Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In the past twenty-five (not 15!) years, the overall number of teachers of color in DC has decreased by almost a third.

In one of my last posts, I wrote about the decline of and need for more teachers of color and about my own PK-12 schooling at DCPS.

In private conversations, a few DC friends have asserted that while they don't entirely agree with the Rhee and now Henderson regime of policies, that there was "nothing racial" about them. I'm not so sure. I don't think that Rhee, etc.'s approach to reform has been intentionally or explicitly racial, but they have been racial at the very least in perception and effect.

For one, I refer you to this post I wrote in response to Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire's take on education reform in DC, where he continually refers in coded and loaded language to the majority black DCPS system that Rhee came into as "incompetent," "corrupt," and full of blinding race pride. This seems to encapsulate the collective mind-set of the DC rhee-formers and repeats many erroneous bits of what became collective wisdom that so many even earnest journalists repeat.

Second, the three sets of numbers I will present tell somewhat of a racial story.

Before I present them, a few caveats:

1.  Data sets 2 and 3 (from 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 respectively) include both the charter and the district sectors. While both may be complicit in the decline of teachers of color, since in DC DCPS and the charter schools system are totally separate entities, one can’t hold the division responsible for the human resources policies of the charter sector nor the inverse.

2.  Teacher recruitment and selection plays a role in the number of teachers of color in DCPS (and in any school system). Changes in DCPS’s approach to teacher recruitment and selection began way before Michelle Rhee’s chancellorship. In 2000, the DC New Teacher Project contracted with DCPS that same year to do an alternative teacher certification program and not long after to run teacher recruitment for DCPS. Coincidentally, however, Kaya Henderson was the Executive Director of DC TFA in the late 1990s, and in 2000 became head of the DC New Teacher Project (an organization founded and headed by Michelle Rhee).

3. As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, there has been a decline nationally in the percentage of teachers of color and the decline is projected to continue. I'm not sure if this is a decline in gross numbers or just in proportion or percentages and I can't seem to find any hard numbers that make that distinction. In any case, DC may simply be part of that same trend.


Now for the data:

1. There is, historically, very little in the way of data about DCPS teacher and staff demographics I asked DCPS watchdog, budget analyst and Keeper of all DCPS Stats Mary Levy what she had from the past and the only thing she could find was the table below which is DCPS data for school year 1988-1989, provided to the Committee on Public Education (COPE), a project of the Federal City Council. She got the data from DCPS in her role as a consultant to COPE, and included it in her report to them:

Teacher Demographics for DCPS 1988-1989

Race/ethnicity
Female
Male
Unknown
Total
Percentage
Black
4,747
1,207
6
5,960
93%
White
223
107

330
5%
Other
58
28
15
101
2%
Total
5,028
1,342
21
6,391


Race/ethnicity
White
Black
Other
Total
Number
330
5,960
101
6,391
Percent
5%
93%
2%


2. This is for the 2007-2008 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2011 Teacher Diversity Report (see Appendix A, page 12):

Teacher Demographics for DC 2007- 2008

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Asian/Pac Islr
Nat Amer
DC 
26%
65%
5%
X
2%


3. This is from the 2011-2012 school year, taken from the Center for American Progress's 2014 Teacher Diversity Report (see Table 2 on pages 7 and 8):


Teacher Demographics for DC 2011-2012

State
White
Black
Hispanic
Other
Two or more
DC
36%
52%
7%
5%
7%


So,
  • In 1988-1989, DCPS teachers were 93% black, 5% white, and 2% other. Or, 95% of color and 5% white. 
  • In 2007-2008, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 65% black, 26% white, 5% Hispanic, and 2% Native American (The Native American number is footnoted as doubtful. In surveys, “Native American” is occasionally interpreted as meaning “I was born in America”). Or, 70 - 72% of color and 26 to 28% white.
  • In 2011-2012, DCPS and DC charter school teachers were 52% black, 36% white, 7% Hispanic, and 5% other, Or, 64% of color and 36% white
Or, for the bar graph version:



So, while there has been an increase in non-black teachers of color, which is a positive trend, since 1989, there has been a decrease in the number of black teachers in DC public and charter schools from 93% to 65% to 52% and an overall decrease in the number of teachers of color in DC from 95% to 72% to 64%. That is an overall decrease of 41 percentage points for black teachers and 31 percentage points for teachers of color overall. There has also been an increase in white teachers, from 1/20th or 5% of the teacher corps in 1988-1989 to a little over 1/4th or 26% in 2007-2008 to well over a third or 36% in 2011-2012. In short, there's been an overall increase in the number of white teachers in DC from 5% to 26% to 36%.

