Friday, December 31, 2010

Ryan Wilson wishes everybody a rip snorter of a New Year

This New Years Eve finds me about to leave for a B & S I'm having with some of my fellow expatriates and a few Sheepshaggers as well, but before I do I wanted to wish everybody an Ace New Year.  I won't bore you by recapping all the news that Myron did yesterday, but needless to say 2010 was alright and 2011 will be even better.

You know, I know that teachers and their unions are responsible for the bodgy schools in this country and sometimes I think they're about as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike, but I don't think they're bad people.  To the contrary, I think the reason they fight education reform so much and keep pointing to studies that show that it doesn't work is because they're scared of progress.  That's not too surprising.  You can imagine what the last buggy whip salesmen convention was like.

To me, students are like Lew Alcindor or as he later became known Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Education reformers such as myself are like legendary UCLA coach John Wooden trying instruct and lead our students by reinventing the game of education.  The teachers unions are like the NCAA officials that banned dunking from the 1967-1976 seasons.   You see, Alcindor was so dominant that the NCAA tried to stop this play from happening, but you can never be stop progress.  Today, Kareem is adored by millions or at least he was until 2001.

So, when the teachers unions spits the dummy and tries telling you that your reforms are unproven or have been shown not to work, just tell them that they're just like the NCAA.   That's what John Wooden would have done.   See you all next year. I'm gonna go off my face now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Education reformers made bold strides in 2010, but what's next for 2011?

I've been working for many years in education and I must say that 2010, was one of the best of them.  From media getting onboard the education reform movement to movies whose power game not from misleading statistics that were left unchallenged, but from a riveting personal story of children trying to get into charter schools who unlike public schools only accept a limited number of students.  Education Reform has arrived.

The year began in January, with the amazing news that Central Falls, Rhode Island had terminated the entire faculty when they balked at accepting new demands from the school district.   Parents, students, and teachers were whining constantly that it wasn't the teachers' fault, but I had to wonder if the teachers were so great, why were they teaching in a district where the median income was $22,000 and had the most transient student population in the state, the highest percentage of students who don’t speak English and a high percentage of special-needs students.  Sadly, the faculty was eventually hired back, but many of them were so demoralized that they have been leaving in droves.  Hey, it doesn't matter how we get rid of teachers as much as that we get rid of teachers.

Michelle Rhee showed herself to be a bold reformer when she showed she wasn't afraid to talk tough, mentioning that some of the 266 teachers she had let go had had sex with children.   She wouldn't name names, but it was good to know if you just didn't hire any of the laid off teachers, you could avoid the risk of accidentally hiring a pedophile.

Arne Duncan showed his experience as a basketball player was applicable for education with his Race to the Top initiative, which proved that the true essence of quality education was competition.  In exchange for federal funds, states jumped through all sorts of hoops, making their schools more accessible to billionaire reformers and improving education along the way.

The big term in education this year was Value Added, which is a way of reading test scores that's revolutionary.  Now, we can see which teachers are consistently in the top 25% every year in improving their children's scores.  Interestingly, the numbers swing so much that teachers who are in the top 25% one year, only have a 30% chance of being in the top 25% the next year.   The Los Angeles Times showed tremendous courage in printing the Value Added scores of individual teachers, which only cost one teacher his life.  Sadly, they should have read the scores closer themselves as they praised teachers for being effective who were rated Least Effective in the Value Added scores.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein were quick to ban a student play that was based on the classic play Antigone and was critical of corporate school reform, but unfortunately, Klein left his post for the Rupert Murdoch media empire shortly after.  We were thrilled to see Cathie Black named to the city's top education post, continuing to push the envelope for just how far we can get away from the monopoly of people knowledgeable about education from running schools. 

In New Jersey, Governor Christie showed himself to be the champion of school reform that many of us believed he would be after watching his sweat emitting rock shows under the stage name Meatloaf.   He let it be known that he would do anything for schools, but he won't do that.

In Washington, Adrian Fenty rode Michelle Rhee's impressive accomplishments to a second place finish in the mayoral election despite doing poorly among parents with children in the city's public schools.

In Chicago, Stand For Children spent a lot of money influencing politicians to push through an aggressive reform agenda.  They were so excited about the agenda, that they later purchased an office in the city to continue pushing their agenda.

Finally, the tax cut compromise that extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy another 2 years was terrific news for school reform.  With as many as a quarter of American students living in poverty, just think how much the $75 billion that the Walton Families saved in taxes will be needed by the students who benefit from their contributions to education reform.

Entering 2011 with LastStand, I know more than I did yesterday, but not as much as I will tomorrow. We have a difficult road ahead of us to battle against the teachers and education research who have protected the status quo, but we can certainly form a counter force against it.  We can also support the politicians and billionaires who are courageously leading real change in education.

In 2011, we have to act together with groups like Stand for Children, Students First, Children First, Stand for Students, Children and Students First, and Children Stand for Students. We built a great deal of momentum in 2010, but we can’t be complacent if we’re going to see student achievement rise in 2011. There is no better time than now. The children in school today will be the first generation of Americans who are less well educated than their parents.  I have no reason to know that or any statistic to back that up, but I'm guessing that's how it'll be.

November’s elections brought in new mayors, governors, senators, and congressmembers across the country. If they haven’t already, they will soon release their detailed plans for public education. I hope you will read those plans, be clear about what you expect from the leaders voted in to do the job, and hold them accountable for delivering results in student achievement and holding taxes down on top earners.

To our members, I am grateful and proud to have you with me and the staff of LastStand as we enter the New Year. I hope you all are having a peaceful and happy holiday, and if you are not, I hope you will examine your relationship with our Lord and Savior.   With your help in 2011, we'll be on our way to privatizing public education in America.

