Would kids at Exeter or Choate or Sidwell or Lakeside choose to go to a no-excuses “college prep” public charter school?

Let’s see. That would mean that Exeter kids would no longer have classes of the 12 students sitting around a very large purpose built oval table where they discuss whatever the topic of the class is with their very-experienced instructor. Who makes up the curriculum and designs the projects and the tests and grades them him/herself, often by the very next class.
No, in Bloomberg’s model charter school (or in Rocketship Academies) they would sit in a class of about 100 with a neophyte temporary teacher and are expected to teach themselves from laptop computers.
A model that we now know (MOOCs) is about as successful as ” programmed instruction” in the 1950s and 1960s or “remote tv instruction” was back then:
Not at all.
A few kids out of every thousand succeed. The rest all give up.

Oh, and the tests are all given online, written by some low-paid crew of temps that will never ever meet the students and are not required to have any actual classroom experience. Just a pulse and an ability to follow rubrics and to write sentences in the proper format. Which is I guess what we’re training these kids to do, right? Follow directions very carefully and don’t expect anybody to listen to your ideas.

Yup, that’ll go over well at Sidwell or the Chicago Lab School.

Oh, and no sports or extracurricular activities and essentially no art, music, or any other hands-on activities. And no talking between classes, March on the proper linoleum tiles, in silence.
And double periods of test prep in math and reading. About that reading: no novels or short stories. Just passages and then a bunch of tricky-to-idiotic multiple-choice or BCR responses, by computer. No discussion.

Yeah, right.

And KIPPsters claim that’s college prep?

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Compare an education at Choate with one at a charter school.

Very important. Please read and disseminate:


Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

New conversation needed on education

Read here:


Published in: on September 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is The Harlem Success Academy a Success, or just a Fraud?

A researcher has looked into the claims of Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academy that they do a much better job of educating the exact same types of kids than do the local public schools.

The writer shows that none of those claims are true: these Moskowitz Academies do NOT enroll the same types of students; they have enormous attrition rates; and even with all that skimming and “creaming”, they are not very successful.

The post is at Diane Ravitch’s blog at http://dianeravitch.net/2014/09/12/researcher-charter-chain-built-on-hyperbole/ .

Published in: on September 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Marion Brady on How to Fix American Eduction

This is insanely brilliant. Brady explains quite clearly  how people like Bill Gates have really perverted everything about education in America by turning the entire motivation schemata upside down — and he also explains how to fix it in a very humane manner. Here is an excerpt:

Read the whole thing. and don’t let the title convince you it’s just a rant, because it’s not.

A part of this essay that I would like to highlight is how Brady thinks we educators (and other citizens) should be approaching the entire question of school:

There’s a now-familiar ancient Chinese proverb which, loosely translated, says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”

When I made that radical switch, I began a search that continues, a search for experience-creating activities

   (a) so interesting, the teacher can leave the room and nobody notices,

   (b) so useful, the activity’s relevance is self-evident,

   (c) so complex, the smartest kid in the class is intellectually challenged,

    (d) so real-world, perceptions of who’s smartest constantly shift,

   (e) so theoretically sound, the systemically integrated nature of all knowledge is obvious,

    (f) so wide-ranging, the activities cover the core curriculum (and much more),

   (g) so varied, every critical thinking skill is exercised,

   (h) so scalable, concepts developed on a micro level adequately model macro phenomena

  , (j) so effective, when the activities themselves are forgotten, their benefits are fixed permanently in memory.

The raw material for creating a near-infinite number of activities that meet those nine criteria isn’t hard to find. It lies within the property boundaries of every school or randomly chosen slice of real life. Finding it is mostly a matter of looking at the too-familiar and the taken-for-granted until it becomes “strange enough” to see.

Entire URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/01/what-do-standardized-tests-actually-test/

which means this was published in the column of Valerie Strauss, at the Washington Post, who continues to be a great resource for all the rest of teachers and parents (not corporate executives). The only greater publicist for our cause that I know of is Diane Ravitch. I am glad that Valerie continues to be gainfully employed at WaPo even as her editorial writers consistently had a set of policies that were either at cross-purposes or diametrically opposed. I don’t know how she does it.


Unfortunately, Answer Sheet very seldom actually reaches the printed edition. It’s almost strictly online.

Then again, maybe that matters less, given publishing trends.

While obviously nothing is perfect I think that all of us members of the public who are concerned about schools* owe Valerie, whom’s I’ve never met in person, and the Washington Post itself, a debt for VS being able to continue being such a resource for so long!



So where are all those increases that Michelle Rhee promised — in writing?

The latest DC-CAS scores have been partly released, and at first glance, they appear to show the utter bankruptcy of all of the efforts if Rhee, Henderson and their hangers-on and billionaire sponsors.