Meanwhile the student body has changed but not proportionally so, or rather, the demographics of the teacher population have not changed in proportion with the student demographic changes. In DC in 2007-2008 there was a 21 percentage point difference between the percentages of nonwhite teachers and nonwhite students. In 2011 - 2012 that difference grew to 28 (source: CAP Teacher Diversity Reports, Table 1). Here are more data points regarding DC public and charter school student enrollment:
  • In Fall 1989, the enrollment of DCPS was 90.7% black, 4.6% Hispanic, 3.7% white, and 1% Asian. Or, 96.3% of color and 3.7% white (source: DCPS Annual Membership Report, Fall 1989). 
  • In 2007-2008, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 83% black, 10% Hispanic, 5% white, and 1% Asian/Pacific Islander. Or, 94% students of color and 5% white (source: Appendix A, page 16 of CAP 2011 Teacher Diversity Report).
  • In 2011-2012, the enrollment of DC public and charter schools was 78% black, 13% Hispanic, 7% white, 1% Asian, and 1% two or more races. Or, 93% of color and 7% white (source: Table 3 of CAP 2014 Teacher Diversity Report).

Hence, the decline in teachers of color does not correspond with the decline in students of color and the increase in white teachers is significantly out of step with the increase in white students.

Lest you think I believe Virginia somehow exists outside of a glass house, I will be checking into their data next. Stay tuned. . .

Monday, August 18, 2014

To fix racism is to fix poverty is to fix education

I am cooking up a follow-up post to my recent post about teacher diversity but given recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I feel I needed to finish and publish another post I have been planning for a while.

As I explained in that post about teacher diversity, growing up going to the schools that I did in DC, with the classmates and teachers I had, was a positive experience that meant I grew up surrounded by people of color as well as by regular conversations about race and racism. This has granted me a unique white person's point of view, one that is perhaps a much more open and tolerant one. However, it has also meant that not only did I sometimes have blinders on as to my own work to do on racism, I had blinders on as to the extent of racism in our country. For example, I went through a it's-no-longer-about-race-it's-about-poverty/ it's-the-classicism-stupid phase, but I've since been convinced otherwise. Classicism certainly exists, but racism is also still alive and well. So the blinders are now off, but only in so much as they can be off given that one is always blinded to a certain extent by their own perspective/privilege, experiences, and surrounding culture.

The post I was planning was in honor (or maybe in response to?) the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, but not in the conventional sense. I am not big on anniversaries, for one. Second, for as monumental as Brown v. Board was, it has not accomplished  (see, for example, this 2005 report on segregation in DCPS) what many seem to says it did or hoped it would. And I think that's at least partly because so many other policy areas, such as housing (think of restrictive housing covenants) did not or have not adequately, if it all, addressed racism in their manifestations.

My life's work is teaching, writing, and education. I know a great deal of change can be affected within classrooms, schools, and school systems but the current reformers' saying "fix education and you've solved poverty" is dangerously and hopelessly myopic, especially when many reformers and their funders are actually hostile to the idea (like the Waltons) of solving inequality or don't agree ( like Bill Gates) that income inequality is a problem.

But also those who want to work on solving poverty first can be myopic; they don't always look at what causes poverty. So much poverty among people of color is caused by institutionalized racism. People who say we must fix poverty in order to also fix education must also acknowledge that we must also fix institutional racism in order to fix poverty. As I said recently on twitter:
And by the way, by pattern, I don't mean conspiracy; I mean a pattern.

So, in honor of Brown v. Board's 60th anniversary and in light of what's happened in Ferguson and in so many other places, I am asking that all education organizations, groups, and high-profile individuals, of all stripes, endorse the following agenda:
  • Reparations for those descended from slaves. African-Americans are responsible for generating huge amounts of wealth for our country and for individuals in it and the vast majority have yet to truly share in that prosperity. I don't know if reparations would be awarded to individuals or to communities, but if compensation to 9/11 victims and their families could be worked out, then so can reparations to African-Americans.
  • Compensation should also be paid to African-American victims of racist housing policies, racist education policies, and racist public safety and criminal justice policies. 
  • Major reforms to current public safety policies, many of which disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. Included in this is de-militarization of police forces, an end to stop and frisk policies, better pay and funding for police departments so that there is no more reliance on corrupt civil forfeiture practices, better training for police officers that emphasizes preventative, non-discriminatory neighborhood/community based policing.
  • Major reforms to our criminal justice system, which also disproportionately and negatively impacts people of color. (Even if you don't agree with me on the humanitarian reasons, look at it from a financial standpoint. It is unreasonably expensive to imprison people both is terms of real costs and in terms of long-term costs, including those to society.):
    • The dismantling of the War on Drugs. Decriminalization of most illegal drugs (notice I did not say "legalization"; I said "decriminalization"--those are two different things). 
    • Immediate clemency for all those imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses. A shifting to mental health care rather than imprisonment for offenders.
    • Better funded and staffed public defenders' services.
    • An end to imprisonment for non-payment of fines, and an end to imprisonment for minor, non-violent offenses. (I am not advocating for no consequences, mind you, just for ones other than imprisonment.)
    • No more privatized prisons and the return to the public sector of all privatized prisons.
    • An end to capital punishment.
  • Healthcare policy reform including Medicaid expansion for now and a single-payer system eventually.

