Friday, June 24, 2011

New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal

Hmmm.  Let's see: the average young person in this country is watching 4 ½ hours of TV every school day, listening to 2+ hours of music, playing video games for 1 ¼ hours, and generally messing around and having fun, so not surprisingly, they're falling further and further behind their international peers…  So what's the brilliant solution some dimwits have come up with?  Let's have them do LESS studying and schoolwork!  Ya can't make this stuff up!

It turned out that the district, which serves 3,500 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, was already re-evaluating its homework practices. The school board will vote this summer on a proposal to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school — 20 minutes for second graders, and so forth — and ban assignments on weekends, holidays and school vacations.

Galloway, a mostly middle-class community northwest of Atlantic City, is part of a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high-stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, particularly in elementary grades.

Such efforts have drawn criticism from some teachers and some parents who counter that students must study more, not less, if they are to succeed. Even so, the anti-homework movement has been reignited in recent months by the documentary "Race to Nowhere," about burned-out students caught in a pressure-cooker educational system.

Seriously, some kids ARE overworked – I'd guess 5% (I suspect mostly Asian, with "tiger moms"), maybe 20% get the right amount of work, and 75% aren't asked to do enough (so not surprisingly they live DOWN to the low expectations that are set for them).  Unfortunately, a lot of people with influence (like the makers of the documentary, Race to Nowhere) have kids in the first or second category, so they think their kids' problems are reflective of a larger problem, when in fact the opposite is true.


New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal

Cathy Clark, a teacher, with her students at Arthur Rann Elementary School in Galloway, N.J. The Galloway school board will vote this summer on a proposal to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school and to ban assignments on weekends, holidays and school vacations.

Published: June 15, 2011

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

KIPP King in San Lorenzo graduated its first high school class

KIPP King in San Lorenzo graduated its first high school class this month – a local ABC affiliate covered it: (2 min).  Here's the transcript:

A chain of charter schools in the Bay Area will hold its first-ever high school graduation this Saturday. It's called KIPP, which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program. It is a school on a mission to help students defy the odds.

Principal Jason Singer runs his school on the promise to parents that their kid will get to college. Now, he can say he's kept that promise.

Four years after it opened, KIPP King Collegiate High School in San Lorenzo is having its first graduation and every single graduate is headed to college.

…"They've gone from kind of these naive, really spirited, really spunky, young people from whom college really is just a word to really critically thinking, community-minded, passionate young adults," said Singer.

The students attend school eight hours a day, then they go home and read, so they can take part in the next day's discussions.

Teachers at KIPP King say it's no coincidence their students consistently defy the odds. They say it's because from the very beginning, they learn to think of education not just as something you do, but as a life decision.

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Grants available from Ardor Brothers:

We at Arbor Brothers are pleased to kick-off our 2011 grantmaking cycle with the announcement of our Request for Proposals (RFP).  Applicant organizations will be vetted over the summer and a portfolio of grantees will be selected in September.  This group will likely include between three and five non-profits, each receiving a grant composed of two parts: a financial contribution of between $50,000 and $100,000 and an ongoing consulting support package.  During the year following selection, we will invest substantial time and resources helping grantees build capacity in critical areas such as financial management, strategic planning and outcomes measurement. 

We are excited to see the very best organizations that the tri-state area has to offer, so please forward this announcement on to any potential applicants in the TFA New York universe and any of your other networks.  Materials detailing the grant structure, eligibility requirements and the application process and can be found on our website ( and are also attached to this email.  Applications will be accepted from June 15 – July 29.  As a reminder, we are seeking applicants that are:

·                 Early-stage non-profit organizations serving under-resourced communities,

·                 Located in NY-NJ-CT, and

·                 Working within the fields of education, youth, and workforce development.

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Horrifying statistic

Horrifying statistic of the day #1: Percentage of teachers required to teach a sample lesson before being hired in Los Angeles last year: 13%.


#2: Percentage of fourth graders who can identify a picture of Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons as to why he was important: 9%.

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High-stakes school war

DFER's Joe Williams with a spot-on op ed in today's NY Post about how Bloomberg must step up and show real courage – or risk everything he's fought for and accomplished over the past nine years:

As he won control of the city's public schools nine years ago this week, Mayor Bloomberg boldly promised: "We will not have to tolerate an incapable bureaucracy which does not respond to the needs of the students."

Sadly, New York City isn't even close to achieving that bold vision: We learned this week that only one in three city high-school graduates is prepared for college-level work.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's promise is being put to the test like never before.

…For the mayor to back down on even one of these issues in order to cut an easy deal would be a monumental disappointment -- indeed, a waste of all he's accomplished over the past nine years.

All those countless hours spent fighting to raise the cap on the number of charter schools, win the Race to the Top, improve teacher evaluation and re-up on mayoral control -- everything would go out the window.

Agree or disagree with the approach Bloomberg has taken (for the record, I think he could be even bolder), his reforms have put the pieces in place to bring real change to the city's schools.

But now the mayor has to close the deal -- moving from the small, incremental reforms championed on his watch to fighting like hell for meaningful, lasting reforms that will properly and efficiently guide the school system for the next quarter of a century or more.

Bloomberg's entire reform legacy is on the line. We're either going to cut through the political paralysis that essentially drove the city's education system into the ground a decade ago, or we'll look back at the last nine years as a valiant, yet failed, effort to save public education in New York City on Bloomberg's watch.

