s made it publicly clear that he loves his day job.ā€¯
Andrew used his personal email and mailing addresses to register the Canada site.
EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com was registered anonymously through a hosting service based in California on June 6, according to WhoIs.Net, which publishes records of web site registrations.
Responding to a request for comment by e-mail, a spokesperson for Moskowitz sa id that she had never heard of the domain. ā€ Looked into it. Donā€™t know anything about this domain. Let me know if you find out who bought it,ā€¯ Jenny Sedlis, the director of external affairs at Moskowitzā€™s charter network, wrote via e-mail.
The next mayorā€™s position on charter schools will be crucial to how much support the schools get from the city Department of Education. The dozens of charter schools that now get free space inside city school buildings do so only because Mayor Bloomberg has committed to that policy. State law does not grant charter schools any public space.
In the last several weeks, Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying organization that supports charter schools and other aggressive educational changes, has been interviewing possible New York City mayoral candidates over meals.
ā€ Call it The Great Suss Out of 2011,ā€¯ Joe Williams, the executive director of DFER, said by em ail. He did not indicate that the group has identified any emerging favorite, and he said that the group has not met with either Moskowitz or Canada.
Besides Weiner, the other likely candidate who might support charter schools is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Though Quinn has been mainly quiet on charter schools, she recently told the Daily News editorial board that she is against the stateā€™s seniority-based layoffs law ā€” a position that resonates with supporters of charter schools.
Other likely candidates, including Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, Comptroller John Liu, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, have sided with the city teachers union in most education debates.
For years, Moskowitz has talked openly about her plan to run for mayor of New York one day. But since she opened her network of charter schools in 2006 with an ambitious goal of opening 40 more in a decade, the mayoral talk has seemed distant.
Moskowitz last ran for office in 2005, when she made a bid for Manhattan borough president after gaining prominence as chair of the City Councilā€™s education committee. The United Federation of Teachers strongly opposed Moskowitz and supported her opponent, Scott Stringer, helping him narrowly defeat Moskowitz. Stringer is considering a bid for mayor in 2013.
Since then, Moskowitz has made something of a science out of organizing parents of Success charter schools. Parents at Success schools attend hearings and public meetings about space decisions, and many of them attended a recent rally in Harlem to protest the NAACPā€™s involvement in a lawsuit opposing the co-location of charter schools inside distric t space.
A flyer sent home to Success parents indicated that attendance was required, and school officials opened their doors late to make time for the rally ā€” an unprecedented decision by a school leader who once kept classes open on a city snow day.
Canada has been less active in organizing parents politically, though he did lead a campaign to renew mayoral control.
Marty Lipp, communications director at Harlem Childrenā€™s Zone, said that he was unaware that the domain name for Canada had been registered. ā€ Geoff has said on numerous occasions that he has no interest in any jobs other than working here at the Harlem Childrenā€™s Zone and continuing to do so,ā€¯ Lipp said.
Moskowitz recently signed a book deal with the education publisher Jo ssey Bass, according to an announcement on the web site Publisherā€™s Marketplace.
The bookā€™s working title is listed on the web site as ā€ The Secret of the Success Academies.ā€¯ The listing describes the book as an account of ā€ how the students of this rapidly growing group of charter schools, featured in the documentaries ā€ The Lotteryā€™ and ā€ Waiting for Superman,ā€™ have achieved some of the highest standardized test scores in New York State ā€” rivaling their peers in schools in the wealthiest suburbs.ā€¯ Moskowitz is listed with a co-author, Arin Lavinia.
Asked about the book, Sedlis wrote in an e-mail, ā€ Eva Moskowitz is writing a book on techniques of teaching. She has spent the last five years immersed in instruction and wants to share what sheā€™s developed.ā€¯

Leoni e Haimson

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Parents Slam NPR Education Coverage

Leonie Haimson writes:

See Beth Fertig’s story today on the UFT/NAACP co-location lawsuit.  http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2011/jun/21/teachers-union-and-naacp-take-city-court-over-school-closings-and-charters/

Here are some problematic assertions in her piece:

Success Academy is a chain of charters run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. Recently, her organization used city data to conduct its own study of 81 charters that share space with regular schools. It found average class sizes in the district schools only went up by about one student over four years, which was no more than the citywide average.

This is the wrong comparison to use; charter co-locations tend to occur in the least overcrowded schools and neighborhoods.  For example,  in Queens, where the overcrowding is intense, and class sizes are increasing fast, there are very few co-locations.  The comparison in class size should NOT be to schools citywide  , but with a similar set of schools nearby.   Class sizes should not be increasing in any school, but particularly not in struggling schools in  communities like Harlem with the space to keep class sizes small.

Genevieve Foster, who has a daughter attending Harlem Success Academy 1 in the same building as PS 149…"If you look at our classrooms we have more children," she said. "We have less space, and we're also receiving less money to really provide the resources necessary for our children. ... We can also say we have issues with space."

First of all, co-located charters like HSA are getting more public funding per student than regular public schools; see the IBO study on this.  http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park/?p=272  This doesn’t even count the millions of dollars that they privately raise.  It’s astonishing to me that charter advocates are still proclaiming this myth, no less reporters letting repeat it w/out any rebuttal. 
If you count the lower need level of the students enrolled in charters, the disproportion in public funding is even greater, since charter schools have lower numbers of ELL and poor students. http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Baker_NYCharter.pdf

Secondly, if HSA charters feel squeezed, why not get their own space --- with the millions Eva has raised, she could afford it.  Finally there are many claims about the larger class sizes at HSA charters.  What’s never mentioned is the fact that Eva ensures that there are at least two teachers in every classroom.

There's no doubt sharing isn't always easy, but charter parents accuse the teachers union and the NAACP of inflaming the situation. They note that the Success Academy renovated the playground for everyone at PS 149.

