I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yes, Reformers, We SHOULD Talk About YOUR Kids' Schools

Last night was a good night for public education in Newark; the same cannot be said for State Superintendent Cami Anderson:

The state-appointed Newark school superintendent stormed out of an angry,  tumultuous School Advisory Board (SAB) meeting a few hours ago after a parent, infuriated by Cami Anderson’s treatment of the city’s children, asked “Why don’t you want for all brown babies what you want for your own brown baby?”
Anderson, who had sat passively without reacting to repeated and often angry demands for her resignation and charges of bullying and indifference toward the city’s children, reacted instantly when someone referred to her own child.  She is the mother of an interracial child.
“Not my family,” she said repeatedly, shaking her head and staring at the woman who had made the remark, Natasha Allen, the mother of a Newark Vocational High School student.  “Not my family.”
Allen said Anderson “attacked” her child and all Newark children by requiring them to attend school in the midst of a snow emergency last week when all other schools in the county–including Newark’s charters–were closed. Allen also said Anderson’s school closing plan “will hurt children throughout the city–my child–because she is bulldozing their schools and their neighborhoods.” Allen said she was upset by Anderson’s actons, as if the state official were “personally attacking my child.”
As Allen spoke,  Anderson gathered up papers in front of her and gestured toward her staff members sitting with her at a table on the stage and in the front row of the audience. She led the parade of central office staff from the stage to a rear entrance while the audience roared its approval and mockery of her leaving.
Bob Braun does his usual stellar job reporting on the rest of the meeting; John Mooney at NJ Spotlight also has a good account of the fracas. And now the video of Anderson's swift departure from the meeting is up:

Golly, where have I seen this indignation before?

(0:43) "I, as governor, am responsible for every child in this state, not just my own. And the decisions that I make are to try to improve the educational opportunities of every child in this state. So with all due respect, Gail, it's none of your business."

You can always count on Chris Christie for a good tantrum. And how about the reformy mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel:

Rahm's kids go to the Chicago Lab School, a unionized private school whose director has explicitly rejected the use of testing in teacher evaluations and other reformy nonsense Emanuel has pushed.

But Emanuel is hardly alone in this hypocrisy. Michelle Rhee's daughter goes to an elite, private, Tennessee school; but Rhee has never left in a huff after being questioned on this because she avoids any forum where she may be asked a difficult question.

Bill Gates sends his children to Seattle's toniest, most expensive private school, even as he travels the country telling us we simply can't afford to spend more on education.

Meryl Tisch, New York's reigning queen of standardized testing, sends her children to a private school where school leaders openly question the value of such tests.

Reformy John King, NY Education Commissioner, sends his kids to a private Montessori school, even as he imposes policies that would make Maria Montessori spin in her grave.

Mike Bloomberg sent his daughters to the exclusive Spence School in Manhattan, even as he called for firing half of NYC's teachers and doubling class sizes.

President Barack Obama cheered on Race To The Top last night, but his own daughters go to a school that would never allow standardized test-based teacher evaluations.

What binds all these folks, and others I could add to the list, is that the prescriptions for "reform" they espouse do not include the things they clearly desire for their own children: well-resourced schools with a rich curriculum, staffed by respected, well-paid teachers, free of onerous and useless standardized tests, with beautiful facilities and copious opportunities in athletics and the arts.

But there's another layer to this: every one of these people is happy to get in front of a microphone or a reporter's notepad every chance they get and tell you how much they really, truly care about children:
[Senator Cory] Booker described Anderson as a "get-it-done" manager who brings a "level of love" to her work.
"When something happens to one of her kids — and she’s one of the strongest people I know — I’ve seen her show weakness," said Booker, adding that he has been friends with Anderson for 20 years. "She will weep for a child who’s not her own."
Anderson was one of Booker's chief advisors at the start of his political career. And, like all politically savvy players, Anderson knows a personal backstory is how one sells oneself these days:     

Many believed that Anderson would be waylaid by Newark’s famously polarizing racial politics.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” I told Anderson, “but you are white. And this is Newark.”

“That may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard,” roared Anderson. “My entire life I have grown up in and participated in all kinds of cross-cultural conversations…. We’re going to have some tough conversations. But it’s something that I think is really important.”

Anderson’s partner is a black man (“a recovering corporate banker turned improv artist turned entrepreneur,” said Anderson), and they have a young son together. They moved to downtown Newark shortly after her appointment. Anderson herself grew up in a large, interracial family (more on that below).


While it is tempting to trace Anderson’s operations and systems management expertise to Harvard and her public policy and education degree, the true source of her proficiencies in those areas can probably be attributed to growing up in a family of 12 children. “I don’t even remember the sequencing of all of us,” she laughed. “But basically, from the time I was 3 until the time I was 12, there was someone who came to our family through adoption just about every year. And at the very end, my mother had my youngest blood brother. So there were two blood siblings, nine adopted, and then Brock came at the very end.”
Folks, does this seem like a person who is reluctant to discuss her family in a public forum? 

Maybe Cami Anderson was truly offended last night when a Newark parent brought up her own family; if so, she is astoundingly obtuse. Did she really think people wouldn't ask if One Newark-style reform is something she would want for her own child? Did she really think the parents of a state-run district, which has disenfranchised its citizens, wouldn't make the case that they should have the same rights as a parent like Anderson?

Parents like Newark's Natasha Allen have every right to ask Cami Anderson -- and, for that matter, Chris Christie -- if they would want a plan like One Newark for their own children.

No wait, scratch that...

Parents have a duty to ask reformy education "leaders" if they are willing to have their children attend schools that operate under the policies they espouse. 

And if the answer to that question is nothing but self-righteous indignation... well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Two peas in a pod.


Commuting Teacher said...

It is critical that these people's hypocrisy is exposed. What those people are buying, at a cos of 30K+ a year, for their own children is, in their minds, the best education. If that is so and what they truly believe, then they have a duty to provide the same for all children if it is, in fact, the best type of education money can buy. In fact, it is probably the type of education that the "best and the brightest" will want to teach at as opposed to teaching in the public school testing factories, with militant administration and over crowding. How do they reconcile this garbage? I'm so tired of their policies for "other people's children" and not their own.

voiceofreason said...

When she was Supt. of District 79 in NYC, Cami shut down the Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens. NYC has 7000 students who are parents.

She tried to shut the 30+ infant-toddler nurseries situated in high schools that provide care for these students' children, but failed.

Her criticism of these nurseries stemmed from the fact that they didn't resemble the pre-school she said her mother ran. You don't have to be an early childhood educator (which she is not)- just a parent, auntie, etc. to know that the needs of children 2 mos. to 2.9yrs are not the same as children 2.9-5yrs.

The administrator of the program tried to educate her about best practice in infant-toddler programs, but she knew it all.

She excessed that administrator- who had been a teacher in the program for many years, then a teacher-coordinator, and finally the A.P in charge (under the principal of the Pregnant and Parenting Students Program).

A Local Instructional Supt.(with no early childhood experience) ran the program for a year.

A new principal from outside of the system was hired and charged with implementing best practice. At first she tried to make the nurseries mini pre-ks, but the brush-back from the teachers-some of whom had Masters degrees in Infant-Toddler Education from Bank Street and Teachers College was hard to dismiss.

After her research on best practice was complete, we were charged with following the same guidelines (described in Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos)we had always followed.

After Cami gave birth, she told us at a PD that she had a new found respect for the work we do- that after spending time all day with just one infant, she was in awe of what we do- 1 teacher with 3 or 4 ed. paras- with 18 infants and toddlers every day.