Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter



CAT Tracks for February 17, 2005
NO CHILD'S BEHIND LEFT...

Below is the definitive treatise on No Child Left Behind - complete with footnotes! It is a looooooooooooooong but VERY interesting/informative piece by the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen. Dated August 2004, it is still a timely critique of NCLB...


NO CHILD’S BEHIND LEFT:
TESTING THE BUTTS OFF AMERICA’S CHILDREN
By Lily Eskelsen
August, 2004

I was recently asked to speak at a Community Summer Forum in Salt Lake City. The people who came were a combination of “League of Women Voters and Unitarian” types – the entire community of Utah progressives (all 14 of them). The University professor who invited me said, “Come talk to us about No Child Left Behind. We know it’s from Bush, so it’s got to have problems, but tell us again why high standards for all children is a bad idea.”

I want to share the presentation I wrote for them. Because the election did not mean that we changed one of our goals. It means it’s harder for us to reach them. It means change won’t come within the Dept of Education, as we’d hoped. And it means that coalitions on the state, local and grassroots levels become paramount. And that means, we have to be able to articulate our concerns to outside communities without sounding defensive or unwilling to be held accountable or that we are an obstacle to reform.

There’s so much wrong with NCLB that we tend to get bogged down in Highly Qualified rules and supplemental service providers. I suggest that when talking with the public, we focus on testing. It is the most absurd of the absurdities; the irony is, of course, that the administration has exploited general misconceptions of testing, so that their position sounds, literally, like the new Civil Rights Movement.

Prologue

It helps to start with a little history lesson. For 50 years, Americans have maintained a reverence for standardized tests as if Charlton Heston had come down the mountain holding the SATs on white tablets. How did we get to a point where we have an unquestioned faith in standardized tests; that we can trust them; that they tell us something important.

Ironically, the first intelligence tests were an attempt at greater equality. The Old World was based on an aristocracy where position and privilege were inherited. Some American universities wanted to change that.

In 1945, Henry Chauncy is assistant dean at Harvard with a radical idea that society should be run by those who had earned their places by merit rather than social standing. Harvard president, James Conant agrees. They want to replace Harvard’s elite legacy brats with “brainy, public-spirited men (and they did mean men) from every background.” (Footnote #2)

They begin the Education Testing Service or ETS which eventually develops the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT to identify those of academic merit.

We move from Harvard’s ivy-covered halls to Midwest cornfields, where we find E.F. Lindquist at the University of Iowa. He is appalled by ETS. He’s worked on the team that developed the Iowa Basic Skills Tests for public school students. He has a completely different radical idea. He thinks tests should help identify kids who need extra help, so everyone can succeed. He opposes tests that sort and mandate uniform standards that would only benefit those “…of superior bookish ability.” In the 1930s he warns, “…Those same standards because of their rigidity are thwarting and damaging to all other kinds of capacity.” (Footnote #2) In 1959 he begins American College Testing and the ACT.

Testing is accepted as the great equalizer. The SAT settles in the East with roots in elite universities and the purpose of selecting of the worthy few. The ACT finds a home in the Midwest with roots in public schools and the purpose of placement of the many.

Fortunes are about to be made in the new testing industry. Many want standardized tests in all public schools, but scoring millions of tests by hand is expensive.

Enter high school teacher Reynold Johnson. As a kid, he’d torment his sister’s boyfriends by scratching pencil marks on the spark plugs of their Model Ts which conducts electricity away from the plugs and the cars don’t start. (Isn’t he adorable?) Now, he thinks: If kids marked their answers on a separate paper, you could feed it into a machine that could tell if the lead marks were in the right places.

He demonstrates his Markograph machine at the 1931 NEA Convention and sells it to IBM for $15,000 and a job. (Footnote #2)

And then there’s Stanley, humble son of a plumber who graduates from City College in New York - second in his class - at the age of 17. He applies to five medical schools, aces every test, and is turned down by every one; apparently they’d reached their quota limit on Jewish students – which was not unusual for the day.