It all comes down to leadership now. The mayor who brilliantly won control of the schools nine years ago has a chance to determine, before this month is over, what he wants his education legacy to look like.

Bloomberg has spoken often about the importance of having a great system of schools in the city, and the sheer courage it will take to get there. For the sake of school kids and this city's future, let's hope that's the guy who shows up at the bargaining table.


High-stakes school war

Last Updated: 3:49 AM, June 16, 2011

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Mayor's fading legacy

The NY Post editorial board is skeptical that Bloomberg will show courage – he needs to prove them wrong:

Mayor Bloomberg's dream of forever being remembered as the savior of New York's schools is in danger.

And it's not just Tuesday's report by the state on the frighteningly small number of kids who leave school ready for college or a job that leads to this painful conclusion.

As education reformer Joe Williams notes on the preceding page, major issues that will determine the fate of the city's schools for years are now in play.

Alas, there's scant evidence that Bloomberg has the interest -- or the moxie -- to do what it takes to see these issues resolved in favor of kids.

The upshot may well be a record of school failure that drags down his entire legacy -- not only because he vowed to be the "education mayor," but because he'll have little else to show for his time in office.

Aside from bike lanes, of course.


Mayor's fading legacy

Last Updated: 11:48 PM, June 15, 2011

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Despite black parent anger in New York City, NAACP is right

Never let it be said that I don't present viewpoints that conflict with my own (in fact, sometimes I seem to do little else than present – and then rebut – Ravitch, etc.).  Here's a mind-bogglingly foolish column in which USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham argues, essentially, that we shouldn't allow charters or close down bad schools because we need parents to get really mad and these actions will only appease them.  I am NOT making this up!

For too many black children, public school systems oppress more than educate. They place students in underachieving, poorly funded schools. And when parents demand better, what they get is steam control — a way to vent their anger, not fix the problem.

In New York City, charter schools — which have room for only 4% of the city's 1 million public school students — are steam control. They keep the revolt over poor performing public schools from becoming a revolution by distracting parents with the slender reed of hope of getting their child into a better school.


Despite black parent anger in New York City, NAACP is right

DeWayne Wickham USA TODAY columnist

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DFER web site

This awesome cartoon from the DFER web site captures what's really going on:

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn understands hard budget choices she, Mayor Bloomberg must make

It's good to see the head of the NYC City Council come out against LIFO:

As for how to conduct teacher layoffs, should they be necessary, Quinn said that selecting instructors for dismissal solely through seniority, rather than on teacher effectiveness, is plainly nuts. Bloomberg had pleaded with Albany to end the so-called last in, first out system, but Albany told him to take a hike.

"Having a system that is based exclusively on seniority does not make any sense," Quinn said.

She also backed the concept of letting go teachers who are paid to do nothing because they were excessed from positions and have been unable to find new jobs in the school system.

Quinn said they should be removed from the payroll after they have had a fair chance to look for work - perhaps after a year, certainly after two.

Finally, Quinn said New Yorkers are going to get hammered unless municipal labor leaders are willing to make sacrifices.

"The unions are going to have to come to the table," she declared, and she was dead-on right.


City Council Speaker Christine Quinn understands hard budget choices she, Mayor Bloomberg must make

Friday, June 10th 2011, 4:00 AM

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Graduation Rates in City Set Record

Some great news on continued progress on NYC's rising graduation rate – tempered with sobering news about how few students are truly prepared for college.  This has always been true, however, so increasing the graduation rate is an important step forward (which naysayers will, of course, deny):

The four-year graduation rate in New York City rose to a record 65% in 2010, Mayor Bloomberg announced Tuesday, touting the numbers as a sign his administration's reforms have boosted student success.

"This really is a great day for us to be happy with what we've accomplished," the mayor said at a news conference in Brooklyn.

The enthusiasm was damped somewhat by the state Department of Education, which pointed out that most of the graduates weren't ready for college. In New York City, only 35% of those who graduated were deemed prepared for college. The state defines college readiness as achieving a score of 80 or better on the state math Regents exam and 75 or better on the English Regents exam.


Graduation Rates in City Set Record


The four-year graduation rate in New York City rose to a record 65% in 2010, Mayor Bloomberg

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College-Readiness Low Among State Graduates, Data Show

More on weak college readiness – it's great to see NY State raising the bar and shining a light on this problem, which has been around basically forever:

Heightening concerns about the value of many of its high school diplomas, the New York State Education Department released new data on Tuesday showing that only 37 percent of students who entered high school in 2006 left four years later adequately prepared for college, with even smaller percentages of minority graduates and those in the largest cities meeting that standard.

In New York City, 21 percent of the students who started high school in 2006 graduated last year with high enough scores on state math and English tests to be deemed ready for higher education or well-paying careers. In Rochester, it was 6 percent; in Yonkers, 14.5 percent.

The new calculations, part of a statewide push to realign standards with college readiness, also underscored a racial achievement gap: 13 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students statewide were deemed college-ready after four years of high school, compared with 51 percent of white graduates and 56 percent of Asian-Americans.

There were also wide variations among individual schools within districts. In New York, more than half the college-ready graduates came from 20 of the 360 high schools for which information was provided.


June 14, 2011

College-Readiness Low Among State Graduates, Data Show


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Rolley urges vouchers, mayoral control of Baltimore schools

I hope you'll join me in supporting Otis Rolley, the former board chair of KIPP Baltimore, who is running for mayor and (not surprisingly) REALLY gets education reform and has even called for vouchers!  Attached is his platform on education.  To donate, you can go to or mail a check to (max $4,000):


Friends of Otis Rolley
PO Box 2441
Baltimore, MD 21203


Here's his letter to supporters:

Dear friends:

            Just a short time ago, I left the School District's headquarters on North Avenue where I detailed my plan to begin to fix Baltimore's education system.

