Friday, February 29, 2008

Another Perspective on KIPP:

UPDATE: See alternative view of KIPP from a teacher in comment #1.

This email is from St. Louis.

Another Perspective on KIPP:

An Interview with Educator and Activist Peter Campbell

Over the past week, I have had several public school teachers in my classes ask me questions about KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program). I, like them, am faced with the media barrage celebrating the arrival of KIPP to St. Louis. On 2/3/08, The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a story called "Corporate Leaders Welcome KIPP" written by David Hunn. The story, like much of the information that has been circulated, was one-sided in its praise of KIPP. Wanting to find answers to their questions that dig a little deeper than the flashy cover page stories, I brought their questions to Peter Campbell, educator and activist who has conducted extensive research on KIPP.

Rebecca Rogers: What is the background/history of KIPP?

Peter Campbell: Here's the official story:

"KIPP began in 1994 when two teachers, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, launched a fifth grade public school program in inner-city Houston, TX, after completing their commitment to Teach For America. In 1995, Feinberg remained in Houston to lead KIPP Academy Middle School, and Levin returned home to New York City to establish KIPP Academy in the South Bronx."

"In 2000, Doris and Donald Fisher, co-founders of Gap, Inc., formed a unique partnership with Feinberg and Levin to replicate the success of the two original KIPP Academies across the country through the non-profit KIPP Foundation. The KIPP Foundation focuses its efforts on recruiting, training, and supporting outstanding teachers to open new, locally-run KIPP schools in high-need communities."

"There are currently 57 KIPP public schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia enrolling more than 14,000 students. Across the KIPP network, 55 of the existing 57 schools are charter schools. The majority of KIPP schools, 48 of 57, are middle schools designed to serve fifth through eighth grade students. The remaining nine are five high schools, three pre-kindergarten/elementary schools, and one pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school."

"Over 90 percent of KIPP students are African American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 80 percent of KIPP students are eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program. Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background."

source -

My take on the KIPP origin story:

The story of the two bright, highly-educated, white male crusaders who went out of their ways to save poor minority children from the ravages of the failed system of public education too closely resembles tales of white missionaries, explorers, and anthropologists not to be noticeable. In darkest Africa at the turn of the twentieth century, white men descended into the jungles to convert, trade with, and study the savages they encountered. Implicit within all their encounters was the unquestioned axiom that defined these exchanges: the white people were civilized, the black people were uncivilized; the white people were advanced, the black people were behind. To this day, "Third World Debtor Nations" are looked down upon as drains upon the world economy, as incompetent at managing their own affairs, and in need of a good lesson or two.

The KIPP origin story is told with a great deal of pride, that the two young crusaders (both from Ivy League schools) displayed enormous courage and commitment to turn things around to produce "schools that work." I'm reminded of Kenneth Saltman's point from his book _The Edison Schools_:

"The two questions most asked about Edison by liberals and conservatives are whether it works to raise test scores and whether it works financially to decrease costs. Asking whether or not something "works" brackets out of consideration the broader goals, purposes, and underlying assumptions about what something works to do. The focus on test performance and finances has thoroughly eclipsed discussion of whether Edison facilitates democratic education and a democratic society. If one assumes that the democratic potential of public schools should be at the forefront of debate, then the question of whether or not Edison "works" may be the wrong way to approach the company and public schooling more generally." (p. 68)

So what do KIPP schools work at doing? What do they accomplish? What do they produce? Or, more precisely, who do they produce and by what means? And at what cost?

Foucault's chapter on discipline in Discipline and Punish keeps coming to mind, "the body as object and target of power" and the notion of "docile bodies" that are "subjected, used, transformed, and improved."

These docile bodies in KIPP schools are uniformly brown and black. No white body is subjected to this same kind of disciplined transformation. Indeed, the school motto is "Be nice, work hard." What white, suburban, middle-class parents would want this to be the goal of their child's education? It may be worthwhile to some to "tame the savages" and turn them into productive members of white-dominated society. But I worry about the costs of such "improvements."

Rebecca: Where does the money come from for KIPP?


KIPP Foundation -

National partners -

includes the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation

Rebecca: Many sources are reporting that KIPP schools individualize instruction to make sure that every child succeeds. How do they do this?

Peter: I've heard anecdotally that KIPP does this. But since a KIPP student spends about 70% more time in class than his/her regular school counterpart, it would only make sense that they would get more attention. I have not come across any hard evidence that shows that KIPP schools individualize instruction. But I could be wrong on this.

In addition, many of the opportunities for inclusion in extra-curricular activities is based not on student interest but on student behavior. "(KIPP co-founders) Feinberg and Levin say they want discipline, attention and steady, measurable progress that supplants the distractions of their students' homes and neighborhoods. Their secret is what they call 'the joy factor': excursions in Central Park, games, songs, trips to Disney World or Los Angeles, and music. The 180-piece orchestra at KIPP New York gives bewildered and frustrated preteens an incentive to go to school each morning. They must earn the right to play by being nice and working hard. . . At the end of each week, students receive up to $40 in virtual cash that can be redeemed for snacks and other favors at the student store, and also count toward day excursions like the trip to Central Park or what KIPP calls year-end 'field lessons' to Washington, D.C., California, New England, Utah, Florida or Tennessee. " (source - Washington Post, August 24, 2004)

Yes, KIPP might offer a trip to Central Park as a reward for good behavior, but middle-class white parents such as me cringe at the idea that our children would be taken on field trips only as a reward for good behavior. Middle-class whites assume that it is the duty of schools to provide our children with a high-quality education and that every child, regardless of whether he or she is deemed "good" or "bad," has a right to such an education. Student behavior might influence the kinds of options that white middle-class children are exposed to, but good or bad behavior is not the sole determinant of these options.

Why, then, should poor black and Hispanic parents not have the same assumptions? Why should poor black and Hispanic students not have the same rights and the same options? Ultimately, it appears that approved behavior is the key to success at KIPP. I can think of no middle-class white school that makes this kind of bargain with its students except for military academies.

Rebecca: How is KIPP different from/similar to other charters schools that exist in St. Louis?

Peter: KIPP makes heavy use of public shaming as a discipline tactic.

"Students must walk in quiet, single-file lines at all times. There is a contract for each student – a document signed by parent, principal and child attesting to their commitment to education. All KIPP kids learn chants and hand signals that teachers use for everything from teaching multiplication tables to getting them to recite their college hallways are decorated with posters bearing KIPP slogans such as 'There are No Shortcuts'....KIPPsters everywhere earn or lose weekly ‘paychecks' that can be spent in the student store. Miscreants are placed on the bench, must wear signs around their neck that say ‘BENCH,' eat at a quiet table and write letters of apology to each student before explaining to the class how they will change their behavior." (source - San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 29, 2003)

"(S)ending (students) to the principal's office or sending them on suspensions is what we don't want to do. So in its place, we've come up with the idea of the bench in terms of not being on the team. And on the bench what we've taken away is the social aspect which the kids at the middle school level so crave. So they're still in the classroom, they're still learning but they have to sit apart from their teammates and the only one they can talk to in that classroom is the teacher. They can't talk to their friends and their friends can't talk to them. So it applies not just to the classroom but the entire school day so when they go eat lunch, they have to sit at a separate table. Once again, they can't eat with their friends, they have to eat either in silence or they can work on their homework and reading when they're at the table. Then over the weekend, if they're on the bench, they have to do some deep reflection on the bad choices they made to go to the bench because that means they either weren't doing their work, or they weren't being nice and respectful to their teammates, they have to write letters of apology to their teammates explaining what they did wrong and what they're going to do the next week to get off the bench and contribute to the team again." - Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP (source -

Rebecca: Will KIPP take money away from public education?

Peter: Yes and no.

Yes - KIPP schools are public schools, so local, state, and federal funds are spent on these schools to organize them, market them, and run them; because of the work of its foundation and its ties to the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, as well as to Teach for America, KIPP schools also attract lots of private funding, dollars that might otherwise be spent on regular public schools

No - most KIPP schools are charter schools, and charters typically are not funded by local education associations at the same level as their regular public school counter-parts

Rebecca: What does the curriculum look like at KIPP?

Peter: From what I've read, the curriculum of each school is designed by the principal; this is one of the few things I admire about KIPP, i.e., there is no one-size-fits-all, top-down instructional program that has to be implemented at every school in the same way; this, however, might be different now as KIPP grows and tries to replicate its "success"

Rebecca: Can teachers join a union if they work at a KIPP school?

Peter: Yes, they can. There is nothing preventing them from organizing. But, because most KIPP teachers come from TFA and have no prior experience in teaching or being a member of a union, they see no need to organize. And, since being a KIPP teacher is all about working 12 to 15 hours a day and on Saturday, who among them would raise work issues? If you join KIPP, you drink the Kool-Aid (so to speak).

Rebecca: What are the success rates with other KIPP schools?

Peter: KIPP will tell you this: "Since their founding, the original KIPP Academies have sustained track records of high student achievement. While fewer than one in five low-income students typically attend college nationally, KIPP's college matriculation rate stands at nearly 80 percent for students who complete the eighth grade at KIPP. In addition, KIPP alumni have earned over $12 million in college scholarships."

Here's why this is misleading: 80% of those that make it through KIPP go on to college. But how many make it through KIPP?

There were nine KIPP schools in California as of the 2005-2006 school year. Six of the nine schools saw decreases in enrollment as their 5th grade kids moved up from the 5th grade to the 7th grade (the 8th grade at one school).