But Stanley thinks the new standardized tests are easy. He starts tutoring his friends, teaching them testing tricks. Word of mouth spreads. He opens a little business. ETS has a fit! See, they claim to be testing aptitude. That it’s impossible to prep for the test. Stanley’s customers, however, swear that after taking what he calls “the poor man’s private school”, their scores improve. And Stanley Kaplan becomes a millionaire teaching kids (who can afford his services) how to pass the test. (Footnote #2)

Kaplan’s success was probably our first hint that tests don’t always measure what people think they measure. It is in our American psyche to believe in equality - that a poor child and a rich child have an equal chance to study hard and pass the test on pure merit.

Today, research calls that blind faith into question. We know there are factors that affect your score that have nothing to do with how hard you study. Nutrition is a factor. Your parent’s vocabulary is a factor. We know that if you don’t speak English, you tend not to pass the test (Yes, I, too, was shocked). We know there are kids who do well on tests who don’t succeed in their adult lives. We know kids who get mediocre test scores and grow up to become president of the … well; I’ll let that one go.

A test is one tool that gives one type of information. You can’t build a house with one screwdriver. And you can’t build an education system with one test.

Current Events

Which brings us to where we are today: Blind faith in testing has brought us to the ultimate legislative absurdity: No Child Left Behind.

Here’s what you know, but a lot of the public (and some of our members) don’t. Here’s how I explain it: For the past 40 years, we called it ESEA or The Elementary & Secondary Education Act (which, I’ll admit, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like poetry.)

The old ESEA law mainly gave federal funding to schools in high poverty areas. These Title One schools got extra funds for teacher aides, technology, training, and a lot of other good things.

In the past, NEA lobbying efforts boiled down to one word: More. More for reading programs. More for class size reduction. More for English as a Second Language. “More” was basically what we needed since the feds had never kicked in more than 8% for school funding.

In 2001, the Administration renamed ESEA “No Child Left Behind”. The packaging was gorgeous.

High Standards for All. Accountability. Closing the Achievement Gap. What’s not to love?

We unwrapped this pretty package, and opened what turned out to be Pandora’s Box and an assault on common sense.

The Test is now everything. Every state must pick a test – any test. Every state must pick a pass score – any pass score. Virtually every student must take the test. And by the magical year 2014, virtually every student must pass the test.

No Child Left gave us a new acronym, because Lord knows, we didn’t have enough of those: AYP or Adequate Yearly Progress. That’s the percentage of kids in each grade level who are required to pass the test. It’s a moving target with the percentage going up each year until it reaches 100% ten years from now.

Scores are segregated into 9 groups: All Kids, Black Kids, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, White, Limited-English Kids, Poor, and Disabled. What the public doesn’t always understand is: All kids in each category must reach the same AYP target leading to perfection at the exact same age. And All means All. Don’t argue technicalities. Go straight to an easily-recognizable absurdity. All kids with Downs Syndrome must read on their age level. Autistic kids must be given a #2 pencil with the timer running.

And then, just for fun, throw in the fact that attendance on test day counts just as much as the score. Folks think I’m making this up. No Child Left requires 95% test attendance in each of the nine categories. Thousands of schools failed AYP – not because they failed the test – but because they missed the 95% attendance in one category by one or two kids.

And then the kicker. Your school can pass EVERY target in EVERY category for EVERY grade level – except one – (Let’s say you get 94% attendance of Disabled kids in 5th grade Math) - and you are labeled as a “failed” school in the same way as a school that missed EVERY target in EVERY category in EVERY grade level. Miss one or Miss all - the whole school is labeled as failing and the punishments kick in (under the business plan that the beatings will continue until morale improves.)

First, parents are officially notified of the school’s failure, which is more confusing than you might think.

