Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo Performs at W Atlanta – Midtown Hotel, Announces Plans to Partner With Atlanta Music Project To Raise Awareness

BLACK EYED PEAS’ TABOO PERFORMS AT W ATLANTA – MIDTOWN

Partnered with American Cancer Association and Atlanta Music Project to Raise Awareness on Various Causes

Black Eyed Peas' Taboo poses with AMP Co-Directors Aisha Bowden (left) and Dantes Rameau (right) after Taboo's performance at the W Atlanta - Midtown Hotel.

Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo poses with AMP Co-Directors Aisha Bowden (left) and Dantes Rameau (right) after Taboo’s performance at the W Atlanta – Midtown Hotel.

ATLANTA – On Thursday, April 21 the W Atlanta – Midtown hosted an exciting musical performance for hotel guests and the public alike. Taboo, the Grammy-nominated musician from the pop group Black Eyed Peas, hosted a listening session and live performance of his newest album, Magnificent.

The event was held in partnership with the American Cancer Society, which Taboo serves as a global ambassador for helping to combat cancer through prevention, healthy living, and screening.   With the American Cancer Society headquartered in Atlanta, this was a special hometown performance showing Taboo’s commitment to growing the partnership while educating himself and others along the way.

In addition to Magnificent, Taboo is producing new music and is set to release a series of singles this year. Being a Native/Mexican American, he is releasing a record for the Latin community in time for summer. Always collaborating, inspiring, and being inspired by others, Taboo is partnering with the Atlanta Music Project as part of his commitment to music education. He will be presenting the youth in the music program with a master class about leadership, discipline, and healthy living as keys to success. The master class is based on his book entitled Falling Up.

The W Atlanta – Midtown experience served as an opportunity to connect with partners and friends in the industry, raise awareness for charitable causes that Taboo is passionate about, as well as showcase new music.

For more information on Taboo and Magnificent, visit his official Facebook page at http://ift.tt/1qYMmhO. W Atlanta – Midtown is located at 188 14th St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30361, 404-892-6000, and online at http://ift.tt/1m67qet and @WAtlMidtown.

ABOUT W ATLANTA – MIDTOWN

A managed property of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world, W Atlanta – Midtown is located in the city’s most vibrant, culture-rich and connected neighborhood.  The hotel is within walking distance of Piedmont Park, Beltline, Woodruff Arts Center (High Museum, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Alliance Theater), Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Fabulous Fox Theatre, Georgia Tech, and Atlanta’s top restaurants.  Nearby MARTA train stations quickly and easily connect the hotel to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza, America’s Mart, and national stadiums and arenas.  Inside the hotel, Manhattan-based design trendsetters ICrave have created a visual mix that echoes W’s passion for the music industry along with Midtown’s stunning dichotomy of sparkling office towers and expansive greenspace.  One of the largest W Hotels in the world, the property features 466 guest rooms and 33 specialty suites, and over 30,000 square feet of meeting and special event space (for everything from intimate executive board meetings to weddings for 500 to concerts for 2000).  Business doesn’t skip a beat thanks to WIRED, a high tech business center available to guests. Guests may indulge in TRACE Atlanta – a farm-to-hotel dining concept featuring Southern-inspired cuisine, Rande Gerber’s Whiskey Park and Living Room bars, and the celebrated Bliss Spa.   Retreat to WET, outdoor pool deck with private cabanas, or work out in FIT, state-of-the-art gym. W Atlanta – Midtown also offers the W brand’s signature 24-hour Whatever/Whenever® service promise, offering guests whatever they want – from a private couture shopping experience to front-row seats to the hottest show in town – whenever they want it. For more information on W Atlanta – Midtown, please visit:http://ift.tt/1m67qet.

Media Contact:
Shawn B. O’Neill
Soffritto PR
shawn@soffrittopr.com
404-919-7784 

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Photographing a President

One of the few people who will serve the entire two terms of Obama’s presidency is White House photographer Pete Souza. Jonathan Jones wrote a fitting tribute to the man who will have spent eight years “photographing the real Barack Obama.”