* KIPP Academy Fresno went from 60 to 48 kids from 5th to 6th grade, a 20% decrease in enrollment.

* KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy in San Francisco went from 73 to 56 kids from 5th to 7th grade, a 23% decrease in enrollment.

* KIPP Academy of Opportunity in LA went from 88 to 66 kids from 5th to 7th grade, a 25% decrease in enrollment.

* KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco went from 81 to 55 kids from 5th to 7th grade, a 32% decrease in enrollment.

* KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory in LA went from 88 to 57 kids from 5th to 7th grade, a 35% decrease in enrollment.

* KIPP Bridge College Preparatory in Oakland went from 87 to 36 kids from 5th to 8th grade, a whopping 59% decrease in enrollment.

These decreases in enrollment were especially noticeable for African-American boys at four of these schools. Enrollment of African-American boys went from 35 to 23 at KIPP Academy of Opportunity in LA, a 34% decrease in enrollment; 19 to 10 at KIPP Academy Fresno, a 47% decrease in enrollment; 24 to 12 at KIPP Bayview Academy in San Francisco, a 50% decrease in enrollment; and 35 to 8 at KIPP Bridge College Preparatory in Oakland, an extraordinary 77% decrease in enrollment.

Drop-outs, or at least transients, are a common phenomenon in low-income schools, even good ones. So these numbers would not be surprising if they were associated with your average public school. But KIPP is not your average public school. Many supporters of KIPP see it as the answer to the problems that vex inner-city schools. But it seems, at least from what we can tell from the California enrollment data, that even KIPP cannot solve the drop-out/transient problem.

But then you start to wonder: is KIPP causing this high drop-out rate? If it's not causing kids to drop out, then there might certainly be a correlation between KIPP's "unique approach to educating low-income kids" and the fact that so many of them, at least in California, don't make it out of KIPP.

Consider what we know about KIPP:

* KIPP students are required to go to school Monday to Friday from 7:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.

* They go to school on Saturday from 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon.

* They are required to complete two hours of homework every night.

* They are required to attend an extra month of school in the summer.

* They are required to wear a uniform.

KIPP students are subject to a strict code of discipline that punishes offenders by forcing them to wear a sign around their neck that says "bench" or, according to one source, "miscreant." So it seems reasonable to ask this question: is KIPP contributing to this drop-out/transient problem? I doubt rather seriously that anyone at KIPP wants any of their students to drop out. But declining enrollments actually benefit KIPP by making their achievement data look better than it might actually be.

Now it gets even more complicated. According to a recent SRI report, Bay Area KIPP schools in California are attracting already high-performing students from local schools. Some KIPP principals expressed concern about "creaming" these already high-performing students from other schools when there remains a large number who are low-performing and underserved. One principal expressed dismay with the school's struggle to enroll Title I students, whom she considered to be her target population. (see p. 18 of the report)

So it seems reasonable to ask this other question: how much is KIPP actually contributing to the achievement of these already high-performing students? As class numbers decrease, the performance of these high-achievers shines brighter and brighter. Supporters claim this is due to KIPP's unique approach. They might be right, but not for the reasons they suspect. It might be possible that KIPP's unique approach forces enough of the low-achievers out to make the achievement of those that remain seem better than it really is.

For example, let's say there were 5 students taking a test. The scores (out of 100 possible points) were as follows: 45, 47, 52, 98, 99. The average of these five scores is 68.2 So you could truthfully and accurately say, "Student scores were near the 70th percentile." But how many students scored a 70? None. If you look at the scores, 3 out of the 5 did really badly. But 2 of the 5 did really, really well. The result? It looks like great things are happening when, in fact, they are not.

This is especially relevant to the issue I mention above, i.e., the ever-shrinking number of kids at KIPP as they move from 5th to 8th grade. For example, let's say there are 20 kids at KIPP in the 5th grade. Two of the kids score really high - 98 and 99 out of 100. But the other 18 score either 47, 45, or 52. This results in an average of 51.5. The next year, in the 6th grade, there are only 15 kids left -- 5 dropped out, were "counseled out," or simply are no longer there. Same scenario: two of the kids score really high - 98 and 99 out of 100. But the other 13 score either 47, 45, or 52. But this results in a slightly higher average of 53.4. In the 7th grade, only 8 kids are left. Same scenario: two of the kids score really high - 98 and 99 out of 100. But the other 6 score either 47, 45, or 52. But this results in yet another higher average: 59.75. And by the time they reach 8th grade, there are 5 kids left. Now the 2 high scorers really skew the average, all the way up to 68.2. But the other 3 are still scoring 47,45, and 52.

What's going on here? KIPP is getting statistically better because more kids are dropping out. So should we blame KIPP for pushing them out or praise them for raising the scores of the two that remain?

KIPP needs to come clean and reveal what actually happens to its enrollments and whether or not the scores are skewed by a small number of high achievers.

In part 1 of a Hedrick Smith piece on KIPP, a Latino boy named Ray, a 16-year-old 8th grader enrolled in KIPP 3D Academy in Houston, talks about his first experience at KIPP.

At 3 minutes, 14 seconds into this video segment, ( there is a glimpse into how KIPP achieves its results.

Here's the transcript:

Hedrick Smith (voiceover) - At the start of school, Ray had his first confrontation with 3D Academy's principal, Dan Caesar.

Ray: We were going over our chants, and -- just being myself, still trying to figure out how this school works and everything . . .

Dan Caesar - We say, "Is 3D in the house?!?!" and all the kids raise up their hands and say, "YES!" and Reynaldo raised up his hands and said "NO!"

Ray: I waved my hand. I said, "No." And then he looked at me and he said it a second time. And I said "No" again.

Dan Caesar - I knew right then, "Here's the first test, the first person testing our culture." So I let him know in front of everybody in the room that that's not going to be tolerated. We all want to be here. We chose to be here. If you don't want to be here, find the door.

So much for KIPP's motto, "No excuses."

Rebecca: Where should people go if they want to learn more about KIPP schools?

Peter: I have most of this stuff on my blog. Go to and enter "KIPP" in the search box.

Peter Campbell is an activist, educator, and parent. He volunteered as the Missouri State Coordinator for the Assessment Reform Network, part of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (better known as FairTest). Peter holds a BA from Princeton University and an MA from New York University. He has been involved in education for 20 years and has taught a number of different subjects in different academic settings, ranging from English as a Second Language at a Japanese high school in Tokyo to compositional writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia to public speaking at Manhattan Community College in New York City. In the area of assessment, Peter worked for the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in the Assessment and Evaluation division. Currently, Peter is the Lead Instructional Designer for the Office of Information Technology at Montclair State University, the second largest public institution of higher education in New Jersey. In this role at MSU, Peter leads workshops on assessment and helps instructors use technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Rebecca Rogers is an associate professor of literacy education in the College of Education at the University of Missouri St. Louis. She routinely teaches courses on literacy assessment and literacy instruction for teachers. She has written several books including: Critical Literacy/Critical Teaching: Tools for Preparing Responsive Teachers (with P. Johnston & C. Dozier, Teachers College Press, 2005), Adult Education Teachers Designing Critical Literacy Practices (w/ M.A. Kramer, Routledge, 2007), A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003). She is co-founder of a grassroots professional development group, located in St. Louis, called The Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Group.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Learning Matters from John Merrow

Learning Matters this Week


Recently on The NewsHour we shared the continuing struggles of school superintendents Michelle Rhee in DC and Paul Vallas in New Orleans. We are now editing episode four of both series. This week we bring you two new podcasts from that series.

DC Mayor Weighs in on Reform DC Mayor Adrian Fenty
Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Rhee are moving quickly to make big changes in DC's failing schools. But their controversial proposal to fire central office employees and close 23 schools has left some feeling that that they are moving too fast. In this podcast, Mayor Fenty gives Chancellor Rhee an interim performance grade on a 'report card.' He also talks candidly about their controversial plan.
Listen to the podcast >>>

Just One of Me and A Lot of ThemHelen Miller, New Orleans resident and mother of five
Helen Miller, a single mother in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, works full time to provide for her family of five. While she applauds Superintendent Paul Vallas' initiatives to keep youth in school and out of the street, Ms. Miller is afraid that her 16 year-old son, Antoine, will become one of New Orleans' notorious statistics. In this podcast, Ms. Miller shares her concerns for her kids and, ultimately, the schools of New Orleans. Listen to the podcast >>>

Missed the original broadcasts? Watch them online.

Best wishes,

Questions? Comments? Email me.

Funding for our podcasts is provided by the Annenberg, William & Flora Hewlett, Bill & Melinda Gates and Wallace Foundations.

Tweed's Bloated and Unresponsive Bureacracy – Examples

Here is the attitude from many parents in NYC towards Joel Klein, from which Rhee and Alonso were spawned. Trackback to the Ednotes post that references this.

Remember PS 101 in D4 – a school the DOE decided to close, despite being in good standing w/ the state and receiving a “proficient” rating on its quality review? At the time I said I found it very suspicious – and that it would likely be filled w/ a charter school next year.

Here is a quote from the message I sent out on Dec. 5:

“I suspect that the elementary schools are being closed so that charter schools can be given their buildings next fall. After all, DOE needs to find homes for new charters quickly since the cap was lifted, and it has become more problematic over time to push them into buildings w/ existing schools.”

Reporters asked DOE about this, but the administration denied this was in their plans.

