Friday, September 30, 2011

Time to change the stakes with testing? Join us for an evening with Yong Zhao!

American education is at a crossroads. Two paths lie in front of us: one in which we destroy our strengths in order to catch up with others on test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity.  

The current push for more standardization, centralization, high-stakes testing, and test-based accountability is rushing us down the first path, while what will truly keep America strong and Americans prosperous should be the latter, the one that cherishes individual talents, cultivates creativity, celebrates diversity, and inspires curiosity. – Yong Zhao

Join us for an evening with Yong Zhao, the nation's  most eloquent and brilliant critic of high stakes testing!

When: Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Where: I.S. 89, 201 Warren Street at the Westside Highway, lower Manhattan

Dr. Yong Zhao is also an expert on the Chinese educational system, which is attempting to move away from the rigid accountability system that Arne Duncan and other corporate reformers are pushing our country towards.  A flyer you can distribute or post at your school is above.

Zhao is the Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education at the University of Oregon, where he also serves as the director of the Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE). He blogs at

Sponsored by: Class Size Matters, Grassroots Education Movement, Parents Across America,
Time-Out From Testing & the I.S. 89 PTA. More info, call Class Size Matters : 212 674-7320 or email us at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bloomberg Education Record Stained by More Corruption

Special Commissioner for Investigation Richard Condon has released a blockbuster report on the fraud perpetuated by favored DOE contractor FTA. (Report pdf is here.) The SCI points to fraud of at least $6.5 million. The worst part of this episode is that despite obvious warning signs, DOE pressed ahead with giving more business to the firm.

After a series of damning columns by Juan Gonzalez, I urged the Panel for Educational Policy, at our September, 2009 meeting to vote down a huge contract extension citing numerous irregularities. During my investigation of the contract with FTA, senior DOE staff including Joel Klein confidant Photeine Anagnostopoulos, repeatedly claimed there was nothing wrong with the arrangements and attempted to block my request to see the actual contract before we voted on it. Only with the intervention of Borough President Stringer and Assembly members Nolan and O'Donnell did DOE relent and provide contract copies. Bronx representative Anna Santos joined me in voting against it.

Unfortunately, the PEP oversight of contracts has been even further weakened under PEP Chairman Tino Hernandez and DOE Chancellor Walcott. The DOE now routinely asks for approval well before the contracts are even drafted making proper due diligence impossible. Mayoral bloc appointees rubber stamp the contracts regardless of issues uncovered. Meetings of the PEP Contracts Committee which is supposed to vet contracts, were suspended last year by Committee Chair Joe Chan. Committee meetings have been scheduled again by Hernandez, but only during the working day making it extremely difficult for the working parents on the Panel or the general public to attend regularly. The measures taken by Walcott and Hernandez have dramatically undermined the approval authority provided to the PEP under state law.

See today's Juan Gonzalez column on the debacle here.

For more background on the PEP and its members see Liza Featherstone's disturbing article in the Brooklyn Rail here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why the school progress reports and NYC education reporters deserve a big fat “F”

Gary Rubinstein, a math teacher at Stuyvesant, totally outclasses the numerous education reporters in this city in his analysis of the recent school grades.  

He shows via this graph to the right and discusses in his blog how there is little or no correlation in rank order for schools between last year or this year's progress reports. 

(Incidentally, in a subsequent posting, Rubinstein also points out that NYC charters are twice as likely to get "Fs" in progress than non-charters.)

Unfortunately the mainstream media continue to repeat without dispute Suransky’s claim that the progress reports were much more “stable” this year, even though 60% of schools changed grades.    

Not one reporter, to my knowledge anyway, has bothered to point out how experts have shown that 32-80% of the annual gains or losses in scores at the school level are essentially random – and yet 60% of the school grade is based upon these annual gains or losses. 

See the Daily News oped I wrote in 2007, in which I offer even more criticisms of the progress reports, including their inherent instability, “Why parents and teachers should reject the new grades”.  