Myron Miner

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congressman Jack Kimble Unveils Our Legislative Agenda

I grew up in olive country.  From a young age, I saw young children on my father's farm working hard to grab their piece of the American dream even as the hard work turned their skin to leather and gnarled their hands.   Sure, the vast majority of those kids were here illegally, but I have always been struck with the inhumane conditions they were willing to put up with, in order to have a chance at a better life.

Our children don't face the same struggles that those children had, but their grasp on the American is just as tenuous.  Sure, no employer is going to cheat them or call INS to do a raid just before the end of harvesting to avoid having to pay them, but inadequate schools put them at a serious disadvantage.

The problem is teachers, like all public employees, have gotten lazy.  They have stopped teaching our kids and as a result our kids have stopped learning.   As Michelle Rhee said, "If you have a pulse and can pass a background check, you can get hired as a public school teacher."

Michelle Rhee would certainly know this.  After all, she got hired to be a teacher without a teaching degree and wasn't fired even after she put tape on her students' mouths, causing them to bleed.

The people who do care about children in this country are billionaires.  Philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Sam Walton are the ones who care about the children and that makes sense.  As billionaires they have the most to lose by an inadequate education system.  To be sure parents play an important part too.  They look great on camera at our events and in states with the parent trigger, they play an important role in getting rid of public schools for a charter alternative.

While my position with Last Stand is only honorary, I will be pushing our legislative agenda.  These are the things that we believe are important for the future of our nation and our children:

1. The Survivor Option - The time has come to tie teacher evaluations to standardized testing.  We favor quarterly testing with the bottom two teachers fired at the end of each quarter unless they have completed some sort of competitive task as chosen by the principal.

2. Any teacher who received a complaint from either a parent or student will be returned to probationary status and in the case of a second complaint the teacher will be immediately dismissed.

3. We support the parent trigger, which allows parents to get rid of lazy public servants in favor of a friendly corporation run charter school.

4. We are in favor of dropping all investigations of financial irregularities at Imagine Charter Schools.

5. We are in favor of prohibiting Teachers Unions from any collective bargaining with school districts although they will  still be allowed to request pay increases where appropriate.

6. We believe that white children from wealthy backgrounds make the best teachers for urban schools regardless of whether or not they have teaching credentials.  For that reason, we favor increasing support for programs like Teach For America, who have proved excellent suppliers of uncertified wealthy kids.

7. We wish to limit curriculum to reading, math, and a bit of science so that we may better compete with other countries.

8. We favor making the Bush tax cuts permanent and ending the death tax so that the wealthy will have more money to spend supporting school reform.

If you agree with our agenda, I hope you will join Last Stand for Children First.  Isn't it time we put children first at last?

Ryan Wilson on Last Stand for Children First

Crikey!  I don't really know how an Aussie like me ever landed a gig like this, but I thought I'd share a bit about my own experience in the Great Down Under with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  You see Australia is shaped like a donut.  It's got a desert in the middle that's pretty uninhabitable and we blokes and sheilas mostly live on the outside.  That means that when Arne and myself were playing for the Eastside Spectres, we had a lot of bus trips together.  While the other players were playing cards or talking about their latest sexual exploits, Arne and me we're in the back of the bus discussing the American education system--Fair Dinkum!

LastStand hopes to be an advocate for the voiceless in education--the millionaires and billionaires who have been denied a voice for so long.  Now, I  know this isn't going to be a piece of piss if we don't attract people from all economic levels to join us, if we're going to bring about any kind of change that is Ridgey-didge.  I may have been a basketball player professionally for a dozen years myself, but Australia isn't the NBA and a few too many times hitting the turps has left me a might short of a million myself.

I look at what we do as an organization to be a lot like the end of the movie Hoosiers.   Remember when Gene Hackman as Coach Norman Dale calls for the picket fence?  Jimmy takes the final shot, but in the picket fence everybody has to do their part to make it happen.  There's a quality back pass and 3 teammates who are willing to block any obstacles that get in Jimmy's way.

I believe that we at LastStand can be the picket fence for today's students.  If we all work together and do our part, we can all be winners.  I'm glad to have such amazing teammates and a ripper point guard like Myron Miner.

Myron Miner Reflects on Day One of Last Stand for Children First

Yesterday we launched LastStand, and today I feel incredibly grateful, not only for the chance to do important work that I love, but to know how many of you out there are passionate about creating the best schools for our children. I am exhausted!  This is already the third longest I have worked at any job in my life and knowing the coming battle with teachers unions, I know I have work to do.
LastStand will be a powerful ambassador for children, catalyst for reform, forum for families, educators, and the wealthy and an organized collective voice under my leadership. But it is you little people who let us know that our work hasn't been in vain for nothing. Whether you are a hedge fund manager, industrialist, bank president, or politician, or member of the media, your voice is the instrument of change that American public education needs and together we can overcome the most stubborn challenges that have stymied student progress for decades--teachers and their unions.

I have received so many emails in the past 24 hours, some from as far away as Nigeria, and I appreciate the many voices and viewpoints on complex issues: how teachers should be fired, how standardized testing should be used to fire teachers, the role of parents in firing teachers.  To fix public education we have to do more than identify our common ground, we have to move as a unified force under my firm guidance tempered by my love of the students

Let us know what we can do to improve your city or state.  If it involves removing teachers or curtailing the power of teachers unions, we're probably already on it.  Just send us a check and we'll redouble our efforts.

Thanks to you, I'm back to doing what I know I am meant to do and I will not shy away from the burden of being public education's messiah.   Together, onward, forward, but never backward and always always looking sideways!