Well guess what’s going into PS 101? The Harlem Success academy – Eva Moskowitz’ charter school.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

I am sorry, but in the last two prior years, when I was a voting member of CPAC, I was proud that parents finally took a stand and had our own Parents Lobby Day without the DOE. I am sorry to see that we are back to the old one lobby day. I have been an active parent for over 20 years and I cannot in good conscious tell parents to go to Albany and stand next to Joel Klein and attest that we are one in our thinking. During the last 5 years I have seen almost all the gains parents made in real involvement disappear. Parents have been ignored and insulted on a regular basis and to trot us out to rubber stamp the damage that the DOE has done to our schools and children is unconscionable in my mind.

Instead, I will encourage my parent body to individually and as groups make appointments to meet with our representatives in their home offices and explain how parents really feel.


Dorothy Giglio
Co-President James Madison HS
Former Region 6 HS Presidents Council President
Former District 22 Presidents Council President

From a teacher:
This was sent to me by a friend who is an ESL teacher. She is in a push in program and the paper work is tremendous...not to mention the "We need it yesterday" demands of the DOE.

It is so hard to imagine what these horrible "Education Leaders" think they are achieving. How sickening to spend so much on "data". Tragically, they are totally losing sight of students. Sheer buffoonery! On the subject of the DOE and buffoonery... don't forget to ask me about the ridiculous messages over the ATS that had me (and many other ESL coordinators) jumping hoops to meet fictitious deadlines while one of the people in charge sipped on Coke at her empty desk and chatted with a friend on the phone whilst failing to respond to our emails and phone calls!! I only wish that someone out there realized how ESL coordinating and teaching don't mesh! Constant "stop and start" teaching just doesn't benefit the students! There are enough natural interruptions during the school day which effect pull-out teachers without the "DOE" assisting. Woosh... I'm venting.

From Hector Nazario, President of CEC D4.

The DOE is closing D4 schools and making plans to replace them, with little input from the community.

February 6, 2008

TO: Representative from the Office for Family Engagement and

Representative from the Office of Portfolio Development

Representative from the Office of Public and Community

Representative from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

Representative from the Office of Accountability

RE: Consultation and Conversation

Late in 2007 the Department of Education (DOE) announced the closure of
three District 4 schools due to their persistent low performance. Just
prior to the official announcement our Council was contacted and engaged
in conversations, although the decision was already made. The Chief
Accountability Officer gave testimony before the New York City Council's
Committee on Education, that "as in the past, CECs were not consulted
prior to the decision being made, but are now being consulted." This
official statement speaks volumes. If the DOE was free to determine to
consult or not consult the law would not be so specific. We are
outraged! Not only are your actions unacceptable and unlawful, but they
failed to uphold the letter and spirit of the law. Ironically, "...had
Community Education Council for District 4 (CEC4) been consulted we
would have stood by the Chancellor's side."

Today the District Leadership Team (DLT) will participate in another
such conversation with the above mentioned DOE representatives.
Although there is value in conversation there is greater value in
conversations that are part of consultation. The recent series of
conversations are about a year too late. The Office for Family
Engagement and Advocacy (OFEA) took on the responsibility of organizing
the discussions that have taken place thus far. As the department
directly in charge of parent involvement, OFEA needs to get to know our
district in depth and our parents in particular. It is clear to us that
they are unaware of the key players in District 4. For example, 1) some
community based organizations, with a long history of serving our
schools, were left out of the discussion, 2) to date, there has been no
parent representation from affected schools at the meetings, 3) meetings
are poorly promoted, 4) some members of the District Leadership Team
were not invited, 5) OFEA representatives were inexperienced, lacked
interest and comprehension on the significance of the discussion, and
lastly, 6) parent coordinators and district family advocates need to be
kept informed on matters relating to the proposed school closures in
order to address the concerns of parents. Today, at what was literally
the 11th hour, a member of the Office for Family Engagement and Advocacy
called me and offered a breakdown of incoming schools. This disjointed
effort at communicating is not working. CEC members and parents are not
being served like this.

On January 10, 2007 Community Education Council for District 4 passed a
school closure resolution specifically requesting that the DOE notify
the affected community when considering the opening, closing and/or
consolidation of a school (see attachment). This resolution is aligned
with New York State Education Law 2590h and the Federal NCLB Law which
guarantees the meaningful consultation of parents. Suffices to say both
the resolution and the law were ignored.

Child First Reforms

The recent wave of reforms resulted in the creation of network leaders
whose position is designed to enhance the level of support given to
schools. In our opinion, this additional level of responsibility
dilutes the authority of existing school leaders. For the most part
incumbents are newcomers and their unfamiliarity with the school
community they serve weakens their effectiveness. Our district network
leaders have not made themselves known to the CEC nor have we engaged in

Considering that, "strong leaders are at the center of the reforms...
and that they cannot thrive in a system that ties their hands," it is
our recommendation that the DOE seek the expert opinion of our community
superintendent, an experienced educator with a proven track record of
service. He has the pulse of our community as a whole and should be
consulted on issues affecting the schools.

Non-negotiable Demands

The Child First reforms seek to "provide the options that students and
their families demand." As CEC4 and the District Leadership Team
members prepare to listen to your proposals we devised our own list of
non-negotiable instructional related demands that must be incorporated
into the curriculum of incoming schools:

* Existing District 4 full day Pre-K classes must remain intact
and especially in P. S. 101 which is one of the schools slated for

* P. S. 101 elementary school also has a Kindergarten Dual
Language Program that must be preserved. The Dual Language Program
should be incorporated into the school's curriculum to include all

* Based on District 4's large population of ELL schools'
curriculum should reflect a Dual Language Program. On February 14, 2007
CEC4 passed a Dual Language Resolution "supporting the expansion of the
Literary Mansion Dual Language Program... to include all District 4
schools and grade levels (see attachment).schools and grade levels
deemed educationally appropriate as an effective tool in preparing our
ELL students to reach proficiency on State mandated academic achievement
standards and assessments.

* District 4's special education and bilingual special education
students need exceptional consideration. Our middle schools are
experiencing a shortage of special education seats and graduating
elementary school (special education) students are not guaranteed a
seat. Incoming schools must make adequate accommodation in this area.
JHS 117 which is slated for closure has handicap accessible ramps for
physically challenged students that must be preserved.

* District 4 students must not be deprived of a high quality
educational experience that includes a curriculum that is augmented by
instructions in arts to include, but not limited to, dance, music and
art appreciation classes.

* Prior to their opening incoming schools must consult affected
parents, CEC4, Community Board 11, community based organizations and
State and Local elected officials.

Our Community

The fabric of our community is changing. Gentrification has widened the
social and economic gap of East Harlem. An affluent and mostly
childless population of urban professionals is moving into luxury
condominiums while poor working class families are being forced out. A
pattern of decreasing enrollment rates supports our belief that we are
losing our community and will ultimately lose our schools. The negative
variance between the projected and actual enrollment rates has resulted
in District 4 schools having to return funds. As we consider the
current state of our schools, and the adverse effect of budget
reductions, we question how our district schools will be able meet the
academic needs of our students and what measures are in place to prevent
additional schools from failing? In light of the school closings, what
strategies are in place to support the instructional practices of
District 4 schools? What criteria did the DOE utilize to determine
adequacy of incoming schools and will they enjoy an unfair advantage
over existing District 4 schools as it relates to equipment, space,
teacher-to-student ratio, and overall resources? We are concerned for
the morale of the teaching and school staff as well. Has there been
ample information offered on the transition process? What options, if
any, are available and what efforts are being made to retain staff


Elected Officials and Community Board Members

CEC4 looks towards our elected officials and community board members on
issues impacting our community. With one or two exceptions, you failed
to express your indignation at the lack of respect. Are we to assume
that you had prior knowledge and opted to express no opposition, or
worst, the news failed to impact you? How are you supporting public
education in East Harlem? This is a crucial community issue; yet, many
of you opted to be represented at meetings by inexperienced staff
members. The DOE has demonstrated little regard for our community and
your position. To remain silent now would constitute nothing short of
neglect of duty on your part. Stand up for East Harlem's children by
demanding that our rights be respected.


Lack of parental consultation is not unique to District 4. To our
colleagues who are serving on Community Education Councils we encourage
you to join us in raising your voice in objection. Parent leaders
serving on the Chancellors' Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) are asked to
raise their voices on this topic as well. The Federal and State law
mandate to consult parents needs to be placed on the CPAC agenda
immediately and should be revisited periodically in order to assess
compliance. There needs to be a strong message of opposition. The
adoption of a School Closure Resolution (see attached resolution) on a
district level by all CECs, and on a citywide level by CPAC members
would be an unprecedented show of unity. Our collective interest is to
even the playing field by securing the delivery of a sound education for
all New York City public school students; impossible without parental
consultation and a united front of parent leaders.

Community Based Organizations

In our opinion, our community based organizations (CBOs) have through
the years become complacent. Our CBOs need to have a renewed spirit of
interest matched by proactive, committed action. Among other
strategies, you should continually analyze the needs of the community
you serve and synthesize your findings by identifying specific areas of
need for intervention.


CEC4's advocacy efforts is fueled by our resolve to ensure that students
have an equal chance at obtaining a high quality education, the
empowerment of parents, and holding persons in position of
responsibility accountable. This communication is not requesting that
the DOE extend Community District Education Councils the courtesy of
consultation, it demands it. Accountability in the public education
sector should foster an environment where business practices reflect a
high standard of conduct which, at a minimum, includes the principles of
equity, empowerment, transparency, informed decision-making and strict
adherence to governing statutes for all.

