Friday, February 16, 2018

The Education of Bill Gates

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:09 PM

  • Courtesy of wikimedia
Bill Gates made billions and billions of dollars in the field of computer technology, helping to transform the world in the process. He's an innovator. He's a disrupter. He's the savviest of savvy businessmen. He's been successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams of success or avarice.

So Gates thought, why not put his entrepreneurial genius and hundreds of millions of dollars a year to work innovating and disrupting and transforming the field of education? How hard can it be?

Pretty hard, he discovered.

Gates has been pouring money into his educational experiments in this country since 2000. Overall, I'd give his efforts a grade of C. Not much help, no grave harm. I'd give what he's learned about education a B. He now understands he doesn't know as much about education as he thought he did.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter answering The 10 Toughest Questions We Get. Question #2 is, "What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?" Their answer employs the couple's usual upbeat tone, but the efforts they describe are less than encouraging, especially given that, "Our foundation spends about $500 million a year in the United States, most of it on education."

A few telling excerpts from their answer:
"One thing we learned is that it’s extremely hard to transform low-performing schools."

"We have also worked with districts across the country to help them improve the quality of teaching. . . . But we haven’t seen the large impact we had hoped for."

"How did our teacher effectiveness work do on these three tests? Its effect on students’ learning was mixed."

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hey! What Happened To the Arizona Monitor Website?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller sure knows how to pick her news sources. - COURTESY ARIZONA DAILY INDEPENDENT
  • Courtesy Arizona Daily Independent
  • Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller sure knows how to pick her news sources.
Politico had a fascinating story this morning about the Arizona Monitor, a "news" website that has recently been singing the praises of—among others—Republican Kelli Ward, the former state lawmaker now running for U.S. Senate, as well as Pima County's nuttiest supervisor, Ally Miller.
It looked as if Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward had scored a big endorsement: On Oct. 28, she posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor.

Ticking off the names of Ward’s competitors in the Republican primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, the Monitor declared: “They all, despite how much some of them profess their love and devotion to President Trump, didn’t have the stones to run against Jeff Flake and will have made the ‘brave’ decision to run for Senate only after Flake decided he wasn’t going to run … Kelli Ward is your woman.”

There was just one problem: Despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site. It is an anonymous, pro-Ward blog that has referred to her primary opponent Martha McSally as “Shifty McSally,” frequently blasted Flake and, at the top of its home page, proclaims its mission as “Striking Fear into the Heart of the Establishment.” The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner. On its Facebook page, it is classified as a news site, but scant other information is offered.

The Arizona Monitor seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists. It’s a phenomenon that spans the country from northern New England, where the anonymous Maine Examiner wreaked havoc on a recent mayoral election, all the way out to California, where Rep. Devin Nunes launched — as reported by POLITICO— his own so-called news outlet, the California Republican.

Hours after the Politico report, the Monitor went offline, which goes to show that cockroaches do scatter once the light hits them.

Miller, who is no stranger to weird blogs run by anonymous would-be journalists, shared links from the Monitor web site, as it and the Arizona Daily Independent were the two places that gave her sympathetic coverage (as most legit news organizations in town have realized that she's a compulsive liar with a thin grasp on reality). But Politico notes that Miller is denying knowing who is/was behind the Monitor. Maybe she can launch another FBI investigation into this one!

Trump's Education Budget Proposal

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 2:28 PM

Trump's budget proposal isn't just being called DOA—Dead On Arrival. It's being called DBIA—Dead Before It Arrived—since the congressional budget deal he signed means some of his proposals were outdated before they were printed.

But nothing Trump proposes, or says, or does, no matter how ridiculous or mendacious, can be considered dead so long as congressional Republicans buckle and bend the knee whenever it's time to show some independence. They're like a character in The Sopranos saying, "Sure I hang around with Tony Soprano sometimes, but I'm my own man. I know when to say no." Uh huh. Sure you do.

So let's look at Trump's DOA, or DBIA, proposals for the education budget, because everything that comes from his mouth or his tweets or his office matters, to the shame of his weak-kneed enablers.

