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Alec

Which Side is Stewart Mills On?

by Alec on November 23, 2013 · 5 comments

If any of you see Stewie the Third, or “Trey” as his posse calls him, let him know that real Minnesotans don’t wear Packer jerseys. Someone might want to ask Trey when exactly did he lose his pride in Minnesota. I thought I would remind folks of Stewie’s loyalty on this Packer-Viking weekend.
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A Story of Reform That Worked!

by Alec on October 16, 2013 · 12 comments

Be ever leery of those who proclaim the mantle of “reform”. Too often, saying you are a “reformer” is akin to those who claim to be “pro-life”, yet oppose birth control, sex education, health care for all, and female empowerment. Most of the modern reformers are new to the scene. They are charismatic, edu-celebrities backed by billions from the old, white boy power network. While they share their miraculous epiphanies that brought them to reform, many of us have been working to improve the system for a decade or more. I would like to consider myself a reformer. I have been doing it a long time. I don’t have the publicists and TV time of modern reformers, so I guess I will just call myself a teacher. I would like to tell you part of my story.
 

First, I speak neither for myself, my district, nor my union. My opinions are my own. I work at a large, urban high school. 2000+ students. We are 93% minority. 92% poverty. 47% English Language learners. 19% special education. Last year we graduated 97% of our seniors. 93% enrolled in post-secondary. Our math math proficiency almost doubled last year. Our African American proficiency more than doubled. Our poor, Black, Hispanic, English Language Learners all outperformed the state average on those categories. Our science scores were the top in the district out of eight high schools. Please join me, to see what worked and what didn’t.
 

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Modern Education Reform: An Analogy

by Alec on October 14, 2013 · 3 comments

In honor of an upcoming education panel where actual teachers’ voices will be heard, I would like to offer my voice. You see, modern education reform is predicated on the idea that the number one problem with education is teacher quality. In fact, modern reformers will insist that poor teacher quality is the only problem with with education. They state it as prima facie that places like Minneapolis do not have enough, if any, quality teachers. You see, the reason Edina graduates 99% of students and Minneapolis only a little more than half is because of teacher quality. Even trying to bring up other factors or solutions means you are an excuse making, kid hating, union thug monster.
 
I would submit that the teacher quality is there. No one wants bad teachers, but there are mechanisms to get rid of them. We need to reform and change our system. With support, our already quality work force can and does succeed. I could provide all the facts, and common sense in the world, but the reformers won’t listen. So, I would like you to indulge an analogy after the break.
 

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Recently, contract negotiations between the teachers of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul Teachers and their respective districts moved to mediation. Educators 4 Excellence immediately called on the teachers of Minneapolis and Saint Paul to open contract talks to the public on Twitter. Recall that E4E is the group backed by the Billionaire White Boy Club of the Gates, Waltons, and various Koch-lings. It is those men that we are hearing from, in the cynical guise of a voice for teachers.Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 5.57.21 AM

 

Of course E4E would attack the teachers first, without getting any facts. In modern education reform, they work from a conclusion, and don’t even bother finding facts to support it. You see, in Minneapolis, the teachers called for mediation. Blame the teachers, says E4E. In Saint Paul, the district called for mediation. Blame the teachers. In Saint Paul, the teachers immediately called for the meetings to be open. Blame the teachers, says E4E. This is typical. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I am not aware of the other parties’ positions on opening the meetings.

 
What’s even more sad, is that E4E does not even bother understanding how mediation works. In my opinion, mediation is just negotiations under a different format. Mediation is not the end of the world. It should be open, but that is not even up to teachers, or the district. Open meeting laws.

 

Another law permits the Commissioner of the
Bureau of Mediation Services to close negotiations and mediation sessions between public
employers and public employees. These negotiations are public meetings, unless the
commissioner closes them.