No one who has been paying attention to the fierce battles over space in recent years could believe that the UFT or the NAACP could possible “inflame” the situation.  All they have done is to provide parents in the co-located schools a legal weapon to fight for the rights of their children not to be unfairly deprived of adequate space to learn.  And the playground is a huge issue for the parents and kids at PS 149 – HSA came in and without their consent, tore up the playground and installed an Astroturf soccer field which deprived the PS 149 kids of their baseball playing area.  See Juan Gonzalez on this: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-08-18/local/27072974_1_soccer-field-new-soccer-soccer-project
More broadly, why is it that this article and others like it does not mention the prospective loss of the PS 149 art room, the fact that there is no space for special needs students to get their services, that their counseling room has to share space with the PTA room, separated only by a curtain, or that the D75 school is now forced to have gym on the auditorium stage ?

If you have other observations about the effects of this or other co-locations, you can email Fertig at bfertig@wnyc.org

This is a prime example of why I long ago stopped supporting WNYC - the lack of depth and accuracy of their education reporting is astounding.
For heaven's sake....she is not a reporter so much as she is a person with access to the radio. most of her stuff is fluff and more often that not, it is forgotten as well
which is not say she can say whatever she wants, but she ain't a mind changer

Monday, June 20, 2011

Schools will never fix inequality: Diane Ravitch vs. Arne Duncan fight misses point on poverty

  Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/06/19/2011-06-19_schools_will_never_fix_inequality.html#ixzz1PoNeibeB
By John Marsh   Sunday, June 19th 2011, 4:00 AM

It is not every day that the U.S. secretary of education charges a professor with "insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country." But in the cutthroat world of education reform, the daggers have come out.
The professor, Diane Ravitch of NYU - who once shared educational reformers' love for school choice, charter schools and accountability - has in recent years come to oppose them. A few weeks ago, she published a much-debated op-ed in The New York Times that reiterated her belief that few schools, reformed or not, can overcome the differences in family income that determine educational outcomes. "Families," she wrote, "are children's most important educators."
The critics pounced. The columnist Jonathan Alter called her views "the mother of all cop outs." The aforementioned Arne Duncan - President Obama's education chief - said she was "in denial."
To the new breed of educational reformers, whose motto is "no excuses," schools cannot only prevail over the effects of an impoverished upbringing; they can set students from poor families on the path to college and, ultimately, a middle-class life.
This argument is a neat but dangerous dodge. The inconvenient truth: If you care about poverty and economic inequality, you would be better off forgetting about education. Because, even if schools could overcome the effects of growing up in poverty, they cannot reshape the structure of an economy that produces poverty and economic inequality in the first place.
In terms of income, it is no secret that the United States has grown top-heavy in the past few decades. In broad terms, the rich have gotten richer, most people have treaded water and more people live in poverty. From 1993 to 2008, slightly more than half of all economic growth in the U.S. flowed to the top 1% of earners. The United States now has the most unequal distribution of incomes among developed countries.
Almost no one disputes whether this profound inequality exists. Rather, the debate seems to be about whether it matters - and if so, what to do about it. According to recent polls, most Americans seem to have made up their minds about both questions. More than 70% of us think differences in income are too large. Regarding what to do about it, Americans are equally decisive. Roughly two out of three people disagree with the proposition that it is the government's responsibility to reduce income differences.
By contrast, there is unfailing and overwhelming support for education and, lately, education reform. is not hard to imagine why Americans almost unanimously support education as a solution to poverty and inequality. It offers an elegant solution to an otherwise intractable problem: Good schools, the thinking goes, can provide everyone, including and perhaps especially the poor, a chance to get ahead, graduate from college and join the middle class. In this way, economic inequality would be reduced. Moreover, by combating income inequality with genuine educational equality, Americans can avoid the spectre of divisive economic policies - of "spreading the wealth around," as Barack Obama famously put it in his 2008 presidential campaign.
The only problem is that it does not, and will not, work. As a growing body of scholarship has shown, educational achievement depends mostly on family background - on how much money your parents make. In that respect at least, Ravitch is right.
For the sake of argument, though, suppose critics like Ravitch were wrong and reformers like Duncan and Alter were right. Assume the United States could induce many more poor and low-income students to graduate from college. It is not clear what all those new college graduates would do.
The economy requires more workers with college degrees than ever before. Yet it remains - and will remain - an economy that requires more workers without degrees than workers with degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that seven out of the 10 occupations that will produce the most new jobs by 2018 will require only on-the-job training. (Think jobs like home health aides, customer service representatives, food preparers and servers.)
A good education will not help workers trapped in low-wage, nonunion jobs. Nor will it do much to divert the flow of economic growth to the top 1% of earners. These are the reasons behind rising economic inequality, and these reasons have little to do with education.
In short, we cannot teach or learn our way out of inequality. And so, Americans must decide what they dislike more: differences in income that are too large, or the government taking more responsibility to reduce income differences. Their favorite solution, education, is no solution at all.
Marsh is author of the book, "Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality."