My plan is based on four direct, concrete steps to improve Baltimore's education system:

·       Increase accountability for schools' results by returning control of the schools to the City.

·       Help children escape the worst performing schools through limited and targeted education vouchers.

·       Build or rehabilitate more than 50 schools in 10 years through public-private partnerships.

·       Expand the number and quality of charter schools.

            My plan is far-reaching.  It is ambitious.  And it is needed.  Only 39% of our graduating seniors are considered to be college ready or ready for job training programs.  That's shameful.  It limits their future and it limits Baltimore's.  It will take real leadership from the Mayor's office to make it work.

Some of the defenders of the current system will argue that my proposals are an attack on public education.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a proud graduate of public schools and my daughter attends public school, as will my younger children when they are old enough.

            Rather, my plan is a defense of our children. They deserve an opportunity to a quality education too many of them do not currently receive.  But fixing Baltimore's education system isn't just about our kids' future.  It's about Baltimore's too. 

We know that people are leaving Baltimore and that schools are among the reasons why.  More than 30,000 people left the city over the last decade, making Baltimore the only major city in the Northeast corridor to lose population.  Even if we continue the recent rate of progress we've seen, it will be another 40-50 years before the schools are as good as the suburbs'.  I do not believe we should write off another two generations of students and I know we cannot afford another 120,000 to 150,000 people leave our city for better schools.

If we don't fix Baltimore's schools we aren't just risking the future of the kids in schools – we're risking Baltimore's future.

That's why we must be bold.  We must elevate Baltimore.


And here's a link to an article about Rolley's plan in the Baltimore Sun:


Mayoral candidate and former city planning director Otis Rolley III has vowed to offer private school vouchers to students zoned to attend failing middle schools and says he would lobby to restore mayoral control to the city school system.

"Our future is directly tied to the success or failure of our schools," Rolley said in an interview. He is slated to unveil his education plan across from school headquarters on North Avenue on Monday.

Rolley, whose eldest daughter is a third-grade student at Roland Park Elementary School, believes better schools would keep more families in Baltimore and persuade others to move to the city.

His education plan calls for closing Baltimore's five worst-performing middle schools and giving students $10,000 vouchers to use at private or parochial schools. The students would also be able to attend the public middle school of their choice under his plan.

"It's in middle school that we're losing kids," he said. "I think it's crucial when we're talking about rebuilding Baltimore to have a real choice for parents."

His education platform represents a departure from the current administration and the other mayoral challengers.


Rolley urges vouchers, mayoral control of Baltimore schools

Mayoral candidate releases 'radical' education platform

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'Parent Trigger' Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy

A great article in Time about the Parent Trigger law getting traction all across the country, with special mentions of Ben Austin and Parent Revolution in CA and Katie Campos at Buffalo ReformED:

In a bare-bones basement office in Buffalo, N.Y., Katie Campos, an education activist, is plotting a revolution. She and her minuscule staff of the advocacy group Buffalo ReformED are against incredible odds. In less than a week, they are trying to get a controversial law known as the "parent trigger" through the New York legislature. It's a powerful nickname for game-changing legislation that would enable parents who could gather a majority at any persistently failing school to either fire the principal, fire 50% of the teachers, close the school or turn it into a charter school.

…When people first hear about the radical-sounding law, they are almost always taken aback. But what they might not know is that failing schools can already be shut down by school districts under the No Child Left Behind law. The parent trigger simply takes the option provided to the school board and hands the power to the parents. Gloria Romero, the former California state senator who sponsored the nation's first parent-trigger law, says it was designed so that parents would not have to sit idly by and wait for reform that would never come in cases where school districts weren't doing enough. "These are school districts that are chronically underperforming, and yet the school officials have done nothing to turn them around," Romero tells TIME, referring to California's 1,300-plus persistently failing schools.

The idea for the parent trigger was conceived in 2009 by Ben Austin, a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a policy consultant at Green Dot Public Schools, a charter-school organization. "The way I saw it, if education was going to change, parents had to have a seat at the table where they could make real decisions about real reforms for their kids," Austin tells TIME. He decided to start an advocacy group called Parent Revolution dedicated to passing parent-trigger legislation. (Green Dot provided the initial funding for Parent Revolution, though as of 2010 it no longer received funds from the group. It now receives the largest share of its funds from the Wasserman, Walton and Gates foundations.) By January 2010, Austin and a feisty crop of paid organizers had knocked on some 4,000 doors, mobilized parents, bused them to Sacramento and into state legislator offices to tell their stories, and managed to get the idea cemented into law.

Now similar versions of California's law have been introduced in 14 other states.


'Parent Trigger' Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy

By Kayla Webley Tuesday, June 14, 2011,8599,2077564,00.html#ixzz1PSGFkwgS

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Subprime Education

A good NYT editorial on how more needs to be done to rein in the abuses in the subprime (I mean, for profit) education industry, which we're also short (emphasis added in the last paragraph):


June 10, 2011

Subprime Education

The Obama administration is right to tighten rules for for-profit colleges, which have come under scrutiny for deceptive practices and burying students in unreasonable debt. But the Department of Education is limited in its regulatory authority. It is up to Congress to rein in abuses by toughening the laws that govern this industry.