We are at a time when Union support is at a 97 year low. It is not coincidence that we at a century’s high in inequality. The idea that the greatest thing we can do for the opportunity gap is to bash unions is truly bizarre and regressive.
 

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We all know the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) is a front for right wing, anti-democratic, corporate legislation. So how are they connected to the new “teacher” voice, Educators 4 Excellence? I was first introduced to Educators 4 Excellence through their online publicist, MinnPost.
 
We all know the group ALEC is ugly. Heck, they know they are ugly. That is why ALEC has to have a palatable face to their ideological war on public education. MN2020 gives a good primer on Educators 4 Excellence. So, I would like to compare, item by item, Educators 4 Excellence’s loyalty oath, and ALEC’s model education legislation.
 
The model ALEC legislation is at the end of their report card. It is worthwhile to look at the grades for various states. For example, Massachusetts ranks #1 in student achievement, but gets a C grade. Meanwhile, Louisiana ranks 49th in student achievement but gets a B+ grade in reformese. It is pretty obvious that reformers could care less about curriculum reform and more about human resources office reform. So, if we know that ALEC pushes policies that are not aligned with achievement, let’s compare them to Educators 4 Excellence.

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Data Driven Decision Making. It is what modern education reform demands, but they do not practice. Corporate education reformers start with a conclusion that fits their narrative, and then set the propaganda machine in motion to support their conclusion. They have picked the working conditions of teachers as their number 1, biggest bang for the buck, maximum return on investment reform.
 
The problem with that, is we have mountains of data about what would happen if reformers got their greatest wish, busting the teacher’s union. There are 24 right to work states. There are 24 states where modern reformers dreams have already come true. Let’s look at the data. As a teacher, let’s do it in a fun, real world context.
 
You are in Las Vegas, where, instead of betting on the latest football millionaire, you are betting on your state’s academic achievement. I will just use a few examples to give you the picture.

You are betting on a Right to Work, weak union/no union state. You are betting on the corporate reformers dream. Here is the bet:
 
Would you bet your random right to work state is in the top half or bottom half for:
1) ACT test scores
2) High School Graduation Rate
3) NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) 4th Grade Reading Scores
4) NAEP 8th Grade Math Scores
 
Make your bets and meet me after the fold for citations, the chart, and a little more commentary. Remember this is just a sample of four educational outcomes. I could go on all day. So is your right to work state in the top or bottom?

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What do you do when the eloquent politician says all the right things, but you are just not sure? How can you divine the truth amongst the half-truths, misdirections, and exaggerations? Luckily, life sometimes hands us the perfect comparison. When explanations might fail to solidify our understand, an image can bring clarity beyond words. In the Minneapolis Mayor race we have that clarity for Don Samuels. A Mayor Samuels would bring Rahm Emanuel style education reform straight to Minneapolis. What is in store in a Sameul/Emanuel mayorship? Lay off thousands of teachers to replace them with uncredentialed temp(cheap and compliant) teachers. Close dozens of schools, but only those of poor and minority students. Open dozens of Charter schools, forcing those students to disrupt their lives and relationships for your reform.
 
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The number one goal of any education reform should be a quality public school in every child’s neighborhood. If a school is failing, the solution is not to move them to some new reservation like some patriarchal, colonial missionaries. It has to be to strengthen the neighborhood school model. Samuels champions destructive corporate education reforms. The idea that making Nikes and producing productive citizens can follow the same theoreticaL models. He’s been doing it almost as long as key players like Michelle Rhee and A.L.E.C.
 
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For the sake of a few thousand votes in the last Governor election, Minnesota has mercifully avoided the summer war on education raging across the country. I think it is important that we understand and appreciate what is happening in the rest of the country, because it is making subtle inroads even here. We have had mostly good news with a Governor and Education Commissioner supportive of public education.
 