Friday, June 17, 2011

How theCorporate Right Divided Blacks from Teachers Unions and Each Other

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by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Charter school supporters are denouncing the NAACP for filing suit, along with the teachers union, against preferential – separate but unequal – treatment of charter schools in New York City. The charter activists claim the NAACP is dividing the community, but that division was orchestrated 15 years ago, when the right-wing Bradley Foundation created the Black private school voucher “movement” out of whole cloth.
How the Corporate Right Divided Blacks from Teachers Unions and Each Other
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
The NAACP is seeking to prove – in a different age and racial context – that separate is not equal, in New York City and other sites of breakneck charterization.
Back in the mid-Nineties, devious right-wing activists at the Bradley Foundation, in Milwaukee, hit upon a “wedge” issue designed to wreck the alliance at the core of the Democratic Party’s urban base. Blacks and public employee unions – particularly teachers – were the foundations of Democratic power in the cities. Aware that African Americans revered education but were often in conflict with largely white teachers unions over issues of racism and community control, the Bradley gang, under president Michael Joyce, created out of whole cloth a “movement” for publicly-funded vouchers for private schools. No such Black community “demand” had ever existed, but well-aimed infusions of millions of dollars among opportunistic politicians like Cory Booker, a first term city councilman who aspired to become mayor of Newark, New Jersey, grafted Black faces onto a Hard Right corporate scheme to divide key progressive constituencies: Blacks and unions.
By the turn of the millennium, the Bradley outfit solidified its position as George W. Bush’s “favorite” foundation when it invented “faith-based initiatives” to funnel millions of public dollars to churches to provide social services. Faith-based funding and private school vouchers comprised the totality of Bush’s first term outreach to Black America. Neither program drew masses of Blacks into the Republican Party – even the wealthy social engineers at Bradley can’t perform miracles. But Bradley and its far-right sister funders – the Walton and DeVos Family Foundations, Olin, Scaife, Freidman and other troglodytes – had succeeded in penetrating Black Democratic politics, where the real action would unfold. Cory Booker, Harold Ford, Jr., the 29-year-old who inherited his father’s congressional seat in Memphis, in 1996, and other hustlers were the “new Black leaders” ready to embrace “pro-business” solutions to inner city problems, said corporate media boosters. The Democratic Leadership Council, the party’s corporate money bagmen, launched a frenzied, and quite effective, recruitment campaign among Black office-holders and aspirants.
Cory Booker and other hustlers were the ‘new Black leaders’ ready to embrace “pro-business” solutions to inner city problems, said corporate media boosters.”
This is the national stage onto which Barack Obama stepped with his U.S. Senate campaign, in 2003-2004, as the very embodiment of the “new” Black politician, full of phrases like “public-private partnerships” and other codes for corporate penetration of the public sphere. By this time, the wealthy foundations were directing much of their money and attention to hawking charter schools as the cure for what ails education in the inner cities. Not that the Waltons and Friedmans and Scaifes give a damn about ghetto kids, but because they understood that Black parents were desperate for anything that might save their children, and would be receptive when fellow Blacks made the pitch. From its inception, the purpose of the project was to drive a wedge between teachers unions and Black constituencies. In addition to being unencumbered by sticky constitutional considerations, charter schools are technically public schools, and African Americans remain broadly committed to the concept of public education. Most importantly, from the rich man’s point of view, charter schools are the gateway to corporate access to the public education purse, a “market” worth hundreds of billions a year in which the public takes all the risk – a capitalist’s paradise!
The Hard Right foundations now had even bigger company as boosters of charter schools: the institutional weight of Wall Street, huge hedge funds, and individual billionaires, all out to make a financial killing, knock off teachers unions, and mold the world views of new generations. After more than a decade of corporate cultivation of ambitious “new Black leaders,” a large cadre of business-friendly African American politicians was in place – including, by 2008, in the highest place of all.
Charter schools are the gateway to corporate access to the public education purse.”
President Obama is the guy that Michael Joyce, at the Bradley Foundation, was dreaming about when he launched his campaign to split Blacks from unions, 15 years ago. Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan – a veteran Chicago union buster and corporatist – have labored mightily to erect an alternative national system of charter schools, plugged into a private financial and educational services sector, that in some cities is as large or larger than the traditional public schools. Obama, because of his race and his party affiliation, is a far more effective foe of public education and teachers unions than his white Republican predecessor.
Michael Joyce was right; he knew that the crucial battle over school privatization would have to occur in Black Democratic circles, if it were to work as a fractious wedge issue. Last month, the NAACP and the United Federations of Teachers filed a lawsuit to halt the closing of 20 public schools and to stop giving preferential treatment to charter schools that often share the same buildings. The differences in learning conditions, schedules and equipment are so striking, says the NAACP, as to reduce public students to second-class citizens. Charter schools, which President Obama fawns over like his own legacy, are blatantly favored by school systems and corporate sponsors. The NAACP is seeking to prove – in a different age and racial context – that separate is not equal, in New York City and other sites of breakneck charterization.
The inequalities are by design. From President Obama on down, charter school strategists hope to expand their privatized systems by deliberately making charters relatively more attractive than traditional classrooms, in order to create a political constituency for more charters. At root, it is a kind of bait-and-switch that is not sustainable, and will come to a halt once the public school “competition” is marginalized or eliminated. By then, the political forces necessary to revive public schooling will have been exhausted in fratricidal battles, and the corporations will have established a system to suit their own purposes– as Michael Joyce foresaw.
When the NAACP joined in the teachers union’s suit, charter school advocates declared war on the civil rights group. Two thousand people attended a May 26 rally in Harlem, accusing the NAACP of dividing the community. Of course, Michael Joyce knows who did the dividing – he and his right-wing schemers and billionaires wrote the script. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Frustrated Educators Aim to Build Grassroots Movement

Published Online: June 14, 2011
Published in Print: June 15, 2011, as Frustration at Heart of Washington Rally

