Friday, August 1, 2014

Seven of Campbell Brown's Funders Come Clean

Campbell Brown's courageous stand to take on teacher tenure protections has recently come under some fire because her Partnership for Educational Justice has refused to state publicly where its funding is coming from.  Now, Campbell Brown is no dummy; she is a graduate of the same prestigious Regis University that provided many of the top advisers in the Bush administration.  As Ms. Brown said on The Colbert Report, she knows that letting the name of those funding her out could leave these billionaires subject to payback from public school teachers.

Fortunately, a group of Campbell Brown's supporters have stepped forward, and they represent a magnificent seven of the titans of American industry:

Cyberdyne Systems:  Cyberdyne Systems is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California where they were involved in the Vergara lawsuit to strip teachers of their tenure protections.  A spokesperson for Cyberdyne told us, "We've been happy to support Campbell in trying to end an antiquated teacher model.  We believe our own Skynet will dramatically change education in the next five to 10 years, and we can't have old protections from the time when workers used to be exploited slowing us down."

Luthor Corp: Obviously, one of our biggest tech companies, Luther Corp CEO Lex Luthor reportedly was very moved by the movie Waiting for Superman and got involved in the reform struggle after that.  Luthor was quoted as saying, "Waiting for Superman is just preposterous.  He's not even human.  He's a menace.  Oh yes, and teachers don't need that tenure thing.  Now leave me alone."

SPECTRE Corporation: SPECTRE has been around over 50 years and helped to shape the destiny of the world we live in today.  CEO Ernst Blofeld has built a considerable fortune, which he has been happy to donate to the causes he believes in like education reform.  Mr. Blofeld told us, "I manage many employees.  When I am not happy with them, I dispose of them, or I should say terminate them.  Yes, terminate them.  That's a good one."

Tyrell Corporation: At the forefront of human genome research, Tyrell Corporation CEO Dr. Eldon Tyrell has been a big proponent of expanding STEM in schools.  Tyrell Corporation released a statement saying, "When something gets old, you replace it.  Why shouldn't this apply to people?  Why not teachers?  You can get a new younger teacher who will be just like the old one, but cheaper."

Los Pollos Hermanos: Los Pollos Hermanos might seem out of place in this listing of technology companies, but owner Gus Fring has been a philanthropist for years.  Since being welcomed to this country from his native Chile, he has been a strident supporter of law enforcement and education.  Mr. Fring told us, "It is almost impossible to fire teacher.  I know because I once tried to get rid of a chemistry teacher and every time I thought it would finally happen; he'd pull another stunt, and we'd have to keep him around."

Oscorp: Oscorp is a tech form owned by maverick CEO Norman Osborn whose son Harry attended public school.  When asked about teacher tenure, Mr. Osborn called it laughable and then proceeded to laugh for the next 4 minutes. 

Soylent Corporation: Soylent Corporation has been providing school lunches for over 50 years.  CEO William R. Simonson said, "Look, it's no shame if a teacher simply gets too old to do the job, we love hiring former teachers.  You could even say we eat them up.  We'd love to have more teachers in Soylent, but not in the classroom."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Not All Parents Oppose Excessive Testing

The credit for this article goes to the great Alexander Russo, who urged journalists to do a better job reporting on testing by finding the many parents and students who don't oppose excessive standardized testing.  This is much the same way that the media overemphasized Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, when the vast majority African American ballplayers were content to stay in the Negro Leagues.

Alexander Russo has long been a friend of this blog and that's because he has a clear way of getting to the bottom of a story.  When other "journalists" were reporting on the teachers at two Chicago Public Schools refusing to give the ISAT, Russo saw that the real story was the nearly 50 people on his blog who vented about CPS principals.   

I didn't have to go much further than Chicago's Bernard E. Epton School of Sufficiency.  For those of you who don't remember, the Epton School got in some trouble last year when the principal was caught importing unlicensed standardized tests from China.   The principal, Dr. Michelle Perry claimed she acted at the urging of her teachers who noticed a 2 month period in the beginning of the year when there was no standardized testing in the school.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview an entire family about their pro-standardized testing attitude and how they have found a home at Epton.   I was joined by Lois Winslow, the matriarch of the Winslow family as well as her sixth grade daughter Kenyata and her fourth grade son Devon.

LS4C1: You are a big fan of standardized testing.  In fact you moved your children to Epton School, specifically because it had more standardized testing than any other school.  Is that correct?

