As I mentioned in this post, the Long Beach Unified School District is once again threatening to close a terrific school that has rebuilt a community and serves hundreds of children who will be displaced by this destructive, mean-spirited money-grab.

Two years ago, the school faced the same fate – complete with parents not being allowed to speak at public Board meetings and being roughed-up by district security.

A that time , I sent Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser the following questions in a Freedom of Information Act request. The Superintendent and Board Members refused to answer any of my questions.

Since menacing a fine school with community support seems a tradition in Long Beach, I share my two year-old questions below. Feel free to ask any or all of them via email or Twitter.

WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT and BOARD MEMBERS PUBLISH NO EMAIL ADDRESSES?


 

Dear Superintendent Steinhauer:
I am currently writing a number of articles  for The Huffington Post and other publications about the New City Public Schools proposed charter revocation You prompt response to the following questions is greatly appreciated.

I know how busy you are, so answering the following questions via email is considerate of your schedule and immune to misquoting.

1) If your recommendation to close the New City Public Schools is realized at the end of August, where will New City Students attend school in September? (please list all possible schools)

2) What is the current enrollment at those schools?

3) What will be the impact on class size and teacher-student ratios

4) How many former New City students in grades 6-8 will be required to attend LBUSD middle schools if K-8 options do not exist?

5) Will LBUSD need to assign additional teaching personnel to schools to accommodate the influx of New City students? Is this budgeted? What are the qualifications of those teachers? Why are they available on such short notice?

5) Please provide the attendance rates over the past three school years for the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New CIty students.

6) Please provide the vandalism rates over the past three school years for the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New CIty students.

7) Please provide the incidence of substance abuse over the past three school years for the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New CIty students.

8) Please provide the crime rates over the past three school years for the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New CIty students, organized by type of infraction.

9) Please provide the graduation rates for LBUSD students who attended the New City Public Schools prior to 2009.

10) Please indicate the frequency of art instruction at the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New City students.

11) Please indicate the frequency of music instruction at the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New City students.

12) How many field trips to LBUSD students enjoy? Please indicate by school likely to enroll former New City students.

13) What is the percentage of bilingual faculty at the LBUSD schools likely to enroll former New City students?

14) What sort of counseling services are being planned to help former New City students deal with the trauma associated with the charter revocation and transition into the LBUSD schools? Is this budgeted for?

15) How long will it take for the LBUSD to evaluate and develop IEPs, where appropriate for the former New City students joining LBUSD?

16) Do students at other LBUSD schools engage in public juried exhibitions as a form of assessment?

17) How does teacher professional development compare between the New City Public Schools and LBUSD schools?

18) How does time and resources for teacher planning and collaboration compare between LBUSD schools and The New City Public Schools?

19) How do playground facilities compare between The New City Public Schools and the LBUSD schools former NCPS students are likely to attend?

20) Will neighborhood schools accommodate all former NCPS students? If not, will transportation be provided by LBUSD?

21) Please indicate how many times since 2022, that you have visited The New City Public Schools? What was the purpose of those visits?

22) In your professional judgement, why are you recommending revocation of the NCPS charter?

23) If you were handed the keys to The New City Public Schools tomorrow, what would you do differently? What would you add? What would you eliminate?

24) Why does it seem that Long Beach is such a hostile jurisdiction for charter schools? Do you think the demand for parental choice will disappear after you revoke all of the school charters?

25) What are the anticipated financial costs or revenue to be realized by the LBUSD  if The New City Public Schools are closed?

25) What is your favorite book about learning?

26) What do you most admire about The New City Public Schools?

27) Why do you believe that The New City Public Schools is failing?

28) What is the role of parents in assessing the quality of their children’s education?

29) Do you have metrics to indicate levels of parental involvement across LBUSD schools? If so, will you kindly share that data?

30) Do you think it is appropriate for LBUSD School Board Meetings to be held during business hours in a tiny venue inaccessible to public transportation? How does this help increase community involvement in education?

