xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Student, An Earthquake, and Twitter

AP Photo/Carlos Espinoza

When talking with some retired teachers about how students have changed in the last ten years, we commented on how the internet has made communication as simple as the click of a button. People have access to information that you used to have to work hard to get, and it doesn't take long to get it either.  You type in a search term, and thousands of sources of information are at your disposal.

This post isn't about the quality of internet resources, but of a realization that technology has exciting implications for students and teachers all over the world.

On Saturday night, while tweeting with "tweeps" from all over the U.S.  I got a tweet from one of my students that read, "8.3 earthquake hits Chile!" This was at 11:10 pm.  Being from Los Angeles, I know the damage an 8.3 is capable of causing.  Immediately, I went to CNN, the LA Times, Yahoo News and found...nothing.  I turned on the TV and flipped to all the 24 hour news channels and saw...nothing.  Returning to Twitter, I typed Chile Earthquake into the search box and immediately got hundreds of hits from all over the world of people tweeting about this event.

From these tweets, a link was given to TV Chile, that broadcasts live, also 24 hours.  Turning to the live feed on the internet, direct information was available from both the anchor and a simultaneous chat feature of mostly Chileans and other South Americans who were giving updates such as, "we felt it in Argentina too" and "the lights are still out in Santiago."  This website gave me all the information one could want.  A few minutes later, CNN and Fox News got their act together and began reporting on the earthquake.

From this event, a few musings come to mind:

Being bilingual or multi-lingual is so beautiful and important
Being that the lines of communication from all over the world are open, it feels amazing to be able to communicate and understand what people are saying.  Our education system has reduced, not increased opportunities for students to be multi-lingual, ever since No Child Left Behind has placed the focus on the most struggling of students, and on mostly English and Math.  Yet parents who are most in the know seek bilingual programs for their children.  LAUSD high schools used to offer Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, and even Chinese not too long ago.  Now, Spanish is usually the only one offered, unless the school is a Language Magnet. 

Twitter is the way to go when you need information now
My student tweeted about Chile only 36 minutes after the earthquake that took place on another continent.  This gives "breaking news" a whole new meaning.  Twitter has been a comprehensive source of information on not just current events but ed reform topics such as Race to the Top, the charter movement, merit pay, and the Public School Choice program.  Twitter was our source for news at the UTLA rally last week as someone inside the board room was sending tweets about the vote as it happened. 

We can always learn from our students
The student who informed me of the earthquake is an outstanding Honors student at LAAMS.  When I asked her why she tweeted about the earthquake she simply responded like the gifted, concerned student that she is:  "I care about the world and the people in it."  This incident swells my heart with pride and hope about the lives of my students.  I have always said that students in South Central are even more ready for life because not only do they have book smarts, they have street smarts.  This young girl is already preparing for a life of knowledge and service.  As an educator, could you ask for anything more?

At DFSC, our thoughts are with the people of Chile and Haiti, during this challenging time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LAUSD School Board Gives Management of 36 Schools to Teacher Collaboratives, the Mayor, and Charters (But Did the Parents Win?)

Photo by Andy Holzman, Daily News

Today, the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board voted on which organization they would select to govern 36 new and "underperforming" schools. Charter schools had submitted several bids, all but one for new schools, but were only selected to govern four new schools. Coverage here from L.A. Times.

But they wanted more schools. And they're mad. @parentrev (the Parent Revolution is a "parent activist" group with paid organizers on staff, closely affiliated with Green Dot charter schools) on twitter fumed, "LAUSD proved again today why parents can't count on politicians to bring change. Parents will use parent trigger & transform their schools."

************Okay ********************** Not Okay

I'm confused. I thought the Parent Revolution was all about empowering parents. On their website's blog, Gabe Rose states, "
We are talking about finally giving parents, the most important stakeholder yet the one with the least power, the ability to say enough is enough, and bring about radical change." Giving public schools away to private corporations is radical indeed. The whole "Public School Choice process," as misguided as it truly is, has given parents an opportunity to examine the proposals and vote for the one they believed best for their children. Parents overwhelmingly selected the teacher-written plans over the charter plans.

I guess this is not the radical change the charters were hoping for.

