Where are my social dividends?










Forewarning: I do not have a strong statistical background so I am always skeptical when I read something as I need to think about and evaluate the information a bit longer than others to make sure I understand. If I miss a detail, please be kind enough to send a correction.

Charter schools are a business entity. They are considered non-profit due to how they re-apply their ‘earnings’ instead of giving the earnings to shareholders. In what one might call a twist up of words, non-profits are supposed to be for the benefit of the community which is why they have certain tax advantages, etc. This means instead of being an individual shareholder obtaining dividends, you in effect become a stakeholder in your community and should receive the type of social dividends which benefit your community and make it better.

 With this in mind, I find it important for charter schools to be accurate in reporting their statistics in the same manner a for profit corporation on the NYSE reports. There are GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) rules and any accountant should be able to read and interpret the information in the same way if the books are not cooked and the aim of the company is not to mislead the shareholders. Unfortunately, charter schools are by and large allowed manipulate the books in a variety of ways (this includes grant reporting and ADA monies) and they do. This then allows them to also manipulate and actually distort the data as there are even less people willing to spend the time on non-financial information evaluations.  Charter schools follow ‘data’ on how to appeal to specific groups of people as indicated by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey  which was conducted June 21 through July 22, 2013. This data demonstrates how different categories of parents think, hence, it is easier to market targeted materials.

 The issue at hand is how charter schools report out students who go to college, graduate college and indeed produce a social dividend for a community.  This is how all great non-profits should be evaluated. Unfortunately, charter schools have never been called to prove the social dividend. I had to question this issue as I worked for a charter school and later continued questioning the morality and ethics of charter schools based on what I now know about the background story.  The story of self promotion to those who wish to promote charter schools rarely matches the reality, thus, there must be a marketing department to distort and mis-convey the facts.

Here is another look at data from a different view.

According to Jill Tucker over at The San Francisco Chronicle, I should note there is a difference  between college ready, expecting to get a high school diploma or taking the GED.  I believe this is called journalist clarity.

In 2009, about 600 African American males started high school in the Oakland school district with Thomas and Olajuwon. Of those, an estimated 80 to 100 graduated college-ready. Another 200 were expected to get their diplomas, but not with UC or CSU admission requirements. Others took the GED, or would continue in adult school. Still others spent time in jail.

During those same four years, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11 to 19 were killed across the city. Most of them were shot and most were African American males.

I note this as college ready does not mean the same thing as going to college, completing college, obtaining a degree and providing social dividend.  For charter schools to actually do something different from any other public school, they need to produce the same amount or greater of students who actually attend college and graduate as every other public school in America is charged with getting students college ready – the goal of public education.  This being said, it should be easy peasy for Aspire Public Schools (the largest in California) and KIPP to produce statistics which demonstrate this trend.  This, to my knowledge has not occurred. In fact, what has occurred is the actual removal from Aspire Public Schools of the map showing where their graduates go to college and no evidence can be found on the website for how many students (after 20 years in business) have graduated college, producing a societal dividend substantially different from other public schools.

Out on 21 August 2013 is data from ACT showing:

“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.

The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.

Just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they’ll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.

The report’s findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they’ll be forced to take remedial courses — often without earning credits — to catch their peers.

The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams — including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.

Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.

My sense would be every charter school in the U.S. would wish to report out their great ACT and SAT scores for the reason it resonates to some extent the READINESS for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills.  Any charter school should be tooting their horn regarding the average scores of their students.

I do not have the documentation (hopefully as you read this, you will be able to supply it to me if you know the piece I am referring to), however, I did hear a piece on KQED which regarded how getting a student to college is not enough. In fact, not all colleges are the same and getting children of color to college if the college is not top tier, does not improve rocking the boat and changing the social dividends – in stead it perpetuates it as status quo.

Aspire Public Schools has managed to use data from CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes – Stanford University) in an odd context. When I read the full report, noted in the URL above, there is a distortion of how one would perceive what is in the full report vs. the carefully selected portions Aspire pulled out to use.

CREDO uses data to show the minute detail of how charter schools have developed their students over time in comparison to other similar schools.  In looking at the data over a 20 year time period, there is an improvement although I would be negligent in stating this improvement is earth shattering or worth of great praise. I will let the data speak for itself.