31) How many school days are dedicated to standardized testing, practice tests or test-preparation in the LBUSD?

32) What were the 2011-2012 costs of standardized testing, practice tests and test-preparation materials in the LBUSD?

33) How many personnel are dedicated to standardized testing, test preparation, data analysis and other assessment-related activities?

34) What were the 2011-2012 personnel costs related to standardized testing, test preparation, data analysis and other assessment-related activities?

35) How many MacArthur Genius Award recipients have worked with LBUSD schools? Please name them.

36) How many colleagues of Jean Piaget have worked with LBUSD schools? Please name them.

37) Please indicate the number of LBUSD K-8 schools with their own farm.

38) What have The New City Public Schools contributed to real estate values, commerce and quality of life in their geographic areas?

39) I read the Superintendent’s goals for the 2011-12 school year at http://www.lbschools.net/Main_Offices/Superintendent/goals_10-11.cfm Presumably, they are intended to hold you accountable to the children, parents and tax-payers of Long Beach. They seem remarkably vague and easy to achieve. Do you think that The New City Public Schools is held to a higher standard of accountability than you are?

40) El Broad is a benefactor of the LBUSD and a proponent of charter schools. How might you explain to him why a city the size of Long Beach has no charter schools?

41) Does it strike you as odd that the LBUSD School Board would invoke to close schools without any public deliberation, dialogue, debate or request for evidence by the School Board?

I am enormously grateful for your help in organizing the data I requested and sharing your professional opinions with me.

Thank you for your service.

Best Wishes,

Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.

A great urban school needs your help!!!!!! PLEASE act now! The meeting is November 18th!
Diane Ravitch is helping to spread the word. Please read her post at http://dianeravitch.net/2014/11/17/long-beach-california-save-this-school/ and lend your voice.
On a personal note…
I have been a supporter and volunteer with The New City School for years. I am not typically a supporter of charter schools, but this school has filled a need in the community, does a terrific job of providing a comprehensive education for neighborhood children, and has been distracted by constant threats by the test-prep crazed LBUSD. The Board seems immune to public sentiment and holds its public meetings at 5 PM in a  location inaccessible by public transportation. Board member contact info is unpublished. The last time they threatened to close the school, parents were dragged out of the public board meeting by their hair and one parent was hospitalized.
The New City School values the arts, literature, and has brought hope to a community that had given up any dream of the soft of education enjoyed by suburban children.

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a New York Times reporter asking to interview me about Mayor Bill DiBlasio’s promise to end the ban on student cellphones in New York City public schools.. I replied immediately via email and called the reporter to tell her I was unavailable for a few hours, but that I provided my views on the subject via email from my iPhone. She agreed to call me later that day.

Alas, that call never occurred and my views didn’t make the article.

So, instead of wasting 144 words, I’ll share them below.

While there may be educational benefits of phone access, there are three primary reasons why the ban needs to be lifted.

1) it is unproductive to be arbitrarily mean to children. Schools would be well-served by lowering the antagonism level between children and adults.

2) Parents have legitimate safety fears and a right to contact their child. A child should be able to call for help or report their whereabouts to and from school.

Parasitic businesses prey on kids

Parasitic businesses prey on kids

3) It is unconscionable that poor children in NYC are being shaken down by vans parked outside schools charging kids to store their phones while in school – in many cases more than the cost of lunch.
When I enter a theatre or board a plane, I am asked politely to silence my phone. School should be no different, unless there is an educationally sound reason to use the phone.

Cellphone storage truck parked in front of an NYC Public School

Cellphone storage truck parked in front of an NYC Public School

Dr. Gary Stager is coauthor of the book, “Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom.” He is also a global expert on educational technology and veteran teacher educator.