The for-profit system, which enrolls only about 12 percent of all students in higher education, absorbs about a quarter of the federal government's $155 billion student aid budget. These schools, some of which get as much as 90 percent of their money from federal student aid, earn a profit partly by charging higher tuition than public colleges and by driving their students into debt. Among bachelor's degree recipients, for example, nearly a quarter of 2008 graduates from for-profit colleges owed $40,000 or more, compared with just 6 percent of graduates from public colleges.

According to Congressional testimony this week, the debt burden is higher because for-profit schools sometimes encourage students to borrow privately from the school, rather than from federal programs, which often have lower rates and loan forbearance for those who fall ill or become jobless. The private loans are often subprime, with high rates and almost no consumer protections.

Even though the for-profit system serves only a little more than a tenth of those in postsecondary education, it accounts for nearly half of student loan defaults. The losses are generally of little concern to the companies themselves, because most of the tuition is paid by federal loans backed by the taxpayer. The defaulting students often end up with their lives in financial ruin.

Bankruptcy makes it possible to escape credit card and gambling debt but nearly impossible to escape student loan debt. As a result, students who default on school loans may never be able to have that weight lifted and can end up with creditors garnishing their wages.

The Obama administration has tried to address these problems with new rules to make programs with especially high levels of student debt and very low repayment rates ineligible for federal student aid. But these rules are insufficient.

Congress should rewrite the law so that the Department of Education is allowed to consider a school's student loan default rates over a period of up to a decade or more in determining sanctions. Similarly, Congress should make it illegal for companies to drive students into costly private loans when they are eligible for more affordable, federally guaranteed loans.

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An interesting graphic showing how much we spend – and how little we get:

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High School: 1957 vs. 2009

Some humor (with some truth mixed in) – and oldie, but a goodie:

High School: 1957 vs. 2009

Scenario 1:

Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck's gun rack.

1957 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2009 – School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2:

Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1957 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2009 – Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3:

Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1957 – Jeffrey sent to the Principal's office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2009 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2009 – Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:

Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1957 – Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.

2009 – The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6:

Pedro fails high school English.

1957 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2009 – Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7:

Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.

1957 – Ants die.

2009- ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents — and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8:

Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1957 – In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2009 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

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The Long Hard Ride of Damian Lopez Alfonso

What an incredible, inspiring story!

WITH only the tips of his elbows touching his bicycle's upturned handlebars, Damian Lopez Alfonso pedaled along the Hudson River bike path on a cool March day. His balancing act elicited stares from disbelieving pedestrians and curious double-takes from fellow cyclists.

Because not only does Mr. Alfonso ride his bike without forearms, lost in a devastating childhood accident, but he also rides it very, very fast.

…Despite his disadvantages, Mr. Alfonso, 34, has won local competitions at home in Cuba and he races nearly every weekend against able-bodied cyclists in informal events. But the alterations to his bike that allow him to do so — turning the handlebars nearly 180 degrees upward, so the brakes and gear shifters face him — have also kept him out of officially sanctioned international competitions, which have strict equipment rules.

But not for much longer.

In July, Mr. Alfonso is scheduled to race in Canada, the first event on his road to qualifying for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. If all goes well, it will be the culmination of a nearly decade-long journey for Mr. Alfonso, a story of sudden tragedy, grim determination and a little help from a lot of perfect strangers in a bicycling community thousands of miles away.

…Perhaps it is his surprising self-confidence that draws people in, leading them to help a stranger from Cuba who never asked for any help.

Whatever the reason, the cyclists who have rallied around Mr. Lopez took their common interest and used it to turn the big city into a small town, a place where bonds form by chance and compelling need is met with overwhelming generosity.

Mr. Alfonso, who had never visited New York before arriving in December for a series of medical tests, now calls it "the best city in the world." And here, as in his native Havana, everyone simply calls him Damian.

The 4-minute video is at:


The Long Hard Ride of Damian Lopez Alfonso

Published: June 9, 2011

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Take ‘Em to School World Poker Tour

If you're in NYC on Monday, July 25th, I hope you'll join me at the second annual Take 'Em to School World Poker Tour poker tournament to benefit the Rewarding Achievement (REACH) program that Bill Ackman and I co-founded a few years ago.  REACH ( gives thousands of NYC inner-city high school students academic support and scholarships for passing AP exams. 


David Einhorn, Jason Mudrick (last year's winner), John Sabat, Mike Sabat, Sean Dobson and Roger Taylor at Amherst Securities, and of course Bill and I (among others) have all purchased tables.  Prizes for the winners who make the final table of the tournament include a main event seat at the World Series of Poker, lunch with Seth Klarman, five nights at a world-class private beach home in Lamu, Kenya, three nights at a penthouse in St. Maarten, and golf and auto racing packages.

Seats for poker players are $1,000; it's $200 if you just want to come to the cocktail reception and support the program. 


You can register at:


I hope to see you there!




PS—Below is an article by Bess Levin of Dealbreaker about last year's event.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

DFER's 4th anniv

DFER launched four years ago Tuesday.  WOW!  It's been an incredible four years – here's to many more!

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In New York, the NAACP Fails Again

Another day, another leading black organization (no, NAACP, NOT a right-wing organization!), has come out against the NAACP's sellout: this time, BET (Black Entertainment Television):

It goes without saying that the NAACP is a venerated Black institution for a reason. The century-old organization has seen African-Americans through the ups and downs of the civil rights movement, the Great Depression and more than a few wars. There's a reason we needed the NAACP in the past, and there's a reason we still need it. However, this doesn't mean that the NAACP is without its pockmarks. The organization—both its governing body and its local chapters—have made some big mistakes over the years, and the latest is in New York City.

