Ein Superintendent, Ein Board, Ein Voice!

I posted this about three years ago (Jan 2008). Given the situation in Illinois, particularly with education waste and featherbedding, I think it bears re-posting. Think about the nature of the people educating your kids.
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Elaine Johnson seems like a regular everday citizen. She may be a little out of the ordinary in that she also started a very good local blog in Downers Grove. It’s amazing. You take a little time to look into things, and slowly but surely you start to notice just how things actually work – particularly with school boards.

No need for silence on the school board

Voters were told the board’s responsibility is to put children first and to hire the superintendent. The board acts as a single unit, not as a congregation of individuals motivated by personal agendas – a concept further underscored when incumbents of District 58 and Community High School District 99 ran together as a single slate.

“School boards don’t have a lot of power other than hiring the superintendent,” says Jim Russell of the Illinois Association of School Boards, the voluntary organization that counts 98 percent of the state’s school boards as members.

Indeed, the Illinois School Code highlights the board’s role in hiring, directing and evaluating the superintendent and states that members have no legal authority as individuals.

But it also allows boards to “exercise all other powers not inconsistent with this act that may be requisite for the proper maintenance, operation and development of any school or schools under the jurisdiction of the board.”

The question is: Why don’t they? Why don’t our school board members interpret their duties in the broadest possible terms, initiating policy and holding administrators accountable as other elected officials do? Why do they accept a role that is in large part ceremonial and supportive?

The answer may lie at least in part with the Illinois Association of School Boards, which tries, as Russell says, to “create a philosophy or culture” among its members. My husband, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 58 board last spring, received a packet of IASB handouts explaining the role and duties of a school board member.

Further training encourages individual members to “submit themselves to the overall board,” Russell says. “You have a voice, yes. You are supposed to represent the public, yes. But the board works as a unit. We don’t discourage members from speaking or asking questions … but the district and the community have to hear a single voice.”

This excellent article highlight a singular truth that I have been trying to beat into the heads of people across the political spectrum. School Boards and “districts” are merely facades that provide the appearance of local control. In fact, there is next to no local control at all.

The article also highlights the dark nature of the IASB in particular and school administration in general. By Mr. Russell’s own words, he exposes “Adminstration” for the anti-democratic, anti-free speech, and essentially fascist mindset that they promote.

!!!! “We don’t discourage members from speaking or asking questions … but the district and the community have to hear a single voice.” !!!!

The first part of the above sentence is an outright lie. Members are discouraged from speaking all the time. As some one who follows the antics of school boards and the oily adminstrative class closely, I can attest to the aggressive tactics used by these protectors of financial malfeasance and legalized money laundering.

The second part of the above sentence is even worse than the outright lie, for it reeks of the of enforced conformity and political correctness that have become a cancer on our culture. Any board member who steps out of line is first politely asked to fall in line. If this fails, the gloves come off, and the “education mafia” goes into full attack mode.

Here is a simple fact that most parents and citizens don’t want to process. They practice a dangerous brand of denial regarding their schools. The fact is this. If there is “harmony” on your school board, then corruption is going unnoticed. The legalized money-laundering that now has metastasized to so many districts that the only politically “healthy” districts are the ones where there is “disharmony.”

I’d be happy to hear of any exceptions.

Please wake up people. Re-read the quote by Mr. Russell of the IASB. Please understand the dark, dangerous, and vile nature of his ideology. It is fundamentally anti-freedom, anti-democratic, and anti-American. These are the people that are picking the curriculum for your kids. Mr. Russell’s views and the curriculum are far more in lockstep than you are permitting yourself to see.

Technology – the Creative Destroyer

George Will has a hugely important article in Newsweek. It lays out the raw numbers on the impact of technology in the recent years.