Frustrated Educators Aim to Build Grassroots Movement

Says Kaye Thompson Peters, an English teacher from St. Paul, Minn., "I think it's time someone said the emperor has no clothes. You need to stand up and you need to fight back, and that's where we are right now."
—Genevieve Ross for Education Week
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Thousands of educators, parent activists, and others are expected to convene in the heat and humidity of Washington next month for a march protesting the current thrust of education policy in the United States, especially the strong emphasis on test-based accountability.
Organizers say the effort aims to galvanize and give voice to those who believe policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and state governors, have gone astray in their remedies for improving American schools. Leaders of the march—current and former educators among them—say they’re determined to build a grassroots movement that has staying power beyond the gathering this summer and “restores” a central role for educators, parents, and communities in policy decisions.
How widespread such sentiments are in the K-12 workforce is hard to quantify. The nation has more than 3 million public school teachers, and they’re a diverse bunch. And a lot of teachers may not pay much attention to national policy debates.
But march organizers and supporters suggest that many teachers have become increasingly frustrated with the test-driven accountability framework at the heart of the U.S. education system and look with alarm at the wave of teacher-evaluation measures being enacted in some states, pegged in part to student scores on standardized tests.
Such views are shared by Pat Graff, a 34-year teaching veteran who co-chairs the English department at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M., and is her school’s testing coordinator.
“I think it’s going down the wrong track fast,” Ms. Graff said of the main policy direction she sees. “It ramped up with No Child Left Behind and the push for accountability and [adequate yearly progress]. And then they just keep adding tests. ... Teachers lose the opportunity to teach anything beyond how to fill in the bubbles.”
Meanwhile, she said, teachers “feel like the scapegoat ... for everything that’s wrong with society.”
Nancy Flanagan, a former classroom teacher of 30-plus years who writes an opinion blog hosted on the Teacher section of the Education Week website, said frustration with the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s pressure to boost test scores in reading and mathematics has mushroomed among teachers.
“A lot of people were waiting it out,” said Ms. Flanagan, a member of the organizing committee for the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. “States were complying. Teachers were unhappy. Huge amounts of money were going to the wrong things.”
She added: “When [President Barack] Obama was elected, I think it came as a huge shock to people that he was not only going to continue the policies, but exacerbate them.”
By exacerbate, she pointed, for example, to incentives in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative for states to link teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Tony Bennett, Indiana’s state schools superintendent and himself a former teacher and school administrator, voiced skepticism, however, about the aims of the Save Our Schools march, dubbed SOS. “Does it stand for Save Our Schools or Save Our Status Quo?” he said. “They seem to articulate very well everything they’re against.”
Mr. Bennett, a Republican, defended the need for test-based accountability, suggesting it’s vital to ensure students are no longer shuffled through school without adequate preparation, even as he said plenty of work remains in improving assessments. He also said that on the issue of teacher evaluation, test scores are only part of the equation, despite what he calls “fearmongering” from critics who suggest that’s all there is to it.
“We are embarking on a journey in education in this country that is a dramatic shift from what we’ve done in the past,” Mr. Bennett said, “but it’s the right shift.”

Building a Network

Organizers of the Save Our Schools march say they expect 5,000 to 10,000 people to attend the Washington gathering on July 30. Ms. Flanagan, the Michigan teacher of the year in 1993, said the size of the rally isn’t the point.
“The point is to start momentum toward a sea change, to bring together—physically and virtually—a network of people who want change,” she said.
Social media have been key drivers of the march, with organizers using blogs, an SOS Facebook page, and Twitter to promote it.
The four “guiding principles” for the march are: equitable funding for all public school communities; an end to high-stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation; curriculum developed for and by local school communities; and teacher, family, and community leadership in forming public education policies.
Anthony Cody, one of the lead organizers and a former classroom teacher who is now a science-content coach for teachers in the Oakland, Calif., district, said concern about the uses of standardized tests is at the heart of the matter.
Sabrina Stevens Shupe, in downtown Denver, says she's alarmed to see how testing-based accountability continues to increase. "We were very excited that, 'Oh, we're going to get Obama in office,' ...and we get this bait and switch with Arne Duncan and Race to the Top," says Shupe, a Save Our Schools organizer and former Denver teacher.
—Nathan W. Armes for Education Week
“That’s really the core thing driving this movement: The understanding that learning is complex, and that it is not captured in a test score; it is not captured in most of the data that is worshiped at the district, state, and federal levels,” said Mr. Cody, who, like Ms. Flanagan, writes a teacher-oriented opinion blog at edweek.org. “We want to be held accountable for things that matter, and we’ve seen test scores create a system of accountability that has a very poor relationship to what really matters for students.”
A lot of the Save Our Schools leadership, he said, is drawn from people who have been active “teacher leaders.” Several of them, including Mr. Cody and Ms. Flanagan, hold national-board certification.
Confirmed speakers for the rally include education historian Diane Ravitch, who co-authors a blog hosted by edweek.org; the education author and activist Jonathan Kozol; and Superintendent John Kuhn of the Perrin-Whitt district in north-central Texas.
A two-day conference is scheduled before the march and a “congress” the day after to discuss next steps.
Among the organizations to endorse the Save Our Schools march are: the International Reading Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Council of Teachers of English, the nonprofit group Parents Across America, and the Virginia School Boards Association. Also, more than 30 state and local teachers’ unions, plus the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have signaled their support.
Organizers say the effort originated with individuals, not unions.
“We are very happy they are on board, but they are not driving the bus,” Mr. Cody said.
“What our union liked about this was these are rank-and-file folks from across the country,” said aft President Randi Weingarten, even as she cautioned that the union may disagree on some “nuances” of the SOS principles. “There is a frustration about the politics and the policy. And a lot of it is about voice, and the lack of voice.”