The national study shows the following for reading and math: Although there is study improvement, 56% of charter school students have no significant difference in reading scores as measured by CREDO than regular public school students. 25% have shown a significant improved difference and 19% show a significantly worse difference.   There is no specific data from Aspire as they are lumped into the national study. In either way, they neither benefit from or substantially detract from the rather sad statistics.

If I break this down, it means only 25% of students in charter schools have shown gains while 75% of students in charter schools were comparable or worse……..Is the effect of changing 25% of students enough social dividend in reading? Should the amount of students positively effected be greater as Aspire has been around for 20 years. Aspire touts how they have the best teachers, systems and data….the statistics are not demonstrating, in my mind, substantial social dividends which I could not have gotten with just improving the public schools over all.

For math, the data is even worse. 40% of charter school students showed no significant difference in gains for math, 31% of students in charter schools fared significantly worse and 29% of students fared better. This means 29% of students in charter schools nationally had improvement while 71% fared the same or worse. Again, this is not sufficient data to show any charter school has leveraged a better system overall.

When more students show no benefit or worse benefit, there is something wrong with your program. It should be the other way around.  If this were a business having to report to shareholders instead of stakeholders, this company would fold.

As a social investment, I am not seeing where charter schools are delivering the goods.

Careful where you set your aim. The charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is mainly driven by opening higher- performing schools and by closing those that underperform. Our analysis suggests that the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them. – CREDO

This is where the Papa John’s piece on Yahoo comes in.  You can call your ‘ingredients’ whatever you wish. You should also be willing to let outsiders examine the ingredients and most of all, you should be proud enough to add in your own data as comparison. In this instance, Aspire Public Schools has failed. I am guessing this is the same for other charter schools as there have been no interesting news flashes in any of the usual educational journals which would love to pounce on this great news.

Another aspect of this issue is how Aspire is spreading to Tennessee.  Aspire needed to do this as financially they could not make it on the same budget as other public schools in California. They were ‘drowning’ and in fact have not merited the same amount of donations year over year as they had hoped for.  The CFO has been cautious in how he couches this scenario, however, the original goal of Aspire was to EXCEED the other schools in the region on the same budget. This has not happened or at least not in a statistically relevant manner.  This relates to the piece from The New York Times on how Philadelphia is borrowing money to open the schools and people are questioning if the schools are even worth opening, which leads back to the quote two paragraphs up from CREDO.

While charter schools continue to advertise their wares, I continue to be skeptical.  I need to see the following and wish CREDO could produce the data:

Just how many students of charter schools have gone to college, how many have graduated in 4, 5, 6 years?

After 20 years, I would think Aspire Public Schools has to have some of this substantially important data.

This would tell me if the taxes I pay which pays the ADA of charter schools is yielding social dividends in my community.


Crossing the boundaries of good taste at school




Finally other people are rallying round the flag called parenting – not in book form, not who can do it ‘better’ or with greater results, but who can do it since it is the right thing to do and schools/teachers JUST CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING for everyone.  The school lunch program as we know it IS CHANGING in America and parents, get this, you are going to need to do your share as the schools start doing more of  their share.

Imagine anyone asking parents to take responsibility? Who knew??  Who thought it would be appropriate to have high expectations of parents?  I was beginning to think abdication was the rule and law of parenting since even Michelle Rhee fears to tread on this group of people except to ask them if they would like to crucify more teachers.

Nutrition is such a key part of a child’s education, people were talking about requesting and allowing children to have more time to eat fresh food as it takes longer.  Finally some one is taking the ball and running down field towards the goal line – children can not learn without proper nutrition and not just at school lunch.  Healthcare will soon be ‘for all’ not the few with coins in their pockets jingling about. School food programs are drastically changing (Thank You Michelle Obama and all the many who have persevered !) due to the concerted efforts of many who have said ‘enough’, we can and need to do better.

We have not crossed the junction yet of actually asking parents to ‘think’ how they will pay to feed their children before getting pregnant, but that discussion will come at some point as the excuse train left the station.

Based on what was discussed this morning with Michael Krasney, school cafeterias can no longer be the bastions of and arbiters in bad taste nor can they waste precious food budgets on crap.  While one great meal a day is better than none, it is imperative that parents start doing what they can to level the playing field nutritionally. An example is Oakland USD in CA now has farmers markets after school in some of the ‘food deserts’ in the area. There are programs where students grow their produce and this is part of the science curriculum, never mind a great opportunity to be outside and enjoy the CA sun.