I led professional development in the Newark, NJ Public Schools and taught Newark teachers for about a decade from 1983 through 1993. Newark, NJ, a large city dwarfed by its neighbor, New York City has spent much of my lifetime grappling with third world-levels of poverty and all of the ills that accompany urban neglect. Half of Newark’s mayors since the 1960s have gone to prison on corruption charges. Only recently has Newark had supermarkets or a movie theatre despite being the birthplace of Sarah Vaughan, Wayne Shorter, Amiri Baraka, and countless other great American artists. Teaching in Newark is difficult and a calling.

Allow me to be unequivocal.

In my thirty-two years of work with schools and educators on six continents, I have never worked with more caring, competent, generous or hardworking educators than those employed by the Newark Public Schools.

If I led a PD session on a sweltering August day, it would be filled by Newark teachers working without compensation. Others would pay their own way to attend afterschool workshops 30 miles away.

I have worked in some of the most elite and expensive private schools on earth and in many cases would rather trust my child’s education to the teachers I worked with in Newark (the physical plant and resources are another matter entirely). Newark teachers provide material, emotional, and financial support for their poor students every day.

Decades before Cory Booker donned his superhero Underoos and tweeted his enthusiasm for code.org, Logo programming was being taught by outstanding Newark teachers in dozens and dozens of Newark elementary schools. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Newark Public Schools were one of the leading centers of innovation in educational computing. All of that is long gone after decades of test-score-raising gimmicks imposed by political charlatans from outside of the community.

You would never know that because in addition to abandoning the residents of this once great city, the good people of New Jersey suspended democracy, neutered the elected school board, and let the State take over the school in 1995. That’s nearly 20 years ago. Surely, all of that State wisdom, leadership, and no-nonsense zero-tolerance innovation, together with endless test-prep and demonizing of teachers would be successful, right?

The city’s public schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, even after the state government took over management of the city’s schools in 1995, which was done under the presumption that improvement would follow. – Wikipedia

Where’s the accountability Governor Christie?

It is high time to return democracy to the governance of the Newark Public Schools!

Surely after the State installed the unqualified adolescent little sister of Michelle Rhee, Cami Anderson, as Superintendent of Schools, things would improve, right? She even instituted that holy grail of no-nothings, merit pay.

Cami Anderson loves charter schools and has dynamite (I mean literally dynamite) ideas for the Newark Public Schools. Check out Diane Ravitch’s review of Anderson’s “One Newark” Plan.

Cami’s dynamite plan is to get the state to suspend tenure/seniority laws so she can fire 700 Newark teachers and replace them with 350 or so unqualified Teach-for-America interns. Surely, interns will solve the problem. Larger class sizes AND unqualified teachers, perfect together!

Where’s the accountability Governor Christie?

According to the TFA regional website, Newark schools already have hired some 200 members.  They are usually graduates of liberal art programs who sign up for two years to teach in low-income areas and then leave.

Anderson herself is both a TFA graduate and an executive with the  foundation-financed TFA, an organization that also receives federal subsidies. (source)

Oh, did I forget to mention that this plan will be financed by the Walton Family Foundation. The Waltons aren’t that nice TV family, they are the scumbag plutocrats who own Wal-Mart, bribe foreign officials, underpay their employees, and stick taxpayers with the bill. Driving the cost of public education to zero is consistent with their scorched earth business practices.

If you care about public education, stop shopping at Wal-Mart.

The business press and forces of public school privatization LOVE Cami and her dynamiteplan. We need to stand up and tell them, “Hell no!”

Isn’t it time that we treat Teach-for-America interns as the scabs they are?

Every American who cares about the future of our nation or values the role our public schools play in preserving our democracy needs to stand with Newark teachers against the robber barons, Mark Zuckerberg and Governor Bully.

As Thomas Friedman once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Two educators have developed a radical pedagogical theory solving an timeless problem that has  plagued education for decades.

The historic is so remarkable that two professional institutions, ASCD and ISTE rushed to joint-publish the work, as they say in the trade, before the crayon dried on the page.

