Saturday, December 20, 2008


Sam Smith

If we're going to insist on judging our children primarily by how well they score on tests, we should probably do the same for education secretary nominees. The problem is that it spoils the fantasy that the major media has been creating around Arne Duncan. Still, turnabout is fair play, so here are a few of the results.

Duncan was named head of the Chicago schools the middle of 2001. The following results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress cover 2002-2007. To summarize what has happened in Chicago schools: not much. Bear in mind, that even where there has been improvement, it has amounted to less than a 1% increase in test scores over a five year period.

Fourth grade reading

Scores were 3 points higher in 2007 compared with 2005 and 8 points higher than in 2002. Total change: less than one half of one percent.

The 2007 score was lower than that of public schools in large central cities

Eighth grade reading

Scores were one point higher than in 2002.

Fourth grade math

Between 2003 and 2007 scores rose 6 points, or less than three tenths of a percent.

The scores in Chicago rose only 2 more points than in the state of Illinois at large.

Black students gained 6 points, Hispanics 2 points, and whites nine points.

Eighth grade math

Scores rose 5 points in Chicago and 7 points nationwide between 2003 and 2007

Blacks gained 2 points, latinos gained 6 points and whites gained 11 points.

Duncan - like DC's school chancellor Michelle Rhee - has fostered a dysfunctional rightwing, corporatized system of education that not only isn't working, it is damaging our children as it trains them to be obedient worker-drones incapable of analyzing or understanding what is really going on about them. This system is being enabled by the same media that for three decades enabled a dysfunctional rightwing, corporatized economic system that finally collapsed in 2008.

The dangers of this system include:

- Teaching our children only to give the right answers and not to ask the right questions.

- Grossly limiting education to fact accumulation and basic manipulation of data, leaving little time for analysis, creativity, judgment, philosophy, gaining social intelligence, as well as learning about, and participating in, the non-mechanical aspects of life such as art, theater and music. This system deliberately teaches our children not to think.

- Through the use of charter schools, turning public education into what was known in earlier times as pauper schools.

- Damaging communities by destroying schools, institutions that not only served students but their parents and provided commonality in ever more atomized urban areas.


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Your editor has been a musician for many decades. He started the first band his Quaker school ever had and played drums with bands up until 1980 when he switched to stride piano. He had his own band until the mid-1990s and has played with the New Sunshine Jazz Band, Hill City Jazz Band, Not So Modern Jazz Band and the Phoenix Jazz Band.


Here are a few tracks:





APEX BLUES   Sam playing with the Phoenix Jazz Band at the Central Ohio Jazz festival in 1990. Joining the band is George James on sax. James, then 84, had been a member of the Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller orchestras and hadappeared on some 60 records. More notes on James

WISER MAN  Sam piano & vocal

OH MAMA  Sam piano & vocal