Trump proposes to cut about 5 percent, or $3.6 billion, from education spending.

First, the education budget losers. Here are programs which would end.
• $2 billion for teaching training and class size reduction efforts. Gone.
• $1.2 billion for after-school programs. Gone.
• $400 million for districts to use for a variety of purposes including health-related programs and improving access to technology. Gone.
• $340 million to help get low-income and first-in-their-family students prepare for college. Gone.
• $250 million for states to develop preschool programs in low income areas. Gone.
• $190 million for grants supporting reading programs. Gone.
• $140 million for educational research programs. Gone.
• $73 million for pairing academic programs with health and related services. Gone.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Unpacking a Great Hearts Charter School's Hair Braiding Story

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 2:59 PM

When I first read about a 12 year old African American student being sent home from Teleos Preparatory Academy because his hair was braided, I dismissed it as little more than a dress code, or hair code, story.

Teleos charter is part of the Great Hearts charter chain which has 23 schools in the greater Phoenix area. The schools say what clothing and hair styles are acceptable in their handbook, and if students violate the rules, they're sent home. At Great Hearts, boys aren't allowed to have shaved heads, Mohawks, rat’s tails, pony tails, or braids. They also can't have long hair or dye their hair in non-natural colors.

Yawn. Next education story, please?

As the story developed, I realized I was suffering from a case of white blindness. All the other prohibited hair styles are societal statements or personal fashion choices, and reasonable people can debate whether or not they're appropriate in a school setting. But hair braids are part of an African American cultural tradition, and to deny that hair style is to disrespect the traditions and culture of a group of people who have suffered disrespect and far worse since they set foot on this continent. So this is more than a generic dress code issue. Hair braids for an African American male are a different matter entirely from the other prohibited choices.

After first defending the school's actions to the press, the superintendent of Arizona's Great Hearts charters reversed course and issued a statement saying the student is welcome at the school, braids and all. "This event has triggered an internal review," the statement said, "to determine what changes may be needed to ensure this policy is sensitive to the cultural diversity we are proud to have in our academies."

Great Hearts deserves credit for doing the right thing in this case. But there's more to the Great Hearts story which puts this example of racial insensitivity in perspective.

Much like the BASIS charter school chain, Great Hearts charters generally have a rigorous academic curriculum and cater to high achieving students. In most of their Phoenix-area schools, the vast majority of the students are Anglo and Asian. The one exception is Teleos Preparatory Academy where the student's hair braids became a problem. Teleos is 6 percent Anglo and 1 percent Asian. Most of the other students are African American and Hispanic.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Radical-Sounding Education Funding Proposal From an Un-Radical Source: Arizona Town Hall

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 4:05 PM

A billion dollars. That's on the high end of the figure you hear when people talk about increasing Arizona's K-12 funding.

Governor Ducey came in at one-tenth of that, $100 million. At the latest Koch brothers summit, Ducey said to the assembled multi-millionaires and billionaires, “I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.” But that "important idea" in his pitch for campaign cash wasn't public education. It was private school vouchers, which are near and dear to the Koch network's hearts and wallets. When it comes to increasing public school funding, Ducey plays the smallest ball he can manage and still call himself "the education governor" with a straight face.

But education groups and a sizable number of business leaders say, if we're going to give our teachers a reasonable wage and provide the needed resources for our students, it's going to take an extra billion dollars in this budget and every budget in the future.

So who is this radical group that recommends we add $2 billion a year to the school budget? And a one-time allocation of $1.3 billion to make up for past budget shortfalls? And get rid of the law requiring a two-thirds majority in the legislature to increase taxes so all it takes is a simple majority to add to our revenue base?

All those radical proposals come from a not-so-radical group of participants in the 110th Arizona Town Hall held last November. The Arizona Town Hall's topic changes each year. For 2017, it was "Funding preK-12 Education." Community town halls were held in 15 locations around the state, each attended by a few dozen to a hundred participants, and each group submitted a report with findings and recommendations. Then in November, about a hundred people representing community members, business people and educators gathered for three days at the Hilton Hotel in Mesa. (The Hilton venue is an indication of the un-radical nature of the organization, as is the makeup of its executive committee, which includes wealth advisors, realtors, engineers, and even Lea Marquez Peterson, recent CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and current Republican candidate for the CD-2 House seat occupied by Rep. Martha McSally.)

