Ciedie Aech’s Wonderful Book

20 Aug

There are few public school systems in America that have been more harmed by what Diane Ravich aptly dubbed “corporate education reform” than those in Denver, Colorado. Ciedie Aech tells the story of a professional educator working in the horrific and unstable environment that developed with the extra-legal federal take-over of public schools. In reality, this is a heart wrenching story, but Aech’s sarcastic humor turns it into a delight. Any teacher in America’s public k-12 system who reads “Why is you always got to be trippin” will immediately recognize many scenes Ciedie delightfully paints while telling this dreadful story.

About the Title

 “One day when noise from unsupervised students caught my attention, I stepped into the hallway to find a group of boys throwing friendly punches outside a neighboring classroom.

 “‘Gentlemen!’ I stated reactively, clearing my throat. Happy to ignore extraneous interference, the boys continued their game. ‘Gentlemen!’ I said again, this time a little more loudly. Straightening, the boys stopped to look my way. ‘Okay, let’s go,’ I directed. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in class?’ ‘Aw, Miss,’ two or three grumbled as the small group broke up and began to move away. Pulling at chronically sagging pants while smoothing intricately braided hair, a tall, thin young man hung back.

 “As a student who had attended one of my afternoon classes for more than six months, he knew me well. Watching his friends now amble unhurriedly down the hall, he turned to look at me in plaintive wonder. ‘Aw, Miss,’ he protested. ‘Why is you always got to be trippin’?’

 ‘“Why is I always got to be trippin’? …

 “If you don’t take pains to hold them together? If you don’t step in, over and over (and then over again) to pull them circuitously inward towards success – sometimes with no other help than the full power of your will? They struggle, they flounder; they deflate and fall apart. Desperately they count upon the people in their lives who make the effort to ‘trip.’”

 Background for the Story

If you are a fan of privatizing public schools and corporate education reform, Denver is your cup of tea. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute (one of those “think-tanks” that like the New York Times reports is more like a tax free lobbying firm than an honest evaluator of education policy) rated Denver Public Schools (DPS) the third best school choice system in the United States behind only New Orleans and Washington DC.

In the summer of 2005, Michael Bennet, who had spent the previous 2 years with his fellow Wesleyan alum, John Hickenlooper as chief of the mayor’s staff was appointed Superintendent of DPS. He previously earned a law degree at Yale and was editor of the Yale Law Journal. Prior to working for the mayor and future governor of Colorado, Bennet spent six years as the managing director of the Anschutz Investment Company. However, he had no training or experience as an educator or in education administration.

Two years before Bennet departed to become Colorado’s junior United States Senator, he hired another lawyer with no education background (other than tutoring English in Hong Kong) to be chief operating officer of DPS, Tom Boasberg. Before coming to Denver, Boasberg did a stint at the FCC, then went into the corporate world. When Bennet departed Boasberg who is now a member of Jeb Bush’s Chief for Change was elevated to Superintendent of DPS. Boasberg did obtain an administration credential from the unaccredited Broad Academy in 2009.

Then there is State Senator Michael Johnston another instant education expert from TFA. He is credited with writing the law that requires Colorado teachers to be evaluated by the discredited value added method based on standardized testing. He seems to be yet another elitist from Yale out to destroy public schools (Bennet, Booker, Malloy, King, etc.). The following from Mercedes Schneider paints a clear picture of the modern education privatizing tool:

“In his NCTQ bio, Johnston presents himself as, ‘the founder and former principal of MESA (Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts), a 7-12 Gates funded small high school in north Denver.’  It is increasingly common practice for former TFAers to become instant leaders and entrepreneurs, opening and leading schools without a solid educational foundation but with funding (in the case of Johnston’s school, Gates money). Johnston is a TFAer from Yale, and TFA really likes Yale. His Yale bachelors degree is in a generic major (philosophy); so, like many former TFAers ‘on the climb,’ Johnston made a quick stop to the Broad-financed Harvard Graduate School of Education for one of those educational policy masters degrees TFAers are increasingly fond of brandishing.  And make no mistake: Harvard educational policy is all about data driven assessment of supposed “teacher effectiveness.”  The Harvard Center for Educational Policy Research is funded by a cadre of now-all-too-familiar reformer foundations, including Broad, Gates, Joyce, and Rodel.”