The profundity, clarity of vision, and transformative nature of “The Method” generates a force field of exuberance that repels the “scientific” findings of such 20th Century institutions as Stanford University and Harvey Mudd College. This paradigmatic shift transcends the need for academic references or even a bibliography. We are asked to believe and thousands of school administrators have heeded the call.

If you would like to learn more about how to insure that students don’t miss a precious instant of your lecture while off at sport practice or music lessons, click here.

Student voice is good. We should take the needs, interests, concerns, talent, curiosity, discomfort, and joy of children seriously. (pretty courageous statement, eh?)

However, if one is truly committed to making the world better for kids, “voice,” is nice, but inadequate. “Voice” absent of power is often little more than propaganda or exploitation.

While I’ve been on a brief social media “skunk at the garden party” hiatus, Dean Shareski has generously filled-in by sharing his queasiness over the “viralGoldieblox video being passed around the Web. Señor Shareski set his BS detector  on high and has provided evidence that the “amazing” Rube Goldberg machine “made by girls” is merely a commercial for a new toy called, Goldieblox.

I am shocked! Shocked!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love toys. I find buying them irresistible. I’ve been seeing Goldieblox at Maker Faires for more than a year, but have not bought a set because I think they lack extended play value (a term LEGO uses internally). I’m not one to get all outraged that a toy for girls is pink. Goldieblox just hasn’t seemed very interesting to me or the girls I work with. It’s not part of my workshop road show sweeping the globe, “Invent To Learn.”

It just doesn’t seem that Goldieblox has any chance of measuring up to the self-promotion and hype of its creator that her box of ribbon and spools is “building women engineers.” I applaud the sentiment, but if we are truly serious about improving the education of girls, it will take a lot more work than a trip to Toys R Us.

I could be wrong. I’ve recently been upgrading my initial assessment of littleBits, based on my observations of children playing with the new toy/electronics construction kit. So, perhaps I will soon fall in love with Goldieblox, but I doubt it.

Back to Monsignor Shareski…

In his post critical of the Goldidblox video, Fake and Real Student Voice, Professori Shareski awakened several repressed social media memories I had long forgotten.

I took a lot of “brown porridge” when I called BS on the very same videos of yesteryear.

There was Dalton Sherman, the “amazing” 5th grader who was coached all summer-long to give a condescending speech, written by the Dallas Schools PR department  to Dallas teachers, right before laying off 400 of them.  I smelled a rat the second I saw the video. Was called a big fat poo-poo head by teachers on social media and was right. BTW: Dalton Sherman seems to have disappeared just like those teacher jobs. So much for being the voice of school reform.

Then there was Michael Wesch (who is an important scholar) made famous by the hostage film he created in which college students decried the state of education.

Fantastic. A college class with far too many students in it (200) attempts to revolutionize the educational system by whining in a five minute web video.

I’m sorry, but count me unimpressed!

Perhaps a student should hold up a sign saying, “My professor is wasting my time and money by making me participate in a piece of exploitative propaganda in which I get to insult either my generation or the one before me just to get on YouTube.”

How did bashing our own profession become such a popular sport? What possible value could demeaning educators have in a professional development setting? Are we desperate for moving pictures or are they merely a substitute for actual ideas?

From Hey Mom! Look What I Made in College (November 2007)

Aside from their lack of authenticity, what these three AMAZING viral videos of is how children and claims of “student voice” exploit children for propaganda purposes. The Goldieblox video is a commercial selling a toy. We don’t tweet Sir Grapefellow commercials (my preferred boyhood breakfast treat) as AMAZING examples of student voice, so why the wishful thinking about Goldieblox?

Señor Shareski rightfully cites my colleague Super-Awesome Sylvia (read Super-Awesome Sylvia in the Not So Awesome Land of Schooling) as a counter example to the fake Goldieblox commercial. I have worked closely with Sylvia over the past couple of years and made her part of the Constructing Modern Knowledge faculty, not because she is cute (she is), but because she is accomplished. She knows stuff. She has skills. She has a great work ethic and  is a terrific teacher (at 12).