These images tell the true story of a presidency that words have failed. After all the hate, anger, birther theories, leftist critiques, rightist critiques, and even the liberal white awe of a “cool” black dude vanishes into the babble of the past, Souza’s photographs will tell the story of a leader who was calm under fire, unfazed by office, unquenchably human, and who showed the way for all the kids who passed through his Oval Office, and millions more, to be good people, good Americans, and good citizens of the world. Will we miss the man in these pictures? Hell, yes.

Here are a few of Souza’s photographs that Jones chose to highlight.

Feb 2016 – Watching the first lady dance with 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin in the Blue Room of the White House

July 2012 – For one small child, the Oval Office becomes a playground and the president a playmate.

March 2015 – The Obamas share an intimate moment as they mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches.

June 2013 – Obama hugs his daughter Sasha during a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell in South Africa.

Finally, this is not one that Jones included, but on Memorial Day it seems fitting to include this one from last year’s ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery when President Obama greeted 107 year-old Retired Army Lt. Col. Luta Mae Cornelius McGrath, a World War II veteran.

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John Thompson: Shaming is not Teaching

John Thompson, teacher and historian, writes here about two examples of a disturbing trend. In the first one, a teacher writes about her abhorrence of data walls, which publicly shame children. The other is the current flap in Florida, where some districts are punishing children who do not take the state test, even though they are known to be good students whose work in class demonstrates their ability.

 

 

He writes:

 


Have They No Shame?

 

Virginia 3rd grade teacher, Launa Hall, exposes a shocking example of how corporate reform has lost its soul. In doing so, she reminds us of the way that bubble-in accountability started the nation’s schools down this abusive road. Hall writes, “Our ostensible goal in third grade was similar to what you’d hear in elementary schools everywhere: to educate the whole child, introduce them to a love of learning … But the hidden agenda was always prepping kids for the state’s tests.” When educators’ jobs shift from the unlocking of children’s whole potential to increasing test scores, some or many educators will stand and fight against destructive pedagogies, but it is amazing how many otherwise caring human beings will agree to inflict so much pain on children.

 

In Florida, for instance, most schools aren’t punishing 3rd graders for “opting out” of tests. Two districts, however, are warning parents that their children will be retained if they opt out. The Manatee district is “cherry-picking” from the state law in order to hold back a third-grader who “has gotten nothing but rave reviews from teachers.” Another parent opted her son out of the testing because of his test anxiety; “she said her son reads on a fourth-grade level and performs at or above grade level in the classroom.” These school systems are obviously willing to hurt those kids in order to send a message to parents who have the temerity to push back against the testing mania.

A few years ago, I thought I witnessed the ultimate abusive practice designed to shame children into working harder to meet higher quantitative targets. It was bad enough that the New Orleans “No Excuses” charter school I was visiting prohibited talking in the cafeteria during lunch. Even worse, their data wall was prominent in the lunchroom for everyone to see. I had once seen an Oklahoma City data wall, identifying the scores of all students, but it was in a room, inside another room, and it was for faculty eyes only. Teachers and administrators in OKC had long been warned that a NOLA-style breach of confidentially could cost us our teaching licenses, but that had seemed redundant. What sort of human being would publically reveal individual students’ attendance and/or classroom performance data?

And that brings us back to Launa Hall’s story. She notes that posting students’ names in such a way without parental consent may violate privacy laws. But, “At the time, neither I nor my colleagues at the school knew that, and … we were hardly alone.” Hall adds that the U.S. Education Department encourages teachers to not display the numbers for individuals, who are identifiable by name, and that approach would have been more “consistent with the letter, if not the intent, of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But it would be every bit as dispiriting. My third-graders would have figured out in 30 seconds who was who, coded or not.”