Parents have the resources and the ability to use the resources (if your kid has time to watch TV or play on the computer, they can sure as hell cook) if they choose.  Having volunteered at the Alameda Food Bank in Alameda County, there is not a ton of good food, but there is some and it is better than what 98% of the world lives on.  There are church and other organizations with food pantries, there are places to access fresh instead of paying extra for processed and frozen/packaged. If you collect WIC and/ or SNAP, you get to choose how you use those resources.  Students learn best when not on sugar rushes and stomachs are filled with useable calories.

In the most impoverished nations of the world we give U.N. food drops. Here, we can grow so much we throw some away if even after exports and U.N. food drops there is extra.  We have to do better with our resources and the people most able to be in this fight are parents.

Occasionally I see billboards around town in various languages with the message, “My kitchen/house, my food choices” and it actually gives a view of what it looks like to stand up proud and tall as the adult in the relationship of the family and make different/better choices. YOU – the parent…….it is about you and how you set the example.

Teachers, we just have to deal with whatever is sent our way.  Send us students which are fed and rested and we can do just about anything.




Ms. Rhee?  Ms. Rhee – are you there??  I can’t hear you – is the line broken??

When and how did The 4th of July becomes ‘ordinary’ and routine….





When I awoke this morning, I saw a bright sunny day. I was able to prepare a nutritious but simple breakfast – quinoa, fruit, almonds.  There was coffee. My shower with soap was possible as there was enough water to wash the soap off (there are many places in the world where this is NOT the norm).

The birds were tweeting as I dressed and I heard a cat meow – it was that quiet!   A very nice start to my 4th of July – a day for me to REFLECT, as opposed to celebrate. I am filled with pride at American History – I am also a realist. Not all of what we do at the end of the day in this country is perfect, it is just better than any other coutnry. We are still the country which provides the dream to people all over world the possibility  of becoming a citizen.

I wanted to meditate and  thank those who made my life possible.  Except for planes from an airport or news/police helicopters, I don’t hear much sound in the sky. While I have witnessed visually (and in my lungs) layers of smog, it is not all encompassing.  There have been many droughts in my life time and yet there has been potable water I did not need to run through a filter and/or heat unless camping.  I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I live a life few outside of the western world have access to. This life was ‘given’ to me by the sweat, tears and blood of others.  These others are who I honor.

I wanted to think about the British prisoners who were first shipped here when Britain outgrew them ( No, Virginia, the Pilgrims did not settle America – it was already settled by Native Americans!).  I forced myself to think of all the wars fought against the British, against the Native Americans,  and  the wars we fought against one another over beliefs (we still fight these wars today, just not on the same mass scale as the Civil War).  I thought about the wars we have fought, right or wrongly in the hopes of providing a greater good to others.  Next, I thought about the men and women abroad on this day – far from home, far from comfort, far from their family and doing that which many of us either fear or seem to loathe and will not participate.

“Clearly, young people would prefer to be doing other things,” said Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND Corporation who specializes in defense manpower issues.

I thought about my father who had served in the U.S. Army during the last great draft.

My life is privileged beyond what most can ever hope to attain in this lifetime.  I have a well stocked library within one mile of home, there is fresh food.  There is infrastructure and electricity. I have a cell phone.  My neighbors say good morning.  I am allowed to worship my interpretation of God and listen to the music of my choice. Just about everything in my life is attainable with some elbow grease.

Every successful business person in America “has enjoyed that success because of the sacrifice of someone else’s sons and daughters” in uniform, Garland said. The argument echoes a concern repeated often over the decade: War efforts have fallen on the shoulders of the few, while the lives of the many went largely unencumbered. Or as some troops have been fond of saying: “We went to war, America went to the mall.”

The only way I can ever say THANK YOU to all the people who made the quality of my life possible, I need to show respect, honor and demonstrate a level of deportment in line with showing deference.

What I realized as I sat on the side of the street as the local parade went by was many people see 4th of July as some sort of annual party. It is ordinary and routine. You go out and buy stuff to decorate your house.  In and of itself, it is not bad to have a party and invite friends over.