Robert Weissenstein’s Exhilaration
George Will – Newsweek

Long ago, in 2008, Americans bought 1.4 billion books made of paper and 200 million e-books. By 2014—perhaps sooner—sales of e-books will equal those of the paper kind. This could save 1.5 million tons of paper made from, possibly, 25 million trees, affecting the price of timber. But the books (and other stuff) bought in e-commerce come in cardboard boxes. So some of those trees will not be spared after all. Furthermore, because of e-commerce and e-books, perhaps half the nation’s bookstores will be gone in four years, vacating at least 50 million square feet of commercial real estate.

Connecting such disparate dots is how Robert Weissenstein’s interesting mind finds fascination in the quotidian. We are, he thinks, in an accelerating process of pervasive global restructuring—regional, industrial, and behavioral. Today, as chief investment officer in Credit Suisse Private Banking, Weissenstein’s theme is “the enormous iterative impact of everything we hold and do.”

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Weissenstein thinks we focus on the first, disruptive half of social change without noticing the second, creative half. Fixated on job losses in the Great Recession (from December 2007 to June 2009), we miss germane events that began earlier and continue. New “growth drivers” include “teenage tech companies.” Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, and Google, founded in 1994, 1994, 1995, and 1998, respectively, perform functions that did not exist 25 years ago, and employ, cumulatively, 75,000 people. Their existence enables new growth drivers. An entrepreneur with a few thousand dollars can use the Internet to publicize a new product to a target market.

Today, three years is an eternity. In October 2007, 81 percent of Facebook’s 50 million users were younger than 24. Today, 45 percent of its more than 500 million users are 35 or older. What starts in a Harvard dorm room can quickly conquer the world.

Nothing would be more creative for America than to have our public education system go the way of the horse and buggy industry. The sum of human knowledge can be delivered to our childrens’ eyes and ears via internet/networks. Textbooks, desks, and chalkboards are nearly an anachronism, to be replaced by Ipad, Kindles and Smartphones. Our large, expensive, unionized and protected bureaucracy can be replaced by 1000s of on-line content developers like The Khan Academy. Testing can be replaced by on-line measurement, which can test for subject mastery while simultaneously measuring the best content providers and standards.

There will always be a place for learning, as there will be for talented conveyors of content. We just don’t need the system we have now. Frankly, we can’t afford that system – financially or culturally. Let the creative destroyer run free through our education system.

Let’s keep the baby, and toss the bathwater. The baby – our children, good teachers, and good content, will survive. The bathwater – districts, buildings, bond dealers, bureaucrats, administrators, unions – won’t survive. That’s the way it should be.

Another excellent debate on Education.

Rick Hess is one of the better known authors and analysts of the education reform movement. His blog can be found over at EdWeek.

In a recent set of posts , Rick was commenting on all the “Edu-Agitprop” movies coming out. (Just FYI, “agitprop” is a combination of “Agitation Propaganda.”) You can read both this post and this one to read a healthy debate on where the education system should be headed.

An excellent Report on Education from a Medill project

What is true of New Jersey is true of Chicago is true of Detroit is true of all American education. Our children deserve better. They deserve universal charterization of every school, and they deserve universal, fully-funded choice.

As you watch these segments, notice the blazingly weak arguments of those defending the current indefensible system. If we force these people to engage in debate, we defeat them. It’s that simple.

Please post these videos everywhere you can find them. Challenge them to debates anywhere and everywhere. You won’t lose if you are properly informed.

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If you debate them, you will beat them

A few nights ago, an organization called “Intelligence Squared” put on a debate. The proposition presented was…

“DON’T BLAME TEACHERS UNIONS FOR OUR FAILING SCHOOLS”

Yes means you support that statement, no means you blame teachers unions. The good guys literally wiped the floor with the bad guys.

PRE-DEBATE VOTE:
FOR: 24% AGAINST: 43% UNDECIDED: 33%
POST-DEBATE VOTE:
FOR: 25% AGAINST:68% UNDECIDED: 7%

As of this moment, I have not watched the debate, but wanted to post it for you. I encourage you all to start challenging every single one of your “pro-union” friends to an open debate. If you aren’t confident of the outcome, contact me, and I’ll make myself available.