 Researchers have found that 32 to 80% of the annual fluctuations in a typical school’s scores are random or due to one time factors alone, unrelated to the amount of learning taking place. Thus, given the formula used by the Department of Education, a school’s grade may be based more on chance than anything else.

Yet here is one typical headline from last week: School report cards stabilize after years of unpredictability. Here is the NY Times account:

“We have a really high level of stability this year, which is a good thing,” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer for the city’s Department of Education…. There is movement and that’s good because we are measuring one year of data and we expect schools will go up and down, but we don’t want to see movement caused by something that’s external to the kids,” Mr. Polakow-Suransky said, referring to changes in the state exams that caused incredible increases and then a drop-off in schools’ grades.

Of course, if one year’s movement up and down is primarily random, that by definition is “external.” 

Nor have any education reporters bothered to report that Jim Liebman, who designed the system, testified to the City Council when the grades were introduced that the DOE would improve the reliability of the system to incorporate three years worth of test score data instead– which both he and Suransky have refused to do.

Indeed, as recounted on p. 121 of Beth Fertig’s book, Why can’t U teach me 2 read,  Liebman is quoted as responding to Michael Markowitz’s observations that the grading system was designed to provide essentially random results this way:

“There’s a lot I actually agree with, he said in a concession to his opponent…He then proceeded to explain how the system would eventually include three years’ worth of data on every school so the risk of big fluctuations from one year to the next wouldn’t be such a problem.”

And yet no one, including Fertig, has mentioned this discrepancy and DOE’s lack of rationale for intentionally allowing an essentially single unreliable grade to determine a school’s future – with 10% of schools now guaranteed to be given a failing grade and thus liable to being closed, based largely on chance. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Town Hall Tonight: New Tactics to Address Overcrowding in Greenwich Village

In 2008, as a wave of young children struck New York City and, apparently unpredicted by the DOE, swamped public elementary schools in Greenwich Village, a forward-thinking pair of Community Board politicians named Brad Hoylman and Keen Berger teamed up with local parents to hold a hearing to gauge community concern about overcrowding. On a rainy night in February, the auditorium of PS 3 was flooded with angry and worried parents. In the aftermath of this meeting, the Rudin organization, which was seeking zoning variances to build hundreds of luxury condos on the site of St. Vincent's Hospital, helped to broker a deal with the SCA to obtain the Foundling Hospital as a future elementary school. Three years later, with Foundling is still far from opening, Village schools more crowded than ever (with record class sizes and kids forced out of their zone for kindergarten), and St. Vincent's disastrously bankrupt and shuttered, the Rudins still seek zoning variances to double the space of allowed construction, even though there is now no hospital-rescue justifying their giant incursion on Village space.

50 years nearly to the day after the publication of Jane Jacobs's epochal Death and Life of Great Cities, inspired by Village fights against gargantuan development, another group of Village residents has banded together to defend the values of neighborhood, and this time they have included school space in their vision. The so-called Live and Learn Coalition is demanding that the Rudin proposal be amended to (1) reduce height and bulk of construction, (2) provide affordable housing, (3) ensure public park space, and (4) contribute substantially to the acquisition of state-owned property at 75 Morton Street for public school space.

This movement is significant not only for the desperately needed seats it may provide, but also for the example it offers of parents working with other community advocates on behalf of schools and including schools as part of a greater vision of neighborhood well being. Live & Learn members enthusiastically invite people to attend their Town Hall tonight (PS 41, 116 West 11th Street, between 6th and 7th, 6:30 PM), sign their petition, add other neighborhood groups to their coalition, and duplicate their efforts in land-use negotiations throughout the city.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Class sizes sharply rising & 7,000 violations this fall despite Bloomberg campaign promises