As an initial step in the arduous process of changing the culture of the
system we highly recommend the renaming of the TWEED Courthouse.
Adopting a name that is synonymous with corruption and greed is highly
inappropriate and out of sync with the principles of accountability.

Once again we state for the record that CEC4 seeks to foster good
working relations with all parties, but in order for this to happen we
must demonstrate mutual respect for each other and the statutes that
govern our activities. As a lasting thought we recall the words of
Edward Abbey who said, "absence of the law... is the beginning of
tyranny." The question begs, and when the law exist and ignored, what
do we have instead? You fill in the blank!

Thank you for your time. It is my sincerest desire that future dialogue
will be one of a consultative nature. Should you wish to discuss this
further please feel free to contact me directly at (347) 672-6174 or via
email at HRNazario@aol.HRN .


Hector R. Nazario

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How much do smaller classes improve teaching?
From Times Online
February 25, 2008

How much do smaller classes improve teaching?

Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

The big question in the debate on class sizes is not whether smaller classes
produce better academic results - the answer to that is, ?of course they do?
- a more pertinent question is, ?by how much??

In attempting to answer this question by systematically weighing up the
likely benefits and costs, Dylan William, deputy director of the the
Institute of Education in London has come up with interesting answers.

Reducing class sizes across the entire state sector would involve building
new classrooms and increasing the teacher workforce by as much as 50 per
cent, which would be expensive and might be politically difficult to

Even then, you could not be assured of success. Apart from the raw material
? the kids- teaching quality is the most important variable in any
classroom. But Professor Williams fears that bringing in the 150,000 new
teachers that would be needed may allow into the profession many who
shouldn?t be there.

This is what he has to say on the matter: ?When you reduce class size all
you do is bring in a lot more teachers who are worse than the ones that you
have already got. We would need 150,000 more teachers to reduce class sizes
to 20. They will probably be the ones who didn?t get jobs at their first

?What might be a reasonable size effect will disappear with poor teachers.
If you don?t do it carefully, you find that it might even reduce achievement
by hiring people who shouldn?t really be teachers.?

Far better (and more cost effective) to stick with the teacher/pupil ratios
we have and improve teaching methods, he argues.

On the same basis, incidentally, he also suggests scrapping nationally
agreed teacher pay scales.

Research tells us that the best teachers produce four times as much
progress in students than the worst. If we are willing to pay a bad teacher
25,000 a year (which is what we do), why not ? if we are serious about all
of this - pay the best teachers ?100,000 a year??

But how do you tell which are the best teachers? That's a good deal more
tricky. Professor William?s own research suggests that it is sometimes the
least popular teachers (often the strictest ones) who produce the most
progress in their pupils. But if in the process they switch pupils off
learning, however, how good are they really?

Teacher Quality Matters - from Ed Week

Teacher Quality Matters
By Bess Keller

This article was originally published in Education Week.

The world’s top-performing school systems and those coming up fast have a lesson to teach the others: Put high-quality teaching for every child at the heart of school improvement.

That’s the conclusion drawn by a report that examines the practices of the 10 top performers and another seven rapidly improving systems on the 2003 administration of the international tests known as PISA, or Program for International Student Assessment. PISA is sponsored by the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

School system success, the report contends, hinges on getting the right people to become teachers, helping them learn to teach, and crafting a system that ensures every child will get access to the teaching he needs.

Neither resources nor ambitious reforms have been the answer to the need for school improvement, say the authors, Sir Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed of McKinsey & Co., the London-based consulting firm responsible for the report. They point to “massive” increases in spending and popular reforms—prominently, class-size reduction and decentralization of decisionmaking—that have failed, they say, to much budge the needle of student achievement many places.

In contrast, high-performing school systems—such as those in Alberta, Canada; Finland; Japan; New Zealand; and Singapore—“maintained a strong focus on improving instruction because of its direct impact upon student achievement,” according to the report. The same emphasis is part of reforms in seven “rapidly improving” systems, including the American cities of Boston, Chicago, and New York, as well as in England.

The study picks apart the practices that the authors say result in widespread high-quality teaching.

Top-performing systems, for instance, are typically both restrictive and selective about who is able to train as a teacher, recruiting their teachers from the top third of each group leaving secondary school. Teachers are offered good starting compensation, usually on a par with other college graduates, but the
status of the profession is at least equally important in maintaining quality, the authors say. Status, they contend, can be boosted by marketing and recruitment techniques.

Once the right people are secured, the top-performing systems help them become first-class teachers by enabling them to learn from each other, widespread coaching of their practice in the classroom, and developing strong school leaders skilled in instruction. Some high-performing systems, the report notes, focus greatly expanded resources on teachers’ first year.
Contrasting Reviews

Finally, Sir Michael and Ms. Mourshed maintain, teaching expertise must be deployed to serve all children in the system according to their needs. Successful school systems set high learning standards for their schools and move in when they are not met, the report says. Monitoring of school performance, according to the study, can be accomplished with both test results and school reviews. Similarly, the authors continue, the best systems are ready and able to identify children who are falling behind, and they provide those students with the teaching that will help them catch up.

High-performing systems “ensure that resources and funding are targeted at those students who need them most,” the authors write. They cite Finland, where each school employs a number of special education teachers, who may help close to a third of all pupils—including those learning the fastest—during the school year.

The report drew almost diametrically opposed reviews from international education experts.

David P. Baker, who has extensively studied the results from international math and science tests, praised the study for clear conclusions that hold the possibility of pushing policymakers in valid directions. He said his own research showed that countries that reduced the spread in teacher quality tended to have higher test scores.

At the same time, the Pennsylvania State University professor said the
report might have taken better account of the effects of social disadvantage, which has a profound influence on school performance.

Tom Loveless, a senior fellow in education at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said the report “needed to define the variables [that affect school performance] and measure them carefully” across systems hitting the full range of performance. Identifying the practices of the better-performing school systems does not mean much if less successful systems do the same things, he said.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Remaking Labor - From The Top-Down? Bottom-Up ? or Both?

From Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society,
March, 2008 Vol 11. Issue #1 (For subscription info, contact:

Review of:

Milkman, Ruth. L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement. New York, NY:
Russell Sage Foundation, 2006. 244 pp.$24.95 (paperback).

Moody, Kim. U.S. Labor In Trouble And Transition: The Failure of Reform from Above and the Promise of Revival
from Below. New York, NY: Verso, 2007. 289 pp.$29.95 (paperback).

By Steve Early

The veterans of Sixties radicalism who became union activists in the 1970s belonged to a variety of left-wing groups. Regardless of other political differences, most of them shared one common belief - namely, that union transformation and working class radicalization was a bottom up process. As Stanley Aronowitz observed in Socialist Review (nee Socialist Revolution) in 1979 - when Ruth Milkman, author of L.A. Story, belonged to its "Bay Area Collective" - young radicals usually became "organizers of rank-and-file movements" and builders of opposition caucuses. They immersed themselves in "day-to-day union struggles on the shop floor" and the politics of local unions, often displaying in the latter arena "almost total antipathy toward the union officialdom." Because "union revitalization" also required organizing the unorganized, rather than just proselytizing among existing union members, Aronowitz approved, "under some circumstances," leftists becoming ""professional paid organizers." But he encouraged those who took this path to "see their task as building the active rank and file, even where not connected to caucus movements."

Three decades later, the shrinkage of organized labor - and the left within it - has produced more than a few deviations from the shining path of "revival from below." Kim Moody, author of U.S. Labor In Trouble and Transition, remains a true
believer in the transformative potential of rank-
and-file movements. A founder of Labor Notes and
author of several previous books on contemporary
trade unionism, Moody was a leading theoretician of
the International Socialists when it sent college
educated cadres into the auto, steel, telecom, and
trucking industries during the 1970s. What Moody
and his comrades contributed to the workplace
organizing debates of that era (and more recent
decades as well) is "the rank and file strategy" -
the idea, simply put, that radicals should orient
themselves toward the strata of worker activists,
at the base of unions, who are most engaged in
shop-floor militancy and resistance to management,
rather than "attempt to gain influence by sidling
up to the incumbent bureaucracy or its alleged
progressive wing." Moody's newest volume is a wide-
ranging account of the economic forces, domestic
and international, which have eroded American
unions, since their last, turbulent period of
grassroots insurgency from 1966-78. As in the past,
he agues that "rank and file rebellion" - despite
its many setbacks and defeats in recent years - is
the only proven method of projecting a genuine
"alternative view of unionism, to force changes on
reluctant labor leaders, and challenge the top-down
culture of business unionism...[which] provides
little or no education and leadership training for
rank-and-file workers."

Both Moody and Milkman, in L.A. Story, see great
potential in the immigrant worker organizing and strike
activity of the last several years. Based on her case
studies of Latinos in construction, building services,
garment manufacturing, and port trucking, Milkman
believes that these newcomers can "take the lead in
rebuilding the nation's labor movement." Moody even
discerns "the beginnings of an upsurge in direct action
in workplaces and communities by a variety of groups" -
both unions and allied "workers centers"--- that could
lay "the basis for a new class politics" in America.
Unlike Moody, however, the author of L.A. Story
downplays rank-and-file initiatives as a catalyst for
institutional change.