 Just a few miles up highway 36 from Denver is Broomfield, Colorado home of the Walton family established and supervised, Charter School Growth Fund.  Carrie Walton Penner, sits on the board of the foundation and Carrie’s husband, Greg Penner, is a director of this non-profit venture capital fund that invests in charter schools. Annie Walton Proietti, niece of Carrie, works for a KIPP school in Denver. KIPP is a system to which the Walton family has donated millions of dollars.

How Ciedie Viewed the Beginning of the Harm

 “Proffered up by an unmistakably concerned and oft-professed-liberal activist, this emphatic assertion was accorded an immediate defense through an even yet more logical rationale: ‘I wouldn’t send my children there.’

“Progressive declarations like this one, coming as they did from privileged-class and generally non-minority but avowed open-minded citizens, oh, they just made so much sense – to other privileged-class and generally non-minority but compassionately troubled advocates. Holding test scores high, progressive thinkers waved what they argued to be incontrovertible truth. What had to be done? What was undoubtedly required? Was the immediate “non-negotiable” reformation of our nation’s lowest-income, lowest-scoring schools.”

 Ciedie points out:

 “When, in the name of a ‘benevolent’ intervention, you assertively malign, label, invade and destabilize those schools where, due to the wide array of issues attached to poverty and cultural disconnect, only around 40 percent of students graduate and move on to find success at a college – ultimately what you are doing in the name of your unprecedented ‘compassion?’ Is making sure that even this small but steady percent of minority students cannot progress and successfully integrate into society.”

 Soon after the reform invasion, she noticed:

 “With great determination, good educators closed their eyes. Industriously, good teachers taught themselves in an imitation of financially motivated “fixer” administrators; with great tenacity, good teachers refused a direct look at the deregulated chaos now dancing with impunity around an ever realigning array of testing and penalty practices. Hearing, and subsequently spouting, only a cautious reflection of the shallow district, state and federal dogma, good teachers offered up only a passively guarded support for the belligerent doctrine of accountability – a progressively more retaliatory doctrine which, year after year, continued to hold to the incontrovertible fact that: All of those unacceptable test scores?

“Were forevermore, always and only, the product of bad teachers.”

 About all the money for reform, Ciedie perceived:

 “So. When big money gets thrown around under the socially responsible guise of helping less powerful and politically disenfranchised citizens – benevolently offering that helpful leg up, so to speak; well, it’s a funny but historical trend that quite often this particular kind of money?

“Somehow, sort of, gets redirected.”

In one vignette Ciedie is chatting with a fellow educator. It really hit home with me, because I too teach in a “failing school” with 70% free and reduced lunch and 20% language learners. It was like my personal experience:

“One year, a few days into my Thanksgiving Break, I met up with a friend – a teaching peer who, for the past twenty years, had been employed inside a high-scoring, long-term-stably-administrated secondary school located in the suburbs of a neighboring district. When our conversation predictably turned to issues of education, it immediately became clear that, in the modern age of a low-income school accountability, what we, as public school educators, had each experienced? Diverged dramatically.

“It felt, in fact, a little like discussing educational practices as they existed here on Earth… and somewhere way out in the far reaches of the universe. On Jupiter, maybe. At one point, we paused to count up the non-teaching/nonstudent-contact days we had each had so far that fall.

“She counted two.

“I counted seventeen.”

 I loved the following observation because I have been living it for fifteen years:

“Well, now: here’s a little secret. I suppose this could be confidential. I apologize if I’m letting the cat out of the bag.

“But: More inner-city, low-income-school teachers actually, with a full intention, chose to walk into those complicated buildings; chose to work, day after day, inside those low-income, culturally-complex schools; chose to spend year upon year standing right there in front of those so many assertively labeled “difficult” children because they wanted to – than you might think.

“Oh, man. Crazy, huh?”

 Ciedie asked the obvious question:

“Why was it, the question kept rising up over the years. Well, why was it that those schools most quickly and aggressively labeled as “drop-out factories” – schools slated for closure or an endless chain of reforms, schools forced through the fatal destabilization of restructure and redesign, schools branded publicly as being underused failures, schools negatively marked with the highly publicized letter grade of an F – well, why was it that such a large percent of these schools (shoot, pretty much all of them) had traditionally served as a home to non-dominant-culture, non-privileged-class, minority students?”

 Bell the Cat

A wonderful allegory, that illustrates the folly of corporate education reform:

“Opening our scene, we move in upon a small group of administratively enterprising mice; a group of mice who have had it up to here with the never-ending litany of mouse citizen complaints about a Big Bad Cat: an omnipresent feline willing to wreak ongoing havoc upon poor, defenseless mice. Mouse-world constituents have made it more than clear: They will no longer tolerate such an unremitting harassment. Hence, the intentional meeting of mousey governmental minds.