If you engage them, in front of an intellectually honest and engaged audience, they can’t win.

DON’T BLAME TEACHERS UNIONS FOR OUR FAILING SCHOOLS from Intelligence Squared US on Vimeo.

Yours Truly gets a Letter in the Wall Street Journal

Here’s the letter.

The un-edited version text is below.

Ravitch Can’t See Forest for the Trees

Diane Ravitch (“Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform,” March 9) illustrates why real education reform is too important to be left to “experts.”

Her call for “a coherent curriculum that prepares all students” and “a good school in every neighborhood in the nation” is a fine vision. However, anyone familiar with education reform realizes the marketplace is the only institution capable of making that vision a reality.

In the half-century that saw American education go from the best in the developed world to one of the worst, we have seen greater centralization and bureaucratization of education. Ms. Ravitch’s suggestion that better bureaucrats will improve outcomes is incomprehensible.

Ms. Ravitch’s attitude is made evident on page 222 of her book, Death and Life of the Great American School System, where she writes, “”Education is too important to relinquish to the vagaries of the market and the good intentions of amateurs.”

This is an attitude foreign to American experience. No wonder she pines for a powerful central bureaucracy to dictate curriculum to a diverse nation of more than 300 million people.

Her citation of data on charters and choice programs ignores the fact that education in America is controlled by powerful forces that have a financial interest in limiting reform. Anyone who has actually visited a small private or charter school can easily experience what her selective citation of data hides.

We can provide every child with an adequate, if not superior, education. We can likely do this by spending less money, not more. All we have to do is have the money follow the child, not the bureaucracy.

Ms. Ravitch has years of experience in the reform movement. That may be why she can no longer see the forest for the trees. Improving education in America is a political, not an academic, battle. It will be won when the “the market” outperforms the failed and over-priced bureaucracy-based education that brought us to where we are today.

Charters, choice, and other market-based reforms are the only way America will ever attain Ms. Ravitch’s vision.

Off with their heads – everywhere!

The political backlash that I have been talking about is starting to happen everywhere. It is time to increase the pressure, and expand the front.

Central Falls to fire every high school teacher

CENTRAL FALLS –– The teachers didn’t blink.

Under threat of losing their jobs if they didn’t go along with extra work for not a lot of extra pay, the Central Falls Teachers’ Union refused Friday morning to accept a reform plan for one of the worst-performing high schools in the state.

The superintendent didn’t blink either.

After learning of the union’s position, School Supt. Frances Gallo notified the state that she was switching to an alternative she was hoping to avoid: firing the entire staff at Central Falls High School. In total, about 100 teachers, administrators and assistants will lose their jobs.

Gallo blamed the union’s “callous disregard” for the situation, saying union leaders “knew full well what would happen” if they rejected the six conditions Gallo said were crucial to improving the school. The conditions are adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participating in two weeks of training in the summer.

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Re-Open every contract, cut pension and perks and add value for the student. If they balk, fire them, and re-hire the 1000s of people interested in actually teaching our children.

It is also time to start ridiculing every Republican Politician afraid of taking on the teacher’s unions.

Proof that Educrats hate America

I’m sure that many of the small number of Americans that find this site think I’m over the top when it comes to my views on just how awful the Education Bureaucracy is. I’m continuously heartened by the fact that the same awful Education Bureaucracy pretty much proves me right on a weekly (if not daily) basis.


Katherine Kersten: At U, future teachers may be reeducated
They must denounce exclusionary biases and embrace the vision. (Or else.)

Do you believe in the American dream — the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools — at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U’s College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of “the American Dream” in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace — and be prepared to teach our state’s kids — the task force’s own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

The task group is part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained at the U’s flagship campus. The initiative is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers’ lack of “cultural competence” contributes to the poor academic performance of the state’s minority students. Last spring, it charged the task group with coming up with recommendations to change this. In January, planners will review the recommendations and decide how to proceed.