    I hope that fellow education activists, educators, and education policy people understand that such policy reforms will only help our students and improve our schools and school systems and that they will endorse these recommendations. These flawed policies are impediments to the progress of people of color and people living in poverty, as well as to the progress of our society.

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    The Common Condescension

    Politico had a particularly agitating article about the Common Core out yesterday entitled, "Moms winning the Common Core war."

    First  of all "war"? I am about to declare war on writers of ridiculous headlines. . .

    Anyway, to get to the content of the article. Basically, Common Core advocates have decided that they need a new PR strategy:
    Supporters of the Common Core academic standards have spent big this past year to persuade wavering state legislators to stick with the new guidelines for math and language arts instruction. Given the firestorm of opposition that took them by surprise, they consider it a victory that just five states, so far, have taken steps to back out. 
    But in a series of strategy sessions in recent months, top promoters of the standards have concluded they’re losing the broader public debate — and need to devise better PR.
    Granted there is plenty of misinformation surrounding the Common Core debate, and there are plenty of people who are misinformed, some willfully so, Glen, ahem, Beck, or who just hate Obama and the United Nations. But otherwise, this approach is maddening. It's the same reformy solution to disagreement and dissent that we've witnessed for nearly a decade, i.e., there's nothing wrong with the substance of our reforms, it's just the style with which they're presented. Or, to use business parlance, there's nothing wrong with our product, we just need to sell/market it better. 

    The contempt is just dripping:
    “The Common Core message so far has been a head message. We’ve done a good job talking about facts and figures. But we need to move 18 inches south and start talking about a heart message,” said Wes Farno, executive director of the Higher State Standards Partnership, a coalition supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
    And,
    We’re so good at all our statistics and data and rational arguments … [but] emotion is what gets people feeling passionate,” Oldham said. “It may not be the most comfortable place for the business community … [but] we need to get better at doing it.”

    People who criticize the Common Core are just emotional. We have to speak emotional back to them. Here we've been giving them the facts and well, I'll be! That doesn't work. Those emotional people, the are too simple-minded to handle the truth and the facts, gosh darnit! Let's get tugging on their heart-strings with some videos.

    And then there's this:
    “The bottom line here is that parents need more information, and maybe we haven’t been good enough at telling them the story,” said Karen Nussle, a veteran PR strategist who runs the Collaborative for Student Success.
    Right, parents and Common Core skeptics just need more in-for-ma-tion. They don't have enough! That's why they don't like the Common Core--because they don't know anything! Gee, I wonder how that could be when the Common Core has only been reported and/or promoted on every major news outlet and education blog there is.

    Finally, there's Common Core Noonegivesashithowyoufeel architect David Coleman:
    Common Core supporters acknowledge they also erred in publicly belittling opponents as silly, ignorant or outright kooky. “We make a great mistake by caricaturing the opponents of the standards as crazies or people who don’t tell the truth,” David Coleman, an architect of the standards, told Bloomberg EDU recently.
    Yes, again the thinking is, we made a mistake in how we "belittled" and "caricatured" opponents rather than we made a mistake in not listening to our critics and acting on some of their criticisms. At some point, you actually have to listen to people and act upon on their (legitimate) criticisms and feedback, not send a kinder, gentler salesperson to their door armed with some ridiculous video about some student who learned a new word.

    Just as I have always agreed that many of our nation's public school systems need reform, I agree that they need a common basic, broad set of knowledge, concepts, and skills. The reformers and Common Core advocates started out with decent popular support and had a tremendous opportunity and unheard of sums of money to work on this. Too bad they've squandered both.

    Monday, July 28, 2014

    I'm so DC that. . .

    Glenn Sullivan, a recent graduate from Lake Area New Tech Early College High School. in New Orleans published an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, "My school district hires too many white teachers":
    In my school, as in many schools — especially in reform-oriented school districts — a lot of the good, black teachers have been replaced by younger white teachers. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nearly 75 percent of the city’s public school teachers were black. That began to change after Katrina, when charter schools began to grow in number. The percentage of minority teachers across New Orleans public schools dropped from 60 percent to 54 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to data compiled by Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. This troubles me. Particularly upsetting to me was the departure of the music teacher, a veteran black educator who helped run the New Tech school choir and put together trips for students.

