The Weekly Update: News you might have missed.

Today we will begin with New Orleans and the state of Louisiana where Hurricane Katrina and its devastation became the rallying cry for the corporate takeover of the public school system which has now led to lawsuits against the state and one special one regarding Governor Jindal’s decision to move public school funding directly into private schools.

Education facing multitude of ‘legal challenges’ in state

The Louisiana Department of Education could find itself mired in state and federal courtroom disputes for years to come, thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping education reform legislation and to the confusing mishmash of educational bureaucracy in Orleans Parish.

Disregard for the time being the last week’s court ruling that could end up costing the Orleans Parish School Board upwards of a billion dollars for the wrongful firing about 7,000 teachers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That lawsuit did not involve the state-only Orleans Parish.

But across the state, several parish school boards and teachers unions are lining up as plaintiffs in various lawsuits against Jindal, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) contesting Jindal’s reform package being hailed by media everywhere but in Louisiana as groundbreaking, innovative and progressive.

One interesting development at the local level occurred when the Lincoln Parish School Board in Ruston recently voted to join litigation against Jindal’s move to usurp Minimum Foundation Program funds and local tax revenue from local school boards and to use those monies to pay for vouchers, or scholarships to other schools-even if those other schools were in another parish.

The article continues:

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in October of 2010 on behalf of 10 lead plaintiffs and approximately 4,500 Orleans Parish students with learning and physical disabilities. It names former State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek, the State Department of Education and BESE.

The suit claims that 16 Orleans Parish schools fall under the parish school board, 23 are run by the Recovery School District (RSD) and 49 more are stand alone charter schools. This arrangement, the lawsuit claims, results in the creation of 51 separate school districts, or local education agencies (LEA).

This arrangement, the petition says, creates a confusing, impossible-to-navigate system for children with disabilities who, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), are entitled to “the appropriate resources, policies and procedures” to provide an unfettered access to special education services- “from evaluations to related services and supports.”

Federal law prohibits public entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities but, the lawsuit claims, students have been subjected to systemic violations that included:

Discrimination and denial of access to educational services;

Failure to develop and implement child find procedures are required by law;

Failure to provide free appropriate public education;

Failure to protect students’ procedural safeguards in the disciplinary process.

To read this article in full, go to The Jena Times.

The drama continues in Louisiana with lies and the cover-up that ensued. Oh what a web we weave….

Email shows Louisiana schools chief tried to ‘muddy up’ state’s voucher-vetting process

MONROE — Emails between Louisiana Education Superintendent John C. White, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s spokesman Kyle Plotkin and Jindal policy adviser Stafford Palmieri show White devising a scheme to “muddy up a narrative” and to “take some air out of the room” after a news report about the new voucher program that was published before his Senate confirmation hearing in May.

In the email exchange, White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a Monroe News-Star article that revealed the state Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.

To read about this story in full, go to The Town Talk.

For a real horror story that could have been written about education in the 19th century even as these same folks are screaming for innovation in our schools, check out the modern-day version of the dunce cap:

Trouble in New Orleans Charter Paradise

“The document, with a heading from Raza’s firm, the Raza Consulting Group, includes a list of suggested motivational methods, including “Order Eisenhower Charter School shirts for all teachers and administrators with Eisenhower Charter School on the back and Grade D on the front.”

“It is recommended that the principal wear the Grade D shirt every day as a reminder to the school staff after enrollment drive is over,” the document continues. “Declare Friday as dress down day only for those teachers and administrators who will wear the D grade shirt.”

Referring to the state-issued school performance scores based largely on standardized test scores, the Raza report also calls to, “Display the school’s current letter grade (as determined by SPS scores) in teacher lounge and all other areas of the school once the enrollment drive is over.”

And it says, “Place the Grade D in large font on top of each internal communication and memos to the school staff.”

To read more about this unbelievable story which is all too painfully true, go to Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

After Dr. Ravitch posted the information above, someone wrote to her to say that New Orleans wasn’t the only place where this type of denigration takes place.

In Dr. Ravitch’s post The Scarlet Letter in New Orleans she writes:

I received an email from an educator in New Orleans who read my post about the proposal by a management consultant to require low-performing charter schools to  post their grades on the wall and on their clothing. The informant said  that the proposal to the Algiers Charter Schools Association was not merely theoretical. It was already imposed at the McDonogh #32 charter school. He or she sent me two photographs: One showed the school’s letterhead, declaring it has a grade of F, the other showed a public banner with the school’s F grade and its goals for improvement boldly displayed.

The post continues:

Apparently, humiliating students is not all that unusual. A New Orleans contact sent me this 2007 story about a charter school where students are handed a sign that says “YET,” meaning they have not yet met expectations; for three days, they must wear the sign around their neck, are not allowed to talk to other students and must eat lunch alone. Apparently, shaming works.

Is this something that white college graduates do to poor black children? I can’t imagine that these teachers were treated this way when they went to school. I would not tolerate these techniques for a minute if it were my children or grandchildren.

And one more atrocity made against students in our country that Dr. Ravitch discovered through a blog reader who sent her the following information:

Is This What They Teach at Broad Superintendents Academy?

In Huntsville, AL, the Broadie superintendent, Col. Casey Wardynski, has contracted out services for behavior problem and homebound students to a private corporation, The Pinnacle Schools. The contract includes five places in the “teepees” at Pinnacle’s Elk River Wilderness Treatment Program, one of those remote, secured boarding school/mental hospital/detention centers for students hand-selected by Wardynski. Stays there are of indefinite length: “Those who do not comport themselves according to the regulations and rules of Pinnacle Schools will find themselves living in a teepee. And they won’t be coming back until they can behave. And if they can’t behave, they won’t be coming back to our schools.”

