Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Betsy Combier: Silencing Opposition - Education Policy Implementation Becomes a Matter of National Security

From Betsy Combier, Editor:

E-Accountability OPINION: Governments that want to take public money for politically desired projects without opposition must close the government procurement to prying eyes. This means that contracts are signed without competitive bidding, Freedom of Information requests are not honored, and the media is co-opted. The NYC BOE is our model. by Betsy Combier
          

    Betsy Combier and Colin Powell, SAIS 60th Anniversary Gala, Washington DC October 13, 2004    
While attending a course on International Affairs at Columbia University in 1973, I heard about the trillions of dollars spent on armaments by the Pentagon. The class discussed why, when so much money is spent on tanks, bombs and missiles, there has to be a process for creating a war with minimum opposition. A year later, as a student in The School For Advanced International Studies' Master's Program in Bologna, Italy, I researched the growth and development of the Soviet Military Industrial Complex. I saw that the amount of money spent on American defense was not justified because by all accounts the Soviet defense industry was in almost total disrepair at the time. Of course, we know that for 'national security' the end justifies the means, and we must support our military if their work protects us. We needed the US government to keep secret the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and we need to keep our spies away from exposure. There are, therefore, many reasons for secrecy in providing homeland security and global justice, but even in the defense area there must be oversight and accountability.

The defense industry, nonetheless and by necessity, has perfected a process which uses secret no-bid contracts and highly paid 'consultants' to acquire public support for the spending of public money. This effort is non-partisan, which means that it has nothing to do with the political party in power. It has everything to do with 'who is friends with whom', and who owes someone a 'favor'. Friends help friends make money in the business of defending our country. This is the way the system works. We, the public, elect people to the highest level of power with the hope that they will honor the Common Good while they spend public funds, and few will deny the fact that if you work for the defense industry, or work for one of it's subsidiaries, then you will benefit from the expenditures, even if - especially if -it means war.

An Editorial published October 31 2004 in the NY Times ("More questions About Halliburton") shows the closed government that we are hidden from knowing too much about. Vice President Dick Cheney used to work for Halliburton, a company now charged with price gouging and improper influence over providing the Pentagon with lucrative deals in Iraq. The article explains this process:

"There is a reason that big defense contractors often recruit well-connected former government officials as their chief executives. They do not operate in a normal business environment, where companies must compete on the basis of their performance and efficiency. Instead, they sit in a kind of financial wonderland where huge profits can be made with minimal risk. Lucrative contracts are awarded without competitive bidding, and unexpected cost overruns and other dubious charges are simply passed along to the taxpayer. Most of this is, unfortunately, completely legal."

Whether the President is Bush, or someone else, the secret government is here to stay.

This same process is being used in our nation's public schools to stop the public from participating in, or knowing anything about, the allocation of taxpayer money to public school education. Our research into how School Boards, education officials and even PTA Presidents get elected has shown us that this process is not democratic or open. In fact, there is 'systemic sabotage' of open government rules often so complex that a person actually looking for the misinformation or non-compliance has difficulty finding it. But it is definitely there, because the system depends on maintaining control over the process of getting lucrative contracts signed, sealed, and delivered.

Members of school boards often have an agenda that seems to be very similar to the BOE in town and the BOE Attorneys. In addition, many Chancellors across America are 'consultants' for law firms and corporations that make money from the links to education. In order for this to happen smoothly, Boards of Education have taken the defense industry model for procurement and made it their own. The same links between education and industry are there, as are the same tactics used to keep all transactions secret and away from the public eye.

Public education has, in other words, become a matter "of national security". Secrecy, harassment of those who do not go along with The Plan, and whistleblower retaliation are all used to promote and maintain programs designed by Those Who Know What Our Children Need. In New York City, the venue we know best, the 'national security' program for our public school children is called at the present time "Children First". The problem is that Bloomberg/Klein are not skilled defense industry tacticians, and are not implementing correctly the military model they have adopted.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's takeover of the NYC Board of Education in June 2002 was, in our opinion, a good thing. In 2002 many Superintendents were not performing their jobs with integrity, statistics proved that the NYC education system was failing the children, and there was very little proof of any success in the System. Then, it seems that the Mayor and his appointed Chancellor Joel Klein took the defense industry strategies to promote their education reform program, "Children First". Evidence of this top-down defense model includes:

1. Tweed Courthouse has become the education Pentagon, where in the name of security all people entering must be photographed, and everyone sits in open rooms where The Boss rules with an iron hand. We love the lack of closed doors so that everyone can be watched at the same time. This is creative thinking at work, literally.

2. All telephone calls to the Tweed Pentagon are screened so that any serious complaints are not responded to right away or at all, in the hope that the person who made the complaint can be 'persuaded' to leave the issue alone, or go away without resolving the problem. If an issue is responded to - which, by the way, does not mean resolved - false assurances of "I'll look into it" are normal. Complaints are, of course, against "national security".

3. As all complaints by parents, teachers, paraprofessionals or anyone else threaten the security of the system, almost all those who bring a problem to the attention of a BOE employee are told that they are wrong. The complaint is 'not valid'. The issue is not the problem, the person making the complaint is. If a complaint or problem has an easy solution, such as there is no toilet paper anywhere in a school, this may be taken care of quickly because the resolution has nothing to do with changing the core autocractic nature of the system. The BOE employee who obtains the money for the toilet paper gives all credit to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, for acting so quickly and decisively, or to "The System" for it's efficiency. Send in the Press! The potential threat to our 'national security' - a complaint - is thus disposed of. No one asks how the bathrooms in our city's public schools got so dirty and decrepit in the first place, or how they stayed that way for 30 years. No one goes back 1 month later to check and see if there is any toilet paper left after the reporters have gone onto another story. Why? Because the story isn't really about toilet paper, it's about media, press releases, and political successes that can be touted in the future. Isn't it interesting that the amount of toilet paper in a school can be made into such a political media event? No one wants to touch the Big Stuff, the $ billions that are misallocated on a daily basis.

Indeed, resolutions of complaints such as the toilet paper issue are staged to get maximum press exposure, and BOE officials all make false promises that they have no intention of keeping. Not only is all this a show, but all the actors know that there are no consequences for what they say or do. No one who works for the BOE in defense of our national security need explain anything to anyone. There is no accountability.

4. Teachers who may jeopardize 'national security', are laid off, fired, forced to resign, or harassed, and the people doing the harassing don't care about the violation of due process going on. We have, over the past four years, heard from countless teachers, paraprofessionals and school aides who, merely by asking questions such as "Where's the money?", or "Why do I have to Teach it this way?" find themselves attacking 'national security' and out of a job. The National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse focuses on this problem, and gives many examples.

A closed government can also go after innocent people in order to 'show' others what might happen to them, and this is one major reason for closing the door.