Like I said, these disgusting pikers do my work for me. Please spare me the whining that I can’t lump all public education drones together. The fact is that it is incumbent upon them to exorcise these idiots for me to give them an ounce of credibility.

When ‘education professionals’ start acting like professionals, instead of IWW/Sparticist idiots, I may once again give them respect.

And your I-Pod doesn’t strike or demand unwarranted pensions

With entire states careening toward bankruptcy because of teacher, administrator, and other public payroll and pension spending, there will never be a better time for technology to decimate the unwarranted numbers of “education” employees.

Cheaper and better.

‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing

Students have been handed another excuse to skip class from an unusual quarter. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

“It isn’t so much that you have a podcast, it’s what you do with it,” she says.

To find out how much students really can learn from podcast lectures alone – mimicking a missed class – McKinney’s team presented 64 students with a single lecture on visual perception, from an introductory psychology course.

Half of the students attended the class in person and received a printout of the slides from the lecture. The other 32 downloaded a podcast that included audio from the same lecture synchronised with video of the slides. These students also received a printed handout of the material.

The researchers told the students they would be tested on the material in a week, and they also asked students to hold onto their class notes.

Though her team’s paper is subtitled “Can podcasts replace Professors,” McKinney thinks these technologies can buttress traditional lectures, particularly for a generation that has grown up with the Internet.

“I do think it’s a tool. I think that these kids are programmed differently than kids 20 years ago,” she says.

If you shed your “be true to your school” dogma, you can see 1000s of places where technology can replace the bloat and bureaucracy of our education system. Sure, there will always be a place for a talented conveyor of content (which is all a teacher or professor really is). Let’s dump the ones we don’t need.

America’s Best Leaders, and their advice to Obama on Education

Mike Feinberg & Dave Levin are the founders of KIPP Charters. KIPP disproves virtually every lie told to you by Teacher’s Unions, but that’s not the point of this post.

And yet, like most idealistic teachers, Levin and Feinberg remained frustrated by institutional barriers. They could get superior results, they knew, only if they had the freedom to teach the way they wanted and considerably more time on task. So one night in 1993, while listening to U2′s Achtung Baby on repeat play, they brainstormed until dawn and arrived at a plan for a fifth grade that embodied their belief in high standards, hard work, and a focus on results. Today, KIPP boasts 44 middle schools, two high schools, and one prekindergarten from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. And the results are raising eyebrows throughout the educational world. KIPP students consistently outperform their counterparts in traditional public schools on standardized tests, and more than 80 percent of KIPP students from the classes of 2004 and 2005 are enrolled in four-year colleges.

You can find out more here.

These guys have done so well that they are now recognized as leaders in education.

America’s Best Leaders: Mike Feinberg & David Levin, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)

Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin are cofounders of the Knowledge Is Power Program, a network of high-achieving, publicly financed but independently run charter schools that serves mostly low-income minority children in 19 states and Washington, D.C. The following are excerpts of conversations with U.S. News’s Eddy Ramírez.

Now, here is the advice these two educational entreprenuers are giving to Obama.

What ‘Yes, We Can’ Should Mean for Our Schools

· Fourth, we should assess teachers on their demonstrated impact on student learning, not whether they hold a traditional teacher certifications. At KIPP, we have the ability to hire, fire and reward principals and teachers based on their students’ progress and achievement. If we are going to hold all public schools accountable for their results — and we should — we need to grant this same power to all public schools. Otherwise, public schools will not meet the goal of providing a world-class education to every child.

Who stands in the way of such rational policy? Teachers’ Unions, that’s who. By standing in the way of the creation of more charter schools and protecting their corrupt industry, teacher’s unions are engaged in evil. Deal with it