It’s been a busy week.  On Wednesday there was a spirited rally on the steps of Tweed to protest the continued cuts to school budgets, the loss of art, music & afterschool program, and the sharp increases in class sizes; a good summary of the event is on the  Ed Vox blog.  There were great speeches by parents and elected officials, and I met a large contingent from PS  217 in Roosevelt Island, protesting Kindergarten classes of 28 and 5th grade classes of 34, even though there are empty rooms in the building.
On Thursday, I joined a UFT press conference at Murry Bergtraum HS, where Michael Mulgrew  reported  on the 7,000 classes that violate the union limits, with more than 250,000 students sitting (or standing) in these oversized classes during the first ten days of school.  (Contractual class size limits – already far too large – are 25 students in Kindergarten; 32 students in grades 1-6:  33 students in non-title I MS; 30 in Title I MS; 34 students in HS; and 50 students in gym.)
Most of the violations this fall, as usual, are in our large overburdened high schools; with classes of 35 students or more at Benjamin Cardozo (302); Long Island City (207); Lehman (270) Murry Bergtraum (104); and John Dewey (102).
But  there are many violations in elementary and middle schools as well, including Petrides in Staten Island with 44 classes over the limits; MS 210 in Queens with 43; Bronx PS 83 with 33; Brooklyn’s IS 318 with 31 and PS 169 with 24. The UFT also reported that there are 7,000 fewer teachers than in 2008 – despite increasing enrollment.
As John Elfrank-Dana chapter leader at Bergtraum explained, though the administration will eventually address some of these violations, these students will have been shuffled from class to class for weeks, losing out on a crucial period of time to engage in learning and bond with their teachers.  Moreover, some violations will remain, despite grievances.  In any case, class sizes will likely increase for the fourth year in a row, with children in grades K-3 suffering from the largest classes in eleven years – and research shows that these are critical years in which class size helps determine the trajectory of their academic achievement and future success in life.  In many schools, we are seeing class sizes in these grades jump from 21 or 22 to 30 or more – especially as the DOE refuses to honor the cap of 28 students per class in grades 1-3, which they did for many years.
As usual, Walcott and the DOE spokesman responded with their usual pablum about how they are focusing instead on teacher “quality”; but I pointed out that even the best teachers cannot do their best with class sizes this large.  I also provided a flyer from Bloomberg’s 2002 campaign for Mayor, showing how he promised to reduce class size, especially in the early grades, because, as it points out,
 “...studies confirm that one of the greatest detriments to learning is an overcrowded classroom. …For students, a loud, packed classroom means a greater chance of falling behind. For teachers, class overcrowding means a tougher time teaching and giving students the attention they need.”
In his campaign literature, Bloomberg concluded that “NYC families have been waiting long enough.” Our children are still waiting, many of them in even more overcrowded classes than when he was first elected, due to the mayor's negligence and the flawed priorities of those he picked to run our schools. 
(For more news on the class size violations this year, see GothamSchools, NYT, Daily News, NY1, WSJ, Fox News, DNA info, and  UFT.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Outrageous class sizes !

Check out Lindsey Christ's great reporting on 2nd grade classes at 36 children at PS 236 in Brooklyn -- which is more than the room can hold and violates the building code.  The kids say they have to go into the hallway to work because it is quieter!  In this case, pictures are really worth 1000 words.
Today I heard of a 3rd grade class at 36 in D6 in Manhattan. 

Please send me your info at  today!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Join us on Wed. to protest the budget cuts and class sizes at your school!

Join us at rally this Wednesday, to protest the severe budget cuts to our schools, the increases class sizes, and the loss of valuable programs. 
Come and fight for your child's right  to receive a quality education!
Class sizes in many schools are far worse than I have ever heard– despite the city’s legal obligation to reduce them – and are now above 30 in many schools, even in the early grades.   It is really outrageous how the state and the city have failed our kids. 
When: Wednesday, Sept. 21st @ 12:00 P.M
Where: DOE headquarters, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St.
(take the 4, 5, 6, N & R to City Hall- BK Bridge, or 1, A/C to Chambers St.)
Who: parents and outraged citizens. Co-sponsored by: Class Size Matters, Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, NYC Parents Union, African American Clergy and Elected Officials, Charity B.C. of Christ,  Cody Cares, Churches United to Save and Heal, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, New York Divinity School, and Mirabal Sisters.
A flyer is to the right that you can post or distribute in your school.
Let me know if you have a story to tell at the rally about how the cuts have affected your child’s school by emailing me at
Please also complete our survey if you haven’t already at
AQE also has a survey you can ask your principal to fill out at 

Friday, September 16, 2011

We take the city to court over charter co-locations!