Leo, a Math teacher given unexplained U ratings, may not understand what he did to incur the wrath of the system, and as he is ushered out the door of his school, still doesn't. Neil, Tom, Ed, Dr. B., Yolanda, Iris and I and so many others have been accused of wrongdoing that was 'made up' by the Tweed ring, and we were all pursued by the Office of Special Investigations whose modus operandi resembles that of the CIA or MOSSAD. We have all been told that our "crime" is known, and the 'proof' has been found, so all we have to do is move out of state, hide, ask for forgiveness, or repent. Neil was told that he could not be hired by anyone but he still doesn't know what his 'crime' was. We presume his name, mine and all the other parents and teachers who have crossed the line into jeopardizing 'national security' are on The Monitoring Unit website.

If these threats dont work to scare off, silence, or put the victim on the run, tougher measures are called for, and one lovely example of this is NYC Office of Legal Services' Chad Vignola's email about my "crimes" and about his very helpful resolution to all the problems, all of which were completely false, sent to all the members of the New York State Assembly on April 1, 2002, April Fool's Day in America.

Attacks such as this serve no useful purpose other than to intimidate. The questions that we, the intended victims, all ask are: how and why do Board of Education officials get away with this? We believe that the answer is in the pocketbooks of the people acting under color of law to make sure no one stops the removal of troublesome people from the process (of secretly taking public money). Keeping the answers to these questions hidden from the public is a matter of 'national security'.

5. Parents are kept out of this web of secrecy for good reason. What is going on in our city schools is, by all accounts, disastrous for the success, health, and welfare of the children inside. In NYC, despite the thousands of pretty fliers streaming out of the Tweed pentagon, our children are not being protected from terrorists; we do not have enough defibrillators or trained personnel who know how to use them (we called approximately 60 schools); safety of the school (building and personnel) comes before the protection of students from discrimination, physical violence and emotional harassment; special education children are being kicked out of their classrooms, locked up, physically and emotionally hurt, and the politico-educational complex is powerful enough to persuade judges at the city and state levels to go along with The Plan.

Below is an email received from a teacher when Chancellor Klein took over and changed the Math Curriculum:

From a Bronx teacher:

"I just wanted to share with you my thoughts on the High School Choice of Curriculum. We all know that a Book is NOT a curriculum, so that is Klein's first mistake... And then he said that he picked this book because it was aligned with Math A. Well I do not know how I will share this with him, but I have on my shelf, and in my possession a Prentice Hall Algebra Book "Algebra, Tools for a Changing World" That is identical to the Prenctice Math A book!!! The only difference is the COVER!!!! The first 500 pages are identical!!! (I am NOT kidding!) SO how could this book be aligned with the regents!!!

Two years ago my school purchased $65,000 worth of IMP books... Last year after fighting the superintendent we purchased $30,000 worth of Amsco Math A books... and now i have to purchase Prentice Hall books???? And did you know that they are $58 each!!! who can afford that!! The IMP book was $35 each and the Amsco book is $20. Is Bloomberg going to help us re-sell our IMP books?? They were only used once?? He is the buisness man.. shouldnt he know what to do? I am going to take a picture of my book rooms on monday and I am going to mail these pictures to the chancellor... Do you think it will make any difference??


Everyone is threatened into silence. Almost everyone, that is.

My story, Tom's story, Leo's story and all the other parents and teachers who have contributed to this report and website are proof that not everyone can be harassed enough to run from the abuse that the NYC BOE levies every day against those 'They' do not like because they cannot control us. This is, for Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, Michael Cardozo, Richard Condon, Rebecca Loughran and all the others who stand under the 'national security' "Children First" banner, the primary reason for their failure. They simply cannot win a war - education reform - without the support of the troops: the parents and teachers. They will fail, and after a new Mayor is elected and a new Chancellor appointed, many of the mistakes and secret dealings will be exposed for years to come. The tragedy is that the children in our public schools are the victims. Too many of them are not getting the help they need, and are being treated as if they are felons rather than kids in need.

6. The Tweed ring could not succeed at all without the support of the publishers, Editors, and producers of the news. Reporters who work at The New York Post (Rupert Murdoch's newspaper) have told us that they will not use any material that threatens The System, nor are any reporters allowed to quote parents who speak out in opposition to The System. Mr. Murdoch is, we have heard, a teacher for The NYC Leadership Academy. We wonder what he is teaching.

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

The Center for American Progress has on their website: "How one right-wing billionaire uses his business and media empire to pursue a partisan agenda at the expense of democracy". They write that he "has used the U.S. government's increasingly lax media regulations to consolidate his hold over the media and wider political debate in America. Consider Murdoch's empire: according to Businessweek, 'his satellites deliver TV programs in five continents, all but dominating Britain, Italy, and wide swaths of Asia and the Middle East. He publishes 175 newspapers, including the New York Post and The Times of London. In the U.S., he owns the Twentieth Century Fox Studio, Fox Network, and 35 TV stations that reach more than 40% of the country...His cable channels include fast-growing Fox News, and 19 regional sports channels. In all, as many as one in five American homes at any given time will be tuned into a show News Corp. either produced or delivered'."

Exerpts from this website: Mr. Murdoch is a Media Manipulator, a War Monger, Neoconservative, Oil Imperialist, Intimidator, Far-Right Partisan, Bush supporter and Bush family employer ( hehired Bush cousin John Ellis), Apologist for Repressive Regimes (China), Union Buster, and more. Some or all of these claims may be true, but the point is to show how politicized our media really is. Money always 'talks'.

Of course, there are powerful others.

Most of us who read the news or listen to TV news know about the memos Dan Rather tried to pass off as true. Yet "ordinary" citizens just trying to find out what happened and why, cannot. We are 'allowed' every once in a while to take a peek behind the curtain, but this is rare. We have been told also by reporters who work at the Daily News that they cannot print anything about the potential breakdown of The NYC Education System because of a close relationship between the paper and Chancellor Klein.

The NYCBOE Office of Legal Services decides on a random basis whether or not to comply with Freedom of Information requests. Not one of my FOIA requests for information on MS 54 Principal Larry Lynch, Superintendent Patricia Romandetto of District 3, or The Review Committee, were complied with from 2001 to 2003. Then Mr. Robert Freeman of The Committee on Open Government told me that he had called the OLS, and someone there told him that they had complied, therefore, Mr. Freeman told me, he could "not give me the material a second time." I called Mr. Freeman up and asked him if he would agree to anything I said if it contradicted the OLS, and he said "no".