So parent power is only good when it is used to trigger the closing of a school, or reconstituting it. Parent power is not good when parents say to outsiders, "thanks, but no thanks, we know who has the best interest of our kids in mind." Truly, charter groups can't have it both ways.

For more coverage from a person at the actual board meeting, read Scott Folsom's blog here.
Charter school parents photo by Andy Holzman, Daily News

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Farce That Is the Public School Choice

This commentary was written by Sergio Flores in response to KPCC's article on the L.A. Teacher Rallies we wrote about in the previous post. His analysis is right on the mark, and highlights the parts of the process (if not the entire process itself) that defy logic and reason.

Thank you, Sergio! Please email our blog so we can keep in touch with you at dontforgetsouthcentral@gmail.com.

For public school educators in Los Angeles, and California in general, the bidding for public schools in LAUSD has brought tragedy, shame, and a powerful warning to all other districts in the state. In a political atmosphere saturated with misinformation and false premises and promises, public schools are offered as if they were cast-off commodities to the best bidder. After years of living in unfair scrutiny and infamy, thousands of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities go through an ignominious path which leads most of them towards an even more uncertain future.

The LA Times reporter couldn’t have chosen a most adequate language to describe and give meaning to the news --the language of the free-market. If there ever was any teacher among us who believe the reformers premises of “choice” and “accountability,” this news and its wording exhibit the cold hard truth behind the rhetoric of the education reform: dismantling public education.

Thirty public schools are up for grabs; eighteen in a competitive political bid supervised by Superintendent Cortines. The bidders are groups of teachers and administrators, who are constrained by laws and are not liked by the Superintendent Cortines, versus the charter school operators, which are exempted from most of the laws, and Mayor Villaraigoza’s non-profit group.

This whole episode in the public schools saga is nothing but the same travesty employed by the reformers in order to distract everybody from the real (not so long term) goal of privatizing public education. Let’s be clear about it: empiric evidence and academic research show that the takeover of public schools has not given significant positive results. For that alone, this option would have to be discarded altogether.

If the reformers’ main point is to improve education by fostering more local power, the whole concepts of charter schools or mayoral control are unnecessary and ineffective. Public schools can achieve such goal for less money and without dividing the community or undermining democracy. It is absurd to correct the problems of a large school by creating “smaller” schools inside it. First of all, the division does not solve the problems; it just creates a selected and privileged group and another relegated to a default second class education. Secondly, this measure undermines the efforts to determine the real problems. Instead of finding the main causes of the problems in each school, stakeholders are busy trying to implement unproven formulas. Finally, the whole idea of improving schools by destroying them is plainly ludicrous. The trade of something real that can be improved for a fantasy does not even deserve consideration. It is ironic that reformers argue against public schools asking for empowerment of local communities and schools while proposing alternatives that divide them and remove their democratic fabric.

Who wins, who loses, who cares?

In solidarity
Sergio Flores

Thursday, February 18, 2010

L.A. Teachers Rally For...Many Reasons

Last week, hundreds of LAUSD teachers rallied in the rain to bring attention to numerous issues of concern:
  • the defamation of the teaching profession
  • the rise of the charter movement/privatization of public schools
  • looming budget cuts, more teacher layoffs
Some teachers are ambivalent about continuing to participate in UTLA rallies. RIF'ed teachers wonder whether anyone remembers that they have lost their jobs as permanent teachers and are working as long-term substitutes (if they're lucky.) When you put your heart and soul into your job, when your life centers around your persona as a teacher, you feel like your world is upside down in the wake of the loss of your job. But does anyone even remember that L.A. Academy Middle School lost 23 teaching positions 7 months ago? That South Central bore 40% of the layoffs due to its large number of new teachers?

Joe Zeccola (pictured above), UTLA Co-Chair at LAAMS, explains why only through unity, will our voices be heard and listened to. He says there is no one else who is standing by us at this time, and all we have is each other. RIF'ed teachers can only pin their hopes on the union.

Students also attended the rally, with their parents, because they like their teachers, they know their teachers, they trust their teachers. No amount of media smears, or "grassroots" campaigns will change that. The kids are the smartest of all; they know impostors when they see 'em.