Now a professor of sociology at UCLA and director of
its Institute of Industrial Relations, Milkman has
watched how the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU), United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC), and
Hotel and Restaurant Employees (HERE) have revitalized
themselves and/or the L.A. County Labor Federation. In
her view, looking to union members to rebel against
corrupt, ineffective, or undemocratic unions and
refashion them into something better is an exercise in
wishful thinking and existential frustration - "Waiting
For Lefty" reborn as "Waiting For Godot." According to
Milkman, proponents of the rank and file approach long
championed by Moody naively assume "that if only the
legions of top union brass would step aside and allow
the rank and file's natural leaders to take command,
labor would no longer be so impotent." In reality, she
writes, "this approach glosses over the complex and
multi-layered character of union leadership and various
political configurations that are possible across those

Milkman believes "that, when International leadership
is progressive, it can be a powerful force for
promoting innovation at the local union level" and
rooting out "business unionism."

"As is now well documented, many of the most
successful initiatives of the SEIU [and other
Change to Win affiliates] have actually been `top
down' efforts, engineered not by the rank and file
but by paid staff in the upper reaches of the
union bureaucracy...The recent ascension of
leaders with both extensive formal education and
activist experience in other movements to high-
level positions in key unions has injected
dynamism into the labor movement....The most
vibrant and innovative unions are those that
combine social movement- style mobilization, with
carefully calibrated strategies that leverage the
expertise of creative, professional leaders."

Moody is far less impressed by what Milkman
characterizes as the "daring, intrepid character" of
Change To Win (CTW). Nor is he similarly inclined to
drape the new labor federation with the mantle of
"social movement unionism." Moody makes a more nuanced
three-way distinction between "business unionism"
(which everyone on the left agrees is bad),"democratic
social movement unionism" - born of real "struggle with
the employers" here and abroad-- and what he calls "the
new corporate unionism." He argues that the on-going
internal reorganization of SEIU and the Carpenters
into "huge administrative units" represents " a step
beyond business unionism in its centralization and
shift of power upward in their structure away from the
members, locals, and workplace." Providing a detailed
analysis and critique of the undemocratic "corporate
side of SEIU's culture," Moody concludes that the
union's much-envied gains in "market share" are too
often the product of "shallow power" or partnership
deals. According to Moody, SEIU has achieved "a
density suspended from above by a layer of `talent'
recruited mainly from outside the union rather than
upheld from below by deep roots in the workplace and
local unions."

In contrast, Milkman regards SEIU's Justice for
Janitors (JfJ) campaigns to be an unqualified success
and model for union-builders everywhere. "Justice For
Janitors originated as part of a strategic union
rebuilding effort," she explains." It was conceived by
SEIU's national leadership and relied heavily on
research and other staff-intensive means of exerting
pressure on employers." To their credit, JfJ
organizers helped pioneer comprehensive, community-
based campaigns that by-passed the NLRB to win union
recognition via card check and neutrality - by
targeting building owners who were the real power
behind cleaning service contractors. SEIU employed
direct action tactics, including civil disobedience,
built strong ties with immigrant communities, and
presented the workers' cause in a way that elicited
sympathy and support from that part of the broader
public concerned about social justice and better
treatment of oppressed minorities.

According to Milkman, in the original JfJ struggle in
Los Angeles in 1988-90--plus subsequent efforts in many
other cities--"rank-and-file mobilization played a
critical role in its success." Nevertheless, as Moody
notes, this "mobilization" has rarely translated into a
leading role for immigrant janitors in managing the
affairs of their own SEIU locals. By the mid-1990s, JfJ
activists in Los Angeles were complaining about Local
399's out-of-touch leadership, its neglect of day-to-
day workplace issues, and the lack of rank-and-file
participation in union decision-making. Many supported
a successful electoral insurgency, led by the
"Multiracial Alliance Slate." But, in 1995, the SEIU
national leadership quickly nullified the Alliance's
election victory by throwing the local into trusteeship
and later moving L.A. janitors into a much larger,
regional building services local. In L.A. Story.
Milkman barely acknowledges that there was "widespread
criticism" of SEIU over this pivotal development. She
dismisses "Multiracial Alliance" organizing activity as
an unfortunate "outbreak of factionalism" that, only
"on the surface, appeared to involve rank and file
rebellion against the local SEIU officialdom."

Moody, on the other hand, takes the 399 matter very
seriously. He believes the trusteeship and transfer of
LA janitors into a "mega-local" beyond their effective
control had a negative impact on subsequent collective
bargaining, which produced wage gains of 12.3 per cent
between 1990 and 1995 and only another 6 per cent
between 1995 and 2000 for downtown LA janitors. Thus,
in the decade after their 1990 victory:

"LA janitors with the best conditions saw their
real wages fall 10%. In this same period, 1990
through 2000, average real hourly wages in the
U.S. rose by 4.8%. It is just possible that had
the LA janitors been in their own local instead of
statewide Local 1877, with its low wages, minimal
benefits, and long contracts, they could have
pressured the industry for more and set a better
pattern for others."

Where Moody sees troubling continuity with conservative
union practices of the past, Milkman waxes enthusiastic
about "AFL organizational legacies" that she finds
uniquely empowering. A major thesis of her book is that
Change To Win unions have paradoxically proven more
"adept at crafting new survival strategies for labor in
the post-industrial economy" because of their past
experience taking "wages out of competition in
unregulated, highly competitive labors markets" and
winning union recognition in pre-New Deal fashion,
without utilizing the National Labor Relations Board.
In L.A. Story, the allegedly superior "strategic and
tactical repertoire" of CTW affiliates--and resulting
"organizing successes" - are attributed to their roots
as "old AFL craft and occupational unions." According
to Milkman:

"As the L.A. janitors campaign and other recent
organizing successes illustrate, this repertoire is
highly adaptable to contemporary economic conditions,
which in many ways resemble those of the pre-New Deal
era. By contrast, many of the CIO's strategies and
tactics were tailored to the historical conditions of
the 1930s and 1940s - conditions that have been largely
swept aside over the past three decades by
deindustrialization, deregulation, and
deunionization.....That unions - once seen as bastions
of conservatism and corruption - have emerged in the
vanguard of current labor revitalization efforts is a
powerful testimony to the renewed relevance of the
AFL's historical legacy."

Unfortunately for the credibility of her book, there is
little evidence to support Milkman's sweeping claim
that CTW unions - with the exception of SEIU and
perhaps HERE-- have responded better to damaging
"political and economic transformations" than any other
battered labor survivors of the last thirty years. As
Moody shows, in the five-year period prior to the AFL-
CIO'S 2005 split, the International Brotherhood of
Teamsters (IBT), United Food and Commercial Workers
(UFCW), and Laborers International Union (LIUNA) all
lost members (while the Carpenters registered only 1.4%
growth) - a record inferior to that of CWA, AFSCME,
AFT, and the independent NEA. Only SEIU had membership
gains of twenty percent or more - but, percentage-wise,
the AFT's growth during the same period was nearly as
great. The smallest of CTW's seven affiliates - the
still struggling United Farm Workers - remains only a
fifth of its peak size twenty-five years ago.

Far from just decimating former CIO unions,
"deindustrialization" has also been a major cause of
membership shrinkage within Change to Win (particularly
in affiliates with a mixed craft and industrial union
heritage). The three unions - Textile Workers,
Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and Ladies' Garment
Workers - which merged over time to form UNITE lost
hundreds of thousands of dues payers in plant shut-
downs prior to UNITE's 2004 marriage with HERE. These
factory job losses were so devastating that, even
today, the combined membership of UNITE and HERE - a
claimed 450,000--is less than ACTWU's alone in 1976!

The notion that the Teamsters somehow dodged the bullet
of "deregulation" is even more far fetched. The IBT
today is one third smaller than it was before the
Carter Administration introduced trucking deregulation
in the late 1970s. As Moody notes, "by 1985, the number
of workers covered by the Teamsters' National Master
Freight Agreement had dropped from over 300,000 in 1970
to as low as 160,000" - and it's now half that number.
Non-union competition, including the growth of a huge
owner-operator sector, undermined national bargaining
and led to what Moody calls "a long string of
concessionary contracts."

Likewise, CTW's third largest affiliate - the United
Food and Commercial Workers - has hardly been in "the
vanguard" of thwarting "deunionization." While its on-
going campaign for organizing rights at Smithfield
Foods is well deserving of praise, UFCW's record
generally in meatpacking is one of failing to maintain
wage standards and unionization levels. Meanwhile, non-
union "big box" chains like Wal-Mart have grabbed a
huge share of total retail sales in recent decades;
their much lower labor costs have led to similar
management pressure for union give-backs in the
shrinking organized sector of the industry. The UFCW's
disastrous 2003 walkout by 60,000 Southern California
grocery workers was a case study in un-successful
resistance to this trend. As Moody observes, "the
UFCW's record of lost strikes and failed organizing
drives is too consistent and too visible to make this
union the likely David to Wal-Mart's Goliath."

Finally, "conservatism and corruption" also remain very
much a part of the negative "AFL organizational
legacies" of CTW that Milkman glosses over or ignores
entirely. For example, the IBT and UFCW are both guilty
of wasting membership dues money in a manner quite
inconsistent with being a "mean, lean organizing
machine" or part of a "new union reform movement."
Thanks to Teamster President James Hoffa's undoing of
real reforms dating from the Ron Carey era, the IBT now
squanders more than $8.5 million a year on extra pay-
checks for 175 of the Teamster officials throughout the
country who get multiple salaries.

