Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the RE-Publication of FIDEL & MALCOLM X: 
Memories of a Meeting by Rosemari Mealy
Published by Black Classic Press
Check Out the Interview for Darkling Productions' Malcolm X Youth Media Project

Friday, May 10, 2013

The 1% Bumrush Public Education

Wall Street Charter Schools

Many hedge funders and financiers contribute to state-level groups or to individual schools. Billionaire Carl Icahn founded the Bronx charter school named for him. Spencer Robertson, son of billionaire Julian Robertson, started PAVE Academy in Red Hook, NY. Hedge funder John Arnold, founder of Centaurus Advisors, is one of the most generous advocates for school choice. His foundation has given millions of dollars to charter school networks such as KIPP and YES Prep. New Markets Tax Credit One of the perks of investment in charter schools came with passage in 2000 of the New Markets Tax Credit, a federal tax break for investors in community development projects. Big banks have seen the allure. The map below shows banks and other organizations that have put money into community development organizations funding charter schools since 2009. JPMorgan Chase, one of the investors, created a $325 million fund for charter schools in 2010. “Many charter schools have expanded access to academic opportunities for students in all types of communities, so we shouldn’t let tough economic times bring them down,” Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said at the time. “Improving educational opportunities is a cornerstone of JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic giving.” The politics of school choice One side effect of the growth of charter schools is the weakening of public-school unions, long a major source of support for Democratic candidates. Yet school choice, despite its solid support among conservatives, is not just a Republican issue. Liberal icon George Soros has supported charter schools, as has Bruce A. Karsh, a frequent Democratic donor shown in the top map above. Indeed, there is even an organization called Democrats for Education Reform, which advocates for charter schools. Not surprisingly, its board is dominated by people from the financial sector. The most current example of the blurring of party lines is probably Chicago, where Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel has endorsed more charter schools. Funding for some of the schools came from the Walton family, the Wal-Mart heirs who generally back Republicans. While not a Wall Street firm, Walmart is certainly a favorite of many investors.

The map below provides a glimpse of the heirs’ longtime support for school choice:

 Mapping billionaires and charter schools

By Laurie Bennett May 7, 2013 While much of the activism for charter schools occurs at the local and state levels, the money funding the movement is unquestionably national. The map below shows billionaires at the center who have funded school choice efforts. (The map is better viewed in the large version. Here’s a simplified version, that can serve as a starting point.) A typical path for donations is for a wealthy individual, through his company or foundation, to give to a state-level organization that advocates for charter schools. That organization may work for the election of pro-charter officials, or for passage of legislation promoting the ever-burgeoning charter school network.

Such was the case in Washington state last year, where an initiative to allow charter schools attracted contributions from across the country. Among the wealthiest backers were Microsoft billionaires Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton, Gap Inc. co-founder Doris Fisher and KB Home founder Eli Broad. All gave money to the Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools, which successfully campaigned for the initiative’s passage. All have supported similar activities around the nation. The effort is being fought on so many fronts that it creates a tangled map, as exhibited above. We encourage you to follow individual trails by using the many options in the tool box at the left of the map. You can remove or expand relationships, save maps, and embed them on your own web site or insert them in presentations such as PowerPoint.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

UPDATE: Not Quite the Goodnews Story... (scroll down)
Now This Is What We Are Talking About!
How To REVERSE the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Fire School Cops and Hire Art Teachers

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Orchard Gardens, a school in Roxbury, Mass., had been plagued by bad test scores and violence -- but one principal's idea to fire the security guards and hire art teachers is helping turn it around. NBC's Katy Tur reports.

By Katy Tur, Correspondent, NBC News

ROXBURY, Mass. — The community of Roxbury had high hopes for its newest public school back in 2003. There were art studios, a dance room, even a theater equipped with cushy seating.

A pilot school for grades K-8, Orchard Gardens was built on grand expectations.

But the dream of a school founded in the arts, a school that would give back to the community as it bettered its children, never materialized.

Instead, the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra's instruments were locked up and barely touched.

The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.