Teachers weren't just rallying for their jobs, although why this would be considered a bad thing, I don't know. They were fighting to be heard, because they are the experts in the field of education. This whole education debate is leaving out a key group of people: the teachers themselves. Would you ask Eli Broad for his expert opinion if you needed surgery? Undoubtedly, no. But teachers haven't been included in the planning of Race to the Top, or any relevant educational policy, nor does it seem it will happen any time in the future.

So the rally of the rain was meant to send a message to the School Board, to Sacramento, to anyone involved in the ed-debate: we want to be a part of the ed debate. We haven't been included before, and this must change. Greater accountability will come when teachers have a say in curriculum design, professional development, and to some extent, school governance. Otherwise, there is little hope for improvement.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person-Merriam-Webster dictionary

What is really going on with public education today? Are public schools really failing, or are they being portrayed as failures in order to set them up for corporate take-overs? The public has the right to know that they are being led down a road to the elimination of the middle class, in the corporate world's quest for massive profits via the privatization of the public sector.

In other words, selling schools=more money for rich people. It is in someone's vested interest that our public schools fail. And it ain't the teachers and the students.

Corporate charters are not in it to "save the children." They are in it to make money off of the children using propaganda and fake grassroots groups such as the Parent Revolution. The propaganda goes like this: "public schools are failing. The main reason for this is lazy, unmotivated teachers who are protected by powerful, but unethical, teachers' unions who are just in it to save jobs and work as little as possible."

If you eliminate the unions, it will be as easy as pie to take over the buildings and the business, and begin making mass profits.

In the next few weeks, we at DFSC will put together some sources off of the internet to show how this is being done. We will begin with images.

Images are a powerful means to convey ideas, sentiments, and opinions. The Los Angeles Times has used images quite effectively to portray unionized public school teachers as the scourge of humanity. Notice the wording of their headlines:
  • Failure gets a pass,
  • Firing teachers can be a costly and torturous task,
  • Bar set low for a lifetime job in schools, and
  • Accused of sexual abuse, but back in the classroom.
Now look at the headlines they use for non-unionized charter schools and teachers:
  • Charter tackles middle school challenges with young faculties and a no-nonsense attitude.
  • L.A. charter schools flex their educational muscles
  • Charters generally perform better than traditional schools, not as well as magnets
  • Locke High School's progress
See these headlines for yourself here.

Clearly, the use of such words is a planned, strategic effort to portray one group or another in a certain light. It is easy to fall for such propaganda. But the headlines are nothing in comparison with the photographs they have used to depict the different faculties at each type of school. Here goes:






OPPRESSED (as in students are oppressed)




You would think, after reading these articles, that charter schools employ no unsavory employees, and are full of energetic, inspiring, creative teachers.

And you would think public schools are only full of lazy, incompetent teachers.

We will highlight public school employees that are doing an amazing job at teaching students IN SPITE of being abandoned and forsaken by our legislators, our local philanthropists, and even our own school board. Stay tuned.

All images from latimes.com

Update: 2/11/09 The LA Weekly has joined forces with the LA Times in their intensely negative portrayal of teachers. Read The Dance of the Lemons here. (By the way, didn't Jill Stewart already do this series at the now defunct New Times, almost 10 years ago? Why yes she did!) And the image to accompany this article?


Update 2/17/10

Listed below are headlines from publications throughout the United States, some whose claims have gone beyond beyond the realm of intellectual discourse and decency. Mistruths are stated as facts, then these mistruths get repeated as gospel. Some articles even attempt to portray teachers as sub-human. We will link to these publications to document the degeneration of this ed-debate into a quasi-fascist attack on teachers...on teachers, of all people!

L.A. Weekly LAUSD Dance of the Lemons 2/11/10 Writer: Beth Barrett
L.A. Weekly When Those Who Can't Do, Teach 2/18/10 Writer: Beth Barrett
Business Insider L.A. Superintendent Has Identified 1,000 Horrendous Teachers, But None Can Be Fired Thanks to the Union 2/17/10 Writer: Gus Lubin
Charter School Insights Blog What do 1,000 bad teachers have in common with mealy bugs, fleas, bed bugs, and skunk smell? 2/18/10 Writer: Doug Hering