There was none of the honorable pomp for our military.  There was no dignity, save for the soldiers themselves – Army, Coast Guard, National Guard, ROTC….it was as if others thought they were merely providing entertainment for us, the parade goers.  I did not see people standing nor anyone even putting their hand over their heart. I was one of the very FEW clapping and saying ‘Thank You’.

While I know this scene and public behavior would be different in various parts of the U.S., it surprised me how insulated we were here in my immediate community. I don’t know how waylaid – we used to be a Navy town. We have Coast Guard Island and yet the tone of the parade was off – by the observers, the very ones who are supposed to be ‘celebrating’ our freedom.

Part of me wonders if it is our lack of teaching history (until a few years ago it was not ‘tested’ so of little value).  Another part of me wonders if we have become so comfortable in our little perceived world we forget what we are even about anymore.  The 4th of July is neither ordinary or routine.  It is a celebration worthy of our full attention – including different behavior.

Why ‘grading’ the teacher is not only wrong, but ineffective. Part II of II Blogs

Gawande, Atul, Personal Best, The New Yorker 3 October 2011  p. 44, 46-50, 51-52

This is Part II of two blogs begun March 2012 which addressed Dr. Gawande (New Yorker Magazine Article). He has a  quest for ‘coaching’ to continue developing  into his Personal Best.  I felt it necessary to analyze the article written by Dr. Gawande in order to address a professional sense of self-reflection, that of a professional surgeon.  Dr. Gawande so thoroughly addressed his personal role in medicine AND all the other potential factors  of medicine that I was compelled to use this as an example.   Dr. Gawande admitted the fault of being human and demonstrated humility in  not being  God.  He noted that the human condition is imperfect yet there is a way to learn and continually improve ourselves over time,  most often with self-reflection and insight from others as it is difficult to view ourselves while being ourselves.

Only by carefully observing other professionals outside the field  of education can we begin to develop a consciousness of  professionalism, what it means to good, better, best, great and so forth and look for tools to apply to the teaching profession.  Focusing only on education assumes the worst case scenario – teachers are distinctly different in the world of humans, but instead of being viewed as deities, in America, they are viewed as pure evil by many, often including their own administrators and the government at state and federal levels.

When we see what others do, we get past the misanthropic view of one group of people (non- teachers)  regarding teachers and notice more of  the similarities between teachers and other professionals.  Once back from the brink of insanity,  we can address the multitude factors which effect the outcomes of education, which are not strictly the result of teacher quality.  Many outcomes in education have everything to do with poverty, parental involvement and  self motivation/will.

If we were to blame only surgeons and doctors for ALL medical outcomes, no one would have surgery any more. It is both a science and an art.  There is not ‘perfection’, rather there are gradations of success based on a whole slew of issues above and beyond the doctor/surgeon.  We may seek perfection –  this involves coaching and improving professional practice.  It is NOT the golden bullet to prevent all problems.  Doctors can not account for your DNA, what you choose to eat, how you choose to take care of yourself.  Doctors have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations, they obtain a positive outcome as they take an oath to do no harm.  In the case of doctors, we need to look from within regarding outcomes of surgery,  because we came to the doctor damaged.

When we grade a teacher, we wish to push results and outcomes on people whom have the least control over what goes on in a child’s life. Teachers have only 40/168 hours, including sleep. Take out sleep (which is substantially important) and you have 40/118 hours assuming kids sleep a 10 hour night. In both cases, 40 hours is very little and yet so much is expected.   Teachers, like doctors, have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations will produce positive outcomes in nine months of the school year of eight-hour school days.  Let me be clear – most kids do not sleep even eight hours a nigh.t Not all school days are actually eight hours so the numbers I present are skewed by things such as testing, minimum days, staying up late at night for a variety of reasons and a multitude of other issues (lockdowns, snow days, illness, etc.).  Grading a teacher on amount of time of ‘influence’ alone is inadequate.

In order to explore  various ideas within education reform, I also sought out different pieces of writing from others who address the ideation of grading teachers.   It is not enough to say something is a  bad or good idea, rather one needs to support different views and perceptions so the discussion can center on what is best for children, not what is best for our sense of power over things we lack control.