Hall’s focus is not on the legal games adults are playing but on the damage done by this shaming to individual children. She paints us a picture of the pain that was inflicted on “Child X” when she saw her real name followed by “lots of red dots” declaring that she was not meeting official state standards. Of course, Hall “tried to mitigate the shame she felt.” The teacher’s efforts at reconnection may have helped a little, but the student “still had all those red dots for everyone to see.”
Hall then tells us “exactly who is being shamed by data walls.” Janie (her pseudonym for Child X) “is part of an ethnic minority group. She received free breakfast and lunch every school day last year, and some days that’s all she ate. Her family had no fixed address for much of the year, and Janie, age 8, frequently found herself the responsible caretaker of younger siblings.”

The Post story prompted around 400 comments and more discussion on social media. Almost all were opposed to the public posting of children’s data, often decrying the walls as insane and reprehensible. One commented, “Hard to imagine this actually occurring. Why not just put the dots on their foreheads?” Some commenters tried to blame the individual teachers who posted data walls, but others explained how that is often required by under-the-gun school systems.

Even so, the few supporters of such data walls, as well as the venom of some commentators casting blame on individuals, illustrate the tragedy unleashed by corporate reformers appealing to our basest instincts. A few recalled the good old days and complained “today’s little flowers can’t take competition or even comparisons of any kind,” or said that similar things happened 50 years ago, but “if some little snot bragged about getting the highest grade, he/she would get beat up after school.” One personified the market-driven mentality which gave us such brutality, saying that 3rd graders should be separated “into two tracks: one would be the “everyone gets a trophy track,” while “the other track would be the ‘competitive track,’ which would feature these dreaded ‘data walls,’” so we could see who became more successful in life.

Hall is magnanimous in wrapping up this sorry tale of cruel competition and compliance, “when policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable …” But, how could they disagree with her admonition? “Teaching the young wasn’t supposed to feel like this.”

I would only add that the ultimate tragedy would be the creation of a new generation of educators and patrons where this sort of shaming feels like teaching.

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Manatee County, Florida, Won’t Back Down on Threat to Hold Back Third-Graders Who Opt Out

Manatee County, Florida, is standing by its stated policy: Third graders who do not take the state test or do not take the SAT-10 will be held back, no matter what their teacher says, no matter what kind of work they can show, no matter what. Period.

To be fair, Manatee is not the only county planning to flunk third-graders who opt out. And to be even more fair, they are just complying with a truly absurd state law.

Many researchers believe that retaining children in third grade is harmful, that it dampens students’ interest in learning, and that eventually retention turns into dropping out in later grades. After all, the students who are held back suffer humiliation.

But while researchers may debate the value of retention, no one argues that a good reader should be flunked because he or she did not take a test. What is the purpose of retaining a good reader, an excellent reader? The district can say it was “just following orders.” The district can say its hands are tied to state law. But no matter what they say, holding back a student for punitive reasons proves that “reform” is not about the kids. It is about a hard-right ideology that wants to standardize children and impose iron conformity, even to unjust laws.

And that is the problem with the Florida law. When excellent students are held back as punishment, then the law is stupid and unjust. As we have learned from opt out in other states, the children who do not take the test are very likely children of educated parents, who consider the test to be unnecessary and burdensome. If the students can demonstrate that they can read by reading-out loud to an examiner, doesn’t it make sense to allow them to advance a grade based on the fact that they can read rather than on their willingness to submit to a multiple-choice test?

Understand that when you discuss the willingness of a third-grader to take a test, you are really talking about their parents, not the child. It is virtually certain that the parent tells the child not to take the test because the parent wants to make a statement.

Bear in mind that the parent pays the taxes that pay the salaries of the legislators, the principal, the state education department staff, and the teachers. These are public employees. Why should they ignore the will of parents? Why should the legislature celebrate school choice, yet deny parents the right to remove their child from the testing regime?

Time to review Peter Greene’s sensible commentary on this goofy situation.