    This sparked some conversations in the grassroots ed reform community about teacher diversity. In one instance, Rutgers student, aspiring teacher, and education activist Stephanie Rivera blogged about reactions to the New Orleans student's commentary on the Bad Ass Teachers' facebook page, which in many cases was dismissive of Mr.Sullivan's point of view. From Stephanie's post:
    What I find frustrating about most of these comments is their complete dismissal of the greater issues reflected by this post. The comments that argue that “there aren’t enough teachers of color” are ignoring the boundaries that keep many people of color pursuing this career. Many had oppressive\racist\non-cultural relevant education experiences, so many are reluctant to enter an environment they grew up hating. Many ignore that college-access, especially for people of color, is limited. Thus, completely leaving out the opportunity to even pursue a teaching certificate. As long as students of color are given more barriers than their white counterparts to go into teaching, the longer teachers of color will be the minority.

    Another irritating argument includes that “it doesn’t matter what color a teacher is, as long as the teacher is good, that’s all that matters.” That is completely missing the point of the importance and benefits of students of color having teachers who look like them (see: Study: Minority students do better under minority teachers, Why students need more Black and Latino teachers). Yes, all teachers regardless of race can be trained to be effective teachers of black students, but black teachers can “be more adept at motivating and engaging students of color.” Additionally, by having students of color see people who look like them in successful positions, it can help prove to them that they can hold such positions too. Also, comments such as “color doesn’t matter,” is possibly one of the most racist statements one could make. By saying, “I don’t see color,” or “color doesn’t matter,” is basically saying “I don’t see your experiences, your stories, your struggles. Those elements of your identity and life don’t matter to me.” Colorblindness is not justice, equality, or being a good teacher. Colorblindness is ignoring the very issues that your students need you to fight against.
    Indeed. According to the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color,
    • Nearly half of the nation’s students (44 percent) are students of color, but the latest data show that just one of every six teachers (16.7 percent) is a teacher of color."
    • Research also shows, overwhelmingly, that students of color perform better – academically, personally, and socially-when taught by teachers from their own ethnic groups." 
    • Current trends indicate that, by 2020, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of 5 percent of the total teacher force, while the percentage of students of color in the system will likely exceed 50 percent.
    And, according to this Washington Post analysis, the student-teacher diversity gap is widening:
    Students of color make up almost half of the public school population, but teachers of color make up just 18 percent of that population nationwide. And the disparity is even larger in 36 states. It’s largest in California where 73 percent of students are nonwhite while just 29 percent of teachers are nonwhite.
    Teacher demographics can have an impact on students, CAP argues. Studies have shown that minority students fare better when taught by minority teachers and nonwhite educators may also find it easier to relate to students with whom they share a background.

    First of all, I wish that white teachers would not take assertions such as "we need more teacher of color" so personally or as an attack on them. I am a white teacher who has mostly taught students of color. While I am certain that I can always do better as a teacher and in particular with students of color, such statements and conclusions are not directed personally at me or usually at other white teachers; they are addressed to public education as an institution. Second of all, the research shows that there are objectively disproportionately fewer teachers of color and that students of color do objectively do better with when taught by people who share their culture and background. Instead of focusing our energies on defending ourselves, we white teachers should a) see how we could help attract and retain more teachers of color to the profession and b) reflect on and act upon improving our own practice in order to counter racism and to be more culturally appropriate for all students

    And this is one instance, as public education and edu-color activist Sabrina Joy Stevens has pointed out, where people of color run into the arms of reformers--when they experience racism or culturally irrelevant education in the public education system and when statements about those experiences aren't acknowledged or acted upon. I would expand on that to say that such educators are no better on matters of race than reformers like Michelle Rhee are. Reformers like Rhee may differ with most teachers on what shows and how to show what a great teacher is or what makes great teaching, but she sounds the same as defensive white teachers when she says, I don't care who you are or what your background is, all that matters is that the teacher is a great one.

    And it is not just students of color who should have more teachers of color. White students need more teachers of color, too. I'm going to go in a more personal direction now and I hope you'll stick with me. As I may have mentioned before, I grew up in DC in the 1970s and 1980s. I went to DC Public Schools for my entire PK-12 career. I was in the minority in all four DC public schools I went to and the majority of my teachers, principals, and counselors were black. I can't quantify the influence this has had me, and frankly, for a long time, it was just an experience I took for granted, as the natural state of things because I didn't know any different. But as the realizations of this influence have come to me in different pieces and in various stages and varying levels of intensity, I can qualify it.

    My mother only recently told me the following story: My older sister and were young enough to be in elementary school and we were having a conversation with our parents about racial demographics in this US. It came up that the US was majority white and my sister and I asserted that it was majority black. My mother felt pleased that our experiences in DCPS had led us to such a conclusion, but as a civil rights lawyer, she also wanted to make sure we understood the reality, that the rest of the country was not, in fact, majority black even if our city and our schools were, so she made sure to correct our understanding.