I asked someone at the Florida Education Association to take a picture of a Florida “A” school based on state mandated tests. Then I asked them to take a picture of a school that “failed” under Adequate Yearly Progress. Time and again, it was a picture of the same school.

This year, 68% of Florida schools got a plaque and a letter of congratulations from Governor Bush for receiving an A or B rating on state tests. A week later, a different letter went to parents in 77% of Florida schools – many of the same ones that were still hanging their plaques – that their children were attending schools that failed Adequate Yearly Progress. (Footnote #3) (Only parents who were not responding to medication for schizophrenia were able to make any sense of this Manic-Depressive approach to testing – it helps if the voices explain AYP to you.)

Punishments are mandatory, and cost districts a lot of money. Parents can demand private tutors. They can demand the district pay for transporting their kids to a better scoring school across town. The better scoring public school must take these transfer students, even if there is no space available.

As the ultimate punishment, if test targets are not met, the staff can be replaced, because failure of a special ed. student to read at age level must be lack of talent or commitment on the part of a teacher, a principal, or an aide.

The good news, after 2014, there will be no AYP formulas. The bad news is, the standard will be Perfection. California, Minnesota and Connecticut have all published research showing that 99% of their schools are doomed to be labeled failures in the coming years in light of the 100% must pass mandate. (Footnote #4) (99%, I believe, is a conservative figure.)

So what does NEA want to see done? Lou Dobbs on CNN’s Moneyline actually asked me that question (I try to subtly work a little name-dropping into every presentation.)

Yeah, Lou and I were having this little conversation live, on the air. Lou says, “How much money is the NEA demanding to make this law work?”

I spoke very slowly and used small words. I said, “All. The. Money. In. The. World…cannot fix a law that requires perfect children by the year 2014. You cannot adequately fund Stepford Child Public Schools.”

We have to make it crystal clear that No Child Left CANNOT be fixed with enough dollars.

We also need to make it clear that NEA does not oppose tests. We oppose the abuse of tests. We oppose claiming that one test can possibly give a comprehensive assessment of the multiple intelligences of our students.

We want amendments in the law that would measure the growth of an individual student from one year to the next.

We want a school to be able to use multiple, appropriate measures of success and not just one multiple-choice test.

We want accountability to recognize movement in closing the achievement gap.

And we want people in high places held accountable for giving us what we need to do our jobs.

We’ve found over 100 Congressional sponsors on several “fix and fund” bills now in Congress. Every day we add to our list of organizations who have stepped forward to agree with us. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (Footnote #5), the NAACP (Footnote #6), The National Downs Syndrome Congress, the National Conference of Black Mayors (Footnote #7), The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ultra-liberal, radical, left-wing… Utah State Legislature. (The last time NEA and the Utah Legislature were caught holding hands and singing Kumbaya was in a parallel universe on a Star Trek episode.)

Anyone with a pulse and two brain cells to rub together has figured out that this law needs changing. So why is our greatest resistance coming from the Department of Education itself? This part of the conversation is key. Because as we reach out to other communities, we have to open their eyes as to why we face such Herculean opposition to common sense fixes that even folks who voted for the original law now see have to be made. We have to help them understand that there are powerful interests who actually benefit if they can pretend to “prove” that public schools have failed.

The Future is Here

Again, a history lesson. The concept of taking public dollars for private schools isn’t new. Churches have sought vouchers for their parochial schools for over 100 years.

Fifty years ago the Supreme Court declared that separate could never be equal, striking down segregated schools. Some folks started their own white academies arguing for vouchers to subsidize them.

Homeschoolers are excited about tuition tax credits where they could essentially zero out their tax bills with little, if any, public accountability over how those tax dollars are spent.

Today, however, the momentum for public school privatization can be described in just two words: Ka Ching. Today’s privateers are politically well-connected, extremely well-financed corporate venture capitalists. There’s big money behind this.