…What happened is that the NAACP recently filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education, which has released plans to close 22 failing schools and open several charter schools in their place. The lawsuit could lead to the shuttering of several great, high-performing charter schools serving mostly Black students, which is what is making the protesting families so angry.

…In this case, the NAACP looks to be in the wrong, especially if you're a parent with a kid in one of those successful charter schools.


In New York, the NAACP Fails Again

The NAACP is usually a great organization, but sometimes it really misses its mark.

By Cord Jefferson

Posted: 06/06/2011 05:56 PM EDT

Filed Under NAACP

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Hazel Dukes, New York state NAACP president, not backing down from 'slave masters' comment to mom

Another day, another PR disaster for the NAACP, as the President of the NAACP in NY, Hazel Dukes, wrote to a charter school parent that "you are doing the business of slave masters" (I am NOT making this up!):

The New York State NAACP president is not backing down from a controversial email in which she told a charter school mom that she's working for "slave masters."

Hazel Dukes on Tuesday defended her strident email and blasted charter schools as "segregation."

"In a public school, I want everything to be equitable. We shouldn't have a dividing line. In my humble opinion, that is segregation," said Dukes.

On May 27, Dukes received an email from charter school parent Janette Ramos, urging the NAACP to withdraw from a lawsuit to halt the closure of failing schools and expansion of charter schools.

Dukes responded on June 1 by writing, in part, "You are not a member of the NAACP and don't understand that you are doing the business of slave masters."

Ramos, a hospital administrator whose son is a kindergartner at Bronx Success Academy charter school, said she was infuriated by Dukes's response to her email.

"She's trying to intimidate me," said Ramos, who is Puerto Rican. "I am a minority - I'm in the same boat as everyone else. I'm just trying to the best job for my kids."

But Dukes defended her use of the term.

"I don't see anything wrong with that word. I'm referring to anybody who gives people information that is not true. I am giving you my interpretation as an African American," said Dukes.


Hazel Dukes, New York state NAACP president, not backing down from 'slave masters' comment to mom

Tuesday, June 7th 2011, 4:23 PM

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Hazel Dukes, Serial Betrayer

I feel badly criticizing a 79-year-old woman (people are going to think I enjoy going after old ladies!), but when Hazel Dukes sells out poor and minority children, staining the reputation of a great organization (or at least a formerly great organization), I won't be silent.  Here's some background on her from a column by Stanley Crouch in the NY Daily News 14 years ago, not long after Dukes confessed to stealing $13,201 from a friend who was battling cancer.  This is a particularly timely observation: "this betrayal of a friend battling one of the very worst diseases, leukemia, also shows that those on the warpath of ruthless racial combat are just as willing to do the worst things to members of their own groups":


As one who had worked her way up from a maid to the president of the New York State NAACP Conference, she believed in getting her people into good jobs and positions of authority. Unfortunately, Dukes was not subtle and seemed to overestimate how much one can get away with because power has shifted.

Once Dinkins became mayor, Dukes verbally went buck wild, then proceeded to one tarpit of embarrassment after another.

While she maddened a number of people and had to publicly backtrack when she expressed resentment at the fact that Hispanics who "can't even speak English" were taking jobs from Negro men, the real deal is even more expansive. A good number of Negroes with family lines here in America that go back to the 18th and 19th centuries are frequently more than a little annoyed about job competition with immigrants of all languages and colors.

When Dinkins put her in charge of OTB, Dukes did exactly what she wanted to do. One example was firing as many white employees as she thought she could get away with, 27 of whom played the reversal of roles all the way out by filing discrimination suits that have reportedly paddled the city to the tune of more than $2 million. She also spent excessive sums to renovate her office and shower, tried to use race and sex to justify raises she gave six employees, and so on.

But the crime Dukes committed against McLaughlin gives us a portrait of her private world that we might not be able to see so well otherwise. The patterns that come from a sense of entitlement reveal how this woman moved through the worlds of the secular, the religious, the political and even the sorority.

How exactly was the pilfered money used? For floral arrangements, dry cleaning, car services, the Committee for David Dinkins, the Rockland County Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the Solebury School Student Bank, the Nassau Democratic County Committee, the Assembly of Prayer Baptist Church.

The money Dukes took from McLaughlin was rarely in large sums, usually below $500, though there was one moment when she walked off with $5,000. As one who earns six figures a year, Dukes could easily have faced her tabs with her own funds. It all comes down to what should be looked upon as sheer trifling of the most obnoxious sort.

But this betrayal of a friend battling one of the very worst diseases, leukemia, also shows that those on the warpath of ruthless racial combat are just as willing to do the worst things to members of their own groups. Ruthlessness is a double-edged sword. 


Hazel Dukes, Serial Betrayer


Sunday, October 19, 1997

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background on Dukes

A friend gave me more background on Dukes: according to him, Dukes is the most powerful person on the NAACP national board – so powerful, in fact, that the CEO, Benjamin Jealous, has to accede to her every wish (which is what we're seeing in this instance).  According to him, her (and the NAACP's) position is all about money: the teachers unions give large amounts of both "hard" dollars (direct donations) and "soft" dollars (indirect things like busses, services, etc.) to the NAACP, making it "a wholly owned subsidiary of the teachers' unions.  They know that if they need anything, they can just call Randi or the NEA."