As Dr. Gawande indicates, coaching is costly and rarely something schools can afford. It is awkward – in the hospital and in the classroom.  Obtaining coaching can be (and often is viewed outside sports and singing) seen as an admission of failure instead of the converse – an admission of willing to improve.  When coaching is used as punishment in education, it automatically infers substandard performance.  To change the perception of coaching in education will be no different or easier than the exact experience Dr. Gawande addresses at the end of his written piece.   Demonizing teachers does not improve their quality – it does slowly wear them down and destroy them which could not be good for students.

I am done picking at the bone of grading teachers with  a public which hates  teachers, who think denigrating and demeaning teachers (public humiliation/bullying/ exposing student success or failure on our backs) is reform.   This bone is from a  recently dead animal which was left rotting on the street, run over by a car and bits of it are smashed into the concrete. The piece of bone left has tendons and muscle hanging from it, smells of horrible decay and clearly would be of no use to the mammal it came from so we need to start over and not be so willing to kill.  Bloodsport does not ever portend to good.





So, to use a quote:

New Yorker Magazine cartoon (5 Dec 2011) by Victoria Roberts: “There’s an elephant in the room and no zookeeper.”

Let’s try to find a better course of action because grading teachers is not working the way we assumed it would.  Here is a smattering of examples of alternative perspectives.  What would be awesome is if the people who hired teachers had as much interest in teacher success as their own rise to power.

Almost all men can stand adversity, but if you want to judge a man’s true character, give him power.   (I have been unable to find the source in order to attribute this quote – if you know it, please comment!)






When society begins supporting ways for teachers to improve their personal best, obtaining the caliber of teachers  wished for will be in reach.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in MA and Harvard University are fortunate to have such a self reflective staff member AND some one so willing to share their personal experiences in order to help others.  By supporting Dr. Gawande and his willingness to strive for better, these institutions and patients benefit greatly all the way around.

We would do far more to improve education by creating a positive environment for teachers.   It is our choice – surgically destroy education with reforms that have little to nothing in offering actual  improvement or healing what happens in the classroom by owning our locus of control and assisting teachers in achieving their personal best.

What happened – what is happening?


As I was listening to Michael  Krasney today (who I thoroughly enjoy!) I reached a point at which I had to turn off the radio.  The whining was beyond unpleasant (not from Michael or his guests – his callers and people who typed in comments) and reminded me, sadly enough, of the parents at the end of “Waiting for Superman”.  The scene where parents were resigned to the fact that their kids would not get to attend a charter school and so all was lost, or at least that is what Jeffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee would have us believe.

The reality of education is not monetary……..or not in the way the misconception holds.  I decided to debunk some misconceptions brought up by parents today as I can not believe adults still believe it is the school (albeit the teachers) who are the root of the problem attached to the tree of education.

First of all, I am curious how many of the people who either called in or wrote in a comment EVER managed to attend multiple school board meetings in SFUSD as the school selection process was neither created in a vacum or in secret.  I live across the bay and read the accounting of what went on in the meetings.  There was rarely a ‘sold out’ audience. If people fail to be involved in their representative government, they can not be represented and it is very difficult to blame people whom are attempting to do the right thing – whether or not you agree. Not showing up to school board meetings is a decision/choice and all choices have consequenecs – unintended and otherwise.

The folks in “Waiting for Superman” made the same poor choice for the same reasons – they were busy, they had too many kids, they had to work hard, etc.

Interestingly, no one happened to state, “Well, we thought about having children but realized we did not have the finances or time to make sure each child obtained a great education, so we did not have children.”  If anything, it was the opposite – we have four kids and surely we can’t afford private school for all of them. Might this family have been able to afford private school for one?  This is the same concept people wrestle with in third world countries – have the number of children who can obtain an education or there will not be progress.

About 5 -10% of comments and people who called in indicated people who volunteer in their local school.  Considering the unemployment or underemployment rate, we should have parents lining up out the door to volunteer at school.  There should be so many volunteers that actual progress could be made.

One parent commented on the difficulty of volunteering at the middle school level. I can assure you (most of my teaching career was middle school) myself and other teachers at this grade level would have sold a portion of our pension to have volunteers. Instead I would say there was a collective of 5-10 really involved parents and the rest were vapors that would show up occassionally under duress.  The parents I usually dealt with when problems arose for their child were those who could not understand why their child was not doing well and never grasped the disconnect related to their involvement at the school.