However, talent and achievement  did not made Sylvia immune from cynical exploitation by Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein’s education cabal as documented in an article I wrote for the Huffington Post, Shameless Shape Shifters.

So the moral of our story is…

Three lessons…

  1. As a young blogger in 1971, The Brady Bunch taught me an important lesson relevant here, caveat emptor – buyer beware. Users of social media need to “follow the money,” have a highly-tuned BS Detector, and know when and what they are being sold.
  2. Calling everything amazing or everyone a genius is lazy and counterproductive.
  3. Student voice without what Seymour Papert calls “kid power” is worse than empty rhetoric, it is a lie. Escapism is not the same as freedom.  Too much of what is offered as “student voice” offers a false sense of agency, power, or freedom to the powerless. It is what Martin Luther King, Jr. called, “the intoxicating drug of gradualism.”

A boyhood dream has come true. I was interviewed by California School Business Magazine!

I certainly sized the opportunity to pull no punches. I left no myth behind.  Perhaps a few school business administrators will think differently about some of their decisions in the future.

A PDF of the article is linked below. I hope you enjoy the interview and share it widely!

Edtech Expert Discusses the Revolution in Computing

I’ve watched American Idol since its inception and am a fan. Months ago, I predicted that Angie would win this year. we will know for sure in a few weeks.

In the post-Simon Cowell years of American Idol, the quality of judging has become tedious, cloying and adoring of the young contestants. There has been little instructive teaching for the kids competing or the audience at home. That’s a shame because American Idol used to feature legendary artists every week as mentors who would perform a quickie masterclass for contestants (and audience) who otherwise would enjoy no such access to expertise. One of my favorite mentors a few years back was Harry Connick, Jr. It was also one of the lowest rated episodes of the season. Despite the relative (un)popularity of Mr. Connick, he taught the kids, played with them and wrote charts suited to their talents. He was a great mentor.

I was thrilled to see Harry back on Idol again this week and he ignited a firestorm when he refused to agree with the incredibly terrible advice being dispensed by an incredibly disingenuous Randy Jackson. You can the details of his awful advice in the well-written article linked below, but suffice to say that Mr. Jackson knows better. He may not have the talent and musical knowledge of Harry Connick, Jr., but he has enjoyed a great deal of success in the music business. If Randy Jackson had been paying for Kree’s studio time as a producer, his advice would have been exactly the same as that of Mr. Connick.

After Wednesday night’s show, an educator colleague of mine posted the following message on Facebook:

Harry Connick seems sort of mean and opinionated. #justsayin
I admit that I lost it and posted the following comment:
TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE OPINIONS and be great at what they do!I could not disagree more. American Idol vs. Harry Connick Jr. is a great metaphor for everything wrong with American culture. The entire season has been spent repeating clichés and telling the contestants that they are geniuses. Celebrity and popularity are not the same as talent or artistry.

How dare those kids call themselves artists? Artist, reformer and revolutionary are terms that must be bestowed upon you by others. As Seinfeld said, “I’m 17. Why aren’t I huge?”

Harry Connick, Jr. is an incredibly gifted singer, pianist, composer, arranger, technology pioneer and he acts too. He has been a professional musician since he was 5.

He is an expert in jazz history and the American songbook.

Amber and Kree’s performance of classic standards was atrocious. It is NOT unreasonable to expect “singers” about to get rich beyond their dreams to learn or understand a song. Countless thousands of peers of the “Idols” studying music around the country do so. In fact, jazz majors at Julliard are required to memorize every piece of music they perform, including full big band arrangements.

My friend Emmet Cohen is 22 years old and knows a few thousand songs that he can play and improvise on in 12 keys. That’s artistry and talent.