Interpreting Obama

Debates on the use of standardized tests have been swirling for years. It’s no secret that many educators and researchers have long been leery of giving them too much weight in gauging student learning and meting out consequences for schools, students, and teachers.
In fact, a major report just issued by the National Research Council raised questions about the value of tying consequences for schools, teachers, and students to test results. The evidence examined “is not encouraging about the ability of incentive programs to reliably produce meaningful increases in student achievement,” it said.
Says Benjamin Van Dusen, a former science teacher and Albert Einstein Fellow, "I'm not opposed to having standardized tests and having them be important. ...I think we need better tests, more authentic assessment."
—Nathan W. Armes for Education Week
Some observers and advocates suggest that a variety of factors have combined to ratchet up frustration. For one, more and more public schools are facing sanctions under the NCLB law, as the levels of proficiency required have climbed.Also, the recession has led to cutbacks in aid to schools, with impacts on teacher pay, benefits, and class sizes. And several states recently passed laws to scale back teachers’ collective bargaining rights.
Then there’s the Obama administration. Some educators and activists who campaigned for Mr. Obama in 2008 say they believed he was intent on making a significant shift in direction on education from the Bush administration, in part to counterbalance the weight of standardized testing in schools. Now, they feel that is not happening.
Stephen H. Lazar, a teacher at the Bronx Lab School in New York City who plans to attend the SOS march, said he’s been disappointed with Mr. Obama: “The president’s education agenda is a symptom of the ‘reform’ movement that has managed to capture the national narrative around education.” ("In War of Words, 'Reform' a Potent Weapon," March 2, 2011.)
“We were very excited that, ‘Oh, we’re going to get Obama in office, and the ridiculous things about No Child Left Behind will go away,’ ” said Sabrina Stevens Shupe, a former teacher in Denver who co-authors a blog called Failing Schools and is on the SOS organizing panel. “And he comes in there, and we get this bait and switch with Arne Duncan and Race to the Top.”
But Andrew J. Rotherham, a partner and co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit education consulting firm in Washington and a former education aide to President Bill Clinton, suggests that those who are upset with President Obama may not have been studying his education plans closely during the 2008 campaign.
“It is hard to make a case that the president has somehow pivoted or made a bait and switch,” he said. “Either it was a Rorschach test, or they weren’t paying attention.”
The U.S. Department of Education did not accommodate a request to speak with Secretary Duncan or another official for this story. But in an email, department spokesman Justin Hamilton wrote: “We believe that teachers are America’s unsung heroes. And while there are different opinions on the best ways to boost student achievement, we all agree that reforms are needed.”
Mr. Duncan issued an “open letter” to teachers in May, timed to Teacher Appreciation Week, in which he seemed to take pains to offer an olive branch. He noted and echoed some of the concerns expressed by teachers, such as that the NCLB law has prompted schools to “teach to the test” and has led to a narrowing of the curriculum.
“And you are frustrated when teachers alone are blamed for educational failures that have roots in broken families, unsafe communities, misguided reforms, and underfunded school systems,” he wrote in the letter, published on the Education Week and Education Department websites.
Mr. Duncan pledged to work with teachers to improve the law and strengthen the teaching profession. “I hear you, I value you, I respect you,” he wrote.
But the letter sparked an online backlash, including from some SOS organizers. A common thread was the contention that Mr. Duncan’s conciliatory words were belied by his department’s agenda, especially with the Race to the Top.
“Your actions have spoken so loudly to America’s teachers that we can’t hear your words,” one commenter wrote.
The $4 billion grant competition has sparked controversy for, among other measures, pushing states to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores, create or expand their charter school sectors, and choose from a set of prescriptive models for turning around the lowest-performing schools, measured mainly by test scores.
Even though the Obama administration has not backed away from using tests to drive accountability, it is pursuing efforts to change them. With $360 million in additional Race to the Top money, it is backing work by states to design new testing systems that it says will measure student growth—rather than capture a snapshot of achievement—supply real-time feedback to teachers to guide instruction, and include performance-based items to gauge more types of learning.

Gauging Teacher Views

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, also sees a disconnect between the administration’s rhetoric and policy.
For example, he said that even as the administration has called for wrap-around supports beyond schools—in areas like health and social services—to help children succeed academically, the president’s blueprint for overhauling the NCLB law “holds schools accountable for identical results, whether or not they have these [supports]. It’s completely incoherent.”
Recent survey data provide some clues as to how educators feel about testing and education policy.
Only about one-quarter of public school teachers believe their states’ standardized tests provide “good” or “excellent” information about school quality, according to a 2009 survey co-sponsored by the journal Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University. More than two-thirds of teachers responding said they “somewhat” or “completely” opposed basing a teacher’s salary in part on his or her students’ academic progress on state tests.
Most of the 40,000 teachers who responded to a 2009 online questionaire sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic said that state standardized tests are far less important in gauging student achievement than formative, ongoing assessments in class, class participation, and performance on class assignments.
Benjamin Van Dusen, who taught high school science for five years and is now working on a doctorate in education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that while he believes standardized tests need to be better and “more authentic,” he sympathizes with policymakers who desire measurable results.
“I’m not opposed to the idea of having standardized tests and having them be important,” said Mr. Van Dusen, who last year was an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator fellow.
As for teacher evaluations, Mr. Van Dusen said he doesn’t object to using tests as part of the equation.
“We need to figure out who is not an effective teacher,” he said, “and get them out of there, and figure out who is good and keep them.”

Other Voices

Meanwhile, a new nonprofit group in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence, seeks to give teachers more voice in policy debates, but its agenda parts company in some ways with the Save Our Schools march. For example, the group backs tying teacher pay in part to test scores. It also calls for ending “last hired, first fired” teacher-layoffs policies. Morethan 2,600 New York teachers have backed the group’s “declaration” of beliefs, said Sydney J. Morris, the co-founder and a former teacher.
Her group receives financial backing from the Gates Foundation and other philanthropies. (Gates has been a funder of Education Week’s nonprofit parent corporation.)
For her part, Kaye Thompson Peters, an English teacher at Central High School in St. Paul, Minn., and an active union member, said she hopes to attend the Save Our Schools march. She’s had enough of what she sees as an overemphasis on standardized testing and suggests it impedes good teaching.
“It’s time someone said the emperor has no clothes,” she said. “You need to stand up and you need to fight back.”
Vol. 30, Issue 35, Pages 1,14-15

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Broad Attack on Eli Broad's Undermining Public Ed

Sharon Higgins of the Broad report and Parents Across America quoted below.  Too bad they didn’t cite our Parent’s Guide to the Broad Foundation.