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The NAACP vs. Black Schoolchildren

This op ed in today's WSJ explains that understanding the NAACP's sellout is simple: like the unions, it's about jobs for adults:

There are two ways to look at our big city public schools. The first way is to see them as institutions that give our children the tools they need to make their way in society. When the education is good, it is a great equalizer for those boys and girls without the advantages of wealth or social standing.

The second way to look at our big city public schools is this: as a vast jobs program for teachers.

Those who assume the first view find it hard to understand why it is so difficult to fire bad teachers, pay the good ones more, or close down failing schools. In the same way, they cannot understand why one of the nation's oldest and most venerable civil rights organizations—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—would be suing with the United Federation of Teachers to stop New York City from closing about two dozen of its worst schools and opening charters. Even the Washington Post, which ran a terrific editorial criticizing the NAACP, called it a "mystifying decision."

The truth is that the decision is not in the least mystifying. For those who understand that our big city public school systems have become jobs programs for teachers and administrators, the NAACP's response makes perfect sense. That's because there are many African-American teachers in these systems, many of whom presumably belong to the NAACP.

Yes, there are political and ideological affinities between the organizations. The NAACP has long been a key part of the same Democratic coalition of which the teachers unions are the most powerful component. Yes, on the 990 Forms filed by, say, the National Education Association you will find the occasional contribution to the NAACP. The NAACP, however, does not have to be bribed.

The reason is simple: The NAACP is doing in New York what the United Federation of Teachers is doing, and for the same reason: protecting the interests of its members.

…when forced to choose between the teachers and those on the losing side of what President Obama recently called "the civil rights issue of our time"—the chance for a decent education—the NAACP has come out foursquare for the teachers.

…In New York, the NAACP's willingness to put the interests of black public school teachers above black students has been more obvious, not only because it's been more blatant, but because it provoked a demonstration. In city after city, however, the NAACP has generally come down on the same side as the teachers unions when it comes to any threat to the status quo.

Many years ago, the teachers union leader Albert Shanker reputedly declared that "when school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children." Looks like the same now holds for the NAACP.


The NAACP vs. Black Schoolchildren

Apparently, the teachers come first.


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David Brand of 100 Black Men comments

David Brand of 100 Black Men with some scathing comments on the NAACP (shared with permission):


In NY charter schools get 63 cents on the dollar compared to the system.

The reason why our schools are cleaner is because – DUH! – we clean them as opposed to relying on corrupt custodial unions.

New books and smartboards don't educate kids. Good non-UFT teachers do.

The NAACP deals from the bottom of the deck, because for 40 years they have had nothing to say. The NAACP becomes the source of income for most of its leaders today. They are easily bought.

An NAACP convention is a depressing place with a bunch of angry defensive people struggling to justify the need for the organization.

An Urban League or 100 Black Men convention is totally opposite with positive people trying to improve Black America.

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100 Black Men 25th Annual Conference

Speaking of David, he asked me to forward this invitation to the 100 Black Men 25th Annual Conference to anyone who will be (or wants to come) to San Francisco this Saturday (see


When: Saturday June 11, 11 am PST
Where: San Francisco Marriott Marquis
Who: Keynote: Allan Golston, President Gates Foundation USA
Panelists: Kevin Chavous, BAEO
               Peter Groff, National Alliance Public Charter Schools
               Ebony Lee, VP Gates Foundation
               Darryl Cobb, Charter School Growth Fund
               Nia Phillips, US Dept. of Education

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The ends of education reform

Mike Petrilli with some VERY good points:

I would bet that your own views fall somewhere in between. You acknowledge–privately at least–that it's unrealistic to expect all kids growing up in poverty to be able to "beat the odds" and graduate from college. (That's why we call them odds.) You recognize that for most middle-class families, the path from poverty to prosperity was a multi-generational journey.

But you also believe in the promise of social mobility, and can point to examples of schools–even mediocre ones–that have helped some kids escape the ghetto or the barrio or the reservation. To accept the status quo is to accept perpetual injustice for decades to come.

So let's get specific. Assuming that these 1 million kids remain poor over the next 12 years, what outcomes would indicate "success" for education reform? Right now the high school graduation rate in poor districts is generally about 50 percent. What if we moved that to 60 percent? Right now the reading proficiency rate for 12th graders with parents who dropped out of high school is 17 percent. What if we moved that to 25 percent? The same rate for math is 8 percent. What if we moved that to 15 percent?

To my eye, these are stretch goals–challenging but attainable. Yet to adopt them would mean to expect about 400,000 Kindergarteners not to graduate from high school 12 years from now. And of the 600,000 that do graduate, we would expect only 150,000 to reach proficiency in reading (25 percent) and just 90,000 of them to be proficient in math (15 percent).

90,000 out of 1 million doesn't sound so good, but without improving our graduation or proficiency rates for these children, we'd only be taking about 40,000 kids. So these modest improvements would mean twice as many poor children making it–9 percent instead of 4 percent.

And what about the other 91 percent of our Kindergarteners? We don't want to write them off, so what goals would be appropriate for them? Getting more of them to the "basic" level on NAEP? Preparing them for decent-paying jobs instead of the lowest-paid jobs? Driving down the teen pregnancy rate? Lowering the incarceration rate?