Lois: Oh yes.  Last year, we were at a public school and Kenyata had a teacher who really took an interest in her. She saw that she loved reading so she was always finding books for her and challenging her to go the extra mile.  We loved that woman.  Meanwhile, Devon's teacher seemed to just go through the motions.  She was going through a difficult divorce and she smelled of bourbon.   Well, we were surprised that at the end of the year, Devon's scores went through the roof, while Kenyata more or less stagnated.  It turned out that all the time Devon spent reading movies and putting his head down on the desk was just what he needed.  I only resent the money I spent getting Kenyata's teacher a nice Christmas present.

LS4C1: So you were happy with Devon's education?

Lois: Far from it.  Actually, I was disturbed with the education he received in the lower grades.  He had a picture of a snowman to color and he colored it purple.   I can tell you, snowmen aren't purple.   At his old school, that kind of thing went on all the time.  Boxes were treated like space ships and pillows could be horses.  They don't tolerate that sort of thing at Epton.  Now, if he colors a snowman it looks like snow, thank goodness.

LS4C1: What do you want to do when you grow up Kenyata?

Kenyata: I'd like to work for a large corporation in a big office building downtown.

LS4C1: Do you think that standardized tests like the ISAT are helping you achieve that?

Kenyata: Oh yes!  My test scores show that I'm in the 64th percentile.  My mom told me that the people running corporations are very smart and score at least in the 90th percentile, but most of the workers are at 50% or even lower.  With my score, I know I should set my sights on middle management.

LS4C1: How about you Devon?

Devon: I love testing.

LS4C1:  Do you think it'll help you with your future job?

Devon: Yes, I want to make cartoons.  Today, when we weren't testing, we saw The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo.

LS4C1: You like catoons?

Devon: I love cartoons.

LS4C1: How are you doing in art?

Devon: I love art, but we don't have it this week because the art room is used for testing and our art teacher passes out tests to all the teachers.

LS4C1: So no art this week?

Devon: Coloring in bubbles is a type of art.

LS4C1: I stand corrected.

There you have it.  A family who loves their standardized tests, but you'll never see reporters come anywhere near them.  Fortunately, there are people like myself and Mr. Russo who strive to make a difference. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Open Letter to Teachers and Parents Refusing to Test

Dear CPS Teachers and Parents,

What do you mean you are "opting out of the ISAT"?   There is no opting out in testing.  You are failing as teachers, as parents, and as students.  The way that we are able to show you just how badly you are doing is through these tests.  I have a crack team of writers ready to help me craft op-ed articles on the terrible state of education. If I have to lay off these writers, you are hurting the economy.

The failure of the Chicago Public Schools is well documented.  Last month, I visited a public school in Beijing.  I was in a room of 8 year olds and every one of them spoke fluent Chinese.  How many of your 8 year old children are fluent in Chinese?  Make no mistake, those children will be competing with these same Chinese children for jobs.

Standardized testing is important.  Yes, I know Rahm's children don't have to take the ISAT at the Lab School, but they just got a $25 million dollar donation from George Lucas to build a new art wing.  It'd be rude to be ignoring the arts at a time like this.  I also know that this test will be about as relevant to CPS students as a timed typing test on a manual typewriter would be, but we need data.

I am outraged by the educational malpractice of teachers and parents in denying students the joy of filling in a test answer sheet.   For those who say that testing stifles creativity, well then you have never had the joy of facing a page of empty test bubbles.  Do you shade from the outside in or from the inside out? Maybe you start at the middle and shade across the surface of the circle.  There are so many choices.

Have you seen the Saucedo teachers?  I couldn't get over their spokesperson, a special education teacher named Sarah Chambers.  She's the one in the fancy coat with the expensive fur collar.   I heard her speak and she makes it sound as if giving students test after test is pointless and possibly abusive.  Puh-lease.  Kids love testing.

We have made great strides in transforming our schools, but 25% of our students still remain in the bottom quartile.  Even more troubling, the students in that bottom quartile are far more likely to be in economic distress.  For those who say that tests don't matter, think about that.  If we can just improve their test scores, we can help lift them out of poverty.  Even the second lowest quartile is far better off financially.  

Opting out is child abuse pure and simple.  What are the kids going to do if they don't test?  Read a book?  We can't afford to waste their time like this.  Our children are precious.

Myron Miner