As The Detroit News reported last August (2007), UFCW
local officials "are among the highest paid in the
United States with 33 making more than $200,000 in base
salary in 2006 and many earning thousands more by
drawing additional paychecks from the union's
international headquarters. Meanwhile, the average UFCW
member earns between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, with
many at Michigan grocery stores earning less." In a not
atypical profile of an individual UFCW regional leader
- Local 588 president Jack Loveall--The Sacramento
(California) Bee reported that Loveall's total
compensation for 2003 was more than $565,000 (in a
23,000- member local that has two of his sons on the
payroll, plus a twin-engine jet for the officers'

Nevertheless, when the AFL-CIO split was still brewing
in 2005, Milkman insisted that the IBT, UFCW, et al had
embraced the "reform agenda" of SEIU President Andy
Stern, including the latter's call "for a one-union-
per-industry model" that would curb inter-union
competition for unorganized workers. Meanwhile, Hoffa
declared that his multi-jurisdictional amalgamated
union had no intention - then or now - of concentrating
only on certain "core industries" and ceding workers in
any other field to labor organizations, CTW or AFL-CIO,
with more relevant experience! In L.A. Story, Milkman
likewise depicts CTW unions as advocates of "extensive
structural changes in the labor movement," including "a
strengthened central body that would have the power to
enforce its policies with the affiliates..." The new
federation's actual practice over the last two years
has been quite different, of course.

Even with only seven affiliates (as opposed to fifty-
five in the AFL-CIO), CTW has found policy unanimity to
be elusive - and certainly doesn't have any
"strengthened central body" with the power to impose
it. As promised, CTW has launched some laudable joint
organizing projects. Yet CTW unions have been unable to
agree on the war in Iraq, trade or immigration issues,
which Democratic primary candidate to endorse for
president (even SEIU was split internally on that one),
or the appropriateness of working with Wal-Mart for
"health care reform." A disagreement between Stern and
UFCW President Joe Hansen over this last issue led to a
public spat in 2007, followed by UFCW picketing of a
joint appearance by Stern and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott.
In another display of disunity, Doug McCarron's
Carpenters didn't even bother to show up for the CTW's
second anniversary convention last November. As was the
case before the UBC's defection from the AFL-CIO, the
Carpenters have apparently stopped paying dues to CTW;
according to In These Times, "rumors persist that the
union will soon leave the group" as well.

None of this messy organizational reality - most of it
well known or quite predictable, prior to publication--
intrudes on Milkman's upbeat narrative in L.A. Story.
On some subjects covered in the book - for example,
SEIU's doubling of its membership to 1.9 million in the
last ten years - the author's boosterism is certainly
more warranted. But, unlike Moody, she never addresses
the serious concern--now being raised by union insiders
like Sal Rosselli--that SEIU growth has been achieved,
in some sectors, at the expense of contract standards,
community allies, workers' rights, membership
participation, and leadership accountability. Milkman's
infatuation with the vanguard role of the union's
"innovators" - college educated organizers,
researchers, strategic campaign coordinators, local
officers and trustees - also leaves little room for
examining more incisively how SEIU operatives actually
interact with the working members who nominally employ
- and, more rarely, elect - them.

To Moody falls the task of imagining how the rank-and-
file can rise again, in SEIU or any other union in need
of a different, more democratic form of organizational
"dynamism." This challenge is particularly daunting in
light of developments like home-based workers becoming
the largest source of union membership growth.
Brokering deals with labor-friendly public officials
around the country, SEIU (and now other unions as
well) have created collective bargaining units
comprised of 500,000 or more home-based workers
previously regarded as "independent contractors." When
SEIU was certified as the representative of one such
unit--74,000 home health aides in Southern California--
it described this 1999 victory as the biggest for labor
since the Flint sit-down strike. In reality, many home-
based workers are imprisoned in the post-Clinton system
of "workfare," that replaced welfare. Largely female,
non-white and/or foreign born, this workforce cares for
the young, old, sick, and disabled, while struggling to
survive on poverty-level incomes, even when union-
represented. One of the usual quid pro quos for union
recognition is continued exclusion of these workers
from standard public employee health care or retirement

Unlike the Teamsters, Transit Workers, or other more
traditional union members (whose past assertions of
"rank-and-file" power are lionized by Moody), these
workers have atomized, high-turn-over, part-time jobs -
in a setting quite unlike the large industrial
workplaces of the past. The fact that their "non-
traditional workplace" is their own or someone else's
home increases the likelihood that unions won't help
them build real organizations or a functioning steward
system. Already, many such workers remain "agency fee
payers" or members with little consciousness of or
connection to their union. (According to Moody's
research, SEIU nationally has more agency fee payers -
over 200,000 - than CWA, AFSCME, and AFT combined.)
Home-based workers' experience of collective action--if
any--comes from initial community-based mobilizations
for bargaining rights and better pay. The poor and/or
immigrant neighborhood-- not the "shop floor"--is the
only possible nexus for solidarity among "co-workers."

If one of the continuing shortcomings of organized
labor today - as noted by both Moody and Milkman-- is
that it's still too pale, male, and stale, what better
way to achieve greater diversity than by developing the
leadership potential of this vast "new rank-and-file"?
Can such workers - or the immigrant janitors and hotel
workers who've also been a big part of other Change To
Win recruitment drives - ever succeed in becoming
leading actors in their own organizations, rather than
bit-players in union-orchestrated street pageantry or
political campaigns? It won't be easy in a staff-run
"mega-local" like SEIU's 190,000-member United Long
Term Care Workers Union in California - for all the
reasons identified by Moody.

But, as he concludes hopefully, the initiatives of
rank-and-file oriented radicals and reformers "can help
lay the basis for better things to come, just as
inaction, timidity, bureaucracy, or `more of the same'
can stifle them."

[Steve Early spent 27 years as an organizer and
international representative for the Communications
Workers of America. He writes frequently for Labor
Notes and many other publications. He is currently
working on a book for Cornell ILR Press on the role of
Sixties radicals in American unions. He can be reached

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Bell Curve revisited: What science teaches us about heredity and environment

From The American Prospect, November 19, 2007. See
Excerpted by permission from The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics. Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2007 by David L. Kirp.
Nature, Nurture, and Destiny

The Bell Curve
revisited: What science teaches us about heredity and environment.
By David L. Kirp

In making the case for better early education programs, advocates rely heavily on bench science. Neuroscientists are summoned to demonstrate the palpable impact of severe deprivation in the first years of life -- recall the horrific accounts of the Romanian orphans -- and to show, with vivid MRI images, how early experience builds the scaffolding for everything that follows, as the brain incorporates early experience into its biological structure.

Mention genetics, however, and the advocates immediately change the subject. Those with an appreciation of history know that the American Eugenics Movement proposed sterilizing the "unfit" and that Hitler's Germany used the research for unspeakable purposes. When psychologist Richard Lerner wrote about the misuse of genetics, he pointedly titled his book Final Solution. And you don't have to be a history buff to recall that, in the mid-1990s, The Bell Curve became the bible of social conservatives with its conclusion that genetically-based IQ deficiencies of African Americans explain their disproportionate rates of poverty and incarceration, and that early education was a waste of money. Most recently, eminent scientist James Watson opined that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really." Science must address questions of genetics and intelligence, he added, though the answers may be "cruel."

But as widespread denunciation of Watson's remarks suggests, liberals no longer have to fear genetics. Quite the contrary -- the "heredity versus environment" model, the intellectual underpinning of The Bell Curve, is itself wrong. A new generation of studies shows that genes and environment don't occupy separate spheres, that much of what is labeled "hereditary" becomes meaningful only in the context of experience. When it comes to explaining life outcomes it's not nature versus nurture but nature through nurture. What's more, in the topsy-turvy social world in which many poor kids grow up, it's almost all about nurture.

Such findings give added scientific heft to the preschool research that shows the effects of high-quality early education on an array of life outcomes. Those iconic studies demonstrate that early educational experiences can make a major difference. Genetics, no less than neuroscience, helps to explain why.

Environment 101

Over the years, studies of adopted children have found that their IQ scores are considerably closer to their biological parents' scores than to their adoptive parents' scores. That led geneticists to a logical conclusion: Intelligence is mainly inherited. But the newest research, looking at a range of other variables -- especially poverty -- has upended the conventional wisdom by showing the profound importance of the environment on later aptitude.

In one instance, experts tracked French youngsters from hardscrabble backgrounds -- abusive homes, impersonal institutions, multiple foster care placements and the like -- whose IQ scores averaged just 77, borderline retardation. Nine years after they were adopted, all of their scores had improved. Those adopted into affluent families jumped the most -- their progress was directly associated with their new socioeconomic status. The only, and crucial, difference among these children was the lives they'd led after being adopted.

Other research, notably by University of Virginia psychologist Eric Turkheimer, has focused on outcomes for twins, the gold standard in the field. Earlier research had shown that IQ differences were considerably smaller for identical than for fraternal twins, a finding consistent with the hereditarian view. But Turkheimer was the first researcher to focus on IQ differences between twins from poor and non-poor families. The key finding: Variations in IQ scores for twins from well-off families are mainly genetic, while heredity explains almost none of the IQ differences for twins in the poorest families. The impact of growing up poor overwhelms these children's genetic capacities.

Some of the most exciting work in the field of molecular genetics today aims at specifying the genes associated with diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's, with the eventual hope of finding a cure. There is also an ongoing search for the "intelligence gene" or genes that can explain variations in intelligence, a hunt for the biological source of general intelligence. But that research, most scientists now believe, will confirm what the research on twins and adoptions has shown: The impact of heredity and environment on IQ is indelibly intertwined.

For years, molecular genetics focused on finding "candidate genes" -- the genes for a specific condition. There have been a few successes, Alzheimer's among them, and some spectacular failures, such as the supposed "manic depression gene" among the Amish. Identifying a gene is only the first step in establishing the pathway to any condition. Specifying that pathway means identifying the environmental influences on gene expression, the key process that determines the functional operation of genes.