Merrill Lynch’s “Book of Knowledge” discusses the possibility of turning education into the “same dynamic, for-profit industry that the health care industry has become” (Footnote #8).

We don’t have to imagine the horror stories, local, state and national.

Local News: Community Education Partners

Some years ago a Houston superintendent named Rod Paige hired a company to provide an alternative school for kids who got suspended. He signed a contract with Community Education Partners (CEP) whose founders included two former state Republican Party chairs and a corporate executive from a private prison chain (Footnote #9).

The contract paid CEP $9,000 per student with a minimum guarantee of 2,500 kids. Every offense gets the same 180 day sentence.

For its part, CEP promised a class size of 12, a professional staff and a money-back guarantee to raise test scores by two grade levels. The contract was worth over $20 million.

In 1999, their first school was opened in an abandoned Wal-Mart (Let’s pause to let that irony sink in.) At the dedication ceremony, Governor George Bush hailed the new school as the wave of the future.

Right from the start there were problems. According to observers, reporters and former staff, there were usually at least 30 kids to a teacher – not twelve. Most teachers were not certified. Adults mostly monitored kids who sat for six hours at a computer. (Footnote #10)

Yet, according to CEP, test scores were off the charts.

Superintendent Paige bragged in a speech that in less than one academic year, CEP had raised average test scores more than two grade levels. (Footnote #9)

Which came as a surprise to Tom Kellow. His job was to track test data for the District. When he read what his boss had claimed, he wrote on a professional listserve, “I have no idea where he got this data…I’m furious.” That’s because Mr. Kellow had found the exact opposite; that CEP students scores went down a grade level – not up two! “The longer the kids stayed in the program, the worse their academic performance was.” (Footnote #9)

He was reprimanded for making his criticisms public, locked out of his district computer so that he could not access any data to verify his findings. He said that he resigned rather than be fired.

Superintendent Paige stood by CEP’s data, instead of his own staff, even after Mr. Kellow’s findings were verified by the Texas Education Agency’s Safe School Division. (Footnote #7)

Former staff reported that good grades were fabricated (Footnote #12) and that CEP would manipulate and depress the incoming students’ pre-tests so that they could claim remarkable increases on post-tests. (Footnote #10)

Parents rebelled. They questioned policies where even minor violations like tardies got 180 days.11 Some kids were kept longer than their 180 days. (Footnote #12) Principals were regularly reminded how many more students they could send to CEP, smacking of filling a “quota”. (Footnote #11)

It was becoming clear that the district never got close to the 2500 minimum they were paying for. A reporter for the Houston Press concluded, “CEP needed the numbers up to justify the millions it was being given by Houston Independent School District.” (Footnote #13)

But Houston continues its CEP contract. Oh. Did I mention that Larry Marshall? He’s a member of the Houston school board who is paid $90,000 a year as a part-time consultant for (drum roll, please) CEP? (Footnote #16)

A local resident had this to say about that, “The fact that Larry Marshall can do consulting with vendors to the district...is a testament to what has become a sort of vendor pimp cult in the public school system in Texas.” I’m sure he meant it is a positive way. (Footnote #16)

I don’t know where CEP will end up, but I do know that when Secretary Paige moved to Washington, he chose as his chief of staff John Danielson, a founding member of CEP. (Footnote #17)

CEP is expensive, it’s broken promises to parents and it has a questionable track record of success. But Big Failure can be overcome by Big Enough Friends. Take the privatization flagship: Edison Schools.

Stateside: Edison Schools

Years ago, Edison founder, Chris Whittle, bought my son’s eyeballs. Jeremy and millions of other high school kids, by district contract, had to watch Channel One every morning. Schools got free TVs in exchange for forcing teenagers to watch fast food and sneaker commercials tucked into a 10 minute news show.

Whittle had an even grander vision (or a hallucination – it’s a fine line) of running coast-to-coast franchise schools.