Here is an article about the court hearing from GothamSchools, here is video from NY1; here is our updated press release.

Yesterday morning, parent groups, including Class Size Matters, the NYC Parents Union, and individual parent plaintiffs, took the city to court over charter co-locations, and the way in which DOE provides space and service to charters for free, which we believe violates state law.

First, we had a press conference on the steps of the State Supreme Court. Then we took seats in Judge Feinman’s courtroom at 10 AM, which wasn’t nearly as crowded as when he heard the NAACP/UFT lawsuit, but was about half full with attorneys from the NYC Corporation Counsel’s office, DOE chief counsel Michael Best, and a large number of attorneys from the firms representing the charter schools.  In contrast, our side was represented by one lone attorney, Arthur Schwartz of  Advocates for Justice, who was terrific. 
There were actually three related lawsuits that were argued by Arthur; the first was on behalf of the parents at IS 303, who oppose the proposal to co-locate Coney Island Prep charter in their building, which sparked huge protests last year. Over the last few years, IS 303 had turned around its previously struggling school, by using a program that has students stay in their classrooms rather than travel from one room to another.  Arthur argued that this co-location would prevent this practice from continuing, and this would degrade the quality of education.  This was backed by an expert report from the 21st Century Fund that Commissioner King had refused to consider because he received it one day after his deadline.  

Arthur also cited the precedent of the CFE case, which held that NYC students had the right to a sound basic education, and said there were constitutional issues involved.  He added that the Educational Impact statement for IS 303 did not properly asses the negative impact on the school’s special needs students, whose services and programs would be squeezed into inadequate spaces, though Commissioner King had claimed that DOE substantially complied with the law because the EIS simply mentioned these students in passing.    Finally, Arthur pointed out that the announcement for the public hearing on the co-location was only translated into Spanish after the hearing had taken place, even though 20 percent of the IS 303 parents are Spanish-speaking.

Then Chuck Orsland, the lead attorney from the NYC Corporation Counsel’s office, spoke. When he argued that Commissioner King did not have a duty to accept the 21st Century report, Judge Feinman expressed some skepticism about why King couldn’t have easily granted an extension. Orsland also claimed that DOE had no legal requirement to notify the parents in Spanish, and that it was speculation to say that abandoning the teaching model that had improved outcomes at IS 303 would undermine the quality of education at the school.

Then Arthur went on to argue a second case: that the co-location of Explore Charter at Parkside Prep/MS 2 in Brooklyn was illegal, citing many of the same grounds.  The public notification of Spanish and Haitian parents was inadequate and there was little or no analysis of the co-location’s impact on special needs students and English Language Learners.  Orsland responded with a long procedural objection that I didn’t really understand about Article 78 hearings.  He also argued that citing CFE was a red herring, but the Judge explained that when a co-located school takes away 40 classrooms, it may undermine the quality of education.  Orsland concluded that even given these charter co-locations, the public schools remained under-utilized.  (Meanwhile, the NYC Comptroller pointed out in an audit on Wednesday that the DOE utilization figures are so unreliable, with 10-25% error rates, as to be “a house of cards.”)

Finally, it was time for our case to be argued.  (Here is our original legal complaint, here is our reply brief.)  Arthur pointed out that NY state law holds that when districts provide space and services to charter schools, they shall do so “at cost”, but the DOE provides all this for free to co-located charters.  Since co-located charters represent about 2/3 of all the charters in the city, this means that DOE forgoes about $100 million a year in revenues.  This estimated figure is based on an analysis here and here, released by the Independent Budget Office in February 2011.  (These analyses corrected an earlier IBO 2010 report , which mistakenly held that co-located charter schools received less in per student public funding than district public school students.  Strangely, the charter school attorneys included only the uncorrected, erroneous 2010 IBO report as Exhibit 1 into evidence, without including the subsequent report or mentioning that the IBO had revised their estimates.)