He writes:

An eight year old child who had a great year in class, demonstrated the full range of skills, and has a super report card– that child will be required to repeat third grade because she didn’t take the BS Test.

This is what happens when the central values of your education system are A) compliance and B) standardized testing. This is what happens when you completely lose track of the purpose of school.

What possible purpose can be served by this? Are administrators worried that the child might not be able to read? No– because that is easily investigated by looking at all the child’s work from the year.

What possible benefit could there be to the child? Mind you, it’s impossible to come up with a benefit in retention for the child who has actually failed the test– but what possible benefit can there be in flunking a child who can read, her teacher knows she can read, her parents know she can read, she knows she can read– seriously, what possible benefit can there be for her in retention. How do you even begin to convince yourself that you are thinking of the child’s well-being at all when you decide to do this?

This is punishment, not so pure, but painfully simple. Punishment for non-compliance, for failing to knuckle under to the state’s testing regime. And in taking this step, the districts show where their priorities lie– the education of the children is less important than beating compliance into them and their parents, less important than taking the damned BS Test.

Officials in these counties scratch their heads? What can we do? The law is the law. Well, in the immortal words of Mr. Bumble, “the law is an ass.” And furthermore, just look across county lines at some other Florida counties that are NOT doing this to their third graders. Go ahead. Peek at their answer. Copy it.

Hell, Superintendent Lori White of the Sarasota schools is retiring in February of 2017– is this really how she wants to finish up her time there?

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Ohio Editorial: No More Excuses for Failing Charter Schools

The mainstream press in Ohio has turned critical of the low-performing, profitable, politically connected charter industry. Just read this blistering editorial in The Columbus Dispatch.

 

 
“If a charter school can’t perform better than a conventional public school, there is no point in having the charter school.

 

 

“After all, Ohio embarked on the charter-school experiment to see if there is a way to improve on the dismal results being achieved in many urban and poor school districts, not simply to replicate their failure. The idea was that if student outcomes improved in charter schools, then the schools would continue. But if charters failed to improve on the performance of conventional schools, they would be closed.

 

 

“Now, years after the experiment began, some schools are persistent failures, but instead of being shut down, they want to change the performance measuring stick so that they can remain in business.

 

 

“Defenders of conventional public schools long have maintained that failure isn’t the fault of the schools, but is the result of the socioeconomic circumstances of their students: Students who come from poverty, broken homes and associated forms of instability, are harder to teach.

 

 

“Now, some charter schools, which were created expressly to find ways to overcome these disadvantages, want to be excused for failure on the same grounds — saying their students are harder to teach. But if they’re doing no better than conventional public schools — and in some cases doing worse — there is no reason for the public to continue to fund them.

 

“But the straightforward experiment went off the rails when some clever operators figured out how to get rich by sponsoring charter schools. And to keep the gravy flowing, they began making major political contributions to the lawmakers who control the gravy.

 

 

“And that is why rumors have been flying around the Statehouse about proposals to weaken accountability standards for charter schools so that they can continue to receive millions of taxpayer dollars even as the students they are supposed to educate continue to fall behind. In many cases, particularly with online charter schools, it appears that many students don’t even participate in learning, but the school’s operators continue to be paid by the state as if these students are receiving an education.

 

 

“Charter-school lobbyists are waving their checkbooks and urging lawmakers to ease attendance-reporting rules and to continue to pay the schools even if students don’t log in to learn. They also want to absolve charter-school sponsors of responsibility for the performance of their schools, even though this is a key part of their role as sponsors. Lobbyists also want schools to be measured not by how much progress a student makes each year, but by whether the school performs more or less like other schools with similar student demographics. In other words, if a poorly performing school is doing no worse than other poorly performing, then it should get a pass. This is called the “similar students” measure.

 

 

“It is less than a year since the legislature passed House Bill 2, hailed as a giant step forward in holding charter schools accountable for their performance. Part of that bill called for the Ohio Department of education to analyze the “similar students” measure, with a report due by Dec. 1. Now some lawmakers are proposing to pass legislation adopting this approach before the education department has even issued its report. So much for sound public policy.