I can’t begin to imagine how this is legal, but there you are:

Regarding charter schools, one item that the ed reformers in our state will never bring up is where these proposed charter schools would go. There has been an ongoing battle in California and other states regarding classroom space. In Seattle, no thanks to the gang of four and their compliance to all things Broad, schools were closed by our former Broad trained supe to save a whopping $5M just to have to open them again the following year along with several other school buildings at the coast of over $50M. They willfully ignored the census report that showed there would be a population boom in Seattle, as is happening right now, and in the communities where the schools had been closed.

So where would 40 charter schools be housed in Seattle Mr. Gates? Can we use your place?

This brings me to the next article, LAUSD to fight judge’s order on sharing classroom space with charters.

L.A. Unified has vowed to fight a judge’s order to comply with a state law that requires districts to share space equally among public school students, including those in charters, saying that it would bring “catastrophic” results, lopsided class sizes, and may force busing of students.

The point of contention is the method used to determine what is a classroom, and whether that includes facilities used by special needs students for more intensive work — or computer labs, parent centers and even classrooms that are still on the drawing board.

Last week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green ordered L.A. Unified to comply with the law, setting a July 11 deadline for sending revised offers for facilities to the roughly 45 charter schools that officials say could be affected by the decision.

But calling the order impossible, district officials have promised to fight the ruling, saying that it would require L.A. Unified to displace students from their neighborhood schools, forcing them to be bused elsewhere, and would dramatically skew class-size ratios in favor of charter students.

To read this article in full, go to the KPCC website.

And while on the subject of Mr. Gates, there is a great article by Anthony Cody that is being published in two parts about the Gates Foundation, The Gates Foundation’s Leveraged Philanthropy: Corporate Profit versus Humanity on Three Fronts.

Here are a few paragraphs from the article:

Philanthropy wonk Lucy Bernholz defines the buzzword leverage  as “the idea that you can use a little money to access a lot of money.”

It’s hard to think of the Gates Foundation’s $26 billion leverage effort

as “a little money”, especially since it’s been spread over the globe to gain access to vastly more resources than it contributes, including US tax dollars, the foreign exchange of emerging African nations, and United Nations funds for international development and world health.

Gates’ leveraged philanthropy model is a public-private partnership

to improve the world, partly through targeted research support but principally through public advocacy and tax-free lobbying to influence government policy. The goal of these policies is often to explicitly support profitability for corporate investors, whose enterprises are seen by the Gates Foundation as advancing human good. However, maximum corporate profit and public good often clash when its projects are implemented.

For example, chemical giant Monsanto has partnered with the Gates Foundation, which works to suppress local seed exchanges and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices through its global agricultural charity work. Fraud-prone drug giant GlaxoSmithKline is a partner in the Foundation’s work to leverage its own relatively fractional contribution to vaccination efforts, so that it centrally controls enormous world funds for purchase, pricing, and delivery of vaccines for world public health. And in its US Education reform charity work, the Gates Foundation has increasingly shifted its funding to promote market domination by its British corporate education services partner, Pearson Education….

The US Education Reform Front

The Gates Foundation’s model of leveraged philanthropy has had serious consequences in US education. Many sources have criticized the specifics of Gates’ profit-driven, politically enforced innovations in public schools. In Part Two of this series, I’ll examine how the Foundation’s corporate philanthropic model has undermined the quality of American public education, and threatens its democratic foundation.

To read this article in full, go to Education Week.

And now in the “You gotta be kiddin’ me” category:

Kindergarten Career Test In The Works By ACT

A new digital tool to test academic and behavioral skills will target students starting in kindergarten.

ACT, the organization that developed the ACT college-entrance exam, will start testing the tool in the fall. It will be available to schools starting in 2014.The tool tracks students’ career interests, academic performance and progress toward goals. It’s designed to follow students from kindergarten through high school.

Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, said the goal is to identify and address gaps in skills needed for college and the workforce. The assessment combines traditional testing with teacher-led projects to generate an instant, digital score.

It’s a multimillion dollar project, ACT officials said, but will be affordable and easily accessible.

Schools won’t be compelled to use the new tool, but Erickson said he anticipates that entire states or groups of states will choose to utilize it. The tool can be customized to include state-specific benchmarks and other performance measures.


To read this unbelievable story that is again all too unfortunately true, go the the Huffington Post.

And now for the audio/visual part of the Weekly Update, we’ll start with a teacher in Ireland who speaks up about working conditions there after winning the Teacher of the Year Award.

For a story that describes the situation in Ireland, go to Teacher of the Year criticises the “injustice” of system and “teacher-bashing”

On Education Radio

Arizona Goddam! The Fight for Raza Studies in Tucson

In January 2012, Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) renowned and highly successful Raza Studies Program, program was shut down. The program was finally eliminated after a prolonged, brutal campaign to demonize the students, the teachers and Tucson Arizona’s Mexican American community; the latest of a long history of cultural genocide enacted against Mexican Americans and indigenous people in the United States. In this two hour program, we look at the history of the struggle for Raza studies, also known as Mexican American Studies, in the Tucson Unified School District and why the program was so meaningful and successful, and we explore why the program was viciously attacked and shut down – by examining the racist narrative and intent of the state and school administrators who are responsible for its destruction. We hear about the devastating impact the shutting down of this program has had on teachers, students and community members in Tucson.

We’ll end the week with something fun and uplifting after reviewing the train wreck that education has become under the auspices of President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

A “Where the hell is Matt?” video

Have a warm, dry and wonderful weekend Seattle.