One parent complained about activities for kids in the city. Interestingly, I grew up in a small suburb in Southern California and by golly we always had tons of things to do. One night a week was library night, one was Girl Scouts, we had volunteering to do, a garden to maintain (along with pets), chores, homework….by the weekend, my parents figured out how to take us for a walk at a college campus (we had to drive to them), museums (we had to drive to them), art galleries (we had to drive) and all other local cultural events.  We actually needed vacation from all of this. Almost everything was free or low cost.  The big treat was when my parents would buy tickets to plays/musicals/dance performances for a matinee show.   Considering everything in San Francisco and how accessible it is, I was horrified to hear a parent state there is nothing for children.  It takes real effort to be that vacuous.

Money – anyone who thinks education is expensive merely misunderstands (but is starting to learn) the cost of ignorance.  I encourage parents to find out how much their school spends annually for new textbooks – why? Algebra has not changed in, well forever, but books which are not taken care of become destroyed and new ones must be bought.    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2741677/posts    And even unused books cost money.  Students write in/on their books. Parents should be ashamed to raise children who do such things. Books need to be treated with reverance.  School furniture is ruined as many parents (not all) believe children should be allowed to act any old way at school – writing/carving on chairs and desks, destroying school property (‘decorating’ bathrooms), grafitti, etc.  Apparently something happened in the last 20 years where the barnyard animal gene kicked in.  Again, cleaning, repairing and replacing all of these capital assets is costly beyond imagination. There would be tons of money saved if schools did not need to replace everything all the time.

Behavior, behavior, behavior ( the school equivalent of location, location, location) and parenting:  I have indicated on many occassions in blogs that parenting would make it possible for students to learn. I still hold firm to this concept. Having taught in a hut and wrote in the sand (Peace Corps), learning can really take place anywhere.  The difference is the children in my village wanted to learn, had a desire to learn and there were very real ramifications for disruptive, inappropriate behavior at school.   In schools today, parents are so concerned about their childs self esteem they completely forgot to impart any moral code whatsoever. The ‘not so good’ schools are filled with almost feral children who are difficult to educate – for a variety of reasons: (1) no food – went to bed hungry, came to school to eat a sugary breakfast provided by the school (2) too noisy – TV, guns, cars, loud music, crazy people – student could not do homework/study and/or sleep (3) clothing – have limited clothing, don’t have access to keeping it clean, shoes too small or falling apart, child too cold, too hot (4) parents drugged out/strung out (5) children raising their baby brothers and sisters because their parents won’t (6) being learning disabled due to fetal alcohol syndrome, not growing up in a nurturing environment (7) ESL. The list could go on and on and on. The real problem is that it is difficult to educate children who lack basic skills, have health issues and there is no one at home to provide support, compassion, a spine and integrity.

No matter how one ‘integrates’ a school, without decent parenting and parental involvement, at the end of the day the teachers and rest of the school staff are fried and no amount of money can overcome exhaustion.

The huge lesson I took away from Dr. Krasney and his guests today was not abject despair at SFUSD and raising a child in San Francisco, it was the absolute inability of adults to expect something of themselves and make change.   I was raised that you could only complain (whine) if you came up with at least one potential solution to the problem. It seems San Francisco just needs cheese to add to the ‘whine’ party.

A follow up:   http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/jtaylor/index

Reading – It would be great for it to be en vogue again….

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family – Dr. Condolezza Rice

Reading for Life – Pat Conroy

 Over the last two days I had the opportunity to catch two wonderful interviews via NPR/KQED in the bay area of Northern California.  Dr. Condolezza  Rice spoke about her new book at a Commonwealth Club Event and Pat Conroy was interviewed regarding his new book.  Both books were biopic in nature and the interviews demonstrated two people very in love with reading.  As I was listening to each interview, I realized the love of reading I had inside was also instilled by a parent(s), grandparent, baby sitter, etc. who made books a national treasure above all other things I could possibly possess.  It  was a moment when I wanted to hug myself in joy for all I have been able to learn, enjoy, appreciate, opine upon and so forth by having literacy.

When ever I have these moments of appreciation about reading I always wonder what it is which makes obtaining a library card so difficult for so many.  I think of all the ludicrous irrationalities I have heard from parents regarding reading (all the while letting me know about TV and movies they and their children have seen).  I can’t help but think it must be some form of child abuse to not have a child be able to know letters and numbers by kindergarden and read by Grade 1 – in spite of what teachers at public schools try to do for children.  How on earth is it possible to have illiterate children in Grades 2, 3 and above? 