 

 

“Because of such nonsense, it’s important to remember why charters were instituted in the first place. It wasn’t to replicate failure and make excuses. And it wasn’t to make a handful of charter sponsors rich. It was to make students successful.”

 

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The Huffington Post and Donald Trump

By July 17, 2015, the Huffington Post had seen enough of Donald Trump’s campaign. Their editorial director Danny Shea and their Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim published a remarkable announcement that read:

“After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.”

In retrospect, it was one of the more interesting and hard to judge journalistic calls of this political season. It’s certainly easy to mock their lack of prescience, since the “sideshow” is now the presumptive Republican Party nominee and he’s polling competitively in the popular vote. They clearly did not sense that our present reality was even a remote possibility, and I called them out for it at the time:

I guess the Huffington Post can’t quite believe that America is real.

Sure, I can understand the sentiment and the rationale. It’s wrong, though. Donald Trump is currently polling at or near the very top of the seventy billion Republican candidates who are running for the presidency. The media have no right to just assume this is all a big joke that doesn’t need to be taken at all seriously.

It should be taken as seriously as a heart attack. And not because I am projecting that Trump will be the eventual GOP nominee. I can guess at that, and of course I have some serious doubts about his staying power, but this is a serious matter in any case. Why is Trump doing so well, and what does that say about the right-wing of our country in this moment of time?

That’s the biggest political story in the campaign right now and it deserves to be front and center, not carried in the entertainment section.

For me, nothing has changed. I still understand the sentiment and the rationale for Huffington Post’s decision to treat Trump’s campaign as beneath contempt and unworthy of consideration. And I still think that they made the wrong call back in July 2015.

Now I see that they’re running a disclaimer or “Editor’s Note” on their political coverage. So, if you look at Sam Stein’s latest piece on Trump, you’ll see find this at the end:

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence, and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, and birther, who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

The Sam Stein piece does appear in the Huffpost Politics section, which is no surprise since the editors long ago had to back down on their editorial stance against treating Trump as a real candidate. But the content of the piece vindicates the moral aspiration of their original stance:

This editorial disclaimer is a lot different than the one they announced last July. It carries no suggestion that Trump’s campaign is a “sideshow” that doesn’t deserve to be covered in their political section. But the moral condemnation and contempt is still there and is now even stronger.

With such a disclaimer, there’s no way to pretend that their coverage of Trump is even-handed. The entire idea that they should aspire to even-handedness is openly and proudly rejected.

And, this is a kind of challenge to other media outlets. It’s saying that Donald Trump’s campaign is so objectionable that it’s morally wrong to be neutral.

It’s laudable, but it should also be controversial. After all, we can all make moral cases against any presidential candidate. For the anti-choicers, the Democrats support of reproductive freedom is morally unacceptable. For many people, the Bush administration’s first term in office, including their reckless decision to invade Iraq with no plan for its governance or reconstruction was criminally irresponsible and immoral. It’s not so easy to decide where to draw the line from a journalistic point of view. Is it like defining pornography as something you know when you see it?

What would happen if every major news outlet, in print and on television, prefaced all their presidential coverage with a reminder that Trump is a racist, misogynistic, religious bigot, and an inciter of violence who routinely dabbles in idiotic conspiracy theories?

Would that be an improvement? Would that necessitate another disclaimer that Hillary Clinton supports abortion rights, voted for a resolution authorizing force in Iraq, and failed to follow protocol with her email while serving as Secretary of State?

I can see how this kind of moral stand could snowball into something ridiculous where media outlets first attempt to list their moral objections to all the news they’re attempting to report and then wind up listing all the moral objections anyone might have to the candidates and parties they’re covering.

There’s something nice about putting your standards and bias right out front where people can see it, but that’s not how straight political coverage is typically done.