Michael Cardozo, Chief Counsel for the NYC Law Department/Corporation Counsel, oversees the attacks on teachers, parents and children who seek special education services and resources, teachers complaining about the lack of due process in NYC, and violations of civil rights. He is also the Legal consultant for NBC television's "Today" Show where my old friend Gabe Pressman works. Gabe asked me, in 1971-2, to accompany him while he taped news shows for channel 5 (now FOX TV). Now he no longer returns telephone calls. Michael Cardozo signed the Motion to Dismiss Federal complaint 03 Civ. 10304 against the New York City BOE, the City of NY, and 11 Defendants, in which he and his Assistant Corporation Counsel state, "Plaintiff also vaguely alleges, without any corresponding prayer for relief, that she has suffered some retaliation due to her actions as President of the PTA at Booker T. Washington MS 54..." Yet his agency sent the parents at Booker T., on the Review Committee, the Contract indemnifying all of them as they were removing me from the PTA as paid employees of the NYC BOE.

The City Law Department wrote, in this Contract, that the parents were paid to scream at me such things as "You abused my daughter", ""You are a liar", and "You have raised too much money for the PTA, therefore you must be intending to steal it." The parents were not paid nor were they employees of the city government, and could not be indemnified. But they were, and Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer ordered that the City sidestep my lawyer and sanction me personally for filing a frivolous case against defendants who were protected by the City Law Department, whose salaries are being paid by my taxes.

Does the Mayor of New York City maintain a closed government? He certainly does. We can use the process whereby SNAPPLE became the drink of New York to prove it.

Tom Robbins on "Deals in the Dark: Snapple Town"
The Village Voice, June 1st, 2004

New York is Snapple Country now, thanks to the first-ever marketing deal that makes the beverage firm the city's exclusive brand. But that's not the only novel aspect of the arrangement. A $126 million pact gives Snapple the sole right to place juice and water vending machines in city buildings, plant its happy-script logo on sundry city properties, and promote itself as the city's official brand. A separate $40 million agreement allowed the company to place its machines in city schools.

But despite their size, neither deal underwent the kind of scrutiny normally accorded such contracts-and city and state officials are asking why not.

Last week, attorneys for comptroller William Thompson were before Supreme Court Justice Richard Braun seeking to overturn the citywide marketing deal on the grounds that Mayor Bloomberg skirted proper procedures by refusing to submit it to the city panel charged with approving all franchise and concessions.

Why didn't it require a vote? Because the deal was for "intellectual property," not tangible property like a parking lot or a bus shelter, which clearly calls for a vote in the city charter, a lawyer for the mayor argued. Thompson's attorney countered that the charter's definition was intended to be much broader. "These are the kinds of matters that need to be exposed to the public," said Judd Burstein, who is representing the comptroller.

The Snapple schools contract also sailed through without the usual vetting process. The mayor's people have dual explanations for that one. On the one hand, the new Department of Education is still under state legislation that doesn't require registration of all contracts with the comptroller. Also, in the case of the Snapple agreement, it was "a revenue type contract," not one involving the expenditure of public monies, an agency spokesman said.

Either way, two state lawmakers, Assemblyman Jim Brennan from Brooklyn and State Senator Eric Schneiderman from Manhattan and the Bronx, are sponsoring legislation that would change the education department's procurement policy. Their bill would obligate the agency to register its contracts, and to put no-bid deals-which have tripled under Bloomberg's reign-before the Panel on Educational Policy that replaced the old board of education.

"There would be the opportunity for sunshine, advance notice, and debate, as well as the necessity for justifying what they are doing out there," said Brennan."

and,

Gulp! How Mayor Bloomberg's business pros dribbled their marketing mission: Snapple in the Apple
by Tom Robbins, The Village Voice, April 27th, 2004

A big part of the rationale for electing a billionaire businessman as mayor was just that: Michael Bloomberg was a businessman, he'd made billions, ergo, he could get the job done.

But consider the flap-now in court-over the Bloomberg administration's maiden voyage into the brave new world of city marketing: its $40 million deal to sell Snapple Beverage Corporation the exclusive right to place its vending machines in city schools, along with a separate, $126 million pact to make Snapple New York's official brand.

Since Bloomberg announced the agreements last fall, city comptroller William Thompson has blasted them as tainted and improper. Last week, Thompson went to court to block the "official beverage" contract, arguing that Bloomberg's aides sidestepped City Charter rules in awarding it. Bloomberg, baring his new tough-guy sneer, dismissed the complaint as "political red tape." Such quibbling, he suggested, threatened some hefty corporate cash for New Yorkers. But just how businesslike has the performance of Bloomberg's team been in handling the Snapple affair?

Not very, according to an audit of the school vending machine contract released by Thompson last month. The audit depicts both outside expert consultants hired by the city and in-house bureaucrats as engaged in bumbling missteps and confusion, while promoting commercialism so crass that even Coca-Cola was appalled. Some examples:

With a pioneering, multimillion-dollar contract in the offing, exactly how did officials go about recruiting possible bidders? Answer: They made a couple of calls. According to the audit, Octagon, the high-priced private marketing firm retained by the Department of Education to handle the project, never sent solicitation letters to would-be vendors. Nor did it advertise. Instead, calls were made to two rather well-known companies, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola (Coke later dropped out, saying it couldn't get adequate information). The five other bidders all said they learned about the city's solicitation from "local vending machine operators." One company, Apple & Eve, told auditors that it learned about the contract opportunity in mid August, only one week before the deadline. In its response, the city said that advertising is ineffective and that Octagon called other firms as well-but they didn't apply.

How many vending machines can fit in the city's schools? This basic question, according to auditors, was a moving target. The outline provided by Octagon to bidders stated that there were 2,500 to 3,000 such machines in the schools. Was that a minimum? A maximum? A guess? One company, Veryfine, said that it was told that 3,000 was the limit. Snapple said it thought it was the minimum. Even those evaluating the bids expressed confusion. Octagon said it wanted to leave room for other vendors to provide milk and snack machines; agency officials said they wanted to keep the number secret to help evaluate the bids. The city response to the audit stated that Octagon and the agency "quite consciously" didn't set a figure.

Were teachers' lounges included? Three of five losing bidders said Octagon told them not to include them. Two others said they were told the opposite. The education department demonstrated just how confused it was on this score when it sought new bids for beverage vending machines in employee lounges just as it was agreeing to have Snapple provide 500 such machines. The new bids had to be cancelled.

How many ads can be beamed at school kids? Octagon's bidders' information package suggested that the lucky winner could place "six pages of advertising" in student planners, and affix its logo on "725 outdoor [basketball] backboards." Such product placements, Octagon said, offered a potential for 97.2 million annual "corporate identity impressions" on students. Logos placed in "general use facilities" could yield an additional 134 million such hits. Auditors said this approach runs afoul of state education policy, a claim the city denies. But Coca-Cola told auditors such direct targeting of students was "appalling," and even Snapple decided to forego the student planner and backboard ads.