It ended up being more cost effective to simply take over existing public schools and manage them for a fee. The sales pitch always includes reports of low test scores and how the public school staff has failed and how private enterprise with a profit-motive can do better, promising free computers, longer school days, longer academic years, constant testing and guaranteed results.

Unfortunately for Edison, those results are in. There were charges that even though Edison was given more money than regular schools, they’d shift costs like busing back to the district. They cut support staff like teachers’ aides and school secretaries which had the unintended (if predictable) consequence of increasing discipline problems. There were charges they wouldn’t serve kids with disabilities. That they pushed out experienced teachers for cheaper new ones. (Footnote #23)

O.K., they were obviously just making tough business decisions. And maybe we should ask if those decisions might actually be good for kids. So we asked. And we got the answer. And it’s “no”.

According to Professor Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, “With a rigorous curriculum, a longer day and a longer year, you don’t need to be an education professor to know that should produce better results, but to my surprise, it didn’t. They were doing similarly or slightly worse.” (Footnote #23)

There have been allegations of inflated attendance figures. (Footnote #24) There have been school board meetings packed with angry parents complaining about the lack of books and materials that were promised. (Footnote #26)

Edison was quickly becoming a major embarrassment to the Privateers.

In twelve years, it had only posted one quarter of profits. It had piled up losses of over $354 million dollars. It went public in 1999 selling at $18 a share. Three years later, they were trading for 15 cents a share. (Footnote #24)

In 2002 the pesky Security and Exchange Commission forced Edison to use proper procedures to report its income (Footnote #23), revealing that in 20 months, Edison had lost over 90% of its value. (Footnote #27)

The plan for avoiding this humiliating public spanking was to find a buyer to take them private again, so they wouldn’t have to make their numbers public.

The Edison rescue becomes the ultimate Friends and Family plan. Follow the bouncy cronies here (Footnote #28):

Whittle hires Bear Stearns & Co. to look for a buyer. It’s headed by James Cayne (a Bush Ranger – these are folks who’ve raised over $100,000 for the president, which, by the way is perfectly legal.)

Bear Stearns finds a buyer: Liberty Partners, who’s represented in the deal by the law firm of David Girard-DiCarlo (Another Bush Ranger, who was also on the transition team for Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge who just happened to be pushing an Edison deal in Philadelphia the year before.)

Now, Liberty Partners decides not to just invest, but to buy Edison lock, stock and barrel. What brave, if reckless, people to be investing their money in such a risky business – but hold the presses! Actually it turns out it’s not their money they’re risking after all. They invest for just one big client: The Florida State Retirement System. Educator retirement funds are about to save Edison.

There’s more. Liberty is – even as all this is going on - under investigation for irregular and excessive fees. An auditor wants the investment committee to make radical changes in Liberty’s contract with the pension fund. Like (1) Liberty should never own more than 20% of any one company; (2) They shouldn’t loan money to companies they invest in; and (3) Like many other firms, Liberty’s partners should be required to invest some of their own money showing they have faith in their recommendations. (Footnote #23)

There are just three people on the pension investment committee: The attorney general, the fund’s chief financial officer and the governor, Jeb Bush. The good news is that these three folks decide to accept the auditor’s recommendations. The new guidelines would prevent Liberty from buying Edison!

The bad news is, they make the new guidelines official the day AFTER they let Liberty buy Edison. Liberty bought 96% of Edison at $112 million and immediately gave it a $70 million loan of pension money making the Florida State Retirement System the proud owners of what The Palm Beach Post called “A Financial Shipwreck” (Footnote #27).

The St. Petersburg Times simply asked, “Was there no Enron stock left to buy?” (Footnote #30)

When asked why he didn’t use his fiduciary position on the investment committee to stop the Edison deal, as he was begged to do in rally’s and editorials across the state, Governor Bush answered, “We shouldn’t be making decisions based on politics.” (Footnote #28) Eye-witnesses report he actually said this with a straight face.