‘“If only we knew when the cat was coming,’ sighs one contemplative legislator.

“‘A bell,’ offers another: ‘What if a bell was placed around the neck of the cat?’

‘“Yes, yes, a bell!’ A multitude of voices now loudly and animatedly agrees. Ah, the cheers; oh the excitement; and then, my, oh my, the adamantly mandated and heavily earmarked rodent legislation. A bell it shall be. An imperatively necessary warning bell to be placed preemptively around the neck of the cat. What a small, helpless rodent’s dream come true!

 “Oh – but then.

“Even with so many well-meaning and supportively exuberant legislators behind this exceptional plan; despite the brashly exacting orders which have been written into massively inflexible laws – well, gosh, as it turns out? Once these proudly enthusiastic little mice have calmed down; once each mouse has taken the time to get a direct look at reality – well, each legislator realizes that not one politician has thought of, nor painstakingly offered up, a true-life proposal for getting that excitingly legislated bell onto the neck of the cat.”

 Then Ciedie goes on to make many statements like this:

“However, in modern days; in magically modern days dedicated to the pursuit and procurement of suddenly available and minimally regulated bell-the-cat funding disbursals? Complicatedly diverse school boards comprised of multiple, non-political, equity-minded citizens – citizens who found it necessary to not only listen to, but act upon, the concerns voiced by frustrated educators, students, parents and old-school administrators:

“Well, school boards like these? Really got in the way.”

 Which leads to another observation:

“In truly compassionate days bent to the no-waiting miracles of a test-based accountability, it was not simply the mayor, now, but the mayor’s self-proclaimed Superhero Superintendent (two imperial monarchs willing to work side-by-side as an incontrovertible royalty) who both said so. Laboring hand-in-hand; uttering statements as a team – mutually these two powerful leaders could make it unambiguously clear: Both, they now claimed? Were unquestionably on board; both were ready to do whatever was necessary; both were willing, even, to spend an unparalleled amount of that governmental and/or philanthropic funding in their effort to prove just how bad the so many low-income schools placed under their royal jurisdiction: Really were.”

“In days of a statistical liability, it has become increasingly possible to find “public” school districts where the children of not only the superintendent but every member of the school board attend private schools.”

 Ciedie enlightens us to what good teacher are;

“Good teachers; well, good teachers, and oh surely this was obvious – even glaringly self-apparent in the fast pace of magical days devoted to a truer national compassion: Good teachers?

“Were young. Oh, very, very young.”

 About the TFA influx:

“Despite their designated unreliability; despite, even, their surely ungrateful lack of loyalty for stoically sticking around and “taking” the abuses created by an ever-shifting, funding-lucrative reform – huge numbers of these oft-labeled undependable Teach-For-A-Minute girls (and oh, yes, a lesser number of surely just as undependable Teach-For-A-Minute boys) were now being ever more massively produced.”

 A Very Sad Ending for Ciedie and Denver

“I was very assertively and unceremoniously sent home.

“Having no useful case against me save my age, my too often and too liberally expressed opinions, and, most annoyingly, my unhelpful ability to see directly through our district’s more than-a-decade-long loyalty to the implementation of community confusing smoke screens – taking advantage of a union-allowed option for a preemptive and, in days of a faster-and-faster-no-due-process-necessary modern-day evaluation, no concrete evidence required perp-walking/keys-confiscated/no-school-contact-allowed administrative leave – the district commandeered an abruptly unanticipated and overwhelmingly painful mid-year separation from my students, offering neither them nor any of my teaching peers an explanation as, strategically, they installed a brand-new never-taught-before replacement.”

A recent report by The Progressive Policy Institute (another of those tax-free lobbying firms masquerading as a “think-tank”) extols these reforms and brushes over the fact that their own data shows that the racial gaps in Denver’s schools have widened over the last decade.

In a rebuttal, Terrenda White of the University of Colorado, Boulder stated that the report utilized unreliable methods to establish cause and effect relationships. White also pointed out “widening gaps in achievement should have (but did not) temper the report’s call for aggressively expanding school choice as the best strategy for equalizing opportunity.”