Was Snapple's offer the highest bid? The mayor says yes; the comptroller said Snapple came in low, but hiked its bid significantly after Octagon and the director of the city's new Marketing Development Corporation drove to Snapple headquarters in White Plains to urge the firm to do so. Snapple was also preferable, the city said, because it is a popular brand with school kids. But Thompson said he found no evidence of market research to back the claim, despite city insistence that it had such information. Either way, both sides agree that the new 100 percent juice drinks proposed by Snapple for the schools had never been market tested anywhere before they were accepted by the city.

How did New York become Snapple country? The audit cites an exchange of e-mails between city officials and consultants, written on the eve of Snapple's selection, in which the controversial decision to dramatically expand the deal to include a citywide marketing arrangement was made. The decision was prompted by a desire to leave an opening for another city partnership with a carbonated soda firm, and also created a bias toward bigger firms that could handle a larger citywide deal, Thompson said.

In an April 12 letter ordering the comptroller to register the citywide contract, Bloomberg called the Snapple agreements "praiseworthy," but admitted problems. "They have not been the product of a perfected process that the city will seek to replicate in the future," wrote the mayor.

SNAPPLE

The latest stats over the secret SNAPPLE deal shows why no-bid contracts, secret deals, and political procurement processes are not good for taxpayers and non-defense government agencies:

Mayor's 'Snapple plan' running $750K deficit
BY CURTIS L. TAYLOR, NY Newsday

"The city's controversial new marketing agency ran a deficit of nearly $700,000 during its first year of operation, despite landing a lucrative contract granting Snapple exclusive beverage rights in the Big Apple, according to an independent audit obtained by Newsday.

The York City Marketing Development Corp. had a $692,249 deficit when its first fiscal year ended June 30, according to the audit conducted by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.

The agency also had an outstanding loan of $1.2 million from the New York City Economic Development Corp., according to the audit.

The marketing development corporation's biggest expenses during the fiscal year were $1.1 million in personal services and $321,944 in contract costs, the audit showed.

In a statement yesterday, Joseph Perello, who heads the marketing agency, acknowledged the deficit and the outstanding loan but said the not-for-profit agency had been operating in the black since April.

"No other city in the country has a marketing office like this generating millions of dollars in new revenue for New York City to use for essential services," Perello said of the operation, which has exclusive authority to sell the city's sponsorship and licensing deals."

Really? How will the public ever know?

Education policy should not be implemented in secrecy without accountability. Children are not guns, missiles and tanks. We must make every effort to stop the education establishment from simulating the American military-industrial complex.

Related articles:

Debate on Secret Program Bursts Into Open
By DOUGLAS JEHL , NY TIMES, December 10, 2004

LINK

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 - An intense secret debate about a previously unknown, enormously expensive technical intelligence program has burst into light in the form of scathing criticism from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

For two years, the senators have disclosed, Republicans and Democrats on the panel have voted to block the secret program, which is believed to be a system of new spy satellites. But it continues to be financed at a cost that former Congressional officials put at hundreds of millions of dollars a year with support from the House, the Bush administration and Congressional appropriations committees.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the panel, denounced the program on Wednesday on the Senate floor as "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful."

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, later called it "unnecessary, ineffective, over budget and too expensive."

Neither senator would say much more about what he was referring to. Even in private on Thursday, most Congressional and intelligence officials who were asked refused to comment about the name, purpose or cost of the program. But former Congressional and intelligence officials who oppose it said it would duplicate capabilities in existence or in development, as part of the country's vast network of satellites, aircraft and drones designed for eavesdropping and reconnaissance.

Among the possibilities suggested by private experts, including John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, a research organization in Alexandria, Va., were that the system might be a controversial unproven program to launch a reconnaissance satellite that adversaries could not detect. Former Congressional officials said they would discount speculation that the debate had to do with any antisatellite space warfare capability.

A number of satellite programs in development, including a Future Imaging Architecture system that Boeing is developing, have been the subject of considerable public controversy, because of technical problems and cost overruns. But current and former government officials said they did not believe that the Boeing program was the subject of the new dispute.

In addition to Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden, two other Democratic senators made their opposition public on Wednesday, saying the money dedicated to the acquisition program could better be transferred to other intelligence gathering as part of what is widely understood to be the $40 billion intelligence budget.

The program being disputed by the senators is to be financed this year, but current and former government officials said Republicans as well as Democrats intended to redouble their efforts to block it.

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency did not respond to a request for comment about the dispute. The Republican chairman of the House military appropriations subcommittee, whose support for the program has been instrumental in keeping it alive, also did not respond to a request for comment.

The most specific public hints on the program were by Mr. Wyden, who said on the Senate floor, "This issue must be highlighted, because it is not going away."

"Numerous independent reviews," he said, "have concluded that the program does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, and the original justification for developing this technology has eroded in importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of our adversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and in development whose capabilities can match those envisioned for this program at far less cost and technological risk."

The Senate Intelligence Committee first expressed concern about the program three years ago, and it has voted to block it for the last two years, Congressional officials said. A former Defense Department official said of the program: "This is something that does not pass muster and is indicative of the inability of intelligence agencies to prioritize or make decisions. There are billions of dollars of waste in the intelligence budget."

A former Congressional official said that "hard decisions should have been made to make choices" when Congress first authorized and appropriated the money several years ago.

"Instead," the former official said, "the decision was made to just go ahead with go with everything."

Even the $40 billion figure attached to the current intelligence budget remains no more than an estimate, because spending figures remain classified by law. But much of the budget is widely understood to be devoted to the design, construction and operation of satellites and other platforms used to collect images, signals and other forms of technical intelligence.

Many critics have long complained that human intelligence programs remain underfinanced, at least in relative terms. In a directive last month, President Bush asked the C.I.A. to spell out a plan and a timetable to increase its clandestine service by 50 percent.

A compromise negotiated between the House and Senate this week provides authorization for continued financing for the disputed program. It was approved by 13 of the 17 senators on the Intelligence Committee and all of their House counterparts.

Because the financing had been approved in a military appropriations bill, Congressional officials said, the authorizing committees did not have the power to transfer the money to other intelligence programs.

But an unclassified version of the conference report released on Wednesday reported that Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, along with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden, had refused to sign the compromise.

The report said the senators believed that the money dedicated for what was described only as "a major acquisition program" ought to be "expended on other intelligence programs that will make a surer and greater contribution to national security."

Secret Sessions of House and Senate

Texas Attorney General Vows To Prosecute Violations of the Texas Public Information Act.

Silencing Opposition: The Constitution is Suspended in New York City Until Further Notice

ALERT: Pentagon Officials are Considering Using Disinformation as a Tool to Win Allies, Conquer Foes

What happens if New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer decides to prosecute the FOIA violations and other secret no-bid contracts here in New York? 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Peter Greene: Without Tenure....