Inspired by Fox News, I will now be Fair and Balanced and report that the Edison deal was, actually, an incredibly good deal for each and every single person who happens to be Chris Whittle.

He gets a five year deal to stay president of the company he’s run into the ground at the salary of $600,000, almost double his old paycheck.

He gets $4.2 million for his Edison stock. He gets a personal loan of almost $2 million more, although he already owes Edison over $10 million in previous loans. (Footnote #31)

Whittle walked with a gold mine. Other investors in Edison got the shaft. (Footnote #32)

Again, greed, some say, is good for business. Maybe it’ll pay off for kids. Maybe not.

On August 2, 2004, parents of Edison School children announced their intent to seek a Class Action lawsuit against Edison for civil rights violations alleging it saved money by using deceptive means to counsel high-cost special education students out of Edison and back to their regular public schools. (Footnote #33)

But don’t count Edison out. Because it has paid to have friends in high places. Which seems to be the essential business plan for yet another privateer.

National: K12.com

No Child Left authorized grants to fund projects for greater choices within public schools with its emphasis on closing the achievement gap between minority and non-minority kids. The Dept. of Education has always used a strict protocol of independent reviewers to rate competitive grant proposals. Grants are restricted to (1) public schools for the benefit of (2) public school students.

This year, the panel recommended ten projects. And for the first time in memory, one of the recommended projects was bumped, administratively, and replaced with one that had a lower ranking, and didn’t even appear to qualify. (Footnote #18)

The substituted winner was a for-profit corporation which was given 4.1 million taxpayer dollars to set up a virtual school in Arkansas. K12.com, Inc. is an internet school founded by Virtue Czar, Bill Bennett.

K12 won a grant, even though it is not a public school. Even though 75% of its students came from homeschools or private schools. Even though 90% of its students are white. (Footnote #18)

The political connections of K12 are legion. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, has served on K12’s advisory board. Michael Petrilli, associate deputy in the Department of Ed was a vice president of K12. William Hansen, the deputy secretary who approved the grant was previously K12’s vice president of community partnerships. (Footnote #34) Secretary Paige’s chief deputy is Gene Hickock and his former deputy, Charles Zogby, left to join the management team of K12.com. Mr. Bennett, of course, was President’s Reagan’s Secretary of Education and helped write speeches for George Bush in the 2000 presidential election. (Footnote #19)

In Pennsylvania, K12 is qualified as a charter school. For every Pennsylvania child they convince to use their home school service, Pennsylvania taxpayers give Mr. Bennett $7,000. (Footnote #20)

Again, the sales pitch is to note the low test scores for public schools and promise higher test scores with a new, improved business model. It’s a gamble that has not paid off in Florida where they recently reported their experiment with K12 produced some of the state’s poorest math scores and below average writing scores. (Footnote #21)

And Mr. Bennett rolled “snake eyes” in Idaho where tax-funded K12.com homeschoolers scored significantly lower in every comparable grade level in nearly every subject – an average of 11 percentage points below the state. (Footnote #22)

And the roulette wheel continues to spin in Colorado, Alaska, California, Minnesota, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., where K12 is getting contracts regardless of their record of failure. (Which has prompted a call by members of Congress to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate the process that led to federal grants.)(Footnote #34)

Epilogue

By most business measures, these privatization ventures have been failures. But they keep being resurrected by angel investors who find ways to bail them out. Not a smart business move, unless your business is something quite different.

I love to quote Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform – he’s refreshingly honest about his real agenda. He was a lead strategist for the Bush campaign. School privatization is a means to several ends – none of which has anything to do with better education for children.

He told a Washington Times reporter, "School choice reaches right into the heart of the Democratic coalition and takes people out of it." (Footnote #35) He knows it’s a way to appeal to minority parents frustrated with their children’s public schools. But he’s not worried about their children or closing the achievement gaps. He’s worried about all the tax dollars that public schools cost.