Yes, they got rid of just about all the veteran teachers — fired without cause ( like some of my former colleagues) resigned under duress (ditto), or just plain retired (like me). And at some schools, more than 100% of the staff is turned over EVERY SINGLE YEAR as bright-eyed TFA and TNTP recruits are ground to shreds with insane demands and no support, so they quit mid-year.

By their admitted incompetence at running a school system, Rhee, Henderson et al managed to turn over 40% of the students in DC over to charter school operators, quite a few if whom have turned out to be embezzlers and con artists — or major league swindlers like one of the former principal at Noyes ES/EC just down the road from my house in Brookland .

You probably do not recall that when Michelle Rhee was still chancellor, she signed a binding agreement with the Walton and Gates foundations about all the miracles she would wreak when she got their money.

My colleague Erich Martel ( of Wilson and Phelps) went through that list and found that NOT A SINGLE ONE of those measurable targets had been reached.

Response from Rhee, Henderson, DCPS, OSSE, and those foundations?

Deafening silence.

Rhee continues to take in the big bucks (20 speeches a year at $50K each = $1 million!)

Now, the most recent results, if DCist is to be believed, show also that there has been essentially no progress on academic goals, if we measure that by the percentages if students deemed ” proficient” on the DC/CAS since 2008, Rhee’s first year.

I donno if you can see that but there were essentially NO increases in any subgroup since 2008 – six full years – in reading.

I’ll post some more when I’m at a real computer.

Published in: on July 31, 2014 at 7:07 pm  Comments (3)  

Medical marijuana

Recently the NYTimes editors. came out in favor of legalizing marijuana completely. I was of that opinion for many decades.

Here i what I commented on FB:

I take a LOT of drugs. Medications, that is, prescribed by my doctors. Some of them have worked well; others, not so well. I’m on an antidepressant (Paxil) that I cannot wean myself off of, no matter how hard I try. Quitting tobacco was much easier – I did it lots of times and had my last baccy product (a single celebratory cigar) when my son was born over 33 years ago.

Every single one of those meds can kill you. Every one. OxyContin, Demerol, and morphine (which I’ve had at various times) sure do ease the pain but are notoriously addictive.
The one non-prescription med that I’ve tried, marijuana is
(A) a MUCH better palliative than anything else I’ve ever tried
(B) has exactly NO fatal side effects except perhaps a little scatterbrained ness
(C) remains under federal law a schedule I narcotic and
(D) even tho doctors in DC may write recommendations so I can purchase it legally, all my Kaiser MDs seem to be scared of filling out the form.

It sucks.


I went on to write:

I have Crohn’s disease and have had four major operations on my guts so far. And also kidney stones. And numerous partial bowel obstructions. And I’m on periodic chemotherapy for the CD. You might say I am a connoisseur of pain.

And I concluded:
I’ll say it again: my illegal marijuana is the best medication I have ever found for CD. I wish I hadn’t stopped using it nearly 40 years ago. And I also wish I had cut out grains, sugar and gluten 50 years ago!!

Published in: on July 31, 2014 at 5:42 pm  Comments (1)  

About Gaza

A colleague of mine posted what was obviously a carefully doctored video of Bibi Netanyahu saying he wanted to cause maximum casualties in the Gaza Strip.

He doesn’t — it would be too embarrassing for Israel’s public stance as a supposedly humanitarian country — but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Gazans live in a concentration camp that they can’t leave by land, by sea, or by air. So they dig tunnels like POWs and concentration camp residents have often done. (One of my uncles spent a year in a german POW camp when his plane was shot down over the Western front in 1918. He tried to escape, but wasn’t successful, he wrote in a letter I found. Why shouldn’t Gazans do likewise?)

But I’m getting off topic. Here’s what I wrote on my colleague’s FB page:
I lived and worked on a kibbutz directly next to the Gaza Strip. I left the area exactly 40 years ago, despairing that there would never be peace. It’s a complicated situation, but the only real solution is one that gets rid of all religious-based governments in that part of the world (be they Muslim, Christan, Jewish, Baha’i, Druze, Hindu, Confucian, Maoist, Buddhist, or what have you).

All residents of whatever-you-want-to-call-that-region should have equal rights, including that of freedom to travel and worship (or not) and marriage and land ownership, and to be compensated for land and belongings stolen or destroyed in all of these repeated wars.

I was at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in 1974 for about 7 months. I had learned to speak Hebrew fairly well, and could read newspapers, but slowly. At that time, Gazans could cross the border with a pass to work in Israel, and many did. I thought it reminded me of what I had read about in South Africa — an all of our kibbutz members were against such injustices. Practically the entire kibbutz went to a massive demo in Jerusalem against illegal Jewish settlements begun under Ariel Sharon, right before I left. I went too.

However, some of the right wing counter demonstrators said, hey, aren’t you living on land we stole from the Arabs? What we need to do, they said, is kick ALL Arabs out if ALL of Greater Israel. G-d gave it to us after Moses died, we have a deal with G-d, and we mean to take it all back (or words to that effect).