The candidacy of Donald Trump is presenting a lot of challenges to our political system. When people look back at this campaign in the future, they’ll probably view the Huffington Post’s moral opposition to Trump with a lot of favor, but whether that’s true of their journalistic judgment and the precedent they set is less certain.

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California: The Charter Game is Rigged

This article provides an inside view of the charter racket in California.

 

If local districts oppose charter schools, it doesn’t matter. No matter what they say or how well the community organizes, the die is cast. State officials will approve the charter application, regardless of its flaws.

 

Rocketship charter chain wanted to move into the Mt. Diablo district. It had a federal grant to expand, and the chain wouldn’t let community opposition stand in its way. The district did not want Rocketship’s computer-based approach. It did not want a corporate chain whose headquarters was sixty miles away. Neither did the county board of education, which rejected Rocketship.

 

“This is the opposite of local control,” said Nellie Meyer, the superintendent of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, who called the proposal deeply flawed and was followed by MDUSD’s general counsel, Deborah Cooksey, who said Rocketship had collected its petition signatures “under false pretenses,” by telling people—including parents who were non-English speakers—their kids could get kicked out of school if they didn’t sign.

 

“This is going to be something that will divide our community,” said Gloria Rios, who has lived in the Monument Corridor near the northeastern Bay Area city of Concord for 20 years and has three children in the district’s public schools. “Our children will suffer the consequences, and these funds can be used for the schools we already have.”

 

Rejected by the local community and the county board of education, Rocketship went to the State Board of Education.

 

Slam dunk.

 

“The first indication that the proceedings were tilted to Rocketship came when Cindy Chan, who oversees the California Education Department’s charter school program, summarized Rocketship’s petition and, using the same legal terms that the Mt. Diablo and Contra Costa County Boards used to reject Rocketship, concluded the opposite. Rocketship’s prograns were “sound” and they “will implement it,” she said.

 

“Rocketship’s Cheye Calvo, its chief growth and county engagement officer, then led the board through a powerpoint presentation filled with all the buzzwords of the charter school movement. He talked of closing the “achievement gap.” He said that most “Rocketeers” learn more than one year’s worth of studies every school year. He said the school collected 1,100 petition signatures from district residents. He said the computer labs were “personalized learning,” saying they were “no substitute” for instruction. He called their teachers “purposeful, focused.” He said they rely on data to “assess students” and focus on the “whole child.” He acknowledged that Rocketship has high turnover—losing 20 percent of its faculty annually, but said their “teachers are performance-driven professionals who strive to achieve gap-closing” results. Finally, he put up graphs that compared the test scores from Rocketship’s San Jose schools with students in the Mt. Diablo district, saying they can do better than the traditional public schools.

 

“The opponents, led by the Mt. Diablo School District superintendent and local school board president, said Rocketship’s persistence was an affront to local control. They recounted the major flaws in its curriculum, especially its shallow approach to teaching English to students who did not speak it at home or as a first language. The district’s programs, especially in the Monument Corridor, were appropriately bilingual and award-winning, they said, adding their approach was seen by Rocketship as a liability. They said that Rocketship was not invited by parents to come into the community, but was lured by local real estate developers.

 

“But mostly, the critique was aimed at Rocketship’s overreliance on its test-centered curriculum and its lack of attention to the needs of what was working in a low-income, bilingual community, and one where special education also was a challenge.

 

“We are outraged at Rocketship’s lack of information on special education,” said Cheryl Hansen, president of the Mt. Diablo School District Board. “This is not Rocketship’s first school. Rocketship has not been able to answer special education questions at the school board and county board level.” And returning to their English language instruction, Hansen said, “More than 75 percent of their charter schools show declining achievement in the last four years.”

 

Nothing the district said mattered. Diablo will get a Rocketship charter, despite its poor performance elsewhere, despite its rejection by the local community.

 

This process is a rejection of local control and a rejection of democracy. It serves corporate interests, not children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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