    When I got to college (and I went to "Diversity University") we had these frosh year workshops (there are no freshman at Wesleyan) where we explored topics of diversity, racism, sexism, gender, and homophobia. During one discussion in the spirit of openness the workshops encouraged, one white male student from rural New England said he had never been around or gone to school with so many students of color. That really surprised me, especially because Wesleyan didn't really seem to me to have so many students of color. I looked around and thought that, well, I have never gone to school with so many white people. I don't think I said anything at the time, but it was then that it started to dawn on me how unique my experience might have been. Toto, we ain't in DC anymore. For the most part I received a great education and I dearly love the friends I made there, but I experienced a certain amount of culture shock at Wesleyan and wonder sometimes if I would have been happier at a big state school.

    This came up a few other times at Wesleyan--many of my classmates took a look at my blond hair and blue eyes and soccer cleats and assumed I was fresh out of a Massachusetts boarding school. This took me aback because my parents would never ever have sent me to a DC private school, let alone to a boarding school in New England, though in retrospect that's kind of what Wesleyan is, only for older teenagers and in Connecticut. I remember finally breaking out my high school yearbook to show one dubious hallmate from New York City that my school was not anything like a Massachusetts boarding school.

    Again, I can't say anything concrete to speak to how my PK-12 schooling experience was good for me but I know I wouldn't trade it. And, I don't claim that the DCPS schools I went to existed in some racism-free bubble, that I am personally immune from contributing to racism or that I have no work to do. Just as being in a majority black setting in school influenced me, so must have the racist culture outside of school (see Shankar Vedantam on how the culture we grow up in influences our point of view).  I think given the racial composition of my neighborhood (mostly white) and given what I could pick up from the culture that surrounded me outside of school once I got older than I was during the afore-mentioned US demographics conversation, I well realized the role of racism in our country. But imagine what it was for a middle class white girl with educated parents to be the minority in her school and to go to schools where African-Americans were in most of the positions of authority. As I said, I have long taken this experience for granted, but now imagine how different (for the worse) I would be and how differently I would think and see the world without it.

    DC, like New Orleans, has lost many black teachers (a post on this is in the works). The principal, counselor, and teacher corps in DCPS is markedly more white than it used to be even when factoring in that the white population of DC has increased.

    And, while they are not in the minority, my own children are now in schools that are fairly diverse socioeconomically and racially (though not that diverse beyond back and white), I noticed right away when we moved here that the vast majority of their teachers and principals and people in leadership roles are white. This isn't to say that the teachers and administrators they have aren't good at what they do--they are fabulous, but it troubles me that there isn't more diversity. My husband and I can have frank conversations with our children about US history and racism and about racial dynamics in our own communities, but those conversations ultimately can't replace experiences.

    I'm so DC that I know that the lack of teachers of color in my childrens' schools is a problem, but I am also so DC that this lack still surprises me and I get overwhelmed by where to start to try and change it, in what can sometimes feel like a foreign country.

    But I have to start somewhere, right?

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

    Schooled by Schooled (& Silicon Valley)

    I finally read The New Yorker article ("Schooled") about education reform in Newark, New Jersey. I think it was a fair piece but before I continue, a disclaimer: I assume that anything I say here could be legitimately challenged or discounted given what people who are on the ground know (there is a, hint, hint, comments section at the bottom).

    So, first, it's important (for me, at least) to understand the mindset of someone like Cory Booker (former mayor of Newark and current NJ senator) and in doing that, I will be linking to one other New Yorker article that has expanded my understanding of Booker et al's approach.

    "Schooled" paints a fairly (in both senses of the word) damning picture of Cory Booker, one of someone of great ambition and desire for fame but who has forgotten to match that with engagement with public.

    Now, Booker never switched "sides" on education reform, nor is he a Johnny-come-lately on the topic. His view has always been that public education as an institution has poorly served disadvantaged and marginalized people. He has also always been in favor of market-based solutions: vouchers, charters, privatization, etc, to remedy this. From "Schooled":
    The school-reform movement, then dominated by conservative white Republicans, saw Booker as a valuable asset. In 2000, he was invited to speak at the Manhattan Institute, in New York. He was an electrifying speaker, depicting impoverished Newark residents as captives of nepotistic politicians, their children trapped in a “repugnant” school system. "I define public education not as a publicly guaranteed space and a publicly run, publicly funded building where our children are sent based on their Zip Code,” he said. “Public education is the use of public dollars to educate our children at the schools that are best equipped to do so—public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, Baptist schools, Jewish schools.”