We have finally implemented all day kindergarten. With this simple stroke we have fallen in line with one of the most common sense education reforms there is. Our leaders are finally focusing a more critical eye on substandard teacher preparation programs. A scrutiny the law has always required, despite the dishonest protests of the lawmakers who actually wrote the law. We have avoided the demolition of due process protections for veteran teachers, despite the mythical cry that due process just protects an army of poor teachers.
 
The tragedies that are befalling education nationwide are so close to our borders. One of the largest online newspapers in our state has become the de facto publicist and apologist for all things in modern reform. Editorials in our largest dead tree media are printed without comment or rebuttal. They use the same language and propaganda as we had in the run up to Iraq war. If you are against their idea of reform, you are against kids. If you believe other reforms are more effective, you are almost unAmerican.
 
Privilege Protection Crew

What is most appalling is that the movement edu-celebrities backed by the most powerful elites in America are treated as underdogs. People with the ideological and financial backing of the Waltons (WalMart), the Kochs, A.L.E.C., and the Broads are considered underdogs speaking “truth to power”. The TFA publicist at MinnPost who gets to moderate “debates” for audiences of thousands gets to refer to herself as a humble, aw-shucks blogger. The easiest thing the Waltons and Kochs could do for education reform would be to pay parents a living wage to bring more of our students out of poverty. They could do it tomorrow. Instead they fight tooth and nail against living wages, while being the largest financial backers of corporate education “reform.”
 
All that being said, Minnesota has been able to stave off for now the Privilege Protection Program of some of the most powerful families in America. It is important to understand that the local media is pushing what our government has heroically slowed down. The pieces are in place. I am pleading that you read on after the break as to what is happening in other states. Our mission, our only mission, needs to be a quality school in every neighborhood for neighborhood kids to go to school. Thank you for your time.
 
There is also a growing group of folks, little folks, standing together to stand up to the Privilege Protection Program and their unwitting foot soldiers. We are called BATS.

 
Click here to continue reading what is happening in other states this summer

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Privilege Protection Crew           Only in the world of modern education reform are folks like Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, Bill Gates and right wing groups like A.L.E.C. considered progressive heroes of the underprivileged. The A.L.E.C. Education Agenda and Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst Policy Agenda are almost identical. The wording of the StudentsFirst agenda is more nuanced and subtle, but the legislative objectives are the same.
 
Probably the greatest thing these paragons of the dominant culture could do to improve education would be to pay their employees a living wage, raising our students out of poverty.  WalMart won’t locate in Washington D.C. because of their demand for living wages. The Kochs and A.L.E.C. literally want to end the minimum wage.  This is the money and the power behind modern education reform. We are supposed to believe these folks have the best interests of the underprivileged at heart?
 
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Education policy makers at the capital have introduced a widely supported, bi-partisan bill to legislatively transfer all teachers from the Edina School system to the Minneapolis Public Schools. Their reasons are truly compelling. Politicians thought they made progress with the landmark teacher evaluation system they put into place last session. That system called for 35% of a teacher’s worth to be based on student test scores. However, recent trends in other states have shown them that this might be untenable.

 

Michigan recently put in place the most rigorous teacher evaluations in the nation. The result was that that vast majority of teachers were judged as effective or better. Modern education reformers know that, from education factualizers like Michelle Rhee, this cannot be possible. This result has startled our local legislature into bold, impressive action.  Michigan’s evaluations used things like observations, and other metrics, much like Minnesota’s. These holistic approaches cost upwards of $6 million dollars in Michigan. The state’s chief auditor stated clearly, “In these budgetary times we need to evaluate what is cheapest and quickest. Testing beautifully fulfills that promise for the future.”
 
All education reformers know their bedrock factualization by heart. When you disregard all stimulus, impact, and variables on student life, except teachers, it is all the teachers responsibility. You cannot argue against the logic. Therefore, the results from Michigan, and our most likely results in Minnesota just cannot be true. It is just not factually possible that most teachers do a decent job.
 
Read about what the Minnesota policy makers are going to do after the break…..
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