Apr
01
2011

Not Much Value in 'Value-Added' Evaluations

NYT seeks teacher data, ignores own reporting

On September 21, Los Angeles teacher Rigoberto Ruelas killed himself, jumping 100 feet from a bridge into the Angeles National Forest below. His suicide came about a month after the Los Angeles Times posted ratings of over 6,000 L.A. teachers on its website (8/14/10). Ruelas was poorly ranked, pegged as “less effective than average overall.” But he was much beloved, and his sense of self was deeply tied up with the work he did in South L.A.’s poor and largely Latino Miramonte Elementary School. The L.A. Times rating was certainly devastating. It may have also been wrong. A legion of […]

Jan
21
2011

Helena Cobban on Tunisia, Wayne Au on teacher testing

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Tunisia is hardly ever in the US news, but when demonstrations by a largely secular movement led to the ouster of the country's long-ruling, American-backed dictator, US elite media took notice. We'll talk with Helena Cobban of JustWorldNews about what is happening in Tunisia. Also on the show: There's been some pushback to so-called educational reform efforts with their emphasis on standardized tests as the preeminent measure of educational value, for students and teachers. The resistance isn't just about the limited nature of tests, there’s also evidence that they just aren't that useful. Wayne […]

Oct
01
2010

Rick Ayers on Waiting for Superman, Vivian Stockman on Appalachia Rising

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The media accolades heaped on the new documentary Waiting for Superman would be the envy of any filmmaker. The movie's stirring endorsement of corporate-backed education reform makes it an easy sell in the corporate media. But education professor and author Rick Ayers calls Waiting for Superman a "slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions." He'll join us to explain. Also on the show today: You wouldn't know it from the corporate press, but thousands of people were in Washington, D.C., September 25-27 to call for an end to mountaintop removal mining. The series […]

Sep
10
2010

Josh Ruebner on Mideast peace talks, Diane Ravitch on grading teachers

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The theme in coverage of the current Mideast peace negotiations going on in Washington between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appears to be skepticism. But does being critical of this process mean you don't want peace? We'll hear from Josh Ruebner, the national advocacy director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Also on the show: Grading teachers based on how well their students perform on tests is a popular practice with so-called education reformers, White House policy makers and journalists. You almost wouldn't know that the […]

Sep
01
2010

Teach for America's Opaque Agenda

Journalist Barbara Miner confronts a media darling

Photo Credit: Teach For America

Teach for America is Exhibit A for the corporate media’s notion that an army of talented teachers stands waiting to take on the most difficult schools—if only the unions would get out of the way. The Peace Corps-modeled project in which college graduates do two-year stints in low-income schools has been a feel-good media topic since the group’s 1990 founding by young Princeton grad Wendy Kopp. But where does TFA really fit in the debate over education reform? What happens when reporters try to find out? In an interview with CounterSpin (4/16/10), Barbara Miner of Rethinking Schools differentiated between Teach […]

Sep
01
2010

Media's Favorite School 'Reformer'

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

After Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty pushed for a mayoral takeover of the city’s school system and dissolved the school board, he chose a relative unknown to take charge. But it wouldn’t take long before she would become a national media darling. Fenty’s pick was Michelle Rhee, a Teach for America graduate who had taught for only three years at urban schools in Baltimore before founding a non-profit organization, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), where she spent the next 10 years. Under Rhee’s leadership, TNTP promoted the idea that since good education came from good teachers, the way to improve […]

Sep
01
2010

Knowledge Is Power-and So Is Ownership

This section was originally printed with Media's Favorite School 'Reformer'. The national charter school network KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is frequently cited by media as an example of the cure for what ails the country’s schools. Few outlets are more zealous in this regard than Newsweek, which makes it noteworthy that KIPP’s D.C. branch boasts as a boardmember Donald Graham, chair of the Washington Post Co., owners of Newsweek until August 2010. (Also on the 12-member D.C. board are David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic, and Suzanne Clark, president of the National Journal Group.) Some of what Newsweek has […]

Sep
01
2010

'Race to the Top' and the Bill Gates Connection

Who gets to speak about what schools need?

Race to the Top (RTTT), announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009, is a $4.4 billion grant program generating more conversation than its relatively small money amount might suggest. What has people talking is its competitive structure that forces cash-strapped states to make radical changes in education in order to stay in the running—changes a National Research Council report (10/7/09) warned were not backed by research. Instead of dispersing grant money on the basis of greatest need, RTTT chooses a few winners based on the degree to which the states deliver what […]