Critics Target Growing Army of Broad Leaders

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Billionaire businessman Eli Broad, one of the country’s most active philanthropists, founded the Broad Superintendents Academy in 2002 with an extraordinarily optimistic goal: Find leaders from both inside and outside education, train them, and have them occupying the superintendencies in a third of the 75 largest school districts—all in just two years.
Now hosting its 10th class, the Los Angeles-based program hasn’t quite reached that goal, but it’s close. The nation’s three biggest districts have Broad-trained executives in top leadership positions: Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer in New York City; John E. Deasy, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified; and Jean-Claude Brizard, who became the chief executive officer of the Chicago schools last month. In all, 21 of the nation’s 75 largest districts now have superintendents or other highly placed central-office executives who have undergone Broad training.
But as the program has risen in prominence and prestige—758 people, the largest pool ever, applied for the program this year, and eight were accepted—it has also drawn impassioned criticism from people who see it as a destructive force in schools and districts.
They say Broad-trained superintendents use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of decisionmaking, and introduce unproven reform measures.
One of those critics is Sharon Higgins, who started a website called The Broad Report in 2009 after her school district in Oakland, Calif., had three Broad-trained superintendents in quick succession, each appointed by the state.
She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.
“It’s like saying, let me come to your house and completely rearrange your furniture, because I think your house is a mess,” Ms. Higgins said, adding that other parents around the country have reached out to her to complain about their own Broad-trained school leaders.

‘Corporate Training School’

Likewise, James Horn, an associate professor of education policy at Cambridge College in Massachusetts, keeps up a drumbeat of criticism in the blog Schools Matter. In one post, he referred to the academy as “Eli Broad’s corporate training school ... for future superintendents who are trained how to use their power to hand over their systems to the Business Roundtable.”
In an interview, Mr. Horn said that school officials trained by the program graduate with a hostility to teachers. His critique goes beyond the Broad superintendents program to include many of the foundations that have emerged as major players in efforts to reshape education over the past decade.
Mr. Horn points not only to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, of Los Angeles, but also to the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, of Bentonville, Ark., as examples of what he sees as a worrisome trend of “venture philanthropy” in education. Venture philanthropists typically emphasize the imperative of getting measurable results for their investment and maintain close ties to the organizations they fund.
“What venture philanthropy is doing seems to me to be wielding influence not to help public institutions, but to destroy public institutions, or take control of them,” Mr. Horn said. “This is a dangerous place, where corporations and government get mixed up.”
The Broad Foundation has helped support Education Week’s coverage of school leadership and the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, but it is not a current funder. Editorial Projects in Education, the newspaper’s publisher, received a Gates Foundation grant for organizational capacity-building that expired May 31, and it was a recipient of earlier Gates funding.
Whatever the larger issues surrounding the role of education philanthropy, supporters of the Broad Superintendents Academy say the criticism of the training program is off base.
Erica Lepping, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation, says that the academy exposes program participants to many viewpoints, and that the graduates themselves come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including education, and hold different points of view.
The academy does promote a management model of “continuous improvement” that is used by successful businesses, nonprofits, and school systems, she said.

Pushing Change

Thomas W. Payzant, a trainer and mentor for graduates of the Broad Academy and a former superintendent of the Boston public schools, says that the program’s graduates have to be willing to shake up districts that have been failing students for years—and that such change is going to be painful and sometimes resented.
“You don’t go into a leadership role with a notion that you’re just going to coast,” said Mr. Payzant, a professor of educational leadership at Harvard University and a member of the interview committee that evaluates potential academy participants.
“You want to be able to show improvement, and often improvement in the education sector means change that will make some people very uncomfortable and will not be popular,” he said. “That’s what leads to pushback. People say, ‘We were fine before you got here.’ But when you look at the data, there’s lots of room for improvement.”
When the superintendent-training program was first launched, it was billed as a bipartisan solution to a “growing leadership crisis” in public education. Mr. Broad, who made his fortune in home building and insurance and is a prominent contributor to Democratic political candidates, partnered with John Engler, a Republican who was then the governor of Michigan, to create the program.
Academy organizers said they were making a point of seeking out skilled executives who might not have any experience in education. A press release announcing the program suggested it was a negative that the vast majority of superintendents were trained as teachers, without a background in “complex financial, labor, management, personnel, and capital-resource decisionmaking.”
Academy by the Numbers
The Broad Superintendents Academy seeks senior-level executives from a variety of backgrounds, including national, state, and local government officials; managers of “complex businesses or business units” with revenues of more than $250 million; senior military officers with command experience; and educational leaders with supervisory experience, such as regional or deputy superintendents, chief academic officers, and charter managers who oversee successful schools with multiple sites. The program has had 139 graduates.
Professional Background and Total Alumni
Education: 71
Education Hybrid: 25
Government: 2
Higher Education: 2
Military: 24
Private Sector: 10
Social Sector: 5
Where Are They Now?
39 currently serve as school district superintendents
28 are cabinet-level executives in school districts
31 serve as executives in education nonprofits or private-sector education organizations
4 hold federal, state, or U.S. territory education policy positions
3 are state commissioners of education
10 are retired
24 work in other fields
The New Class
Eight Broad fellows were accepted in 2011:
Robert Avossa superintendent, Fulton County, Ga., public schools (Mr. Avossa was the chief strategy and accountability officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., system when he applied.)
Chris Barbic, founder and chief executive officer, YES Prep Schools, Houston
Mark Brown, brigadier general, U.S. Air Force
Penny MacCormack, chief academic officer, Hartford, Conn., public schools
Mike Miles, superintendent, Harrison, Colo., public schools
Michael Oates, lieutenant general, U.S. Army
Judy Peppler, state president, Qwest Communications, Portland, Ore.
Rick Richardson, colonel, U.S. Army
The Curriculum
Broad fellows are expected to study on their own when they’re not meeting as a group. A recent reading list includes:
Leading Change, James O’Toole, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996
How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning, Michael J. Schmoker, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006
Bringing School Reform to Scale: Five Award-Winning Urban Districts, Heather Zavadsky, Harvard Education Press, 2009
Teaching Talent: A Visionary Framework for Human Capital in Education, Rachel E. Curtis and Judy Wurtzel (eds.), 2010
“English Language Learners,” Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, September 2004
Urban School Leadership, Thomas W. Payzant, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2010
“Special Education in America,” Christopher B. Swanson, Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, November 2008
Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, Theodore R. Sizer, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984
“Choice,” Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, September 2004
What School Boards Can Do, Donald R. McAdams, Teachers College Press, 2006
“Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools,” Paul T. Hill, Marguerite Roza, and James Harvey, Center on Reinventing Public Education, December 2008
“Managing for Results in America’s Great City Schools,” Council of the Great City Schools, October 2008
Execution, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Crown Business, 2002
“How the World’s Best-Performing Systems Come Out on Top,” McKinsey & Co., 2007
Strategy in Action: How School Systems Can Support Powerful Learning and Teaching, Rachel E. Curtis and Elizabeth A. City, Harvard Education Press, 2009
SOURCE: Broad Superintendents Academy
In practice, though, most of the participants have had at least some background working in education. Seventy-one of the 139 alumni came from an education background before attending the program, and 25 have what Broad describes as “education hybrid” experience, which means a professional background that includes education in addition to some other field of work.
Over the years, the academy’s graduates have gone on to occupy influential education positions beyond district superintendencies. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, went through the Broad Academy. So did state schools chiefs Christopher D. Cerf of New Jersey, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, and Lillian Lowery of Delaware.
The academy is one part of a $450 million investment in various education initiatives made by the Broad Foundation. Perhaps its highest-profile project is the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, which recognizes districts that improve student performance and close achievement gaps. The foundation also supports the Broad Residency in Urban Education, a two-year training program for high-level managerial positions below the superintendency.