The Town Hall produced a 17 page report explaining why Arizona's current education funding is inadequate and what needs to change. The crowdsourced set of recommendations does a better job of recognizing what it will take to meet the financial needs of our K-12 public schools than just about any other document I've read, including its understanding that we need to get rid of the two-thirds majority the legislature needs to get a tax hike through the legislature.

 Here's the short version of the report's recommendations.
"In simple terms, we need to invest at least $1.3 billion (to be updated to reflect the current need) on a one-time basis – and at least $2 billion annually, with annual increases for inflation in the future – to position our preK-12 education system to meet the educational goals that we have identified for it."

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The TUSD Board Should Publicly Affirm Judge Tashima's Ruling

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 10:08 AM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
The governing board of the Tucson Unified School District has an educational, and moral, obligation to officially acknowledge the importance of Judge Wallace Tashima's ruling that ARS 15-122 was unconstitutional because it was the product of racial animus directed at the students, teachers and administrators involved in the district's Mexican American Studies program, and it was a violation of their right to freedom of speech.

Instead, the board voted down a resolution which declared that teachers have been freed from the racist restrictions which forbade them from using elements of the dismantled MAS program. The three members who formed the majority made a wrongheaded, possibly even shameful, decision.

Let me give the board majority the benefit of the doubt and assume they misunderstood the meaning of Judge Tashima's ruling. He didn't rule on the value of the MAS program itself. His ruling said the state legislature and the Department of Education used unconstitutional means to suppress the educational rights of a minority group. It was part of a long, proud tradition of our country moving toward granting civil rights to individuals and groups regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. In this case, the issue was racism. Thanks to the ruling, the racists lost. That's what the victory is all about.

And that's what the governing board needs to acknowledge, publicly and formally. It should state that the judge's ruling is an affirmation that the education of Tucson Unified students should not be dictated by racists, that the district will decide what it believes is the best way to give its students the best possible education, and it will always strive to respect their civil rights and their right to freedom of speech.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Koch Brothers Emerge (a Little) From the Shadows, Part 2: Connecting Some "Education Reform"/Privatization Dots

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 5:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Bigstock
Part 1 of this two part (or maybe three part) series tracked the purposeful stealth of the Koch Brothers since the 1970s when they began their push to change the country's politics and economic policy, until their cover was blown a few years ago, and the brothers decided, if you can't fight it, flaunt it. They adopted a more public persona, even going so far as to let reporters into the inner sanctum of their donor summit a few days ago, where Governor Ducey spoke about how much he loves his expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, and how that expansion is threatened by Proposition 305 which is scheduled to go before the voters in November. He loves his vouchers almost as much as he loves tax cuts, and almost as much as our "education governor" loves fighting against significant increases to K-12 funding. The fact that the Kochs and their donor networkers love those things as much as Ducey loves them makes the governor' reelection campaign coffers very, very happy.

I was browsing through education news last week and came across an op ed in the Houston Chronicle praising Education Savings Accounts, which is the generic name for what our legislators have redubbed Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. As I looked to see who wrote it, I experienced a simultaneous sensation of familiarity and surprise. The author is Matthew Ladner, who I know well from long arguments we carried on in the comments section of my posts when I wrote on Blog for Arizona and Ladner was a vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute. The surprise came when I read the bottom of the op ed and found out he's now "the senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute." I knew Ladner had left GI, but last I heard, he was working on policy and research at Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. Since I don't see him mentioned on the current FEE website, I guess Ladner isn't wearing hats in both places. It looks like he's left Jeb for Charles Koch.

The employment and adventures of Matthew Ladner create a series of connected dots where the last dot connects back to the first. Taken together, they offer a revealing snapshot of the very formidable, very influential, very affluent "education reform"/privatization movement.

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Sanctuary Movement Rapidly Growing, Thanks to Trump

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 4:00 PM


The Sanctuary Movement has grown from 400 to 1,100 congregations nationwide since Donald Trump’s election.