Many scientists are now shifting gears. "Rather than trying to find the gene that causes a particular outcome," notes Thomas O'Connor, a psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who is studying the long-term impact of prenatal stress, "we said, 'let's think about how it's mediated through environmental risk.' Rather than, say, trying to link a serotonin transmitter directly to depression, it makes better sense to think about a genetic predisposition that's literally turned on or off by life risks."

Groundbreaking recent research has shown specific instances in which variations in the environment determine actual "gene expression" -- that is, the form, or allele, the gene takes. In large-scale studies in New Zealand, psychologists Avsholom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt have demonstrated that MAO, the gene linked to aggressive and potentially violent behavior, is effectively deactivated when an individual grows up in a caring family. A relatively stress-free home life has the same benign effect on the 5-HTT gene, which helps regulate the brain's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter likely linked to depression. Similarly, Finnish researchers have established that a child's environment can moderate the effect of the gene, DRD4, which is linked to thrill-seeking.
These studies offer genetic confirmation of earlier investigations that relied on clinical assessments to show that parents have a big influence in structuring children's worlds. And those early experiences have a powerful, long-lasting impact on children's resilience to many kinds of stress. "We're learning that it doesn't matter whether we're looking at gum disease, heart disease, cancer, depression, or risk-seeking," says Moffitt. "There's no straight genetic effect -- the vulnerability only emerges in circumstances of environmental risk."

Scientists have begun to trace these vulnerabilities back to the womb. "We're showing the persisting effects of stress in pregnancy on kids," says O'Connor. "We have been desperate to treat anxious, pregnant women, to see if making them less anxious will have an effect on the kid," he adds. "If responses to stress are tied to the immune function, psychological outcomes, maybe intelligence, then all bets are off. We could save the world by making moms less stressed in pregnancy."

In a series of animal experiments, Moshe Szyf and Michael Meaney at McGill University's Medical School have knocked another hole in genetic fatalism. Even when the structure of a gene isn't altered, the expression of individual genes can be permanently changed by changing the environment. Szyf and Meaney assigned rats born to anxious mothers, who didn't give their offspring adequate maternal licking, to high-licking rats. Not only did the nurturing behavior of these "foster" mothers change the pups' behavior -- they grew up to be calmer and smarter -- but the maternal grooming altered the mechanism in the baby rats' brains that regulates stress hormones. That alteration in brain chemistry persisted into adulthood: Even though there was no change in the underlying gene, the offspring of these well-raised rats were less anxious as well.

The IQ Gene?

Since the early 1990s, scientists have been on a quest for the gene -- or, more likely, the cluster of genes -- "for" IQ. So far they haven't been successful. Identifying a gene that significantly contributes to a well-defined disorder is hard enough, because of the interactions between nature and nurture described above. An even more sophisticated array of interactions makes the quest for an "intelligence gene" seem quixotic.

Even if a cluster of genes were found to be associated with IQ, the implications aren't obvious. This wouldn't show definitively that IQ is "real." After all, as Eric Turkheimer points out, "You could make up a concept, like being a good speller with big feet, and find genes that are associated with it." Complex social and biological concepts like intelligence don't allow for easy answers.

Robert Plomin, an internationally renowned molecular geneticist, and his research team at the University of London thought they had solved part of this puzzle in 1998 when they located a gene that was statistically associated with high SAT scores. That gene accounted for just 2 percent of the variance, though, and when the scientists redid the study in 2002 they couldn't replicate the result. To a thoughtful skeptic like Turkheimer, "Rooting around in the brain to find [a gene for intelligence] is a mistake." University of Sydney psychologist Dennis Garlick adds that even if such genes were found, "it is still a long road from identifying the genes responsible for intelligence to actually understanding what they do, and hence understanding how intelligence is inherited."

Genetics has traditionally been the redoubt of the hereditarians, but contemporary science is telling a different story. "I am skeptical that genetic work ever will provide an understanding of the basis of intelligence," says Sir Michael Rutter, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of London. "It doesn't really matter whether the heritability of IQ is this particular figure or that one. Changing the environment can still make an enormous difference."

Appreciating how genes do their work is the heart of the matter, and this is where the infinitely intricate mechanisms of interplay between nature and nurture once again claim center stage. "Everything interacts with everything else," says Turkheimer. That conclusion unites cutting-edge research in genetics and neuroscience.

Across a wide array of disciplines in the natural and social sciences -- developmental and behavioral neuroscience, genetics, medicine, cognitive and developmental psychology, among them -- researchers are converging on a new understanding of human development, one that emphasizes the interplay of nature and nurture. The connections between neuroscience and molecular genetics are especially tantalizing.

Brain science focuses on the pathways of the brain, while molecular genetics looks at what's being transmitted along those pathways. "Of all the developments that have contributed to neuroscience in the past two decades," observes Nobel Prize-winning neurophysiologist Eric Kandel, "none has had a greater impact than the application of molecular genetics."

The hope is that this synthesis will reach beyond science, with its promise of elegant answers, to take account of the blooming complexities that real life introduces into the mix. That's the ultimate promise in this research -- relating findings in the laboratory to the processes of brain development over the course of a lifetime. When that day comes, the brain scientists and geneticists will be able to speak with specificity to parents and educators about the circumstances in which their young charges are most likely to thrive. Meanwhile, their findings bolster advocates' arguments -- no less than parents' intuitive sense -- that early education can have a profound impact on the future of a child.
Excerpted by permission from The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics. Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2007 by David L. Kirp.
David L. Kirp is a professor of Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a frequent contributor to the Prospect.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Knowledge Has the Most Worth?

From The School Administrator, February 2008 issue. See . Our thanks to Diane Roberts, Math Teacher, for pointing us to this article.

What Knowledge Has the Most Worth?

Reconsidering how to cultivate skills in U.S. students to meet the demands of global citizenry

By Yong Zhao
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Yong Zhao directs the U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence.

But what about AYP?"

This is the question I encounter from an educator almost every time I finish my presentation on how globalization requires schools to reconsider what they teach to prepare students to become competent citizens.

The exact wording of audience members may differ, but the sentiment is the same: American educators have become very concerned by mandates prescribed in the federal No Child Left Behind Act and a slew of state-level reforms such as new curriculum standards and requirements. It is difficult for them to entertain other suggestions.

The concern is understandable because noncompliance leads to unbearable consequences. Failure to make AYP - adequate yearly progress - can result in a series of punitive actions ranging from student losses to school reorganization. But the even more serious consequence is the public shaming of schools resulting from the publication of a school's lowly ranking. While the latter is simplistically based on student performance on tests in math and reading, it is viewed by the public as indication of the overall quality of the school. In other words, regardless of what a school has achieved in other areas or the validity and reliability of the tests, as long as its 3rd graders or 8th graders are not good test takers, the school is considered needing improvement, a euphemism for a poor-quality school.

As educators, however, we are charged with a much more important task than responding to bureaucratic requirements - the moral responsibility to prepare students to lead successful lives. People may have different opinions about what a successful life is, but it should certainly include financial independence, competent participation in community life and positive contributions to society. Schools should at least equip students with the attitudes, perspectives, skills and knowledge that will help them find and keep a job, interact with their co-workers and neighbors and understand as well as make informed decisions about issues affecting society.

The specific attitudes, skills and knowledge schools aim to cultivate should be responsive to changes in society. What was important before may be irrelevant today, and what is considered essential in one society may have little value in another. Historically, we have seen subjects that once dominated the student timetable, such as Latin, Greek and grammar, being replaced by advanced math and modern sciences. Internationally, other countries have decided what is most important for their society. For China, it is math, English and Chinese. Today, we are in the midst of a significant transformation. Globalization, the multitude of forces that have made our world smaller and more integrated, is likely to turn the world into a global village where geographical distance matters little, and our lives are affected by and impact distant people and places across the world as much as, if not more than, our next-door neighbors. What is needed to live a successful life in this village is certainly different from when the world was separated by geographical distances and political boundaries into small local communities.

A Competitive Edge

One of the consequences of globalization is the increasing free movement of human capital on a global scale. Whether through physical relocation or virtual telecommuting, human resources are fluid across national and geographical boundaries. Businesses can find employees across the globe through outsourcing their business operations worldwide to maximize their profits and stay commercially competitive. Political actions and patriotism no longer are sufficient to keep businesses from sending their jobs abroad.

Meanwhile, nothing prevents Americans from working for foreign businesses through telecommuting or relocating abroad. But the problem is that on average American workers are much more expensive than their counterparts in developing countries such as Brazil, China, India and Mexico. For them to continue to be employed and paid a salary to sustain their current standard of living, Americans must have talents that are more valuable or unavailable in other parts of the world at a lower rate. This is clearly articulated by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a group of influential business, education and political leaders in their 2007 report "Tough Choices or Tough Times."

In part, the commission's report says: "Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers - an enormous challenge for this country - why would the world's employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work? They would be willing to do that only if we could offer something the Chinese and Indians and others cannot."

What then is that "something" the Chinese, Indians and others cannot offer but Americans can?

Writer Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, suggests the right brain-directed (R-directed) skills (simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual and synthetic) are the new ones Americans should acquire because jobs that use the left brain-directed skills (sequential, literal, functional, textual and analytic) are being outsourced to Asia and machines. Correspondingly, the new essential aptitudes, Pink says, are design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.