He sees those education tax dollars like a cake, and you and I are an important part of his metaphor.

“You have a big cake, and you put it under the sink and then wonder why the cockroaches are in your kitchen. I don't think any sprays …are going to get rid of the cockroaches. You've got to throw the cake in the trash so that the cockroaches don't have something to come for." (Footnote #36)

Don’t you feel special.

There are others who have been honest about the real agenda behind school privatization. One of the first books about market-driven vouchers for public education was written by Terry Moe and his co-authors, Larry and Curly. He wrapped his arguments around reform for public education, but I think he was being more honest when he said in an interview that privatization of education was to gut the power of the union.

He said, “The NEA…has a lot of money for campaign contributions..they have many activists out in the trenches in every political district. . . . No other group can claim this kind of geographically uniform political activity. They are everywhere."

"School choice allows children and money to leave the system, and that means there will be fewer public teacher jobs, lower union membership, and lower dues.” (Footnote #36)

And a former Milwaukee board member, Chris Sinicki, agrees, saying, that there is no doubt that vouchers "are a Republican strategy to take down public education and the unions. This is partisan politics, completely." (Footnote #36)

You’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you.

I struggled with how to wrap up this presentation. With the original Salt Lake group I shared this with, I ended with a rallying cry for political action – that this election was key to bringing sanity to No Child Left and school privatization.

That ending’s a little dated now. But as I said at the beginning, the election did not change our goals. We now have to reassess our strategies. And to me, the state affiliates are now central. NEA will not solve this by sending enough lobbyists to Capitol Hill to explain to federal bureaucrats that they’ve made a mistake.

Our coalitions must now include citizen groups who have no love for No Child Left Behind – and there’s a lot of conservatives in that group. We need coalitions that include Republicans governors, state legislators, business leaders, taxpayer organizations and civic groups. We have to find the strategies to organize those citizens who still believe in the cause of public education - or who are insulted by the more and more transparent agendas of snake-oil salesmen and crony capitalists – or who are angry at the intrusion of the feds in local decisions - or who see it in their own financial interest to carry our water.

We have an opportunity to form new and surprising partnerships. Some of you have already formed relationships with real estate agents, because a “failed” public school lowers property values and their commissions.

And the far-right has a new target they hate more than they hate us: Moderate Republicans.

Grover says it’s all about “branding” the Republican Party. He wants that brand to mean one thing: Tax Cuts at any cost. He has publicly threatened moderate Republicans and fiscal conservatives who disapprove of American economic policies that are now the envy of several banana republics. He will make it his mission in life to strike them down if they oppose a tax cut or propose a tax increase as an example to others, whether you’re the governor of Alabama or the Senator from Pennsylvania.

He’s unambiguous.

“Just as the Coke brand would be devastated if someone found a rat’s head in a drink, (tax-raising) Republicans are the rats’ heads in the Coke bottle.” (Footnote #37)

We might find new friends because we suddenly have common enemies.

We are entering perhaps one of the most hostile environments we have ever faced. But we cannot hide under the bed and hope they’ll go away. We have to learn to talk about our issues to people we aren’t used to talking to. We can’t wait for invitations. We take the initiative. We call them. We stand up. We stand together. We work smarter.

And we move forward, inspired by the wise words of Harry Truman when he said, and I’ll paraphrase, “When you’re up to your neck in manure, it’s no time to duck.”

Notes

1. A Nation at Risk: An Open Letter to the American People, David Gardner, chair of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, April 26, 1983

2. Lemann, Nicholas, The Big Test, The Secret History of American Meritocracy, (New York: Farrar, St. Raus & Giroux) 1999

3. “Federal testing mandates a demolition derby”, St. Petersburg Times editorial, June 2004

4. Reports on feasibility of reaching AYP: Connecticut Education Assn. study, April 2004; Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor study, 2004; California Dept of Education study, 2004.