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11 Responses to “Ciedie Aech’s Wonderful Book”

  1. ciedie aech August 21, 2016 at 2:08 am #

    Oh, Thomas Ultican. I think I’m going to cry…. ! To be heard, to be heard. And, more importantly, to be understood. 🙂

  2. Lloyd Lofthouse September 2, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé.

  3. markstextterminal September 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on Mark's Text Terminal and commented:
    Ciedie Aech is an educator in Denver who has commented on Mark’s Text Terminal; she has published a book on her experience in that city. Tom Ultican, a teacher in San Diego just posted his review of her book on her blog. I think it’s worth listening to what Ciedie has to say.

  4. Susan Lee Schwartz January 18, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    I am stunned. This book nails the privatization’s ploy to remove the experienced professional and the plot to end public education of the masses, leaving ‘good’ schools for the privileged scions of the well-to-do. Everyting described here, happened in NYC, except the ‘exit’ of the tenured teachers was ENABLED by a corrupted, complicit union, which allowed this
    http://www.perdaily.com/2011/01/lausd-et-al-a-national-scandal-of-enormous-proportions-by-susan-lee-schwartz-part-1.html

    • SonniQ January 22, 2017 at 6:01 am #

      You took the words out of my mouth. It’s pretty evident what this administration’s plan is for educating our children.Since “No child left behind” it’s been a steady down hill for schools, teachers and students and now is about to get much worse.I’m a private piano teacher and it has even affected me. I can’t get students anymore. Children aren’t taught music so they have no desire to learn. Parents can’t afford to pay me. I started charging half what I changed 25 years ago and parents still complain about the price. A couple students I teach for free because I love to teach and the parents can’t pay me. I’m glad I’m not a student today. They can’t write in cursive so their signifie looks like a5 year old. They can’t tell time, count change and can barely read. Next there will be mandatory Bible classes.

      • Susan Lee Schwartz January 22, 2017 at 6:16 am #

        It makes me so sad. I went to school in the forties and fifties. My kids went o public schools int he seventies & eighties, and I began to teach in 1963.
        What i witness now is the utter destruction of the one thing that allowed all our citizens to do what they do best, to find those skills and interests that suit their intelligence and talents.

        Now, the mongrels in the legislatures defunded the schools, stripped them of support for the arts, and then went about dismantling all the programs that supported LEARNING…and it is all-out LEARNING.

        They made education into a marketplace, as they did to health care with the same results… we th people lose!

      • SonniQ January 22, 2017 at 6:53 am #

        Again, I couldn’t say it better. When everything creative is taken away and a
        child has no class to look forward to school is no longer fun and if it isn’t fun then it’s drudgery. I started school in 59 to 72. I
        lived in the LA area when my kids went to school. The schools were appalling. I pulled them out of several schools because they were that bad and moved north. My son’s children are home schooled because learning social behaviors in school are hardly desirable in many areas. Teachers aren’t allowed to discipline an on site cops arrest kids for the smallest things and cast them off to juvenile detention, ruin their education and prep them for prison and corporate profit. Prisons are my area of knowledge. The for – profit attitude our country has ruined education, medical,prisons and anything it can get is hands on. It has created a monster that has to be fed – people are expendable. I doubt it can be stopped no matter how wrong it is. Corporate power i.e. the Koch brothers has bought local govt down to the school boards. They’ve “bought” universities with final say over which teachers get hired that will teach the agenda they say. They are changing text books in the south to portray slavery as really a pretty good thing for the negroes. That want to teach Christianity in the schools although many many people aren’t Christian. Since the US Has 25% of all the prisoners in the world yet only 5% of the population of the world there is something corrupt about our prison system and something wrong with proclaiming we’re a Christian nation if we have that many prisoners. The pushing of the Christian right has nothing to do with a religion that should be taught at home and the church – not at school where multi faith children go to get an education, not be indoctrinated into the faith of only a percentage of people who rarely follow the teachings anyway. I tend to get on my soap box about these things. Too many prefer to stick their head in the sand. I’m glad I’m not a student who wants to teach seeing what is happening and I feel sorry for the kids, especially those in poor schools. I’ve had dreams for years about being being rich and putting the money into schools and giving kids a chance to learn like the rich schools. The inequality keeps getting worse. I’m afraid for’grandsons on my daughter ages 8 and 10. They live in Texas and they are half black and don’t look white. In the next 4 plus years with the racism in tx. It worries meee. But that’s a whole other topic

  5. Susan Lee Schwartz January 22, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    Like you said, I couldn’t have summarized it better than you did. (but using paragraph helps>)

    We are on the same page as everyone who has eyes and ears to observe reality…. but the liars are in charge of the media, because the EIC (EDUCATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX) owns the media.
    https://greatschoolwars.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/eic-oct_11.pdf

    The Gates common core crap replaced the objectives set for each child and then mandated the lesson plan… the materials (books, etc) to be used, and the activities.