Is this making you uncomfortable? Good. If we are to get beyond the "100 percent proficiency" or "all students college and career ready" rhetoric, these are the conversations we need to have. And if we're not willing to do so, don't complain when Diane Ravitch and her armies of angry teachers complain that we are asking them to perform miracles.


The ends of education reform

Posted by Mike Petrilli on June 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

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Top Colleges, Largely for the Elite

Kudos to Anthony Marx, the departing president of Amherst College, who made a huge push toward greater socioeconomic diversity on his campus (I blogged about him many years ago:,, and

More than seven years ago, a 44-year-old political scientist named Anthony Marx became the president of Amherst College, in western Massachusetts, and set out to change its admissions policies. Mr. Marx argued that elite colleges were neither as good nor as meritocratic as they could be, because they mostly overlooked lower-income students.

For all of the other ways that top colleges had become diverse, their student bodies remained shockingly affluent. At the University of Michigan, more entering freshmen in 2003 came from families earning at least $200,000 a year than came from the entire bottom half of the income distribution. At some private colleges, the numbers were even more extreme.

In his 2003 inaugural address, Mr. Marx — quoting from a speech President John F. Kennedy had given at Amherst — asked, "What good is a private college unless it is serving a great national purpose?"

On Sunday, Mr. Marx presided over his final Amherst graduation. This summer, he will become head of the New York Public Library. And he can point to some impressive successes at Amherst.

More than 22 percent of students now receive federal Pell Grants (a rough approximation of how many are in the bottom half of the nation's income distribution). In 2005, only 13 percent did. Over the same period, other elite colleges have also been doing more to recruit low- and middle-income students, and they have made some progress.

It is tempting, then, to point to all these changes and proclaim that elite higher education is at long last a meritocracy. But Mr. Marx doesn't buy it. If anything, he worries, the progress has the potential to distract people from how troubling the situation remains.

When we spoke recently, he mentioned a Georgetown University study of the class of 2010 at the country's 193 most selective colleges. As entering freshmen, only 15 percent of students came from the bottom half of the income distribution. Sixty-seven percent came from the highest-earning fourth of the distribution. These statistics mean that on many campuses affluent students outnumber middle-class students.

"We claim to be part of the American dream and of a system based on merit and opportunity and talent," Mr. Marx says. "Yet if at the top places, two-thirds of the students come from the top quartile and only 5 percent come from the bottom quartile, then we are actually part of the problem of the growing economic divide rather than part of the solution."

I think Amherst has created a model for attracting talented low- and middle-income students that other colleges can copy. It borrows, in part, from the University of California, which is by far the most economically diverse top university system in the country.


Economic Scene

Top Colleges, Largely for the Elite

Published: May 24, 2011

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Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this cover story in today's NYT about Harmony Schools, a large network of 120 charter schools in 25 states, until a friend in Texas sent me this:


I was surprised in some way to find this in the NY Times: a very long article with only a brief mention of academic achievement and no mention of their long waiting lists.  Substitute "Canadian" for "Turkish" and "Christian" for "Islam" and if you read it again no one would care.  This is another article more focused on jobs for adults and not outcomes for kids with a little xenophobia thrown in.  These schools don't cost the taxpayer any more money than another charter school (and less than a public school) and 16 of 19 carry the state's highest rating with above average SAT scores.


Here's an excerpt from the article:

The secret lay in the meteoric rise and financial clout of the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. Operating under the name Harmony Schools, Cosmos has moved quickly to become the largest charter school operator in Texas, with 33 schools receiving more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds.

While educating schoolchildren across Texas, the group has also nurtured a close-knit network of businesses and organizations run by Turkish immigrants. The businesses include not just big contractors like TDM but also a growing assemblage of smaller vendors selling school lunches, uniforms, after-school programs, Web design, teacher training and even special education assessments.

Some of the schools' operators and founders, and many of their suppliers, are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish preacher of a moderate brand of Islam whose devotees have built a worldwide religious, social and nationalistic movement in his name. Gulen followers have been involved in starting similar schools around the country — there are about 120 in all, mostly in urban centers in 25 states, one of the largest collections of charter schools in America.

The growth of these "Turkish schools," as they are often called, has come with a measure of backlash, not all of it untainted by xenophobia. Nationwide, the primary focus of complaints has been on hundreds of teachers and administrators imported from Turkey: in Ohio and Illinois, the federal Department of Labor is investigating union accusations that the schools have abused a special visa program in bringing in their expatriate employees.

But an examination by The New York Times of the Harmony Schools in Texas casts light on a different area: the way they spend public money. And it raises questions about whether, ultimately, the schools are using taxpayer dollars to benefit the Gulen movement — by giving business to Gulen followers, or through financial arrangements with local foundations that promote Gulen teachings and Turkish culture.

Harmony Schools officials say they scrupulously avoid teaching about religion, and they deny any official connection to the Gulen movement. The say their goal in starting charter schools — publicly financed schools that operate independently from public school districts — has been to foster educational achievement, especially in science and math, where American students so often falter.

"It's basically a mission of our organization," said Soner Tarim, the superintendent of the 33 Texas schools.

The schools, Dr. Tarim said, follow all competitive bidding rules, and do not play favorites in awarding contracts. In many cases, Turkish-owned companies have in fact been the low bidders.  


Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas

Published: June 6, 2011

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More funnies from F in Exams:


Q: Suggest a way to abate aggression.

A: If your hands are tied behind your back, you can't punch people.


Q: Explain the process of "learning."

A: A process by which information goes into one ear and out of the other.