LINK
Civilians need to understand-- the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs, but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well.
Peter Greene
August 5, 2014

Yesterday, twitter blew up with responses to Whoopi Goldberg and the View having one more uninformed discussion of tenure (and, really, we need to talk about why education discussions keep being driven by the work of comedians).
 
"#Without Tenure I can be fired for...." was the tweet template of the day, and even though I rode that bus for a bit, it occurs to me this morning that it misses the point.
 
It's true that in the absence of tenure, teachers can (and are) fired for all manner of ridiculous things. That's unjust and unfair. As some folks never tire of pointing out, that kind of injustice is endemic in many jobs (Why people would think that the response to injustice is to demand more injustice for more people is a whole conversation of its own). That doesn't change a thing. Firing a teacher for standing up for a student or attending the wrong church or being too far up the pay scale-- those would all be injustices. But as bad as that would be, it's not the feature of a tenureless world that would most damage education.
 
It's not the firing. It's the threat of firing.
 
Firing ends a teacher's career. The threat of firing allows other people to control every day of that teacher's career.
 
The threat of firing is the great "Do this or else..." It takes all the powerful people a teacher must deal with and arms each one with a nuclear device.
 
Give my child the lead in the school play, or else. Stop assigning homework to those kids, or else. Implement these bad practices, or else. Keep quiet about how we are going to spend the taxpayers' money, or else. Forget about the bullying you saw, or else. Don't speak up about administration conduct, or else. Teach these materials even though you know they're wrong, or else. Stop advocating for your students, or else. 
 
Firing simply stops a teacher from doing her job.
 
The threat of firing coerces her into doing the job poorly.
 
The lack of tenure, of due process, of any requirement that a school district only fire teachers for some actual legitimate reason-- it interferes with teachers' ability to do the job they were hired to do.  It forces teachers to work under a chilling cloud where their best professional judgment, their desire to advocate for and help students, their ability to speak out and stand up are all smothered by people with the power to say, "Do as I tell you, or else."
 
Civilians need to understand-- the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs, but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well.
 
We spent a lot of time in this country straightening out malpractice law issues, because we recognized that a doctor can't do his job well if his one concern is not getting sued into oblivion for a mistake. We created Good Samaritan laws because we don't want someone who could help in an emergency stand back and let The Worst happen because he doesn't want to get in trouble. 
 
As a country, we understand that certain kinds of jobs can't be done well unless we give the people who do those jobs the protections they need in order to do their jobs without fear of being ruined for using their best professional judgment. Not all jobs have those protections, because not all workers face those issues.
 
Teachers, who answer to a hundred different bosses, need their own special set of protections. Not to help them keep the job, but to help them do it. The public needs the assurance that teachers will not be protected from the consequences of incompetence (and administrators really need to step up-- behind every teacher who shouldn't have a job are administrators who aren't doing theirs). But the public also needs the assurance that some administrator or school board member or powerful citizen will not interfere with the work the public hired the teacher to do.
 
Tenure is that assurance. Without tenure, every teacher is the pawn and puppet of whoever happens to be the most powerful person in the building today. Without tenure, anybody can shoulder his way into the classroom and declare, "You're going to do things my way, or else."
 
Tenure is not a crown and scepter for every teacher, to make them powerful and untouchable. Tenure is a bodyguard who stands at the classroom door and says, "You go ahead and teach, buddy. I'll make sure nobody interrupts just to mess with you." Taxpayers are paying us for our best professional judgment; the least they deserve is a system that allows us to give them what they're paying us for.
Posted by Portside on August 10, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Valerie Strauss: A Strange Definition of a ‘Bad’ Teacher

Valerie Strauss
LINK




Keoni Wright is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit organized by Campbell Brown’s education advocacy group that is seeking to overturn New York laws that provide tenure and other job protections to K-12 teachers. Brown has appeared on a number of television shows explaining her new endeavor, which will involve filing lawsuits in other states, as well, in an attempt to have national impact on tenure laws. (Here’s a write-up about her appearance on “The Colbert Report,” and here’s a fact-check of what she said on the show).

The Wright vs. New York lawsuit, which has seven parents as plaintiffs, was filed a month after a Los Angeles judge struck down teacher tenure and other related California laws that offer job security to educators (though the judge stayed the decision until an appeal can be heard). Brown has said repeatedly that she is leading this effort because she believes it is too hard for school systems to get rid of “bad” teachers and that it is union-negotiated teacher job protections that lead to poor quality education for many underprivileged students. Critics say this is nonsense and that giving teachers due process when they are accused of wrongdoing protects against patronage and other forms of administrative whim. They also note that many students get inadequate educations in non-union states where teachers have no job protections and that tenured teachers can be and are fired, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary.

Whatever you think of job protections for teachers, Wright inadvertently raised a separate issue during an interview he did with Campbell on NY1′s “Inside City Hall with Errol Louis”: What exactly is a “bad” teacher? Some answers are obvious, others less so.

During the interview with Louis, Wright discussed the education his young twin daughters are receiving at a New York public school, saying that one of them had a really good teacher and the other wasn’t so lucky. How did the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit explain this dichotomy? vWell, it turns out, he said, that one daughter received homework packets from her teacher while the other daughter didn’t. Why? After talking to the offending teacher, he said he discovered the following:

She didn’t have the supply, you know they were waiting for stuff to come. Meanwhile this other teacher was using her own money to buy these books to have supplies for her regular kids and an extra set for me.

Translation: The good teacher was spending her own money to buy supplies the school system should have provided to teachers in a timely fashion. The bad teacher didn’t.

Translation: The good teacher was giving homework to young kids. The bad teacher wasn’t.

Wright has said that he began to notice the homework discrepancy as soon as his daughters entered kindergarten a few years ago. One daughter had homework and the other didn’t. The one with homework was doing better academically than the one who wasn’t, he said, the suggestion being that a teacher who assigns kindergartners homework routinely is better than one who doesn’t.

It may well be that the teacher of one of his twins was superior to the teacher of his other twin. Yes, some teachers are better than others (as in any other profession), and, yes, some working teachers should be removed from the classroom because they are inadequate, and yes, teacher education should be continually improved to elevate the quality of America’s teaching force. I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t agree.

But in this interview Wright rested his claims about the value of his children’s teachers on the fact that one was spending personal money for supplies and that the same teacher assigned homework routinely. That’s hardly what you would call dispositive. It doesn’t even make sense.

Teachers shouldn’t have to spend their own money to buy supplies. Schools should have supplies ready for teachers at all times. Inadequate supplies is just one of the reasons that teachers in many schools have a hard time doing their jobs, which isn’t something that gets factored into many blame-the-teacher arguments. Teachers who care so much about their students that they buy student supplies with their own money are certainly dedicated, but no more so than those teachers who care greatly about their students but don’t spend their own money to buy what a school system should be providing.