In terms more familiar to educators, Pink's left-brain skills are similar to the linguistic and logic intelligences within Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences framework, or in terms of school subjects: math, language arts and science. Some of his right-brain skills relate to the other talents proposed by Gardner: kinesthetic, musical, visual/spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences.

The natural follow-up question is why we believe Americans can develop the R-directed aptitudes while the Chinese cannot. In fact, no such guarantee exists. China has been reforming its education system to cultivate creativity and the R-directed aptitudes. So, too, have other Asian countries, notably Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The United States, on the other hand, has been emphasizing the opposite. If NCLB and similar standardization efforts succeed, we may well lose the advantage in cultivating the right-brain aptitudes. Before the implementation of NCLB, the U.S. education culture was more conducive to (or at least tolerant of) talents besides the sequential, literal and functional.

A Broader View

"Teachers are gardeners."

This Chinese metaphor fully reveals the purpose of schooling. In its attempt to cultivate certain talents, it suppresses other talents, just as a gardener does. In his effort to cultivate desirable plants, he takes out the undesirable ones and labels them weeds. The fate of a plant is solely determined by the gardener's selection criteria and how he applies them. Similarly, the fate of certain intelligence is determined by what schools value and how that value is applied.

Although, in general, most modern schools worldwide tend to value linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, the degree to which value is attached to them and other intelligences varies across cultures.

East Asian education systems have traditionally valued academic performance, indicated by test scores, in math and language almost to the exclusivity of any other talents. Schools and parents also have put all their efforts into helping students perform well in these areas. Consequently, these education systems have shown excellent performance in international comparative studies, which have mostly measured performance in mathematics and science.

In contrast, American schools and parents traditionally have tolerated the exercise of other intelligences in schools. They tend to hold a broader, more individualized view of success - the soccer mom phenomenon, the many nonacademic student clubs and the craziness surrounding athletic activities in schools are telling examples. Consequently American schools seem to have produced more diverse talents than their counterparts in Asia.

Unfortunately, all these may gradually disappear as the education reforms further deepen to completely squeeze out other intelligences from school.

Creative Needs

Creativity is another talent that the United States may offer that the Chinese and Indians may not be able to match, at least not yet on the same scale. Of course, it would be ludicrous to believe Americans hold a global monopoly over creativity. However, somehow we must accept the fact the United States has been the world leader in scientific innovations for most of modern times. In fact, as the East Asian specialist William Hannas comprehensively documents in his book The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity, modern development in East Asian countries has primarily relied on technology transfers from the West. Leaders of these nations are acutely aware of their creativity problem and have been trying to address it, albeit with limited success. Somehow this fact escapes the attention of leaders and educators in the United States, "where East Asia's technical skills are typically confused with real creativity, and where people have little clue about the degree to which their creative resources are utilized abroad for commercial profit," Hannas writes.

The creativity gap between East Asian countries and the United States is a complex phenomenon, but it certainly has a great deal to do with individuals who are creative. That is, somehow there are more creative people in the United States than in Asian countries, or Americans are in general more creative than those in Asia. Because there shouldn't be any genetic difference in creativity between Asians and Americans, the difference has to be "nurture" rather than "nature." How then is creativity nurtured?

To be creative is to be different. Creative people have ideas, behaviors, beliefs and lifestyles that deviate from the norm and tradition. How deviant people and divergent ideas are treated by others has a defining effect on creativity. Research has found that, in general, tolerance of deviation from tradition and the norm resulted in more creativity.

Schools have been generally found to be either insignificant to or suppressive of creativity because they demand conformity and obedience. But there is a difference in the degree to which that happens: Some schools kill more creativity and some less.

Group Obligation

Here lies the answer, or at least a significant partial one, to the creativity gap between Asians and Americans. First of all, Asian teachers often have been praised by some American commentators for being able to maintain order in the classroom. They also want much more than their American counterparts for their students to think of themselves as a group, to be constantly aware of their obligations to the group and to not to bring shame to the group.

Furthermore, conformity is emphasized significantly more in Asian schools than in America. Inflexible rules, standard routines and an emphasis on conformity are just the right tools to squelch creativity.

Second, American parents and educators often have been criticized by reformers for having low academic expectations of students, which is actually a sign that shows American parents and educators define success more broadly and strongly emphasize children as individuals, and thus it is important to respect their wishes and abilities.

In contrast, Asian parents place an extremely high value on external indicators - grades, test scores, and most importantly, admission to prestigious universities. Excessive or exclusive focus on external indicators of success such as grades and test scores can pressure children, sending the message that academic success is important, not for personal reasons, but to please others. A broader definition of success and the emphasis on internal standards of success may not lead to high test scores but definitely helps to preserve and protect individuality and creativity.

Lastly, a standardized and centralized curriculum, another feature of Asian education systems that often is praised by American reformers, serves to further squeeze opportunities for individual differences. Teaching the same sequence at the same pace using the same textbook for all students leaves little room for exploring individual interests and accommodating different learning styles.
Creativity cannot be taught, but it can be killed. It is clear how Asian education systems kill creativity more effectively than the American system. The creativity gap exists between Americans and Asians not because American schools teach creativity more or better than their Asian counterparts. They just do not kill it as much as the Asians.

Global Workers

Another consequence of globalization is increased intensity and frequency of cross-cultural communications. As businesses become global and multinational, so do their workforces. Today, communication within a company often occurs across many countries and cultures on a daily basis. External communications with customers, suppliers and government agencies are similarly international. Even small businesses need talents that can help them navigate the cultural and linguistic differences when they enter the global economy.

In addition, as more and more people move across national borders, communities are becoming increasingly diverse culturally and racially. Communities need to provide services that are culturally sensitive and linguistically competent to new immigrants, to attract international investments and tourists, and to get on the global stage. Therefore the ability to interact effectively with people who speak different languages, believe in different religions and hold different values has become essential for all workers. That is, what used to be required of a small group of individuals - diplomats, translators, cross-cultural communication consultants or international tour guides - has become necessary for all professions.

The essential ingredients of global knowledge and skills include foreign language proficiency and a deep understanding of other cultures. American schools are notorious for not preparing students to cultivate such knowledge and skills. A report released by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington D.C.-based organization, stated in February 2006: "Many American students lack sufficient knowledge about other world regions, languages and cultures, and as a result are likely to be unprepared to compete and lead in a global work environment." Most American schools do not offer foreign languages until high school. Although foreign language teaching starting from high school is too little too late, not all high school students are required take a foreign language, especially a non-Western language.

By contrast, in China English is a required course beginning in 3rd grade, and many schools in the urban areas start to offer English in 1st grade. Many parents send their children to English language programs before they even start formal schooling. The same is true in South Korea, Taiwan and other nations. England recently began to require all primary schools to offer foreign languages, including Chinese, as part of their core curriculum.

Global Citizenship

As economic globalization sweeps contemporary society, it brings both positive and negative impacts to different societies and different sectors of a given society. While it may help spread democracy and lift people out of poverty, it has the potential to lead to more cultural clashes and conflicts, destroy local cultures, breed hostility, create new pockets of poverty and ruin the environment.

Furthermore, what happens in distant places affects communities worldwide. Terrorism, environmental destruction, disease and political unrest have all acquired a global nature. To ensure a better society for all, actually to ensure the very survival and continuity of the human civilization, requires us to prepare our students to become global citizens.

As such, students need to be aware of the global nature of societal issues, to care about people in distant places, to understand the nature of global economic integration, to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples, to respect and protect cultural diversity, to fight for social justice for all and to protect planet Earth, home for all human beings.

This is a difficult assignment for American educators. No Child Left Behind already has squeezed out any room for subjects other than what is being tested. The frightening description of job losses due to offshoring, trade deficit, foreign terrorists, the rise of developing countries and how children in other countries will "eat the lunch" of American children adds to the challenge for educators to convince a very America-centric public that helping our children develop a sense of global citizenship is actually a good thing.

In reality, it is not only a good thing, but also a necessary and urgent need simply because our well-being is forever connected to that of people in other countries. Our prosperity cannot be sustained in isolation from other countries any longer.

Final Thoughts

We know test scores don't predict the future of either individuals or nations. About 10 years ago, author Daniel Goleman wrote the following in his classic book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ: "One of psychology's open secrets is the relative inability of grades, IQ or SAT scores, despite their popular mystique, to predict unerringly who will succeed in life. ... At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces."

Writing in the October 2007 issue of Kappan, Keith Baker, a retired bilingual education authority with the U.S. Department of Education, pointed to the inability of international tests to predict a country's future.

Performance on the First International Mathematics Study, a study of 13-year-olds in 11 countries conducted in 1964 (in which the United States finished second to last), was found to have either insignificant or negative correlation with a nation's economic growth, productivity, democracy, livability or creativity - what really matters - 40 years later. "In short, the higher a nation's test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance," writes Baker.

Clearly what will help our children live a successful life in the future will not come from holding schools accountable for adequate yearly progress in test scores. On the contrary, AYP and similar measures have the greatest potential to destroy students' chances of success by forcing schools to narrow their curriculum, teachers to teach to the test and the public to adopt a single criterion to measure the success of students, teachers and schools. It aims to equip our children with knowledge that can be easily found at much lower cost in other countries, while squelching creativity and talents that are truly valuable.

Instead of becoming more like others who are eager to be more like Americans, American education needs to be more American - to preserve flexibility, protect individuality and promote multiple intelligences. American education also needs to become more global - adopt a global perspective, add foreign languages and cultures and advocate global citizenship.
Yong Zhao is director of the U.S.- China Center for Research on Educational Excellence at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. E-mail: