Get Ready for the Biggest Total Solar Eclipse on August 21!

Here is what you need to know about the total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on August 21.

If you are lucky, you live in the zone from Oregon to South Carolina. You can see the total eclipse. If you live outside the zone, you will see a partial eclipse.

Be sure to protect your eyes with strong sun glasses.

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This is Not Normal!

A lot happened during the week that I was on vacation. There is one pair of events on which I feel the need to comment. As you know, Trump gave a speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia that he turned into an “us against them” political rally. He followed that up with a speech to officers in Brentwood, NY where he basically encouraged police brutality (singling out the kind of behavior that led to the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore).

The head of the Boy Scouts felt the need to write a letter of apology for a POTUS speech.

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.

Police Departments all over the country have felt the need to correct what POTUS said in a speech. Here’s just a sampling:

As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.

— Suffolk County PD (@SCPDHq) July 28, 2017

READ: The NYPD has responded to Trump’s remarks encouraging police to rough up people they arrest. http://pic.twitter.com/9nMIkB3UTE

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 29, 2017

I’m a cop.

I do not agree with or condone @POTUS remarks today on police brutality.

Those that applauded and cheered should be ashamed.

— Ben Tobias (@GPDBenTobias) July 28, 2017

Statement from @TheIACP on Police Use of Force https://t.co/MfEbFKt758

— The IACP (@TheIACP) July 28, 2017

These two events don’t have a lot in common. But the tie that binds them is the fact that the President of the United States made remarks in public that were so inflammatory and incendiary that other leaders—who traditionally refrain from making political statements—felt the need to step up to the plate and either apologize or correct the record.

To the extent that we let that kind of thing pass by without comment, we accept that the bar of expectations for POTUS has been lowered to such an extent that this kind of thing is no longer shocking.

I want to go on record to say that I’m shocked and appalled (while not surprised…given the source). Please repeat after me: This is not normal!

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Liberia: Teachers Oppose Outsourcing of Schools to For-Profit Bridge International Academies

The Liberian Teachers Association and other African teachers groups published a protest against the commercializations of the nation’s schools.

“In January 2016, in a controversial move, the Government of Liberia announced its intention to outsource its primary and pre-primary education system to a US-based for-profit corporate actor, Bridge International Academies (BIA). Following considerable opposition to this unprecedented move the Government conceived a pilot program, Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), where eight actors would operate 93 schools in the first year.

“Despite claiming that PSL would be subject to a rigorous evaluation through a Randomized Control Trial (RCT), six months into the trial, the Ministry of Education (MoE) decided to increase the number of schools to 202 in the project’s second year. Serious unanswered concerns, including children being denied access to their local schools, have not been enough for the government to pause and reflect. This rush to expand the pilot before independent research is available has been rightly criticized by the international academic and research community and the appointed RCT team who questioned the government’s capacity to hold providers accountable.

“In addition to lack of independent evidence supporting the government’s actions, the PSL is also plagued with a lack of transparency. To date not one of the eight current Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the service providers and the MoE have been made public. Despite the secrecy surrounding the PSL, information that has entered the public domain thus far gives rise to serious concerns about the sustainability of the program.

“This lack of independent evidences, transparency and resultant lack of accountability does not make for good policy nor good governance. Furthermore, the increased power put into the hands of undemocratic, often foreign private institutions that make decisions with little community input and accountability undermines our voice and sovereignty over our education system and our nation as a whole.

“We fear, once having outsourced our schools through this PSL arrangement we will never be able to get them back. We will be at the mercy of large corporate operators who will seek to maximize profit at the expense of Liberia’s children and their future.

“The many unanswered questions give rise to genuine concern about the future direction in the provision of quality education for all.

“Considering:

“• Liberia’s 2011 Education Law which guarantees free and compulsory education for all.
“• The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Kishore Singh’s words which describe the intended outsourcing of Liberia schools as “violating Liberia’s legal and moral obligations,” and that “such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education.”
“• The absence of clear, independent, and public research supporting the PSL program.
“• Serious ongoing issues including the lack of community input, transparency, and accountability of the program.
“We call on the government to immediately abandon the PSL program.
The children of Liberia deserve evidence based, sustainable improvements in public education, including:
“• Free, quality, early childhood education
“• Free, compulsory, quality primary and secondary education
“• A focus on gender equality and girls’ education
“• Quality teaching and learning environments and resources
“• Quality alternative education for over-age children.
“• Policies focusing on the most marginalized children.
“• Effective, negotiated school and system monitoring and supervision.

“We need:

“• Quality teacher training and on-going professional development; and
“• Our teachers to be properly supported and remunerated, on time, and respected.

“Acknowledging the challenges that continue to impact on the provision of education, we reiterate our preparedness now, as we have in the past, to work constructively with the government and any other interested parties to develop a sustainable Liberian plan leading to the ongoing improvement in the provision of quality education for all Liberian children.

“SIGNED:

National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL)
Civil Society and Trade Union Institutions of Liberia (CTIL)
National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL)
Roberts International Airport Workers Union (RIAWU)
Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE)
Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP)
National Christian Council of Liberia (NCCL)
Union of Islamic Citizens of Liberia (UICL) Monrovia Consolidated School System Teachers’ Association (MCSSTA) Liberia Education for All Technical Committee (LETCOM)
Concern Universities Students of the Ministry of Education Local Scholarship Program (CUSMOP)
United Methodist Church Human Rights Monitor (UMCHRM)
National Association of Liberian School Principals (NALSP)

“With the support of:
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)
Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) Education International (EI)”

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John Thompson Has a Message for David Leonhardt of the NY Times About Charter Research

David Leonhardt of the New York Times has written favorably about charter schools, without paying much attention to issues such as attrition and selective admissions. Nor has he explored the impact of charter schools on the public schools that enroll the majority of students or considered the value of public funding of two school systems, one free to choose its students, the other required to accept all. He recently invited charter skeptics to contact him. John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, has a message for him.

Feel free to suggest other studies that Leonhardt should read.

Thompson writes:

“In “A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul,” the New York Times commentator David Leonhardt pledges to wrestle with the complexities of immigration and abortion, as well as the issue which he debates most with his readers – charter schools. He’s devoting part of the summer to learning about “vexing issues.” Leonhardt asks “reform skeptics” to “dig into a few of the studies, essays and evidence that have persuaded me.” In return, he promises to keep an open mind when considering our responses.

“The first study that impressed Leonhardt was the Education Research Alliance’s “What Effect Did the Post-Katrina School Reforms Have on Student Outcomes?” by Douglas Harris and Matthew Larsen. It showed that New Orleans test score growth increased up by more than .2 standard deviations between 2007 and 2010. This was the time, however, when its reformers had even greater freedom in terms of suspending and pushing out students who interfered with their mission to dramatically raise test scores. They also had thousands of additional dollars, per student. Growth then slowed and the next two years’ test gains were almost the same as the two years preceding the hurricane, about .1 standard deviation.

http://ift.tt/2gvkxdP

“In other words, nearly a decade of expensive, brass-knuckled reward and punishment produced three years where test score growth was higher than the time when New Orleans was dismissed as a failed school system. NOLA focused completely on raising bubble-in scores, which may or may not indicate that learning increased during that brief window. Harris hopes that better accountability will permanently stop the abuses that proliferated during the time when test score growth increased, but he repeatedly acknowledges doubts that what he sees as effective in New Orleans can be scaled up.

“I hope that Leonhardt will also consider NOLA’s continuing abuses, such as those recently documented by Martha Jewson, and ask whether it will meet the December 2017 deadline for obeying the law.

http://ift.tt/2vb5YWA

“The second study cited by Leonhardt claims that charter students in Florida and Chicago did not perform higher in school but had better longterm, out-of-school outcomes. Of course, scholars would have to study hundreds of thousands of students, controlled as best as possible for demographic differences, in order to show that the subsequent increased earnings were a result of charters’ inputs …

Charter High Schools’ Effects on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings (Journal Article)

“Actually, Leonhardt links to study with a sample which includes only 262 low-income students, as well as about 111 special education and about 11 English Language Learners!

“Seriously, this study merely compared students in Florida and Chicago who attended both 8th grade and high school charters in the late 1990s with students who attended 8th grade charters but traditional high schools! The published paper recognized that the small treatment group of 1141 students could be skewed by students not continuing in charters due to discipline problems or family crises. The non-educators who conducted the study ran a series of complex controls that would have been fascinating in a paper on economic theory but that are useless in terms of answering the real world question of whether charters can be more effective in increasing lifetime earnings than traditional neighborhood schools.

“And that leads to the third source which impresses Leonhardt. He cites research by CREDO, but he doesn’t refer to Learning from the Federal Market-based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), edited by William Mathis and Tina Trujillo. This anthology acknowledges that CREDO is more professional than “piles of these pseudo-studies/evaluations” by charter advocates, but it still has flaws. Mathis’ and Trujillo’s collection, which Leonhardt doesn’t cite, makes an impressive case that, despite CREDO’s spin, those who hope that charters will close the achievement gap will be disappointed.

http://ift.tt/2tqV22y

http://ift.tt/2b3btvh

“Fourth, Leonhardt links to his editorial in support of Boston’s Match charter schools. His faith in such charters seems to ignore a crucial distinction. Charters may have an “attrition rate” that is no worse than neighborhood schools, but that ignores the “backfill” rate. Charters that don’t fill seats that are emptied are very different than schools that serve everyone who walks through the door, regardless of the time of year.

http://ift.tt/2ddRf5Q

“More importantly, Leonhardt links to a study which supposedly supports the claim that charters don’t damage neighborhood schools by draining resources and leaving behind greater concentrations of children from generational poverty who have endured multiple traumas. A huge body of journalism and qualitative research, as well as the professional judgments of virtually every teacher who I have ever met, argues for the common sense conclusion that charters have hurt traditional public schools. It would be wrong for anti-charter advocates to ignore the data-driven studies that challenge our conventional wisdom. But isn’t it just as wrong for Big Data researchers to ignore the real world evidence that contradicts their few findings?

http://ift.tt/2e0JZtt

“Leonhardt trusts a meta-analysis which concluded that 6 studies showed positive or mixed positive results, with 9 showing neutral results, but with only 1 showing mixed negative and neutral effects. But he doesn’t mention “The Impacts of School Choice Reforms on Student Achievement,” by Gary Miron and Jessica Urschel, which is included in Learning from the Federal Market-based Reforms. In contrast to the studies read by Leonhardt, Miron and Urschel show that 30 charter studies found positive results, with 30 showing comparable negative results, and with 23 showing mixed results.

“I frequently reach out to charter supporters. My friends who say I’m naive for continuing to communicate with the true believers may be right. But, rarely do I find a charter supporter who isn’t disappointed in their outcomes. I doubt that a close reading of the research cited by Leonhardt will find evidence that the flaws in the charter model can be patched up so that they can be scaled up. That is not my big concern, however.

“I hope that Leonhardt and other choice supporters will look anew at the damage done by charters to traditional public schools. Unless they believe that we teachers and our students are suffering from a mass hallucination, its hard to understand how they could use such thin evidence to deny that the additional stress of high stakes testing and increased segregation, both worsened by charters, hasn’t damaged kids, especially hurting our most vulnerable kids.”

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Can Anyone Persuade Trump Not to Fire Sessions?

There are two very significant things you can observe when reading this Washington Post piece by Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa on the broken relationship between the president and his attorney general. The first is that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is willing to be obsequious in an effort to keep his dream job, but only up to a point. When it comes to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he’s not willing to concede much to Donald Trump. Sure, he can understand why the president finds his decision frustrating, but…

“I’m confident I made the right decision, a decision that’s consistent for the rule of law,” Sessions said. “An attorney general who doesn’t follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice.”

…the president is angry with him for following the law. One day after the Post revealed that Sessions had met in his Senate office with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak and failed to disclose it during his confirmation hearing, and a mere three weeks after he was sworn in as attorney general, Sessions held a press conference at the Department of Justice and announced that “I have recused myself from matters that deal with the Trump campaign.” He explained that he was following the advice of Justice Department lawyers, and Trump is fuming mad about that. But imagine what it would have looked like if Sessions had ignored that advice. He would have invited a revolt by not only Congress, but also by the majority of people serving in the department he has just begun to lead. In particular, the FBI would have gone ape. It’s not unlikely that there would have mass resignations, and anyone trying to argue that Sessions wasn’t leading a cover-up of Trump’s actions and his own actions would have been left with no compelling rebuttal points.

Sessions admits as much. He’s saying that the president asked him to break the law and he’s sorry if his refusal to do so makes Trump angry but that’s just the way it had to be: “I serve at the pleasure of the president. If he wants to make a change, he can certainly do so, and I would be glad to yield in that circumstance, no doubt about it.”

The second significant thing you can observe in the piece is that Trump is now suffering from an age-old managerial problem. Those in positions of responsibility frequently find that their staff, for a variety of reasons, will seal them off from bad news down below or from hearing alternative points of view that are helpful in formulating policy. In this case, Jeff Sessions has some strong allies in the West Wing, including especially senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn (who was until recently a Senate aide to Sessions). But neither of them are willing to risk the Trump’s displeasure by advocating for Sessions directly to the president. Thus, the job of warning Trump off his plans to replace Sessions as attorney general has fallen to chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald F. McGahn. Since they aren’t personally close to Sessions, their advice can be seen as more neutral and more clearly as intended to be in the best interests of the president. Yet, even here, Priebus was constrained by worries about his own job security, and he was indeed fired late last week after the health care effort collapsed.

As a result, Trump isn’t getting as much internal pushback as he should on the political and legal perils of firing Jeff Sessions or moving him to another position in the cabinet. He may not realize just how seriously the Senate Republicans would take such an action, and he may not understand how it could help build a case for impeachment against him.

Let’s be frank. The president simply doesn’t have a normal human grasp of the concept of obstruction of justice nor of the principle of avoiding a conflict of interest. If he did, he wouldn’t be blasting Sessions for following the ethical and legal advice of Justice Department lawyers. He certainly wouldn’t be publicly admitting that he expected Sessions to obstruct justice and is furious that he did not. So, if anyone needs to be told hard truths from his staff, it’s Donald Trump.

Yet, his staff is afraid to explain these things or to explain them with enough force and repetition to be convincing.

Will John Kelly, the new chief of staff, have more success? Does Kelly understand these things and their perils, and is he willing to start off his new relationship with the president by taking him on on this issue?

I guess we will find out, but so far it looks like Trump is hellbent on doing Robert Mueller’s job for him and making a rock solid case for his own removal from office. He does not have any respect for the law and he wants everyone to know this in the most irrefutable way possible.

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New York City: Leadership Academy in Trouble and in Doubt

The New York Post reported that New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer conducted an audit of grants to the New York City Leadership Academy and found no evidence that the city was getting what it paid for.

The city Department of Education has awarded contracts worth up to $101 million to the NYC Leadership Academy — but didn’t keep track of where the money went, a bombshell audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer charges.

The Long Island City-based non-profit has collected $45.6 million from the contracts to coach “aspiring principals” and teachers. But the DOE failed to produce records to prove the $183-an-hour coaches did what they were paid for….

The contracts also require progress reports and meetings to monitor the vendor’s performance, but the auditors found none — raising the specter of “waste, fraud and abuse,” the report says.

“These failings point to a broken procurement system that allows the DOE to spend freely, devoid of oversight,” Stringer concludes. “Our principals deserve better than this.”

The DOE entered into three contracts with the academy since 2008, the first two under then-Mayor Bloomberg. The third, for payments up to $45 million from July 2014 to June 2019, was inked under Mayor de Blasio by Chancellor Carmen Farina’s chief operating officer. About $34.8 million available remains unspent.

Last month, de Blasio declared a “NYC Leadership Academy Day,” and declared the outfit “an important partner” in running city schools. Fariña praised the academy “for its tremendous work to prepare and support great school leaders.”

But the academy, founded in 2003, has also become notorious for graduating inept — and sometimes corrupt — principals with little teaching experience. Its “leadership coaches,” mostly retired principals, have also been hired in the mayor’s three-year-old Renewal program for struggling schools, which has shown meager academic gains.

The comptroller’s auditors reviewed $559,667 in DOE payments to the academy, including $394,007 for “leadership coaching.”

“Disregarding the safeguards in its own contracts and procurement rules,” the comptroller said, the DOE spent $385,612, or 98 percent of the coaching payments, without the required documentation.

This report is an indictment of mayor control, spanning both Bloomberg and de Blasio’s oversight, as well as the New York City Leadership Academy. Bloomberg and Klein announced the Leadership Academy with great fanfare as a way to fast-track “leaders” with a year of training. The original plan was intended to hire and train leaders from industry and aspiring principals from outside New York City, who would come into the school system and act as disruptors with fresh ideas. Neither of those approaches worked. Then, it became a way to jump from the role of teacher to principal while skipping the five-to-seven year apprenticeship of being an assistant principal. For a time, it was the latest new thing, like Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which has failed. It would be difficult to determine any benefit from the $101 million (actually much more, since Bloomberg raised $75 million for the LA’s first three years of operation).

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The Limits and Dangers of Trump’s Need to Dominate

To the extent that we can distance ourselves from the daily indignities of the Trump persona, we have the opportunity to observe an unqualified display of dominance as the foundational principle in relationships, be they personal, political or global. That is essentially what Jeet Heer is talking about when he writes about the rise of the “New York douchbag” persona in the White House.

In most administrations, Scaramucci’s public badmouthing of his colleagues would be a major liability, likely a fireable offense. But Trump operates from a different set of rules—the same rules, it would seem, that Scaramucci operates from. Reading his rant to The New Yorker, it was hard not to recall the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women: “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.” Indeed, Scaramucci is a sort of mini-Trump: brash, hyper-masculine, bro-loyal, sexually crass, and street smart, perhaps, but not actually smart…

The New York douchebag thrives throughout the tri-state area, particularly in New Jersey and the outer boroughs of the city proper. Usually white, he is belligerent, garrulous, ruthlessly competitive, and excessively confident in his persuasive abilities. He is also hypersensitive; the smallest perceived slight will trigger a full-scale defense of his pride. He demands to be respected at all times.

I was reminded of something Franklin Foer wrote about Trump over a year ago.

Donald Trump holds one core belief. It’s not limited government. He favored a state takeover of health care before he was against it. Nor is it economic populism. Despite many years of arguing the necessity of taxing the rich, he now wants to slice their rates to bits. Trump has claimed his nonlinear approach to policy is a virtue. Closing deals is what matters in the end, he says, not unbleached allegiance to conviction. But there’s one ideology that he does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny…

Trump wants us to know all about his sex life. He doesn’t regard sex as a private activity. It’s something he broadcasts to demonstrate his dominance, of both women and men. In his view, treating women like meat is a necessary precondition for winning, and winning is all that matters in his world. By winning, Trump means asserting superiority. And since life is a zero-sum game, superiority can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.

Foer zeros in on the misogyny involved in how Trump treats women, and he is right to do so. But that is part of the overall package of dominance as an approach to every relationship. The big picture is the use of dominance as a way to win, which is all that matters and can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.

We’ve all been living in a culture that defines dominance as the only real form of power for a very long time. But it finds its purest distillation in men like Trump and Scaramucci. That is why we are in the midst of a lesson on its limits…if we are willing to observe and learn.

We’ve already witnessed many examples of how an approach based on unqualified dominance fails. I am reminded of the time when the House Freedom Caucus was threatening to not support Obamacare repeal. Mike Allen told the story of Steve Bannon’s failed approach.

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building: “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”…

Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.

One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

Martin has repeatedly pointed to the failure of the Trump administration to work with Democrats and his knee-jerk reaction to try to bully them into submission.

If Trump wants these things done, and if he wants tax reform or an infrastructure bill, he’ll need to get down on his knees and beg the Democrats for forgiveness and help. But his first reaction is to threaten to sabotage the entire U.S. health care system.

You can predict how that will go for him.

We’ve now watched as the president has attempted to bully the press into submission as well as his own staff in the White House. Does anyone think that bringing in Scaramucci will work to tamp things down? Or will he face the same kind of backlash that we’ve seen from members of Congress?

Here is the problem for people whose only tool is dominance: when it fails to produce submission, it signals weakness, which produces a death spiral for its effectiveness. The more people observe Trump’s failures, the weaker he looks and the less he is able to project dominance. As that happens, the president goes back to the only tool he has and ups the ante. Enter Scaramucci. The reason Trump likes his generals and brought Kelly in as chief of staff is that the military is a culture ruled by hierarchy and dominance. So the president is doubling down as he feels threatened.

The stage has been set for this White House to demonstrate what happens when dominance is the only approach to power. Keep that in mind as we observe what happens next. Continuing to up the ante as a reaction to failure will inevitably lead to authoritarianism as democratic norms and principles—which require partnership—are abandoned. Beyond Trump’s unfitness for office, this will be a true test for whether Republicans continue to be toxic enemies or honest opponents. As Adam Gopnick predicted, this will be the only way forward to preserve our democracy.

What’s needed against Trump now is…not an ideologically narrow, politically focussed opposition but the widest possible coalition of people who genuinely value the tenets of democracy, meaning no more than the passionate desire to settle differences by debate and argument, rather than by power and cruelty and clan.

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