    Furthermore, Booker was in a big hurry. Big mistake.  It's not realistic to accomplish what he wanted to accomplish in just  three years and such haste makes, well, waste. (See my post about the ill-conceived pace of modern ed reform).
    Booker, now a U.S. senator, said in a recent interview that he understood families’ fear and anger: “My mom—she would’ve been fit to be tied with some of what happened.” But he characterized the rancor as “a sort of nadir,” and predicted that in two or three years Newark could be a national model of urban education. “That’s pretty monumental in terms of the accomplishment that will be.”
    And,
    Booker acknowledged the missteps, but said that he had to move quickly. He and Christie could be out of office within three years. If a Democrat defeated Christie in 2013, he or she would have the backing of the teachers’ unions and might return the district to local control. “We want to do as much as possible right away,” Booker said. “Entrenched forces are very invested in resisting choices we’re making around a one-billion-dollar budget.” Participants in the meeting, who had worked for decades in Newark, were doubtful that reforms imposed over three years would be sustainable. 

    Second mistake: Booker's plan was designed not of the people, by the people, for the people but of the philanthrocapitalists, by the consultants, and kind of, maybe for the people.
    Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped “Confidential Draft,” titled “Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan.” It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,” the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to “make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.” The plan called for an “infusion of philanthropic support” to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors. 
    In the previous decade, the foundations of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the California real-estate and insurance magnate Eli Broad, the Walton family (of the Walmart fortune), and other billionaires from Wall Street to Silicon Valley had come to dominate charitable funding to education. Dubbed “venture philanthropists,” they called themselves investors rather than donors and sought returns in the form of sweeping changes to public schooling. In addition to financing the expansion of charter schools, they helped finance Teach for America and the development of the Common Core State Standards to increase the rigor of instruction.

    So, now we see that Booker was rather modeling the reforms using a Silicon Valley model. He was highly influenced by Silicon Valley ideology and ethics and not just by Zukerberg (who if you read the article I am about to cite actually ventured outside of the Silicon valley bubble). To get a real sense of the Silicon Valley approach, read this other New Yorker article by George Packer "Change the World"--it really explains that ideology and ethics and how they are fueled by a sense of righteousness via technology, as in creating apps = act of social justice. Here Packer compares Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to financiers. When I read this article, I remember thinking, Oh, this is where so many Booker-type reformers get their language of education reform and social justice via entrepreneurialism, of "innovation," and of "revolution." This is why they sound like Apple ads.
    When financiers say that they’re doing God’s work by providing cheap credit, and oilmen claim to be patriots who are making the country energy-independent, no one takes them too seriously—it’s a given that their motivation is profit. But when technology entrepreneurs describe their lofty goals there’s no smirk or wink. “Many see their social responsibility fulfilled by their businesses, not by social or political action,” one young entrepreneur said of his colleagues. “It’s remarkably convenient that they can achieve all their goals just by doing their start-up.” He added, “They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems. It isn’t cynicism—it’s arrogance and ignorance.”
    Also, within that there is a disdain for politics, government, and inherently in that for democratic processes:
    The technology industry, by sequestering itself from the community it inhabits, has transformed the Bay Area without being changed by it—in a sense, without getting its hands dirty. Throughout most of Silicon Valley’s history, its executives have displayed a libertarian instinct to stay as far from politics and government as possible. Reid Hoffman described the attitude this way: “Look what I can do as an individual myself—everyone else should be able to do that, too. I can make a multibillion-dollar company with a little bit of investment. Why can’t the whole world do that?” But the imperative to change the world has recently led some Silicon Valley leaders to imagine that the values and concepts behind their success can be uploaded to the public sphere.
    From Zuckerberg's former roommate Joe Green:
    “People in tech, when they talk about why they started their company, they tend to talk about changing the world,” Green said. “I think it’s actually genuine. On the other hand, people are just completely disconnected from politics. Partly because the operating principles of politics and the operating principles of tech are completely different.” Whereas politics is transactional and opaque, based on hierarchies and handshakes, Green argued, technology is empirical and often transparent, driven by data.
    And, Marc Andreessen, a partner in the venture-capital firms, Andreessen Horowitz:
     Andreessen described to me the stages of the industry’s attitude toward political engagement. The first, prevailing in the seventies and eighties, was “Just leave us alone. Let us do our thing.” T. J. Rodgers, the founder of Cypress Semiconductor, said that anyone who got involved in politics was making a big mistake, warning, “If you talk to these people, they’ll just get in your ass.” The Valley’s libertarianism—which ignores the federal government’s crucial role in providing research money—is less doctrinal than instinctive. Andreessen said, “It’s very possible for somebody to show up here—a twenty-four-year-old engineer who’s completely state of the art in building companies and products—and have had absolutely no exposure at all to politics, social issues, history. When the government shows up, it’s bad news. They go, ‘Oh, my God, government is evil, I didn’t understand how bad it was. We must fight it.’ ”
    You should read the whole thing, I can't do justice to it here (or quote the whole thing despite my efforts) except to say that it will you teach you a lot about where some strains of education reform are coming from, about the way many of these reformers think. They are applying Silicon Valley thinking and solutionism to problems of public democratic institutions. In some cases they are deeply influenced by it but in others they are just paying lip service, just parroting; they don't actually understand what they're saying, nor if you consider the implications of standardization, do they really practice what they preach. I agree with Packer here:
    Technology can be an answer to incompetence and inefficiency. But it has little to say about larger issues of justice and fairness, unless you think that political problems are bugs that can be fixed by engineering rather than fundamental conflicts of interest and value. Evgeny Morozov, in his new book “To Save Everything, Click Here,” calls this belief “solutionism.” Morozov, who is twenty-nine and grew up in a mining town in Belarus, is the fiercest critic of technological optimism in America, tirelessly dismantling the language of its followers. “They want to be ‘open,’ they want to be ‘disruptive,’ they want to ‘innovate,’ ” Morozov told me. “The open agenda is, in many ways, the opposite of equality and justice. They think anything that helps you to bypass institutions is, by default, empowering or liberating. You might not be able to pay for health care or your insurance, but if you have an app on your phone that alerts you to the fact that you need to exercise more, or you aren’t eating healthily enough, they think they are solving the problem.”