As for homework in kindergarten, the research isn’t there to show that it helps academically. In fact, most of the research on homework in elementary school suggests that less is more and that reading is the best kind. Kids derive no real benefit from doing homework in kindergarten or, for that matter, up until fourth grade, some homework researchers say, while others go further and say there is no benefit to homework in elementary school at all.
Wright sounds like a dedicated, concerned father who wants the best for his children and who wants to help other young people who don’t have two parents who can be advocates and help them with their schoolwork. That’s to be commended.

But it is troubling when the lead plaintiff in an important lawsuit describes a “good” teacher as one who spends personal money to buy school supplies for kids and who gives young kids homework. In this definitional exercise, that means a”bad” teacher is someone who doesn’t do either thing. That’s beyond wrong. It’s scary.

Keoni Wright, plaintiff in Campbell Brown's lawsuit, is a member of Michelle Rhee's Students First.

Also Campbell's hubby, Dan Senor, is on the board of Rhee's NY Students First. I guess Michelle Rhee is wearing another big smile right about now. 

Seems her Students First is playing some big roles in attacking teachers' right to due process before being fired. 

I did not realize Keoni Wright, who is suing on behalf of his twin daughters, was a member of that group also. 

Campbell Brown

Teachers Too Hard to Fire, Lawsuit

Kaylah and Kyler Wright are New Yorkers, first-graders, and twins. But while Kaylah excelled in reading last year, Kyler lagged behind. Their father, John Keoni Wright, blames Kyler’s teacher and he’s suing, but not the teacher—the state of New York. The lawsuit alleges the state’s teacher job protection laws shield incompetence.

Wright is a member of the StudentFirstNY, a non-profit supporting charter schoolsand opposing teacher tenure. He was joined Monday by six more parents filing a lawsuit spearheaded by a former TV personality Campbell Brown and her new organization Partnership for Educational Justice.

....The lawsuit cites a 2009 survey saying almost half of the state’s school districts, excluding New York City, wanted to launch a disciplinary action against a teacher, but didn’t.

Yet it fails to mention that the majority of such districts refrained from taking disciplinary action because the teacher in question resigned or retired.
 One in three reported the process was too expensive or cumbersome.

In the past two years over 800 city teachers faced disciplinary action—about 500 were solved with the rest still pending. Only 40 teachers were terminated, but about half of the 500 resolved cases were settled, often with the teacher leaving or retiring, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Keoni Wright is the plaintiff speaking in this video



He seems to equate giving homework and providing textbooks out of the teacher's own pocket as being an effective teachers. There is so much more to it than that. 

This WP column seemed to have the same understanding of the video as I did. 

A strange definition of a ‘bad’ teacher 

During the interview with Louis, Wright discussed the education his young twin daughters are receiving at a New York public school, saying that one of them had a really good teacher and the other wasn’t so lucky. How did the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit explain this dichotomy? vWell, it turns out, he said, that one daughter received homework packets from her teacher while the other daughter didn’t. Why? After talking to the offending teacher, he said he discovered the following:

She didn’t have the supply, you know they were waiting for stuff to come. Meanwhile this other teacher was using her own money to buy these books to have supplies for her regular kids and an extra set for me.

Translation: The good teacher was spending her own money to buy supplies the school system should have provided to teachers in a timely fashion. The bad teacher didn’t.

Translation: The good teacher was giving homework to young kids. The bad teacher wasn’t.


 













Carlo DiNota on Whole Language (1999)

LINK
Whole Language: Down for the Count? No Way!
Whether we're talking about teachers' colleges per se or an education department at a university, teacher training programs are of the same cloth. Let's not mince words. They're bastions of touchy- feely, amateur psychiatry. Examine any education textbook which is required reading for aspiring teachers, and you'll find a recurring thread: competition among children is bad, strong discipline is oppressive, teacher-centered classrooms are a no-no, and testing is an inaccurate and intimidating means of assessing students. 

These ideological taboos have helped to define what has become known as the progressive approach to education. No surprise that behaviorists like Carl Rogers and Benjamin Bloom are held in such high regard in any education theory class.
No surprise also that education professors unanimously disapprove of intensive, systematic phonics - too rigid, uncreative, and passé. In my year and a half of taking education courses in order to be certified by New York State to teach English, I never met one prospective reading instructor who could adequately explain what phonics is, nor did I ever meet a professor who could either. Yet I received the same response every time I inquired about phonics: "There's more than one way to teach reading."

While linguists worldwide argue that an alphabetic system like English must be taught phonetically, America's educracy remains enthralled by the anti-intellectual mumbo-jumbo of Whole Language, which maintains that children learn to read by reading and through osmosis they eventually pick up the association of letters and sounds.

News flash: 44% of U.S. elementary and high school students read below basic level and nearly half of American adults have trouble reading newspapers. And what has been the predominant form of reading instruction in U.S. public schools over the last fifty years? Whole Language and its equally idiotic forefather, look-say (AKA Dick and Jane).

But let's remember that schools of education (from whence the Mickey-Mouse pedagogy arises) are hardly bastions of sound intellectual scholarship, and thus we should not be shocked that the proper way to teach reading - via phonics - is not emphasized in our nation's teachers colleges. James Koerner summed it up poignantly in his 1963 book The Miseducation of American Teachers, indicting the education major as "one of the intellectually weakest, most nebulous, and generally unsatisfactory fields in higher education, although it is the biggest." Oh, and in case you've been away, standards in teacher-training courses have not improved in the 1990s. In April 1998, 60% of candidates seeking Massachusetts teaching certification failed a basic literacy test, with the Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education, John Silber, maintaining that a bright high schooler could have easily passed the exam.

The Phonics Movement  
The phonics movement has gained momentum in the last few years, with California's Board of Education announcing its abandonment of whole language. The board's executive director has rightfully referred to whole language as a "heinous experiment." The much anticipated 1998 report by the National Research Council, commissioned by the U. S. Department of Education and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, concludes that early elementary reading instruction must include phonics.

Public Education and Whole Language  
Yet, expending tireless energy trying to incorporate intensive, systematic phonics into all our government schools is ultimately a useless endeavor. Phonics in every classroom would require the support of every teachers college in America, which have heretofore abandoned phonics for the latter half of the century. It would mean that teachers colleges would have to promote a structured, traditional curriculum, when it is rare to find any textbook used at these institutions that promotes "the old way."

It would mean drastically reforming the National Education Association's caustic opposition to phonics and disbanding their hundreds of surrogate literacy councils that promote Whole Language. One look at the brazenly leftist resolutions passed at an annual NEA convention would reinforce anyone's pessimism that the teachers union would support phonics, which for so many years has been a major issue with conservative education activists. As The Wall Street Journal noted, when the National Research Council's study was released in March of 1998, the NEA was promoting Whole Language that very month at a "Read Across America" day.