5. “Invest in Equality”, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, www.civilrights.org

6. The Broken Promise of Brown”, Julian Bond, NAACP Education Summit speech, Topeka, Kansas, May 15, 2004

7. “Growing Chorus of Voices Opposing Provisions of NCLB Act”, NEA Great Public Schools Report, July, 2004

8. “Ka-Ching: Businesses Cashing in on Learning”, Mark Walsh, Education Week, November 24, 1999

9. “Making (Up) The Grade”, Wendy Grossman, Houston Press, April 6, 2000

10. “Learning Curve”, Wendy Grossman, Houston Press, October 5, 2000

11. “180 Days in the Hole”, Margaret Downing, Houston Press, April 19, 2001

12. “W. and the Use of Testing: Numbers Racket”, by Stephen Metcalf, The New Republic, Feb. 6, 2001

13. “Million-Dollar Babies”, Margaret Downing, Houston Press, June 27, 2002

14. “Purchasing and Contract Management”, Texas School Performance Review, Dallas Independent School District, June 2001

15. “Ending its Contract with For-Profit Alternative Center Will Cost District $10 Million”, Tawnell Hobbs, The Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002

16. “A Paige from the Past?”, Jennifer Mathieu, Houston Press, March 6, 2003

17. “Paige Chief Announces Departure”, Erik Robelen, Education Week, September 10, 2003

18. “Federal Grant Involving Bennett’s K12, Inc. Questioned”, by David Hoff & Michelle Davis, Education Week, Vol 23 No. 43, July 28, 2004

19. http://www.mediatransparency.org/people/wbennett.htm, Media Transparency – The Money Behind the Media.

20. “Bennett’s Virtual Charter”, Christian Science Monitor, January 8, 2002

21. “Internet Schools Fall Short on Tests”, by Steve Harrison, Miami Herald, August 4, 2004

22. “Board Released ISAT Scores”, Chuck Oxley, Associated Press, July 29, 2004

23. “How Edison Survived: Discredited and broke, the school privatizer found an unlikely white knight (Florida Retirement Systems and Liberty Partners)”, David Moberg, The Nation, Vol. 278, Issue 10, 2004

24. “Legislators, teachers balk at deal for Edison Schools”, Helen Huntley, St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 26, 2003

25. “Multiple problems afflict KC District’s experiment”, Lynn Franey, The Kansas City Star, June 1, 2004

26. “Board retains Edison Schools amid a protest; Parents waved signs and voiced complains about the company which runs 8 schools in the district”, Dale Mezzacappa, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 2004

27. “Edison Schools Buyout Links Florida to a Loser”, Editorial, the Palm Beach Post, October 9, 2003

28. “Edison Schools Accepts buyout: Stockholders approve the state pension fund’s purchase of Edison Schools, a company that runs schools like businesses but has never made a profit.”, Marc Caputo, The Miami Herald November 13, 2003

29. “Buyout of company is a slap in the face of teachers”, Ronald Littlepage columnist, The Florida Times-Union, October 21, 2003

30. “Investing in Irony”, editorial, St. Petersburg Times, September 26, 2003

31. “Edison Schools’ CEO gets $344,999 Pay Raise”, Bloomberg News, NYNewsday, August 26, 2003

32. “The Nine Lives of Chris Whittle; His ventures don’t always succeed, but somehow he still manages to come out ahead.”, Nelson Schwartz, Fortune, Oct. 27, 2003

33. “Grassroots Parent Group Unites to File Federal Civil Suit Against Edison Schools”, Concerned Parents Press Release, August 3, 2004

34. “Fairness of grant disbursement questions”, By Eric Louie and Shirley Dang, Contra Costa Times, November 1, 2004

35. Insight Magazine, Washington Times, 1998

36. “Why the Right Hates Public Education”, by Barbara Miner, The Progressive | January 2004 Issue

37. The Wall St. Journal, article by Jackie Calmes, February 20, 2004