Basic Format

Ms. Lepping said the foundation often tweaks the academy curriculum to keep it up to date. However, since its inception, the basic format for the program is a 10-month fellowship that brings participants together for six extended weekends in different cities. Tuition and travel expenses are free.
The program is designed to be a concentrated introduction to the many issues that superintendents face, and Ms. Lepping provided more than two dozen content threads that are revisited over the course of the fellowship year, including labor relations, targeted student interventions, data-management systems, management for continuous improvement, and school board relations.
Participants are also expected to read books on their own between sessions, such as Leading Change by management theorist James O’Toole, which argues for a values-based approach to leadership, and Horace’s Compromise by Theodore R. Sizer, published in 1984 and considered a classic in the literature of education change. They also participate in webinars, read case studies on urban districts, and complete individual applied-learning projects.
“I worked as hard on that as most of the other degrees I’ve gotten,” 2004 graduate John L. Barry, a retired U.S. Air Force general, said of his Broad training.
“It allowed me to be exposed to incredibly diverse, varied points of view,” said Mr. Barry, now the superintendent of the 37,000-student Aurora district in Colorado, “and allowed me to clearly understand what I was getting into.”
Broad fellows also get continuing, on-the-job mentoring from experienced professionals, can call Broad experts in to evaluate district issues, and are part of a network that allows them to reach out to one another for advice on thorny district-management issues.
“If you were to ask me, that’s been the best part of the program. The fellowship has been tremendous,” said Mr. Brizard, a 2007 graduate who was the superintendent in Rochester, N.Y., before he was chosen to lead the 409,000-student Chicago system.
What the Broad fellows see as a program that provides mentorship and continuing support, their detractors see as a sign of a takeover.
“What I see happening is that they colonize districts,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who criticized education venture philanthropy in her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“Once there’s a Broad superintendent, he surrounds himself with Broad fellows, and they have a preference towards privatization. It happens so often, it makes me wonder what they’re teaching them,” said Ms. Ravitch, who co-writes a blog on Education Week’s website.
Some Broad superintendents have indeed had rocky tenures. In the 32,000-student Rochester district, the teachers’ union held a vote in February on whether to support Mr. Brizard. Eighty-four percent of teachers participated, and 95 percent of them gave Mr. Brizard a symbolic no-confidence vote. Teachers complained that Mr. Brizard was ignoring their voices as he made major changes in the district.
Maria Goodloe-Johnson, a 2003 graduate of the training program who became the superintendent of the 45,800-student Seattle schools, was fired by the school board in March amid a financial scandal that roiled the district.
In Rockford, Ill., LaVonne M. Sheffield left the 27,000-student district in April after a difficult two years, during which she clashed with the school board and the community over budget cuts and her assertion in a “state of the schools” address that racism was at the root of some of the district’s problems.