That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change.

“We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts.

Orchard Gardens a one-time 'career killer'  In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.  

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said.  “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don't want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.

“We have our occasional, typical adolescent ... problems,” Bott said.  “But nothing that is out of the normal for any school.”

The school is far from perfect. Test scores are better, but still below average in many areas. Bott says they’re “far from done, but definitely on the right path.”

The students, he says, are evidence of that.

‘I can really have a future in this’
Eighth grader Keyvaughn Little said he’s come out of his shell since the school’s turnaround.

“I've been more open, and I've expressed myself more than I would have before the arts have came.”

His grades have improved, too. Keyvaughn says it’s because of the teachers — and new confidence stemming from art class.

“There's no one particular way of doing something,” he said. “And art helps you like see that. So if you take that with you, and bring it on, it will actually help you see that in academics or anything else, there's not one specific way you have to do something.”

Keyvaughn has now been accepted to the competitive Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only public high school specializing in visual and performing arts.

“All of the extra classes and the extra focus on it and the extra attention make you think that, ‘Hey, oh my gosh, I can really have a future in this, I don't have to go to a regular high school — I can go to art school,'” he said.

Chris Plunkett, a visual arts teacher at Orchard Gardens school in Roxbury, Mass., spoke with NBC's Katy Tur about the success of the arts program that led to an inspiring turnaround for students.
Chris Plunkett, who has taught visual arts at Orchard Gardens for the past three years, said the classes help develop trust between the faculty and students. During one particularly memorable project, he asked his eighth graders to write a memoir about a life experience and what they learned from it and then create a self-portrait.

“I couldn't believe how honest and candid they were, and how much I learned about them,” Plunkett said.  “I mean it was really, it was one of the most incredible things I've seen in eighth graders.”

Noting that kids need more than test prep, he added, it may have seemed “a little crazy” to get rid of the security guards to hire art teachers but “I definitely feel it was the right move in the end.”

Yes, Too Good to Be True
4 May 2013

Earlier I posted a story about an elementary school in Massachusetts where the principal fired the security guards and expanded the arts program….and, voila! The school miraculously improved.

The title was, “Could This Be True?”
Sadly, it was not true.

According to our friends in Massachusetts, the principal fired most of the teachers and the enrollment of the school changed, raising its socioeconomic profile.

No miracle.

Here is a comment from EduShyster:

“Barack Obama visited this school just last year–although the principal’s decision to bulk up the arts budget was not the lesson that BO was there to promote. Before Principal Bott got rid of the security guards he got rid of 80% of the teachers. And unlike other schools in Massachusetts where slash-and-burn turnaround efforts have produced very little, test scores at the school have risen, making Orchard Gardens what Arne Duncan might call a SIG-sess story.”

ChemTeacher added this comment:
“Let’s ask Deborah Meier. She has some understanding of the pilot schools in Boston. According to the video, the school originally opened as an empty promise, and the art and music equipment was left in storage.

That was for the old Orchard Garden Children. After those children were replaced with higher socioeconomic children, somebody finally thought of hiring art teachers.

“The new Orchard Gardens replaced a failed, dysfunctional public housing development with a mixed income community of over 200 units of affordable family housing in an inner city neighborhood. ”


The moral might be that we need integrated, mixed income communities, or maybe we can just hire art teachers right away. I’m worried about where the old Orchard Park children are, and do they have art and music there?”

ChemTeacher added:
“This is not necessarily a heart-warming story. Please read the link I posted above. The scores rose because they moved out the old, low-scoring population. Firing teachers didn’t raise the scores. The only way corporate reformers know to dramatically raise average scores is to cheat, or to raise average socioeconomic status. Art and music will save children’s lives and souls, and eventually pay off for their community and nation, but it won’t necessarily work standardized-test-score miracles.

“My guess is that the school was prepared and equipped specifically for the new affordable housing development, and that’s why the arts and music curriculum wasn’t launched until after the old community was gutted.

“Affordable housing” doesn’t mean low-income.”