    Back to "Schooled," while Booker looks self-serving and out of touch, Cami Anderson is portrayed as being far from the devil incarnate she is painted by some of her critics. Certainly, most of her career she has surrounded herself with the top-down, market-based reformers. Plus, her take-no-constructive-criticism management style is a deal breaker, serving as a legitimate impediment to progress, especially if you look at actions of her recent tenure such as the One Newark plan and the dismissal of employees who publicly criticized her policies. But otherwise there are a number of passages that belie the existence of some balance, for example,
    Christie appointed Anderson in May, 2011. It quickly emerged that she differed with her bosses about the role of charter schools in urban districts. She pointed out that, with rare exceptions, charters served a smaller proportion than the district schools of children who lived in extreme poverty, had learning disabilities, or struggled to speak English. Moreover, charter lotteries disproportionately attracted the “choosers”—parents with the time to navigate the process. Charters in Newark were expected to enroll forty per cent of the city’s children by 2016. That would leave the neediest sixty per cent in district schools. Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg expected Anderson to revive the district, yet as children and revenue were siphoned off she would have to close schools and dismiss teachers. Because of the state’s seniority rules, the most junior teachers would go first. Anderson called this “the lifeboat theory of education reform,” arguing that it could leave a majority of children to sink as if on the Titanic. “Your theories of change are on a collision course,” she told Cerf and Booker. As Anderson put it to me, “I told the Governor . . . I did not come here to phase the district out.”
    Anderson acknowledged the successes of the top charter schools, but Newark faced the conundrum common to almost every urban school system: how to expand charters without destabilizing traditional public schools.
    And it sounds as if Anderson started out okay:
    One of her prime initiatives in her first two years was to close and consolidate the twelve lowest-performing kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools into eight “renew schools.” Each was assigned a principal who, borrowing from the charter model, would choose his or her own teaching staff. The schools also got math and literacy coaches and smart boards, along with the new curricula. Teachers worked an extended day and two extra weeks in the summer. Anderson intended to create “proof points” that would show how to turn around failing district schools. 
    The eight consolidated schools opened in the fall of 2012, and most won strong support from parents. At the hundred-year-old Peshine Avenue School, in the South Ward, Chaleeta Barnes, the new principal, and Tameshone Lewis, the vice-principal, both had deep Newark roots, and parents, teachers, and children responded well to their insistence on higher standards. They replaced more than half the previous year’s teachers, and the new staff co√∂rdinated efforts to improve instruction and address individual students’ academic and discipline issues. 
    Teachers worked closely with children who couldn’t keep up, and many of them saw improvement, but the effects of children’s traumas outside school posed bigger problems. The father of a student in Shakel Nelson’s fifth-grade math class had been murdered early in the school year. When Nelson sat beside his desk and encouraged him, he sometimes solved problems, but as she moved on he put his head down and dropped his pencil. A girl who was excelling early in the year stopped trying when her estranged, emotionally disturbed parents resumed contact and began fighting. 
    The quality of teaching and the morale in most of the renew schools improved, but only Peshine made modest gains in both math and literacy on state tests. Six others declined in one subject or both, and the seventh remained unchanged in one and increased in one. This wasn’t surprising. It takes more than a year for reforms to take hold and show up in test scores. Across the district, in Anderson’s first two years, the percentage of students passing the state’s standardized tests declined in all but two of the tested grades. She questioned the validity of the tests, saying that they had become harder and the students needier, although she used them to determine which schools were failing and required overhaul. After her first year, she announced a ten-per-cent gain in the high-school graduation rate, but A.C.T. scores indicated that only two per cent of juniors were prepared for college. 
    Anderson recognized that the schools needed more social and emotional support, but pointed out that Newark already spent more money per student than almost every other district in the country. She urged principals to shift their existing budgets accordingly. “There’s no pot of gold,” she said.
    Also, she knew the trade-offs. One of my (and others) biggest critiques of the reformers is that they say they only are "for the kids" but they don't seem to connect in any meaningful way the kids' success to the success via decent working conditions and living wages of their parents. I've written about this before. It's hard to believe they are "for the kids" when their education reform industry feeds off of profits squeezed out of the kids' parents. Wal-Mart under-pays Mr. Smith (not to mention factory workers who work on the supply side). Walmart makes huge profits. Huge profits go into foundation and pay Jane TFA Edu-crat's salary. Anderson, however, seemed to understand the value to the public of a vigorous public sector:
    Improbably, a district with a billion dollars in revenue and two hundred million dollars in philanthropy was going broke. Anderson announced a fifty-seven-million-dollar budget gap in March, 2013, attributing it mostly to the charter exodus. She cut more than eighteen million dollars from school budgets and laid off more than two hundred attendance counsellors, clerical workers, and janitors, most of them Newark residents with few comparable job prospects. “We’re raising the poverty level in Newark in the name of school reform,” she lamented to a group of funders. “It’s a hard thing to wrestle with.”
    It's incredible how much both Booker and Anderson have spent on consultants. This is also the case in other reformy systems such as DCPS. In fact, NCLB is sometimes referred to as No Consultant Left Behind.
    During the next two years, more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, teacher evaluation. Many of the consultants had worked for Joel Klein, Teach for America, and other programs in the tight-knit reform movement, and a number of them had contracts with several school systems financed by Race to the Top grants and venture philanthropy. The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day. Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, observed, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”
    Once Anderson was appointed, this reckless spending on consultants continued:
    Anderson turned her immediate attention to the district’s schools. She gave principals more flexibility and introduced new curricula aligned to the Common Core standards. Using $1.8 million from the Foundation for Newark’s Future, she hired the nonprofit consulting group TNTP, in part to develop more rigorous evaluation systems. In her first year, the foundation gave her a four-million-dollar grant to hire consultants at her own discretion.
    And:
    Anderson spent much of the fall working with data analysts from the Parthenon Group, an international consulting firm that received roughly three million dollars over two years from Newark philanthropy.