Tough Decisions

But the superintendents say they were up against forces that were resisting necessary changes.
Mr. Brizard, a former classroom teacher and administrator, rejects the idea that his management priorities were instilled by the Broad Academy.
“All of my ideas come from my experience,” he said.
From his work as an educator of teenage inmates at New York City’s Rikers Island, “I got to see what happens when we fail,” Mr. Brizard said. His aversion to such policies as “last in, first out” hiring practices came from seeing good young teachers placed on layoff lists while colleagues with longer tenures but poorer track records were retained, he said.
On that point, Mr. Brizard and Adam Urbanski, the head of the Rochester Teachers Association, agree. Mr. Urbanski, who has a reputation as a reform-minded union leader, said that focusing on the Broad Academy is an oversimplification.
“I think that’s too tempting an explanation,” said Mr. Urbanski, who has spoken to past academy classes. Mr. Brizard’s work in Rochester, he said, “was more a function of his own personal convictions and his own worldview than some kind of irrepressible impact by the Broad Superintendents Academy. [The academy] has its own point of view, but it has no army or navy to enforce it.”
Ms. Sheffield, the former Rockford superintendent, said she took over a district that was already unsettled: It went through seven superintendents in 10 years.
“The only constant is the union leadership, and they bankroll the board,” she said.
Ms. Sheffield said that, as superintendent, she was open to concerns from her community. “Butat the end of the day, you hire a superintendent to make the decisions,” she said.
She added: “It’s always difficult when you close schools. It’s always difficult when you have folks who want everything for their children, and nothing for others.”
Peter C. Gorman, the superintendent of the 133,600-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg district in North Carolina and a 2004 graduate of the academy, has been singled out by Broad critics because of a controversial merit-pay proposal that would be based partially on newly created student tests.
Mr. Gorman says he understands that disagreement is part of the process. But “I don’t think I would engage in that debate” on the perceived influence of the Broad Academy, he said. “I think our community is focused on good things,” Mr. Gorman said. “We can’t spend our time and energy fighting things that aren’t true or that aren’t substantiated.”
Those who work with the academy say they’re aware of the perception that program graduates are subject to “groupthink” that reflects a business mind-set. But other districts’ leaders with no connection to the academy are making the same changes that have been linked to Broad graduates, said Laura Schwalm, the superintendent of the 48,000-student Garden Grove Unified School District in California and a Broad Academy faculty member.
“If Broad didn’t exist, charter schools would. I think they try to be very fair-minded in what they present,” she said. Plus, she added, “I would hope, as educators, we would be open-minded enough and have enough courage and wisdom to consider all ideas.”
And while Broad has had controversial graduates, others have been recognized by their peers as being at the top of their field. Mr. Barry, the Colorado superintendent; Ms. Meléndez, who was the superintendent of Pomona Unified in California before joining the federal Education Department; and Paula Dawning, the retired superintendent of the Benton Harbor, Mich., district, have all been honored as state superintendents of the year.
Thomas M. Brady, a 2004 graduate of the academy who plans to step down from the superintendency of the 23,500-student Providence, R.I., district July 15, suggests that some critics are not able to separate the work of the academy from the Broad Foundation’s other education philanthropy.
“The Broad Foundation works selectively in cities to further an agenda that Broad thinks is important,” said Mr. Brady, a retired Army colonel. For example, he said, the foundation supported a performance-pay program in the District of Columbia that was championed by then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.
So, Mr. Brady said, observers end up thinking “well, here they are; [the academy graduates] must be doing the same thing.” But “there wasn’t any Kool-Aid that was passed out at graduation,” he added.
Michael Klonsky, an adjunct professor of education at Chicago’s DePaul University, says that while he doesn’t believe academy students are given explicit marching orders,“you don’t have to be told to go in there and attack the union.”
“People know basically what your reform line is: hard on the unions, pro-charter, pushing for a certain kind of accountability,” said Mr. Klonsky, a chronicler of what he believes are Broad Foundation shortcomings in his blog Small Talk. “It’s not just a coincidence they all have the same position, more or less.”

Judging Performance

There is little or no independent research evaluating the impact of Broad Academy graduates on all the districts where they are placed. The foundation itself looks at five measures of student achievement for academy superintendents who have been in place for three or more years, including students’ academic-proficiency levels, achievement gaps, and graduation rates. The foundation then compares those measures with those of demographically similar districts in the state and with state averages.
Based on its calculations, 65 percent of graduates who have been serving as superintendents for three or more years are outperforming comparison groups on raising state reading and math test scores, closing achievement gaps, and raising graduation rates.
Education Week examined a small slice of performance in six districts with long-serving Broad superintendents: reading and math scores on standardized tests for 3rd graders and 8th graders. In most cases, the results on that measure were mixed, even within a district.
For example, the 31,600-student Fort Wayne, Ind., district has seen the longest tenure of a single Broad-trained superintendent. Wendy Robinson, who rose through district ranks as a teacher, principal, and central-office administrator, was in the first Broad Academy class in 2002. She was appointed superintendent in July 2003.
Indiana used to administer state tests in the fall, then switched to a spring test date. In fall 2003, the Fort Wayne district’s 3rd grade passing rate in reading was 69.3 percent; it was 73.8 percent in spring 2010. For math, however, the passing rate fell from 75.9 percent in fall 2003 to 66.9 percent in spring 2010. For 8th graders, the passing rate in reading rose from 55.1 percent to 58.7 percent; math fell from 65.1 percent to 64.4 percent.
The 26,000-student Pittsburgh district, which underwent major restructuring under Mark Roosevelt’s tenure from 2005 to 2010, showed growth in all those academic areas. Mr. Roosevelt, a former Massachusetts state legislator, is a 2003 academy graduate.
Between spring 2005 and spring 2010, the percentage of Pittsburgh 3rd graders scoring proficient or advanced on reading tests rose from 49 percent to 59.8 percent. For 3rd grade math, proficient and advanced scores rose from 67 percent to 74.2 percent.
Likewise, for 8th graders, the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced in reading went from 49.4 percent to 72.2 percent over that five-year span. In math, the rates rose from 45.8 percent to 60.4 percent.

Different Ways

Ultimately, student success is the yardstick by which the Broad training program must be evaluated, says Richard F. Elmore, a professor of educational leadership at Harvard University. He is the co-director of the university’s new, three-year Doctor of Educational Leadership program, which aims to train not only potential superintendents, but also other professionals who can take high-ranking positions in other sectors of the education market, such as charters or nonprofit and for-profit education management organizations.
Mr. Elmore says the Broad Foundation’s attention to superintendent training has helped fill a void in an area that has been “a real disaster in this country”—with some exceptions—but that it should be just one of many training approaches available for aspiring education executives.
“I wish we had five or six different ways of training sector leaders,” Mr. Elmore said. “That’s the discussion we should be having, instead of these ideological debates.”
Coverage of leadership, human-capital development, extended and expanded learning time, and arts learning is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at www.wallacefoundation.org.
Vol. 30, Issue 33, Pages 1,12-13