Here is the relevant passage in the state law:
Article 56, Section 2853, Part 4(c): A charter school may contract with a school district or the governing body of a public college or university for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof. Any such contract shall provide such services or facilities at cost.

Arthur went on to explain that that this free provision of space and services leads to co-located charter schools being provided with more than the per pupil public funding that district public schools receive, leading to inequities in services and staffing.  He also pointed out that the illegal subsidy they receive from DOE of $100 million per year could prevent the loss of many of the 2500-3000 teaching positions that have occurred, and the consequent increases in class size.  

Orsland, the city’ attorney focused his rebuttal on three main points:  first, there were no contracts between charters and DOE and so there was no need for these contracts to include any charges for space or services.  Yet in Exhibit 2,  entered into evidence by the charter school attorneys, Michael Regnier of the NYC Charter Center stated something different: that “a handful of charters may have signed use agreements…but to the best of our information and belief, those agreements were in fact never executed”  (whatever that means).  In any event, Orsland’s claim is contradicted by the fact that we have a copy of a signed, notarized contract between Girls Prep charter and the DOE, saying they will pay $1 dollar in rent for the space, and laying out other detailed provisions about their use.  Until recently, the boilerplate contract agreement for space for co-located charters was prominently posted on the DOE website.  

Orsland’s second argument was that even if the city recovered these funds, they would not necessarily be spent on new teachers or programs that benefit our children, and that instead, the DOE might spend the funds on more administrators or other priorities, so the parents’ claims of injury were hypothetical.  (This point was also made in the city’s brief and the affidavit of Sharon Olds of the DOE budget office.)  This led into his third point:  that parents have no standing to sue and no private right of action, and whatever financial arrangement exists is instead a private matter between the DOE and the charter schools, and “we think co-location is a good thing.”

The lead attorney for the charter schools, Andrew Dunlap from Kirkland & Ellis, chimed in that if charters had to pay rent, some of them might have to close or lay off staff.  These arguments were also made in the various charter affidavits, such as this one from DREAM charter director, Richard Berlin:
 “DREAM currently has a model that provide for two fully certified teachers per classroom, with teaching assistants for grades K-1.  DREAM would likely be forced to reduce leadership and instructional staffing, eliminating 4-6 full-time teaching position and 1 to 2 school leadership roles, destroying the DREAM teaching model parents sought to obtain by applying for a lottery pot at DREAM.”
A similar affidavit was filed by Ian Newton of the Explore Empower Charter school: that his school “has a model that provide for two teachers per classroom” and if forced to pay rent, they might have to “cut core teaching positions, increasing student-teacher ratio, and destroying the Empower teaching model…”

The charter attorney, Dunlap, also argued that if these schools closed, their students would shift back to DOE schools which would lead to “worse overcrowding.” (Why?  Not sure; each new school that is co-located exacerbates overcrowding, because of the need to duplicate administrative and cluster space.) He reiterated the city’s argument that the DOE might use the money for other purposes rather than hiring more teachers.  The Judge interjected that perhaps the funds could be used for school supplies, since the teacher’s choice program had been eliminated this year. 

Judge Feinman went on to say that “no one could argue that $100 million wouldn’t make a difference” in how the DOE provides resources to the schools, and if parents don’t have standing, who does?  Dunlap maintained that parents, students, and advocacy groups had no right to sue, since none of these groups are mentioned in the relevant statute.

In his final rebuttal, our attorney, Arthur Schwartz pointed out that it was specious to claim that the DOE could get around the law by saying they had no contracts with the charters; and that another statute says that charters may lease or own space, but nowhere is it mentioned that they can get space for free.  