Q: Why was the Berlin Wall built?

A: Germany was competing with China

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NAACP Claims

Oh my, I suppose this was all too predictable, but the NAACP has just made things much worse for itself by issuing a press release filled with lies and distortions, that smears its critics.  It starts with a few anecdotes that are totally unrepresentative of the reality of co-locations, and an outright lie that co-location is "a cost cutting measure."

New York City has become the latest battleground in the national fight for education equality.

In some schools, hallways serve as a stark dividing line. Classrooms with peeling paint and insufficient resources sit on one side, while new computers, smartboards and up-to-date textbooks live on the other. One group of students will be taught in hallways and basements while others under the same roof make use of fully functional classrooms.

New York schools have increasingly co-located charter schools inside existing public schools as a cost cutting measure. Handled improperly, co-locations can lead to disparities, division and tension among students, which can impede learning.

In many instances, traditional students are forced into shorter playground periods than their charter school counterparts, or served lunch at 10 am so that charter students can eat at noon. The inequity could not be more glaring. And similar proposals are being considered in other states and counties nationwide.

This has NOTHING to do with cost savings.  As for district schools in poor shape vs. charter schools with luxurious fixtures: 1) I've never seen any evidence that this is true across the system.  Charter schools get approximately 20% LESS money per pupil and, in addition, are forced to scrounge for space, so it's not like they have extra money lying around; and 2) Even if some charter schools raise enough extra funds and/or cut back in other areas and/or run larger class sizes so they can afford "new computers, smartboards and up-to-date textbooks", why would the NAACP fight to deny poor black children these things?!  Are they seriously making the argument that if all poor black children can't have "new computers, smartboards and up-to-date textbooks", then NONE SHOULD?!?!


Then the NAACP claims that it's being smeared while in fact smearing its critics:

Our return to court has triggered a smear campaign against the NAACP.

In recent days we have faced a coordinated media attack backed by funds from right wing opponents of traditional public schools. Unable to dispute the facts of the case, they've chosen to cast aspersions on the NAACP, to question our motivations, and to sling mud at our legacy.

(I am NOT making this up – this is really on their web site right now – check for yourself:

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When the NAACP Writes a Press Release About School Reform…

Here's RiShawn Biddle with a reply to this smear (with a photo of NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous):


When the NAACP Writes a Press Release About School Reform…

June 6, 2011 No Comments by RiShawn Biddle

It crafts a doozy. Compounding its errors of late (including an op-ed by its president, Benjamin Todd Jealous), the old-school civil rights group penned this ridiculous press release declaring that critics of one of its latest efforts against school reform — the decision by its New York branch to team up with the American Federation of Teachers' Big Apple local to sue the city over allowing charter schools to share space with traditional counterparts — are part of an attack on its reputation "backed by funds from right wing opponents of traditional public schools."

Really? Last I checked, Kevin Chavous, who penned a piece last week calling the NAACP on the carpet, is chairman of Democrats for Education Reform, an organization which is hardly conservative or libertarian. Same for Stanley Crouch, whose column in today's Daily News also hits on the NAACP's failure to live up to its past in reforming education so that all children — especially the black children who look like me and nearly everyone working for the NAACP — succeed in life. Steve Perry? Hardly a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. And both Eva Moskowitz (a former New York City councilwoman who now runs the Harlem Success chain of charter schools) and Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone — both of whom have chastised the NAACP over its stance — would hardly be called conservative.

In fact, the closest thing to a "right-wing" anything may come courtesy of your Dropout Nation editor's column last week in The American Spectator. And given my tendency to support such things as financing early childhood education, expanding the federal role in American public education, and the No Child Left Behind Act,  some movement conservatives and libertarians would even look askance at that.

The reality, as Green Dot Public Schools founder Steve Barr has pointed out, is that the school reform movement — and in fact, the battle over the reform of American public education — is one in which traditional notions of partisanship (and even race) do not apply. While reformers will bicker over such matters as the role of the federal government in education policy and the need for Common Core curriculum standards, they largely agree on this: That far too many young men and women — especially the very black children whose interests the NAACP is supposed to defend — drop out into poverty and prison, and that the solution lies in addressing American public education's systemic problems of low-quality instruction, abysmal curricula, disrespect for families (including poor and minority households) and dearth of cultures of genius in which kids can thrive.

The true divide in education isn't between conservatives and liberals, or Republicans and Democrats. Al Sharpton, Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Jeb Bush, Michael Lomax and others have already proven this. The divide is between those who advocate for a concept of American public education in which all children get the high-quality education they need so they can write their own stories — and those who continue to hold on to a failed, outdated and obsolete vision that has never really worked for children, and has imprisoned kids from the poorest homes and minority households to failure factories and worse.

As much as the NAACP declares that it is fighting inequity in education on behalf of black children, its actual actions actually bring comfort to the very defenders of the practices that are behind a dropout crisis in which 150 children an hour — 43 of them from our black community — drop out and millions more get an education that will not prepare them for an increasingly knowledge-based economy. And by declaring that those who criticize its efforts are little more than sycophants for some supposed bogeyman, the NAACP also alienates itself from the very people who can help it achieve the goal of addressing the most-important civil rights issue

As someone who greatly appreciates the NAACP's proud legacy — and as an uncle and future father of a new generation of black men and women — it saddens me that it is forsaking the very children for whom we should all want the best. It would be better off actually joining school reformers in systemically reforming American public education than continuing its descent into irrelevance.

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