Harry gave Kree incredibly good advice and she ignored all of it. She added runs to almost every note. It was unmusical.

Harry Connick is the expert. Kree is the student. She should behave accordingly and be open to instruction. Randy’s advice to her was completely disingenuous. He would NEVER tolerate such a shambolic performance if he was spending his time or money producing her.

The judges do the kids no favor my not teaching them or asking them to “just be Kree.” Being Kree is terrible advice. She’s an amateur with a lot to learn.

I sure wish every American student could have a good music teacher. It would make the world a better place!

It is unclear as to whether the American Idol contestants were disrespectful of Harry Connick, Jr. and his expertise or just so musically ignorant and untalented that they are incapable of following his advice.
Some of you might be asking, “Why are we making kids who want to be pop-stars sing show-tunes?
There are two answers:
  1. As Randy Jackson reminds us constantly, “this is a singing competition!” Singers should be able to sing anything.
  2. The #1 album today is by Michael Bublé, a guy who sings the Great American Songbook. These classic songs are contemporary hits.
“The point Connick tried to make, which Jackson didn’t want to hear, was that the show’s contestants didn’t know these classic songs well enough to take liberties with their melodies and lyrics. In doing so, they were murdering the music.” – John Stark

To paraphrase the great Aughts philosopher, Ms. Britney Spears, “Oops, I’m doing it again.”

Yes siree folks, on Saturday April 27th,  I will be premiering my new one-man show, “Less Us, More Them,” as a newly ordained hipster at TEDxNYED in Brooklyn, NY. (I hear they grow trees there now)

Why am I a hypocrite? Need you ask?

I dislike TED. It’s the playground of overprivileged rich kids sharing a distasteful libertarian philosophy that would make Ayn Rand say, “Wow, you boys are immature.” TED celebrates and accentuates the short attention span of our culture. It confers expertise and celebrity on anyone who can rhyme, speak quickly or has a YouTube video.

Thanks to TED, we can now watch three self-important and self-proclaimed experts in the span of one Kardashians episode!

Disclaimer: Before I say anymore mean things about TED, I must state that the fine women and men who organize TEDxNYED are terrific human beings and educators who stage a world-class event with terrific speakers.

When TED began, it was a small gathering of smart and talented folks. Each attendee was also a presenter. For the swells who can afford to be invited to TED, they undoubtedly enjoy a rich social learning experience. For the rest of us peasants, we’re the reason TED can sell Rolex and BMW commercials. TED is a television show. We get to peep in on the action from our PCs like we’re hiding in the basement  watching naughty videos.

In addition to my sense that too many people believe that TED is the only place to find smart people or ideas, the format of TED Talks disturbs me.

Our society needs more dialogue and a whole lot fewer monologues. The US Senate has become a TED Talk where nothing is accomplished. We cannot solve tough problems by giving speeches. We need collective action, not soaring rhetoric. I would love nothing more than to discuss teaching computer programming with fellow TEDxNYED speaker Douglas Rushkoff or matters of school reform with the other terrific speakers.  Imagine what one might learn from a discussion between the sorts of people who perform TED talks!

Schools that make kids perform TED Talks do so because the format is consistent with a tradition of oral book reports or making PowerPoint presentations on a topic you don’t care about to a bored audience.

There are indeed some excellent TED Talks made by remarkable humans. In fact,  I wrote a blog post recommending several TED Talks to share with kids.

For those of you who can’t attend TEDxNYED in-person, I’m sure that the event will be leaked/streamed/piddled/wee-weed or whatever those crazy kids are doing today on the Internets. Check the http://tedxnyed.com/2013/ for more info!

In the meantime, I humbly offer my last TED Talk.

CMK Founder Gary Stager, Ph.D. gave a presentation in November 2012 about the philosophy and practice of Constructing Modern Knowledge. The following video is a recording of that presentation about the institute.

Click here to register for Constructing Modern Knowledge 2013 today!

CMK 2013