It would mean forcing publishing houses, which have made millions due to the voluminous nature of Whole-Language reading curricula, to trim down their books for the intrinsically lean and mean phonics primers. A real phonics curriculum, such as the McGuffey Readers of the 19th century, would take but a fraction of the shelf space that present Whole-Language materials occupy in a typical classroom. Whole Language means big bucks for the publishing houses, while genuine phonics does not. Never underestimate the influence of a publishing company on a school board, for they wine and dine big-city board members in order to lull them into signing a lucrative and sometimes exclusive contract promoting Whole-Language reading materials. Of course, it is possible that the publishers would create primers that claim to be phonics-based, when in fact they are filled with the gibberish of the sight/whole-word method. Phony phonics curriculums are, in fact, running rampant today.

Most importantly, introducing intensive, systematic phonics into every classroom would mean that the educracy would have to temper its impassioned allegiance to the likes of John Dewey, Edmund Burke Huey, G. Stanley Hall, Arthur I. Gates, William S. Gray, et al. Having taken education courses not too long ago, I do not see this happening. Education Theory 101 textbooks view these disciples of progressive education and non-phonics alternatives to reading instruction as the bedrock from which all significant pedagogical theory stems. It would be the equivalent of telling communists to forget Karl Marx.

Entrenchment  
I am often asked why the education establishment continues to embrace Whole Language when there is ample evidence that this system fails millions of children each year and has contributed to the epidemic known as functional illiteracy. In a word, entrenchment. Progressive education theory is deeply entrenched in our government schools, and has been for most of the past century. With teachers colleges, teachers unions, education publishers, educrats, and influential "experts" univocally joined in an almost Masonic-like brotherhood - embracing the gospel according to Dewey - one should not be so naive as to expect an "anti-progressive" method such as intensive, systematic phonics to ever assimilate into their value system.

Phonics did not sweep into government schools upon the publishing of Rudolf Flesch's best-seller Why Johnny Can't Read in 1955, and it won't make serious inroads today with the NRC report or pro-phonics editorials from the New York Times. The noble edict from California's Board of Education, which calls for the abandonment of Whole Language, will inevitably be sabotaged by the teachers colleges, teachers unions, and other like-minded and influential brethren. Lest we forget, the Dewey cabal that created our nation's schools of education did so in part to establish homogeneous progressive thinking among all public school teachers. Today's educational professors who shape the impressionable minds of prospective elementary school instructors are simply incapable of turning on the disciples of look-say/Whole Language, if not philosophically unwilling to do so. In general, they haven't expunged dopey pedagogical theories such as guided fantasy, role playing, sensitivity training, encounter groups, and values clarification, and history shows us that they won't expunge Whole Language either.

As Thomas Sowell brilliantly argues in his book Inside American Education, university education professors suffer from an inferiority complex. Their scholarship is hardly taken seriously by professors in other fields of study largely due to its touchy-feely value system that borders on dopiness. I would add, education Ph.D.s fill their textbooks with high-falutin, pseudo-scientific language in order to hide the innate absurdity of their pedagogy. Hence we have the reading issue. Prior to the advent of public schools, parents taught their children to read with relative ease using phonics. The teaching of reading, which is such an important part of the learning process, is hardly a mystery, as homeschooling parents today demonstrate. You don't have to be an "expert" to teach a child to read so long as you stick to the time-tested phonetic way of teaching an alphabetic language system.

Yet today's education experts need to justify their existence and save face in the academic world, so they hyper-obfuscate the reading process via Whole Language and drown their propaganda with such bombast so to give the impression that only the holier-than-thou "professionally-trained" instructor could teach Johnny to read. Kenneth Goodman, reigning guru of modern Whole Language, reinforces this elite status with seemingly every written word. "Reading is a psycholinguistic guessing game," he writes. Heavy stuff. Serious scholarship, he would like us to believe. Yet wrong-headed through and through. I marvel at the lengths education experts will go to complicate such a simple issue as reading.

Absurd non-scholarship is a powerful influence on American education today, yet illogical pedagogy translates into danger for our children who bear the damaging consequences of, for example, Goodman's silly approach to reading. And when such revered early pioneers of modern education theory as G. Stanley Hall actually extol the virtues of illiteracy— stating that illiterates "are probably more active and less sedentary," "escape certain temptations, such as vacuous and vicious reading," and that maybe "we are prone to put too high a value both upon the ability required to attain this art" of literacy "and the discipline involved in doing so" — it is clear that today's pedagogical theory is rich in loony tradition.
Government schools will never liberate themselves from the enthrallment of John Dewey and company. Therefore, enter at your own risk.

Carlo DiNota teaches English at a private high school in Brookline Massachusetts and is an adjunct professor of English at Bay State College in Boston. He can be reached at ctdinota@aol.com. This article originally appeared in the Chalcedon Report, April 1999. Edited slightly for space.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Randy L. Hoover, PHD: The PARCC & Common Core Business