    Also, what occurred in Newark seems to confirm that the reform plan involves orchestrating "failure" of the public schools. Particularly disturbing is the account of two Newark principals (charter and division) working together to decrease criminal activity on school grounds wherein the district principal had to ask the charter principal to place the call to police because he knew they would respond to her versus him. This is unconscionable:
    Jackson had never got the police to respond adequately to his pleas for improved security. Gangs periodically held nighttime rites on school grounds, and Jackson reported them without result. One night, a month after spark settled into Carver, a security camera captured images of nine young men apparently mauling another.When Jackson and Belcher arrived the next morning, they found bloody handprints on the wall and blood on the walkway. His and Belcher’s calls to police and e-mails to the superintendent’s staff went unanswered. At Jackson’s request, Belcher e-mailed the Mayor, attaching three pictures of the bloody trail on “the steps our K-2 scholars use to enter the building.” Twenty minutes later, Booker responded: “Joanna, your email greatly concerned me. I have copied this email to the police director who will contact you as soon as possible. Cory.” The police director, Sam DeMaio, called, and the precinct captain and the anti-gang unit visited the school. Police presence was stepped up, and the gang moved on.

    Shavar Jeffries, one of the recent Newark mayoral candidates, the one who lost, sums up the situation well:
    Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, “education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who’ve been here for decades. It’s very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in co√∂peration with people.” Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: “This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate.” As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, “This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people.”

    People like Cami Anderson, even if full of hubris, may start out with a balanced perspective and with a plan to improve public institutions from within and in partnership with the public. But while, indeed, leadership style was a problem in Newark, I mostly see it as a problem of plutocracy and of the continued disenfranchisement of disadvantages and marginalized communities in the name of education reform.

    There is no incentive or obligation to be accountable to the people on the receiving end of current education policies. People like Cami Anderson don't seem to feel that they are answerable to the public. Rather, they are accountable to politicians and to "investors." On top of that, there's the influence of government-is-the-problem libertarians and enablers from Silicon Valley, replete with intolerance of democratic processes.

    This is much like the problems I see with the Common Core in that even if the standards are good, they will falter if filtered through our rigid, skill-based testing accountability structure. People like Cami Anderson, dictatorial style aside, who might be knowledgeable and passionate about education and about educating children who have been ill-served by public institutions, will also falter when their leadership is filtered through the plutocratic blob that seems to have railroaded our democracy.