Arthur also commented that while the charter directors complain that they might have to sacrifice their great teacher-student ratios or some of their other assets, this is exactly what has happened in our public schools.  Because of repeated budget cuts, public schools have been forced to eliminate teachers and raise class sizes for the last three year in a row, and have lost many valuable programs.  Finally, if DOE chose to provide more money in the form of cash to charters than the state-mandate formula prescribes, would they also argue that public school parents could not sue?  

Judge Feinman wrapped up at about 1:15 PM, by saying our case was “interesting” and raises “different issues.” He asked for final legal papers to be due in a couple of weeks.  At that point, presumably, he will make a determination about whether he would order a preliminary injunction (meaning charter schools would be asked to pay rent immediately), whether he would dismiss the case,  or whether it should go to trial.

It was a very fascinating couple of hours, and for me as a plaintiff, thrilling, since theoretically at least, we have an equal chance to win as DOE.  In court, only the law and the strength of our arguments rule, rather than the money and power of Bloomberg and the DOE, who are generally able to steamroll their policies over the vehement protests and opposition of parents, no matter how legitimate our objections.  

Also revealing, I thought, is how the city openly argued that they wouldn’t necessarily use the extra funds to prevent class size increases and to benefit our kids, but might spend it on more bureaucracy; and that parents have no legal standing to intervene in their decisions.  Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the Judge disagrees.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thursday's arguments in our charter co-location lawsuit, & what Tisch and Klein said to Brill about this issue

Arguments in our  lawsuit vs. charter co-locations will be heard this Thursday, Sept. 15 at 10 AM ; 60 Court St,  2nd floor, Judge Feinman’s courtroom. 
Please join us to show your support at our press conference beforehand and in the courtroom afterwards.
Where: the Plaza across from 60 Centre St., near City Hall, map here
When: Thursday, Sept. 15 at 9AM
What: Press conference before charter co-location court hearings
Class Size Matters, along with the Parents Union and several public school parents, sued DOE this summer to block their practice of providing free space and services to charter schools,  which we believe violates state law, and which has led to co-located charters receiving more per student public funds than regular public schools.  
The value of these services and space is estimated at more than $100 million annually, and the amount is growing every year.   
Moreover, the provision of free space has created a separate and unequal school system across the city, sparked divisive battles between parents and community members, and encouraged charter school expansion at the expense of our public schools.  For more on our lawsuit, see here.
In Steve Brill's new book, (see Diane Ravitch's brilliant review) Merryl Tisch, head of the NY Board of Regents, is quoted as arguing with Klein against co-locations, echoing a thought many of us have had:  "The charters are supported by billionaires.  Let them buy buildings."  But Klein remains adamant: 
"I got $250 million put into my capital budget in 2005-6 for the work necessary to do co-location," Klein recalls."But nobody noticed..."  Klein was facilitating the growth of these alternative schools at the expense of the schools he was in charge of.
In the book, Brill is admiring of Klein's strategy, while those of us who actually believe that it was his first responsibility to strengthen rather than undermine the public schools that he ran see this behavior as nothing short of horrifying. 
If we win this lawsuit, it will help put the brakes on those who are unfortunately still in charge, intent on damaging our public schools to benefit the billionaires, the privateers and their hedge-fund buddies.
Our side is represented by one public interest attorney, Arthur Schwartz of Advocates for Justice, while the other side is represented by the Corporation Counsel of NYC as well as an army of attorneys from three major private law firms, Kirkland and Ellis, Paul Weiss, Mayer Brown, representing charter schools, as  well as SNR Denton, representing the NYC Charter Center.
But we have right, as well as the law on our side.  Come join us and show you care.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Whatever Happened to GBN News?

As I was reading recently about the “retirement” of one of my favorite bloggers, I realized that I’ve been in kind of a “semi-retirement” from blogging myself. It’s been a few months since my last GBN News parody on this site, and it occurred to me that some people out there may be wondering if GBN News got bought out for a vast sum by Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch, leaving me happily sunning myself on the beach at Michael Bloomberg’s Bahamas retreat.