What do people put in their home if not books? 

At the very moment I get outraged in my mind about the ridiculousness of the situation, I begin to hope that the new ‘exotic’ will be reading.  My own personal belief is the very ideas we deem exotic ( strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual) have more to do with lack of exposure. Perhaps, since we have given every other possible tsotchke except reading/literacy to children, the time has finally come  for the exoticness of reading. 

 I am unclear where my generation went so terribly wrong on the reading front.  What I do know is there are other people out there who did not come from extreme wealth and managed to learn to read and find joy in the very power it instills to us.   The more you read, the more you are able to make important decisions about your life, the more you are aware, the more you become a member of society and the world. 

Parents, if you have a limited budget for the holidays this year, may I suggest the gift of reading?  It is by far the best value, dollar for dollar and it actually carries more potential value than gold or platinum.  The best investment is education and remarkably, you  need not belong to any particular political party!

Memorial Day – Remambrances of All Kinds

There is absolutely no doubt that the price of the freedoms we have in the U.S. were/are not cheap – far too much blood has been shed in this regard. I don’t wait for this once a year memorializing to occur as one day, much like celebrating Hallmark Holidays, is never ever enough. Each day I am thankful for something I have which I know others in most parts of the world lack – indoor plumbing, fresh water piped to the tap in my home, the ability to blog and speak my mind without reprisals in the middle of the night leading to jail or torture or death, the right to a K-12 education, the right to pray to my god(s) and not have to explain my beliefs, the right to question when my government does something ridiculously stupid (and the right to protest) – the list goes on. Each and every day I live a memorial to all the men and women who have given their lives or incurred an injury so I may reach this day.  It is up to me to make this day productive and good and respectful of all I have been given.

While I have never done miliatry service, my father served in Japan for the Vietnam War. I know just enough of what he saw to know I could not survive the military – I am not emotionally geared up for it.  I did serve in the Peace Corps and spent 48 hours in a war zone. The day I saw a news reporter run out with a vest over his flak jacket and the vest was clearly marked with his blood type and nationality, I understood everything I needed to about a war zone. I have heard hand grenades, bombs and have seen the dead.  You don’t need but 48 hours to completely understand war is hell. For me, I had a U.S. Passport and was able to get from Namibia to Botswana.  My exodus barely got 15 seconds on CNN (thankfully my parents did not need to bear witness to anything worse).  I was able to leave but the memories have never left.

I have taught in war zones – Compton, CA, Oakland (62nd and Ashby area), Harlem, NY and subbed in various parts of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland and although I heard gunshots, I was sufficiently startled to take action where it was necessary.

Yesterday I was working for the Census Bureau in Oakland, CA – an area known as the third most difficult place in the U.S. to obtain census data, for a litany of reasons.  Seeing a sub machine gun on a man would have little to no effect on me having been to third world countries and living with that sight every time you leave the village.  It is a normal view of the world which is not the western civilized world.  Apparently gun shots are not something I am familiar enough with that when a drive by occured while I was collecting data, the kids on the street had to tell me to duck.  I thought it was a kid with a pop gun playing around…….I hope I can always say that the sound of gunfire is not something I recognize, that I don’t hear it or know it so often I know to hit the ground.  If for this, and only this, then Memorial Day has provided me with yet another thing to be thankful for – not knowing on a regular basis the sounds of war.

While I do not know the regular sound of gunshots, I only live 5 miles from a place which apparently knows it all to well. For this I do not believe military action is the answer, rather education.  Education in the form of helping people be able to have self efficacy, self direction and a sense of self in a place where fear is most often the emotion.  America still retains the possibility of not exploding into a middle east war, not becoming feuding villages with a bitter hatred of one another for slight differences.  America retains the possibility of being a better model to the world of what works – but first we must make it work here.

While I memorialize, I think of what things in my community need ‘doing’, how I can help and what efforts must come from me so the sound of gunfire is only heard in far, faraway places and only heard when absolutely necessary.  To know the difference is a particularly special reason to be thankful for all those who have laid down their bodies and forever changed the lives of their families and friends to make my and our world better.