    The autonomy of the teacher — who is the PROFESSIONAL PRACTITIONER in the classroom PRACTICE– was eradicated.

    What the teacher knew about how the brain LEARNS, what the teacher evaluated as the needs of each child was no longer useful.

    If a doctor was mandated to use procedures and materials that would harm patients, and then blamed when they died, the hospital would fail, just as the schools did.

    The privatization of our schools, where education became a marketplace “.Education is now the second largest market in the U.S., valued at $1.3 trillion. So while an industry of this size will always be scrutinized by regulators, the most onerous recent changes are likely over, and investors should face an easier climate down the road.” https://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/14/transforming-education-into-a-marketplace/

    yes I give links for all that I say, because I write at a genuine News Site… Oped News http://www.opednews.com/author/author40790.html.
    ( If you want to write to me at my email address, you need to message me at that site, and give em your email address. I carry on a large correspondence with people about what is happening.)
    Or, you can follow me there.

    See my series at Oped http://www.opednews.com/author/series/author40790.htmll, like this one on privatization,
    http://www.opednews.com/Series/legislature-and-governorsL-by-Susan-Lee-Schwartz-150217-816.html
    ( Scroll down to the blue ‘buttons” which lead to my series, ,, and my commentaries & quicklinks to interesting articles by wonderful people , including Diane Ravitch.)

    Most of my series on the war on public eduction uses information from the Diane  Ravitch blog.. Read how the  state legislatures take over the local schools, with nary an educator on board, and gives them to charters, with not a shred of oversight! Here is a link to Diane’s posts on charter school corruption https://dianeravitch.net/?s=corruption.

    Diane Ravitch was the Under- Sec’y of Education for Bush, and her books tell the tale.
    . “How Not to Fix Our Public Schools” and , “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/reform-reform

    Public schools are disappearing, and with it the road to income equality — as well as a democracy. Shared knowledge is a requirement for a democracy!!!!! http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/hirsch.pdf

    You described how the schools are rewriting history.

    Well, when Billionaire Koch can write  North Carolina’s social studies curricula….. then they can give our kids a false version of history. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/12/05/north-carolina-plans-to-adopt-koch-funded-social-studies-curriculum

    Lies are the NEW TRUTH
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8bihhjH3nI and education goes the way of health care, enriching the oligarchs and ending income equality for our people… because (make no mistake about this) public schools are the only road for all our people to learn the CRITICAL THINKING skills that enable them to move out of poverty.

    We already have a populations of ignorant people who elected a serial liar:
    ” Mr. Trump has continued to demonstrate impulsivity and narcissism, an affinity for conflict and vindictiveness. Which leads to my main worry about Mr. Trump: His chronic lack of restraint will not be confined to Twitter. His Twitter obsessions are manifestation of a deeper disorder. Donald Trump is a transgressive personality. He thrives on creating disorder, in violating rules, in provoking outrage. He is a shock jock. This might be a tolerable (if culturally coarsening) trait in a reality television star; it is a dangerous one in a commander in chief. He is unlikely to be contained by norms and customs, or even by laws and the Constitution. For Mr. Trump, nothing is sacred. The truth is malleable, instrumental, subjective. It is all about him. It is always about him.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/opinion/sunday/why-i-cannot-fall-in-line-behind-trump.html?_r=0

    I have become a reporter about what is afoot on our landscape.
    It has been sixteen years since I experienced the assault on teachers, which is NOWHERE in the media. I was a famous, celebrated teacher in NYC, (see my author’s page for info)
    if you go to my quicklinks, each week, you will find the articles that address our lives, not merely piece on the latest assault on education… which I post daily.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tom Ultican: A Wonderful Book That Shows the Madness of Corporate Reform | Diane Ravitch's blog - September 2, 2016

    […] Ultican teaches in San Diego. He recently read Ciedie Aech’s new book about teaching in Hyper-Reformy Denver and highly recommends […]

  2. Education Discernments for 2017 | tultican - December 28, 2016

    […] wrote about Ciedie Aech’s wonderfully sarcastic book, Why You Always Got to be Trippin? The following quote from Ciedie […]

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