Sanctuary congregations aid immigrants and the immigrant community in a variety of ways, including hosting legal clinics, advocating against and taking actions to stop deportations and housing immigrants in danger of deportation.

“ICE is attacking us as leaders and activists at the local and national level,” said Ingrid Encalada Latorre, an immigrant and activist currently in Sanctuary in Colorado. “They don’t want us to lead, but they won’t silence us because we too have rights as immigrants in this country.”

In the months after Donald Trump’s election, the number of congregations offering sanctuary to immigrants under threat of deportation doubled from 400 to 800 nationwide. The movement continues to grow, across 25 states. And the number of Sanctuary coalitions have grown from 12 to 40 since 2016, according to a new report, “Sanctuary in the Age of Trump,” released by a coalition of faith leaders, including Rev. Alison Harrington, a pastor in Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church.

The blue states have active Sanctuary coalitions. - THE AUTHORS OF "SANCTUARY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP"
  • The authors of "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump"
  • The blue states have active Sanctuary coalitions.

North Carolina currently has more people in sanctuary than any other state, with five. And their movement continues to grow, with six more congregations working on becoming sanctuary churches and more calling each day, said Rev. Julie Peeples, senior pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“It is really growing rapidly here,” Peeples said. “My congregation and I continue to be inspired by the courage and strength of those in sanctuary and their leadership. They are teaching us how to love our neighbor and how to honor our nation’s pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

The report also says that it’s no longer just cities with large immigrant population that have congregations in the Sanctuary Movement, but more rural areas with a recent influx of immigrants, in states like North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Congregations gave sanctuary to 37 people facing deportation, in 2017. Nine received some sort of temporary reprieve from deportation. Today, there are 36 people in public sanctuary, nationwide, according to the report.

Thirty-seven people that went into Sanctuary in 2017. Nine of them retrieved some sort of reprieve from deportation. - THE AUTHORS OF "SANCTUARY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP"
  • The authors of "Sanctuary in the Age of Trump"
  • Thirty-seven people that went into Sanctuary in 2017. Nine of them retrieved some sort of reprieve from deportation.

The Sanctuary Movement has grown in direct response to the ramping up of deporting immigrants whose only crime is being in the country illegally, many of whom were registered with Homeland Security and allowed a stay of deportation under the Obama administration, given they participated in routine check-ins with ICE.

In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton released a series of immigration directives that came to be known as the Morton memos. These memos limited the immigration enforcement to a subset of convicted criminals, as well as blocking immigration enforcement to crime victims, witnesses and “individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints,” a measure that allowed immigrants to report crime without fear of deportation.

Today, ICE searches these people out, although they are well known to the government and have complied with their regular check-ins. The new report details the arrests of several immigrants with deportation stays who are immigrant rights activists, including immigrate-rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained during a routine check-in meeting with ICE officials in Manhattan, on Jan. 11.

Ragbir was one of a number of immigrants vocal in the movement arrested by ICE in January. His arrest sparked protest that ended with 18 arrests, including two members of the New York City Council.

On Monday, Jan. 29, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ordered his release, saying his detention was “unnecessarily cruel.” He is still facing deportation.

“I am appalled to see the growing attacks on immigrant leaders,” said Ragbir’s wife Amy Gottlieb. “Ravi was detained at a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE, even though nothing had changed in his legal case. It is clear that he is targeted because of his outspoken challenges to our unjust immigration system. It is devastating to see my husband and so many others locked up in county jails, their liberty taken away from them, while private companies and others profit from our suffering.”

The faith leaders who contributed to the report said they plan on expanding the movement in the Southwest and Midwest and hosting trainings and strategy meetings.

“Sanctuary is needed more than ever,” the report says. “People of faith from many traditions recognize the increased need for Sanctuary as the harsh anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-black and anti-Muslim policies come to life under the Trump Administration.”

“Sanctuary in the Age of Trump” also details stories of several immigrants who and sought sanctuary, more examples of ICE ramping up intimidation tactics, and 10 policy recommendations.

  • Danyelle Khmara

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