Those folks used to be called “Revisionists” and formed the right wing of the Zionist movement, which had people from all parts of the political spectrum — my kibbutz was formed by Hashomer HaTzair, which was very far left. Many of its members had to decide whether they should stay in Europe and be a part of the Communist movements there, or go to Palestine and set up communistic kibbutzim there. I would dare to say that the members of Hashomer HaTzair in Europe that went to Palestine or America were the ones that survived. The ones that remained in Europe had extremely high odds of being killed, either by Hitler or Stalin.

The Revisionists, just like the Baath, were very stronly right-wing nationalists, like Saddam Hussein, fashioned their ideas and tactics on the Falange and Italy’s Fascisti.

I’m not exaggerating. Go look it all up.

Now, I’m sure that the tape I saw was doctored, but I’m no expert on how to do that sort of thing, so I’ve only got a few guesses on how they did that.


Back to Gaza: In my opinion, the only solution is to get rid of the religious basis of the governments of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the USA, and Israel-Palestine. Let all people of all religions or of no religion live together on the basis of equal rights and mutual tolerance and respect and justice.

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

When I lived there (1974), our kibbutz had virtually free irrigation water pumped to us from the headwaters of the Jordan River, modern tractors and poultry barns, and so on. On the other side of the fence– a bit too far for me to throw a stone across from the little kibbutz bedroom I shared with my Jewish girlfriend — the Palestinians were plowing with an old automobile bumper tied to a camel. Irrigation, for them, was piling up stones and hoping that a little dew would trickle onto the rocks.

Believe me, not that we were living ‘high on the hog’ or anything, but all that modern agricultural stuff cost a lot of money, and none of the permanent or temporary members of our kibbutz put up any cash to pay for all if our facilities. That was very nice, but that was all given to us by the Sokhnoot– the Jewish Agency. (I understand that the “bill” for all the kibbutz land and so on came due, so to speak,  in the 1980s, and a lot of kibbutzim went broke and/or had to sell off land so that people could put up subdivisions, but I’m getting away from the point. The conditions on the other side of the fence were much, much worse, and it was occupied territory, but today it’s much worse, as far as I can tell from here. Gaza today more like a completely surrounded ghetto in WW2 Poland, where the bad guys only sporadically allow in essential supplies like food, water, electricity, or anything to fix or repair any of its infrastructure.


Did I mention that Gaza is very close to twice the size of the District of Columbia, with about three times the population as well? 61 square miles for WDC and 139 sq.mi for Gaza; 1.8 million people in Gaza and 623,000 in DC. And there are no permanent rivers flowing through Gaza, unlike DC, from which they could draw water!

There were lots of things I liked about communal work and life on the kibbutz, but the disparities with the lives of the Palestinians remained embarrassing. I hoped it would get better, but things in the Middle East have been pretty grim for a long, long time, no matter which messiah or leader or social movement might arise. (Breaking up with my girlfriend also certainly gave me an impetus to leave!)

But in any case, it is hard to be very optimistic about the chances for peace and justice actually breaking out ANYwhere in the Middle East, any time soon.


Published in: on July 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm  Comments (3)  

Campbell Brown’s Law

It’s different from Campbell’s law. What it says is that the reason for all of our educational ills is that Teachers Have Tenure.

Read Arthur Goldstein’s explanation here:


Published in: on July 30, 2014 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why should I support the Democratic Party…?

I keep getting emails and letters urging me to support President Obama and the Democratic Party.

However, Obama’s hand-picked Secretary of Education, along with a strange coalition of billionaires and hedge-fund managers and politicians and charlatans of both major parties, are doing everything they can to attack public education as we know it. Their attacks are aimed at veteran teachers like myself and are also aimed at increasing corporate profits, destroying what’s left of the US labor movement, re-segregating our schools, and condemning our poorest and darkest-skinned students to an utterly inferior education worthy only for slaves.

Everything that comes out of the mouth of people like Democrat Arne Duncan or Democrat Michelle Rhee means the opposite of what it sounds like. For example, when they say that poor kids deserve excellent teachers, they really mean that they plan to get rid of trained, veteran teachers that have their own ideas, and replace them with utterly untrained, temporary workers straight out of college who try to follow idiotic corporate scripts and drop out at an alarming rate.

They claim that for-profit charter school chains get great results, but I and many others have shown that’s not true.

Not to mention all the foreign wars, illegal eavesdropping, continuing the drug wars against the black community, etc etc.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I know the adage “the enemy of my enemy” (that would be the Rand Pauls, Sara Palins, and Ted Cruzes of the GOP) “is my friend”. But what if they are still my enemy?

In any case, I haven’t given a penny to them, but I did donate a couple hundred dollars to Ras Baraka of Newark.

What do my readers think?

Published in: on July 29, 2014 at 12:54 pm  Comments (4)  

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