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The Oakland Outrage

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Dear Friends,

This week we draw your attention to the threatened closure of the Oakland, CA, elementary charter school, Growing Children, where one of the leading test resisters in the US, Susan Harman, is principal.

Randolph Ward, the appointed boss of Oakland schools following the virtual abolition of the elected school board (similar to Detroit) has notified Susan Harman that Growing Children is going to be closed in June because (a) test scores are low and (b) instructional methods are not sufficiently "constructivist."

In fact, Randolph Ward is a front man for multimillionaire Eli Broad, a key backer for the racist and anti-working class standardization/high-stakes-test attack on public schooling. As part of an effort to deepen the use of public schools as centers of social control, and a parallel scheme to privatize parts of public education, Broad profits from closing schools--and opening his own---as in the Aspire schools in Oakland.

In addition, millions of dollars in Oakland real estate now owned by the public schools are up for grabs and part of Ward's plan appears to be to turn over public land to private developers to lay off a falsely construed school debt---as is happening in San Diego now.

For his work, Randolph Ward is being paid $240,000. His 24 hour bodyguard service is paid over $100,000. Behind every takeover of this sort is, not reason, but force and violence.

Test scores at Growing Children are indeed predictably low, among the lowest in the district. The school has 93 percent of its 150 kids, k-6, on free and reduced lunch. Throughout the country, scores on high-stakes tests reflect little but race, class, and subservience.

The charge that the school is not sufficiently constructivist, and has low scores, is really a pincer move. Good constructivism may well not produce rapid boosts in test scores. And, after all, if test scores went up markedly for masses of poor kids, the tests would be changed. The game is clearly rigged.

Susan Harman has been banned from the Oakland Schools building, and threatened by Ward's bodyguard, because she has been a consistent critic of the tests---and of him. Clearly, Ward set out to silence her. Her example as a principal (paying herself far less than other principals in order to pass the money along to staff and kids), is hardly one that school bosses like Ward want emulated.

If we can learn nothing else from the last decade of test-fever, it is that an injury to one only goes before an injury to all. This attack on Growing Children and Susan Harman will only be duplicated elsewhere, soon.

What can you do? For starters, you can write a hard-copy letter of support to Susan Harman, Growing Children, at 8000 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94621 Alameda County Phone: (510) 568-0500 Fax: (510) 568-0505

Include your email address so she can contact you if necessary.

For a short look at Randolph Ward's career and his connection to Eli Broad, see here http://www.stoprandyward.com/Gerson.htm

For a more nuanced and resourced take, see, Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Schools, by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian.

— Rich Gibson
Rouge Forum




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