Another Massachusetts reader sent this story, of a school that got $4 million in federal grants, extended the day from 7:30 to 5:30 pm, and hired a new staff of data-driven teachers. If Arne Duncan wants to give $4 million to every low-performing school, maybe he will see big change.

If they all fire 80% of their teachers, where will we find new teachers? And how destructive is that to the teaching profession? Or is that what he wants?

...BUT... Check out the Comment from... George Buzzetti

May 4, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for putting out the correction right away. However, this has nothing to do with the fact that the arts dramatically improves student performance. Yesterday I went to a California Joint Committee on The Arts with Chairman Senator Curren Price and Vice Chair Assemblyman Ian Calderon with one of the best set of panelists I have ever had the privilege to listen to. The meeting was "Undereducate-Overincarcerate: Can the Arts Help to Turn this Around?" There is a large book produced on this. It was also videoed and live streamed on the internet so there must be video copies also. If you call Senator Price's or Assemblyman Calderon's offices I am sure you can be provided this information.

If this works in the worst environment in prisons it will certainly work in schools where humiliation also is the cause of many problems. The arts helps to make you a whole person with a different perspective on your life and that of others. It is called "Thinking Outside of the Box." Even Boeing, Northrup-Grumman and JPL believe in this and have grants for the arts. The Boeing lady we listened to say that they believe that children need the arts from birth. I agree. I have a friend, Antonio Villacis, who runs the "Community School of the Arts Foundation" in L.A. and is now in 18 schools where they have taken out the arts and he has reinstated it along with exercise for students, parents and teachers with Zumba. It has made large changes in behavior and performance where instituted. He now has this program in a special education school for the medium to highly disabled students and I have seen and talked with the students and school psychologist and it really changes their lives. Truancy is down, behavioral problems in school are down, performance is up. What more could you want and attitude is also up.

We believe at CORE-CA that especially in poor performing schools that the arts is a methodology to improve the learning capability and understanding of students and to increase their self worth. We are working tirelessly to this end. Today I was at a Town Hall which was put on by Congresswoman Karen Bass which was about "African-American Students in Crisis" and I brought up using the arts to help with this situation especially with the male students who are in the most trouble. I also brought up again the fact that many teachers are being falsely accused of crimes including child abuse and also illegally terminated. As a result three more teachers came to me after the meeting was over and luckily my friend Lenny Isenburg and his lawyer Ron Lapekas who is handling these cases were there and I made sure they connected with them. How can teachers really teach if they are afraid that if someone says boo and falsely accuses them and they will be illegally terminated with their and their families lives being ruined just so that the district can bring in a TFA clone? This happens especially if you are high time, high salary scale and just about to vest in lifetime benefits. Lenny has a data base of over 600 now.

He can be reached at lenny@perdaily.com.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Criminalization of Black Youth Taken to a New Racist Level
16 Year Old Sister Scholar's Chemistry Experiment Morphs into a "Terrorist Act"!

May 01, 2013

The school-to-prison pipeline at work

Chris Hayes is joined by Khary Lazarre-White to discuss the implications of the harsh punishment inflicted upon one Florida teen for conducting a science experiment on her school’s premises.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

SIGN The Petition to Free Kiera Wilmot and Drop All Charges!
  • Target: Polk County School District, Florida
  • Sponsored by: Lynn Hamilton

Like all young women, sixteen-year old Kiera Wilmot was curious. Like all teenagers in America, she was taught to think creatively. So why has she been permanently expelled from Bartow High School and facing felony charges for conducting an impromptu science experiment?
Wilmot was curious about how two common household products -- toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil -- would react, so she mixed them together in a water bottle. To her surprise and everyone else's, these seemingly harmless, grocery store items caused a small explosion. However, no one was hurt and no school property was damaged.

Certainly, Wilmot made a mistake. But the penalty her school has imposed is far too harsh. She is currently facing the felony charges of discharging a weapon and will have to stand trial as an adult. Additionally, she has been permanently expelled from her high school.
Please ask Polk County School District to drop the felony charges against this student and let her return to high school immediately!