PARCC & Common Core1
Randy L. Hoover, PhD
(2014)
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) the are two sides of the same coin. The coin is the nationalization of academic standards. CCSS is the academic content, and PARRC is the vast standardized testing regimen that goes with it. Someone asked on the FAQ page if PARCC and CCSS would be like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on steroids. It's a pretty good question, and the answer is pretty much a "yes," but the reason for the answer is a little more complicated because of the nature of PARCC and CCSS.
The Common Core has been the subject of contentious debate across a variety of interests. In order to cut through the tsunami of claims and counter claims in order to better understand the ramifications for teacher advocacy, we need to understand that there are two primary areas of focus in the debate. One is a focus on the standards themselves, and the other is on the ramifications beyond the standards.
From the point of view of teacher advocacy and the Common Core standards, the virtual absence of classroom teacher participation in the group developing the standards or in the group providing feedback on the standards speaks volumes about how teachers have been completely marginalized in the Common Core process. While it is good to have psychometricians, college professors, and others of professions related to schooling helping to develop standards, experienced classroom teachers know best what learners can do and learn. Yet the vast majority of the CCSS developers and reviewers were from the testing industry and special-interest groups. I could not find one classroom teacher in the approximately 30 members listed in the Common Core development group and could find only 1 classroom teacher listed in the feedback group. This Common Core reality is patently contrary to the principles of teacher advocacy. This absence of experienced classroom practitioners greatly diminishes the credibility of the final product.
It is impossible to imagine this kind of (non) representation occurring in other professions such as law, engineering, or medicine. The marginalization begs the question of why NEA and AFT did not appear to make loud and public complaint about this absurd situation. Unfortunately for teacher advocacy, NEA had again sided with the test-driven reform interests that dominated the development of CCSS. A quick visit to the NEA website reveals the union has been a strong and consistent supporter of the Common Core since its conception. The only negative aspect of NEA's rhetoric was NEA President Van Roekel's speech in February 2014 arguing that the problem with CCSS is that the implementation has been botched.
Another aspect of the Common Core standards themselves concerns the appropriateness of the standards in terms of their expectations for the students and the level of difficulty expected from PARCC. It is critical for teacher advocates to realize that "high expectations" has been a slogan of reformists since before NCLB. High expectations are not necessarily the same as reasonable expectations. The pedagogical issue seemingly excluded from CCSS is whether the standards are developmentally appropriate for the children at each grade level and subject area, not to mention children with special needs. Ironically, "high expectations" was the slogan companion to NCLB's 100 percent proficiency by 2013.
There are two primary motives behind the "high expectations" slogan. One is the set up that if higher expectations are not realized on the standardized test results, then it is the fault of inferior teachers. The other comes from the reality that the more students who fail, the greater the size the pool of cheap labor is available for corporate profits. Together, PARCC and CCSS are likely the highest pinnacle of sorting students for labor needs yet seen in America. The seeming paradox of wanting graduates who can fill the high-paying technical job needs of business and industry on one hand and wanting a cheap labor source for the lesser jobs on the other is very real. The PARCC-CCSS combination will most likely produce exactly those results, thus producing exactly what corporate America desires. Because PARCC will be no different from any other achievement test in terms of its actually measuring the socio-economic lived experience of those taking the test, the results are as predictable as they are inevitable. Tests like PARCC simply do not assess academic achievement, and therefore fail the psychometric conditions for test validity. (See paper onResearch Insights about the Validity of Standardized Tests in Ohio.)
This kind of public school exploitation is clearly at odds with the ideals of democratic public schooling just as it is at odds with ideals of teacher advocacy. The prime directive of teachers is always to do right by their students, empowering them to make their own choices in lifestyle and occupation. The corporate mentality that the purpose of public schools and their educators is to produce employees for the benefit of business profit has replaced the once-fundamental idea that schooling is to serve the students above all else. Instead of reaffirming the centrality of public schools in serving our democracy through enlightened and empowered citizens, the Common Core and all that comes with it reduce our children to mere chattel for servicing the economic desires of corporate America. In doing so, it also reduces the once-noble role of the teacher to that of deskilled labor creating the chattel corporate America wants so desperately.
From the teacher advocate point of view, both sides of the PARCC-CCSS coin are offensive for a number of reasons having nothing to do with being opposed to having academic standards. First, CCSS has a not-so-hidden agenda of nationalizing academic standards. The responsibility for public schools in America is historically and constitutionally the responsibility of each state, not the federal government. The reality of there being 50 separate sets of school laws and academic standards bothers the school reformists tremendously because it makes comparing test scores among the states much more difficult for them. It thwarts their desire for publicly rating, ranking, and grading school performance in order to keep the public on board for continuing divert billions of taxpayer monies into their own coffers.
Knowing how preoccupied the reformists are with test scores means they are resolute in getting everyone to take the same test so they can continue strengthening the yoke of pseudo accountability draped on American public schools and their educators. Given the significant anti-teacher results of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top(RttT), one can only imagine the effects of nationalizing standards in terms of how teachers and public schools will be treated with PARCC scores as their performance outcome measure.
All of this is not an argument against the importance of having academic standards. It is an argument against the Common Core and its companion assessment. Thoughtfully and appropriately developed content standards are vital for teaching effectively and for use in authentic teacher evaluation because they form reasoned goals for the outcomes of curriculum and instruction. That being said, the agenda of CCSS has nothing to do with good teaching or authentic teacher evaluation. CCSS and its companion PARCC are about a variety of special-interest goals that represent huge profits for corporations such as Pearson and the allied test-prep and curriculum-materials corporations, more fodder for anti-public school/anti-teacher groups, and more phony data for corporate charter school initiatives. The PARCC-CCSS coin is extremely valuable in terms of profits; Pearson alone is expected to make more than a billion dollars over the next eight years if enough states sign on.
Nationalizing content standards greatly enhances the power of the reformists to control the public debate and discussion of accountability in order to perpetuate the same fictional claims that NCLB and state compliance legislation brought us. Similarly, nationalizing standards enhances the power of the federal government to regulate federal funding for schools based on school compliance and subsequent performance of state and local school systems. In this sense it will be like a mandatory Race to the Top with the pseudo accountability of value-added metrics being a central result of nationalization.
It is also inevitable and certainly intentional that PARCC scores will be the ultimate false proxy for school reform—ramping up the current NCLB and state false proxies that fictionalize public school performance across the 50 states. The public will again be sold the grand lie that test scores represent the condition of public education. They do not. Indeed, the single most powerful anti-teacher, anti-public school aspect of the school reformists is the false proxy. (See paper on the Metrics Machine & the False Proxy2.)
Together, PARCC and CCSS represent new levels of punishment for students and teachers alike. The testing regimen is extreme in both the amount of time required for testing and the level of difficulty of the PARCC test items. The exams will take eight hours for an average third-grader and just short of 10 hours for high school students. There will also be optional midyear tests to track if students and their teachers are on track. Also, there are plans to create tests for kindergarten,1st and 2nd graders, and 9th, 10th and 11th graders as well.
I would be remiss to not at least briefly mention the role of Bill Gates and his zealous, though mindless funding of the advancement of the CCSS-PARCC nationalization of standards. Gates may be a billionaire, but he is clueless when it comes to understanding education. Ever the buffoon when inside the education arena, he is an archetype of the corporate mentality that dominates the reform movement. Perhaps we need a national standard that teaches our children that money is not a proxy for one's personal intelligence. I would much sooner trust the professional judgment of those who have been working in schools and classrooms. To quote Ravitch,
Common Core testing will turn out to be the money pit that consumed American education. The sooner it dies, the sooner schools and teachers will be freed of the Giant Federal Accountability Plan hatched in secret and foisted upon our nation's schools. And when it does die, teachers will have more time to do their job and to use their professional judgment to do what is best for each student. (Diane Ravitch, 7/3/2014)

1 The primary reference for much of this paper comes from Diane Ravitch. I strongly recommend reading her blog of 7/3/2014, "Good Riddance to the Common Core Tests." http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/03/politico-plans-for-the-federal-tests-for-common-core-are-falling-apart
2 Also see Godin, S. (2012). Seth’s Blog. Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/11/avoiding-the-false-proxy-trap.html
and Regunberg, A. (2012). Education’s false proxy trap. Retrieved from
 http://www.golocalprov.com/news/aaronregunberg-educations-false-proxy-trap