No such luck! But, though GBN News remains firmly in my rather quirky little hands, I’ve been wondering myself why the stories aren’t “writing themselves” the way they used to.

Part of the reason, I think, is that Bloomberg et al have become such a parody of themselves that they may have rendered GBN News all but unnecessary. Never in my wildest imagination could I have come up with anything resembling the Cathie Black fiasco or the Rupert Murdoch scandal. It’s ironic: I used to whimsically worry that these folks would steal my ideas, but I never expected they would actually outdo them.

Partly, too, it’s become harder to joke about some of those people. Joel Klein was easy to parody. Dennis Walcott, however, seems more of a tragic figure than a comic one. Coming from a promising career in the Urban League among other endeavors, he has been co-opted by Bloomberg and will likely find his former integrity and reputation forever sullied by his association with the ed deform movement.

Whatever the reasons, it’s become clear to me that while I won’t rule out the occasional GBN parody on this blog if the mood strikes, it may be time for me to find other ways of making my voice heard. What that means, I’m not certain yet. I’ve been tempted to start my own blog to offer more serious commentary on a wider range of issues. But blogging can be rather addictive from what I’ve seen, and I’m not sure I’ve got the time to put into that right now.

What I do know is that whatever the broader issues, education remains critical. The more our public school kids are subjected to NCLB, Race to the Top, larger classes, incessant testing, and a transient, demoralized teaching force, the less their ability to think and to question. It may or may not be the manifest intent of the Billionaire Boys’ Club to render the next generation incapable of looking critically at Ed Deformers, Tea Partiers and the like. But it will certainly be the latent effect.

When I look at the crises the world faces today, I can’t help but wonder just what disasters could have been avoided if more of our citizens had been educated to be able to question the prevailing “wisdom” of the powers that be. We are expected to go along with their catch phrases and bogus “group think”: In education, “Lazy teachers with lifetime tenure are ruining our schools”; with national security, “They’re all out to get us”; on the economy, “No new taxes”; in the Mideast, “There’s no partner for peace”.

There’s another side to all this, but people are intimidated into accepting this way of thinking by accusations of being anything from “defenders of the status quo” to “un-American”. It is only through real education – instilling in our children the capacity for independent thinking and the courage to challenge, that our society will have any hope of avoiding the disastrous path down which we appear to be heading.

The best teacher I ever had, my high school social studies teacher, the late Horace Ports, not only invited us to challenge him, he demanded it. I can still hear him bellowing at the class, “Come on, what I just said was ridiculous, is there nobody in this class who recognizes that?”

I doubt that Mr. Ports would even last a year in today’s school system. And sadly, without teachers like that, our kids will not be able to tell fact from fiction, or parody from reality. GBN News stories might actually be taken as real. Political leaders will then start outdoing the parodies, and people will take them seriously. And … wait a minute, that’s what’s happening already. Hmmm, perhaps it really is time to “retire” GBN News.

Either way, GBN News or not, I’ll still be around - to comment, and to contribute occasionally, with discretion. There may be a few more parodies still waiting to be written. But you can’t be too careful what you say these days, or the ideas expressed may fall into the wrong hands.

-Gary Babad

PS: Rest assured that any future GBN News stories will always be posted on this site. I owe Leonie a huge debt of gratitude for allowing me to use this forum and promoting GBN News, and any educational satire I write will remain here. Of course, I think every parent in NY City owes Leonie a huge debt of gratitude for leading the fight for real education for our kids.

PPS: If, despite all those wild and wacky authentic education stories in the news, you’re still pining for more parody, there’s still plenty it around that’s actually intentional, and (in my opinion) often better than GBN:

One of my favorites is Last Stand for Children First

Then there’s Billionaires for Education Reform

On one of my other favorite blogs, sometimes you’ll find stories like

Occasionally, Norm will post something like this:

For general news parody, there’s always the Borowitz Report

And finally, one of the best education parody sites of all time: